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26051  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glitch on the forum on: April 02, 2011, 06:06:50 PM
and how to avoid it
26052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus, Central Asia on: April 02, 2011, 10:01:42 AM
Why Russia, Turkey Look Toward Armenia and Azerbaijan

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian announced Thursday that he would personally be on the first civilian flight from Armenia into the newly rebuilt airport in Nagorno-Karabakh when it opens in May. (Nagorno-Karabakh is an Armenian-backed secessionist region enclosed within Azerbaijan.) Azerbaijan had earlier announced that it would shoot down any plane over its occupied territories. For now, the issue is at a standoff as both sides have laid a challenge that could not only propel the region back into the brutal war of the 1990s, but could also pull in some global heavyweights. That said, STRATFOR is looking beyond the political theater that normally, and incessantly, takes place between Yerevan and Baku to whether this has been orchestrated by the country that has held the peace between the two, Russia.

The southern region of the Caucasus has seen countless struggles in the past century, though one of the most enduring is between the Armenians and Azerbaijanis over Nagorno-Karabakh. Soviet rule from the 1920s onwards stifled these battles for the most part. But as soon as the Soviet Union’s disintegration looked imminent, conflict flared up when Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan, with intention to unify with Armenia. Free of being restrained by Moscow, Azerbaijan defended its territory and a full-scale war erupted, stretching across Armenia and Azerbaijan until Russia brokered a cease-fire.

“Both Ankara and Moscow know that any Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict would not remain contained within the region.”
Though simmering hostilities have continued, there are two reasons the conflict has remained frozen. First, beginning in the mid-1990s, neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan had the resources to continue fighting. Armenia’s economy was, and is, non-existent for the most part. Without the financial means, it would be impossible for Armenia to launch a full-scale war. At the same time, Azerbaijan’s military has been too weak, thus far, to assert control over the occupied lands.

After nearly two decades, the issue is beginning to thaw again as the balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan is beginning to change. Baku has grown exponentially stronger in the past six years. Rich with energy-wealth, Azerbaijan has started creating a modern and competent military and the largest out of the Caucasus countries. Moreover, Azerbaijan’s close ally, Turkey, has renewed its commitment to defend Azerbaijan in any conflict with Armenia, recently signing a strategic cooperation agreement to this end. On the other hand, Armenia has been reduced to a satellite of Russia for the most part, with little independent foreign policy, politics or economy. Being folded under Russia’s wing, Armenia feels protected against its rival. These two shifts have led to an increase in tensions between Baku and Yerevan over whether either is bold enough to revive hostilities.

The involvement of Turkey and Russia is the main cause of deterrence that is holding the two sides back. Both Ankara and Moscow know that any Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict would not remain contained within the region. Each power would be expected by Baku and Yerevan to defend their respective ally — whether they actually would is unclear. Therefore, the standoff has become more about Moscow and Ankara holding back each side and not allowing the instability to become exacerbated to the extent of an open conflict or war.

However, two other issues are also evolving. First, Baku is becoming more powerful than Moscow is comfortable with. It is not that Russia is concerned it cannot handle Azerbaijan on its own, but Russia is attempting to maintain a regional balance by dominating each of the three Caucasus states in its own way. Baku’s resource wealth and hefty foreign connections are beginning to tip those scales in comparison to the other two states. Still, Russia has held back as to not launch a larger conflict with Turkey, which Moscow is wary to provoke.

This is where the second development comes in. Turkey is engulfed in other large conflicts and is one of the key members in the Middle Eastern theater helping the United States suppress the instability. Turkey is struggling within NATO to carve out a leadership role and is embroiled in a standoff with some European NATO members over how extensive the Libyan intervention ought to be. Ankara is also using its influence in the Iranian-Saudi struggle over Bahrain and the Arab world in general. There are also domestic politics to consider, with important elections coming up in June for Turkey. Such a string of endless conflicts also has the United States, which has deep relations with both Yerevan and Baku, preoccupied.

On the other hand, Russia isn’t wrapped up in any of those issues. Moreover, Moscow feels pretty confident these days with its position globally. First, Russia has been largely successful in its resurgence into its former Soviet sphere. Second, as of the past few months, it has even more room to maneuver now that the West is dealing with the instabilities in the Islamic theater. Third, Europe is torn over taking part in those conflicts and its need to focus on its own set of domestic challenges, both economically and politically. Lastly, the conflicts have caused energy prices to soar and many countries to demand more supplies — of which Russia is the winner. Russian international reserves crossed over the $500 billion mark on March 18 for the first time in two and a half years. The last time Russian reserves were in the $500 billion range, Moscow confronted Georgia in August 2008.

If there ever were a time for Russia to look at the more difficult issues it has avoided — like the standoff between Azerbaijan and Armenia or challenging an ascendant Turkey that does not seem to be slowing down, it would be now. It is most likely that Russia is not looking to launch a new conflict, but instead it wants to test how assertive Azerbaijan feels with its strengthening position against Armenia and just how willing Turkey is to dance with the bear. It is easier to feel such things out when the rest of the world is looking elsewhere.

26053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Forbes interviews Gilder on: April 01, 2011, 09:29:31 PM
Steve Forbes Interview: Gilder On Tech Innovation
Feb. 14 2011 - 12:42 am | 3,108 views | 0 recommendations | 0 comments

Our guest this week is George Gilder, Chairman of Gilder Technology Group, which sponsors Gilder Telecosm Forum, a Web-based conference related to his longtime publication Gilder Technology Report.

Gilder is a member of the board of directors of Wave Systems Corp. and chairman of that company’s executive committee.  He is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle and has been a contributing writer for FORBES since 1981.

A noted author, Gilder earned a bachelor’s degree at Harvard University and was later a fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy Institute of Politics.

Click through to watch the video of Steve Forbes’ interview with tech guru George Gilder.

Broadband Miracle

Steve Forbes: Good to have you with us, George. With all this pessimism around, at least give us one good thing that’s happened in the last ten years. You’ve talked about the broadband miracle, where we went from way behind to surging ahead.

Gilder: Well, we sure did. The irony about it is this broadband miracle that’s happened in the United States over the last five years or so was totally unanticipated by the people who wanted massive government programs to lay fiber to every remote farmhouse.

Instead we had a 553-fold increase in wireless bandwidth deployed over this period — completely unexpected — that thrust the U.S. into the world lead again in communications. It shows these upside surprises that are the essence of capital creativity. Creativity always comes as a surprise to us. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t need it and socialism would work. You could plan these great new technologies.

Forbes: As Bell once thought it could do.

Gilder: That 553-fold increase in wireless broadband, nobody imagined really. I mean, it startled me with its speed and overwhelming impact.

Forbes: Well, pat yourself on the back — you called them teleputers years ago. Now we call them smartphones, tablets, iPads. Explain it.

Gilder: I always said that your computer would not be a desktop machine; it would be as mobile as your watch, as personal as your wallet. It would recognize streets. It would recognize speech. It would navigate streets. It might not do windows, but it would do doors and it would, in general, open doors to your future. And these teleputers are really the force that is driving this massive global roll out of wireless bandwidth, which was pioneered in the United States.

Bell’s Law and Moore’s Law

Forbes: Now, before we get to all the things that stand in the way of reaching the true harvest of all of this, explain some of the areas of great creativity. Let’s start with a thing called cloud computing, which I guess you’ve pointed out as Bell’s corollary to Moore’s Law.

Gilder: Yeah. As Gordon Bell, who was one of the great figures of digital equipment and is now at Microsoft, propounded Bell’s Law, which is sort of a corollary of Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law is that the number of transistors on a chip doubles every 18 months or so.

And he projected this into Bell’s Law, which is every ten years you got a 100-fold increase in computing capabilities. And this enables and requires a fundamental change in computer architectures. And we’re seeing it today in the rise of cloud computing.

As Eric Schmidt said, when the back plane of your computer runs more slowly than the network, the computer hollows out and distributes itself across the network. And that’s essentially what is underway today, where the actual computing is almost never done or rarely done in the device that you have in your hand or on your desk.

Fiber Speed

Forbes: Or in even the software. Now, some would say that’s centralization, which the French tried to do years ago, you remember that. But you see it as profoundly different.

Gilder: You still have a lot of processing power. The teleputer has more processing power than whole IBM mainframes that attempted to centralize computing in the past. Computing is more widely distributed than ever before in history. But nonetheless, a lot of the computing is not done where you happen to be. It’s done at the optimal point.

So what it means is that computing power gravitates to its optimal point geographically. And that’s the advent of cloud computing. And it’s resulted in an efflorescence of creativity and computer architectures because everything now has to run at fiber speed, that is, at the speed of fiber optics, which is the speed of light.

And so all the various devices in the entire computer universe have to be upgraded to fiber speed functionality. And that is the transformation that’s currently underway in the world economy — the upgrade to fiber speed. And it’s really my paradigm which I use as an investor to decide where to put my money and my customers’ money.

Special Offer:  Long before Facebook, George Gilder started a  money-making social network for technology investors and entrepreneurs: Gilder Telecosm Forum.  Members learned about ARM Holdings, Cirrus Logic, Triquint Semiconductor and CREE long before the masses found out and made huge profits.  Click here to visit and find out what to do with CREE and EZchip.

Forbes: So what are some of the companies that you feel are in the forefront of this transformation?

Gilder: Well, there are several in Israel because Israel’s really genius under the gun. That is a very productive environment. EZChip is one. EZChip is a wonderful company that’s completely in the fiber speed paradigm. In the United States, there’s a company called NetLogic, which raises the fiber speed paradigm from just switching packets across the network to actual deep packet inspection.

They have knowledge processors that are crucial in this development of deep packet inspection, which entails looking at the contents of packets at millions of packets a second and collectively trillions of packets a second. This is a major frontier in the world computer industry and there are a number of companies that do it.

But I always look for the chips that embody the crucial functionality rather than the various systems that are developed around those chips, because they change from year to year. But if you get a real edge in the production of the chips, as NetLogic does and EZChip does, you can get an enduring creation of value.

Click through to watch the video of Steve Forbes’ interview with tech guru George Gilder.

Israel And The US Economy

Forbes: Now, you’ve made the point, as a handful of others have, that knowledge is about the past, entrepreneurship is about the future. Even looking at the world today in terms of foreign policy: You say “Middle East” — people think oil. You’ve made the point that Israel, with its brains and what it’s doing in high technology, is really a functional part of the U.S. economy, which is where the real value is.

Gilder: Well, it’s just wonderful that Israel has become a new Silicon Valley just as our own Silicon Valley gets paled over by green goo. Israel is moving to the forefront in developing new technologies that are based on fundamental advances. And these technologies instantly propagate to the United States. So, Israel is a substitute for a somewhat temporarily declining Silicon Valley.

Forbes: So it’s sort of like a baseball team. It’s our farm system.

Gilder: Yeah, it’s our farm system. And it’s just been great. Israel is the key asset in the Middle East. This idea that oil, a fungible element that can be sold anywhere, is comparable to the genius of the Jewish people in Israel is just an absurdity.

Israel is where it’s at in the Middle East. And the leading edge of the U.S. economy today is in Israel, surprisingly enough. I was surprised to discover it, but in the last five years I’ve been increasingly turning to Israel for my new companies.

Telegraph To Teleconference

Forbes: Before we get to what’s made Silicon Valley, as you call it, a valley of green goo and some other obstacles, let’s hit on a couple of the other areas where you see enormous creativity. Interactive video, video teleconferencing and the like. You feel that it’s just exploded in terms of technology.

Gilder: Well, this is absolutely crucial. And this will require another transformation of the existing Internet as great as the transformation from the telegraph to the public switch telephone network 50 years ago or more. That created this great public switch telephone network that could deal with voice — the telegraph system could not deal with voice.

Now, we have this vast data-oriented Internet that hast to be upgraded to do interactive, full-motion, even 3-D video. And that’s a transformation like the transformation to voice. It will require a new network, a completely interactive fiber-speed network. That’s why I’m focusing on fiber speed technologies and the new architectures, new computer architectures that are indispensable to achieve this level of performance.

Forbes: And what are the companies you think are in the forefront there?

Gilder: Well, cloud computing — the immediate field is moving up to layer five, which is sessions. It’s called sessions. And to conduct voice or video sessions across the network in real time, you need to be able to interact between all sorts of different kinds of networks.

And this requires entities called session border controllers, which I think resemble routers in their impact. In previous eras the router dealt with all the different networks at layer three, but now it has to be real time, so it’s as if the whole router infrastructure has to be upgraded to layer five.

And companies like Acme Packet and Audio Codes — which is another Israeli one, and there are lots of others — that are doing that. Then that entails deep packet inspection, because if you’re doing all these things, all different networks across the world, you want to know what the content is of the various packets that are coming to you to make sure they aren’t part of some cyber attack or whatever. That’s why I like these companies that do deep packet inspection, including NetLogic. And Cavium also does chips for that purpose. These chips are going to be increasingly in demand as time passes.


Forbes: Now, another area of creativity you’ve referenced in the past is one that you’ve pointed out has a lot of hype but now really seems to be perhaps coming into its own, nanotechnology.

Gilder: Well, nanotechnology was full of hype at a time when they said, “Oh, we’ve got carbon nanotubes. They’re 100 times stronger than steel and they have all these wonderful characteristics. And we’ll use them to make memory cells or new kinds of transistors.”

In other words, they were trying to retrofit this radically new capability into the old digital computer model. The fact is, nanotubes do all kinds of unique things and they won’t prevail until those unique potentialities are explored. And the one that I’ve invested in myself, a company called Seldon Technologies  up in Windsor, Vermont, uses carbon nanotubes to make a straw that you can stick into a septic tank and drink potable water out of it.

Forbes: Is this your NanoMesh straw?

Gilder: The NanoMesh straw. And that’s made with tunable carbon nanotubes. So you can actually change the filtration function that you want to perform in these nanotubes. There are tens of thousands of these devices going to the American military now.

Forbes: So they work.

Gilder: Yeah, they work. And they’re also beloved of NASA because they think it’s the only way they’re going to be able to filter lunar dust. And that’s going to be a big market one of these days. They named Seldon as one of the 50 best technologies, supported by NASA. Nanotubes are beginning to emerge as a really crucial technology and it’s exciting to see it. You’ve been predicting it for decades.

Forbes: I have the hair to show it, too. Now, another area you liked in nanotechnology is building and construction materials. You pointed out that if you’re concerned about global warming, well this is right up their alley.

Gilder: Well, I’m not concerned about global warming.

Forbes: Neither am I. But those worriers can embrace this technology, positive technology.

Gilder: Yeah, this is a positive technology. The one I invested in was called iCrete. And actually Gary Winnick was a leading investor and leader of iCrete, which makes concrete that’s ten times stronger. It enabled the Freedom Tower to get off the ground.

It’s beloved of Frank Gehry. It’s a new way to make concrete that is a fundamentally different chemical binding that yields concrete that’s ten times more durable and more cost effective and thus uses less energy usage in making a building of a particular strength.

Security In The Clouds

Forbes: Now, going back for a moment to cloud computing. Nothing comes without challenges. How about security? How do we keep the hackers at bay since there’s a lot of valuable stuff in the clouds now?

Gilder: Well, I, myself, have been on the board of a company for a long time called Wave Systems that I love. But I really shouldn’t be touting my own company.

Forbes: Why not? As long as it’s full disclosure, the police won’t arrest you.

Gilder: Okay. You never know these days.

Forbes: That’s true.

Gilder: But anyway, they use something called a trusted platform module that is in every computer or every high-end computer and increasingly spreading throughout all of the computer world. And this is appropriate to distributed computing where. Now the firewall is just an obstacle to computing. It doesn’t increase security, it just provides a new focus for attack because the people have left the building.

It’s the end of the LAN. I’ve been talking about LAN’s end for a long time. The local area network is now a planetary utility and that requires that security migrate to the edge. And the way to do that is through trusted platform modules and that’s what Wave uses.

Forbes: So the good guys can stay ahead.

Gilder: Yeah.

Forbes: Now, you mentioned deep packet — that gets this whole area of regulation, the FCC. What do they want to do with deep packet technology?

Gilder: Well, a lot of people are afraid that deep packet inspection is a threat to privacy. And this is just mischievousness. Deep packet inspection is absolutely critical to our technology and the advance of digital technology, because you can’t really have cloud computing, you can’t have video teleconferencing, you can’t do any of the new promise of broadband without having ways to differentiate among different packets and repudiating all ideas of network neutrality.

You’ve got to treat each packet differently, the way it deserves to be treated. And you’ve got to kick out the criminal packets and cyber warfare packets. And so deep packet inspection is not only crucial commercially, it’s also crucial militarily.

Our great advantage as a country is that we have technology that’s developed commercially and is used by customers all over the place. And thus it can move down the learning curve faster and actually create capabilities which at the high end are useful for defense.

Edward Teller told me, and I’ll never forget it, he made the point way back 30 years ago when I interviewed him. He said that democratic countries have no advantage over totalitarian countries in secret classified defense projects. After the Second World War, the Soviet Union even outperformed the U.S. for a while. They sent up Sputnik first and developed or copied our nuclear technology readily.

Secret projects are not the source of America’s leadership. It was the computer industry and the semiconductors and the software and the proliferating efflorescent private commercial technology that gave the U.S. the world lead in defense and which is the heart of America’s defense advantage today, which is information technologies and pattern recognition technologies. It’s the same with Israel, and that’s why our two countries are so interdependent.

Forbes: Now, talking about regulation, what’s with the FCC? Now the FTC is threatening to get its claws in the Internet. Is it just the bureaucratic imperative of something’s there, you must control it?

Gilder: Yeah. Yeah, it’s just really horrible, this effort to fixate on an existing technology that is changing more rapidly than perhaps ever before in history. I’m describing this transformation from a world essentially of telegraphs, the current Internet, to a world of video teleconferencing, which requires a whole series of fiber-speed breakthroughs that have to exploit the best possible business plans at the front end or they’re going to fail.

For the FCC to intervene and try to manipulate the industry and impose various rules on it that restrict what might be profitable and successful plans that can sustain a new economy, like this new wireless breakout that’s happening today, is just perverse.

Bridge To The 19th Century

Forbes: You’ve referred to many venture capitalists in California and elsewhere as welfare pimps, loony-bin politicians. What in the world has happened? First — as we were discussing before we did the taping — in terms of mistaking Moore’s Law for what you can do with solar panels and energy, and then we’ll get to this addition to government subsidies.

Gilder: Yeah, well, you know, venture capital is absolutely central to the future of the American economy. It’s radically less than 1% of total GDP and yet the companies it supports currently comprise close to 20% of GDP, maybe more now.

It’s just catalytic seminal capital that’s absolutely crucial. And that’s why the worst development in the United States, in my view, in the last few years and at least on the private side, is venture capitalists becoming poverty pimps.

They aren’t any longer generating new wealth. They’re angling to get part of your wealth and my wealth to support their green dreams of medieval energy sources like windmills. I mean, you can’t parody this return to the Middle Ages looking for new technologies. This is what always happens. The government props up the past in the name of progress. The trains – we’re supposed to go back to old train technology of 50 years ago and create a new train network, and people have actually imagined that people will abandon their cars to take trains everywhere.

It’s not that there isn’t a profitable train industry, but the idea that the government needs, today, to make a major new investment in the name of progress and trains or in solar power or in windmills is a parody of creative destruction of Schumpeterian capitalism

Forbes: I call it a bridge to the 19th century.

Gilder: A bridge to the 19th century, that’s right.

Forbes: And then solar panels, the problem there is even though it’s portrayed as futuristic, as you say you cannot get a doubling every 18 months.

Gilder: No. No, I mean solar panels are useful in many niches and solar energy is valuable, but as a replacement to the grid or a replacement for the massive amounts of power needed to fuel electric cars or whatever it is, it’s just a joke. Solar panels are based on the incident sunlight that hits photo detectors. And their size is governed by the wavelengths of sunlight, not by the imagination of engineers who are contriving ever more miniaturized transistors down the Moore’s Law learning curve.

CFOs Know Nothing

Forbes: Finally, a favorite saying of yours, you quote Peter Drucker that CEOs and CFOs, the myth is that they actually know what is happening to their companies. Explain.

Gilder: Well, Peter Drucker is a great genius who has made many wonderful contributions to Forbes and to Forbes conferences. And the last Forbes conference, a CEO conference, he almost fell off the stage. He was really precarious and everybody was just terrified that he was going to be interrogated.

And then finally he pulled himself together and said, “I have only one thing to tell you CEOs. No one, and I mean no one, in your company knows less about your business than your CFO, your chief financial officer.” And what he’s conveying is that businesses are really governed not by what’s going on inside, but the future of them is determined by two groups, customers and investors who are outside the company.

And they can change their minds in an instant. The idea that CEOs and CFOs, by pouring through the financials, can project the future and know what’s happening in the minds of these forces beyond their walls, is quixotic. They don’t know.

That’s why, again, it’s this illusion that the surprises of capitalism can be captured in some computer model or some socialist plan. They can’t. It’s the upside surprises that Peter Drucker said signify the big opportunities. And the other great Drucker statement is, “Don’t solve problems. That plunges you into the past. Pursue opportunities.”

That’s the key entrepreneurial role, pursuing opportunities, which often leaves the problems behind by transforming the whole landscape as wireless broadband did. People thought wireless broadband was a contradiction in terms and it may end up being the dominant form of broadband.

Forbes: So as in the old days, instead of worrying about horse manure in the cities, invent the automobile.

Gilder: That’s right.

Forbes: George, thank you very much.

Gilder: Well, thank you. It’s been great, as always.

Click through to watch the video of Steve Forbes’ interview with tech guru George Gilder.
26054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / George Friedman on: April 01, 2011, 04:47:04 PM
Colin: According to Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the United States joint Chiefs, the airstrikes over Libya have destroyed between 20 and 25 percent of Gadhafi’s forward forces, which means at least three quarters are still intact. And Mullen says Libyan tanks and armored vehicles outnumber the opposition 10 to one. Across the Mediterranean, unrest in Syria and the possibility of war between Israel and Hamas is unsettling Turkey. It’s from Istanbul that STRATFOR founder gives us a different perspective on the Middle East conflicts.

Colin: Welcome to Agenda with George Friedman.

George: I’m in Istanbul right now, in a hotel room overlooking the Bosphorus, which is not only an extraordinary site for a tourist, but is really exciting for anyone who’s in geopolitics. This is the point where Asia meets Europe; this is the point where the Black Sea meets the Mediterranean Sea. This is one most fought after spots in the entire world and it’s quite an experience to sit in a hotel room, having a drink and looking out over the Bosphorus.

Colin: It’s a very good place to observe what’s happening in the Middle East.

George: Indeed, one of the reasons I’m here is to get a sense from the Turks, and officials and people of what exactly is going on. This is a wonderful listening post and at this point it is also very important because the Turks are playing a more active role in everything that’s happening.

Colin: George, I’d like to come back to the Turks in the moment. Let’s just look briefly at Libya as it enters the third week of the civil war. We have the military assessment, but on the other side we have the defection of one of Gadhafi’s men with blood on his hands, Moussa Koussa, the former intelligence chief and foreign minister. He’s shown up in Britain and is being debriefed in a safe house. How much of a blow is this to Gaddafi?

George: It’s not clear that’s it very much of a blow. This was his foreign minister. As for blood on his hands, this is a regime that for 42 years had blood on its hands. It’s fairly extraordinary the world is suddenly discovering that Gadhafi and the people around him are monsters. But, on the other hand, that’s important to bear in mind that Gadhafi is on the whole winning. The airstrikes are not effective. They’re certainly not stopping him; he’s been able to move from the defensive to the offense. He’s retaken some territory and the eastern alliance that NATOs clearly backing, whatever it says, is simply not able to gel into an effective military force. I think the Turkish position from the very beginning was that this was a fairly arbitrary war. The decision to move into Libya instead of any of these other countries was random, but, more to the point, that it didn’t be provide any stability for the region. And in fact probably destabilized it somewhat, opening a door they feared for some very radical Islamists and moreover not being able to get rid of Gadhafi. They’re certainly very concerned about what’s happening in Syria. That’s right on their border. They’re also always concerned about what the Iranians are doing, although they try to reach out and have decent relations with them. They’re worried about what’s happening in Iraq. The Turks are generally worried. They’re especially worried about the possibility of another Hamas-Israeli war and the reason they’re worried about Hamas-Israeli war is that if Hamas were to carry out strikes that the Israelis chose to counter with another attack in Gaza, this might strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; it could destabilize the regime there. And the Turks don’t want to see that happen right now. They want to see a stable Egypt; they want to see a stable Mediterranean. So the Turks have many, many things that made him uneasy, and one of the things that makes them uneasy is their NATO partners. They can’t quite figure out what it is they think they’re doing.

Colin: As you said, the Turks are concerned about what’s happening in Syria.

George: It is not so much about democracy versus repression. It is, however, a very long-standing struggle between the minority Alawite regime, which is minority of Shia, and the majority Sunni Muslims. The Sunni Muslims were brutally repressed by the current president’s father years ago. Tens of thousands were killed. This is a rising by them again. The rhetoric, which is used to appeal for Western support, is about democracy and they certainly do mean democracy in a certain sense, but the really important question is the role of the Sunnis in Syria and of the radical Islamists within the Sunni movement. The Turks, however much they move toward the Islamic position in the AKP, are not really interested in the radicalization of their borderland and they’re very concerned about what Syria is going to do. They also I think feel helpless. I don’t think that Assad is particular to taking advice from the Turks. I don’t think the demonstrators are asking for Turkish mediation, although the Turks are prepared to provide it. I think it’s a very uncomfortable position for the Turks to be in.

Colin: Looking ahead, what do you think Turkey’s strategy will be?

George: The Turkish strategy has been to try to avoid entanglements. It’s a policy of 360 degrees, as they put it, and it’s a policy of having no enemies, of being friends with everyone. But of course the greater Turkish power is, the weaker their neighbors become, the more the Turks get involved. And as the United States has found a long time ago, as soon as you get involved, you’re involved on somebody’s side. There’s no such thing as a neutral intervention. That’s a fantasy. As the Turks are drawn deeper into mediation, they will try to resist the temptation to side with one side or the other, but they’re too powerful to simply do that. Every step they take will favor someone. So they’re going to be drawn into a position that they don’t want to be drawn into of taking sides. They’ve liked the past two years of growing prestige, but not really confronting particularly the other Muslim countries.

Colin: But presumably they’ll continue to look east, given that the European Union is deeply divided about Turkey’s possible future membership.

George: I doubt very much that the Turkish leadership at this point is keen on joining the EU. Turkey grew last year 8.9 percent, far outstripping the birthrates of the EU countries. They keep it on the table as something they want to do, because it’s a symbol of their commitment to, if not secularism at least a respect for secular desires to be regarded as a European rather than an Islamic state. So the government will continue to try to become a member, knowing full well that the Europeans won’t accept them and being utterly delighted that they aren’t part of the European Union that’s suffering all of the diseases of the European Union right now. And particularly at a time when you have such a deep divide between France and Germany over a host of issues, but particularly over the Libyan war, the Europeans are not a force to be reckoned with as a whole and the Turks are happy to be staying out of their way.

Colin: George, we’ll leave it there and look forward to hearing more from you in Turkey. George Friedman ending Agenda this week. Until the next time, goodbye.

26055  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Kalamazoo MI on: April 01, 2011, 04:42:16 PM

Tough place to be a cop alone , , ,  shocked
26056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NIMBY! on: April 01, 2011, 04:24:51 PM
Note reference to Michele Bachman at the end , , ,

Cut Spending – But Not My Farm Subsidies!
by Chris Campbell, Amber Hanna and Don Carr

That some members of Congress are farmers is hardly new. Many of the Founding Fathers worked the land. But as the industrial age transformed America’s agrarian society and technology made it possible for fewer farmers to grow more crops on more land, the number of lawmakers actively engaged in agriculture dropped sharply.

We don’t have a firm count of how many farmers are serving in the current Congress, but we do know, based on a recent analysis of the Environmental Working Group’s Farm Subsidy Database, that 23 of them, or their family members, signed up for taxpayer-funded farm subsidy payments between 1995 and 2009.

This would be a good place to point out that just five crops – corn, cotton, rice wheat and soybeans – account for 90 percent of all farm subsidies. Sixty-two percent of American farmers do not receive any direct payments from the federal farm subsidy system, and that group includes most livestock producers and fruit and vegetable growers.

Among the members of the 112th Congress who collect payments from USDA are six Democrats and 17 Republicans. The disparity between the parties is even greater in terms of dollar amounts: $489,856 went to Democrats, but more than 10 times as much, $5,334,565, to Republicans.

One reason for the disproportionate number of Republican lawmakers benefiting from farm subsidy programs is the current scarcity of rural Democrats in Congress – casualties of the Tea Party wave that swept into office in November of 2010. (This was despite the Democrats’ decision to bow to the wishes of the subsidy lobby by passing a status quo 2008 farm bill in a misguided bid to hang on to those seats.)

Several new members of Congress who won with tea party support have been less than eager to talk about farm subsidies ever since the news broke last year that they, or their families, personally benefit from those very taxpayer dollars.

EWG doesn’t believe that the payments to lawmakers are improper or illegal. But the fact that so many more Republicans in Congress receive so much more in farm subsidies than their Democratic colleagues does highlight the GOP’s controversial decision to spare those programs from the budget ax – even as it slashes funding for so many others. Consider:

•In January, David Rogers of Politico, and Phillip Brasher at the Des Moines Register, reported that the Republican Study Committee proposed to eliminate the meager federal funding for an organic food growers’ program without even mentioning the the possibility of cutting spending for entitlements that send checks out to largest producers of corn, cotton and other commodity crops – regardless of need.
•Then last week (March 21), National Journal reported that the Republican-led House Agriculture Committee is backing cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program – previously known as food stamps – in the face of record enrollment levels triggered by high unemployment. But not even minimal reductions were proposed to the excessive payments to wealthy farms.
The GOP-led support for subsidies also comes at a time when big commodity farms clearly don’t need taxpayer funding.

The farm sector is white-hot, and has generally fared extremely well as recession gripped the rest of the economy. Farm income and prices for commodity crops are soaring. In 2008, $210,000 was the average household income of farms that received at least $30,000 in government payments that year. But according to the House Agriculture Committee and the Republic Study Committee, payments to those farms should stay in place while the record 43 million Americans enrolled in SNAP – millions of whom are unemployed for the first time – face slashes in the help they get to put food on the table.

It’s important to note that two of the Republican senators who collect subsidies – Charles Grassley of Iowa and Richard Lugar of Indiana – have been long-time leaders in the effort to reform federal farm programs. Both have fought to right the gross inequity of sending 74 percent of taxpayer-funded payments to the largest and wealthiest 10 percent of farm operations and landlords. The top-heavy support for the biggest operations puts smaller family farms at a serious disadvantage and works against a more diverse and resilient food production system that could stand up against wild swings in weather or global markets – and provide Americans with a healthier food supply.

Of course, Democratic members of Congress have historically been subsidy recipients too, notably former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Charles Stenholm of Texas and former Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

Nor is the phenomenon of lawmakers receiving farm subsidies limited to the federal level. Recent media reports have shown that direct payments are even more common in state legislatures in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Montana, Idaho and South Dakota.

At EWG, we believe that farmers deserve a reasonable safety net to protect against damage from drought, storms and fickle markets. But the American public’s investment portfolio in agriculture needs to change. It’s indefensible to provide subsidies to well-off farmers and landowners, especially in the face of a booming farm economy and a federal budget squeeze. Meanwhile, farmers seeking modest federal support to protect water, land and wildlife are being turned away for lack of funds.

We’re also committed advocates for government transparency, and it’s deeply disturbing that the public’s ability to see who gets what from the federal farm subsidy system has been curtailed by the Obama administration. Under the Bush administration, the rules allowed the public to see through shell corporations and paper entities to identify the part owners of subsidized farms and show where the money ended up. The transparency pertained to lawmakers as well. For this analysis EWG was forced to resort to harvesting data from members’ disclosure forms. That was an arduous but ultimately worthwhile task when advocating for greater accountability and transparency, and it didn’t use to be necessary.

Some Congress members (or their families) collecting federal farm subsidies are major players in the annual farm subsidy drama, others have only bit parts in terms of the amount of subsidies they receive. Overall, the distribution of subsidies among members of Congress reflects the highly distorted distribution of farm subsidies among farmers and landlords in the United States – between 1995 and 2009, 10 percent of subsidy recipients collected 74 percent of all subsidies.

The current salary for rank-and-file members of the House and Senate is $174,000 per year, and members enjoy robust health benefits. But whether major or bit players, members of Congress who receive farm subsidies are part of a system that cries out for reform and poses stark choices between helping wealthy landowners or doing right by struggling farm and urban families and the environment.

Member of Congress who received big or small checks from the federal government include:

US HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES (in alphabetical order)

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.)

Aderholt’s wife, Caroline Aderholt, is a 6.3% owner of McDonald Farms, which received a total of $3,059,878 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009.  Additionally she received $338 directly from USDA in 2009.

EWG’s estimate of farm subsidies to Caroline Aderholt, using the percentage share information received by USDA, is $191,580.

Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa)

Boswell is listed as directly receiving a total of $16,235 in subsidies between 2001 and 2008.

Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.)

Campbell is listed as a 1.5 percent owner of the Campbell/McNee Family Farm LLC, which received a total of $10,364 in federal farm subsidies between 2007 and 2009.

EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Campbell received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is a total of $155 between 2007 and 2009.

Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.)

Costa is listed as a 50 percent owner of Lena E Costa Living Trust, which received $2,494 in federal farm subsidies.

EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Costa received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is a total of $1,247 between 2006 and 2007.

Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas)

Farenthold received a total of $1,205 in farm subsidies directly from USDA between 1999 and 2005.

Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.)

Fincher is listed as directly receiving a total of $114,519 from USDA between 1995 and 2009. Fincher’s farm, Stephen & Lynn Fincher Farms, is also listed in the EWG database as receiving a total of $3,254,324 between 1999 and 2009. Fincher and his wife Lynn are each 50 percent partners in that farm.

EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Fincher and his wife received totaled $3,368,843 between 1995 and 2009.

Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.)

Hartzler is listed in the EWG Farm Subsidy Database, but no subsidies were directly paid to her. Her husband, Lowell Hartzler, however, is listed as a 98 percent owner of Hartzler Farms, which received a total of $774,489 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. His ownership percentage rose from 53 percent in the years up to 2005 to 98 percent in 2006.

EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Lowell Hartzler received, based on the percentage share information (assumed to be 53 percent prior to 2006) supplied to USDA, totaled $469,292 between 1995 and 2009.

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ)

Holt is listed as a 10.5 percent owner of Froelich Land Trust No. 1, which received at total of $33,021 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2008. Holt’s wife, Margaret Lancefield, is listed as a 25 percent owner of Lancefield Farm, which received a total of $23,478 in subsidies between 1996 and 2009.

EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Holt received, using the percentage share information provided to USDA, is a total of $9,337 between 1995 and 2009.

Rep. Timothy Huelskamp (R-Kansas)

Huelskamp is listed as directly receiving $258 in 2002.

Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.)

Kline’s wife, Vicky Sheldon Kline, is listed as a 20 percent owner of Sheldon Family Farms LP, which received a total of $23,667 between 2000 and 2009.

EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Ms. Klein received, based on the percentage share information supplied to USDA, is a total of $4,733 between 2000 and 2009.

Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa)

Latham is listed as part owner of four entities: 33 percent owner of Latham Seed Co., which received a total of $448,925 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2003; 25 percent owner in Latham Hospital Farm, which received a total of $76,612 between 1995 and 2001; 25 percent owner in Latham Kanawha Farm, which received a total of $15,648 between 1995 and 2001; and 3 percent owner in DTB Farms LLC, which received a total of $472,018 between 2003 and 2009.

EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Latham received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is a total of $330,046 between 1995 and 2009.

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.)

Lummis is listed as a 31.33 percent owner of Lummis Livestock, which received a total of $47,093 in farm subsidies in between 1996 and 2002. Lummis listed her ownership of Lummis Livestock in her 2009 financial disclosure form.

EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Lummis received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is a total of $14,289 between 1996 and 2002.
Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Texas)

Neugebauer is involved in two business entities. He owns 50 percent of Lubbock Land Company Five LTD, which received a total of $3,369 in farm subsidies between 1998 and 1999. He also owns 50 percent of Lubbock Land Company Two LTD, which received a total of $4,608 in farm subsidies in between 1998 and 1999. Neugebauer’s financial disclosure forms for 2009 do not list either company.

EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Neugubauer received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is a total of $3,989 between 1998 and 1999.

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.)

Noem is listed as having a 13.5 percent share in Racota Valley Ranch between 2000 and 2001 and a 16.9 percent share between 2002 and 2008. Racota Valley Ranch received a total of $3,058,152 in farm subsides between 1995 and 2008. Noem’s 2009 financial disclosure form listed her as a partner in Racota Valley Ranch.

EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Noem received, based on the percentage share information submitted to USDA, is $443,748.

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)

Peterson is listed as receiving a total of $828 between 2005 and 2009.

Rep. Dennis Rehberg (R-Mont.)

Rehberg received a total of $7,971 directly from USDA between 1995 and 2002. Rehburg’s wife, Jan Rehberg, also received $51 directly from USDA in 2008. Jan Rehberg also has ownership in two entities that received payments. She has a 33 percent stake in Lenhardt Property LP, which received a total of $517 between 2006 and 2009.  She also has a 5.6 percent stake in Teigen Land and Livestock Company, which received a total of $31,890 between 2002 and 2003.

EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Rehberg and his wife received, based on the percentage share information provided to USDA, is a total of  $9,980 between 1995 and 2009.

Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-Ind.)

Stutzman is listed as directly receiving a total of $179,370 in farm subsidies between 1997 and 2009.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas)

Thornberry listed as William M. Thornberry, directly received a total of $4,306 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 1999. Thornberry is also a one-third owner of Thornberry Brothers, which received a total of $65,326 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009. His financial disclosure form in 2009 lists him as an owner in Thornberry Brothers Cattle.

EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Thornberry received, based on the percentage share information provided to USDA, is a total of $26,081 between 1995 and 2009.


US SENATE (in alphabetical order)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Bennet’s wife, Susan Daggett, is listed in his 2010 financial disclosure forms as 5.5 percent owner of Daggett Farms LP and LMD Farms LP. Daggett Farms LP received a total of $258,916 in farm subsidies between 1995 and 2008. LMD Farms LP received a total of $102,291 between 2000 and 2009.

EWG’s estimate of farm subsidy benefits Daggett received, based on the percentage share information provided to USDA, is a total of $19,866 between 1995 and 2009.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

Grassley is listed as directly receiving a total of $263,635 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.)

Lugar is listed as a 9.39 percent owner of Lugar Stock Farm. His wife, Charlene Smeltzer Lugar, is listed as a 7.42 percent owner in Lugar Stock Farm. Lugar Stock Farm received a total of $158,892 in farm subsidies in between 1995 and 2009.

EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Lugar and his wife received totals $26,710 between 1995 and 2009

Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.)

Tester received a total of $159,549 directly from USDA between 1995 and 2009. Testers’ wife, Sharla, is listed as a 50 percent owner of T-Bone Farms – Tester is listed as owning the other 50 percent.  T-Bone farms received a total of $282,754 in federal farm subsidies between 1995 and 2009.

EWG’s estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Tester and his wife received, based on percentage share information provided to USDA, is a total of $442,303 between 1995 and 2009.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah)

EWG’S estimate of the farm subsidy benefits Hatch and his wife received, based on the share information provided to USDA regarding Ms. Hatch’s share of Edries N Hansen Properties LLC, is a total of $909 between 2008 and 2009.

Although Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.) was the subject of considerable publicity in 2010 over her family’s farm subsidy payments, she is not in this list since she has not received direct payments from USDA. Her late father-in-law, Paul Bachmann, received $259,332 in subsidies between1995 and 2008. Bachmann’s financial disclosure form lists an interest in Bachmann Family Farm LP, receiving subsidy payments income in the $15,001-$50,000 range in 2009, but for unknown reasons, Bachmann Family Farm LP does not appear in the EWG Farm Subsidy Database. If a person is a part owner in a farm, and that farm receives federal subsidies, USDA indicates that that person is a beneficiary of federal farm programs.
26057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: April 01, 2011, 04:18:11 PM
That appears to be the case  cry  OTOH we are AMERICANS by God!!! 
26058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing Crisis Explained and Questions Answered on: April 01, 2011, 02:07:36 PM

Question:  In the late 70s, inflation was good for housing/real estate prices.  Will there be a similar effect with the coming inflation?
26059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: April 01, 2011, 02:03:12 PM
I'll be passing that one along  grin

As for Bolton:  He has not a chance in the world.  He is exclusively about foreign affairs, has no track record of any domestic political issues, and no political experience whatsoever. 
26060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, & the US Dollar on: April 01, 2011, 10:53:17 AM
OTOH, , ,

Data Watch

Non-farm payrolls increased 216,000 in March To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury - Chief Economist
Robert Stein, CFA - Senior Economist
Date: 4/1/2011

Non-farm payrolls increased 216,000 in March.  Revisions to January/February added 7,000, bringing the net gain to 223,000.  The consensus expected a gain of 190,000.

Private sector payrolls rose 230,000 in March. Revisions to January/February added 44,000, bringing the net gain to 274,000.  March gains were led by health care (+37,000), bars/restaurants/hotels (+35,000), temps (+29,000), accounting/bookkeeping (+20.000), retail (+18,000), and manufacturing (+17,000).  The largest decline was for home building  (-7,000).
The unemployment rate fell to 8.8% in March from 8.9% in February.
Average weekly earnings – cash earnings, excluding benefits – were unchanged in March but up 2.3% versus a year ago. 
Implications:  The US labor market is clicking on almost all cylinders and we expect persistently solid payroll growth, month after month, for the foreseeable future. Including upward revisions to prior months, non-farm payrolls increased 223,000 while private sector payrolls jumped 274,000. This strength was confirmed by figures on civilian employment – an alternative measure of jobs that is better at picking up the self-employed and small start-up businesses – which increased 291,000. The increase in jobs pushed down the unemployment rate to 8.8%, the lowest in two years. The “soft” part of the report was that average hourly earnings were unchanged in March. However, these earnings are up 1.7% versus a year ago while total hours worked are up 2.1%. As a result, total cash earnings by workers are up 3.8% in the past year. So far, this is more than enough for workers, as a whole, to keep up with inflation. More timely news on the labor market shows further progress. New claims for unemployment insurance declined 6,000 last week to 388,000. Continuing claims for regular state benefits dropped 51,000 to 3.71 million. News like this is behind the recent increase in “hawkish” comments from Federal Reserve officials. The breadth of the comments suggests some degree of coordination. We believe the Fed wants to make it crystal clear to the financial markets that a third round of quantitative easing is highly unlikely.
26061  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No excrement! on: April 01, 2011, 10:51:55 AM
"Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm." --James Madison

26062  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Seattle April 16-17 on: April 01, 2011, 10:48:12 AM

Subject Material:

Kali Tudo & Die Less Often

April 16-17
11626 Slater Ave NE
Kirkland, WA
26063  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: top dog video question on: April 01, 2011, 10:40:59 AM
Well, you know the saying about assumption Tim  wink

I was there when Tricky and Top Dog went at it.  Fascinating match up.  When Tricky was at my first seminar in Seattle not so long ago I shared with him some ideas  wink 

The Adventure continues , , , cool
26064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Fed, Monetary Policy, Inflation, & the US Dollar on: April 01, 2011, 10:30:34 AM
Maybe I am being a Chicken Little here, but I can picture a lot of hot capital deciding to move elsewhere and rates rising more and faster than these clever people think will be the case.
26065  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: April 01, 2011, 08:04:17 AM
Fair enough, but perhaps we can wonder who our true leader is in all this.  Is it Baraq?  Is it Hillary?  Is it Samantha Powers and Cass Sunstein and their patron George Soros?

What Koussa's Defection Means for Gadhafi, Libya and the West

Wednesday marked nearly two weeks since the beginning of the Libya intervention. While the day’s most important headline came as a surprise, others were more expected, and some confirmed what STRATFOR had been saying since the earliest days of the intervention. The most significant event was the defection of the country’s long-time intelligence chief turned foreign minister. The continuing retreat of eastern rebel forces added fodder to the ongoing discussion in Washington, Paris and London as to whether or not to arm them. A pair of anonymous leaks from the American and British governments revealed that CIA and British Special Air Service (SAS) agents have been on the ground in Libya for weeks now, while an unnamed European diplomat admitted that the no-fly zone had been nothing but a diplomatic smokescreen designed to get Arab states on board with a military operation that held regime change as the true goal.

Related Special Topic Page
The Libyan War: Full Coverage
The defection of Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa to the United Kingdom came after a “private visit” to neighboring Tunisia, where he reportedly held meetings in his hotel room with four unidentified French officials. (Why it was that Koussa, who has as much blood on his hands as any Libyan official who has been around for as long as he has, wasn’t on the U.N. travel ban list remains unknown.) From there, he flew to London, and news that Koussa had resigned and officially defected followed shortly thereafter. The move creates the possibility that more high profile members of the regime could follow suit if they feel that the writing is on the wall. For the West, Koussa is quite a catch, as he was the long-serving chief of Libya’s External Security Organization – and thus, the de facto head of Libyan intelligence – during the heyday of Libyan state-supported terrorism. Koussa moved (or, some would say, was demoted) to the foreign minister’s post in 2009 and he will be an invaluable resource for the foreign intelligence services that will be lining up to debrief him in London. Though there had been whispers in recent years that Koussa had lost favor with the regime, he was still in a very high profile position, and is surely a treasure trove of information on the inner workings of the regime of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

“Koussa can attain immunity, but Gadhafi cannot – it is politically impossible at this point.”
Koussa will have information on the bombings of Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772, arguably the two most famous acts of Libyan state terrorism carried out during Gadhafi’s rule. It is ironic that Koussa chose the United Kingdom as his destination for defection, as he will now be (temporarily at least) residing in the same country in which Lockerbie is located. It is likely that a deal was reached between Koussa and the British government, with the French acting as interlocutors, giving him immunity from prosecution in exchange for intelligence on the Gadhafi regime and his silence on the details of the negotiations that led to the release of Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber. The intelligence Koussa provides will aid Western governments in getting a better handle of where Libya’s secret agents are stationed abroad, thereby helping them deter the specter of the return of Libyan state terrorism.

His defection will also only further convince Gadhafi that exile is an inherently risky option. The British and French are the most vocal proponents of pursuing an International Criminal Court investigation against the Libyan leader, and their coordination in bringing Koussa from Tunisia to the United Kingdom has given them a source of testimony for use against Gadhafi in any proceedings that may commence in The Hague one day. Koussa can attain immunity, but Gadhafi cannot – it is politically impossible at this point.

This development will likely only solidify Gadhafi’s resolve to regain control of territory lost since February, or go down with the ship. Indeed, after seeing rebels advance to within a short distance of Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte on March 28, the Libyan army (reportedly with Chadian mercenaries’ help) pushed the enemy back all the way to the east of Ras Lanuf, a key oil export center on the Gulf of Sidra. The air campaign did not stop their advance, and the rebels were openly admitting that they are no match for the much better organized and equipped forces fighting on behalf of the regime.

On the second day of steady rebel losses being reported in the international media, an anonymous U.S. government official leaked that the CIA has been on the ground in Libya for weeks. Similar leaks from a British government source said that the SAS had been on the ground helping coordinate targets for air strikes for a similar amount of time. This news was hardly a revelation at STRATFOR, but it is clear that the leak was intended for the ears of the general public, with the intention to give people the sense that Western forces are somehow in control of the situation and establishing contacts with those who are the potential substitute for Gadhafi. Covert operations have a way of not counting in the public’s mind as “boots on the ground” since they are not seen, only spoken about. They are thus viewed as acceptable to a public that would not accept a true deployment of combat troops. Leaking that the CIA and SAS have long been on the ground in Libya also serves as a form of psychological warfare against Tripoli, as it displays the resolve of those that are indeed pushing for regime change in Libya.

Successfully toppling Gadhafi is now one of the core political imperatives at home for the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and France. For U.S. President Barack Obama in particular, though he is nowhere near having an Iraq moment, Libya still represents his boldest foreign policy move to date. If Gadhafi is still in power as the 2012 presidential campaign heats up, Obama could have a lot of questions to answer.

26066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Noonan "The Bang-Bang" on: April 01, 2011, 07:49:35 AM

I want to step back from the controversy over Libya and take a look at one definition of what foreign policy is, or rather what its broader purposes might be. Then I want to make a small point.

The other day I came across an extract from a debate that took place in the British House of Commons in July 1864. Benjamin Disraeli, the future prime minister, was arguing that the government's policy in Germany and Denmark was a failure and deserved Parliament's formal censure. In damning Westminster's mismanagement, he drew a pretty good, broad-strokes picture of what a great nation's foreign policy might look like.

First the damning. "Do you see," Disraeli asks, "the kind of capacity that is adequate to the occasion? Do you find . . . that sagacity, that prudence, that dexterity, that quickness of perception" and that mood of "conciliation" that are necessary in the transaction of foreign affairs? No, he suggests, you do not. All these characteristics have been "wanting," and because they are wanting, three results have accrued: The policy of Her Majesty's government has failed, England's "influence in the councils of Europe has been lowered," and that waning of influence has left the prospects for peace diminished.

He stops to define terms: Regarding influence, "I mean an influence that results from the conviction of foreign Powers that our resources are great and that our policy is moderate and steadfast." He seeks the return of a conservative approach. "I do not mean by a Conservative foreign policy a foreign policy that would disapprove, still less oppose, the natural development of nations. I mean a foreign policy interested in the tranquility and prosperity of the world," one condition of which is peace. England should be "a moderating and mediatorial Power." Its interest, when changes in the world are inevitable and necessary, is to assist so that the changes "if possible, may be accomplished without war; or, if war occurs, that its duration and asperity be lessened."

Disraeli's censure motion would narrowly fail and in the end not matter much. But there's something satisfying and refreshing in his clear assertion of basic principles, of beginning points for thinking about foreign policy. A nation, to have influence, must be understood by all to be both very strong and very sober. Prosperity and tranquility are legitimate goals, peace a necessary condition. And there's a paradox as great nations move forward in the world: In order to have a dramatically good influence, you must have a known bias toward the nondramatic, toward the merely prudent and wise. A known bias, that is, toward peaceableness. And here is my small point.

View Full Image

Benjamin Disraeli at the Bucks election, 1847.
.All this speaks to something I think we have lost the past 10 years—the generally understood sense in the world that the U.S. has a known bias toward the moderate and peaceable. I don't here argue or debate the many reasons, the history, or the series of actions that have brought this about, only to note: It was a lot to lose! I think we want to get it back, or try to re-establish a good portion of it. Because there is great benefit in seeming to be a big strong nation that is unroiled, unruffled and unbattered by the constant high seas of the world. Passivity isn't an option, and what's called isolationism is an impossibility—we live in the world—but we are too much taken by the idea of dramatic action. We've become almost addicted to it, or that our presidents have.

There are always many facts and dynamics that prompt modern leaders toward dramatic and immediate action as opposed to reflection, serious debate, and the long slog of diplomatic effort. But are we fully appreciating that our media, now, seem to force the hand of every leader and require them to decide, move and push forward?

The bias of the media is for action, passion and pictures. It is television producers and website runners who are the greatest lovers of "kinetic" events. They need to fill time. They need conflict and drama. At CBS News years ago there was a producer who called the film, as it then was, of a military or street battle "the bang-bang." The bang-bang was good for a piece. In a good minute-30 report there would be the stand-up opening by the correspondent, the statement of the besieged ruler or the aggrieved rebel, the map with arrows, the bang-bang, and then the closing summation. It was good TV! It is still good TV, and there is more TV than ever.

Every president has to know now that if there is fighting somewhere in the world, if there is suffering somewhere in the world, and the U.S. does not become involved, the scandal of that lack of involvement will become an endless segment on an endless television show full of endless questions. Why the inaction? Why are we doing nothing?

It should be noted that we are fighting now in Libya not because of mass slaughter but because of the threat of mass slaughter. Let's say what the president's supporters can't say and his opponents won't say: If the slaughter had happened, those pictures would have been very bad politically for the president.

Our foreign policy is increasingly driven by the needs of television programmers. I think I'll repeat that: Our foreign policy is more and more being dictated by the people who do the rundowns for tv new shows.

A president who "does nothing" in the face of trouble, who does not respond to the constant agitation of dramatic videotape on television and the Internet, is called weak. He is called cowardly, dithering, unworthy. He is called Jimmy Carter.

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.So he and his administration feel forced to share the media's bias toward action. No longer are leaders allowed to think what previous generations of political leaders knew, or learned: that when 10 problems are walking toward you on the street, you don't have to rush forward to confront them. It's wiser to wait because, life being messy and unpredictable, half the problems will fall in a ditch or lose their strength before they get to you. The trick is to handle with dispatch ones that do reach you. The talent is in guessing which ones they might be.

I know that this particular challenge to foreign policy sobriety is not new and is in fact at least 30 years old. But with the proliferation of media and technology, it is getting more intense. It will never lessen now. It will only build.

There ought to be a word for something we know that is so much a part of our lives that we forget to know it, we forget to see it, and yet it has a profound impact on the world we live in. We forget to fully factor it in, or we do factor it in but don't notice it is a primary factor.

Every leader now must know the dynamic and be an active bulwark against it. He will have to discuss why we cannot allow our nervous, agitating media to demand our involvement in every fight.

A president has to provide all the pushback. Republicans should keep that in mind, too. They'll have the White House soon enough. Some of their decisions will be at the mercy of television programmers too.

26067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: April 01, 2011, 07:44:55 AM
I suppose that could be a not insignificant contributing factor, but personally I place more weight on what Glenn Beck is developing:  The establishment of "The Duty to Protect" when authorized by the UN, the subordination of the US to the UN, "getting on the right side" of the Arab world and towards that end, the decoupling of the US from its alliance with Israel.

Prediction (hat tip to Beck):  We will see many forces in the UN try to use the "duty to protect" against Israel.
26068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Strassel: Ready, set, , , wait. on: April 01, 2011, 07:36:25 AM
Ready! Set! Wait.

Ask any grass-roots Republican, and they will tell you that what gets them out of bed in the morning is the prospect of defeating President Barack Obama in 2012. Ask them who is going to do it, and be met with sigh.

The GOP presidential primary race is now—honestly—in early full swing. Candidates are filling out paperwork, snapping up operatives, and prepping for the first debate (just a few weeks away). There is a heady feeling that this Republican contest will prove the most unique in half a century: It boasts an unusually wide-open field and comes at a tipping point for both the party and the country.

All that's missing? Any clear voter enthusiasm for the obvious candidates. Until, or if, a candidate figures out how to become that object of inspiration, this could be a slow ride.

Yes, it's early. Then again, contenders ought to be concerned that even at this stage they've already earned some sticky labels. Mitt Romney: Unreliable. Newt Gingrich: Yesterday. Sarah Palin: Flighty. Tim Pawlenty: Boring. Mitch Daniels: Bush's guy. Jon Huntsman: Obama's guy. Haley Barbour: Southern guy.

These are crudely drawn caricatures. But they are also an acknowledgment that many in the field are starting with very real liabilities, ones the contenders must yet confront. Mr. Romney is going to have to address RomneyCare; Mr. Gingrich is going to have to address marital infidelities; Mr. Barbour is going to have to address the confederate flag. It's as if GOP voters know these discussions must happen and are already weary. They want a candidate who is 24/7 talking about ObamaCare, spending reform, and world leadership—not Bristol Palin's performance on "Dancing with the Stars."

It ought to be of concern to the presumptive field, too, that grass-roots and influential Republicans continue to spend most of their energy and daydreams on people who are either: a) not running—New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio; b) were all but unknown a year ago—Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and pizza magnate Herman Cain; or c) might not even be Republican—Donald Trump.

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Chad Crowe
 .The polls ought to be even more concerning for "known" candidates. It is one thing for Mr. Pawlenty or Mr. Daniels to be polling in the single digits; they are relatively new names. But what primary voter is unfamiliar with Mr. Romney, who ran second to John McCain? Or Mrs. Palin, the veep nominee? Or Mike Huckabee, of Iowa fame? If history were a guide, one of them ought to be pulling a third of primary voters today. Instead, "there is not a single Republican who can claim support from as many as one in five primary supporters," says GOP pollster and co-founder of Resurgent Republic Whit Ayres. He suggests that some candidates stuck in the low double digits might already have "fatal flaws."

History, in this case, is no guide. The Republican Party has a tradition of nominating the next guy in line. In 1976 it nominated Ford over Reagan: It was Ford's due. Reagan's due came after that, and George H.W. Bush's due after that, and . . . straight through to Mr. McCain. Mr. Romney, for one, is betting that tradition still holds, and that he can burst onto the scene as the anointed one.

Good luck with that. For the first time since the 1940s, the Republican field truly is open. And that is because of a cataclysmic shift in the GOP and independent electorate, one that many in the field seem not yet to have understood. The contenders are out there, dutifully bashing President Obama, chiding Congress for not being tougher, complaining about spending and Libya and gas prices. GOP voters want to hear that. And they want so much more.

This is a group of voters that may not like Mr. Obama, but they respect his skills. They want somebody who can match him in charisma and communication. This is a group of voters disillusioned by Republican behavior. They elected the GOP last year, but mostly as a protest vote against Mr. Obama. They now want somebody—preferably a new face, without the baggage—who can articulate a vision for the party and reassure it that it really is in new, strong, capable hands.

These are voters who every day are seeing national headlines about reformist governors—Wisconsin's Scott Walker, Mr. Christie, Ohio's John Kasich—and making comparisons. That may not be fair, since many of the presidential contenders are no longer in office. Then again, many in the electorate are wondering why they never read these headlines when those contenders were in fact in office.

Put it all together—the desire for a hard-charging, big-thinking, articulate, new face—and the interest in the Christies and Rubios makes sense. That isn't to say that those already getting in can't win over the electorate. But if they want to—if they want to generate the gigantic voter enthusiasm that will be needed to knock off a sitting president—they are going to have to start being the Next (and New) Big Thing. Nothing less, in this environment, is going to thrill.

26069  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Bill Gross of PIMCO on: April 01, 2011, 07:28:38 AM

William H. Gross of PIMCO in the firm's April 2011 "Investment Outlook":

That adorable skunk, Pepé Le Pew, is one of my wife Sue's favorite cartoon characters. There's something affable, even romantic about him as he seeks to woo his female companions with a French accent and promises of a skunk bungalow and bedrooms full of little Pepés in future years. It's easy to love a skunk—but only on the silver screen, and if in real life—at a considerable distance. I think of Congress that way. Every two or six years, they dress up in full makeup, pretending to be the change, vowing to correct what hasn't been corrected, promising discipline as opposed to profligate overspending and undertaxation, and striving to balance the budget when all others have failed. Oooh Pepé—Mon Chéri! But don't believe them—hold your nose instead! Oh, I kid the Congress. Perhaps they don't have black and white stripes with bushy tails. Perhaps there's just a stink bomb that the Congressional sergeant-at-arms sets off every time they convene and the gavel falls to signify the beginning of the "people's business." Perhaps. But, in all cases, citizens of America—hold your noses. You ain't smelled nothin' yet.

I speak, of course, to the budget deficit and Washington's inability to recognize the intractable: 75% of the budget is non-discretionary and entitlement based. Without attacking entitlements—Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security—we are smelling $1 trillion deficits as far as the nose can sniff. Once dominated by defense spending, these three categories now account for 44% of total Federal spending and are steadily rising. . . . [A]fter defense and interest payments on the national debt are excluded, remaining discretionary expenses for education, infrastructure, agriculture and housing constitute at most 25% of the 2011 fiscal year federal spending budget of $4 trillion. You could eliminate it all and still wind up with a deficit of nearly $700 billion! So come on you stinkers; enough of the Pepé Le Pew romance and promises. Entitlement spending is where the money is and you need to reform it.

26070  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: April 01, 2011, 07:25:39 AM
The Obama administration's energy policy is in the midst of transition from being stubbornly ideological to being wholly incoherent. That much was clear when President Obama unveiled his Blueprint for a Secure Energy Future this week.

With gasoline prices climbing above $4 a gallon, the administration is talking about tapping our Strategic Petroleum Reserve in a desperate attempt to hold down pump prices. It's also expanding subsidies and incentives for energy supplies that cost a lot more than oil, and it's aiming to reduce our dependency on foreign oil by one-third over the next 10 years.

Meanwhile, in a bizarre turn, Mr. Obama recently expressed enthusiasm for aggressive offshore drilling—in Brazil.

At least the president is practicing the green virtue of recycling. His energy address featured all the greatest hits of past presidential declarations of energy independence, including even George W. Bush's paean to switchgrass ethanol. Yet Mr. Obama's energy "blueprint" will get no further than all previous presidential schemes for the same reason: It is unserious at its core.

There are only two ways to reduce our foreign oil imports: a large oil tax to suppress consumption, or expanded production of domestic oil resources. All of the other bells and whistles—hybrid and flex-fuel cars, biofuels, etc.—will have only a marginal effect on overall oil demand. Higher energy taxes are not in the cards. What about expanded domestic oil production? Mr. Obama tried to thread the needle by claiming to be pro-domestic production, while at the same time embracing the tired talking point that because the U.S. has only 2% of the world's proven oil reserves—about 20 billion barrels—we can't hope to achieve independence from foreign oil from our own resources.

Yet a recent report from the Congressional Research Service that has received surprisingly little attention concludes that the U.S. probably has as much as 155 billion barrels of oil recoverable with existing technology that we simply haven't looked for or have closed off from exploration for political reasons. That's five times the outdated and misleading figure Mr. Obama cites. And there are an additional 700 billion barrels of oil shale and other unconventional hydrocarbons that could be developed here at home. That's more than the oil reserves of Saudi Arabia.

Mr. Obama ought to tell the whole story about Brazil, instead of just half of it. He touts the measures Brazil took to improve its energy independence, such as flex-fuel vehicles and biofuels. And yes, Brazil has gone from importing 77% of its oil from foreign sources in 1980 to importing no oil by 2009. A great success story in conservation and alternative energy? Not really. Total Brazilian oil consumption still more than doubled.

The biggest factor is that Brazil increased its domestic oil production over the last two decades by 876% (not a typo). Most of that production has come from offshore exploration.

Brazilians achieved independence from foreign oil the old-fashioned way—they drilled. Instead of tapping our Strategic Petroleum Reserve, how about tapping into our still-in-the-ground oil reserves?

Mr. Hayward is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of the forthcoming "Almanac of Environmental Trends" (Pacific Research Institute).

26071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: DC school voucher program; WI public unions take out the baseball bats on: April 01, 2011, 07:18:50 AM
We hope the tea partiers don't faint, but House Republicans this week voted 225-195 to restore $20 million in federal spending—for the District of Columbia's school voucher program. This is the program, terminated by Democrats in 2009, that gave some 1,700 D.C. students (virtually all of them black or Hispanic) up to $7,500 per year to attend a private school.

Most District residents ardently supported the voucher program, while the teachers unions—locally and nationally—reviled it. This proved to be an embarrassment to professional Democrats—from the Presidency down to local school boards—who still claim to be the party of the poor but who have no clue how to win elections without prostrating themselves for union support.

Thus in 2009 we had the spectacle of Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, then head of a subcommittee that oversaw the program's funding, stringing along its supporters with intimations of support if they jumped various hoops, such as getting the D.C. Council to support it. The Council did. Whereupon Senator Durbin ginned up a new hoop.

This week the Obama White House put out a statement that it "opposes targeting resources to help a small number of individuals attend private schools." It continues to say there is no evidence of academic improvement. As we noted in a 2009 editorial, "Democrats and Poor Kids," the Education Department was in possession then of a study showing gains in reading scores and no declines in math relative to public schools.

The President this week didn't promise a veto, so if perchance it passed the Democratic Senate, he just might sign it. That's the undying optimist in us. The cynical view would be that Mr. Obama will do what the unions say he must to win their re-election cash.
Having lost their fight in the legislature, Wisconsin unions are now getting out the steel pipes for those who don't step lively to their cause. A letter we've seen that was sent to businesses in southeastern Wisconsin shows that Big Labor's latest strategy is to threaten small businesses with boycotts if they don't publicly declare their support for government union monopoly power.

Dated March 28, 2011, the letter is addressed to "DEAR UNION GROVE AREA BUSINESS OWNER/MANAGER," in Racine County. And it begins with this warm greeting: "It is unfortunate that you have chosen 'not' to support public workers rights in Wisconsin. In recent past weeks you have been offered a sign(s) by a public employee(s) who works in one of the state facilities in the Union Grove area. These signs simply said 'This Business Supports Workers Rights,' a simple, subtle and we feel non-controversial statement given the facts at this time."

We doubt "subtle" is the word a business owner would use to describe this offer he is being told he can't refuse.

The letter is signed by Jim Parrett, the "Field Rep." for Council 24 of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which is the most powerful union in the AFL-CIO. The letter presents a litany of objections to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's changes to benefits and public union collective bargaining power, describing them as "things that make life working in a 24-7 facility tolerable."

The missive concludes by noting that, "With that we'd ask that you reconsider taking a sign and stance to support public employees in this community. Failure to do so will leave us no choice but do [sic] a public boycott of your business. And sorry, neutral means 'no' to those who work for the largest employer in the area and are union members."

So even businesses that stay neutral in the political battle are considered the enemy and will be punished. Charming stuff, and especially coming from a union that claims (wrongly) to be losing its constitutional rights. Free speech for others apparently isn't all that important.

On Wednesday we called the telephone number listed under Mr. Parrett's name but his voicemail was full. We then spoke with union officials who said they'd ask Mr. Parrett to call us back, but he never called. He has since confirmed the accuracy of the letter to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, which reports that the threat is an outgrowth of a boycott campaign by other unions that has targeted M&I Bank and Kwik Trip because those companies or their executives supported Mr. Walker's budget proposals.

This kind of union thuggery is all too common and is in keeping with the larger political goal of preventing union members from exercising their own rights of free association. The Walker reform that union leaders hate the most would require unions to be recertified annually by a majority of their members and let those members opt out of paying union dues.

Union chiefs like Mr. Parrett know what that means for their political clout. After taking office in 2005, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels used an executive order to end collective bargaining for public workers—a power granted by former Governor Evan Bayh.

The number of state public employees has since fallen to 28,700 from 35,000. But more important, the vast majority of those employees stopped paying union dues. Today, 1,490 state employees pay union dues in Indiana, down from 16,408 in 2005. Similar declines have played out in Washington State and Utah, when those states gave members the freedom to choose.

This is the prospect that has Wisconsin labor leaders so furious these days—furious enough that they'll even threaten the livelihoods of local business owners who won't join them at the barricades. This is the nasty modern reality of government union power.

26072  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Polygyny, Mormons, Muslims, and Women on: April 01, 2011, 07:09:25 AM
Polygamy is a popular punchline these days, from HBO's drama "Big Love" to TLC's documentary "Sister Wives" and the Broadway musical "The Book of Mormon," written by the creators of "South Park." Yet plural marriage is as serious an issue as it's ever been—and is even on the rise in the West.

Warren Jeffs, the infamous leader of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints sect, is in an Arizona jail awaiting trial on charges of bigamy and sexual assault. North of the border, Canadian authorities have been trying to nab his co-religionists. In 2009, prosecutors charged Winston Blackmore and James Oler, two leaders of the fundamentalist community in Bountiful, British Columbia, with polygamy.

The case was thrown out on a technicality, but now Canada's anti-polygamy statute, which dates to 1890, is being put to the test in a so-called "reference case." In effect, the government is seeking an opinion from the court on whether the statute is valid. Opponents say that it violates the country's commitment to religious freedom. "Consenting adults have the right—the Charter protected right—to form the families that they want to form," Monique Pongracic-Speier of the Civil Liberties Association has said.

Supporters of the statute say that it's not about persecuting religious outliers or maintaining a traditional definition of family for its own sake. Rather, it is about protecting human rights. The case has begun to inflame passions far from the rural communities of small Mormon breakaway groups.

Polygamy—or more specifically polygyny, the marriage of one man to more than one woman—has been widespread in human history. And it is becoming increasingly common, particularly in Muslim enclaves—including in Paris, London and New York.

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Associated Press
Warren Jeffs is led from the Tom Green County Courthouse in San Angelo, Texas after his pretrial hearing in Jan. 2011.
.A 2006 report by the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights reported that approximately 180,000 people were living in polygamous households in France. For decades, France allowed entrance to polygamous immigrants from about 50 countries where the practice was legal. When the French government banned polygamy in 1993, it tried to support the decohabitation of such couples if a wife wanted to move into her own apartment with her children.

In Britain, where immigration laws have banned the practice for longer, there appear to be about a thousand valid polygamous marriages, mostly among immigrants who married elsewhere, such as in Pakistan. Such families are allowed to collect social security benefits for each wife, although the government has apparently not counted how many are doing so.

In the United States, where numbers are more difficult to come by, anecdotal reports indicate underground communities of polygamists in New York City, particularly among immigrant communities from West Africa.

Where the practice remains common in Africa it cuts across religious lines. But in the West, it has been concentrated among Muslims and breakaway Mormon sects. Under Islamic Shariah law, a man is allowed to marry up to four women as long as he can provide for them equally. This should constitute a limiting factor, especially under conditions of poverty. But one way polygamists circumvent this problem is by getting their governments to support unofficial wives whose ambiguous legal status allows them to make claims for aid.

There are more serious problems that come with the practice of polygamy. My research over the past decade, encompassing more than 170 countries, has shown the detrimental effects of polygynous practices on human rights, for both men and women.

According to the information I have helped to collect in the Womanstats database, women in polygynous communities get married younger, have more children, have higher rates of HIV infection than men, sustain more domestic violence, succumb to more female genital mutilation and sex trafficking, and are more likely to die in childbirth. Their life expectancy is also shorter than that of their monogamous sisters. In addition, their children, both boys and girls, are less likely to receive both primary and secondary education.

This is at least partly because polygynist cultures need to create and sustain an underclass of unmarried and undereducated men, since in order to sustain a system where a few men possess all the women, roughly half of boys must leave the community before adulthood. Such societies also spend more money on weapons and display fewer social and political freedoms than do monogamous ones.

When small numbers of men control large numbers of women, the remaining men are likely to be willing to take greater risks and engage in more violence, possibly including terrorism, in order to increase their own wealth and status in hopes of gaining access to women. Whatever their concerns about protecting religious freedom, or demonstrating cultural sensitivity, Western nations should think twice before allowing the kinds of family structures that lead to such abuses.

Ms. McDermott is a professor of political science at Brown University.

26073  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Moore: Takers, not Makers on: April 01, 2011, 07:05:26 AM
If you want to understand better why so many states—from New York to Wisconsin to California—are teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, consider this depressing statistic: Today in America there are nearly twice as many people working for the government (22.5 million) than in all of manufacturing (11.5 million). This is an almost exact reversal of the situation in 1960, when there were 15 million workers in manufacturing and 8.7 million collecting a paycheck from the government.

It gets worse. More Americans work for the government than work in construction, farming, fishing, forestry, manufacturing, mining and utilities combined. We have moved decisively from a nation of makers to a nation of takers. Nearly half of the $2.2 trillion cost of state and local governments is the $1 trillion-a-year tab for pay and benefits of state and local employees. Is it any wonder that so many states and cities cannot pay their bills?

Every state in America today except for two—Indiana and Wisconsin—has more government workers on the payroll than people manufacturing industrial goods. Consider California, which has the highest budget deficit in the history of the states. The not-so Golden State now has an incredible 2.4 million government employees—twice as many as people at work in manufacturing. New Jersey has just under two-and-a-half as many government employees as manufacturers. Florida's ratio is more than 3 to 1. So is New York's.

Even Michigan, at one time the auto capital of the world, and Pennsylvania, once the steel capital, have more government bureaucrats than people making things. The leaders in government hiring are Wyoming and New Mexico, which have hired more than six government workers for every manufacturing worker.

Now it is certainly true that many states have not typically been home to traditional manufacturing operations. Iowa and Nebraska are farm states, for example. But in those states, there are at least five times more government workers than farmers. West Virginia is the mining capital of the world, yet it has at least three times more government workers than miners. New York is the financial capital of the world—at least for now. That sector employs roughly 670,000 New Yorkers. That's less than half of the state's 1.48 million government employees.

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 .Don't expect a reversal of this trend anytime soon. Surveys of college graduates are finding that more and more of our top minds want to work for the government. Why? Because in recent years only government agencies have been hiring, and because the offer of near lifetime security is highly valued in these times of economic turbulence. When 23-year-olds aren't willing to take career risks, we have a real problem on our hands. Sadly, we could end up with a generation of Americans who want to work at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

The employment trends described here are explained in part by hugely beneficial productivity improvements in such traditional industries as farming, manufacturing, financial services and telecommunications. These produce far more output per worker than in the past. The typical farmer, for example, is today at least three times more productive than in 1950.

Where are the productivity gains in government? Consider a core function of state and local governments: schools. Over the period 1970-2005, school spending per pupil, adjusted for inflation, doubled, while standardized achievement test scores were flat. Over roughly that same time period, public-school employment doubled per student, according to a study by researchers at the University of Washington. That is what economists call negative productivity.

But education is an industry where we measure performance backwards: We gauge school performance not by outputs, but by inputs. If quality falls, we say we didn't pay teachers enough or we need smaller class sizes or newer schools. If education had undergone the same productivity revolution that manufacturing has, we would have half as many educators, smaller school budgets, and higher graduation rates and test scores.

The same is true of almost all other government services. Mass transit spends more and more every year and yet a much smaller share of Americans use trains and buses today than in past decades. One way that private companies spur productivity is by firing underperforming employees and rewarding excellence. In government employment, tenure for teachers and near lifetime employment for other civil servants shields workers from this basic system of reward and punishment. It is a system that breeds mediocrity, which is what we've gotten.

Most reasonable steps to restrain public-sector employment costs are smothered by the unions. Study after study has shown that states and cities could shave 20% to 40% off the cost of many services—fire fighting, public transportation, garbage collection, administrative functions, even prison operations—through competitive contracting to private providers. But unions have blocked many of those efforts. Public employees maintain that they are underpaid relative to equally qualified private-sector workers, yet they are deathly afraid of competitive bidding for government services.

President Obama says we have to retool our economy to "win the future." The only way to do that is to grow the economy that makes things, not the sector that takes things.

Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
26074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain and Lieberman on: April 01, 2011, 07:03:09 AM

Not that I agree with this, but worth noting.  Tangential reflection is to wonder what kind of a President McCain would have been , , ,


President Obama made a compelling case for our intervention in Libya on Monday evening, and U.S. actions there deserve bipartisan support in Congress. As the president rightly noted, failure to intervene militarily would have resulted in a humanitarian and strategic disaster. Because of our actions, the Gadhafi regime has been prevented from brutally crushing its opposition.

The president was also correct in framing what is happening in Libya within the broader context of the democratic awakening that is sweeping across the broader Middle East—the most consequential geopolitical realignment since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

If Gadhafi is allowed to hang onto power through the use of indiscriminate violence, it will send a message to dictators throughout the region and beyond that the way to respond, when people rise up peacefully and demand their rights, is through repression and slaughter—and that the rest of the world, including the U.S., won't stand in the way.

What is needed now is not a backward-looking debate about what the administration could or should have done differently, but a forward-looking strategy that identifies America's national interests in Libya and works to achieve them.

As President Obama has rightly and repeatedly insisted, a successful outcome in Libya requires the departure of Gadhafi as quickly as possible. It is not in our interest for Libya to become the scene of a protracted stalemate that will destabilize and inflame the region.

While both Arab leaders and public opinion are hostile towards Gadhafi personally—a fact that helps explain the Arab League's unprecedented decision to support intervention in Libya—we are concerned that regional support will waver if Western forces are perceived as presiding over a military deadlock. We cannot allow Gadhafi to consolidate his grip over part of the country and settle in for the long haul.

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Zuma Press
A Libyan rebel
.There are several steps urgently needed to prevent this outcome. First, while we understand the diplomatic reasons behind the Obama administration's reluctance to make Gadhafi's removal an explicit goal of the coalition military mission, the reality on the ground is that our coalition's air strikes against his forces must work toward this objective.

In the days ahead, it is imperative that we maintain and if necessary expand our air strikes against Gadhafi's ground forces, which pose a threat to civilians wherever they are. In doing so, we can pave the way for the Libyan opposition to reverse Gadhafi's offensive and to resume their quest to end his rule.

The battlefield reversals suffered by the opposition this week, when weather conditions hampered coalition air strikes, underscore the need for a more robust and coherent package of aid to the rebel ground forces.

The U.S. should also expand engagement with the Libyan opposition, led by the interim Transitional National Council currently based in Benghazi. We have been encouraged by the Obama administration's growing rhetorical support for the opposition, but we hope to see more tangible manifestations of it in the days ahead.

In particular, we and our allies should be providing the council with the communications equipment, logistical support, training, tactical intelligence and weapons necessary to consolidate rule over the territory they have liberated and to continue tilting the balance of power against Gadhafi. We do not need to put U.S. forces on the ground precisely because the Libyans themselves are fighting for their freedom. But they need our help, and quickly, to succeed.

Another immediate priority should be getting humanitarian assistance into eastern Libya and restoring telecommunications access there, where Gadhafi has cut off land lines, mobile networks and the Internet. While top opposition leaders have satellite phones, we have both humanitarian and strategic interests in restoring the ability of people in liberated parts of Libya to communicate with each other and the rest of the world. We should also take steps to get Gadhafi's satellite, television, and radio broadcasts off the air, while helping the opposition air its broadcasting.

Finally, we should follow France and Qatar in recognizing the Transitional National Council as the legitimate government of Libya, and we should encourage other allies and partners to do the same.

Some critics still argue that we should be cautious about helping the Libyan opposition, warning that we do not know enough about them or that their victory could pave the way for an al Qaeda takeover. Both arguments are hollow. By all accounts, the Transitional National Council is led by moderates who have declared their vision for (as their website puts it) Libya becoming "a constitutional democratic civil state based on the rule of law, respect for human rights and the guarantee of equal rights and opportunities for all its citizens."

If there is any hope for a decent government to emerge from the ashes of the Gadhafi dictatorship, this is it. Throwing our weight behind the transitional government is our best chance to prevent Libya's unraveling into postwar anarchy—precisely the circumstance under which Islamist extremists are most likely to gain a foothold.

We cannot guarantee the success of the Libyan revolution, but we have prevented what was, barely a week ago, its imminent destruction. That is why the president was right to intervene. He now deserves our support as we and our coalition partners do all that is necessary to help the Libyan people secure a future of freedom.

Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. Mr. McCain is a Republican senator from Arizona.

26075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: April 01, 2011, 06:53:59 AM
Woof Rachel:

I like her energy a lot.


Roles Adar II 22, 5771 · March 28, 2011
By Tzvi Freeman Print this Page

A metaphor of the Talmud:

A man works in the field and brings home wheat --but shall he then eat wheat? Of what use is his toil?

His wife grinds the wheat into flour and makes bread.

So too, the tasks of life: A man's spiritual accomplishments only become realized in the material world due to his wife.

26076  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The battle of every day continues , , , on: April 01, 2011, 06:48:29 AM
26077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Herman Cain: on: April 01, 2011, 06:38:13 AM

No reasl substance here, but a chance to get a feel for his personality a bit.
26078  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: April 01, 2011, 06:31:34 AM

Yesterday's show:

All this week, Glenn has been asking the questions - Who is looking out for Israel? And, who is standing up for freedom here and all over the world? Well, one thing is for certain- we know the answer to these questions is certainly not Iran. They want to take both the United States and Israel down and clear the path for the Twelfth Imam. Tonight, Glenn welcomes a special guest to the program...a former member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard shares some frightening video that proves the regime is indeed preparing for the return of the Twelfth Imam. Plus, CBN Host Erick Stackelbeck.
26079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ-Henninger: Public Unions, is CA next? on: April 01, 2011, 06:28:52 AM

Wisconsin's public union fight is the battle of the century in American politics. But while the governors of Wisconsin and Ohio have led the pushback, it's possible that the public-pension battle could shift in the future to California—with or without the participation of its governor, the endlessly recyclable Jerry Brown. Even in this bluest of states, the ground is shaking beneath the unions.

California—a state that spent the 20th century exploding with creativity, growth and wealth—now staggers beneath a $26 billion deficit. But city officials across California, already staring into their own fiscal abyss, aren't waiting for help from hapless Sacramento.

Costa Mesa, in Orange County, just fired half of its work force. Days later, Los Angeles reached a tentative deal in which workers would pay more into pension and health plans. The next day, thousands of L.A. unionists marched against an array of perceived enemies—Wisconsin, corporations, Republicans.

Then there's San Francisco, about the last place in California you would expect to find an official determined to fight the financial weight of its public unions. Even legal thriller-writer Scott Turow couldn't make this up, but the man taking on the unions in San Francisco is its Public Defender, Jeff Adachi.

Mr. Adachi, 52, runs an agency of lawyers who provide legal services to poor people. He is a card-carrying San Francisco Democrat. As he sees it, payments for public pensions and health care are defunding the world he believes in.

"I'm seen as a liberal progressive, a rage against the machine person," he said this past week at his offices downtown. "If you care about social programs or the network of support services, you have to understand that pensions and benefit costs are crowding out all these services."

As a public official, there was nothing he could do about it. So in a kind of Batman moment, Mr. Adachi as a private citizen got up an initiative last year, Proposition B, which would have required current workers to pay more toward pension and health-care costs.

He got financial support from a prominent local Democrat, Mike Moritz of Sequoia Capital. California's most famous living Democrat, former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, supported him. He collected 76,000 signatures. In November, Prop. B lost by 13 points beneath a mudslide of public union money. Mr. Adachi is retooling his proposition for another vote this November.

 Daniel Henninger discusses that serious Californians, on the right and the left, know how much fiscal trouble they're in.
.Podcast: Listen to the audio of Wonder Land here. .It's possible to look at California as the land that time forgot, a place incapable of real reform. But it's also possible that the stubborn pluck that built California is being rediscovered, and in unlikely places.

A few weeks ago, a small group of current and former municipal officials and taxpayer advocates in the San Francisco Bay Area convened to form California United for Fiscal Reform.

Its co-chairs are Mr. Adachi and Stephanie Gomes, the outspoken city council member from Vallejo, famously the largest California city to declare Chapter 9 bankruptcy. Their first meeting this month attracted representatives from Menlo Park, Pleasanton, Contra Costa County, and Sonoma County.

"These costs are a tsunami," says Ms. Gomes. "If we can't rely on the state to fix it, we have to do it locally, and we have to join together, because the unions are joined."

In Orange County, the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility and the Pacific Research Institute recently held a "Pension Boot Camp," where some 175 elected officials and others heard talks such as, "What hasn't Calpers told you?"

What Calpers, the state's public-employee retirement system, has told the cities is that many of their pension payments are constitutionally mandated. That means the lead on major reform would have to come from the mercurial Gov. Brown. He talked about it in his campaign, but not much since.

High-level help for the embattled locals, however, may come from another California official, U.S. Congressman Devin Nunes. Rep. Nunes is building support for his Public Employee Pension Transparency Act, which would require states and municipalities to produce a coherent picture of their pension obligations. Imagine that. The bill says that they can stay opaque if they wish, but failure to disclose would cut them off from the federal tax exemption for muni bonds.

Serious Californians know how much trouble they're in. Last June, the Civil Grand Jury in San Francisco issued a report on pensions, "The Billion Dollar Bubble." Its conclusion: "This report is a warning of a deepening crisis in the City's financial condition. . . . We cannot wait."

A report last month from the state's respected Little Hoover Commission said that California has no choice but to take on the edifice of court decisions mandating pension costs to nowhere.

Every person I talked to in California about this issue, from left to right, agrees they have a common problem: Over the years, the public unions "bought" politicians from the smallest city to the state capital in Sacramento. California is a blue state all right, but it just may be that it is turning blue with rage at the inexorable destruction of its public life.

26080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libya and on: April 01, 2011, 06:24:43 AM
OK coy one, I will bite.  What is the real reason?
26081  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Prayer and Daily Expression of Gratitude on: April 01, 2011, 06:15:16 AM
Grateful for wonderful family time.

Grateful for Boxing Works, an outstaning place to have the unusual workouts that I do.
26082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stephen Lerner on being a focus of GB on: March 31, 2011, 08:05:44 PM

As an organizer, I go to a lot of meetings, panels and discussions and often leave feeling like I’m caught in the movie Groundhog Day, where I am reliving the same discussions and debates over and over again, and wondering if they hold any relevance for anyone else. That’s why I was so surprised when my secretly taped comments about the need to challenge Wall Street and corporate power using direct action, delivered on March 19 at the Left Forum in New York City, set off a right-wing firestorm.

About Stephen Lerner
Stephen Lerner serves on the Service Employees International Union’s International Executive Board and is the....Related Topics.Glenn Beck Groundhog Day New York City Social Issues .A funny thing happened on the way home from the forum. Overnight I was transformed by Glenn Beck into an all-powerful agent of “economic terrorism.” Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz called for a federal investigation of me, and right-wing blogs claimed that my comments revealed a vast conspiracy to take over the country and the economy.

What did I say that led Beck to spend two nights attacking me and defending big banks and Wall Street CEOs?

I think I may have found part of the answer in what disgraced former Wall Street stock analyst Henry Blodget admitted when he echoed Beck’s wild theories on Business Insider. Describing my remarks, he wrote, “Many Americans will undoubtedly sympathize with and support them.”

So that was it: Beck, right-wingers and Wall Street sympathizers went ballistic because they knew the ideas I talked about are far from being a secret leftist conspiracy; in fact, they’re in sync with the thinking of most Americans. In my talk, I raised a very simple yet powerful idea: that homeowners, students, citizens and workers should make the same practical decisions Wall Street and corporate CEOs make every day—they should reject bad financial deals.

Beck and Wall Street are terrified that regular Americans will begin to challenge the double standard that allows one set of rules for the rich and another for the rest of us. They are petrified of the growing understanding, among people of diverse political backgrounds, that our country isn’t broke; that the tiny elite at the top has manipulated the economic crisis it created to grow even richer and more powerful while the rest of us suffer the consequences; and that Wall Street and corporations, sitting on record profits, are holding the country hostage, essentially threatening a capital strike if they don’t get further tax and regulatory breaks.

As long as Wall Street and the superrich feel secure and confident, they have no reason to negotiate a fair deal with the rest of us. Only by creating uncertainty and instability for them—by disrupting unfair business as usual—can we build the strength to challenge their stranglehold on our economy and our democracy.

But I don’t think it was just my theorizing about power relationships and the economy that set off such a frenzy. It was the prospect that average Americans could take a series of concrete and practical steps, including direct action and civil disobedience, to make Wall Street pay for the trillions it stole from us. Ordinary Americans have the power and the opportunity to go on offense right now—with the immediate goals of keeping millions of people in their homes and raising revenue for cities and states to save jobs and critical services.

Here’s how we can start:

§ Homeowners and students can stop paying unfair debt. If growing numbers of homeowners and students organize toward a loan strike—threatening to refuse to pay their toxic mortgages and student loans unless banks agree to negotiate lower rates—it could force banks to modify loans and provide relief to our families.

§ Citizens can demand that our governments stop doing business with bandit banks. Local governments conduct trillions in business with Wall Street banks. That leverage can be used to force the banks to pay their fair share in taxes, renegotiate high-cost deals that are bankrupting taxpayers with astronomical interest rates, and stop foreclosures by reducing mortgage principals.

§ Public employees can use their collective bargaining power to protect taxpayer dollars. Teachers, nurses and other public employees can go to the bargaining table armed with solutions that would save billions, like renegotiating the toxic interest rate swaps that are costing taxpayers at least $1.8 billion a year nationally. Swaps were supposed to save taxpayers money, but they backfired when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates after the financial crash to help the banks. Now, as taxpayers deal with devastating cuts, the banks are using these swaps to suck millions out of government coffers. Imagine public employees voting to strike in order to pressure the city or state to use its power to protect taxpayers and critical services while also stopping foreclosures and stabilizing the housing market and tax base.

So let’s give Wall Street, Glenn Beck and the right something to be scared about. It’s time to use our collective power to challenge the economic and political stranglehold they have on our country.

Join thousands of Americans on April 4 in cities across the country for a dramatic series of actions to stand up for the middle class. On April 5, join the national teach-in with Frances Piven and Cornel West. Or start organizing in your own community to challenge the power of Wall Street and corporate CEOs.

26083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Try, try again on: March 31, 2011, 03:08:54 PM
26084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Cognitive Dissonance of the Republicans on: March 31, 2011, 01:43:12 PM
No time at the moment to make the first contribution to this thread, but I did want to open the door , , ,
26085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy & Big Brother (both State and Corporate) on: March 31, 2011, 01:17:22 PM
Very witty , , , and devoid of actual content  tongue cheesy
26086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Yemen on: March 31, 2011, 08:00:39 AM

By Scott Stewart

While the world’s attention is focused on the combat transpiring in Libya and the events in Egypt and Bahrain, Yemen has also descended into crisis. The country is deeply split over its support for Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and this profound divide has also extended to the most powerful institutions in the country — the military and the tribes — with some factions calling for Saleh to relinquish power and others supporting him. The tense standoff in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa has served to divert attention (and security forces) from other parts of the country.

On March 28, an explosion at a munitions factory in southern Yemen killed at least 110 people. The factory, which reportedly produced AK rifles and ammunition, was located in the town of Jaar in Abyan province. Armed militants looted the factory March 27, and the explosion reportedly occurred the next day as local townspeople were rummaging through the factory. It is not known what sparked the explosion, but it is suspected to have been an accident, perhaps caused by careless smoking.

The government has reported that the jihadist group Aden-Abyan Islamic Army worked with militant separatists from the south to conduct the raid on the factory. Other sources have indicated to STRATFOR that they believe the raid was conducted by tribesman from Loder. Given the history of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) activity in the Loder area, if the tribesmen were indeed from Loder, it is highly likely they were at least sympathetic to AQAP if not affiliated with the group.

While it is in Saleh’s interest to play up the separatist and jihadist threats as a way of showing international and internal parties how important he is and why he should remain in power, these threats are indeed legitimate. Even in the best of times, there are large portions of Yemen that are under tenuous government control, and the current crisis has enlarged this power vacuum. Because of this lack of government focus and the opportunity to gather weapons in places like Jaar, militant groups such as AQAP, the strongest of al Qaeda’s regional franchise groups, have been provided with a golden opportunity. The question is: Will they be capable of fully exploiting it?

The Situation in Yemen

The raid on the arms factory in Jaar was facilitated by the fact that government security forces had been forced to focus elsewhere. Reports indicate that there was only a company of Yemeni troops in Jaar to guard the factory and that they were quickly overwhelmed by the militants. While the government moved a battalion into Jaar to restore order, those troops had to be taken from elsewhere. This confrontation between troops loyal to Saleh and those led by Brig. Gen. Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar in the capital city has also caused security forces from both sides to be drawn back to Sanaa in anticipation of a clash. It has also resulted in a vacuum of power in many parts of the country. Currently, government control over large parts of the country varies from town to town, especially in provinces such as Saada, al-Jouf, Shabwa and Abyan, which have long histories of separatist activity.

It is important to understand that Yemen was not a very cohesive entity going into this current crisis, and the writ of the central government has been continually challenged since the country’s founding. Until 1990, Yemen was split into two countries, the conservative, Saudi-influenced Yemen Arab Republic in the north and the Marxist, secular People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen in the south. In 1994, following a peaceful unification in 1990, a bloody civil war was fought between the north and the south. While the north won the war, tensions have remained high between the two sides, and there has long been a simmering anti-government sentiment in the south. This sentiment has periodically manifested itself in outbreaks of armed hostilities between the armed southern separatist movement and government forces.

In Yemen’s northwest, the al-Houthi rebels also have been waging a war of secession against the central government in Sanaa. In the last round of open hostilities, which ended in January 2010, the Yemeni government was unable to quell the uprising, and Saudi Arabia had to commit military forces to help force the al-Houthi rebels to capitulate.

Yemen’s tribes present another challenge to the central government. President Saleh had been able to use a system of patronage and payoffs to help secure the support of the country’s powerful tribes, but this recently has become more difficult with Saudi influence with the tribes eclipsing that of Saleh. In recent weeks, many prominent tribal leaders such as the al-Ahmars have decided to join the opposition and denounce Saleh. The tribes have always been largely independent and have controlled large sections of the country with very little government interference. Government influence there is even less now.

Saleh has also used the conservative tribes and jihadists to help him in his battles against secessionists in both the north and the south. They proved eager to fight the secular Marxists in the south and the Zaydi Shiite al-Houthi in the north. The practice of relying on the conservative tribes and jihadists has also blown back on the Yemeni regime and, as in Pakistan, there are jihadist sympathizers within the Yemeni security apparatus. Because of this dynamic, efforts to locate and root out AQAP elements have been very complicated and limited.

The Yemeni tribes practice a very conservative form of Islam, and their tribal traditions are in many ways similar to the Pashtunwali code in Pakistan. According to this tradition, any guest of the tribe — such as an al Qaeda militant — is vigorously protected once welcomed. They will also protect “sons of the tribe,” such as American-born Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, a member of the powerful Awlak tribe (the Yemeni prime minister is the uncle of al-Awlaki’s father). The AQAP leadership has further exploited this tribal tradition by shrewdly marrying into many of the powerful tribes in order to solidify the mantle of protection they provide.


In late 2009, in the wake of the Christmas Day plot to destroy Northwest Airlines Flight 253, the Fort Hood shootings and the attempted assassination of the Saudi deputy interior minister, STRATFOR believed that 2010 was going to see a concerted effort by the Yemenis to destroy the AQAP organization. As 2010 passed, it became clear that, despite the urging and assistance of their U.S. and Saudi allies, the Yemenis had been unable to cause much damage to AQAP as an organization, and as evidenced by the Oct. 29, 2010, cargo-bomb attempt, AQAP finished 2010 stronger than we had anticipated.

In fact, as we entered 2011, AQAP had moved to the forefront of the international jihadist movement on the physical battlefield and had also begun to take a leading role in the ideological realm due to a number of factors, including the group’s popular Arabic-language online magazine Sada al-Malahim, the emergence of AQAP’s English-language Inspire magazine and the increased profile and popularity of al-Awlaki.

As we noted last month regarding Libya, jihadists have long thrived in chaotic environments such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Indeed, this is exactly why the leadership of AQAP left Saudi Arabia and relocated to the more permissive environment of Yemen. Unlike the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, AQAP is active, has attempted to conduct a number of transnational attacks, and has sought to encourage grassroots jihadists across the globe to think globally and attack locally. With the government of Yemen unable to prosecute a successful campaign against AQAP in 2010, the chance of them making much progress against the group in 2011 amid the current crisis is even more remote.

The United States has spent the past several years training up a “new guard” within the Yemeni security apparatus — mainly the Counter Terrorism Unit, National Security Bureau, Special Forces and Central Security Forces, which are all led by Saleh’s relatives — in an effort to counterbalance the influence of the Islamist old guard in the military (led by Saleh’s big competitor right now, Ali Mohsin). These select forces are now being tasked with protecting the Saleh regime against dissident units of the Yemeni military, which means there is no one left on the Yemeni side to focus on AQAP. This situation is likely to persist for some time as the standoff progresses and even after the installation of a new government, which will have to sort things out and deal with the separatist issues in the north and south. Indeed, these issues are seen as more pressing threats to the regime than AQAP and the jihadists.

If there is a transition of power in Yemen, and Mohsin and his faction come to power, there is likely to be a purge of these new guard forces and their leadership, which is loyal to Saleh. The result will be a removal of the new guard and an increase in the influence of the Islamists and jihadist sympathizers in the Yemeni security and intelligence apparatus. This could have a significant impact on U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Yemen, and provide a significant opportunity for AQAP.

The violence and civil unrest wracking Yemen has almost certainly curtailed the ability of American intelligence officers to travel, meet with people and collect much information pertaining to AQAP, especially in places that have fallen under militant control. Additionally, the attention of U.S. intelligence agencies has in all likelihood been diverted to the task of trying to gather intelligence pertaining to what is happening with Saleh and the opposition rather than what is happening with AQAP. This will likely provide AQAP with some breathing room.

The United States has been quietly active in Yemen, albeit in a limited way, under the auspices of the Yemeni government. If the Islamist old guard in the military assumes power, it is quite likely that this operational arrangement will not continue — at least not initially. Because of this, should the United States believe that the Saleh regime is about to fall, it may no longer be concerned about alienating the tribes that have supported Saleh, and if it has somehow obtained good intelligence regarding the location of various high-value AQAP targets, it may feel compelled to take unilateral action to attack those targets. Such an operational window will likely be limited, however, and once Saleh leaves, such opportunities will likely be lost.

If the United States is not able to take such unilateral action, AQAP will have an excellent opportunity to grow and flourish due to the preoccupation of Yemeni security forces with other things, and the possibility of having even more sympathizers in the government. Not only will this likely result in fewer offensive operations against AQAP in the tribal areas, but the group will also likely be able to acquire additional resources and weapons.

In the past, the leadership of AQAP has shown itself to be shrewd and adaptable, although the group has not displayed a high degree of tactical competence in past attacks against hard targets such as the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa and the British ambassador. Still, AQAP has come very close to succeeding in a number of failed yet innovative attacks outside of Yemen, including the assassination attempt against Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the Christmas Day 2009 underwear-bomb plot and the UPS printer-bomb plot in October 2009, and the window of opportunity that is opening for the group is sure to cause a great deal of angst in Washington, Riyadh and a number of European capitals. It remains to be seen if AQAP can take advantage of the situation in Yemen to conduct a successful attack outside of the country (or a hard target within the country) and finally make it into the terrorist big leagues.

Read more: AQAP and the Vacuum of Authority in Yemen | STRATFOR
26087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Covert support for Libya rebels! on: March 30, 2011, 06:33:49 PM
26088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy & Big Brother (both State and Corporate) on: March 30, 2011, 05:49:51 PM
VERY interesting subject matter to me!!!  Cindy and I live an Sisyphean struggle on a regular basis with sites that pirate our DVDs.  angry angry angry
26089  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Syria on: March 30, 2011, 02:52:06 PM
Lets make this the default thread for Syria folks.

VERY interesting commentary in this piece.

While protests in Syria are increasing in size and scope, the Syrian regime does not appear to be taking chances by parsing out political reforms that could further embolden the opposition. Instead, the Syrian regime is more likely to resort to more forceful crackdowns, which is likely to highlight the growing contradictions in U.S. public diplomacy in the region.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad delivered a speech to parliament on Wednesday in which he was expected to announce a number of political reforms including the lifting of the state of emergency, which has been in place since 1963. Instead, Bashar al Assad largely avoided talk of reforms. He said that security and stability needs to come first. He also built on a narrative that foreign elements were exploiting the grievances of the Syrian people and trying to break the country apart.

The minority Alawite regime in Syria faces immense socioeconomic challenges as well as demographic challenges but there are a number of reasons why the Syrian president appears to be so confident. Protesters in Daraa have come under heavy pressure by Syrian security forces and continue to come out in large numbers. Protests have also spread beyond Daraa to cities like Damascus, Latakia, Homs, Hama and Kamishli, but the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, which is the main opposition group in the country, has not put its full weight behind the demonstrations and probably for good reason. The Muslim Brotherhood remembers well the 1982 massacre at Hama which devastated the movement and essentially razed that city to the ground. The Brotherhood is likely looking for assurances from the West that they’re going to receive protection as the crackdowns intensify.

But there’s really no guarantee that the Syrian opposition is going to get those assurances. The U.S. administration has been very careful to distinguish between the humanitarian military intervention in Libya and the situation in Syria, arguing that the level of repression in Syria hasn’t escalated to a point that would require military intervention. The U.S. really has no strategic interest in getting involved in Syria in the first place. Syria would be a much more complicated military affair. The prospects for success would be low and the downfall of the al Assad regime is also not a scenario that the Israelis want to see. The al Assad regime remains hostile to Israel but the virtue in that regime from the Israeli point of view lies in its predictability. The Israelis don’t want to see situation developed in which Syrian Islamists could create the political space in which to influence Syrian foreign policy.

To help ensure that it’s not going to get the Libya treatment, the Syrian regime is likely looking to Turkey for some assistance. Turkey, which has become much more assertive in the region and has stepped up its mediation efforts in Syria, does not want to see another crisis flare up on its border. While encouraging reforms in Syria, the Turks have also likely played a key role in getting the Syrians to clamp down on Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad activity in the Palestinian territories recently. While the Turks will be encouraging the al Assad regime to make reforms at the right time, they could play key role in quietly sustaining external support for the Syrian regime. Syria’s crisis is far from over and the protests could continue to escalate especially now that the al Assad regime has made clear it’s not willing to go down that slippery slope of offering concessions to the opposition. The Syrian security and intelligence apparatus remains a formidable force and remains fairly unified in its approach to dealing with the uprising. What we’ll see in the coming days is whether those crackdowns will actually have the regime’s desired effect.

26090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: March 30, 2011, 12:40:30 PM
What is AUSA?

Would the sign-off necessarily be something Holder would know about?  Would it request for approval be apparent on its face as the clusterfcuk it was destined to be?
26091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / two questions on: March 30, 2011, 12:34:48 PM
a) Are we buying his explanation?  At the moment I am inclined to say yes

b) What do we make of his analysis?

Measuring Obama’s Speech
by Newt Gingrich

Monday morning, I posted to Facebook a five question checklist by which to measure President Obama’s speech on our military engagement in Libya.

Here is my analysis of how effectively the president answered those questions:

Does President Obama cite working with Congress more than working with the Arab League or the United Nations?

No. President Obama mentioned Congress just once in a 3,400 word speech.  In contrast, he mentioned the United Nations Security Council and Arab league eight times.  Furthermore, he dedicated a significant portion of his speech to the importance of cooperation between Western and Arab allies.

As I have said, I do think having allies in this effort is valuable, especially Arab ones. However, that desire must be appropriately balanced against the obligation the president has to respect Congress’ role, as well as the objectives of the mission at hand (more on this later). 

President Obama made it remarkably clear in his speech that he places a much higher value on gaining the approval of the United Nations and the Arab League than he does on consulting Congress.  By his own account, he committed the United States to action with a United Nations resolution before consulting with Congressional leaders, which he did only just before the bombing began. 

The president also never seemed to consider the fact that allies – including Arab ones – could have been assembled faster in a way that bypassed the corruption of the United Nations.   

Does President Obama define replacing Qaddafi as our clear and explicit goal? Having said Qaddafi “needs to leave" that has to be the goal of this war.
No.  In fact, he said quite the opposite, that our mission was to stop an imminent humanitarian catastrophe and that “broadening our military mission to include regime change would be a mistake.” 

There are two problems with the president’s argument. 

The first goes back to the disproportional value the president places on gaining the approval of the United Nations.

The president tried to make the case Monday night that our military engagement was justified in order to protect human life.  Yet, the first reports of Qaddafi’s forces firing on the Libyan people, including with his air force, arose in late February. On March 5th the Libyan dictator’s army fired on unarmed protesters.  On March 6th, his forces laid siege to the rebel-held town of Zawiyah.

The president, however, chose to wait almost two weeks, until March 19th, for a diplomatic consensus to emerge and resolutions to be passed in the U.N. Security Council before taking action. 

The disturbing conclusion one can draw from President Obama’s actions is that he believes the special duty he spoke of, for the United States to not turn a blind eye to atrocities committed by dictators, ranks lower on his list of priorities than gaining approval from the United Nations to do something about them.  He clearly favors muddled coalition consensus to moral leadership.

The second problem is that leaving Qaddafi in power will not stop the humanitarian crisis; it simply drives it underground. In the face of overwhelming military superiority, Qaddafi will most likely conclude that his best option is to retaliate in ways that cannot be stopped with air power.  In fact, hearing the President of the United States publicly say he would not use the military to drive him out of power will almost certainly convince Qaddafi his best option is to dig in. 

The United States is signaling that all he has to do is wait it out because the president has explicitly told Qaddafi that we are not going to force him to leave power.  This leaves us with an open ended commitment to enforce a no-fly zone. The Iraq no-fly zone lasted a dozen years and did not remove Saddam Hussein from power.

The simple fact is that so long as Qaddafi remains in power, the people of Libya remain at risk of violence by their government.  That’s why the president’s “mission accomplished” message rings so hollow. 

3. Does President Obama pledge to send a request to Congress to pay for the cost of the war so our men and women in uniform are not asked to take it out of an already stretched budget while they are still engaged in two other wars and several small campaigns?

No.  The president did not mention how this effort was going to be paid for.  All indications are that it will come directly from the Pentagon’s budget, leaving our men and women in uniform who are already stretched with even fewer resources.

4. Does President Obama acknowledge the danger of Al Qaeda allies among the anti-Qaddafi forces and pledge to work for a moderate replacement government without extremist factions?

Partial credit.  The president never acknowledged the likelihood of the presence of al-Qaeda within the rebel forces but did speak vaguely about diplomatic efforts to “support a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve.”  He then concluded his speech with a more specific commitment that the United States would find ways to help those around the world that believe in core American principles. 

5. Does President Obama describe clearly the coalition command structure, the American role, and an allied commitment to defeat Qaddafi?

No.  In fact, his explanation of handing off command to NATO made it seem as if NATO was some sort of separate country with its own military resources.  In fact, NATO is simply a military alliance and command structure through which our allies conduct joint military operations.  In practice, handing off control of the operation to NATO only means that command will be transferred from American General Carter Ham (Commander of U.S. Africa Command) to American Admiral James Stavridis (Supreme Allied Commander-Europe).

The president also failed to mention there is currently another engagement being commanded by NATO – the mission in Afghanistan.  Of course, mentioning that would have exposed the smokescreen he was trying to create, since the United States continues to pay a heavy financial and human toll in Afghanistan every day.

The president’s long overdue explanation to the country was unsatisfactory in providing clear objectives for Libya.  He did not explain why he valued the consensus of the international community over the Congress.  His previously stated goal of removing Qaddafi is not in line with the goals of the coalition.  He has placed the U.S. military in the position of refereeing a civil war under the auspices of a humanitarian effort without a definition of success.  Lastly, the president cannot say today when our commitment to enforcing the no-fly zone might end.

What Should Have Been Done versus What Must Be Done Now

On February 24, I stated that U.S. military force was not necessary to remove Qaddafi.  He was clearly in a weak position and we could have worked with our allies, particularly our Arab allies, who want to see a post-Qaddafi Libya, using quiet, covert, and indirect action to get rid of Qaddafi. 

On March 3rd the president took that option off the table when he unambiguously declared that Qaddafi must step down from power and leave.  This statement put the authority and prestige of the United States against a dictator, committing the United States to that objective.  Anything less would be seen as a defeat for the United States.

In that new reality, I commented on March 7th that we should declare a no-fly zone in support of the president’s public commitment to oust the dictator. 

By March 19th, however, the president had dropped his objective of getting rid of Qaddafi and adopted the U.N.’s objective of enforcing a no-fly zone for a humanitarian cease-fire. I said at that time I did not support using the U.S military if it was not for the expressed purpose of removing Qaddafi from power.  I reiterated that prior to March 3rd, I would not have intervened militarily, but after March 3rd the only reason to use military force was to get rid of Qaddafi.

World events are becoming more complicated, intertwined, and fast paced.  As such, our leaders need to be able to adjust their analysis and prescriptions as the facts dictate. 

You can watch and read a complete timeline of my statements on Libya here.   

Your Friend,

26092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 30, 2011, 11:58:42 AM

I don't think the point is whether I/we agree with Baraq.  We don't!!! The point is that at the water's edge we should be very careful with partisan bickering.

I would be delighted if one of Kadaffy's henchmen were to put one bullet through both his ears and some sort of national reconciliation coalition government were to form even though it would be to Baraq's political benefit.  I would be delighted if our course of action earned us respect and good feelings in the Arab world, in the Muslim world.  I'm not saying this is likely, but who the hell knows?  I'm certainly not saying that Baraq went about any of this very well, merely that I wish our country success.

I certainly like the spirit of the rebels I see in news clips.  Most of them seem like real people, bearing arms in spontaneously formed well-unorganized militias  wink against one genuine anus of a leader, with an intuitive desire for something freer than what they know now.   Its a spirit that America used to be known for supporting.
26093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 30, 2011, 11:39:48 AM
Death or departure of Kadaffy, some sort of reasonable government (i.e. not AQ types) or , , , some honorable way out of the whole fg thing.
26094  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iman intimidated into retracting statements in support of Darwinism on: March 30, 2011, 11:37:13 AM
Imam who believes in evolution retracts statements

Many British Muslims do not believe in Darwin's theory of evolution
An imam has retracted statements about evolution and the right of Muslim women not to cover their hair after death threats were made against him.

Dr Usama Hasan, a science lecturer, has voluntarily suspended his role in taking Friday prayers at Leyton Mosque in east London.

He said he went too far in the way he defended the theory of evolution.

He acknowledged many British Muslims believe in creationism, adding that he intended only to begin a debate.

Dr Hasan - a senior lecturer at Middlesex University - used an opinion piece on the Guardian newspaper's website in 2008 to suggest Darwin's theory of evolution was not incompatible with the teaching of Islam.

He wrote that there were many Muslim biologists who had no doubt about the essential correctness of evolutionary theory and he added: "Many believers in God have no problem with an obvious solution: that God created man via evolution."

'Obscuring clear scientific thinking'
Dr Hasan wrote: "Snazzy websites, videos and books produced by fundamentalist Muslim 'creationists' such as those at, are obscuring clear scientific thinking."

He also wrote: "One problem is that many Muslims retain the simple picture that God created Adam from clay, much as a potter makes a statue, and then breathed into the lifeless statue and lo! it became a living human.

"This is a children's madrasa-level understanding and Muslims really have to move on as adults and intellectuals."

In a separate article he claimed the requirement for women to cover their hair in public was cultural in origin, and that British Muslims should have the choice.

The BBC's Religious Affairs Correspondent Robert Pigott said his remarks three years ago have led to fatwas denouncing him from Muslim scholars in several countries.

More recently, it was reported that he was subjected to death threats when he delivered a lecture in January and that a leaflet campaign had been mounted against him.

Dr Hasan, who is vice chairman of Leyton Mosque - which houses one of the country's largest sharia courts - has agreed he went too far in suggesting that the Adam of the creation story would have had human parents.
26095  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People (Gun rights stuff ) on: March 30, 2011, 11:33:53 AM
Although given the political convenience of this operation to the gun control objectives of Team Obama it is not impossible that some word from on high was whispered into someone's ear at BATF (and this would be an impeachable offense if it did happen IMHO) what makes sense to me is that operations such as this stay within the bureaucracy and do not reach the White House.
26096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: March 30, 2011, 11:15:32 AM
That may well be, but IMHO as good Americans we must not wish or work for it to be so in order to politically hurt Obama-- nor should we been seen as wishing or working for American failure.  Leave that to the Progressive Dems as they did to us in Iraq.
26097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glenn Beck: "Right to Protect" will be used against Israel on: March 30, 2011, 11:11:09 AM
Glenn Beck connects dots and predicts that the "Right to Protect" doctrine will be used to attack Israel
26098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: March 30, 2011, 06:32:07 AM
China's crackdown on domestic dissenters continues, with a 10-year prison sentence issued on Friday to Liu Xianbin, a founder of the China Democratic Party and a signer of Charter 08, a pro-democracy charter. Mr. Liu was sentenced for subverting state power, which in China can mean anything the authorities want it to mean, even advocating for democratic freedoms.

Ten years is unusually harsh and especially so for the 43-year-old Mr. Liu, who has already served almost a decade behind bars. His wife, Chen Mingxian, was allowed to attend the trial otherwise closed to the public and she reports that Mr. Liu was routinely interrupted by the judge as he sought to defend himself. After serving his earlier prison term, Mr. Liu was harassed by security agents who made it difficult for him to hold a job.

Mr. Liu's latest jailing is part of a crackdown that started in February, when a U.S.-based website posted a call for peaceful democratic protests in China. Beijing proceeded to round up scores of activists, human rights lawyers and others. Some have been confined to house arrest; others, like blogger Ran Yunfei, have been criminally detained.

The most worrying cases are those who have simply "disappeared" into the maw of China's extralegal shadow jails. Human rights lawyer Gao Zhisheng, who has been tortured before, hasn't been seen since April 2010. Teng Biao, Jiang Tianyong and Tang Jitian haven't been heard from since February.

The government is also squeezing the media, both domestic and foreign. The South China Morning Post reports that an outspoken columnist for Southern Weekly, a relatively liberal publication by Chinese standards, was recently pressured into a two-year "sabbatical." Internet censorship remains heavy. Foreign journalists in China's biggest cities have had their movements restricted and some have been physically assaulted by security agents.

China's cruelties deserve to be widely publicized and condemned in the West, not least so the country's brave activists know they are not suffering in vain. As in the Middle East, the democratic aspirations of the Chinese people will one day be impossible to contain. Here's hoping that Mr. Liu and his courageous countrymen live to see that day.

26099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Melanoma detection on: March 30, 2011, 06:30:09 AM
How does a device like MelaFind come into the world? It begins when a small defense contractor specializing in computer vision is approached by pharmaceutical giants seeking objective ways to evaluate unguents for hair growth, wrinkle reduction or wound healing. An adviser to the small company, a world-famous dermatologist, pipes up: "Wound healing is cool, but if you really want to do something for humanity, help us detect melanomas."

America having great capital markets, it's possible to raise $130 million for a speculative venture. The company, now called Mela Sciences, recruits Dr. Joseph Gulfo as CEO, thanks to his past successes before the Food and Drug Administration. He gives investors an extra shot of confidence by negotiating a binding "protocol agreement" with the FDA detailing how the device should proceed to approval.

MelaFind is a handheld scanner meant to provide an objective aid to doctors applying the standard visual tests for melanoma, to help make those close calls that, when called wrong, can have disastrous consequences for a patient. Because melanoma is such a killer, doctors tend to biopsy every skin flaw that looks suspicious but they still miss one melanoma for every three or four they catch.

In a clinical trial involving 23 practitioners around the country, MelaFind caught 98% of melanomas among the targeted suspicious lesions, while equaling or besting the top docs in avoiding unnecessary biopsies. Put another way: Doctors would have to greatly increase their rate of unnecessary biopsies to match MelaFind in catching melanomas.

In 9% of lesions, MelaFind couldn't capture an adequate image and refused to render a verdict. One in six of these lesions, subsequent biopsy showed, were melanomas.

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Getty Images
 .When an FDA advisory panel met in November to review the device, the experts narrowly voted eight-to-seven in favor, with several naysayers saying they held back only on concern that MelaFind wouldn't be restricted to dermatologists. Just a few minutes earlier, Dr. Gulfo had explained to the panel that the company had wanted to limit the device to dermatologists but the FDA objected "because the FDA cannot regulate dermatologists."

One panelist also worried that the study findings were "biased" because practitioners themselves had decided which lesions raised enough concern to warrant inclusion. A perfect study undoubtedly would have subjected random patches of skin to MelaFind to see how well it could distinguish a melanoma from a Dale Earnhardt tattoo. Such a study, to find any melanomas at all, would have to be impossibly large. It would also have no connection to how doctors actually work.

The biggest skeptics were the FDA's own staff, who even before the vote had suggested the device might do more harm than good if doctors treated instances where MelaFind didn't render a verdict as the equivalent of an "all-clear." Why doctors would do this is hard to fathom. In the study, so many of the "nonevaluable" lesions turned out be melanomas precisely because doctors were focusing MelaFind on lesions they considered highly suspicious even though the lesions were too big or oddly situated to fit the device's design criteria. Says Dr. Gulfo: "The FDA seems to be assuming that doctors, some of the most highly trained people in our society, are not competent to operate this device that dermatologists tell us has the potential to save many lives."

Though the agency itself will ultimately rule yea or nay, it clearly emerged from the meeting that doctors crave a device to aid in making the often difficult decision about whether a given lesion is worrisome. Dr. Gulfo explained the training users would receive. He explained the user log-on to prevent untrained use. He might have added that the CAT scan and MRI never would have been approved if inventors had to guarantee against incompetent use. The vital point was made by one of the panelists: "At the end of the day, MelaFind is going to allow some people to die; dermatologists are going to allow some people to die. I believe that MelaFind is going to help a few less people die and that's why I voted yes."

Of course, nobody at the FDA is ever fired for failing to approve a device. So grating has the agency's hyper-cautiousness become that, under prodding from university researchers and Congress, it recently rolled out a plan to allow speedier reviews very similar to the agreement struck with Mela Sciences. How this promise is supposed to now have any credibility is itself a bit of a medical mystery.

MelaFind heralds a wave of devices bringing artificial intelligence to bear on medical diagnosis. In the hands of users, learning will occur. Improvements will come quickly, as in other areas of information technology. Many lives will be saved, if the FDA will let them.

26100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Marco Rubio on: March 30, 2011, 06:26:52 AM
Americans have built the single greatest nation in all of human history. But America's exceptionalism was not preordained. Every generation has had to confront and solve serious challenges and, because they did, each has left the next better off. Until now.

Our generation's greatest challenge is an economy that isn't growing, alongside a national debt that is. If we fail to confront this, our children will be the first Americans ever to inherit a country worse off than the one their parents were given.

Current federal policies make it harder for job creators to start and grow businesses. Taxes on individuals are complicated and set to rise in less than two years. Corporate taxes will soon be the highest in the industrialized world. Federal agencies torment job creators with an endless string of rules and regulations.

On top of all this, we have an unsustainable national debt. Leaders of both parties have grown our government for decades by spending money we didn't have. To pay for it, they borrowed $4 billion a day, leaving us with today's $14 trillion debt. Half of that debt is held by foreign investors, mostly China. And there is no plan to stop. In fact, President Obama's latest budget request spends more than $46 trillion over the next decade. Under this plan, public debt will equal 87% of our economy in less than 10 years. This will scare away job creators and lead to higher taxes, higher interest rates and greater inflation.

Betting on America used to be a sure thing, but job creators see the warning signs that our leaders ignore. Even the world's largest bond fund, PIMCO, recently dumped its holdings of U.S. debt.

We're therefore at a defining moment in American history. In a few weeks, we will once again reach our legal limit for borrowing, the so-called debt ceiling. The president and others want to raise this limit. They say it is the mature, responsible thing to do.

In fact, it's nothing more than putting off the tough decisions until after the next election. We cannot afford to continue waiting. This may be our last chance to force Washington to tackle the central economic issue of our time.

"Raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure." So said then-Sen. Obama in 2006, when he voted against raising the debt ceiling by less than $800 billion to a new limit of $8.965 trillion. As America's debt now approaches its current $14.29 trillion limit, we are witnessing leadership failure of epic proportions.

I will vote to defeat an increase in the debt limit unless it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

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Chad Crowe
 .There is still time to accomplish all this. Rep. Dave Camp has already introduced proposals to lower and simplify our tax rates, close loopholes, and make permanent low rates on capital gains and dividends. Even Mr. Obama has endorsed the idea of lowering our corporate tax rate. Sen. Rand Paul, meanwhile, has a bill that would require an up-or-down vote on "major" regulations, those that cost the economy $100 million or more. And the House has already passed a spending plan this year that lowered discretionary spending by $862 billion over 10 years.

Such reductions are important, but nondefense discretionary spending is a mere 19% of the budget. Focusing on this alone would lead to draconian cuts to essential and legitimate programs. To get our debt under control, we must reform and save our entitlement programs.

No changes should be made to Medicare and Social Security for people who are currently in the system, like my mother. But people decades away from retirement, like me, must accept that reforms are necessary if we want Social Security and Medicare to exist at all by the time we are eligible for them.

Finally, instead of simply raising the debt limit, we should reassure job creators by setting a firm statutory cap on our public debt-to-GDP ratio. A comprehensive plan would wind down our debt to sustainable levels of approximately 60% within a decade and no more than half of the economy shortly thereafter. If Congress fails to meet these debt targets, automatic across-the-board spending reductions should be triggered to close the gap. These public debt caps could go in tandem with a Constitutional balanced budget amendment.

Some say we will go into default if we don't increase the debt limit. But if we simply raise it once again, without a real plan to bring spending under control and get our economy growing, America faces the very real danger of a catastrophic economic crisis.

I know that by writing this, I am inviting political attack. When I proposed reforms to Social Security during my campaign, my opponent spent millions on attack ads designed to frighten seniors. But demagoguery is the last refuge of the spineless politician willing to do anything to win the next election.

Whether they admit it or not, everyone in Washington knows how to solve these problems. What is missing is the political will to do it. I ran for the U.S. Senate because I want my children to inherit what I inherited: the greatest nation in human history. It's not too late. The 21st century can also be the American Century. Our people are ready. Now it's time for their leaders to join them.

Mr. Rubio, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Florida.

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