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25301  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.
25302  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"
25303  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Many little oddities on: February 16, 2010, 01:53:51 PM
Many little oddities here , , ,
25304  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
25305  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.
25306  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


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.
25307  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:
25308  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?
25309  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.
25310  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

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.

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
25311  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 15, 2010, 10:40:28 AM
25312  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."
"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
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.

25313  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
25314  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:
“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.

Anyone want to comment or have at it?
25315  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."
25316  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.
25317  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
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.

25318  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".

U.S. Surrenders New Frontier Without Fight
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?
BTW, where are the Republicans on all this?  Silent.
25319  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 1977 vs 1979 on: February 14, 2010, 09:06:57 AM
1977 vs. 1979 Recommend
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.
25320  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

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25321  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

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty

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25322  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.
25323  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
25324  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.
25325  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / JP: War by assassination on: February 13, 2010, 07:46:57 PM
Photo by: Ariel Jerozolimski 'Israel waging war of assassinations'
13/02/2010 19:25

UK paper: Israel targets Hamas, Hizbullah men all across the Middle East.
Talkbacks (49)   
Israel is conducting a “secret war,” assassinating top officials in Hamas and Hizbullah in order to hamper the terror groups’ communications with their backer Iran, the London-based Times reported Saturday.

“There has been growing co-operation between Gaza and Iran. Israel can read the writing on the wall and they know that with the help of Iran, the Hamas government in Gaza will become stronger and will fight better. But Israel is overstepping their boundaries. Other countries don’t want to become a killing field for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the paper quotes an unnamed Palestinian official in Ramallah as saying.

The official was referring to the assassination of Mahmoud el Mabhouh, a senior Hamas official who was liquidated in a Dubai hotel last month. Hamas has accused Israel of killing him.

The paper also cites an incident where a bus carrying Iranian officials and Hamas members exploded near Damascus, an attack on a meeting between Hizbullah and Hamas officials in the Hizbullah-controlled Dahiya district of Beirut and the killing of Hizbullah mastermind Imad Mughniyeh in February 2008.

The Times quotes Arab diplomats saying they are aware that covert Israeli operations had increased. “We watch their comings and goings; we are aware that there is more activity both on our ground and other countries in the region,” an Egyptian diplomat told the paper. “They are trying to embroil us all in their conflict.”

 The incidents are often attributed to the Mossad, Israel’s spy agency, which has seen a surge in reputation since Meir Dagan was appointed to lead the agency in 2002 by then-prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Israeli officials never admitted that the Mossad was involved in any of the killings.

Dagan’s tenure has been extended twice by Sharon’s successor Ehud Olmert and again by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

Dagan received praise recently from an unexpected source when he was described in an opinion piece in a leading Egyptian daily paper as "the Superman of Israel."
25326  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Pathological Science on: February 13, 2010, 07:42:46 PM
Anyone care to assess this?
25327  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: February 13, 2010, 04:46:48 PM
A man and a woman who had never met before, but who were both married to other people, found themselves assigned to the same sleeping room on a transcontinental train.  Though initially embarrassed and uneasy over sharing a room, they were both very tired and fell asleep quickly, he in the upper berth and she in the lower. At 1:00 a.m., the man leaned down and gently woke the woman saying, "Ma'am, I'm sorry to bother you, but would you be willing to reach into the closet and get me a second blanket? I'm awfully cold."

"I have a better idea," she replied. "Just for tonight, let's pretend that we're married."

"Wow! That's a great idea!" he exclaimed.

"Good," she replied. "Get your own damn blanket."

After a moment of silence, he farted.

The End
25328  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: February 13, 2010, 12:40:11 PM
I have a clear preference for controlling our borders over having employers become responsible (Your papers please! -- like some WW2 movie). 
25329  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Tea Party Convention on: February 13, 2010, 08:12:29 AM
Nashville, Tenn.

There were promises of transparency and of a new kind of collaborative politics where establishment figures listened to ordinary Americans. We were going to see net spending cuts, tax cuts for nearly all Americans, an end to earmarks, legislation posted online for the public to review before it is signed into law, and a line-by-line review of the federal budget to remove wasteful programs.

These weren't the tea-party platforms I heard discussed in Nashville last weekend. They were the campaign promises of Barack Obama in 2008.

Mr. Obama made those promises because the ideas they represented were popular with average Americans. So popular, it turns out, that average Americans are organizing themselves in pursuit of the kind of good government Mr. Obama promised, but has not delivered. And that, in a nutshell, was the feel of the National Tea Party Convention. The political elites have failed, and citizens are stepping in to pick up the slack.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Angela McGlowan enters the GOP primary to represent Mississippi's First District.
.This response has brought millions of Americans to the streets over the past year, and brought quite a few people to the posh Opryland Resort (with its indoor waterfalls and boat rides, it's like a casino without the gambling) for the convention.

Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry—and they are—but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when ne w-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause.

A year ago, many told me, they were depressed about the future of America. Watching television pundits talk about President Obama's transformative plans for big government, they felt alone, isolated and helpless. That changed when protests, organized by bloggers, met Mr. Obama a year ago in Denver, Colo., Mesa, Ariz., and Seattle, Wash. Then came CNBC talker Rick Santelli's famous on-air rant on Feb. 19, 2009, which gave the tea-party movement its name.

Tea partiers are still angry at federal deficits, at Washington's habit of rewarding failure with handouts and punishing success with taxes and regulation, and the general incompetence that has marked the first year of the Obama presidency. But they're no longer depressed.

Instead, they seem energized. And surprisingly media savvy. William Temple donned colonial dress knowing that it would be an irresistible lure to TV cameras. When the cameras trained on him, he regaled interviewers with well-informed discussion of constitutional history. Other attendees were hawking DVDs, books, and Web sites promoting tea-party ideals, while discussing the use of tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter for political organizing.

Press attention focused on Sarah Palin's speech, which was well-received by the crowd. But the attendees I met weren't looking to her for direction. They were hoping she would move in theirs. Right now, the tea party isn't looking for leaders so much as leaders are looking to align themselves with the tea party.

It's easy to see why. A recent Investor's Business Daily/TIPP poll found that three-fourths of independent voters have a favorable opinion of the tea party. This enthusiasm, however, does not translate into an embrace of establishment Republicanism. One of the less-noted aspects of Mrs. Palin's speech was her endorsement of primary challenges for incumbent Republicans, something that is already underway. Tea partiers I talked to hope to replace a lot of entrenched time-servers and to throw a scare into others.

One primary challenger is Les Phillip. He is running against Republican Parker Griffith in Alabama's fifth congressional district. Mr. Phillip, a black businessman and Navy veteran who immigrated with his parents from Trinidad in his youth, got his start in politics speaking at a tea-party protest in Decatur, Ala., last year.

"Somebody had to speak," he told me, "so I stepped up." He did well enough that he was invited to speak at another protest in Trussville, Ala., after which things sort of snowballed. Of the tea partiers, he says, "Their values are pretty much mine. I live in a town in North Alabama where there are plenty of blacks driving Mercedes and living in big houses. Only in America can someone come from a little island and live the dream. I've liked it, and that's what I want for my children. [But] I saw the window closing for my own kids."

Mr. Phillip has gotten tea-party endorsements, as well as one from Mike Huckabee. The Republican establishment is siding with Mr. Griffith, who only recently switched from Democrat to Republican. That support is perhaps understandable as realpolitik, but it's not the sort of thing that sits well with tea partiers, who think that too much realpolitik is what rendered the Republican Party corrupt and ossified over the past decade.

Mr. Phillip isn't the only black tea-party candidate in the deep south—Angela McGlowan, who spoke in Nashville, has entered the Republican primary in Mississippi's first district—and primary challenges aren't the only way activists are exerting influence. Cincinnati tea-party activists are running candidates for Republican precinct executive in every precinct in their area—if elected, these candidates will help set policy platforms within the GOP and have sway over which candidates the party endorses. Activists in other states are doing the same. Adam Andrzejewski, who ran in the Republican primary for governor in Illinois, told me he will run candidates in each of Illinois' precincts, and Utah activists are turning that state's convention-based nominating system into a trial for incumbent Republican Sen. Robert Bennett. Plus, tea-party activists used their convention to launch a political action committee.

If 2009 was the year of taking it to the streets, 2010 is the year of taking it to the polls. With ordinary Americans setting out to reclaim the political process, it's likely to be a bumpy ride for incumbents of both parties. I suspect the Founding Fathers would approve.

Mr. Reynolds is a law professor at the University of Tennessee. He covered the National Tea Party Convention for, an Internet television network.
25330  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: unions on: February 13, 2010, 07:53:59 AM
Private sector membership may have slid, but my understanding is that public sector union membership, especially under SEIU puppet Obama, is growing quite rapidly.
25331  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Guro Crafty in Toronto: March 27-28, 2010 on: February 12, 2010, 03:03:45 PM
Woof All:

Looking forward to being with Rene in Toronto once again.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
25332  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: February 12, 2010, 02:49:23 PM
In a related vein, in DBMA "Kali Tudo" (tm) we integrate certainly wrestling techniques (e.g. the one we call "The Rico" because I learned it from Rico Chiaparelli).   What my interaction with Kenny Johnson has brought to KT is, inter alia, a good efficient MMA based version of a wrestling double leg and single leg, who uses his head in a different way than pure sport wrestling.  We want to have this not only in its own right (for fights wherein we are sure that no weapons are involved) but also to make sure that we are good training partners for our training partners as we work our standing KT striking game.

One of the great temptations for a KT player is to tunnel vision a bit on the structural advantages I believe our there in upper body striking (i.e. kicks present a separate question) and get hit by a good wrestling level change and shoot.  Indeed it was my experience with some of my structures getting hit in this fashion by Kenny that led me to focus on bringing the stake (which really is a version of a bolo bunch done to kali footwork), with the idea that as the third beat of a triplet it would be either hitting (uppercut to chin or shovel hook to body) or nailing the incoming face (think Arlovski flying chin first into Fedor's overhand right) of the shooter.

I would have not known this had I not tested myself against good MMA wrestling skills.

Also from Kenny is a good MMA based sprawl.

The Adventure continues!
25333  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Kali Tudo 3 on: February 12, 2010, 02:36:57 PM
Woof all:

The recent camp, plus some other footage wink will become "Kali Tudo 3".  On this project we look to have an unusually quick turnaround time-- about 4-6 weeks.

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
25334  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / FBI access to phone records on: February 12, 2010, 02:34:12 PM

Two years ago, when the FBI was stymied by a band of armed robbers known as the "Scarecrow Bandits" that had robbed more than 20 Texas banks, it came up with a novel method of locating the thieves.

FBI agents obtained logs from mobile phone companies corresponding to what their cellular towers had recorded at the time of a dozen different bank robberies in the Dallas area. The voluminous records showed that two phones had made calls around the time of all 12 heists, and that those phones belonged to men named Tony Hewitt and Corey Duffey. A jury eventually convicted the duo of multiple bank robbery and weapons charges.

Even though police are tapping into the locations of mobile phones thousands of times a year, the legal ground rules remain unclear, and federal privacy laws written a generation ago are ambiguous at best. On Friday, the first federal appeals court to consider the topic will hear oral arguments (PDF) in a case that could establish new standards for locating wireless devices.

In that case, the Obama administration has argued that warrantless tracking is permitted because Americans enjoy no "reasonable expectation of privacy" in their--or at least their cell phones'--whereabouts. U.S. Department of Justice lawyers say that "a customer's Fourth Amendment rights are not violated when the phone company reveals to the government its own records" that show where a mobile device placed and received calls.

Those claims have alarmed the ACLU and other civil liberties groups, which have opposed the Justice Department's request and plan to tell the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia that Americans' privacy deserves more protection and judicial oversight than what the administration has proposed.

"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century," says Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who will be arguing on Friday. "If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment."

Not long ago, the concept of tracking cell phones would have been the stuff of spy movies. In 1998's "Enemy of the State," Gene Hackman warned that the National Security Agency has "been in bed with the entire telecommunications industry since the '40s--they've infected everything." After a decade of appearances in "24" and "Live Free or Die Hard," location-tracking has become such a trope that it was satirized in a scene with Seth Rogen from "Pineapple Express" (2008).

Once a Hollywood plot, now 'commonplace'
Whether state and federal police have been paying attention to Hollywood, or whether it was the other way around, cell phone tracking has become a regular feature in criminal investigations. It comes in two forms: police obtaining retrospective data kept by mobile providers for their own billing purposes that may not be very detailed, or prospective data that reveals the minute-by-minute location of a handset or mobile device.

Obtaining location details is now "commonplace," says Al Gidari, a partner in the Seattle offices of Perkins Coie who represents wireless carriers. "It's in every pen register order these days."

Gidari says that the Third Circuit case could have a significant impact on police investigations within the court's jurisdiction, namely Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; it could be persuasive beyond those states. But, he cautions, "if the privacy groups win, the case won't be over. It will certainly be appealed."

CNET was the first to report on prospective tracking in a 2005 news article. In a subsequent Arizona case, agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration tracked a tractor trailer with a drug shipment through a GPS-equipped Nextel phone owned by the suspect. Texas DEA agents have used cell site information in real time to locate a Chrysler 300M driving from Rio Grande City to a ranch about 50 miles away. Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile logs showing the location of mobile phones at the time calls became evidence in a Los Angeles murder trial.

And a mobile phone's fleeting connection with a remote cell tower operated by Edge Wireless is what led searchers to the family of the late James Kim, a CNET employee who died in the Oregon wilderness in 2006 after leaving a snowbound car to seek help.

"This is a critical question for privacy in the 21st century. If the courts do side with the government, that means that everywhere we go, in the real world and online, will be an open book to the government unprotected by the Fourth Amendment."
--Kevin Bankston, attorney, Electronic Frontier Foundation
The way tracking works is simple: mobile phones are miniature radio transmitters and receivers. A cellular tower knows the general direction of a mobile phone (many cell sites have three antennas pointing in different directions), and if the phone is talking to multiple towers, triangulation yields a rough location fix. With this method, accuracy depends in part on the density of cell sites.

The Federal Communications Commission's "Enhanced 911" (E911) requirements allowed rough estimates to be transformed into precise coordinates. Wireless carriers using CDMA networks, such as Verizon Wireless and Sprint Nextel, tend to use embedded GPS technology to fulfill E911 requirements. AT&T and T-Mobile comply with E911 regulations using network-based technology that computes a phone's location using signal analysis and triangulation between towers.

T-Mobile, for instance, uses a GSM technology called Uplink Time Difference of Arrival, or U-TDOA, which calculates a position based on precisely how long it takes signals to reach towers. A company called TruePosition, which provides U-TDOA services to T-Mobile, boasts of "accuracy to under 50 meters" that's available "for start-of-call, midcall, or when idle."

A 2008 court order to T-Mobile in a criminal investigation of a marriage fraud scheme, which was originally sealed and later made public, says: "T-Mobile shall disclose at such intervals and times as directed by (the Department of Homeland Security), latitude and longitude data that establishes the approximate positions of the Subject Wireless Telephone, by unobtrusively initiating a signal on its network that will enable it to determine the locations of the Subject Wireless Telephone."

'No reasonable expectation of privacy'
In the case that's before the Third Circuit on Friday, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF, said it needed historical (meaning stored, not future) phone location information because a set of suspects "use their wireless telephones to arrange meetings and transactions in furtherance of their drug trafficking activities."

U.S. Magistrate Judge Lisa Lenihan in Pennsylvania denied the Justice Department's attempt to obtain stored location data without a search warrant; prosecutors had invoked a different legal procedure. Lenihan's ruling, in effect, would require police to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause--a more privacy-protective standard.

Lenihan's opinion (PDF)--which, in an unusual show of solidarity, was signed by four other magistrate judges--noted that location information can reveal sensitive information such as health treatments, financial difficulties, marital counseling, and extra-marital affairs.

In its appeal to the Third Circuit, the Justice Department claims that Lenihan's opinion "contains, and relies upon, numerous errors" and should be overruled. In addition to a search warrant not being necessary, prosecutors said, because location "records provide only a very general indication of a user's whereabouts at certain times in the past, the requested cell-site records do not implicate a Fourth Amendment privacy interest."

The Obama administration is not alone in making this argument. U.S. District Judge William Pauley, a Clinton appointee in New York, wrote in a 2009 opinion that a defendant in a drug trafficking case, Jose Navas, "did not have a legitimate expectation of privacy in the cell phone" location. That's because Navas only used the cell phone "on public thoroughfares en route from California to New York" and "if Navas intended to keep the cell phone's location private, he simply could have turned it off."

(Most cases have involved the ground rules for tracking cell phone users prospectively, and judges have disagreed over what legal rules apply. Only a minority has sided with the Justice Department, however.)

Cellular providers tend not to retain moment-by-moment logs of when each mobile device contacts the tower, in part because there's no business reason to store the data, and in part because the storage costs would be prohibitive. They do, however, keep records of what tower is in use when a call is initiated or answered--and those records are generally stored for six months to a year, depending on the company.

Verizon Wireless keeps "phone records including cell site location for 12 months," Drew Arena, Verizon's vice president and associate general counsel for law enforcement compliance, said at a federal task force meeting in Washington, D.C. last week. Arena said the company keeps "phone bills without cell site location for seven years," and stores SMS text messages for only a very brief time.

Gidari, the Seattle attorney, said that wireless carriers have recently extended how long they store this information. "Prior to a year or two ago when location-based services became more common, if it were 30 days it would be surprising," he said.

The ACLU, EFF, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and University of San Francisco law professor Susan Freiwald argue that the wording of the federal privacy law in question allows judges to require the level of proof required for a search warrant "before authorizing the disclosure of particularly novel or invasive types of information." In addition, they say, Americans do not "knowingly expose their location information and thereby surrender Fourth Amendment protection whenever they turn on or use their cell phones."

"The biggest issue at stake is whether or not courts are going to accept the government's minimal view of what is protected by the Fourth Amendment," says EFF's Bankston. "The government is arguing that based on precedents from the 1970s, any record held by a third party about us, no matter how invasively collected, is not protected by the Fourth Amendment."

Update 10:37 a.m. PT: A source inside the U.S. Attorney's Office for the northern district of Texas, which prosecuted the Scarecrow Bandits mentioned in the above article, tells me that this was the first and the only time that the FBI has used the location-data-mining technique to nab bank robbers. It's also worth noting that the leader of this gang, Corey Duffey, was sentenced last month to 354 years (not months, but years) in prison. Another member is facing 140 years in prison.

 Declan McCullagh is a contributor to CNET News and a correspondent for who has covered the intersection of politics and technology for over a decade. Declan writes a regular feature called Taking Liberties, focused on individual and economic rights; you can bookmark his CBS News Taking Liberties site, or subscribe to the RSS feed. You can e-mail Declan at
25335  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Airborne laser on: February 12, 2010, 02:22:48 PM
Hat tip to BBG-- pasting this here from the WMD thread.

U.S. successfully tests airborne laser on missile

6:52am EST
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. high-powered airborne laser weapon shot down a ballistic missile in the first successful test of a futuristic directed energy weapon, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said on Friday.

The agency said in a statement the test took place at 8:44 p.m. PST (11:44 p.m. EST) on Thursday /0444 GMT on Friday) at Point Mugu's Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division Sea Range off Ventura in central California.

"The Missile Defense Agency demonstrated the potential use of directed energy to defend against ballistic missiles when the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) successfully destroyed a boosting ballistic missile" the agency said.

The high-powered Airborne Laser system is being developed by Boeing Co., the prime contractor, and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.
Boeing produces the airframe, a modified 747 jumbo jet, while Northrop Grumman supplies the higher-energy laser and Lockheed Martin is developing the beam and fire control systems.

"This was the first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform," the agency added.

The airborne laser weapon successfully underwent its first in-flight test against a target missile back in August. During that test, Boeing said the modified 747-400F aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base and used its infrared sensors to find a target missile launched from San Nicolas Island, California.
The plane's battle management system issued engagement and target location instructions to the laser's fire control system, which tracked the target and fired a test laser at the missile. Instruments on the missile verified the system had hit its mark, Boeing said.
The airborne laser weapon is aimed at deterring enemy missile attacks and providing the U.S. military with the ability to engage all classes of ballistic missiles at the speed of light while they are in the boost phase of flight.
"The revolutionary use of directed energy is very attractive for missile defense, with the potential to attack multiple targets at the speed of light, at a range of hundreds of kilometers (miles), and at a low cost per intercept attempt compared to current technologies," the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said.
(Reporting by Jim Wolf and David Alexander, Editing by Sandra Maler)
25336  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: unions on: February 12, 2010, 02:19:34 PM
Liberal fascism continues its rampage.  Another attack on our American freedom-- time for some serious DTOM! (Don't tread on me!)
25337  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / It began here on: February 12, 2010, 10:30:43 AM
"When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen; and we shall most sincerely rejoice with you in the happy hour when the establishment of American Liberty, upon the most firm and solid foundations shall enable us to return to our Private Stations in the bosom of a free, peacefully and happy Country." --George Washington, address to the New York legislature, 1775
25338  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / So, how was your day? on: February 11, 2010, 09:24:17 PM
25339  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: February 11, 2010, 05:11:10 PM
Glenn has been on quite a tear this week.

PS: I do wish he would learn to draw the Laffer Curve correctly though
25340  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beacon of Liberty? on: February 11, 2010, 02:12:46 PM
Iran, Beacon of Liberty?
Published: February 10, 2010
ON Thursday, the birthday of the Islamic Republic of Iran, we will see whether the democratic opposition movement has been driven underground by the increasingly brutal harassment from the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Iranian society has become like molten rock under high pressure: more eruptions are inevitable. And if the dissidents can take to the streets, they will.

In any case, the fraudulent June 12 presidential elections and the subsequent internal tumult ought to make us wonder what would happen if Iran actually went democratic. President Obama and his advisers — still devoted to engagement and the hope that Iran’s nuclear-weapons program can be peacefully derailed (despite Tehran’s stepping up of its enrichment program this week), and probably skeptical that Ayatollah Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards Corps could lose power — have likely spent little time envisioning a region where the Islamic Republic as we have known it no longer exists. At least, nobody from the administration’s foreign-policy brain trust has laid out any plans for that contingency.
But given the troubles facing Ayatollah Khamenei, the near certainty that the clerical regime is going to get a lot nastier soon and the momentous possibilities of a democratic Iran, the White House should give it some thought. Mr. Khamenei is confronting a democracy movement that has grown larger despite an almost total lack of organization and charismatic leadership.

Iran’s militarized theocracy will survive or perish depending on the strength of the Revolutionary Guards, the praetorian branch of the military that has become a self-sustaining fundamentalist conglomerate. Yet many guardsmen and their children, like the children of the clerical elite, are graduates of Iran’s best universities. And if there is one factor that has inclined Iranians toward the opposition, it has been higher education — a point the regime has surely noted when it comes to the probable loyalties of the country’s nuclear physicists.

In fact, many rank-and-file guardsmen voted for Mohammad Khatami, the reformist candidate, in the 1997 presidential election, even though their senior officers detested him. It’s likely this schism remains.

The funeral in December of the regime’s bête noire, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, where hundreds of thousands turned out, suggests the regime may also be encountering resistance from the clerical establishment.

The senior clergymen of the holy city of Qum have never had any regard for Ayatollah Khamenei’s religious credentials and political pretensions; their quiescence has been achieved through intimidation by the regime and their inability to see any political alternative. But part of Ayatollah Montazeri’s appealing dissent, which has been echoed by other Shiite clerics since his death, is that the Islamic Republic doesn’t have to change much for the differences to be telling. Just freeing the Parliament from unelected clerical oversight would be a revolutionary step.

We will likely know in the coming months if the opposition can draw into the streets larger numbers of the mostazafan, “the oppressed poor,” who have been the popular bedrock of the regime since the 1979 revolution. The economic “reforms” that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has planned will probably worsen Iran’s already debilitating inflation and unemployment. An opposition combining the young mullahs, college-educated bureaucrats within Iran’s bloated civil service and a significant slice of the urban poor could be too diverse for the guards, a partly conscripted force, to suppress.

The guards rose to prominence defending the homeland against an Iraqi invader; they have not yet shown that they have the fortitude to kill their countrymen like the Russian secret police or the Chinese Red Guards. Note how much time and effort the regime has spent to deflect blame for the killing of one young woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, in the post-election rioting last summer. A self-confident regime would have killed unapologetically. Senior guardsmen may want to unleash a bloodbath to preserve the status quo, but Ayatollah Khamenei, who lacks the cold-blooded will of the state’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, doesn’t seem to want to slaughter Iranians or make himself a hostage of his henchmen.


(Page 2 of 2)

When regimes start to crack, the unthinkable becomes thinkable. Ayatollah Khamenei’s supporters could start to wonder whether their influence could survive in a more open political system. Iranian journalists are reporting that former guardsmen who’ve joined the opposition are signaling their one-time brothers that they could have a soft landing in a new order. However much the regime has worked to brainwash its security force (“the bulwark against disbelief”), if more Iranians are killed, rank-and-file guardsmen may suspend their belief and choose not to shoot.

A democratic revolution in Tehran could well prove the most momentous Mideastern event since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. A politically freer Iran would bring front and center the great Islamic debate of our times: How can one be both a good Muslim and a democrat? How does one pay homage to Islamic law but give ultimate authority to the people’s elected representatives? How can a Muslim import the best of the West without suffering debilitating guilt?

To an extent seen in no other country, Iran’s intellectuals have battled and evolved over these questions. For a century, the country has been trying to develop constitutional government. For 30 years, dissident clerics and lay intellectuals have struggled to reassert the democratic promise in the revolution.

Especially for religious dissidents, democracy is now seen as a keystone of a more moral order, where the faith can no longer be used to countenance dictatorship. An operating assumption of President Obama’s speech to the Islamic world in Cairo last year is that Washington can work with authoritarian regimes against extremism — that Muslims don’t need to be politically free to tame religious militancy. But the evolution of Christianity, which never had Islam’s deep fusion of church and state, tells us something different: that it has been the West’s political evolution — from autocracy to democracy — which has, more than anything, depoliticized Christianity.

The same process is happening to Islam in Iran, but at a much faster pace than anything seen in the West. As a result, millions of Iranians — the sons and daughters of once faithful revolutionaries — have secularized. Whereas secularizing Westernized autocracies like the shah’s prompted upwellings of religious radicalism, Iran’s religious dictatorship has produced a softening secularization that is likely to last, since both nonreligious and faithful Iranians increasingly see representative government as indispensable to their values.

The impact of all this on Muslims everywhere is likely to be profound. In the Middle East, the Iranian Revolution catapulted Islamic fundamentalism into the foreground. An Iranian democratization couldn’t help but shake Sunni fundamentalists who, too, have wrestled with the tension between the Holy Law and voting. Sunni Arabs often like to pretend that they live in a different world from their Shiite Iranian cousins, but the truth is the opposite: cross-fertilization has been enormous. With Iranian democracy growing, liberal Arabs and Sunni Islamists would become much bolder in their demands.

Iran’s transformation would also remind Turkey’s ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party, whose commitment to democratic values has been increasingly shaky, that an authoritarian path creates revolt. And an Iranian democracy would powerfully affect Iraq, whose elected government has struggled with its own Tehran-backed demons. A democratic Iran would have little sympathy for Iraqis who prefer autocracy and religious militancy.

A democratic Tehran would also likely reduce its aid to Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Baathist dictatorship in Syria. Palestinian fundamentalists who now receive substantial Iranian financing would also likely be a subject of heavy debate in a free Parliament, as would aid to other radical Sunni groups throughout the Middle East and Tehran’s disconcerting contacts with Al Qaeda (which were detailed by the 9/11 commission report). Iran could easily become what Ayatollah Khomeini had wished — the model that transforms the Middle East — albeit not in the manner he hoped for.

Last, a democratic Iran would bring the reopening of the American Embassy, a symbolic measure of the highest significance that has long been popular among ordinary Iranians. The “Great Satan” would be no more.

President Obama has nothing to lose by moving away from engaging Ayatollah Khamenei and toward a vigorous engagement with the Iranian people’s quest for popular sovereignty. Rhetoric, sanctions aimed at cutting off Iran’s gasoline imports and intelligent covert aid to dissidents should be harnessed to the democratic cause. President Obama has an openly willing partner in the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, to make Iranian liberté a trans-Atlantic affair.

The administration should have no illusions: Ayatollah Khamenei’s regime is irretrievably paranoid. In its eyes, Western states, which have so far done next to nothing to help the democracy movement, are as culpable as the dissidents for Iran’s troubles. The supreme leader will seek ways to get even. And he isn’t going to give up his nukes. But a democratic Iran probably would.

Without the bogeyman of a Great Satan and the militant dream of regional hegemony, a Persian Parliament, overwhelmed with the people’s demands, would find much better things than enriched uranium to spend the nation’s money on. And if the clerical regime cracks, Mr. Obama will get credit. In no other endeavor, foreign or domestic, is the president likely to earn as much.

Reuel Marc Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a former Middle Eastern specialist in the C.I.A.’s clandestine service.
25341  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coulter: BO's owned on: February 11, 2010, 11:38:28 AM
Obama's Owned — You Can Bank on It
By Ann Coulter

Don't miss the best conservative columnists on The Patriot's opinion page -- the right opinion with NO advertising or annoying pop-ups.

Wall Street gambled, taxpayers foot the billThe New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are bristling with the news that Republicans have decided now is the time to suck up to Wall Street. As the saying goes, there is no truer friend than a Wall Street arbitrageur -- they are the salt-of-the-earth, the most loyal men who ever drew a breath!

What are Republicans thinking? While not every money-manipulator on Wall Street deserves to be treated like a heroin dealer, lots do. Could the Republicans be a little more discriminating in picking up the Democrats' old friends?

The Democrats are acting as if they want to punish everyone in the financial services industry, including the innocent, while the Republicans seem to want to protect everyone on Wall Street, including the guilty.

How about just punishing the guilty? The Democrats can't do that because the list of Wall Street's biggest offenders may turn out to be eerily similar to the list of Obama's biggest campaign contributors.

Employees from Goldman Sachs gave more to the Obama campaign than any other organization except the University of California -- with Citigroup and JPMorgan Chase quickly following in sixth and seventh place.

Whatever Obama has in mind for punishing the financial industry, I promise you, he won't punish his friends. After JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon took a $17 million bonus this week, and Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein got a $9 million bonus, Obama said he didn't begrudge them their bonuses, saying, "I know both those guys."

Obama seems to be hoping that his vague bluster about "obscene profits" will lure Republicans into embracing Wall Street welfare recipients -- thereby losing Americans forever.

Never bet against Republicans being outwitted.

Risk-taking and speculation are good. But the Democrats' crony capitalism is the worst of both worlds: risk-taking without any real risk for the risk-takers. It's like gambling with your rich daddy's money, except we're the rich daddy.

Obama, like the rest of his party, is an ideologue who doesn't understand or particularly like the free market. He fundamentally believes in the efficacy of the welfare state, whether the beneficiary is a layabout single mother or a rich Wall Street banker.

As Peter Schweizer describes in his magnificent book "Architects of Ruin," the Democrats have been bailing out investment houses from their bad bets since the Clinton administration. The bankers got all the profits when their risky bonds were paying -- and then gave massive donations to their Democratic benefactors. But once the bets went bad, it was the taxpayers' problem.

Heavily leveraged securities packages put together by Goldman Sachs and others were the HIV virus that killed the American economy. And the reason investment firms piled leverage on leverage on leverage was that they knew the government would bail them out if their house of cards collapsed.

On one hand, Goldman put together toxic securities packages for their clients, but on the other hand, Goldman knew the mortgage securities being sold on the market were crap, so they also took out lots of insurance with AIG on crappy products being traded on the market.

It would be as if, anticipating a major earthquake, Goldman bought massive insurance policies on every house on the San Andreas fault line.

There's nothing wrong with taking risks and making bets, provided that if you bet wrong or if you bankrupt your betting partner with wild gambles: You lose.

The problem was that Goldman and AIG, among many others, knew they wouldn't lose. Twenty years of Democratic bailouts have led them to understand that when their bets go bad, the taxpayer will save them.

Which is exactly what happened.

When the earthquake hit toxic securities, the insurer, AIG, couldn't pay up. Normally, that would result in the insurer going bankrupt, an orderly proceeding in bankruptcy court to distribute AIG's assets, and Goldman recovering only a portion of the insurance payout on the crappy products.

But instead of AIG going bankrupt and Goldman taking a hit, the U.S. taxpayer made good on AIG's securities insurance. In a deal arranged by former Goldman CEO and current Obama BFF, Hank Paulson, Goldman ended up being paid -- by you -- an astonishing 100 cents on the dollar.

So Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein's boast that his firm didn't want TARP money and has paid it all back is completely irrelevant. Goldman took billions of dollars -- that's millions with a "b" -- of the AIG bailout money. How about paying that back?

It took The New York Times a year and a half to figure out Goldman's jackpot winnings from the AIG bailout -- $12.9 billion, according to the Times -- so the first thing Republicans ought to do is hold hearings to determine who benefited from the Democrats' crony capitalism, and not take their bluster as fact.

The next step should be to get all the bailout money back.

When the government steps in to save the very financial institutions that poisoned the nation's financial system with contaminated securities and derivatives -- all while the bankers get to keep the fees and bonuses on their bad bets -- we are not talking about a free market.

We're talking about regular Americans being forced to foot the bill for the gambling habits of left-wing multimillionaires by buying the malefactors more chips every time they lose.

Republicans should defend any investment houses that never benefited from a government bailout. But anyone who took huge gambles, lost and got bailed out with taxpayer money should be tortured and then shot, miraculously brought back to life, tortured some more, then shot a few more times.

25342  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: February 11, 2010, 12:19:42 AM
"What good does a policy I can purchase in Maine do me if I live outside the geographical service area of the network?"

What good would it do the insurance company to have a network outside the State in which it is allowed to operate?
25343  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: February 11, 2010, 12:10:33 AM
That was very interesting.
25344  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: February 10, 2010, 03:47:30 PM
Very good points.

I posted this article not because I agree with all of it, but to start a conversation. 

For example, how does the (closed) guard game differ when the heel kicks to the kidneys, spine, back of neck, back of head are allowed?  Ask Renzo Gracie how he felt after Frank Shamrock's knee from bottom to the back of his head.
25345  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Bolo Game" on: February 10, 2010, 03:44:05 PM
I am quite gratified to say that we have received a goodly number of comments to this effect  cool
25346  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: February 10, 2010, 02:04:06 PM
The Jihadist CBRN Threat
February 10, 2010
By Scott Stewart

In an interview aired Feb. 7 on CNN, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she considers weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the hands of an international terrorist group to be the largest threat faced by the United States today, even bigger than the threat posed by a nuclear-armed Iran. “The biggest nightmare that many of us have is that one of these terrorist member organizations within this syndicate of terror will get their hands on a weapon of mass destruction,” Clinton said. In referring to the al Qaeda network, Clinton noted that it is “unfortunately a very committed, clever, diabolical group of terrorists who are always looking for weaknesses and openings.”

Clinton’s comments came on the heels of a presentation by U.S. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. In his Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community on Feb. 2, Blair noted that, although counterterrorism actions have dealt a significant blow to al Qaeda’s near-term efforts to develop a sophisticated chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) attack capability, the U.S. intelligence community judges that the group is still intent on acquiring the capability. Blair also stated the obvious when he said that if al Qaeda were able to develop CBRN weapons and had the operatives to use them it would do so.

All this talk about al Qaeda and WMD has caused a number of STRATFOR clients, readers and even friends and family members to ask for our assessment of this very worrisome issue. So, we thought it would be an opportune time to update our readers on the topic.

Realities Shaping the Playing Field

To begin a discussion of jihadists and WMD, it is first important to briefly re-cap STRATFOR’s assessment of al Qaeda and the broader jihadist movement. It is our assessment that the first layer of the jihadist movement, the al Qaeda core group, has been hit heavily by the efforts of the United States and its allies in the aftermath of 9/11. Due to the military, financial, diplomatic, intelligence and law enforcement operations conducted against the core group, it is now a far smaller and more insular organization than it once was and is largely confined geographically to the Afghan-Pakistani border. Having lost much of its operational ability, the al Qaeda core is now involved primarily in the ideological struggle (which it seems to be losing at the present time).

The second layer in the jihadist realm consists of regional terrorist or insurgent groups that have adopted the jihadist ideology. Some of these have taken up the al Qaeda banner, such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), and we refer to them as al Qaeda franchise groups. Other groups may adopt some or all of al Qaeda’s jihadist ideology and cooperate with the core group, but they will maintain their independence for a variety of reasons. In recent years, these groups have assumed the mantle of leadership for the jihadist movement on the physical battlefield.

The third (and broadest) component of the jihadist movement is composed of grassroots jihadists. These are individuals or small groups of people located across the globe who are inspired by the al Qaeda core and the franchise groups but who may have little or no actual connection to these groups. By their very nature, the grassroots jihadists are the hardest of these three components to identify and target and, as a result, are able to move with more freedom than members of the al Qaeda core or the regional franchises.

As long as the ideology of jihadism exists, and jihadists at any of these three layers embrace the philosophy of attacking the “far enemy,” there will be a threat of attacks by jihadists against the United States. The types of attacks they are capable of conducting, however, depend on their intent and capability. Generally speaking, the capability of the operatives associated with the al Qaeda core is the highest and the capability of grassroots operatives is the lowest. Certainly, many grassroots operatives think big and would love to conduct a large, devastating attack, but their grandiose plans often come to naught for lack of experience and terrorist tradecraft.

Although the American public has long anticipated a follow-on attack to 9/11, most of the attacks directed against the United States since 9/11 have failed. In addition to incompetence and poor tradecraft, one of the contributing factors to these failures is the nature of the targets. Many strategic targets are large and well-constructed, and therefore hard to destroy. In other words, just because a strategic target is attacked does not mean the attack has succeeded. Indeed, many such attacks have failed. Even when a plot against a strategic target is successfully executed, it might not produce the desired results and would therefore be considered a failure. For example, the detonation of a massive truck bomb in a parking garage of the World Trade Center in 1993 failed to achieve the jihadists’ aims of toppling the two towers and producing mass casualties, or of causing a major U.S. foreign policy shift.

Many strategic targets, such as embassies, are well protected against conventional attacks. Their large standoff distances and physical security measures (like substantial perimeter walls) protect them from vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), while these and other security measures make it difficult to cause significant damage to them using smaller IEDs or small arms.

To overcome these obstacles, jihadists have been forced to look at alternate means of attack. Al Qaeda’s use of large, fully fueled passenger aircraft as guided missiles is a great example of this, though it must be noted that once that tactic became known, it ceased to be viable (as United Airlines Flight 93 demonstrated). Today, there is little chance that a flight crew and passengers of an aircraft would allow it to be seized by a small group of hijackers.


Al Qaeda has long plotted ways to overcome security measures and launch strategic strikes with CBRN weapons. In addition to the many public pronouncements the group has made about its desire to obtain and use such weapons, we know al Qaeda has developed crude methods for producing chemical and biological weapons and included such tactics in its encyclopedia of jihad and terrorist training courses.

However, as STRATFOR has repeatedly pointed out, chemical and biological weapons are expensive and difficult to use and have proved to be largely ineffective in real-world applications. A comparison of the Aum Shinrikyo chemical and biological attacks in Tokyo with the March 2004 jihadist attacks in Madrid clearly demonstrates that explosives are far cheaper, easier to use and more effective in killing people. The failure by jihadists in Iraq to use chlorine effectively in their attacks also underscores the problem of using improvised chemical weapons. These problems were also apparent to the al Qaeda leadership, which scrapped a plot to use improvised chemical weapons in the New York subway system due to concerns that the weapons would be ineffective. The pressure jihadist groups are under would also make it very difficult for them to develop a chemical or biological weapons facility, even if they possessed the financial and human resources required to launch such a program.

Of course, it is not unimaginable for al Qaeda or other jihadists to think outside the box and attack a chemical storage site or tanker car, or use such bulk chemicals to attack another target — much as the 9/11 hijackers used passenger- and fuel-laden aircraft to attack their targets. However, while an attack using deadly bulk chemicals could kill many people, most would be evacuated before they could receive a lethal dose, as past industrial accidents have demonstrated. Therefore, such an attack would be messy but would be more likely to cause mass panic and evacuations than mass casualties. Still, it would be a far more substantial attack than the previous subway plot using improvised chemical weapons.

A similar case can be made against the effectiveness of an attack involving a radiological dispersion device (RDD), sometimes called a “dirty bomb.” While RDDs are easy to deploy — so simple that we are surprised one has not already been used within the United States — it is very difficult to immediately administer a lethal dose of radiation to victims. Therefore, the “bomb” part of a dirty bomb would likely kill more people than the device’s “dirty,” or radiological, component. However, use of an RDD would result in mass panic and evacuations and could require a lengthy and expensive decontamination process. Because of this, we refer to RDDs as “weapons of mass disruption” rather than weapons of mass destruction.

The bottom line is that a nuclear device is the only element of the CBRN threat that can be relied upon to create mass casualties and guarantee the success of a strategic strike. However, a nuclear device is also by far the hardest of the CBRN weapons to obtain or manufacture and therefore the least likely to be used. Given the pressure that al Qaeda and its regional franchise groups are under in the post-9/11 world, it is simply not possible for them to begin a weapons program intended to design and build a nuclear device. Unlike countries such as North Korea and Iran, jihadists simply do not have the resources or the secure territory on which to build such facilities. Even with money and secure facilities, it is still a long and difficult endeavor to create a nuclear weapons program — as is evident in the efforts of North Korea and Iran. This means that jihadists would be forced to obtain an entire nuclear device from a country that did have a nuclear weapons program, or fissile material such as highly enriched uranium (enriched to 80 percent or higher of the fissile isotope U-235) that they could use to build a crude, gun-type nuclear weapon.

Indeed, we know from al Qaeda defectors like Jamal al-Fadl that al Qaeda attempted to obtain fissile material as long ago as 1994. The organization was duped by some of the scammers who were roaming the globe attempting to sell bogus material following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Several U.S. government agencies were duped in similar scams.

Black-market sales of military-grade radioactive materials spiked following the collapse of the Soviet Union as criminal elements descended on abandoned Russian nuclear facilities in search of a quick buck. In subsequent years the Russian government, in conjunction with various international agencies and the U.S. government, clamped down on the sale of Soviet-era radioactive materials. U.S. aid to Russia in the form of so-called “nonproliferation assistance” — money paid to destroy or adequately secure such nuclear and radiological material — increased dramatically following 9/11. In 2009, the U.S. Congress authorized around $1.2 billion for U.S. programs that provide nonproliferation and threat reduction assistance to the former Soviet Union. Such programs have resulted in a considerable amount of fissile material being taken off the market and removed from vulnerable storage sites, and have made it far harder to obtain fissile material today than it was in 1990 or even 2000.

Another complication to consider is that jihadists are not the only parties who are in the market for nuclear weapons or fissile material. In addition to counterproliferation programs that offer to pay money for fissile materials, countries like Iran and North Korea would likely be quick to purchase such items, and they have the resources to do so, unlike jihadist groups, which are financially strapped.

Some commentators have said they believe al Qaeda has had nuclear weapons for years but has been waiting to activate them at the “right time.” Others claim these weapons are pre-positioned inside U.S. cities. STRATFOR’s position is that if al Qaeda had such weapons prior to 9/11, it would have used them instead of conducting the airline attack. Even if the group had succeeded in obtaining a nuclear weapon after 9/11, it would have used it by now rather than simply sitting on it and running the risk of it being seized.

There is also the question of state assistance to terrorist groups, but the actions of the jihadist movement since 9/11 have served to steadily turn once quietly supportive (or ambivalent) states against the movement. Saudi Arabia declared war on jihadists in 2003 and countries such as Yemen, Pakistan and Indonesia have recently gone on the offensive. Indeed, in his Feb. 2 presentation to the Senate committee, Blair said: “We do not know of any states deliberately providing CBRN assistance to terrorist groups. Although terrorist groups and individuals have sought out scientists with applicable expertise, we have no corroborated reporting that indicates such experts have advanced terrorist CBRN capability.” Blair also noted that, “We and many in the international community are especially concerned about the potential for terrorists to gain access to WMD-related materials or technology.”

Clearly, any state that considered providing WMD to jihadists would have to worry about blow-back from countries that would be targeted by that material (such as the United States and Russia). With jihadists having declared war on the governments of countries in which they operate, officials in a position to provide CBRN to those jihadists would also have ample reason to be concerned about the materials being used against their own governments.

Efforts to counter the proliferation of nuclear materials and technology will certainly continue for the foreseeable future, especially efforts to ensure that governments with nuclear weapons programs do not provide weapons or fissile material to jihadist groups. While the chance of such a terrorist attack is remote, the devastation one could cause means that it must be carefully guarded against.
25347  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hezbollah withdrawal? on: February 10, 2010, 01:02:02 PM
Yemen: A Hezbollah Withdrawal?
Stratfor Today » February 10, 2010 | 1714 GMT

AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni soldiers in Saada province on Feb. 10According to several STRATFOR sources, Hezbollah, upon orders from Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, allegedly has withdrawn the remainder of its 400-strong contingent from Yemen. According to one source, the remaining Hezbollah operatives currently are in Khartoum, Sudan, and are awaiting flights to Beirut. They are expected to return to Beirut in small groups on Sudanese airlines.

This information — particularly the claim that Hezbollah had 400 men in Yemen — has not been verified. It must be noted that Iran and Hezbollah have an interest in playing up their involvement in Yemen as a way to amplify Iran’s militant threat against the United States and its Arab allies. STRATFOR therefore is deeply skeptical about the claims that Hezbollah sent 400 fighters to Yemen, where allegedly 70 of its operatives were killed and 90 wounded in Saudi aerial bombardments. The sheer logistical challenge of moving 400 armed men behind enemy lines, supplying them and then dealing with a high number of casualties is highly daunting, especially with U.S. intelligence helping with surveillance in the area.

However, the report of Iran downsizing Hezbollah’s (however limited) presence in Yemen tracks with information STRATFOR has received in recent weeks. The report also follows a decision by Yemen’s al-Houthi leadership to negotiate a cease-fire with Saudi Arabia.

STRATFOR first reported in September 2008 that Hezbollah operatives had perished in fighting alongside al-Houthi rebels in Yemen’s northern mountainous region. The al-Houthi insurgency escalated from a domestic conflict in Yemen to a proxy battle between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the summer of 2008, when Iran began increasing financial and military support for the rebels as a way to emphasize its possession of another lever that could be used against U.S.-allied Arab Gulf states in the event of a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran’s push to send Hezbollah operatives to Yemen reportedly caused a major split within Hezbollah’s senior ranks over whether the militant group should be expending assets on Iran’s proxy project in the Arabian Peninsula.

Iran had hoped to use its operations in Yemen as additional leverage in its nuclear negotiations, but Washington was careful to avoid being publicly drawn into the fray by acknowledging Iran’s role in the conflict. STRATFOR received indications in January that Iran, frustrated by its inability to exploit the al-Houthi rebellion in its dealings with the United States, had begun selectively supporting elements of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). STRATFOR does not believe such support has reached a significant level, but the AQAP threat is of far greater concern to the United States, particularly following the Christmas Day 2009 failed AQAP attack on a U.S. airliner. If Iran has indeed decided to withdraw its Hezbollah assets from Yemen, particular attention must be paid to Iran’s AQAP connection. Though these links are not yet critical, AQAP is unlikely to turn down support from Iran, even if the group considers Iran an ideological foe.
25348  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Boo Dog on: February 10, 2010, 12:13:50 PM
Boo is at pro level in MMA and spars regularly with UFC fighters out of Gokor's gym.  He is an instructor under Gokor and a professional full time MA instructor-- and a cool guy.
25349  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: February 10, 2010, 12:12:33 PM
It is up to you  grin
25350  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Nat Geo show : Fight Club No Limits on: February 10, 2010, 12:12:00 PM
Good idea Baltic Dog.  Lets use the Fire Hydrant thread for this purpose.
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