Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: July 20, 2008, 09:11:11 PM
SECOND RESURGENCE OF TALIBAN: INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR—PAPER
The Neo Taliban of Afghanistan has demonstrated a dual capability---- as a
terrorist organization specializing in suicide terrorism and as a
conventional guerilla force capable of conventional set-piece battles
involving attack-stand-and fight tactics.
2. Its capability as a terrorist organization has remained unimpaired for
the last two years. So far this year, it has already committed 73 acts of
suicide terrorism as compared to 137 during the whole of last year.
3. Its acts of suicide terrorism are almost as numerous as those witnessed
in Iraq, but not as deadly due to the poor training of the suicide bombers.
4. It demonstrated its capability for set-piece conventional battles
involving the engagement of large forces during the fighting season of
2006-07. The Taliban units engaged in many of those battles in Afghan
territory were trained, motivated and led by Mulla Dadullah.
5.The death of Mulla Dadullah in Afghan territory in an incident in
May,2007, impaired its conventional capability. It faced difficulty in
finding a suitable replacement for him. This had an impact on the ground
situation during the summer of 2007. The much-threatened (by the Taliban)
and much-dreaded (by the NATO forces) summer offensive did not materialize.
6. As the NATO commanders were hoping that the tide has started turning
against the Taliban, it is showing signs of a second resurgence of its
conventional prowess. One has already seen two instances of this. The first
was its audacious attack on the Kandahar prison on June 13,2008, during
which it took the NATO and Afghan National Army (ANA) forces totally by
surprise and rescued about 400 imprisoned Taliban cadres and took them away
in motor vehicles without being intercepted by the Canadian forces deployed
for the security of this area.
7. The second instance was on July 13,2008, when an estimated 200 jihadi
fighters , who had taken shelter, without being detected, in a village
called Wanat in the Kunnar province in Eastern Afghanistan managed to attack
and over-run an outpost jointly manned by US and ANA forces, after killing
nine US soldiers. The US has since vacated this indefensible area, which has
reportedly been occupied by the jihadi fighters.
8.What should be worrying is not the occupation of this area by the
jihadis, but their ability to keep their movement, assembling in the village
and preparations for the attack a secret and the tenacity with which they
reportedly fought despite the US outpost calling for air strikes to disperse
9.The identity of the fighters and their commander is not yet certain. The
Taliban, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Gulbuddin Heckmatyar's Hizbe
Islami and Al Qaeda are known to be active in this area-----with greater
activity by the Hizbe Islami than others. There have also been reports from
tribal sources in Pakistan that the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), which has been
operating in tandem with Maulana Fazlullah's
Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in the Swat Valley of the
North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), has now moved some of its trained
cadres to the Kunnar province to fight along with the Hizbe Islami. However,
the JEM is essentially a terrorist organization with very little
10.The kind of conventional capability, which was exhibited during the
2006-07 fighting season and is being exhibited now, could come only from
either serving or retired Pashtun soldiers of the Pakistani and Afghan
armies and those trained by them.
11. In a report carried by it on July 18,2008, the "Financial Times" of
London has quoted Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of
Staff, as saying that the July 13's "well co-ordinated" attack by hundreds
of insurgents against a US military outpost near the border with Pakistan
demonstrated that the enemy in Afghanistan had "grown bolder, more
sophisticated, and more diverse".
12. He added: "We're seeing a greater number of insurgents and foreign
fighters flowing across the border with Pakistan, unmolested and unhindered.
We simply must all do a better job of policing the border region and
eliminating the safe havens, which serve today as launching pads for attacks
on coalition forces."
13. An agency report carried by the "News" of Pakistan on July 17,2008, has
quoted Admiral Mullen as further saying as follows: "The group that launched
the attack trained in safe havens in Pakistan. We see this threat
accelerating, almost becoming a syndicate of different groups who heretofore
had not worked closely together."
14. Till recently, Al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and
the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), another Uzbek group, were content with
keeping their role confined to training the jihadis of the Taliban, the
various Pakistani organizations and volunteers from outside. They were not
participating in actual battles due to their small number, which they wanted
to conserve for operations outside this region. There have been reports that
their number has now been bolstered by the arrival of not only experienced
fighters from Iraq, but also fresh recruits from the Central Asian
Republics, Chechnya and Turks and members of the Uighur diaspora from
15. The Pentagon is reported to have ordered an enquiry into the July 13
fiasco in order to establish the identity of the jihadi forces which
attacked the outpost, how the outpost was taken by surprise and how the
intelligence agencies failed to detect the movement and assembling of the
jihadis near the outpost. It has been reported that the jihadis managed to
plan and carry out the attack within two days of the outpost being set up.
16. The US forces should re-examine their present policy of setting up
thinly-manned outposts in apparently indefensible areas. They only hand over
a seemingly spectacular victory on a platter to the jihadis. They should
reverse this tactics and inveigle the jihadis into setting up their presence
in such areas and then attack and kill them with superior force. The
objective in such isolated areas should be not territorial control, but
inflicting heavy attrition on the jihadis.
17.The jihadi battles presently going on in Pakistan's tribal belt and in
Afghanistan have serious security implications for India. Mehsuds, Wazirs
and Afridis were the tribals used by the Pakistan Army in 1947-48 to capture
what is now called the Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK). The Pakistan Army
again used them before and during the war of 1965. Zia-ul-Haq used them for
suppressing a Shia revolt in Gilgit in 1988.
18. President Bush often says with some validity that if the US troops
withdraw from Iraq without defeating Al Qaeda, the Arab terrorists now
operating in Iraq could move over to Europe and the US and step up
19. If the US and other NATO forces fail to prevail over the jihadis in the
Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal belt, these tribals, fresh from their victories
in that region, would move over to Kashmir to resume their jihad against
India. What we are now seeing in Kashmir is the beginning of the end of one
phase of the jihad involving jihadis of the 1980s vintage. We might see the
beginning of a new phase involving better-trained and better-motivated
jihadis of the latest stock.
* **(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt.
of India, New Delhi, and ,presently, Director, Institute For Topical
Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Force Science News
on: July 20, 2008, 09:06:49 PM
Second post of the day:
YIN / yang
--- On Sat, 7/19/08, Force Science Research Center <Info@forcesciencenews.com
From: Force Science Research Center <Info@forcesciencenews.com
Subject: FORCE SCIENCE NEWS: Transmission #102
Date: Saturday, July 19, 2008, 12:07 PM
July 18, 2008www.ForceScienceNews.com
Force Science News #102
In this issue:
New study ranks risks of injury from 5 major force options
How would you rank the relative risk for officers and suspects suffering injury from
these 5 force options:
• Empty-hand control techniques
• OC spray
• Conducted energy weapons (Tasers)
• Lateral vascular neck restraint.
If you judged OC to be the ³safest² and baton to be ³most injurious² to both
officers and offenders, you¹re in agreement with the findings of a new study of
force encounters involving officers on a major municipal department.
The study, the first of its kind in Canada, was conducted by S/Sgt. Chris Butler of
the Calgary (Alberta) Police Service and Dr. Christine Hall of the Canadian Police
They analyzed 562 use-of-force events that occurred across a recent 2-year period as
officers effected the arrests of resistant subjects in Calgary, a city of more than
1 million population. The threatened or actual use of firearms were omitted from the
review, as were handcuffing, low-level pain compliance techniques like joint locks
and pressure points, K-9s, and tactical responses such as chemical agents,
flashbangs and less-lethal projectiles.
Here¹s what they discovered:
• OC, used in roughly 5% of force-involved arrests, produced the lowest rate of
injury. More than 80% of sprayed subjects sustained no injury whatever. About 15%
had only minor injuries (³visible injuries of a trifling nature which did not
require medical treatment²) and some 4% had what the researchers termed ³minor
outpatient² injuries (some medical treatment required but not hospitalization). No
cases resulted in hospitalization or were fatal.
Officers involved in OC use fared even better. They suffered no injury in nearly 89%
of cases and only minor damage the rest of the time.
The pepper spray involved was Sabre Red, with 10% oleoresin capsicum.
• Batons, deployed in 5.5% of force-involved arrests, caused the greatest rate of
higher-level injury. Fewer than 39% of subjects receiving baton contact remained
uninjured. More than 3% were hospitalized and nearly 26% required outpatient
treatment, combining to be ³most injurious,² according to the researchers. About 32%
of batoned subjects sustained minor injuries requiring no treatment.
Of officers involved in baton incidents, nearly 13% required outpatient treatment.
Some 16% sustained minor injury and the rest were uninjured.
In Calgary, the baton used is the Monadnock Autolock expandable with power safety tip.
• Empty-hand controls, applied in 38.5% of the force events, also ranked high for
more serious injuries. For purposes of the study, physical controls included ³nerve
motor point striking and stunning techniques, grounding techniques such as arm-bar
takedowns, and other balance displacement methods.²
Nearly 14% of these subjects required outpatient medical care and about 4% had to be
hospitalized. Almost 50% had minor injuries and about 33% remained uninjured.
Among officers, 1% required hospitalization and 4.5% needed outpatient aid. The vast
majority (77.8%) were uninjured and nearly 17% had minor injuries.
Judging from these findings, the researchers conclude, agencies need ³to seek out
alternatives to hands-on physical control tactics and the baton if they wish to
reduce the frequency and seriousness of citizen and police officer injuries.²
• The second safest force mode for suspects proved to be the lateral vascular neck
restraint. Used in 3% of force-related arrests, the LVNR left more than half (52.9%)
of offenders uninjured. About 41% sustained minor injuries and less than 6% required
minor outpatient treatment. There were no hospitalizations and no fatalities.
Officers applying a LVNR remained uninjured more than 76% of the time and those who
were hurt suffered only minor injuries.
• Conducted energy weapons also scored high in safety for both suspects and
officers. The Taser X26, the CEW issued to Calgary officers, was the most frequently
deployed of the 5 force options studied, being used against nearly half (48.2%) of
resistant arrestees. About 1% ended up hospitalized, about 12% needed minor
outpatient treatment and more than 42% had only minor injuries. Nearly 45% sustained
no injuries and there were 0 fatalities.
Of officers using Tasers, about 83% were uninjured and about 13% sustained minor
injuries. Only about 2% and 1% required outpatient medical attention or
³The commonly held belief² that CEWs carry ³a significant risk of injury or deathŠis
not supported by the data.² Indeed, they are ³less injurious than either the baton
or empty-hand physical control,² which often would be alternative options where
electronic weapons were not available.
In a 14-page report of their study, Butler and Hall point out that ³[N]o use of
force technique available to police officers can be considered Œsafe¹ ² in the
dictionary sense that it is free from harm or secure from threat of danger. ³[E]very
use of force encounter between the police and a citizen carries with it the
possibility for injury for one or all of the participants, however unexpected that
injury might be.²
The best that can be hoped for is an appropriate, proportional balance between ³the
degree of risk of harm² and the ³resistance faced by police² that requires the use
The public has been fed ³a large amount ofŠincomplete or incorrect information and
even intentional artifice² about some force options, the researchers charge. Their
study, they say, may help eliminate the resulting confusion. Plus, knowing the level
of injury likely to result from a given force method can aid trainers and
administrators in developing ³sound policies and practices.²
³This study is a great snapshot about force and its associated injuries and is a
valuable addition to the discussion of force issues in Canada and elsewhere,² says
Dr. Bill Lewinski, executive director of the Force Science Research Center at
Minnesota State University-Mankato.
³Hopefully, the researchers will now be encouraged to probe further into some of the
issues they touched on, exploring in greater depth the decision-making that led
officers to apply various types of force, the level of emotional and physical
intensity generated by subjects receiving the force, the causes of injuries to both
officers and subjects, and so on. There is still much to be learned in these areas.²
As part of their study, Hall and Butler compiled statistics on the broad overview of
force encounters among Calgary officers, which closely mirror findings regarding
U.S. law enforcement.
• Out of more than 827,000 police-public interactions, the 562 instances which ended
up involving use of force represented less than 1% (.07%) of the total. (Other
studies have pegged that figure in the U.S. at 1.5%.)
• Arrests occurred in only 4.6% of police-public interactions, and 98.5% of the time
the arrests were finessed without force.
• Roughly 88% of all subjects requiring force were under the influence of drugs
and/or alcohol or ³some degree of emotional illness.² Almost 94% of resistant
offenders requiring force were male.
• The researchers found ³a notable pattern of relationshipŠbetween the number of
officers present and the frequency and nature of injuries sustained by both citizens
and officers.² Namely: ³[M]ore injuries occurred in circumstances where only one
officer was present.²
The researchers state bluntly that ³biased reporting of events has led the
lay-public to have the impression that the police use of force is frequent when
compared to the overall number of police and public interactions.²
They mentioned also a bias that results in ³extensive media coverage of events where
subjects have died² after use of a CEW and a ³lack of publication of CEW uses
without an adverse outcome.²
Such skewed reporting ³prevents the publicŠfrom forming an informed opinion about
the actual risk presented² by various force modalities, they stated.
The study¹s official jaw-breaking title is: ³Public-Police Interaction and Its
Relation to Arrest and Use of Force by Police and Resulting Injuries to Subjects and
Officers; a Description of Risk in One Major Canadian Urban City.² It is expected to
be posted online in mid- to late-August by the Canadian Police Research Center atwww.cprc.org
S/Sgt. Butler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information
The Force Science News is provided by The Force Science Research Center, a
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DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / AELE
on: July 20, 2008, 09:02:02 PM
You are welcome to forward this e-mail; please encourage your colleagues to sign up
for periodic mailings at http://www.aele.org/e-signup.html
1. The August 2008 issue of the AELE Monthly Law Journal is online, with three new
* Police Civil Liability
Police Interaction with Homeless Persons
Part One – Sleeping and Possessions
* Discipline and Employment Law
Administrative Investigations of Police Shootings and Other Critical Incidents:
Officer Statements and Use of Force Reports
Part Two: The Basics
* Corrections Law
Prisoner Work Programs
Access the Law Journal's menu page at http://www.aele.org/law/MLJ2008AUG.html
Note: The article on "Administrative Investigations of Police Shootings" focuses on
seven important questions:
** What information needs to be obtained from an officer who has killed or wounded a
suspect, before the officer is placed on paid, administrative leave?
** How long should investigators wait, before formally interviewing an officer who
has used deadly force?
** Should officers be interviewed together or separately?
** Should officers be allowed to be accompanied, at the interview, by an association
representative or attorney?
** Who should complete the Use of Force Report: The involved officers, the field
supervisor, or a member of the incident investigation team?
** Should the involved officer(s) be allowed a walk-through before giving an
interview to investigators?
** If there are videotapes, should the officer(s) review them before or after the
At the end of the article there are 87 references to articles, books, judicial
decisions, model policies, guidelines, reports and studies. Many can be viewed by
The article can be directly accessed at http://www.aele.org/law/2008-8MLJ201.html
2. The August 2008 issues of AELE's three periodicals have been uploaded. The
current issues, back issues since 2000, three 30+ year case digests, and a search
engine are FREE. Everyone is welcome to read, print or download AELE publications
without charge. The main menu is at: http://www.aele.org/law
Among 100+ different cases noted, there are several that warrant mention here:
*** Law Enforcement Liability Reporter ***
* Excessive Force - Pepper Spray
Officers did not use excessive force in response to a belligerent motorist who
shouted and refused to comply with their directions to step to the curb, lower his
voice, and calm down. When he resisted their attempts to place handcuffs on him,
they tackled him to the ground and applied arm locks for purposes of restraint.
After that too proved unsuccessful, they then used pepper spray. The court ruled
that no reasonable officer would have throught that the defendant officers applied
excessive force under the circumstances, and that the officers were entitled to
qualified immunity. Mierzwa v. U.S., #07-3362, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 13523 (Unpub.
* Excessive Force - Taser
Officers were not entitled to qualified immunity on claims that they used excessive
force in deploying a Taser on a 6-year-old, 53-pound minor, allegedly causing
permanent and severe injuries. The child was placed in a school principal's office
after being disruptive in a class. He broke a picture frame in the office, and
police officers allegedly found him standing with a piece of glass in his hand. One
officer kneeled in front of the child while the other sat in front of him, and then
moved within one foot of him just before using the Taser. At the time of the
incident, which was 2003, it was "obvious" that the Fourth Amendment prohibited the
use of the Taser under these circumstances, according to the appeals court. Moretta
v. Abbott, #07-10795, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 11749 (Unpub. 11th Cir.).http://www.ca11.uscourts.gov/unpub/ops/200710795.pdf
* Excessive Force - Firearms
Based on disputes about the facts of the incident in which officers shot and killed
a man as he tried to flee a traffic stop, the officers were properly denied
qualified immunity. While the officers claimed that they feared for their safety
even under the facts alleged by the plaintiffs, those allegations were that the
motorist's truck was moving non-aggressively and slowly, and could not have hit the
officers, and also that it was stationary at the time of the shooting. Under those
circumstances, if true, no reasonable officer could have believed that the motorist
posed a threat to them. Further, under these circumstances, the officers would have
had time to assess the situation before firing several times at the motorist.
Officers may not, the court noted, fire at a fleeing felon who is not posing a
threat to anyone. Estate of Kirby v. Duva, #06-1976, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 13573 (6th
*** Fire and Police Personnel Reporter ***
* Disciplinary Punishment - Sexual Misconduct
Tenth Circuit upholds a private oral reprimand for a police officer, who, while
off-duty, had sex with another officer, while attending a training session out of
town. "We think it reasonable for the police department to privately admonish
[appellant's] personal conduct consistent with its code of conduct when the
department believes it will further internal discipline or the public's respect for
its police officers and the department they represent." Seegmiller v. Laverkin City,
#07-4096 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 12417 (10th Cir.).http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/10th/074096p.pdf
* Disciplinary Punishment - Civility
Swearing at another officer does not merit termination. (Other issues also were
discussed in the case). Harder v. Vil. of Forest Park, #05-C-5800, 2008 U.S. Dist.
Lexis 36892 (N.D.Ill.). http://www.aele.org/law/2008FPAUG/harder-fppd.html
*** Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin ***
* Positional, Restraint, and Compressional Asphyxia
Although a man suffering from delusions attacked a psychiatric hospital staff
member, the defendants knew that restraining him face-down on the floor and putting
pressure on a his back posed a substantial risk of asphyxiation. "Despite knowledge
of this risk, defendants chose to restrain [the deceased] using these dangerous
restraint techniques. Their actions were objectively unreasonable given the fact
that [an] eyewitness testified that [the] defendants continued to restrain [him] in
this dangerous position ..." During the attempt to restrain him, he stopped
breathing, never regained consciousness, and died. The appeals court rejected claims
by certain defendants for qualified immunity in a federal civil rights lawsuit
brought by the decedent's estate. Lanman v. Hinson, #06-2263, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis
12682, 2008 Fed App. 0212P (6th Cir.). http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/08a0212p-06.pdf
* Prisoner Restraint
Placing a prisoner in a four-point restraint and keeping him shackled to his bed in
this manner for four hours did not violate his substantive due process rights. The
inmate was accused of biting the prison guard at the time the restraints were
applied. Grinter v. Knight, #05-6755, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 12919 (6th Cir.).http://www.ca6.uscourts.gov/opinions.pdf/08a0213p-06.pdf
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DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: July 20, 2008, 06:26:06 PM
I'm in Toronto and we caught the UFC freebie on the big screen at a restaurant-bar. Possibly the most boring card I have ever seen. There was a good Peruvian necktie and one hellacious eyejab-- but the rest was a giant snore.
I can't watch the AA clip here on the hotel computer, that will have to wait until I am back in LA.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: July 19, 2008, 07:05:50 PM
This is VERY good for BO and bad for McCain IMHO http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/07/19/maliki-i-support-obamas-withdrawal-timetable/
Maliki: I Support Obamas Withdrawal Timetable
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told a German magazine that he supports Barack Obamas plan to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 16 months of taking office.
U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama is right when he talks about 16 months, al-Maliki told Der Spiegel. He said he wants U.S. troops to leave as soon as possible.
The apparent endorsement of a cornerstone of Obamas foreign policy is a big boost for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee ahead of his scheduled meeting with al-Maliki. Obama, who is touring both Afghanistan and Iraq for the first time since becoming a presidential candidate, arrived Saturday in Afghanistan, where he is meeting with U.S. troops.
Al-Maliki said for the first time earlier this month that the U.S. military should work toward a timetable for withdrawal something President Bush and Obamas rival John McCain oppose. The White House also reported Friday that Iraq and the United States are discussing a general time horizon for reductions in troop levels.
Both developments gave Obama fuel in his argument that U.S. involvement in Iraq soon must draw to a close. But al-Malikis comments to Der Spiegel seemingly were the deepest the foreign leader has waded into the tense foreign policy debate between the two major presidential candidates.
Al-Maliki told the magazine that his comments were by no means an election endorsement.
But he seemed to refer disparagingly to McCain when he said short time periods in Iraq are more realistic, while artificially prolonging the tenure of U.S. troops in Iraq would cause problems.
McCain went after Obama in his radio address Saturday for announcing his proposed strategies for Afghanistan and Iraq before even departing.
Apparently, hes confident enough that he wont find any facts that might change his opinion or alter his strategy. Remarkable, McCain said, criticizing his rival for initially opposing the troop surge in Iraq.
Today we know that he was wrong, he said.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Declining value of College Degree
on: July 19, 2008, 06:54:43 PM
The Declining Value
Of Your College Degree
By GREG IP
A four-year college degree, seen for generations as a ticket to a better life, is no longer enough to guarantee a steadily rising paycheck.
A college degree may not take you as far as you'd expect. However, WSJ's Jennifer Merritt reports on a few fields where a bachelor's degree still remains a worthy investment.
Just ask Bea Dewing. After she earned a bachelor's degree -- her second -- in computer science from Maryland's Frostburg State University in 1986, she enjoyed almost unbroken advances in wages, eventually earning $89,000 a year as a data modeler for Sprint Corp. in Lawrence, Kan. Then, in 2002, Sprint laid her off.
"I thought I might be looking a few weeks or months at the most," says Ms. Dewing, now 56 years old. Instead she spent the next six years in a career wilderness, starting an Internet café that didn't succeed, working temporary jobs and low-end positions in data processing, and fruitlessly responding to hundreds of job postings.
The low point came around 2004 when a recruiter for Sprint -- now known as Sprint Nextel Corp. -- called seeking to fill a job similar to the one she lost two years earlier, but paying barely a third of her old salary.
In April, Ms. Dewing finally landed a job similar to her old one in the information technology department of Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., where she relocated. She earns about 20% less than she did in 2002, adjusted for inflation, but considers herself fortunate, and wiser.
A degree, she says, "isn't any big guarantee of employment, it's a basic requirement, a step you have to take to even be considered for many professional jobs."
Trends in Education, SalariesFor decades, the typical college graduate's wage rose well above inflation. But no longer. In the economic expansion that began in 2001 and now appears to be ending, the inflation-adjusted wages of the majority of U.S. workers didn't grow, even among those who went to college. The government's statistical snapshots show the typical weekly salary of a worker with a bachelor's degree, adjusted for inflation, didn't rise last year from 2006 and was 1.7% below the 2001 level.
College-educated workers are more plentiful, more commoditized and more subject to the downsizings that used to be the purview of blue-collar workers only. What employers want from workers nowadays is more narrow, more abstract and less easily learned in college.
To be sure, the average American with a college diploma still earns about 75% more than a worker with a high-school diploma and is less likely to be unemployed. Yet while that so-called college premium is up from 40% in 1979, it is little changed from 2001, according to data compiled by Jared Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal Washington think tank.
• Ms. Goldin and Mr. Katz have a new book, "The Race between Education and Technology," that provides a historical analysis of the co-evolution of educational attainment and the wage structure in the United States through the twentieth century.
• Jared Bernstein is an economist at the Economic Policy Institute. For more of his writings, visit the institute's Web site.
• Real Time Econ: College Grads, Incomes Stagnant, Turn Against GlobalizationMost statistics he and other economists use don't track individual workers over time, but compare annual snapshots of the work force. That said, this trend doesn't appear due to an influx of lower-paid young workers or falling starting salaries; Mr. Bernstein says when differences in age, race, marital status and place of residence are accounted for, the trend remains the same.
A variety of economic forces are at work here. Globalization and technology have altered the types of skills that earn workers a premium wage; in many cases, those skills aren't learned in college classrooms. And compared with previous generations, today's college graduates are far more likely to be competing against educated immigrants and educated workers employed overseas.
The issue isn't a lack of economic growth, which was solid for most of the 2000s. Rather, it's that the fruits of growth are flowing largely to "a relatively small group of people who have a particular set of skills and assets that lots of other people don't," says Mr. Bernstein. And that "doesn't necessarily have that much to do with your education." In short, a college degree is often necessary, but not sufficient, to get a paycheck that beats inflation.
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• 'Old Age' on HoldEconomists chiefly cite globalization and technology, which have prompted employers to put the highest value on abstract skills possessed by a relatively small group, for this state of affairs. Harvard University economists Lawrence Katz and Claudia Goldin argue that in the 1990s, it became easier for firms to do overseas, or with computers at home, the work once done by "lower-end college graduates in middle management and certain professional positions." This depressed these workers' wages, but made college graduates whose work was more abstract and creative more productive, driving their salaries up.
Indeed, salaries have seen extraordinary growth among a small number of highly paid individuals in the financial sector -- such as fund management, investment banking and corporate law -- which, until the credit crisis hit a year ago, had benefited both from the buoyant financial environment and the globalization of finance, in which the U.S. remains a leader.
Richard Spitzer is one of those beneficiaries. He received his undergraduate degree in East Asian studies in 1995 from the College of William and Mary and graduated from Georgetown University's law school in 2001. The New York firm for which he works, now called Dewey & LeBoeuf, has a specialty in complex legal work for insurance companies. There, Mr. Spitzer has developed an expertise in "catastrophe bonds." An insurance company sells such bonds to investors and pays them interest, unless an earthquake, a hurricane or unexpected surge in deaths occurs.
Experts in these bonds are "probably a rarefied species -- there's only a few law firms that do them," says Mr. Spitzer, 35 years old. He typically spends two to four months on a single deal, ensuring that details like timing of payments or definition of the triggering event are precise enough to avoid disputes or default.
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• Turning That Layoff Into Career CatalystMr. Spitzer's salary has doubled to $265,000 since joining in 2001, in line with salaries similar firms pay.
But not all law graduates are so fortunate; many, especially those from less-prestigious schools, have far lower salaries and less job security. Similarly, some computer-science graduates strike it rich. But their skills are not as rare as they were in the early 1980s, when the discipline took off, and graduates today must contend with competition from hundreds of thousands of similarly qualified foreign workers in the U.S. or overseas.
That helps explain Ms. Dewing's experience. She was raised in a family that prized education. Both her parents went to college on the G.I. Bill, which pays tuition costs for servicemen and some dependents. Four of their six children earned college degrees. In 1979, she earned a bachelor's degree in government and politics from George Mason University in Virginia. Several years later, then a single mother, she decided to get a degree in computer science.
Her first job out of college was with the federal government, earning about $35,000 in today's dollars. "For 16 years I had no trouble at all finding jobs," she said. Earlier this decade she ended up at Sprint designing databases -- a specialty called "data modeling" that isn't widely taught in schools and usually requires hands-on experience.
In 2002 Sprint, reeling from the collapse of the telecommunications industry, initiated a wave of layoffs that eventually totaled 15,000 workers in 13 months, Ms. Dewing among them. She remained in the Kansas City area, posting her résumé on job boards. When recruiters called, she would usually put her expected salary at something close to her old salary. As time went by without an offer she lowered it steadily, to $60,000. She found herself competing for jobs with employees of outsourcing firms brought over from India on temporary visas, such as the H-1B.
A few months ago, Ms. Dewing got a call from a recruiter calling on behalf of Wal-Mart. Company officials pressed her during her interview on how she had kept up her data-modeling ability during her six years away from the specialty. She noted that while at Sprint she had revived the Kansas City chapter of a data modelers' professional association and, long after being laid off, continued to attend its seminars where invited experts would describe the latest advances. She even cited her short-lived Internet café as evidence of how she could solve diverse problems.
When she landed the job, she says, "I felt, 'All right, I'm a professional again.'" Even so, Ms. Dewing has a newfound appreciation for how insecure any job can be and how little a college degree by itself stands for. "There is enough competition for entry-level positions that employers are going to ask, 'What else have you done in your life besides go to college?'" she says. "And in information technology, a portfolio of hands-on experience with programming is a really good thing to have."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Kill the cows!
on: July 19, 2008, 06:39:20 PM
The Lawnmower Men
July 19, 2008; Page A8
Al Gore blew into Washington on Thursday, warning that "our very way of life" is imperiled if the U.S. doesn't end "the carbon age" within 10 years. No one seriously believes such a goal is even remotely plausible. But if you want to know what he and his acolytes think this means in practice, the Environmental Protection Agency has just published the instruction manual. Get ready for the lawnmower inspector near you.
In a huge document released last Friday, the EPA lays out the thousands of carbon controls with which they'd like to shackle the whole economy. Central planning is too artful a term for the EPA's nanomanagement. Thankfully none of it has the force of law -- yet. However, the Bush Administration has done a public service by opening this window on new-wave green thinking like Mr. Gore's, and previewing what Democrats have in mind for next year.
The mess began in 2007, when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Mass. v. EPA that greenhouse gases are "air pollutants" under current environmental laws, despite the fact that the laws were written decades before the climate-change panic. The EPA was ordered to regulate if it decides that carbon emissions are a danger to the public. The 588-page "advance notice of proposed rulemaking" lays out how the EPA would like it to work in practice.
Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his dissent that under the Court's "pollutant" standard "everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies," which the EPA appears to have taken literally. It is alarmed by "enteric fermentation in domestic livestock" -- that is, er, their "emissions." A farm with over 25 cows would exceed the EPA's proposed carbon limits. So would 500 acres of crops, due to harvesting and processing machinery.
But never fear. The EPA would regulate "farm tractors" too, plus "lawn and garden equipment." For example, it "could require a different unit of measure [for carbon emissions] tied to the machine's mission or output -- such as grams per kilogram of cuttings from a 'standard' lawn for lawnmowers."
In fact, the EPA has new mandates for everything with an engine. There's a slew of auto regulations, especially jacking up fuel-efficiency standards well beyond their current levels, and even controlling the weight and performance of cars and trucks. Carbon rules are offered for "dirt bikes and snowmobiles." Next up: Nascar.
The EPA didn't neglect planes and trains either, down to rules for how aircraft can taxi on the runway. Guidelines are proposed for boat design such as hulls and propellers. "Innovative strategies for reducing hull friction include coatings with textures similar to marine animals," the authors chirp. They also suggest "crew education campaigns" on energy use at sea. Fishermen will love their eco-sensitivity training.
New or modified buildings that went over the emissions limits would have to obtain EPA permits. This would cover power plants, manufacturers, etc. But it would also include "large office and residential buildings, hotels, large retail establishments and similar facilities" -- like schools and hospitals. The limits are so low that they would apply to "hundreds of thousands" of sources, as the EPA itself notes. "We expect that the entire country would be in nonattainment."
If this power grab wasn't enough, "EPA also believes that . . . it might be possible for the Agency to consider deeper reductions through a cap-and-trade program." The EPA thinks it can levy a carbon tax too, as long as it's called a "fee." In other words, the EPA wants to impose via regulatory ukase what Congress hasn't been able to enact via democratic debate.
That's why the global warmists have so much invested in the EPA's final ruling, which will come in the next Administration. Any climate tax involves arguments about costs and benefits; voting to raise energy prices is not conducive to re-election. But if liberals can outsource their policies to the EPA, they can take credit while avoiding any accountability for the huge economic costs they impose.
Meanwhile, the EPA's career staff is unsupervised. In December, they went ahead and made their so-called "endangerment finding" on carbon, deputizing themselves as the rulers of the global-warming bureaucracy. The adults in the White House were aghast when they saw the draft. EPA lifers retaliated by leaking the disputes of the standard interagency review process to Democrats like Henry Waxman and sympathetic reporters. Thus the stations-of-the-cross media narrative about "political interference," as if the EPA's careerists don't have their own agenda. So the Administration performed triage by making everything transparent.
At least getting the EPA on the record will help clarify the costs of carbon restrictions. Democrats complaining about "censorship" at the EPA are welcome to defend fiats about lawnmowers and flatulent cows.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Stupidity of the State
on: July 19, 2008, 06:35:35 PM
Stupidity and the State, Part II
By ERNEST S. CHRISTIAN and GARY A. ROBBINS
July 19, 2008; Page A7
Washington can be counted on to create a crisis -- usually by sheer incompetence. Then it rushes to the rescue, often doing more harm than good. Late last year, with an impending recession, Congress rushed forward to spend more money. The plan was to send $106 billion of Economic Stimulus Payments -- typically between $1,200 and $1,800 -- to millions of American families.
The planners predicted people would immediately spend the money on additional consumption and that increased demand, especially for consumer durables, would stimulate production, boost the economy, and forestall recession. In January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi declared that 500,000 jobs would be created.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Stupidity and the State, Part I
06/07/08By the end of June, $86 billion was in the hands of 105 million households. By October, the remaining $20 billion will have been shoveled out the door. But people have not gone on a spending spree. Recent Commerce Department data indicate that less than 10% of the stimulus money is being spent on new consumption.
In a classic case of government working against itself, other more powerful government actions, including the Fed's extraordinarily loose monetary policy, have boosted inflation and caused families to restrict purchases, especially in the case of higher-priced consumer durables. Overall, compared to last year, the quantity of consumer durables purchased has declined by 1.5%. Retail sales are sluggish. Contrary to Ms. Pelosi's confident prediction, the economy has shed 460,000 jobs since December.
Thanks to an increased rate of inflation compared to last year, the basic CPI market basket is now 1.6% higher than it otherwise would be. As a result, even before receiving its $1,200 stimulus check, a typical two-earner family with income of $75,000 will have already experienced a $1,200 decline in its purchasing power since last year. So much for the stimulus plan; it's been wiped out by extra inflation. Worse, the hole in the family's budget from inflation is permanent. It will be there next year and thereafter, even if the rate of increase in future inflation slows -- although many economists predict higher, not lower, rates of inflation.
On net, members of Congress seem to be the only beneficiaries of the stimulus. They got to posture and pose, and send out to voters untold millions of press releases and mailings extolling themselves and the stimulus checks.
None mentioned the government's low interest rates which touched off the housing bubble that's led to the economic turndown, or the inflation that's undermined the very expensive remedy that hasn't worked as planned. But that didn't stop Ms. Pelosi from proposing another $50 billion "stimulus" package on Thursday.
Mr. Christian, an attorney, was a deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury in the Ford administration. Mr. Robbins, an economist, served at the Treasury Department in the Reagan administration.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China
on: July 19, 2008, 06:32:54 PM
Bush Should Keep His Word on Taiwan
By DAN BLUMENTHAL, AARON FRIEDBERG, RANDALL SCHRIVER and ASHLEY J. TELLIS
July 19, 2008; Page A9
In 2001, President Bush made a bold and principled decision to offer Taiwan a range of military equipment for its security. In 2008, as he prepares to leave office, the president seems to have reneged on that commitment.
On Wednesday, Adm. Timothy Keating, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, confirmed that the administration has frozen arms sales to the island nation, acknowledging Beijing's displeasure by way of explanation. "The Chinese have made clear to me their concern over any arms sales to Taiwan," he said at a Heritage Foundation forum in Washington. However, the decision to freeze arms sales is mistaken and dangerous.
The People's Republic of China has been expanding its military capabilities at a rapid pace. Included in this impressive buildup are weapons directly intended for use against Taiwan: hundreds of short-range ballistic missiles, scores of new fighter bombers and several types of attack submarines. In accordance with the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act, the Bush administration originally proposed an arms package designed to improve Taiwan's capacity for self-defense. Included were Patriot 3 missile-defense systems, P3C antisubmarine warfare aircraft, Apache helicopters, Kidd-class destroyers, diesel submarines and a modern command, control and communications system.
While defense experts in Taipei and Washington debated the utility of some of these systems for Taiwan's defense, as a package they constituted a powerful signal of America's long-standing commitment to Taiwan's defense and contained important elements of a stronger Taiwanese deterrent against potential Chinese aggression. The offer made good on Mr. Bush's promise that the U.S. would "do whatever it takes" to defend Taiwan.
In addition to the arms package, Mr. Bush also altered policy to normalize security relations with Taiwan, permitting it to request additional weapons systems as its military identified new requirements. Taiwan subsequently asked for 66 F-16 aircraft to replace its aging fighter fleet.
Unfortunately, Taiwan's domestic politics prevented speedy action on elements of the original U.S. offer. While it purchased the Kidd-class destroyers, the P3C aircraft, some elements of a missile defense system and a new command and control system, much of the American package became hostage to partisan bickering in Taipei. After significant delay, last year Taiwan's legislature finally acted, appropriating the money required to purchase most of the rest of the items offered by the U.S. in 2001.
The Bush administration now appears unwilling to follow through on its side of the bargain.
Why the volte-face? Following its initial offer of assistance, the Bush administration came to regard former Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian as a reckless provocateur, determined to push his self-governing island toward formal independence from Beijing despite the risk of war. Fearful that selling Mr. Chen arms would only embolden him, some administration officials were quietly thankful for the continuing turmoil and indecision in Taipei.
Whatever the validity of these concerns, they no longer apply. In May 2008, the Taiwanese people elected opposition leader Ma Ying-jeou to the presidency. Mr. Ma is dedicated to improving cross-straits ties and eschews Mr. Chen's inflammatory rhetoric. But, like his predecessor, he is committed to strengthening Taiwan's self-defense capabilities.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the Bush administration has been anxious to avoid antagonizing Beijing and eager to win its support on a variety of issues, especially its continuing efforts to denuclearize North Korea. Though the extent to which China has actually been helpful is debatable, the administration has increasingly subordinated many aspects of its Asia policy to the overarching aim of not offending Beijing.
The policy of not offending China, no matter what the costs, does not serve U.S. interests in the Taiwan Straits. First, it undermines Mr. Ma's ability to deal with Beijing from a position of strength, and to that extent it undermines the common objective of peaceful reunification, should the Taiwanese desire it.
Denying Taiwan the minimal capabilities required to cope with China's massive military buildup also increases the burdens on U.S. forces if they should ever intervene in a future cross-straits confrontation.
Moreover, the administration overstates the damage arms sales to Taiwan will do to cross-strait relations and to the overall relationship between the U.S. and China, important as that is. Beijing presumes Washington would move forward with arms it promised to sell to Taiwan some seven years ago. And, after adding several hundred advanced fighters to its own fleet, Beijing has no military reason to complain about the sale of 66 F-16s to Taiwan. None of the elements in the U.S. arms package in any case seriously increases Taiwan's offensive capabilities -- which are inconsequential to begin with.
Meanwhile, time is running out. The funds Taipei has appropriated to buy arms from the U.S. will lapse by the end of the 2008 and become unavailable. The process of Congressional notification necessary to conclude the sale too is lengthy and requires immediate administration action.
The administration should therefore move urgently to supply Taiwan with the capabilities promised in defense against China's growing ballistic missile, air and naval threats. Leaving office without approving these sales would be a strategic failure with far-reaching implications.
At stake is not only the defense of a democratic friend, but the credibility of the Ma government. Also at stake are America's commitment to protect its long-term interests throughout the Asia-Pacific, and Mr. Bush's determination to defend freedom. Failure to act would also set a dangerous precedent. For the first time since its opening to China, the U.S. government would have sidestepped its obligation to assist Taiwan in hopes of appeasing Beijing. Now is the time to change policy and move forward: both principle and pragmatism demand it.
Mr. Blumenthal is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. Mr. Friedberg is professor of politics at Princeton. Mr. Tellis is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Schriver is a partner at Armitage International. All served in Asia policy positions under George W. Bush.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Saving the Second Amendment
on: July 19, 2008, 06:28:25 PM
How a Young Lawyer Saved the Second Amendment
By JAMES TARANTO
July 19, 2008; Page A7
For decades the Second Amendment might as well have been called the Second-Class Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court spent the late 20th century expansively interpreting the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth and Eighth amendments, not to mention unenumerated rights ranging from travel to sexual privacy. But not until last month did the court hold that the Second Amendment means what it says: that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."
What took so long? I put the question to Alan Gura, the 37-year-old wunderkind lawyer who represented the plaintiffs in District of Columbia v. Heller.
A native of Israel, he grew up in Los Angeles and never owned a firearm until after that city's riots in 1992. That summer, before he enrolled at the Georgetown University Law Center, "I bought a gun in Los Angeles. I did not have it with me in law school, of course -- that was illegal."
After law school, he worked for California's attorney general and the Senate Judiciary Committee before settling into private practice in this gun-friendly Washington suburb. As we talked last week, we exercised our rights under the 21st Amendment, sipping cocktails at a speakeasy-style bar across the street from his office.
The meaning of the Second Amendment had long been disputed because of its prefatory clause, "A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state . . . ." Opponents of gun rights argued that the Founders meant to establish only a "collective right" -- authorization for states to raise militias. The Supreme Court had not addressed the question since 1939, when it held, in U.S. v. Miller, that sawed-off shotguns were not appropriate for use in a militia and therefore could be banned.
The Miller decision "was agreed by everybody to be somewhat murky and inconclusive," Mr. Gura says. "We read the case, like a lot of people, to mean that it's an individual right." But firearm foes claimed that the court had endorsed the collective-rights theory.
By the beginning of this century, notes Mr. Gura, that theory had fallen into disfavor among legal academics. "Many scholars, including very well-known left-of-center or liberal scholars, had come to concede that the Second Amendment, whatever its scope, guarantees some sort of an individual right to own and carry firearms, not connected to military service."
But the judiciary lagged behind the academy, owing to a dearth of Second Amendment litigation. Traditional civil-liberties groups like the ACLU largely backed the collective-rights theory, and gun-rights groups like the National Rifle Association focused their efforts on lobbying, in the belief that litigation was too risky.
"Virtually all the decisions that addressed the Second Amendment were styled United States v. Somebody," says Mr. Gura. "'Somebody' was a crack dealer, a bank robber -- some lowlife who had made a spurious Second Amendment claim as part of a package of desperate appeals." Faced with these sorts of cases, almost every federal appeals court had desultorily endorsed the collective rights view.
That changed in 2001 with the case of Emerson v. U.S. A federal grand jury had indicted a Texas man for possessing a pistol while under a restraining order not to threaten his estranged wife. The trial judge dismissed the charges on Second Amendment grounds. The Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated the indictment, but held that the Second Amendment does protect an individual right.
"For the first time ever," says Mr. Gura, "we had a clear, concise, intelligent examination of the Second Amendment with a true analysis of the document, and the conclusion was that it secured an individual right." What's more, "with Emerson we had, for the first time, a circuit split" -- a disagreement among appellate courts over how to interpret the amendment.
The government was not about to appeal Emerson, for it had prevailed in reinstating the indictment. But the circuit split made it likely that the high court would take up the Second Amendment question sooner or later. The danger, Mr. Gura says, was that the argument would be made by "some pro se lunatic criminal" or a defense lawyer focused on exonerating his client rather than vindicating the Constitution.
The case that became D.C. v. Heller was the brainchild of three lawyers at a pair of libertarian organizations, the Cato Institute and the Institute for Justice. All were busy with other matters, so they hired Mr. Gura. "Alan was willing to work for subsistence wages," Cato's Robert Levy tells me, "in return for which he got a commitment from me that if the case went anywhere, it would be his baby. It turned out that that commitment was very important."
Mr. Gura says he set out "to do a careful, strategic litigation on the issue." One court that had not yet taken a position on the Second Amendment's meaning was the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. As it happened, the nation's capital had the most restrictive gun law in the country: a total ban on handguns, and a requirement that shotguns and rifles be kept disassembled or locked within the home.
To challenge the law, Mr. Gura says, "it was very important for us to pick decent, law-abiding people . . . . We consciously wanted to have plaintiffs from across the demographic spectrum in Washington, D.C. We wanted all manner of diversity, because it's important -- people want to see that you are arguing for a right that is held by ordinary people."
Mr. Gura tells me his clients' stories: "Shelly Parker . . . is an African-American lady who moved to a part of Capitol Hill that was improving, but apparently not fast enough. [She] would call the police, get the neighbors involved, to try to get the drug dealers off the street. The drug dealers figured out fairly quickly what the source of their problem was and started harassing her, subjecting her to all kinds of threats, vandalism and so on. . . .
"Dick Heller is a special police officer of the District of Columbia . . . . When we started this suit, he was guarding -- with a gun -- the Federal Judicial Center on Capitol Hill . . . . But Mr. Heller was not allowed to have a gun in his own home for self-defense. . . .
"Tom Palmer is a Cato scholar, a gay man who had previously, in California, fended off a hate crime using a firearm that he happened to have on him. He is alive today, or at least avoided serious injury, because he was able to have access to a gun when he needed it. . . .
"Gillian St. Lawrence is a mortgage broker in Georgetown. . . . [She had] a lawfully registered shotgun, but . . . had to always keep that shotgun unloaded and disassembled, or bound by trigger lock. There was no exception for home self-defense. . . . Of course, she asserted the right to have a functional firearm. If you're allowed to have guns, you're allowed to have guns that actually work as such. We're gratified that both the D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court agreed with us on that proposition." They did -- but it was close. The circuit-court panel that ruled in his clients' favor split 2-1.
When the case reached the Supreme Court, Mr. Levy says he came under pressure to replace the young Mr. Gura, who had never argued a case before the high court, with a veteran litigator like Ted Olson, Ken Starr or Miguel Estrada. No dice, Mr. Levy replied. He had a commitment, and besides, Mr. Gura "had been immersed in this issue for 5½ years . . . so he knew the material cold."
The results speak for themselves. All nine justices agreed that the Second Amendment established an individual right. But four dissenters offered an interpretation of that right so cramped as to render it a nullity.
"My biggest surprise is that it was 5-4," Mr. Gura says. "I thought the case was much stronger than 5-4. . . . However, I'll take the five and be very happy with that."
The court's close division meant that Mr. Gura needed the vote of Anthony Kennedy. Most court-watchers consider him the least predictable justice, but not Mr. Gura: "I received a lot of grief from people about Justice Kennedy going into the argument. We were told that we were not responsible, gambling on the views of this one justice who might be completely inscrutable and unpredictable. . . .
"Justice Kennedy did not trouble me all that much. The fact is that if you look at Justice Kennedy's voting pattern, the cases where he tends to disappoint the so-called conservative bloc -- in almost all those cases, Justice Kennedy sides with a claim of an individual right being held by a person against the government, whether that is in the abortion context, or whether that's in the context of intimate sexual relations, whether it's the habeas case in Guantanamo Bay."
One key unresolved question in D.C. v. Heller is whether it limits the states as well as the federal government. The Bill of Rights originally restrained only Congress, but under the "incorporation" doctrine, the Supreme Court has held that the 14th Amendment protects most constitutional rights against state encroachment. Because the capital is a federal district, its local government is a creation of the U.S. Congress. Heller gave no reason to think incorporation doesn't apply, but further litigation will be necessary to settle the question.
Nor does Heller settle which restrictions are constitutional and which are not. Justice Scalia wrote that "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt" on laws against possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill or in "sensitive places" like schools or government buildings, or laws regulating commerce in firearms. That's fine with Mr. Gura, but many laws currently on the books fall somewhere between these uncontroversial provisions and D.C.'s onerous restrictions.
These questions will be sorted out in litigation to come. Mr. Gura's first stop: Chicago, which has a handgun ban identical to Washington's and burdensome registration requirements for long guns.
The Chicago lawsuit was "ready to go" when the Supreme Court decided Heller on June 26. "I looked at the opinion," Mr. Gura says, "and I called my counsel in Chicago and said, 'Yeah, looks good.'" The next day another lawsuit was filed, challenging the ban on handguns in San Francisco's public housing projects. Among the plaintiffs: the National Rifle Association. Thanks to Mr. Gura's efforts, the NRA is no longer gun-shy about going to court.
Mr. Taranto, a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, writes the Best of the Web Today column for OpinionJournal.com.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: July 19, 2008, 06:05:45 PM
"ps Didn't Sen. McCain earlier criticize Obama for not going overseas and on at least two occassions didn't he taunt
Obama to do so? I guess Obama just listened and followed his advice. And now McCain complains that Obama
gets all the attention??? hmmm"
There are two separate points here:
1) Failure to go to Iraq and Afg, and its rectification (not without having formed yet another opinion first
2) Media coverage thereof.
Concerning the latter, the disparity is huge-- what is happening on this trip has been happening every day. In my hometown LA Times, I regularly find BO on the front page and McC on page 15 or page 8.
Furthermore, the superficiality of the coverage boggles the mind.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race
on: July 19, 2008, 05:58:51 PM
At the very least, please post a description of the contents of the URL along with the URL. Better yet, post the contents too
Released: July 18, 2008
Zogby Poll: Obama/Powell Ticket Could Bode Well for Democrats
Survey finds Clinton VP pick favored by nearly half of Dems; Huckabee, Romney viewed as best running mates for McCain
UTICA, New York - As the Presidential candidates ponder potential running mates, a new Zogby International telephone poll shows many voters would be more inclined to vote for Democratic Sen. Barack Obama if he were to select retired four-star general and former Secretary of State Colin Powell as his running-mate.
If Obama were to choose Powell, 42% of likely voters nationwide said it would make them more likely to support the Democratic candidate - as did 42% of Democrats and 43% of political independents. The Zogby International telephone poll of 1,039 likely voters nationwide was conducted July 9-13, 2008, and asked respondents how the selection of certain vice presidential candidates would affect their likelihood to vote for the two leading presidential candidates. It carries a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percentage points.
Likelihood to vote for Barack Obama if he chooses ... as his Vice President
While just 10% of likely voters said the selection of Powell would make them less likely to vote for Obama - giving him a net positive of 32% - Obama's former challenger for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Clinton, fared less positively overall. Even though 30% of likely voters would be more likely to support Obama with Clinton on the ticket, 25% would be less likely - giving Clinton just a 5% net positive rating among likely voters. Clinton fares much better with fellow Democrats, as 47% said they would be more likely to vote for Obama if Clinton were his running mate, for a net positive of 32% among Democrats.
Former Republican rivals Huckabee and Romney could give McCain a boost
Among McCain's potential vice presidential picks, former Republican nomination challengers Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney earned the strongest support from likely voters overall, as well as from Republicans and political independents. Among likely voters, 27% would be more likely to support McCain with Huckabee on the ticket, and 26% said the same if Romney were selected. A Huckabee pick would cause 13% of likely voters to be less likely to support McCain, while 11% would be less supportive of the presumptive Republican nominee if he were to choose Romney as his running mate. Among Republicans, 40% would be more likely to support a McCain/Huckabee ticket, while 11% would be less likely - a 29% net positive for the choice of Huckabee. If Romney were to be chosen, 41% of Republicans would be more inclined to vote for McCain, compared to 8% who would be less likely, for a net positive of 33%. Both fare well among political independents, with a 15% net positive for Huckabee and a 17% net positive for Romney if chosen as a running mate by McCain.
Likelihood to vote for John McCain if he chooses ... as his Vice President
McCain's selection of Sen. Joe Lieberman would create a 3% net positive among likely voters and a 10% net positive among Republicans. Choosing Lieberman would create a 2% net negative on their likelihood to vote for McCain among independents. Florida's Republican Gov. Charlie Crist - often mentioned as a potential McCain running mate - shows net negatives among likely voters, Republicans and political independents, as does Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
For a detailed methodological statement on this survey, please visit:http://www.zogby.com/methodology/readmeth.dbm?ID=1322
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Citizenship lessons for young Brit Muslims
on: July 18, 2008, 11:09:19 PM
Young Brit Muslims to get citizenship lessons in bid to combat extremism
guardian.co.uk, Friday July 18, 2008
Young Muslims will be given British citizenship lessons when they attend mosque schools, as part of a range of new measures outlined by the government to combat extremism.
The plans, contained in a report published today, Preventing Violent Extremism: Next Steps for Communities, were put together after discussions with representatives of Muslim communities in an attempt to prevent the marginalisation of young people.
A central focus will be to show that adhering to the Islamic faith can co-exist with being British.
Trials of the new citizenship lessons will begin in several cities at the start of the new term in September, where they will be taught alongside traditional lessons about the Qu'ran.
Cambridge University has been commissioned to create an independent board of about 20 academic and theological experts to examine issues relating to Islam in a modern context.
They will be expected to compile a report on Islamic beliefs in relation to life in modern Britain over the coming academic year.
The communities secretary, Hazel Blears, announced the plans as part of a new package to prevent radicalisation which includes a renewed focus on community leadership.
"We have made significant progress working with communities to build an alliance against violent extremists,'' she said.
"We have a responsibility to ensure our young people are equipped with the skills they need to stand up to violent extremists and help them understand how their faith is compatible with wider shared values,'' she said.
Officials said mosque teachers in London, Leicester, Birmingham, Oldham, Rochdale, and Bradford would be trained in using the new materials over the summer.
The secretary of state for children, schools and families, Ed Balls said: "Extremists of every persuasion tend to paint the world as black and white, accentuating division and difference, and exploiting fears based on ignorance or prejudice.
"Education can be a powerful tool in tackling this. Giving young people the opportunity to learn about different cultures and faiths, and - crucially - to gain an understanding of the values we share, will also help to build mutual respect and tolerance from an early age and create an environment where extremism cannot flourish."
Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, an imam who is a member of the Muslim Council of Britain, said the creation of the group had been driven by Muslims rather than the government.
"We felt we needed something of this nature to help create a better structured approach to how we are educating our children,'' he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "We feel our children need to be taught that they can be proud Muslims and proud young British people.
"Anything that helps to make our communities stronger should be welcomed - provided that it's not used to isolate, control or change what a community is."http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2...tion.terrorism
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Verbal Trauma Control
on: July 18, 2008, 10:56:42 PM
with Charles Remsberg www.policeone.com
**P1 Exclusive:* Verbal Trauma Control*
*What you say to a wounded officer can make a life-or-death difference*
If you’re with a fellow officer who’s been seriously injured in a
training accident, a squad car crash or a shooting or knife attack,
watch your mouth.
You may literally be able to talk that officer into surviving. But with
the wrong approach, you may drastically worsen his or her chances.
The key, says popular trainer Brian Willis, a specialist in survival
psychology, is the combination of mental imagery, language and
expectation you exhibit at the scene.
“If you understand the critical role you can play and know how to use
certain powerful techniques,” says Willis, “you can help even an
unconscious victim control his bleeding, reduce his pain, improve his
respiration, and ease his fears about his condition.
“With words to supplement your first aid, you often can use the time
before EMS arrives to alter the ultimate outcome even of desperate,
Willis, founder and president of Winning Mind Training, Inc., teaches a
unique course called Verbal Trauma Control which informs officers how to
speak in a supportive, healing fashion to a downed fellow cop, and to
injured or medically stricken civilians as well. PoliceOne sat in on one
of his classes, sponsored by Oak Lawn (Ill.) PD in a Chicago suburb.
*WHY IT WORKS*
The key to Willis’ approach is the subconscious human mind. In contrast
to the logical, analytical and rational conscious mind, the subconscious
is the doorway to imagination, emotion and self-preservation, he explains.
“When people are in traumatic circumstances, they are in an altered
state of consciousness, in which their subconscious mind is highly
active,” Willis says. “They not only are likely to feel scared,
uncertain, confused and alone, but they are much more receptive to
emotion-based input than normal and highly suggestible.
“Even if they are unconscious, they can still hear what is said within
earshot, and what they hear can affect important physical functions
through the mind-body connection.”
Medical researchers have confirmed this in experiments with surgical
patients. Even though a patient is knocked out by anesthetic, he or she
still hears what’s said in the operating room and can react physically
to suggestive messages, Willis says.
“Progressive hospitals now caution doctors and nurses to scrupulously
avoid negative comments in the surgical suite, such as ‘This doesn’t
look good’ or ‘I don’t think she’s gonna make it.’ Some hospitals even
appoint staff members to continually feed positive messages to patients
during surgery because the right kind of input has been shown to lessen
bleeding, control blood pressure, improve heart and lung function and
speed up healing later on.”
These same techniques, Willis says, can be applied by LEOs to help one
of their own or a civilian who’s hurt. “Even in the best urban settings
you may have 3 to 5 minutes and in remote rural areas 30 minutes or more
before EMS arrives,” Willis says. “What you say in whatever time you
have—very simple language—can have a tremendously powerful impact.”
EMS personnel can successfully apply these techniques also, as can
firefighters, rescue workers, military medics and others who must deal
with wounded individuals.
“Your words, body language and actions need to project confidence and
show that you are taking control of the scene,” Willis says. Avoid
judgmental comments (“Boy, you really got yourself into a helluva
mess!”) and “concentrate on delivering positive messages that have a
purpose. While your hands are busy with first aid, your mouth can be
rallying the victim’s physical defenses through his mind.”
Willis offers some specific suggestions for what to say early in your
contact, along with their rationale:
*• “I’m here to help.” *
Injured people “tend to feel very alone, regardless of how many other
people are around,” Willis says. “They may be scared of what’s going to
happen to them, afraid of dying or being permanently injured or
disfigured, possibly worried about losing their job or current
lifestyle. Their mind may be going all these places. Telling them you’re
going to help them allows you to quickly opens a personal connection so
they no longer feel so alone and makes them more receptive to what you
say from then on.”
With civilians, “establish your authority at the outset.” Tell them your
name, rank and department and say, “I’m trained in emergency care,” even
if you don’t actually know much about medical treatment. “This instills
confidence, immediately creates credibility and starts calming the
injured party because it suggests that someone’s there who knows what to
*• “The worst is over.” *
“These four simple words send a critical message,” Willis stresses. “To
the injured person, they mean that his circumstances are only going to
get better from here on. This orients his mind toward a positive outcome.”
Adding that “The ambulance is on its way,” that “They’re getting ready
for you at the hospital” and that “You’re going to be alright” is
reassuring that a “greater level of care is imminent” and plants “a
positive expectation in their imagination.”
*• “I need you to help me as best you can. Will you do that?” *
Give the injured person something to do, even if it’s just holding a
bandage in place, “so they understand they’re part of a team effort.
This gets their mind off their injury and focused on something else,
tends to lessen pain and gives them a feeling of empowerment and
control. When they agree to help, they make a commitment to their
survival.” Also tell them what you are going to do and why, Willis
advises. “This takes away some of their fear of the unknown and removes
uncertainty. It makes them less anxious.”
Once you’ve established some rapport, you can start delivering pointed
messages that will stimulate the victim’s subconscious mind to directly
influence his physiology, affecting such survival essentials as pulse
rate, breathing control and bleeding.
“Here, your tone of voice is very important,” Willis says. “You much
convey your absolute belief in the ability of the mind to control
certain physical functions.”
In class, Willis outlines what these messages might typically consist of
and how to present them for greatest receptivity. The officers attending
practice on each other in a variety of imaginary injury situations.
As with the introductory statements, the words are simple but, in
reality, powerful. The techniques include these kinds of language
*• “As I/You Can.” *
As you tell the injured officer or civilian what you are doing to tend
to him, you subtly implant suggestions for his subconscious mind to
activate. Example: “As I hold this bandage on your arm, you can feel the
bleeding slow down and stop” or “As I lift your head up onto this
pillow, you can begin to notice how much easier your breathing becomes.”
“You’re going to be doing care-taking things anyway, so you may as well
give positive suggestions to go with them,” Willis says.
*• “Notice how.” *
A variation is to draw the subject’s attention to something you want to
occur for them. “Notice how much cooler [or warmer, depending on what’s
desirable] your body is beginning to feel” or “Notice how the bleeding
is slowing down.”
Says Willis: “‘Notice’ is a powerful word that tells them something has
already started to happen. They just need to pay attention to it.”
*• “As you listen.” *
As a means of getting the injured to focus on you and screen out
possibly disturbing distractions, direct their attention to your voice:
“As you listen to the sound of my voice, you’ll begin to feel calm and
you’ll feel your breathing start to slow down.”
You can reinforce this with a “notice” statement and a presumptive
question: “Notice how you’re feeling calmer? You’re feeling more
comfortable now, aren’t you?”
Offer the injured party a choice in how to reach a desired goal. For
instance: “Would you be more comfortable with your arm at your side or
resting on your lap” or “Would you be more comfortable with the blanket
on or off?”
“Either option implies that they are going to benefit, but giving them a
choice increases their sense of involvement and control,” Willis explains.
Reassurances that others have survived similar circumstances can
motivate injured parties to hang on and feel better. Even if you have to
make up a story, tell them about a situation similar to theirs that
someone else lived through and recovered from completely.
Start the story with “Did you see that show on ’60 Minutes’… ” or “I
know a guy who….” “If you tie the story to a credible TV show or to an
authority figure like yourself, people will especially think it’s true
and take courage from it,” Willis says.
A variation of the testimonial approach is the “Some people find…”
lead-in: “Some people find that when they think about important people
in their life, it helps them feel more comfortable,” etc. This deepens
the testimonial with a positive suggestion and also gives them something
to do that’s diverting.
Building on these fundamentals, Willis leads officers through some
easy-to-perform yet sophisticated psychological tools, including how to
“dial down” a victim’s discomfort level, how to create “guided images”
that can control physiological functions from heart rate to blood
coagulation, how to mentally bring “healing energy” to victims suffering
from painful burns, how to use “anchors” to induce relaxation, and how
to protect victims from the harm of negative people they may encounter
after they leave you.
“This is not magic, “ Willis says, “and it is not infallible. The
subconscious mind can reject suggestions as well as accept them, and if
you’re dealing with someone who doesn’t want to survive, they may not.
Also some injuries are so severe they can’t be overcome. But the
overwhelming evidence is that for most people in most situations, verbal
trauma control works.”
In fact, some of the techniques can be adapted to work on you if you
happen to be the one that’s injured. And that’s something Willis
explores in his important training program, too.
[*Note:*For more information, contact: email@example.com
<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org> or phone 403-809-5954. Tactics for helping
yourself or another wounded officer are also featured in Chuck
Remsberg’s new book, *BLOOD LESSONS: What Cops Learn from Life-or-Death
Encounters*, available from Calibre Press by calling (800) 323-0037
Charles Remsberg co-founded the original Street Survival Seminar and the
Street Survival Newsline, authored three of the best-selling law
enforcement training textbooks, and helped produce numerous
award-winning training videos. His nearly three decades of work earned
him the prestigious O.W. Wilson Award for outstanding contributions to
law enforcement and the American Police Hall of Fame Honor Award for
distinguished achievement in public service.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 3 anchors follow BO
on: July 18, 2008, 09:24:29 AM
3 Anchors to Follow Obama's Trek Abroad
By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 17, 2008; C02
The three network anchors will travel to Europe and the Middle East next week for Barack Obama's trip, adding their high-wattage spotlight to what is already shaping up as a major media extravaganza.
Lured by an offer of interviews with the Democratic presidential candidate, Brian Williams, Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric will make the overseas trek, meaning that the NBC, ABC and CBS evening newscasts will originate from stops along the route and undoubtedly give it big play.
John McCain has taken three foreign trips in the past four months, all unaccompanied by a single network anchor.
Obama has "proven adept at generating excitement," says David Folkenflik, media correspondent for National Public Radio. He said the anchors hope "a little bit of that excitement will rub off on their newscasts if they can convey an American phenomenon abroad, if that's what it turns out to be. Senator McCain is not as magnetic a figure in that way."
Jim Geraghty, a columnist for National Review Online, said Obama's paucity of foreign travel as a presidential candidate makes the trip a natural draw for news organizations, while "McCain has been around forever, and he's probably been to all these places before." But, he says, "the networks will be acting as a PR wing for the Obama campaign if they treat any of these photo ops as truly newsworthy breakthroughs."
The plan is for Williams, Gibson and Couric interviews to be parceled out on successive nights in different countries, giving each anchor a one-day exclusive. (Correspondents could have done the interviews instead, but a certain competitiveness sets in once one or two anchors agree to go.) The Washington Post is withholding the scheduled locations for security reasons.
Some 200 journalists have asked to accompany Obama on the costly trip, which will include stops in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the campaign will be able to accommodate only one-fifth that number. No itinerary has been announced.
The senator from Illinois has been drawing far more media attention than his Republican rival from Arizona. With this week's Newsweek cover story on Obama's religious beliefs, he has been featured on Time and Newsweek covers 12 times in the past three years, compared with five for McCain. This week's New Yorker includes a 14,600-word piece on Obama's political rise in Chicago. Obama and his wife, Michelle, were recently on the cover of Us Weekly and were interviewed -- with their young daughters, which Obama later said he regretted -- by "Access Hollywood."
When McCain visited Britain, France and Israel in March and met with their leaders, no network anchors tagged along. NBC and ABC sent correspondents; CBS did not. None of the evening newscasts covered his trip to Canada last month. And McCain's swing through Colombia and Mexico two weeks ago was barely covered, although NBC and ABC sent correspondents.
The upcoming Obama trip, by contrast, has already generated stories about how large his crowds will be and whether German authorities will allow him to speak at the Brandenburg Gate. "Europe Awaits Obama With Open Arms," the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor
on: July 18, 2008, 08:59:14 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Situation on the Afghan-Pakistani Border
July 17, 2008
Media reports about a Western military buildup in Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan have created a considerable stir in the region and beyond about a potential U.S. offensive against jihadists in northwestern Pakistan. This is something we at Stratfor have been predicting for some time. There is definitely a buildup taking place, but we are not quite yet at the point where U.S. forces will be conducting large-scale military operations on Pakistani soil.
Following a large, coordinated Taliban attack on a small military outpost in the eastern province of Nuristan in Afghanistan that killed nine U.S. soldiers July 13, reports have been flying of military activity on the border by both sides. Unconfirmed reports (later denied by both Pakistan and NATO) of U.S. armored vehicles, artillery and troops taking up positions along the border further south in Paktika province, opposite North and South Waziristan, emerged July 15. That night, NATO claims the Afghan National Army and U.S. Special Forces killed some 150 fighters entering Afghanistan from Pakistan and insisted that most were Pakistani. Then, on July 16, Pakistani security forces reportedly engaged Taliban fighters on their side of the border. U.S. forces, meanwhile, abandoned the outpost that was attacked over the weekend, claiming that it was only temporary anyway. The Taliban quickly claimed to have overrun it. A counteroffensive could be in the works.
Though the toll to U.S. forces July 13 was high, much of the subsequent activity — some unconfirmed — is not necessarily out of the ordinary. As Taliban fighters in Afghanistan rest and resupply in Pakistan, NATO and U.S. military activity along the border is hardly abnormal (the United States is heavily involved in the International Security Assistance Force’s Regional Command East, which is responsible for that portion of the border). Furthermore, with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri still at large (likely somewhere in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) in Pakistan), the White House has renewed interest in securing a capture before inauguration day in 2009.
But ultimately, there is no doubt that activity along that part of the border has been on the rise in the past few months, and it is equally clear that both NATO and the United States are publicly emphasizing the problem.
The extent of the problem is difficult to overstate. Top U.S. military commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraeus has been confirmed as the new head of U.S. Central Command, and as we have argued, his tenure is largely about bringing the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan under control. His challenge extends across the border into Pakistan. Islamabad has never really been able to control the tribal belt. In 2004, the Pakistani army was unable to impose a military solution when under U.S. pressure it entered the Waziristan region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA); instead, it negotiated several arrangements and left the paramilitary Frontier Corps as a notional presence. However, those arrangements were short-lived, and the situation has deteriorated to the point that Taliban control is not limited to the autonomous tribal belt but has spread to many areas of the NWFP.
For most of the time since the Taliban’s regime in Afghanistan fell in late 2001, Taliban activity was concentrated predominantly in the southern provinces, with very little activity in the eastern parts of the country along the border with Pakistan’s tribal belt. In the last year or so, Taliban forces in Pakistan’s Pashtun areas have been able to undermine the writ of the state (which is already weakened by political strife). The deterioration of the situation in FATA and NWFP has affected the areas west of the border — hence the rise in jihadist activities in eastern Afghanistan in recent months.
In turn, this has led to the growing impatience in Washington, Kabul, and New Delhi over the state of affairs in Pakistan, where paralysis has exacerbated the regional security situation. Stratfor has on several prior occasions discussed the growing U.S. assertiveness to deny the Taliban and al Qaeda the sanctuaries they enjoy in Pakistan. But that goal remains elusive because of tactical realities on the ground — insufficient troops, inhospitable terrain, lack of intelligence capabilities and the strong anti-U.S. sentiment among the natives.
This would explain why until fairly recently the United States mostly relied on precision airstrikes using Predator drones and clandestine operations, which have grown more frequent in recent months. The situation created by Islamabad’s engaging in talks with militants from a position of weakness has forced Washington to take a much more aggressive stance — an example of which was the airstrike that killed 11 Pakistani soldiers manning an outpost toward the northern rim of the FATA. To a great extent, the increase in pressure from the United States is designed to force Islamabad to adopt a more decisive attitude towards the problem.
The incoherence within Pakistan’s political and military circles, however, prevents any success in this regard. This leaves the United States with no choice but to move ahead on the unilateral front. As cross-border ground operations — such as hot-pursuits, interdiction of militant traffic, or hitting targets of opportunity — become the norm it will create a battlefield that doesn’t recognize the Afghan-Pakistani frontier — at least in the FATA. The jihadists are actually hoping for large-scale U.S. military activity on Pakistani soil because they desperately want to broaden the scope of their insurgency from one currently being waged by a religious ideological minority to one of a nationalistic flavor bringing in participation from more mainstream cross-sections of Pakistan.
In the meantime, Petraeus will be massing troops and formulating a strategy. The Pentagon also announced July 16 the potential for additional troops to be surged to Afghanistan this year. This will take time (and the Afghan winter will soon begin to loom), but the tempo, nature and depth of U.S. operations into Pakistan will play an important role in the way the situation escalates. However, it is the definition of a slippery slope, as the United States has neither the troops nor the legal authority to attempt to command the ground in — much less reconstruct — Pakistani territory. While it would almost certainly limit itself to pointed raids and focus on denying the territory as sanctuary for the Taliban, the consequences in terms of nationalist sentiment in Pakistan will be profound. And ultimately, the Pakistani state has the most to lose from such a scenario, as it will be caught between the United States and its own people.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: July 18, 2008, 08:49:44 AM
"A popular Government, without popular information, or the means
of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or,
perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance: And a
people who mean to be their own Governors, must arm themselves
with the power which knowledge gives."
-- James Madison (letter to W.T. Barry, 4 August 1822)
Reference: Letters and other Writings of James Madison, vol. 3
“If men of wisdom and knowledge, of moderation and temperance, of patience, fortitude and perseverance, of sobriety and true republican simplicity of manners, of zeal for the honour of the Supreme Being and the welfare of the commonwealth; if men possessed of these other excellent qualities are chosen to fill the seats of government, we may expect that our affairs will rest on a solid and permanent foundation.” —Samuel Adams
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Acquainted with the Night
on: July 18, 2008, 08:42:07 AM
Acquainted With the Night
By GEOFFREY NORMAN
July 18, 2008; Page A11
Central Park in the Dark
By Marie Winn
(Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 304 pages; $25)
Urban living does not lend itself to encounters with the wild, and city dwellers might be forgiven for thinking that wildlife consists of rats, pigeons and a few squirrels – that "real nature" exists out beyond the last line of high-rises. Maybe so. But if one lives in America's most razzled urban environment, New York City, and craves the experience of nature, it is right there in the middle of things. In Central Park.
There are birds in the park, as anyone who has walked through it knows. But 244 species? This is the number recorded by one diligent Manhattan birdwatcher. Among the most celebrated birds of recent times are the pair of red-tailed hawks that messily took up residence alongside a high-rise at Fifth Avenue and 74th Street in the early 1990s, eventually causing a controversy among the building's tenants that captured the interest of a lot of other New Yorkers. The hawks were the central figures of Marie Winn's best-selling "Red Tails in Love" (parts of which first appeared in The Wall Street Journal). When the saga ended, Ms. Winn didn't stop observing and recording her encounters with Manhattan wildlife, of course. She simply sought out its nocturnal side.
In its very title "Central Park in the Dark" calls to mind something mysterious and perhaps frightening. Over the years there have been plenty of horror stories, lavishly recorded in the tabloids, to make anyone reluctant to enter Central Park once the sun has gone down. But for Ms. Winn, the darkened park is a place of magic, not menace. Raccoons come out to feed. Owls stir themselves and go on the hunt. Bats take flight. Moths of many types appear in vast numbers. The park comes alive.
"In all the years I've been walking around the park at night, both alone and with friends," Ms. Winn writes, "I've had only two scary experiences." One occurred when she encountered some faux undercover cops – Guardian Angel types with whom she eventually exchanged pleasantries – and the other involving real undercover cops who were less convivial. Otherwise, she says, the prevailing mood has been one of enchantment.
As it turns out, Ms. Winn often makes her nocturnal rounds with other park enthusiasts and lovers of the urban wild. They compose a kind of nightly audience for nature's theater. And there is much to observe – like the emergence of a cicada from its nymph stage: "Suddenly fluid begins to throb through the veins. At first the wings take on a golden, glittery color that sparkles in our flashlight beams. Then, almost immediately, they turn as bright green as the legs. Let there be life! The rapt audience lets out a collective exhalation – ah!"
Ms. Winn's passion for the life of the park extends to all manner of creatures – the large, the small and even the slimy. There is a whole chapter (no kidding) on the sex life of slugs, and while it is not exactly erotic in the most appealing sense of the word – slime has a limiting effect – it is fascinating. "Like our own species," Ms. Winn writes, "slugs prefer to engage in sex under the cover of darkness. Yet people who have managed to observe the arcane rituals of slug sex by lantern or flashlight confirm that what happens when slug embraces slug is ravishingly beautiful."
She is equally lyrical on observing the fly-out of an owl – the occasion when the bird awakens, preens, looks around and in various stages of contemplation decides finally to get up and go to work. Those who gather to watch the fly-out with Ms. Winn are a precise lot, given to recording in their notebooks the exact moment, from night to night, when the owlish event occurs. "Seeing the clock time of an owl's exit change over the months serves a deep purpose: it provides a powerful connection with what Thoreau called 'the steady progress of the universe.' As you stand on terra firma watching the same little drama every day, over time, you begin to absorb the realities of the life on a planet rotating on its axis."
Sample-collecting can be another part of the nightly vigil. At one point Ms. Winn takes some owl pellets that she has gathered – the undigested remains of whatever an owl has killed and consumed and then regurgitated – to the nearby American Museum of Natural History to be analyzed. The pellets are from a barred owl, a species rarely seen in Manhattan. Ms. Winn and her associates are curious about its diet. It turns out that the owl is killing and eating pigeons. This is one version of urban justice.
Among Ms. Winn's nighttime park companions are a group that calls itself the Central Park Mothers. Together they witness the moths that come to an English oak just south of the Boathouse Restaurant, in the middle of the park. The tree gives off a "strong alcoholic smell," suggesting that it is diseased. But the aroma makes the tree attractive to the moths and thus also a gathering place for Ms. Winn and her compatriots. The Central Park Mothers are especially fond of the moths known as "underwings," perhaps because their names are so suggestive: Inconsolable Underwing; Tearful Underwing; Dejected Underwing. Keats might have made something of such melancholy.
Ms. Winn writes as affectionately of her park companions as she does of the wildlife experiences that are their bond. When one of them dies – Charles Kennedy, who "loved Central Park with the passion of the Iowa expatriate that he was" – his friends scatter his ashes near the site where he had seen "his first prothonotary warbler," after a 10-year quest. "We didn't feel sad at all," Ms. Winn writes. "We joked around about Charles's devotion to the stunning warbler. Who else would have chosen such a hard-to-spell name for his e-mail address?"
Mr. Norman, a writer in Vermont, is the author of "Two for the Summit: My Daughter, the Mountains, and Me."
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO's Judgment
on: July 18, 2008, 08:31:18 AM
July 18, 2008
Barack Obama departs for Iraq as early as this weekend, with a media entourage as large as some of his rallies. He'll no doubt learn a lot, in addition to getting a good photo op. What we'll be waiting to hear is whether the would-be Commander in Chief absorbs enough to admit he was wrong about the troop surge in Iraq.
Mr. Obama has made a central basis of his candidacy the "judgment" he showed in opposing the Iraq war in 2002, even if it was a risk-free position to take as an Illinois state senator. The claim helped him win the Democratic primaries. But the 2007 surge debate is the single most important strategic judgment he has had to make on the more serious stage as a Presidential candidate. He vocally opposed the surge, and events have since vindicated Mr. Bush. Without the surge and a new counterinsurgency strategy, the U.S. would have suffered a humiliating defeat in Iraq.
Yet Mr. Obama now wants to ignore that judgment, and earlier this week his campaign erased from its Web site all traces of his surge opposition. Lest media amnesia set in, here is what the Obama site previously said:
"The problem – the Surge: The goal of the surge was to create space for Iraq's political leaders to reach an agreement to end Iraq's civil war. At great cost, our troops have helped reduce violence in some areas of Iraq, but even those reductions do not get us below the unsustainable levels of violence of mid-2006. Moreover, Iraq's political leaders have made no progress in resolving the political differences at the heart of their civil war."
Mr. Obama's site now puts a considerably brighter gloss on the surge. Yet the candidate himself shows no signs of rethinking. In a foreign-policy address Tuesday, the Senator described the surge, in effect, as a waste of $200 billion, an intolerable strain on military resources and a distraction from what he sees as a more important battle in Afghanistan. He faulted Iraq's leaders for failing to make "the political progress that was the purpose of the surge." And his 16-month timetable for near-total withdrawal apparently remains firm.
It would be nice if Mr. Obama could at least get his facts straight. Earlier this month, the U.S. embassy in Baghdad reported that the Iraqi government had met 15 of the 18 political benchmarks set for it in 2006. The Sunni bloc in Iraq's parliament is returning to the government after a year's absence. Levels of sectarian violence have held steady for months – at zero. (In January 2007, Mr. Obama had predicted on MSNBC that the surge would not only fail to curb sectarian violence, but would "do the reverse.") If this isn't sufficient evidence of "genuine political accommodation," we'd like to know what, in his judgment, is.
The freshman Senator also declared that "true success will take place when we leave Iraq to a government that is taking responsibility for its future – a government that prevents sectarian conflict, and ensures that the al Qaeda threat which has been beaten back by our troops does not re-emerge."
Yet the reason Iraq is finally getting that kind of government is precisely because of the surge, which neutralized al Qaeda and gave Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki the running room to confront Moqtada al-Sadr's Shiite Mahdi Army. And the reason the U.S. can now contemplate more troop withdrawals is because the surge has created the conditions that mean the U.S. would not be leaving a security vacuum. On Wednesday, Mr. Maliki's government assumed security responsibility in yet another province, meaning a majority of provinces are now under full Iraqi control.
Mr. Obama acknowledges none of this. Instead, his rigid timetable for withdrawal offers Iraq's various groups every reason to seek their security in local militias such as the Mahdi Army or even al Qaeda, thereby risking a return to the desperate situation it confronted in late 2006.
The Washington Post has criticized this as obstinate, and Democratic foreign policy analyst Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution reacted this way: "To say you're going to get out on a certain schedule – regardless of what the Iraqis do, regardless of what our enemies do, regardless of what is happening on the ground – is the height of absurdity."
Mr. Obama does promise to "consult with commanders on the ground and the Iraqi government" in implementing his plans. But he would have shown more sincerity on this score had he postponed Tuesday's address until after he visited Iraq and had a chance to speak with those generals and Iraqis. The timing of his speech made it appear not that he is open to what General David Petraeus tells him, but that he wants to limit the General's military options.
Mr. Bush has often been criticized for refusing to admit his Iraq mistakes, but he proved that wrong in ordering the surge that reversed his policy and is finally winning the war. The next President will now take office with the U.S. in a far better security position than 18 months ago. Mr. Obama could help his own claim to be Commander in Chief, and ease doubts about his judgment, if he admits that Mr. Bush was right.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008
on: July 18, 2008, 12:56:14 AM
Our man in Mexico City and my friend, Mauricio Sanchez, has been bringing me there for several years now and ably representing us there. I am delighted and proud to report that he has gotten a visa and an airplane ticket to come fight at the Gathering!!!
The problem is this: The plan was for him to stay at the hostel in Hermosa Beach and for me to give him a ride on Gatheirng day, but the hostel is full up and now he does not have a place to stay, nor the budget to afford what hotels can cost. Is there someone who can help out with a sofa or sleeping bag & wrestling mat or something of the sort? He'll be glad to contribute what he had budgeted for the hostel. He arrives on the 6th and leaves on the 13th.
He doesn't speak much English, but I am sure he will make a fine guest , , ,
The Adventure continues!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Taiwan
on: July 17, 2008, 06:47:31 PM
By ED ROSS
FROM TODAY'S WALL STREET JOURNAL ASIA
July 18, 2008
Among the many challenges facing the United States in an election year is the issue of arms sales to Taiwan. Before he leaves office, President Bush must decide whether or not to approve various major sales to the island, including 60 additional F-16s, Patriot PAC III missiles and Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. At present, the Department of State and the National Security Council are holding up these sales. This is an issue which deserves President Bush's immediate attention.
A little history helps illuminate what's going on. In 2001, shortly after President Bush took office, he approved in principle several billion dollars in new arms sales to Taiwan. This decision reflected the President's concern for China's military build-up and a continuing U.S. commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act, which obligates the U.S. to provide the island with weapons to defend itself.
During the eight-year tenure of former Taiwan president Chen Shui-bian, political infighting between the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition Kuomintang stalled the funding for these weapons purchases. At the same time, Mr. Chen's independence-leaning policies angered China's leaders. Washington was displeased by Mr. Chen's inability to push through the arms purchases, and because his actions and outspokenness interfered with improving U.S.-China relations.
The damage those eight years did to U.S.-Taiwan relations was considerable. Taiwan's relative air, missile defense and antisubmarine warfare capabilities fell further behind as important Taiwan military acquisitions were postponed. China, however, purchased advanced weapons from the Soviet Union and increased funding for its own military research and development programs.
Equally important, mutual confidence between Taipei and Washington may have been permanently weakened. U.S. leaders lost confidence in Taiwan's leaders at a time when the U.S. was becoming increasingly dependent on improved U.S.-China relations. In Taiwan, more than ever, domestic political considerations took precedence over national security issues. And although last year the Kuomintang-dominated legislature in Taipei finally passed a defense budget funding many new arms purchases, the damage to U.S.-Taiwan relations already had been done. The U.S. had become increasingly reluctant to take the heat from China over weapons sales it was not confident Taiwan would follow through on.
When Taiwan's current president, Ma Ying-jeou, assumed office in May, he ushered in a policy of Taiwan-China détente and subsequently has expressed his desire for resumed purchases of U.S. arms. Still, the lingering fallout from the previous eight years and President Bush's personal reluctance to anger Beijing continue to hold up various pending arms sales.
Whether or not President Bush approves some or all arms sales after the Beijing Olympics in August -- he will attend the opening ceremony -- remains an open question. High-ranking officials at State and the White House fear major U.S. arms sales, even then, would undermine Taiwan-China détente and do major damage to U.S.-China relations. They also ask why Taiwan needs more weapons packages now. Why not let the next U.S. President address this issue, while the sale of other, less provocative systems, training and spare parts continue?
Herein lies the crux of the problem. How much risk can the U.S. take with Taiwan's security? If it was certain that Taiwan-China détente would go forward without sacrificing Taiwan's young and still fragile democracy, none of this would be of concern.
Beijing has proven all too often, however, that it will demand much and give little and that it sees the use and threat of force as an instrument of diplomacy. Has it demonstrated otherwise? Taiwan democratically elected a president who ran on a platform of détente with China. What has changed on the China side of the equation?
Until Beijing removes short- and medium-range ballistic missiles targeting Taiwan and reduces the number of combat aircraft and troops on its side of the Taiwan Strait, why should the U.S. delay in responding to Taiwan's requests for arms purchases? It will take months for the next administration to sort out its China/Taiwan policies, only delaying important decisions further. In the meantime, China's pressure on the U.S. will only increase as it continues to finance U.S. debt and leaves Washington worried that it won't cooperate with it in the international arena if the U.S. proceeds with major arms sales.
As Taiwan enters this challenging period of détente with China, it needs strong U.S. moral and material support more than ever. By taking action on U.S. arms sales to Taiwan before he leaves office, President Bush would bolster a democratic Taiwan and make it much easier for his successor to withstand pressure from Beijing as arms sales contracts are concluded and weapons systems are delivered. At the same time, President Ma must assure Washington that he is committed to Taiwan's defense and that if Washington approves the sale of F-16s and other major weapons, Taiwan will follow through with signed contracts and adequate funding.
It is time to demonstrate clearly that, while the U.S. supports Taiwan-China détente, it stands firmly behind Taiwan's democracy.
Mr. Ross, a defense consultant, is the former principal director for operations in the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. He writes a weekly Internet column at www.EWRoss.com
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008
on: July 17, 2008, 02:46:42 PM
Howl of Greeting:
The rhythm of the seasons is with us and its time for the "Summer Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack". On behalf of the Council of Elders of the Dog Brothers, Dog Brothers Inc. hereby cordially invites all people of good spirit to its "Dog Brothers Summer Gathering of the Pack" at 11:00 AM on Sunday, August 10, 2008.
We thank Original Productions for the use of its warehouse/set for the past two Gatherings, but it is converting the warehouse to offices and thus the space is no longer available. We are delighted to say that we have found what we believe will be our new home for years to come at:
10950 Sherman Way
Burbank CA 91505
The PG facility has plenty of parking and the basketball court area wherein the Gathering itself will be held has plenty of room. Bring cushions for your comfort. For current chatter on what's happening keep track at http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1484.0
The Magic Words:
The MAGIC WORDS: "No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day. This means our goal is that no one spends the night in the hospital. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with which they came. No suing no one for no reason for nothing no how no way!Real Contact Stickfighting is Dangerous and only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times. All copyright belongs to Dog Brothers Inc. CA law applies."
THIS MATTER OF ACCEPTING ALL RISKS APPLIES TO THOSE OF YOU OBSERVING AS WELL!!!
For example, sticks, and fights for that matter, may go flying into the crowd. Parents should consider things like this in deciding whether a child is old enough to bring along and/or deciding on from where to observe the event. If a stick or a fight comes careening your way know that the fight has right of way-- it is on you to get out of the way! If you are sitting in or near the front row, we will not make fun of you if you wear protective headgear!
As always, NO VIDEO CAMERAS and NO DUAL PURPOSE CAMERAS WILL BE ALLOWED. In God we trust, everyone else, NO DUAL PURPOSE CAMERAS. If you see someone cheating, please let us know!!!
We will continue starting the knife fights with a handshake and the knives undrawn and analogous ideas. Concerning the knife fighting, there is a relevant thread at http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1296.0
We will have some "Shocknife" knives on hand and so it looks like we will be able to have electric knife vs. electric knife fights (as long as they last!). Perhaps this will help induce more realistic behavior during the knife fights!
Again we encourage you to fight knife versus stick-- the stick versus electric knife is always exciting. Stick vs. knife has been one of perennial questions of the FMA, so let's continue the research! Also, please feel free to hide a knife on your person and surprise your opponent with it during the stickfights. Remember that you may fight with weapons other than a stick if you can find someone willing to go against you. Please consider staff, double stick, and anything else. In order to more deeply explore certain variables, fighters may agree to "no grappling" rules. In staff fights, the fighters may wear wrestling type ear guards under the fencing masks.
As always, there is no charge for fighters but FIGHTERS MUST PRE-REGISTER, even if they have fought before. WE WILL BE RUTHLESS ON THIS! The Fighter's Registration form can be found on the website and MUST be filled out whether you have fought before or not. For all Fighter Registration matters, please contact Cindy at email@example.com
310-540-6853. You are not registered until your name appears on the list of registered fighters on the website!!!
Know that recently I signed a contract with a media company with a good track record of sports/reality TV shows to help them develop a show based around stickfighting. Know that an executive from the company probably will be on hand to scout for prospects. Also, know that the international news service Reuters will be covering this Gathering.
The Adventure continues!!! "Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact" (c)
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
President/Dog Brothers Inc. Martial Arts
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives
on: July 17, 2008, 01:55:55 PM
And here's some more:
Thugs committing 350 knife assaults EVERY DAY, as blade menace spreads to rural areas
By Stephen Wright and Nicola Boden
Last updated at 4:56 PM on 17th July 2008
Thugs are committing more than 350 knife assaults every day across England and Wales, latest crime figures reveal.
Results from the British Crime Survey showed nearly 130,000 attacks took place last year - a figure which does not include those against under-16s. Separate figures recorded by police forces reveal 22,000 serious knife assaults including 231 attempted murders, almost 14,000 robberies and more than 8,000 woundings. Ministers welcomed the annual figures which showed a nine per cent drop in overall crime last year, and claimed the steady downward trend in recent years was the most impressive in modern times - including a 12 per cent fall in all violent crime last year. But they acknowledged serious public concerns over knife crime, following a spate of horrific murders in recent months, many involving young victims in inner city areas. Firearms offences recorded by police rose 2 per cent last year to reach a total of 9,803, while homicides were up three per cent to 784.
The latest figures show how the shadow of 'Blade Britain' has spread from urban areas to the shires. Hundreds of knife offences are being committed in county force areas including Devon and Cornwall, Hampshire, Kent, Staffordshire, Cheshire and Northumbria.
Crime statistics released by the Government today show the overall crime rate has fallen nine per cent, but for the first time the number of serious violent offences involving blades is broken down. What emerges is a national map of knife crime across England and Wales which demonstrates how provincial areas are being hit by the problem. As first revealed by the Daily Mail this morning, 22,151 serious crimes involved knives and sharp instruments in the financial year to March 2008. This figure, equivalent to 60 offences a day, does not include an estimated 250 fatal stabbings, which are counted separately by the Home Office. There were 231 attempted murders, 13,887 robberies and 8,000 woundings where the offenders used blades to some degree.
Ian Johnston, president of the Police Superintendents' Association, said: 'The public needs to understand this is not just a London or inner-city problem. It is a serious problem all over the country.
'While we welcome many of the initiatives which have been announced, they are mainly for the medium or long term.
'There is now a need for radical, short-term solutions. Serious consideration should be given to the idea of introducing a minimum prison sentence for carrying a knife. I believe this would have a dramatic impact. We must get back to the time when members of the public accept that even if they have done nothing wrong, and are not carrying a knife, they must not object to a police officer questioning them and in some cases searching them,' he said. 'The police need the public support from all communities to do that.'
Recorded crime figures show firearms offences increased two per cent to 9,803, drugs offences rose 18 per cent and murders rose three per cent to 784.
But overall, the survey shows crime has fallen leaving people two per cent less likely to be a victim of crime - now at 22 per cent.
This is the lowest level recorded since the British Crime Survey began in 1981, according to the Home Office. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was 'extremely pleased' with the figures and that the Government's priority was to build on it for the future. But the reduction belies people's fears of knife crime after a spate of stabbings across Britain since the start of the year.
Roughly a third of non-fatal knife offences, 7,409, were committed in London, which has recently been hit by a series of horrific stab murders involving teenagers. Greater Manchester (2,294) and West Midlands (2,303) have the next biggest knife crime figures.
But of particular concern to detectives, politicians and parents is the extent of Britain's knife problem in provincial forces. For the first time, the Home Office has collated data on categories of violent crime where a knife has been used, including attempted murder, wounding with intent, grievous bodily harm and robbery.
Of the 22,151 knife crimes in England and Wales last year, 231 related to attempted murders; 5,248 were cases of wounding with intent; 2,785 were cases of grievous bodily harm; 2,359 related to robbery of business property and a further 11,528 were connected to the robbery of personal property.
Devon and Cornwall Constabulary recorded 288 offences where a blade or sharp instrument was used to stab, to cut or in threat.
Avon and Somerset had 360 such offences last year, Kent 327, Hampshire 388, Staffordshire 219, Cheshire 224 and Northumbria 351.
Dorset, with just 43 knife crime offences, had the lowest figures for a provincial force. Although the statistics cover only England and Wales, they are mirrored by a similar pattern in Scotland, where knife crime has spread beyond major cities such as Glasgow.
Officers have become increasingly concerned about the way blades have become a weapon of choice for a new generation of teenage thugs. Casualty doctors believe knife crime is far more widespread in the country than official figures suggest because scores of victims who seek treatment in hospitals leave without making a formal complaint to police.
Knife attacks ended six lives in 24 hours in London last week, leading to an unprecedented statement from Scotland Yard aimed at reassuring the public.
As part of a crackdown on knife crime, Met Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alf Hitchcock has been appointed national knife crime czar to oversee police efforts in eight 'hotspots'. In an exclusive interview with the Mail on Monday, Mr Hitchcock called for cross-party efforts to find a long-term solution.
'We've seen the problem of violence among young people getting worse,' he said. 'But it's not just knife crime. Knife crime is just symptomatic of larger issues. Of course we in the police are doing what we can to crack down - but policing cannot be the whole answer. After all, if we were able to stop and search every youngster estimated to be carrying a knife today, and they were all to be sent to prison, we'd be talking of tens of thousands.'
Gordon Brown called Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, to Chequers on Saturday for urgent talks about the knife epidemic. The Prime Minister urged him to make full use of new police powers to make pubs and clubs search customers for knives and guns. Dominic Grieve, Tory Shadow Home Secretary, said the figures proved that knife crime affects the whole country and that targeting hotspots was inadequate. Detectives expect the murder figures to be similar to 2006/2007, when a sharp instrument was used in 258 of the 734 unlawful killings recorded by police.
Find this story at http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...ral-areas.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon
on: July 17, 2008, 09:49:28 AM
From The Man himself:
We have won the war in Iraq. By "we" I mean the Coalition and the Iraqis. Unless there is some unexpected reversal, what lays ahead is the challenge of building a better Iraq. There is still violence. We have lost four soldiers to combat this month, but there were times when we lost that many on an average day. There still are attacks, though we have finally reached the point where all that's left are truly "dead-enders." Al Qaeda is still a problem, but their numbers are decreasing in Iraq. The Iraqi people are sick of the violence. The Iraqi Army is filled with courageous soldiers who can fight. It is possible that by the end of the year we can really say, "Mission Accomplished," except for the continued support that Iraq will need.
Personally, my optimism has never been higher for Iraq.
Please click for some statistics.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rove
on: July 17, 2008, 09:42:50 AM
Voters Want Economic Leadership
By KARL ROVE
July 17, 2008; Page A13
Elections are often reshaped by unexpected and fast-moving events, and when this happens a candidate who quickly takes the lead on the new issue can bolster his chances to win. There is such an opportunity now for Barack Obama and John McCain with the crisis facing Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
The mortgage giants touch tens of millions of people because their core business is to buy, insure and securitize home loans. But they act like huge hedge funds with their portfolios worth hundreds of billions. As government sponsored enterprises (GSEs), they have an implicit federal guarantee that allows them to borrow money more cheaply than competitors. They have used that advantage to make ever-larger bets in their portfolios, generating big profits when home prices were rising, but big losses when housing weakened.
Congress ignored an early warning sign when Fannie and Freddie failed to produce accurate accounting statements in 2002. That should have spurred Congress to pass reforms proposed by the administration the next year to clean up the GSEs. It didn't.
Now with Fannie and Freddie at greater risk, Messrs. McCain and Obama need to think like would-be presidents instead of senators. That starts with ignoring former Fannie CEO Franklin Raines, who says reform isn't needed – this from a CEO who couldn't produce accurate accounting statements. The goal has to be to force the GSEs into a position where they can no longer put taxpayer dollars at risk.
Serious reforms must include immediate measures to prevent Fannie and Freddie from collapsing, and long-term changes to protect taxpayers. That means jettisoning the implied federal financial backstop and shrinking Fannie and Freddie.
The candidate who makes such proposals will likely gain on the issue of "who's better to handle the economy." Mr. Obama leads on this in the latest Time magazine poll, at 44%-37%. But Republicans often win if they are within six points on this issue. The economy is still a jump ball.
That makes reining in the cost of a bailout that much more important. Making the stockholders and creditors of the GSEs bear most of the financial burden will appeal to voters suspicious of government getting too cozy with business.
A wag once said that Fannie and Freddie were political organizations masquerading as mortgage providers. They donate heavily to politicians who can shield them from regulation. This election the GSEs have given more than $800,000 to congressmen and senators who oversee legislation that affects them. They have also snapped up dozens of retiring lawmakers and staff as lobbyists and pay them lucrative salaries. Not bad for part-time, indoor work.
Over the past decade, the GSEs spent at least $171 million on lobbying, which combined would make Fannie and Freddie the third-biggest lobby. This has fostered a network of co-conspirators, including the liberal low-income advocacy group Acorn, big-city mayors and some lenders. Any reform must avoid creating more slush funds for the GSEs to reward political allies at taxpayer expense, and prevent them from investing in "jumbo" mortgages on expensive houses. After all, these GSEs were created to help lower- and middle-income homebuyers, not the rich and famous.
Leading on the economy's biggest problems – housing and the credit crisis – would allow Messrs. McCain or Obama to run as an outside-the-Beltway reformer, willing to take on insider deals that Middle America hates and add to (or foster) a reputation for decisive action. It would also help in battleground states. Denver, Detroit, Cleveland, Las Vegas and Miami metro areas are all in the top 10 in foreclosure rates.
Both candidates have challenges in taking up this cause. Each has received money from Fannie and Freddie employees this election: $82,299 to Mr. Obama and $14,400 to Mr. McCain. Mr. McCain isn't as strong in talking about the economy as he is about national security. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, is steeped in the Fannie/Freddie culture. He briefly tapped a former Fannie CEO to head his vice presidential search and he once worked for Acorn. And his campaign depends on Acorn's activists for voter registration drives. He may be too obligated to act against their allies.
But both candidates should remember past elections. For example, Republican William McKinley won in 1896 in part by embracing hard money after William Jennings Bryan's "Cross of Gold" speech at the Democratic convention. And in 1992, Bill Clinton won in part by promising tax cuts for the middle class to deal with a slowing economy. In both elections, nimbleness helped bring victory. What worked before can work today. An opportunity awaits Messrs. McCain and Obama. Will either man seize it?
Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ
on: July 17, 2008, 09:29:38 AM
Ron Paul Won't Be Home Alone
Last July, Paul Broun shocked Georgia pundits when the poorly funded physician narrowly defeated a longtime legislative leader in a GOP primary for a special election in an overwhelmingly Republican U.S. House seat. Party grandees were convinced Dr. Broun's victory was a fluke and this year backed a challenge from state Rep. Barry Fleming, who hails from the district's population center of Augusta. Mr. Fleming promptly raised nearly $1 million and proceeded to throw the kitchen sink at Dr. Broun, including mailers claiming he was soft on Internet perverts and chiding him for failing to bring home earmarks for the district.
Well, Dr. Broun will be going back to Washington next year, having won 71% in last night's primary to defeat the GOP establishment's consensus choice in his district for the second time in a year. Mr. Broun says his victory demonstrates that a Member of Congress can prosper politically even when he votes against any federal program that isn't explicitly authorized by the Constitution.
Dr. Broun was outspent again this time, but raised about $760,000 to put out his message that he was a different kind of Congressman. He touted endorsements from the free-market Club for Growth and social conservative leader Paul Weyrich. But the centerpiece of his campaign was a pledge to continue applying a four-way test before voting on any bill: Is it constitutional and a proper function of government? Is it morally correct? Is it something we really need? Is it something we can afford? Like libertarian congressman and fellow physician Ron Paul of Texas, he always carries a copy of the Constitution in his pocket and consults it before voting. "Today's federal government is too big, too powerful, and too expensive because it is doing things beyond the scope of what our Founders envisioned the national government should be doing," he told constituents. "This is foolish and it is dangerous."
Dr. Broun will once again do battle with more liberal Members of Congress, many of whom no doubt view him as foolish or dangerous. The conventional wisdom in Washington is that someone in Congress who votes against federal spending that isn't in accord with the original conception of the Constitution will have trouble getting re-elected. Dr. Broun has just won an overwhelming endorsement from his constituents, despite being outspent and shunned by his party's establishment. Maybe there's a lesson there for other Members.
-- John Fund
Gone in 60 Seconds
A symbol of California's car culture is now picking up and moving a big chunk of its operations out-of-state. Yesterday, the California State Automobile Association, an affiliate of the national AAA, announced it is closing all three of its call centers in the state at a loss of 900 jobs. Spokeswoman Cynthia Harris was quite blunt about the reason: "It costs more to do business in California than other states." Her group will now will be answering calls from California motorists from new centers in lower-cost Arizona and Oklahoma.
Few entities in California are better known than the California State Automobile Association, which for decades has provided the car-happy state with auto insurance, towing services and travel planning. Its departure is one more sign that California's current tax and regulatory climate is driving jobs away. California's liberals seem oblivious to such developments. One seventh of California's pending $101 billion state budget is red ink, the result of the state's leadership once again failing to rein in spending and develop a less volatile tax base. The Democratic legislature has proposed over $8 billion in higher taxes to plug part of the gap, but for the last month there has been a budget stalemate as the GOP minority refuses to consider higher taxes and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger dances between the two sides.
The state's Democrats not only insist on higher taxes, but are blocking a proposal from Governor Schwarzenegger to limit future spending increases to the growth of the state's population and inflation in an attempt to cushion the impact of future economic downturns. "I think that we have to be very, very careful about tying the hands of future governors and future legislatures," says Democratic Assemblyman Dave Jones. Apparently, he and his colleagues prefer tying the hands of California businesses so they feel compelled to flee the state.
-- John Fund
Freak Show II
New York City always gets interesting in September, when world leaders gather for the United Nations General Assembly. Two years ago, Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez brandished a Noam Chomsky tome from the rostrum and told the Assembly that George Bush is "the devil" and reeks of sulfur. Last year Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stopped by Columbia University to explain to students that "in Iran, we don't have homosexuals, like in your country."
Now it turns out Mr. Ahmadinejad will be returning to New York for this fall’s UN meetings, though no word was given on whether he will repeat his attempt to lay a wreath at Ground Zero, which he explained last time by saying, "We obviously are very much against any terrorist action and any killing." In proof that all politics really is ultra local, however, New York Magazine's Daily Intel blog seized on the news to propose that downtown's New York University steal a little notoriety from its uptown rival. "Now's your chance NYU: Invite him onstage and get him to pretend there are no women in Iran, and you'll be able to totally rub it in Columbia's face."
The possibilities are rich. Columbia hosted Mr. Ahmadinejad at a student center named for Alfred Lerner, a Jewish banking magnate and veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. NYU is located near Washington Square Park, marked by grand marble arches honoring George Washington. In Iran, of course, such public squares are used for stoning adulterers and other undesirables . . . on second thought, let's not give Mr. Ahmadinejad's event planners any ideas.
-- David Feith
Sofia Goes Flat
Last week I interviewed the instigator of the world's lowest flat tax, Svetla Kostidinova, director of the Institute for Market Economics located in Sofia, Bulgaria. Ms. Kostidinova insists that the most amazing part of her story is that the Bulgarian government is still overtly socialist. Nonetheless, she and her colleagues managed to persuade politicians that replacing the existing tax system with a 10% flat tax would increase revenues and give the government extra money to finance social programs and unfunded pensions. If only Nancy Pelosi were as amenable to economic logic and the lessons of the real world.
Ms. Kostidinova, who speaks English with a thick Eastern European accent, tells me: "The situation was getting desperate in Bulgaria. We were losing our population and our best workers. They were leaving for Western Europe to find jobs and the No.1 form of foreign capital came from remittances." All that began to change when the corporate tax was cut to 10% in 2007 and the personal income tax to 10% in January of this year. "We told the politicians that it was symbolically important for Bulgaria to have the lowest flat tax. We were surrounded by flat tax countries, we wanted to be the nation most friendly to capital and business."
Result: A country that ten years ago had a 12% unemployment rate now has a 6% jobless rate. Instead of people leaving Bulgaria to find jobs, "now it is the reverse. Western Europeans now come to Bulgaria for jobs. We're gaining population now," she says.
Bulgaria is one of 24 nations, most of them in Eastern Europe, that have adopted the flat tax. A unique feature of the Bulgarian system is an absence of exemptions -- everyone pays the 10% tax regardless of income. Because the rate is so low, Ms. Kostidinova says, the plan's promoters figured that everyone could afford to pay. But don't lefties insist that the rich should pay more? "Of course, many do, and they want to raise the rates, but most understand that the flat tax gives us more jobs and more revenues."
If avowed socialist politicians in East Europe are open to new ideas about how to make their tax systems more growth-oriented, why aren't Republicans or Democrats in Washington? Says Richard Rahn, former chief economist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and now an economic consultant in Eastern Europe: "These countries understand that the flat tax is the key to their prosperity -- even the former communists." Only stultified political tactics -- certainly not clear thinking -- explains why somebody like Barack Obama could be running on a platform of making America's tax rates among the highest in the world when other nations are proving the competitive advantages of flatter tax systems.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security
on: July 17, 2008, 09:19:56 AM
July 16, 2008
By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart
At the stroke of midnight July 8, the Denver Water Board closed the road over Dillon Dam in Summit County, Colorado, citing security concerns. The board’s decision, which was implemented without advance notice to local governments and citizens, has not been well-received. It has sparked protests by enraged residents and has even prompted officials from Summit County, three affected towns nearby and the local fire and rescue department to file suit in state district court in a bid to force Denver Water to reopen the road.
The road is one of only a few traversing Summit County, so residents are understandably upset at the inconvenience caused by the closure. Local fire and rescue departments also say closing the road negatively affects emergency response times. This not the first time the road has been closed, however. The road was shut down for a week in January after a report of suspicious activity in the area — activity investigated by authorities and found to be nothing more than two men from Denver filming a music video. The Water Board has spent several million dollars to improve security for the mile-long dam road, and in May it even hired a private security company to conduct 24-hour armed patrols of the dam.
Denver Water has said the decision to close the road was not made in response to a specific threat, and we tend to believe this. With the heat they’ve received over the issue, they surely would have cited evidence of a specific threat to assuage public anger if there had been such information.
But the ruckus raised over the closure of the Dillon Dam road provides a prime opportunity to re-examine the ability of jihadist militants to operate inside the United States, and to look at the types of targets militants might be most likely to select for an attack.
Assessing the Militant Threat
To assess a threat against a potential target like the Dillon Dam, several important tactical realities must be considered. The first is that as long as the ideology of jihadism exists and at least some jihadist militants embrace the philosophy of attacking the “far enemy” — aka the United States — there will be some threat of attacks against targets on U.S. soil. Indeed, there has not been a time since 1990 when some group of jihadists somewhere was not plotting such an attack.
A second tactical reality is that the U.S. government and the American people simply cannot protect every potential target. There are simply far too many of them. While insights gained from al Qaeda’s targeting criteria can help authorities protect select high-value targets, there are just too many potential targets to protect them all. The federal government might instruct state and local authorities to protect every dam, bridge, power plant and mass-transit system in their respective jurisdictions, but the reality on the ground is that there are not nearly enough resources to protect all of these, much less to protect the far more plentiful array of potential soft targets.
Another tactical reality is that simple attacks against soft targets are very easy to conduct and very difficult to detect in advance and thwart. As an attack plan becomes larger and more complex, however, it requires more individuals, more materials and more infrastructure. This means that the bigger the attack plan is, the more difficult it is to conduct and the greater the chances it will be discovered and thwarted.
That said, just because attacks are possible — and indeed likely — and because there are a large number of vulnerable targets does not mean that all the vulnerable targets will be attacked. The capabilities and targeting criteria of militants also must be considered.
Let’s begin with the capability question first. When considering the capability of militants to strike in the United States, one must recognize that with regard to militant jihadists there are generally three different levels of actors to consider. First, there is the core al Qaeda organization; this is the small vanguard of jihadists led by Osama bin Laden attempting to lead a global rising of the Muslim masses. Second, there are al Qaeda’s regional franchises (such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb), which are local or regional jihadist groups that have aligned themselves with al Qaeda, hoping to capitalize on the group’s popular brand name. And third, there are the local, self-motivated grassroots jihadists who think globally and act locally.
All three of these actors have different target selection criteria and different levels of capability. There is currently no al Qaeda franchise in the United States or even in the Western Hemisphere. This means that the main threat of an attack against a target in the United States will come from either the core al Qaeda group, a grassroots organization or a combination of the two, so we will focus our attention on those two actors.
Grassroots actors lack sophisticated terrorist tradecraft in crucial areas like preoperational planning and bomb making. Recent cases such as the July 7, 2005, attacks in London, the failed July 21, 2005, attacks in London, and the June 2007 attacks in London and Glasgow demonstrate the limited abilities of grassroots militants. They can sometimes kill people, but they do not have the ability to conduct large, strategic strikes.
Because of this, grassroots militants will often attempt to reach out for assistance if they desire to undertake a major attack. This is exactly what we saw in the early 1990s in New York. Grassroots operatives there were able to pull off a simple attack like the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane, but they needed assistance for their bigger, more complex plans. In the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the local cell received assistance in the form of Abdel Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef), who helped them organize, plan their attack and construct a large truck-borne explosive device. In the second 1993 case, the local cell turned to an FBI informant for bomb-making expertise and were apprehended before they could strike.
The 2006 plot to bomb a series of airliners in the United Kingdom was likewise a case where a local grassroots cell received assistance from an al Qaeda operational commander but was thwarted before it could carry out its attack — mainly due to the complexity of the plan and the number of people involved.
Thus, without assistance the odds of a successful attack by a grassroots group against a target like a dam are low. Perhaps the greatest threat posed by a grassroots group is that one of its operatives could gain employment as an engineer at a dam — therefore gaining the opportunity to sabotage the equipment controlling the dam from the inside and turning the dam into a weapon against itself. This is similar to the threat posed by insiders at chemical plants. There have also been concerns previously that a savvy cyber-jihadist could assume control of the dam’s equipment via gaps in the information security of the entity running the dam.
As for the al Qaeda core, while the group may theoretically have personnel with the expertise to undertake such an attack, they have been extremely limited in their operational ability since the U.S. response to 9/11. We came under widespread criticism last July when we wrote that the al Qaeda core was a spent force that did not pose a strategic threat to the U.S. homeland, but our assessment holds one year on. Indeed, the vast majority of attacks attributed to the al Qaeda brand name since September 2001 have been conducted by regional franchises like Jemaah Islamiyah, al Qaeda in Iraq or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, not core al Qaeda. In our assessment, the al Qaeda core might have some ability to attack, but it no longer has the ability to conduct a devastating strategic attack such as 9/11.
The Dam as a Target
It is possible to destroy a dam. Indeed, the British Royal Air Force destroyed German dams during World War II, and aircraft from the United States and its U.N. allies destroyed a North Korean hydroelectric dam during the Korean War. In general, however, dams are very large structures designed and built to withstand powerful forces such as floods and earthquakes. Because of this, it would be very difficult to destroy one with an improvised explosive device, unless the attacker could strike at a strategic location that would cause a leak in the structure (as the British did in their attacks on German dams) or at a location that would allow the water to overtop the dam and erode it — in either case, using the power of the water behind the dam to cause the structure to fail catastrophically.
Even with massive resources, however, it is not easy to destroy a large dam made of earth and rock. For proof, one need only to look at the massive efforts of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in China to unblock the Qingjiang River after it was dammed up by debris following the powerful May 12 earthquake. The PLA has used heavy machinery and massive amounts of explosives in their efforts. One July 2 blast on the Shibangou section of the river reportedly involved 6 tons of strategically placed explosives alone. It is very unlikely that militants would have the ability to carefully place that quantity of explosives on a dam in the United States without being detected.
Obtaining explosives in Western countries is also becoming more difficult in the post-9/11 era. Even the 2006 airliner plot involved small amounts of improvised explosives rather than an attack with a huge device, and the 9/11 attacks involved no explosives at all. The grassroots militants involved in the London and Glasgow attacks in the summer of 2007 also had problems obtaining explosives, and they instead chose to try using improvised (and ill-designed) fuel-air explosive devices in those incidents.
If a militant group planned properly and somehow amassed a sufficient quantity of explosives, it would be possible for it to destroy a dam. But that does not mean a group like al Qaeda would target a dam. Even if the group had the ability to conduct such an attack, it probably would choose to use such a large quantity of explosives to attack a far more symbolic target than a dam in rural Colorado.
While al Qaeda’s Taliban cousins have conducted several unsuccessful attacks against dams in southern Afghanistan, the situation on the ground in Afghanistan is far different than that in the United States. The Taliban in Afghanistan are a large, well-supplied insurgent force that regularly strikes at infrastructure such as roads, bridges and even schools.
Conversely, there is no large jihadist element in the United States. There are only scattered grassroots operatives and perhaps a few transnational al Qaeda-types available to conduct attacks. To our mind, that means that these operatives will want to maximize their efforts and undertake the most meaningful and symbolic attacks possible. Rather than choosing targets based on military utility (like the Taliban in Afghanistan), al Qaeda generally chooses targets in the United States for their potential symbolic value so as to elicit the greatest political or psychological impact, which they then hope will translate into economic impact.
This is not intended as an insult to the people of Colorado, but the Dillon Dam simply does not strike us as the kind of target that will carry the type of symbolic or economic impact al Qaeda would seek in an U.S. attack. Symbolic targets need to be readily recognizable not only by the people who live close to them, but also by people looking at a photo in a Pakistani newspaper. The World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the U.S. Capitol, the United Nations, or even the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the strip in Las Vegas or the Space Needle in Seattle are highly symbolic targets that would meet these requirements. The Dillon Dam does not. In fact, we are Americans and had not even heard of this specific dam until the reports of the controversy over the road closure emerged.
Does this mean that jihadists will never strike in Denver? Not at all. Lone wolf or grassroots operatives could very well strike there. As seen in past cases in New Jersey, Florida and California, such people normally seek to strike in familiar territory close to where they live, and there might well be jihadists residing in Denver. But again, such a strike by grassroots operatives or lone wolves would likely be a smaller attack aimed at a soft target. We remain skeptical of the idea of al Qaeda dispatching a team from their headquarters in Pakistan to travel to the United States to destroy the Dillon Dam. The Democratic National Convention in Denver, maybe — but not the Dillon Dam.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Asia Times: AQ/Taliban prepare for borderless war
on: July 17, 2008, 08:56:25 AM
From asia times..
Militants ready for a war without borders
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - From thinly disguised insinuations against Pakistan following the suicide attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul this month to outright accusations against Islamabad by the Afghan government over the unrelenting Taliban-led insurgency, the blame game has entered a critical time: a major regional battle could erupt in a matter of days.
Last week, US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Admiral Mike Mullen paid a sudden visit to Pakistan during which he revealed to Pakistani leaders and military officials the possibility of surgical strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda networks operating in the border regions and that coalition forces in Afghanistan would not hesitate
to conduct hot-pursuit raids into Pakistan.
Mullen urged Pakistani leaders to play their part from their side. He pin-pointed the North and South Waziristan tribal areas as a focal point, along with the areas of Razmak, Shawal, Ghulam Khan and Angor Ada along the border with Afghanistan. Across the divide, Khost province is considered a likely target for carpet bombing and an offensive by the Afghan National Army.
Pakistani army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani was quick to call in senior strategic analysts, who pointed out that the military would only follow the directions of the civilian government. Yet just days earlier, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani had announced that all decisions concerning military operations would be decided by the army chief. This does not bode well for Pakistan's whole-hearted cooperation.
But regardless of how sincerely the Pakistani army fights against the Taliban, the fact is that the Taliban have already staged a virtual coup in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) bordering Afghanistan.
They have established a reign of terror against which the state writ is powerless. In all districts, the Taliban have taken security officials hostage to press their demands that a strict Islamic code be enforced. Many officials have been killed when the Taliban's wishes have not been granted.
As a result, the middle and lower members of the security forces are effectively non-functional and answer to the Taliban's call across NWFP.
This has left the secular and relatively liberal government of the province, led by the Awami National Party, with no choice but to form "defense committees" at the district level to organize civilians against a complete Taliban take-over.
Across the border, a similar situation exists in Ghazni province, close to the capital Kabul, where, apart from the provincial headquarters, the Taliban call the shots in all districts once dusk descends - the district administrations and the police simply give up control, giving the Taliban freedom of movement.
In Kunar and Nooristan provinces, the Taliban are fighting for similar dominance and already most security checkpoints have been abandoned out of fear of the Taliban.
On Monday, a high-level al-Qaeda shura (council) concluded in Miramshah in North Waziristan with instructions to all members with families to retreat to safe locations in expectation of the Afghan war spreading into Pakistan's tribal areas.
Not that this alarms al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. They reason that should coalition forces seriously enter into Pakistan (they have in the past sent unmanned Predator drones on raids into Pakistan), the reaction in Pakistan, even among liberals, would be so fierce that the Pakistani army would not dare to follow up with action of its own. This would leave the militants with a free hand to launch operations inside Afghanistan.
The shura also noted that militant ranks in the region had received their biggest boost since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, including growing numbers from Muslim countries.
Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Lyme disease
on: July 17, 2008, 08:42:52 AM
Second post of the morning
A Threat in a Grassy Stroll: Lyme Disease
By JANE E. BRODY
Published: July 15, 2008
My friend Anne and her husband, Richard, spend summers at a resort in Westchester County that has a swimming lake, tennis courts, gardens and beautiful grounds surrounded by woods. But Anne never sets foot on the grass.
The reason is Lyme disease. Anne says just about everyone she knows who partakes of the greenery and gardens outside the cabins has contracted the disease. So not only is she cautious about venturing out, but she and her husband also check each other daily from head to toe for the much-feared deer tick, which can transmit the disease when it attaches to skin and feeds on blood.
This tick, which is the size of a pinhead when it starts searching for a bloody meal, is responsible for about 20,000 reported cases of Lyme disease each year in the United States (the actual number is believed to be 10 times that) and 60,000 reported cases in Europe. Cases have been reported in every state, with residents of the Northeast, the Great Lakes region, northwestern Washington and parts of California the most frequent victims.
In some areas, as many as half of the deer ticks are infected with Borrelia, the Lyme disease bacteria. The disease got its name in 1975 from the first identified cluster of cases, among children in Lyme, Conn., who had rheumatoid-like symptoms of swollen, painful joints.
The white-tailed deer and white-footed mouse are the tick’s most frequent hosts, but it also feeds on birds, dogs and other rodents, including squirrels. The tiny nymphal form that emerges in spring and early summer presents the greatest hazard to humans. It is also the hardest to spot, especially on body parts covered with hair.
People usually acquire the tick while walking through grassy or wooded areas. Sometimes pet dogs are the source: in Minnesota one summer, our dog got more than 30 deer ticks on his face, apparently from sticking his nose into a fresh carcass. Unlike the common dog tick, which is round and very dark, the deer tick is elongated and brownish.
A Challenging Diagnosis
The disease can be maddeningly difficult to diagnose. Only 50 to 70 percent of patients recall being bitten by a tick. Ordinary laboratory tests are rarely helpful. Tests for antibodies to the bacterium or for its genetic footprints result in many false-negative and false-positive findings.
Rather, according to Dr. Robert L. Bratton and colleagues at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., who reviewed the recent literature on Lyme disease in the May issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, most cases are best diagnosed and treated based on patients’ symptoms. Thus, doctors everywhere must be alert when dealing with patients who live or travel in areas where Lyme disease is prevalent, and they must be willing to use appropriate antibiotics based on a clinical assessment rather than laboratory findings.
Since signs and symptoms vary and often do not appear until one to four weeks — or even months — after exposure, anyone bitten by a deer tick may be wise to obtain preventive treatment with an antibiotic, according to Lyme disease experts consulted by Constance A. Bean, the author with Dr. Lesley Ann Fein of the new book “Beating Lyme” (Amacom Books).
The most common sign is a reddish rash called erythema migrans that often resembles a spreading bull’s-eye, though up to 20 percent of patients never develop it. Common sites of the rash are the thigh, groin, buttock and underarm. It may be accompanied by flulike symptoms: fever, chills, body aches, headache and fatigue.
If untreated or inadequately treated, the infection can cause severe migrating joint pain and swelling, most often in the knees, weeks or months later. In addition, several weeks, months or even years after an untreated infection, the bacterium can cause meningitis, temporary facial paralysis, numbness or weakness of the arms and legs, memory and concentration difficulties and changes in mood, personality or sleep habits. Some untreated patients develop temporary heart rhythm abnormalities, eye inflammation or hepatitis.
Antibiotics for early Lyme disease should be taken for at least two to three weeks. The treatments recommended by the Infectious Diseases Society of America include doxycycline for nonpregnant patients and children 9 and older, or amoxicillin for pregnant women and younger children. Other options include cefuroxime axetil (Ceftin) and erythromycin.
But these guidelines are controversial. They have been challenged by a nonprofit medical group, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, which says they are inadequate to combat the infection in a significant number of patients, who go on to develop debilitating chronic symptoms.
In May, the Infectious Diseases Society agreed to review its guidelines as a result of an antitrust lawsuit by the Connecticut attorney general, Richard Blumenthal, who said some of the society’s experts had financial interests that could bias their judgment. (The society denied that accusation.)
Although I cannot state with authority which side is correct, I have encountered enough previously healthy people who have suffered for months or years after initial treatment to suggest that there is often more to this disease than “official” diagnostic and treatment guidelines suggest.
Pamela Weintraub, a senior editor at Discover magazine, has produced a thoroughly researched and well-written account of the disease’s controversial history in her new book “Cure Unknown: Inside the Lyme Epidemic” (St. Martin’s Press).
Treatment and Prevention
The Mayo doctors concluded that patients who developed arthritis related to Lyme disease should be treated for one to two months and that those with late or severe disease, including neurological and cardiac symptoms, required intravenous antibiotics. Although two studies, neither of which was long-term, found that repeated antibiotic treatment did not reverse the pain and altered cognition associated with Lyme disease, the experience of thousands of patients, including Ms. Bean, contradict these findings.
There are no vaccines to prevent Lyme disease; an early attempt was taken off the market in 2002 because of side effects and limited effectiveness. Those who will not or cannot avoid grassy and wooded areas should wear long sleeves and long pants with legs tucked into socks, and spray exposed skin and clothing with tick repellent containing 20 to 30 percent DEET. Repellents should not be used on children under 2.
Since the tick must usually feed for 24 hours to transmit significant amounts of bacteria, daily body checks and showering with a washcloth can help prevent infection. Clothing should be washed and dried in a dryer. Additional preventive actions are described in “Beating Lyme.”
If a tick is attached to skin, it should be removed with tweezers, not fingers. Press into the skin, grasp the front of the tick’s head and pull at right angles to the skin. Place the tick in a sealed plastic bag for later identification. Then wash the area and your hands thoroughly.
More Articles in Health »
Lyme disease is an inflammatory disease spread through a tick bite.
This article offers a general overview on Lyme disease. For specific information see:
Stage 1 Lyme disease
Stage 2 Lyme disease
Stage 3 Lyme disease
See All » News & Features
A Threat in a Grassy Stroll: Lyme Disease
Prognosis: Prolonged Use of Antibiotics After Lyme May Not Help
Reference from A.D.A.M.
Back to TopAlternative Names
Back to TopCauses
Lyme disease is caused by the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi (B. burgdorferi). Certain ticks carry the bacteria. The ticks pick up the bacteria when they bite mice or deer that are infected with Lyme disease. You can get the disease if you are bitten by an infected tick.
Lyme disease was first reported in the United States in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut in 1975. Cases have now been reported in most parts of the United States. Most occur in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and along the Pacific coast. Lyme disease is usually seen during the late spring, summer, and early fall.
There are three stages of Lyme disease.
Stage 1 is called primary Lyme disease.
Stage 2 is called secondary Lyme disease.
Stage 3 is called tertiary Lyme disease.
Risk factors for Lyme disease include walking in high grasses, taking place in activities that increase tick exposure, and having a pet that may carry ticks home.
Back to TopSymptoms »
Not everyone infected with the bacteria gets ill. If a person does become ill, the first symptoms resemble the flu and include fever, headache, chills, muscle pain, and lethargy.
There may be a "bulls-eye" rash, a flat or slightly raised red spot at the site of the tick bite often with a clear area in the center. This lesion can be larger than 1 to 3 inches wide.
Stiff neck, joint inflammation, body-wide itching, unusual or strange behavior, and other symptoms may be seen in persons with later stages of the disease.
Note: Deer ticks can be so small that they are almost impossible to see. Therefore, many people with Lyme disease never even saw a tick. These people are more likely to develop symptoms because the tick remained on their body longer.
In-Depth Symptoms »
Back to TopExams and Tests »
A blood test can be done to check for antibodies to the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. The most common one used is the ELISA for Lyme disease test. A western blot test is done to confirm ELISA results.
A physical exam may reveal signs of joint, heart, or brain problems in persons with advanced Lyme disease.
In-Depth Diagnosis »
Back to TopTreatment »
Antibiotics are used to treat Lyme disease. The specific antibiotic used depends on the stage of the disease and your symptoms.
Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen, are sometimes prescribed to relieve joint stiffness.
In-Depth Treatment »
Back to TopOutlook (Prognosis)
If diagnosed in the early stages, Lyme disease can be cured with antibiotics. Without treatment, complications involving joints, the heart, and the nervous system can occur.
Back to TopPossible Complications
Advanced stages of Lyme disease can cause long-term joint inflammation (Lyme arthritis) and heart rhythm problems. Neurological problems are also possible, and may include:
Paralysis of the facial muscles
Back to TopWhen to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your health care provider if symptoms of Lyme disease develop.
Back to TopPrevention »
When walking or hiking in wooded or grassy areas, tuck long pants into socks to protect the legs, and wear shoes and light-colored, long-sleeved shirts. Ticks show up better on white or light colored-clothing than dark items. Spray your clothes with insect repellant.
Check yourself and your pets frequently. If you find ticks, remove them immediately by using tweezers, pulling carefully and steadily.
Ticks that carry Lyme disease are usually so small that they are almost impossible to see. After returning home, remove your clothes and thoroughly inspect all skin surface areas, including your scalp.
In-Depth Prevention »
More Information on This Topic
Diseases With Similar Symptoms
Human Granulocytic Anaplasmosis (HGA)
News & Features
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / UK
on: July 17, 2008, 08:28:16 AM
This article can be read on many levels-- including as a reflection upon the wisdom of the UK's unilateral disarmament of its citizens of their guns , , ,
LONDON — Every day, it seems, there are more victims. Shakilus Townsend, 16, stabbed to death by a masked gang. Ben Kinsella, also 16, fatally stabbed during an argument outside a pub. Victims in Bristol, Manchester and Glasgow. Four people fatally stabbed in London in one 24-hour period alone last week.
Skip to next paragraph
Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Imagse
Jimmy Mizen, 16, was stabbed in London. His brothers carried his coffin in June.
In a country where few people have guns or access to them, a spate of knife attacks, many involving teenagers, has forced the issue to the top of the domestic agenda. The Metropolitan Police are so concerned, they said recently, they have made knife crime their top priority, along with terrorism. Government and law enforcement officials are scrambling to produce plans to allay public fears.
On Monday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced a series of measures that he said would make it “completely unacceptable to carry a knife.” The plan includes automatic prosecution for anyone over the age of 16 caught with a knife and doubling the maximum sentence for knife possession, to four years. It also sets up a $6 million advertising campaign to discourage young people from committing crimes with knives and a program to force perpetrators to confront their actions by, for instance, attending courses that describe what happens to stabbing victims.
The prime minister also said the government would intervene directly with as many as 20,000 families whose children were considered at risk of turning to violence because “the mother or father have lost control of their children and their whole life is actually in difficulty.” Parents who refused to accept the government intervention, he said, would be threatened with eviction from their homes.
“Too many people, young and old, do not feel safe in the streets, and sometimes even in their homes,” he said, speaking at his monthly news conference.
But opponents of the government complained that the plans were merely warmed-over versions of past initiatives.
“Jacqui Smith is coming up with the same half-baked ideas because the government has been in denial about the scale of the knife crime problem,” Chris Huhne, the home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democratic party, said, referring to the home secretary, who has offered a number of proposals recently.
Knife crime, most often involving weapons like simple kitchen knives, has dominated the headlines in recent weeks, with reports of fresh cases every day. But statistically, the picture is more murky. Violent crime over all has actually decreased by 41 percent from a peak in 1995, according to the British Crime Survey, in which citizens report their exposure to crime.
Yet the survey accounts only for people 16 and older, and evidence suggests that young people in poorer areas are increasingly likely to carry knives, and increasingly likely to use them. The Daily Telegraph, which examined data from three-fourths of the police forces in England and Wales, reported recently that nearly 21,000 people had been stabbed or mugged at knifepoint so far this year.
Doctors in busy emergency rooms say they are seeing a steep increase in patients admitted with injuries caused by violence, often involving sharp objects like glass bottles or kitchen knives. A recent study by the Center for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University found that the number of people admitted to hospitals after arriving in the emergency rooms with injuries caused by violence had increased by 30 percent across England in the last four years.
According to the study, rates of admission as a result of violence were six times higher in the poorest fifth of the country than in its most affluent areas. “The difference between the experience of violence between the wealthier and poorer communities is quite dramatic, even for children as young as 14,” said Mark Bellis, director of the center and an author of the study.
The government’s plans, part of a $200 million program to combat youth crime, are the latest in a series of measures meant to address the country’s problem with knife crimes.
In May, Ms. Smith, the home secretary, announced a $10 million knife-crime-reduction program in problem cities.
In London, where 20 teenagers have been killed with knives so far this year, the police embarked on a six-week blitz in May. About 27,000 people were searched, 1,200 were arrested and 500 knives were seized, the authorities said.
The Conservative Party said the government’s plans did not go far enough and called for steeper penalties. The party’s leader, David Cameron, told reporters: “If you are carrying a knife and you are caught, you should expect to go to prison. Plain, simple, clear.”
But Mr. Huhne of the Liberal Democrats said that approach was the wrong one. Young people in Britain — who regularly score at the bottom of charts that measure relative deprivation, poverty, educational attainment, health and general well-being in Europe — have been subject to “mass criminalization,” he said.
“By dragging more and more young people through the criminal justice system, they have reduced the fear of a criminal record and contributed to the problem,” he said.
Roger Grimshaw, research director of the Center for Crime and Justice Studies at King’s College London, said little was known about how many people carry knives and under what circumstances. “We need to look at the violence itself instead of focusing on the instrument, because clearly knives are very available,” he said.
“Many of these people come from disadvantaged districts in which there is a buildup of fear,” he said. “We have to think about the circumstances in which young people are tempted to use violence, where they have few resources and a law-abiding lifestyle is not a rewarding one.”
Professor Bellis of the Center for Public Health said that the authorities should be “intervening far earlier, before violence erupts” in problem areas.
“For certain communities, violence dominates,” he said. “We have to provide education and support for those families that need additional support, and we have to tackle inequalities. Many people are growing up in environments where they feel they have very little to lose.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US troops in Georgia
on: July 17, 2008, 08:08:33 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Multiple Messages Of Military Movement In Georgia
July 16, 2008
The United States has begun joint military maneuvers with Georgia. About 1,000 U.S. troops have been deployed to Georgia to train with Georgian troops. They will be based near Tbilisi, the capital. There will also be small contingents from other regional countries participating. Russia has also launched military exercises involving 8,000 troops in the North Caucasus region bordering on Georgia. The Americans have said that these maneuvers were scheduled months ago and the Russians said that their own exercises have nothing to do with what is going on in Georgia. The Georgians also announced Tuesday that they have approved a 5,000-troop increase in their military as well as a 27 percent increase in their defense budget.
It is certainly true that the American exercises were planned a while ago. But that does not change the fact that the decision to conduct the exercises was going to be seen by the Russians as a challenge, and that the Americans knew that and intended it as such. The Russians have been busy trying to re-assert their sphere of influence in the region, and have seen Georgia as particularly troublesome, in part because it is seeking membership in NATO and in part because the Russians have viewed them in the past as supporting anti-Russian groups in the region. Moreover, the Russians have viewed the United States as deliberately encouraging Georgian aspirations for NATO, and therefore deliberately challenging Russian interests. Whatever their claims, the Americans knew that the Russians would be upset at the maneuvers and that is clearly why the Americans did what they did.
The United States has a credibility problem in the former Soviet Union — Washington is not seen as being particularly effective in protecting its interests or the interests of its allies in the region. The Russians appear to be on the ascendancy and the Americans seem content to let them ascend. This is affecting the behavior of nations around Russia, who seeing U.S. inattentiveness or weakness, find themselves with few options in the face of Russian assertiveness.
The reason, of course, is that the United States is indeed, for the moment, weak. It is absorbed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and has no meaningful reserves. It cannot promise military support to allies like Georgia, because it in fact has very few assets with which to support them. The decision to hold this maneuver with 1,000 troops is a symbolic gesture of commitment to an ally. But the Russians deliberately deployed a much larger number to make several points. They wanted to show the Georgians that they have many more troops available than the Americans, are much nearer, and are more able to mobilize that force quickly while the Americans took months to schedule their undertaking.
The Russian lesson to the Georgians is clear. The Americans can make a symbolic gesture, but symbols are not very important. What matters is, as the Russians say, the correlation of forces. The United States might well be a global power, but at this place and at this time, the Russians are much stronger — and they don’t have to travel very far to get there.
During a period of time when the Russians are in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, breakaway regions of Georgia, they are trying to demonstrate that the American maneuvers should be read as a sign of weakness, rather than demonstration of commitment. The troops the United States committed to this exercise were far too few and came from too far away to make much of a difference.
That is why the Georgian decision to increase its own defense budget and army is more significant than the exercise. But even that isn’t significant. No matter how much the Georgians do, they cannot counter-balance the Russians. Russia is not looking to invade Georgia, but it is trying to show that invasion is its decision to make, and not one that will be influenced by U.S. troops or Georgian budgets. The lesson is intended to be read not only by the Georgians, but other countries in the former Soviet Union.
Russia is saying that the United States is going to have to do a lot better than this if it is to be considered a credible player in the region and that the Americans can’t do much better than what they have already done. Ultimately, the Russians are working to reshape perceptions of American power in the former Soviet Union in order to dispel what they claim is the illusion that Americans are a shield to nations acting in opposition to Russian interests.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers:
on: July 17, 2008, 07:57:18 AM
"Without Freedom of Thought there can be no such Thing as Wisdom;
and no such Thing as Public Liberty, without Freedom of Speech."
-- Benjamin Franklin (writing as Silence Dogood, No. 8, 9 July
Reference: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Labaree, ed., vol. 1
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc)
on: July 17, 2008, 07:46:39 AM
Study: Low-Carb Diet Best for Weight, Cholesterol
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
The Atkins diet may have proved itself after all: A low-carb diet and a Mediterranean-style regimen helped people lose more weight than a traditional low-fat diet in one of the longest and largest studies to compare the dueling weight-loss techniques.
A bigger surprise: The low-carb diet improved cholesterol more than the other two. Some critics had predicted the opposite.
"It is a vindication," said Abby Bloch of the Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Foundation, a philanthropy group that honors the Atkins' diet's creator and was the study's main funder.
However, all three approaches — the low-carb diet, a low-fat diet and a so-called Mediterranean diet — achieved weight loss and improved cholesterol.
The study is remarkable not only because it lasted two years, much longer than most, but also because of the huge proportion of people who stuck with the diets — 85 percent.
Researchers approached the Atkins Foundation with the idea for the study. But the foundation played no role in the study's design or reporting of the results, said the lead author, Iris Shai of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.
Other experts said the study — being published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine — was highly credible.
"This is a very good group of researchers," said Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
The research was done in a controlled environment — an isolated nuclear research facility in Israel. The 322 participants got their main meal of the day, lunch, at a central cafeteria.
"The workers can't easily just go out to lunch at a nearby Subway or McDonald's," said Dr. Meir Stampfer, the study's senior author and a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.
In the cafeteria, the appropriate foods for each diet were identified with colored dots, using red for low-fat, green for Mediterranean and blue for low-carb.
As for breakfast and dinner, the dieters were counseled on how to stick to their eating plans and were asked to fill out questionnaires on what they ate, Stampfer said.
The low-fat diet — no more than 30 percent of calories from fat — restricted calories and cholesterol and focused on low-fat grains, vegetables and fruits as options. The Mediterranean diet had similar calorie, fat and cholesterol restrictions, emphasizing poultry, fish, olive oil and nuts.
The low-carb diet set limits for carbohydrates, but none for calories or fat. It urged dieters to choose vegetarian sources of fat and protein.
"So not a lot of butter and eggs and cream," said Madelyn Fernstrom, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center weight management expert who reviewed the study but was not involved in it.
Most of the participants were men; all men and women in the study got roughly equal amounts of exercise, the study's authors said.
Average weight loss for those in the low-carb group was 10.3 pounds after two years. Those in the Mediterranean diet lost 10 pounds, and those on the low-fat regimen dropped 6.5.
More surprising were the measures of cholesterol. Critics have long acknowledged that an Atkins-style diet could help people lose weight but feared that over the long term, it may drive up cholesterol because it allows more fat.
But the low-carb approach seemed to trigger the most improvement in several cholesterol measures, including the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, the "good" cholesterol. For example, someone with total cholesterol of 200 and an HDL of 50 would have a ratio of 4 to 1. The optimum ratio is 3.5 to 1, according to the American Heart Association.
Doctors see that ratio as a sign of a patient's risk for hardening of the arteries. "You want that low," Stampfer said.
The ratio declined by 20 percent in people on the low-carb diet, compared to 16 percent in those on the Mediterranean and 12 percent in low-fat dieters.
The study is not the first to offer a favorable comparison of an Atkins-like diet. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year found overweight women on the Atkins plan had slightly better blood pressure and cholesterol readings than those on the low-carb Zone diet, the low-fat Ornish diet and a low-fat diet that followed U.S. government guidelines.
The heart association has long recommended low-fat diets to reduce heart risks, but some of its leaders have noted the Mediterranean diet has also proven safe and effective.
The heart association recommends a low-fat diet even more restrictive than the one in the study, said Dr. Robert Eckel, the association's past president who is a professor of medicine at the University of Colorado-Denver.
It does not recommend the Atkins diet. However, a low-carb approach is consistent with heart association guidelines so long as there are limitations on the kinds of saturated fats often consumed by people on the Atkins diet, Eckel said.
The new study's results favored the Atkins-like approach less when subgroups such as diabetics and women were examined.
Among the 36 diabetics, only those on the Mediterranean diet lowered blood sugar levels. Among the 45 women, those on the Mediterranean diet lost the most weight.
"I think these data suggest that men may be much more responsive to a diet in which there are clear limits on what foods can be consumed," such as an Atkins-like diet, said Dr. William Dietz, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"It suggests that because women have had more experience dieting or losing weight, they're more capable of implementing a more complicated diet," said Dietz, who heads CDC's nutrition unit.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread
on: July 16, 2008, 07:23:18 PM
"I posted the article about the Yemeni girls because I thought they were inspiring not necessary as criticism to Islam. Sadly getting married at 8 is not the wost thing that could happen to a girl/woman in an Islamic country. I can move it if you want."
Actually I was making a rhetorical point as I sometimes am known to do
"Marriage has been changed before by allowing for divorce and the change in the status of woman going from property to a more or less equal partner that seems to me to be at least as big a change as allowing for two men or two woman to get married. , , ,"
I guessing that these changes were not held to constitutionally compelled.
" I will probably take a break from the gay marriage topic for a little bit. I feel like we are starting to go in circles and no matter how many times you explain it to me I don't think I will see the light. Please have the last word."
Both wise and gracious of you-- thank you. I restate what I (and GM) have already said
I will have a real humdinger for this thread next week, , ,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008
on: July 16, 2008, 07:12:22 PM
1) Powerhouse Gym is confirmed!!!
2) The Reuters News Service will be covering the event. I know, I know, Reuters has engaged in some seriously dishonest reporting about America, but the fellow with whom I spoke seemed nice-- still, be alert.
3) Either tomorrow or next week I hope to be able to report about a potentially huge development , , ,
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Self-Defense Law
on: July 16, 2008, 07:05:23 PM
Well, pigs fly!!!
'Have-a-go heroes' get legal right to defend themselves
By Richard Edwards, Crime Correspondent and Chris Hope, Home Affairs Correspondent
Last updated: 6:54 AM BST 16/07/2008
Home owners and “have-a go-heroes” have for the first time been given the legal right to defend themselves against burglars and muggers free from fear of prosecution.
They will be able to use force against criminals who break into their homes or attack them in the street without worrying that "heat of the moment” misjudgements could see them brought before the courts.
Under new laws police and prosecutors will have to assess a person’s actions based on the person’s situation "as they saw it at the time” even if in hindsight it could be seen as unreasonable.
For example, homeowners would be able stab or shoot a burglar if confronted or tackle them and use force to detain them until police arrive. Muggers could be legally punched and beaten in the street or have their own weapons used against them.
However, attacking a fleeing criminal with a weapon is not permitted nor is lying in wait to ambush them.
The new laws follow a growing public campaign for people to be given the right to defend themselves and their own homes in the wake of a number of high profile cases.
In 2000, Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer, was sent to prison for manslaughter for shooting an intruder in his home.
Earlier this year, Tony Singh, a shopkeeper, found himself facing a murder charge after he defended himself against an armed robber who tried to steal his takings. During the struggle the robber received a single fatal stab wound to the heart with his own knife.
The Crown Prosecution Service eventually decided Mr Singh should not be charged.
Until now people have had to prove in court that they acted in self defence but the changes mean police and the Crown Prosecution Service will decide on cases before this stage.
Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, said that people would be protected legally if they defend themselves "instinctively”; they fear for their own safety or that of others; and the level of force used is not excessive or disproportionate.
He added the changes in law were designed to ensure the criminal justice system was weighted in favour of the victim.
Mr Straw – and other Labour ministers – have previously repeatedly blocked attempts by opposition MPs to give greater protection to householders.
In 2004 Tony Blair promised to review the existing legislation after he admitted there was "genuine public concern” about the issue.
But his pledge was dropped weeks later after the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke concluded that the current law was "sound”.
Two Private Member’s Bills on the issue were tabled by the Tories around the time of the 2005 general election, but both were sunk by the Government.
In 2004, a Tory Bill designed to give the public the right to forcibly tackle burglars was also rejected.
The new self defence law, which came into force yesterday, is contained in the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008 and was announced by Mr Straw last September.
He is understood to have decided new laws were necessary after he was involved in four "have-a go’’ incidents, which included chasing and restraining muggers near his south London home.
Opposition leaders said it offered nothing new and was merely the latest policy designed to appeal to core Tory voters.
In practice, householders are seldom prosecuted if they harm or even kill an intruder but the Act will give them greater legal protection.
Nick Herbert, the Shadow Justice Secretary, said: "This is a typical Labour con – it will give no greater protection to householders confronted by burglars because it’s nothing more than a re-statement of the existing case law.”
Mr Straw said: "The justice system must not only work on the side of people who do the right thing as good citizens, but also be seen to work on their side.
"The Government strongly supports the right of law abiding people to defend themselves, their families and their property with reasonable force. This law will help to make sure that that right is upheld and that the criminal justice system is firmly weighted in favour of the victim.
"Dealing with crime is not just the responsibility of the police, courts and prisons; it’s the responsibility of all of us. Communities with the lowest crime and the greatest safety are the ones with the most active citizens with a greater sense of shared values, inspired by a sense of belonging and duty to others, who are empowered by the state and are also supported by it – in other words, making a reality of justice.
"These changes in the law will make clear – victims of crime, and those who intervene to prevent crime, should be treated with respect by the justice system. We do not want to encourage vigilantism, but there can be no justice in a system which makes the victim the criminal."
It came as it emerged that homeowners could have to wait up to three days after reporting a crime to see a police officer, according to a leaked draft of the Policing Green Paper.
It sets out new national standards for local policing for all 43 forces cross England and Wales.
Callers to the police will be given set times within which officers will attend an incident.
The paper says that this will be "within three hours it if requires policing intervention or three days if there is less immediate need for a police presence."
However, the Home Office would not comment on the plans.
Have Your Say: Should have-a-go heroes get protection?
Story from Telegraph News:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/news...hemselves.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A big catch-up post
on: July 16, 2008, 08:22:04 AM
“The Constitution shall never be construed... to prevent the people of the United States who are peaceable citizens from keeping their own arms.” —Samuel Adams
“Every new regulation concerning commerce or revenue; or in any manner affecting the value of the different species of property, presents a new harvest to those who watch the change and can trace its consequences; a harvest reared not by themselves but by the toils and cares of the great body of their fellow citizens.” —James Madison
“And as to the Cares, they are chiefly what attend the bringing up of Children; and I would ask any Man who has experienced it, if they are not the most delightful Cares in the World.” —Benjamin Franklin
"The blessed Religion revealed in the word of God will remain an
eternal and awful monument to prove that the best Institution may
be abused by human depravity; and that they may even, in some
instances be made subservient to the vilest purposes. Should,
hereafter, those incited by the lust of power and prompted by
the Supineness or venality of their Constituents, overleap the
known barriers of this Constitution and violate the unalienable
rights of humanity: it will only serve to shew, that no compact
among men (however provident in its construction and sacred in
its ratification) can be pronounced everlasting an inviolable,
and if I may so express myself, that no Wall of words, that no
mound of parchm[en]t can be so formed as to stand against the
sweeping torrent of boundless ambition on the side, aided by the
sapping current of corrupted morals on the other."
-- George Washington (fragments of the Draft First Inaugural
Address, April 1789)
“Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors.” —Joseph Story
"The pyramid of government-and a republican government may
well receive that beautiful and solid form-should be raised to
a dignified altitude: but its foundations must, of consequence,
be broad, and strong, and deep. The authority, the interests, and
the affections of the people at large are the only foundation,
on which a superstructure proposed to be at once durable and
magnificent, can be rationally erected."
-- James Wilson ()
Reference: The Works of James Wilson, McCloskey, ed., 403.
“How could a readiness for war in time of peace be safely prohibited, unless we could prohibit, in like manner, the preparations and establishments of every hostile nation?” —James Madison
"Remember, my Eliza, you are a Christian."
-- Alexander Hamilton (speaking to his grieving wife, 7/12/1804)
Reference: Facts and Documments..., Editor of the Evening Post,
ed. (23); original letter from David Hosack, August 17, 1804
“National defense is one of the cardinal duties of a statesman.” —John Adams
"The Alien bill proposed in the Senate is a monster that must
forever disgrace its parents."
-- James Madison (letter to Thomas Jefferson, 20 May 1798)
Reference: James Madison, Letters and Other Writings, Fendall,
ed., vol. 2 (142)
“I am not influenced by the expectation of promotion or pecuniary reward.” —Nathan Hale, who was hanged for his service to his country
"Energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition
of good government. It is essential to the protection of the
community against foreign attacks; it is not less essential
to the steady administration of the laws; to the protection of
property against those irregular and high-handed combinations
which sometimes interrupt the ordinary course of justice; to
the security of liberty against the enterprises and assaults of
ambition, of faction, and of anarchy."
-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 69, 14 March 1788)
Reference: Hamilton, Federalist No. 69.
"[W]e are confirmed in the opinion, that the present age would be
deficient in their duty to God, their posterity and themselves,
if they do not establish an American republic. This is the
only form of government we wish to see established; for we can
never be willingly subject to any other King than He who, being
possessed of infinite wisdom, goodness and rectitude, is alone
fit to possess unlimited power."
Instructions of Malden, Massachusetts for a Declaration of
Independence, 27 May 1776
Reference: Documents of American Histroy, Commager, vol. 1 (97)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From Iraq to Afg.
on: July 16, 2008, 01:02:56 AM
Second piece tonight from Stratfor:
Now for the Hard Part: From Iraq to Afghanistan
July 15, 2008
Related Special Topic Page
U.S. Military Involvement in Iraq
By George Friedman
The Bush administration let it be known last week that it is prepared to start reducing the number of troops in Iraq, indicating that three brigades out of 15 might be withdrawn before Inauguration Day in 2009. There are many dimensions to the announcements, some political and some strategic. But perhaps the single most important aspect of the development was the fairly casual way the report was greeted. It was neither praised nor derided. Instead, it was noted and ignored as the public focused on more immediate issues.
In the public mind, Iraq is clearly no longer an immediate issue. The troops remain there, still fighting and taking casualties, and there is deep division over the wisdom of the invasion in the first place. But the urgency of the issue has passed. This doesn’t mean the issue isn’t urgent. It simply means the American public — and indeed most of the world — have moved on to other obsessions, as is their eccentric wont. The shift nevertheless warrants careful consideration.
Obviously, there is a significant political dimension to the announcement. It occurred shortly after Sen. Barack Obama began to shift his position on Iraq from what appeared to be a demand for a rapid withdrawal to a more cautious, nuanced position. As we have pointed out on several occasions, while Obama’s public posture was for withdrawal with all due haste, his actual position as represented in his position papers was always more complex and ambiguous. He was for a withdrawal by the summer of 2010 unless circumstances dictated otherwise. Rhetorically, Obama aligned himself with the left wing of the Democratic Party, but his position on the record was actually much closer to Sen. John McCain’s than he would admit prior to his nomination. Therefore, his recent statements were not inconsistent with items written on his behalf before the nomination — they merely appeared so.
The Bush administration was undoubtedly delighted to take advantage of Obama’s apparent shift by flanking him. Consideration of the troop withdrawal has been under way for some time, but the timing of the leak to The New York Times detailing it must have been driven by Obama’s shift. As Obama became more cautious, the administration became more optimistic and less intransigent. The intent was clearly to cause disruption in Obama’s base. If so, it failed precisely because the public took the administration’s announcement so casually. To the extent that the announcement was political, it failed because even the Democratic left is now less concerned about the war in Iraq. Politically speaking, the move was a maneuver into a vacuum.
But the announcement was still significant in other, more important ways. Politics aside, the administration is planning withdrawals because the time has come. First, the politico-military situation on the ground in Iraq has stabilized dramatically. The reason for this is the troop surge — although not in the way it is normally thought of. It was not the military consequences of an additional 30,000 troops that made the difference, although the addition and changes in tactics undoubtedly made an impact.
What was important about the surge is that it happened at all. In the fall of 2006, when the Democrats won both houses of Congress, it appeared a unilateral U.S. withdrawal from Iraq was inevitable. If Bush wouldn’t order it, Congress would force it. All of the factions in Iraq, as well as in neighboring states, calculated that the U.S. presence in Iraq would shortly start to decline and in due course disappear. Bush’s order to increase U.S. forces stunned all the regional players and forced a fundamental recalculation. The assumption had been that Bush’s hands were tied and that the United States was no longer a factor. What Bush did — and this was more important than numbers or tactics — was demonstrate that his hands were not tied and that the United States could not be discounted.
The realization that the Americans were not going anywhere caused the Sunnis, for example, to reconsider their position. Trapped between foreign jihadists and the Shia, the Americans suddenly appeared to be a stable and long-term ally. The Sunni leadership turned on the jihadists and aligned with the United States, breaking the jihadists’ backs. Suddenly facing a U.S.-Sunni-Kurdish alliance, the Shia lashed out, hoping to break the alliance. But they also split between their own factions, with some afraid of being trapped as Iranian satellites and others viewing the Iranians as the solution to their problem. The result was a civil war not between the Sunnis and Shia, but among the Shia themselves.
Tehran performed the most important recalculation. The Iranians’ expectation had been that the United States would withdraw from Iraq unilaterally, and that when it did, Iran would fill the vacuum it left. This would lead to the creation of an Iranian-dominated Iraqi Shiite government that would suppress the Sunnis and Kurds, allowing Iran to become the dominant power in the Persian Gulf region. It was a heady vision, and not an unreasonable one — if the United States had begun to withdraw in the winter of 2006-2007.
When the surge made it clear that the Americans weren’t leaving, the Iranians also recalculated. They understood that they were no longer going to be able to create a puppet government in Iraq, and the danger now was that the United States would somehow create a viable puppet government of its own. The Iranians understood that continued resistance, if it failed, might lead to this outcome. They lowered their sights from dominating Iraq to creating a neutral buffer state in which they had influence. As a result, Tehran acted to restrain the Shiite militias, focusing instead on maximizing its influence with the Shia participating in the Iraqi government, including Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
A space was created between the Americans and Iranians, and al-Maliki filled it. He is not simply a pawn of Iran — and he uses the Americans to prevent himself from being reduced to that — but neither is he a pawn of the Americans. Recent negotiations between the United States and the al-Maliki government on the status of U.S. forces have demonstrated this. In some sense, the United States has created what it said it wanted: a strong Iraqi government. But it has not achieved what it really wanted, which was a strong, pro-American Iraqi government. Like Iran, the United States has been forced to settle for less than it originally aimed for, but more than most expected it could achieve in 2006.
This still leaves the question of what exactly the invasion of Iraq achieved. When the Americans invaded, they occupied what was clearly the most strategic country in the Middle East, bordering Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran. Without resistance, the occupation would have provided the United States with a geopolitical platform from which to pressure and influence the region. The fact that there was resistance absorbed the United States, therefore negating the advantage. The United States was so busy hanging on in Iraq that it had no opportunity to take advantage of the terrain.
That is why the critical question for the United States is how many troops it can retain in Iraq, for how long and in what locations. This is a complex issue. From the Sunni standpoint, a continued U.S. presence is essential to protect Sunnis from the Shia. From the Shiite standpoint, the U.S. presence is needed to prevent Iran from overwhelming the Shia. From the standpoint of the Kurds, a U.S. presence guarantees Kurdish safety from everyone else. It is an oddity of history that no major faction in Iraq now wants a precipitous U.S. withdrawal — and some don’t want a withdrawal at all.
For the United States, the historical moment for its geopolitical coup seems to have passed. Had there been no resistance after the fall of Baghdad in 2003, the U.S. occupation of Iraq would have made Washington a colossus astride the region. But after five years of fighting, the United States is exhausted and has little appetite for power projection in the region. For all its bravado against Iran, no one has ever suggested an invasion, only airstrikes. Therefore, the continued occupation of Iraq simply doesn’t have the same effect as it did in 2003.
But the United States can’t simply leave. The Iraqi government is not all that stable, and other regional powers, particularly the Saudis, don’t want to see a U.S. withdrawal. The reason is simple: If the United States withdraws before the Baghdad government is cohesive enough, strong enough and inclined enough to balance Iranian power, Iran could still fill the partial vacuum of Iraq, thereby posing a threat to Saudi Arabia. With oil at more than $140 a barrel, this is not something the Saudis want to see, nor something the United States wants to see.
Internal Iraqi factions want the Americans to stay, and regional powers want the Americans to stay. The Iranians and pro-Iranian Iraqis are resigned to an ongoing presence, but they ultimately want the Americans to leave, sooner rather than later. Thus, the Americans won’t leave. The question now under negotiation is simply how many U.S. troops will remain, how long they will stay, where they will be based and what their mission will be. Given where the United States was in 2006, this is a remarkable evolution. The Americans have pulled something from the jaws of defeat, but what that something is and what they plan to do with it is not altogether clear.
The United States obviously does not want to leave a massive force in Iraq. First, its more ambitious mission has evaporated; that moment is gone. Second, the U.S. Army and Marines are exhausted from five years of multidivisional warfare with a force not substantially increased from peacetime status. The Bush administration’s decision not to dramatically increase the Army was rooted in a fundamental error: namely, the administration did not think the insurgency would be so sustained and effective. They kept believing the United States would turn a corner. The result is that Washington simply can’t maintain the current force in Iraq under any circumstances, and to do so would be strategically dangerous. The United States has no strategic ground reserve at present, opening itself to dangers outside of Iraq. Therefore, if the United States is not going to get to play colossus of the Middle East, it needs to reduce its forces dramatically to recreate a strategic reserve. Its interests, the interests of the al-Maliki government — and interestingly, Iran’s interests — are not wildly out of sync. Washington wants to rapidly trim down to a residual force of a few brigades, and the other two players want that as well.
The United States has another pressing reason to do this: It has another major war under way in Afghanistan, and it is not winning there. It remains unclear if the United States can win that war, with the Taliban operating widely in Afghanistan and controlling a great deal of the countryside. The Taliban are increasingly aggressive against a NATO force substantially smaller than the conceivable minimum needed to pacify Afghanistan. We know the Soviets couldn’t do it with nearly 120,000 troops. And we know the United States and NATO don’t have as many troops to deploy in Afghanistan as the Soviets did. It is also clear that, at the moment, there is no exit strategy. Forces in Iraq must be transferred to Afghanistan to stabilize the U.S. position while the new head of U.S. Central Command, Gen. David Petraeus — the architect of the political and military strategy in Iraq — figures out what, if anything, is going to change.
Interestingly, the Iranians want the Americans in Afghanistan. They supported the invasion in 2001 for the simple reason that they do not want to see an Afghanistan united under the Taliban. The Iranians almost went to war with Afghanistan in 1998 and were delighted to see the United States force the Taliban from the cities. The specter of a Taliban victory in Afghanistan unnerves the Iranians. Rhetoric aside, a drawdown of U.S. forces in Iraq and a transfer to Afghanistan is what the Iranians would like to see.
To complicate matters, the Taliban situation is not simply an Afghan issue — it is also a Pakistani issue. The Taliban draw supplies, recruits and support from Pakistan, where Taliban support stretches into the army and the intelligence service, which helped create the group in the 1990s while working with the Americans. There is no conceivable solution to the Taliban problem without a willing and effective government in Pakistan participating in the war, and that sort of government simply is not there. Indeed, the economic and security situation in Pakistan continues to deteriorate.
Therefore, the Bush administration’s desire to withdraw troops from Iraq makes sense on every level. It is a necessary and logical step. But it does not address what should now become the burning issue: What exactly is the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan? As in Iraq before the surge, the current strategy appears to be to hang on and hope for the best. Petraeus’ job is to craft a new strategy. But in Iraq, for better or worse, the United States faced an apparently implacable enemy — Iran — which in fact pursued a shrewd, rational and manageable policy. In Afghanistan, the United States is facing a state that appears friendly — Pakistan — but is actually confused, divided and unmanageable by itself or others.
Petraeus’ success in Iraq had a great deal to do with Tehran’s calculations of its self-interest. In Pakistan, by contrast, it is unclear at the moment whether anyone is in a position to even define the national self-interest, let alone pursue it. And this means that every additional U.S. soldier sent to Afghanistan raises the stakes in Pakistan. It will be interesting to see how Afghanistan and Pakistan play out in the U.S. presidential election. This is not a theater of operations that lends itself to political soundbites.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran
on: July 16, 2008, 12:51:57 AM
Iran has achieved four of the five basic goals. It has created secure frontiers and is in control of the population inside the country. The greatest threat against Iran is the one it has faced since Alexander the Great — that posed by major powers outside the region. Historically, before deep-water navigation, Iran was the direct path to India for any Western power. In modern times, the Zagros remain the eastern anchor of Turkish power. Northern Iran blocks Russian expansion. And, of course, Iranian oil reserves make Iran attractive to contemporary great powers.
There are two traditional paths into Iran. The northeastern region is vulnerable to Central Asian powers while the western approach is the most-often used (or attempted). A direct assault through the Zagros Mountains is not feasible, as Saddam Hussein discovered in 1980. However, manipulating the ethnic groups inside Iran is possible. The British, for example, based in Iraq, were able to manipulate internal political divisions in Iran, as did the Soviets, to the point that Iran virtually lost its national sovereignty during World War II.
The greatest threat to Iran in recent centuries has been a foreign power dominating Iraq —Ottoman or British — and extending its power eastward not through main force but through subversion and political manipulation. The view of the contemporary Iranian government toward the United States is that, during the 1950s, it assumed Britain’s role of using its position in Iraq to manipulate Iranian politics and elevate the shah to power.
The 1980-1988 war between Iran and Iraq was a terrific collision of two states, causing several million casualties on both sides. It also demonstrated two realities. The first is that a determined, well-funded, no-holds-barred assault from Mesopotamia against the Zagros Mountains will fail (albeit at an atrocious cost to the defender). The second is that, in the nation-state era, with fixed borders and standing armies, the logistical challenges posed by the Zagros make a major attack from Iran into Iraq equally impossible. There is a stalemate on that front. Nevertheless, from the Iranian point of view, the primary danger of Iraq is not direct attack but subversion. It is not only Iraq that worries them. Historically, Iranians also have been concerned about Russian manipulation and manipulation by the British and Russians through Afghanistan.
The Current Situation
For the Iranians, the current situation has posed a dangerous scenario similar to what they faced from the British early in the 20th century. The United States has occupied, or at least placed substantial forces, to the east and the west of Iran, in Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran is not concerned about these troops invading Iran. That is not a military possibility. Iran’s concern is that the United States will use these positions as platforms to foment ethnic dissent in Iran.
Indeed, the United States has tried to do this in several regions. In the southeast, in Balochistan, the Americans have supported separatist movements. It has also done this among the Arabs of Khuzestan, at the northern end of the Persian Gulf. And it has tried to manipulate the Kurds in northwestern Iran. (There is some evidence to suggest that the United States has used Azerbaijan as a launchpad to foment dissent among the Iranian Azeris in the northwestern part of the country.)
The Iranian counter to all this has several dimensions:
1. Maintain an extremely powerful and repressive security capability to counter these moves. In particular, focus on deflecting any intrusions in the Khuzestan region, which is not only the most physically vulnerable part of Iran but also where much of Iran’s oil reserves are located. This explains clashes such as the seizure of British sailors and constant reports of U.S. special operations teams in the region.
2. Manipulate ethnic and religious tensions in Iraq and Afghanistan to undermine the American positions there and divert American attention to defensive rather than offensive goals.
3. Maintain a military force capable of protecting the surrounding mountains so that major American forces cannot penetrate.
4. Move to create a nuclear force, very publicly, in order to deter attack in the long run and to give Iran a bargaining chip for negotiations in the short term.
The heart of Iranian strategy is as it has always been, to use the mountains as a fortress. So long as it is anchored in those mountains, it cannot be invaded. Alexander succeeded and the Ottomans had limited success (little more than breaching the Zagros), but even the Romans and British did not go so far as to try to use main force in the region. Invading and occupying Iran is not an option.
For Iran, its ultimate problem is internal tensions. But even these are under control, primarily because of Iran’s security system. Ever since the founding of the Persian Empire, the one thing that Iranians have been superb at is creating systems that both benefit other ethnic groups and punish them if they stray. That same mindset functions in Iran today in the powerful Ministry of Intelligence and Security and the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). (The Iranian military is configured mainly as an infantry force, with the regular army and IRGC ground forces together totaling about 450,000 troops, larger than all other service branches combined.)
Iran is, therefore, a self-contained entity. It is relatively poor, but it has superbly defensible borders and a disciplined central government with an excellent intelligence and internal security apparatus. Iran uses these same strengths to destabilize the American position (or that of any extraregional power) around it. Indeed, Iran is sufficiently secure that the positions of surrounding countries are more precarious than that of Iran. Iran is superb at low-cost, low-risk power projection using its covert capabilities. It is even better at blocking those of others. So long as the mountains are in Iranian hands, and the internal situation is controlled, Iran is a stable state, but one able to pose only a limited external threat.
The creation of an Iranian nuclear program serves two functions. First, if successful, it further deters external threats. Second, simply having the program enhances Iranian power. Since the consequences of a strike against these facilities are uncertain and raise the possibility of Iranian attempts at interdiction of oil from the Persian Gulf, the strategic risk to the attacker’s economy discourages attack. The diplomatic route of trading the program for regional safety and power becomes more attractive than an attack against a potential threat in a country with a potent potential counter.
Iran is secure from conceivable invasion. It enhances this security by using two tactics. First, it creates uncertainty as to whether it has an offensive nuclear capability. Second, it projects a carefully honed image of ideological extremism that makes it appear unpredictable. It makes itself appear threatening and unstable. Paradoxically, this increases the caution used in dealing with it because the main option, an air attack, has historically been ineffective without a follow-on ground attack. If just nuclear facilities are attacked and the attack fails, Iranian reaction is unpredictable and potentially disproportionate. Iranian posturing enhances the uncertainty. The threat of an air attack is deterred by Iran’s threat of an attack against sea-lanes. Such attacks would not be effective, but even a low-probability disruption of the world’s oil supply is a risk not worth taking.
As always, the Persians face a major power prowling at the edges of their mountains. The mountains will protect them from main force but not from the threat of destabilization. Therefore, the Persians bind their nation together through a combination of political accommodation and repression. The major power will eventually leave. Persia will remain so long as its mountains stand.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Geopolitics of Iran
on: July 16, 2008, 12:51:09 AM
The Geopolitics of Iran: Holding the Center of a Mountain Fortress
Stratfor Today » July 14, 2008 | 1007 GMT
Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of monographs by Stratfor founder George Friedman on the geopolitics of countries that are currently critical in world affairs. Click here for a printable PDF of the monograph in its entirety.
By George Friedman
To understand Iran, you must begin by understanding how large it is. Iran is the 17th largest country in world. It measures 1,684,000 square kilometers. That means that its territory is larger than the combined territories of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal — Western Europe. Iran is the 16th most populous country in the world, with about 70 million people. Its population is larger than the populations of either France or the United Kingdom.
Under the current circumstances, it might be useful to benchmark Iran against Iraq or Afghanistan. Iraq is 433,000 square kilometers, with about 25 million people, so Iran is roughly four times as large and three times as populous. Afghanistan is about 652,000 square kilometers, with a population of about 30 million. One way to look at it is that Iran is 68 percent larger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined, with 40 percent more population.
More important are its topographical barriers. Iran is defined, above all, by its mountains, which form its frontiers, enfold its cities and describe its historical heartland. To understand Iran, you must understand not only how large it is but also how mountainous it is.
Iran’s most important mountains are the Zagros. They are a southern extension of the Caucasus, running about 900 miles from the northwestern border of Iran, which adjoins Turkey and Armenia, southeast toward Bandar Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz. The first 150 miles of Iran’s western border is shared with Turkey. It is intensely mountainous on both sides. South of Turkey, the mountains on the western side of the border begin to diminish until they disappear altogether on the Iraqi side. From this point onward, south of the Kurdish regions, the land on the Iraqi side is increasingly flat, part of the Tigris-Euphrates basin. The Iranian side of the border is mountainous, beginning just a few miles east of the border. Iran has a mountainous border with Turkey, but mountains face a flat plain along the Iraq border. This is the historical frontier between Persia — the name of Iran until the early 20th century — and Mesopotamia (“land between two rivers”), as southern Iraq is called.
The one region of the western border that does not adhere to this model is in the extreme south, in the swamps where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers join to form the Shatt al-Arab waterway. There the Zagros swing southeast, and the southern border between Iran and Iraq zigzags south to the Shatt al-Arab, which flows south 125 miles through flat terrain to the Persian Gulf. To the east is the Iranian province of Khuzestan, populated by ethnic Arabs, not Persians. Given the swampy nature of the ground, it can be easily defended and gives Iran a buffer against any force from the west seeking to move along the coastal plain of Iran on the Persian Gulf.
Running east along the Caspian Sea are the Elburz Mountains, which serve as a mountain bridge between the Caucasus-Zagros range and Afghan mountains that eventually culminate in the Hindu Kush. The Elburz run along the southern coast of the Caspian to the Afghan border, buffering the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. Mountains of lesser elevations then swing down along the Afghan and Pakistani borders, almost to the Arabian Sea.
Iran has about 800 miles of coastline, roughly half along the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf, the rest along the Gulf of Oman. Its most important port, Bandar Abbas, is located on the Strait of Hormuz. There are no equivalent ports along the Gulf of Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz is extremely vulnerable to interdiction. Therefore, Iran is not a major maritime or naval power. It is and always has been a land power.
The center of Iran consists of two desert plateaus that are virtually uninhabited and uninhabitable. These are the Dasht-e Kavir, which stretches from Qom in the northwest nearly to the Afghan border, and the Dasht-e Lut, which extends south to Balochistan. The Dasht-e Kavir consists of a layer of salt covering thick mud, and it is easy to break through the salt layer and drown in the mud. It is one of the most miserable places on earth.
Iran’s population is concentrated in its mountains, not in its lowlands, as with other countries. That’s because its lowlands, with the exception of the southwest and the southeast (regions populated by non-Persians), are uninhabitable. Iran is a nation of 70 million mountain dwellers. Even its biggest city, Tehran, is in the foothills of towering mountains. Its population is in a belt stretching through the Zagros and Elbroz mountains on a line running from the eastern shore of the Caspian to the Strait of Hormuz. There is a secondary concentration of people to the northeast, centered on Mashhad. The rest of the country is lightly inhabited and almost impassable because of the salt-mud flats.
If you look carefully at a map of Iran, you can see that the western part of the
country — the Zagros Mountains — is actually a land bridge for southern Asia. It is the only path between the Persian Gulf in the south and the Caspian Sea in the north. Iran is the route connecting the Indian subcontinent to the Mediterranean Sea. But because of its size and geography, Iran is not a country that can be easily traversed, much less conquered.
The location of Iran’s oil fields is critical here, since oil remains its most important and most strategic export. Oil is to be found in three locations: The southwest is the major region, with lesser deposits along the Iraqi border in the north and one near Qom. The southwestern oil fields are an extension of the geological formation that created the oil fields in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Hence, the region east of the Shatt al-Arab is of critical importance to Iran. Iran has the third largest oil reserves in the world and is the world’s fourth largest producer. Therefore, one would expect it to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It isn’t.
Iran has the 28th largest economy in the world but ranks only 71st in per capita gross domestic product (as expressed in purchasing power). It ranks with countries like Belarus or Panama. Part of the reason is inefficiencies in the Iranian oil industry, the result of government policies. But there is a deeper geographic problem. Iran has a huge population mostly located in rugged mountains. Mountainous regions are rarely prosperous. The cost of transportation makes the development of industry difficult. Sparsely populated mountain regions are generally poor. Heavily populated mountain regions, when they exist, are much poorer.
Iran’s geography and large population make substantial improvements in its economic life difficult. Unlike underpopulated and less geographically challenged countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Iran cannot enjoy any shift in the underlying weakness of its economy brought on by higher oil prices and more production. The absence of inhabitable plains means that any industrial plant must develop in regions where the cost of infrastructure tends to undermine the benefits. Oil keeps Iran from sinking even deeper, but it alone cannot catapult Iran out of its condition.
The Broad Outline
Iran is a fortress. Surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the fourth by the ocean, with a wasteland at its center, Iran is extremely difficult to conquer. This was achieved once by the Mongols, who entered the country from the northeast. The Ottomans penetrated the Zagros Mountains and went northeast as far as the Caspian but made no attempt to move into the Persian heartland.
Iran is a mountainous country looking for inhabitable plains. There are none to the north, only more mountains and desert, or to the east, where Afghanistan’s infrastructure is no more inviting. To the south there is only ocean. What plains there are in the region lie to the west, in modern-day Iraq and historical Mesopotamia and Babylon. If Iran could dominate these plains, and combine them with its own population, they would be the foundation of Iranian power.
Indeed, these plains were the foundation of the Persian Empire. The Persians originated in the Zagros Mountains as a warrior people. They built an empire by conquering the plains in the Tigris and Euphrates basin. They did this slowly, over an extended period at a time when there were no demarcated borders and they faced little resistance to the west. While it was difficult for a lowland people to attack through mountains, it was easier for a mountain-based people to descend to the plains. This combination of population and fertile plains allowed the Persians to expand.
Iran’s attacking north or northwest into the Caucasus is impossible in force. The Russians, Turks and Iranians all ground to a halt along the current line in the 19th century; the country is so rugged that movement could be measured in yards rather than miles. Iran could attack northeast into Turkmenistan, but the land there is flat and brutal desert. The Iranians could move east into Afghanistan, but this would involve more mountain fighting for land of equally questionable value. Attacking west, into the Tigris and Euphrates river basin, and then moving to the Mediterranean, would seem doable. This was the path the Persians took when they created their empire and pushed all the way to Greece and Egypt.
In terms of expansion, the problem for Iran is its mountains. They are as effective a container as they are a defensive bulwark. Supporting an attacking force requires logistics, and pushing supplies through the Zagros in any great numbers is impossible. Unless the Persians can occupy and exploit Iraq, further expansion is impossible. In order to exploit Iraq, Iran needs a high degree of active cooperation from Iraqis. Otherwise, rather than converting Iraq’s wealth into political and military power, the Iranians would succeed only in being bogged down in pacifying the Iraqis.
In order to move west, Iran would require the active cooperation of conquered nations. Any offensive will break down because of the challenges posed by the mountains in moving supplies. This is why the Persians created the type of empire they did. They allowed conquered nations a great deal of autonomy, respected their culture and made certain that these nations benefited from the Persian imperial system. Once they left the Zagros, the Persians could not afford to pacify an empire. They needed the wealth at minimal cost. And this has been the limit on Persian/Iranian power ever since. Recreating a relationship with the inhabitants of the Tigris and Euphrates basin — today’s Iraq — is enormously difficult. Indeed, throughout most of history, the domination of the plains by Iran has been impossible. Other imperial powers — Alexandrian Greece, Rome, the Byzantines, Ottomans, British and Americans — have either seized the plains themselves or used them as a neutral buffer against the Persians.
Underlying the external problems of Iran is a severe internal problem. Mountains allow nations to protect themselves. Completely eradicating a culture is difficult. Therefore, most mountain regions of the world contain large numbers of national and ethnic groups that retain their own characteristics. This is commonplace in all mountainous regions. These groups resist absorption and annihilation. Although a Muslim state with a population that is 55 to 60 percent ethnically Persian, Iran is divided into a large number of ethnic groups. It is also divided between the vastly dominant Shia and the minority Sunnis, who are clustered in three areas of the country — the northeast, the northwest and the southeast. Any foreign power interested in Iran will use these ethnoreligious groups to create allies in Iran to undermine the power of the central government.
Thus, any Persian or Iranian government has as its first and primary strategic interest maintaining the internal integrity of the country against separatist groups. It is inevitable, therefore, for Iran to have a highly centralized government with an extremely strong security apparatus. For many countries, holding together its ethnic groups is important. For Iran it is essential because it has no room to retreat from its current lines and instability could undermine its entire security structure. Therefore, the Iranian central government will always face the problem of internal cohesion and will use its army and security forces for that purpose before any other.
For most countries, the first geographical imperative is to maintain internal cohesion. For Iran, it is to maintain secure borders, then secure the country internally. Without secure borders, Iran would be vulnerable to foreign powers that would continually try to manipulate its internal dynamics, destabilize its ruling regime and then exploit the resulting openings. Iran must first define the container and then control what it contains. Therefore, Iran’s geopolitical imperatives:
1. Control the Zagros and Elburz mountains. These constitute the Iranian heartland and the buffers against attacks from the west and north.
2. Control the mountains to the east of the Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut, from Mashhad to Zahedan to the Makran coast, protecting Iran’s eastern frontiers with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Maintain a line as deep and as far north and west as possible in the Caucasus to limit Turkish and Russian threats. These are the secondary lines.
3. Secure a line on the Shatt al-Arab in order to protect the western coast of Iran on the Persian Gulf.
4. Control the divergent ethnic and religious elements in this box.
5. Protect the frontiers against potential threats, particularly major powers from outside the region.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Appearance vs. Reality
on: July 16, 2008, 12:39:01 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Appearance vs. Reality and Israeli-Syrian Progress
July 14, 2008
On the surface, the July 14 Mediterranean Union summit appears to have been somewhat of a bust with respect to Israeli-Syrian peace talks. Despite sitting at the same round table, Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not give the cameras the pleasure of shaking hands, much less make eye contact with one another. Al Assad even made a big display of leaving the room 20 minutes prior to Olmert’s speech during the summit. In fact, the Syrian delegation was so particular about the details of the protocol measures that according to a CBS report citing Paris-based diplomats, the Syrians even made sure both leaders would enter the room from different doors to ensure the two didn’t have an “accidental encounter.”
Underneath al Assad’s hard exterior, however, a complex strategy is in motion for Israel and Syria to bury the hatchet diplomatically after 60 years of hostile relations.
It must be remembered that al Assad is in a unique position. He is an Alawite leader of an overwhelmingly Sunni country long viewed by its neighbors as a geopolitical runt that can be flattened by Israeli F-16s at a moment’s notice. It is now up to him to navigate Syria toward international esteem, relying primarily on his government’s links with militant proxies to get him there. To maintain control over the state while he pursues these peace talks, al Assad must show he is negotiating from a position of strength. He can do so by driving a hard bargain publicly with the Israelis and the Americans while delivering on key concessions behind the scenes.
This strategy has already made itself apparent. Al Assad has made a point of telling reporters he is no rush for a peace deal with the Israelis, saying that direct negotiations would simply have to wait for the inauguration of a new U.S. president in January. His actions at the Mediterranean Union summit underlined how Syria does not feel it is under pressure to negotiate or make any grand diplomatic gestures while Olmert remains on shaky political ground at home. At the same time, The Jerusalem Post published a report citing diplomatic sources as saying Olmert had delivered a message to al Assad through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The message reportedly said it would be a mistake for al Assad to wait for a new U.S. president to engage in direct talks, and urged him to commit to direct talks in the near future.
Syria quite shrewdly has turned the tables on Israel, at least in the public arena. While in the past it was always the Syrians begging for talks with the Jewish state, al Assad has now created the perception of an Israel pushing Syria to negotiate — something that scores him major points at home.
More important, the Syrians appear to be making some big moves behind the scenes to push the talks forward. According to a Stratfor source in Lebanon, a Syrian security officer has recently provided U.S. intelligence officers in Istanbul with key information on Hezbollah activities and military capabilities. The Syrian officer also provided his U.S. counterpart with information on al Qaeda and al-Sadrite forces in Iraq. Washington has made clear to the Syrians that before the United States can publicly jump on board with the Syrian-Israeli peace process it will have to see some serious intelligence cooperation regarding Hezbollah and Iraq. If the source’s information is accurate, it appears the Syrians are providing that intelligence.
The Lebanese also formed a government July 14, something that would have been impossible without Syrian cooperation. Syria has a close relationship with Michel Suleiman, the former commander of the Lebanese army and the newly elected president of Lebanon. According to another Stratfor source in Lebanon, al Assad and Suleiman worked out a strategy to clamp down on some of the Islamist militant camps in Lebanon, which have always been an expendable resource for the Syrians. To this end, the Syrian state-run National News Agency reported July 8 that the group Fatah al-Intifada evacuated a military base in al Balayit village in Rashaya province along the Lebanese-Syrian border, allowing Lebanese troops to reoccupy the base. The source also claimed that Syria has agreed to help Lebanese troops close down two major bases operated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -General Command, namely the Qusaya and Nama bases. Qusaya is the larger of the two bases, and enjoys a commanding position overlooking the Lebanese airbase in Riyaq and Ablah army base. Nama controls traffic along the Beirut-southern Lebanon highway, as well as the Beirut airport. It also controls Lebanese army movement to and from southern Lebanon, which is key to its defense against Hezbollah.
Stratfor is wary of falling in love with its forecast of a Syrian-Israeli peace deal, and we are making an honest effort to disprove our assumptions. But the trajectory of events — from the September 2007 Israeli airstrike in Syria to the February assassination of Hezbollah’s top commander in Damascus, from the public launch of peace talks to the developments on the ground Monday — all point toward a comprehensive deal in the making. National security interests are pushing both sides toward a political accommodation that neither side can deny will grant them overwhelming benefits as long as each delivers on its end of the agreement. We can’t help but notice that sources from across the spectrum are reporting information that all points in the same direction — namely, toward progress. As in all complex diplomatic negotiations, what you see in the headlines is not necessarily what you get.