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25551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Libyan War on: March 19, 2011, 07:17:57 PM
By George Friedman

The Libyan war has now begun. It pits a coalition of European powers plus the United States, a handful of Arab states and rebels in Libya against the Libyan government. The long-term goal, unspoken but well understood, is regime change — displacing the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and replacing it with a new regime built around the rebels.

The mission is clearer than the strategy, and that strategy can’t be figured out from the first moves. The strategy might be the imposition of a no-fly zone, the imposition of a no-fly zone and attacks against Libya’s command-and-control centers, or these two plus direct ground attacks on Gadhafi’s forces. These could also be combined with an invasion and occupation of Libya.

The question, therefore, is not the mission but the strategy to be pursued. How far is the coalition, or at least some of its members, prepared to go to effect regime change and manage the consequences following regime change? How many resources are they prepared to provide and how long are they prepared to fight? It should be remembered that in Iraq and Afghanistan the occupation became the heart of the war, and regime change was merely the opening act. It is possible that the coalition partners haven’t decided on the strategy yet, or may not be in agreement. Let’s therefore consider the first phases of the war, regardless of how far they are prepared to go in pursuit of the mission.

Like previous wars since 1991, this war began with a very public buildup in which the coalition partners negotiated the basic framework, sought international support and authorization from multinational organizations and mobilized forces. This was done quite publicly because the cost of secrecy (time and possible failure) was not worth what was to be gained: surprise. Surprise matters when the enemy can mobilize resistance. Gadhafi was trapped and has limited military capabilities, so secrecy was unnecessary.

While all this was going on and before final decisions were made, special operations forces were inserted in Libya on two missions. First, to make contact with insurgent forces to prepare them for coming events, create channels of communications and logistics and create a post-war political framework. The second purpose was to identify targets for attack and conduct reconnaissance of those targets that provided as up-to-date information as possible. This, combined with air and space reconnaissance, served as the foundations of the war. We know British SAS operators were in Libya and suspect other countries’ special operations forces and intelligence services were also operating there.

War commences with two sets of attacks. The first attacks are decapitation attacks designed to destroy or isolate the national command structure. These may also include strikes designed to kill leaders such as Gadhafi and his sons or other senior leaders. These attacks depend on specific intelligence on facilities, including communications, planning and so on along with detailed information on the location of the leadership. Attacks on buildings are carried out from the air but not particularly with cruise missile because they are especially accurate if the targets are slow, and buildings aren’t going anywhere. At the same time, aircraft are orbiting out of range of air defenses awaiting information on more mobile targets and if such is forthcoming, they come into range and fire appropriate munitions at the target. The type of aircraft used depends on the robustness of the air defenses, the time available prior to attack and the munitions needed. They can range from conventional fighters or stealth strategic aircraft like the U.S. B-2 bomber (if the United States authorized its use). Special operations forces might be on the ground painting the target for laser-guided munitions, which are highly accurate but require illumination.



(click here to enlarge image)
At the same time these attacks are under way, attacks on airfields, fuel storage depots and the like are being targeted to ground the Libyan air force. Air or cruise missile attacks are also being carried out on radars of large and immobile surface-to-air (SAM) missile sites. Simultaneously, “wild weasel” aircraft — aircraft configured for the suppression of enemy air defenses — will be on patrol for more mobile SAM systems to locate and destroy. This becomes a critical part of the conflict. Being mobile, detecting these weapons systems on the ground is complex. They engage when they want to, depending on visual perception of opportunities. Therefore the total elimination of anti-missile systems is in part up to the Libyans. Between mobile systems and man-portable air-defense missiles, the threat to allied aircraft can persist for quite a while even if Gadhafi’s forces might have difficulty shooting anything down.

This is the part that the United States in particular and the West in general is extremely good at. But it is the beginning of the war. Gadhafi’s primary capabilities are conventional armor and particularly artillery. Destroying his air force and isolating his forces will not by itself win the war. The war is on the ground. The question is the motivation of his troops: If they perceive that surrender is unacceptable or personally catastrophic, they may continue to fight. At that point the coalition must decide if it intends to engage and destroy Gadhafi’s ground forces from the air. This can be done, but it is never a foregone conclusion that it will work. Moreover, this is the phase at which civilian casualties begin to mount. It is a paradox of warfare instigated to end human suffering that the means of achieving this can sometimes impose substantial human suffering itself. This is not merely a theoretical statement. It is at this point at which supporters of the war who want to end suffering may turn on the political leaders for not ending suffering without cost. It should be remembered that Saddam Hussein was loathed universally but those who loathed him were frequently not willing to impose the price of overthrowing him. The Europeans in particular are sensitive to this issue.

The question then becomes the extent to which this remains an air operation, as Kosovo was, or becomes a ground operation. Kosovo is the ideal, but Gadhafi is not Slobodan Milosevic and he may not feel he has anywhere to go if he surrenders. For him the fight may be existential, whereas for Milosevic it was not. He and his followers may resist. This is the great unknown. The choice here is to maintain air operations for an extended period of time without clear results, or invade. This raises the question of whose troops would invade. Egypt appears ready but there is long animosity between the two countries, and its actions might not be viewed as liberation. The Europeans could do so. It is difficult to imagine Obama adopting a third war in Muslim world as his own. This is where the coalition is really tested.

If there is an invasion, it is likely to succeed. The question then becomes whether Gadhafi’s forces move into opposition and insurgency. This again depends on morale but also on behavior. The Americans forced an insurgency in Iraq by putting the Baathists into an untenable position. In Afghanistan the Taliban gave up formal power without having been decisively defeated. They regrouped, reformed and returned. It is not known to us what Gadhafi can do or not do. It is clear that it is the major unknown.

The problem in Iraq was not the special operations forces. It was not in the decapitation strikes or suppression of enemy air defenses. It was not in the defeat of the Iraqi army on the ground. It was in the occupation, when the enemy reformed and imposed an insurgency on the United States that it found extraordinarily difficult to deal with.

Therefore the successes of the coming day will tell us nothing. Even if Gadhafi surrenders or is killed, even if no invasion is necessary save a small occupation force to aid the insurgents, the possibility of an insurgency is there. We will not know if there will be an insurgency until after it begins. Therefore, the only thing that would be surprising about this phase of the operation is if it failed.

The decision has been made that the mission is regime change in Libya. The strategic sequence is the routine buildup to war since 1991, this time with a heavier European component. The early days will go extremely well but will not define whether or not the war is successful. The test will come if a war designed to stop human suffering begins to inflict human suffering. That is when the difficult political decisions have to be made and when we will find out whether the strategy, the mission and the political will fully match up.

25552  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Women SD issues on: March 19, 2011, 07:02:30 PM
CCW for women:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogGBPVk5GQk&feature=player_embedded#at=49
25553  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: March 19, 2011, 06:21:01 PM
 grin
25554  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Paul Vunak on the JKD Straight Blast on: March 19, 2011, 06:03:15 PM
I trained with Paul Vunak from 1983-86:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43IPDQkmsxU
25555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Brown shrinks from real reform on: March 19, 2011, 11:31:41 AM
By JOHN FUND Sacramento

California has led the nation in so many ways, so it seems fitting that it is now showing the rest of us what the collapse of an overburdened welfare state looks like.

In January, Democrat Jerry Brown returned to the governor's office he left 28 years ago. He assured voters that as a seasoned government hand he wouldn't repeat the mistakes made by his novice predecessor, Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr. Brown had shown a pragmatic, pro-business streak during the two terms he served as mayor of Oakland from 1999 to 2007. Many Californians hoped that at age 72 Mr. Brown would be the first Golden State governor since before Ronald Reagan without his eye on the presidency—and thus could make tough decisions despite the opposition of entrenched special interests.

The state certainly needs bold action: It faces an immediate $26.6 billion deficit. David Crane, a financial expert who worked for Mr. Schwarzenegger, estimates that the state's public- pension obligations could be as high as half a trillion dollars. California's credit rating is the worst in the country, and it's unlikely to return to pre-recession employment levels until the end of this decade.

Mr. Brown has, at best, a mixed record so far. He won points for keeping a campaign promise and refusing to push for tax increases without having them approved by voters. But his plan to close this year's deficit—with a combination of spending restraint and extensions of temporary tax hikes on income, sales and vehicles—has faltered.

It looks as if the special election to pass this plan, currently scheduled for June 7, will either be delayed or not held at all due to inaction by the Democratic legislature. To get his plan on the ballot, Mr. Brown needs the votes of two Republicans in both the state Assembly and the Senate to satisfy the two-thirds requirement for tax increases. He's unlikely to get official cooperation from the GOP unless he gives on something significant, like pension and regulatory reform. Otherwise, he'll have to target individual Republicans with inducements.

Mr. Brown blames the current impasse on "subversive" Republicans who never met taxes they could support. "Some Republicans want government to break down," he told the Los Angeles Times this week. "They want to blow it up. They're radical. They're not in the mainstream."

But Republicans counter that it's California's bloated government that isn't in the mainstream. "We have 12% of the nation's people, but a third of the welfare case load," GOP Assemblyman Dan Logue tells me. "We have the highest taxes in the nation in many categories, and unemployment that's now higher than Michigan's."

Next month, Mr. Logue will hold a hearing in Texas to learn why so many California companies have relocated to the Lone Star State. He says Mr. Brown could be a hero if he breaks with the public-employee unions that helped elect him and forces them to accept structural reforms in exchange for new tax revenue.

The prospects aren't promising. A group of five Senate Republicans has been meeting with Mr. Brown for weeks. They have suggested the state adopt proposals by the Little Hoover Commission, a cost-saving advisory body, that California create a 401(k)-type defined-contribution pension plan to go along with paring back the defined-benefit plan that government workers currently enjoy.

A new statewide Field poll shows that even liberal voters recognize that pensions must be reined in. It found that two-thirds of Democrats want state and local employees to pitch in more toward their retirement, and a full 50% of Democrats back the Little Hoover Commission's proposal. Republican negotiators are also calling for a relaxation of onerous business regulations and a "hard spending cap" that would restrain future spending increases to inflation and population growth.

The talks stalled this week after Mr. Brown told the Republicans that while he might want to do more, public- employee unions and Democrats are adamantly opposed. Democratic Senate President Darrell Steinberg did say he might consider a temporary spending cap, but only one that lasts as long as the five years that any tax hikes are extended.

That would repeat a fatal error in California history. The state once had a hard spending cap, called the Gann Limit, passed by voters in 1979. It kept California's balance sheet stable for over a decade. In 1990, GOP Gov. George Deukmejian teamed up with unions to narrowly pass a measure that rewrote the spending formulas, effectively emasculating the limit. Had a real Gann limit been in place over the past two decades, California's budget would be balanced now.

Public unions seem dug in against fiscal reform, but Mr. Brown might still corral enough stray Republicans to get his budget package before voters this summer. Yet even with the proposed all-mail ballot he wants to use to gin up turnout, its prospects are iffy. In 2009, two-thirds of California voters turned down an extension of tax increases similar to what Mr. Brown is proposing. Last November, despite Democratic victories up and down the ballot, state voters approved a measure requiring a two-thirds majority for increasing fees, and they rejected a repeal of business tax incentives. Voters even turned down an $18 automobile fee to help keep state parks open.

Should tax increases be blocked from the ballot, or if they're rejected by voters, Mr. Brown pledges to pursue an "all-cuts" budget solution that could devastate services without an accompanying restructuring of state government. The unions may respond with an "initiative war" proposing higher taxes on oil companies, tobacco and commercial real estate. Conservatives may counter with a ballot measure curtailing what unions can spend on politics out of member dues. Some moderates want to revive the findings of a 2009 bipartisan commission that concluded the state needs a simpler, less-onerous tax code.

"There are lots of ideas," says urban analyst Joel Kotkin of Chapman University. "But they all must start with ending policies that have California waging war against its own economy." In other words, Mr. Brown must find a way to get serious about tax reform, spending limits and stifling regulations.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for WSJ.com.

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25556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mises/Austrian analysis: 3 flawed Fed exit options on: March 19, 2011, 11:26:14 AM
Three Flawed Fed Exit Options
Mises Daily: Monday, March 14, 2011 by Robert P. Murphy

Whether giving public lectures or teaching at theMises Academy, I'm often asked whether Bernanke will be able to "pull this off." Specifically, can the Fed gracefully exit from the huge hole it has dug for itself?

Unfortunately my answer is no. In the present article I'll go over three possible exit options, and explain the flaws in each.

The Problem
Before assessing the chances of escape, let's first review what the problem is:


The monetary base
The monetary base (see here for a breakdown of the various monetary aggregates) has exploded since the onset of the financial crisis in late 2008. After a huge initial spurt, the base shot up twice more, in response to the first and second rounds of "quantitative easing."

To get a sense of just how unprecedented and enormous Bernanke's injections have been, look at the relatively insignificant blip back at the start of 2000. To calm the markets heading into the Y2K changeover, Greenspan preemptively flooded the system with liquidity. At the time, many Fed watchers blamed that spike and fall for exacerbating the bubble in the NASDAQ. But in comparison with Bernanke's moves, we can barely find Greenspan's Y2K fiddling on the chart.

Austrian economists know that the Fed's creation of new money can distort markets by pushing interest rates below their natural market level. This is a subtle point that most commentators ignore. Instead, the thing that has more and more people worrying at night is the potential for runaway price inflation.

Specifically, there are currently about $1.2 trillion in "excess reserves" in the banking system. Loosely speaking, the banks have this much money on deposit with the Fed, above and beyond their reserve requirements (needed to "back up" their existing customer checking account balances and the like), and they are free to lend it out to their own customers.

Because of the fractional-reserve banking system, the $1.2 trillion in excess reserves could ultimately translate into almost $11 trillion in new money created by the banks, as they pyramid new loans on top of the base money Bernanke has injected. The M1 measure of the money stock is currently $1.9 trillion, meaning that even if the Fed stopped inflating tomorrow, the banking system would have the potential to increase the money stock by a factor of six. Even if the demand for dollars remained constant in such an environment (which it wouldn't), that could mean oil prices above $600 a barrel.

So far, we haven't seen such massive price inflation, because the banks are reluctant to advance new loans. But at some point — because their balance sheets have sufficiently healed, or because creditworthy borrowers begin offering higher interest rates — the commercial banks will begin taking their excess reserves (currently parked at the Fed) and making new loans to their customers. At that point, the Fed will need to act quickly to prevent a self-perpetuating spiral into price inflation.

Publicly, Bernanke and other Fed officials are confident that they will be able to take the punch bowl away before the guests become too intoxicated. But their rosy predictions simply assume that severe stagflation is not possible. We'll go through three possible options for dealing with the above problem, and show the flaws in each.

Option #1: Pay Higher Interest Rates on Excess Reserves
The option that Bernanke himself frequently mentions is the Fed's ability to offer higher interest rates on excess reserves. Currently, if a commercial bank keeps its excess reserves parked at the Fed, the balance grows at an annual percentage rate (APR) of 0.25 percent, or what is called 25 "basis points."

Now suppose (either because of rising price inflation or because of a healthy recovery) that theprime rate — what commercial banks charge their best clients — rises from its current level (3.25 percent) to, say, 10 percent. (This isn't farfetched; the prime rate was higher than 10 percent in the late 1980s.)

Faced with earning a completely safe 0.25 percent by keeping their money parked at the Fed, versus earning a very (but not perfectly) safe 10 percent by lending to their most stable customers, many banks would begin drawing down their excess reserves, thus starting the inflationary spiral. To check this, the Fed could also bump up the yield it pays, to (say) 7.25 percent. By maintaining the spread between the two rates, the Fed could bribe the bankers to keep their money locked up at the Fed.

For one thing, it's important to note that Bernanke, Geithner, and other officials are trying to have it both ways with the public. On the one hand, they pat themselves on the back for saving the financial system and ensuring the smooth functioning of the credit markets so that businesses can continue to make their payroll and so forth. Yet on the other hand, Bernanke implicitly admits that right now banks are not making loans with the more than $1 trillion he's injected into the system, and that if they started to lend out that money, he would offer them even more to stop.

"Taxpayers would ultimately be the ones paying bankers to not give them loans."In any event, Bernanke's favored "tool" of raising the interest rate on excess reserves is the epitome of kicking the can down the road. In the beginning, the higher payments would simply reduce the Fed's net earnings, meaning that it would remit less money to the Treasury. Thus, the federal deficit would grow larger, meaning that taxpayers would ultimately be the ones paying bankers to not give them loans.

But at some point, if the process continued, the Fed would have exhausted its income from other sources. For example, on a balance of $1.2 trillion, if the Fed had to pay 7.5 percent interest, that would translate into $90 billion in annual payments to the banks. (The Fed earned about $81 billion in net income in 2010, of which it remitted $78 billion to the Treasury.)

To be sure, nothing would stop Bernanke from making such payments. He isn't constrained by income statements; Bernanke laughs at the shackles holding back lesser men. He could simply bump up the numbers in the Fed's computers in order to reflect the growing reserves balances of the commercial banks if they kept their funds with the Fed.

But this would hardly "solve" the problem of excess reserves. Rather than facing a $1.2 trillion problem, the next year the Fed would face a $1.21 trillion problem, and so on. The excess reserves would grow exponentially.

Option #2: Pull Reserves Out of the System
The most obvious solution to the problem would be to reverse the operations that got us into the mess. Specifically, the Fed could stop reinvesting the proceeds of its current asset holdings, so that its balance sheet would gradually shrink as its existing Treasury bonds and mortgage-backed securities matured.[1] If more drastic action were needed, the Fed could begin selling off its assets before maturity. When private-sector institutions wrote checks to purchase them, those reserves would disappear from the system.

Although this approach would work — and it is ultimately what I would recommend as part of the solution, in addition to pegging the dollar back to gold — it would not be painless. Many analysts talk as if the Fed's bloated balance sheet will "naturally unwind," as the economy grows out of the current slump.

But if the Austrian critique of Bernanke is correct, he has not built a solid foundation for recovery. Instead, he has merely pushed back the day of reckoning a few years, in the same way that Alan Greenspan staved off the dot-com crash only to serve up the housing crash.

What happens if producer prices continue rising, squeezing retailers so that eventually even consumer prices begin rising at, say, 8 percent annualized rates? And what if the real-estate market is still a mess, and unemployment is still 9 percent at that point? As yields rise in response to the price inflation, commercial banks won't be content to sit on cash. They will need to "put it to work" to keep up with the declining value of the dollar.

In that environment, if Bernanke started selling off hundreds of billions worth of Fed assets (consisting of Treasury debt, Freddie and Fannie debt, and mortgage-backed securities), it would cause a sharp spike in interest rates, and would devastate the real-estate and financial sectors. Just as Bernanke's original interventions obviously helped the major players in these fields, the reverse of those interventions would obviously hurt them. The enormous federal deficit would no longer seem so innocuous once interest rates on even short-term Treasuries began rising.

In short, shrinking the Fed's balance sheet — and thereby destroying the excess reserves just as magically as Bernanke's purchases originally created them — could "work," but in particular (plausible) scenarios it would plunge the United States back into depression. Bernanke and other optimists have not explained why these scenarios won't occur, besides the obviously false assertion that we can't have rising prices with high unemployment.

To add yet another twist, we should point out that if the price inflation or the financial crashes (or both) were severe enough, the Fed's assets might drop significantly before Bernanke could sell them back to the market. In that case, even if he wanted to, Bernanke couldn't suck out all of the $1.2 trillion in excess reserves, because he would be selling the assets for less than he originally paid to acquire them.

Option #3: Increase Reserve Requirements
Hard-money enthusiasts occasionally ask me, "Couldn't Bernanke just increase the reserve requirements?" For example, what if Bernanke ended the fractional-reserve system, and insisted that commercial banks have $100 set aside in reserves (either as cash in their vaults or as electronic deposits with the Fed) for every $100 in customer deposits?

Like the previous solution, this one too would "work" but it would devastate the financial sector even more. From the commercial banks' viewpoint, such a policy move would effectively steal $1.2 trillion in cash from them.

To see why, consider an analogy: Suppose Bill Smith has a salary of $100,00 per year. Now Smith is a very cautious man, who has carefully saved up $100,000 in his checking account. Smith is very paranoid and doesn't even trust money-market mutual funds; no, he wants his money "in the bank," in an FDIC-insured account.

But now President Obama comes along, and says that Americans ought to be saving more. To encourage this, Obama says that every adult must carry a checking account balance equal to his or her annual income. If anyone lets his checking account balance fall below that amount, he gets fined $10,000 per day.

In such a (ridiculous) scenario, it's obvious that our poor Bill Smith would be devastated. His stockpile of $100,000 — which the day before was a wonderful emergency fund that could weather all sorts of storms — would now be useless, except as a way to fend off huge fines from the government. It would no longer be savings at all. Smith would have to start from scratch, and begin building up savings of $200,000 to get back to his previous level of security.

A similar analysis holds for the commercial banks. Even though many commentators talk as if the $1.2 trillion in excess reserves aren't "real money," because they aren't "in the economy," this isn't accurate. Just ask the bankers if they consider those funds to be real money.


If the Fed were to raise reserve requirements, the money that commercial bankers currently view as a hoard of cash would lose its economic significance. It would be equivalent to the Fed simply seizing the funds. This is why raising the reserve requirements would devastate the banks even more than selling off assets: At least if the Fed destroys reserves by selling assets, the commercial banks voluntarily make the trade, and end up with something valuable.

Conclusion
No one knows the future; I am not certain how things will play out. What alarms me more than the basic facts, however, is that the people telling us we have nothing to worry about typically don't even look two steps ahead in their analysis. Bernanke has effectively gone "all in" with his successive rounds of quantitative easing, and I get the queasy feeling that he's bluffing.
25557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: March 19, 2011, 10:23:50 AM
Former Muslims Excluded From King Hearings

Posted By Nonie Darwish On March 17, 2011 @ 12:20 am In Daily Mailer,FrontPage | 23 Comments

I have admiration and respect for Congressman Peter King and I salute him for holding hearings on the “Extent of Radicalization in the American Muslim Community and that Community’s Response.” However, as a former Muslim I have not seen anyone testifying on our behalf in the hearings. At least one former Muslims should have been there to tell America of our plight. To tell them why we left Islam right here in America. How we had to choose between Islam and loving America. How radicals and jihadists followed us right here after we immigrated to the US to try to force us back into the same old culture of jihad, hatred and anti-Semitism — that we had escaped from in the first place. How radicals who want to deny us our freedom of religion under the US constitution threaten our lives and civil rights daily.

Most former Muslims in the US started by going to mosques but we soon discovered a political and jihadist agenda. In mosques I was told not to assimilate in America, to have more children and to wear Islamic clothes even though I never wore it in the Middle East before coming to the US. We were encouraged to pray wherever we wanted and do that with assertion even if we have to inconvenience others at airports, baseball games or at work. We soon found out that many mosques in America, as they are in the Middle East, are more of a political organization than a place of worship. We noticed that the more pious Muslims in the mosque were the ones seeking confrontation with American culture, such as getting offended if Americans have dogs or alcohol when riding cabs with Muslim taxi drivers.

Muslims are told openly in mosques that they have a mission in America and that is to make Islam the law of the land. Lying to America and getting offended to cover up the jihadist aspiration was encouraged, and became a perfected art and a religious obligation, which further alienated Muslims from American culture.

Many of us former Muslims have left the religion precisely because of the radicalization we confronted in America. But when we dared to stop going to mosques and left Islam altogether our lives turned into a nightmare. Many former Muslims contact me looking for shelter after their lives have been threatened. Just a couple of days ago I was contacted by a young 21 year old Muslim man telling me he left Islam years ago and has to hide the Bible from his family and friends after his own brother told him he was going to kill him if he does not return to Islam.

I receive testimony after testimony of former Muslims, some of whom are American converts who decided to leave Islam and are afraid for their lives. Many of us have to move from one apartment to another so we are not found by those who threaten our lives. Just last year, we all heard of the plight of the 17 year old apostate Rifqa Bary who had to flee her home after her life was threatened by her father and her local mosque. There are many Rifqa Barys in America where radical Islam is working under the radar to silence and force some of us to return to Islam or else.

I am also in contact with apostates in the Middle East. A student from Yemen told me that when he applied for a scholarship to come to the US, financed by Saudi Arabia, his application was rejected because he believes he was not radical in his Islamic views enough. He complained to me that the ones who won the scholarship were extreme Islamists and that tells us something about the kind of people we are giving student visas to.

How can former Muslims live in peace in America when there are Muslim scriptures sold and bought in all mosques telling Muslims that it is OK to kill apostates, meaning those who left Islam? The tragedy of apostasy from Islam has taken the lives of some in the West and caused mental and physical abuse for many and is never documented as a religious hate crime. Part of the jihad doctrine obliges Muslims to do internal jihad, by forcing Sharia on Muslim citizens. Sharia books in mosques across the US tell Muslims they will be forgiven for murder of an apostate and an adulterer, thus making vigilante street justice and honor killing acceptable religiously.
Muslim groups and their American appeasers are up in arms against the King hearings and are claiming that their civil rights are being violated. I wonder whose civil rights are violated in America? Is it Muslims or former Muslims?

Nonie Darwish is the author of “Cruel and Usual Punishment; the Terrifying Global Implications of Islamic Law” and founder of Former Muslims United.
25558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US politics on: March 19, 2011, 09:12:34 AM
third post

By NEIL KING JR. and NAFTALI BENDAVID
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama has toughened his stance on Libya and threatened military action, but some of his potential Republican 2012 challengers said Friday he had waited too long to confront Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, making it harder to topple him.

The sharp reaction from some 2012 hopefuls contrasted with that of prominent GOP leaders in Congress, who have been more reticent on the administration's response to the conflict in Libya.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers praised the administration for winning what he called "unprecedented" international cooperation in going after Libya. "We're doing it exactly the right way," said the Michigan Republican.

Republicans eyeing a presidential run were much tougher in their response. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who is exploring a 2012 run, suggested Friday that the president had spent more time completing his NCAA basketball bracket than on focusing on Libya.

"We posture, we talk, we have diplomatic meetings. …This is very weak," Mr. Gingrich said of the president's approach. Speaking on television Thursday night, he accused Mr. Obama of being "spectator in chief instead of commander in chief."

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, another likely GOP contender, said in an interview Friday that Mr. Obama had "played this about as badly as you can. You either stay out and let events move forward as they will, or you get in decisively and lead. Obama has done neither...We have missed our opportunity."

Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty and Mitt Romney—the former governors of Alaska, Minnesota and Massachusetts, respectively—have also criticized the president for his handling of Middle East crises this year. Nearly all of the potential 2012 challengers have called for a no-flight zone over Libya, and several have singled out what Mr. Santorum called Mr. Obama's "deference to international organizations."

Mr. Obama discussed his administration's actions in public remarks Friday, saying the U.S. had worked with European and Arab partners to increase pressure on the Libyan regime and eventually to craft "a strong international response." He praised Thursday's United Nations resolution, which authorized military action against Libya's security forces.

Not all the potential 2012 contenders have urged quicker or sterner action against Libya. In a speech in Iowa this week, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour essentially sided with Mr. Obama, saying the U.S. had "to be cautious about being quick on the trigger."

GOP congressional leaders have also trodden softly on the subject. House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) participated by phone in a White House meeting on Libya that Mr. Obama hosted with a bipartisan group of lawmakers Friday. But he didn't speak during the meeting, people familiar with the events said, and made no statement afterward.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.), who also took part by phone, has said several times that foreign policy is the president's responsibility.

Democrats have their own divisions. Lawmakers advocating strong U.S. action in Libya applauded Mr. Obama's statement.

"If Gadhafi does not comply with the requirements of the U.N. resolution, we must be prepared to take robust action with our NATO partners and the Arab League to enforce it," Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), who leads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said after Mr. Obama's Friday appearance.

But the Democratic Party also includes a contingent wary of overseas military entanglements. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D., N.Y.) warned that Mr. Obama must get Congress's approval for any military action in Libya.

25559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 19, 2011, 09:04:59 AM
 cheesy

I note that particular bird is of the US Customs & Border Protection sub-species , , ,
25560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NY Times on Owsley Stanley on: March 19, 2011, 09:03:11 AM
NOW that the 1960s are commodified forever as “The Sixties,” it is apparently compulsory that their legacy be rendered as purple-hazy hagiography. But that ignores an inconvenient counterintuitive truth: Relatively clear-thinking entrepreneurs created some of the most enduring tropes of the era — not out of whole paisley cloth but from their astute feel for the culture and the marketplace. And no one was better at it than Augustus Owsley Stanley III.

Entrepreneur? Mr. Stanley, who was killed in a car accident last Sunday in Australia at the age of 76, is remembered chiefly as a world-class eccentric — his C.V. lists Air Force electronics specialist and ballet dancer — who after ingesting his first dose of LSD in Berkeley in 1964 taught himself how to make his own. In short order, “Owsley acid” became the gold standard of psychedelics.

But Mr. Stanley didn’t stop there. He started cranking out his superlative LSD at a rate that by 1967 topped one million doses. By mass-manufacturing a hallucinogen that the authorities hadn’t gotten around to criminalizing, Mr. Stanley singlehandedly created a market where none had existed, and with it a large part of what would become the “counterculture.”

At the time Madison Avenue was at sea about how to reach the so-called youth market. “House hippies” were deputized as cultural ambassadors but didn’t prevent travesties like Columbia Records’ infamously clueless “The Man Can’t Bust Our Music” ad campaign. Which made Mr. Stanley’s effortless grasp of his peer group and its appetites — he was, after all, an enthusiastic consumer of his own product — seem all the more prescient. When his lab in Orinda, Calif., was raided in 1967 — thanks to him, LSD had been declared illegal the year before — the headline in The San Francisco Chronicle anointed him the “LSD Millionaire.”

Mr. Stanley shared several qualities with another entrepreneur who, a decade later, would imbue his company with a hand-sewn ‘60s ethic that persists today. To compare Mr. Stanley to Steve Jobs, the co-founder and chief executive of Apple, purely on the basis of their operating philosophies is not as big a leap as it might seem.

Like Mr. Jobs, Mr. Stanley was fanatical about quality control. He refused to put his LSD on pieces of paper — so-called blotter acid — because, Mr. Stanley maintained, it degraded the potency. “I abhor the practice,” he declared.

Whereas the formulation and provenance of most street drugs was unknowable, Owsley LSD was curated like a varietal wine and branded as evocatively as an iPod — “Monterey Purple” for a batch made expressly for the 1967 Monterey Pop festival, which may have factored into Jimi Hendrix’s chaotic, guitar-burning finale. (Relentlessly protective of his brand, Mr. Stanley seemed insulted that many believed the Hendrix song “Purple Haze” was about the Monterey LSD — far from inducing haze, he sniffed, the quality of his acid would confer upon the user preternatural clarity.)

And like Mr. Jobs’s mandate for creating products he deems “insanely great,” Mr. Stanley’s perfectionism had the effect of raising standards across an industry — or in this case, a culture. He became a patron of the Grateful Dead and helped transform them from inchoate noodlers into the house band for a generation. Noting the dreadful acoustics at their performances, Mr. Stanley drew on his electronics background and designed one of the first dedicated rock sound reinforcement systems, thus making plausible that highly lucrative staple of the 1960s and beyond, the rock concert. (Ever the perfectionist, he later designed an upgraded version, the legendary Wall of Sound, that towered over the band like a monolith and prefigured the immense sound systems at stadium shows today.)

It is said we are living through times not unlike the 1960s, the catalyst being not rock ‘n’ roll and its accompaniments, sex and drugs, but the communications and information revolution made possible by the Web. Among the movement’s many avenging nerds, Mr. Jobs alone epitomizes Mr. Stanley’s unhinged originality and anarchical spirit — before founding Apple, Mr. Jobs and his partner, Steve Wozniak, sold illegal “blue boxes” that allowed free long-distance calls and later proselytized so persuasively about the latest Apple gizmo that he was said to project a “reality distortion field.”

Augustus Owsley Stanley III knew a thing or two about that.


Michael Walker is the author of “Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s Legendary Neighborhood.”


25561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More from POTH on: March 19, 2011, 08:48:15 AM
WASHINGTON — President Obama on Friday ordered Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi to carry out an immediate cease-fire, withdraw his forces from rebel-held cities and stop all attacks on Libyan civilians or face military action from the United States and its allies in Europe and the Arab world.

“Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable,” Mr. Obama said from the East Room of the White House. Those terms, particularly lifting the siege of opposition-held territories, would give the rebels a reprieve, if not a military advantage.
Libya had pledged a cease-fire hours before. But reports from rebel-held territory indicated that the attacks by Qaddafi militias continued unabated in the east and west.

Government forces continued to advance on Benghazi, the rebel’s capital in the east, and people fleeing nearby Ajdabiya said troops were shelling and conducting assaults in the afternoon. The western city of Misurata was under siege, its electricity and water cut by the government, and doctors reported that at least 25 people were killed, including 16 unarmed civilians. In Tripoli, the repression of peaceful protests continued, and gunfire was heard late in the evening.

President Obama said he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to a meeting in Paris on Saturday to consult with France, Britain and members of the Arab League on further action. An allied military strike on Libya did not appear imminent on Friday night.

Mr. Obama spoke 18 hours after the passage of a United Nations Security Council resolution authorizing military action against Colonel Qaddafi, and as violence raged across the Middle East. In Yemen, security forces and government supporters shot and killed at least 45 protesters. In Bahrain, the government tore down the monument adopted by the country’s rebel movement, the pearl in the middle of Pearl Square in Manama. In Syria, a police state where protest is rare, large demonstrations broke out in four cities.

In contrast to the military intervention in Libya, the administration has restricted itself in those countries to statements condemning the violence and urging restraint.

Mr. Obama used tough language that was at times reminiscent of President George W. Bush before the war in Iraq.

“If Qaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action,” Mr. Obama said, laying out a policy decision made after several weeks in which the administration sent conflicting signals about its willingness to use force to aid the rebels at a time of upheaval throughout the Arab world.

But unlike Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama cast the United States in a supporting, almost reluctant role, reflecting the clear desire of the Pentagon, which has been strongly resistant to another American war in the Middle East. He said that Britain, France and Arab nations would take the lead, and that United States ground forces would not enter Libya.

The White House and the Pentagon offered no other details on what the precise role of the United States military would be in any strikes against Colonel Qaddafi’s forces, but an administration official said late Friday that the United States might take the lead in an attempt to destroy Libya’s air defenses at the beginning of operations.

“We may do the shaping on the front end,” the administration official said. The official was referring to the ability of American forces, greater than that of the allies, to strike targets precisely from long distances, whether by missiles launched from submarines, surface warships or attack jets.

The official said that the goal was to limit American military involvement to the initial stages of any action, and that it was the administration’s expectation that the allies could control the skies over Libya once Colonel Qaddafi’s air defenses are destroyed.

Mr. Obama’s remarks at the White House capped a day of diplomacy mixed with military threats in Washington, London and Paris, where the allies forged a united front against Colonel Qaddafi. Britain, France and then the United States responded with almost identically worded skepticism after Moussa Koussa, the Libyan foreign minister, announced a cease-fire, his hands shaking, and European officials indicated that they were prepared to move quickly if a decision was made to take military action.

“We will judge him by his actions, not his words,” Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain told the BBC in London.

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

Page 2 of 2)



A few hours later, Mrs. Clinton said in Washington that the United States would be “not responsive or impressed by words.” She said that the allies would “have to see actions on the ground, and that is not yet at all clear.”

(Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa's hands shook as he announced the cease-fire.)

In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry spokesman, Bernard Valero, said that Colonel Qaddafi “begins to be afraid, but on the ground, the threat hasn’t changed.”
Obama administration officials said that action against Libya had to include the Arab countries, and they were insistent, as one senior official put it, that the “red, green and black” of Arab flags be prominent in military operations. As of Thursday night, the United States said that it had commitments from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates to contribute fighter jets, and that Jordan had also agreed to take part, although the extent of its participation was not clear on Friday.

Conditions on the ground remained confused and tense in Libya on Friday night. Several hours after Mr. Moussa had declared a cease-fire, explosions could be heard about 30 miles away from Ajdabiya. Residents who left the city after the cease-fire declaration said the announcement of an end to hostilities had in fact caused no break in the fighting.

Two doctors in the city of Misurata said that 25 people were killed on Friday, including 16 civilians.

“What cease-fire?” said Mohamed, a spokesman for the rebels in Misurata. “What lies, what murder!” After watching Mr. Obama’s speech on a generator-powered television at the Misurata medical center, he said, “We are very heartened by Mr. Obama’s words. We feel that he finally grasped the situation and grasped the urgency.”

A spokeswoman for the rebel ruling council, Iman Bugaighis, said on Friday that Colonel Qaddafi’s troops were moving toward Benghazi. “They are using their grenades to shoot up to 30 kilometers,” she said.

But Khalid Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, said emphatically, “We have no intention of entering the city of Benghazi.”

On Friday, residents of Ajdabiya described a vicious battle for their city that had lasted days, killed scores of people and wrecked neighborhoods, including large parts of an area called Seventh of October. They said that Colonel Qaddafi’s loyalists attacked Tuesday from a ring around the city’s outskirts with tanks, missiles and other heavy artillery.

“The houses were shaking,” said a woman named Fatima, who fled with her family on Friday. “We thought it would stop but it didn’t.”

On Wednesday doctors at the hospital in Ajdabiya said 38 people had died in the fighting. By Friday, residents guessed at a far higher number, saying they saw bodies in the streets. Moussa al-Dulaimi, a police officer who fled the city on Friday, said seven neighbors died in the fighting.

The residents described intense shelling around the post office, and especially in the north of the city. Residents were shot at checkpoints and by snipers, they said.

Thousands of refugees have settled about twenty minutes outside of Ajdabiya, on the road to the eastern city of Tobruk, in tents and abandoned homes in the desert. Volunteers from Tobruk bring food, water and fuel to the refugees, who cook on campfires or share small power generators. “The situation is very dangerous. Nobody is going back to the city,” said Khaled Gabally, who left Ajdabiya on Thursday.

By Friday, government tanks were posted most of the city’s entrances, residents said. As people left, soldiers checked for guns and cellphone videos of the violence. A few residents said the soldiers made them repeat an oath: “Only Muammar, God and Libya.”

By early Saturday morning, the Qaddafi government appeared to be laying the groundwork for a potential strike against the rebels in the name of self-defense.

Khalid Kaim, the deputy foreign minister, said government intelligence showed tanks, artillery and weapons from Benghazi attacking a town in the east. Government forces, he said, were holding back to observe the cease-fire.
25562  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and other Arab countries on: March 19, 2011, 08:41:03 AM
An interesting report from Pravda on the Hudson:

WASHINGTON — In a Paris hotel room on Monday night, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton found herself juggling the inconsistencies of American foreign policy in a turbulent Middle East. She criticized the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates for sending troops to quash protests in Bahrain even as she pressed him to send planes to intervene in Libya.

Only the day before, Mrs. Clinton — along with her boss, President Obama — was a skeptic on whether the United States should take military action in Libya. But that night, with Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces turning back the rebellion that threatened his rule, Mrs. Clinton changed course, forming an unlikely alliance with a handful of top administration aides who had been arguing for intervention.

Within hours, Mrs. Clinton and the aides had convinced Mr. Obama that the United States had to act, and the president ordered up military plans, which Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hand-delivered to the White House the next day. On Thursday, during an hour-and-a -half meeting, Mr. Obama signed off on allowing American pilots to join Europeans and Arabs in military strikes against the Libyan government.

The president had a caveat, though. The American involvement in military action in Libya should be limited — no ground troops — and finite. “Days, not weeks,” a senior White House official recalled him saying.

The shift in the administration’s position — from strong words against Libya to action — was forced largely by the events beyond its control: the crumbling of the uprising raised the prospect that Colonel Qaddafi would remain in power to kill “many thousands,” as Mr. Obama said at the White House on Friday.

The change became possible, though, only after Mrs. Clinton joined Samantha Power, a senior aide at the National Security Council, and Susan Rice, Mr. Obama’s ambassador to the United Nations, who had been pressing the case for military action, according to senior administration officials speaking only on condition of anonymity. Ms. Power is a former journalist and human rights advocate; Ms. Rice was an Africa adviser to President Clinton when the United States failed to intervene to stop the Rwanda genocide, which Mr. Clinton has called his biggest regret.

Now, the three women were pushing for American intervention to stop a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Libya.

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, one of the early advocates for military action in Libya, described the debate within the administration as “healthy.” He said that “the memory of Rwanda, alongside Iraq in ’91, made it clear” that the United States needed to act but needed international support.

In joining Ms. Rice and Ms. Power, Mrs. Clinton made an unusual break with Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who, along with the national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and the counterterrorism chief, John O. Brennan, had urged caution. Libya was not vital to American national security interests, the men argued, and Mr. Brennan worried that the Libyan rebels remained largely unknown to American officials, and could have ties to Al Qaeda.

The administration’s shift also became possible only after the United States won not just the support of Arab countries but their active participation in military operations against one of their own.

“Hillary and Susan Rice were key parts of this story because Hillary got the Arab buy-in and Susan worked the U.N. to get a 10-to-5 vote, which is no easy thing,” said Brian Katulis, a national security expert with the Center for American Progress, a liberal group with close ties to the administration. This “puts the United States in a much stronger position because they’ve got the international support that makes this more like the 1991 gulf war than the 2003 Iraq war.”

Ever since the democracy protests in the region began three months ago, the Obama administration has struggled to balance America’s national security interests against support for democratic principles, a struggle that has left Mr. Obama subject to criticism from all sides of the political spectrum. And by taking a case-by-case approach — quickly embracing protesters in Tunisia, eventually coming around to fully endorse their cause in Egypt, but backing the rulers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Yemen — the administration at times has appeared inconsistent. While calling for Colonel Qaddafi’s ouster, administration officials indicated Mr. Obama was more concerned with unfolding events in Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt than with removing the Libyan leader.

There was high drama right up to the surprising Security Council vote on Thursday night, when the ambassador for South Africa, viewed as critical to getting the nine votes needed to pass the resolution, failed to show up for the final vote, causing Ms. Rice to rush from the chamber in search of him.

South Africa and Nigeria — along with Brazil and India — had all initially balked at authorizing force, but administration officials believed they had brought the Africans around. Mr. Obama had already been on the phone pressing President Jacob Zuma of South Africa to support the resolution, White House officials said. Eventually, the South African representative showed up to vote yes, as did the Nigerian representative, giving the United States one vote more than required. Brazil and India, meanwhile, joined Russia, China and Germany in abstaining.

The pivotal decision for Mr. Obama came on Tuesday though, after Mrs. Clinton had called from Paris with news that the Arab governments were willing to participate in military action. That would solve one of Mr. Gates’s concerns, that the United States not be viewed on the Arab street as going to war against another Muslim country.

Mrs. Clinton “had the proof,” one senior administration official said, “that not only was the Arab League in favor, but that the Emirates were serious about participating.”

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

During a meeting with Mr. Obama and his top national security aides — Ms. Rice was on video teleconference from New York; Mrs. Clinton from Paris — Ms. Rice sought to allay Mr. Gates’s concern that a no-fly zone by itself would not be enough to halt Colonel Qaddafi’s progress, recalled officials attending the meeting.

“Susan basically said that it was possible to get a tougher resolution” that would authorize a fuller range of options, including the ability to bomb Libyan government tanks on the road to Benghazi, the rebel stronghold in the east, administration official said.
“That was the turning point” for Mr. Obama, the official said. The president was scheduled to go to a dinner with military veterans that night; he told his aides to draw up military plans. And he instructed Ms. Rice to move forward with a broader resolution at the Security Council.

She already had one ready — drawn up the week before, just in case, officials said. Besides asking for an expanded military campaign, Ms. Rice loaded up the resolution with other items on the American wish list, including the authorization to use force to back an arms embargo against Libya. “We knew it would be a heavy lift to get any resolution through; our view was we might as well get as much as we could,” Ms. Rice said in a telephone interview.

On Wednesday at the Security Council, Russia put forward a competing resolution, calling for a cease-fire — well short of what the United States wanted. But the French, who had been trying to get a straight no-fly resolution through, switched to back the tougher American wording. And they “put it in blue” ink — U.N. code for calling for a vote.

“It was a brilliant tactical move,” an American official said. “They hijacked the text, which means it could be called to a vote at any time.”

On Thursday, the South Africans, Nigerians, Portuguese and Bosnians — all of them question marks — said they would support the tougher resolution.

Even after getting the Security Council endorsement, Mr. Obama made clear that the military action would be an international effort.

“The change in the region will not and cannot be imposed by the United States or any foreign power,” the president told reporters at the White House on Friday. “Ultimately, it will be driven by the people of the Arab world.”
25563  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Straight Blast on: March 19, 2011, 08:09:40 AM
Woof All:

Recently I had someone ask me what I thought of the Straight Blast and in that I have been doing some thinking on this recently  wink it occurred to me to put the question up here.

We have the Wing Chun SB; we have the JKD SB, and we have the Boxing Blast. 

Analyze/assess/comment?

TAC,
CD
25564  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 19, 2011, 08:04:23 AM
Grateful to have two different missions take important steps forward.
25565  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / June 18-19 Guro Crafty in Memphis, TN on: March 18, 2011, 08:59:10 PM


Download Flyer: http://dogbrothers.com/images/20110618-seminar-crafty.jpg
25566  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: March 18, 2011, 12:44:39 PM




AHMAD GHARABLI

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Yemeni National Defense Council declared a state of emergency March 18 following a violent crackdown on protesters in Sanaa that has reportedly left some 50 people dead and more than 200 wounded. Protests outside the University of Sanaa entrance swelled after Friday prayers, numbering in the tens of thousands. Protests also followed Friday prayers in other parts of the country, including Taiz, Ibb, Hodeidah, Aden and Amran.

Though Yemen’s opposition is a fractured amalgam of students, unemployed youth, Islamists, socialists, Salafists, tribesmen with political ambitions and regular laborers, the movement has coalesced around a call for Saleh and his most politically and militarily empowered relatives to step down. Prior to March 18, roughly 40 protesters were reportedly killed in sporadic crackdowns throughout the country. That death toll has now doubled as the regime has resorted to more forceful tactics in trying to intimidate protesters.

The state of emergency will be used by the regime to impose curfews and restrict media access, but the regime’s attempts to clear the streets of protesters in the capital will be a struggle. Yemen’s opposition is refusing dialogue with the regime, intransigent in its demand for Saleh’s ouster. At the same time, Saleh’s position is deeply entrenched within the regime. By design, the security apparatus and the political and business elite are all dominated by members of his family or Sanhan tribe, making any potential dismantling of the regime an extremely complicated process.

So far, Saleh has retained a significant level of tribal support (even as politically ambitious tribesmen such as Hamid al-Ahmar of the powerful Hashid sheikhdom have called on their allies to withdraw support for Saleh). Saleh’s family and tribal connections that pervade the armed forces have also prevented a major break with the army. Though the crisis in Yemen is escalating, and ongoing discussions on the timing of Saleh’s political departure are intensifying among the regime’s elite, the dismantling of his regime does not appear imminent. Yemen will remain in a protracted political crisis as the timing and mechanics of Saleh’s political exit are sorted out.



Read more: State of Emergency Declared in Yemen | STRATFOR
25567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Other Arab countries on: March 18, 2011, 12:27:20 PM


Libya’s government announced an immediate cease-fire on March 18, a day after the U.N. Security Council approved a no-fly zone over the North African country. The move complicates European efforts to spearhead a campaign against Libyan government troops. Assuming Tripoli follows through on its declaration, the affect on operations against the Libyan rebels remains in question.

Libyan Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said March 18 that Libya would positively respond to the U.N. Security Council resolution calling for a no-fly zone over Libya. The statement was soon followed by a declaration by Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa of an immediate unilateral cease-fire and halt to all military operations. Tripoli added that it was ready to open “all dialogue channels with everyone interested in the territorial unity of Libya,” that it wanted to protect Libyan civilians, and that it was inviting the international community to send government and nongovernmental organization representatives “to check the facts on the ground by sending fact-finding missions so that they can take the right decision.”

The Libyan declaration comes as members of the NATO military alliance were ramping up for airstrikes authorized by the United Nations against troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi. French diplomatic sources have been quoted as saying airstrikes could start “within hours.” Libya’s move potentially throws a wrench in plans to establish and enforce a no-fly zone — and take additional military action — against the Gadhafi government.

France and the United Kingdom have led the international community in its push to intervene in Libya. Washington had signaled that it would let the European nations lead. Italy, formerly a strong Gadhafi supporter, announced March 18 that it would consider supplying aircraft to the intervention, as did Norway, Denmark and Belgium.

By offering a cease-fire and inviting nongovernmental groups to conduct fact-finding missions, however, Gadhafi is betting that the European nations will lose the political justification for an attack and that political disagreements over military action within European nations can further weaken their already weak resolve. Europeans in general are war-weary from their involvement in NATO’s operations in Afghanistan. They only will support an intervention in Libya if Gadhafi clearly is committing gross violations of human rights. It will be difficult for Paris and London to prove that Gadhafi is indeed committing such acts or to ignore the cease-fire announcement or the invitation to verify it. The immediate reply from France was that it would deal with the cease-fire declaration with caution and that the threat on the ground was unchanged. But the backlash at home against an intervention in light of Gadhafi’s comments is not something European governments can overlook easily, especially since the most powerful EU member state, Germany, already has buckled under the domestic political strain and expressed skepticism toward a military operation.

Assuming Gadhafi follows through with the cease-fire, how it will affect his operations against the rebels remains in question. Gadhafi may feel the rebels have been suppressed such that he can mop up the remainder through police actions in urban settings. Alternatively, he may feel the rebels are so thoroughly entrenched in their stronghold of Benghazi that he cannot dislodge them under the threat of Western airstrikes — and is therefore cutting his losses and preserving the integrity of his forces from potential Franco-British-American air attacks. Ultimately, the cease-fire could be a delaying action while Gadhafi builds a stronger position around Benghazi. This would not be without risks, however, as it will give French and British air assets time to deploy in air bases in the Mediterranean, better positioning them to enforce a no-fly zone.

That said, the Security Council has authorized a no-fly zone, which means that while assaulting Gadhafi’s ground forces directly may be stalled by the cease-fire statement, establishing a no-fly zone is not. It is also likely that Europeans will respond to the statement with further demands on Gadhafi, such as that he must resign as leader of the country or that he must withdraw his troops from eastern Libya and possibly even other cities in the west that have seen fierce resistance, like Misurata and Zawiya. Both of these demands would be difficult for Gadhafi to accept. The establishment and enforcement of the no-fly zone may still go ahead, but attacking Gadhafi’s forces directly will become difficult in the immediate term.



Read more: Libya Crisis: Implications of the Cease-Fire | STRATFOR
25568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 18, 2011, 11:29:10 AM
WWWOOOFFF!!!
25569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: American History on: March 18, 2011, 11:28:25 AM
This is my essay from today’s NYT. (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/17/arts/design/in-the-south-civil-war-has-not-been-forgotten.html?scp=2&sq=edward%20rothstein&st=cse)
Ed

SOUTHERN HISTORY Visitors tour the Civil War exhibition at the Charleston Museum. More Photos »

By EDWARD ROTHSTEIN
Published: March 16, 2011
FORT SUMTER, S.C.

Stand atop the unexcavated mound of earth that covers part of this 19th-century fort and gaze northward over its half-disinterred ruins. Across the harbor, you can just make out the rooftops on which the inhabitants of Charleston stood 150 years ago this April, cheering as the fort — along with its some four score United States soldiers — was bombarded by the troops of the newly formed Confederate States of America. “A thrill went through the whole city,” wrote the aide de camp of the leader of the Confederate forces, Brig. Gen. Pierre Beauregard. “It was felt that the Rubicon was passed.”

It was the beginning of the Civil War. Or, as it is sometimes called here, the War Between the States. Or more provocatively: the War of Northern Aggression.

As commemorations of the war’s sesquicentennial begin this spring, with special exhibitions and symposia adding to the already extensive historical treatments that can be sampled at battlefields and museums reaching from Gettysburg to New Orleans, it might seem that the war’s heritage is relatively simple. As seen from a perch up North, the war’s purpose is morally and politically clear. Slavery’s abolition, like Lincoln’s powerful redefinition of the nation’s principles, set the United States on a path toward equality that it might have never found through antebellum thickets. The Civil War created contemporary America.

But spend some time in Southern museums, and it becomes clear that what seems evident up North is here clouded and contested. And if, in the North, the war seems part of a continuum of history, here it remains a cataclysm. The war was not a continuation of Southern history; it was a break in it. And that is still, for the South, the problem.

Even if Southern commemorations fully celebrate the Union that grew out of that war and readily repudiate slavery and its principles, disorientation is mixed with commemoration. The past is renounced, but not fully. The dead are remembered, but what about their cause? Nearly every war site and exhibition I have seen in the South wrestles with double perspectives and conflicting sentiments alien to the North.

Fort Sumter, for example, is a National Monument overseen by the National Park Service, primarily because of its importance in that inaugural battle. But it also has a different significance here. After defeating the Union soldiers, the Confederates held the fort almost to the end. For the South, Fort Sumter represented not just the start of the war, but one of the last hopes that it might prevail. At least five times during the war, the North tried to take Charleston, but the fort provided decisive protection. Eventually its fortifications and 50-foot-high walls were pounded to rubble. (“A stabilized ruin” is how the Park Service describes its current condition.) Charleston, also in ruins because of Union bombardment, ultimately fell after Gen. William T. Sherman cut a swath of devastation through the South.

This kind of devastation meant the experience of the war was quite different here. Soldiers from Massachusetts and Maine may have died, but the battlefields were far from home. The war really took place in the South. There were 43 major battles within 30 miles of Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederate States of America. This gave the South a deeper acquaintance with trauma and hardship. New York and Philadelphia were never subjected to a blockade as Charleston was. The Fort Sumter Visitor Education Center tells us:

“In Charleston, where inconveniences soon gave way to chronic difficulties and privations, the war prompted suffering, tenacity, ingenuity and great personal bravery.”

This theme also runs through the Charleston Museum’s treatment of the war in its extensive permanent exhibition about the state’s history. “Indiscriminate shelling of the city,” we read, “was one of the many factors which generated hatred of Northern forces among white Charlestonians.” And at the war’s end, the exhibition notes, General Sherman himself urged anybody who took such things lightly to go to Charleston “and he will pray louder and deeper than ever that the country may in the long future be spared any more war.”

Ramifications were widespread and are still evident. Middleton Place plantation, just northwest of Charleston, is now a national landmark owned by the Middleton Place Foundation. As the plantation’s guide book notes, its gardens reflect “the grace and grandeur of the southern plantation of the 18th and 19th centuries.” Henry, the first Middleton to own the land, was the second president of the First Continental Congress; his son Arthur signed the Declaration of Independence; his grandson Henry was governor of South Carolina. His great-grandson Williams was a signer of South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession, thus unraveling the work of his ancestors.

But the breaking of Southern history came not just with secession but with defeat — and the end of slavery. As you drive into Middleton Place you follow a long road through the grounds until you reach an enormous oval meadow. You expect to see a grand manor house at the far end, symmetrically framed by oaks draped in Spanish moss. Instead there is just an empty space, a flat foundation on which lie mounds of broken brick.

The house, it turns out, was burned and ransacked by the Union Army in 1865; a major earthquake in 1886 finished the job. So while the trappings of the Old South can be seen in the centuries-old trees and formal gardens, an emptiness lies at the plantation’s center. The effect is all the more pungent because many of the Middleton furnishings and art works were saved from the wreckage or returned by relatives and set out in a small “flanking house” on the side, where the riches of the once powerful clan can now be seen.

It wasn’t only the house that was left in ruins. Without slavery, the antebellum plantation was simply unsustainable, which meant that traditional views about social life, culture and status were also overturned. Surviving plantations ended up being cherished as artificial relics of antebellum culture. In tours, little reference was made to slavery or how the lives of slaves and of masters intertwined. Only during the last 20 years have plantations and historical homes started to devote serious attention to the exploration of the lives and roles of the enslaved.

It is a peculiar Southern twist: some plantations are almost becoming museums about their slave-holding past. This kind of rebellion against remnants of the Old South can be found in other institutions as well. The Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, N.C., for example, established itself in 1991 in direct opposition to the traditions of the Old South. Its exhibitions are about Southern history and culture, but it embraces modernity and egalitarianism and rejects nostalgia and sentimental guilt. Of course, this too is a reflection of cultural trauma: it involves a radical break with traditions, never a simple matter.

But there are also still places in the South where the sting of disastrous defeat and the lure of the Lost Cause stubbornly resist submission or reflection. In Charleston, the small Confederate Museum is run by the Daughters of the Confederacy, just as it was at its founding in 1899. It has an official imprimatur: it holds a long-term lease on one of the most visible city-owned buildings, Market Hall, which stands at the head of Market Street. Inside, you find relics from that Lost Cause, including items donated by Confederate soldiers and their families at the end of the 19th century: clothing, banners, weaponry, curios.

By defining itself so narrowly, the museum indulges in a kind of fetishism. In one display case is a ball — a round bullet — that we are told was removed from the neck of Lt. Col. C. Irvine Walker at the Battle of Atlanta. Another case shows a small silver matchbox and unstruck matches that belonged to Beauregard, who attacked Fort Sumter. There is even a sliver of cedar cut from the tree where Gen. Robert E. Lee’s tent was pitched at the time of his surrender at Appomattox.

There is no discussion of historical causes or effects, no narratives and no interpretation. There doesn’t need to be. These are treated as almost magical objects. A wooden gavel made in 1899 is displayed: its head comes from wood used in the White House of the Confederacy in Richmond, where President Jefferson Davis oversaw the fortunes of the Confederate States of America; the handle comes from the wooden platform on which the gun that fired the first shot at Fort Sumter rested. Can it be doubted what kinds of rulings that gavel was meant to enforce?

That museum is an extreme case: it avoids historical crisis by turning its back on history. Matters are far more responsibly presented at institutions like the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. That museum has a remarkable collection of objects and manuscripts; it has published research papers and lent objects to other institutions. But like Charleston’s museum, it grew out of personal memorabilia collected by the daughters and wives of Confederate soldiers. How could that heritage not affect the museum’s perspectives?

Its permanent exhibition, “The Confederate Years,” which I saw in 2008, recounts the history of the war’s Southern battles, accompanied by bullet-torn notebooks, weaponry and bloodstained uniforms. For the most part, it is simply history told from a particular geographical perspective. But there are also gnawing hints of unresolved tensions. A full accounting of the war’s causes is never given and the institution of slavery is minimized. Facts bend under pressure.

Lincoln, we read, wanted the war so badly he “succeeded in maneuvering the Confederacy into firing the first shot of the war.” The mobilization of the Confederate Army, we also read, involved the participation of “tens of thousands of African-American laborers” both “enslaved and free”; this is a strange wording implying broad black support, minimizing any hint of coercion and ignoring, too, the fact that nearly four million people — one-third of the South’s population — were then enslaved. But you can also feel hints of internal debates within the museum as differing exhibits express differing perspectives, sending out feelers, trying modifications.

Even after 150 years, this is not easy. At the Charleston Museum, there is a display of the furniture and artifacts associated with the composition of South Carolina’s Ordinance of Secession in 1860. At one time, these objects would have been sanctified, the way another museum might treat, say, Washington’s desk, or Lincoln’s stovepipe hat. And there still is an honorific aura bestowed on this Secessionist paraphernalia. But they occupy a strange middle ground: their status is a bit more historical than sacral. The exhibition never acknowledges Secession to have been a terrible mistake, but it also doesn’t fully embrace the idea of a Lost Cause.

You feel the strain in the museum’s attempt to explain “a Southern Perspective”: “What, many Southerners argued, was the advantage of remaining in a Union which did not protect their rights and interests?” But is this sympathetically posed or analytically asked? At times, the sympathy is apparent: “The story of Charleston in the War Between the States is one of suffering and sacrifice, ingenuity and tenacity, and great personal bravery of Americans in a time of total war.”

Yet the same exhibition is quite frank about other issues. And we learn, too, about the bizarre consequences South Carolina’s legal code could have when a black regiment of Union soldiers was captured. What was to be done with them? “There was no such thing as black soldiers,” a label reads. “Either the men were free blacks leading a slave revolt or they were slaves in rebellion. The penalty in either case was death or re-enslavement.”

As it turned out, when four former slaves among them were brought to trial, the courts ultimately supported the notion that they were to be treated as prisoners of war. But this meant that, even before its defeat, Southern axioms were being shaken.

So it is no surprise that accounts of the war remain quite different in the South and the North. In 2008, an exhibition about Generals Grant and Lee mounted by the Virginia Historical Society was to travel to the New-York Historical Society. But the New-York Historical Society believed the show had too strong a Southern perspective; it had to be reworked.

In 2009, the same two institutions created contrasting exhibitions about the abolitionist John Brown. In New York, he was championed as a hero for his abolitionist beliefs and attempts to oppose slavery. But in Virginia, while his cause was honored, questions were raised about his methods that went unasked in New York, including whether Brown’s raid on an arsenal, his taking of hostages and his murder of innocents made him more similar to contemporary terrorists than to other abolitionists. In New York, the justice of the cause trumped the method; in Virginia, it did not.

So striking are such differences that one museum, the American Civil War Center in Richmond, claims to tell the history of three different ideological parties to the war: the North, the South and the Slaves, or, as they are peculiarly called here, Union, Home and Freedom. The museum even labels maps and charts with the initials, U, H and F. The effect is strange because we can’t quite figure out how to evaluate the arguments. Great effort is made not to give offense to any party.

But is this really helpful? Aren’t there times when moral clarity and the justice of a cause must be identified and upheld? Will a civil war always have to be fought over the meanings of the Civil War? The history of the Civil War in the North is by no means a simple matter, and it too has come under revision, but Southern discomfort with assessing the Southern cause in memorials and exhibitions is rampant. And a tendency to embrace cultural relativism as a compromise ends up making it all seem fairly trivial.

These tendencies become particularly jarring at a place as important as Gettysburg. A recently constructed Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War offers an encyclopedic survey of the conflict, giving pride of place to Lincoln’s address. In addition, a 360-degree oil painting of the battlefield — a cyclorama — was reconditioned and mounted in its own gallery, offering a stunning panoramic vision of a battle that may have turned the tide of the war.

Gettysburg became important because of the Union victory there and because of Lincoln’s extraordinary tribute. Eventually regimental memorial monuments from Northern states were erected on the battlefield. But after the war, how could a unified nation exclude Southern memorials? Gettysburg had become a national site. So 50 years after the war, Southern states were permitted to erect memorials. The first, raised in 1917 by Virginia, was a triumphalist statue of Robert E. Lee mounted on his horse atop a towering pedestal. The last, which appeared in 1982, honored the veterans of Tennessee.

The result is strange. The defeat of the South here was the turning point of the war: one spot became known as the “high water mark of the Confederacy” because it was the closest Southern forces came to winning and putting the cities of the North at risk. But the Southern memorials do not generally affirm a unified view of a new nation. They insist on their own perspective as if nothing has changed. The South Carolina monument, dedicated in 1963, reads:

That men of honor might forever know the responsibilities of freedom.

Dedicated South Carolinians stood and were counted for their heritage and convictions.

Abiding faith in the sacredness of States Rights provided their creed.

Here many earned eternal glory.

The responsibilities of freedom? The sacredness of States Rights? Eternal glory earned for their creed? Where is the vision Lincoln affirmed, which ultimately triumphed? Gettysburg’s ground was hallowed because of the principles upheld. But such monuments are public declarations that turn the war itself into contested ground. And they don’t even try to comprehend the cause for which the Union dead gave the last full measure of devotion. The war over the War continues.

25570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China enabling Iran? on: March 18, 2011, 10:52:42 AM


http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/A/AS_MALAYSIA_SEIZED_CARGO?SITE=VTBEN&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
25571  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Not quite sure what to make of this , , , on: March 18, 2011, 10:45:11 AM


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/17/online-persona-management_n_837153.html
25572  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Amusing 1 vs. 3 on: March 18, 2011, 10:41:22 AM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4EULnkFuIw&feature=player_embedded
25573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Other Arab countries on: March 18, 2011, 08:18:26 AM
Following up on the preceding piece, I'm not saying I agree or disagree, but here's this from Roger Cohen, usually a reliable useful idiot for Pravdad on the Hudson, in a rare lucid moment:

LONDON — For years I watched a “no-fly zone” in Bosnia. I watched Bosnian Muslims being slaughtered as NATO patrolled the skies. The no-fly zone was created by the United Nations Security Council in October 1992. The Srebrenica massacre took place in July 1995. Enough said.

The Bosnian no-fly zone was an attempt to assuage Western consciences after the Serb killing spree against Muslims in the first six month of the war. It was not about saving lives: Lifting the grotesque arms embargo on Bosnia might have achieved that. It was about allowing politicians in Washington and Paris to feel they’d done something, however feeble, about genocide.

Having witnessed hypocrisy most foul in Bosnia — the West, in Margaret Thatcher’s words, became “accomplice to a massacre” — I refuse to will similar hypocrisy on the brave resistance fighters of Benghazi who face Muammar el-Qaddafi’s superior tanks, now moving relentlessly eastward. No-fly zones are for the birds.

The real question must be put up-front if the West’s Bosnian shame, its smokescreen of useless agitation, is not to get a Libyan re-run: Should President Barack Obama lead a coordinated, Arab League-backed Western military intervention in Libya to stop Qaddafi?

That’s a tough question. I would have found it easy right after Bosnia, when — like Leon Wieseltier of the The New Republic, but unlike him now — I was a passionate interventionist. I don’t today.

Life must be lived forward but can only be understood backward, as Kierkegaard noted. He might have added: “And if not, you’re in trouble.” Iraq and Afghanistan have provided powerful lessons in the cost of facile planning (or none), the ease of going in, the agony of getting out, and the limits of Western firepower.

But there’s another historical lesson. Rwanda paid the price for the botched U.S. intervention in Somalia. The 1994 Rwandan genocide took place as America did nothing in part because the fiasco of Somalia disinclined the United States to intervene. Can we then allow the fiasco of Iraq to prevent a Western intervention in Libya as the Qaddafi clan delivers “rivers of blood”?

It’s a prosaic exercise, but let’s set forth arguments for and against a Western military intervention:

Against:

1) The riveting moral power of the Arab Spring comes from its homegrown quality. This is about Arabs overcoming fear to become agents of their own transformation and liberation. Nothing would more quickly poison this movement at its wellspring than Western colonialism in new form (that’s how Qaddafi will portray it, and he will have an audience.)

2) U.S. intervention in Libya will reinforce the old argument that America only gets involved in the Middle East to secure its oil interests. It will end up hardening regional anti-Americanism.

3) The United States cannot afford a third war in a Muslim country. The very talk of Western intervention betrays a profound misunderstanding of the West’s declining power. When the Bosnian war broke out, major Western nations accounted for about 70 percent of the global economy. Now that figure is just over 50 percent — and falling. The “white man’s burden” is not history; it is ancient history.

4) Intervention will turn into a long military stalemate that will distract the West from what must be its core strategic objective: A decent democratic outcome in Egypt that, with more than 13 times the population of Libya, is the pivot of the Arab awakening.

5) The legality of any intervention may be dubious.

For:

1) Obama and other Western leaders cannot declare the objective of removing Qaddafi and then sit idly by as people rising to oust him get massacred. That’s as criminal as encouraging the Shiites of Iraq to resistance in 1991 and then watching them be slaughtered by Saddam.

2) Obama’s repeated pledges that he stands for universal human rights will be shredded if Qaddafi prevails. Just as the bombarded people of Sarajevo deserved American-backed firepower — which finally proved decisive in 1995 — so do the people of Benghazi.

3) Qaddafi, like Milosevic, is a weak bully. He’s fighting along a narrow strip of coastline. His support is shallow. Crater coast roads from warships in the Mediterranean, jam his communications, provide weapons and money and training to the ragtag resistance, and he will quickly crumble.

4) The Arab Spring across North Africa will be undercut at a critical juncture if Qaddafi is allowed to recover. Wounded, a cornered beast, he may then do his worst.

5) Qaddafi is a mass murderer who brought down Pan Am 103 (270 people aboard) and UTA 772 (170 aboard), crimes now reconfirmed by his justice minister. He has slaughtered thousands of his own people over decades. There could scarcely be a more powerful moral case for the elimination of a leader.

What’s clear to me is that there is no halfway house. Spurn conscience-salving gestures. The case against going in prevails unless the West, backed and joined by the Arab League, decides it will, ruthlessly, stop, defeat, remove and, if necessary, kill Qaddafi in short order. I’m skeptical that determination can be forged. Only if it can be does intervention make sense.

25574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Iran-Bahrain on: March 18, 2011, 12:44:40 AM
Iran Contemplates Its Next Move

On a day when there was no shortage of significant geopolitical events from Libya to Japan to Bahrain, STRATFOR continued to forecast the importance of Iran’s historic opportunity to remake the balance of power in the Persian Gulf region.

As daylight broke in Bahrain on Wednesday morning, Bahraini security forces, reinforced by the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council Joint Peninsula Shield Force mission, cleared protesters from Manama’s Pearl Roundabout. Forces used the usual volleys of tear gas on the crowds, but this time they also used live ammunition, leaving at least four demonstrators dead as black smoke hovered over the tent city at the square, which had gone up in flames. The crackdown included the Bahrain Financial Harbor and the Salmaniya Hospital, and also left two Bahraini security force members dead. By 4 p.m., when a curfew went into effect, Wednesday was the most violent day since the uprising in this small island nation began in mid-February.

“The more threatening the Iranians make themselves appear, particularly in Iraq, the more likely the United States is to reconsider its withdrawal plans and focus more heavily on militarily blocking Iran from further upsetting the regional balance of power.”
The fact that Saudi troops were involved only added to the anger felt by all sectors of the opposition. While the al-Khalifa (the Sunni minority) regime may have indeed requested the help, the protesters (predominately composed of Bahrain’s Shiite majority) did not, and view this as a foreign invasion. From the hard-line Shiite Coalition for a Republic, to the more moderate, Shiite mainstream opposition coalition led by Al Wefaq, the opposition was unified in condemnation of the security force methods. If ever there was an opportunity for the two Shiite camps in Bahrain to patch things up, this was it. But it became clear that a split remained when an Al Wefaq official released a statement that attempted to disassociate the movement from the demonstrations by denying it had called for further protests, and then urged its followers to stay home for their safety.

The major driver behind the GCC deployment was to counter Iran’s rising influence in the Persian Gulf. Tehran sees an opportunity to build on its successes in Iraq and shift the balance of power in eastern Arabia to favor the Shia. Iran’s best-case scenario in Bahrain is for the complete overthrow of the Sunni monarchy, and it’s focused primarily on that possibility. But that is not to say Iranians are not meddling elsewhere at the same time.

Saudi Arabia’s Shiite-dominated Eastern province is right across the causeway from Bahrain. The Eastern province also happens to be where the bulk of the Saudi kingdom’s oil fields are located, adding even more significance to the fact that there is a simmering protest movement there. It hasn’t led to much so far; last Friday’s “Day of Rage” was a rather modest affair compared to some of the other Friday prayer protests we’ve seen in the Arab world in recent months. But it has the Saudi regime on edge nonetheless, and no doubt played a factor in Riyadh’s decision to send troops to Bahrain.?

Iran does not have as much room to maneuver operationally in Saudi Arabia as it does in Bahrain, but that doesn’t mean Tehran hasn’t been trying. Indeed, one of the big reasons that Bahrain is such a critical proxy battleground is because of the potential for contagion to spread to the Arabian Peninsula should a revolution occur there. A few hundred protesters marching in Qatif and al-Hasa, the Saudis fear, could quickly transform into a few thousand. That is a scenario that the Saudi royals want to avoid at all costs, and so are resorting to extraordinary measures to clamp down in Bahrain, where key Shiite opposition figures (some of whom are known for their close ties to Tehran) are reportedly being arrested.

Iranians are much more comfortable in Iraq. Babylon is Persia’s true historic rival, and the competition between these two states long predates the emergence of Islam. The 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq War was the most recent engagement between the two, and drove home (once again) in Tehran just how large a strategic threat Iraq is for Iran. As a result, the Iranians spent years trying to build up their contacts among the Iraqi Shia, who were living under the rule of Saddam Hussein. Developing political, business, religious and militant links with the Iraqi majority was all part of an Iranian strategy that was built around waiting to seize the opportunity to rid Iraq of Sunni domination and establish a Shiite stronghold in the heart of the Arab world. That opportunity presented itself in 2003, when the United States toppled Saddam. Eight years later, the Iranians are ready and waiting to fill a vacuum left by the United States once it completes its scheduled withdrawal by summer’s end.

With a need to sustain the momentum that it has built in the Bahrain conflict, which was branded in part as an instance of U.S. interference, Iran is looking for other proxy battlegrounds to raise Shiite ire. Iraq is one arena in the Persian Gulf region where Iran has considerable room to maneuver. On Wednesday, for example, an estimated 2,000 followers of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr held demonstrations in Basra and Baghdad in solidarity with the Bahraini Shia, who were seen as being attacked by “Wahhabis,” as they view them, from Iran’s key rival, Saudi Arabia.

But there is still a cost-benefit analysis that Iran would have to make in deciding to meddle in Iraq on a significant level. The United States is not oriented to maintain a sufficient blocking force against Iran, and does not have the force structure in the region to effectively counter-balance the Iranians at a time when the Sunni Arab regimes are feeling under siege. The more threatening the Iranians make themselves out to be, particularly in Iraq, the more likely the United States is to reconsider its withdrawal plans and focus more heavily on militarily blocking Iran from further upsetting the regional balance of power. Tehran is thus left juggling between not doing enough (and therefore not sending the intended message to Washington and Riyadh that it is a powerful force in the region), and doing too much (which would risk forcing the Americans to stay in Iraq for longer than they had planned).

25575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Other Arab countries on: March 18, 2011, 12:41:03 AM
Libya and the U.N. No-Fly Zone

The U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to authorize “all necessary measures … to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, including Benghazi, while excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” The resolution banned “all flights in the airspace of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya in order to help protect civilians,” essentially setting up a no-fly zone. The resolution — and specifically the U.S. administration — are calling for the participation of Arab League members, with diplomatic sources telling AFP hours before the resolution passed that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates might take part. Five Security Council members abstained from the resolution: Russia and China (both permanent members holding veto power) joined by Germany, India and Brazil.

The Security Council resolution clearly invites concerned member states to take the initiative and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya. The most vociferous supporters of the resolution — France and the United Kingdom from the start and the United States in the last week — will now try to build a coalition with which to enforce such a zone. Including members of the Arab League appears important to all involved to give the mission greater legitimacy — and to keep the intervention from appearing like another Western-initiated war in the Muslim world.

As U.S. defense officials have repeatedly stated — and as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reiterated on Thursday while in Tunisia — enforcement of the no-fly zone will require more than just combat air patrol flights and will have to include taking out Libyan air defenses on the ground. With the nearest U.S. aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, still in the Red Sea and the French carrier Charles de Gaulle in port in Toulon — both some two days from Libya — French forces in southern France and potentially select air assets using Italian NATO bases, as well as six Marine Harriers aboard the Kearsarge (LHD-3), would have to make any initial strikes if actual military action is to happen soon. Italy has reversed course from its ambiguity on whether it would allow its air bases for enforcement of the no-fly zone, making available the U.S. Naval Air Station at Sigonella, Sicily, and the U.S. Air Base at Aviano. The U.N. support for airstrikes has made it difficult for Italy to keep hedging its policy on Libya.

“A hastily assembled no-fly zone with a clear limit to its mandate might simply push Gadhafi into a more aggressive posture toward the rebels and sow the seeds for long-term conflict in Libya.”
The question now is how quickly the United States, France and the United Kingdom can array their air forces in the region to make a meaningful impact on the ground in Libya. An anonymous French government official told AFP earlier on Thursday that bombing missions could begin within hours of the resolution’s passage. Whether this actually will be the case remains unclear, however. Gadhafi loyalists apparently are closing in on Benghazi and Tripoli has offered the international community a deal under which it would not engage rebels in Benghazi militarily, but instead would move police and counterterrorist forces into the town to disarm the rebels “peacefully.” Considering that Gadhafi’s forces have crossed the long stretch of desert between Tripoli and Benghazi and are threatening the rebel’s de facto capital, it is not clear how quickly any potential array of forces might rapidly assemble to change the situation on the ground from the air alone.

In fact, a hastily assembled no-fly zone with a clear limit to its mandate — no boots on the ground — might simply push Gadhafi into a more aggressive posture toward the rebels and sow the seeds for a more aggressive or long-term conflict in Libya. The rebels’ defensive lines have crumbled in the face of the loyalist onslaught, so the prospect of taking the already fractured rebels and forming a coherent offensive force from them is questionable at best. Even arming them better (and arms are not their primary problem) might well not change anything. If the no-fly zone and airstrikes fail to push Gadhafi’s forces back (and the prospects of that are also questionable), any alliance of air forces will have to begin targeting Gadhafi’s armored and infantry units directly, rather than just limiting themselves to striking air assets and air defense installations if there is to be any meaningful impact on the ground. This could rapidly draw the West deeper into the conflict, which could easily spur Gadhafi into a more violent approach against the rebels in Libya’s east. The no-fly zone thus might prevent Gadhafi from winning but not unseat him either, potentially drawing the conflict into a longer and deadlier affair. With the coalition, the mission and the degree of commitment by each contributor still so far unclear, there is also the real problem of how far each individual member wants to take this.

Another open question relates to Western unity on the decision. While France and the United Kingdom have been eager for such a step throughout, Italy and Germany have not.

For Italy, the situation is particularly complex. Rome has built a very strong relationship with Gadhafi over the past eight years. The relationship has been based on two fundamental principles, namely, that Italy would invest in Libyan energy infrastructure and that Tripoli would cooperate with Rome to ensure migrants from North and sub-Saharan Africa do not flood across the Mediterranean toward Italy. When it seemed as if Gadhafi’s days were numbered, Rome offered the use of its air bases for any potential no-fly zone. Italy was hedging to protect its considerable energy assets in Libya in case Gadhafi was overthrown and a new government formed by the Benghazi-based rebels took power. But as Gadhafi’s forces scored several successes over the past week, Rome, before the vote at the United Nations, had returned to its initial tacit support for the legitimacy of the Tripoli regime while still condemning human rights violations so as not to be ostracized by its NATO and EU allies. That Italian energy major ENI continues to pump natural gas to — as the company has alleged — provide the Libyan people with electricity, highlights this careful hedging. Now that Rome has thrown its support for the U.S.-French intervention, the stakes will be high for Italy. Gadhafi will have to be removed, as his continued presence in the country would put Rome’s considerable interests in Libya at risk.

For Germany, the issue is simple. Three German state elections are coming up in the next 10 days, with another three later in the year. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing an electoral fiasco, with a number of issues — from resignations of high-profile allies to mounting opposition over the government’s nuclear policy — weighing down on her government. With German participation in Afghanistan highly unpopular, it makes sense for Berlin to be cool toward any intervention in Libya. Germany abstained from the resolution, and its ambassador to the United Nations reiterated Berlin’s line, refusing to participate in the operations and calling any military operation folly that may go beyond airstrikes. This creates a sense that Europe itself is not entirely on the same page in Libya. Considering that the sinews that hold the NATO alliance together have begun to fray, it is not clear that a French-American intervention without clear support from Berlin is the best thing for the alliance at the moment.

Furthermore, it is not clear that Tripoli really needs an air force to reach the rebels, nor that Gadhafi’s forces are sufficiently exposed, enabling surgical airstrikes to cripple them. Airstrikes are not a tool with which one can resolve urban warfare, and Gadhafi may very well decide to precipitate such warfare now that the West is bearing down on him. This may mean that for the U.S.-French intervention to work, the West would have to become far more involved.

Now that the West has decided to square off with Gadhafi, it may not be able to disengage until he is defeated. A Libya — or even only Western Libya or even just Gadhafi stewing in his Tripoli fortress — ruled by a Gadhafi spurned by his former “friends” in Western Europe could be quite an unstable entity only few hundred miles from European shores. Gadhafi already has threatened to turn the Mediterranean into a zone of instability for Western military and civilian assets if foreign forces attack him. He has a history of using asymmetrical warfare — i.e., supporting terrorism throughout the 1980s — as a strategic tool. A belligerent Gadhafi looking to strike across the Mediterranean is not something Europe can permit. The decision to enforce the no-fly zone may therefore very quickly devolve into a need to remove Gadhafi from power via more direct means.

25576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Live radiation monitoring on: March 17, 2011, 10:40:07 PM


http://www.enviroreporter.com/2011/03/enviroreporter-coms-radiation-station/
25577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: A Saudi letter to his king on: March 17, 2011, 08:48:04 PM


By KHALID ALNOWAISER
Your Majesty,

As a Saudi national, I am writing to say how pleased I am to see that you've returned to the Kingdom after successful medical treatment. I am sure this feeling is shared by all Saudis, since your citizens not only hold you in high esteem, but view you as the symbol of stability in our country.

Having said that, please permit me to express my concern about the many challenges that now face Saudi Arabia. As you know, the entire Middle East is experiencing profound political turmoil. Regional events have shown that the power of any political system depends upon how strong, peaceful and transparent the relationship is between a regime and its people.

Notwithstanding some positive steps taken in recent years, reform has too often not been achieved. Given recent events, our country needs to make meaningful changes, and we need to do so urgently.

A first step would be to establish institutions that can be real partners with the government. The reformation of the Shura Council in 1993 was a move in the right direction, but in its current form it is not up to the huge challenges that the country faces. We need an effective council that can take part in political decision-making. This can be achieved only if the council members are popularly elected rather than appointed. An effective council will not threaten the regime but rather will help reduce its huge responsibilities.

Like any other successful country, Saudi Arabia must have a social contract that clearly defines the rights and obligations of individuals and the government. This will never be accomplished until there is a formal national constitution. Without one, personal freedom is not guaranteed, which causes social unrest.

The holy Quran is not a constitution, since a constitution is the product of human beings. By contrast, the Quran is the creation of Allah—though it must form the main basis of our constitution since Saudi Arabia is the birth place of Islam.

It's also time to take the initiative to educate Saudis about political rights. This will allow the Kingdom to differentiate itself from other countries where repression exists. Greater political rights will lead to more political stability. Simply stated, if a person knows his political rights, he can work with his government to build the nation. If not, he may be easily solicited by terrorist groups.

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AFP/Getty Images
 
Saudi children celebrate King Abdullah's arrival in Riyadh last month.
.Economically, we need realistic strategies to solve the Kingdom's chronic problems. Though strategic development plans are announced with great fanfare, they accomplish little. The central management approach adopted by the government should be reconsidered, and regional authorities must be given more power over their affairs. Decentralization should reduce bureaucratic inefficiencies and limit situations like the flooding of Jeddah in 2009 and 2011, in which scores died because the city lacks a decent sewage system. This, despite the fact that we are a wealthy nation sitting on 25% of the world's oil reserves.

Our over-dependence on oil revenue is another important issue that needs to be addressed. We must stop relying on rising oil prices and focus instead on creating alternative sources of revenue.

Current unemployment, as much as 40% among Saudi youth, persists despite efforts to privilege Saudi workers over foreign ones. The housing situation is also dire—it's unacceptable to see one person who owns vast areas of land, while others struggle to afford a basic home. For the sake of political stability and the future of the country, we need to take the issue of wealth distribution seriously.

The recent measures (worth $36 billion) taken by your Majesty for the benefit of Saudis are welcome. Although Saudis appreciate your generosity, our concern is that this may result in a society that is more dependent on the government and less willing or able to rely upon individual initiatives. What all Saudis need—especially our youth—are opportunities, jobs, hope and real political, economic and civil reforms that promote productivity and build up Saudi Arabia.

To establish principles for respecting the law and the legal system, our courts must undergo a major review. This can be achieved by developing effective regulations, promoting accountability and transparency, and combating corruption (which has spread in an unprecedented way) so citizens can continue to trust the government. I hope that Your Majesty's excellent initiative in providing $2 billion aimed at developing the Kingdom's legal system will result in a totally independent constitutional court, which would be a valuable addition to the judiciary.

In terms of education, we need to develop a modern system that cannot be meddled with by anyone—especially those who want the country to continue to live in the past. Philosophy, logic, arts, languages and other modern sciences must be promoted and be part of the mandatory curriculum beginning in elementary school.

Socially, some serious decisions need to be made, particularly with respect to women. Women must have equal opportunity and the rights that men enjoy. Disregarding issues of gender equality will not serve the long-term interests of the country and will only cause discontent and compromise public security.

The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, which monitors the personal behavior of women and youth, is totally unacceptable, not only for a country that is a member of the G-20 but for any country that exists in the 21st century. It's time to abolish this commission in its entirety, especially since its practices clearly violate the 1948 U.N. Declaration of Human Rights, which entitles every individual to freedom and dignity.

The current religious rhetoric in our country is outmoded and is sending the wrong message to the world about our progress. I urge Your Majesty to intervene and take the necessary action to reflect the true and positive picture of Islam and Saudi Arabia, and not to allow those who are using religion as a tool to infringe people's rights and freedoms.

In light of the Internet and satellite TV, it is now impossible to hide what happens inside any country. Thus, we need to act proactively rather than defensively to protect our homeland from the political turmoil roiling the Middle East. I am certain that Your Majesty will, with your wisdom, enlightened leadership, and full faith in the Saudi people, make the right decisions for our beloved country.

Mr. Alnowaiser is a lawyer based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

25578  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Die diabetics, die! on: March 17, 2011, 08:41:17 PM
WSJ:

The future tragedies of government health care will include today's many warnings about how it operates in practice. The subsidize-mandate-overregulate insurance model is imploding in Massachusetts. Then there's Washington state, where a government board may decide that modern medicine is too expensive for kids with diabetes.

Seriously. In 2006, Washington created a board to scrutinize the cost-effectiveness of various surgeries and treatments, known as the Health Technology Assessment program. At a hearing today, the panel will debate glucose monitoring for diabetic children under 18. In other words, the board is targeting the fundamental standard of diabetes care that has been the established medical consensus for at least three decades.

This state issue deserves far more scrutiny, if only because ObamaCare and the stimulus devoted billions of dollars to comparative effectiveness research. As President Obama has so often put it, the idea is to pit Treatment X against Treatment Y and find out "what works and what doesn't." In theory, it sounds great. But the Health Technology Assessment is an example of how comparative effectiveness will work in the real world, as the political system tries to find ways to restrict or limit treatment to control entitlement spending.

View Full Image

Getty Images
 .Diabetes affects the body's secretion of insulin, the hormone that metabolizes sugar, and most kids with type 1 diabetes take multiple daily insulin injections or use insulin pumps. The best way to manage this chronic disease is with frequent self-monitoring and then calibrating the insulin dose to current blood-sugar levels. Patients do so either with finger sticks that are read by an electronic meter or continuous glucose monitors that track blood sugar levels virtually in real time.

The Health Technology Assessment has homed in on both technologies, claiming that the "effectiveness and optimal frequency of self-monitoring of blood glucose in patients is controversial." Not among physicians. But in a recent report, the panel suggests that there isn't enough "evidence" to support monitoring among childhood and adolescent diabetics, and that the randomized controlled trials that have been conducted aren't high quality.

Such a trial would violate medical ethics: A group of children would essentially be required to not monitor glucose—putting them at risk for long-run complications from too high or low blood sugar, including seizures and even death. Following a landmark 1993 trial on tight glycemic control, and the vastly improved outcomes since, the clinical benefits of intensive management are irrefutable.

Except, apparently, to a government board looking to scrimp. Washington's Health Technology Assessment makes decisions for state-subsidized health care, including Medicaid beneficiaries, public employees and prisoners—about 750,000 people. If it bans continuous monitors or limits finger sticks to a certain daily number at today's hearing, pediatric patients and their parents will lose the tools—and the more and better information—they need to manage their disease.

The most compelling reason to be worried about comparative effectiveness research is simple. Randomized trials are designed to find average results over large groups of people, but doctors do not treat averages. They care for individuals, and what works for the typical patient may not work for you or your diabetic child.

More to the point, as shown by the arbitrary Washington state method, political comparative effectiveness isn't about informing choices. It's really about taking away options. Note that all of the largest U.S. health insurers that Democrats like to claim hate treating sick people—Aetna, Cigna, WellPoint, UnitedHealth—cover diabetes self-monitoring. So do the local plans Premera Blue Cross and Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Which brings us from Washington state to Washington, D.C. The Health Technology Assessment program's director, Leah Hole-Curry, was appointed last year as a governor of the comparative effectiveness board established by ObamaCare. The national board is known as the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, yet at an early meeting in November, Ms. Hole-Curry and the other 14 governors debated whether or not patients were the institute's "primary constituents."

Now this agenda is on autopilot. The institute is built on self-executing funding—that is, not subject to annual appropriations like other federal programs—and dedicated taxes on insurers. At the very least Americans deserve some honesty about who these people are and what they favor.

25579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sounds expensive , , , on: March 17, 2011, 07:37:17 PM
Group of 7 Plans Intervention in Currency Markets to Stabilize Yen

The United States and other major economies will join Japan
in a highly unusual effort to stabilize the value of the yen
by intervening in currency markets, the Group of 7 nations
announced Thursday night in a joint statement.

Read More:
http://www.nytimes.com?emc=na
25580  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Continuing Budget Resolution a mistake? on: March 17, 2011, 04:32:51 PM


WHY THE RECENTLY-PASSED CONTINUING BUDGET RESOLUTION WAS A MISTAKE - POSTED AT REDSTATE.COM

Posted by Russ Vought (Profile)

Wednesday, March 16th at 7:10PM EDT

12 Comments
Keith Hennessey critiqued opponents of the short-term CR making the case that our intransience is hurting the cause. It has been endlessly forwarded around to conservatives since yesterday. Keith argues that the short-term strategy is better because it allows the spending cut coalition to avoid the pitfalls of a public shutdown fight.

He argues that conservatives who disagree either have no strategic plan and/or want to reward themselves individually or merely play to their conservative base. Keith then argues that such conservative discontent should be channeled to “ratchet up the spending cuts in the next CR” or to “choose one funding limitation and insist that it be included.” But the gist is that conservative opponents don’t have “a complete and viable alternative strategy,” and thus instead of discarding the short-term game, it’s better to just add to the list of demands.

I respect Keith a lot. When I was cutting my teeth as a legislative aide in the Senate, Keith was one of the big dogs, and then went on to bigger and better things in the Bush White House. However, I think these arguments—because of their prevalence in Leadership and establishment circles—need to be unpacked and responded to. Read on.

FIRST, our viable alternative strategy is to force Senate Democrats to pass a bill. Currently, the very willingness of Republicans to do the short-terms absolves both Senate Democrats and the President of any responsibility. The House acted. It passed H.R. 1. The Senate has not. Harry Reid has essentially thrown up his hands and said that he can’t pass anything (notwithstanding the fact that he claims to run the Senate). We all know that he can pass something. Until the Senate passes legislation, real Congressional negotiations cannot begin. Not unlike their Wisconsin state colleagues, Democrats must participate to have a say. Harry Reid, Dick Durbin, and Chuck Schumer are not, and the short-term strategy is letting them get away with it. Furthermore, it’s letting the White House get away with staying above the fray. Keith thinks this is a good thing, but why? Obama has an advantage for sure, but this debate is not a foregone conclusion, and conservatives operating on principle have bested Obama repeatedly since he has been President.

SECOND, Republicans can and must message the following argument:

a) Democrats controlled both the Presidency and the Congress and were unable to pass a budget, leaving a portion of the responsibility to Republicans.

b) House Republicans passed H.R. 1 to fully fund the government, make a down-payment of a mere $61 billion in cuts in the face of a $1.5 trillion deficit, and limit some of the main excesses of the current federal government (Planned Parenthood, EPA, Obamacare, etc.).

c) Democrats have not responded. The Democrat Senate Majority refuses to pass not just the right bill, but any bill. And the White House sent their chief negotiator to Europe and is spending more time filling out their NCAA brackets then getting serious about their shared responsibility to fund the government. Who is unserious here?

Can we be successful in making this argument while Obama has the bully pulpit? Well, what arguments have we failed to win against the Obama bully pulpit in the last two plus years? Think of the big fights that we have had with Obama—stimulus, cap-and-trade, his budgets, and of course, Obamacare. He had the bully pulpit. We won the argument. It takes message discipline, but it can be done.

THIRD, Keith is overselling the current strategy as a “complete and viable” strategy. He states that Democrats are more afraid of a shutdown than Republicans. That is simply not true. Sure, Democrats don’t want to shut the government down over $4-6 billion in cuts because they know they can’t sell that to anyone, especially when many of the cuts were proposed by their President. However, Senators Durbin and Schumer are all but rooting for a shutdown, while Congressional Republicans are petrified of that prospect.

The mere fact that no new riders were attached to the current three-week CR is evidence of that fear. For example, House Republicans had considered re-instating the Dornan Amendment (not exactly a “new” rider, I know) to bar federal and local DC funds from being used to fund abortions, as included in H.R. 1. President Obama previously signed legislation that included this rider before Democrats weakened the language in the last appropriations cycle. Republicans removed it because they were worried about giving the Democrats an opportunity to claim they were attempting to jam thru a “policy” agenda, using deficit concerns as a pretext. Simply put, the party that quakes at the thought of a shutdown has the least amount of leverage, thus Democrats have the most until Republicans find a spine. This weakness will not be on display on this three-week extension, but it will be when Republicans start packaging substantial cuts that Democrats refuse to accept. Part of the strategic reason to oppose short-terms is to regain the leverage in this fight, and to do that, you simply must be prepared to shut the government down. Not rooting for it, but prepared for it. Diplomacy without the threat of military force does not work.

FOURTH, our strategy will lead to more cuts and more riders. Currently, the short-terms are not securing any riders. Even Keith’s suggestion of attaching an EPA rider can’t happen on an upcoming short-term, because the fear of a shutdown has reduced their leverage to demand it. What about more cuts than the $2 billion per week that each short-term seem to contain? It’s important to remember a few things here. Some of these cuts are illusory. For instance, in the current short-term, of the $6 billion in cuts, $1.7 billion was to rescind excess money that was not used for the census and was not going to be spent. That is not a real cut. Others were proposed by Democrats. In addition, with every short-term extension, it makes it harder to get the full cuts that remain because there are less remaining weeks to absorb whatever haircut is being demanded. Remember when House Leadership was saying that they couldn’t cut more because they had to “pro-rate” the $100 billion for seven months? It wasn’t much of an argument at the time, but with every new short-term it is more credible.

Most importantly, as Keith points out, conservatives have exactly three leverage points to demand concessions from Democrats over the next year: a long-term FY11 CR, a debt limit increase, and the FY12 appropriations bills. Already this three-week extension will expire on April 8, the same week that Rep. Paul Ryan is unveiling his FY12 budget. The other side knows that they are best served by one big grand bargain—thus their “rope-a-dope” strategy. Conservatives need to understand they will get more concessions by keeping these three opportunities separate. That maximizes our leverage for more cuts and limited government riders.

FIFTH, it’s important to remember that most opponents of the CR have both principled and strategic reasons for their position. When you go out and promise voters that you are going to dismantle and defund Obamacare and Planned Parenthood, and then you exclude these issues from the negotiations on the first must-pass bill, then you’re not being very principled. Also, pretending that these short-term opponents do not have a political strategy or an endgame is simply to ignore the arguments we continue to make.

All of this requires Republicans to act and talk as if they understand the seriousness of our fiscal crisis. $2 billion here, $6 billion there does not accomplish that. They need to restore leverage to the negotiations with a willingness, but not a desire to shut the government down. They need to win the daily argument for why Democrats are fundamentally unserious about cutting spending and have chosen to repeatedly run out the clock instead. They can’t do that with the present strategy.

Republicans need to dig deep and embrace the sort of brinksmanship that shows they are playing to win.

Crossposted at Heritage Action for America

25581  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Rest in Peace on: March 17, 2011, 03:45:39 PM
Haven't read EAKAT, but did enjoy HT's HAs many years ago.

Also part of that crew was Ram Dass.  Is he still alive?
25582  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Libya on: March 17, 2011, 03:33:47 PM
Military Analyst Nathan Hughes discusses Libyan rebel forces’ inability to mount a meaningful resistance against loyalist forces, as well as the effect this has on the international community’s options for dealing with Libya.


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

Gadhafi’s forces are rolling back rebel positions in sustained military operations, simultaneously consolidating control over former rebel strongholds along the western coast while advancing eastward along the Gulf of Sidra.

At the beginning of the month, signs of indecisive skirmishes and a potential stalemate began to emerge between Gadhafi’s forces in the west and opposition forces in the east. Since then, loyalist forces have begun to seize the initiative and gain momentum in their operations pushing eastward. As Gadhafi’s forces have advanced eastward through Ras Lanuf and to Marsa el Brega, while simultaneously consolidating control over Zawiya, and closing on Misurata in the west. There has been little sign of meaningful military resistance from the rebels. What initially appeared like indecisive thrusts and raids into rebel-held territory are increasingly looking like sustained and decisive assaults backed by armored artillery.

What isn’t exactly clear right now is what sort of resistance these forces have faced. Clearly, the rebels have not produced sustained resistance or slowed the advance of Gadhafi’s forces. However, it’s not clear how much fighting there has been, compared to how much Gadhafi’s forces are merely continuing to move eastward and consolidating a route where there has been little resistance at all.

The place to watch right now is the town of Ajdabiya. From there, nothing stands between loyalist forces and the rebel capitol of Benghazi. From here, the road actually splits, running directly to Benghazi, and, also, the rebel-held stronghold at Tobruk. This is the last energy export facility still decisively in rebel hands. It also complicates the battle problem for the rebels, whereas Gadhafi’s forces have been advancing eastward on a single axis: the road along the coast. This now gives the loyalist forces the opportunity to advance on two separate axes, and it very seriously complicates the rebel’s defensive problem.

Even if Gadhafi does pacify the cities in the east — and that alone could well take months — the rebels retain the opportunity of turning to an insurgency, especially now that they’ve become well-armed with Libyan military supplies. Meanwhile, the international response has gotten more vocal, but the incentive remains to talk big and act small. It’s far from clear what military intervention of any sort, or military support of any sort, might actually achieve in Libya. The situation is rapidly evolving, and the rebel defensive lines have already collapsed in many cases. So it’s not clear what’s to be gained from any sort of actual involvement at this point.

The problem for the international community is that at the beginning of the month, they were beginning to see a split stalemate scenario between east and west or even post-Gadhafi scenarios. The reverse is becoming increasingly possible, where Gadhafi may again return to power and control of the entire Libyan state. And so, the challenge may now be for the international community to backtrack, if they want to be able to deal with the consolidated Libya controlled by Gadhafi once more.

25583  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Rep tax rate cut proposed! on: March 17, 2011, 02:53:57 PM
By JOHN D. MCKINNON
The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee wants to cut the top U.S. tax rate to 25% for individuals and corporations, and cut or eliminate many popular deductions.


The odds of quick action appear slender. But the move, from Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.), is significant as a marker in what will likely be a multiyear debate over revamping the tax code. The plan also provides Republicans with a position to pitch in the 2012 election, a campaign that promises to focus heavily on the economy and jobs.


Mr. Camp told The Wall Street Journal an overhaul of the unwieldy tax code is an essential element in stimulating both economic growth and job formation.

"America needs a tax code that promotes, not prevents, job creation," he said. "Today's code is simply too complex, too costly and too burdensome for families and employers of all sizes to comply with.…We need to set ambitious goals and work toward those, because if we don't try that will be the biggest failure of all."

Mr. Camp's tax overhaul isn't designed to specifically cut the U.S. budget deficit. Overall tax revenues would remain at recent average levels, or about 18% to 19% of gross domestic product, committee aides said.

Some lawmakers want to raise tax revenue as part of a fiscal fix that also includes long-term reductions in entitlement spending growth. A deficit-reduction panel set up by President Barack Obama last year recommended lowering top tax rates to 28%, in one scenario, while increasing federal tax revenue to about 21% of GDP.

Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, a top Ways and Means Democrat, said Mr. Camp's proposal faces difficult going. "As long as tax reform is offered in the abstract, everyone rallies to the cause," Mr. Neal said. "When it becomes specific, people start to fall off."

Current top tax rates for corporations and individuals stand at 35%, although many people and businesses pay lower effective rates due to a range of deductions and other breaks.


Many Democrats also have voiced support for lowering tax rates, particularly for corporations. In his State of the Union address, President Barack Obama expressed support for lowering corporate tax rates while closing loopholes and other special breaks. The president also talked about the need to simplify the individual code. Mr. Obama's budget proposes raising taxes on high-income earners after 2012, however.

White House and Treasury officials have focused on achieving corporate-level reform in the near term. That's a strategy that could spare corporations from some of the pressures of deficit reduction. The White House declined to comment on Mr. Camp's proposal.

Tax experts said lowering tax rates to 25% might require Congress to find $2 trillion in new revenue over a decade if Mr. Camp wants to offset the entire cost, reflecting the magnitude of the rate changes. Aides said the rate reductions would be achieved by reducing or eliminating tax deductions and credits.

Aides didn't specify which ones would be targeted. The largest deductions include those for home-mortgage interest and state and local taxes, and the exclusion of employee health care from income. Big corporate breaks include accelerated depreciation deductions and a tax break for domestic production.

Michael Ettlinger, vice president for economic policy at the liberal Center for American Progress, said the plan would produce unsustainably high deficits because neither political party is able to make spending cuts that would allow the U.S. to function on the tax income Mr. Camp's plan suggests. "There is no way we can provide anywhere near the services that the public demands at those levels of taxes," Mr. Ettlinger said.

Mr. Camp and his Senate counterpart, Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.), have ordered studies of some elements of the current tax code, including tax treatment of debt versus equity financing, as well as tax treatment of certain financial derivatives.

A tax overhaul is emerging as an increasingly urgent goal. Businesses complain that federal tax rates are among the highest in the world, following years of reductions in Europe and Asia. That is hurting U.S. multinationals' competitiveness overseas and tamping foreign investment in the U.S., analysts say.

At the same time, policymakers are eager to boost U.S. growth, not only to generate jobs at home but also to increase federal tax receipts and reduce government budget deficits.

The top U.S. tax rate for both individuals and corporations has been 35% for most of the past decade since President George W. Bush pushed through his big tax cut for individuals in 2001. Previously, the top rate for individuals was 39.6%. Mr. Obama proposes to return the rate for individuals to 39.6%.An analysis by the conservative Heritage Foundation concluded that reducing the corporate rate to 25% would help generate more than 500,000 jobs a year over the coming decade.

Write to John D. McKinnon at john.mckinnon@wsj.com
25584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / inflation numbers on: March 17, 2011, 01:47:59 PM
Some numbers in here that disconcert: some because they are so much cheerier than my sense of reality and some because even these numbers are starting to admit a real serious problem.


The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.5% in February To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 3/17/2011


The Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased 0.5% in February, more than the consensus expected gain of 0.4%. The CPI is up 2.1% versus a year ago.

“Cash” inflation (which excludes the government’s estimate of what homeowners would charge themselves for rent) was up 0.7% in February and is up 2.6% in the past year.
 
The majority of the increase in the CPI in February was due to energy, which increased 3.4%.  Food prices were up 0.6%.  Excluding food and energy, the “core” CPI increased 0.2%, higher than consensus expectations. Core prices are up 1.1% versus last year.
 
Real average hourly earnings – the cash earnings of all employees, adjusted for inflation – fell 0.5% in February and are down 0.4% in the past year. Due to an increase in work hours, real weekly earnings are up 0.2% in the past year.
 
Implications:  Consumer price inflation is accelerating, rising 0.5% in February. Although consumer prices are up only 2.1% in the past year, they’re up at a 3.9% annual rate in the past six months and a 5.6% rate in the past three months. We like to follow “cash inflation,” which is everything in the CPI except for owners’ equivalent rent (the government’s estimate of what homeowners would pay if they rented their own homes). Cash inflation increased 0.6% in January and is up at a 7% annual rate in the past three months.  shocked shocked shocked Even “core” inflation, which excludes food and energy, is accelerating. Core prices rose 0.2% for the second straight month and are up at a 1.8% annual rate in the past three months. With easy money from the Fed, we expect persistent increases in the CPI throughout 2011 and beyond. In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment insurance declined 16,000 last week to 385,000.  The four-week moving average fell to 386,000, the lowest since July 2008.  Continuing claims for regular benefits declined 80,000 to 3.71 million.  The labor market continues to improve and private sector payrolls will continue to move higher.
25585  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post: Reality Check on: March 17, 2011, 01:37:03 PM
Reality Check
BIG Meltdowns Imperiling the U.S.
"If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation." --Samuel Adams

The surfeit of images documenting human suffering and destruction in Japan after the 11 March Tohoku Earthquake and resulting tsunami is dreadful. Though the estimated 10,000 dead in Japan pales in comparison to the more than 200,000 dead in the Haitian earthquake of January 2010, the implications of the unfolding crisis, and its consequences for the 1.5 million Japanese men, women and children now homeless is staggering. Complicating matters is that, as of this writing, almost one-third of Japan's energy production capability is disabled, which is to say that providing basic resources and services for all of Japan is increasingly difficult.

Additionally, the crisis has significant implications for critical U.S. national security objectives and operations in the region, including containment of North Korea and counterbalance to the rapidly growing Chinese deepwater naval threat.

Japan is a vital national security ally in Asia and host to several major U.S. military staging and support bases. Under the post-WWII Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, the U.S. is committed to providing Japan with maritime and ballistic missile defense and disaster response capabilities. In return, the U.S. maintains a major military presence for deployment in the region, including the Seventh Fleet based in Yokosuka, Air Force fighter squadrons at Misawa and Kadena and the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force at Okinawa. More than 35,000 uniformed military personnel and another 5,000 DoD employees compose U.S. forces in Japan.

All that notwithstanding, on the day of the disaster in Japan, Barack Hussein Obama responded with a golf outing (his 61st as president) followed by an evening hobnobbing with major donors and his media sycophants at the annual Gridiron Dinner. While horrifying images of the quake and tsunami were seen around the world, Obama kept to his schedule, unwilling to interrupt it long enough to support Japanese leadership via the basic gesture of a reassuring interview with its national news service, NHK. He did find time, however, to record a presidential address on "Women's History Month."

To be fair, Obama issued a brief statement through the White House communications office: "Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to the people of Japan... The friendship and alliance between our two nations is unshakeable..."

"UNSHAKEABLE"? Perhaps he meant to say, "The friendship and alliance between our two nations will never melt down..." Who could make this stuff up?

By contrast, recall, if you will, 8 January, the day Arizona Democrat Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was among those shot by a sociopath, who killed six others. As that event unfolded Obama's PR team released real-time photos of their boss looking very "presidential" in the White House Situation Room, the intelligence management center run by the National Security Council staff.

Apparently, the crisis in Japan offered no immediate opportunity to convert tragedy into political triumph as did the attack in Tucson, so his tee time took precedence.

In the days since the Tohoku Earthquake, Obama has agreed to several televised interviews, all with domestic TV stations in 2012 election battleground states. Oh, and he took time to fill out his March Madness brackets and share his NCAA tournament picks with an ESPN reporter and camera crew before he and the First Family are head off to sunny Rio de Janeiro for the weekend. (Sometimes it is hard to distinguish Obama's lifestyle from that of a lucky lotto winner, except that the lotto winner is spending his winnings, not taxpayer earnings.)


On the other hand, the Leftmedia is using the "nuclear meltdown" at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants as political fodder derail efforts to jumpstart the U.S. nuclear power industry.

However, the greatest nuclear threat to the continental United States is not a power plant meltdown, but the detonation of a fissile nuclear device in a U.S. urban center by jihadi terrorists. Given the meltdown in the Middle East; power struggles in Egypt and Libya; growing unrest in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Algeria, Djibouti, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen; and an emboldened enemy in Iran, the probability for a nuclear attack against the U.S. or against one of our key Western allies has increased significantly.

A quick reality check reveals a direct correlation between dramatically increased instability in the Middle East and Barack Obama's AWOL response to crises in the region. His weakness and timidity and the consequential perception of diminished American influence in the region and around the world are an enormous threat to U.S. national security. (As you may recall, we're also trying to manage a warfront in Afghanistan and ensure stability in Iraq.)

Closer to home, there's a war on our southern border, and it's out of control. For the record, there were more civilians murdered by warring drug factions in one Mexican border town, Ciudad Juarez, adjoining El Paso, Texas, in 2010, than were murdered by Taliban and jihadi forces in all of Afghanistan last year.

Obama is AWOL in that crisis, too, except for a few calls for additional gun control measures on this side of the border -- as if that were going to end violence in Mexico.

Despite all this, the most serious threat to U.S. national security is the meltdown of the U.S. economy orchestrated by Obama and his Democratic Socialists. Obama's radical mentors and benefactors must be proud!

In the words of the inimitable Yogi Berra, "This is like déjà vu all over again." Barack Obama's "leadership" is a redux of Jimmy Carter's ineptitude, but the consequences in terms of international threats, critical energy issues and an imploding domestic economy are far more perilous this time around.

Obama's domestic and international debacles leave one nostalgic for a real president, one with a clear vision for restoring America to her greatness, a national leader in the mold of Ronald Reagan. Fortunately, there are some contenders on the horizon, and there is still time to raise one up.

The next president must possess the leadership attributes that Obama sorely lacks. In the words of Samuel Adams, he must be a man "of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth," in order that "our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation."

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post

25586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, & the US Dollar on: March 17, 2011, 10:53:54 AM
Why would Drudge do that?
25587  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Saracen Intl deal in Somalia on: March 17, 2011, 02:22:52 AM


http://www.warisbusiness.com/2637/features/deal-of-the-month/saracen-international-somalia/
25588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 17, 2011, 02:14:25 AM
At the moment it appears "flight to safety" dynamics are driving rates down somewhat, but in the longer run IMHO rates will rise, which will cause rates to rise further due to the rate rise worsening our debt and deficit contradictions.  I see a vicious cycle in the making.  I've read pieces saying that the Fed will keep QE 2 going (will it become QE 3? 4? 6? 9?) at least through the end of the year, but at some point it must end , , , and then the chickens will come home to roost.

Of course that ignores events in the mid-east, or less buying by the Chinese (now running a trade deficit?!) and the Japanese, which may well dramatically accelerate what I see as being already in the pipeline.
25589  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bahrain's kleptocracy on: March 17, 2011, 02:08:33 AM
By SIMON HENDERSON
It is easy to see where Bahrain went wrong. It is much more difficult to figure out how to make it go right.

An indigenous Shiite Muslim population outnumbers Sunni citizens by two-to-one, but Shiites are socially and economically discriminated against by the Sunni ruling family. Despite little oil wealth, the al-Khalifa family has evolved over the past 10 years from a benign dictatorship into what often seems like an institutionalized kleptocracy.

The small island in the Persian Gulf, sandwiched between the mainland of Saudi Arabia and the peninsula of Qatar, is the latest Arab state to be swept by this winter's political winds of change. But it is no Egypt or Tunisia, where sweeping away the elderly dictator and his immediate family allows for a fresh start.

Demographically, Bahrain can be likened to Saddam Hussein's Iraq. Saddam's Iraq also had a majority Shiite Muslim population; his notionally secular Baath Party was a fig leaf for Sunni Muslim control.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa is no Saddam, and his son, Crown Prince Salman, is no Uday, but there is the same distrust of Shiites among the ruling family as there was in the Iraqi dictator's Revolutionary Command Council. An American visitor, once hosted at a diplomatic dinner, was shocked to hear a member of the al-Khalifa family declare: "Shiites are like carpets. They are better when they are beaten."

Historians might judge the beginning of Saddam's decline from the time when his extended family stopped being the foundation of his regime and became a liability. Rivalries among cousins meant that whole branches had to be ruthlessly cut off. Marriages meant in-laws challenged the pecking order.

The al-Khalifa haven't had schisms of Babylonian proportions. Instead, the family has grown laterally while the reins of political power have remained firmly in the hands of the king, a variety of cousins, and the king's uncle, Sheikh Khalifa, who has been prime minister for more than 40 years. They, and other members of the tribe, have profited from the huge commercial expansion of Bahrain. Ordinary citizens—probably around 600,000 in total—have benefited from the trickle down, though the Shiite community less so.

No longer an oil producer of any consequence, Bahrain has still benefited from the high oil prices of recent years. Its banks have a reputation for efficiency. Its hotels, bars and restaurants have attracted many visitors, including Saudis who can drive across a 16-mile causeway completed in the 1980s.

A particular scheme for the al-Khalifa family has been gaining a slice of the action in resorts and luxury housing projects built on artificial islands constructed in the shallow coastal waters. When some of this activity stopped Shiite villagers from harvesting their traditional fishing grounds, there were protests. This week, protesters were further enraged by alleged documentary evidence that the prime minister had bought reclaimed land in the prestigious harbor area for the equivalent of $3 and then resold it for huge profit.

One assumes that when Assistant Secretary of State for the Near East Jeffrey Feltman caught the first plane to Manama this week after Saudi forces rolled across the causeway, democracy was his main talking point. From the Bahraini side, it was almost certainly Iran. The al-Khalifa, who remember the pre-1970s when Tehran claimed the island, tend to see a bearded mullah under every bed.

View Full Image

AFP/Getty Images
 
An anti-government protester steps on a torn poster of King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa in Manama.
.This week's violence—especially yesterday's crackdown on protesters camped out in the iconic Pearl Roundabout, in which at least six were killed—does not auger well for a return to civil political dialogue. Although the U.S.-educated crown prince had offered concessions, like fair voting districts and combating corruption, on March 13, just before Saudi troops arrived, his harder-line kin almost certainly advocate taking them off the table. Indeed, they probably demand the removal of the table itself.

The U.S. has cards to play but is keen to do so discreetly. It needs to press the ruling family for reform while telling the divided opposition not to reject all compromise. Washington is anxious not to be perceived, by either side, as being part of the problem. The headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, situated adjacent to a suburb of Manama, is a crucial part of the efforts to block Iran's nuclear ambitions and counter any interference with the flow of oil.

Almost worse than the mess in Manama, this crisis reveals that the U.S. and Saudi Arabia are no longer on the same page. Riyadh perceives the White House as demanding universal freedoms from its friends, but not from its adversaries like Iran. The Shiites of Bahrain see themselves as "Baharna," indigenous Bahrainis, rather than putative Iranians. But events are pushing them ever closer to Tehran, where they will surely be greeted with open arms.

Mr. Henderson is the director of the Gulf and Energy Policy Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

25590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia rises amid geopolitical events on: March 17, 2011, 01:56:01 AM
Russia Rises Amid Geopolitical Events

The first three months of 2011 have had a steady flow of geopolitically relevant events. A youth named Mohamed Bouazizi, protesting corruption and government harassment in Tunisia, set more than himself alight on Dec. 17: He set an entire region on fire. Soon after, Tunisia and Egypt saw their long-time rulers fall. Libya essentially descended into civil war, and exit is uncertain. On Monday, almost exactly three months after Bouazizi’s self-immolation, the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council’s forces entered the tiny island nation of Bahrain to prevent Iran from exploiting the anti-government protests there. The region’s unrest continues with almost daily action in North Africa and the Middle East. Around the globe, the March 11 Japan Tohoku earthquake rocked the world’s third largest economy and has caused the most serious nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Among all this global consternation, Russia is the one power that has the luxury to take stock of it all in relative comfort. Russia has no reason to fear Middle East-style revolutionary activity. Its leadership is genuinely popular at home and safe from populist uprisings, at least for the time being. Russia is not embroiled in any war in the Middle East — unlike the United States, which is involved in two wars and trying hard to avoid a third one in Libya. Russia fears no migration exodus of North African refugees on its borders, as do the Europeans. Even the nuclear accident in Japan seems to be without negative effect for Russia, as the prevailing winds are blowing the radiation toward the Pacific Ocean and away from Russia’s eastern city of Vladivostok.

“Among all this global consternation, Russia is the one power that has the luxury to take stock of it all in relative comfort.”
In fact, Russia may be the one country that stands to gain from the various calamities in 2011. First, the general unrest in the Middle East has increased the price of oil by 18.5 percent. As the second largest oil exporter — and one not bound by OPEC production quotas — the increase in price goes directly into the Kremlin’s swelling coffers and is a welcome addition after the severe economic recession in 2009. Second, the Libyan unrest has cut off the 11 billion cubic-meter natural gas (bcm) Greenstream pipeline to Italy, causing Europe’s third largest consumer of natural gas to turn to Russia to make up the difference. Similarly, Japan’s nuclear imbroglio has forced Tokyo to turn to Russian emergency shipments of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to fuel its natural gas-burning power plants.

But the most beneficial of all events for Russia may be the psychological effect that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crisis is having on Western Europe. Germany’s government announced on Tuesday that it would close seven nuclear reactors during a three-month period, reassessing the future of Germany’s nuclear power industry. A looming Italian referendum on the government’s decision to unfreeze nuclear reactor construction now seems all but guaranteed to fail. Criticism of nuclear power has swept throughout the Continent with the European Union energy ministers deciding on Tuesday to subject the bloc’s nuclear reactors to a number of stress tests.

Europe’s hydropower capabilities are at capacity, while coal-burning power plants are perceived as incompatible with the bloc’s drive to reduce greenhouse emissions. The only alternatives left are renewable energy, which is slowly inching up in terms of overall electricity generation; nuclear power; and natural gas, which is seen as the much cleaner fossil fuel option to coal and oil. With fears about nuclear power returning to the Continent, it seems natural gas will be favored to fill the gap until renewable energy can become a larger part of the electricity generating mix.

As the world’s number one exporter of natural gas — and with the world’s largest reserves — this is very welcome news for the Kremlin. But for Russia, natural gas exports are about a lot more than just added revenue. For Russia, the natural gas exports are about control and political influence. Luring Western Europe toward greater energy dependency on Russia is ultimately about wrestling the region away from its post-WWII alliance with the United States. As the Middle East and North Africa continue to wrestle with unrest — again reminding Europe of the region’s political uncertainty and fallibility as an energy exporter — and as Europe’s populations are reminded of their fears of nuclear power, Moscow is taking stock of it all.

But Moscow is also interested in how the crises around the world are politically beneficial outside of the energy realm. First, the devastation in Japan has allowed Moscow and Tokyo to have a rare conversation about cooperation after years (if not more) of declining relations over an island dispute. Russia is magnanimously trying to show that it isn’t such a bad neighbor to have, and is sending some of the larger amounts of aid, energy and rescue assistance.

The crises could also give Russia something it holds very precious — time. One of the reasons Russia grew so strong over the past decade is that its rival, the United States, was focused elsewhere. Moscow has been growing nervous in the past year knowing that Washington is starting to wrap up its commitments in the Middle East and South Asia. There is a discussion now rumbling through the Kremlin whether the events in the Middle East may keep the United States focused there a while longer, giving Russia even more time to cement its nearly dominant position in Eurasia. Thus far, the Kremlin must be satisfied with what the first three months of 2011 have brought in terms of its own strategic interests.

25591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Richard Maybury on: March 16, 2011, 08:51:06 PM
I disagree strongly with much of the analysis here, but find that the piece is one that provokes thought; therefore I post it:
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Special Feature The Fall of the U.S. Empire and the Breakup of the Geopolitical Matrix: An Interview with Richard Maybury


With everything going on in the world today, we thought it a good time to catch up with the views of longtime friend Richard Maybury, a low-key but highly respected author, lecturer and analyst. In addition to his work consulting with businesses and high net worth individuals on strategic planning, Richard is the editor of the U.S. & World Early Warning Report, a monthly service that helps readers see the world as it is, versus how the media and the officialdom would like you to see it.

Richard is widely regarded as one of the finest free-market writers in America today. His articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other major publications.

While all his work is insightful and well written, I particularly recall being blown away by his books on World War I and World War II, and I would recommend those works to anyone with an interest in history. I also remember his prescient warning, as the U.S. was gearing up to invade Iraq, that the desert sands would quickly destroy billions of dollars worth of U.S. equipment sent there, and he recommended investments in the companies that would profit by replacing that equipment. As events unfolded, Richard’s assessment proved 100% correct.

Once you’ve finished reading this interview, I would highly recommend you take the time to learn more about Richard’s books and services, including his excellent newsletter, U.S. & World Early Warning Report. To do so, visitwww.richardmaybury.com, or call 800-509-5400.

David Galland: You’ve been steadily warning your readers for years about the coming chaos in what you call “Chaostan,” yet another forecast of yours that is coming true today. Before we get to current events, could you define Chaostan for readers who aren’t familiar with it.

Richard Maybury: In Central Asia, the word "stan" means "land of." Therefore Kazakhstan is the land of the Kazakhs, Kurdistan is the land of the Kurds, and so forth. I coined the word Chaostan in 1992, the land of chaos, to refer to the area from the Arctic Ocean to the Indian Ocean and Poland to the Pacific, plus North Africa.

To understand why I call this area Chaostan, you have to first understand the two fundamental laws that make civilization possible. The first being “You should do all you have agreed to do,” which is the basis of contract law. The other is “Do not encroach on other persons or their property,” which is the basis of tort law and some criminal law. 

Where you find these laws most widely obeyed, especially by government, you find the most peace and prosperity and economic advancement, especially peace. In areas where they are less obeyed, you find chaos.

The area that I refer to as Chaostan never developed legal systems based on those two laws, at least not legal systems that the governments feel obligated to follow. I should point out those two fundamental laws provide the foundation for the old British common law, which was the basis of our Declaration of Independence and Constitution – essentially the legal documents that make America what it is or, rather, what it was.

So that's the essential thing, that Chaostan is the primary area that never developed rational legal systems, or at least not rational legal systems that governments are required to obey. As a result, throughout history they have suffered, and will continue to suffer, political, economic and social upheaval… chaos.

DG: Which brings us to the present, with a real flare-up going on in Chaostan. As Doug Casey has often said, "The thing that gets you is the thing you don’t see coming." Other than you and Doug, no one else I’m aware of anticipated the current trouble in places like Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. One day, things are quiet, the next we've got all sorts of major oil-producing countries – countries that people believed would never really change – up for grabs. What are your general thoughts on the situation?

RM: Since you’ve read Early Warning Report for so many years, you know that there is nothing going on today that surprises me or my readers. That's the direction I thought Chaostan would go. I'm just surprised that it took as long to get to this point as it did. In that regard, I have often used a quote from Doug…

DG: "Just because something is inevitable doesn’t make it imminent”?

RM: That too, but I was thinking of this quote to the effect of, "The nasty things that you think are coming always take longer to arrive than you think they will, but once they get here, they make up for their tardiness by being worse than you thought they’d be." I think that's a fantastic observation, and it sure does apply here. I've always been convinced that this mess was going to happen, but will confess to being amazed that it is all happening at the same time, and that it's occurring in such a short period of time.

DG: What do you attribute the upheaval to?

RM: There are two big things going on: One is the fall of the U.S. Empire, and that is leading to the second, which is the breakup of the geopolitical matrix. In the case of the latter, I am referring to the many relationships the governments of the world have with each other and with their own people. This matrix of relationships and political structures are called countries, most of which have existed for a long time, but that's breaking up now, in part because, in most cases, the borders between these countries were drawn a long time ago by people who knew nothing about the local populations. While the breakup is starting in North Africa, I think it's going to spread across most or all of Chaostan. And it will have effects even in North America and South America. While it's almost impossible to predict exactly how, it’s my view the world that we grew up in is going away, and it will be replaced by some new political matrix.

These changes will only be exacerbated by the fact that the U.S. Empire that we grew up with is crumbling very fast. As the U.S. Empire collapses, all sorts of relationships will die, leading to yet more chaos. You can see this with Obama calling up Mubarak and ordering him to resign, so I think chaos is the only word that fits.

As far as I know, nothing on this scale has ever happened before in world history, and for people who don’t understand it and are not paying close attention, it's going to be hell. But for those who do understand it, it's going to be one of the biggest money-making opportunities in all of world history.

I don’t know what to say other than just look out.

DG: We'll get back to the money-making opportunities momentarily. First, however, a bit more on the crumbling U.S. Empire, an assessment we agree with. The administration was clearly caught flat-footed by what happened in Egypt. First it supported Mubarak’s regime and then, as you noted, it flipped and Obama demanded he go. It seems like right now the U.S. government really doesn’t even know whom it should be talking to, let alone supporting, in these various countries.

This is no small matter seeing that for decades much of U.S. foreign policy has been directed at ensuring a steady supply of oil by creating relationships in the Middle East, including setting up and supporting various despots. With these relationships now at risk, the U.S. government has to be seriously concerned that it will see a steep degradation of its influence in the Middle East. Would you agree?

RM: Yes, I think U.S. government influence in the area is probably almost completely gone. The only real influence they have is within, let's say, a hundred miles of any given aircraft carrier. I don’t think Washington is taken seriously by anybody anymore, except for its military power. The simple fact is, and you saw this in the Bush administration as well as in the Obama administration, it's clear to everybody that they don’t know what they’re doing. They have absolutely no understanding of the things that they’re meddling in.

 I remember watching a television interview with Condoleezza Rice right after 9/11, when she said "Nobody in the White House knew where Afghanistan was." And that after the Twin Towers came down, they all gathered in the Oval Office and had somebody bring in a globe so that they could all find out where Afghanistan was.

DG: Of course the region really only matters to the U.S. because of its oil, and I think right now something like half of Libya's production is off line. Do you see the situation region-wide affecting supplies on a sustained basis?

RM: Let me push back a bit on your comment that "The only reason it's important to the U.S. is because of the oil." I would modify that a little bit by saying, "The only reason the region is important to you and me is because of the oil."

But to the U.S. government, the region is a place they have exerted their power, and that is what drives the U.S. government – a lust for power. You have a whole lot of people who spend their adult lives trying to acquire power, and once they get it, they want to use it on somebody, and one of the groups of people that they have used it on are those in the Mideast.

The American founders understood that. It’s why they created the Constitution as they did, as an attempt to limit the use of power, but the Constitution stops at the border. So U.S. politicians, almost right from the beginning, have gone outside the country to exert their power because it's a whole lot easier to do it in other countries than it is to do it in this country, and we have to keep that in mind.

While the oil is definitely a big factor, more of an excuse, for the U.S. government’s involvement over there, it's the exercise of power that they draw satisfaction from and that's the reason they have meddled in these countries for so many decades.

Now as far as what's going to happen with the oil, my guess is that there will be more uprisings, and Washington will try to establish new relationships with whatever regimes rise up out of that. In the end, as you know, fundamentally whoever owns the oil can't do anything with it except sell it, and so they will sell it and we will buy it.

DG: Might the Chinese, for example, move in there and take these opportunities to redirect more oil in their direction?

RM: Sure, but you’ve got to pay for the cost of the extraction, and there will be all sorts of governments, probably already are, sending agents in there to try to steer things in directions favorable to them, and they will try to use whatever oil they get control of as a weapon against their enemies.

I'm not talking about anything that hasn’t, in essence, been going on for centuries. That's how governments behave. I have no idea how it's going to shake out in the end, other than to say that ultimately whoever owns the stuff is going to sell it to somebody. They may not sell it directly to the United States or to U.S. oil companies, but they’ll sell it somewhere in the world, and that will increase the general world supply, and the U.S. will then buy oil from somebody.

I think that a whole lot of politics will be tangled up in these transactions, but I guess maybe the main factor to keep in mind is how much of the oil infrastructure is going to be destroyed while these governments are maneuvering against each other over there. While it’s too early to say, if a lot of that infrastructure isn't destroyed, I'll be very surprised.

DG: With the U.S.'s long relationship with Israel and support for all sorts of despots in the region, is the guy on the streets in the Middle East anti-American at this point?

RM: I've heard of a few incidents here and there, but the impression I get is that people around the world generally like the individual American, because we are a personality they have never run into before. In most countries, if you tell an insulting joke about the government, everybody looks over their shoulders to find out if somebody overheard. An American never looks over his shoulder when he tells a political joke, and they find that fascinating. We speak with confidence and openly and about subjects that they will never talk about in public. So they’re captivated with our personalities as individuals, but they really hate and fear our government, just like many Americans do.

To illustrate that point, just think about the sick feeling you get in your gut when you go to your mailbox and find a letter with a return address for the IRS. Now imagine what it's like being, let's say an Iranian, and looking out your kitchen window and seeing an American guided missile cruiser sitting out there in the water.

DG: I remember when I lived in Chile being shocked to see U.S. soldiers jogging in double lines up the roads. This was a regular sight. It doesn’t take much imagination to figure out how people in the U.S. would react if Iraqi troops were a regular sight in their towns.

Back to the question of oil, the big players in the region are Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Do you think Saudi Arabia, in particular, will be in play before this is over?

RM: They already are in play in the sense that they’re trying to steer events in directions that are favorable to them. Maybe we should explain to the readers where Saudi Arabia came from. This is not a natural country. It is a country created by the government of Britain. Britain went into Arabia and picked the Saudi tribe as the one that ought to run the place as a surrogate of the British government. They supported the Saudi tribe so the Saudi tribe could conquer the other tribes, and that's essentially what Saudi Arabia is today.

It's as if someone went into Texas and picked the Jones family to run Texas and renamed the place Jones Texas. That's what Saudi Arabia is, and the other tribes don’t enjoy being dominated by the Saudi tribe, so there is inherent tension in that country all the time. The way the Saudi tribe tries to avoid violence is by buying off the population. They just keep pumping money into the population in an attempt to keep them fat, dumb and happy, but the population is getting tired of the whole scam, and that ancient hatred of the Saudi tribe is always there, just under the surface. There is a horrible resentment in the population. When the ocean of oil is poured into the mix, yielding unimaginable riches for the Saudi rulers, it’s a nitro and glycerin combination that people have been writing about for decades. I'm one of them. I'm amazed Saudi Arabia is still there. I thought it would have blown up a long time ago, but it could be the uprisings spreading all across the Islamic world now that light the fuse on their overthrow.

Saudi Arabia is the big prize, and this means a lot of people want it and they’ll be likely to fight over it – and where it is going to go, I don’t know. This may be the greatest level of uncertainty since World War II.

DG: It would be logical that the U.S. military-industrial complex is going to use all this instability as an excuse to rationalize continuing with the huge levels of military spending, which is a big problem in terms of reducing the deficit. Do you see the U.S. military remaining as big as it is, or is there a change coming as the empire continues to dwindle down?

RM: I think there will be some token cuts to the military, but I can't see anything serious because all you need to do to get the American people to support a larger military is to just scare them a little bit. And that's easy to do – in this present situation it is very easy to do.

So I would tend to think that all you’ve got to do is announce that we need more aircraft carrier battle groups, because the oil supply is threatened, and the typical American on the street is going to say fine, build more aircraft carriers. A point here to keep in mind is that, yes, the U.S. has by far the largest military force in the world, but Washington has taken unto itself the largest military obligation in the world – namely the responsibility of policing the whole planet. There is no other country that thinks it has the obligation to police the earth, so in terms of fire power versus territory that is being controlled, Washington is actually very weak and its enemies know this.

DG: Recently the U.S. Secretary of Defense Gates told cadets at West Point that we may never fight another large ground war. Do you believe that? I mean, if Saudi Arabia gets really unstable, do you think we are going to put boots on the ground there?

RM: Yes, definitely. This idea that you can fight a war without the use of ground forces is ridiculous. It shows a lack of understanding of what government is. A government is an organization that has control over a given piece of territory, and to control it you’ve got to have infantry standing on the ground. The phrase "boots on the ground" is a very good one for that. The place has to be occupied by soldiers with rifles, and if you don’t have the ability to do that, then you can't control the place. You can just bomb the heck out of it, but eventually you’ve got to put troops on the ground.

DG: Yet in his speech to the cadets, Gates said that wars like Afghanistan are not likely and in fact he would advise against it. I have a copy of the article here, and I quote; "In my opinion, any future defense secretary that advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the middle of Africa should have his head examined."

RM: What he's saying is absolutely true, that you should not get involved in foreign wars, but I think it's a naïve idea to assume that they won't do it, because after all it's a government. It wants to use its power. It's going to use its power on somebody, and it will get into more wars, because the people who run the government are power seekers and they want to use their power. Until there is an amendment to the Constitution that says the U.S. government can't meddle in other countries, we're going to have wars in other countries.

DG: Speaking of foreign entanglements, Israel has got to be watching all this stuff with great concern.

RM: Yes, if I were the Israelis, I'd be pretty scared, and certainly they are also working secretly to try to steer events in directions favorable to them. I don’t know what to say about it other than the old phrase, "The situation is fluid."

It sure is fluid, no doubt.

DG: Returning just for a moment to your contention that governments need to exercise power. Is this just a psychological aberration amongst power seekers, or is there more to it than that?

RM: I regard it as a mental illness. People such as you and me and our readers are generally wealth seekers. We want to live a prosperous, comfortable life and we seek wealth in order to do that. By contrast, people who rise to the top in government are power seekers. They get their satisfaction from forcing other people to do what they want. They are essentially bullies.

Let's offer a little proof here. Practically every piece of legislation enacted in the last 100 years has involved the use of force on persons who have not harmed anyone. Anybody who wants that privilege has to have something wrong with them, so I think it's a given that when you're dealing with a high-level politician or a high-level bureaucrat, you're dealing with somebody who likes to push other people around, and that's the fundamental factor that the American founders were looking at when they created the Constitution. They understood that political power corrupts the morals and the judgment.

DG: A moment ago, you mentioned that one way the government can get people to go along with its schemes is to scare them, and history supports that this isn’t a new tactic. Yet, a lot of Americans look at 9/11 as proof that Muslim extremists are after us and we have to defend ourselves, and see that as sufficient rationale for the U.S. military to take action in the Middle East. Even from our readers, we hear things like "Kill them all and let God sort them out." How would you respond to that?

RM: I know a lot of people that seem to need somebody to hate, and when the government gives them somebody to hate, they’re grateful. I've known a lot of people like that. They enjoy despising whole classes of people, painting them all with the same brush, even the children.

DG: Yet people would argue that the U.S. government did not give us the Arabs to hate. They blew up the World Trade Center. There is clear evidence that in fact somebody does hate us, and so we should hate them back.

RM: Yes, well, as Ron Paul has pointed out, and I think this is a direct quote from Ron, "They didn’t come over here until we went over there."

DG: And we've been over there an awfully long time at this point.

RM: That's right. You can go back 200 years, if you want, which I do. The original war between the U.S. and Muslims was the Barbary Wars back in the early 1800s, and that was essentially an extension of the Crusades. The Europeans were fighting the Muslims, and the Europeans hoodwinked the American politicians into joining the war on their side.

When you hear the Marine Corps hymn "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli," to the shores of Tripoli refers to the Barbary Wars in which the U.S. came into the Crusades against the Muslims on the side of the Europeans.

So you can go back 200 years when the Europeans manipulated us into this thing, or you can count the modern onset as being in the 1940s when Roosevelt made an agreement to support the Saudis. There has never been a case where an Islamic government sent armies into the United States, but the U.S. has done it in the Mideast numerous times.

DG: Speaking of being manipulated, it is always remarkable to me how the British were up to their necks in Israel, as were the French in Vietnam, and presto chango, they’re out of the picture, replaced by the Americans. How we ended up as Israel's number one benefactor is amazing, just as it is amazing to me that we ended up losing 50,000 men in Vietnam after the French left. It makes no sense to me, but I guess it’s to be expected once you start getting drawn into foreign adventures.

What else are you following for your readers? What sort of themes are you getting into?

RM: In terms of economics, we've been writing about the decline of the dollar for years now. But actually, as of the March issue, I'm making a turn and going back to a much deeper geopolitical orientation, because I think what's going on in the Islamic world now is going to be at least as dominant as the fall of the Soviet Empire was back in the 1990s. Jim Powell has made an interesting point. He said that it won't be very long and we will all be looking back and referring to life before Tunisia and life after Tunisia, and I think that is true. The Tunisia uprising will be viewed akin to the attack on Pearl Harbor or the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 where life was totally different after that incident happened. I think we're in that situation now.

DG: And I take it for granted that you think oil is going a lot higher.

RM: Yes, not that it isn’t going to have corrections along the way, but I've been predicting for a long time we are going to see oil at $300 a barrel. I don’t know when, but I'm sure it's coming.

DG: And gold is a core holding at this point?

RM: Absolutely, gold and silver. I think they still have a long way to go, which is to say the dollar still has a long way to fall.

DG: Any other quick investment ideas that you would share?

RM: I still like Fidelity Select Defense and Aerospace Fund. The symbol is FSDAX. I think the military industries are going to be selling a lot of weapons, and so why not invest in it?

Our newsletter is based on what I regard as the two carved-in-granite long-term economic trends; one of them being the decline of the dollar and the other one being war. I think those are locked in, and so I recommend people buy investments that do well during wartime or during periods of currency debasement, which we have. Those two trends – war and currency debasement – are essentially what Early Warning Report’s whole strategy is at this point. Buy whatever does well during war and currency debasement.

DG: A final question. Do you see the government pulling out of Afghanistan more or less on schedule?

RM: I doubt it, but given how fluid the situation is, who knows? Gates' comment was very revealing. It is amazing he would admit in public that it was a stupid thing to go into Afghanistan. If U.S. officials can divert the public's attention enough with what's going on in North Africa, maybe they can pull it off – maybe they can cut and run, and let the Afghan government fall without the American public noticing the lives that were wasted propping it up.

The one thing I can tell you for sure is that if you want to keep track of what's really going on in the world, you have to watch the aircraft carriers. The U.S. has 10 aircraft carriers – the big super-carriers – and they are always an indication of what Washington is really serious about.

DG: So when you read that a carrier is being moved into a certain area, then that's a tip-off that something’s about to go on?

RM: Yes. The position of carriers is a tip-off. Google “Positions of U.S. Aircraft Carriers.” Secondarily, Washington uses amphibious warfare ships as substitutes for the big carriers, so you want to keep an eye on those as well.

DG: Okay, we’ll leave it at that. As usual, this has been very interesting, and I appreciate your time. I hope our readers will take the opportunity to give your service a try. It's always fascinating and a personal favorite, and I know Doug loves it. One of these days we'll get you to one of our conferences.

RM: I will look forward to that.

For more on Richard Maybury, his books, and his excellent newsletter, U.S. & World Early Warning Report visitwww.richardmaybury.com, or call 800-509-5400.


25592  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Richard Maybury on: March 16, 2011, 08:49:00 PM
"Just because something is inevitable doesn’t make it imminent”

 "The nasty things that you think are coming always take longer to arrive than you think they will, but once they get here, they make up for their tardiness by being worse than you thought they’d be."
25593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power on: March 16, 2011, 05:45:33 PM
And I am NOT surprised to read that a nuke plant built on an earthquake fault on the CA coast is built only to a 7.5 earthquake standard  angry angry cry

"Lord, what fools these experts be!" (apologies to Willie Shakespeare)
25594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Rest in Peace on: March 16, 2011, 05:43:28 PM
The late Terrence McKenna (see e.g. "Nector of the Gods") was also from the same Harvard clique as Leary IIRC.
25595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 16, 2011, 05:30:50 PM
Doug:

My post was written and posted without awareness of your excellent post.

GM:

Determined to pull our heads out of the sand (or wherever else they may be) aren't you?  cheesy

That is one scary factoid!!!  shocked shocked shocked
25596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 16, 2011, 05:25:28 PM
NFZ is/was? but one option.  Simply supplying food, water, ammo? is/was? another-- the larger point is whether the US would help or not against a nasty dictator when the people were genuinely rising up. 

Answering that question needs to be seen in the background context of the US's geo-political situation in the mid-east and the war with Islamic Fascism. 

If we do not stand for democracy, freedom, and "the people" against a murderous thug like Kaddaffy (who has murdered hundreds of our people by the way- think Lockerbie and other attacks) what meaning then for an Arab world deciding whether to see the struggle as Islam vs the Infidels or Civilization vs. Barbarism?

Anyway, it looks like Baraq has answered that question.  I suspect we (and the civilized world) are going to profoundly regret the trajectory of his approach to Iraq, Afpakia, Israel, Iran, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya.
25597  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 16, 2011, 01:53:23 PM
No argument between us there.

The question presented here and now on this thread is what us regular folks are to do with our savings, investments etc to protect ourselves as best we can.
25598  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Arabs love Pax Americana on: March 16, 2011, 12:52:09 PM
The Arab League's call this weekend for a no-fly zone over Libya is startling news and has sent diplomats scattering. We'll now see if the "international community" (to use the Obama Administration's favorite phrase) decides anything before Moammar Gadhafi's forces overrun the rebel stronghold in Benghazi. The odds favor Gadhafi.

But the 22-member league's decision also tells us a lot about Arab views of U.S. power. Throughout the Libyan crisis, we've heard from pundits and politicians that the Iraq war tarnished brand America beyond repair, and made U.S. leadership non grata in the Mideast. Both President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have insisted that the U.N., NATO, the Europeans, Arabs, anyone but Washington take the initiative on Libya.

The Arab League is begging them to reconsider this abdication. With the unsurprising exceptions of Iranian client Syria and Libya's neighbor Algeria, the group took the extraordinary step of calling publicly for American intervention in the affairs of an Arab state. Though the League formally asked the U.N. Security Council to approve a no-fly zone, there's little doubt that the U.S. would carry the military and political burden in imposing one. The Arabs know this well, and their message couldn't be clearer. Maybe they even thought Mr. Obama meant what he said in calling for Gadhafi to leave power.

The weekend decision confirmed what we've heard privately from Arab leaders for years about America's continued engagement in the Middle East. The only people who suffer from an "Iraq syndrome" are American liberals and the Western European chattering classes. The pro-Western Gulf or North African allied states have nothing to gain in seeing American influence or military power devalued in their region—either by others, or as is the current fad in Washington, through American self-abnegation.

Their immediate interest may be to reverse Gadhafi's recent gains against the lightly armed rebels in eastern Libya. Arab hostility to him goes back many years. As neighbors they have much to fear from a post-revolt Libya turned back into a terrorist haven and pariah state.

For the proverbial "Arab street," the defeat of the Libyan uprising would be a dispiriting coda to this springtime of democratic revolutions. If he survives, Gadhafi will have taught other dictators that the next time young people demand accountable leadership, turn your guns on them and exploit American diffidence.

Beyond those pressing worries lie bigger Arab concerns over the changing power dynamic in the Middle East. New and unpredictable regional players are a neo-Ottoman Turkey and especially an Iran determined to get nuclear weapons. However much the Arabs like to complain about America, they know the U.S. is a largely benign force and honest broker.

Propelled by a strong domestic economy, the Turks have built their recent regional standing through trade and a political shift from its longstanding alliance with the West. Tellingly, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan opposes a no-fly zone. "We see NATO military intervention in another country as extremely unbeneficial," he said. Turkey had no such qualms when NATO came to the rescue of Europe's besieged Muslims in Bosnia and Kosovo, but in the 1990s Ankara saw America as an ally, not a potential competitor.

The Sunni Arab states fear the nuclear ambitions of Shiite Iran as much as Israel does. It's not lost on them that while democratic uprisings toppled two Arab regimes friendly to the U.S. and threaten several others, Tehran has squelched the opposition Green Movement without inhibitions. The nuclear program, meanwhile, is Iran's secret weapon to become the dominant regional power.

The Administration chose to hear the Arab appeal for American leadership this weekend as if it were no big deal. White House spokesman Jay Carney used the word "international" three times in three sentences and didn't back a no-fly zone or any other military step. The G-8 foreign ministers yesterday failed to support it as well. A draft Libya resolution (sponsored by Lebanon!) is bouncing around at the Security Council, and likely headed nowhere.

Not by coincidence, Saudi Arabia and fellow Gulf states on Monday sent military forces into Bahrain to help put down an uprising by the majority Shiites against the Sunni monarchy, which yesterday declared a state of emergency. The Saudis fear that the Bahrain contagion, perhaps fueled by Iran, will spread to them.

But their intervention also reflects a lack of confidence that America will assert itself in the region. Remarkably, the Saudis ignored U.S. advice not to intervene in Bahrain. They don't believe they can count on the U.S. to stop an imperial Iran. When the U.S. fails to lead, every nation recalibrates its interests and begins to look out for itself first.

While the "international community" fiddles, Gadhafi's troops continue their march eastward, yesterday taking the strategic town of Ajdabiya, the last significant population center before Benghazi. His victory would be a tragedy for Libya's people. But it would diminish America's global standing as well, which is an outcome that makes Arabs as nervous as it ought to make Americans.

25599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Bahrain-History repeats itself on: March 16, 2011, 12:31:55 PM


History Repeats Itself in Eastern Arabia

For the second time in less than two years, Saudi Arabia deployed troops beyond its borders to contain Shiite unrest in its immediate neighborhood. In late 2009, Saudi forces fought to suppress Houthi rebels in the country’s Shiite borderland to the south in Yemen. This time around, a Saudi-led force, operating under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) Peninsula Shield Force, deployed forces to the Sunni-ruled island kingdom of Bahrain to suppress Shiite unrest.

The Saudi royals, highly dependent on the United States for the security of their regime, do not deploy their forces without good reason — especially when they already have their own simmering Shiite unrest to deal with in the country’s oil-rich eastern region and are looking at the potential for instability in Yemen to spill into the kingdom from the south.

From the Saudi perspective, the threat of an Iranian-backed destabilization campaign to reshape the balance of power in favor of the Shia is more than enough reason to justify a deployment of forces to Bahrain. The United States, Saudi Arabia and its GCC allies have been carefully monitoring Iran’s heavy involvement in fueling Shiite protests in their Sunni sheikhdoms and understand the historic opportunity that Iran is pursuing.

“From the Saudi perspective, the threat of an Iranian-backed destabilization campaign to reshape the balance of power in favor of the Shia is more than enough reason to justify a deployment of forces to Bahrain.”
The historical attraction of Bahrain lies in its geography. Bahrain is a tiny island nestled between the Arabian and Qatar peninsulas. It is vulnerable to external interference and valuable to whomever can lay claim to its lands, whether that be the Shia, the Sunni or any outside power capable of projecting authority to the Persian Gulf. Control of the island together with the Strait of Hormuz allowed for domination of the Indian Ocean trade along the Silk Road and the Arabian trade route from Mecca to the Red Sea.

The isles of Bahrain, along with the oases of al Qatif and al Hasa (both located in the modern-day Eastern province of Saudi Arabia), have been the three key economic hubs of the eastern Arabia region since antiquity. Bahrain sat atop a wealth of natural pearls while all three of these areas traded dates and spices and later on, oil, with buyers abroad. Critically, Bahrain, al Qatif and al Hasa have also been heavily populated with Shiite peoples throughout their history.

As a result, Bahrain, al Qatif and al Hasa have vacillated between Sunni and Shiite domination for hundreds of years. The Bahraini island can never exist comfortably in either domain. As a natural extension of the Arabian Peninsula, it would often fall under the influence of roaming Sunni Bedouin tribes, which found it difficult to subjugate the majority Shiite inhabitants. When under Shiite domination, as it was during the century-and-a-half-reign of the Banu Jarwan in the 14th century and during the 17th century with the rise of the Persian Safavid empire in Iran, the Shia in Bahrain struggled to fend off Sunni incursions without significant foreign backing. The Persians, sitting some 125 miles across the Persian Gulf, would often find it difficult to project power to the island, relying instead on the local religious elite, traders, judges and politicians to assert their will, but frequently finding themselves outmatched against outside powers vying for control and/or influence over eastern Arabia. From the Portuguese to the Ottomans to the British (and now) to the United States, each of these outside forces exercised a classic balance of power politics in playing Sunni and Shiite rivalries off each other, all with an eye on controlling, or at least influencing, eastern Arabia.

History repeated itself Monday.

A Saudi-led contingent of Arab forces crossed into Bahraini territory in defense against an Iranian-led attempt to reorient eastern Arabia toward the Shia. And yet again, the Persians are facing a strategic dilemma in projecting power to aid its Shiite proxies living in Sunni shadows. At the same time, the predominant naval power of the Persian Gulf, the United States, is pursuing its own strategic aim of shoring up the Sunni forces to counterbalance a resurgent Iran. It remains to be seen how this latest chapter unfolds, but if history is to serve as a guide, the question of whether Bahrain remains in Sunni hands or flips to the Shiite majority (currently the less likely option) will serve as the pivot to the broader Sunni-Shiite balance of power in the Persian Gulf.

25600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics, the stock market , and other investment/savings strategies on: March 16, 2011, 12:27:46 PM
Worth noting:

What did the spike of interest rates under Volcker do to gold prices in the late 70s?  It killed them.

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