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25301  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops on: March 24, 2009, 03:47:49 PM
25302  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Brave Pak village on: March 24, 2009, 03:39:37 PM
Washington Post
March 22, 2009
Pg. 12

Pakistani Villagers Pay A Price For Defying Rebels

A Few Tribal Leaders Fight Religiously Cloaked Mayhem

By Pamela Constable, Washington Post Foreign Service

BAZITKHEL, Pakistan -- This tiny village in northwestern Pakistan has paid a high price for its defiance.

The health clinic lies in ruins, blasted to rubble by a car bomb that exploded outside three weeks ago. The mayor's compound next door is full of jagged holes. Five residents are dead, including a shopkeeper's small son and daughter. More than 20 were injured, including a young man whose right hand was severed.

But while most inhabitants of this violence-plagued region near the Afghan border have been cowed by the growing tide of Islamist and criminal violence, those in a handful of communities like Bazitkhel -- where tribal bonds are especially strong -- are determined to arm themselves and fight back.

Any vehicle that approaches Bazitkhel on the winding road from Peshawar, the provincial capital about 20 miles away, is quickly surrounded by men of all ages, each carrying a rifle and many loaded with grenade vests, ammo belts or military weapons. None wears a uniform or a badge.

"I am an educated and peaceful man. I would rather be carrying a book than a gun," said Hizar Amin Shah, 22, leaning on a rocket launcher. Shah said he spent the past decade studying and working in the capital, Islamabad, but has answered the call to return and defend his home. "These terrorists want to destroy the peace of Pakistan. It is up to us to finish them," he said.

The government of Pakistan, facing pressure from the West and increasing concern among its own citizens, has been struggling for months to contain an epidemic of religiously cloaked mayhem that is spreading from tribal havens along the Afghan border into the surrounding belt of "settled" areas that are theoretically protected by the state.

Authorities have tried various methods, first using the army to attempt to quash the rebels, and more recently negotiating truces with individual militia groups. Thousands of conflict-zone inhabitants, terrified by government bombing and insurgent brutality, have fled their homes. Few local officials dare visit their constituencies without military escorts.

A few tribal leaders, however, have refused to budge and are urging others to do the same. One of the first was Anwar Kamal Marwat, a former member of Parliament, who decided to organize a self-defense force in 2007 after Taliban militias began kidnapping and threatening people in his native Lakki Marwat district, demanding their support for a holy war.

"We are Muslims, and we know what holy war is. What they were doing was committing crimes," Marwat, 60, said last week in Peshawar. "They kept threatening us, but our tribe is very united and every village went on alert. We wanted to stop them before the cancer spread. It took many months, but now all their camps are gone, and they have not been back."

Marwat's success has been both an inspiration to other vulnerable communities and an embarrassment to the government, whose police are supposed to keep order and whose army is supposed to fight extremists.

One problem, according to experts and tribal leaders, is the divided loyalties and limited capacity of the security forces. Police are easily corrupted, tribal constabularies are ill-equipped and soldiers are often reluctant to shoot fellow Muslims. It is also widely believed here, though the government denies it, that Pakistani intelligence agencies covertly aid the insurgents in order to create trouble for next-door Afghanistan.

A second problem is that malefactors of all types benefit from a peculiar administrative arrangement, instituted by British colonial rulers, in which Pakistan's seven tribal zones are overseen by a federal agency and are off-limits to provincial or state security forces. As a result, they have become sanctuaries for both Islamist militias and criminal mafias, a distinction that local leaders said is becoming increasingly irrelevant.

"Some of the tribal agencies are totally controlled by the militants, and we are surrounded on three sides," said Afrasiab Khattak, a senior official in the party that rules North-West Frontier Province. Khattak has been a key promoter of the recent peace agreement with Taliban commanders in the Swat Valley, a tourist region in the province just outside the tribal belt.

The agreement has been criticized as creating a launching pad for a fundamentalist sweep through Pakistan. Last week, Islamic law courts began operating in Swat under the agreement, but Taliban commanders have not yet laid down their weapons. Still, Khattak said he believes the deal will hold.

"We have morally disarmed the militants in Swat. Now we have to create the conditions for physically disarming them," he said. "Swat is in a transition stage, and there is some confusion. The Taliban have no knowledge of law, and a few of them are addicted to violence, but 90 percent are behaving well."

But even in Peshawar, a city of several million, the chilling effects of Talibanization are everywhere. Half the movie theaters have shut down for lack of attendance at Bollywood action films deemed un-Islamic. Wedding parties have stopped hiring musicians, and only one craftsman who carves traditional instruments has remained in Dabgari Garden, a famous alley that once hummed with nightlife.

Gulzar Alam, an ethnic Pashto singer, has not performed at a single event since two gunmen ambushed him in a cemetery several months ago. As a further precaution, he has grown a beard and carries prayer beads.

"There is no more music in this city, not even in the public buses," Alam said, adding that most of his fellow entertainers have moved away or joined religious minstrel groups. The new provincial government hoped to spark a cultural revival, he added, "but now they've forgotten about it. The militancy problem has taken over everything."

In rural districts closer to the tribal zones, people are even more vulnerable to the predations of outlaw militias that roam freely just a few miles away. Bazitkhel, for example, is very near the Khyber Agency, a relatively prosperous tribal area that bustles with cross-border commerce but is also the stronghold of Mangal Bagh, a former bus driver who heads an Islamist militia-turned-criminal gang.

Leaders in Bazitkhel said most of their troubles originated with Bagh's followers, whom they allege enjoy the tacit acceptance of federal tribal officers. They said they had given authorities specific evidence about numerous attacks and their perpetrators, including cellphone records linking them to gang leaders in Khyber, but that nothing had come of it.

The village council head, Fahim ur Rahman, is now guarded around the clock by a small army of tribal members. He recounted half a dozen recent attacks and tribal retaliations, including a decisive battle last month in which hundreds of villagers encircled a group of militiamen in a three-hour gunfight, killing nine. Two weeks later came a message of gruesome revenge.

A pickup pulled into the village square in mid-afternoon and the driver walked into a shop, asking for cigarettes. The shopkeeper's children were outside munching on candy when the truck exploded, spraying deadly shrapnel in all directions. Two children died on the spot, and a third was rushed to a hospital in Peshawar with her stomach in shreds.

"These people call themselves Taliban, but they are nothing but criminals," Rahman said over rice and meat in his shrapnel-pocked compound. "We ask the security forces to crush them, but the police are afraid to take action, and other authorities protect them. If our tribe were not so united, we would have no hope of defending ourselves. We do not have permission to do this, but we have no choice."
25303  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Geithner's new plan on: March 24, 2009, 07:57:38 AM
The best news about the new Treasury bad bank asset purchase plan is that Secretary Timothy Geithner has finally settled on a strategy. The uncertainty was getting almost as toxic as those securities. Now all Mr. Geithner has to do is find private investors willing to "partner" with the feds (Congress!) to bid for those rotten assets, coax the banks to sell them at a loss, and hope that the economy doesn't keep falling lest taxpayers lose big on their new loan guarantees.

APOther than that, General, how was the siege of Moscow?

Markets nonetheless roared their approval yesterday, though also for the increase in existing home sales and for the Obama Administration's (belated) pushback against Congress's rage against bankers and private contracts. In simplest terms, Treasury is using loan guarantees and $100 billion in remaining TARP money to create a more liquid market for dodgy financial assets. These include those infamous mortgage securities, as well as various loans that may be nonperforming. The idea is to create new buyers for those assets, perhaps leading to higher prices than now exist in a illiquid market, and thus help banks gradually clean up their balance sheets.

This isn't the worst idea the federal government has ever had, and if it works it will help banks take their losses and burn down debt. A Resolution Trust Corp. would have been a simpler and more politically transparent way to do this, especially six months or a year ago. But this Administration and the entire bailout have already lost too much standing with the public to pull that off now. So in essence this is an attempt at a slow-motion bank workout without a fight over a new resolution agency or having to ask Congress for more money.

On the other hand, none of this will be easy to execute. Start with the problem of attracting private investors, who will have to accept Uncle Sam as a 50-50 business partner. Mr. Geithner says investors won't be subject to the same compensation limits as TARP recipients, but what happens if their asset purchases pay off in big profits? Will Congress settle for only half the upside -- especially as it faces epic deficits in the years ahead? Most likely, cries will go up that the buyers were allowed to underpay for the assets and thus make a killing.

Especially after last week, every investor has to ask whether the potential payoff is worth the risk of appearing in the future before a Congressional committee, saying "I do solemnly swear . . ." Maybe Treasury should also sell investors some Nancy Pelosi-political risk insurance.

Then there is the question of whether the banks will sell enough of those assets to make a difference. Mr. Geithner's bet is that the banks will judge that they are better off disposing of their bad assets, even if it means taking losses. With a cleaner balance sheet, they would then have an easier time raising more private capital and repaying their TARP money to Treasury more quickly. The stronger banks may well find this attractive, since they'd emerge faster from asset purgatory and get a competitive jump on the laggards.

The harder call is the weaker banks, such as Citigroup, which fear that taking big losses will weaken them further. Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit has publicly said that he'd be violating his fiduciary duty to shareholders to take such losses when he thinks the market value of its assets is artificially low. Citi and Bank of America already have federal guarantees against tens of billions in future losses, so they have even less incentive than most to sell and write them down. Much will depend on how much Treasury can raise asset prices with this new liquidity play. Some banks -- some of them big -- will undoubtedly fail anyway.

Of course the largest risk, as always, is to the taxpayers. Don't be fooled because Treasury isn't going to Capitol Hill for more cash. The Obama Administration is instead leveraging the balance sheets of the Federal Reserve and Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which will lend to the new public-private entities to buy the toxic assets.

In the case of the FDIC, it will lend at a debt-to-equity ratio of 6-to-l to the buyers. This means, according to the Treasury example, that the FDIC would guarantee 72 cents in funding for an asset purchased for 84 cents on the dollar. The feds and private investors would each put up six cents in capital. If the asset rises in value over time, the taxpayer and investors share the upside. If it falls further, then the taxpayers would absorb by far the biggest chunk of the losses. Better hope the recovery really is, as the White House says, just around the corner.

Whatever the Geithner plan's pitfalls, we sincerely hope this works. The feds have so thoroughly botched the TARP execution and various bailouts that Treasury has few options left. No accounting change can make bank losses vanish, or inspire investors and short sellers to value bank assets at more than their market price. Yes, banks need to earn their way out of trouble, and many are doing that, but they also need to burn losses. Might as well get on with it.
25304  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Cause and necessity of taking up arms on: March 24, 2009, 06:44:40 AM
"Honor, justice, and humanity, forbid us tamely to surrender that freedom which we received from our gallant ancestors, and which our innocent posterity have a right to receive from us. We cannot endure the infamy and guilt of resigning succeeding generations to that wretchedness which inevitably awaits them if we basely entail hereditary bondage on them."

--Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of the Causes and Necessities of Taking up Arms, 6 July 1775
25305  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Motives behind Russia's security proposal on: March 24, 2009, 05:34:47 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Motives Behind Russia's Security Proposal
March 23, 2009

Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski on Sunday blasted Russia’s proposal for a new security agreement with Europe and said the Americans should not force Poland into “regretting its trust in them.” Speaking at the 2009 Brussels Security Forum, Sikorski was reacting to a proposal that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov presented March 21, intended to create a new treaty to combat terrorism. According to Lavrov, the agreement would “respect sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of countries, inadmissibility of the use of force, guarantees for the provision of equal security, basic parameters of control over armaments and reasonable sufficiency in the development of military capability.” The initiative is meant to prove that no outside state and no international organization has the exclusive right to security in Europe.

Russia’s audience for the proposal was the United States, NATO and the European Union. While the treaty is said to be an anti-terrorism agreement, the Poles — and many others — see the true motives behind Lavrov’s proposal. The measure looks more like an attempt to re-create circumstances in which the United States is not invited to interfere in Russo-European affairs. It also could be intended to create a situation in which Europe is not allowed to cross into the former Soviet sphere dominated by Russia, since Lavrov’s proposal came just days after the European Union decided to launch partnership agreements with many countries in that sphere.

EU foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana — who happens to be a former NATO secretary-general — immediately shot down Lavrov’s proposal, adding that it is “a very intelligent set-up” for Europe to have the United States as the key guarantor of its security.

But it seems not everyone in Europe is as confident in the U.S.-European relationship as Solana.

The initiative Lavrov spoke of is actually based on a new treaty that Russian President Dmitri Medvedev placed before a select group of his European counterparts in June 2008. During the summer, Medvedev and others were very tight-lipped on what exactly this security agreement entailed and whether it actually could serve as a counter to U.S. and NATO influence in Europe. But at the time, STRATFOR sources said German leaders were considering Medvedev’s proposals. The point of that security agreement was to begin fracturing the U.S. hold over Europe and NATO by targeting individual states and pulling them out of Washington’s orbit.

Since Medvedev’s first push for an exclusive security agreement with certain European states, much has happened: the Russo-Georgian war, another natural gas shut-off from Russia to Ukraine (affecting Europe) and a possible move forward in U.S.-Russian negotiations. The time is ripe for Moscow to again try to create a more permanent structure involving Russia and Europe — especially one that counters the United States. Country by country, Moscow is attacking the Europeans’ confidence in Washington. In Moscow’s view, the Russians have the upper hand now: In the war with Georgia, they proved they are willing to invade a U.S. ally; with the natural gas cutoff, they issued a reminder that Europeans still depend on Russian natural gas; and the ongoing U.S.-Russian negotiations have many U.S. allies concerned about what Washington will barter away.

Solana has discounted the idea that any European country will be interested in Russia’s new security deal. However, it seems that some countries might not be quick to pass it up, while others fear the United States cannot follow through on its security guarantees.
25306  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 24, 2009, 05:31:02 AM
Uhhh , , , , ummmm, , , ,

1) rhomboid
2) lats
3) traps
, , , ummm  embarassed cheesy
25307  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Friedman: US-Iran negotiations on: March 23, 2009, 04:15:05 PM
March 23, 2009

By George Friedman

Related Special Topic Page
U.S.-Iran Negotiations
The Iranian Nuclear Game
Iraq, Iran and the Shia

U.S. President Barack Obama released a video offering Iran congratulations on the occasion of Nowruz, the Persian New Year, on Friday. Israeli President Shimon Peres also offered his best wishes, referring to “the noble Iranian people.” The joint initiative was received coldly in Tehran, however. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the video did not show that the United States had shifted its hostile attitude toward Iran.

The video is obviously part of Obama’s broader strategy of demonstrating that his administration has shifted U.S. policy, at least to the extent that it is prepared to open discussions with other regimes (with Iran being the hardest and most controversial case). The U.S. strategy is fairly straightforward: Obama is trying to create a new global perception of the United States. Global opinion was that former U.S. President George W. Bush was unwilling to engage with, and listen to, allies or enemies. Obama’s view is that that perception in itself harmed U.S. foreign policy by increasing suspicion of the United States. For Obama, offering New Year’s greetings to Iran is therefore part of a strategy to change the tone of all aspects of U.S. foreign policy.

Getting Peres to offer parallel greetings was undoubtedly intended to demonstrate to the Iranians that the Israelis would not block U.S. initiatives toward Iran. The Israelis probably were willing to go along with the greetings because they don’t expect them to go very far. They also want to show that they were not responsible for their failure, something critical in their relations with the Obama administration.

The Iranian response is also understandable. The United States has made a series of specific demands on Iran, and has worked to impose economic sanctions on Iran when Tehran has not complied. But Iran also has some fairly specific demands of the United States. It might be useful, therefore, to look at the Iranian view of the United States and the world through its eyes.

From the Iranian point of view, the United States has made two fundamental demands of Iran. The first is that Iran halt its military nuclear program. The second, a much broader demand, is that Iran stop engaging in what the United States calls terrorism. This ranges from support for Hezbollah to support for Shiite factions in Iraq. In return, the United States is prepared to call for a suspension of sanctions against Iran.

For Tehran, however, the suspension of sanctions is much too small a price to pay for major strategic concessions. First, the sanctions don’t work very well. Sanctions only work when most powers are prepared to comply with them. Neither the Russians nor the Chinese are prepared to systematically comply with sanctions, so there is little that Iran can afford that it can’t get. Iran’s problem is that it cannot afford much. Its economy is in shambles due more to internal problems than to sanctions. Therefore, in the Iranian point of view, the United States is asking for strategic concessions, yet offering very little in return.

The Nuclear Question
Meanwhile, merely working on a nuclear device — regardless of how close or far Iran really is from having one — provides Iran with a dramatically important strategic lever. The Iranians learned from the North Korean experience that the United States has a nuclear fetish. Having a nuclear program alone was more important to Pyongyang than actually having nuclear weapons. U.S. fears that North Korea might someday have a nuclear device resulted in significant concessions from the United States, Japan and South Korea.

The danger of having such a program is that the United States — or some other country — might attack and destroy the associated facilities. Therefore, the North Koreans created a high level of uncertainty as to just how far along they were on the road to having a nuclear device and as to how urgent the situation was, raising and lowering alarms like a conductor in a symphony. The Iranians are following the same strategy. They are constantly shifting from a conciliatory tone to an aggressive one, keeping the United States and Israel under perpetual psychological pressure. The Iranians are trying to avoid an attack by keeping the intelligence ambiguous. Tehran’s ideal strategy is maintaining maximum ambiguity and anxiety in the West while minimizing the need to strike immediately. Actually obtaining a bomb would increase the danger of an attack in the period between a successful test and the deployment of a deliverable device.

What the Iranians get out of this is exactly what the North Koreans got: disproportionate international attention and a lever on other topics, along with something that could be sacrificed in negotiations. They also have a chance of actually developing a deliverable device in the confusion surrounding its progress. If so, Iran would become invasion- and even harassment-proof thanks to its apparent instability and ideology. From Tehran’s perspective, abandoning its nuclear program without substantial concessions, none of which have materialized as yet, would be irrational. And the Iranians expect a large payoff from all this.

Radical Islamists, Iraq and Afghanistan
This brings us to the Hezbollah/Iraq question, which in fact represents two very different issues. Iraq constitutes the greatest potential strategic threat to Iran. This is as ancient as Babylon and Persia, as modern as the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Iran wants guarantees that Iraq will never threaten it, and that U.S. forces in Iraq will never pose a threat to Iran. Tehran does not want promises alone; it wants a recognized degree of control over the Iraqi government, or at least negative control that would allow it to stop Baghdad from doing things Iran doesn’t want. To achieve this, Iran systematically has built its influence among factions in Iraq, permitting it to block Iraqi policies that Iran regards as dangerous.

The American demand that Iran stop meddling in Iraqi policies strikes the Iranians as if the United States is planning to use the new Baghdad regime to restore the regional balance of power. In fact, that is very much on Washington’s mind. This is completely unacceptable to Iran, although it might benefit the United States and the region. From the Iranian point of view, a fully neutral Iraq — with its neutrality guaranteed by Iranian influence — is the only acceptable outcome. The Iranians regard the American demand that Iran not meddle in Iraq as directly threatening Iranian national security.

There is then the issue of Iranian support for Hezbollah, Hamas and other radical Islamist groups. Between 1979 and 2001, Iran represented the background of the Islamic challenge to the West: The Shia represented radical Islam. When al Qaeda struck, Iran and the Shia lost this place of honor. Now, al Qaeda has faded and Iran wants to reclaim its place. It can do that by supporting Hezbollah, a radical Shiite group that directly challenges Israel, as well as Hamas — a radical Sunni group — thus showing that Iran speaks for all of Islam, a powerful position in an arena that matters a great deal to Iran and the region. Iran’s support for these groups helps it achieve a very important goal at little risk. Meanwhile, the U.S. demand that Iran end this support is not matched by any meaningful counteroffer or by a significant threat.

Moreover, Tehran dislikes the Obama-Petraeus strategy in Afghanistan. That strategy involves talking with the Taliban, a group that Iran has been hostile toward historically. The chance that the United States might install a Taliban-linked government in Afghanistan represents a threat to Iran second only to the threat posed to it by Iraq.

The Iranians see themselves as having been quite helpful to the United States in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as they helped Washington topple both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. In 2001, they offered to let U.S. aircraft land in Iran, and assured Washington of the cooperation of pro-Iranian factions in Afghanistan. In Iraq, they provided intelligence and helped keep the Shiite population relatively passive after the invasion in 2003. But Iranians see Washington as having betrayed implicit understandings that in return for these services, the Iranians would enjoy a degree of influence in both countries. And the U.S. opening to the Taliban is the last straw.

Obama’s Greetings in Context
Iran views Obama’s New Year greetings within this context. To them, Obama has not addressed the core issues between the two countries. In fact, apart from videos, Obama’s position on Iran does not appear different from the Bush position. The Iranian leadership does not see why it should respond more favorably to the Obama administration than it did to the Bush administration. Tehran wants to be very sure that Obama understands that the willingness alone to talk is insufficient; some indications of what is to be discussed and what might be offered are necessary.

Many in the U.S. administration believe that the weak Iranian economy might shape the upcoming Iranian presidential election. Undoubtedly, the U.S. greetings were timed to influence the election. Washington has tried to influence internal Iranian politics for decades, constantly searching for reformist elements. The U.S. hope is that someone might be elected in Iran who is so obsessed with the economy that he would trade away strategic and geopolitical interests in return for some sort of economic aid. There are undoubtedly candidates who would be interested in economic aid, but none who are prepared to trade away strategic interests. Nor could they even if they wanted to. The Iran-Iraq war is burned into the popular Iranian consciousness; any candidate who appeared willing to see a strong Iraq would lose the election. American analysts are constantly confusing an Iranian interest in economic aid with a willingness to abandon core interests. But this hasn’t happened, and isn’t happening now.

This is not to say that the Iranians won’t bargain. Beneath the rhetoric, they are practical to the extreme. Indeed, the rhetoric is part of the bargaining. What is not clear is whether Obama is prepared to bargain. What will he give for the things he wants? Economic aid is not enough for Iran, and in any event, the idea of U.S. economic aid for Iran during a time of recession is a non-starter. Is Obama prepared to offer Iran a dominant voice in Iraq and Afghanistan? How insistent is Obama on the Hezbollah and Hamas issue? What will he give if Iran shuts down its nuclear program? It is not clear that Obama has answers to these questions.

Rebuilding the U.S. public image is a reasonable goal for the first 100 days of a presidency. But soon it will be summer, and the openings Obama has made will have to be walked through, with tough bargaining. In the case of Iran — one of the toughest cases of all — it is hard to see how Washington can give Tehran the things it wants because that would make Iran a major regional power. And it is hard to see how Iran could give away the things the Americans are demanding.

Obama indicated that it would take time for his message to generate a positive response from the Iranians. It is more likely that unless the message starts to take on more substance that pleases the Iranians, the response will remain unchanged. The problem wasn’t Bush or Clinton or Reagan, the problem was the reality of Iran and the United States. Only if a third power frightened the Iranians sufficiently — a third power that also threatened the United States — would U.S.-Iranian interests be brought together. But Russia, at least for now, is working very hard to be friendly with Iran.
25308  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US between Iran and the Taliban on: March 23, 2009, 11:16:00 AM
Afghanistan: The U.S. Between Iran and the Taliban
STRATFOR Today » March 21, 2009 | 1359 GMT

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki arrived March 20 in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif for a two-day visit. At a time when Washington is reaching out to Iran to assist in Afghanistan, Iran is demonstrating to the United States that it holds significant influence in Afghanistan. At the same time, Iran is not happy about U.S. efforts to engage “moderate” Taliban elements, and will instead be working to revive the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance — an endeavor that is likely to find support in Russia, Central Asia and India.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki arrived March 20 in the northwestern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif to meet with his Afghan and Tajik counterparts in a ceremony marking Nowruz — the Persian New Year celebrated by Iranians, Tajiks, Kurds, and Azeris. On the same day, U.S. President Barack Obama sent a message to Iran on the occasion of Nowruz as part of his administration’s efforts to engage Tehran diplomatically.

The Iranians have welcomed the “Happy Nowruz” message from Obama, but have reiterated their demand that the United States move beyond statements and take concrete steps to initiate the process of normalizing relations. Tehran knows that Washington is simultaneously trying to reach out to the clerical regime; it is also pursuing a diplomatic approach toward the Taliban, an enemy of Tehran that the Iranians nearly went to war with in 1998. From the Iranian point of view, this is the perfect time to demonstrate to the Americans that in addition to the Middle East, the Persian Islamist regime has great influence in South and Central Asia as well.

Intriguingly, the regional gathering is not being held in the Afghan capital, Kabul, but in Mazar-e-Sharif — a city with a Tajik majority in a predominantly Uzbek region, which is near the borders of the Central Asian states (Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan). It is also the same city where the Taliban murdered 10 diplomats and an Iranian journalist at the Iranian Consulate in August 1998 as part of a larger massacre of Shiite opponents in and around the town after the Taliban re-captured it from the Northern Alliance. Ethnic Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazara and Turkmen in Afghanistan, along with their allies in Asghabat, Tashkent and Dushanbe all share Iran’s deep concern over the Taliban resurgence. These state and non-state actors, along with Russia, Iran and India, cooperated in supporting the Northern Alliance (a coalition of Afghan minorities) to counter the Taliban from 1994 to 2001 and then played an instrumental role in the fall of the Taliban regime in the aftermath of 9/11.

Tehran has strong influence among Afghanistan’s largest minority group, the Tajiks, because of ethno-linguistic ties. Similarly, it enjoys close relations with the Hazara, who are — like the Iranians — Shia. Given the way the Taliban routed the Northern Alliance in the 1990s, the Iranians understand that they will need to put together a more robust alliance comprising the Afghan minorities. The Uzbeks, however, are key in this regard because after the Tajiks, they are the next-largest ethnic group in the country. Moreover, the Uzbeks under the leadership of former military commander Gen. Abdul-Rashid Dostum played a key role in the ouster of the Marxist regime in 1992 after defecting to the Islamist rebel alliance.

Therefore, in addition to showing off their regional influence, the Iranians are likely attempting to revive the Northern Alliance. In April 2007, STRATFOR discussed the likelihood of the re-creation of the north-south divide in Afghanistan, pitting its Pashtun majority against the country’s minorities. By countering the rise of the Taliban, the Iranians would be offsetting the moves of their main regional rival, Saudi Arabia. Riyadh is interested in seeing the return of the Taliban as a means of checking Iran, which has created problems for Riyadh in the Arab world. Just as Iran has relied on its Arab Shiite allies and other radical forces in the Middle East to expand its influence, the Iranians have ample tools on their eastern front.

Iran is not the only power that has an interest in bolstering the Northern Alliance. The Russians also want to keep the Taliban contained, and would have an interest in undermining U.S. strategy in Afghanistan by reinforcing the Taliban’s biggest rivals. Iran will probably work through Russia to create a regional alliance against the Taliban, though Iran is aware that Moscow does not want Iran to expand its influence in Central Asia because the Russians see that region as their exclusive turf.

Additionally, Iran can rely on India to join this anti-Taliban regional alliance because of New Delhi’s interest in countering the Taliban’s main state-actor ally, Pakistan, and countering the Islamist militant threat that India faces from its western rival. The Indians have openly criticized U.S. efforts to seek out “moderate” Taliban and are bitter about the Obama administration’s soft approach toward Islamabad.

This emerging alignment of forces complicates an already complex and difficult situation that the United States faces in dealing with Taliban and their al Qaeda allies. Washington is struggling to deal with the spread of the jihadist insurgency from Afghanistan to Pakistan and now will have to balance between Iran and Saudi Arabia as it seeks to deal with the Taliban. A revitalization of an anti-Taliban alliance of state and non-state actors will create problems for the U.S. efforts to negotiate with the Taliban.

Such an anti-Taliban coalition also complicates U.S.-NATO efforts to reach out to the Central Asian republics and Russia in its search for alternative supply routes. Moscow and the Central Asian states are in favor, at the right price, of allowing the West to ship supplies through their territories to NATO forces in Afghanistan because they also want the Taliban in check. Washington’s moves to talk to the Taliban, however, are a cause of concern for the Kremlin and the countries of Central Asia, which is why they will be asking for a role in the U.S.-Iranian negotiations.

These complex dealings underscore the problems that the United States will be facing as it seeks simultaneously to negotiate with its two principal opponents in the Islamic world — Iran and the jihadists.
25309  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politically (In)correct on: March 23, 2009, 10:56:46 AM
Live Not By Lies
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Solzhenitsyn penned this essay in 1974 and it circulated among Moscow's intellectuals at the time. It is dated Feb. 12, the same day that secret police broke into his apartment and arrested him. The next day he was exiled to West Germany. The essay is a call to moral courage and serves as light to all who value truth.

At one time we dared not even to whisper. Now we write and read samizdat, and sometimes when we gather in the smoking room at the Science Institute we complain frankly to one another: What kind of tricks are they playing on us, and where are they dragging us? Gratuitous boasting of cosmic achievements while there is poverty and destruction at home. Propping up remote, uncivilized regimes. Fanning up civil war. And we recklessly fostered Mao Tse-tung at our expense—and it will be we who are sent to war against him, and will have to go. Is there any way out? And they put on trial anybody they want and they put sane people in asylums—always they, and we are powerless.

Things have almost reached rock bottom. A universal spiritual death has already touched us all, and physical death will soon flare up and consume us both and our children—but as before we still smile in a cowardly way and mumble without tounges tied. But what can we do to stop it? We haven't the strength?

We have been so hopelessly dehumanized that for today's modest ration of food we are willing to abandon all our principles, our souls, and all the efforts of our predecessors and all opportunities for our descendants—but just don't disturb our fragile existence. We lack staunchness, pride and enthusiasm. We don't even fear universal nuclear death, and we don't fear a third world war. We have already taken refuge in the crevices. We just fear acts of civil courage.

We fear only to lag behind the herd and to take a step alone-and suddenly find ourselves without white bread, without heating gas and without a Moscow registration.

We have been indoctrinated in political courses, and in just the same way was fostered the idea to live comfortably, and all will be well for the rest of our lives. You can't escape your environment and social conditions. Everyday life defines consciousness. What does it have to do with us? We can't do anything about it?

But we can—everything. But we lie to ourselves for assurance. And it is not they who are to blame for everything—we ourselves, only we. One can object: But actually toy can think anything you like. Gags have been stuffed into our mouths. Nobody wants to listen to us and nobody asks us. How can we force them to listen? It is impossible to change their minds.

It would be natural to vote them out of office—but there are not elections in our country. In the West people know about strikes and protest demonstrations—but we are too oppressed, and it is a horrible prospect for us: How can one suddenly renounce a job and take to the streets? Yet the other fatal paths probed during the past century by our bitter Russian history are, nevertheless, not for us, and truly we don't need them.

Now that the axes have done their work, when everything which was sown has sprouted anew, we can see that the young and presumptuous people who thought they would make out country just and happy through terror, bloody rebellion and civil war were themselves misled. No thanks, fathers of education! Now we know that infamous methods breed infamous results. Let our hands be clean!

The circle—is it closed? And is there really no way out? And is there only one thing left for us to do, to wait without taking action? Maybe something will happen by itself? It will never happen as long as we daily acknowledge, extol, and strengthen—and do not sever ourselves from the most perceptible of its aspects: Lies.

When violence intrudes into peaceful life, its face glows with self-confidence, as if it were carrying a banner and shouting: “I am violence. Run away, make way for me—I will crush you.” But violence quickly grows old. And it has lost confidence in itself, and in order to maintain a respectable face it summons falsehood as its ally—since violence lays its ponderous paw not every day and not on every shoulder. It demands from us only obedience to lies and daily participation in lies—all loyalty lies in that.

And the simplest and most accessible key to our self-neglected liberation lies right here: Personal non-participation in lies. Though lies conceal everything, though lies embrace everything, but not with any help from me.

This opens a breach in the imaginary encirclement caused by our inaction. It is the easiest thing to do for us, but the most devastating for the lies. Because when people renounce lies it simply cuts short their existence. Like an infection, they can exist only in a living organism.

We do not exhort ourselves. We have not sufficiently matured to march into the squares and shout the truth our loud or to express aloud what we think. It's not necessary.

It's dangerous. But let us refuse to say that which we do not think.

This is our path, the easiest and most accessible one, which takes into account out inherent cowardice, already well rooted. And it is much easier—it's dangerous even to say this—than the sort of civil disobedience which Gandhi advocated.

Our path is to talk away fro the gangrenous boundary. If we did not paste together the dead bones and scales of ideology, if we did not sew together the rotting rags, we would be astonished how quickly the lies would be rendered helpless and subside.

That which should be naked would then really appear naked before the whole world.

So in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood—of course, it is not out of inclination, but to feed one's family, that one raises his children in the spirit of lies—or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one's children and contemporaries.

And from that day onward he:

Will not henceforth write, sign, or print in any way a single phrase which in his opinion distorts the truth.
Will utter such a phrase neither in private conversation not in the presence of many people, neither on his own behalf not at the prompting of someone else, either in the role of agitator, teacher, educator, not in a theatrical role.
Will not depict, foster or broadcast a single idea which he can only see is false or a distortion of the truth whether it be in painting, sculpture, photography, technical science, or music.
Will not cite out of context, either orally or written, a single quotation so as to please someone, to feather his own nest, to achieve success in his work, if he does not share completely the idea which is quoted, or if it does not accurately reflect the matter at issue.
Will not allow himself to be compelled to attend demonstrations or meetings if they are contrary to his desire or will, will neither take into hand not raise into the air a poster or slogan which he does not completely accept.
Will not raise his hand to vote for a proposal with which he does not sincerely sympathize, will vote neither openly nor secretly for a person whom he considers unworthy or of doubtful abilities.
Will not allow himself to be dragged to a meeting where there can be expected a forced or distorted discussion of a question. Will immediately talk out of a meeting, session, lecture, performance or film showing if he hears a speaker tell lies, or purvey ideological nonsense or shameless propaganda.
Will not subscribe to or buy a newspaper or magazine in which information is distorted and primary facts are concealed. Of course we have not listed all of the possible and necessary deviations from falsehood. But a person who purifies himself will easily distinguish other instances with his purified outlook.
No, it will not be the same for everybody at first. Some, at first, will lose their jobs. For young people who want to live with truth, this will, in the beginning, complicate their young lives very much, because the required recitations are stuffed with lies, and it is necessary to make a choice.

But there are no loopholes for anybody who wants to be honest. On any given day any one of us will be confronted with at least one of the above-mentioned choices even in the most secure of the technical sciences. Either truth or falsehood: Toward spiritual independence or toward spiritual servitude.

And he who is not sufficiently courageous even to defend his soul—don't let him be proud of his “progressive” views, don't let him boast that he is an academician or a people's artist, a merited figure, or a general—let him say to himself: I am in the herd, and a coward. It's all the same to me as long as I'm fed and warm.

Even this path, which is the most modest of all paths of resistance, will not be easy for us. But it is much easier than self-immolation or a hunger strike: The flames will not envelope your body, your eyeballs, will not burst from the heat, and brown bread and clean water will always be available to your family.

A great people of Europe, the Czechoslovaks, whom we betrayed and deceived: Haven't they shown us how a vulnerable breast can stand up even against tanks if there is a worthy heart within it?

You say it will not be easy? But it will be easiest of all possible resources. It will not be an easy choice for a body, but it is the only one for a soul. Not, it is not an easy path. But there are already people, even dozens of them, who over the years have maintained all these points and live by the truth.

So you will not be the first to take this path, but will join those who have already taken it. This path will be easier and shorter for all of us if we take it by mutual efforts and in close rank. If there are thousands of us, they will not be able to do anything with us. If there are tens of thousands of us, then we would not even recognize our country.

If we are too frightened, then we should stop complaining that someone is suffocating us. We ourselves are doing it. Let us then bow down even more, let us wail, and out brothers the biologists will help to bring nearer the day when they are able to read our thoughts are worthless and hopeless.

And if we get cold feet, even taking this step, then we are worthless and hopeless, and the scorn of Pushkin should be directed to us:

Why should cattle have the gifts of freedom?

Their heritage from generation to generation is the belled yoke and the lash.
25310  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: March 23, 2009, 10:47:43 AM
!Que tristeza!
25311  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Have We the people lost the American republic the Founding Fathers forge for us? on: March 23, 2009, 08:05:46 AM
25312  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bonus tax makes work illogical for some on: March 23, 2009, 07:58:44 AM
Like Bernie Madoff, I've got the government coming after my money. Unlike Madoff, I didn't do anything wrong.

The House of Representatives, alas, thinks otherwise. Last Thursday, 328 members voted for a bill that would slap a 90% surtax on my bonus, with Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel dismissing the payout I received in January as "repugnant to everything that decent people believe in." The Senate is considering a similar bill.

All of this might come as a surprise to those of you who recognize my byline. Until a year ago, I was The Wall Street Journal's personal-finance columnist -- and widely considered to be a friend of the ordinary investor.

But that was then. In April 2008, I left to join a new Citi venture. (What follows are my views -- not those of Citigroup Inc.) For the past year, I thought I was involved in building a wonderful, customer-friendly business that minimizes conflicts of interest, favors index funds, and helps everyday Americans with their entire financial lives.

It seems that I was sadly mistaken. If the rebuke from Washington is any guide, I have apparently played an integral part in the collapse of the global economy and the financial markets -- and I must be punished.

Should the House bill become law, my bonus will be taxed at up to 90% once my adjusted gross income hits $250,000. The tax will apply to employees of those companies, like Citi, that have received more than $5 billion from the government's financial rescue program. As you might imagine, this is a tad perplexing, given that I've never been involved in lending to subprime mortgage borrowers and, as far as I know, nor have any of the folks I now work with.

In fact, many of the Wall Street executives responsible for today's mess have long since moved on -- and, unless they receive a bonus in 2009, will escape the 90% surtax. Unfair? Indeed, it is. The House bill is akin to, say, penalizing the earnings of today's politicians because their predecessors failed to save us from the current economic debacle.

I realize readers won't be shedding tears -- $250,000 is a decent chunk of change (though, trust me, it doesn't buy that great a lifestyle in New York). Still, the bill could cause financial headaches. Some of my colleagues have already spent their bonus or put a big chunk into their 401(k) plan, so finding the money to pay the 90% tax will be a struggle. Some have total incomes that don't come close to $250,000 -- but they breach that level once their spouse's salary and their investment income are included. The bill could also hurt the economy, encouraging banks to cut back on lending, so they can return their bailout money and protect employees from the surtax.

Not buying the hardship angle? Not persuaded that this tax is unfair? Consider this truly searing indictment: A 90% tax is downright stupid, creating bizarre disincentives. Exhibit A? That would be me. Once my total income hits $250,000 for the current calendar year, I will have no incentive to work a single day more in 2009. After all, for every extra dollar of income I earn above $250,000, I will lose 90 cents of the bonus I received earlier this year.

Being somewhat knowledgeable about personal finance, I'm trying to figure out how to finagle this. By minimizing my investment income in 2009 and pushing other income into 2010, I reckon I can delay the day of tax reckoning. But even with that finagling, by mid-October, I will hit $250,000 in total income -- and have no incentive to earn any more income in 2009.

At that point, I plan to ask Citi for an unpaid sabbatical. Forget earning more income. There's no point. Instead, you will find me hunkered down at home, desperately trying not to spend money. This will make entire financial sense for the Clements household. What about the struggling economy? Not so much.

Mr. Clements is director of financial guidance for myFi, a unit of Citi, and the author of "The Little Book of Main Street Money," out in May by Wiley.

25313  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New for profit news enterprise on: March 23, 2009, 07:48:15 AM

Overseas reporters have been a casualty of budget-chopping news organizations, leaving an opening for the online start-up GlobalPost. But at a time when many news executives are exploring nonprofit business models to keep specialized reporting flowing, GlobalPost, which made its debut on Jan. 12, is intended to be a moneymaking venture.

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David Blumenfeld
Matt Beynon Rees, shown in Beit Jala, is a former correspondent for Time magazine, and contributes to the for-profit GlobalPost from Jerusalem.
With 65 correspondents worldwide — drawn from a surfeit of experienced reporters eager to continue working in their specialties even as potential employers disappear — GlobalPost has begun offering a mix of news and features that only a handful of other news organizations can rival.

Recent articles, free at, included reports on Thailand’s Islamic insurgency and Indian yogis worried about the financial crisis.

That ad-supported reporting is only one part of the GlobalPost business plan. If it is to succeed, it will depend in part on how many people sign up for a separate paid section of the site, which was to have been available in test mode beginning last week but is now expected to go online in the coming days.

Called Passport, it offers access to GlobalPost correspondents, including exclusive reports on business topics of less interest to general audiences, conference calls and meetings with reporters, and breaking news e-mail messages from those journalists.

Passport subscribers, who pay as much as $199 a year, can suggest article ideas. “If you are a member, you have a voice at the editorial meeting,” although the site will decide which stories to pursue, said Charles Sennott, a GlobalPost founder and its executive editor. He said Passport is meant to “create a feeling of community” for subscribers who might otherwise see newsrooms as “impenetrable and fortresslike.”

GlobalPost correspondents, who include the former Washington Post writer Caryle Murphy in Saudi Arabia and a Time magazine correspondent turned novelist, Matt Beynon Rees, in Jerusalem, are paid extra for Passport work. Their basic compensation is $1,000 a month for four articles, plus shares in the venture. The site had 500 applicants for the jobs, Mr. Sennott said.

Only a couple of dozen people have signed up for Passport, said Philip Balboni, GlobalPost’s other founder and the president and chief executive. The site is depending on marketing partnerships to generate subscriptions, some discounted, and hopes to have more than 2,000 by year’s end.

Two months in, the Boston-based company says demand for the free site — the mainstay of the business — is ahead of expectations. It has logged 250,000 unique users who have visited at least once, compared with the 90,000 Mr. Balboni had hoped for by now, and 1.1 million page views, more than half from returning visitors. “People have clearly liked what they’ve seen,” Mr. Balboni said, adding that the site has had visitors from every country except North Korea, Chad and Eritrea.

Advertising remains slow, he acknowledged. Liberty Mutual Insurance signed on for a year, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University has been advertising on a trial basis. “I think it will just take time,” Mr. Balboni said. “We are in an incredible down market.”

More encouragingly, a third revenue stream has been growing, as the company has signed up a growing number of news outlets, including The Daily News and The Boise Weekly of Idaho, to carry its reports and have use of its correspondents.

CBS Radio News recently signed a nonexclusive deal. It will be able to call on GlobalPost correspondents during breaking news, as a backup to its own reporters, said Harvey Nagler, CBS News’s vice president of radio.

Public television’s “Worldfocus” weeknight newscast features reports from GlobalPost correspondents, who carry inexpensive Flip digital video cameras when in the field.

The site was started with $8.5 million from private investors.

Mr. Balboni, who created the New England Cable News network, said he was a passionate defender of for-profit journalism. “I believe deep in my heart and soul that the discipline of the marketplace makes for a stronger organization,” he said. “It gives you a far greater chance to be a self-sustaining enterprise, without having to turn to government or foundations,” which can be mercurial, he said.

Long before the debate about whether newspapers and magazines should be charging for Web content, Mr. Balboni envisioned having consumers pay for at least a part of GlobalPost, he said. It was a lesson he learned after years in the cable TV business, which is supported by subscribers as well as ads. Having created a hybrid model, he said, “now we have to prove it in the marketplace.”

Alan D. Mutter, a media investor who analyzes news-business models at the blog Reflections of a Newsosaur, praised GlobalPost in an interview “for being thoroughly modern in its approach to revenue, in that it understands it won’t be simply advertising or subscriptions.” He added, “They’ve identified every conceivable revenue stream I can think of.”

But questions remain, he said, including how many news organizations still have the budget to pay to use its articles, and whether GlobalPost’s executives can create compelling content that will draw enough subscribers. “I’ve seen other publishers who offered premium content, and the content wasn’t good enough to make you want to write a check,” he said.

“This is definitely a forward-looking model, but it remains to be seen whether the audience materializes and whether they can execute,” Mr. Mutter said, adding that “I think everyone wishes them well because they are pretty close to what the future will be for news publishing.”
25314  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Cartel violence growing in US on: March 23, 2009, 07:39:11 AM
Its the NY Slimes, so caveat lector.  For example the canard about the US's gun rights being the cause of the supply of the cartels' grenades, automatic guns, etc.  These are MILITARY weapons whose provenance is most likely MILITARY sources e.g. Central America, Venezuela, etc.  And, btw how did the Zetas get their beginning?  They were trained by the US military-- and the solution, now that the violence comes to America, is to disarm the American people?!?!?!?!  angry angry angry

TUCSON — Sgt. David Azuelo stepped gingerly over the specks of blood on the floor, took note of the bullet hole through the bedroom skylight, raised an eyebrow at the lack of furniture in the ranch-style house and turned to his squad of detectives investigating one of the latest home invasions in this southern Arizona city.

A 21-year-old man had been pistol-whipped throughout the house, the gun discharging at one point, as the attackers demanded money, the victim reported. His wife had been bathing their 3-month-old son when the intruders arrived.

“At least they didn’t put the gun in the baby’s mouth like we’ve seen before,” Sergeant Azuelo said. That same afternoon this month, his squad was called to the scene of another home invasion, one involving the abduction of a 14-year-old boy.

This city, an hour’s drive north of the Mexican border, is coping with a wave of drug crime the police suspect is tied to the bloody battles between Mexico’s drug cartels and the efforts to stamp them out.

Since officials here formed a special squad last year to deal with home invasions, they have counted more than 200 of them, with more than three-quarters linked to the drug trade. In one case, the intruders burst into the wrong house, shooting and injuring a woman watching television on her couch. In another, in a nearby suburb, a man the police described as a drug dealer was taken from his home at gunpoint and is still missing.

Tucson is hardly alone in feeling the impact of Mexico’s drug cartels and their trade. In the past few years, the cartels and other drug trafficking organizations have extended their reach across the United States and into Canada. Law enforcement authorities say they believe traffickers distributing the cartels’ marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs are responsible for a rash of shootings in Vancouver, British Columbia, kidnappings in Phoenix, brutal assaults in Birmingham, Ala., and much more.

United States law enforcement officials have identified 230 cities, including Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston and Billings, Mont., where Mexican cartels and their affiliates “maintain drug distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors,” as a Justice Department report put it in December. The figure rose from 100 cities reported three years earlier, though Justice Department officials said that may be because of better data collection methods as well as the spread of the organizations.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has asked for National Guard troops at the border. The Obama administration is completing plans to add federal agents along the border, a senior White House official said, but does not anticipate deploying soldiers.

The official said enhanced security measures would include increased use of equipment at the ports of entry to detect weapons carried in cars crossing into Mexico from the United States, and more collaboration with Mexican law enforcement officers to trace weapons seized from crime scenes.

Law enforcement officials on both sides of the border agree that the United States is the source for most of the guns used in the violent drug cartel war in Mexico.

“The key thing is to keep improving on our interdiction of the weapons before they even get in there,” said Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security and the former governor of Arizona, who will be testifying before Congress on Wednesday.

Familiar Signs

Sergeant Azuelo quickly began to suspect that the pistol whipping he was investigating was linked to a drug dispute. Within minutes, his detectives had found a blood-spattered scale, marijuana buds and leaves and a bundle of cellophane wrap used in packing marijuana.

Most often, police officials say, the invasions result from an unpaid debt, sometimes involving as little as a few thousand dollars. But simple greed can be at work, too: one set of criminals learns of a drug load, then “rips” it and sells it.

“The amount of violence has drastically increased in the last 6 to 12 months, especially in the area of home invasions, “ said Lt. Michael O’Connor of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department here. “The people we have arrested, a high percentage are from Mexico.”

The violence in the United States does not compare with what is happening in Mexico, where the cartels have been thriving for years. Forbes recently listed one of Mexico’s most notorious kingpins, Joaquin Guzmán, on its list of the world’s billionaires. (No. 701, out of 793, with a fortune worth $1 billion, the magazine said.)


But a crackdown begun more than two years ago by President Felipe Calderón, coupled with feuds over turf and control of the organizations, has set off an unprecedented wave of killings in Mexico. More than 7,000 people, most of them connected to the drug trade or law enforcement, have died since January 2008. Many of the victims were tortured. Beheadings have become common.

At times, the police have been overwhelmed by the sheer firepower in the hands of drug traffickers, who have armed themselves with assault rifles and even grenades.

Although overall violent crime has dropped in several cities on or near the border — Tucson is an exception, reporting a rise in homicides and other serious crime last year — Arizona appears to be bearing the brunt of smuggling-related violence. Some 60 percent of illicit drugs found in the United States — principally cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine — entered through the border in this state.

The city’s home-invasion squad, a sergeant and five detectives working nearly around the clock, was organized in April. Phoenix assembled a similar unit in September to investigate kidnappings related to drug and human smuggling. In the last two years, the city has recorded some 700 cases, some involving people held against their will in stash houses and others abducted.

The state police also have a new human-smuggling squad that focuses on the proliferation of drop houses, where migrants are kept and often beaten and raped until they pay ever-escalating smuggling fees.

“Five years ago a home invasion was almost unheard of,” said Assistant Chief Roberto Villaseñor of the Tucson Police Department. “It was rare.”

Web of Crime

Tying the street-level violence in the United States to the cartels is difficult, law enforcement experts say, because the cartels typically distribute their illicit goods through a murky network of regional and local cells made up of Mexican immigrants and United States citizens who send cash and guns to Mexico through an elaborate chain.

The cartels “may have 10 cells in Chicago, and they may not even know each other,” said Michael Braun, a former chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Elizabeth W. Kempshall, who is in charge of the drug agency’s office in Phoenix, said the kind of open warfare in some Mexican border towns — where some Mexican soldiers patrol in masks so they will not be recognized later — has not spilled over into the United States in part because the cartels do not want to risk a response from law enforcement here that would disrupt their business.

But Mrs. Kempshall and other experts said the havoc on the Mexican side of the border might be having an impact on the drug trade here, contributing to “trafficker on trafficker” violence.

For one thing, they say, the war on the Mexican side and the new border enforcement are disrupting the flow of illicit drugs arriving in the United States. The price of cocaine, for instance, a barometer of sorts for the supply available, has surged.

With drugs in tighter supply, drug bosses here and in Mexico take a much harder line when debts are owed or drugs are stolen or confiscated, D.E.A. officials said.

Although much of the violence is against people involved in the drug trade, law enforcement authorities said such crime should not be viewed as a “self-cleaning oven,” as one investigator put it, because of the danger it poses to the innocent. It has also put a strain on local departments.

Several hours after Sergeant Azuelo investigated the home invasion involving the pistol whipping, his squad was called to one blocks away.

This time, the intruders ransacked the house before taking a 14-year-old boy captive. Gang investigators recognized the house as having a previous association with a street gang suspected of involvement in drug dealing.

The invaders demanded drugs and $10,000, and took the boy to make their point. He was released within the hour, though the family told investigators it had not paid a ransom.

“You don’t know anybody who is going to pay that money?” the boy said his abductors kept asking him.

The boy, showing the nonchalance of his age, shrugged off his ordeal.

“No, I’m not scared,” he said after being questioned by detectives, who asked that his name not be used because the investigation was continuing.

Growing Networks

Not all the problems are along the border.


Page 3 of 3)

The Atlanta area, long a transportation hub for legitimate commerce, has emerged as a new staging ground for drug traffickers taking advantage of its web of freeways and blending in with the wave of Mexican immigrants who have flocked to work there in the past decade.

Last August, in one of the grislier cases in the South, the police in Shelby County, Ala., just outside Birmingham, found the bodies of five men with their throats cut. It is believed they were killed over a $450,000 debt owed to another drug trafficking faction in Atlanta.

The spread of the Mexican cartels, longtime distributors of marijuana, has coincided with their taking over cocaine distribution from Colombian cartels. Those cartels suffered setbacks when American authorities curtailed their trading routes through the Caribbean and South Florida.

Since then, the Colombians have forged alliances with Mexican cartels to move cocaine, which is still largely produced in South America, through Mexico and into the United States.

The Mexicans have also taken over much of the methamphetamine business, producing the drug in “super labs” in Mexico. The number of labs in the United States has been on the decline.

While the cartel networks have spread across the United States, the border areas remain the most worrisome. At the scene of the pistol-whipping here, Sergeant Azuelo and his team methodically investigated.

Their suspicions grew as they walked through the house and noticed things that seemed familiar to them from stash houses they had encountered: a large back room whose size and proximity to an alley seemed well-suited to bundling marijuana, the wife of the victim reporting that they had no bank accounts and dealt with everything in cash, the victim’s father saying over and over that his son was “no saint” and describing his son’s addiction problems with prescription drugs.

A digital scale with blood on it was found in a truck bed on the driveway, raising suspicion among the detectives that the victim was trying to hide it.

The house, the wife told them, had been invaded about a month ago, but the attackers left empty-handed. She did not call the police then, she said, because nothing was taken.

Finally, they saw the cellophane wrap and drug paraphernalia and obtained a search warrant to go through the house more meticulously.

The attackers “were not very sophisticated,” Sergeant Azuelo said, but they somehow knew what might be in the house. “For me, the question is how much they got away with,” he said. “The family may never tell.”

All in all, Sergeant Azuelo said, it was a run-of-the-mill call in a week that would include at least three other such robberies.

“I think this is the tip of the iceberg,” Detective Kris Bollingmo said as he shined a light through the garage. “The problem is only going to get worse.”

“We are,” Sergeant Azuelo added, “keeping the finger in the dike.”
25315  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iran starting nuke arms race on: March 23, 2009, 07:21:05 AM
In the capitals of Western nations, Abdul Qadeer Khan, the man regarded as the father of the Pakistani atom bomb, is regarded as a maverick with a criminal past. In addition to his well-documented role in developing a nuclear device for Pakistan, he helped Iran and North Korea with their nuclear programs.

But since his release from house arrest a month ago, Mr. Khan has entertained a string of official visitors from across the Middle East. All come with messages of sympathy; and some governments in that region are looking to him for the knowledge and advice they need to fast track their own illicit nuclear projects.

Make no mistake: The Middle East may be on the verge of a nuclear arms race triggered by the inability of the West to stop Iran's quest for a bomb. Since Tehran's nuclear ambitions hit the headlines five years ago, 25 countries -- 10 of them in the greater Middle East -- have announced plans to build nuclear power plants for the first time.

The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates [UAE] and Oman) set up a nuclear exploratory commission in 2007 to prepare a "strategic report" for submission to the alliance's summit later this year. But Saudi Arabia is not waiting for the report. It opened negotiations with the U.S. in 2008 to obtain "a nuclear capacity," ostensibly for "peaceful purposes."

Egypt also signed a nuclear cooperation agreement, with France, last year. Egyptian leaders make no secret of the fact that the decision to invest in a costly nuclear industry was prompted by fears of Iran. "A nuclear armed Iran with hegemonic ambitions is the greatest threat to Arab nations today," President Hosni Mubarak told the Arab summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia two weeks ago.

Last November, France concluded a similar nuclear cooperation accord with the UAE, promising to offer these oil-rich lands "a complete nuclear industry." According to the foreign ministry in Paris, the French are building a military base close to Abu Dhabi ostensibly to protect the nuclear installations against "hostile action," including the possibility of "sensitive material" being stolen by terrorist groups or smuggled to Iran.

The UAE, to be sure, has signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. forswearing the right to enrich uranium or produce plutonium in exchange for American nuclear technology and fuel. The problem is that the UAE's commercial hub, the sheikhdom of Dubai, has been the nerve center of illicit trade with Iran for decades, according to Western and Arab intelligence. Through Dubai, stolen U.S. technology and spent fuel needed for producing raw material for nuclear weapons could be smuggled to Iran.

Qatar, the smallest GCC member by population, is also toying with the idea of creating a nuclear capability. According to the Qatari media, it is shopping around in the U.S., France, Germany and China.

Newly liberated Iraq has not been spared by the new nuclear fever. Recall the history. With help from France, Iraq developed a nuclear capacity in the late 1970s to counterbalance its demographic inferiority vis-à-vis Iran. In 1980, Israel destroyed Osirak, the French-built nuclear center close to Baghdad, but Saddam Hussein restored part of that capacity between 1988 and 1991. What he rebuilt was dismantled by the United Nations' inspectors between 1992 and 2003. But with Saddam dead and buried, some Iraqis are calling for a revival of the nation's nuclear program as a means of deterring "bullying and blackmail from the mullahs in Tehran," as parliamentarian Saleh al-Mutlaq has put it.

"A single tactical nuclear attack on Basra and Baghdad could wipe out a third of our population," a senior Iraqi official told me, on condition of anonymity. Since almost 90% of Iraqis live within 90 miles of the Iranian border, the "fear is felt in every town and village," he says.

Tehran, meanwhile, is playing an active part in proliferation. So far, Syria and Sudan have shown interest in its nuclear technology, setting up joint scientific committees with Iran, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency. Iranian media reports say Tehran is also setting up joint programs with a number of anti-U.S. regimes in Latin America, notably Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador, bringing proliferation to America's backyard.

According to official reports in Tehran, in 2006 and 2007 the Islamic Republic also initialed agreements with China to build 20 nuclear-power stations in Iran. The first of these stations is already under construction at Dar-Khuwayn, in the oil-rich province of Khuzestan close to the Iraqi border.

There is no doubt that the current nuclear race in the Middle East is largely prompted by the fear of a revolutionary Iran using an arsenal as a means of establishing hegemony in the region. Iran's rivals for regional leadership, especially Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are aware of the propaganda appeal of the Islamic Republic's claim of being " the first Muslim superpower" capable of defying the West and rivaling it in scientific and technological fields. In that context, Tehran's development of long-range missiles and the Muslim world's first space satellite are considered political coups.

Mohamed al Quwaihis, a member of Saudi Arabia's appointed parliament, the Shura Council, warns of Iran's growing influence. Addressing the Shura Council earlier this month, he described Iranian interferences in Arab affairs as "overt," and claimed that Iran is "endeavoring to seduce the Gulf States, and recruit some of the citizens of these countries to work for its interests."

The Shura devoted a recent session to "the Iranian threat," insisting that unless Tehran abandoned its nuclear program, Saudi Arabia should lead the Arabs in developing their own "nuclear response." The debate came just days after the foreign ministry in Riyadh issued a report identifying the Islamic Republic's nuclear program as the "principal security threat to Arab nations."

A four-nation Arab summit held in the Saudi capital on March 11 endorsed that analysis, giving the green light for a pan-Arab quest for "a complete nuclear industry." Such a project would draw support from Pakistan, whose nuclear industry was built with Arab money. Mr. Khan and his colleagues have an opportunity to repay that debt by helping Arabs step on a ladder that could lead them to the coveted "threshold" to becoming nuclear powers in a few years' time.

Earlier this month, Mohamed ElBaradei, the retiring head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, warned that the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has become a blunt instrument in preventing a nuclear arms race. Meanwhile, the U.S., France, Russia and China are competing for nuclear contracts without developing safeguards to ensure that projects which start as peaceful undertakings are not used as cover for clandestine military activities.

The Obama administration should take the growing threat of nuclear proliferation seriously. It should try to provide leadership in forging a united response by the major powers to what could become the world's No. 1 security concern within the next few years.

Mr. Taheri's new book, "The Persian Night: Iran Under The Khomeinist Revolution," is published by Encounter Books.
25316  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: March 23, 2009, 07:09:10 AM
When does a single policy blunder herald much larger economic damage? Sometimes it's hard to know ahead of time. Few in Congress thought the Smoot-Hawley tariff was a disaster in 1930, but it led to retaliation and a collapse of world trade. The question amid Washington's AIG bonus panic is whether Congress's war on private contracts and the financial system is a similarly destructive moment.

It is certainly one of the more amazing and senseless acts of political retribution in American history. In its bipartisan rage, the House saw fit last week not merely to punish the employees of AIG's Financial Products unit that the company still needs to safely unwind credit default swaps. The Members voted, 328-93, to slap a 90% tax on the bonuses of anyone at every bank receiving $5 billion in TARP money who earns more than $250,000 a year. A draft Senate version is even broader. Never mind if the bonus was earned last year or earlier, or under a legally binding employment contract. The confiscatory tax will apply ex post facto.

Never mind, too, that such punitive laws were expressly deplored by America's Founders. In Federalist 44, James Madison warned that "Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation."

In 1827 in Ogden v. Saunders, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a similar warning about legislative limits under Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution: "The states are forbidden to pass any bill of attainder or ex post facto law, by which a man shall be punished criminally or penally by loss of life of his liberty, property, or reputation for an act which, at the time of its commission, violated no existing law of the land," wrote Justice Bushrod Washington.

"Why did the authors of the Constitution turn their attention to this subject, which, at the first blush, would appear to be peculiarly fit to be left to the discretion of those who have the police and good government of the state under their management and control? The only answer to be given is because laws of this character are oppressive, unjust, and tyrannical, and as such are condemned by the universal sentence of civilized man."

Yes, Article I, Section 10 applies to the states, and this is a federal law. Congress may also figure it avoids the "bill of attainder" objection by applying the law to individuals at several companies receiving TARP money. But Congress's willingness to wreak such vengeance against a specific class of Americans is still as offensive as a matter of principle as Justice Washington and the Federalist Papers noted. The Founders feared the punitive whim of the legislative mob as much as they did the tyranny of a King.

The House legislation may also be unconstitutional on equal protection grounds given that it treats a homogeneous group of individuals differently depending on which companies they work for. It is one thing to treat the companies that receive federal funds differently from those that don't. But the individuals receiving bonuses may have nothing to do with the decision to receive TARP money. The House's 90% tax on some bankers but not others is only a step away from deciding to impose a higher tax rate on employees of any company out of political favor -- say, tobacco companies, or in the next Republican Congress, the New York Times Co.

Which brings us to the Smoot-Hawley analogy. With such a sweeping assault on contracts and punitive taxation, Congress is introducing an element of political risk to economic decisions that is typical of Argentina or Russia. The sanctity of U.S. contracts has long been one of America's competitive advantages in luring capital, a counterpoint to our lottery tort system and costly regulation. Meanwhile, the 90% tax rate marks a return to the pre-Reagan era when Congress and the political class behaved as if taxes didn't matter to growth or incentives. It is a revival of the philosophy of redistributionist "justice" of the 1930s, when capital went on strike for an entire decade.

The financial system will suffer in particular, just when the Obama Administration is desperately seeking more private capital to ride out future losses. Facing such limits on the ability to reward talent, every bank CEO will try to pay off the TARP as soon as possible, whether or not this leaves the bank with a weaker capital base. Hedge funds and other investors that Treasury needs for its new Public-Private Investment Program, or for the Federal Reserve's TALF, will also be warier, if they'll play at all. Treasury may promise nothing punitive for these programs, but that's also what it said about the TARP.

The other Smoot-Hawley comparison relates to our new President. Herbert Hoover sent mixed signals about the tariff until he finally bent to a panicked GOP Congress. President Obama has behaved in the past week as if he can appease and "channel" Congressional anger without being run over himself. So not only did he incite the Members last Monday, he welcomed the House bill on Thursday. By the weekend, cooler White House heads were whispering that the mob had gone too far, but it will take more than words to kill this terrible legislation. Mr. Obama will have to fire a gun in the air -- which means threatening a veto.

On Inauguration Day, we wrote that our young President has a first-class intellect and temperament. Our question was whether he is tough enough. So far the answer is no. He has failed to stand up to a Congress of his own party on anything difficult -- from stimulus priorities, to earmarks, to protectionism against Mexican trucks. Mr. Obama needs to face down the AIG mob, or his Presidency may be its next victim.
25317  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Federalist 48; Patrick Henry; Reagan on: March 23, 2009, 06:53:29 AM
"It will not be denied that power is of an encroaching nature and that it ought to be effectually restrained from passing the limits assigned to it. After discriminating, therefore, in theory, the several classes of power, as they may in their nature be legislative, executive, or judiciary, the next and most difficult task is to provide some practical security for each, against the invasion of the others."

--James Madison, Federalist No. 48

"The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them." --Patrick Henry

"The most dangerous myth is the demagoguery that business can be made to pay a larger share, thus relieving the individual. Politicians preaching this are either deliberately dishonest, or economically illiterate, and either one should scare us. Business doesn't pay taxes.... Only people pay taxes, and people pay as consumers every tax that is assessed against a business. Begin with the food and fiber raised in the farm, to the ore drilled in a mine, to the oil and gas from out of the ground, whatever it may be -- through the processing, through the manufacturing, on out to the retailer's license. If the tax cannot be included in the price of the product, no one along that line can stay in business." --Ronald Reagan
25318  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / C-Kaju Dog (Dean Webster) honored on: March 23, 2009, 12:36:12 AM

In Fridays Fresno Bee:

Red Cross to honor 17 Tulare-Kings heroes

The Tulare-Kings American Red Cross chapter will honor 17 "real
heroes" at a breakfast this month.

Those selected displayed determination, selflessness and courage in
their work in their communities, said Marie Davis, the chapter's
acting chief executive officer.

Those who will be honored and their categories are: Jacob Cabrera,
Good Samaritan-Youth (Tulare); Jeremy Cabrera, Good Samaritan-Youth
(Tulare); Steven Steward, Good Samaritan-Youth (Tulare); Sally Ortiz,
Good Samaritan-Adult (Lemoore); Dean Webster, Medical Hero (Lemoore);
Teresa Lovero, Fire Rescue (Visalia Fire); Tony Colbert, Fire Rescue
(Visalia Fire); Nicholas Branch, Fire Rescue (Visalia Fire); Eric
Sparshott, Fire Rescue (American Ambulance); Robbie Bowers, Fire
Rescue (American Ambulance); Rodnie Roberts, Spirit of the Red Cross
(Reedley); Jerri Corona, Educator Hero (Visalia); Glenn Fabros,
Military Hero (Lemoore); Staci Brock-Wood, Animal Rescue (Visalia);
Clay Stevens, Water Rescue (Tulare); and Aaron Jacobson, Wilderness
Rescue (Lemoore).  The recipients will be honored at the chapter's
Real Heroes Breakfast on March 25 at the Marriott Hotel in Visalia.

25319  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Team Dog Brothers MMA? on: March 23, 2009, 12:32:30 AM
"I see an opening for someone who thinks outside the Box to begin training a dynasty of fighters That can move differently and strike more effectively both from the standing and the ground position."

What a coincidence!  Me too!!!  cheesy

"one Thing i have always wondered about is  trapping hands, why aren't fighters in MMA using more Trapping hands, the gloves are designed to allow such attachments?"

I offer a part of my approach to trapping in the Running Dog DVD. wink

25320  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Chris Poznik speaks: on: March 22, 2009, 09:09:08 PM
Hello all:

Chris Poznik here.  I'm over at Marc's house and he just showed me the almost final promo clip and asked me to post here some things that I said to him:

I thought a lot of information was conveyed for a promo clip.  I really liked the footage of Marc with the old Filipino master.  In my opinion, the strikes he shows are very practical.  I like the angles he uses a lot and think they show a good understanding of how the human body works.  I think some of the strikes can do a good job of breaking a collarbone.  I like Marc's blending of these strikes with the grappling.  I really like the naturalness of these strikes instead of being constricted by some form.

The Tree that Walks,
Chris Poznik
25321  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Two stabbed in knife fight on: March 22, 2009, 08:40:01 PM
Police: Two stabbed in knife fight

Last Edited: Saturday, 21 Mar 2009, 10:20 PM EDT
Created On: Saturday, 21 Mar 2009, 5:03 PM EDT

ARLINGTON, Mass. (myfoxboston) - Two men stabbed each other multiple times in a fight on the front lawn of an Arlington home early Friday morning, police said.

Michael O'Donnell, 35, of Somerville, Mass., told police an unknown man knocked on the door of his girlfriend's Homer Road home at about 2 a.m., and punched him multiple times and dragged him onto the front lawn.

The suspect was later identified as David Nagle, 33, of Arlington, Mass. Police said Nagle then proceeded to stab O'Donnell with a knife.   O'Donnell says his girlfriend ran back inside the house and brought out a pocketknife, which O'Donnell then used to stab Nagle several times in the midsection, according to police.

Nagle was taken to Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass., where he was in fair condition Saturday night. O'Donnell had stab wounds on his arms and hands. O'Donnell was arrested and charged with assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. Nagle was arrested and charged with attempted murder and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon.
25322  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: General to General on: March 22, 2009, 11:42:21 AM
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN in Washington and MATTHEW ROSENBERG in Islamabad
The Obama administration's hopes of stabilizing Pakistan increasingly rest on the strong bond between military chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen and Gen. Ashfaq Kayani.

The two men spoke daily during the recent political crisis, in which growing opposition protests threatened to undermine the government until Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari -- also under pressure from Gen. Kayani and senior U.S. officials -- made significant concessions.

During the crisis. Gen. Kayani assured Adm. Mullen, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, that he wasn't contemplating a military coup, according to U.S. officials. These officials said Adm. Mullen trusted the assurances -- but they acknowledged that some senior U.S. military officials harbor doubts about Gen. Kayani's capabilities and intentions.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Pakistani army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, right, greets a troop. He and Adm. Mike Mullen have developed a bond that U.S. officials say aids efforts to ensure Pakistan's stability and its support in fighting militants along the border with Afghanistan.
Gen. Kayani ultimately helped resolve the crisis by mediating between Mr. Zardari and his chief rival, Nawaz Sharif, U.S. and Pakistani officials said.

The relationship offers potential dividends for both countries. American officials want Islamabad to take stronger steps against the militants working to destabilize Pakistan and Afghanistan, and need Gen. Kayani's help as an ally in the fight, which they say he supports. Pakistan wants to continue receiving American financial aid and military assistance, which requires maintaining close ties with Adm. Mullen's Pentagon.

It is a relationship born of necessity. Mr. Zardari is also seen as committed to battling militants, but his government is fragile. Many Pentagon officials believe the government will fall within the next few months, although civilian U.S. officials say the president could hold on.

View Full Image

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
U.S. military chief Adm. Mike Mullen with troops.
As an ally, Gen. Kayani is "seen as the safer bet, because he'll probably be the last one standing," a senior U.S. military official said.

But the U.S. reliance on Gen. Kayani carries risks. During the Bush years, U.S. officials had a similarly warm relationship with Gen. Kayani's predecessor as army chief, Pervez Musharraf, and sent him more than $10 billion in American aid. In the end, Mr. Musharraf, who was also president, disappointed the U.S. by failing to order a broad crackdown on the Islamic extremists in his country.

"It's a complete replay of what took place with Musharraf," said C. Christine Fair, a senior political scientist with Rand Corp. and former United Nations political officer in Kabul. "We have a love affair with whichever chief of army staff is in office at any one time until they thoroughly disappoint."

In their public and private comments, U.S. and Pakistani officials say such concerns are unfounded.

"Gen. Kayani wants the system to work," Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in an interview, adding that the officer's outlook was "pro-democracy."

U.S. military and civilian policy makers say Gen. Kayani shares their belief that Islamic extremism poses a threat to Pakistan's survival and has taken steps that show he is serious about tackling the problem. In September, he replaced the head of Pakistan's intelligence service, which reports to him, and which U.S. officials say has long maintained ties to the Taliban. Pakistani officials say they only maintain contacts with some elements of the Taliban and no longer directly support the militants.

"He has done what he said he was going to do," Adm. Mullen told reporters earlier this year. "Gen. Kayani has not misled me at all."

In an interview, a senior Pentagon official praised Gen. Kayani for keeping tens of thousands of Pakistani troops deployed against Islamic militants in restive Bajaur province, instead of shifting them to the country's tense border with India.

Gen. Kayani is a chain smoker, while Adm. Mullen wakes up before 5 a.m. each day to work out before he arrives at the Pentagon. They also have professional differences: Gen. Kayani once ran Pakistan's main spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence  shocked shocked shocked while Adm. Mullen has spent his entire career in the regular military.

But they have forged strong ties since becoming their nations' top uniformed military officers in 2007.

"There's increasing confidence," said Talaat Masood, a Pakistani military analyst and retired general. "They trust each other in a way, even if they know are certain things that the Pakistan army will not do," he said -- specifically that Pakistan won't drastically reduce its troop strength along the border with India.

Since taking office, Gen. Kayani has cheered U.S. officials by putting experienced, nonideological officers in charge of two of Pakistan's most important security arms: the Inter-Services Intelligence and the 60,000-strong Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force that is taking the lead in battling the Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan's tribal areas.

More recently, Gen. Kayani played a crucial role in defusing last week's political crisis, which centered on Mr. Zardari's refusal to reinstate the former chief justice of Pakistan's Supreme Court.

Pakistani officials said that Gen. Kayani repeatedly met with Mr. Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani.  "Initially, he confined himself to polite advice, but his tenor became firmer at the end. It was the Kayani model -- invisible, but around," said Jhangir Karamat, a retired chief of army staff.

—Zahid Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this article.
Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at and
25323  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's regulatory czar on: March 22, 2009, 09:23:07 AM
Yet another czar!

Here's a taste of his thinking:

25324  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 22, 2009, 08:56:14 AM
A fine time yesterday.  We started with Triangle from the Third Dimension theory, illustrated it with Variation 5, and took the footwork learned to Zirconia based "Kali Tudo" (tm)
25325  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: March 22, 2009, 08:53:16 AM

A local couple came home from work last Saturday night to find not one but five people burglarizing their home. As News 3's Anita Roman reports, the husband and wife took matters into their own hands before they called the police. Emery Childress III and his wife Brenda knew right away that something was wrong.

"Saturday evening I picked my wife up from work. She was going to take the evening off. We pulled up to the garage, we opened the garage door. When the garage was half-way up, the dogs ran out to us. And normally, the dogs are inside the house.  He went in first so I opened the door and let him in," continues Brenda. "And then I shut the door only took about three seconds and I heard him say...Freeze. I use foul language - I say get on the ground, drop it. I walk these guys...and I have them at gun point."

Inside their Henderson home were four perpetrators, all holding valuable weapons: guns, knives, and even a sword that belonged to them.

"I then entered from the garage, came around the corner where he had two suspects laying down on the floor," says Brenda. "They had our .45 down there and I picked it up."

While Emery's wife held the two perpetrators at gun point, he ran outside with the other gun and tried to catch two more that were waiting outside in an SUV.

"We had two adults and two juvenile girls were arrested," confirms Keith Paul, Henderson Police Department. "There is one suspect that is outstanding."

27-year-old Billy Hicks was booked on conspiracy; 18-year-old Avion Wilkins was booked on burglary, home invasion, conspiracy, and grand larceny of a firearm; and a 17-year-old girl and a 15-year-old girl were taken to the Clark County Juvenile Hall.

"It goes through my mind if, I did anything differently, maybe I would have got shot with my own gun when I entered my house," ponders Emery.

The Childresses know what they did was brave and Henderson Police agree. But if there is the possibility that someone is in your home, police ask that you call 911.  The fifth burglar, who is on the run, escaped with jewelry and money. If have any information on this case, please call the Henderson Police Department.
25326  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Austrian economics called it; Gov. Sanford on: March 22, 2009, 03:20:34 AM


Gov. Sanford gets it right too on a different facet of the clusterfcuk.

Columbia, S.C.

America's states are laboratories of democracy. They are both affected by, and relevant to, the larger national debate. What we've found in our own corner of the country is that carrying a substantial debt load limits our options when it comes to running government.

A recent report by the American Legislative Exchange Council ranked us 47th worst in the nation for annual debt service as a percentage of tax revenue. Our state dedicates nearly 11% of its annual tax revenue to paying debt. On top of that, South Carolina has another $20 billion in unfunded, long-term political promises for pensions and other liabilities. The state budget has already been cut four times in recent months as the national economic downturn has impacted South Carolina and driven down tax revenue.

President Barack Obama recently signed a "stimulus" bill that will spend about $2 billion through "programmatic means" in South Carolina. In other words, the federal government will put this money directly into existing funding formulas and programs such as Medicaid. But there is an additional $700 million that I as governor have influence over, and it is the disposition of this money that has drawn the national spotlight to South Carolina.

Here's the background: Before the stimulus bill passed, I asked for states not to be bailed out. After it was signed into law, I said that a state bailout would create more problems than it solved, and that we shouldn't spend money we don't have. That debate was lost, so I looked for a reasonable middle ground. I asked the president for his support in using the $700 million to pay down state debt.

If we're going to spend money we don't have at the federal level, it becomes all the more important that our state balance sheet is in good order -- particularly if this is a protracted downturn. But many people do not realize that the stimulus money runs out in 24 months -- at which point South Carolina will be forced to find a new source of funding to sustain the new level of spending, or to make sharp cuts. Sure, I could kick the can down the road; in two years, I'll be safely out of office. But it would be irresponsible.

If South Carolina could use stimulus money to pay down debt, in two years we will be able to spend, cut taxes or invest even if the federal government can no longer provide more money -- not a remote possibility. In fact, paying debt related to education would free up over $162 million in debt service in the first two years and save roughly $125 million in interest payments over the next 13 years -- just as paying off a family's mortgage early frees up money for other uses.

When you're in a hole, the first order of business is stop digging. South Carolina is in a hole, and it's not a shallow one. Spending stimulus money on ongoing programs would mean 10% of our entire state budget would be paid for with one-time federal funds -- the largest recorded level in state history.

Also, spending stimulus money will delay needed state restructuring. General Motors recently found itself in a similar spot. It needs to be restructured if it is to prosper, but a federal bailout enabled it to put off hard decisions. Likewise, taking federal stimulus money will only postpone changes essential to South Carolina's prosperity. Though well-intended, it forestalls hard choices we must make.

One of Mr. Obama's central campaign themes was his pledge to do away with politics of the past. In his inaugural address, he proclaimed "an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn-out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics."

This idea connected with millions of voters, myself included. I've always believed ideas should rise and fall on their merits. In fact, I saw such historical significance in his candidacy and the change he spoke of that I published an op-ed on it before South Carolina's presidential primary last year. It was not an endorsement, but it did note the historic nature of his candidacy and the potential positive change in tone it represented. That potential may now be disappearing.

Last week I reached out to the president, asking for a federal waiver from restrictions on stimulus money. I got a most unusual response. Before I even received an acknowledgment of the request from the White House, I got word that the Democratic National Committee was launching campaign-style TV attack-ads against me for making it.

Is this the new brand of politics we were promised? Instead of engaging with me and other governors on the merits of our dissent, I am to be attacked in television ads? In the end, I just don't believe a problem created by too much debt will be solved by piling on more debt. This doesn't strike me as an unreasonable or extremist position.

Nevertheless, the White House declined my request for a waiver yesterday afternoon. That's unfortunate. But in coming months we'll continue advancing the debate at the state level about the merits of debt repayment. The fact remains that while we'd all like to spend unlimited dollars on the very real needs that exist in our state, we must spend in the context of what is sustainable.

Mr. Sanford, a Republican, is the governor of South Carolina.
25327  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: March 22, 2009, 03:07:43 AM
I just watched the master on this and am pleased to report another outstanding job from Ron "Night Owl" Gabriel.

In this case there was also the tech challenge of integrating footage shot in mini-DV and HD.

I liked the menu footage so much that I asked Ron to add it to the promo clip-- which should be up by Monday or Tuesday.
25328  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Catch and release on: March 22, 2009, 03:05:11 AM


Excerpt from article:

One of those Mahmoud's men arrested was Salah Khdeir.

He spent seven months in Bucca after soldiers discovered four mines tucked in his truck. He returned to the prison in 2008 after he was caught burying bombs destined for a U.S. patrol. He was released this month. Five days later, he was arrested again, after a roadside bomb that police say resembled his handiwork detonated near Garma.

Innocent, Khdeir declared at the police station, shaking his head.
"I'm a peaceful man," the gaunt 22-year-old added.

"He's an expert at planting bombs," Mahmoud answered.

After Khdeir left, Mahmoud handed out a letter he said Khdeir had sent his brother.

"If you think I abandoned the jihad, I say that I have paid homage to God and with his will, I will do everything," he wrote in childish Arabic, the script barely legible.

He had signed the letter, "Salah, the roadside bomb."
25329  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 21, 2009, 09:27:29 PM
Forgive me a moment of shamelss marketing here, but one of the Vid-lessons available to DBMAA member is based upon the Bando two man yoga with a stick for shoulder health. 

"the shoulder/scapula/thoracic chest wall system."

25330  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Nobel Laureate Gary Becker on: March 21, 2009, 01:53:52 AM
"What can we do that would be beneficial? [One thing] is lower corporate taxes and businesses taxes and maybe taxes in general. Particularly, you want to lower the tax on capital so you raise the after-tax return to investing and get more investing going on."

Gary Becker, the winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, is in New York to speak to a special meeting of the Mont Pelerin Society on the global meltdown. He has agreed to sit down to chat with me on the subject of his lecture.

Ismael RoldanSlumped in a soft chair in a noisy hotel coffee lounge, the 78-year-old University of Chicago professor is relaxed and remarkably humble for a guy who has achieved so much. As I pepper him with the economic and financial riddles of our time, I am impressed by how many times his answers, delivered in a pronounced Brooklyn accent, include an "I think" and sometimes even an "I don't know the answer to that." It is a reminder of why he is so highly valued. In contrast to a number of other big-name practitioners of the dismal science, he is a solid empiricist genuinely in search of answers -- not the job as the next chairman of the Federal Reserve. What he sees is what you get.

What Mr. Becker has seen over a career spanning more than five decades is that free markets are good for human progress. And at a time when increasing government intervention in the economy is all the rage, he insists that economic liberals must not withdraw from the debate simply because their cause, for now, appears quixotic.

As a young academic in 1956, Mr. Becker wrote an important paper against conscription. He was discouraged from publishing it because, at the time, the popular view was that the military draft could never be abolished. Of course it was, and looking back, he says, "that taught me a lesson." Today as Washington appears unstoppable in its quest for more power and lovers of liberty are accused of tilting at windmills, he says it is no time to concede.

Mr. Becker sees the finger prints of big government all over today's economic woes. When I ask him about the sources of the mania in housing prices, the first culprit he names is the Fed. Low interest rates, he says, were "partly, maybe mainly, due to the Fed's policy of keeping [its] interest rates very low during 2002-2004." A second reason rates were low was the "high savings rates primarily from Asia and also from the rest of the world."

"People debate the relative importance of the two and I don't think we know exactly," Mr. Becker admits. But what is clear is that "when you have low interest rates, any long-lived assets tend to go up in price because they are based upon returns accruing over many years. When interest rates are low you don't discount these returns very much and you get high asset prices."

On top of that, Mr. Becker says, there were government policies aimed at "extending the scope of homeownership in the United States to low-credit, low-income families." This was done through "the Community Reinvestment Act in the '70s and then Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac later on" and it put many unqualified borrowers into the mix.

The third effect, Mr. Becker says, was the "bubble mentality." By this "I mean that much of the additional lending and borrowing was based on expectations that prices would continue to rise at rates we now recognize, and should have recognized then, were unsustainable."

Could this behavior be considered rational? "There is a lot of debate in economics about whether we can understand bubbles within a rational framework. There are models where you can do it, but it's not easy," he says. What he does seem sure about is that "the lending would not have continued unless there was this expectation that prices would continue to rise and therefore one could refinance these assets through the higher prices." That mentality was at least partly related to Fed action, he says, because the low interest rates "generated an increase in prices and I think that helped generate some of this excess of optimism."

Mr. Becker says that the market-clearing process, so important to recovery, is well underway. "Construction in new residential housing is way down and prices are way down. Maybe 25% down. Lower prices stimulate demand, reduced construction reduces supply."

That's the good news. But he complains about "counterproductive" government policies "designed to lower mortgage rates to stimulate demand." He says he was against the Bush Treasury's idea of capping mortgage rates (which was only floated) and he has "opposed the mortgage plan of President Obama." "It goes against both these adjustments . . . it would hold up prices and increase construction. I think that's a bad idea at this time."

Yet the professor is no laissez-faire ideologue. He says we have to think about what the government can do to "moderate the hit to the real economy," and he says it should start with "the first law of medicine: Do no harm." Instead it has done harmful things, and chief among them has been the "inconsistent policies with the large institutions . . . We let some big banks fail, like Lehman Brothers. We let less-good banks, big [ones] like Bear Stearns, sort of get bailed out and now we bailed out AIG, an insurance company."

Mr. Becker says that he opposed the "implicit protection" that the government gave to Bear Stearns bondholders to the tune of "$30 billion or so." So I wonder if letting Lehman Brothers go belly up was a good idea. "I'm not sure it was a bad idea, aside from the inconsistency." He points out that "the good assets were bought by Nomura and a number of other banks," and he refers to a paper by Stanford economics professor John Taylor showing that the market initially digested the Lehman failure with calm. It was only days later, Mr. Taylor maintains, that the market panicked when it saw more uncertainty from the Treasury. Mr. Becker says Mr. Taylor's work is "not 100% persuasive but it sort of suggest that maybe the Lehman collapse wasn't the cause of the eventual collapse" of the credit markets.

He returns to the perniciousness of Treasury's inconsistency. "I do believe that in a risky environment which is what we are in now, with the market pricing risk very high, to add additional risk is a big problem, and I think this is what we are doing when we don't have consistent policies. We add to the risk."

On the subject of recovery, Mr. Becker repeats his call for lower taxes, applauds the Fed's action to "raise reserves," (meaning money creation, though he said this before the Fed's action a few days ago), and he says "I do believe one has to try to do something more directly to help with the toxic assets of the banks."

How about getting rid of the mark-to-market pricing of bank assets [that is, pricing assets at the current market price] that some say has destroyed bank capital? Mr. Becker says he prefers mark-to-market over "pricing by cost because costs are often completely out of whack with what the real prices are." Then he adds this qualifier: "But when you have a very thin market, you have to be very careful about what it means to mark-to-market. . . . It's a big problem if you literally take mark-to-market in terms of prices continuously based on transactions when there are very few transactions in that market. I am a mark-to-market person but I think you have to do it in a sensible way."

However that issue is resolved in the short run, there will remain the problem of institutions growing so big that a collapse risks taking down the whole system. To deal with the "too big to fail" problem in the long run, Mr. Becker suggests increasing capital requirements for financial institutions, as the size of the institution increases, "so they can't have [so] much leverage." This, he says, "will discourage banks from getting so big" and "that's fine. That's what we want to do."

Mr. Becker is underwhelmed by the stimulus package: "Much of it doesn't have any short-term stimulus. If you raise research and development, I don't see how it's going to short-run stimulate the economy. You don't have excess unemployed labor in the scientific community, in the research community, or in the wind power creation community, or in the health sector. So I don't see that this will stimulate the economy, but it will raise the debt and lead to inefficient spending and a lot of problems."

There is also the more fundamental question of whether one dollar of government spending can produce one and a half dollars of economic output, as the administration claims. Mr. Becker is more than skeptical. "Keynesianism was out of fashion for so long that we stopped investigating variables the Keynesians would look at such as the multiplier, and there is almost no evidence on what the multiplier would be." He thinks that the paper by Christina Romer, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, "saying that the multiplier is about one and a half [is] based on very weak, even nonexistent evidence." His guess? "I think it is a lot less than one. It gets higher in recessions and depressions so it's above zero now but significantly below one. I don't have a number, I haven't estimated it, but I think it would be well below one, let me put it that way."

As the interview winds down, I'm thinking more about how people can make pretty crazy decisions with the right incentives from government. Does this explain what seems to be a decreasing amount of personal responsibility in our culture? "When you get a larger government, when you have the government taking over Social Security, government taking over health care and with further proposals now for the government to take over more activities, more entitlements, the rational response is to have less responsibility. You don't have to worry about things and plan on your own as much."

That suggests that there is a risk to the U.S. system with more people relying on entitlements. "Well, they become an interest group," Mr. Becker says. "The more you have dependence on the government, the stronger the interest group of people who want to maintain it. That's one reason why it is so hard to get any major reform in reducing government spending in Scandinavia and it is increasingly so in the United States. The government is spending -- at the federal, state and local level -- a third of GDP, and that share will go up now. The higher it is the more people who are directly or indirectly dependent on the government. I am worried about that. The basic theory of interest-group politics says that they will have more influence and their influence will be to try to maintain this, and it will be hard to go back."

Still, there remain many good reasons to continue the struggle against the current trend, Mr. Becker says. "When the market economy is compared to alternatives, nothing is better at raising productivity, reducing poverty, improving health and integrating the people of the world."

Ms. O'Grady writes the Journal's Americas column.
25331  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton on: March 21, 2009, 01:36:22 AM

While President Obama's unanticipated Nowruz holiday greeting to Iran generated considerable press attention, his video wasn't really this week's big news related to the Islamic Republic. Far more important was that a senior defector -- Iran's former Deputy Minister of Defense Ali Reza Asghari -- disclosed Tehran's financing of Syria's nuclear weapons program. That program's centerpiece was a North Korean nuclear reactor in Syria. Israel destroyed it in September 2007.

At this point, it is impossible to ignore Iran's active efforts to expand, improve and conceal its nuclear weapons program in Syria while it pretends to "negotiate" with Britain, France and Germany (the "EU-3"). No amount of video messages will change this reality. The question is whether this new information about Iran will sink in, or if Washington will continue to turn a blind eye toward Iran's nuclear deceptions.

That the Pyongyang-Damascus-Tehran nuclear axis went undetected and unacknowledged for so long is an intelligence failure of the highest magnitude. It represents a plain unwillingness to allow hard truths to overcome well-entrenched policy views disguised as intelligence findings.

Key elements of our intelligence community (IC) fought against the idea of a Syrian nuclear program for years. In mid-2003, I had a bitter struggle with several IC agencies -- news of which was leaked to the press -- concerning my testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the Syrian program. Then Sen. Joe Biden made the Syria testimony an issue in my 2005 confirmation battle to become ambassador to the United Nations, alleging that I had tried to hype concern about Syria's nuclear intentions. (In fact, my testimony, in both its classified and unclassified versions, was far more anodyne than the facts warranted.)

Key IC agencies made two arguments in 2003 against the possibility of a clandestine Syrian nuclear weapons program. First, they argued that Syria lacked the scientific and technological capabilities to sustain such a program. Second, they said that Syria did not have the necessary economic resources to fund a program.

These assertions were not based on highly classified intelligence. Instead, they were personal views that some IC members developed based on public information. The intelligence that did exist -- which I thought warranted close observation of Syria, at a minimum -- the IC discounted as inconsistent with its fixed opinions. In short, theirs was not an intelligence conclusion, but a policy view presented under the guise of intelligence.

How wrong they were.

As for Syria's technical expertise, North Korea obviously had the scientific and technological ability to construct the reactor, which was essentially a clone of the North's own at Yongbyon. Moreover, it is entirely possible that Syria's nuclear program -- undertaken with Pyongyang's assistance -- is even more extensive. We will certainly never know from Syria directly, since Damascus continues to deny it has any nuclear program whatever. It's also stonewalling investigation efforts by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

As for Syria's ability to finance a nuclear program, Iran could easily supply whatever Syria might need -- even in a time of fluctuating oil prices. Moreover, given Iran's hegemony over Syria, it is impossible to believe Syria would ever undertake extensive nuclear cooperation with North Korea without Iran's acquiescence. Iran was likely an active partner in a three-way joint venture on the reactor, supplying key financial support and its own share of scientific knowledge. Cooperation on ballistic missile programs between Pyongyang and Tehran is longstanding and well-advanced, and thereby forms a basis of trust for nuclear cooperation. Moreover, both Iran and North Korea share a common incentive: to conceal illicit nuclear weapons programs from international scrutiny. What better way to hide such programs than to conduct them in a third country where no one is looking?

Uncovering the North Korean reactor in Syria was a grave inconvenience for the Bush administration. It enormously complicated both the failing six-party talks on North Korea and the EU-3's diplomatic efforts with Iran, which Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice so actively supported.

Mr. Asghari's revelations about Iranian financing of Syria's nuclear program -- if borne out -- will have precisely the same negative impact on Obama administration policies, since they track Mr. Bush's so closely. In fact, the two administrations' approaches differ only to the extent that Mr. Obama is poised to pursue policies, like face-to-face negotiations with Iran, that the second term Bush State Department wanted to do, but faced too much internal dissonance to implement.

The Nowruz video reflects the dominant view within the Obama administration that its "open hand" will be reciprocated. It's likely Iran will respond affirmatively to the near-plaintive administration request to "engage."

And why not? Such dialogue allows Iran to conceal its true intentions and activities under the camouflage of negotiations, just as it has done for the past six years with the EU-3. What's more, Iran will see it as confirmation of U.S. weakness and evidence that its policies are succeeding.

There is very little time for Mr. Obama to change course before he is committed to negotiations. He could start by following Iran's money trail.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

25332  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Quotes of note: on: March 21, 2009, 01:10:09 AM
"Separation of economics and State"  Ayn Rand
25333  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Haqqani Network on: March 21, 2009, 01:07:24 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Haqqani Network and Negotiations With Afghan Jihadists
March 20, 2009

A report in the Christian Science Monitor on Thursday said that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government has begun preliminary negotiations with a key jihadist faction, the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. According to the report, Kabul’s emissaries met with representatives of Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani, who have agreed in principle to steps toward an ultimate political settlement. The first stage of the roadmap entails a halt to U.S. military raids on the group’s facilities and the release of its prisoners — provided the group stops burning schools and targeting reconstruction teams. If these initial conditions are met, the next stages involve working on a new system of government for Afghanistan and the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces.

Though this development is in line with U.S. efforts to explore options for a political settlement in Afghanistan, it is strange in that the last time the Haqqani network made headlines, it was in September 2008 — when U.S. drones launched missiles at Haqqani’s residential compound in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Some two dozen members of his family were killed, although Haqqani and his sons survived the attack. The air strike occurred a little over two months after the bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which senior U.S. military and intelligence officials believed was the work of the Haqqani network acting in concert with officials from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

Therefore, before examining the pros and cons of negotiating with the Haqqani network, it is important to understand the network’s place in the jihadist landscape and its relationship with Pakistan’s security establishment. Although it is part of the Afghan Taliban movement, the Haqqani network has maintained distinct autonomy. It is closely allied with al Qaeda and is responsible for the bulk of suicide bombings in Afghanistan.

With its zone of operations in the eastern Afghan provinces along the border with Pakistan, Haqqani’s group wields disproportionate influence among Taliban forces on both sides of the Durand Line. Haqqani’s eldest son, Sirajuddin — who now runs the group because of his father’s advanced age — has been involved in persuading Pakistani Taliban forces to end their attacks inside Pakistan and focus on fighting Western forces in Afghanistan. At a time when Pakistan faces a growing Pashtun jihadist insurgency, the Haqqani network is one of the Taliban factions with which Islamabad retains considerable influence.

In other words, the Haqqani network is well positioned between al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Pakistan. This has implications for any move to negotiate with jihadist insurgents, especially since the U.S. objective is to drive a wedge between Afghan jihadists (the Taliban) and the transnational jihadists of al Qaeda. Haqqani is a critical player in the insurgency, and engaging him in negotiations could help to achieve that objective and undercut the insurgencies in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Conversely, al Qaeda’s leadership also could use its relationship with the Haqqani network, which dates back approximately 20 years, to counter the campaign against the transnational jihadists.

The case of the Haqqani network underscores the excruciatingly complex and difficult task that the Obama administration faces in its efforts to seek a negotiated settlement of the insurgency in Afghanistan.

25334  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: March 21, 2009, 01:05:08 AM
Please keep us informed on development's in your ex-BiL's case Dog Tom.
25335  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 21, 2009, 01:04:10 AM
Thank you for the inspiration Scurvy Dog!  cool
25336  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: March 21, 2009, 01:03:04 AM
Nice find.  No I haven't.  I note that there is something quite similar in Peru.
25337  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Arte marcial en Mexico y cosas semajantes on: March 21, 2009, 01:00:40 AM
25338  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Posse Comitatus Act on: March 21, 2009, 12:49:49 AM

Thank you for a serious piece on this important subject.

25339  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: March 20, 2009, 10:45:04 PM
A tragically plausible hypothesis.  Safe us buying/reading the book.  What does it say?
25340  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: March 20, 2009, 03:50:59 PM
Thanks to Frankfurter and to Stephen Cho for filling in for me the last two weeks.

Looking forward to seeing everyone tomorrow.
25341  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Posse Comitatus Act on: March 20, 2009, 03:33:30 PM

Army Investigating How and Why Troops Were Sent Into Alabama Town After Murder Spree
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
By Pete Winn, Senior Writer/Editor

( - The U.S. Army has launched an inquiry into how and why active duty troops from Fort Rucker, Ala., came to be placed on the streets of Samson, Ala., during last week's murder spree in that tiny South Alabama community. The use of the troops was a possible violation of federal law.

“On March 10, after a report of an apparent mass murder in Samson, Ala., 22 military police soldiers from Fort Rucker, Ala., along with the provost marshal, were sent to the city of Samson,” Harvey Perritt, spokesman for the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) at Fort Monroe, Va., told on Monday.

“The purpose for sending the military police, the authority for doing so, and what duties they performed is the subject of an ongoing commander’s inquiry--directed by the commanding general of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. Martin Dempsey.”

TRADOC is the headquarters command for Ft. Rucker.

“In addition to determining the facts, this inquiry will also determine whether law, regulation and policy were followed,” Perritt added. “Until those facts are determined, it would be inappropriate to speculate or comment further.”

Jim Stromenger, a dispatcher at the Samson Police Department, confirmed the MP’s presence in the town, telling that the troops “came in to help with traffic control and to secure the crime scene”--and the department was glad for the help.

“We’ve been getting a lot of calls,” Stromenger said. “They weren’t here to police, let me make that clear. They were here to help with traffic and to control the crime scene--so people wouldn’t trample all over (it).”

Stromenger said the town needed help--calls had gone out to all police departments in the area.

“We only have a five-man police department,” he told “We had officers from all surrounding areas helping out. There were a lot of streets to be blocked off and there had to be someone physically there to block them off. That’s what these MPs were doing. I don’t think they were even armed. The troops helped keep nosy people away.”

But Stromenger said it wasn’t the Samson Police Department that called for the troops.

“I don’t know who called Fort Rucker. But someone did. They wouldn’t have been able to come if someone hadn’t,” he added.

Under Whose Authority?

The troops were apparently not deployed by the request of Alabama Gov. Bob Riley -- or by the request of President Obama, as required by law.

When contacted by, the governor’s office could not confirm that the governor had requested help from the Army, and Gov. Riley's spokesman, Todd Stacy, expressed surprise when he was told that troops had been sent to the town.

No request from President Obama, meanwhile, was issued by the White House--or the Defense Department.

Wrongful use of federal troops inside U.S. borders is a violation of several federal laws, including one known as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, Title 18, Section 1385 of the U.S. Code.

“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both,” the law states.

David Rittgers, legal policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said there are other laws barring use of federal troops outside of federal property, as well.

“Title 18, Section 375 of the U.S. Code is a direct restriction on military personnel, and it basically precludes any member of the army in participating in a ‘search, seizure, arrest or other similar activity, unless participation is otherwise authorized by law,’  The security of a crime scene is something I think that would roll up in the category of a ‘search, seizure or other activity,’” Rittgers added.

In addition, there is the Insurrection Act of 1808, as amended in 2007, (Title 10, Section 331 of the U.S. Code) under which the president can authorize troops “to restore order and enforce the laws of the United States” in an insurrection.

“Whenever there is an insurrection in any State against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or of its governor if the legislature cannot be convened, call into federal service such of the militia of the other States, in the number requested by that State, and use such of the armed forces, as he considers necessary to suppress the insurrection,” the law states.

In 2007, Congress expanded the list to include “natural disaster, epidemic, or other serious public health emergency, terrorist attack or incident, or other condition” as situations for which the president can authorize troops, provided that “domestic violence has occurred to such an extent that the constituted authorities of the state or possession are incapable of maintaining public order.”

Congress has been clear that the use of U.S. troops for civilian police purposes is forbidden.

“One of the statutes explicitly says that military brigs can’t even be used to detain domestic criminals,” Rittgers said. “It really is supposed to be a black and white line.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, meanwhile, would have prosecuting authority, if any violation is deemed to have occurred. The Justice Department did not comment for this story.

Ft. Rucker, located in Southern Alabama, is the home of Army Aviation.
25342  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: March 20, 2009, 03:32:09 PM
And the solution is , , ,
25343  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Posse Comitatus Act on: March 20, 2009, 03:27:04 PM
A new thread for an issue likely to become quite important:


U.S. Army Puts Soldiers on the Street in Alabama in Response to Shootings


U.S. Army Puts Soldiers on the Street in Alabama in Response to Shootings

March 11, 2009

The U.S. Army dispatched soldiers to patrol the streets of Samson, Alabama, a small southern town where a rampaging gunman killed 10 people on Tuesday. This obvious violation of the Posse Comitatus Act prohibiting the federal uniformed services from exercising state and local law enforcement was completely ignored by the corporate media with the exception of Reuters and the London Telegraph (see photo and video).

From Reuters: “U.S. Army soldiers from Ft. Rucker patrol the downtown area of Samson, Alabama after a shooting spree March 10, 2009.”

On September 30, 2008, the Army Times reported the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, a component of Northern Command, would be “on-call” in response to “natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.” The Army Times article reported the military would be used for “crowd and traffic control” and be issued “nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.” According to the article, “expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one..” (Emphasis added.)

In early 2006, the 109th Congress passed a bill containing controversial provisions granting the president the ability to use federal troops inside the United States in emergency situations. These changes (in Section 1076) were included in the John Warner Defense Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2007.

In 2008, Congress restored many of the earlier limitations on the president’s ability to deploy troops within the United States, but Bush issued a signing statement indicating he was not bound by the changes.

“The story of how Section 1076 became law vivifies how expanding government power is almost always the correct answer in Washington,” James Bovard wrote for the American Conservative on April 23, 2007. “Some people have claimed the provision was slipped into the bill in the middle of the night. In reality, the administration clearly signaled its intent and almost no one in the media or Congress tried to stop it.”

The dispatch of troops to Alabama in response to a local law enforcement situation represents a further erosion of Posse Comitatus and the continued federalization of state and local law enforcement.

A Telegraph video on the shootings in Alabama propagandizes against the right to own
firearms in the United States and the Second Amendment.

Finally, the corporate media in Britain has exploited the situation in an effort to denigrate the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights. In a transparent propaganda piece (see video above), the Telegraph states that “mass shootings have become a feature of life in the U.S. in recent years. Guns are widely available for purchase in a country that prides itself on the right to own weapons for self defense and hunting.” Britain has some of the most restrictive gun legislation in the world.

After Britain’s government banned guns in 1997, the rate of violent crime more than doubled. “A recent study of all the countries of western Europe has found that in 2001 Britain had the worst record for killings, violence and burglary, and its citizens had one of the highest risks in the industrialized world of becoming victims of crime,” historian Joyce Lee Malcolm wrote for the fall 2004 issue of Journal on Firearms & Public Policy.
25344  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran financed Syrian nuke plans on: March 20, 2009, 03:16:14 PM
Report: Iran financed Syrian nuke plans
Tip from defector said to lead to Israeli strike on suspected reactor in '07
The Associated Press
updated 12:29 p.m. PT, Thurs., March. 19, 2009
GENEVA - A top-ranked Iranian defector told the United States that Iran was financing North Korean moves to make Syria into a nuclear weapons power, leading to the Israeli air strike that destroyed a suspected secret reactor, a report said Thursday.

The article in the daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung goes into detail about an Iranian connection and fills in gaps about Israel's Sept. 6, 2007, raid that knocked out Syria's nearly completed Al Kabir reactor in the country's eastern desert.

Ali Reza Asghari, a retired general in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards and a former deputy defense minister, "changed sides" in February 2007 and provided considerable information to the West on Iran's own nuclear program, said the article, written by Hans Ruehle, former chief of the planning staff of the German Defense Ministry.

"The biggest surprise, however, was his assertion that Iran was financing a secret nuclear project of Syria and North Korea," he said. "No one in the American intelligence scene had heard anything of it. And the Israelis who were immediately informed also were completely unaware."

Ruehle, who did not identify the sources of his information, publishes and comments on security and nuclear proliferation in different European newspapers and broadcasts and has held prominent roles in German and NATO institutions.

U.S. intelligence had detected North Korean ship deliveries of construction supplies to Syria that started in 2002, and American satellites spotted the construction as early as 2003, but regarded the work as nothing unusual, in part because the Syrians had banned radio and telephones from the site and handled communications solely by messengers — "medieval but effective," Ruehle said.

Ship intercepted
Intensive investigation followed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence services until Israel sent a 12-man commando unit in two helicopters to the site in August 2007 to take photographs and soil samples, he said.

"The analysis was conclusive that it was a North Korean-type reactor," a gas graphite model, Ruehle said.

Other sources have suggested that the reactor might have been large enough to make about one nuclear weapon's worth of plutonium a year.

Just before the Israeli commando raid, a North Korean ship was intercepted en route to Syria with nuclear fuel rods, underscoring the need for fast action, he said.

"On the morning of Sept. 6, 2007, seven Israeli F-15 fighter bombers took off to the north. They flew along the Mediterranean coast, brushed past Turkey and pressed on into Syria. Fifty kilometers from their target they fired 22 rockets at the three identified objects inside the Kibar complex.

"The Syrians were completely surprised. By the time their air defense systems were ready, the Israeli planes were well out of range. The mission was successful, the reactor destroyed," Ruehle said.

No comment from Israel
Israel estimates that Iran had paid North Korea between $1 billion and $2 billion for the project, Ruehle said.

Israel has refused from the beginning to comment on, confirm or deny the strike, but after a delay of several months Washington presented intelligence purporting to show the target was a reactor being built with North Korean help.

Iranian officials were not available for comment because of a national holiday. In general, Iran has been silent about the Syrian facility bombed by Israel. Syrian officials could not be reached for comment. But Syria has denied the facility was a nuclear plant, saying it was an unused military building. It has also denied any nuclear cooperation with North Korea or Iran.

The International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this year said U.N. inspectors had found processed uranium traces in samples taken from the site.

Syria has suggested the traces came from Israel ordnance used to hit the site, but the IAEA said the composition of the uranium made that unlikely. Israel has denied it was the source of the uranium.

Syria has told diplomats that it built a missile facility over the ruins of the site.
25345  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Curtescine Lloyd takes matters in hand on: March 20, 2009, 01:12:45 PM
Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Matters in Hand

News article by Mike Royko for the Chicago Tribune

We've had the year of the woman and it is still going on, with females being elected to high office and named to the Cabinet posts, and the power of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But what about Curtescine Lloyd? You never heard of her? Well, she is my choice as one of the most amazing and heroic women of recent years. Ms. Lloyd is a middle-aged nurse who lives with an elderly aunt in the rural hamlet of Edwards, Miss., near Jackson This is her story, most of it taken from the court transcript.

One night, Ms. Lloyd was awakened by a sound. She thought it was her aunt going to the bathroom. Suddenly a man stepped into her bedroom. Terrified, she sat up. He shoved her back down and said: "Bitch, you better not turn on a light. You holler, you're dead. You better not breathe loud." He declared his intentions, which were to rob her and to commit sexual assault. Of course, he phrased it far more luridly. He then took off most of his clothing and jumped into bed.

Here is what happened next, according to court records: Ms. Lloyd: "I got it. I grabbed it by my right hand. And then I grabbed it, I gave it a yank. And when I yanked it, I twisted all at the same time." (Need I explain what Ms. Lloyd meant by "it"? I think not.) "He hit me with his right hand a hard blow beside the head, and when he hit me I grabbed hold of his scrotum with my left hand and I was twisting it the opposite way. He started to yell and we fell to the floor and he hit me a couple more licks, but they were light licks. He was weakening some then." With Ms. Lloyd still hanging on with both hands, squeezing and twisting the fellow's pride and joy, they somehow struggled into the hallway.
"He was trying to get out, and I'm hanging onto him; and he was throwing me from one side of the hall wall to the other. I was afraid if I let him go, he was going go kill me" "So I was determined I was not going to turn it loose. So we were going down the hallway, falling form one side to the other, and we got into the living room and we both fell. He brought me down in front of the couch and he leaned back against the couch, pleading with me." "I said, 'Do you think I'm stupid enough to turn you loose and call the police?' He said, 'Well, what am I gonna do?' I said, 'You're gonna get the hell out of my house.' He said, 'How can I get out of your house if you won't let me go? How can I get out? I can't get out.' "
Ms. Lloyd, still twisting and squeezing, dragged the lout to the front door, which had two locks, and told him to unbolt them. It was a difficult process because he kept collapsing to the floor and she kept hauling him back to his feet. Ms. Lloyd, now confident that she had the upper hand (or should I say the lower hands?) and a full grasp of the situation, said: "When I turn you loose, I'm going to get my gun and I'm going to blow your (obscenity) brains out, you nasty stinking, low-down dirty piece of (obscenity), you."
"And when I did that, I gave it a twist, and I turned him loose. And he took a couple of steps and fell off the steps and he jumped up and grabbed his private parts and made a couple of jumps across the back of my aunt's car." "And I ran into my aunt's room, got her pistol from underneath the nightstand, ran back to the screen door and I fired two shots down the hill the way I saw him go. And then I ran back into the house and dialed 911."

The police came and examined the man's clothing. Inside the trousers was written the name Dwight Coverson. They found Coversion, 29, at home, in considerable pain and wondering if he could ever be a daddy. A one-day jury trial was held. As coverson's court-appointed lawyer put it: "The jury was out 10 minutes. Long enough or two of them to go to the bathroom." And the judge gave him 25 years in prison.
25346  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain-Lieberman call for victory on: March 20, 2009, 12:43:15 PM
Our Must-Win War
The 'Minimalist' Path Is Wrong for Afghanistan

U.S. soldiers on patrol this month outside Bagram, Afghanistan. (By Rafiq Maqbool -- Associated Press)
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By John McCain and Joseph Lieberman
Thursday, March 19, 2009; Page A15

Later this month, the Obama administration will unveil a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. This comes as most important indicators in Afghanistan are pointing in the wrong direction. President Obama's decision last month to deploy an additional 17,000 U.S. troops was an important step in the right direction, but a comprehensive overhaul of our war plan is needed, and quickly.

This Story
Our Must-Win War
Civilians to Join Afghan Buildup
Getting It Right in Afghanistan
As the administration finalizes its policy review, we are troubled by calls in some quarters for the president to adopt a "minimalist" approach toward Afghanistan. Supporters of this course caution that the American people are tired of war and that an ambitious, long-term commitment to Afghanistan may be politically unfeasible. They warn that Afghanistan has always been a "graveyard of empires" and has never been governable. Instead, they suggest, we can protect our vital national interests in Afghanistan even while lowering our objectives and accepting more "realistic" goals there -- for instance, by scaling back our long-term commitment to helping the Afghan people build a better future in favor of a short-term focus on fighting terrorists.

The political allure of such a reductionist approach is obvious. But it is also dangerously and fundamentally wrong, and the president should unambiguously reject it. Let there be no doubt: The war in Afghanistan can be won. Success -- a stable, secure, self-governing Afghanistan that is not a terrorist sanctuary -- can be achieved. Just as in Iraq, there is no shortcut to success, no clever "middle way" that allows us to achieve more by doing less. A minimalist approach in Afghanistan is a recipe not for winning smarter but for losing slowly at tremendous cost in American lives, treasure and security.

Yes, our vital national interest in Afghanistan is to prevent it from once again becoming a haven for terrorists to plan attacks against America and U.S. allies. But achieving this narrow counterterrorism objective requires us to carry out a far broader set of tasks, the foremost of which are protecting the population, nurturing legitimate and effective governance, and fostering development. In short, we need a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency approach backed by greatly increased resources and an unambiguous U.S. political commitment to success in Afghanistan over the long haul.

A narrow, short-term focus on counterterrorism, by contrast, would repeat the mistakes made for years in Iraq before the troop surge, with the same catastrophic consequences. Before 2007 in Iraq, U.S. Special Forces had complete freedom of action to strike at terrorist leaders, backed by more than 120,000 conventional American forces and overwhelming air power. Although we succeeded in killing countless terrorists -- including the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- the insurgency continued to grow in strength and violence. It was not until we changed course and applied a new approach -- a counterinsurgency strategy focused on providing basic security for the people and improving their lives -- that the cycle of violence was at last broken.

Those who argue for simply conducting targeted counterterrorist strikes in Afghanistan also fail to grasp that by far the best way to generate the intelligence necessary for such strikes is from Afghan civilians, who will risk their lives to help us only if they believe we are committed to staying and protecting them from the insurgents and helping to improve their lives.

Loose rhetoric about a minimal commitment in Afghanistan is counterproductive for another reason: It exacerbates suspicions, already widespread in South Asia, that the United States will tire of this war and retreat. These doubts about our staying power deter ordinary Afghans from siding with our coalition against the insurgency. Also important is that these suspicions are a major reason some in Pakistan are reluctant to break decisively with insurgent groups, which, in a hedging strategy, they view as integral to positioning Pakistan for influence "the day after" the United States gives up and leaves Afghanistan. That is why it is so important for the president to reject the temptations of minimalism in Afghanistan and instead adopt a fully resourced, comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy, backed by an unambiguous American commitment to success over the long term. In doing so, he must invest the political capital to remind Americans why this fight is necessary for our national security, speak openly and frankly to our nation about the difficult path ahead, and -- most of all -- explain clearly to our fellow citizens why he is confident that we can prevail.

As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama called Afghanistan "the war we must win." He was absolutely right. Now it is time to win it -- and we and many other members of both political parties stand ready to give him our full support in this crucial fight.

John McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, was the 2008 Republican nominee for president. Joe Lieberman, an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut, was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000.
25347  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 20, 2009, 12:38:45 PM
Turkey, U.S.: Strengthening Ties as Ankara Rises
STRATFOR Today » March 19, 2009 | 1837 GMT

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganSummary
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Turkey on April 6-7 and meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The United States and Turkey have many areas of mutual interest, including Iraq, Middle Eastern diplomatic efforts, Iran and Central Asia. Obama’s visit indicates that his administration recognizes Turkey’s growing prominence, and it gives the United States a chance to coordinate policy with a rising power.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed late March 18 that U.S. President Barack Obama will be visiting Turkey on April 6-7. In an interview with Turkish news channel Kanal 7, Erdogan said he had invited Obama to attend a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative in Istanbul on April 7, but “did not expect” Obama to arrive a day early for an official state visit to Ankara. “Combining the two occasions is very meaningful for us,” he added. Obama’s trip to Turkey will follow a visit to London for the G-20 summit on the global financial crisis, a NATO summit in Strasbourg, France, and a trip to Prague to meet with EU leaders.

Obama’s decision to visit Turkey this early in the game highlights his administration’s recognition of Turkey’s growing prominence in the region. The Turks have woken up after 90 years of post-Ottoman hibernation and are in the process of rediscovering a sphere of influence extending far beyond the Anatolian Peninsula. The Americans, on the other hand, are in the process of drawing down their presence in the Middle East in order to free up U.S. military capabilities to address pressing needs in Afghanistan. With the Turks stepping forward and the Americans stepping back, there are a number of issues of common interest that Obama and Erdogan will need to discuss.

The first order of business is Iraq. The United States is putting its exit strategy into motion and is looking to Turkey to serve as an exit route for U.S. troops and equipment from Iraq. The Turks would not have a problem with granting the United States such access, but they also want to make sure that U.S. withdrawal plans will not interfere with Turkey’s intentions of keeping Iraqi Kurdistan in check. With key Kurdish leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani retiring soon and Kurdish demands over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk intensifying, the Turks want to make clear to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq that Ankara promptly will shut down any attempts to expand Kurdish autonomy. Turkey will not hesitate to use the issue of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters hiding out in northern Iraq as a pretext for future military incursions should the need arise to pressure the KRG in a more forceful way, but such tactics could run into complications if the United States intends to withdraw the bulk of its forces through northern Iraq. Therefore, the decision on where to base U.S. troops during the withdrawal process will be a political one, and one that will have to address Turkish concerns over the Kurds. Washington likely will see this as a reasonable price to pay, as it has other problems to handle.

Related Special Topic Page
Turkey’s Re-Emergence
Beyond Iraq, the United States is looking to Turkey as the Muslim regional heavyweight to take the lead in handling some of the knottier issues in the Middle East. The Israeli-Syrian peace talks that went public in 2008 were a Turkish initiative. These negotiations are now in limbo, with the Israelis still working to form a new government, but the Turks are looking to revive them in the near future. Turkey, Israel, the United States and the Arab states all share an interest in bringing Syria into a Western alliance structure, with the aim of depriving Iran of its leverage in the Levant. However, the Syrians are setting an equally high price for their cooperation: Syrian domination over Lebanon. These negotiations are packed with potential deal breakers, but Turkey intends to take on the challenge in the interest of securing its southern flank.

Iran is another critical area where the United States and Turkey see eye to eye. The fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of the Shia in Iraq have given Iran a platform for projecting influence in the Arab world. But the Turks far outpace the Iranians in a geopolitical contest and will be instrumental in keeping Iranian expansionist goals in check. Erdogan’s outburst over Israel’s Gaza offensive was just one of many ways Turkey has been working to assert its regional leadership, build up its credibility among Sunnis in the Arab world and override Iranian attempts to reach beyond its borders. At the same time, the Turks carry weight with the Iranians, who view Turkey as a fellow great empire of the past and non-Arab partner in the Middle East. Washington may not necessarily need the Turks to mediate in its rocky negotiations with Iran, but it will rely heavily on Turkish clout in the region to help put the Iranians in their place.

Some problems may arise, however, when U.S.-Turkish talks venture beyond the Middle East and enter areas where the Turkish and Russian spheres of influence overlap. Turkey’s influence extends into Central Asia and deep into the Caucasus, where the Turks have a strong foothold in Azerbaijan and ties to Georgia, and are in the process of patching things up with the Armenians. As the land bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey is also the key non-Russian energy transit hub for the European market, and through its control of the Bosporus, it is the gatekeeper to the Black Sea. In each of these areas, the Turks bump into the Russians, another resurgent power that is on a tight timetable for extracting key concessions from the United States on a range of issues that revolve around Russia’s core imperative of protecting its former Soviet periphery from Western meddling.

The U.S. administration and the Kremlin have been involved in intense negotiations over these demands. Washington is still sorting out which concessions it can make in return for Russian cooperation in allowing the United States access to Central Asia for supply routes to Afghanistan, and in applying pressure on Iran. As part of these negotiations, Obama will be meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev at the G-20 summit and later in the summer in Moscow. Though it is still unclear just how much the United States is willing to give the Russians at this juncture — and how flexible the Turks will be in challenging Russia — Washington wants to make sure its allies, like Turkey, are on the same page.

But as STRATFOR has discussed in depth, Russia and Turkey now have more reason to cooperate than collide, and recent diplomatic traffic between Moscow and Ankara certainly reflects this reality. In areas where the United States will want to apply pressure on Russia, such as on energy security for the Europeans, the Turks likely will resist rocking the boat with Moscow. The last thing Turkey wants at this point is to give Russia a reason to politicize its trade relationship with Ankara, cause trouble for the Turks in the Caucasus or meddle in Turkey’s Middle Eastern backyard. In short, there are real limits to what the United States can expect from Turkey in its strategy against Russia.

Obama and Erdogan evidently will have plenty to talk about when they meet in Ankara. Though the United States and Turkey have much to sort out regarding Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia, this visit will give Obama the stage to formally recognize Turkey’s regional prowess and demonstrate a U.S. understanding of Turkey’s growing independence. Washington can see that the Turks are already brimming with confidence in conducting their regional affairs, and can expect some bumps down the road when interests collide. But the sooner the Americans can start coordinating policy with a resurgent power like Turkey, the better equipped Washington will be for conducting negotiations in other parts of the globe.
25348  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 20, 2009, 12:26:31 PM
Three civilians — including one Norwegian tourist — were wounded March 19 in Taxco, Mexico, as two men armed with assault rifles abducted an unidentified man near the city’s main plaza. During the kidnapping, which occurred near a Red Cross fundraising event, the gunmen fired indiscriminately into the air and in the direction of the crowd, presumably to force them to scatter so the gunmen could drive away. Two of the three wounded civilians apparently had been struck directly by bullets or ricochets, while the third appeared to have injured her leg while escaping from the kidnappers’ vehicle as it drove off. Such scenes have become commonplace in Mexico over the last few years, and collateral damage is really nothing new. This incident in Taxco, however, highlights the risks associated with foreign tourists visiting Mexico as it experiences a deteriorating security situation.

STRATFOR has warned of the violent situation in Mexico and the risk of foreign tourists getting caught in the crossfire. The perpetrators behind the March 19 incident certainly were not targeting foreigners specifically; their target appears to have been a local man outside a nearby silver retailer, possibly an employee. While there is always the chance that the man was somehow involved in drug trafficking and was targeted for failure to pay a debt or for working for a rival cartel, it is also possible that he was simply one of the thousands of victims picked up annually by Mexico’s many kidnapping gangs.

But the rampant violence carried out by gangs of all professional levels is exactly the kind of threat foreigners can fall victim to. The incident on March 19 is reminiscent of a similar one in that occurred in February 2007, when a Canadian couple was injured in Acapulco as gunmen opened fire on a man walking near the hotel where the couple was staying. Injuring foreign tourists raises the international profile of Mexico’s violent drug war and rampant kidnapping problem, as the problem rises above the level of just gang-on-gang violence or “those who had it coming to them.” The negative publicity is bad for both the government and the country’s organized crime groups. This incident, however, underscores the potential for foreigners to unintentionally get caught in the crossfire during the daily violence that occurs throughout the entire country.
25349  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sgt Malone on: March 20, 2009, 12:20:35 PM
Profiles of Valor: U.S. Army Sgt. Malone
United States Army Sergeant First Class Ed Malone was serving with the 3rd Platoon, Grim Troop, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 2005 and was conducting a joint combat patrol with the Iraqi Army in the extremely hostile Surai district of Tal'Afar, when the unit was attacked. Without immediate direct fire support from his Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Malone ordered his men to take a defensive position and return fire. He directed his grenadier to eliminate several enemy targets firing from a rooftop. Malone also repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire -- once to retrieve important equipment, another time to evacuate women and children caught in the crossfire, and finally to drag a wounded soldier out of the line of fire. His actions sped medical treatment and evacuation, saving the soldier's life. Malone refused to give ground until reinforcements arrived, and he and his unit held their position for more than an hour. He led a three-man team to clear a courtyard of enemy fighters, relieving pressure on his unit. There, while administering aid to an enemy combatant, Malone was shot in the foot. For his brave actions that day, Malone was awarded the Bronze Star with combat "V" for valor.
25350  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams; Hamilton on: March 20, 2009, 11:59:38 AM
"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

"A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired."

--Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, 23 February 1775
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