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25901  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Llolyd, McChesney, Koh on: October 11, 2009, 06:36:14 AM
Names I'd like to see us keep track of:

Mark Llloyd:  Diversity Czar at the FCC
_ McChesney (?) Chairman of the FCC?  Has he appointed an admitted revolutionary marxist as spokesperson (working from memory here on something from the Glenn Beck show)

Harold Koh:  This man IMO has the potential to be one of the most pernicious and seditious of all BO's appointments.   Double check me on this, but IIRC he was a Harvard Law Prof who now is something like Assistant Secretary of International Law at the State Department.  I have read some of this guy's writings.  People, this is a man seriously dedicated to the subversion and submission of US sovereignty to the United Nations and similar international entities.  For his skills sets this man is uniquely well positioned to do great harm.

I past below a copy of a post from the Cognitivie Dissonance thread because his name appears in it.  This is a perfect example of the sort of damage that this man is determined to do.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
More Stonewalling from the Most Transparent Administration in History   [Andy McCarthy]
So much for the "unprecedented level of openness in Government" promised by our Nobel Laureate in Chief. While Attorney General Eric Holder continues stonewalling the Civil Rights Commission on the Justice Department's stunning dismissal of the civil rights case against the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, we now learn the State Department is stonewalling Congress on the legal reasoning behind the administration's support for Chavez-wannabe, Manuel Zelaya.

Senator Jim Demint writes in the Wall Street Journal about his factfinding visit to Honduras, where Zelaya — a thuggish would-be dictator who was trying to destroy the rule of law in his country — was ousted as president in a manner consistent with the Honduran constitution. The Obama administration — which couldn't roll over fast enough when Ahmadinejad had to steal the already-rigged Iranian "election" and the regime brutally jailed, tortured and killed dissenters — is playing hardball with Honduras (at least when it's not slapping Israel and the Dalai Lama around), demanding that the thug be restored to power. But, as Sen. Demint notes, "the only thorough examination of the facts to date—conducted by a senior analyst at the Law Library of Congress—confirms the legality and constitutionality of Mr. Zelaya's ouster. (It's on the Internet here .)"

So why is the administration bullying a poor, tiny, Western democracy?  Demint continues:

In a day packed with meetings, we met only one person in Honduras who opposed Mr. Zelaya's ouster, who wishes his return, and who mystifyingly rejects the legitimacy of the November elections: U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens. When I asked Ambassador Llorens why the U.S. government insists on labeling what appears to the entire country to be the constitutional removal of Mr. Zelaya a "coup," he urged me to read the legal opinion drafted by the State Department's top lawyer, Harold Koh. As it happens, I have asked to see Mr. Koh's report before and since my trip, but all requests to publicly disclose it have been denied. [Emphasis added.]

As Ed Whelan and I pointed out when Koh was up for confirmation, the former Yale Law School dean is the nation's leading transnationalist. He has zero respect for national constitutions (including ours), preferring a post-sovereign order in which international law profs, transnational organizations, and free-lancing judges will be our overlords. What is happening with Honduras is exactly what anyone who familiarized himself with Koh's record would have predicted. Yet, he was confirmed by a 62-35 margin, with support from the usual GOP suspects:  Lugar, Voinovich, Snowe, Collins, and Martinez.

Will these Republicans who helped foist Koh on us now join others demanding that President Transparency release Koh's legal opinion on Honduras? (I won't ask about the 19 Republican Senators who thought Holder would be a fabulous, non-political Attorney General ...)

Saturday, October 10, 2009
More Stonewalling from the Most Transparent Administration in History   [Andy McCarthy]
So much for the "unprecedented level of openness in Government" promised by our Nobel Laureate in Chief. While Attorney General Eric Holder continues stonewalling the Civil Rights Commission on the Justice Department's stunning dismissal of the civil rights case against the New Black Panther Party in Philadelphia, we now learn the State Department is stonewalling Congress on the legal reasoning behind the administration's support for Chavez-wannabe, Manuel Zelaya.

Senator Jim Demint writes in the Wall Street Journal about his factfinding visit to Honduras, where Zelaya — a thuggish would-be dictator who was trying to destroy the rule of law in his country — was ousted as president in a manner consistent with the Honduran constitution. The Obama administration — which couldn't roll over fast enough when Ahmadinejad had to steal the already-rigged Iranian "election" and the regime brutally jailed, tortured and killed dissenters — is playing hardball with Honduras (at least when it's not slapping Israel and the Dalai Lama around), demanding that the thug be restored to power. But, as Sen. Demint notes, "the only thorough examination of the facts to date—conducted by a senior analyst at the Law Library of Congress—confirms the legality and constitutionality of Mr. Zelaya's ouster. (It's on the Internet here .)"

So why is the administration bullying a poor, tiny, Western democracy?  Demint continues:

In a day packed with meetings, we met only one person in Honduras who opposed Mr. Zelaya's ouster, who wishes his return, and who mystifyingly rejects the legitimacy of the November elections: U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens. When I asked Ambassador Llorens why the U.S. government insists on labeling what appears to the entire country to be the constitutional removal of Mr. Zelaya a "coup," he urged me to read the legal opinion drafted by the State Department's top lawyer, Harold Koh. As it happens, I have asked to see Mr. Koh's report before and since my trip, but all requests to publicly disclose it have been denied. [Emphasis added.]

As Ed Whelan and I pointed out when Koh was up for confirmation, the former Yale Law School dean is the nation's leading transnationalist. He has zero respect for national constitutions (including ours), preferring a post-sovereign order in which international law profs, transnational organizations, and free-lancing judges will be our overlords. What is happening with Honduras is exactly what anyone who familiarized himself with Koh's record would have predicted. Yet, he was confirmed by a 62-35 margin, with support from the usual GOP suspects:  Lugar, Voinovich, Snowe, Collins, and Martinez.

Will these Republicans who helped foist Koh on us now join others demanding that President Transparency release Koh's legal opinion on Honduras? (I won't ask about the 19 Republican Senators who thought Holder would be a fabulous, non-political Attorney General ...)
25902  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 10, 2009, 10:26:50 AM
BET EL MILITARY BASE, West Bank -- Israel's military, taking a page from the Pentagon's counterinsurgency playbook, has changed tactics in the West Bank by emphasizing improvements in Palestinian living conditions, rather than focusing solely on killing and capturing militants.

The shift, however, is threatened by personnel changes: Three generals who were instrumental in planning it are on the way out.

Israeli soldiers take part in urban-warfare training in southern Israel. In the West Bank, Israeli commanders are shifting to a focus on surgical strikes.

Under their guidance, the Israeli Defense Force, which has occupied and administered the West Bank since its capture in 1967, has pulled back its soldiers from the enclave's cities, turned over security responsibilities to Palestinians, and lifted many of the checkpoints and roadblocks that had shackled the economy.

Israeli forces are refraining from airstrikes or shelling, tactics they once used frequently to attack suspected militants. Instead of daytime raids with large battalions, commanders have turned to more surgical strikes by commandoes, which are less disruptive to the civilian population.

"Part of our philosophy is to fight the terrorists with M-16 [rifles], not F-16 [jets]," said Brig. Gen. Noam Tivon, one of the leaders of the shift.

Gen. Tivon ended his tour as commander of Israeli forces in the West Bank this week. Maj. Gen. Gadi Shamni, head of Israel's Central Command, is changing jobs in the coming weeks, and the Department of Defense's Civil Administration commander Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai is due to finish up within the next year.

Some officers have voiced concern about the continuity of the trio's policies. One incoming general has little experience in the West Bank and came up through the ranks as a tank commander; some military analysts say that background means he could be the wrong person to oversee a strategy that calls for using less force and keeping a lower profile.

 .The change in tactics in the West Bank came after these top Israeli generals took to heart lessons learned by American commanders in Iraq, officials from both sides said.

The strategy, coupled with recent success by U.S.-trained Palestinian security forces, is being credited with curbing West Bank violence and boosting the local economy. Israeli military operations last year, before the new strategy, led to 78 civilian casualties; 12 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year.

Previously, soldiers would shut down whole neighborhoods for days at a time while conducting less-discriminating sweeps when looking for suspected militants.

"Now they only arrest Palestinians during the night," said Sattar Kassem, a Palestinian political-science professor in Nablus who is a longtime resident of the West Bank. "The occupation continues and this is what matters most, but there is less friction for now."

After the Islamist group Hamas violently overran the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israeli generals decided they needed a strategic rethink if they wanted to keep Hamas at bay in the West Bank, which is governed by the more moderate Fatah party.

The re-evaluation coincided with the arrival to Israel of a handful of U.S. generals with the task of bolstering peace efforts.

"The Americans brought to this region a lot of new ideas," Gen. Tivon said.

At the time, America's top commander in Iraq, Army Gen. David Petraeus, was having success with a classic counterinsurgency strategy called the "ink blot." The strategy calls for focusing resources on a single neighborhood or village. As conditions improve, the efforts are slowly expanded, like an ink blot seeping across a sheet of paper.

"The U.S. military had just had its own bruising internal debate about how to fight an insurgency," said a former adviser to retired U.S. Marine Gen. James Jones, who at the time had the task of strengthening security for Israelis and Palestinians. "It was clear to us that Israel needed to have a similar debate of its own if there was any hope for making progress here," the adviser said.

Protests in Jerusalem
View Slideshow

Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images
An Israeli policeman ran after a Palestinian stone thrower in the Arab east Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud Friday.
.More photos and interactive graphics
.Gen. Jones, now President Barack Obama's national security adviser, declined to comment for this article.

"The thing that Jones did was change the Israeli thinking from counterterrorism to counterinsurgency," said a U.S. official in Tel Aviv.

U.S. advisers preached that capturing and killing the bad guys -- counterterrorism's methods -- hadn't been enough in Iraq and probably wouldn't be enough in the West Bank, either, according to Israeli and U.S. officials. To instill lasting peace, they promoted economic engagement and reliance on local security forces.

At the time, militants and criminals controlled the West Bank's lawless cities. Some Israeli officials feared Hamas, fresh from seizing Gaza, was gaining strength and preparing a similar offensive in the West Bank.

The Israeli army had Palestinian cities and villages locked down with a rigorous checkpoint regime, part of a response to suicide-bomb attacks that followed the outbreak of the second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, in 2000. Frequent "cordon and sweep" operations shut down Palestinian cities for days at a time.

The northern West Bank city of Jenin became a test case. In 2002, at the height of the second Intifada, Jenin was a militant hub where suicide bombers plotted and launched attacks against Israel. It was the first town Israeli targeted in its military offensive to reoccupy West Bank towns.

But in 2008, Israel agreed to pull back its soldiers, turn over security responsibilities to Palestinians, and lift many of the checkpoints and roadblocks that surrounded the city.

"Jones brought the idea for the Jenin project, which came directly from Petraeus in Iraq," Gen. Tivon said.

Israeli generals had to overcome the skepticism of the country's political leadership and other officers who were reluctant to trust the Palestinians with handling security.

"For years officers had been told not to trust the Palestinians, and then suddenly we're being ordered to pull back and call them before we want to conduct a raid," said another Israeli army officer serving in the West Bank.

Today, Jenin's streets are quiet, militants have turned in their guns, and crime is down. Uniformed police hand out traffic fines. In June, a $5 million home store opened its doors, offering Palestinians imported espresso machines and plasma-screen TV sets.

"I think we can say today that the Jenin project is a success," Gen. Tivon said.

Write to Charles Levinson at
25903  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Strange Bedfellows on: October 10, 2009, 09:53:23 AM
SHARANA, Afghanistan -- U.S. commanders here are enlisting some unusual allies: former mujahedeen guerrillas who battled the Russians with tactics now used by the Taliban.

Gen. Dawlat Khan, who commands the 2,000 Afghan police in this town in eastern Paktika province, came of age during the war against the Soviets in the 1980s. His father was a leader of the local resistance efforts, and during his teenage years Gen. Khan helped to funnel American-donated machine guns and weaponry to the tribal fighters.

Capt. Suleimanjan, who fought the Soviets in the 1980s, this year arrested his province's No. 2 Taliban commander.

Today, American commanders say former Islamic militants like Gen. Khan make valuable partners because they are well-schooled in the insurgency's tactics.

"We used roadside bombs and ambushes, just like they do now," Capt. Suleimanjan, one of Gen. Khan's top commanders, said in his office at a crumbling old fort in Sharana. "It was the same kind of fight, but now we're on the other side."

The strategy carries risks. Former mujahedeen forged close ties to warlords during the long fight against the Soviets, and it is far from clear that they have shifted their loyalties to Kabul's fragile central government. U.S. officials also worry that some onetime militants who have since joined the police force have struck informal peace treaties with the Taliban.

"It's like the police in the States making a deal with the mob," said Capt. Mark Evans, who until recently ran the U.S. effort to train the Afghan police in Sharana. "The police aren't that well trained or well equipped, and I can understand why they'd want a quid pro quo."

The strategy of working with former mujahedeen has been tried with the Afghan National Army, and is part of an American push to overhaul the national police, a beleaguered force whose ineffectiveness is a threat to President Barack Obama's hopes of pacifying the country.

"The police are the first line of defense," said Lt. Gen. David Rodriguez, the U.S.'s top day-to-day commander in Afghanistan.

Gen. Khan, 45 years old, said that when he returned home to Paktika last October after a long exile he was stunned to discover how many of his officers were corrupt or addicted to hashish.

Gen. Khan and his aides ousted the department's chief of security and top administrative official. They also fired a trio of police chiefs who had turned a blind eye to lower-ranking policemen extorting money from truck drivers and motorists.

In rebuilding the department, he turned to other former mujahedeen. His top investigator, Capt. Suleimanjan, who like many Afghans goes by only one name, fought with Gen. Khan's father against the Soviets. Chief Nazerkhan, who commands the garrison in the nearby town of Motakhan, battled the Russians alongside Jalaluddin Haqqani, who is now one of the most-wanted militants in the world.

Gen. Khan was at school one afternoon in 1979 when he saw Russian tanks moving through the streets of his town, followed by columns of soldiers. His father, Haj Sultan Muhammed, led armed men from his tribe into the local mountains and joined the nascent religious war against the Soviets.

Afghan Interior Ministry officials in Kabul said Mr. Muhammed became a leader of the local mujahedeen, working closely with Mr. Haqqani, then a charismatic young fighter. Gen. Khan himself remembers playing soccer with the militant, today a key Taliban ally.

"We were friends once but if I saw him today I'd try to arrest or kill him," Gen. Khan said. "He would do the same if he saw me."

During the long war, Gen. Khan moved to Pakistan, where he says he worked to funnel U.S.-donated AK-47s and other weaponry to his father. Gen. Khan won't say how he got the guns. An Afghan official in Kabul who worked with Mr. Muhammed said the weapons were delivered by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA declined to comment.

Paktika has deteriorated sharply in recent years. The Taliban control many towns and have littered the province's dirt roads with buried roadside bombs that have killed dozens of police officers. At night, cellphone service shuts down because the Taliban have threatened to destroy relay towers that remain operational.

Gen. Khan's biggest victory as police chief came earlier this year when Capt. Suleimanjan arrested the No. 2 Taliban commander in the province.

Capt. Suleimanjan said he identified the insurgent after an informant slipped him a promotional video the local Taliban command filmed to recruit new fighters. "I have shadows in every village," Capt. Suleimanjan said with a smile. "Sometimes they give me things."

He said that there are key differences between the two generations of Islamic fighters. Capt. Suleimanjan says that while the mujahedeen tried to avoid harming civilians, the Taliban have killed Afghan engineers working on roads and burned down several schools. "They use the name of Islam, but it's fake," he said.

The U.S. mentors worry that Chief Nazerkhan and some of Gen. Khan's other police commanders maintain secret ties to the insurgency.

In August, a group of American trainers prepared to leave the small police base at Motakhan after two days of training. Lt. Israel Darbe, a member of the mentor team, called over one of the Afghan translators.

"We're fixing to roll on out of here," Lt. Darbe told him. "Have the chief tell his Taliban buddies to leave us the hell alone."

Capt. Evans said he suspected Chief Nazerkhan had struck an informal peace treaty with the Taliban. Chief Nazerkhan dismissed the speculation. "It is all rumor and lies," he said.

Gen. Khan, for his part, is increasingly focused on staying alive. A few months ago, an elderly man walked to the gates of the police headquarters here, asked for Gen. Khan, and then blew himself up. Several police officers died in the blast.

The Afghan commander said he wasn't surprised by the failed assassination attempt.

"The mujahedeen used to assassinate Russian commanders all the time," he said, shrugging.

Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at
25904  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Honduras on: October 10, 2009, 09:37:55 AM

In the last three months, much has been made of a supposed military "coup" that whisked former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya from power and the supposed chaos it has created.

After visiting Tegucigalpa last week and meeting with a cross section of leaders from Honduras's government, business community, and civil society, I can report there is no chaos there. There is, however, chaos to spare in the Obama administration's policy toward our poor and loyal allies in Honduras.

That policy was set in a snap decision the day Mr. Zelaya was removed from office, without a full assessment of either the facts or reliable legal analysis of the constitutional provisions at issue. Three months later, it remains in force, despite mounting evidence of its moral and legal incoherence.

View Full Image

Associated Press
Honduras's ousted President Manuel Zelaya
.While in Honduras, I spoke to dozens of Hondurans, from nonpartisan members of civil society to former Zelaya political allies, from Supreme Court judges to presidential candidates and even personal friends of Mr. Zelaya. Each relayed stories of a man changed and corrupted by power. The evidence of Mr. Zelaya's abuses of presidential power—and his illegal attempts to rewrite the Honduran Constitution, a la Hugo Chávez—is not only overwhelming but uncontroverted.

As all strong democracies do after cleansing themselves of usurpers, Honduras has moved on.

The presidential election is on schedule for Nov. 29. Under Honduras's one-term-limit, Mr. Zelaya could not have sought re-election anyway. Current President Roberto Micheletti—who was installed after Mr. Zelaya's removal, per the Honduran Constitution—is not on the ballot either. The presidential candidates were nominated in primary elections almost a year ago, and all of them—including Mr. Zelaya's former vice president—expect the elections to be free, fair and transparent, as has every Honduran election for a generation.

Indeed, the desire to move beyond the Zelaya era was almost universal in our meetings. Almost.

In a day packed with meetings, we met only one person in Honduras who opposed Mr. Zelaya's ouster, who wishes his return, and who mystifyingly rejects the legitimacy of the November elections: U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens.

When I asked Ambassador Llorens why the U.S. government insists on labeling what appears to the entire country to be the constitutional removal of Mr. Zelaya a "coup," he urged me to read the legal opinion drafted by the State Department's top lawyer, Harold Koh. As it happens, I have asked to see Mr. Koh's report before and since my trip, but all requests to publicly disclose it have been denied.

On the other hand, the only thorough examination of the facts to date—conducted by a senior analyst at the Law Library of Congress—confirms the legality and constitutionality of Mr. Zelaya's ouster. (It's on the Internet here .)

Unlike the Obama administration's snap decision after June 28, the Law Library report is grounded in the facts of the case and the intricacies of Honduran constitutional law. So persuasive is the report that after its release, the New Republic's James Kirchick concluded in an Oct. 3 article that President Obama's hastily decided Honduras policy is now "a mistake in search of a rationale."

The Hondurans I met agree. All everyone seemed to want was a chance to make their case, or at least an independent review of the facts.

So far, the Obama administration has ignored these requests and instead has repeatedly doubled down. It's revoked the U.S. travel visas of President Micheletti, his government and private citizens, and refuses to talk to the government in Tegucigalpa. It's frozen desperately needed financial assistance to one of the poorest and friendliest U.S. allies in the region. It won't release the legal basis for its insistence on Mr. Zelaya's restoration to power. Nor has it explained why it's setting aside America's longstanding policy of supporting free elections to settle these kinds of disputes.

But these elections are the only way out—a fact even the Obama administration must see. The Honduran constitution prohibits Zelaya's return to power. The election date is set by law for Nov. 29. The elections will be monitored by international observers and overseen by an apolitical body, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, whose impartiality and independence has been roundly praised, even by Ambassador Llorens.

America's Founding Fathers—like the framers of Honduras's own constitution—believed strong institutions were necessary to defend freedom and democracy from the ambitions of would-be tyrants and dictators. Faced by Mr. Zelaya's attempted usurpations, the institutions of Honduran democracy performed as designed, and as our own Founding Fathers would have hoped.

Hondurans are therefore left scratching their heads. They know why Hugo Chávez, Daniel Ortega and the Castro brothers oppose free elections and the removal of would-be dictators, but they can't understand why the Obama administration does.

They're not the only ones.

Mr. DeMint, a Republican senator from South Carolina, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
25905  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Free market fools Cassandras yet again on: October 10, 2009, 09:31:04 AM

New Way to Tap Gas May Expand Global Supplies Recommend
Published: October 9, 2009
OKLAHOMA CITY — A new technique that tapped previously inaccessible supplies of natural gas in the United States is spreading to the rest of the world, raising hopes of a huge expansion in global reserves of the cleanest fossil fuel.

Italian and Norwegian oil engineers and geologists have arrived in Texas, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania to learn how to extract gas from layers of a black rock called shale. Companies are leasing huge tracts of land across Europe for exploration. And oil executives are gathering rocks and scrutinizing Asian and North African geological maps in search of other fields.

The global drilling rush is still in its early stages. But energy analysts are already predicting that shale could reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian natural gas. They said they believed that gas reserves in many countries could increase over the next two decades, comparable with the 40 percent increase in the United States in recent years.

“It’s a breakout play that is going to identify gigantic resources around the world,” said Amy Myers Jaffe, an energy expert at Rice University. “That will change the geopolitics of natural gas.”

More extensive use of natural gas could aid in reducing global warming, because gas produces fewer emissions of greenhouse gases than either oil or coal. China and India, which have growing economies that rely heavily on coal for electricity, appear to have large potential for production of shale gas. Larger gas reserves would encourage developing countries to convert more of their transportation fleets to use natural gas rather than gasoline.

Shale is a sedimentary rock rich in organic material that is found in many parts of the world. It was of little use as a source of gas until about a decade ago, when American companies developed new techniques to fracture the rock and drill horizontally.

Because so little drilling has been done in shale fields outside of the United States and Canada, gas analysts have made a wide array of estimates for how much shale gas could be tapped globally. Even the most conservative estimates are enormous, projecting at least a 20 percent increase in the world’s known reserves of natural gas.

One recent study by IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates, a consulting group, calculated that the recoverable shale gas outside of North America could turn out to be equivalent to 211 years’ worth of natural gas consumption in the United States at the present level of demand, and maybe as much as 690 years. The low figure would represent a 50 percent increase in the world’s known gas reserves, and the high figure, a 160 percent increase.

The projections suggest that the new method of producing gas “is the biggest energy innovation of the decade,” said Daniel Yergin, chairman of the Cambridge consulting group. “And the amazing thing is there was no grand opening ceremony for it. It just snuck up.”

Over the last five years, production of gas from shale has spread across wide swaths of Texas, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. All the new production has produced a glut of gas in the United States, helping to drive down gas prices and utility costs.

Now American companies are looking abroad for lucrative shale fields in countries hungry for more energy. They are focusing particularly on Europe, where gas prices are sometimes twice what they are in the United States, and large shale beds are located close to some cities.

Exxon Mobil has drilled a few exploratory wells in Germany in recent months. Devon Energy is teaming up with Total, the French oil company, seeking approval to drill in France. ConocoPhillips announced recently that it had signed an agreement with a subsidiary of a small British firm to explore a million acres in the Baltic Basin of Poland.

Early estimates of recoverable European shale gas resources range up to 400 trillion cubic feet, less than half the industry’s estimates of what is recoverable in the United States. But European energy executives say they are excited about the prospects because the Continent’s conventional gas reserves are too small to meet demand.

“It is obvious to everybody that it has huge potential,” said Oivind Reinertsen, president of StatoilHydro USA and Mexico, a Norwegian company with growing shale interests. “You see a lot of land-grabbing by different companies in Europe, potentially spreading to the Far East, China and India.”

Donald I. Hertzmark, a consultant who advises multinational oil companies on gas projects, said that in a decade or so, the new shale gas resources would improve Europe’s ability to withstand any future reduction in Russian pipeline shipments. In 2006 and again last winter, Russia cut off natural gas deliveries shipped through Ukraine because of disputes between the two countries, causing shortages around Europe.

European companies are buying large interests in shale fields in the United States, partly to supply the American market, but also to learn the specialized mapping and drilling techniques required for shale gas.

Several of the European companies have entered into partnerships with smaller American companies. ENI of Italy paid $280 million in May for a stake in a 13,000-acre gas field north of Fort Worth operated by Quicksilver Resources. ENI has a crew of four engineers, a geologist and a geophysicist in Texas to learn from Quicksilver personnel.

One of the biggest marriages is between Chesapeake Energy of Oklahoma City and its strategic partner StatoilHydro.

Seeking cash, Chesapeake agreed to sell Statoil a large stake in its Marcellus shale holdings, centered in Pennsylvania, for $3.9 billion last November. The two companies are looking at shale fields in China, India, Australia and other countries. Seven Statoil employees are working in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania learning to map and fracture shale, and calculate shale gas pressures, and more are coming.

“We know the shale is out there,” said Lars Erik Oino, a Statoil geologist working at Chesapeake headquarters here, as he rubbed hydrochloric acid on a shale sample to test its mineral makeup. “This could have a huge impact on the European
25906  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: October 10, 2009, 09:02:37 AM
If you were to take the time (because I am not going to) I am sure you could find that we have sold to egregious actors many, many times.   I am quite confident of this.

BTW IIRC we sold the raw materials to SH for his WMD attacks on Iran (and the Kurds?)

25907  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 09, 2009, 09:42:19 PM
Fox reported this evening that the name of whomever made the application is held secret for 50 years  rolleyes

Here's a few more worthy candidates:

General Petraeus
Greg Mortenson (opening schools, especially for girls, in Afg and Pak)
25908  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 09, 2009, 03:47:45 PM
Who actually fills in the application?  Must if be made with the knowledge of the nominee?
25909  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: October 09, 2009, 02:31:17 PM
International Media Reactions to Obama Prize

Editorials and news stories from around the world on President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize
Friday, October 09, 2009

Financial Times: What Did Obama Do to Win the Nobel Peace Prize?
I am a genuine admirer of Obama. And I am very pleased that George W Bush is no longer president. But I doubt that I am alone in wondering whether this award is slightly premature. It is hard to point to a single place where Obama's efforts have actually brought about peace - Gaza, Iran, Sri Lanka? The peace prize committee say that he is being rewarded for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy." But while it is OK to give school children prizes for "effort" - my kids get them all the time - I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard.

London Times: Absurd Decision on Obama Makes a Mockery of the Nobel Peace Prize

Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the election of America's first black president and hope that Washington will honour its promise to re-engage with the world.

Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.

The Guardian: Barack Obama's Nobel Prize: Why Now?
Indeed, the reasoning behind the awarding of the prize to previous American presidents has been easier to discern. Teddy Roosevelt opened the court of arbitration in the Hague and helped mediate a peace treaty between Russia and Japan; Woodrow Wilson was the founder of the League of Nations. Jimmy Carter won his prize for his "untiring efforts to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts".
Which is what makes the awarding of this year's prize to a president who has been in office for a mere nine months an odd departure. It is as if the prize committee had been persuaded to give the award on the future delivery of promises.

The Guardian: Should Obama Accept the Nobel Peace Prize
If I were in the boiler room over there, I would begin by suggesting to the president that he demur altogether. That he tell the committee that while he's deeply touched, he does not in fact feel that he has yet done the work to earn this award. He should then recommend to the committee that it give the prize to Hu Jia, the Chinese dissident who was considered a frontrunner, or someone else whose life's cause could actually benefit from winning the prize (and the hefty cash award that comes with it, which Obama also doesn't need).

Telegraph: Obama's Won the Nobel Peace Prize -- WTF?!
Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace prize and I'm still reeling at the shock. Most of us are, I should think. Here are my theories as to how it might have come about:
1. Unlike in most of the rest of the world Obama Kool Aid (TM) remains Oslo's most popular beverage.
2. The Norwegian prize committee's sense of irony is growing ever more sophisticated, as it hinted when it gave the prize in 2002 to comedy ex-president Jimmy Carter, and hinted more strongly when it gave the prize in 2007 to climate-fear-promoting comedy failed-president Al Gore.
3. The other candidates on the shortlist were Robert Mugabe; Osama Bin Laden; Ahmed Jibril; and the late Pol Pot.

Sydney Morning Herald: They Think He Can: Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize
YES, surprisingly, he could. Barack Obama, is the shock choice for the Nobel Peace Prize, less than a year after his election as U.S. President.

Il Giornale: A Preposterous Choice
Let me be clear: the discourse on Islam in Cairo was beautiful, tall, and it opens up new horizons, but did not lead to anything. And on the other matter, as pointed out repeatedly in this blog, Obama has been evasive or inconclusive, starting with Iran and Afghanistan. Nor can he boast the merits of rapprochement with North Korea, which was brought about by Bill Clinton. He kept only one real promise: the gradual withdrawal from Iraq. Enough to deserve the Nobel Prize?

Der Spiegel: Obama's Nobel Prize Is More of a Burden Than an Honor
The Nobel Peace Prize has come too early for Barack Obama. The US president cannot point to any real diplomatic successes to date and there are few prospects of any to come.

Bild: "Wow!" Barack Obama Receives Nobel Peace Prize
It is the most important award in the world. And she goes to U.S. President Barack Obama (48) - he gets this year's Nobel Peace Prize. What a sensation!

Krakow Post: "Too Fast" for Obama Nobel, Says Walesa
The former president, himself a Peace Prize winner in 1983, told the press in Warsaw "Who, Obama? So fast? Too fast - he hasn't had the time to do anything yet." This sentiment was reflected by current Prime Minister Donald Tusk: "Shock - absolutely. It's interesting, but shocking."

The Globe and Mail: Obama's Premature Prize
The simple explanation for the Committee's decision to cite Mr. Obama at this stage of his presidency is that he is not George W. Bush.
The more generous interpretation is that the decision is hortatory; that is, it is designed to encourage the President to follow a path in U.S. foreign policy that is preferred by Committee members.

Toronto Star: Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize
Once you catch your breath - Obama has been on the world stage for less than a year “ the decision makes perfect sense. More than other Nobel categories, the Nobel for peace goes to a cause, and only ostensibly to an individual or group.
With Lester Pearson, the award was for diplomatic resolutions of conflict. With Martin Luther King, it was for non-violent pursuit of justice. Two relatively obscure Irish women were honoured for spearheading a non-violent resolution to the Troubles. Jimmy Carter, in 1992, was honoured for diplomatic outside interventions in regions of escalating or potential violence.

National Post: Shiny Prize Went to the Nice Man Who Gave the Best Speech
Obama is being given his award for mere words -- for striking fashionable poses in favour of multilateralism, for making a nice speech in Cairo, for offering "hope." Months after Americans learned to dismiss Obama's 2008 presidential campaign slogans as the meaningless bromides they were, Scandinavians are still drinking his Kool-aid.

China Daily: Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize to Mixed Reviews
US President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for giving the world "hope for a better future" and striving for nuclear disarmament, in a surprise award that drew criticism as well as praise.

Middle East:
Al-Jazeera: Doubts Voiced Over Obama Peace Win
A surprised world has greeted the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama, the US president, with a mixture of praise and skepticism.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban mocked the award, saying it was absurd to give it to Obama when he had ordered 21,000 extra troops to Afghanistan this year.
"The Nobel prize for peace? Obama should have won the 'Nobel prize for escalating violence and killing civilians'," Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told the Reuters news agency.

Jerusalem Post: Peres, Barak Congratulate Barack Obama
President Shimon Peres on Friday sent a letter of congratulations to US President Barack Obama for winning the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for Peace, telling the American leader that under his leadership, peace became a "real and original agenda."
"Very few leaders if at all were able to change the mood of the entire world in such a short while with such profound impact. You provided the entire humanity with fresh hope, with intellectual determination, and a feeling that there is a Lord in heaven and believers on earth," Peres, himself a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, wrote to Obama.

Haaretz: Obama Administration Official: President "Humbled" by Award
While the decision won praise from statesmen like Nelson Mandela and Mikhail Gorbachev, both former Nobel laureates, it was also attacked in some quarters as hasty and undeserved.
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip and opposes a peace treaty with Israel, said the award was premature at best.
"Obama has a long way to go still and lots of work to do before he can deserve a reward," said Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri. "Obama only made promises and did not contribute any substance to world peace. And he has not done anything to ensure justice for the sake of Arab and Muslim causes."

The International News: Iranians Call Obama Nobel Award a Mistake
Iranians joined criticism of the surprise award of the Nobel Peace Prize to U.S. President Barack Obama on Friday.
One Tehran resident regarded the award as inappropriate, given U.S. policy in the Middle East.
"In my opinion, when a person cooperates with and supports the Israeli regime, he does not deserve to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. It is a mistake," said Massoud Savoji.
Another resident of the Iranian capital, Maryam Afrouz, praised the U.S. president as a man "who loves to have peace and calm prevail all over the whole world.

Dawn: Wartime President Wins Nobel Peace Prize
Obama's name had been mentioned in speculation before the award but many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to award the president.
The committee said it attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.
25910  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments on: October 09, 2009, 11:30:08 AM
pasting here as well GM's post from the Sharia thread:

Barack Obama adviser says Sharia Law is misunderstood

President Barack Obama's adviser on Muslim affairs, Dalia Mogahed, has provoked controversy by appearing on a British television show hosted by a member of an extremist group to talk about Sharia Law.
By Andrew Gilligan and Alex Spillius in Washington
Published: 8:00PM BST 08 Oct 2009

Miss Mogahed, appointed to the President's Council on Faith-Based and Neighbourhood Partnerships, said the Western view of Sharia was "oversimplified" and the majority of women around the world associate it with "gender justice".

The White House adviser made the remarks on a London-based TV discussion programme hosted by Ibtihal Bsis, a member of the extremist Hizb ut Tahrir party.

The group believes in the non-violent destruction of Western democracy and the creation of an Islamic state under Sharia Law across the world.

Miss Mogahed appeared alongside Hizb ut Tahrir's national women's officer, Nazreen Nawaz.

During the 45-minute discussion, on the Islam Channel programme Muslimah Dilemma earlier this week, the two members of the group made repeated attacks on secular "man-made law" and the West's "lethal cocktail of liberty and capitalism".

They called for Sharia Law to be "the source of legislation" and said that women should not be "permitted to hold a position of leadership in government".

Miss Mogahed made no challenge to these demands and said that "promiscuity" and the "breakdown of traditional values" were what Muslims admired least about the West.

She said: "I think the reason so many women support Sharia is because they have a very different understanding of sharia than the common perception in Western media.

"The majority of women around the world associate gender justice, or justice for women, with sharia compliance.

"The portrayal of Sharia has been oversimplified in many cases."

Sharia in its broadest sense is a religious code for living, which decrees such matters as fasting and dressing modestly. However, it has also been interpreted as requiring the separation of men and women.

It also includes the controversial "Hadd offences", crimes with specific penalties set by the Koran and the sayings of the prophet Mohammed. These include death by stoning for adultery and homosexuality and the removal of a hand for theft.

Miss Mogahed admitted that even many Muslims associated Sharia with "maximum criminal punishments" and "laws that... to many people seem unequal to women," but added: "Part of the reason that there is this perception of Sharia is because Sharia is not well understood and Islam as a faith is not well understood."

The video of the broadcast has now been prominently posted on the front page of Hizb ut Tahrir's website.

Miss Mogahed, who was born in Egypt and moved to America at the age of five, is the first veiled Muslim woman to serve in the White House. Her appointment was seen as a sign of the Obama administration's determination to reach out to the Muslim world.

She is also the executive director of the Gallup Center for Muslim Studies, a project which aims to scientifically sample public opinion in the Muslim world.

During this week's broadcast, she described her White House role as "to convey... to the President and other public officials what it is Muslims want."

Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said Miss Mogahed was “downplaying” Sharia Law.

“There is a reason sharia has got a bad name and it is how it has been exercised. Regrettably in the US there have been acts of injustice perpetrated against women that are driven by the Sharia-type mindset that women are objects not human beings,” she said.

She cited the example of Muzzammil Hassan, a Buffalo man who ran a cable channel aimed at countering Muslim stereotypes and was charged earlier this year with beheading his wife after she filed for divorce.

“Americans understand by example, it’s not as if we are an ignorant mass of people. Just as we don’t broad brush all Muslims, so should Dalia not downplay the serious nature of sharia law.”
25911  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments on: October 09, 2009, 11:27:31 AM
What's this business I'm hearing about a NAMBLA pedophile being part of the BO team?
25912  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ukraine to get US BMD?!? on: October 09, 2009, 11:20:30 AM
U.S.: Broadening the BMD Network
Stratfor Today » October 9, 2009 | 1347 GMT

U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow in April 2008U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow said Ukraine has been added to the list of countries that could be included in the United States’ developing ballistic missile defense (BMD) network. The statement, given in an interview to Defense News magazine, which published Oct. 9, surprised the Russians for several reasons.

In and of itself, the Russians do not care much about the BMD program. Russia sees its long-term security guaranteed mostly by its nuclear deterrent. The U.S. BMD program in its current incarnation is expressly designed only to protect the United States from a handful of missiles from a rogue country such as Iran or North Korea; but the Russians fear that, with time and experience, the BMD program could grow into something more capable. And since Moscow, during the Cold War, was far from confident in its ability to counter American BMD (then called Star Wars), modern Russia — with fewer financial and technological resources — is doubly concerned.

But the more immediate Russian concern is not so much BMD, but Ukraine. Ukraine is integrated fully into the Russian industrial and agricultural heartland and is critical for the operation of the Russia’s transport and energy networks. Ukraine also happens to hold the populations and transport links that allow Russia to control the Caucasus, as well as lying within 300 miles of Moscow and Volgograd. With Ukraine, Russia can make a serious effort to become a major power again. Without Ukraine, it is feasible to start thinking about Russia’s (permanent) decline. Such thinking is precisely the sort of activity the Russians do not want anyone spending time on.

In fact, the Kremlin is on a bit of a roll, having recently managed to surge their influence into Germany, Azerbaijan, Turkey and even Poland. STRATFOR sees Russia’s influence growing with every passing day. In particular, Moscow believes it has Ukraine not simply locked down, but on the final path toward excising all elements of the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution.

So, Vershbow’s statement has really grabbed Russia’s attention. As Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov noted, “The statement by Alexander Vershbow was rather unexpected. In principle, he is a person who is prone to extravagancies. We would like to receive full clarification.”

Which brings us back to Vershbow himself: Former U.S. ambassador to both NATO and Russia, he knows the Russian mind as well as is possible for an American. In his new job at the Defense Department, his primary task is to try to keep Ukraine and Georgia — another sore spot with the Russians — independent.

At present, STRATFOR cannot confirm the core of Vershbow’s interview — whether Ukraine is a serious candidate for a BMD station. What we can say is that the Americans have been reaching for a means of not simply halting Russia’s rise, but eliciting Russian cooperation on containing the Iranian nuclear program. The first part of that is forcing Russia’s attention onto topics the Americans want to discuss.

“Extravagancies” or not, Vershbow is certainly a person who knows how to capture Russia’s attention.
25913  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 09, 2009, 10:19:24 AM
"f the public are bound to yield obedience to laws to which they cannot give their approbation, they are slaves to those who make such laws and enforce them." --Candidus in the Boston Gazette, 1772
25914  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: BO's friends and appointments on: October 08, 2009, 07:48:54 PM
In my opinion WND is often a careless source-- anyone have something on this matter from a more definitive source?

Sunstein: Americans too racist for socialism
Defends communism, welfare state but says 'white majority' oppose programs aiding blacks, Hispanics

Posted: October 07, 2009
10:35 pm Eastern

By Aaron Klein
© 2009 WorldNetDaily
JERUSALEM – The U.S. should move in the direction of socialism but the country's "white majority" opposes welfare since such programs largely would benefit minorities, especially blacks and Hispanics, argued President Obama's newly confirmed regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein.

"The absence of a European-style social welfare state is certainly connected with the widespread perception among the white majority that the relevant programs would disproportionately benefit African Americans (and more recently Hispanics)," wrote Sunstein.

The .czar's controversial comments were made in his 2004 book "The Second Bill of Rights," which was obtained and
reviewed by WND.

In the book, Sunstein openly argues for bringing socialism to the U.S. and even lends support to communism.
"During the Cold War, the debate about [social welfare] guarantees took the form of pervasive disagreement between the United States and its communist adversaries. Americans emphasized the importance of civil and political liberties, above all free speech and freedom of religion, while communist nations stressed the right to a job, and a social minimum."
Continued Sunstein: "I think this debate was unhelpful; it is most plausible to see the two sets of rights as mutually reinforcing, not antagonistic."

Sunstein claims the "socialist movement" did not take hold in the U.S. in part because of a "smaller and weaker political left or lack of enthusiasm for redistributive programs."
He laments, "In a variety of ways, subtle and less subtle, public and private actions have made it most difficult for socialism to have any traction in the United States."

Sunstein wants to spread America's wealth

WND first reported Sunstein penned a 2007 University of Chicago Law in which he debated whether America should pay "justice" to the world by entering into a agreement that would be a net financial loss for the U.S. He argues it is "desirable" to redistribute America's wealth to poorer nations.

A prominent theme throughout Sunstein's 39-page paper, entitled " Justice" and reviewed by WND, maintains U.S. wealth should be redistributed to poorer nations. He uses terms such as "distributive justice" several times. The paper was written with fellow Eric A. Posner.

"It is even possible that desirable redistribution is more likely to occur through climate change policy than otherwise, or to be accomplished more effectively through climate policy than through direct foreign aid," wrote Sunstein.
He posited: "We agree that if the United States does spend a great deal on emissions reductions as part of an international agreement, and if the agreement does give particular help to disadvantaged people, considerations of distributive justice support its action, even if better redistributive mechanisms are imaginable.

"If the United States agrees to participate in a climate change agreement on terms that are not in the nation's interest, but that help the world as a whole, there would be no reason for complaint, certainly if such participation is more helpful to poor nations than conventional foreign-aid alternatives," he wrote.

Sunstein maintains: "If we care about social welfare, we should approve of a situation in which a wealthy nation is willing to engage in a of self-sacrifice when the world benefits more than that nation loses."

Sunstein proposed 'socialist' bill of rights
In "The Second Bill of Rights," WND also reported, Sunstein proposed a new "bill of rights" in which he advanced the radical notion that welfare rights, including some controversial inceptions, be granted by the state. Among his mandates:
 The right to a useful and remunerative job in the or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

 The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

 The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

 The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

 The right of every family to a decent home;

 The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy

 The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

 The right to a good education.

On one page in his book, Sunstein claims he is "not seriously arguing" his bill of rights be "encompassed by anything in the Constitution," but on the next page he states that "if the nation becomes committed to certain rights, they may migrate into the Constitution itself."
Later in the book, Sunstein argues that "at a minimum, the second bill should be seen as part and parcel of America's constitutive commitments."
WND has learned that in April 2005, Sunstein opened up a conference at Yale Law School entitled "The Constitution in 2020," which sought to change the nature and interpretation of the Constitution by that year.
Sunstein has been a main participant in the movement, which openly seeks to create a "progressive" consensus as to what the U.S. Constitution should provide for by the year 2020. It also suggests strategy for how liberal lawyers and judges might bring such a constitutional regime into being.
Just before his appearance at the conference, Sunstein wrote a blog entry in which he explained he "will be urging that it is important to resist, on democratic grounds, the idea that the document should be interpreted to reflect the view of the extreme right-wing of the Republican Party." 
25915  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 08, 2009, 04:52:36 PM
Usually I agree with Stratfor on most things, but I agree with you about the estrogen orientation of this President.

In fairness it must be said that
a) I don't sense our military chomping at the bit
b) Bush left us seriously overextended viz the Russians.  For the strategy he was following IMHO it was really poor judgment to not expand our bandwith

OTOH maybe if candidate BO hadn't been such a vigorous advocate of running away from Iraq, and as President maybe if he hadn't demonstrated so much weakness and poor judgement, then maybe the Iranians, the Russians et al would be taking us more seriously.
25916  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: October 08, 2009, 11:29:23 AM
For the record the US is by far the world's largest arms merchant and we are not always very careful about to whom we sell.
25917  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Biden's visit to Central Europe on: October 08, 2009, 07:50:48 AM
Biden's Visit to Central Europe
Stratfor Today » October 7, 2009 | 2156 GMT

White House officials said Oct. 7 that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will travel to three Central European countries to discuss ballistic missile defense infrastructure and bilateral security ties. The purpose of Biden’s visit is twofold: to reassure Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania that the United States is still a powerful security guarantor, and remind Russia that the United States has clout in its geopolitical backyard. The timing of the visit coincides with the U.S.-Russian tussle over Iran’s burgeoning nuclear program.


The White House confirmed Oct. 7 that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden will visit Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania from Oct. 20 to Oct. 24. According to the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, the visit will include talks regarding supporting infrastructure for the U.S. SM-3 ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans, which U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates announced on Sept. 17.

The intent of Biden’s visit to Poland, the Czech Republic and Romania is to assure Central Europe — but particularly Warsaw — that the United States has not abandoned the region following its decision to withdraw Bush administration plans for a ground-based interceptor BMD system. Most of Central Europe interpreted that decision as a move to appease Russia, since the United States wants the Kremlin to stop helping advance the Iranian nuclear program and eventually pressure Iran to abandon it.

However, since the U.S. decision to withdraw plans for the BMD system in Poland and the Czech Republic, Russia has not responded by pulling back its support for Iran. Instead, Russia has recently reiterated that support. From Moscow’s perspective, Russia never viewed the U.S. decision to scrap BMD in Central Europe as a concession; Russia still has not seen any real evidence of U.S. pullback as the United States is still maintaining strong ties to Central Europe. Furthermore, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Borodavkin made it clear on Oct. 6 that Moscow intends to continue its military-technological cooperation with Iran, though it will strictly adhere to the framework of international laws.

Enter U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden and U.S. Foreign Policy

Biden is a serious player when it comes to the Obama administration’s foreign policy. This will not be Biden’s first — or last — high-profile mission. In May, he went on a tour of the Balkans to try to calm regional tensions. In July, he went to two key states on the Russian periphery, Georgia and Ukraine. Biden’s visit to Tbilisi and Kiev followed U.S. President Barack Obama’s meeting with his Russian counterpart Dmitri Medvedev, a visit that the United States felt Russians did not take seriously. Biden’s trip to Ukraine and Georgia was therefore a not-so-subtle reminder to Moscow that Washington can still exert power in the Russian sphere of influence, even in states that Russia feels it has brought under its control.

It should therefore not come as a surprise that Biden is going to three key Central European states immediately following the Kremlin’s explicit intent to continue cooperation with Iran. Biden’s purpose is to say things that the U.S. administration is thinking but does not want to say without plausible deniability. He is known for his “blustery rhetoric” and “outbursts”; therefore the Obama administration can always distance itself from the actual language he uses, but the rest of the world — especially Russia — knows to listen carefully.

In effect, Biden is actually being deployed much as the National Security Council (NSC) chief often is — as the man who knows what the president really thinks. Secretaries of state are frequently marginalized because they are selected for political reasons whereas the head of the NSC is almost always a key foreign policy player. Furthermore, Biden is known as a blunt critic of Russia; during his visit to Ukraine and Georgia he explicitly said that Russia would ultimately bend to the U.S. will due to its tattered economy and in effect called Russia a weak state. Russians understandably do not like Biden, but they understand his role very well. He is therefore a perfect tool for the Obama administration to remind Russia that United States can make aggressive moves in the region — an obvious reminder to the Kremlin that it is more profitable to play ball with the United States.

Biden’s Visit in the Geopolitical Context
With that in mind, it is worth analyzing what the U.S. relationship is with the countries that Biden will be visiting. For Poland and the Czech Republic, Biden’s visit will define U.S. relations, while in Romania, Biden is expected to strengthen the already close — and unwavering — military ties.

The U.S.-Polish relationship took a hit following Obama’s decision to pull back the BMD system from Poland. Poland’s immediate reaction was one of shock, or one of trying to hide that the country was in shock with many analysts and politicians assuring the public that they “expected the decision”. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk tried to put a positive spin on the decision by saying that the new U.S. plans were beneficial for Europe, while Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski hinted at plans to tie Polish national security more closely to the European Union.

However, Poland is in a geographically unenviable position. It occupies the vast expense of plains between Germany and Russia, but matches neither country’s population nor economic resources. It can certainly strive to have cordial relations with both, but it cannot depend on either for security guarantees, and it cannot come to a consensus about making deals with Germany or Russia. The idea of tying its security to the European Union is complicated because the European Union has few concrete security guarantees. Even with the Lisbon Treaty likely to be ratified, it is unclear how Poland would spur the rest of Europe to speak with a common voice on security and defense matters.

With its geography forcing Poland to look nervously both ways, its only foreign policy strategy is to look for allies beyond its neighborhood as an external security guarantor. Between World War I and World War II, Warsaw turned to London and Paris; after the retreat of the Soviet Union, Warsaw turned to Washington. Poland therefore can take Obama’s spur and build better relations with Germany and France in terms of security arrangements, and the plan for its EU Presidency, set for 2011, calls for working close with France on the bolstering of EU defense policy, an example of this strategy. However, considering the limitations of European security guarantees, the alternative for Poland is to let the emotions on the BMD pullback pass and listen to what the United States has to offer instead.

The Czech Republic is in a less critical situation. Its location on the European continent is not directly exposed to Russia and it is integrated geographically in the German defensive perimeter. It is also a smaller and less powerful player than Poland; therefore, it is less worried about its security since there is less it can do about its own security than Poland. Czech public opinion has also been much more vociferously opposed to the U.S. BMD system than Polish public opinion, and Czech politicians did not have a consensus on the matter, which has been passed up by both former Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek’s government as well as the current government of Prime Minister Jan Fischer. Nonetheless, Biden will seek to reassure the Czechs that the United States is still a player in the region and that it is not necessary for Prague to discount the United States as a security ally.

Finally, Biden’s visit to Central Europe will finish with a stop in Romania. Romania does not have a reason to feel abandoned by the United States since it was never part of the BMD system. The United States has made Romania home for four of its lily pad bases since 2005, bases that house pre-positioned equipment and can be ramped up into a proper base in times of crisis.

While Washington’s entanglements in the Middle East colored the initial thinking on close Romanian-U.S. relations — Romania is a great European location to project air power into the Middle East — it is also a direct line into the Russian underbelly. Romania sits on the only other geographical access point — other than the North European Plain — between Russia and the European Continent as the Carpathian Mountains block off the route in between. This is the Bessarabian lowlands between the Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea. Romania also has shown interest in aggressively looking to project its own power into neighboring Moldova, which Moscow considers part of its sphere of influence.

Biden’s visit to Central Europe is therefore part of the ongoing contest between Russia and the United States for influence in Europe, but also the broader geopolitical tussle over Iran. With Russia confirming that it intends to continue its collaboration with Tehran, the United States is sending Biden to Central Europe as a message that it too can continue playing hardball where it hurts Russia.
25918  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The BO plan to remake Pakistan on: October 08, 2009, 07:36:55 AM
The Obama Plan to Radically Remake Pakistan

IN AN UNUSUAL MOVE, the Pakistani military on Wednesday publicly criticized the Kerry-Lugar Bill — a five-year, multibillion-dollar U.S. aid package recently approved by Congress and now awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature. The military’s motivation is simple: The aid package is designed to limit the Pakistani military’s role in governance. It stipulates that the aid is contingent upon the U.S. secretary of state’s certification that, among other things, a democratic government in Pakistan “exercises effective civilian control of the military, including a description of the extent to which civilian executive leaders and parliament exercise oversight and approval of military budgets, the chain of command, the process of promotion for senior military leaders, civilian involvement in strategic guidance and planning, and military involvement in civil administration.”

Effectively, this means that, through the aid package, the Obama administration is trying to alter the nature of the Pakistani state — a very ambitious project to say the least. Encouraged by events in Pakistan during the final days of the Bush administration — as the military government of former President Pervez Musharraf weakened and eventually fell, paving the way for a civilian government — the Obama administration feels that the Pakistani state is ready to move toward an even more robust form of democratic rule. The administration’s thinking holds that the U.S. fight against militant Islamism in South Asia is best served by ensuring civilian primacy in Pakistan, given the military’s historical ties to militant non-state proxies. The Obama administration believes that aggressively pushing for a more democratic Pakistan will reset the imbalance in civilian-military relations.

“The administration’s thinking holds that the U.S. fight against militant Islamism in South Asia is best served by ensuring civilian primacy in Pakistan.”
But this view disregards the nature of the Pakistani state as it has evolved since its creation. The military has ruled the country directly — or indirectly dominated during brief periods of civilian rule — throughout its 62-year history. The current democratic arrangement is in its infancy, with disparate forces competing within civilian institutions: The presidency, parliament and judiciary all have been wracked by internal conflict. The need to rein in an assortment of jihadist non-state actors threatening national security is putting the nascent civilian state under even more pressure. In short, though weakened, the military remains the Pakistani institution best positioned to meet the first requirement of any nation-state: keeping the country together.

The U.S. move will exacerbate civilian-military tensions. This is already evident, as the Pakistani central command moves to counter the Kerry-Lugar Bill. It is extremely unlikely that it will go so far as to mount a coup — and face a domestic and international backlash — but the military has no intention of yielding without a struggle, which almost surely will result in increased instability.

While Washington’s actions can be explained as a mere misreading of the situation, the motives of President Asif Ali Zardari’s government for supporting the Kerry-Lugar Bill are less apparent. According to well-placed sources, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government is trying to follow the model of the ruling Justice & Development (AK) Party in Turkey, which over the last few years has successfully reined in the Turkish military establishment. After a successful collaboration with the military in mounting effective offensives against Taliban rebels, the Zardari government now feels that with U.S. financial and political support, it can consolidate greater civilian rule over time. But there are too many differences between the circumstances in Turkey and Pakistan to prevent the PPP from accomplishing in Pakistan what the AK Party has been able to do in Turkey.

For starters, unlike the AK Party government, which enjoys an overwhelming parliamentary majority, the PPP leads a fractious coalition government that became very unpopular shortly after coming to power in February 2008. Despite the fact that it is the country’s largest political force and a secular party, the PPP and its coalition are struggling to deal with Islamist radicalism. In Turkey, by contrast, the AK Party has maintained a decent equilibrium between the Islamist and secularist elements, despite its own Islamist roots. And the Turkish military — a staunchly secularist establishment — has established a working relationship with the government of the AK Party, while the Pakistani military leadership historically has been at odds with the PPP, despite their shared secular ideology.

That said, Pakistan is no longer a place where the military can simply dismiss civilian governments, let alone take over. At the same time, the country is also far from the point where civilians can exercise greater control over the military. Therefore, any radical move to alter the nature of the state could have serious repercussions for both the country and U.S. interests in the region — a serious matter, given that Washington already is struggling to craft a policy for Afghanistan.

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25919  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: October 08, 2009, 06:37:29 AM
Iran and the Strait of Hormuz, Part 3: The Psychology of Naval Mines
Stratfor Today » October 7, 2009 | 1240 GMT

Relatively cheap, cost effective and easy to deploy, mines are the improvised explosive devices of naval warfare, and the potential variations in the Iranian mine arsenal are practically limitless. Could Iran close the Strait of Hormuz with an impenetrable field of naval mines? Probably not, but it wouldn’t have to. In mine warfare, the ultimate objective is often psychological.

Editor’s Note: This is part three in a three-part series examining Iran’s ability to close the Strait of Hormuz.

Perhaps even less clear than the composition of Iran’s anti-ship missile arsenal is its stockpile of naval mines. Over the years, Tehran has amassed thousands of mines, largely from Russia and China. Many are old free-floating and moored contact mines, which must physically make contact with a ship’s hull in order to detonate. But Iran has also acquired more advanced naval mines that have complex and sensitive triggers — some can be detonated by acoustic noise, others by magnetic influence from the metal of a ship’s hull. When deployed, many of these mines rest on the sea floor (for better concealment) and are designed to release what is essentially a small torpedo, either guided or unguided.

Iran also is thought to manufacture naval mines indigenously, and this is the real problem for mine-clearing operations in the Strait of Hormuz. Naval mines need not be particularly complex or difficult to build to be effective (though a long shelf life ashore and longevity in the maritime environment are important considerations and require a detailed understanding of naval mine design). Relatively cheap, cost effective and easy to deploy, mines are the improvised explosive devices of naval warfare, and the potential variations in the Iranian mine arsenal are practically limitless. The question is not how many modern mines Iran has acquired but what Iran has improvised and cobbled together within its own borders and manufactured in numbers. Although old, poorly maintained naval mines and poor storage conditions can be a recipe for disaster, many of Iran’s mines may have been modified or purpose-built to suit Iran’s needs and methods of deployment.

These methods of deployment extend far beyond Iran’s small number of larger, purpose-built mine-warfare ships. Not only have fishing dhows and trawlers been modified for mine-warfare purposes, but the naval arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is known to have a fleet of small boats not just for swarming and suicide attacks but also to be employed to sow naval mines.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding Iran’s mine-laying capability as well as its naval mine stockpile, it is as impossible to estimate the effort it would take to clear Iranian mines from the strait. It all depends on what plays out, and there are many scenarios. One envisions Iran surreptitiously sowing mines for several days before the U.S. military detects the effort. Another has Iran deploying mines after an initial American strike, in which case Iran’s mine-laying capability would be severely degraded. The question of which side moves first is a critical one for almost any scenario.

But it is reasonably clear that Iran lacks both the arsenal and the capability for a “worst-case” scenario: sowing a full offensive field across the Strait of Hormuz composed of tens of thousands of mines that would effectively prevent any ship from entering the waterway. Though the IRGC and other forces that could be involved in mine-laying operations certainly practice their craft, their proficiency is not at all clear. And though the Iranians have a variety of mine-laying vessels at their disposal, their ability to perform the precise navigation and coordination required to lay a large-scale minefield with its hodgepodge of purpose-built minelayers, modified dhows and barges and small boats is questionable.

Most important — and most problematic for the Iranians — is the fact that the United States has a considerable presence near the strait and maintains close situational awareness in the region. Iran does not have the luxury of time when it comes to sowing mines. Some limited, covert mine laying cannot be ruled out, but Tehran cannot exclude the possibility of being caught — and the consequences of being caught would be significant, almost certainly involving a U.S. military strike. In any Iranian attempt to close the strait, it must balance the need to deploy as many mines as possible as quickly as possible with the need to do so surreptitiously. The former attempt could be quickly spotted, while the latter may fail to sow a sufficient number of mines to create the desired effect.

In addition, the damage that even a significant number of mines can physically do may be limited. Most naval mines — especially the older variety — can inflict only minor damage to a modern tanker or warship. During the “Tanker Wars,” the Kuwaiti tanker MV Bridgeton and the guided missile frigate USS Samuel B Roberts (FFG 58) were struck by crude Iranian mines in 1987 and 1988, respectively. Though both were damaged, neither sank.

But in mine warfare, the ultimate objective is often psychological. The uncertainty of a threat can instill as much fear as the certainty of it, and Iran need not sow a particularly coherent field of mines to impede traffic through the strait. A single ship striking a naval mine (or even a serious Iranian move to sow mines) could quickly and dramatically drive up global oil prices and maritime insurance rates. This combination is bad enough in the best of times. But the Iranian threat to the Strait of Hormuz could not be more effective than at this moment, with the world just starting to show signs of economic recovery. The shock wave of a spike in energy prices — not to mention the wider threat of a conflagration in the Persian Gulf — could leave the global economy in even worse straits than it was a year ago.

We will not delve here into the calculations of maritime insurers other than to say that, when it comes to supertankers and their cargo, an immense amount of money is at stake
— and this cuts both ways. Even damage to a supertanker can quickly run into the millions of dollars — not to mention the opportunity cost of having the ship out of commission. On the other hand, especially at a time when the strait is dangerous and oil prices are through the roof, there would be windfall profits to be made from a successful transit to open waters.

The initial shock to the global economy of a supertanker hitting a mine in the strait would be profound, but its severity and longevity would depend in large part on the extent of the mining, Iran’s ability to continue laying mines and the speed of mine-clearing operations. And, as always, it would all hinge on the quality of intelligence. While some military targets — major naval installations, for example — are large, fixed and well known, Iran’s mine-laying capability is more dispersed (like its nuclear program). That, along with Iran’s armada of small boats along the Persian Gulf coast, suggests it may not be possible to bring Iran’s mine-laying efforts to an immediate halt. Barring a cease-fire, limited, low-level mining operations could well continue.

Given the variables involved, it is difficult to describe exactly what a U.S. mine-clearing operation might look like in the strait, although enough is known about the U.S. naval presence in the region and other mine-clearing operations to suggest a rough scenario. The United States keeps four mine countermeasures ships forward deployed in the Persian Gulf. A handful of allied minesweepers are also generally on station, as well as MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters, which are used in such operations. This available force in the region approaches the size of the mine-clearing squadron employed during Operation Iraqi Freedom to clear the waterway leading to the port of Umm Qasr, although it does not include a mine countermeasures command ship and represents a different clearing scenario.

The clearing of the Strait of Hormuz would begin with the clearing of a “Q-route,” a lane calculated to entail less than a 10 percent chance of a mine strike. While there may be considerable uncertainty in this calculation, the route would be used for essential naval traffic and also would play a role in the ongoing clearing operation. The time it would take to clear such a route would vary considerably, based on a wide variety of factors, but it could be a week or more. And a Q-route suitable for large supertankers could take longer to clear than the initial route.

The sooner maritime commerce can resume transiting the strait (perhaps escorted at first by naval vessels), the shorter the crisis would be. The more time that passes without a mine strike, the faster confidence would return. But another mine strike could cause another shock to the global economy, even after clearing operations have been under way for some time.

The fact is, the United States and its allies have the capability to clear naval mines from the Strait of Hormuz, technically speaking. But mine countermeasures work is notoriously under-resourced — it is neither the sexiest nor the most career-enhancing job in the U.S. Navy. So while even a sizable mine-clearing operation in the strait would have historical precedent in other locations, it would be wrong to assume that such an operation would go smoothly and efficiently, even under the best of circumstances.

The efficiency of a mine-clearing effort in the strait would be subject to any number of variables. One thing is clear, however: Any Iranian mining effort could quickly have profound and far-reaching consequences — including an impact on the global economy far out of proportion to the actual threat. Naval mines laid by Iran would take a considerable amount of time — weeks or months — to clear from the strait, and their effect would be felt long after an American air campaign ended. Indeed, should hostilities continue for some time, having small boats continue to seed mines may be the most survivable of Iran’s asymmetric naval capabilities.

Ultimately, Iran’s military capabilities should not be understood as tools that can only be used independently. If it attempted to close the strait, Iran would draw on the full spectrum of its capabilities in order to be as disruptive as possible. For example, Iran could hold its anti-ship missiles in reserve and launch them at smaller mine countermeasures ships conducting clearing operations in the strait, since these vessels have nowhere near the defensive capabilities of surface combatants. It would also take a considerable amount of time for Washington to send more countermeasures ships to the area from the continental United States above what would likely be deployed ahead of a crisis (if Washington had the luxury of enough warning).

The bottom line is that there is considerable uncertainty and substantial risk for both sides. But while Iran’s capability to actually “close” the strait is questionable, there is little doubt that it could quickly wreak havoc on the global economy by doing much less.
25920  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 08, 2009, 06:08:41 AM
Again Stratfor seems to think the US leadership is capable of military action against Iran.

Nonetheless, as is usually the case with anything from Stratfor, there is much to consider:

Russia Responds on the Iran Issue
AFTER A WEEK OF SILENCE following the Oct. 1 talks with Iran in Geneva, Russian officials issued a series of statements Tuesday. First, Deputy Foreign Minister Aleksey Borodavkin told Itar-Tass directly that Russia intends to continue its military-technical cooperation with Iran, though within the strict framework of international laws on such matters. Borodavkin’s statement comes in response to U.S. and Israeli demands for Russia to stop supporting Iran. Later in the day, National Security Council chief Nikolai Patrushev denied a report in Britain’s Sunday Times that stated Israel had confronted Moscow with evidence that Russian scientists were aiding Iran in the development of a nuclear weapons program.

Russia has been in a tense position since the Geneva talks. Though the P-5+1 and Tehran reached a tentative agreement to allow Iran’s nuclear facilities to be inspected, under the authority of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Washington and Tehran are still heading toward a crisis. At the heart of this crisis is Russia: It is Russia that is helping Iran with its civilian nuclear program, and Russia is the country that could undermine the effectiveness of U.S. sanctions against Iran. Moscow also occasionally raises the specter of more significant military assistance to Iran, in the form of modern strategic air defense systems like the S-300.

“If Russia was directly linked to the crisis, it would wreck Moscow’s ability to negotiate not only with the United States but with the West as a whole, including Europe.”
In the past week, a flurry of leaks has escalated tensions between the United States and Iran. There was a leak from the IAEA stating that Iran’s nuclear program is much more advanced than previously thought, as well as leaks from the United States that the government is re-examining its intelligence estimates on Iran’s program. But what was really interesting was the leak about Israel’s evidence that Russia is helping Iran with its nuclear weapons program (instead of nuclear energy for civilian purposes). This leak not only heightened the sense of an impending crisis between the United States and Iran, but also pointed a finger directly at Russia.

Yet Russia was silent for a week after the Geneva talks, and for three days after the Sunday Times reported the accusations against it. But the silence has now been broken.

The Russians took their time deciding how to respond on all fronts. As expected, Moscow denied that it was helping Iran develop a weapons program. For Russia to achieve its goal, it must be seen as supportive of Iran, but not as the cause of the turmoil between Washington and Tehran. If Russia was directly linked to the crisis, it would wreck Moscow’s ability to negotiate not only with the United States but with the West as a whole, including Europe.

While Russia distances itself from the leaked Israeli accusation, it is the statement from Borodavkin that is critical. Russia is reserving the right to continue its military relationship with Iran, despite the U.S. and Israeli demands to stop. Russia is pushing the United States into a dilemma.

Moscow sees three possible outcomes of the crisis.

First, the United States could try to cut a deal with the Russians: Washington would concede on issues in Moscow’s sphere of influence, in exchange for Russia backing away from Iran. But the United States would have to give up much more than missile defense in Europe. Russia wants control in the former Soviet sphere and in Europe.

The second possible outcome would be the United States backing down on the Iran issue, which Russia would see as a very public demonstration of Washington’s weakness.

The third possibility is that the United States would take military action against Iran and get involved in a third war in the Middle East. The Russians believe that as long as Washington is focused on Iran, it cannot also be focused on their actions.

Moscow is playing a complex and dangerous game with Iran and the United States. For the past several years, Russia has made it clear to the United States that it wanted Washington to quit meddling in its periphery and recognize Russia as the predominant Eurasian power. The United States, under the previous and current administrations, ignored Russia’s demands. Russia has proven recently — through the August 2008 Russo-Georgian war, for example — that it cannot be ignored. As it seeks to push back against the United States, Moscow does not see a downside to the U.S.-Iranian crisis, except possibly one: A short, sharp air and naval campaign that hurls Iran back a generation, combined with a U.S. pullout from Iraq and Afghanistan, would leave Russia without its Iran card, and looking at an angry United States that has a very free hand.
25921  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Rush, 1788 on: October 08, 2009, 05:53:15 AM
"[W]here there is no law, there is no liberty; and nothing deserves the name of law but that which is certain and universal in its operation upon all the members of the community." --Benjamin Rush, letter to David Ramsay, 1788
25922  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 07, 2009, 05:16:01 PM
Any word on this guy?
25923  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beavis and Butthead in Somalia on: October 07, 2009, 05:06:46 PM

PARIS – Somali pirates in two skiffs fired on a French navy vessel early Wednesday after apparently mistaking it for a commercial boat, the French military said. The French ship gave chase and captured five suspected pirates. 

No one was wounded by the volleys from the Kalashnikov rifles directed at La Somme, a 3,800-ton refueling ship, French military spokesman Rear Adm. Christophe Prazuck said.

La Somme "was probably taken for a commercial ship by the two small skiffs" about 250 nautical miles (290 statute miles) off Somalia's coast, Prazuck said.

"They understood their mistake too late," he said.

One skiff fled, and La Somme pursued the second one in an hour-long chase.

"There were five suspected pirates on board. No arms, no water, no food," Prazuck said.

France is a key member of the EU's naval mission, Operation Atalanta, fighting Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. It has aggressively tracked and caught suspected pirates and handed over at least 22 to Kenya. An additional 15 suspects were brought to France for prosecution after allegedly seizing boats belonging to French nationals.

President Nicolas Sarkozy called for tougher action against piracy last year after dozens of attacks.
25924  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Books for the Barrios on: October 07, 2009, 03:14:42 PM

A friend forwards the following to me:

Hey Folks,

Books for the Barrios is a volunteer humanitarian organization that collects and distributes books and spreads education to the underprivileged children of the Philippines.  Please check them out here:
Attached is some additional information.  Please donate if you can and if nothing else, please help spread the word!
Thank you!
25925  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Guantanamo guard converts to Islam on: October 07, 2009, 01:13:02 PM
Six months into his stint as a guard at Guantánamo, Terry Holdbrooks converted to Islam. What made him do it, asks Sarfraz Manzoor

Sarfraz Manzoor
The Guardian
Wednesday 7 October 2009

Terry Holdbrooks arrived at Guantánamo detention camp in the summer of 2003 as a godless 19-year-old with a love of drinking, hard rock music and tattoos. By the time he left Cuba the following year, he had alienated his army colleagues, won the respect of the detainees and, most astonishingly, converted to Islam in a midnight ceremony in the presence of one of the detainees, who had become his mentor.

When I meet Holdbrooks, now 26 and named Mustafa Abdullah, he is wearing a black Muslim cap, a thick beard and long-sleeved traditional robes that almost obscure the tattoo on his right arm that reads "by demons be driven".

Holdbrooks grew up in Arizona, the only son of junkie parents who split up when he was seven years old. He was raised by his ex-hippie grandparents. Tired of being poor, determined not to follow in his parents' footsteps and keen to see the world, Holdbrooks signed up for the military. He was stationed with the 253rd Military Police Company, mostly doing administrative support work, when he was told he was to be deployed to Guantánamo.

During a two-week training course, the new guards took it in turns to act as detainees, and were also taken to Ground Zero. "We were not taught anything about Islam," he says. "We were shown videos of 11 September and all we kept being told was that the detainees were the worst of the worst – they were Bin Laden's drivers, Bin Laden's cooks, and these people will kill you the first chance they get."

Holdbrooks skims over the words, as if he is quoting from his forthcoming memoir, Traitor? "I was questioning things from day one," he says. "The first thing I saw was a kid who is all of 16 who had never seen the ocean, didn't know the world was round. I am sitting there thinking, what can he possibly know about the war on terror, what could he possibly know?"

Holdbrooks' duties at Guantánamo including cleaning, collecting rubbish, walking up and down the block to ensure detainees weren't passing anything between cells and ferrying them to and from interrogations. There were plenty of opportunities for communication. Holdbrooks's friendliness towards the detainees – they called him "the nice guard" – earned him unwelcome attention from his fellow guards.

"I didn't have a very high impression of my colleagues," he says. Many of them were "ridiculous Budweiser-drinking, cornbread-fed, tobacco-chewing drunks, racists and bigots" who blindly followed orders, and within months he had stopped talking to them altogether. There were frequent physical altercations: "One time one of them said to me, 'Hey, Holdbrooks, you know what we are going to do today? We are going to skull-fuck the Taliban out of you – you're a sympathiser and we don't like that." That led to another fist fight."

While the guards indulged in alcohol, porn and sports, Holdbrooks says he needed to learn how the detainees could endure abuse and still smile, while he was utterly miserable.

"I knew nothing about Islam prior to Guantánamo," he says, "so this was a complete culture shock to me. I wanted to learn as much I could, so I started talking to the detainees about politics, ethics and morals, and about their lives and cultural differences – we would talk all the time." What began as curiosity turned to disciplined study, with Holdbrooks spending at least an hour a day learning about Islam and talking in chatrooms online. Among those he talked to were the Tipton trio of British Muslims who featured in Michael Winterbottom's docudrama, The Road to Guantánamo; another was a man the other detainees referred to as the General – Moroccan-born Ahmed Errachidi, who had lived in Britain for 18 years, working as a chef, and spent five and a half years in Guantánamo accused of attending al-Qaida training camps. (He was later released and cleared of any wrongdoing.)

"We'd talk for hours and hours," Holdbrooks says. "We'd talk about books, about music, about philosophy: we would stay up all night and talk about religion."

Finally, six months into his time at Guantánamo, Holdbrooks was ready. On 29 December 2003, in the presence of Errachidi, he repeated the shahada, the statement of faith that is the sole requirement for converting to Islam: "There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet". The Guantánamo guard was now a Muslim.

He stopped drinking and even gave up music, because his interpretation of Islam suggested that this, too, was unacceptable. "It was not easy praying five times a day without my colleagues finding out," he says. "I told them I had to go the bathroom a lot."

Converting to Islam made Holdbrooks even more unhappy about his work – he felt he was worse off than the detainees. "They were having a lot more fun than I was. The Tipton trio were always playing tricks on the guards and the interrogators. The detainees had a lot of freedom in their confinement: I had all the freedoms they didn't have, but I was a slave to what the army wanted me to do."

This claim sounds implausible, but Holdbrooks says he is referring to their freedom of thought: he was impressed by the independence he saw in the detainees, compared to his fellow guards. This still seems a rather self-pitying analysis, particularly when he goes on to describe how he had seen detainees being tortured. "It was my job to take prisoners to interrogations, so sometimes I would sit and watch," he says. "I would see detainees who would be locked up for hours in horrible positions – for hours upon hours upon hours, in a room that might be 50 degrees or 60 degrees.

"There was one man who had defecated on himself and this ogre of an interrogator would douse water on him and then ask him if he was going to talk, and he would say he had nothing to talk about, and I remember thinking, what good is this going to accomplish? You cannot abuse and torture people and expect to get results that are accurate and credible."

In the summer of 2004, Holdbrooks left Guantánamo and was later discharged from the army on the grounds of a "general personality disorder". The alcohol problem that had plagued him before enlisting returned, and when his marriage dissolved, he sought solace in the old comforts of drinking, casual sex and music. "I was having nightmares about my time in Guantánamo," he says, "and I spent the best part of three years just trying to drink Guantánamo out of my mind."

Today, Holdbrooks is a practising Muslim again, but he does not seem to be at peace. There is a blankness in his gaze that hints at the scars his childhood and Guantánamo have left on him.

Why had this hard-living Arizona boy embraced Islam? The question needles me throughout our conversation. It is only when, towards the end, Holdbrooks reveals that his favourite words are "structure", "order" and "discipline" that the pieces fall into place. Holdbrooks's life had been a search for order: the regimentation of army life had appeared to offer structure, and when it let him down, he turned to religion.

Holdbrooks has more in common with his former colleagues than he realises: their allegiance to the army is matched by his adherence to faith. "Islam is a very disciplined, regimented faith and it requires a great deal of effort and conviction," he says. "I've had an unbelievable fascination with structure and order for as long as I can remember: structure, order and discipline – I just love them."
25926  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: China's angle on: October 07, 2009, 07:15:46 AM
Beijing’s Afghan Gamble
By ROBERT D. KAPLAN Published: October 6, 2009

IN Afghanistan’s Logar Province, just south of Kabul, the geopolitical future of Asia is becoming apparent: American troops are providing security for a Chinese state-owned company to exploit the Aynak copper reserves, which are worth tens of billions of dollars. While some of America’s NATO allies want to do as little as possible in the effort to stabilize Afghanistan, China has its eyes on some of world’s last untapped deposits of copper, iron, gold, uranium and precious gems, and is willing to take big risks in one of the most violent countries to secure them.

In Afghanistan, American and Chinese interests converge. By exploiting Afghanistan’s metal and mineral reserves, China can provide thousands of Afghans with jobs, thus generating tax revenues to help stabilize a tottering Kabul government. Just as America has a vision of a modestly stable Afghanistan that will no longer be a haven for extremists, China has a vision of Afghanistan as a secure conduit for roads and energy pipelines that will bring natural resources from the Indian Ocean and elsewhere. So if America defeats Al Qaeda and the irreconcilable elements of the Taliban, China’s geopolitical position will be enhanced.

This is not a paradox, since China need not be our future adversary. Indeed, combining forces with China in Afghanistan might even improve the relationship between Washington and Beijing. The problem is that while America is sacrificing its blood and treasure, the Chinese will reap the benefits. The whole direction of America’s military and diplomatic effort is toward an exit strategy, whereas the Chinese hope to stay and profit.

But what if America decides to leave, or to drastically reduce its footprint to a counterterrorism strategy focused mainly on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border? Then another scenario might play out. Kandahar and other areas will most likely fall to the Taliban, creating a truly lawless realm that wrecks China’s plans for an energy and commodities passageway through South Asia. It would also, of course, be a momentous moral victory achieved by radical Muslims who, having first defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, will then have triumphed over another superpower.

And the calculations get more complicated still: a withdrawal of any kind from Afghanistan before a stable government is in place would also hurt India, a critical if undeclared American ally, and increasingly a rival of China. Were the Taliban to retake Afghanistan, India would face a radical Islamistan stretching from its border with Pakistan deep into Central Asia. With the Taliban triumphant on Pakistan’s western border, jihadists there could direct their energies to the eastern border with India.

India would defeat Pakistan in a war, conventional or nuclear. But having to do so, or simply needing to face down a significantly greater jihadist threat next door, would divert India’s national energies away from further developing its economy and its navy, a development China would quietly welcome.

Bottom line: China will find a way to benefit no matter what the United States does in Afghanistan. But it probably benefits more if we stay and add troops to the fight. The same goes for Russia. Because of continuing unrest in the Islamic southern tier of the former Soviet Union, Moscow has an interest in America stabilizing Afghanistan (though it would take a certain psychological pleasure from a humiliating American withdrawal).

In nuts-and-bolts terms, if we stay in Afghanistan and eventually succeed, other countries will benefit more than we will. China, India and Russia are all Asian powers, geographically proximate to Afghanistan and better able, therefore, to garner practical advantages from any stability our armed forces would make possible.

Everyone keeps saying that America is not an empire, but our military finds itself in the sort of situation that was mighty familiar to empires like that of ancient Rome and 19th-century Britain: struggling in a far-off corner of the world to exact revenge, to put down the fires of rebellion, and to restore civilized order. Meanwhile, other rising and resurgent powers wait patiently in the wings, free-riding on the public good we offer. This is exactly how an empire declines, by allowing others to take advantage of its own exertions.

Of course, one could make an excellent case that an ignominious withdrawal from Afghanistan is precisely what would lead to our decline, by demoralizing our military, signaling to our friends worldwide that we cannot be counted on and demonstrating that our enemies have greater resolve than we do. That is why we have no choice in Afghanistan but to add troops and continue to fight.

But as much as we hone our counterinsurgency skills and develop assets for the “long war,” history would suggest that over time we can more easily preserve our standing in the world by using naval and air power from a distance when intervening abroad. Afghanistan should be the very last place where we are a land-based meddler, caught up in internal Islamic conflict, helping the strategic ambitions of the Chinese and others.

Robert D. Kaplan is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and a correspondent for The Atlantic.
25927  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: October 07, 2009, 07:02:10 AM
Immigration Hard-Liner Has His Wings Clipped Recommend
Published: October 6, 2009

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County sheriff, who has drawn scorn and praise for a running crackdown on illegal immigrants in this city’s metropolitan area, said Tuesday that federal officials had taken away his deputies’ authority to make immigration arrests in the field.

Joseph M. ArpaioThe sheriff, Joe Arpaio, whose high-profile sweeps have been cited in the fevered debate over the need for an overhaul of immigration laws, said he had sought a renewed agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to allow both field arrests and immigration checks at his jails. But a high-level department official presented a document a couple of weeks ago allowing only for jail checks, Mr. Arpaio said.

That prompted an angry, rambling outburst from the sheriff Tuesday at a news conference at which he called Homeland Security officials “liars” and vowed to press on with his campaign, using state laws, against illegal immigrants. He said he would drive those caught on the streets to the border if federal officers refused to take them into custody.

Homeland Security officials declined to comment, saying they are still reviewing their agreement with the sheriff’s department and the other 65 agencies that participate in a program that allows local and state officers to make immigration arrests.

Immigrant advocates and some lawmakers have called on the department to end the program, known as 287(g) after the section of the 1996 law that authorized it, saying it has led to racial profiling and other abuses. Several advocates put out statements Tuesday expressing dismay that the department was keeping any relationship with Mr. Arpaio.

Last week, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus wrote to President Obama, urging him to “immediately terminate” the program because of the complaints.

A report this year by Congress’ watchdog, the Government Accountability Office, found that the program had not been closely supervised and that it had often led to the arrest of minor offenders instead of the criminals it was intended to pursue.

The Homeland Security Department has sought to mend it the program, not end it.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the agency that runs it, this summer announced an overhaul of the program and sought to reach new agreements with the agencies involved. Two agencies in Massachusetts have since announced their withdrawal from the program.

The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, with some 160 federally trained deputies, is the largest in the program and the most closely scrutinized by people on all sides of the immigration debate.

Mr. Arpaio conceded that the vast majority of the 33,000 arrests of illegal immigrants his office has made in the past two years under the agreement followed a check on the immigration status of people in jails. About 300 have been arrested in the field during “crime suppression” operations, he said. He called those arrests symbolically important.

“It has to do with public perception,” he said, noting reports that some illegal immigrants are leaving the area in part because of his deputies. “I think the bad guys apparently are leaving because they know they are here illegally. This is a crime deterrent program, too.”

In March, the Justice Department’s civil rights division announced that it was investigating the department, but Mr. Arpaio has conducted sweeps since then and he predicted that he would be exonerated.

The Maricopa agreement was also being watched to see if Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, a Democrat and the former governor of Arizona, would take the opportunity to rein in Mr. Arpaio, a Republican and one of the state’s most popular figures. Although they did not often clash publicly, their political supporters often lashed out at one another.

By the account of Mr. Arpaio and his aides, he signed a copy of a new agreement on Sept. 21, allowing for both field and jail arrests. But that evening, Alonzo Pena, a top Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, called from Washington and said he would be arriving in Phoenix the next day to discuss it.

After he arrived, Mr. Pena presented Mr. Arpaio another agreement that allowed only for jail checks.

Mr. Arpaio signed it, but it still must be approved by the county’s governing board. The board has been sympathetic to Mr. Arpaio on immigration matters, but he suggested the vote was far from a done deal.

Either way, he and his supporters vowed to press on.

Andrew Thomas, the county attorney, appeared with Mr. Arpaio to voice his support and condemn the “setback in the fight against illegal immigration.” Mr. Thomas said, “The fight goes on.”

He and Mr. Arpaio suggested that deputies could use the state anti-human smuggling law to make stops and refer suspected illegal immigrants to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, though it was not clear whether the agency would take them.

If not, the sheriff said, “I’ll take a little trip to the border and turn them over to the border.”
25928  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: October 07, 2009, 06:26:51 AM
"We lay it down as a fundamental, that laws, to be just, must give a reciprocation of right; that, without this, they are mere arbitrary rules of conduct, founded in force, and not in conscience." --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the state of Virginia, 1782
25929  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 07, 2009, 06:19:53 AM
Grateful to watch my children watch the movie "Airplane!" and share their laughter.
25930  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "The Bolo Game" on: October 06, 2009, 11:32:04 PM
Next Tuesday we will finalize the conversion to DVD.  Then it will be time to do the box cover.
25931  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: October 06, 2009, 11:31:18 PM
The good times continue to roll.
25932  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: October 06, 2009, 11:30:51 PM
Had what is presumably the final big edit day for DLO 3 today.  Next Tuesday we dot the "i-s" and cross the "t-s" and will be done.
25933  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is the US preparing to bomb Iran? on: October 06, 2009, 08:37:39 PM
Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran?
Is the U.S. Stepping Up Preparations for a Possible Attack on Iran's Nuclear Facilities?
Oct. 6, 2009—

Is the U.S. stepping up preparations for a possible attack on Iran's nuclear facilities?

The Pentagon is always making plans, but based on a little-noticed funding request recently sent to Congress, the answer to that question appears to be yes.

First, some background: Back in October 2007, ABC News reported that the Pentagon had asked Congress for $88 million in the emergency Iraq/Afghanistan war funding request to develop a gargantuan bunker-busting bomb called the Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP). It's a 30,000-pound bomb designed to hit targets buried 200 feet below ground. Back then, the Pentagon cited an "urgent operational need" for the new weapon.

Now the Pentagon is shifting spending from other programs to fast forward the development and procurement of the Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The Pentagon comptroller sent a request to shift the funds to the House and Senate Appropriations and Armed Services Committees over the summer.

Click here to see a copy of the Pentagon's request, provided to ABC News.

The comptroller said the Pentagon planned to spend $19.1 million to procure four of the bombs, $28.3 million to accelerate the bomb's "development and testing", and $21 million to accelerate the integration of the bomb onto B-2 stealth bombers.

'Urgent Operational Need'
The notification was tucked inside a 93-page "reprogramming" request that included a couple hundred other more mundane items.

Why now? The notification says simply, "The Department has an Urgent Operational Need (UON) for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high threat environments. The MOP is the weapon of choice to meet the requirements of the UON." It further states that the request is endorsed by Pacific Command (which has responsibility over North Korea) and Central Command (which has responsibility over Iran).

Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran?
The request was quietly approved. On Friday, McDonnell Douglas was awarded a $51.9 million contract to provide "Massive Penetrator Ordnance Integration" on B-2 aircraft.

This is not the kind of weapon that would be particularly useful in Iraq or Afghanistan, but it is ideally suited to hit deeply buried nuclear facilities such as Natanz or Qom in Iran.

Copyright © 2009 ABC News Internet Ventures
25934  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion /'s take on the recent deaths in Afpakia on: October 06, 2009, 08:17:52 PM's take on the recent US deaths in Af-Pak area...FWIW...

Three days ago the Taliban attacked a US/Afghan outpost in Nuristan Province of Afghanistan. The outpost is described as "remote"; this is not particularly helpful because most any part of Afghanistan is "remote" Be that as it may, the outpost is set among forests and mountains, perhaps 10-km as the bird flies from the Pakistan border.

The reason the outpost was set up in the first place was to interdict infiltration from Pakistan. when attacked, it had 50 US soldiers and 90 Afghan Army and police. A year ago the US decided things weren't working, and decided to withdraw the outpost. The new Afghanistan strategy in any case calls for giving up desolate outposts in the middle of nowhere, and focusing the limited available resources on the main town and cities. This is sensible, as in any case no one manages to control the countryside, which has been, is, and always will be the home of the tribes. If the west thinks it will at some point succeed in building up sufficient Afghan forces to permit Kabul to control the country, then the west is sadly deluded and will fail even worse than it is failing.

Back to the outpost.

Every story we read leaves us shaking our head in sheer bewilderment. We cannot understand in the slightest what the US military thinks it has been doing.

Let us first make very, very clear: we would never presume to judge the tactics employed at a particular place and time, no matter which army we are discussing. Not just are we going solely by the media reports, the media more often than not gets things very wrong. Unless we went over, carefully examined the ground, and extensively discuss matters with the US troops, the Afghan military, the locals, and the Taliban, we would lack the data needed for an objective judgment.

So we are not passing any judgments: we are simply going to point out a few things that make absolutely no sense to us about this outpost.

The outpost was situated 1-km down-mountain of the mosque and village used by the insurgents as their assembly area. It does not matter what the reason, you absolutely never put yourself down-mountain of the enemy especially when he is practically at your doorstep.

US troops had not visited the village for a year, and also did not visit other villages in the area. The reason given is that the US, in the interests of good relations, did not want to enter the local villages unless invited, and they were never invited. Bosh, Baloney and Bunkum. Since when has it been US policy not to enter villages without invitation? Where in the world when you are doing CI do you wait for invitations from the locals who are hand in glove with the insurgents to issue you polite invites for tea and crumpets?

US troops could not patrol the area beyond a couple of thousand meters out. The reason given is that the area was too dangerous. We accept that. But in that case the Army was super-negligent in stationing the outpost because the troops there are blind to what's happening all around them, and sending over a UAV every so often is not going to give them eyes to see.

The outpost was not evacuated because the local Governor said if the Americans withdrew before the election, it would Not Look Good. In case you are waiting for us to grandly proclaim: "Military decisions should never be made on political grounds," you wait in vain. That is complete twaddle. Everything in CI is political first, military second.

But a clear distinction has to be made: the decision to go to that region can be political. Once you arrive there, however, purely military considerations have to take over. How can it be that US Army found the outpost untenable but hung around for a year because the provincial governor would lose face? Makes no sense - and here we are willing to acknowledge likely the press has got things wrong. Nonetheless, if for political reasons US had to be there, the US Army should have done everything possible to make the outpost defensible.

US is short of helicopter lift and could not evacuate earlier Someone has got something egregiously wrong here. It take 4-5 Chinook sorties or 20 UH-60 sorties to get 140 men and essential equipment out. Mo way you will get us to believe that for weeks or months or whatever US couldn't spare this tiny bit of airlift.

US Army knew this was a hotspot: outpost has come under attack 50 times since May 2009. This speaks for itself. No one can say they were caught unawares.

How it looks to us in the absence of better information. You have an outpost in the middle of nowhere, and the troops are boxed into a tiny space. They cannot get out because its not safe. They cannot go out every night and lay ambushes, even if it is just a 2-man sniper team. They are sitting passively in the middle of Indian Country, with a big Kick My Butt sign on the outpost. The enemy knows everything the post does, the post knows nothing of what the enemy is doing.

The Taliban obliged.

We are NOT attempting to second-guess anyone We are not joining the coulda woulda shoulda brigade here. We don't know the whole story, likely even 5% of the story. But what we do know is, this outpost looks like a Prime A error to us. It smells of careless complacency and people who have still not understood what counter-insurgency is about.

If and when we get more information, we will be the first to revise/update/change our formulation. Right now things don't look good to us, not one little bit.

What's the big deal, the outpost held It did. Excellent. We are not going all mushy hearted because 8 US soldiers got killed. That's war. People get killed, and most of them get killed for no good reason or meaningful gain. Sorry about that.

But see, people. We are not writing about this outpost because of the battle the other day. The same outpost was written up in detail some weeks back in the WashPo. Our head shaking reaction is from then. We've been mulling over writing the same thing we have above, then.

We're writing because when we read the first article, we thought what we have said here: why is the US Army accepting being in lock-down in a little place in the middle of nowhere. The story then said no one had been interdicted or intercepted in months. And that's not because All Was Calm, etc., the troops made clear they couldn't get out and couldn't control anything.

The Taliban on the battle This battle, as far as is know as of now, was very professionally fought by the Taliban. Aside from the US casualties, there were several Afghan dead and perhaps 20 or more Afghans captured. This means the Taliban caught the outpost completely by surprise and got inside the wire. This is Big Boys League.

Likely this is the caliber of the enemy in this region, because the Taliban certainly has not managed anything like this elsewhere. The 2008 attack at Wanat, which in the same province, was also highly professional.

US deploys a powerful lot of firepower, and when artillery, gunships and tactical air joins in the battle, a lot of attackers are going to die. But only five bodies were found. This is very, very professional indeed.

So, we are suspicious and so is our occasional correspondent Major AH Amin. He has said, in a circumspect way, that he believes the Pakistan Army conducted the attack. Nothing impossible: till the US came into Afghanistan the hard military core of the Taliban was the Pakistan Army, not just as advisors, but as entire brigades. That's how the Taliban came out of "nowhere" and in two years took the entire country bar 15% in the northwest, beating one warlord after another in conventional battle.

In fairness, we must say Bill Roggio does not agree He feels the Taliban are quite capable of executing such attacks by themselves and there is no need to invoke the Pakistan Army.

Either way, however, this attack is trouble, even if only - say - 10 percent of the Taliban have reached this level of competence.

Meanwhile, the Taliban tied the attack directly to the impending US reinforcement of Afghanistan, saying they too could reinforce, and reinforce more than the US could.

Now boys and girls: here is a question. Since the outpost is 10-km from Pakistan border, guess just where those Taliban or Pakistani-soldiers-as-Taliban came from.

Hint: it wasn't from London or Paris.
25935  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: DBMA DVD en espanol on: October 06, 2009, 08:16:37 PM
Acabo de ver los primeros 11 minutos.  Van a aparecer aqui en este foro  cool  Mi' editor Ron los va a mandar a nuestro webmaster para que el los ponga aqui. 

Espero que aparezcan aqui adentro al fines de la semana que viene.
25936  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 06, 2009, 10:49:35 AM
IMHO I have found GF to be one of the deepest and most perceptive observers that we have.

That said I agree with your questioning of some of his premises here. 

The problem may lie in the fact that GF's model seeks to be coldly analytical and not at all partisan.   As I see it, the fact of the matter is that our President is talking and taking certain steps consistent only with action-- and I have seen serious US polls that think some 70% of the American people think he is being too soft on Iran.  GF HAS said that various actors doubt our President has a line that he will not allow to be crossed; as I understand GF's model it includes making such assessments.

That doesn't change the fact that we seem to have elected a clueless pussy.
25937  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO backs limits on Free Speech on: October 06, 2009, 10:42:17 AM

You Can't Say That
At the UN, the Obama administration backs limits on free speech.
by Anne Bayefsky
10/05/2009 12:00:00 AM

The Obama administration has marked its first foray into the UN human rights establishment by backing calls for limits on freedom of expression. The newly-minted American policy was rolled out at the latest session of the UN Human Rights Council, which ended in Geneva on Friday. American diplomats were there for the first time as full Council members and intent on making friends.

President Obama chose to join the Council despite the fact that the Organization of the Islamic Conference holds the balance of power and human rights abusers are among its lead actors, including China, Cuba, and Saudi Arabia. Islamic states quickly interpreted the president's penchant for "engagement" as meaning fundamental rights were now up for grabs. Few would have predicted, however, that the shift would begin with America's most treasured freedom.

For more than a decade, a UN resolution on the freedom of expression was shepherded through the Council, and the now defunct Commission on Human Rights which it replaced, by Canada. Over the years, Canada tried mightily to garner consensus on certain minimum standards, but the "reformed" Council changed the distribution of seats on the UN's lead human rights body. In 2008, against the backdrop of the publication of images of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, Cuba and various Islamic countries destroyed the consensus and rammed through an amendment which introduced a limit on any speech they claimed was an "abuse . . [that] constitutes an act of racial or religious discrimination."

The Obama administration decided that a revamped freedom of expression resolution, extracted from Canadian hands, would be an ideal emblem for its new engagement policy. So it cosponsored a resolution on the subject with none other than Egypt--a country characterized by an absence of freedom of expression. Privately, other Western governments were taken aback and watched the weeks of negotiations with dismay as it became clear that American negotiators wanted consensus at all costs. In introducing the resolution on Thursday, October 1--adopted by consensus the following day--the ranking U.S. diplomat, Chargé d'Affaires Douglas Griffiths, crowed:
"The United States is very pleased to present this joint project with Egypt. This initiative is a manifestation of the Obama administration's commitment to multilateral engagement throughout the United Nations and of our genuine desire to seek and build cooperation based upon mutual interest and mutual respect in pursuit of our shared common principles of tolerance and the dignity of all human beings."

His Egyptian counterpart, Ambassador Hisham Badr, was equally pleased--for all the wrong reasons. He praised the development by telling the Council that "freedom of expression . . . has been sometimes misused," insisting on limits consistent with the "true nature of this right" and demanding that the "the media must . . . conduct . . . itself in a professional and ethical manner."
The new resolution, championed by the Obama administration, has a number of disturbing elements. It emphasizes that "the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . ." which include taking action against anything meeting the description of "negative racial and religious stereotyping." It also purports to "recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media" and supports "the media's elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct" in relation to "combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance."

Pakistan's Ambassador Zamir Akram, speaking on behalf of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, made it clear that they understand the resolution and its protection against religious stereotyping as allowing free speech to be trumped by anything that defames or negatively stereotypes religion. The idea of protecting the human rights "of religions" instead of individuals is a favorite of those countries that do not protect free speech and which use religion--as defined by government--to curtail it. Even the normally feeble European Union tried to salvage the American capitulation by expressing the hope that the resolution might be read a different way. Speaking on behalf of the EU following the resolution's adoption, French Ambassador Jean-Baptiste Mattéi declared that "human rights law does not, and should not, protect religions or belief systems, hence the language on stereotyping only applies to stereotyping of individuals . . . and not of ideologies, religions or abstract values. The EU rejects the concept of defamation of religions." The EU also distanced itself from the American compromise on the media, declaring that "the notion of a moral and social responsibility of the media" goes "well beyond" existing international law and "the EU cannot subscribe to this concept in such general terms."

In 1992 when the United States ratified the main international law treaty which addresses freedom of expression, the government carefully attached reservations to ensure that the treaty could not "restrict the right of free speech and association protected by the Constitution and laws of the United States."

The Obama administration's debut at the Human Rights Council laid bare its very different priorities. Threatening freedom of expression is a price for engagement with the Islamic world that it is evidently prepared to pay.

Anne Bayefsky is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, a professor at Touro College, and the editor of
25938  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: Federalist #25, 1787 on: October 06, 2009, 09:19:22 AM
"Wise politicians will be cautious about fettering the government with restrictions that cannot be observed, because they know that every break of the fundamental laws, though dictated by necessity, impairs that sacred reverence which ought to be maintained in the breast of rulers towards the constitution of a country."  --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 25, 1787
25939  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: October 06, 2009, 04:36:34 AM
The BO Administration's policy on Honduras is so wrong and so stupid as to challenge the assumption of good faith. angry
25940  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War, WMD issues on: October 05, 2009, 11:06:14 PM
I don't see it either-- BO is painting us into a corner that requires action, but will puss out , , , and everyone knows it.  Sanctions are a meaningless threat without the Russians and the Chinese.

I suppose one could argue that maybe he is holding off on Afg because he knows what comes with Iran, but ultimately the man is universally believed to be a pussy and that is how all players are going to play.

Edited to add this from the WSJ:
NEW YORK—When American diplomats sat down for the first in a series of face-to-face talks with their Iranian counterparts last October in Geneva, few would have predicted that what began as a negotiation over Tehran's nuclear programs would wind up in a stunning demand by the Security Council that Israel give up its atomic weapons.

Yet that's just what the U.N. body did this morning, in a resolution that was as striking for the way member states voted as it was for its substance. All 10 nonpermanent members voted for the resolution, along with permanent members Russia, China and the United Kingdom. France and the United States abstained. By U.N. rules, that means the resolution passes.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meets IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei.
.The U.S. abstention is sending shock waves through the international community, which has long been accustomed to the U.S. acting as Israel's de facto protector on the Council. It also appears to reverse a decades-old understanding between Washington and Tel Aviv that the U.S. would acquiesce in Israel's nuclear arsenal as long as that arsenal remained undeclared. The Jewish state is believed to possess as many as 200 weapons.

Tehran reacted positively to the U.S. abstention. "For a long time we have said about Mr. Obama that we see change but no improvement," said Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki. "Now we can say there has been an improvement."

The resolution calls for a nuclear weapons-free zone in the Middle East. It also demands that Israel sign the 1970 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and submit its nuclear facilities to international inspection. Two similar, albeit nonbinding, resolutions were approved last September by the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

At the time, the U.S. opposed a resolution focused on Israel but abstained from a more general motion calling for regional disarmament. "We are very pleased with the agreed approach reflected here today," said then-U.S. Ambassador to the IAEA Glyn Davies.

Since then, however, relations between the Obama administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, never warm to begin with, have cooled dramatically. The administration accused Tel Aviv of using "disproportionate force" following a Nov. 13 Israeli aerial attack on an apparent munitions depot in Gaza City, in which more than a dozen young children were killed.

Mr. Netanyahu also provoked the administration's ire after he was inadvertently caught on an open microphone calling Mr. Obama "worse than Chamberlain." The comment followed the president's historic Dec. 21 summit meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Geneva, the first time leaders of the two countries have met since the Carter administration.

But the factors that chiefly seemed to drive the administration's decision to abstain from this morning's vote were more strategic than personal. Western negotiators have been pressing Iran to make good on its previous agreement in principle to ship its nuclear fuel to third countries so it could be rendered usable in Iran's civilian nuclear facilities. The Iranians, in turn, have been adamant that they would not do so unless progress were made on international disarmament.

"The Iranians have a point," said one senior administration official. "The U.S. can't forever be the enforcer of a double standard where Israel gets a nuclear free ride but Iran has to abide by every letter in the NPT. President Obama has put the issue of nuclear disarmament at the center of his foreign policy agenda. His credibility is at stake and so is U.S. credibility in the Muslim world. How can we tell Tehran that they're better off without nukes if we won't make the same point to our Israeli friends?"

Also factoring into the administration's thinking are reports that the Israelis are in the final stages of planning an attack on Iran's nuclear installations. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who met with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak in Paris last week, has been outspoken in his opposition to such a strike. The Jerusalem Post has reported that Mr. Gates warned Mr. Barak that the U.S. would "actively stand in the way" of any Israeli strike.

"The Israelis need to look at this U.N. vote as a shot across their bow," said a senior Pentagon official. "If they want to start a shooting war with Iran, we won't have their backs on the Security Council."

An Israeli diplomat observed bitterly that Jan. 20 was the 68th anniversary of the Wannsee conference, which historians believe is where Nazi Germany planned the extermination of European Jewry. An administration spokesman said the timing of the vote was "purely coincidental."

Write to

25941  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Strat: Two Leaks on: October 05, 2009, 04:11:56 PM

Two Leaks and the Deepening Iran Crisis
October 5, 2009
By George Friedman

Two major leaks occurred this weekend over the Iran matter.

In the first, The New York Times published an article reporting that staff at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear oversight group, had produced an unreleased report saying that Iran was much more advanced in its nuclear program than the IAEA had thought previously. According to the report, Iran now has all the data needed to design a nuclear weapon. The New York Times article added that U.S. intelligence was re-examining the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) of 2007, which had stated that Iran was not actively pursuing a nuclear weapon.

The second leak occurred in the British daily The Times, which reported that the purpose of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s highly publicized secret visit to Moscow on Sept. 7 was to provide the Russians with a list of Russian scientists and engineers working on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

The second revelation was directly tied to the first. There were many, including STRATFOR, who felt that Iran did not have the non-nuclear disciplines needed for rapid progress toward a nuclear device. Putting the two pieces together, the presence of Russian personnel in Iran would mean that the Iranians had obtained the needed expertise from the Russians. It would also mean that the Russians were not merely a factor in whether there would be effective sanctions but also in whether and when the Iranians would obtain a nuclear weapon.

We would guess that the leak to The New York Times came from U.S. government sources, because that seems to be a prime vector of leaks from the Obama administration and because the article contained information on the NIE review. Given that National Security Adviser James Jones tended to dismiss the report on Sunday television, we would guess the report leaked from elsewhere in the administration. The Times leak could have come from multiple sources, but we have noted a tendency of the Israelis to leak through the British daily on national security issues. (The article contained substantial details on the visit and appeared written from the Israeli point of view.) Neither leak can be taken at face value, of course. But it is clear that these were deliberate leaks — people rarely risk felony charges leaking such highly classified material — and even if they were not coordinated, they delivered the same message, true or not.

The Iranian Time Frame and the Russian Role
The message was twofold. First, previous assumptions on time frames on Iran are no longer valid, and worst-case assumptions must now be assumed. The Iranians are in fact moving rapidly toward a weapon; have been extremely effective at deceiving U.S. intelligence (read, they deceived the Bush administration, but the Obama administration has figured it out); and therefore, we are moving toward a decisive moment with Iran. Second, this situation is the direct responsibility of Russian nuclear expertise. Whether this expertise came from former employees of the Russian nuclear establishment now looking for work, Russian officials assigned to Iran or unemployed scientists sent to Iran by the Russians is immaterial. The Israelis — and the Obama administration — must hold the Russians responsible for the current state of Iran’s weapons program, and by extension, Moscow bears responsibility for any actions that Israel or the United States might take to solve the problem.

We would suspect that the leaks were coordinated. From the Israeli point of view, having said publicly that they are prepared to follow the American lead and allow this phase of diplomacy to play out, there clearly had to be more going on than just last week’s Geneva talks. From the American point of view, while the Russians have indicated that participating in sanctions on gasoline imports by Iran is not out of the question, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev did not clearly state that Russia would cooperate, nor has anything been heard from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the subject. The Russian leadership appears to be playing “good cop, bad cop” on the matter, and the credibility of anything they say on Iran has little weight in Washington.

It would seem to us that the United States and Israel decided to up the ante fairly dramatically in the wake of the Oct. 1 meeting with Iran in Geneva. As IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei visits Iran, massive new urgency has now been added to the issue. But we must remember that Iran knows whether it has had help from Russian scientists; that is something that can’t be bluffed. Given that this specific charge has been made — and as of Monday not challenged by Iran or Russia — indicates to us more is going on than an attempt to bluff the Iranians into concessions. Unless the two leaks together are completely bogus, and we doubt that, the United States and Israel are leaking information already well known to the Iranians. They are telling Tehran that its deception campaign has been penetrated, and by extension are telling it that it faces military action — particularly if massive sanctions are impractical because of more Russian obstruction.

If Netanyahu went to Moscow to deliver this intelligence to the Russians, the only surprise would have been the degree to which the Israelis had penetrated the program, not that the Russians were there. The Russian intelligence services are superbly competent, and keep track of stray nuclear scientists carefully. They would not be surprised by the charge, only by Israel’s knowledge of it.

This, of course leaves open an enormous question. Certainly, the Russians appear to have worked with the Iranians on some security issues and have played with the idea of providing the Iranians more substantial military equipment. But deliberately aiding Iran in building a nuclear device seems beyond Russia’s interests in two ways. First, while Russia wants to goad the United States, it does not itself really want a nuclear Iran. Second, in goading the United States, the Russians know not to go too far; helping Iran build a nuclear weapon would clearly cross a redline, triggering reactions.

A number of possible explanations present themselves. The leak to The Times might be wrong. But The Times is not a careless newspaper: It accepts leaks only from certified sources. The Russian scientists might be private citizens accepting Iranian employment. But while this is possible, Moscow is very careful about what Russian nuclear engineers do with their time. Or the Russians might be providing enough help to goad the United States but not enough to ever complete the job. Whatever the explanation, the leaks paint the Russians as more reckless than they have appeared, assuming the leaks are true.

And whatever their veracity, the leaks — the content of which clearly was discussed in detail among the P-5+1 prior to and during the Geneva meetings, regardless of how long they have been known by Western intelligence — were made for two reasons. The first was to tell the Iranians that the nuclear situation is now about to get out of hand, and that attempting to manage the negotiations through endless delays will fail because the United Nations is aware of just how far Tehran has come with its weapons program. The second was to tell Moscow that the issue is no longer whether the Russians will cooperate on sanctions, but the consequence to Russia’s relations with the United States and at least the United Kingdom, France and, most important, possibly Germany. If these leaks are true, they are game changers.

We have focused on the Iranian situation not because it is significant in itself, but because it touches on a great number of other crucial international issues. It is now entangled in the Iraqi, Afghan, Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese issues, all of them high-stakes matters. It is entangled in Russian relations with Europe and the United States. It is entangled in U.S.-European relationships and with relationships within Europe. It touches on the U.S.-Chinese relationship. It even touches on U.S. relations with Venezuela and some other Latin American countries. It is becoming the Gordian knot of international relations.

STRATFOR first focused on the Russian connection with Iran in the wake of the Iranian elections and resulting unrest, when a crowd of Rafsanjani supporters began chanting “Death to Russia,” not one of the top-10 chants in Iran. That caused us to focus on the cooperation between Russia and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on security matters. We were aware of some degree of technical cooperation on military hardware, and of course on Russian involvement in Iran’s civilian nuclear program. We were also of the view that the Iranians were unlikely to progress quickly with their nuclear program. We were not aware that Russian scientists were directly involved in Iran’s military nuclear project, which is not surprising, given that such involvement would be Iran’s single-most important state secret — and Russia’s, too.

A Question of Timing
But there is a mystery here as well. To have any impact, the Russian involvement must have been under way for years. The United States has tried to track rogue nuclear scientists and engineers — anyone who could contribute to nuclear proliferation — since the 1990s. The Israelis must have had their own program on this, too. Both countries, as well as European intelligence services, were focused on Iran’s program and the whereabouts of Russian scientists. It is hard to believe that they only just now found out. If we were to guess, we would say Russian involvement has been under way since just after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, when the Russians decided that the United States was a direct threat to its national security.

Therefore, the decision suddenly to confront the Russians, and suddenly to leak U.N. reports — much more valuable than U.S. reports, which are easier for the Europeans to ignore — cannot simply be because the United States and Israel just obtained this information. The IAEA, hostile to the United States since the invasion of Iraq and very much under the influence of the Europeans, must have decided to shift its evaluation of Iran. But far more significant is the willingness of the Israelis first to confront the Russians and then leak about Russian involvement, something that obviously compromises Israeli sources and methods. And that means the Israelis no longer consider the preservation of their intelligence operation in Iran (or wherever it was carried out) as of the essence.

Two conclusions can be drawn. First, the Israelis no longer need to add to their knowledge of Russian involvement; they know what they need to know. And second, the Israelis do not expect Iranian development to continue much longer; otherwise, maintaining the intelligence capability would take precedence over anything else.

It follows from this that the use of this intelligence in diplomatic confrontations with Russians and in a British newspaper serves a greater purpose than the integrity of the source system. And that means that the Israelis expect a resolution in the very near future — the only reason they would have blown their penetration of the Russian-Iranian system.

Possible Outcomes
There are two possible outcomes here. The first is that having revealed the extent of the Iranian program and having revealed the Russian role in a credible British newspaper, the Israelis and the Americans (whose own leak in The New York Times underlined the growing urgency of action) are hoping that the Iranians realize that they are facing war and that the Russians realize that they are facing a massive crisis in their relations with the West. If that happens, then the Russians might pull their scientists and engineers, join in the sanctions and force the Iranians to abandon their program.

The second possibility is that the Russians will continue to play the spoiler on sanctions and will insist that they are not giving support to the Iranians. This leaves the military option, which would mean broad-based action, primarily by the United States, against Iran’s nuclear facilities. Any military operation would involve keeping the Strait of Hormuz clear, meaning naval action, and we now know that there are more nuclear facilities than previously discussed. So while the war for the most part would be confined to the air and sea, it would be extensive nonetheless.

Sanctions or war remain the two options, and which one is chosen depends on Moscow’s actions. The leaks this weekend have made clear that the United States and Israel have positioned themselves such that not much time remains. We have now moved from a view of Iran as a long-term threat to Iran as a much more immediate threat thanks to the Russians.

The least that can be said about this is that the Obama administration and Israel are trying to reshape the negotiations with the Iranians and Russians. The most that can be said is that the Americans and Israelis are preparing the public for war. Polls now indicate that more than 60 percent of the U.S. public now favors military action against Iran. From a political point of view, it has become easier for U.S. President Barack Obama to act than to not act. This, too, is being transmitted to the Iranians and Russians.

It is not clear to us that the Russians or Iranians are getting the message yet. They have convinced themselves that Obama is unlikely to act because he is weak at home and already has too many issues to juggle. This is a case where a reputation for being conciliatory actually increases the chances for war. But the leaks this weekend have strikingly limited the options and timelines of the United States and Israel. They also have put the spotlight on Obama at a time when he already is struggling with health care and Afghanistan. History is rarely considerate of presidential plans, and in this case, the leaks have started to force Obama’s hand.
25942  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 05, 2009, 10:34:04 AM
second post of the AM

The ego, the arrogance, the utter cluelessness boggle the mind , , ,

Barack Obama furious at General Stanley McChrystal speech on Afghanistan

The relationship between President Barack Obama and the commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan has been put under severe strain by Gen Stanley McChrystal's comments on strategy for the war.

By Alex Spillius in Washington
Published: 7:00AM BST 05 Oct 2009

According to sources close to the administration, Gen McChrystal shocked and angered presidential advisers with the bluntness of a speech given in London last week.

The next day he was summoned to an awkward 25-minute face-to-face meeting on board Air Force One on the tarmac in Copenhagen, where the president had arrived to tout Chicago's unsuccessful Olympic bid.

Gen James Jones, the national security adviser, yesterday did little to allay the impression the meeting had been awkward.

An adviser to the administration said: "People aren't sure whether McChrystal is being naïve or an upstart. To my mind he doesn't seem ready for this Washington hard-ball and is just speaking his mind too plainly."

In London, Gen McChrystal, who heads the 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan as well as the 100,000 Nato forces, flatly rejected proposals to switch to a strategy more reliant on drone missile strikes and special forces operations against al-Qaeda.

He told the Institute of International and Strategic Studies that the formula, which is favoured by Vice-President Joe Biden, would lead to "Chaos-istan".

When asked whether he would support it, he said: "The short answer is: No."

He went on to say: "Waiting does not prolong a favorable outcome. This effort will not remain winnable indefinitely, and nor will public support."

The remarks have been seen by some in the Obama administration as a barbed reference to the slow pace of debate within the White House.

Gen McChrystal delivered a report on Afghanistan requested by the president on Aug 31, but Mr Obama held only his second "principals meeting" on the issue last week.

He will hold at least one more this week, but a decision on how far to follow Gen McChrystal's recommendation to send 40,000 more US troops will not be made for several weeks.

A military expert said: "They still have working relationship but all in all it's not great for now."

Some commentators regarded the general's London comments as verging on insubordination.

Bruce Ackerman, an expert on constitutional law at Yale University, said in the Washington Post: "As commanding general, McChrystal has no business making such public pronouncements."

He added that it was highly unusual for a senior military officer to "pressure the president in public to adopt his strategy".

Relations between the general and the White House began to sour when his report, which painted a grim picture of the allied mission in Afghanistan, was leaked. White House aides have since briefed against the general's recommendations.

The general has responded with a series of candid interviews as well as the speech. He told Newsweek he was firmly against half measures in Afghanistan: "You can't hope to contain the fire by letting just half the building burn."

As a divide opened up between the military and the White House, senior military figures began criticising the White House for failing to tackle the issue more quickly.

They made no secret of their view that without the vast ground force recommended by Gen McChrystal, the Afghan mission could end in failure and a return to power of the Taliban.

"They want to make sure people know what they asked for if things go wrong," said Lawrence Korb, a former assistant secretary of defence.

Critics also pointed out that before their Copenhagen encounter Mr Obama had only met Gen McChrystal once since his appointment in June.
25943  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: AQ's diminished role? on: October 05, 2009, 08:27:23 AM
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG in Islamabad and SIOBHAN GORMAN in Washington
Since first invading Afghanistan nearly a decade ago, America set one primary goal: Eliminate al Qaeda's safe haven.

Today, intelligence and military officials say they've severely constrained al Qaeda's ability to operate there and in Pakistan -- and that's reshaping the debate over U.S. strategy in the region.

Hunted by U.S. drones, beset by money problems and finding it tougher to lure young Arabs to the bleak mountains of Pakistan, al Qaeda is seeing its role shrink there and in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports and Pakistani and U.S. officials. Conversations intercepted by the U.S. show al Qaeda fighters complaining of shortages of weapons, clothing and, in some cases, food. The number of foreign fighters in Afghanistan appears to be declining, U.S. military officials say.

For Arab youths who are al Qaeda's primary recruits, "it's not romantic to be cold and hungry and hiding," said a senior U.S. official in South Asia.

In Washington, the question of Al Qaeda's strength is at the heart of the debate over whether to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan. On Saturday, eight American troops and two Afghan soldiers were killed fighting Taliban forces -- one of the worst single-day battlefield losses for U.S. forces since the war began.

Opponents of sending more troops prefer a narrower campaign consisting of missile strikes and covert action inside Pakistan, rather than a broader war against the Taliban, the radical Islamist movement that ruled Afghanistan for years and provided a haven to al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden. Their reasoning: The larger threat to America remains al Qaeda, not the Taliban; so, best not to get embroiled in a local war that history suggests may be unwinnable.

Military commanders pressing for extra troops counter that sending more forces could help translate the gains against al Qaeda into a political settlement with less ideologically committed elements of the Taliban. And, they argue, that would improve the odds of stabilizing Afghanistan for the long run.

A key point of contention in President Barack Obama's review of war strategy is the ability of al Qaeda to reconstitute in Afghanistan. Some officials, including aides to Richard Holbrooke, the U.S.'s special representative to the region, have argued that the Taliban wouldn't allow al Qaeda to regain its footing inside Afghanistan, since it was the alliance between the two that cost the Taliban their control of the country after Sept. 11.

A senior military official, however, characterized this as a minority view within the debate. He noted that even if the Taliban sought to keep al Qaeda from returning, it would have little means to do so.

Retired Gen. James Jones, the president's National Security Adviser, acknowledged on CNN Sunday that the links between the two groups had become a "central issue" in the White House discussion. He said he believed the return of the Taliban "could" mean the return of al Qaeda.

Afghan Attack Kills Eight U.S. Soldiers
In the political debate, al Qaeda's diminished role has bolstered the argument of those advocating a narrower campaign. They say continuing the drone campaign is sufficient to keep al Qaeda at bay, said Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University professor who has written extensively on al Qaeda. Mr. Hoffman believes that argument is misguided, however, and that if the U.S. pulls out, al Qaeda will return.

"Al Qaeda may be diminished, but it still poses a threat," he said. The debate will move to Capitol Hill Tuesday when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on confronting al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

Though there is emerging international consensus among counterterrorism officials that al Qaeda isn't the foe it used to be, U.S., Afghan and Pakistani officials caution that it doesn't mean the fight in Afghanistan or Pakistan is tilting America's way. "They're not defeated. They're not dismantled, but they are being disrupted," said a senior U.S. intelligence official in Washington.

Mr. Obama himself has argued that al Qaeda could strengthen if the U.S. eases up on the Taliban. "If left unchecked, the Taliban insurgency will mean an even larger safe haven from which al Qaeda would plot to kill more Americans. So this is not only a war worth fighting," he said at a speech in Phoenix at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in August, before the current strategy debate heated up. "This is fundamental to the defense of our people."

Al Qaeda apparently retains a global reach, as suggested by the Sept. 19 arrest in Colorado of Najibullah Zazi, 24 years old. U.S. prosecutors allege Mr. Zazi is part of an al Qaeda cell who trained in Pakistan and was trying to make the same kind of explosives used in the 2005 London bombings.

U.S. officials also say al Qaeda remains tight with the network of Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son, Sirajuddin, one of the Afghan insurgency's top leaders. The late leader of the Pakistan Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, was similarly close with al Qaeda before being killed in August by a strike from a U.S. drone aircraft. U.S. officials say they hope his death will weaken al Qaeda's Taliban ties.

For years, the fortunes of al Qaeda and the Taliban moved in tandem. The Taliban hosted al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and Mr. bin Laden's network launched its 2001 attacks from there. After the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, the Taliban continued to provide haven after retreating to the tribal areas of Pakistan, while al Qaeda trained Taliban fighters.

But in the past year, the fates of the two organizations have diverged. The Taliban insurgency has become increasingly violent and brazen and spread to areas of Afghanistan that only a year ago were considered solidly pro-government. Al Qaeda, in contrast, has seen its role shrink because it is struggling to raise money from its global network of financiers and attract recruits.

Today there are signs al Qaeda is relying more on affiliated groups to press its agenda world-wide, according to one official briefed on the matter. These groups include Pakistani movements such as Jaish-e-Muhammad and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Indonesia-based Jemaah Islamiyah and the Islamic Jihad Union, whose roots are in Uzbekistan.

As affiliates like these "continue to develop and evolve," their threat to the U.S. has grown, Michael Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in Senate hearings last week.

Meanwhile in Afghanistan, the presence of fewer foreign fighters -- Arabs, Chechens, Uzbeks and others -- potentially changes the dynamics of the fight there.

Foreign militants serve as a battlefield "accellerant," said Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan, in an interview. "When a foreign fighter comes into Afghanistan, he doesn't have anything else he's going to do -- he's going to fight until he dies or goes somewhere else," he said. By contrast, "an Afghan is fighting for something, and if he starts to get that, his motivation changes."

Right now, Gen. McChrystal said, "we don't see huge numbers of foreign fighters, which obviously makes you believe there's not nearly the presence there was of foreign fighters....I hope it's a trend, but I'm not prepared to confidently say that."

Even if Al Qaeda is struggling, it already has imparted dangerous knowledge -- how to build suicide car bombs, launch complex gunmen assaults and tap wealthy sympathizers in the Persian Gulf -- that made it a key asset to the Taliban several years ago.

Al Qaeda also remains allied with and protected by the Taliban. Allowing the insurgents to succeed would likely give al Qaeda the space it needs to regroup, rearm and, most importantly, reestablish itself as the premier global jihadi movement, U.S., Pakistani and Afghan officials say.

Al Qaeda's message of world-wide jihad, however, has lost much of its popularity amid the rise of militant groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere who tend to focus their ire locally. That, combined with a perception among would-be followers that the group has only paid lip-service to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, also has reduced its global credibility, officials say.

Support is even declining among some of al Qaeda's allies. It has lost support from a group of Saudi sheiks known as the Sahwa, or "Awakening," movement. (It's unrelated to a similar-sounding group in Iraq.) Some of the sheiks are now trying to persuade members of al Qaeda's North African branch to give up jihad, said Daniel Lav, director of the Middle East and North Africa Reform Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute in Washington.

Mr. bin Laden and al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri are believed to be hiding in Pakistan's tribal lands bordering Afghanistan. But a U.S. campaign of missile strikes by pilotless Predator aircraft has decimated al Qaeda's second- and third-tier leadership.

One example cited by U.S. and Pakistani officials: Usama al-Kini, a Kenyan citizen believed to have been al Qaeda's operations chief inside Pakistan and a key architect of the September 2008 truck bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, which killed at least 50 people. He was slain along with his deputy, Sheik Ahmed Salim Swedan, a Kenyan, in a Jan. 1 missile strike, officials say.

Both men's history with al Qaeda stretched back to the group's first major strike, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Officials also pointed to Rashid Rauf, the alleged mastermind of a 2006 plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic, who they say was slain in a drone attack last year, although Pakistani and British officials express uncertainty over whether he is actually dead.

But even if Mr. Rauf is still alive, the fact that he became such a primary target made it tough for him to fulfill his role as a communications link between Pakistan and Britain, says an officer from Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency. Other operatives who have been detained by British authorizes have further eroded those communications links, an official familiar with the intelligence reports on al Qaeda added.

The drones, operated by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, have so far killed 11 of the men on the U.S.'s initial list of the top 20 al Qaeda targets, the official said. The U.S. has since drawn up a fresh list, including the nine holdovers from the first one. Four of the men on the new list are now dead, too. Those who remain are focused on finding sanctuary, possibly at the expense of operations and training, say officials and militants with links to al Qaeda.

"The Arabs stay out of sight now. They were always secretive. But now they are very secretive...They see spies everywhere," said a man named Walliullah, who Pakistani officials say is an aide to Afghan insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Mr. Hekmatyar is allied with the Afghan Taliban and loosely tied to al Qaeda.

At the same time, U.S. intelligence collection in Pakistan has vastly improved, officials say. Western intelligence services have had more success penetrating al Qaeda groups lately, according to Richard Barrett, the United Nations' coordinator for monitoring al Qaeda and the Taliban. "There's many more human sources being run into the groups," Mr. Barrett, a former official with Britain's Secret Intelligence Service, told an audience at a Washington think tank last week.

Similarly, the U.S. in the past was unable to comprehensively monitor communications in Pakistan; that has now been rectified, said an official briefed on U.S. operations. Through that monitoring, U.S., British and Pakistani intelligence officials have seen increasing evidence that al Qaeda is having difficulty raising money.

"Al Qaeda is in fund-raising mode, and they seem to be hurting for cash," said another U.S. official. Intercepts of conversations have caught al Qaeda militants complaining they lack cash and supplies, including weapons.

The new intelligence has provided fresh ways to try to undermine the foreign al Qaeda fighters. Pakistani authorities say they've started targeting food shipments believed to be headed for al Qaeda operatives, who prefer their own cuisine over local fare. "The Talibs, they're eating mutton, chicken, bread -- the food ordinary people eat," said an officer from Pakistan's ISI spy agency. "The Arabs want their own food."

—Rehmat Mehsud in Islamabad and Evan Perez and Peter Spiegel in Washington contributed to this report.
Write to Matthew Rosenberg at and Siobhan Gorman at
25944  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: October 05, 2009, 08:15:14 AM
BAGHDAD -- Iraqi politicians say they have put aside for the time being any plans to push for a referendum on the U.S.-Iraqi security pact governing the American troop pullout here.

The threat of a referendum had clouded U.S. withdrawal plans. If Iraqi voters were given a chance to vote on the deal some U.S. officials feared they would reject it, forcing an accelerated U.S. withdrawal.

Military officials have said they will comply with any quicker withdrawal in the case of a "no" vote in a referendum. The flagging momentum for a referendum now, however, eases pressure on U.S. commanders.

U.S. military spokesman Brig. Gen. Stephen Lanza said the referendum is an issue that is up to the Iraqis, and American troops are focused on continuing to comply with the security pact.

The security pact calls for all American troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. When the security treaty was approved, Sunni lawmakers insisted on a referendum as a condition of their support. Originally scheduled for last July, it was delayed.

Many observers suspected it might never happen. But in August, Iraq's cabinet set a new date of Jan. 16, coinciding with nationwide parliamentary polls. A "no" vote on the deal would trigger a termination clause, speeding up a full American troop withdrawal by almost a year. Lawmakers said Sunday there weren't any moves afoot to push through legislation authorizing the referendum. That, they say, means it will either be delayed once again, or dropped altogether.

Recent worry over Iraq's ability to take over security from the U.S. faster -- should the referendum force an early American withdrawal -- appears to have cooled some Sunnis' insistence on the referendum.

"A fast withdrawal of American troops may create a security vacuum," said Sunni lawmaker Saleh Mutlaq, who had pushed for a referendum.

Lawmakers are also consumed with trying to pass a crucial elections law, and they have had no time to deal with legislation for a referendum vote, said Muther al-Hakim, a member of both the largest Shiite alliance in parliament and the legal committee, which would be responsible for putting together a referendum proposal.

Mr. Hakim and Rashid al-Azawi, a lawmaker and senior member of the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party, both said a referendum was no longer necessary because the U.S. military had so far abided by the security pact.

In the battle over the separate election legislation, political leaders have largely agreed to rely on the elections law from the 2005 race, with a few changes, lawmakers said Sunday.
25945  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Swanson: on: October 05, 2009, 08:03:26 AM
On Sept. 25, AT&T accused Google of violating the very "net neutrality" principles the world's dominant search company has righteously sought for others.

Net neutrality conjures the benign notion of an open and fair Web, where all applications and data packets are treated equally. Net reality is much more complicated. Google says it doesn't have to abide by rules meant for telecom companies. But with the Internet obliterating such distinctions, this defense exposes net neutrality's inherent flaws.

The controversy involves Google Voice, a new service that rings all of a user's phone lines simultaneously and provides other conference-calling and voice-mail features. Like myriad digital applications, the service is possible because the Web and phone lines have in many ways converged. Google can thus offer "free" services over the world's vast, expensive broadband networks.

Google thinks net neutrality should regulate only traditional phone and cable companies. Phone carriers have long been ordered to connect all calls. And open Internet principles agreed to by all sides in 2005 offer similar guidance for the Web: no blocking of Web sites or applications.

But Google Voice does not connect all calls. It blocks access, for example, to some rural areas and conferencing services that would impose heavier interconnection fees on Google. AT&T thus charged Google with cherry-picking. Why, AT&T asks, can Google exploit expensive communications networks when it's profitable but refuse neutral service to all customers when it's not?

This row unmasks something far more important than Google's hypocrisy: the deep structural flaws of net neutrality itself. Last week, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Julius Genachowski outlined a more expansive and legally binding regime. He would not only codify existing nonblocking principles but would also add a highly controversial "nondiscrimination" rule. This regulation could expand bureaucratic oversight to every bit, switch and business plan on the Internet.

Basic technologies, like packet prioritization (voice calls first, spam second), could be banned. So could many business plans based on robust and differentiated services. This regime could send all routing algorithms and network services into courtrooms for the next decade.

Despite the brutal economic downturn, Internet-sector growth has been solid. From the Amazon Kindle and 85,000 iPhone "apps" to Hulu video and broadband health care, Web innovation flourishes. Mr. Genachowski heartily acknowledges these happy industry facts but then pivots to assert the Web is at a "crossroads" and only the FCC can choose the right path.

The events of the last half-decade prove otherwise. Since 2004, bandwidth per capita in the U.S. grew to three megabits per second from just 262 kilobits per second, and monthly Internet traffic increased to two billion gigabytes from 170 million gigabytes—both tenfold leaps.

No sector has boomed more than wireless. Yet Mr. Genachowski wants to extend his new regulations to the most technically complicated and bandwidth-constrained realm—mobile networks and devices.

In 2004, Wi-Fi was embryonic, the Motorola Razr was the hot phone, the BlackBerry was a CEO's email device, and Apple's most recognizable product was an orange-sicle laptop. But then the industry turned upside-down in a flurry of dynamism. Both Motorola and Palm plummeted in popularity and only now are attempting real comebacks. BlackBerry and Apple vaulted to smart-phone supremacy from out of nowhere, Nokia became the world's largest camera company, and a new wireless reading device rekindled Amazon's fortunes.

Wireless carriers invested $100 billion in just the past three years, and the U.S. vaulted past Europe in fast 3G mobile networks. Americans enjoy mobile voice prices 60% cheaper than foreign peers. And the once closed mobile ecosystem is more open, modular and dynamic than ever.

All this occurred without net neutrality regulation.

My research suggests that U.S. Internet traffic will continue to rise 50% annually through 2015. Cisco estimates wireless data traffic will rise 131% per year through 2013. Hundreds of billions of dollars in fiber optics, data centers, and fourth-generation mobile networks will be needed. But if network service providers can't design their own networks, offer creative services, or make fair business transactions with vendors, will they invest these massive sums to meet (and drive) demand?

Some question the network companies' expensive and risky plans, asking if the customers will come. But one thing's for sure: If you don't build it, they can't come.

If net neutrality applies neutrally to all players in the Web ecosystem, then it would regulate every component and entrepreneur in a vast and unknowable future. If neutrality applies selectively (oxymoron alert) to only one sliver of the network, then it is merely a political tool of one set of companies to cripple its competitors.

At a time of continued national economic peril, the last thing we need is a new heavy hand weighing down our most promising high-growth sector. Better to maintain the existing open-Web principles and let the Internet evolve.

Mr. Swanson is president of the technology research and strategy firm Entropy Economics LLC.
25946  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton: BO getting played yet again on: October 05, 2009, 07:41:34 AM
The most widely touted outcome of last week's Geneva talks with Iran was the "agreement in principle" to send approximately one nuclear-weapon's worth of Iran's low enriched uranium (LEU) to Russia for enrichment to 19.75% and fabrication into fuel rods for Tehran's research reactor. President Barack Obama says the deal represents progress, a significant confidence-building measure.

In fact, the agreement constitutes another in the long string of Iranian negotiating victories over the West. Any momentum toward stricter sanctions has been dissipated, and Iran's fraudulent, repressive regime again hobnobs with the U.N. Security Council's permanent members. Consider the following problems:

• Is there a deal or isn't there? Diplomacy's three slipperiest words are "agreement in principle." Iran's Ambassador to Britain exclaimed after the talks in Geneva, "No, no!" when asked if his country had agreed to ship LEU to Russia; it had "not been discussed yet." An unnamed Iranian official said that the Geneva deal "is just based on principles. We have not agreed on any amount or any numbers." Bargaining over the deal's specifics could stretch out indefinitely.

Other issues include whether Iran will have "observers" at Russian enrichment facilities. If so, what new technologies might those observers glean? And, since Tehran's reactor is purportedly for medical purposes, will Mr. Obama deny what Iran pretends to need to refuel it in 2010?

• The "agreement" undercuts Security Council resolutions forbidding Iranian uranium enrichment. No U.S. president has been more enamored of international law and the Security Council than Mr. Obama. Yet here he is undermining the foundation of the multilateral campaign against Tehran's nuclear weapons program. In Resolution 1696, adopted July 31, 2006, the Security Council required Iran to "suspend all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development." Uranium enriched thereafter—the overwhelming bulk of Iran's admitted LEU—thus violates 1696 and later sanctions resolutions. Moreover, considering Iran's utter lack of credibility, we have no idea whether its declared LEU constitutes anything near its entire stockpile.

By endorsing Iran's use of its illegitimately enriched uranium, Mr. Obama weakens his argument that Iran must comply with its "international obligations." Indeed, the Geneva deal undercuts Mr. Obama's proposal to withhold more sanctions if Iran does not enhance its nuclear program by allowing Iran to argue that continued enrichment for all peaceful purposes should be permissible. Now Iran will oppose new sanctions and argue for repealing existing restrictions. Every other aspiring proliferator is watching how violating Security Council resolutions not only carries no penalty but provides a shortcut to international redemption.

• Raising Iran's LEU to higher enrichment levels is a step backwards. Two-thirds of the work to get 90% enriched uranium, the most efficient weapons grade, is accomplished when U235 isotope levels in natural uranium are enriched to Iran's current level of approximately 3%-5%. Further enrichment of Iran's LEU to 19.75% is a significant step in the wrong direction. This is barely under the 20% definition of weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU). Ironically, Resolution 1887, adopted while Mr. Obama presided over the Security Council last week, calls for converting HEU-based reactors like Iran's to LEU fuel precisely to lower such proliferation risks. We should be converting the Tehran reactor, not refueling it at 19.75% enrichment.

After Geneva, the administration misleadingly stated that once fashioned into fuel rods, the uranium involved could not be enriched further. This is flatly untrue. The 19.75% enriched uranium could be reconverted into uranium hexafluoride gas and quickly enriched to 90%. Iran could also "burn" its uranium fuel (including the Russian LEU available for the Bushehr reactor) and then chemically extract plutonium from the spent fuel to produce nuclear weapons.

The more sophisticated Iran's nuclear skills become, the more paths it has to manufacture nuclear weapons. The research-reactor bait-and-switch demonstrates convincingly why it cannot be trusted with fissile material under any peaceful guise. Proceeding otherwise would be winking at two decades of Iranian deception, which, unfortunately, Mr. Obama seems perfectly prepared to do.

The president also said last week that international access to the Qom nuclear site must occur within two weeks, but an administration spokesman retreated the next day, saying there was no "hard and fast deadline," and "we don't have like a drop-dead date." Of course, neither does Iran. Once again, Washington has entered the morass of negotiations with Tehran, giving Iran precious time to refine and expand its nuclear program. We are now even further from eliminating Iran's threat than before Geneva.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
25947  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Absurd Results on: October 05, 2009, 07:38:22 AM
'In recent years, many Americans have had cause to wonder whether decisions made at EPA were guided by science and the law, or whether those principles had been trumped by politics," declared Lisa Jackson in San Francisco last week. The Environmental Protection Agency chief can't stop kicking the Bush Administration, but the irony is that the Obama EPA is far more "political" than the Bush team ever was.

How else to explain the coordinated release on Wednesday of the EPA's new rules that make carbon a dangerous pollutant and John Kerry's cap-and-trade bill? Ms. Jackson is issuing a political ultimatum to business, as well as to Midwestern and rural Democrats: Support the Kerry-Obama climate tax agenda—or we'll punish your utilities and consumers without your vote.

The EPA has now formally made an "endangerment finding" on CO2, which will impose the command-and-control regulations of the Clean Air Act across the entire economy. Because this law was never written to apply to carbon, the costs will far exceed those of a straight carbon tax or even cap and trade—though judging by the bills Democrats are stitching together, perhaps not by much. In any case, the point of this reckless "endangerment" is to force industry and politicians wary of raising taxes to concede, lest companies have to endure even worse economic and bureaucratic destruction from the EPA.

Ms. Jackson made a show of saying her new rules would only apply to some 10,000 facilities that emit more than 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year, as if that were a concession. These are the businesses—utilities, refineries, heavy manufacturers and so forth—that have the most to lose and are therefore most sensitive to political coercion.

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Associated Press
 .The idea is to get Exelon and other utilities to lobby Congress to pass a cap-and-trade bill that gives them compensating emissions allowances that they can sell to offset the cost of the new regulations. White House green czar Carol Browner was explicit on the coercion point last week, telling a forum hosted by the Atlantic Monthly that the EPA move would "obviously encourage the business community to raise their voices in Congress." In Sicily and parts of New Jersey, they call that an offer you can't refuse.

Yet one not-so-minor legal problem is that the Clean Air Act's statutory language states unequivocally that the EPA must regulate any "major source" that emits more than 250 tons of a pollutant annually, not 25,000. The EPA's Ms. Jackson made up the higher number out of whole cloth because the lower legal threshold—which was intended to cover traditional pollutants, not ubiquitous carbon—would sweep up farms, restaurants, hospitals, schools, churches and other businesses. Sources that would be required to install pricey "best available control technology" would increase to 41,000 per year, up from 300 today, while those subject to the EPA's construction permitting would jump to 6.1 million from 14,000.

That's not our calculation. It comes from the EPA itself, which also calls it "an unprecedented increase" that would harm "an extraordinarily large number of sources." The agency goes on to predict years of delay and bureaucratic backlog that "would impede economic growth by precluding any type of source—whether it emits GHGs or not—from constructing or modifying for years after its business plan contemplates." We pointed this out earlier this year, only to have Ms. Jackson and the anticarbon lobby deny it.

Usually it takes an act of Congress to change an act of Congress, but Team Obama isn't about to let democratic—or even Democratic—consent interfere with its carbon extortion racket. To avoid the political firestorm of regulating the neighborhood coffee shop, the EPA is justifying its invented rule on the basis of what it calls the "absurd results" doctrine. That's not a bad moniker for this whole exercise.

The EPA admits that it is "departing from the literal application of statutory provisions." But it says the courts will accept its revision because literal application will produce results that are "so illogical or contrary to sensible policy as to be beyond anything that Congress could reasonably have intended."

Well, well. Shouldn't the same "absurd results" theory pertain to shoehorning carbon into rules that were written in the 1970s and whose primary drafter—Michigan Democrat John Dingell—says were never intended to apply? Just asking. Either way, this will be a feeble legal excuse when the greens sue to claim that the EPA's limits are inadequate, in order to punish whatever carbon-heavy business they're campaigning against that week.

Obviously President Obama is hellbent on punishing carbon use—no matter how costly or illogical. And of course, there's no politics involved, none at all.
25948  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: October 05, 2009, 07:33:25 AM
We aren't among the doctors invited to a Rose Garden event today to "join the President in pushing for health insurance reform this year and [who] have offered their help and support," as a White House press release put it. It's unfortunate only supporters of the president's plans will be there. Mr. Obama has missed an opportunity to learn more about the real issues facing patients and doctors and to formulate a plan that truly puts patients in control with doctors as trusted advisers.

The United States has the best health care in the world today, and thanks to the ever-expanding frontiers of science and medical innovation the brightest days are ahead. It is true that there are Americans who fall through the cracks of our medical system every day—and as a caring nation, we must do what we can to expand access to medical care to those who need it. But this can be accomplished without a costly and inefficient government overhaul of the entire system. One easy reform would be to enable individuals to buy policies offered in any state, not just where they live. This will enhance competition. But more government-run health insurance will only lead to disaster.

Government cost-cutting would threaten medical innovation.

.Today, Medicare already reimburses doctors less than what many of their treatments cost to provide. Now the government is saying that additional Medicare cuts are coming—thus forcing doctors to try and make up the difference in volume, by seeing more patients. If you ask patients about this, they understand that more volume means less time with the doctor. That's something that all patients and doctors should oppose. In time, it will be difficult to find a physician.

If the goal of reform is to provide the best possible patient care, let's take the government-controlled "public option"—and any legislative trick that could lead to a public option—off the table. It will result in long waiting lines to see a doctor, substandard care, and an end to medical discovery.

There are many other ways to expand access to health care for uninsured Americans. We could strengthen incentives to purchase low-cost health savings accounts, provide tax credits for individuals and families buying health policies on their own, and extend subsidies for those who need financial help. Also, the right of patients to privately contract with physicians to ensure they have the medical care they want, without penalty—regardless of what the government pays—must be recognized and protected. Today, if a doctor wants to bill a patient for additional payment over the Medicare reimbursement, he has to withdraw from Medicare entirely for two years. A patient who agrees with this arrangement can't receive any Medicare money for that service, either.

We need to maintain a plentiful supply of medical expertise. But cuts in payments and bureaucracy could mean fewer individuals entering the medical field—and a dearth of health-care professionals down the road as specialists retire early or limit their practice. Every patient wants to be taken care of by the best medical professional possible. A patient with cancer wants to see a doctor who has had years of training in oncology and is knowledgeable about the latest ways to beat the cancer. But in some provisions in the proposed legislation (such as the medical home model of HR 3200), physician assistants and nurse practitioners may get the authority to make important medical decisions.

The federal government should also continue its investment in medical research through agencies like the National Institutes of Health, and it should better reward innovative discovery in the private sector with tax incentives and patent protection. Americans are living longer, healthier lives thanks to the trillions of dollars in public and private research investment in medical devices, pharmaceuticals, and advanced surgical techniques. We must not put future progress in jeopardy.

Finally, the nation needs comprehensive medical malpractice reform. It is the surest and quickest way to slow down the rising cost of health care. Statistics from private insurers, as well as a Justice Department report of 2007, indicate that upwards of 80% of malpractice cases are closed without payment—and when there is a trial, the physician-defendant wins 89% of the time. Yet these lawsuits, even when dismissed or closed without payment, cost doctors time and money, and encourage defensive medicine. This adds billions to the cost of medical care. It also increases malpractice insurance premiums, the costs of which get passed on to patients. In too many cases, the malpractice environment forces doctors to leave communities, depriving patients of their trusted medical advisers or specialists whom they might need in an accident or other crisis.

The drive to reform health care has led to an acrimonious and often divisive debate. Yet we still believe that doctors, patients and legislators working together with goodwill can improve the medical system and extend its benefits to all Americans.

Dr. Palmisano, president of the American Medical Association from 2003-2004, is spokesman for the Coalition to Protect Patients' Rights, a group of more than 10,000 physicians. Drs. Plested and Johnson were presidents of the American Medical Association from 2006-2007 and 1996-1997 respectively.
25949  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: October 05, 2009, 07:29:36 AM
Sometimes I ask myself if Hitler wasn't right when he wanted to finish with that race, through the famous holocaust, because if there are people that are harmful to this country, they are the Jews, the Israelites.

David Romero Ellner

Executive Director

Radio Globo, Honduras, Sept. 25, 2009

Meet one of Honduras's most vocal advocates for the return of deposed president Manuel Zelaya to office. He's not your average radio jock. He started in Honduran politics as a radical activist and was one of the founders of the hard-left People's Revolutionary Union, which had links to Honduran terrorists in 1980s. A few years ago he was convicted and served time in prison for raping his own daughter.

Today Mr. Romero Ellner is pure zelayista, hungry for power and not ashamed to say so. This explains why he has joined Venezuela's Hugo Chávez and Mr. Zelaya in targeting Jews. Mr. Chávez has allied himself with Iran to further his ability to rule unchecked in the hemisphere. He hosts Hezbollah terrorists and seeks Iranian help to become a nuclear power. He and his acolytes cement their ties to Iranian dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad by echoing his anti-Semitic rants.

The Honduras debate is not really about Honduras. It is about whether it is possible to stop the spread of chavismo and all it implies, including nuclear proliferation and terrorism in Latin America. Most troubling is the unflinching support for Mr. Zelaya from President Barack Obama and Democratic Sen. John Kerry—despite the Law Library of Congress review that shows that Mr. Zelaya's removal from office was legal, and the clear evidence that he is Mr. Chávez's man in Tegucigalpa. On Thursday, Mr. Kerry took the unprecedented step of trying to block a fact-finding mission to Honduras by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, who is resisting Mr. Obama's efforts to restore Mr. Zelaya to power.

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Associated Press
Venezuela's Hugo Chávez embraces Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
.Mr. Zelaya, recall, was arrested, deposed and deported on June 28 because he violated the Honduran Constitution. He snuck back into the country on Sept. 21 and found refuge at the Brazilian Embassy in the capital. Mr. Romero Ellner's calumny against Jews was a follow-up to Mr. Zelaya's claim that he was being "subjected to high-frequency radiation" from outside the embassy and that he thought "Israeli mercenaries" were behind it.

The verbal attack on Jews from a zelayista is consistent with a pattern emerging in the region. Take what's been going on in Venezuela. In the earliest years of Chávez rule, a Venezuelan friend, who is a Christian, confessed his fears to me. "In his speech, he always tries to create hate between groups of people," my friend told me. "He loves hate speech."

For a decade, Venezuelans have been force-fed the strongman's view of economic nationalism laced with this divisive language. Venezuelans are encouraged to seek revenge against their neighbors. Crime has skyrocketed.

The Jewish community has been targeted as Mr. Chávez's relationship with Mr. Ahmadinejad has blossomed. In 2004, I reported on a police raid at a Jewish school for young children in Caracas. The pretext was a "tip" that the school was storing weapons. No weapons were found, but the community was terrorized.

In recent years, Venezuela and Iran have signed joint ventures estimated to be worth $20 billion. There are similar pacts, estimated at $10 billion, between Iran and Venezuelan satellite, Bolivia. Both South American countries accused Israel of genocide in Gaza in 2008 and cut diplomatic ties. Mr. Chávez's tirades against Israel during that time emboldened his street thugs. In January 2009, vandals broke into a temple in Caracas and desecrated the sacred space with graffiti calling for the death of Jews.

The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.New York District Attorney Robert Morgenthau recently gave a speech to the Brookings Institution in which he said "Iran and Venezuela are beyond the courting phase. We know they are creating a cozy financial, political and military partnership, and that both countries have strong ties to Hezbollah and Hamas."

Iran has courted Honduras as well. When Mr. Zelaya was still in power, the Honduran press reported that his foreign minister Patricia Rodas met with high-ranking Iranian officials in Mexico City. That raised plenty of eyebrows in Central America.

Neither Venezuela nor Honduras has any history of anti-Semitism. But with Mr. Chávez importing Mr. Ahmadinejad's despicable ideology and methods, an assault on the Jewish community goes with the territory.

Honduras recognizes that it was a mistake to deport Mr. Zelaya after he was arrested. But it argues that fears of zelayista extremism and use of violence as a political tool in the months leading up to June 28 provoked desperation. Mr. Romero Ellner—whose radio station was closed down by the government last week—provided exhibit A with his remarks. If the U.S. State Department is opposed to the exile, let it call for Mr. Zelaya to be put on trial now that he is back in Honduras. It has no grounds to demand that democratic Honduras restore an anti-Semitic rabble rouser to power.
25950  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IG says Treasury misled on: October 05, 2009, 07:23:20 AM
Pravda on the Hudson
IG says Treasury misled on bailouts
Published: October 5, 2009

WASHINGTON — The inspector general who oversees the government’s bailout of the banking system is criticizing the Treasury Department for some misleading public statements last fall and raising the possibility that it had unfairly disbursed money to the biggest banks.

A Treasury official made incorrect statements about the health of the nation’s biggest banks even as the government was doling out billions of dollars in aid, according to a report on the Troubled Asset Relief Program to be released on Monday by the special inspector general, Neil M. Barofksy.

The report also provides new insight into the way the Treasury allocated billions of dollars to nine of Wall Street’s largest players. The report says that Bank of America appeared to qualify for more aid earlier, under the government plan. That assertion adds another element of intrigue to continuing investigations of the bank’s merger with Merrill Lynch and the role that regulators played in the deal, even as Merrill’s condition deteriorated.

The bailout formula called for banks to get an amount equal to as much as 3 percent of their risk-weighted assets, with aid capped at $25 billion for each institution, according to the report. By size, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America could have qualified for more, and the first two received $25 billion.

But Bank of America was given only $15 billion in October, since Merrill Lynch was earmarked for $10 billion. The two companies agreed to a merger, though their deal had not yet been approved by regulators or shareholders.

Bank of America ultimately received Merrill’s $10 billion in January — as well as $20 billion in additional bailout funds — but if the bank had not been involved in the Merrill deal, it would probably have received $25 billion at the outset, as did Citigroup and JPMorgan.

Another company in the process of a merger was not treated the same. Wells Fargo was acquiring Wachovia, and it received both companies’ money at the start, according to the inspector general.

Mr. Barofsky’s office also says that regulators were wrong to tell the public last year that the earliest bailout recipients were all healthy.

Former Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr., for instance, said on Oct. 14 that the banks were “healthy,” and that they accepted the money for “the good of the U.S. economy.” The banks, he said, would be better able to increase their lending to consumers and businesses.

In truth, regulators were concerned about the health of several banks that received that first bailout, the inspector general writes.

The inspector general said government officials need to be more careful when describing their actions and rationale. In a letter included with the report, the Federal Reserve concurred with Mr. Barofsky’s concern about the statements made last year, but the Treasury Department said that any review of announcements last year “must be considered in light of the unprecedented circumstances in which they were made.”
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