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26001  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Marc Denny Seminar Bloomington Illinois October 16th and 17th 2010 on: October 23, 2010, 12:22:59 PM

High praise indeed from a man of your background.  Tail wags for the kind words.
26002  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 23, 2010, 08:31:33 AM
1:  I'm thinking like Ellison is worthy of continued observation, perhaps on the Islam in America and/or the Homeland Security threads.

2:  I continue to really not like the way that some races are tightening.  Spreads in the polls that used to be in the double digits are now often in mid single digits or in the margin of error.  After all the cockiness about the coming tsunami, anything that underdelivers is not going to be good for the cause of freedom.
26003  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: October 23, 2010, 07:45:34 AM


The day after the U.S. government formally notified Congress of a massive, $60
billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, Saudi King Abdullah called Iranian President
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Thursday to “discuss bilateral relations.” Ahmadinejad had
earlier phoned the Saudi king, making this the second time in only nine days that
Iran has reached out to its Persian Gulf rival.

While the Saudis and Iranians have been nervously feeling each other out, the junior
players in the Persian Gulf are also keeping busy. The United Arab Emirates (UAE)
announced Thursday that it has opened a naval base on its eastern coast in the
emirate of Fujairah. The base, jutting out into the Arabian Sea, would also house a
giant oil-storage terminal that would connect to the oil-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi
through a multi-billion dollar oil pipeline now under construction.  In following
these plans, the UAE appears to be creating an option to circumvent the Strait of
Hormuz so that they may continue exporting oil and importing goods should Iran
attempt to follow through on threats to blockade the strategic chokepoint.

Just off the Arabian Peninsula, the tiny island nation of Bahrain -- home to the
U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet -- is gearing up for parliamentary elections Saturday. To
prepare for the polls, the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family is doing everything it can
to ensure the country’s Shiite majority doesn’t increase its political clout -- and
thus provide its Persian neighbor with another stick with which to probe the

"With the Persian Gulf in flux, the United States is trying to get back into a
position where the natural Arab-Persian divide in the region balances itself out."

Iran is clearly weighing heavily on the minds of the Persian Gulf states. These
states don’t exactly long for a repeat of Saddam Hussein and his extraterritorial
oil ambitions, but they did watch with trepidation as the Sunni pillar in Iraq
crumbled under the watch of the United States throughout the course of the Iraq war.
Though the United States made the first big attempt to correct this imbalance with
the surge and the co-optation of Sunni former Baathists, it is obvious to everyone
that Iran is the emerging power in the Persian Gulf, while the United States is more
than ready to make its exit from the region.

But the United States also doesn’t have the option of clearing out and leaving its
Sunni Arab allies in a lurch. Whether or not American Tea Partiers, isolationist
pundits or regular taxpayers like it, the U.S. military is spread far beyond its
borders, with American boots on the ground in more than 150 countries and the U.S.
Navy in the unique position of dominating the high seas. The United States also
holds a quarter of the world’s wealth in gross domestic product and is responsible
for roughly the same fraction of the world’s fossil fuel consumption, a large
percentage of which comes from the Persian Gulf. Along with this ubiquitous global
presence comes a heavy burden. That burden does not necessarily mean playing the
global policeman and putting out fires wherever there is a real or imagined nuclear
threat, claims of genocide or otherwise. Instead, it means selectively choosing its
military engagement and maintaining various balances of power that allow the United
States to sustain its hegemony without getting bogged down in conflicts around the
world for dangerous lengths of time.

With the Persian Gulf in flux, the United States is trying to get back into a
position where the natural Arab-Persian divide in the region balances itself out.
From the U.S. point of view, Iran and Iraq could go on fighting each other for years
-- as they did throughout the 1980s -- as long as neither one is capable of wiping
the other out. Right now, Iraq is in far too weak a position and is too wedded to
the Iranians to rebuild itself as a useful counter to Iran. So that responsibility
is increasingly falling to Iraq’s neighbors.

Though there is great power in petrodollars alone, the Persian Gulf states are far
from warriors. In spite of all the state-of-the-art equipment the United States
floods into countries like Saudi Arabia, the Saudi military severely lacks the
leadership, ethos, training and doctrine to proficiently and coherently employ these
systems. The Persian Gulf states’ dependence on Washington is what allows the United
States to militarily entrench itself in the region. The $60 billion arms sale to
Saudi Arabia, for example, loudly signals to Iran that a U.S. exit from Iraq is not
tantamount to the United States abandoning its interests in the region. But as the
United States continues to grow and spread itself across the globe, it will
increasingly need to rely on local forces to manage things on their own, with the
United States standing close behind. For the Persian Gulf, that means the United
States investing the years into shaping the Saudi military into an effective force
and encouraging the UAE to reduce its vulnerabilities to Iran, as it appears to be
doing with this new export route into the Arabian Sea. These are initiatives that
take a great deal of time, money and effort, but they also have the best chance of
materializing when a state is confronted by an external threat. For the Persian Gulf
states, the threat of Iran dominating the gulf is as good a threat as ever to drive
them into action.

Copyright 2010 STRATFOR.

26004  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Everything to be stored by Brit govt on: October 23, 2010, 12:38:08 AM
Telegraph UK: Every Email And Website To Be Stored By Brit Government

' Every email, phone call and website visit is to be recorded and stored after the Coalition Government revived controversial Big Brother snooping plans. '
26005  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Where oh where has my little biscuit gone? on: October 23, 2010, 12:32:47 AM

OMFG shocked shocked shocked

Contrast this:

After Ronald Reagan said his good-byes to Bonnie Nofziger and hung up the phone, he leaned back and chatted with his aides who had gathered around him. He talked about his favorite room in the White House residence, the Yellow Room, and mentioned the note he had left in the desk drawer for George Bush on a notepad with the printed heading, DON'T LET THE TURKEYS GET YOU DOWN. Someone suggested that the president carve his initials in the Oval Office desk. A chuckle went around the group, and they all felt the bittersweetness of the moment.

Ken Duberstein stepped forward and briefed the president on the schedule for his last day in office--where he was to stand during the inauguration ceremony, when he would board the helicopter that would take him to Andrews Air Force Base for his final flight on Air Force One, when he would give his speech to the well-wishers at Los Angeles International Airport. As Duberstein finished his briefing, the president reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a plain white, plastic-coated card, like an unmarked credit card.

"Well, I guess I won't be needing this anymore," he said, holding the card out in General Powell's direction. "Whom do I give it to?"
It was the nuclear authentication code card that Ronald Reagan had carried throughout his presidency. That thin plastic wafer, when inserted into a black leather briefcase carried by a military aide, had the power to unleash Armageddon upon the world.
"Just hold on to it, sir," said Jim Kuhn. "You're still the commander in chief. You can turn it in after Mr. Bush is sworn in as president."

Ronald Reagan nodded and placed the card back in his pocket. Then Colin Powell stepped forward and gave the president the most succinct national security breefing of Ronald Reagan's entire presidency. "The world is quiet today, Mr. President," said Powell.
26006  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: October 22, 2010, 05:06:36 PM
And, given the crew who is bringing me along, the seats promise to be rather good wink  Keep on eye for me on your TV screen grin
26007  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 22, 2010, 05:03:34 PM
To quote myself:

"That said, we must consider the possibility that China is starting one with us whether we like it or not.  In case such is the case, then we need a clear-headed assessment of who "wins" (i.e. loses less)."

In other words, I am not advocating Smoot Hawley, I am asking what to do if China starts it up.

26008  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sowell: Gold on: October 22, 2010, 05:00:33 PM
Wednesday, September 29, 2010  02:53 AM
By Thomas Sowell

Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and  Peace
One of the many slick tricks of the Obama  administration was to insert a
provision in the massive Obamacare legislation  regulating people who sell
gold. This had nothing to do with medical care but  everything to do with
sneaking in an extension of the government's power over  gold, in a bill too big
for most people to read. 
Gold long has been a source of frustration for politicians who want to
extend  their power over the economy. First of all, the gold standard cramped
their  style because there is only so much money you can print when every
dollar bill  can be turned in to the government, to be exchanged for the
equivalent amount of  gold.
When the amount of money the government can print is limited by how much
gold  the government has, politicians cannot pay off a massive national debt
by just  printing more money and repaying the owners of government bonds with
dollars  that are cheaper than the dollars with which the bonds were
bought. In other  words, politicians cannot cheat people as easily.
That was just one of the ways that the gold standard cramped politicians' 
style - and just one of the reasons they got rid of it. One of Franklin D. 
Roosevelt's first acts as president was to take the United States off the
gold  standard in 1933. But, even with the gold standard gone, the ability of
private  individuals to buy gold reduces the ability of the government to
steal the value  of their money by printing more money.
Inflation is a quiet but effective way for the government to transfer 
resources from the people to itself, without raising taxes. A hundred-dollar 
bill bought less in 1998 than a $20 bill bought in the 1960s. This means that 
anyone who kept his money in a safe over those years would have lost 80
percent  of its value, because no safe can keep your money safe from
politicians who  control the printing presses.
That is why some people buy gold when they lose confidence in the 
government's managing of its money. Usually that is when inflation is either  under
way or looming on the horizon. When many people start transferring their 
wealth from dollars into gold, that restricts the ability of politicians to 
steal from them through inflation.
Even though there is currently very little inflation, purchases of gold
have  nevertheless skyrocketed. Ordinarily, most gold is bought for producing
jewelry  or for various industrial purposes, more so than as an investment.
But, at times  within the past two years, most gold has been bought by
What that suggests is that increasing numbers of people don't trust this 
administration's economic policies, especially the huge and growing deficits,
 which add up to a record-breaking national debt.
When a national debt reaches an unsustainable amount, there is always a 
temptation to pay it off with inflated dollars. There is the same temptation 
when the Social Security system starts paying out more money to baby boom 
retirees than it is taking in from current workers.
Whether gold is a good investment for individuals, and whether the gold 
standard is the right system for a country, are much more complicated
questions  than can be answered here. But what is clear is that the Obama
administration  sees people's freedom to buy and sell gold as something that can limit
what the  government can do.
Sneaking a provision on gold purchases and sales into massive legislation 
that is supposedly about medical care is just one of the many cynical tricks
 used to circumvent the public's right to know how they are being governed.
The  Constitution begins, "We the people" but, to the left, both the people
and the  Constitution are just things to circumvent in order to carry out
its agenda.
Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, 
Revolution and Peace in Stanford, Calif.

26009  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: October 22, 2010, 03:05:06 PM
Glenn has been on a good rampage about the connection between George Soros giving nearly $2m to NPR and the firing of Juan Williams.

I do wish he would get off the kick in favor of bad food though rolleyes
26010  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: October 22, 2010, 03:03:24 PM
I think a rather productive firestorm has been ignited by JW's firing by NPR.
26011  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 22, 2010, 02:51:24 PM
"we need them to ignore how they are throwing money away continuing to fund our irresponsible spending habits"

GM, I am going to nit pick a bit on this one.  NO we do NOT need to fund our irresponsible spending habits.  Rather we need to spend responsibly.  We can get along quite nicely without the plastic knicknacks and poison laced products (including children's toys! angry) and we can get along quite nicely without further increasing their leverage over us.
26012  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's foreign money can of worms on: October 22, 2010, 02:20:55 PM
Return to the Article


October 19, 2010

Obama's foreign money can of worms

Thomas Lifson

The Democrats, including President Obama, have embarked on a disastrous
campaign impugning the US Chamber of Commerce as a source of nefarious
foreign money corrupting our campaigns. Not only has the accusation
failed to resonate, it has opened a door that Democrats would prefer
remain closed. And because Washington Post writer Marc A. Thiessen has
taken up the question, it will be impossible to contain the very valid
questions raised: of the largest labor unions in America, the Service Employees
International Union (SEIU), ... is spending lavishly to elect Democrats.
The SEIU claims 100,000 members in Canada
. According to SEIU's 2008 constitution
<> , dues
include $7.65 per month per member that must be sent to the SEIU
International in the United States. This means that the SEIU takes in
nearly $9.2 million per year from foreign nationals -- almost 10 times
the amount the Chamber receives from its affiliates abroad.


Is any foreign money being used to fund the SEIU's anti-Republican
campaign efforts? According to the Wall Street Journal, "The Service
Employees International Union, one of the nation's fastest-growing labor
unions, acknowledges that it can't be certain that foreign nationals
haven't contributed
88.html>  to its $44 million political budget to support pro-labor
Democrats." The SEIU is not the only union that takes in money from
foreign members. According to the Canadian Department of Human Resources
and Skills Development
membership/index2009.shtml> , the United Steel, Paper and Forestry,
Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers has
280,000 Canadian members; the United Food and Commercial Workers has
more than 245,000; the Teamsters has more than 108,000; the Laborers'
International Union of North America has more than 68,000; and the
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers has more than 57,000.
How much do these foreign union members send to the United States? If
the constitutions of their unions are anything like SEIU's, it could be
tens of millions of dollars. Is any of that money being used to help
elect Democrats this November?


Unions have another source of foreign cash: dues from illegal
immigrants. In an April 2007 speech, uncovered by the conservative Web
site RedState, SEIU Executive Vice President Eliseo Medina boasts how
his union's rolls are loaded with illegal immigrants
<> .
Medina declares proudly: "SEIU is the largest union of immigrant workers
in the country, and a number of them are undocumented."


Hat tip: Ed Lasky





<>  | SPORTS
<>  |
<>  | ARTS
<>  |
<>  | CARS
<>  | REAL


Obama Accepting Untraceable Donations

By Matthew Mosk
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, October 29, 2008; A02

Sen. Barack Obama
<> 's
presidential campaign is allowing donors to use largely untraceable
prepaid credit cards that could potentially be used to evade limits on
how much an individual is legally allowed to give or to mask a
contributor's identity, campaign officials confirmed.

Faced with a huge influx of donations over the Internet, the campaign
has also chosen not to use basic security measures to prevent
potentially illegal or anonymous contributions from flowing into its
accounts, aides acknowledged. Instead, the campaign is scrutinizing its
books for improper donations after the money has been deposited.

The Obama organization said its extensive review has ensured that the
campaign has refunded any improper contributions, and noted that Federal
Election Commission rules do not require front-end screening of

(READ MORE: Murkowski embraces outsider status with write-in campaign)

In recent weeks, questionable contributions have created headaches for
Obama's accounting team as it has tried to explain why campaign finance
filings have included itemized donations from individuals using fake
names, such as Es Esh or Doodad Pro. Those revelations prompted
conservative bloggers to further test Obama's finance vetting by giving
money using the kind of prepaid cards that can be bought at a drugstore
and cannot be traced to a donor.

26013  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Yee hah! on: October 22, 2010, 02:02:58 PM
Looks like I get to go to tomorrow night's UFC for free!
26014  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 22, 2010, 02:01:20 PM
Sorry, having LOTS of internet connection problems.  Right now I am on the neighbor's connection.  In that Cindy is out of town and she is the geek in our family, it is hard to predict when all of this will get straightened out.
26015  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: October 22, 2010, 01:55:37 PM
We are having internet connection problems again-- AND Cindy is out of town visiting my mom  shocked
26016  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 20, 2010, 01:47:59 PM
Perhaps I read too much into what you say, but I am not seeing a point at which you would draw a line.
26017  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The on: October 20, 2010, 01:45:20 PM
Paris, Berlin, Moscow and the Emerging Concert of Europe

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is hosting Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday and Tuesday at the French Atlantic resort of Deauville. The summit is being described by Western media as an opportunity for Russia to improve its relations with NATO, with Paris and Berlin lending a hand toward the reconciliation between Moscow and the West.

In a way, the press on the summit is correct: The summit is ultimately about the West’s relationship with Russia. Unfortunately for the United States, Central Europeans, the United Kingdom and a large part of Europe’s firmly pro-U.S. countries such as the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark, it’s about the West as defined by Paris and Berlin — which is to say … Paris and Berlin.

“For both France and Germany, but particularly Germany, Russia is not a current security threat but rather a potential energy and economic partner.”
The topics of the meeting will be wide ranging, concentrating on security and Moscow’s relationship with NATO and the European Union. Specifically, the Russian president will bring up the Russian proposal for a new European Security Treaty. While Moscow claims that the proposal is not intended to replace NATO, the United States and its European allies — particularly Central Europeans worried about Russia’s intentions — see it as attempting to do exactly that.

Both Sarkozy and Merkel have indicated that they will listen to what Medvedev has to say on the proposed treaty. Just the fact that Berlin and Paris are willing to listen to Moscow’s proposal is worrisome to the rest of Europe. In fact, the timing of the summit is particularly jarring. The NATO heads of state summit — at which the alliance will approve a new Strategic Concept — is to be held in exactly one month, and yet Paris and Berlin have no problems so openly coordinating European security with Moscow. It is akin to spending a weekend on the sea with a mistress ahead of one’s 25-year marriage anniversary.

Paris and Berlin are both feeling like their marriage with NATO is getting stale. For both France and Germany, but particularly Germany, Russia is not a current security threat but rather a potential energy and economic partner. And neither Berlin nor Paris wants to be part of any future “American adventurism” outside of the European theater of operations, since both see efforts in Afghanistan as largely an enormous expenditure of resources for dubious benefits. The divergent interests of the various NATO member states have France and Germany looking to bring matters of European security back to the European theater, and that means talking to Russia.

France has an additional motive in wanting to make sure that as Germany and Russia get close, France is the one organizing the meeting and therefore keeping an eye on the developing Berlin-Moscow relationship (as evidenced by the fact that Sarkozy is the one hosting the other two leaders). In this context, we can consider Sarkozy’s idea to set up a European Security Council, which according to German newspaper Der Spiegel he would propose at the Deauville summit. Paris is trying to compensate for the strong Berlin-Moscow relationship by going out of its way to create structures that would involve Paris in the future European security architecture. France wants to be able to control the discussion and the makeup at these forums and introduce outside players if it feels that it needs to balance Moscow and Berlin.

While no public or official proposals or agreements may be seen out of the Deauville meeting, Russia is more interested in striking a very real understanding with France and Germany. The lack of public announcements should not detract from the fact that Medvedev is meeting with Sarkozy and Merkel to get a sense of their willingness to offer Russia clear security concessions. Russia wants a commitment and an understanding from France and Germany that they are willing to allow Russia its sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union and that they intend to coordinate with Russia on any future security matters that affect Moscow. Moscow does not want to be blindsided in the future as it was with the West’s decision to back Kosovo’s independence or to be completely left outside of European security matters as it was during the 1990s and doesn’t want to cross a red line with Paris or Berlin as it resurges. Tuesday’s meeting is most likely about creating guidelines on what Russia is allowed to do and what is going too far. Russia is currently at a delicate place in its resurgence during which it may cross into territory that could be construed as being beyond its direct sphere — specifically Moldova — so it needs to know where France and Germany stand now.

The entire episode is beginning to look very much like the Concert of Europe congress system of diplomacy. Between 1815 and 1914, Europeans resolved most geopolitical disagreements by holding a “Congress” at which concessions were made and general geopolitical horse-trading was conducted among the European powers. And if a particularly problematic country refused to make concessions — or was the very subject of the meeting — it could be denied access to the Congress in question.

Whether the Deauville summit results in concrete proposals or not, the significance is not in statements that follow but in the fact that Berlin and Paris no longer see anything wrong in spending a few days by the sea with Russia, especially as the rest of their supposed European allies wait for their input at the NATO summit. This tells us that Europe may have already entered a new Concert era, whether or not post-WWII institutions such as NATO still exist.

26018  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: October 20, 2010, 12:06:46 PM
Trade wars are very bad things and tend to have consequences far beyond those originally envisioned.

That said, we must consider the possibility that China is starting one with us whether we like it or not.  In case such is the case, then we need a clear-headed assessment of who "wins" (i.e. loses less).

GM, you've been a serious observer of China for some time now.  Why do you say they win a trade war with us?
26019  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 20, 2010, 12:02:48 PM
I continue to worry.

I saw yesterday that Murkowski has pulled to a statistical dead heat with Miller in Alaska.  Engle can lose NE (and Reid IMHO is just the man to cheat to help make that happen).  I read that O'Donnel in the debate bobbled the whole issue of teaching creationism in science class and came off looking like an ingnoramus on the first amendment and separation of church and state.   Paladino is looking quite the ass in NY.

If the promised tsunami doesn't happen this will all get played as an intramural squabble between the whacko tea partiers and the Rinos.

26020  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: October 20, 2010, 11:16:33 AM
Grateful to be home with my family!!!
26021  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: October 20, 2010, 11:15:37 AM
I'm back from a fine time in Bloomington.

I have a feeling of being able to settle in for a while after several months of seminars, government work, the DB Gathering, another matter that took great amounts of time at a fairly heavy emotional cost, etc etc.

I am really looking forward to getting my groove on!

PS:  Folks, now that starting today my wife will be visiting my mother for a week and so during that time all will be glorious chaos here cheesy
26022  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Marc Denny Seminar Bloomington Illinois October 16th and 17th 2010 on: October 20, 2010, 11:12:48 AM
Woof Terry et al:

As always a fine time.  Thank you for your gracious hospitality and the pleasure of working with the fine group of people you attract.  Thanks to all who travelled so far to come (Long distance price to Dog Howie who came from Philadelphia).

Your group is moving forward nicely and I look forward to the next time.

To walk as a warrior for all our days,
Guro Crafty
26023  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man returns to Iraq 8(?) on: October 19, 2010, 07:44:07 AM
As I opened the exterior door of the Villa this morning at about 0655, I heard a huge boom.  Second loudest boom I have heard in all thiem time I have been over here combined.
At about 0720 while in the NEC DFAC, I heard another big boom.
Both sounded like truck bombs would.
So, it has been on like Donkeykong in Baghdad this morning.
Which is ironic because just last night as I was surfing the web to see what bad things have been going on in Iraq today, I thought to myself "man it's been very quiet.  We are due for something." 
Then I thought to myself "I wonder if the Iraqis think like that and warn their security folks the equivalent of we're due for something!"
26024  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Excrement happens on: October 19, 2010, 07:43:06 AM
In the beginning was the plan.

And then came the Assumptions.

And the Assumptions were without form.
And the Plan was without substance.

And darkness was upon the face of the Workers.

And they spoke among themselves, saying,
"It is a crock of shit, and it stinketh."
And the Workers went unto their Supervisors and said,
"It is a pail of dung, and none may abide the odor thereof."
And the Supervisors went unto their Managers, saying,
"It is a container of excrement, and it is very strong,
such that none may abide by it."
And the Managers went unto their Directors, saying,
"It is a vessel of fertilizer, and none may abide its strength."
And the Directors spoke amongst themselves, saying one to another,
"It contains that which aids plant growth, and it is very strong."
And the Directors then went unto the Vice-Presidents, saying unto them,
"It promotes growth, and it is very powerful."
And the Vice-Presidents went unto the President, saying unto him,
"This new plan will actively promote the growth and vigor
of the company, with powerful effects."
And the President Looked upon the Plan, and saw that it was good.
And the Plan became Policy.

This is how Shit Happens
26025  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: October 19, 2010, 07:39:43 AM
I return late tonight from Bloomington IL.
26026  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 19, 2010, 07:39:08 AM
Woof All:

I find myself worrying about how cocky some of the reporting by our usual sources is getting; if Angle loses in NE, if O'Donnell loses in DE, the Reps do not take the Senate and the Tea Party will be blamed by the RINOs and the chattering classes.
26027  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV on: October 18, 2010, 06:29:18 PM
As far as I know the show is in HD.

I am in Bloomington IL at the moment and will return Tuesday night and will look to answer your other questions later this week.
26028  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Surprisingly candid comment from Merkel on: October 18, 2010, 08:26:46 AM
by Audrey Kauffmann Audrey Kauffmann – Sun Oct 17, 11:50 am ET
BERLIN (AFP) – Germany's attempt to create a multi-cultural society has failed completely, Chancellor Angela Merkel said at the weekend, calling on the country's immigrants to learn German and adopt Christian values.

Merkel weighed in for the first time in a blistering debate sparked by a central bank board member saying the country was being made "more stupid" by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants.

"Multikulti", the concept that "we are now living side by side and are happy about it," does not work, Merkel told a meeting of younger members of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party at Potsdam near Berlin.

"This approach has failed, totally," she said, adding that immigrants should integrate and adopt Germany's culture and values.

"We feel tied to Christian values. Those who don't accept them don't have a place here," said the chancellor.

"Subsidising immigrants" isn't sufficient, Germany has the right to "make demands" on them, she added, such as mastering the language of Goethe and abandoning practices such as forced marriages.

Merkel spoke a week after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in which they pledged to do more to improve the often poor integration record of Germany's 2.5-million-strong Turkish community.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul, in a weekend interview, also urged the Turkish community living in Germany to master the language of their adopted country.

"When one doesn't speak the language of the country in which one lives that doesn't serve anyone, neither the person concerned, the country, nor the society," the Turkish president told the Suedeutsche Zeitung.

"That is why I tell them at every opportunity that they should learn German, and speak it fluently and without an accent. That should start at nurseries."

German President Christian Wulff was due for a five-day visit to Turkey and talks with the country's leaders on Monday.

The immigration debate has at times threatened to split Merkel's conservative party, and she made noises to both wings of the debate.

While saying that the government needed to encourage the training of Muslim clerics in Germany, Merkel said "Islam is part of Germany", echoeing the recent comments of Wulff, a liberal voice in the party.

Horst Seehofer, the leader of the CDU's Bavarian sister party, CSU, who represents the right-wing, recently said Germany did not "need more immigrants from different cultures like the Turks and Arabs" who are "more difficult" to integrate.

While warning against "immigration that weighs down on our social system", Merkel said Germany needed specialists from overseas to keep the pace of its economic development.

According to the head of the German chamber of commerce and industry, Hans Heinrich Driftmann, Germany is in urgent need of about 400,000 engineers and qualified workers, whose lack is knocking about one percent off the country's growth rate.

The integration of Muslims has been a hot button issue since August when a member of Germany's central bank sparked outrage by saying the country was being made "more stupid" by poorly educated and unproductive Muslim migrants with headscarves.

The banker, Thilo Sarrazin, has since resigned but his book on the subject -- "Germany Does Itself In" -- has flown off the shelves, and polls showed considerable sympathy for some of his views.

A recent study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation think tank showed around one-third of Germans feel the country is being "over-run by foreigners" and the same percentage feel foreigners should be sent home when jobs are scarce.

Nearly 60 percent of the 2,411 people polled thought the around four million Muslims in Germany should have their religious practices "significantly curbed."

Far-right attitudes are found not only at the extremes of German society, but "to a worrying degree at the centre of society," the think tank said in its report.

"Hardly eight weeks have passed since publication of Sarrazin's theory of decline, and the longer the debate continues to a lower level it falls," the weekly Der Spiegel commented Sunday.

26029  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA getting some love on the UnderGround (UG) on: October 18, 2010, 07:57:38 AM
The signal to noise ratio there remains as I remember it.
26030  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 18, 2010, 07:33:13 AM
What has Condi Rice said about Clinton and Bamster?

BTW, she did not impress me as SoS.
26031  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / OMG-- Krugman? on: October 18, 2010, 07:31:58 AM
Rare and Foolish
Published: October 17, 2010
comments (17)
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CloseLinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink Last month a Chinese trawler operating in Japanese-controlled waters collided with two vessels of Japan’s Coast Guard. Japan detained the trawler’s captain; China responded by cutting off Japan’s access to crucial raw materials.

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Paul Krugman

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And there was nowhere else to turn: China accounts for 97 percent of the world’s supply of rare earths, minerals that play an essential role in many high-technology products, including military equipment. Sure enough, Japan soon let the captain go.

I don’t know about you, but I find this story deeply disturbing, both for what it says about China and what it says about us. On one side, the affair highlights the fecklessness of U.S. policy makers, who did nothing while an unreliable regime acquired a stranglehold on key materials. On the other side, the incident shows a Chinese government that is dangerously trigger-happy, willing to wage economic warfare on the slightest provocation.

Some background: The rare earths are elements whose unique properties play a crucial role in applications ranging from hybrid motors to fiber optics. Until the mid-1980s the United States dominated production, but then China moved in.

“There is oil in the Middle East; there is rare earth in China,” declared Deng Xiaoping, the architect of China’s economic transformation, in 1992. Indeed, China has about a third of the world’s rare earth deposits. This relative abundance, combined with low extraction and processing costs — reflecting both low wages and weak environmental standards — allowed China’s producers to undercut the U.S. industry.

You really have to wonder why nobody raised an alarm while this was happening, if only on national security grounds. But policy makers simply stood by as the U.S. rare earth industry shut down. In at least one case, in 2003 — a time when, if you believed the Bush administration, considerations of national security governed every aspect of U.S. policy — the Chinese literally packed up all the equipment in a U.S. production facility and shipped it to China.

The result was a monopoly position exceeding the wildest dreams of Middle Eastern oil-fueled tyrants. And even before the trawler incident, China showed itself willing to exploit that monopoly to the fullest. The United Steelworkers recently filed a complaint against Chinese trade practices, stepping in where U.S. businesses fear to tread because they fear Chinese retaliation. The union put China’s imposition of export restrictions and taxes on rare earths — restrictions that give Chinese production in a number of industries an important competitive advantage — at the top of the list.

Then came the trawler event. Chinese restrictions on rare earth exports were already in violation of agreements China made before joining the World Trade Organization. But the embargo on rare earth exports to Japan was an even more blatant violation of international trade law.

Oh, and Chinese officials have not improved matters by insulting our intelligence, claiming that there was no official embargo. All of China’s rare earth exporters, they say — some of them foreign-owned — simultaneously decided to halt shipments because of their personal feelings toward Japan. Right.

So what are the lessons of the rare earth fracas?

First, and most obviously, the world needs to develop non-Chinese sources of these materials. There are extensive rare earth deposits in the United States and elsewhere. However, developing these deposits and the facilities to process the raw materials will take both time and financial support. So will a prominent alternative: “urban mining,” a k a recycling of rare earths and other materials from used electronic devices.

Second, China’s response to the trawler incident is, I’m sorry to say, further evidence that the world’s newest economic superpower isn’t prepared to assume the responsibilities that go with that status.

Major economic powers, realizing that they have an important stake in the international system, are normally very hesitant about resorting to economic warfare, even in the face of severe provocation — witness the way U.S. policy makers have agonized and temporized over what to do about China’s grossly protectionist exchange-rate policy. China, however, showed no hesitation at all about using its trade muscle to get its way in a political dispute, in clear — if denied — violation of international trade law.

Couple the rare earth story with China’s behavior on other fronts — the state subsidies that help firms gain key contracts, the pressure on foreign companies to move production to China and, above all, that exchange-rate policy — and what you have is a portrait of a rogue economic superpower, unwilling to play by the rules. And the question is what the rest of us are going to do about it.
26032  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Guns don't kill, doctors kill on: October 17, 2010, 07:41:39 AM
Source unknown:


(A)  The number of physicians in the U.S. is about 700,000.

(B)  Accidental deaths caused by Physicians per year are 120,000.

(C)  Accidental deaths per physician is 0.171.

Statistics courtesy of   U.S. Department of Health  and  Human Services.


Now think about this:


(A)  The number of gun owners in the   U.S. is about 80,000,000.
(Yes, that's 80 million)

(B)  The number of accidental gun deaths per year, all age groups, is about  1,500.

(C)  The number of accidental deaths per gun owner is  .00001875.

Statistics courtesy of FBI

So,  statistically, doctors are over 9,100 times more dangerous than gun owners.

Remember, 'Guns don't kill people, doctors do.'


FACT:  NOT EVERYONE HAS A GUN, BUT almost everyone has at least one doctor.
This means you are over 900 times more likely to be killed by a doctor as a gun


Please alert your friends to this alarming threat. We must ban doctors before this gets completely out of hand!!!!!


Out of concern for the public at large, I withheld the statistics on Lawyers for fear the shock would cause people to panic and seek medical attention!
26033  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gold on: October 17, 2010, 07:34:32 AM

Losing confidence

Looking at the dollar in the old-fashioned way

Jul 22nd 2010

WHEN the Bretton Woods system was cracking in the early 1970s the price of a troy
ounce of gold, in dollar terms, was raised in two steps from $35 to $42.22. This
was, in effect, a devaluation of the dollar.

The authorities then still thought it worth expressing the shift in terms of
bullion, rather than against another currency like the Japanese yen or French franc.
In the 1930s Franklin Roosevelt had a specific policy of devaluing the dollar
against gold, pushing the price from $20.67 to $35 in the belief this would push
commodity prices (and thus farm incomes) higher and reduce the burden of debt

Nowadays the price of gold is set by the market rather than by official diktat. When
explaining shifts in the bullion market people tend to think in terms of supply and
demand. Perhaps, however, they should view gold-price movements in terms of
investors’ confidence in the dollar, and in paper money in general.

After gold was set loose in 1973 its price rose at a rapid rate for the rest of the
decade, peaking at $850 an ounce in 1980. In other words the dollar had lost around
90% of its value since the demise of Bretton Woods. The 1970s was a period when
economic policy in the developed world seemed to be in disarray, with inflation and
unemployment high, and confidence in central bankers low.

The appointment of Paul Volcker as chairman of the Federal Reserve in 1979 appeared
to be a turning-point. He broke the inflationary spiral in the early 1980s, albeit
at the cost of a double-dip recession. From 1982 onwards developed economies seemed
to enter the “great moderation”: inflation was low or falling, and recessions were
rare and mild. The authorities developed the knack of delivering stability with
paper money, thanks to independent central banks committed to a low inflation
target. Gold fell from $850 to $253 by 1999. With confidence in economic policy
restored, the dollar was revalued by 236% over almost two decades.

By the late 1990s, however, belief in the eternal wisdom of central bankers was
nearing its peak: “Maestro”, Bob Woodward’s portrait of Alan Greenspan, came out in
2000. The dotcom and housing bubbles led to a reappraisal of Mr Greenspan’s career.
Many commentators now feel he paid too little attention to credit growth and asset
prices. As Charles Dumas of Lombard Street Research tartly remarks, Mr Greenspan
displayed “asymmetric ignorance”. He claimed not to know when asset prices were in a
bubble but he did always claim to know when falling asset prices were likely to
cause havoc. Investors were given a one-way bet.

The credit crunch also laid bare a conflict in central banking that goes back to the
days of the gold standard. As well as safeguarding the value of the currency,
central banks act as lenders of last resort. When push comes to shove the latter
duty seems to outweigh the former, and the bankers turn on the monetary taps. The
result has been a loss of confidence in the dollar. Gold’s rise since 1999 in effect
means a near-80% devaluation of the dollar over the past decade (see chart).

What is striking about the history of the past 40 years is that these three swings
in the value of the dollar (ranging from a rise of 236% to a fall of 90%) are huge
by previous standards. But they have not been noticed because the dollar is now
compared with other paper currencies—like the euro and yuan—where shifts have been
nothing like as extreme.

This raises a further puzzle. One reason why countries tried so hard to maintain the
gold standard and the Bretton Woods system was to reassure creditors that they would
be repaid in sound money. Since 1971 most countries have had the right to repay
creditors in money they could print at will. The likes of America and Britain are
now perceived as “lucky” because they, unlike Greece, can devalue their currencies
and default in real terms.

That prospect did alarm creditors in the 1980s when the real yields on government
debt shot up. But it does not seem to now. America and Britain are paying only
3-3.5% to borrow for ten years. That may be because deflation seems the more
immediate threat. It may be because bond markets are now dominated by other central
banks, which are more interested in managing exchange rates than in raising returns.
But it is not stable to combine low yields, high deficits and governments that are
happy to see their currencies depreciate. Something has to give.

26034  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB 9/10 Gg of Pack clip on: October 15, 2010, 11:55:49 PM
Night Owl directed the shooting of the Gg and edited this clip.   As always, we are quite proud to have him as part of the Tribe.
26035  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV on: October 15, 2010, 11:53:08 PM
That is the piece that Original Productions put together with footage from the same day; this clip is what led to the Nat Geo documentary.  The PPV in question here is a different project.
26036  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spencer on Geller's critics on: October 15, 2010, 11:48:53 PM
26037  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: October 15, 2010, 08:07:09 AM
R Rings, truly I get what you are saying, but if your theories were true then they would be true across the board.  So, to put a specific name to one of the many examples that contradict the conclusions of your theories:  What do you make of the case of Switzerland?  There is a very high standard of living, all the food that one could want-- including the best fg chocolate in the world!- and fatness is quite rare.

26038  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson to J. Adams 1813: Natural Aristocracy on: October 15, 2010, 08:00:16 AM
"The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts, and government of society. And indeed it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of the society. May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides the most – for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?" --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, 1813
26039  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB 9/10 Gg of Pack clip on: October 14, 2010, 03:24:46 PM
26040  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DB 9/10 Gg of Pack clip on: October 14, 2010, 10:57:46 AM
26041  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Job opening in Mexico on: October 14, 2010, 08:36:54 AM
26042  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin, 1730; respect for religion on: October 14, 2010, 07:51:37 AM
"That wise Men have in all Ages thought Government necessary for the Good of Mankind; and, that wise Governments have always thought Religion necessary for the well ordering and well-being of Society, and accordingly have been ever careful to encourage and protect the Ministers of it, paying them the highest publick Honours, that their Doctrines might thereby meet with the greater Respect among the common People." --Benjamin Franklin, On that Odd Letter of the Drum, 1730

26043  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Syria, Lebanon, and Iran- an alliance in flux on: October 14, 2010, 07:49:39 AM
Syria, Hezbollah and Iran: An Alliance in Flux
October 14, 2010

By Reva Bhalla

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived in Beirut on Oct. 13 for his first official visit to Lebanon since becoming president in 2005. He is reportedly returning to the country after a stint there in the 1980s as a young Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officer tasked with training Hezbollah in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. A great deal of controversy is surrounding his return. Rumors are spreading of Sunni militants attempting to mar the visit by provoking Iran’s allies in Hezbollah into a fight (already the car of a pro-Hezbollah imam who has been defending Ahmadinejad has been blown up), while elaborate security preparations are being made for Ahmadinejad to visit Lebanon’s heavily militarized border with Israel.

Rather than getting caught up in the drama surrounding the Iranian president’s visit, we want to take the opportunity provided by all the media coverage to probe into a deeper topic, one that has been occupying the minds of Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah officials for some time. This topic is the durability of the Iran-Hezbollah-Syria alliance, which STRATFOR believes has been under great stress in recent months. More precisely, the question is: What are Syria’s current intentions toward Hezbollah?

The Origins of the Alliance

To address this topic, we need to review the origins of the trilateral pact, starting with the formation of an alliance in 1979 between secular Alawite-Baathist Syria and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ideologically speaking, the Syrian Alawite elite represent an offshoot of Shiite Islam that the Sunnis consider apostate. They found some commonality with the Shiite clerical elite in Tehran, but there were also broader strategic motivations in play. At the time, Syria was on a quest to establish the country’s regional prowess, and it knew that the first steps toward this end had to be taken in Lebanon. From the Syrian point of view, Lebanon is not just a natural extension of Syria; it is the heartland of the Greater Syria province that existed during Ottoman times. Since the days of Phoenicia, what is modern-day Lebanon has been a vibrant trading hub, connecting routes from the east and south to the Mediterranean basin. For Syria to feel like it has any real worth in the region, it must dominate Lebanon.

A civil war that had broken out in Lebanon in 1975 (and lasted through 1990) afforded Syria such an opportunity. The main obstruction to Syria’s agenda at the time, besides Israel, was the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasser Arafat, whose vision for a unified Palestine and whose operations in Lebanon ran counter to Syria’s bid for regional hegemony. The PLO, in fact, was one of the main reasons Syria intervened militarily in Lebanon in 1975 on behalf of its Maronite Christian allies. At the same time, Syria was looking for an ally to undermine the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, with whom the Syrian Baathists had a deep-seated rivalry. An alliance with Iran would grant Syria some much-needed individuality in a region dominated by the Arab powers Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Coming off the success of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran and going into what would become a long and bloody war with Iraq, Iran was also looking for a venue to counter the Baathist regime in Baghdad. In addition, Iran was looking to undermine the Pan-Arab vision, establish a presence in the Levant and promote its own Islamic vision of government. In opposition to Israel, Hussein and Arafat, Iran and Syria thus uncovered the roots of an alliance, albeit one that was shifting uneasily between Syrian secularity and Iranian religiosity.

The adoption of Hezbollah by the two unlikely allies in 1982 was what helped bridge that gap. Hezbollah, an offshoot of Amal, the main Shiite political movement at the time, served multiple purposes for Damascus and Tehran. Syria found in Hezbollah a useful militant proxy to contain obstructions to Syrian influence in Lebanon and to compensate for its own military weakness in comparison to Israel. In the broader Syrian strategic vision, Hezbollah would develop into a bargaining chip for a future settlement with Israel once Syria could ensure that Lebanon was firmly within Syria’s grasp and was therefore unable to entertain a peace deal with Israel on its own.

The Iranians saw in Hezbollah the potential to export its Islamic Revolution into the Arab world, a strong binder for its still new and shaky alliance with Syria and a useful deterrent in dealing with adversaries like Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia. So, Iran and Syria set out to divide their responsibilities in managing this militant proxy. Iran was primarily in charge of bankrolling, training and enforcing the group’s ideological loyalty to Tehran with IRGC assistance. Syria was in charge of creating the conditions for Iran to nurture Hezbollah, mainly by permitting IRGC officers to set up training camps in the Bekaa Valley and by securing a line of supply for weapons to reach the group via Syria.

But the triumvirate did not get off to a very smooth start. In fact, Hezbollah and Syria clashed a number of times in the early 1980s, when Syria felt the group, under Iranian direction, went too far in provoking external intervention (and thus risked drawing Syria into conflict). If Hezbollah was to operate on Syrian territory (as Syria viewed it) in Lebanon, Syria wanted Hezbollah operating on its terms. It was not until 1987, when Syrian troops in Lebanon shot 23 Hezbollah members, that Hezbollah fully realized the importance of maintaining an entente with Syria. In the meantime, Hezbollah, caught between occasionally conflicting Syrian and Iranian agendas, saw that the path to the group’s survival lay in becoming a more autonomous political — as opposed to purely militant — actor in the Lebanese political arena.

A Syrian Setback

The Iran-Hezbollah-Syria alliance operated relatively smoothly through the 1990s as Hezbollah gradually built up its political arm and as Syria kept close watch on the group through its roughly 14,000 troops and thousands of intelligence agents who had remained in Lebanon since the end of the civil war. In 2000, with Iranian and Syrian help, Hezbollah succeeded in forcing Israel to withdraw from Lebanon’s southern Security Zone, an event that greatly boosted Hezbollah’s credentials as a Lebanese nationalist actor.

But fresh challenges to the pact came with the turn of the century. The 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, in particular, was a defining moment for both Iran and Syria. The two allies felt enormously uncomfortable with having the world’s most powerful military on their borders, but they were also presented with an immediate opportunity to unseat their mutual archrival, Saddam Hussein. Iran and Syria also had different endgames in mind for a post-Hussein Iraq. Iran used its political, militant and intelligence links to consolidate influence in Iraq through the country’s Shiite majority. In contrast, Syria provided refuge to Iraq’s Sunni Baathists with the aim of extending its sphere of influence in the region through a secularist former-Baathist presence in Baghdad. The Syrians also planned to use those Sunni links later to bargain with the United States for a seat at the negotiating table, thereby affirming Syrian influence in the region.

But before Syria could gain much traction in its plans for Iraq, its agenda in Lebanon suffered a serious setback. On Feb. 14, 2005, a massive car bomb in Beirut killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, a powerful and vocal opponent of Syrian authority in Lebanon. The bombing is strongly believed to have been orchestrated by elements within the Syrian regime and executed by members of Hezbollah. While a major opponent of the Syrian regime was thereby eliminated, Syria did not anticipate that the death of al-Hariri would spark a revolution in Lebanon (which attracted the support of countries like France and the United States) and end up driving Syrian troops out of Lebanon. The vacuum that Syria left in Lebanon was rapidly filled by Iran (via Hezbollah), which had a pressing need to fortify Hezbollah as a proxy force as war tensions steadily built up in the region over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Though Syria knew it would only be a matter of time before it would return to Lebanon, it also had a strategic interest in demonstrating to the Israelis and the Americans the costs of Syria’s absence from Lebanon. The regime wanted to show that without a firm Syrian check on Hezbollah, disastrous events like the 2006 summer confrontation between Hezbollah and Israel could occur.

The Syrian Comeback

It has now been more than five and a half years since the al-Hariri assassination, and there is little question that Syria, once again, has reclaimed its hegemonic position in Lebanon. The Syrian intelligence apparatus pervades the country, and Lebanese politicians who dared to speak out against the Syrian regime are now asking for forgiveness. In perhaps the most glaring demonstration of the political tide shifting back toward Damascus, Saad al-Hariri, the son of the slain al-Hariri and Lebanon’s reluctant prime minister, announced in early June that Lebanon had “made a mistake” in making a “political accusation” against Syria for his father’s murder. The message was clear: Syria was back.

That message did not necessarily sit well with Hezbollah and Iran. Syria wants to keep Hezbollah in check, returning to the 1990s model when Syrian military and intelligence could still tightly control the group’s movements and supplies. Iran and Hezbollah have also watched as Syria has used its comeback in Lebanon to diversify its foreign policy portfolio over the past year. Saudi Arabia and Turkey, for example, have been cozying up to Damascus and have quietly bargained with the al Assad regime to place checks on Hezbollah as a way to undermine Iran’s key proxy in the Levant. As long as these regional powers recognize Syria’s authority in Lebanon, Syria is willing to use those relationships to exonerate itself from the al-Hariri assassination tribunal, rake much-needed investment into the Syrian economy and, most important, re-establish itself as a regional power. Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s decision to visit Beirut alongside Saudi King Abdullah was a deliberate signal to Hezbollah and Iran that Syria had options and was not afraid to display them.

This does not mean Syria is ready and willing to sell out its Hezbollah and Iranian allies. On the contrary, Syria derives leverage from maintaining these relationships and acting as the bridge between the Shiite revivalists and the Sunni powers. Syria has illustrated as much in its current mediation efforts among the various Iraqi factions that are torn between Iran on one side and the United States, Saudi Arabia and Turkey on the other. But if we go back to reviewing the core reasons Syria agreed to an alliance with Iran and Hezbollah in the first place, it is easy to see why Hezbollah and Iran still have a lot of reason to be worried.

Syria’s priority in the early 1980s was to achieve suzerainty in Lebanon (done), eliminate the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in Iraq (done) and remove any key obstacles in Lebanon that could challenge Syria’s authority. In the 1970s, that obstacle was the PLO. Today, that obstacle is Hezbollah and its Iranian backers, who are competing for influence in Lebanon and no longer have a good read on Syrian intentions. Hezbollah relies heavily on Syria for its logistical support and knows that its communication systems, for example, are vulnerable to Syrian intelligence. Hezbollah has also grown nervous at the signs of Syria steadily ramping up support for competing militant groups — including the Amal Movement, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, al-Ahbash, the Nasserites, the Baath Party and the Mirada of Suleiman Franjiyye — to counter Hezbollah’s prowess.

Meanwhile, Iran is seeing one of the key prongs in its deterrent strategy — Hezbollah — grow increasingly vulnerable at a time when Iran is pressed to demonstrate to the United States and Israel that the costs of an attack on its nuclear installation are not worth incurring. The Iranian competition with Syria does not end in Lebanon, either. In Iraq, Syria is far more interested in establishing a secularist government with a former Baathist presence than it is in seeing Baghdad develop into a Shiite satellite for the Iranians.

For now, Syria is adroitly playing both sides of the geopolitical divide in the region, taking care to blend its reassurances toward the alliance and its primary negotiating partners in Saudi Arabia with threats of the destabilization that could erupt should Syria’s demands go ignored. Syria, for example, has made clear that in return for recognition of its authority in Lebanon it will prevent Hezbollah from laying siege on Beirut, whether they are ordered to do so by Tehran as part of an Iranian negotiating ploy with the Americans or whether they act on their own in retaliation against the al-Hariri tribunal proceedings. At the same time, Syrian officials will shuttle regularly between Lebanon and Iran to reaffirm their standing in the triumvirate. Behind this thick veneer of unity, however, a great deal of apprehension and distrust is building among the allies.

The core fear residing in Hezbollah and Iran has to do with Syrian intentions moving forward. In particular, Hezbollah would like to know if, in Syria’s eyes, the group is rapidly devolving from strategic patron to bargaining chip with every ounce of confidence that Syria gains in Lebanon. The answer to that question, however, lies not in Syria but in Israel and the United States. Israeli, U.S. and Saudi policymakers have grown weary of Syria’s mercantilist negotiating style in which Syrian officials will extract as much as possible from their negotiating partners while delivering very little in return.

At the same time, Syria cannot afford to take any big steps toward militant proxies like Hezbollah unless it receives firm assurances from Israel in backchannel peace talks that continue to stagnate. But Syria is also sensing an opportunity at its door: The United States is desperate to complete its exit strategy from Iraq and, like Israel, is looking for useful levers to undermine Iranian clout in the region. One such lever is Syria, which is why the mere idea of Israel and Syria talking peace right now should give Iran and Hezbollah ample food for thought.

26044  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: October 14, 2010, 12:42:06 AM
You mean the war against man made disasters?
26045  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: 11/6: Phil Rapagna beginner gun course in Los Angeles on: October 14, 2010, 12:36:16 AM
Yes, a good example of the level he is qualified to teach at; and an indicator why a beginner will bet a foundation oriented to higher levels as time goes by.
26046  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 14, 2010, 12:34:22 AM
I will keep an eye out for him.  I'm not seeing enough preparation there yet for the Presidency, but there are intriguing hints of potential.  An ability to communicate effectively, seasoned by years of talk radio and the ability to converse with regular folks, are valuable attributes.
26047  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Buffet on: October 14, 2010, 12:28:25 AM

I thought that pretty awesome.  It is a point which I have sought to make from time to time, but lacking the education I have not been that effective.  This seems strong to me and I will be playing it forward.


The businessman and philanthropist shares his views on the economy at the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry conference. The Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry held its first annual socioeconomic conference at the Avenue Convention Center near Ben-Gurion Airport yesterday.

In a special interview for the purpose of the conference, international businessman and leading philanthropist Warren Buffett shared with the participants his views on the global economy and the role governments play in maintaining prosperous economies.

Speaking about his decision to invest in Israel, Buffett said that what drew him to Israel was its brainpower.

“If you’re going to the Middle East to look for oil, you can skip Israel. If you’re looking for brains, look no further.

Israel has shown that it has a disproportionate amount of brains and energy,” Buffett said.
26048  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2010 Elections; 2012 Presidential on: October 13, 2010, 09:25:57 PM
AH?  No wonder her husband went gay-- or maybe she went liberal to spite him for having spurned her for  , , , ? , , ,
26049  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: October 13, 2010, 09:08:01 PM
That is wickedly funny.
26050  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / George Washington 1776 on: October 13, 2010, 08:31:58 AM
"To form a new Government, requires infinite care, and unbounded attention; for if the foundation is badly laid the superstructure must be bad." --George Washington, letter to John Augustine Washington, 1776
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