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25251  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 22, 2010, 01:45:40 PM
Grateful for a small hike on a nice SoCal morning.
25252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: February 22, 2010, 11:24:38 AM
Glenn closes the CPAC!!!  cool cool cool

http://www.c-span.org/Watch/Media/2010/02/20/HP/R/29845/Beck+wrapped+up+CPAC+conference.aspx
25253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: February 22, 2010, 10:28:09 AM
http://www.michaelyon-online.com/whispers.htm
25254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Walter Williams on: February 22, 2010, 10:12:46 AM
"Suppose you suggest to a congressman that given our budget crisis, we could save some money by dispensing with the 2010 census. I guarantee you that he'll say something along the lines that the Constitution mandates a decennial counting of the American people and he would be absolutely right. Article I, Section 2 of our Constitution reads: 'The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.' What purpose did the Constitution's framers have in mind ordering an enumeration or count of the American people every 10 years? The purpose of the headcount is to apportion the number of seats in the House of Representatives and derived from that, along with two senators from each state, the number of electors to the Electoral College. The Census Bureau tells us that this year, it will use a shorter questionnaire, consisting of only 10 questions. From what I see, only one of them serves the constitutional purpose of enumeration -- namely, 'How many people were living or staying at this house, apartment or mobile home on April 1, 2010?' The Census Bureau's shorter questionnaire claim is deceptive at best. The American Community Survey, long form, that used to be sent to 1 in 6 households during the decennial count, is now being sent to many people every year. Here's a brief sample of its questions, and I want someone to tell me which question serves the constitutional function of apportioning the number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives: Does this house, apartment, or mobile home have hot and cold running water, a flush toilet, a bathtub or shower, a sink with a faucet, a refrigerator, a stove? Last month, what was the cost of electricity for this house, apartment, or mobile home? How many times has this person been married? After each question, the Bureau of the Census provides a statement of how the answer meets a federal need. I would prefer that they provide a statement of how answers to the questions meet the constitutional need as expressed in Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. ... Americans need to stand up to Washington's intrusion into our private lives. ... Unless a census taker can show me a constitutional requirement, the only information I plan to give are the number and names of the people in my household." --economist Walter E. Williams
25255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Steyn: Why the west is going down the drain on: February 22, 2010, 08:32:00 AM


Why the West is going down the drain

By Mark Steyn


News from around the world:

In Britain, it is traditional on Shrove Tuesday to hold pancake races, in which contestants run while flipping a pancake in a frying pan. The appeal of the event depends on the potential pitfalls in attempting simultaneous rapid forward propulsion and pancake tossing. But, in St. Albans, England, competitors were informed by Health & Safety officials that they were "banned from running due to fears they would slip over in the rain." Watching a man walk up the main street with a skillet is not the most riveting event, even in St. Albans. In the heat of the white-knuckle thrills, team captain David Emery momentarily forgot the new rules. "I have been disqualified from a running race for running," he explained afterwards.

In Canada, Karen Selick told readers of The Ottawa Citizen about her winter vacation in Arizona last month: "The resort suite I rented via the Internet promised a private patio with hot tub," she wrote. "Upon arrival, I found the door to my patio bolted shut. 'Entry prohibited by federal law,' read the sign. Hotel management explained that the drains in all the resort's hot tubs had recently been found not to comply with new safety regulations. Compliance costs would be astronomical. Dozens of hot tubs would instead be cemented over permanently." In the meantime, her suite had an attractive view of the federally-prohibited patio.

Anything else? Oh, yeah. In Iran, the self-declared nuclear regime announced that it was now enriching uranium to 20 percent. When President Barack Obama took office, the Islamic Republic had 400 centrifuges enriching up to 3.5 percent. A year later, it has 8,000 centrifuges enriching to 20 percent. The CIA director, Leon Panetta, now cautiously concedes that Iran's nuclear ambitions may have a military purpose. Which is odd, because the lavishly funded geniuses behind America's National Intelligence Estimate told us only two years ago that Tehran had ended its nuclear weapons program in 2003. Is that estimate no longer operative? And, if so, could we taxpayers get a refund?

This is a perfect snapshot of the West at twilight. On the one hand, governments of developed nations microregulate every aspect of your life in the interests of "keeping you safe." If you're minded to flip a pancake at speeds of more than 4 miles per hour, the state will step in and act decisively: It's for your own good. If you're a tourist from Moose Jaw, Washington will take pre-emptive action to shield you from the potential dangers of your patio in Arizona.

On the other hand, when it comes to "keeping you safe" from real threats, such as a millenarian theocracy that claims universal jurisdiction, America and its allies do nothing. There aren't going to be any sanctions, because China and Russia don't want them. That means military action, which would have to be done without U.N. backing – which, as Greg Sheridan of The Australian puts it, "would be foreign to every instinct of the Obama administration." Indeed. Nonetheless, Washington is (altogether now) "losing patience" with the mullahs. The New York Daily News reports the latest get-tough move:

"Secretary of State Clinton dared Iran on Monday to let her hold a town hall meeting in Tehran."

That's telling 'em. If the ayatollahs had a sense of humor, they'd call her bluff.

The average Canadian can survive an Arizona hot tub merely compliant with 2009 safety standards rather than 2010. The average Englishman can survive stumbling with his frying pan: You may get a nasty graze on his kneecap, but rub in some soothing pancake syrup, and you'll soon feel right as rain. Whether they – or at any rate their pampered complacent societies in which hot-tub regulation is the most pressing issue of the day – can survive a nuclear Iran is a more open question.

It is now certain that Tehran will get its nukes, and very soon. This is the biggest abdication of responsibility by the Western powers since the 1930s. It is far worse than Pakistan going nuclear, which, after all, was just another thing the CIA failed to see coming. In this case, the slow-motion nuclearization conducted in full view and through years of tortuous diplomatic charades and endlessly rescheduled looming deadlines is not just a victory for Iran but a decisive defeat for the United States. It confirms the Islamo-Sino-Russo-everybody else diagnosis of Washington as a hollow superpower that no longer has the will or sense of purpose to enforce the global order.

What does it mean? That a year or two down the line Iran will be nuking Israel? Not necessarily, although the destruction of not just the Zionist Entity but the broader West remains an explicit priority. Maybe they mean it. Maybe they don't. Maybe they'll do it directly. Maybe they'll just get one of their terrorist subcontractors to weaponize the St. Albans pancake batter. But, when you've authorized successful mob hits on Salman Rushdie's publishers and translators, when you've blown up Jewish community centers in Buenos Aires, when you've acted extra-territorially to the full extent of your abilities for 30 years, it seems prudent for the rest of us to assume that when your abilities go nuclear you'll be acting to an even fuller extent.

But, even without launching a single missile, Iran will at a stroke have transformed much of the map – and not just in the Middle East, where the Sunni dictatorships face a choice between an unsought nuclear arms race or a future as Iranian client states. In Eastern Europe, a nuclear Iran will vastly advance Russia's plans for a de facto reconstitution of its old empire: In an unstable world, Putin will offer himself as the protection racket you can rely on. And you'd be surprised how far west "Eastern" Europe extends: Moscow's strategic view is of a continent not only energy-dependent on Russia but also security-dependent. And, when every European city is within range of Tehran and other psycho states, there'll be plenty of takers for that when the alternative is an effete and feckless Washington.

It's a mistake to think that the infantilization of once-free peoples represented by the microregulatory Nanny State can be confined to pancakes and hot tubs. Consider, for example, the incisive analysis of Scott Gration, the U.S. special envoy to the mass murderers of Sudan: "We've got to think about giving out cookies," said Gration a few months back. "Kids, countries – they react to gold stars, smiley faces, handshakes, agreements, talk, engagement."

Actually, there's not a lot of evidence "smiley faces" have much impact on kids in the Bronx, never mind genocidal machete-wielders in Darfur. So much for the sophistication of "soft power," smiling through a hard-faced world.

So, Iran will go nuclear and formally inaugurate the post-American era. The Left and the isolationist Right reckon that's no big deal. They think of the planet as that Arizona patio and America as the hotel room. There may be an incendiary hot tub out there, but you can lock the door and hang a sign, and life will go on, albeit a little more cramped and constrained than before. I think not.

 
25256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mosque towers to look down on Sandhurst? on: February 21, 2010, 09:49:39 PM
Giant mosque's towers 'will loom over Sandhurst' Royal (UK) Military Academy.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Giant mosque's towers 'will loom over Sandhurst'

By Dan Newling
Last updated at 12:13 AM on 22nd February 2010



Generals are trying to block plans to build a mosque with two 100ft minarets next to Sandhurst.

The £3million building would have a clear view over the military academy and is just 400 yards from its parade ground.

Senior officers oppose the project saying it could pose a security threat to cadets.


Enlarge
Objection: The MoD, backed by a petition signed by 7,000 local residents, is fighting plans to build a giant mosque overlooking Sandhurst

Yesterday an Army source said: 'This has gone right to the top of the chain of command.

'There is very real concern that if this thing gets built then soldiers could be put at risk.

'It is outrageous to even think that the officers of the future would have to watch their backs while they are still in training.'

Hundreds of newly-commissioned Army officers take to the parade ground each year for the academy's passing out ceremony.

The event attracts senior members of the Royal Family, including the Queen when her grandson Prince Harry was commissioned in 2006.



Security threat: The Queen and other senior members of the royal family are regular visitors to Sandhurst


The gigantic mosque is the idea of the Bengali Welfare Association, which worships at the al-Kharafi Islamic Centre in Camberley, Surrey.

The group wants to demolish a listed Victorian school building in use as a mosque at the centre and replace it with a sprawling Saudi Arabian-style building.

Planning papers reveal that the massive structure would tower over local buildings.

As well as the two minarets, it would feature a large central dome, five smaller outlying domes, a morgue, a library and a separate worship area for women.

The first attempt at securing planning approval led to objections from 1,000 locals. Planning officers were also opposed but Conservative-dominated Surrey Heath gave the mosque the go-ahead last month.

However, a procedural error means the application now needs to go to a full council meeting for approval.



Plan: The new mosque will be built on the site of a Victorian former school, which has been used as an Islamic centre for the last 14 years

And the Ministry of Defence - which initially had no objections - has its mind to insist that the minarets are not built.

Local MEP Nigel Farage of UKIP, who is battling the plans, said: 'I am appalled that a local council can totally ignore the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the electorate of Camberley and overturn the recommendations of planning officers.

'This building is quite simply inappropriate and gives rise to genuine security concerns.


'I know that senior military officers are extremely concerned about this. It simply cannot be allowed to go ahead.'

Alan Kirkland, a local campaigner, said: 'Local people are simply flabbergasted that 100ft high minarets can be built right next to the Royal Military Academy.


'There is obviously a security risk and there is no way that it should be built.'

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said: 'Defence Estates has objected to the plans as such a tall building would give oversight into Defence property which could prove a security risk.'

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...andhurst.html#
25257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: February 21, 2010, 06:17:37 PM
Barbour is very good in many ways, but IMHO will be too readily seen as "just another old white Republican male".  I also doublt his fighting spirit when a liberal-prgressive lynch mob gets in full-throated cry.

Newt on the other hand has a mental speed and verbal agility that can keep him from being pegged as such.  A lack of fighting spirit will not be a problem with the Newtster though methinks as his political killer instinct is well proven.  As for his foilbes in the mid 90s, as serious as some of them were,  I suspect America's concentration span and moral speciousness will not prevent him from being forgiven if he is seen as the man that we want.
25258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Legal issues on: February 21, 2010, 06:05:12 PM
Very interesting!

This suit, it seems to me, is quite well positioned to really foul up the Watermelons backdoor strategy.   

I hope you will be able to keep us abreast of the story as it develops.
25259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 21, 2010, 06:35:08 AM
BO's strategy begins to bear its fruit:

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

Kurdish news website Hawlati and Iraqi news site Aswat al Iraq reported Feb. 20, citing a security source, that Iranian forces have made an incursion in Iraq’s Diyala province north of Baghdad. The alleged incursion reportedly occurred near the Munzrya border crossing. According to the report, Iranian forces were seen removing concrete barriers that mark the border demarcation between the two countries. Iraqi border security officials have reportedly sent a memorandum to their superiors in Baghdad explaining the incident and are awaiting their response. STRATFOR is working to verify this report. The last major Iranian provocation in Iraq occurred in late Dec. 2009 when Iranian forces briefly occupied an oil well in Iraq’s southern Missan province. These moves are designed to signal Iran’s dominance over Baghdad and warn the United States of the consequences of carrying out military strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities. As tensions escalate over the Iranian nuclear program, such provocations will likely become more frequent, particularly in the lead-up to contentious parliamentary elections in Iraq on March 7. Iran has already demonstrated through its Shiite political allies in Baghdad that it has the upper hand in this election, as well as the means to destabilize Iraq and ensure that Iraq’s Sunni faction remains sidelined.
25260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: February 21, 2010, 05:46:40 AM
Newt Gingrich in fine form:

http://newt.org/MediaCenter/FeaturedVideo/tabid/258/Default.aspx
25261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 20, 2010, 07:24:13 PM


http://davidbellavia.com/2010/our-mission-is-finally-accomplished-anyone-care/
25262  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: February 20, 2010, 04:57:19 PM
Box cover is done.  It should begin shipping in about ten days. smiley
25263  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle, Sept 11-12, 2010 on: February 20, 2010, 09:57:49 AM
Woof All:

I glitched on the dates embarassed  All entries should now have the correct dates.

yip!
CD
25264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: February 19, 2010, 08:40:47 PM
The others' mindset:

www.memri.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/2388.htm
25265  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: February 19, 2010, 10:38:28 AM
Woof Freki:

I apologize, but after reflection (and perhaps fired up a bit by watching Glenn Beck discuss this very point last night) I have decided to delete the post of the Austin plane killer.  But for what he did, no one would have bothered to finish reading what he wrote. 

Marc

PS: Left unmentioned is that, according to a TV report yesterday, that he set fire to his ex-wife's house with her and their child still inside it and that they were saved by the intervention of neighbors.

25266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, & the US Dollar on: February 19, 2010, 10:29:29 AM
If one may ask, where and why?
25267  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle, Sept 11-12, 2010 on: February 18, 2010, 02:42:24 PM
The seminar will probably have a strong military and LEO orientation.  Those interested in attending should please contact Rob at ronin06@earthlink.net  If you are a civilian he may ask you some questions. smiley

I will be available for privates on Monday and Tuesday.
25268  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: February 18, 2010, 12:00:38 PM
Summary
Relations between the United States and China have come under increasing stress during the past year. While many of the issues at the root of the tensions have existed for some time, China’s resistance to the U.S. push for sanctions on Iran has become the most urgent and potentially disruptive dispute between the two countries. China believes sanctions could jeopardize its energy security, and that its accession to such a move could harm its international image. However, China will not be able to stop sanctions and will have few options to retaliate against the United States in a way that does not harm Beijing even more.

Analysis

The United States has intensified its public courting of Beijing’s support for a potential sanctions regime against Iran in recent days. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Saudi Arabia on Feb. 15-16 where she encouraged a deal in which the Saudis would increase oil exports to China to guarantee China’s oil supply amid the tensions with Iran. On Feb. 14, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said he expected the Chinese to provide support for sanctions, while National Security Adviser Jim Jones said the same day that China has supported nuclear nonproliferation efforts against North Korea and that as a “responsible world power” it would also do so with Iran. This followed U.S. President Barack Obama’s statement the previous week saying that while the Russians have become “forward leaning” on the sanctions issue, China’s support remains a question.

Washington’s focus on China over the Iranian issue comes in the midst of a rocky patch in overall Sino-American relations. China has consistently resisted the push for sanctions, as they could put Beijing’s energy security at risk and curtail its growing bilateral relationship with Tehran. Ultimately, the Chinese do not have to make a final decision on sanctions until the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) takes a vote. But China has few tools to use against the United States to resist sanctions — and to do so would run the risk of provoking American reactions that China would rather avoid.


The Root of Sino-U.S. Tensions

The Chinese and American partnership has undergone several strains since American financial troubles became global financial troubles in late 2008. Inherent characteristics of the two economies, and their mutual dependence, made it inevitable that economic and trade tensions would arise. China’s single-largest customer is the United States, to which it exported $220.8 billion worth of goods and services in 2009, 18 percent of China’s total exports. By contrast China is the United States’ third-largest export market, importing $77.4 billion in total in 2009. In the process of running large trade surpluses, China has racked up $2.39 trillion in foreign exchange reserves and invested about one third of that into U.S. Treasury debt, thereby helping the U.S. Federal Reserve to maintain low interest rates that perpetuate U.S. consumption of Chinese goods.

U.S.-Chinese economic and financial interdependency has called attention to vulnerabilities and disagreements. The Obama administration slapped tariffs on Chinese-made tires in September 2009, and a host of other disputes have arisen at the World Trade Organization (WTO). While these disputes are mainly political efforts meant to release domestic social pressure, both states are aware that there is potential for protectionist tactics to spiral out of control, making the relationship inherently uneasy and suspicious.

Economic tensions are coupled with military ones. There is already lack of trust between China and the United States on the question of defense. Beijing’s military power has increased as its economic success has enabled greater reforms and better weaponry, and Beijing’s rising military profile has caused concern among states that doubt its intentions. Meanwhile the United States is the world’s leading military power by far, and not only dominates the oceans with naval power (implicitly threatening China’s vital supply lines) but also maintains strong alliances with states on the Chinese periphery, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, a territory Beijing claims as its own. Military-to-military talks were canceled in 2008 when the Bush administration agreed to a new arms package to Taiwan, and briefly restarted when China canceled them again in 2010 following the Obama administration’s approval of the deal.

These broader national security issues have become entangled with the trade spats. China has threatened sanctions on American arms manufacturers for making the weapons that Washington is selling to Taiwan in the most recent U.S. arms package. China’s threat to introduce retaliatory sanctions marks a harsher reaction to such arms deals than in the past. On a separate front, a conflict has erupted over China’s Internet control policies and American cybersecurity. China has also reacted sharply against American criticism of its policies in dealing with ethnic minorities and separatism in Xinjiang and Tibet, which has created another diplomatic row in light of President Obama’s plan to meet with the Dalai Lama on Feb. 18.


Resistance to Iranian Sanctions

While trade and defense tensions have long been present in the Sino-U.S. relationship, the controversy over the Iranian nuclear program — and the U.S. push for sanctions — have introduced a new, urgent and potentially destabilizing element into the dynamic. China has rejected the idea of new sanctions since the Obama administration launched negotiations in mid-2009, and the Chinese have shown increasing displeasure with the U.S. sanctions drive since late December 2009 by postponing and sending lower-level officials to negotiations with the P-5+1 group, which consists of the five permanent members of the UNSC (China, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia) plus Germany. China’s foreign ministry has continued its rejection of sanctions in 2010.

China’s position on Iran follows from its concerns for energy security. China imported about 51 percent of its oil in 2009, and Iran was the third-largest supplier, providing about 11.4 percent of its imports — after Saudi Arabia (20.5 percent) and Angola (15.8 percent). While the current batch of proposed sanctions do not target Iranian oil exports, they would escalate tensions in the Persian Gulf overall. China fears that a military conflict could erupt that would threaten supply lines from other Gulf providers, such as Saudi Arabia or Oman, since the Iranian retaliation might target the Strait of Hormuz through which roughly half of China’s total oil imports transit. Without a steady stream of Gulf oil, China’s ability to maintain economic growth would be threatened. And China is not willing to take such risks with its energy supply.

Moreover, China’s exports of gasoline and refined oil products to Iran have grown in recent months. Iran’s dysfunctional domestic energy situation forces it to import these goods, and China has excess refining capacity. This growing area of trade would specifically be targeted in international sanctions, as the Americans have long signaled that Iran’s dependency on external sources for gasoline is its Achilles’ heel. Sanctions against Iran would also interfere with China’s investments in Iran’s energy sector — including China National Petroleum Corp’s (CNPC) planned exploration of Iran’s massive South Pars natural gas field in March, as well as deals for oil production involving CNPC in Iran’s North Azadegan and Sinopec in the Yadavaran oil field. In other words, while China will not base its decisions solely on its exports to and investments in Iran, those considerations are substantial and will not be ignored.

China also has a reputation to uphold. Especially in recent years, China has positioned itself as a global leader, seeking to complement its economic power with rising military and political status. Beijing has made its voice heard at the United Nations, the G-20 and other global forums as a leader of the developing countries and a counterweight to the developed countries. Simultaneously, China has sought to play a more active role in international security operations, including peacekeeping and disaster relief, and has taken a leading role in the international anti-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia, all with the intention of enhancing its prestige and developing powers outside the economic sphere. These efforts are also meant to present China as a potential alternative global leader to the United States, and to earn supporters and followers. A substantial amount of credibility thus rests on China’s defending of states like Iran that are antagonistic toward the United States — if China turns its back on Iran, then countries in Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia that might have thought they could count on Beijing in a pinch will have to rethink their policies. On the contrary, if Beijing can prolong negotiations and delay serious action on Iran, it can extend the time in which the United States is bogged down in the Middle East, winning more room to maneuver toward meeting domestic and international objectives.


Limited Options

Beijing’s problem is that it has very few tools with which to influence the United States’ behavior in general, not to mention toward Iran. China’s only tools to pressure the United States are economic — specifically through trade disputes and purchases of U.S. debt — and they would backfire. Beijing is also not able to directly affect negotiations between the United States and Russia on sanctions. And if sanctions are proposed in the UNSC, China can veto them only if it is prepared for the blowback from the United States.

China’s chief weakness lies in the fact that it cannot escape economic troubles until its export sector revives, but the United States has the ability to put pressure on this sector. The Obama administration has shown a willingness to exercise Section 421, an American law that China admitted into its WTO accession agreement in 2001 that gives the United States the right to enact barriers when it perceives that a dramatic increase in Chinese imports into the American market could disrupt domestic producers. The significance of the September tire tariffs was primarily to warn China that Washington is willing to use this prerogative and there is little China can do about it. If Beijing should seek to retaliate through its own tariffs, it risks provoking a trade war with the United States that it could not win, since its economy is too fragile to sustain the shocks that could be caused by a more aggressive use of Section 421, or more drastic measures.

Even China’s great advantage of being the United States’ primary creditor does not provide as much leverage as one might think. At the latest tally (in December 2009), China held around $755 billion in U.S. Treasury debt, about 6 percent of total U.S. government debt. Slowing or stopping the purchase of U.S. Treasury bonds could have an effect on the U.S. economic recovery, were it feasible for China to do so. But selling off large chunks of American debt would not only require finding lots of very rich buyers, but would leave Beijing with nowhere to invest its surplus dollars month after month, since the other deep debt markets are unsafe (Japan), vulnerable to exchange rate risk (Europe) or too small (everyone else). Investing that much cash into commodities would both roil global debt markets and drive commodity prices sky high. Even if Beijing could successfully diversify away from U.S. debt, the move would cause interest rates to rise in the United States and disrupt U.S. consumption patterns crucial for China’s economy (and global economic stability).


A Russian Turn?

Recently, prominent Russian authorities have made statements implying that Moscow was becoming more willing to endorse sanctions. As long as Russia appears intransigent on the U.S. call for sanctions, it provides China with diplomatic cover. But if a Russian shift is in fact under way — and there is no hard evidence yet that the United States has offered the concessions necessary to win Russia over — then it will have an impact on China’s strategy.

Moscow is critical to the efficacy of any sanctions regime because it can circumvent sanctions by means of its communication and transportation routes through the Caucasus and Central Asia to Iran. Without Russia, international sanctions will not work. Unlike Russia, however, China is not capable of making or breaking sanctions covertly through its participation or lack thereof — its links to Iran go over sea routes, making them vulnerable to American naval power (while the land routes from China to Iran are logistically unfeasible and still hinge on Russian influence). Finally, the United States and European allies are not likely to bring sanctions to a vote at the UNSC unless they have already gained the assurances they need from Russia — and China has no ability to impact these negotiations.

If a resolution authorizing sanctions goes to the UNSC, China will have to determine whether to approve, abstain or to exercise its veto (and China has only vetoed sanctions once, sanctions against Zimbabwe in 2008). Voting for sanctions, China will be stuck with enforcing them (and all that enforcement entails) and managing the domestic and international blow to its reputation for caving to American demands despite its much-vaunted rising-power status. Still, this is a path that China has taken before, and is also likely to take in the event that sanctions are watered down. But even if China abstains from voting to register its displeasure, it will be bound by law to enforce the sanctions, or else it will be publicly exposed for undermining them and subject to a harsh reaction from the United States.

Alternately, if the Chinese were to veto a sanctions resolution, they would risk marginalizing the UNSC’s role in dealing with Iran. The United States has shown before that it is willing to act with an international coalition outside of the United Nations, and Iran presents just the type of scenario in which the United States can do so with broad international support, including all the leading European powers and possibly even Russia. Since the UNSC is a key arena for China in attempting to expand its global influence, Beijing would suffer the effects of both isolating itself from the American coalition and seeing the influence of its UNSC seat dwindle.


Looking Ahead

With little impact on the international negotiations, and limited ability to challenge the United States, Beijing can only attempt to play the diplomatic game and stall. The Russians have not yet signed onto sanctions, and as long as they remain in limbo, Beijing does not have to commit. Nevertheless, exposure to the United States is the reason that China’s Communist Party leadership has become consumed with furious internal debate over the country’s path forward. Beijing is fully aware that the United States plans to withdraw from the Middle East in a few years, which raises the frightful question of where the superpower will focus its attention next. China is afraid that it is the next target, and sees renewed U.S. attention to Southeast Asia as the beginning of a full-scale containment policy. The problem for China is that to decrease its vulnerability to foreign powers will require difficult reforms, and at a time when the Communist Party is approaching a leadership transition in 2012 and the course ahead is uncertain. With these considerations in mind, China must weigh whether it can afford to break with the United States now over Iran, or whether it could better spend its energies fortifying against what it sees as a likely onslaught of geopolitical competition from the United States in a few short years.
25269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hussman on: February 18, 2010, 09:40:09 AM

An interesting read:

http://www.hussmanfunds.com/wmc/wmc100119.htm
25270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: February 18, 2010, 08:12:25 AM
MARJA, Afghanistan — In five days of fighting, the Taliban have shown a side not often seen in nearly a decade of American military action in Afghanistan: the use of snipers, both working alone and integrated into guerrilla-style ambushes.

Five Marines and two Afghan soldiers have been struck here in recent days by bullets fired at long range. That includes one Marine fatally shot and two others wounded in the opening hour of a four-hour clash on Wednesday, when a platoon with Company K of the Third Battalion, Sixth Marines, was ambushed while moving on foot across a barren expanse of flat ground between the clusters of low-slung mud buildings.

Almost every American and Afghan infantryman present has had frightening close calls. Some of the shooting has apparently been from Kalashnikov machine guns, the Marines say, mixed with sniper fire.

The near misses have included lone bullets striking doorjambs beside their faces as Marines peeked around corners, single rounds cracking by just overhead as Marines looked over mud walls, and bullets slamming into the dirt beside them as they ran across the many unavoidable open spaces in the area they have been assigned to clear.

On Wednesday, firing came from primitive compounds, irrigation canals and agricultural fields as the bloody struggle between the Marines and the Taliban for control of the northern portion of this Taliban enclave continued for a fifth day.

In return, Company K used mortars, artillery, helicopter attack gunships and an airstrike in a long afternoon of fighting, which ended, as has been the pattern for nearly a week, with the waning evening light.

The fight to push the Taliban from this small area of Marja, a rural belt of dense poppy cultivation with few roads and almost no services, has relented only briefly since Company K landed by helicopters in the blackness early on Saturday morning. It has been a grinding series of skirmishes triggered by the company’s advances to seize sections of villages, a bridge and a bazaar where it has established an outpost and patrol bases.

Over all, most Taliban small-arms fire has been haphazard and ineffective, an unimpressive display of ill discipline or poor skill. But this more familiar brand of Taliban shooting has been punctuated by the work of what would seem to be several well-trained marksmen.

On Monday, a sniper struck an Afghan soldier in the neck at a range of roughly 500 to 700 yards. The Afghan was walking across an open area when the single shot hit him. He died.

The experience of First Platoon on Wednesday was the latest chilling example. The platoon, laden with its backpacks, was moving west toward the company’s main outpost after several days of operating in the eastern portion of the company’s area.

Marines here often stay within the small clusters of buildings as they walk, seeking the relative protection of mud walls. But it is impossible to move far without venturing into the open to cross to new villages. As First Platoon moved into the last wide expanse before reaching the command post, the Taliban began a complex ambush.

First bullets came from a Kalashnikov firing from the south, said First Lt. Jarrod D. Neff, the platoon commander. The attack had a logic: to the south, a deep irrigation canal separates the insurgents from anyone walking on the north side, where the company’s forces are concentrated. Vegetation is also thicker there, providing ample concealment.

There have been several ambushes in this same spot since the long-planned Afghan and American operation to evict the Taliban and establish a government presence in Marja began. Each time, the Marines and their Afghan counterparts have run through the open by turns, some of them sprinting while others provided suppressive fire.

The routine had been a long and risky maneuver by dashing and dropping, without a hint of cover, as bursts of machine-gun bullets and single sniper shots zipped past or thumped in the soil, kicking up a fine white powder that coats the land. At the end of each ambush, each man was slicked in sweat and winded. Ears rang from the near deafening sound of the Marines and Afghan soldiers returning fire.

As First Platoon made the crossing under machine-gun fire, at least one sniper was also waiting, according to the Marines who crossed. After the Taliban gunmen occupied the platoon’s attention to the south, a sniper opened fire from the north, Marines in the ambush said.

====

The Marine who was killed was struck in the chest as he ran, just above the bulletproof plate on his body armor, the Marines said. The others were struck in a hand or arm. (The names of the three wounded men have been withheld pending government notification of their families.)



All three were evacuated by an Army Black Hawk helicopter that landed under crackling fire.

Whoever was firing remained hidden, even from the Marines’ rifle scopes. “I was looking and I couldn’t see them,” said Staff Sgt. Jay C. Padilla, an intelligence specialist who made the crossing with First Platoon. “But they were shooting the dirt right next to us.” The sniper also focused, two Marines said, on trying to hit a black Labrador retriever, Jaeger, who has been trained for sniffing out munitions and hidden bombs. The dog was not hit.

The platoon was just outside the company outpost when the ambush began. A squad from Third Platoon rushed out and bounded across the canal, trying to flank the Taliban and chase them away, or to draw their fire so that First Platoon might continue its crossing. The squad came under precise sniper fire, too, while the company coordinated fire support.

First the company fired its 60-millimeter mortars, but the Taliban kept firing. Company K escalated after the Third Platoon commander reported by radio that several insurgents had moved into a compound near the canal.

The forward air controller traveling with Company K, Capt. Akil R. Bacchus, arranged for an airstrike.

About a minute later, a 250-pound GPS-guided bomb whooshed past overhead and slammed into the compound with a thunderous explosion.

“Good hit!” said Capt. Joshua P. Biggers, the company commander. “Good hit.”

After the airstrike, two pairs of attack helicopters were cleared to strafe a set of bunkers and canals that the Taliban fighters had been firing from.

They climbed high over the canal and bore down toward a tree line, guns and rockets firing. Explosions tossed soil and made the ground shudder. First Platoon pushed toward the outpost.

For all the intensity of the fighting in this small area of Marja, and in spite of the hardships and difficulties of the past several days, both Captain Biggers and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Brian Christmas, suggested Wednesday that the seesaw contest would soon shift.

Company K had been isolated for several days, and by daylight was almost constantly challenged by the Taliban. But on Wednesday morning, before the latest ambush, the battalion had cleared the roads to its outposts, allowing more forces to flow into the area, significantly increasing the company’s strength.

By evening, as Cobra gunships still circled, the results were visible to the Marines and insurgents watching the outpost alike. The company had more supplies, and its contingent of several mine-resistant, ambush-protected troop carriers, called MRAPs — each outfitted with either a heavy machine gun or automatic grenade launcher — had reached the outpost.

Colonel Christmas looked over the outpost’s southern wall at the vegetated terrain beyond the canal. “We’ll be getting in there and clearing that out,” he said.
25271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 18, 2010, 08:06:38 AM

==============
Two More Senior Taliban Leaders Are Arrested

Two senior Taliban leaders have been arrested in recent days
inside Pakistan, officials said Thursday, as American and
Pakistani intelligence agents continued to press their
offensive against the group's leadership after the capture of
the insurgency's military commander last month.

Afghan officials said the Taliban's "shadow governors" for
two provinces in northern Afghanistan had been detained in
recent days hiding inside Pakistan. Mullah Abdul Salam, the
Taliban's leader in Kunduz, was detained in the Pakistani
city of Faisalabad, and Mullah Mohammed of Baghlan Province
was also captured in an undisclosed Pakistani city, they
said.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/19/world/asia/19taliban.html?emc=na
25272  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 18, 2010, 08:00:49 AM
Grateful for the quiet joys of watching the Olympics with my family.
25273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Price of Tyranny on: February 17, 2010, 08:12:33 PM
Question (and it is meant sincerely):  What about PCB's?  Fraud, Menance, or , , ,?
25274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on Trade, 1774 on: February 17, 2010, 12:35:35 PM
"No nation was ever ruined by trade, even seemingly the most disadvantageous." --Benjamin Franklin and George Whaley, Principles of Trade, 1774
25275  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Old man surprises young man on: February 17, 2010, 12:11:36 PM
Old man surprises young man

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5dE-Hp5bGWY
25276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: February 17, 2010, 12:02:59 PM
Editorial Exegesis
"Those unversed in the arcana of Congressional procedure should familiarize themselves with 'reconciliation.' It's just another word for nothing left to lose -- that is, it's the tactic Democrats seem increasingly likely to use to bypass the ordinary legislative rules and railroad ObamaCare into law with a bare partisan majority of 50 Senators, plus Vice President Joe Biden. Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced ... that Democrats 'have set the stage' for reconciliation. 'It's up to us to make sure the public knows that this is not extraordinary,' she said. 'It would be a reflection on us if we could not convince people that this is not an unusual place to go.' Yet the reconciliation gambit really would be unprecedented for social legislation of this cost and scale. And as a matter of procedure, it would also be unusual, to say the least. As Mrs. Pelosi's senior health adviser, Wendell Primus, explained ... House Democrats would pass a series of 'fixes' to the Senate bill. The Senate would then pass the House reconciliation bill, sending amendments to President Obama to a bill that -- strictly speaking -- didn't exist, because it hadn't yet emerged from the House. The House would then retroactively pass the Senate bill as is. Democrats say this will all be kosher as long as Mr. Obama signs the Senate bill before he signs the reconciliation bill. 'There's a certain skill, there's a trick,' Mr. Primus conceded, 'but I think we'll get it done.' So even as Democrats themselves acknowledge that one reason the public hates ObamaCare so much is the corrupt tactics they have used to advance it through Congress, they still plan to try to land this Pelosian triple-handspring-quadruple pole vault to passage." --The Wall Street Journal

Upright
"Obamacare flunks the first test of any potential federal law: It is not constitutional." --National Review's Deroy Murdock

"It's not a good idea for Republicans to accept President Barack Obama's invitation to a 'bipartisan' health care summit, because it would not advance acceptable health care reform. The only thing it likely would advance would be Obama's propaganda message -- and, thus, his socialist agenda." --columnist David Limbaugh

"It isn't to evil dictators with a lust for power that Americans have been slowly surrendering their autonomy. It is to well-intentioned authorities who believe sincerely that our freedoms must be circumscribed for our own good. ... First Lady Michelle Obama announced what The New York Times called 'a sweeping initiative ... aimed at revamping the way American children eat and play -- reshaping school lunches, playgrounds, and even medical checkups -- with the goal of eliminating childhood obesity.' Nothing in the Constitution authorizes the federal government to take charge of 'revamping the way American children eat and play.' It is only our passivity that makes such an encroachment possible. This used to be the land of the free. Is it still?" --columnist Jeff Jacoby

25277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New ammo for Afpakia on: February 16, 2010, 09:40:54 PM
Corps to use more lethal ammo in Afghanistan
Navy Times
By Dan Lamothe - Staff writer
Posted : Tuesday Feb 16, 2010 9:29:10 EST
   
The Marine Corps is dropping its conventional 5.56mm ammunition in Afghanistan in favor of new deadlier, more accurate rifle rounds, and could field them at any time.

The open-tipped rounds until now have been available only to Special Operations Command troops. The first 200,000 5.56mm Special Operations Science and Technology rounds are already downrange with Marine Expeditionary Brigade-Afghanistan, said Brig. Gen. Michael Brogan, commander of Marine Corps Systems Command. Commonly known as “SOST” rounds, they were legally cleared for Marine use by the Pentagon in late January, according to Navy Department documents obtained by Marine Corps Times.

SOCom developed the new rounds for use with the Special Operations Force Combat Assault Rifle, or SCAR, which needed a more accurate bullet because its short barrel, at 13.8 inches, is less than an inch shorter than the M4 carbine’s. Using an open-tip match round design common with some sniper ammunition, SOST rounds are designed to be “barrier blind,” meaning they stay on target better than existing M855 rounds after penetrating windshields, car doors and other objects.

Compared to the M855, SOST rounds also stay on target longer in open air and have increased stopping power through “consistent, rapid fragmentation which shortens the time required to cause incapacitation of enemy combatants,” according to Navy Department documents. At 62 grains, they weigh about the same as most NATO rounds, have a typical lead core with a solid copper shank and are considered a variation of Federal Cartridge Co.’s Federal Trophy Bonded Bear Claw round, which was developed for big-game hunting and is touted in a company news release for its ability to crush bone.

The Corps purchased a “couple million” SOST rounds as part of a joint $6 million, 10.4-million-round buy in September — enough to last the service several months in Afghanistan, Brogan said. Navy Department documents say the Pentagon will launch a competition worth up to $400 million this spring for more SOST ammunition.

“This round was really intended to be used in a weapon with a shorter barrel, their SCAR carbines,” Brogan said. “But because of its blind-to-barrier performance, its accuracy improvements and its reduced muzzle flash, those are attractive things that make it also useful to general purpose forces like the Marine Corps and Army.”

M855 problems
The standard Marine round, the M855, was developed in the 1970s and approved as an official NATO round in 1980. In recent years, however, it has been the subject of widespread criticism from troops, who question whether it has enough punch to stop oncoming enemies.

In 2002, shortcomings in the M855’s performance were detailed in a report by Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane, Ind., according to Navy Department documents. Additional testing in 2005 showed shortcomings. The Pentagon issued a request to industry for improved ammunition the following year. Federal Cartridge was the only company to respond.

Brogan said the Corps has no plans to remove the M855 from the service’s inventory at this time. However, the service has determined it “does not meet USMC performance requirements” in an operational environment in which insurgents often lack personal body armor, but engage troops through “intermediate barriers” such as windshields and car doors at security checkpoints, according to a Jan. 25 Navy Department document clearing Marines to use the SOST round.

The document, signed by J.R. Crisfield, director of the Navy Department International and Operational Law Division, is clear on the recommended course of action for the 5.56mm SOST round, formally known as MK318 MOD 0 enhanced 5.56mm ammunition.

“Based on the significantly improved performance of the MK318 MOD 0 over the M855 against virtually every anticipated target array in Afghanistan and similar combat environments where increased accuracy, better effects behind automobile glass and doors, consistent terminal performance and reduced muzzle flash are critical to mission accomplishment, USMC would treat the MK318 MOD 0 as its new 5.56mm standard issue cartridge,” Crisfield wrote.

The original plan called for the SOST round to be used specifically within the M4 carbine, which has a 14½-inch barrel and is used by tens of thousands of Marines in military occupational specialties such as motor vehicle operator where the M16A4’s longer barrel can be cumbersome. Given its benefits, however, Marine officials decided also to adopt SOST for the M16A4, which has a 20-inch barrel and is used by most of the infantry.

Incorporating SOST
In addition to operational benefits, SOST rounds have similar ballistics to the M855 round, meaning Marines will not have to adjust to using the new ammo, even though it is more accurate.

“It does not require us to change our training,” Brogan said. “We don’t have to change our aim points or modify our training curriculum. We can train just as we have always trained with the 855 round, so right now, there is no plan to completely remove the 855 from inventory.”

Marine officials in Afghanistan could not be reached for comment, but Brogan said commanders with MEB-A are authorized to issue SOST ammo to any subordinate command. Only one major Marine 5.56mm weapon system downrange will not use SOST: the M249 squad automatic weapon. Though the new rounds fit the SAW, they are not currently produced in the linked fashion commonly employed with the light machine gun, Brogan said.

SOCom first fielded the SOST round in April, said Air Force Maj. Wesley Ticer, a spokesman for the command. It also fielded a cousin — MK319 MOD 0 enhanced 7.62mm SOST ammo — designed for use with the SCAR-Heavy, a powerful 7.62mm battle rifle. SOCom uses both kinds of ammunition in all of its geographic combatant commands, Ticer said.

The Corps has no plans to buy 7.62mm SOST ammunition, but that could change if operational commanders or infantry requirements officers call for it in the future, Brogan said.

It is uncertain how long the Corps will field the SOST round. Marine officials said last summer that they took interest in it after the M855A1 lead-free slug in development by the Army experienced problems during testing, but Brogan said the service is still interested in the environmentally friendly round if it is effective. Marine officials also want to see if the price of the SOST round drops once in mass production. The price of an individual round was not available, but Brogan said SOST ammo is more expensive than current M855 rounds.

“We have to wait and see what happens with the Army’s 855LFS round,” he said. “We also have to get very good cost estimates of where these [SOST] rounds end up in full-rate, or serial production. Because if it truly is going to remain more expensive, then we would not want to buy that round for all of our training applications.”

Legal concerns
Before the SOST round could be fielded by the Corps, it had to clear a legal hurdle: approval that it met international law of war standards.

The process is standard for new weapons and weapons systems, but it took on added significance because of the bullet’s design. Open-tip bullets have been approved for use by U.S. forces for decades, but are sometimes confused with hollow-point rounds, which expand in human tissue after impact, causing unnecessary suffering, according to widely accepted international treaties signed following the Hague peace conventions held in the Netherlands in 1899 and 1907.

“We need to be very clear in drawing this distinction: This is not a hollow-point round, which is not permitted,” Brogan said. “It has been through law of land warfare review and has passed that review so that it meets the criteria of not causing unnecessary pain and suffering.”

The open-tip/hollow-point dilemma has been addressed several times by the military, including in 1990, when the chief of the Judge Advocate General International Law Branch, now-retired Marine Col. W. Hays Parks, advised that the open-tip M852 Sierra MatchKing round preferred by snipers met international law requirements. The round was kept in the field.

In a 3,000-word memorandum to Army Special Operations Command, Parks said “unnecessary suffering” and “superfluous injury” have not been formally defined, leaving the U.S. with a “balancing test” it must conduct to assess whether the usage of each kind of rifle round is justified.

“The test is not easily applied,” Parks said. “For this reason, the degree of ‘superfluous injury’ must … outweigh substantially the military necessity for the weapon system or projectile.”

John Cerone, an expert in the law of armed conflict and professor at the New England School of Law, said the military’s interpretation of international law is widely accepted. It is understood that weapons cause pain in war, and as long as there is a strategic military reason for their employment, they typically meet international guidelines, he said.

“In order to fall within the prohibition, a weapon has to be designed to cause unnecessary suffering,” he said.

Sixteen years after Parks issued his memo, an Army unit in Iraq temporarily banned the open-tip M118 long-range used by snipers after a JAG officer mistook it for hollow-tip ammunition, according to a 2006 Washington Times report. The decision was overturned when other Army officials were alerted.
25278  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc. on: February 16, 2010, 01:57:20 PM
Thanks for spotting this.  The Pravda lap dogs continue to not bark c.f. AC Doyle "Hound of the Baskervilles"
25279  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Many little oddities on: February 16, 2010, 01:53:51 PM
Many little oddities here , , ,

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8518481.stm
25280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sundry on: February 16, 2010, 09:41:03 AM


"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual -- or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country." --Samuel Adams, in the Boston Gazette, 1781

"Citizens by birth or choice of a common country, that country has a right to concentrate your affections. The name of American, which belongs to you, in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of Patriotism, more than any appellation derived from local discriminations." --George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796

"Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust must be men of unexceptionable characters." --Samuel Adams, letter to James Warren, 1775

"[T]he first transactions of a nation, like those of an individual upon his first entrance into life make the deepest impression, and are to form the leading traits in its character." --George Washington, letter to John Armstrong, 1788

The citizens of the United States of America have the right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were by the indulgence of one class of citizens that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support." --George Washington, letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, 1790
25281  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hayden: Thiessen's book a must-read on: February 15, 2010, 09:01:10 PM
Former CIA Director Hayden: Thiessen’s ‘Courting Disaster’ a must-read
By Michael Hayden   02/15/10 at 12:00 am
 
  Marc Thiessen begins his new book, “Courting Disaster,” with something of a disclaimer: For reasons of security and classification, he says, he should not have been able to write it. He’s right. He shouldn’t have been able to write it. But I’m glad he did.

Thiessen jumps into the once murky (and once highly classified) world of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program with zeal and energy. And he puts fresh light on a story that up until now seems to have been taken to the darkest corner of the room at every opportunity.

I opposed the release of the Office of Legal Council memos on the CIA interrogation program last April. I opposed the release of additional memos and the report of the CIA inspector general on the interrogation program last August. But whatever their release did to reveal American secrets to our enemies, it did inject something into the public debate on this program that had been sorely missing—facts.

Thiessen has taken these documents, as well as his own extensive interviews and research, and created for the first time a public account of a program previously hidden from public view. Prior to this, some opponents of the program could create whatever image they wanted to create to support the argument of the moment. And those who were in government at the time were near powerless to correct the record. No longer.

There will still be those who remain adamantly opposed to the interrogation effort, but now they must be opposed to the program as it was, not as they imagined or feared or—dare I say, for some—expected it to be.

Thiessen lays out the facts without much varnish. Here are the techniques, here’s what was learned, here’s why it was thought lawful. And make no mistake, he lays out the facts with a point of view. He stops just a little short of being argumentative, but this is meant to be persuasive as well as expository prose.

He doesn’t use much varnish in his treatment of opponents, either. While not quite condemning them outright, he does take a variety of players to task. He chronicles, for example, the current attorney general’s journey from counter-terrorism hawk in 2002 (“They are not prisoners of war…they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention.”) to this in 2008 (“Our government…denied the writ of habeas corpus to hundreds of accused enemy combatants and authorized the use of procedures that violate both international law and the United States Constitution….We owe the American people a reckoning.”) Thiessen is also not particularly kind to civil liberties lobbies who have seemed to push their agendas without regard for any security consequences and he saves a special brand of disdain for the pro bono work of law firms who seem bent on discovering new “rights” for enemy combatants.

And the book’s subtitle—How Barack Obama Is Inviting the Next Attack—should suggest that Thiessen does not think even the president immune from criticism.

As someone who lived and worked them from the inside, I can tell you that these are tough issues and honest men can and do differ on them. Thiessen has been giving as good as he is getting in the numerous interviews he has been giving since the book came out. And I admire his range, from the Catholic Eternal Word Network to Christiane Amanpour on CNN. That people are willing to consider his message is borne out by the book’s popularity to date, No. 9 on the New York Times best-seller list and No. 6 for The Washington Post as of this writing.

Thiessen’s instincts for the broader audience seem to be on the mark. Acceptance and even support of the interrogation regime is higher among the general populace that it is among some political elites and that support has seemed to grow as more details of the program have become public.

All of this is good. These issues need to be joined and we need the wisdom of an informed public to help us.

But there’s something even better about this book. In the overheated rhetoric of today’s Washington, we have lost sight of the fact that this program was carried out by real people, acting out of duty, not enthusiasm.

In preparing President Bush’s September 2006 speech on the interrogation program, Thiessen got a chance to meet real CIA interrogators. These decent people told him candidly what they had done, why, how they felt about it and how they felt about the fellow human beings they interrogated. Thiessen recounts how one of the interrogators that I sent down to talk to him was dubbed Emir Harry (not his real name) by KSM.

Thiessen’s book has put a human face on Emir Harry and his associates. That’s a good thing. These people deserve better than to be stalked by the ACLU’s John Adams project or to be subject to a re-investigation of their past activities. For doing what they were asked to do, these quiet professionals are bearing the nation’s burdens still today and Thiessen has given them their due. And that alone would make “Courting Disaster” worth a read.

Michael Hayden is a retired U.S. Air Force four-star general and former director of the National Security Agency and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
25282  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saudis own 7% of FOX? on: February 15, 2010, 08:55:27 PM
Not sure of the worthiness of the source, but the issue is worth noting:

Conservative Activists Rebel Against Fox News

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
http://thinkprogress.org/2010/02/10/...bels-foxnews/?

Conservative Activists Rebel Against Fox News: Saudi Ownership Is ‘Really Dangerous For America’
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal owns a 7 percent stake in News Corp — the parent company of Fox News — making him the largest shareholder outside the family of News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch. Alwaleed has grown close with the Murdoch enterprise, recently endorsing James Murdoch to succeed his father and creating a content-sharing agreement with Fox News for his own media conglomerate, Rotana.

Last weekend, at the right-wing Constitutional Coalition’s annual conference in St. Louis, Joseph Farah, publisher of the far right WorldNetDaily, blasted Fox News for its relationship with Alwaleed. Farah noted correctly that Alwaleed had boasted in the past about forcing Fox News to change its content relating to its coverage of riots in Paris, and warned that such foreign ownership of American media is “really dangerous.” ThinkProgress was at the speech and observed attendees of the conference murmuring and shaking their heads in disapproval:

FARAH: There’s a flaw, a real compromise in Fox that you need to understand. And if you care about national security, you especially need to be attentive to it. And that is that Fox News parent company is News Corp has a significant ownership by a Saudi prince that many of you will be familiar with because right after 9/11 this prince very famously offered Rudolph Giuliani a big multi-million dollar check to rebuild and Giuliani told him to stick the check where the sun don’t shine because this guy was basically blaming America for what happened on 9/11. Well this guy owns a very significant percentage of the News Corp and has let the world know that he can get things taken off Fox News when he finds them objectionable and has in the past. And I really believe this is really dangerous for America.

Listen here:


ThinkProgess spoke to right-wing author Brigitte Gabriel, another speaker at the conference, who said that Alwaleed was recently interviewed by Fox News’ Neil Cavuto. Gabriel angrily denounced the interview as a “darling high school reunion”: “All of the sudden, Neil Cavuto is interviewing him like a buddy-buddy because he is the boss.” Indeed, in the “rare” interview Alwaleed gave last month, he reaffirmed his “alliance” with the Murdoch family and told Cavuto why he has a personal stake in influencing American politics:

– On continuing America’s dependence on fossil fuels, Saudia Arabian oil: “Saudi Arabia’s strategic alliance with the United States will continue and as a derivative of that, the link with the oil between oil and dollars is there. The bulk of our GDP, the bulk of budget comes from oil and oil is still a dollar based commodity.” As Media Matters has documented, Fox News is a reliable source of misinformation on clean energy, and has aggressively attacked efforts to move America away from a fossil fuel dependent economy.

– On opposing financial reforms, bank responsibility fee: “In a way I’m conflicted because I’m invested in Citigroup but at the more global picture, I’m a big supporter of the United States. I believe taxing the banks right now is not the right thing at all. It’s like you have a patient coming out of an ICU.” Alwaleed owns a $4.3 billion dollars stake in Citigroup, a massive bank that spent millions lobbying against financial reform last year.

With the Citizens United Supreme Court decision essentially freeing corporations to spend unlimited amounts in campaigns, theoretically Alwaleed can pressure the American corporations he owns stock in to spend millions — or even billions — of dollars attacking candidates he opposes. In addition to his powerful Fox News outlet, Alwaleed and other foreign investors have potentially unprecedented power to impact American elections.
__________________
War is Existence. Adaptability is Strength. Service is Mastery.
25283  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taliban's top commander captured on: February 15, 2010, 08:50:48 PM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Mon, February 15, 2010 -- 9:15 PM ET
-----

Secret Joint Raid Captures Taliban's Top Commander

The Taliban's top military commander was captured several
days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by
Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to
American government officials.

The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan
described by American officials as the most significant
Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in
Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks
second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the
Taliban's founder, and was a close associate of Osama bin
Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mullah Baradar has been in Pakistani custody for several
days, with American and Pakistani intelligence officials both
taking part in interrogations, according to the officials.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/16/world/asia/16intel.html?emc=na
25284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: February 15, 2010, 04:59:52 PM
All well and good-- but isn't the question presented HOW to counter that narrative in the Arab/Muslim world?
25285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Irish hit on Hamas?!? on: February 15, 2010, 04:56:52 PM
By Mail Foreign Service
Last updated at 9:29 PM on 15th February 2010


Claims that British and Irish passport holders are among an alleged 11-man hit squad wanted in Dubai for the apparent assassination of a Hamas commander are tonight being investigated by London and Dublin.

Dubai police say the main suspect is Peter Elvinger, 49, who holds a French passport. He was the gang’s logistical co-ordinator and the one who booked room 237 in Al Bustan Rotana, down the corridor from the victim’s room – 230.

The other suspects were identified as Irish nationals Gail Folliard, Kevin Daveron and Evan Dennings; British nationals Paul John Keely, Stephen Daniel Hodes, Melvyn Adam Mildiner, Jonathan Louis Graham, James Leonard Clarke and Michael Lawrence Barney. Also wanted is Michael Bodenheimer, a German national.

The hit squad was responsible for killing Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in his hotel room last month in a slaying that has brought vows of revenge from the Palestinian militant group, Dubai's police chief said.

The details given by Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim are the most comprehensive accusations by Dubai authorities since the body of al-Mabhouh was found on January 20 in his luxury hotel room near Dubai's international airport.

Tamim told reporters the alleged assassination team was made up of six British passport holders, three Irish and one each from France and Germany.

But he did not directly implicate Israel - as Hamas has done. The group has accused Israel's Mossad secret service of carrying out the killing and has pledged to strike back.

Tamim said it was possible that ‘leaders of certain countries gave orders to their intelligence agents to kill’ al-Mabhouh, one of the founders of Hamas' military wing. Israeli officials have accused him of helping smuggle rockets into Gaza.

He said forensic tests indicate al-Mabhouh died of suffocation, but lab analyses are still under way to pinpoint possible other factors in his death.

Top Hamas figures have denied reports that al-Mabhouh was en route to Iran, which is a major Hamas backer. But the group has not given clear reasons for his presence in Dubai.

Tamim sketched out a highly organized operation in the hours before the killing.

He showed a news conference surveillance video of the alleged assassination team arriving on separate flights to Dubai the day before al-Mabhouh was found dead. The suspects checked into separate hotels.

They paid for all expenses in cash and used different mobile phone cards to avoid traces, he added.

At least two suspected members of the hit squad watched al-Mabhouh check in at his hotel and later booked a room across from the Hamas commander, Tamim said.

He added that there was ‘serious penetration into al-Mabhouh's security prior to his arrival’ in Dubai, but that it appeared al-Mabhouh was travelling alone.

‘Hamas did not tell us who he was. He was walking around alone,’ said Tamim. ‘If he was such an important leader, why didn't he have people escorting him?’

Tamim said there was at least one unsuccessful attempt to break into al-Mabhouh's hotel room. It was unclear whether he opened the door to his killers or if the room was forcibly entered.

The killing took place about five hours after al-Mabhouh arrived at the hotel and all 11 suspects were out of the United Arab Emirates within 19 hours of their arrivals, he added.

Tamim said the suspects left some evidence, but he declined to elaborate. He urged the countries linked to the alleged killers to co- operate with the investigation.

Earlier this month, Hamas said it launched floating explosives into the Mediterranean Sea to drift toward Israeli beaches to avenge al-Mabhouh's death.

Israeli authorities discovered at least two explosives-rigged barrels and carried out an intensive search for other bombs, closing miles of beaches and deploying robotic bomb squads.

A Hamas statement last month acknowledged al-Mabhouh was involved in the kidnapping and killing of two Israeli soldiers in 1989 and said he was still playing a ‘continuous role in supporting his brothers in the resistance inside the occupied homeland’ at the time of his death.

More than 2,000 mourners attended al-Mabhouh's funeral and burial at the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk, near Damascus, Syria.

Britain's Foreign Office declined to comment today on the allegations while officials seek more information on the case and the individuals named by Tamim.

Hamas initially claimed al-Mabhouh was poisoned and electrocuted. But Mohammed Nazzal, a Hamas leader, has given a somewhat different account, saying al-Mabhouh was ambushed by Mossad agents who were waiting for him in his hotel room.

Nazzal said earlier this month that no poison was involved. But he gave no evidence to back up his charge of Mossad involvement.

Top Hamas figures have denied reports that al-Mabhouh was en route to Iran, which is a major Hamas backer. But the group has not given clear reasons for his presence in Dubai.


http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worl...ce-chief.html#
25286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on US Strategy on: February 15, 2010, 10:47:14 AM
The Afghanistan Campaign, Part 1: The U.S. Strategy
Stratfor Today » February 15, 2010 | 1450 GMT



Summary
The United States is in the process of sending some 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, and once they have all arrived the American contingent will total nearly 100,000. This will be in addition to some 40,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) personnel. The counterinsurgency to which these troops are committed involves three principal players: the United States, the Taliban and Pakistan. In the first of a three-part series, STRATFOR examines the objectives and the military/political strategy that will guide the U.S./ISAF effort in the coming years.

Editor’s Note: This is part one in a three-part series on the three key players in the Afghanistan campaign.

Analysis
In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the United States entered Afghanistan to conduct a limited war with a limited objective: defeat al Qaeda and prevent Afghanistan from ever again serving as a sanctuary for any transnational terrorist group bent on attacking the United States. STRATFOR has long held that the former goal has been achieved, in effect, and what remains of al Qaeda prime — the group’s core leadership — is not in Afghanistan but across the border in Pakistan. While pressure must be kept on that leadership to prevent the group from regaining its former operational capability, this is an objective very different from the one the United States and ISAF are currently pursuing.

The current U.S. strategy in Afghanistan is to use military force, as the United States did in Iraq, to reshape the political landscape. Everyone from President Barack Obama to Gen. Stanley McChrystal has made it clear that the United States has no interest in making the investment of American treasure necessary to carry out a decade-long (or longer) counterinsurgency and nation-building campaign. Instead, the United States has found itself in a place in which it has found itself many times before: involved in a conflict for which its original intention for entering no longer holds and without a clear strategy for extricating itself from that conflict.

This is not about “winning” or “losing.” The primary strategic goal of the United States in Afghanistan has little to do with the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. That may be an important means but it is not a strategic end. With a resurgent Russia winning back Ukraine, a perpetually defiant Iran and an ongoing global financial crisis — not to mention profound domestic pressures at home — the grand strategic objective of the United States in Afghanistan must ultimately be withdrawal. This does not mean total withdrawal. Advisers and counterterrorism forces are indeed likely to remain in Afghanistan for some time. But the European commitment to the war is waning fast, and the United States has felt the strain of having its ground combat forces almost completely absorbed far too long.

To facilitate that withdrawal, the United States is trying to establish sustainable conditions — to the extent possible — that are conducive to longer-term U.S. interests in the region. Still paramount among these interests is sanctuary denial, and the United States has no intention of leaving Afghanistan only to watch it again become a haven for transnational terrorists. Hence, it is working now to shape conditions on the ground before leaving.

Immediate and total withdrawal would surrender the country to the Taliban at a time when the Taliban’s power is already on the rise. Not only would this give the movement that was driven from power in Kabul in 2001 an opportunity to wage a civil war and attempt to regain power (the Taliban realizes that returning to its status in the 1990s is unlikely), it would also leave a government in Kabul with little real control over much of the country, relieving the pressure on al Qaeda in the Afghan-Pakistani border region and emboldening parallel insurgencies in Pakistan.

The United States is patently unwilling to commit the forces necessary to impose a military reality on Afghanistan (likely half a million troops or more, though no one really knows how many it would take, since it has never been done). Instead, military force is being applied in order to break cycles of violence, rebalance the security dynamic in key areas, shift perceptions and carve out space in which a political accommodation can take place.



(click here to enlarge image)

In terms of military strategy, this means clearing, holding and building (though there is precious little time for building) in key population centers and Taliban strongholds like Helmand province. The idea is to secure the population from Taliban intimidation while denying the Taliban key bases of popular support (from which it draws not only safe haven but also recruits and financial resources). The ultimate goal is to create reasonably secure conditions under which popular support of provincial and district governments can be encouraged without the threat of reprisal and from which effective local security forces can deploy to establish long-term control.

The key aspect of this strategy is “Vietnamization” — working in conjunction with and expanding Afghan National Army (ANA) and Afghan National Police (ANP) forces to establish security and increasingly take the lead in day-to-day security operations. (The term was coined in the early 1970s, when U.S. President Richard Nixon drew down the American involvement in Vietnam by transitioning the ground combat role to Vietnamese forces.) In any counterinsurgency, effective indigenous forces are more valuable, in many ways, than foreign troops, which are less sensitive to cultural norms and local nuances and are seen by the population as outsiders.

But the real objective of the military strategy in Afghanistan is political. Gen. McChrystal has even said explicitly that he believes “that a political solution to all conflicts is the inevitable outcome.” Though the objective of the use of military force almost always comes down to political goals, the kind of campaign being conducted in Afghanistan is particularly challenging. The goal is not the complete destruction of the enemy’s will and ability to resist (as it was, for example, in World War II). In Afghanistan, as in Iraq, the objective is far more subtle than that: It is to use military force to reshape the political landscape. The key challenge in Afghanistan is that the insurgents — the Taliban — are not a small group of discrete individuals like the remnants of al Qaeda prime. The movement is diffuse and varied, itself part of the political landscape that must be reshaped, and the entire movement cannot be removed from the equation.

At this point in the campaign, there is wide recognition that some manner of accommodation with at least portions of the Taliban is necessary to stabilize the situation. The overall intent would be to degrade popular support for the Taliban and hive off reconcilable elements in order to further break apart the movement and make the ongoing security challenges more manageable. Ultimately, it is hoped, enough Taliban militants will be forced to the negotiating table to reduce the threat to the point where indigenous Afghan forces can keep a lid on the problem with minimal support.

Meanwhile, attempts at reaching out to the Taliban are now taking place on multiple tracks. In addition to efforts by the Karzai government, Washington has begun to support Saudi, Turkish and Pakistani efforts. At the moment, however, few Taliban groups seem to be in the mood to talk. At the very least they are playing hard to get, hinting at talks but maintaining the firm stance that full withdrawal of U.S. and ISAF forces is a precondition for negotiations.

The current U.S./NATO strategy faces several key challenges:

For one thing, the Taliban are working on a completely different timeline than the United States, which — even separating itself from many of its anxious-to-withdraw NATO allies — is poised to begin drawing down forces in less than 18 months. While this is less of a fixed timetable than it appears (beginning to draw down from nearly 100,000 U.S. and nearly 40,000 ISAF troops in mid-2011 could still leave more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan well into 2012), the Taliban are all too aware of Washington’s limited commitment.

Then there are the intelligence issues:

One of the inherent problems with the Vietnamization of a conflict is operational security and the reality that it is easy for insurgent groups to penetrate and compromise foreign efforts to build effective indigenous forces. In short, U.S./ ISAF efforts with Afghan forces are relatively easy for the Taliban to compromise, while U.S./ISAF efforts to penetrate the Taliban are exceedingly difficult.
U.S. Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn, the top intelligence officer in Afghanistan who is responsible for both ISAF and separate U.S. efforts, published a damning indictment of intelligence activity in the country last month and has moved to reorganize and refocus those efforts more on understanding the cultural terrain in which the United States and ISAF are operating. But while this shift will improve intelligence operations in the long run, the shake-up is taking place amid a surge of combat troops and ongoing offensive operations. Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, and Gen. McChrystal have both made it clear that the United States lacks the sophisticated understanding of the various elements of the Taliban necessary to identify the potentially reconcilable elements. This is a key weakness in a strategy that ultimately requires such reconciliation (though it is unlikely to disrupt counterterrorism and the hunting of high-value targets).
The United States and ISAF are also struggling with information operations (IO), failing to effectively convey messages to and shape the perceptions of the Afghan people. Currently, the Taliban have the upper hand in terms of IO and have relatively little problem disseminating messages about U.S./ISAF activities and its own goals. The implication of this is that, in the contest over the hearts and minds of the Afghan people, the Taliban are winning the battle of perception.

The training of the ANA and ANP is also at issue. Due to attrition, tens of thousands of new recruits are necessary each year simply to maintain minimum numbers, much less add to the force. Goals for the size of the ANA and ANP are aggressive, but how quickly these goals can be achieved and the degree to which problems of infiltration can be managed — as well as the level of infiltration that can be tolerated while retaining reasonable effectiveness — all remain to be seen. In addition, loyalty to a central government has no cultural precedent in Afghanistan. The lack of a coherent national identity means that, while there are good reasons for young Afghan men to join up (a livelihood, tribal loyalty), there is no commitment to a national Afghan campaign. There are concerns that the Afghan security forces, left to their own devices, would simply devolve into militias along ethnic, tribal, political and ideological lines. Thus the sustainability of gains in the size and effectiveness of the ANA and ANP remains questionable.

This strategy also depends a great deal on the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, over which U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry has expressed deep concern. The Karzai government is widely accused of rampant corruption and of having every intention of maintaining a heavy dependency on the United States. Doubts are often expressed about Karzai’s intent and ability to be an effective partner in the military-political efforts now under way in his country.

While the United States has already made significant inroads against the Taliban in Helmand province, insurgents there are declining to fight and disappearing into the population. It is natural for an insurgency to fall back in the face of concentrated force and rise again when that force is removed, and the durability of these American gains could prove illusory. As Maj. Gen. Flynn’s criticism demonstrates, the Pentagon is acutely aware of challenges it faces in Afghanistan. It is fair to say that the United States is pursuing the surge with its eyes open to inherent weaknesses and challenges. The question is: Can those challenges be overcome in a war-torn country with a long and proven history of insurgency?

Next: The Taliban strategy
25287  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 15, 2010, 10:40:28 AM

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/patterns.htm
25288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: February 15, 2010, 10:30:27 AM
Washington's Birthday
In some circles, today is observed as "Presidents' Day," jointly recognizing Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but it is still officially recognized as the anniversary of "Washington's Birthday" -- and that is how we mark the date in our shop. (Washington's actual birthday is next Monday, February 22.)

As friend of The Patriot, Matthew Spalding, a Heritage Foundation scholar, reminds: "Although it was celebrated as early as 1778, and by the early 19th Century was second only to the Fourth of July as a patriotic holiday, Congress did not officially recognize Washington's Birthday as a national holiday until 1870. The Monday Holiday Law in 1968 -- applied to executive branch departments and agencies by Richard Nixon's Executive Order 11582 in 1971 -- moved the holiday from February 22 to the third Monday in February. Section 6103 of Title 5, United States Code, currently designates that legal federal holiday as 'Washington's Birthday.' Contrary to popular opinion, no action by Congress or order by any President has changed 'Washington's Birthday' to 'Presidents' Day.'"

In honor of and with due respect for our first and (we believe) greatest president, arguably our nation's most outstanding Patriot, we include two quotes from George Washington which best embody his dedication to liberty and God. The first from his First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789, and the second from his Farewell Address, September 19, 1796.

"The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American People."

"Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness -- these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens."
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"Two centuries ago, King George III was told that President George Washington, who had eight years earlier turned down the opportunity to be the king of the United States, was planning to give up the presidency at the conclusion of his second term and return to his farm in Mount Vernon. The astonished monarch, who had lost a war to General Washington, said, 'If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.' Washington did, and he was. Does anything more clearly illustrate how far we have fallen in 210 years?" --columnist Burt Prelutsky
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By JOHN R. MILLER
Published: February 14, 2010
CIVILIAN control of the military is a cherished principle in American government. It was President Obama who decided to increase our involvement in Afghanistan, and it is Congress that will decide whether to appropriate the money to carry out his decision. It is the president and Congress, not the military, that will decide whether our laws should be changed to allow gays and lesbians to serve in our armed forces. The military advises, but the civilian leadership decides.

Yet if not for the actions of George Washington, whose birthday we celebrate, sort of, this month, America might have moved in a very different direction.

In early 1783, with Revolutionary War victory in sight but peace uncertain, Washington and the Continental Army bivouacked at Newburgh, N.Y. Troops were enraged by Congress’s failure to provide promised back pay and pensions. Rumors of mutiny abounded.

On March 10, an anonymous letter appeared, calling for a meeting of all officers the next day to discuss the grievances. Within hours came a second anonymous letter, in which the writer, later revealed as Maj. John Armstrong Jr., an aide to top Gen. Horatio Gates, urged the troops, while still in arms, to either disengage from British troops, move out West and “mock” the Congress, or march on Philadelphia and seize the government.

When Washington learned of the letters, he quickly called for the meeting to be held instead on March 15 — to give time, he said, for “mature deliberation” of the issues. He ordered General Gates to preside and asked for a report, giving the impression that a friend of the instigators would run the show and that Washington himself wouldn’t even attend. He spent the next few days planning his strategy and lining up allies.

But just as the meeting of approximately 500 officers came to order, Washington strode into the hall and asked permission to speak. He said he understood their grievances and would continue to press them. He said that many congressmen supported their claims, but that Congress moved slowly. And he warned that to follow the letter writer would only serve the British cause.

The officers had heard all this before — the letter writer had even warned against heeding Washington’s counsel of “more moderation and longer forbearance.” The crowd rustled and murmured with discontent. Washington then opened a letter from a sympathetic congressman, but soon appeared to grow distracted. As his men wondered what was wrong, Washington pulled out a pair of glasses, which even his officers had never seen before. “Gentlemen,” he said, “you must pardon me, for I have grown not only gray but blind in the service of my country.”

The officers were stunned. Many openly wept. Their mutinous mood gave way immediately to affection for their commander.

After finishing the letter, Washington appealed to the officers’ “patient virtue” and praised the “glorious example you have exhibited to mankind.” He then strode from the hall. His appearance probably lasted less than 15 minutes.

An officer quickly made a motion to thank the commander for his words and appoint a committee — all trusted Washington aides — to prepare a resolution carrying out the general’s wishes. The motion passed, and the committee soon returned with a resolution damning the anonymous letter and pledging faith in Congress. The resolution was adopted by roaring acclamation and the meeting adjourned.

This wasn’t the end of the Army’s intransigence: several weeks later, Pennsylvania militiamen marched on Philadelphia and forced Congress to flee to Princeton, N.J. But with the story from Newburgh fresh in their minds, the mutineers quickly developed second thoughts and went home. True to his word, Washington pursued the Army’s grievances, though with mixed results — Congress voted a lump-sum pension payment and disbanded the force.

Given Washington’s near universal popularity, word of his speech spread rapidly, and civilian control of the military soon became a central priority in the formation of the young Republic. Six years later the new country adopted a Constitution that implicitly recognized civilian control.

But powerful armies often make their own rules, and many nations have succumbed to military control despite strong constitutions. In the United States, it was the story of Newburgh and Washington’s iconic status in our early years that so firmly established a tradition of civilian control in the minds of both our military and civilians. That tradition continues, a testament to our first, finest and most political general.

John R. Miller, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute and a visiting scholar at the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, is working on a book on George Washington and the Newburgh conspiracy.


25289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The electoral process on: February 15, 2010, 10:10:35 AM
"Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual -- or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country." --Samuel Adams, in the Boston Gazette, 1781
25290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: February 14, 2010, 09:01:40 PM
These words from the preceding piece seem to me to articulate something quite important:
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“And they face a meta-narrative” — first developed by Nasser and later adopted by the Islamists — “that mobilizes millions and millions. That narrative says: ‘The Arabs and Muslims are victims of an imperialist-Zionist conspiracy aided by reactionary regimes in the Arab world. It has as its goal keeping the Arabs and Muslims backward in order to exploit their oil riches and prevent them from becoming as strong as they used to be in the Middle Ages — because that is dangerous for Israel and Western interests.’ ”

Today that meta-narrative is embraced across the Arab-Muslim political spectrum, from the secular left to the Islamic right. Deconstructing that story, and rebuilding a post-1979 alternative story based on responsibility, modernization, Islamic reformation and cross-cultural dialogue, is this generation’s challenge.
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Anyone want to comment or have at it?
25291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Beware of Greeking baring , , , on: February 14, 2010, 06:53:06 PM
A Greek and Italian were arguing over who had the superior culture. The Greek says, "We have the Parthenon."

Arching his eyebrows, the Italian replies, "We have the Coliseum."

The Greek retorts, "We Greeks gave birth to advanced mathematics"

The Italian, nodding agreement, says, "But we built the Roman Empire."

And so on and so on until the Greek comes up with what he thinks will end the discussion. With a flourish of finality he says, "We invented sex!"

The Italian replies, "That is true, but it was the Italians who introduced it to women."
25292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 14, 2010, 03:08:25 PM
A PS to the two preceding posts:


We should heed the updated version of Lacoon’s warning from the Aeneid.

"Timeo Danaos exigo sum debitum."

Beware of Greeks selling their debt.
25293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc. on: February 14, 2010, 09:24:31 AM
Acorn-ucopia
Posted 02/12/2010 07:05 PM ET
 

Politics: Didn't Acorn, the corrupt community organizer, get its federal funding yanked after its last scandal? Actually, no. Through municipal middlemen, it's poised to rake in another $4 billion. Where is the outrage?

You'd think a group implicated in dozens of electoral fraud cases, theft of funds and, most recently, helping criminals interested in bringing child prostitutes to the U.S. would have been ruled ineligible for federal aid long ago.

But think again, because these aid rats are experts at survival.

FrontPage magazine reports that federal Judge Nina Gershon ruled that Acorn is eligible for the Obama administration's proposed $4 billion in Housing and Urban Development grants within the $3.83 trillion federal budget proposal for 2011.

That cancels the ban Congress placed on Acorn funding late last year after at least five of the group's offices willingly aided undercover reporters posing as a pimp and prostitute to get federal funding for a brothel and cheat on their taxes.

Acorn's antics were revealed after a series of reports last September on the BigGovernment Web site. Faced with a firestorm of complaints, Congress had no choice but to pull funds for the group.

Many were surprised that Congressional Democrats backed Acorn's defunding. Usually, Acorn and the Democratic Party work hand in hand. Acorn supplies votes and election assistance to Democratic candidates, and the Democrats supply them with funding.

Turns out, the fund-pulling was really just for show.

Acorn is being allowed to make an end-run around the federal funding ban through the use of a middleman, the Washington Times reports.

The way it's done is through HUD Community Development Block Grants, which are given to cities and states to help boost development efforts. Instead of applying directly to the federal government for aid, a violation of Congress' ban, Gershon, a Clinton appointee, effectively ruled that Acorn can instead apply directly to cities and states.

In short, this gaping loophole means the ban is off.

No organization that has broken the law so many times has any right to even indirect federal funding. The fact the feds never prosecuted them as they should have is what has created the opening for Acorn to put its snout in the public trough once again.

It's time for Congress and HUD to get tough with these miscreants before they do any more damage to our system.

25294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: February 14, 2010, 09:21:36 AM
My understanding is that our military capabilities are heavily dependent upon our dominance in space , , , and that the Chinese are hard at work at satellite killer capabilities.  If our satellites are blinded/destroyed, things could go badly for us quite quickly.   There are also the closely related matters of lasers in/from space and solar panels in space (where they just might be economically logical)  For a full discussion of all this, see George Friedman's (he of Stratfor) new book "The Next 100 Years".
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U.S. Surrenders New Frontier Without Fight
By CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER
Posted 02/12/2010 05:52 PM ET
 

'We have an agreement until 2012 that Russia will be responsible for this," says Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian space agency, about ferrying astronauts from other countries into low-Earth orbit.

"But after that? Excuse me, but the prices should be absolutely different then!"

The Russians may be new at capitalism, but they know how it works. When you have a monopoly, you charge monopoly prices. Within months, Russia will have a monopoly on rides into space.

By the end of this year, there will be no shuttle, no U.S. manned space program, no way for us to get into space.

We're not talking about Mars or the moon here. We're talking about low-Earth orbit, which the U.S. has dominated for nearly half a century and from which it is now retiring with nary a whimper.

Our absence from low-Earth orbit was meant to last a few years, the interval between the retirement of the fatally fragile space shuttle and its replacement with the Constellation program (Ares booster, Orion capsule, Altair lunar lander) to take astronauts more cheaply and safely back to space.

But the Obama 2011 budget kills Constellation. Instead, we shall have nothing. For the first time since John Glenn flew in 1962, the U.S. will have no access of its own for humans into space — and no prospect of getting there in the foreseeable future.

Of course, the administration presents the abdication as a great leap forward: Launching humans will now be turned over to the private sector, while NASA's efforts will be directed toward landing on Mars.

This is nonsense. It would be swell for private companies to take over launching astronauts. But they cannot do it. It's too expensive. It's too experimental. And the safety standards for actually getting people up and down reliably are just unreachably high.

Sure, decades from now there will be a robust private space-travel industry. But that is a long time. In the interim, space will be owned by Russia and then China. The president waxes seriously nationalist at the thought of China or India surpassing us in speculative "clean energy." Yet he is quite prepared to gratuitously give up our spectacular lead in human space exploration.

As for Mars, more nonsense. Mars is just too far away. And how do you get there without the stepping stones of Ares and Orion? If we can't afford an Ares rocket to get us into orbit and to the moon, how long will it take to develop a revolutionary new propulsion system that will take us not a quarter-million miles but 35 million miles?
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BTW, where are the Republicans on all this?  Silent.
25295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 1977 vs 1979 on: February 14, 2010, 09:06:57 AM
1977 vs. 1979 Recommend
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: February 13, 2010

Visiting Yemen and watching the small band of young reformers there struggle against the forces of separatism, Islamism, autocracy and terrorism, reminded me that the key forces shaping this region today were really set in motion between 1977 and 1979 — and nothing much has changed since. Indeed, one could say Middle East politics today is a struggle between 1977 and 1979 — and 1979 is still winning.

How so? Following the defeat of Egypt and other Arab armies by Israel in the 1967 war, Nasserism, a k a Arab nationalism, the abiding ideology of the day, was demolished. In its wake came two broad alternatives: The first, manifested by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in his 1977 trip to Israel, was a bid to cast the Arab world’s future with the West, economic liberalization, modernization and acceptance of Israel. The weakness of “Sadatism,” though, was that it was an elite ideology with no cultural roots. The Egyptian state made peace with Israel, but Arab societies never followed.

The second Arab-Muslim response emerged in 1979. To start, there was the takeover that year of the Grand Mosque in Mecca by Islamist extremists who challenged the religious credentials of the Saudi ruling family. The Saudi rulers responded by forging a new bargain with their Islamists: Let us stay in power and we will give you a free hand in setting social norms, relations between the sexes and religious education inside Saudi Arabia — and abundant resources to spread Sunni Wahabi fundamentalism abroad.

The Saudi lurch backward coincided with Iran’s revolution in 1979, which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power. That revolution set up a competition between Shiite Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia for who was the real leader of the Muslim world, and it triggered a surge in oil prices that gave both fundamentalist regimes the resources to export their brands of puritanical Islam, through mosques and schools, farther than ever.

“Islam lost its brakes in 1979,” said Mamoun Fandy, a Middle East expert at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London. And there was no moderate countertrend.

Finally, also in 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. Arab and Muslim mujahedeen fighters flocked to the cause — financed by Saudi Arabia at America’s behest — and in the process shifted Pakistan and Afghanistan in much more Islamist directions. Once these hard-core Muslim fighters, led by the likes of Osama bin Laden, defeated the Soviets, they turned their guns on America and its Arab allies.

In a smart essay in The Wall Street Journal, titled “The Radical Legacy of 1979,” the retired U.S. diplomat Edward Djerejian, who led the political section of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow in 1979, noted: “Last year we celebrated the great historic achievements marked by the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent unification of Germany. But we should also remember that events in the broader Middle East of 30 years ago have left, in sharp contrast, a bitter and dangerous legacy.”

In short, the Middle East we are dealing with today is the product of long-term trends dating back to 1979. And have no illusions, we propelled those trends. America looked the other way when Saudi Arabia Wahabi-fied itself. Ronald Reagan glorified the Afghan mujahedeen and the Europeans hailed the Khomeini revolution in Iran as a “liberation” event.

I believe the only way the forces of 1979 can be rolled back would be with another equally big bang — a new popular movement that is truly reformist, democratizing, open to the world, yet anchored in Muslim culture, not disconnected. Our best hopes are the fragile democratizing trends in Iraq, the tentative green revolution in Iran, plus the young reformers now coming of age in every Arab country. But it will not be easy.

The young reformers today “do not have a compelling story to tell,” remarked Lahcen Haddad, a political scientist at Rabat University in Morocco. “And they face a meta-narrative” — first developed by Nasser and later adopted by the Islamists — “that mobilizes millions and millions. That narrative says: ‘The Arabs and Muslims are victims of an imperialist-Zionist conspiracy aided by reactionary regimes in the Arab world. It has as its goal keeping the Arabs and Muslims backward in order to exploit their oil riches and prevent them from becoming as strong as they used to be in the Middle Ages — because that is dangerous for Israel and Western interests.’ ”

Today that meta-narrative is embraced across the Arab-Muslim political spectrum, from the secular left to the Islamic right. Deconstructing that story, and rebuilding a post-1979 alternative story based on responsibility, modernization, Islamic reformation and cross-cultural dialogue, is this generation’s challenge. I think it can happen, but it will require the success of the democratizing self-government movements in Iran and Iraq. That would spawn a whole new story.

I know it’s a long shot, but I’ll continue to hope for it. I’ve been chewing a lot of qat lately, and it makes me dreamy.
25296  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DB Euro Gathering 8/13-14, 2010 on: February 14, 2010, 08:20:07 AM

DB Tribal Gathering:  August 13
DB Open Gathering:  August 14


http://www.dogbrothers.ch/pages/en/training/seminars.php

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25297  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty seminar in Bern Switzerland, 8/15, 2010 on: February 14, 2010, 08:18:05 AM
Woof All:

In conjunction with the Euro Gathering, I will be giving a seminar on August 15th.

tribal gathering = 13. august
open gathering = 14. august
"crafty" seminar = 15. august

http://www.dogbrothers.ch/pages/en/training/seminars.php

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty

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25298  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty in Seattle, Sept 11-12, 2010 on: February 13, 2010, 11:24:18 PM
Details soon.
25299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / When PIIGS go bankrupt , , , on: February 13, 2010, 08:33:45 PM
Greece as Political Time Bomb
Friday, February 12, 2010, 11:11 AM
David P. Goldman
Although Greece is an EC member, its finances and political system have the character of a banana republic. EC membership, though, enabled Greece to borrow far more money than any banana republic, such that the country’s debt-to-GDP ratio is about triple that of Argentina just before the latter’s bankruptcy in 2000. And because Greece is an EC member, the size and adumbrations of a bankruptcy would be much, much larger than that of any Latin American country.
 
Earlier I had assumed that we were watching a negotiation: Brussels would shout “Never!,” the Greeks would throw tantrums, and eventually some compromise would be reached and the situation would be stabilized.
 
Closer examination of the political situation in Greece makes me less optimistic. Greece may be suffering from an inoperable cancer, in the form of a degree of corruption that make a resolution without bankruptcy very difficult to implement.
Here are some comments by a political observe in Athens who has written to me privately:
 

Corruption in Greece has been systematically cultivated by all governments and parties. Everyone has relatives living off the public sector in cushy, do-nothing jobs. They get paid through various funding sources that successive governments have created so even though the nominal wage is low the actual take home and all benefits are quite high. Another important dimension to the public participation in corruption is that the rich by and large do not pay any taxes. The only people who pay are those who can’t escape the clutches of the state: pensioners and civil servants i.e., sectors where the salaries can be accounted for. According to the President of the National Bank of Greece, 30% of the budget of the last administration was unaccounted for—yes, just disappeared into the coffers of their families and well-wishers, and I would guess the other 70% was never audited.
 
The common psychological traits of the corruption are what the ancients called alazoneia (brash presumption of knowledge by the ignorant) and anaischuntia (shamelessness). All public institutions have one purpose: Suck money from the EU (or via loans) and redistribute it through an inverted pyramid of chicanery with the the loaf going to the top, the crumbs to the bottom. Most people in their little niches of decay are “expert” at this. They “know” the ropes. As the country psychologically devolves there are no lines demarcating the “good from the “bad”, “responsibility” from irresponsibility”. No one ever goes to jail; no one gets punished.
 
The Europeans know the state of affairs in the country (which they contributed to for a variety of reasons). They know that no Greek government can implement reforms through a political process of consensus. The people are waiting for their doles; the students are waiting for their payback (cushy jobs somewhere), the unions, the coops are all poised to demand their due from the machines that serve them. Meanwhile the rich are sending money out of the country (Switzerland and Cyprus) in the billions out of fear that the government may have no recourse but to grab part of their accounts in the future.
 
Hence it seems to me that the only game in town is to put Greece under complete receivership with all orders coming from abroad for fiscal cutbacks and the like. Since the EU has no machinery for doing this and the Greek government could never have a consensus for such a program, these measures will be accomplished through fear. Greeks will be left dangling at the mercy of speculators and others, yet at the same time tacitly supported, so that with each assault the Greek government will be implementing (in a climate of panic and fear) some new unpopular measure to mollify the rating agencies and bondholders. The Greeks have not yet woken up to this new reality. They still think EU is Santa Claus or that someone will bail them out (maybe the Chinese!). The lollipops are being taken away and whatever sweets are left will probably go to prop up the banks.
 
There are two ways in which this scenario may fail: (1) the growing resentment of the German public especially and their unwillingness to bail out Greece. This raises the possibility that at some critical point the EU (due to populist outrage) may not be able to act decisively to stave off a run on the Greek banks. (2) Slide into anarchy in Greece itself. There is always the possibility that the combustible parts of the corrupt machinery start to ignite patches of fires here and there with hard-to-predict possibilities for touching off more general conflagrations.
 
For now the scenario is working. But nothing really has yet happened in the country. For the man on the street all of this talk about austerity is still just future legislation, measures in the pipeline, at worst manageable cutbacks that reflect the government’s rosy projections.
 
If all goes according to plan Greece will be ruled by the bankers from abroad with successive waves of crises leading to new cutback-measures and “reforms”. The road will be bumpy and the ride dangerous but manageable. But one should not discount the possibility that psychological despair and irrationality (fueled with desires to live the good life on a dole) may not spark suicidal actions along the way. Keep in mind that the youth have been completely alienated (corrupted and ‘consumerized’ by their parents) and their despair adds another factor of instability.
 
The country is sliding into psychological despair within a cocoon of unrequited desires that have been inflamed and legitimized over the years. Anger is rampant. Yesterday on the bus a student gave his ticket to a lady, telling her that she should use his ticket because he was getting off. Someone called out that this was shameful “thievery” to which the youngster responded: “I am stealing 50 cents but the government and the banks have stolen 50 billion!” Many nodded in approval.
 
Prime Minister Papandreou was on television last night, white as a ghost. He was telling the Greek press that he was thankful that the IMF was “offering” their technical expertise (technognosia) to Greece. Yes money is not coming, but how sweet of the IMF to be sending its experts to dictate terms over the next few weeks. It seems that someone in Europe gave him the unexpected news that the party is over. This reality has not yet even remotely begun to set in here. The media are giving the message that “the Europeans can’t afford to let Greece go under….that Europe stands to lose too much….that Merkel and those stuffy Northerners will have to come to Greece’s aid.”
 
When the reality does start seeping in—hold on to your hats….
 
One of the delusions is that there is a moral kernel in the country that we can turn to for consolation and renewal. There is no such thing. The corruption went too deep. The country is completely unprotected on the cultural and moral front. This too has not seeped in. And yet when people become desperate; when their world starts to crumble around them and all their delusions about themselves and their good life not only collapse, but do so without any legacy to fall back on and no dream to look forward to, then beware. We are in unchartered territory where Furies and Ate pilot the ship.




 
 

A Greek crisis is coming to America
By Niall Ferguson
Published: February 11 2010 02:00 | Last updated: February 11 2010 02:00
 

It began in Athens. It is spreading to Lisbon and Madrid. But it would be a grave mistake to assume that the sovereign debt crisis that is unfolding will remain confined to the weaker eurozone economies. For this is more than just a Mediterranean problem with a farmyard acronym . It is a fiscal crisis of the western world. Its ramifications are far more profound than most investors currently appreciate.
 
There is of course a distinctive feature to the eurozone crisis. Because of the way the European Monetary Union was designed, there is in fact no mechanism for a bail-out of the Greek government by the European Union, other member states or the European Central Bank (articles 123 and 125 of the Lisbon treaty). True, Article 122 may be invoked by the European Council to assist a member state that is "seriously threatened with severe difficulties caused by natural disasters or exceptional occurrences beyond its control", but at this point nobody wants to pretend that Greece's yawning deficit was an act of God. Nor is there a way for Greece to devalue its currency, as it would have done in the pre-EMU days of the drachma. There is not even a mechanism for Greece to leave the eurozone.
 
That leaves just three possibilities: one of the most excruciating fiscal squeezes in modern European history - reducing the deficit from 13 per cent to 3 per cent of gross domestic product within just three years; outright default on all or part of the Greek government's debt; or (most likely, as signalled by German officials yesterday) some kind of bail-out led by Berlin . Because none of these options is very appealing, and because any decision about Greece will have implications for Portugal, Spain and possibly others, it may take much horsetrading before one can be reached.
 
Yet the idiosyncrasies of the eurozone should not distract us from the general nature of the fiscal crisis that is now afflicting most western economies. Call it the fractal geometry of debt: the problem is essentially the same from Iceland to Ireland to Britain to the US. It just comes in widely differing sizes.
 
What we in the western world are about to learn is that there is no such thing as a Keynesian free lunch. Deficits did not "save" us half so much as monetary policy - zero interest rates plus quantitative easing - did. First, the impact of government spending (the hallowed "multiplier") has been much less than the proponents of stimulus hoped. Second, there is a good deal of "leakage" from open economies in a globalised world. Last, crucially, explosions of public debt incur bills that fall due much sooner than we expect
 
For the world's biggest economy, the US, the day of reckoning still seems reassuringly remote. The worse things get in the eurozone, the more the US dollar rallies as nervous investors park their cash in the "safe haven" of American government debt. This effect may persist for some months, just as the dollar and Treasuries rallied in the depths of the banking panic in late 2008.
 
Yet even a casual look at the fiscal position of the federal government (not to mention the states) makes a nonsense of the phrase "safe haven". US government debt is a safe haven the way Pearl Harbor was a safe haven in 1941.
Even according to the White House's new budget projections, the gross federal debt in public hands will exceed 100 per cent of GDP in just two years' time. This year, like last year, the federal deficit will be around 10 per cent of GDP. The long-run projections of the Congressional Budget Office suggest that the US will never again run a balanced budget. That's right, never.
 
The International Monetary Fund recently published estimates of the fiscal adjustments developed economies would need to make to restore fiscal stability over the decade ahead. Worst were Japan and the UK (a fiscal tightening of 13 per cent of GDP). Then came Ireland, Spain and Greece (9 per cent). And in sixth place? Step forward America, which would need to tighten fiscal policy by 8.8 per cent of GDP to satisfy the IMF.
 
Explosions of public debt hurt economies in the following way, as numerous empirical studies have shown. By raising fears of default and/or currency depreciation ahead of actual inflation, they push up real interest rates. Higher real rates, in turn, act as drag on growth, especially when the private sector is also heavily indebted - as is the case in most western economies, not least the US.
 
Although the US household savings rate has risen since the Great Recession began, it has not risen enough to absorb a trillion dollars of net Treasury issuance a year. Only two things have thus far stood between the US and higher bond yields: purchases of Treasuries (and mortgage-backed securities, which many sellers essentially swapped for Treasuries) by the Federal Reserve and reserve accumulation by the Chinese monetary authorities.
 
But now the Fed is phasing out such purchases and is expected to wind up quantitative easing. Meanwhile, the Chinese have sharply reduced their purchases of Treasuries from around 47 per cent of new issuance in 2006 to 20 per cent in 2008 to an estimated 5 per cent last year. Small wonder Morgan Stanley assumes that 10-year yields will rise from around 3.5 per cent to 5.5 per cent this year. On a gross federal debt fast approaching $1,500bn, that implies up to $300bn of extra interest payments - and you get up there pretty quickly with the average maturity of the debt now below 50 months.
 
The Obama administration's new budget blithely assumes real GDP growth of 3.6 per cent over the next five years, with inflation averaging 1.4 per cent. But with rising real rates, growth might well be lower. Under those circumstances, interest payments could soar as a share of federal revenue - from a tenth to a fifth to a quarter.
 
Last week Moody's Investors Service warned that the triple A credit rating of the US should not be taken for granted. That warning recalls Larry Summers' killer question (posed before he returned to government): "How long can the world's biggest borrower remain the world's biggest power?"
 
On reflection, it is appropriate that the fiscal crisis of the west has begun in Greece, the birthplace of western civilization. Soon it will cross the channel to Britain. But the key question is when that crisis will reach the last bastion of western power, on the other side of the Atlantic.
The writer is a contributing editor of the FT and author of The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World
25300  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Humor on: February 13, 2010, 07:51:50 PM
Cindy has a nasty case of the cooties caught from Summerlin-- including drooling green snot tongue so that is why she has not promptly handled your re-enlistment.  Let me see what I can do to hurry the process.
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