Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sanctions 2
on: September 25, 2009, 12:13:57 PM
Iran Sanctions (Special Series), Part 2: FSU Contingency Plans
Stratfor Today » September 24, 2009 | 1209 GMT
Russia has been using its relationship with Iran as leverage against the
United States. In the face of the very real possibility of sanctions
targeting Iran's gasoline imports, Russia could continue using Iran to upset
U.S. plans by supplying the Islamic republic with gasoline. However, Moscow
knows that such a move would come with a political price.
Editor's Note: This is part two in a three-part series on what sanctions
against Iran could mean for Iran, U.S.-Russian relations, Israel and the
a.. Click here to download a PDF of this report
a.. Click here to download a PDF of the entire Iran Sanctions Series
Related Special Topic Page
a.. Special Series: Iran Sanctions
Russia, having found its strength again, has been pushing back against U.S.
influence in the former Soviet Union while the United States has been
preoccupied with its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But even with its success
against the Western geopolitical offensive in many places on its borders,
Moscow still demands that Washington put an end to its plan to expand NATO,
drop its backing of Georgia and Ukraine, and abandon any military buildup in
One of Russia's favorite pieces of leverage to use against the United States
has been its relationship with Iran. Since 1995, Russia has been helping
Iran build its nuclear power plant at Bushehr, though Moscow has refrained
from completing work on the plant in order to keep the issue alive and in
the Russian arsenal of threats against the United States. Russia has
continually delayed the delivery of advanced military technology to Iran,
like variants of the S-300 air defense system that would complicate a
potential military strike. Russia also has routinely blocked hard-hitting
sanctions on Iran in the U.N. Security Council. All of this has served to
bog Washington down in another Middle Eastern foreign policy dilemma while
Russia coaxes the United States into separate negotiations over Russian
interests, such as the West backing away from Russia's near abroad.
This arrangement has not only given Russia a trump card in its negotiations
with the United States; as long as Russia can use Iran against the United
States, Tehran is more capable of deflecting U.S. pressure.
But now the United States has devised a relatively robust sanctions plan
that will bypass the United Nations, so Russia will not have a chance to use
its veto power. Yet Russia could create a massive breach in the sanctions.
The new U.S. sanctions plan targets Iran's gasoline imports, which make up
at least a third of the country's consumption and most of which are shipped
to Iran through the Persian Gulf. Such a supply cut could devastate the
Iranian regime and economy, forcing Tehran to make real concessions on its
nuclear program. Venezuela, another state hostile to Washington, has offered
to step in and fill some of Iran's gasoline needs despite the sanctions, but
Venezuela's shipments to the Persian Gulf theoretically could be interrupted
by even a minor U.S. naval blockade. Therefore, if Iran is to circumvent
U.S. sanctions and get its gasoline, it will have to look closer to home.
Russia and several former Soviet states bordering Iran have one of the few
alternative supply options - sending gasoline in by rail or ship from the
north - which neither the United States nor Israel could block militarily.
Moreover, these countries have spare gasoline refining capacity.
Iran's gasoline imports fluctuate frequently but average about 176,000
barrels per day (bpd) - although the Iranians currently are importing more
than 400,000 bpd as they are stockpiling in preparation for possible
sanctions. Russia - and quite a few other former Soviet states - would be
able to fill Iran's basic import needs.
In this discussion, an understanding of gasoline refining capacity is
necessary. Every refinery typically has facilities that convert oil into
several different products, ranging from gasoline to diesel fuel to
kerosene. For most refineries in the former Soviet states, gasoline accounts
for about 10 to 15 percent of their total refining capacity. However, it is
rather simple to increase that percentage. Refineries do it frequently, such
as when gasoline inventories get built up in preparation for peak season
demand. At the higher end of refining gasoline, most refineries produce at
45 percent, but theoretically refineries can scale up gasoline production to
up to 70 to 85 percent of total refining capacity before the feedstock
becomes "over-cracked" and gasoline yield falls. Since gasoline refining can
fluctuate over such a wide range, STRATFOR will simply report the total
refining capacity for each country.
Russia is currently the world's largest oil producer (it recently surpassed
Saudi Arabia) at 9.9 million bpd. Russia exports 7.4 million bpd of that oil
in either crude or refined products, mainly to Europe. But Russia is also
one of the largest refiners in the world, with a capacity to refine 5.5
million bpd of oil products.
Russia's oil production has been declining, mainly because market demand has
slumped following an economic slowdown, but Russian refineries are still
working at about 80 percent of their capacity. Considering the size of
Russia's refining sector, increasing their refining closer to capacity could
cover Iran's basic import needs many times over.
Russia is not the only energy giant in the region. Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan
and Turkmenistan are all net crude and gasoline exporters. STRATFOR sources
have indicated that Kazakhstan is not considering any gasoline sales to
Iran, due to the large U.S. economic presence in the Central Asian country.
This leaves Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, both of which are among the top 20
global oil producers, both of which border Iran, and both of which have
plenty of spare refining capacity.
Azerbaijan currently produces about 1 million bpd of crude and has a
domestic refining capacity of 442,000 bpd. However due to a lack of global
demand, Azerbaijan is only refining at 27 percent of its capacity, leaving a
spare capacity that could cover Iran's import needs twice over. Turkmenistan
is in the same situation - producing about 195,000 bpd of crude, but only
refining at 20 percent of their 286,000 bpd capacity. This means that
Turkmenistan's spare capacity alone could easily cover Iran's import needs.
Between Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, there is plenty of spare
capacity to produce the gasoline that Iran would need in the event of
sanctions. The next issue is how to get the gasoline to Iran.
The former Soviet states have a vast series of rail interconnections, and
their close proximity to Iran makes this transit option one of the most
likely. Russia's southern belt of refineries lining the northern Caspian
region is along a series of rail networks that could transport gasoline to
Iran in the matter of a few days. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan's refineries
are along rail networks that could transport gasoline to Iran in less than a
day. A typical gasoline-carrying train in the former Soviet states is
capable of transporting approximately 40,000 barrels of gasoline. For any of
the former Soviet states to fulfill Iran's current gasoline needs, the
trains would have to be sent four or five times a day.
(click here to enlarge image)
One problem with this is that the former Soviet Union's rail network is on a
different rail gauge from most of the rest of the world - a leftover from
Soviet times, when Josef Stalin wanted to prevent any potential invader from
using the Soviet Union's rail network to sustain an offensive inside Soviet
territory. The rail gauge in Russia and the former Soviet states is 1,520
mm. Iran is on the standard 1,435 mm gauge that most of the world uses. In
the past, any cargo traveling from one of the former Soviet states by rail
would have to be off-loaded from the Russian train cars and reloaded onto
foreign cars with a different gauge - wasting days on the journey. However,
since 2003 Russia has been mass-producing rail cars with an adjustable
gauge, allowing for the gauge to be shifted in mere hours.
Due to increasing oil prices, the Russians also mass-produced liquid tank
cars, increasing their fleet from 100,000 cars to more than 230,000. Since
demand for crude and gasoline declined, most of these tank cars are sitting
idly in Russia, so there would be no shortage to send to Iran.
But for Russia to get its gasoline to Iran, it would have to go south along
the Caspian via Azerbaijan or through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and
Turkmenistan. Azerbaijan or Turkmenistan could also use the Russian rail
cars to send gasoline to Iran.
There is a problem with either Azerbaijan sending gasoline to Iran via rail
or Russia using rail connections via Azerbaijan to supply Iran: The rail
lines in the region do not actually run into Iran. Of the two rail lines
from Azerbaijan to Iran, the most extensive runs from Azerbaijan to Armenia,
to the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan. This line was severely damaged
during the Nagorno-Karabakh War and remains in disrepair, so it cannot
handle any traffic. The second rail line runs along the Caspian Sea from
Russia to Iran via Azerbaijan, with multiple refineries along the way.
A rail line near the Iran-Azerbaijan border on May 28, 2009
However, this line ends once it reaches the Iranian border; all cargo has to
be trucked into Iran. Azerbaijan has used this line to send gasoline to Iran
before, and there has been much talk about expanding the line farther into
Iran (though no progress has been made on construction). This line is
running at approximately 27 percent capacity, which means it has room for a
surge of rail cars going to Iran.
Azerbaijan's rail lines might be problematic, but Turkmenistan has rail
lines that connect with Iran's rail network. However, for Russia to send
gasoline to Iran via Turkmenistan, the trains would have to transit
Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan's relationships with Russia and
Turkmenistan are deteriorating, and STRATFOR sources in Kazakhstan have said
the country has taken part in discussions on allowing such a transit. There
is no indication, however, that Uzbekistan has been approached about the
There is also much discussion of shipping gasoline to Iran on the Caspian
Sea, which is bordered by Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and
Iran - five countries that have continually bickered about dividing up the
sea among them.
Currently, only a nominal amount of gasoline is shipped across the Caspian,
but such shipping could be accelerated very easily as the basic technology
of ports and pipelines that ship crude oil can be quickly converted to
handle gasoline - particularly when considering the very limited
infrastructure of a port. Iran's northern port on the Caspian, Neka, for
example, can currently handle 300,000 bpd of crude. Even with a 50 percent
loss rate from a switchover, this one port could theoretically handle all of
Iran's import needs (and Neka also boasts the necessary road, rail and
pipeline infrastructure required to then distribute any imported gasoline
supplies to the rest of the country).
(click here to enlarge image)
The problem with Russia shipping gasoline to Iran is that Russia's northern
Caspian ports - Astrakhan and Makhachkala - are frozen over for more than
four months out of the year. Kazakhstan has been expanding its capacity to
ship crude and gasoline at Aktau, though Astana is not planning to fulfill
this particular supply request for political reasons.
The ports in Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, however, are equipped to ship
gasoline or crude to Iran. Azerbaijan's Baku port has a 301,200 bpd liquid
cargo capacity. In 1996, Baku sent 50,000 bpd to Neka when its gasoline
exports to Russia were cut off due to war in the Caucasus. The capacity at
Turkmenistan's Turkmenbashi port is unknown; it is only known that there is
Iran's port at Neka can handle 300,000 bpd of liquid cargo - more than
enough to fill the Iranians' demand for gasoline. Neka also has crude and
gasoline storage, though only for 45,000 barrels.
The Russian Dilemma
Russia and the former Soviet states are clearly able to fill in Iran's
gasoline needs should the United States successfully cut off supplies. But
Moscow is weighing the political decision on whether to do so very
carefully. The Russians have said continually that they feel the United
States' new push for sanctions would not be successful, though it is Russia
itself that would prevent that success. The new sanctions are designed to
pressure the companies involved in operating in Iran, supplying Iran with
gasoline or insuring those supplies, but with Russo-U.S. relations in
decline, Russia will weigh the benefits of successfully crushing U.S.
sanctions plans against the pain any U.S. economic pressure could create.
STRATFOR sources in the region have confirmed that Russia is taking this
issue very seriously. Currently it is unclear whether Azerbaijan would take
part in defying the sanctions since the United States has such a large
economic presence in the country. Azerbaijan does have energy swap deals in
place with Iran and has also made more plans to increase other energy
supplies, like oil and natural gas, to Iran. But Baku has not made a
decision yet on the specific issue of gasoline supplies, though STRATFOR
sources have indicated that Baku has at least been included in talks with
Moscow and Ashgabat.
Turkmenistan is the more likely player to create gasoline supply contracts
with Iran. Turkmenistan is still one of the most isolated countries in the
world, despite the government's proclaimed push to change that fact. The
United States has no real leverage it can use to force the country to not
supply its neighbor with gasoline. Moreover, Turkmenistan is in a financial
crunch because Russia stopped receiving energy supplies from the Central
Asian state, and Turkmenistan is looking for a new source of income. But
Moscow has ensured that it holds enough influence over Turkmenistan in the
realms of the military and social stability to keep Ashgabat from making
such a move without its consent. Russia wants to make sure that no other
country will usurp its ability to ruin U.S. sanctions.
Overall, the decision for any of these states to deliver gasoline to Iran
comes down to Moscow. Russia is using this threat in order to pressure the
United States into recognizing its sphere of influence. This trump card
could force the United States to act against Iran militarily, as all the
U.S. "diplomatic" efforts will by then have been exhausted. Then again, if
Russia plays this card, it could also force the United States to act more
aggressively against Russia, which will have proven its willingness to
support Iran through its actions, not just its rhetoric.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sanctions 1
on: September 25, 2009, 12:12:35 PM
Editor's Note:This introduces a three-part series on what sanctions against
Iran could mean for Iran, U.S.-Russian relations, Israel and the global
On Oct. 1, Iran will sit down for negotiations with six global powers - the
United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany. The
Western powers in the group are hoping that these talks will in some way
tame Iran's nuclear ambitions, but Iran, having already flouted a Sept. 24
deadline to negotiate, has thus far sent mixed signals on whether it will
even agree to discuss its nuclear program when it comes to the table.
This may seem like a familiar routine: the United States threatens
sanctions, Israel hints at military action, a deadline is set for Iran to
enter serious negotiations, Iran does its usual diplomatic song and dance,
another deadline passes and negotiations end in stalemate.
But whether the main stakeholders in the conflict realize it or not, things
could turn out very differently this time around.
U.S. President Barack Obama has made it clear that should the postponed
negotiations fail to produce any real results - and the Obama administration
has already conveyed that it doesn't have high hopes for the talks - then it
will have little choice but to impose "crippling sanctions" against Iran.
What makes the sanctions so "crippling" is the fact that the United States
already has a campaign under way to pressure major energy, shipping and
insurance firms to curtail their gasoline trade with Iran. Since Iran must
import at least one-third of its gasoline to meet its energy needs, such a
sanctions regime could have a devastating effect on the Iranian government
and (theoretically, at least) coerce Tehran into making real concessions on
its nuclear program.
No sanctions regime, however, is airtight - and this one is no exception.
Iran has a few limited contingency plans in place to prepare for a gasoline
deficit, but the real vulnerability in the sanctions comes from Russia. Iran
has become a major pressure point in Russia's ongoing geopolitical tussle
with the United States, and Moscow has signaled in a number of ways that it
isn't going to be shy about using its leverage with Tehran to turn the
screws on Washington. Moscow has a list of core demands that revolve around
the basic concept of the West respecting Russian influence in its former
Soviet periphery. As long as the United States continues to rebuff these
demands and write off Russia as a weak power, the Russians not only can
refuse to participate in sanctions but they can also blow the entire
sanctions regime apart. The more bogged down the United States is in the
Islamic world, after all, the more room Russia has to maneuver in the
The United States may have gained more room to maneuver with Russia
following a leaked announcement Sept. 16 regarding a complete revision of
U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) plans in Central Europe. The BMD
issue - which symbolizes a deep U.S. military footprint on Moscow's
doorstep - has long been a sticking point for Russia in dealing with the
United States. Russia remains unconvinced of Washington's apparent retreat
in Central Europe and has thus far refrained from changing its tune on Iran.
Instead, Russia has treated the BMD change in plans as part of a debt
Washington has owed since Russia agreed to provide the United States with
alternate transit rights for the war in Afghanistan. The atmosphere may now
be slightly more conducive for negotiations between Moscow and Washington,
but unless the United States makes a more concrete concession that
recognizes Russian hegemony in former Soviet territory, Russia will continue
to hold onto its Iran card.
Israel understands what Russia is capable of when it comes to Iran. From the
Israeli point of view, even if Iran is still years away from the bomb, a
potentially nuclear Iran poses a fundamental national security threat better
dealt with sooner rather than later - especially if Russia can prevent the
successful implementation of sanctions, and complicate any potential
military strikes against Iran by providing strategic air defense systems.
In other words, the Israelis have lost their patience with U.S.-Iranian
merry-go-round diplomacy. The Americans promised the Israelis crippling
sanctions against Iran, and if those sanctions don't happen or prove
ineffective, other options are likely to be explored that would necessarily
involve the skills and services of the U.S. military. Meanwhile, Iran -
whether faced with the threat of crippling sanctions or military strikes -
has the ability to wreak havoc on the global economy by going so far as to
mine the critical Strait of Hormuz, through which more than 40 percent of
seaborne globally traded oil passes. This is the "real" Iranian nuclear
option, if you will.
In this special series, STRATFOR examines in depth what a sanctions regime
could mean for Iran, U.S.-Russia relations, Israel and the global economy.
Part one will describe the nuts and bolts of an innovative U.S.-led
sanctions campaign and reveal the major energy firms, insurers and shippers
who are either already cutting back trade with Iran or are insulated enough
from the United States to pick up some of the slack for the Iranian regime.
Part two will discuss the array of options available for Russia to satisfy
Iran's gasoline needs and neutralize the sanctions. Russia can do so
directly by rail or sea, or it could enlist former Soviet surrogates like
Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, all of which have more than enough
spare capacity to cover Iran's gasoline needs but also varying political and
economic constraints to consider. Part three will focus on Iran's likely
response to these sanctions, including its contingency plans to reduce
gasoline consumption at home and its last-resort options designed to stave
off a military strike or retaliate against one.
Come Oct. 1, the world's major powers will be engaged in a high-stakes round
of diplomacy. Israeli patience is wearing thin, Russia is prodding
Washington with the Iran issue, and Iran is looking at its options of last
resort. This geopolitical panorama does not leave Washington with many
options, especially when a number of other issues are already competing for
the administration's attention. It does, however, have the potential to
break the Iranian nuclear impasse.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / AELE journal
on: September 25, 2009, 12:10:02 PM
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1. The August 2009 issue of the AELE Monthly Law Journal is online, with four new articles.
Persons interested in contributing an article should contact AELE.
* Public Protection: Injured Crime and Accident Victims
What are a police officer's legal obligations when encountering a member of the public who is an injured victim of a crime or accident?
View at http://www.aele.org/law/2009-08MLJ101.html
* Validity of Settlement Agreements Containing a "Will Not Reapply for Employment" Provision
If a settlement is successfully negotiated, management sometimes insists that the plaintiff resign and promise not to reapply.
Without such an agreement, if the person's subsequent reemployment application is denied, it will inevitably result in another lawsuit.
View at http://www.aele.org/law/2009-08MLJ201.html
* Transsexual Prisoners: Medical Care Issues
Issues raised in litigation have included requests for sex change surgery, requests for beginning or continuing hormone therapy, and what medical and psychological services are necessary and appropriate to provide.
Viewable at http://www.aele.org/law/2009-08MLJ301.html
* Civil Rights Liability for Intentional Violations of Miranda - Part Two: Criminal Admissibility
In 2003, the California Supreme Court held that a coerced confession is inadmissible for impeachment purposes in a criminal trial. In 2008, the Ninth Circuit concluded that a confession was coerced even though adequate Miranda warnings were given. By Michael P. Stone and Marc Berger. http://www.aele.org/law/2009-08MLJ501.html
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Among the 90 new cases summarized under 67 different topics, there are several that warrant mention here:
*** Law Enforcement Liability Reporter ***
Officers acted reasonably with respect to the force used while handcuffing an arrestee. While he contended that their actions had caused him shoulder injuries, the court noted that he refused to put his hands behind his back, and merely explained that he thought it would "hurt." He did not tell the officers about any purported infirmities or pre-existing injury that could be aggravated by handcuffing. Stainback v. Dixon, #08-3563, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 14115 (7th Cir.). http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/7th/083563p.pdf
* Stun Guns/Tasers
UCLA has entered into a $220,000 settlement in a lawsuit filed by a student who a campus police officer repeatedly shocked with a Taser after he refused to show his identification card upon request. The student, who is Iranian-American, argued that he was treated this way because of his Middle Eastern appearance. Tabatabainejad v. Univ. of Cal. L.A., #2:07-cv-00389, U.S. Dist. Court (C.D. Calif.). http://www.aele.org/law/2009all08/tabatabainejad.pdf
*** Fire and Police Personnel Reporter ***
* Disciplinary Punishment - Sexual Misconduct
In an appeal where an FBI agent was fired for videotaping sexual encounters with women without their consent, a federal appeals court remanded the case to the Merit Systems Protection Board for further adjudication. One judge wrote that he would have reversed the Board outright on the ground that the agency failed to establish a nexus between the charged conduct and the efficiency of the service.
The majority held that the Board failed to articulate a meaningful standard as to when private dishonesty rises to the level of misconduct that adversely affects the "efficiency of the service." The articulation of a meaningful standard is necessary particularly in light of the apparent conflict between the FBI's policy on investigating personal relationships and its policies requiring their agents to act with integrity and honesty. Doe v. DoJ, #2008-3139, 2009 U.S. App. Lexis 10031 (Fed. Cir.). http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/opinions/08-3139.pdf
*** Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin ***
* Inmate Funds
The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that state prison officials can take money from inmate trust accounts to collect court fees owed and other costs without first notifying a prisoner. Due process was not violated, as the prisoners received "contemporaneous" notice of the withdrawal of the money, and the Constitution does not require pre-withdrawal notice. Harrell v. State of Texas, No. 07-0806, 2009 Tex. Lexis 321.http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=tx&vol=/sc/070806&invol=1
Report of the American Medical Association (AMA) Council on Science and Public Health on "Use of Tasers by Law Enforcement Agencies."
View at http://www.aele.org/law/2009all08/06-15-09_AMA_TASER_ECD_Resolution
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor Intel Guidance
on: September 25, 2009, 11:45:39 AM
Intelligence Guidance (Special Edition): Sept. 25, 2009 - Iran's Nuclear Program
September 25, 2009 | 1326 GMT
STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown leave the summit on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons during the U.N. General Assembly Sept. 24Editor’s Note: The following is an internal STRATFOR document produced to provide high-level guidance to our analysts. This document is not a forecast, but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions on areas for focus.
Related Special Topic Pages
Special Coverage: The Global Summits (Fall 2009)
Iran’s revelation of a second enrichment site is not critical in a military sense. The West always knew the Iranians were playing a shell game. What it does do, however, is highlight that one of the challenges of the situation is simply that Western intelligence does not know how good its intelligence is — until it is used. So the Iranians are attempting a smoke-and-mirrors strategy in the hope of deterring an attack. But they also don’t know how much the West does or does not know either.
Far more important was the decision by the leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and France to condemn Iran’s partial unveiling of this new site, and to demonstrate clearly that the time for talks is almost over. The round of talks beginning Oct. 1 has been portrayed by the Israelis as the final round. Now the United States is publicly saying the same thing, although Obama continues to say it prefers a peaceful settlement.
There are four issues we need to drill into:
First, will the Russians come on board with gasoline sanctions in this context or do they continue their opposition? We need to reassess the Russian mood and see what their lowest possible price is for assistance.
Second, we should start seeing some overt movements by the U.S. military to spook the Iranians. This will not be the typical watch for carriers moving toward the Gulf. Between forces participating in the Iraq and Afghan conflicts, the United States already has more than what it needs to attack Iran. Watch and evaluate activities in the region itself.
Third, are there any statements out of Israel? They have been forcing this issue to a head. A lack of statements from them is ominous.
Finally, Iran has the “use it or lose it” option with mines. If they feel attack is imminent, will they use the mines? The United States must act against the mines before anything else if this is not to cause a global recession on its own.
Bottom line: If the Iranians indicate that they will not cooperate and the Russians do not budge on their opposition to imposing sanctions, then war could come suddenly — and from the United States. All the pieces for that war are already in place. It is just a question of nerve — for all parties.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post: Honduras
on: September 25, 2009, 10:40:00 AM
It seems there really is no rest for the weary Hondurans. Nearly three months after the country's major legal institutions determined that former President Manual Zelaya had committed treason with his Hugo Chavez-esque grab for power, the tiny nation is still being pressured to allow Zelaya to resume his role as leader.
Now, Zelaya, likely aided by Venezuela's Chavez, has snuck back into the Honduran capitol of Tegucigalpa where, from the safety of the Brazilian embassy, he has called for his supporters to converge on the city with "peaceful" demonstrations. And they have done so, despite interim President Roberto Micheletti's declaration of a curfew, roadblocks and a closed airport. Meanwhile, Zelaya bizarrely complains of assassination attempts by "Israeli mercenaries" who he claims are using toxic gases and high-frequency radiation to torture him. Apparently, the "gas" has gone to his head.
The Obama administration has repeatedly ignored Honduras' right to self-determination with measures that make the Left's cry of "American imperialism" during the Bush years seem like child's play. The U.S. State Department has cut off vital aid to Honduras and has denied its citizens U.S. visas, all to make it bend to the will of Obama, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. "It is imperative that dialogue begin," Hillary Clinton declared, and "that there be a channel of communication between President Zelaya and the de facto regime in Honduras." Memo to Hillary: Zelaya is no longer president, his legal term in office has expired, and the "de facto regime" is a legitimate transitional government until elections can take place.
Regardless, the U.S. State Department has declared that it will not recognize the outcome of the upcoming elections on Nov. 29 unless Zelaya is returned to power.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post
on: September 25, 2009, 10:37:58 AM
From the Leftjudiciary: Indiana Court Tosses Voter ID
Despite a significantly higher voter turnout last year than in most previous presidential elections, as well as Barack Obama's narrowly carrying the state, the Indiana State Court of Appeals threw out the state's voter identification law -- a statute that had already passed muster with the U.S. Supreme Court -- claiming the law wasn't equally applied to those casting absentee ballots. The 3-0 ruling, made by a panel of judges appointed by Democrat governors, was blasted by Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels as "an act of judicial arrogance" and "transparently" partisan.
Predictably, state Democrat leaders hailed the ruling, claiming, even in the face of those increased turnout numbers, that the law requiring voters to present a form of identification bearing their photo "disenfranchised hundreds if not thousands of voters." Heaven forbid, after all, that voters are who they say they are and vote only once.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: September 25, 2009, 07:37:04 AM
Commit to Afghanistan or Get Out
We shouldn't send Americans to fight and die if we're not in it to win.
By KORI SCHAKE
In his inaugural address in 1961, John F. Kennedy said the United States would “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend” in defense of liberty. Less than three months later, he decided not to supply air support to U.S.-trained Cuban exiles who tried to overthrow Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. It wasn’t a shining moment for American foreign policy. But JFK was right to turn off the spigot of American assistance if he wasn’t committed to the fight.
President Barack Obama now faces a similar tough decision. The war in Afghanistan is not going well. The rebuilding effort isn't going well. The effort to create a competent government isn't going well. So should he commit American support if he isn't committed to doing what is needed to succeed?
Mr. Obama owns the war in Afghanistan. He bought it, on credit. But he is fulminating at the cost now that the bill is coming due. Gen. Stanley McChrystal has made clear what the bill will be in terms of additional troops. And the president now wants a review to determine whether we're pursuing the right strategy.
It is disappointing that this review comes after the president decided to keep 68,000 Americans risking their lives in Afghanistan. But Mr. Obama is right to give himself a chance to decide whether he is willing to follow through on this war, given what it will cost in blood, treasure, and other things.
What the president's review will reveal is a shocking incapacity by the nonmilitary parts of our war effort. Its talk of the need for "smart power" notwithstanding, right now the administration has only a military strategy for Afghanistan. What's more, the administration appears to only be debating the military requirements of the war, not the much bigger challenges—the nonmilitary pieces of the Afghanistan strategy.
When Mr. Obama announced his current Afghanistan policy in March, he said it was "a stronger, smarter, more comprehensive strategy" that would build schools, hospitals, roads, and enterprise zones, addressing issues like energy and trade. Where are those efforts?
He said "to advance security, opportunity and justice—not just in Kabul, but from the bottom up in the provinces—we need agricultural specialists and educators; engineers and lawyers." Where are those specialists?
The president said "I am ordering a substantial increase in our civilians on the ground." He directed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to develop a diplomatic plan to parallel Gen. McChrystal's military plan. Where is that plan?
The administration has done virtually nothing in these areas. Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, sent in a plea for funding for some of these civilian projects last month. It was dismissed as premature. The administration has not named a director for the Agency for International Development. And only 56 additional civilians as part of the "civilian surge" were in place before Afghanistan's August elections.
If the president turns off the spigot of American assistance in Afghanistan, he will pay a substantial price for it. He'll be going back on his rhetoric about Afghanistan as the "good war," a war of necessity. He will cast the withdrawal from Iraq in a different light, endow the jihadist with a public victory (which will only encourage future attacks), and make it more difficult to achieve positive change in Afghanistan as well as collect intelligence on terrorists. He may turn Hamid Karzai's government into an adversary. He will diminish our ability to help Pakistan fight terrorists, and will likely make the U.S. less trusted in the world. But those prices will be less than the cost of sending young Americans to fight and die in a war the president is not committed to winning.
The military is doing its job in Afghanistan. It's time the rest of the government does its job. We need to turn our attention to the failures of the nonmilitary parts of our strategy and bring them up to the standard at which our military is performing. Otherwise we will not be doing what is needed to win.
Ms. Schake is a fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution and an associate professor at the United States Military Academy.
The Afghan Imperative Recommend
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy DAVID BROOKS
Published: September 24, 2009
Always there is the illusion of the easy path. Always there is the illusion, which gripped Donald Rumsfeld and now grips many Democrats, that you can fight a counterinsurgency war with a light footprint, with cruise missiles, with special forces operations and unmanned drones. Always there is the illusion, deep in the bones of the Pentagon’s Old Guard, that you can fight a force like the Taliban by keeping your troops mostly in bases, and then sending them out in well-armored convoys to kill bad guys.
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There is simply no historical record to support these illusions. The historical evidence suggests that these middling strategies just create a situation in which you have enough forces to assume responsibility for a conflict, but not enough to prevail.
The record suggests what Gen. Stanley McChrystal clearly understands — that only the full counterinsurgency doctrine offers a chance of success. This is a doctrine, as General McChrystal wrote in his remarkable report, that puts population protection at the center of the Afghanistan mission, that acknowledges that insurgencies can only be defeated when local communities and military forces work together.
To put it concretely, this is a doctrine in which small groups of American men and women are outside the wire in dangerous places in remote valleys, providing security, gathering intelligence, helping to establish courts and building schools and roads.
These are the realistic choices for America’s Afghanistan policy — all out or all in, surrender the place to the Taliban or do armed nation-building. And we might as well acknowledge that it’s not an easy call. The costs and rewards are tightly balanced. But in the end, President Obama was right: “You don’t muddle through the central front on terror. ... You don’t muddle through stamping out the Taliban.”
Since 1979, we have been involved in a long, complex conflict against Islamic extremism. We’ve fought this ideology in many ways in many places, and we shouldn’t pretend we understand how this conflict will evolve. But we should understand that the conflict is unavoidable and that when extremism pushes, it’s in our long-term interests to push back — and that eventually, if we do so, extremism will wither.
Afghanistan is central to this effort partly because it could again become a safe haven to terrorists, but mostly because of its effects on the stability of Pakistan. As Stephen Biddle noted in a recent essay in The American Interest, the Taliban is a transnational Pashtun movement active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is part of a complex insurgency trying to topple the Pakistani regime.
Pakistan has a fragile government with an estimated 50 or more nuclear weapons. A Taliban conquest in Afghanistan would endanger the Pakistani regime at best, create a regional crisis for certain and lead to a nuclear-armed Al Qaeda at worst.
A Taliban reconquest would also, it should be said, be a moral atrocity from which American self-respect would not soon recover.
Proponents of withdrawal often acknowledge the costs of defeat but argue that the cause is hopeless anyway. On this, let me note a certain pattern. When you interview people who know little about Afghanistan, they describe an anarchic place that is the graveyard of empires. When you interview people who live there or are experts, they think those stereotypes are rubbish. They usually take a hardened but guardedly optimistic view. Read Clare Lockhart’s Sept. 17 testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to get a sense of the way many knowledgeable people view the situation.
Amidst all the problems, the NATO coalition has a few things going for it. First, American forces have become quite good at counterinsurgency. They have a battle-tested strategy, experienced troops and a superb new leadership team. According to the political scientists Andrew J. Enterline and Joseph Magagnoli, since World War II, counterinsurgency efforts that put population protection at their core have succeeded nearly 70 percent of the time.
Second, the enemy is wildly hated. Only 6 percent of Afghans want a Taliban return, while NATO is viewed with surprising favor. This is not Vietnam or even Iraq.
Third, while many Afghan institutions are now dysfunctional, there is a base on which to build. The Afghan Army is a successful institution. Local villages have their own centuries-old civic institutions. The National Solidarity Program was able to build development councils in 23,000 villages precisely because the remnants of civil society still exist.
We have tried to fight the Afghan war the easy way, and it hasn’t worked. Switching now to the McChrystal strategy is a difficult choice, and President Obama is right to take his time. But Obama was also right a few months ago when he declared, “This will not be quick, nor easy. But we must never forget: This is not a war of choice. This is a war of necessity. ... This is fundamental to the defense of our people.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Dickinson & Jefferson
on: September 25, 2009, 07:21:02 AM
"With hearts fortified with these animating reflections, we most solemnly, before God and the world, declare, that, exerting the utmost energy of those powers, which our beneficent Creator hath graciously bestowed upon us, the arms we have compelled by our enemies to assume, we will, in defiance of every hazard, with unabating firmness and perseverance employ for the preservation of our liberties; being with one mind resolved to die freemen rather than to live as slaves." --John Dickinson and Thomas Jefferson, Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking up Arms, 1775
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran hiding nuke site
on: September 25, 2009, 07:19:51 AM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Fri, September 25, 2009 -- 4:12 AM ET
U.S. Preparing to Accuse Iran of Concealing Nuclear Site
President Obama and the leaders of Britain and France will
accuse Iran on Friday morning of building a secret
underground plant to manufacture nuclear fuel, charging that
Iran has hidden the covert facility for years from
international weapons inspectors, according to senior
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The battle back home
on: September 25, 2009, 07:18:44 AM
By LAURA LANDRO
In World War I, it was known as "shell shock," in World War II, "battle fatigue." The British Royal Air Force called it LMF, for "lack of moral fibre." Only after the Vietnam War was a concerted effort made to understand the effect of combat on the human mind. These days, the lexicon of mental health includes the phrase "post-traumatic stress disorder," referring to a crippling condition that can develop after exposure to a terrifying event.
In "Shadow of the Sword" Jeremiah Workman, a Marine staff sergeant who won the Navy Cross for gallantry under fire in Iraq, offers a searing account of his own struggle with the demon now known simply by its acronym, PTSD. A small-town boy from Ohio who enlisted in the Marines after high school, he gets the warrior ethos drilled into him at Parris Island, the Marine Corps' boot camp, and heads to Iraq in 2004.
Soon enough, Sgt. Workman is assigned to a "mop-up crew" after the battle for Fallujah in Iraq's turbulent Anwar Province. But the mopping up proves to be an ordeal in itself. Sgt. Workman and his platoon come across a building in which fellow Marines are trapped by insurgents. In the firefight that ensues, he kills more than 20 of the enemy but loses three of his own men. The memories of the experience haunt him long after the fighting ends.
In its depiction of combat, "Shadow of the Sword" ranks with Marcus Luttrell's "Lone Survivor," the tale of the Navy Seals and Special Forces who died in a battle against the Taliban in Afghanistan. At one point in the Fallujah mop-up, Sgt. Workman's squad leaves a house they have just searched: "The volume of fire has spiked even higher. Now long automatic bursts from multiple AK's overlap each other into one sustained cacophony. I can't tell how many there are, but it has to be at least a half dozen, maybe more. A bullet skips off the roadbed a few feet in front of me. Another one smacks into the wall and gouges out a little pit from the concrete."
But the greater theme of "Shadow of the Sword" is the aftermath—the wounds that hurt from the inside. When Sgt. Workman returns from Iraq, he suffers from nightmares and unpredictable meltdowns that wreak havoc on his personal life.
“The dream was bad, the worst in weeks. The ceiling comes into focus. I blink the sleep out of my eyes. My heart races, sweat stains my sheets. I'm burning up.
Read an excerpt from 'Shadow of the Sword'
And he is not alone. A recent study by researchers at the San Francisco Veterans Administration medical center found that 37% of soldiers returning Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from a mental-health problem, most often PTSD or depression. Efforts are under way to provide better counseling and to train troops in coping skills, but there is a barrier. As a New York Times reporter put it in a story about the Army's new mental-stress training: The challenge is to "transform a military culture that has generally considered talk of emotions to be so much hand-holding, a sign of weakness."
Not surprisingly, Sgt. Workman is troubled when he finds himself diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. "All that PTSD nonsense," he writes, "was for pussies who couldn't hack a warrior's life." The acronym itself feels like "a stigma."
Still, Sgt. Workman can't help re-living the fatal day, often in flashbacks. He asks himself why he lived and others didn't and whether he could have done more to save his platoon members.
Back in Parris Island as a drill instructor, Sgt. Workman says that he is told push at least two recruits into suicide attempts, in an effort to weed out the weak. This is the only part of the book that sounds implausible, given the standards that define the Marines. One recruit slashes his wrists, he claims, which makes him feel despicable. During one drill, he has a flashback that results in a meltdown in front of the young men he is charged with making into Marines.
The flashbacks are part of the physiology of PTSD, as Sgt. Workman learns. Once the brain receives an overdose of trauma, its neurochemistry changes. Sgt. Workman likens the effect to a record gouged with scratches, causing the needle to replay the same passage again and again. Time does not heal all wounds; it can often make them worse.
.Victims of post-traumatic stress disorder often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. Some turn violent. In the middle ground there is anger. "A misplaced toy, a casual remark, a wayward glance or a traffic jam is all it takes to trigger the overreaction," Sgt. Workman writes. One day he gets so angry that he nearly kills a neighbor's dog. He is prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety drugs that numb him so much that he thinks: "I could watch my mother die right now and just shrug it off." He swallows a bottle of pills and puts a gun in his mouth before his frightened family intervenes—then doesn't remember the incident.
Sgt. Workman has other problems weighing on him, including a troubled marriage. He begins to seethe over his maltreatment as a kid by a brutish stepfather. Ultimately, though, he comes to realize that if he can't integrate his wartime experience into his life he will be a "fractured and malfunctioning human being." It is a gruff sergeant who begins to set him straight, enabling him to understand that he did everything he could to save his brothers-in-arms. "It was a terrible story, but that's war," he tells Sgt. Workman. "Men die despite our best."
Light at the end of the tunnel appears as Sgt. Workman begins to embrace his future; there is a reconciliation with his wife and a new son. He soon leaves the Marines but continues to work with a group called the Wounded Warrior Regiment. He meets many other veterans who suffer as he has suffered but who don't always want to admit they are hurting. The shame, he tells them, is not in PTSD but in refusing help: "Giving in, disgracing those we left behind and dying here at home after all we've gone through is simply not acceptable." Semper Fidelis, Sgt. Workman.
—Ms. Landro writes The Informed Patient column for the Journal. Her brother is a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cash for the Clueless
on: September 24, 2009, 08:14:59 PM
W H A T A D E A L !!
Here’s what my friend had to say about “Democratic Math”:
It’s worse than that. Ignore all the gas crap and just look at how the stupid car buyer got taken to the cleaners:
If you traded in a clunker worth $3500, you get $4500 off for an apparent "savings" of $1000.
However, you have to pay taxes on the $4500 come April 15th (something that no auto dealer will tell you). If you are in the 30% tax bracket, you will pay $1350 on that $4500.
So, rather than save $1000, you actually pay an extra $350 to the feds. In addition, you traded in a car that was most likely paid for. Now you have 4 or 5 years of payments on a car that you did not need, that was costing you less to run than the payments that you will now be making.
But wait, it gets even better: you also got ripped off by the dealer.
For example, every dealer here in LA was selling the Ford Focus with all the goodies including A/C, auto transmission, power windows, etc for $12,500 the month before the "cash for clunkers" program started.
When "cash for clunkers" came along, they stopped discounting them and instead sold them at the list price of $15,500. So, you paid $3000 more than you would have the month before. (Honda, Toyota, and Kia played the same list price game that Ford and Chevy did).
So lets do the final tally here:
You traded in a car worth: $3500
You got a discount of: $4500
Net so far +$1000
But you have to pay: $1350 in taxes on the $4500
Net so far: -$350
And you paid: $3000 more than the car was selling for the month before
We could also add in the additional taxes (sales tax, state tax, etc.) on the extra $3000 that you paid for the car, along with the 5 years of interest on the car loan but lets just stop here.
So who actually made out on the deal? The feds collected taxes on the car along with taxes on the $4500 they "gave" you. The car dealers made an extra $3000 or more on every car they sold along with the kickbacks from the manufacturers and the loan companies. The manufacturers got to dump lots of cars they could not give away the month before. And the poor stupid consumer got saddled with even more debt that they cannot afford.
Obama and his band of merry men convinced Joe consumer that he was getting $4500 in "free" money from the "government" when in fact Joe was giving away his $3500 car and paying an additional $3350 for the privilege
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The UFC soap opera continues
on: September 24, 2009, 06:59:16 PM
Rampage claims he’s ‘done fighting’ in UFC
By Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports Sep 23, 2:38 am EDT
Former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight champion Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is no longer part of the UFC’s “A-Team,” according to a post on his blog.
Jackson, one of mixed martial arts’ biggest stars, wrote “I’m done fighting” in a post on his official blog and expressed displeasure with UFC president Dana White.
White, who bailed Jackson out of jail last year after an incident in which Jackson was driving his truck on the wrong side of the street, was angry with Jackson for accepting a role as B.A. Baracus, made famous by Mr. T on NBC, in “The A-Team” movie. Jackson pulled out of a planned Dec. 12 fight with Rashad Evans because it conflicted with the movie’s filming schedule.
In his post, Jackson wrote of a series of disagreements with management, which he said began shortly after he signed with the UFC. He said he was rushed into a championship fight with Chuck Liddell in 2007 before he was known by American fans. He said after the win over Liddell, the UFC arranged a fight with Dan Henderson without asking him and then pressured him earlier this year into fighting Evans instead of taking a championship shot against Lyoto Machida.
Jackson said he wanted to take the movie role because he used to watch the television show with his father and it brought back fond memories.
“Dana went on the Internet and mocked me because of that and I still did nothing,” Jackson wrote. “Dana and I finally talked and we made up and then after that he went back on the Internet and said some [expletive] and he was talking bad about the movie, when information is not even supposed to be released … My body has been getting so many different injuries that I won’t be able to fight until my 40s and neither do I want to fight that long. So I feel like my second career could be in jeopardy. So I’m done fighting. I’ve been getting negative reviews from the dumb ass fans that don’t pay my bills or put my kids though college. So I’m hanging it up.”
White declined to comment Tuesday. He had made no secret of his displeasure with Jackson for taking the role and said prior to UFC 103 on Saturday that he had not been speaking with Jackson.
But White told reporters at the postfight news conference that he and Jackson had mended fences and were speaking.
“We kind of made up,” White said. “We’re going to figure it out. [Jackson] wants the Rashad fight. He’s in Vancouver doing this movie. It is what it is. Now we just have to figure out when. We’ll see what happens.”
Jackson and Evans are coaches on the current season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which airs on Spike TV. They were scheduled to fight Dec. 12 in Jackson’s hometown of Memphis, Tenn., at UFC 107.
The UFC’s stance has been that it has offered Jackson a choice after his victory over Keith Jardine at UFC 96 in March. He would have been able to fight Machida for the title at UFC 98 or to fight Evans. Jackson was angry that Evans came into the cage after his win over Jardine and Jackson reportedly chose the Evans fight.
At a media day in June in Las Vegas to promote the 10th season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Jackson said he took the opportunity to coach on the show because of the exposure it would give him. He was clearly angry that some fans suggested he was afraid of Machida and said he wanted to fight Machida after he met Evans.
But in his post Tuesday, Jackson said that wasn’t the case. At the time Jackson defeated Jardine at UFC 96 in March, Evans held the UFC’s light heavyweight belt. Jackson fought Jardine with a jaw injury that would later require surgery and he declined to fight Evans in May.
Instead, Machida got the bout and knocked Evans out to claim the title. After that fight, White announced that Jackson had chosen to fight Evans and the two agreed to meet at UFC 107 after the conclusion of TUF.
Jackson supported that position publicly in numerous interviews but wrote in his blog Tuesday that White told him what to say.
“ … When Rashad got knocked out [by Machida at UFC 98], I told them I wanted to fight Machida for the belt, but Dana told me if I coach TUF against Rashad that I could fight Machida afterwards cause this was a different type of Ultimate Fighter show they were doing,” Jackson wrote. “After I signed the contract, Dana then changes his mind and says I have to fight Rashad and even told me what to say in the press and so my fans think I was scared to fight Machida. After all that, I still never complained and I did it all.”
Copyright © 2009 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Self Pity
on: September 24, 2009, 12:44:26 PM
Print this Page
By Tzvi Freeman
Self-pity is nothing less than an impulse to destroy yourself. And this is its script:
"This is the way you were made. These are the facts of your situation. It's bad. Worse than anybody else in the whole world. In fact, it's so bad, it's impossible to do anything about it. And therefore, you are free from any responsibility to clean it up. Nobody can blame you for anything."
Self-pity is a liar and a thief. A liar, because everyone is granted the power to clean up his own mess, if only he will try. A thief, because as long as it sits inside you, it is stealing away the days of your life.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: September 20, 2009 Gathering
on: September 24, 2009, 11:11:18 AM
Even though I don't fight any more, for me too there is still the post-Gathering altered space.
This Gathering was a deeply satisfying one for me on many levels. The strength and spirit of our Tribe is strong. I now feel support in putting on the Gathering from so many people -- props in particular to Pappy Dog and his buddy Eric the Trainer, Kaju Dog and so many more-- that I did not feel so much sometimes in the past.
For me the day is a blur: watching someone who has struggled fiercely with his chatter finally step through the portal; feeling the vibrations of the altered states produced by the silence of a stick buzzing by your head; and so much more , , ,
What a magical trip this is!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Charters do not cream
on: September 24, 2009, 11:06:48 AM
'Creaming" is the word critics of charter schools think ends the debate over education choice. The charge has long been that charters get better results by cherry-picking the best students from standard public schools. Caroline Hoxby, a Stanford economist, found a way to reliably examine this alleged bias, and the results are breakthrough news for charter advocates.
Her new study, "How New York City's Charter Schools Affect Achievement," shows that charter students, typically from more disadvantaged families in places like Harlem, perform almost as well as students in affluent suburbs like Scarsdale. Because there are more applicants than spaces, New York admits charter students with a lottery system. The study nullifies any self-selection bias by comparing students who attend charters only with those who applied for admission through the lottery, but did not get in. "Lottery-based studies," notes Ms. Hoxby, "are scientific and more reliable."
According to the study, the most comprehensive of its kind to date, New York charter applicants are more likely than the average New York family to be black, poor and living in homes with adults who possess fewer education credentials. But positive results already begin to emerge by the third grade: The average charter student is scoring 5.8 points higher than his lotteried-out peers in math and 5.3 points higher in English. In grades four through eight, the charter student jumps ahead by 5 more points each year in math and 3.6 points each year in English.
Charter students are also shrinking the learning gap between low-income minorities and more affluent whites. "On average," the report concludes, "a student who attended a charter school for all of the grades kindergarten through eight would close about 86% of the 'Scarsdale-Harlem achievement gap' in math and 66% of the achievement gap in English."
The New York results are not unique. In a separate study, Ms. Hoxby found Chicago's charters performing even better than the Big Apple's. Using the same methodology, other researchers have seen similar results in Boston.
Charters are also a bargain for taxpayers. Nationwide on average, per-pupil spending is 61% that of surrounding public schools. New York charters spend less than district schools but more than the national average because, unlike district schools, they generally have no capital budget and must pay rent from operating expenses.
Little wonder President Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are pressuring states to become more charter-friendly. Why the Administration can't connect the dots from the evidence to other effective school choice reforms, such as vouchers, can only be explained by union politics. Caroline Hoxby has performed a public service by finally making clear that "creaming" is a crock.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / P. Henry; Wilson; Hamilton; etc
on: September 24, 2009, 10:33:53 AM
"The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave." --Patrick Henry, speech in the Virginia Convention, 1775
"The first and governing maxim in the interpretation of a statute is to discover the meaning of those who made it." --James Wilson, Of the Study of Law in the United States, 1790
"As riches increase and accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails in society, virtue will be in a greater degree considered as only a graceful appendage of wealth, and the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard. This is the real disposition of human nature." --Alexander Hamilton
"[T]here is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust." --James Madison
"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious." --Thomas Jefferson
"The executive branch of this government never has, nor will suffer, while I preside, any improper conduct of its officers to escape with impunity." --George Washington
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Krauthammer
on: September 23, 2009, 08:24:37 PM
I'm afraid to see what His Kittiness came up with today.
Anyway, here's this:
Does He Lie?
By Charles Krauthammer
Friday, September 18, 2009
You lie? No. Barack Obama doesn't lie. He's too subtle for that. He . . . well, you judge.
Herewith three examples within a single speech -- the now-famous Obama-Wilson "you lie" address to Congress on health care -- of Obama's relationship with truth.
(1) "I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits -- either now or in the future," he solemnly pledged. "I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit, now or in the future. Period."
Wonderful. The president seems serious, veto-ready, determined to hold the line. Until, notes Harvard economist Greg Mankiw, you get to Obama's very next sentence: "And to prove that I'm serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don't materialize."
This apparent strengthening of the pledge brilliantly and deceptively undermines it. What Obama suggests is that his plan will require mandatory spending cuts if the current rosy projections prove false. But there's absolutely nothing automatic about such cuts. Every Congress is sovereign. Nothing enacted today will force a future Congress or a future president to make any cuts in any spending, mandatory or not.
Just look at the supposedly automatic Medicare cuts contained in the Sustainable Growth Rate formula enacted to constrain out-of-control Medicare spending. Every year since 2003, Congress has waived the cuts.
Mankiw puts the Obama bait-and-switch in plain language. "Translation: I promise to fix the problem. And if I do not fix the problem now, I will fix it later, or some future president will, after I am long gone. I promise he will. Absolutely, positively, I am committed to that future president fixing the problem. You can count on it. Would I lie to you?"
(2) And then there's the famous contretemps about health insurance for illegal immigrants. Obama said they would not be insured. Well, all four committee-passed bills in Congress allow illegal immigrants to take part in the proposed Health Insurance Exchange.
But more important, the problem is that laws are not self-enforcing. If they were, we'd have no illegal immigrants because, as I understand it, it's illegal to enter the United States illegally. We have laws against burglary, too. But we also provide for cops and jails on the assumption that most burglars don't voluntarily turn themselves in.
When Republicans proposed requiring proof of citizenship, the Democrats twice voted that down in committee. Indeed, after Rep. Joe Wilson's "You lie!" shout-out, the Senate Finance Committee revisited the language of its bill to prevent illegal immigrants from getting any federal benefits. Why would the Finance Committee fix a nonexistent problem?
(3) Obama said he would largely solve the insoluble cost problem of Obamacare by eliminating "hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud" from Medicare.
That's not a lie. That's not even deception. That's just an insult to our intelligence. Waste, fraud and abuse -- Meg Greenfield once called this phrase "the dread big three" -- as the all-purpose piggy bank for budget savings has been a joke since Jimmy Carter first used it in 1977.
Moreover, if half a trillion is waiting to be squeezed painlessly out of Medicare, why wait for health-care reform? If, as Obama repeatedly insists, Medicare overspending is breaking the budget, why hasn't he gotten started on the painless billions in "waste and fraud" savings?
Obama doesn't lie. He merely elides, gliding from one dubious assertion to another. This has been the story throughout his whole health-care crusade. Its original premise was that our current financial crisis was rooted in neglect of three things -- energy, education and health care. That transparent attempt to exploit Emanuel's Law -- a crisis is a terrible thing to waste -- failed for health care because no one is stupid enough to believe that the 2008 financial collapse was caused by a lack of universal health care.
So on to the next gambit: selling health-care reform as a cure for the deficit. When that was exploded by the Congressional Budget Office's demonstration of staggering Obamacare deficits, Obama tried a new tack: selling his plan as revenue-neutral insurance reform -- until the revenue neutrality is exposed as phony future cuts and chimerical waste and fraud.
Obama doesn't lie. He implies, he misdirects, he misleads -- so fluidly and incessantly that he risks transmuting eloquence into mere slickness.
Slickness wasn't fatal to "Slick Willie" Clinton because he possessed a winning, nearly irresistible charm. Obama's persona is more cool, distant, imperial. The charming scoundrel can get away with endless deception; the righteous redeemer cannot. firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc.
on: September 23, 2009, 07:43:05 PM
ACORN Sues Filmmakers
ACORN has filed a lawsuit against the makers of a hidden-camera video that showed employees of its Baltimore office giving tax advice to a man posing as a pimp and a woman posing as a prostitute.
The liberal activist group contends that the audio portion of the video was obtained illegally because Maryland requires two-party consent to create sound recordings.
The two employees seen in the video were fired after it was posted online. The lawsuit says the employees, Tonja Thompson and Shera Williams, suffered "extreme emotional distress."
The multimillion-dollar lawsuit seeks damages from James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles, who played the pimp and prostitute in the videos, and from conservative columnist Andrew Breitbart, who posted the videos on his Web site.
BEN NUCKOLS, Associated Press Writer (© 2009 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA DVD: "The Bolo Game"
on: September 23, 2009, 01:58:30 PM
We will be releasing the long secret "DBMA Vid-lesson: The Bolo Game" as a DVD.
One reason for the secrecy is that amongst the material taught is a variation of the Kalimba Dodger and I had promised Manong Kalimba not to share what he had share with me until after his passing. Now that he has passed, I am free to help the Art survive and reproduce.
Walk as a warrior for all our days,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: california
on: September 23, 2009, 01:47:31 PM
There are several variables unique to our situation which should come down one way or the other by next summer.
In addition to obvious variables if we move, I will want a place where my daughter can have a horse and Conrad can continue his lacrosse.
Texas (Fort Hood/Austin area perhaps?) is an option.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WH: Whoops! Sorry!
on: September 22, 2009, 06:09:59 PM
WH: NEA Conf Call should never happen again
Jake Tapper of ABC News:
White House officials say they are enacting specific steps to make sure such a call never happens again.
Today White House officials are meeting with the chiefs of staff of the executive branch agencies to discuss rules and best practices in this area, a conversation during which they will be told that that while White House lawyers do not believe that the NEA call violated the law, “the appearance issues troubled some participants,” Burton said. “It is the policy of the administration that grant decisions should be on the merits and that government officials should avoid even creating the incorrect appearance that politics has anything to do with these decisions.”
After listening to the transcript and the audio posted at the conservative website BigHollywood.Breitbart.com — secretly recorded by Los Angeles filmmaker Patrick Couriellech — Melanie Sloan, executive director of the good-government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told ABC News that the call was “disturbing.”
“Government agencies are not supposed to be engaged in political activities,” Sloan said. “Here, because they didn’t veer off into ‘This is about the election,’ where you’d get into violations of the Hatch Act, it’s not illegal. But it doesn’t look good — it looks terrible. It’s inappropriate.”
The Hatch Act restricts the political activity of executive branch employees of the federal government.*
Said Sloan of the conference call: “It’s not what the NEA was created for, it’s not supposed to be helping the president’s agenda; that’s not the point.”
Burton added that the White House will be issuing a formal memo for White House staff “to that effect and will be doing training sessions and personal visits with staff here to make sure the message gets across.”
Sergant seemed to have some indication on the call that maybe he was coming close to the line of inappropriateness if not crossing it.
You can read the piece in full here.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taking the liberty of moving CCP's Israel thread post to here
on: September 22, 2009, 01:45:47 PM
Eagleburger said that? Wow.
Taking the liberty of moving CCP's post here:
This could go under different threads but it seems reasonable here because it does illustrate the disconnect between Israeli
Jews view of OBama and (most though not all - Jakcie Mason, Horowitz, Levin, Bernie Goldberg, me, Crafty) American Jews (best evidenced by Hollywood and NYT):
***Everybody is saying no to the American president these days. And it's not just that they're saying no, it's also the way they're saying no.
US President Barack Obama
SLIDESHOW: Israel & Region | World The Saudis twice said no to his request for normalization gestures towards Israel (at Barack Obama's meeting with King Abdullah in Saudi Arabia, and in Washington at meetings with Hillary Clinton). Who says no to the American president twice? What must they think of Obama in the desert kingdom?
The North Koreans said no to repeated attempts at talks, by test-launching long-range missiles in April; Russia and China keep on saying no to tougher sanctions on Iran; the Iranians keep saying no to offers of talks by saying they're willing to talk about everything except a halt to uranium enrichment; Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is saying no by refusing to meet with Binyamin Netanyahu until Israel freezes all settlement construction; the Israelis said no by refusing to agree to a settlement freeze, or even a settlement moratorium until and unless the Arabs ante up their normalization gestures. Which brings us back to the original Saudi no.
The only thing Obama did manage to get Bibi and Abbas to say yes to is a photo-op at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in NY. Mazel tov.
Editorial: Wobbling Washington
So why is everyone saying no to Obama?
It's the economy, stupid.
Everyone has worked it out by now: The great secret is out. America's economy has made Obama a weak president, and he will likely remain weak throughout his first term. He has about two years to pull the American economy out of its free-fall before he begins his reelection campaign. If he can do it, and that's a big if, chances are good that he'll get reelected, and in his second term he can try to pull some geopolitical strings. But for the next three years, expect to see a world that says no to Obama. No meaningful and dramatic diplomatic initiative can come out of the White House in the next three years, as long as Obama remains weak.
And that's a real pity, because there are some serious and imminent issues that need to be addressed.
Pyongyang is getting more bellicose and not being punished. The North Koreans have violated every single international agreement and norm, and nothing tangible has happened to them.
In Iran, this registers. "Look at how bad they're being," the mullahs say, "and they're getting away with it." Even so, the Iranian government is weak internally and internationally following its election fiasco.
The US and EU could tighten sanctions against Iran without the support of Russia and China, but they would need political will for that. Sanctions, such as a ban on refined oil imports, barring Iranian flights to America and Europe etc., could have a serious impact on Iran and weaken the regime further. The US and EU can act now against Iran like the US and UK did against Libya several years ago when they persuaded Gaddafi to abandon his nuclear ambitions. Back then, though, the US was much stronger. Now, the American economy, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Korea have all weakened the US.
In retaliation for increased, unilateral sanctions, Iran could turn up the heat on US and coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, which will stymie Obama's plan to win and withdraw. In Iraq and Afghanistan, Iran has the US president by the kishkes, in a manner of speaking. And so do the Taliban.
So, when a president with so many problems comes asking for a favor, everyone finds it easier to just say no.****
For more of Amir's articles and posts, visit his personal blog Forecast Highs
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Beggar, bankrupt, and appease
on: September 22, 2009, 08:41:14 AM
Hope I'm not overloading here this morning:
Beggar thy neighbor, bankrupt thy country, appease thy foe. As slogans (or counter-slogans) go, it isn't quite in a class with Amnesty, Acid and Abortion. But it pretty much sums up President Obama's global agenda—and that's just for the month of September.
In 1943, Walter Lippmann observed that the disarmament movement had been "tragically successful in disarming the nations that believed in disarmament." That ought to have been the final word on the subject.
So what should Mr. Obama, who this week becomes the first American president to chair a session of the U.N. Security Council, choose to make the centerpiece of the Council's agenda? What else but nonproliferation and disarmament. And lest anyone suspect that this has something to do with North Korea and Iran, U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice insists otherwise: The meeting, she says, "will focus on nuclear nonproliferation and nuclear disarmament broadly, and not on any particular countries."
.But the problem with this euphemistic approach to disarmament, as Lippmann noticed, is that it shifts the onus from the countries that can't be trusted with nuclear weapons to those that can. Is Nicolas Sarkozy, with his force de frappe, about to start World War III? Probably not, though he has the means to do so. Should Mr. Obama join hands with Iran and the Arab world in pushing for Israel's nuclear disarmament, on the view that if only the Jewish state would set the right example its enemies would no longer want to wipe it off the map? If that's what the president believes, he should say so publicly, especially since he's offering the same general prescription for America's nuclear deterrent.
Of course what the administration wants is to set the right mood music for its upcoming talks with Iran. Mr. Obama would be better served having a chat with Moammar Gadhafi, who will be seated just a few chairs away at the Security Council: The mood music for his disarmament was set by the 4th Infantry Division when it yanked Saddam Hussein from his spider hole in December 2003. Col. Gadhafi gave up his WMD a week later.
Then again, it's not as if the administration doesn't know how to play hardball when it has a real villain in its sights. Like Chinese tire makers, for instance, who last week were slapped with a 35% tariff because Mr. Obama owed political favors to his friends in Big Labor. Quite something for a president who last year sounded off on the dangers of "trade policy [being] dictated by special interests."
In an op-ed in this newspaper, Brookings Institution economist Chad Bown noted that "the count of newly imposed protectionist policies like antidumping duties and other 'safeguard' measures increased by 31% in the first half of 2009 relative to the same period one year ago."
That's a global trend, and the sort of thing a group like the G-20, which meets Thursday and Friday in Pittsburgh, is supposed to set its teeth against. Instead, the agenda will be given over to such brainstorms as capping bankers' bonuses—"a critical part of our broader reform agenda," according to Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner. Now there's a way to attract the best and the brightest to the world's dullest profession.
The G-20 also has no plans to put the brakes on further infusions of stimulus spending, the removal of which British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says would be an "error of historical proportions." But what's really historical is the explosion in the debt-to-GDP ratios of the G-20 countries, which the IMF predicts will rise to 81.6% next year from 65.9% in 2008. For the U.S. the jump is especially pronounced—to 97.5% next year from 70.5% last. Only Japan and Italy will be deeper in the red; even Argentina looks good by comparison. This is before the first baby boomer hits retirement age next summer, to say nothing of the liabilities coming from ObamaCare.
What happens to countries with these kinds of fiscal burdens? They decline. In 1983, Japan's gross government debt stood at 67% of GDP. It has since tripled. West Germany's was a little under 40%. It is twice that today. These used to be the economies of the future. They are, or ought to be, the cautionary tales of the present.
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama is earning kudos from the Russian government for his decision to pull missile defense from central Europe, even as Poland marked the 70th anniversary of its invasion by the Soviet Union. Moscow is still offering no concessions on sanctioning Iran in the event negotiations fail, but might graciously agree to an arms-control deal that cements its four-to-one advantages in tactical nuclear weapons.
Also on the presidential agenda this week is a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Too bad for all concerned that the two-state solution has been superseded by the three-state fact on the ground.
And all of this in a single month. Just imagine what October will bring.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yankee Imperialist Hillary
on: September 22, 2009, 08:34:53 AM
"The Supreme Court of Honduras has constitutional and statutory authority to hear cases against the President of the Republic and many other high officers of the State, to adjudicate and enforce judgments, and to request the assistance of the public forces to enforce its rulings."
—Congressional Research Service, August 2009
Ever since Manuel Zelaya was removed from the Honduran presidency by that country's Supreme Court and Congress on June 28 for violations of the constitution, the Obama administration has insisted, without any legal basis, that the incident amounts to a "coup d'état" and must be reversed. President Obama has dealt harshly with Honduras, and Americans have been asked to trust their president's proclamations.
Now a report filed at the Library of Congress by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) provides what the administration has not offered, a serious legal review of the facts. "Available sources indicate that the judicial and legislative branches applied constitutional and statutory law in the case against President Zelaya in a manner that was judged by the Honduran authorities from both branches of the government to be in accordance with the Honduran legal system," writes CRS senior foreign law specialist Norma C. Gutierrez in her report.
Do the facts matter? Fat chance. The administration is standing by its "coup" charge and 10 days ago, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went so far as to sanction the country's independent judiciary. The U.S. won't say why, but its clear the court's sin is rejecting a U.S.-backed proposal to restore Mr. Zelaya to power.
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.The upshot is that the U.S. is trying to force Honduras to violate its own constitution and is also using its international political heft to try to interfere with the country's independent judiciary.
Hondurans are worried about what this pressure is doing to their country. Mr. Zelaya's violent supporters are emboldened by the U.S. position. They deface some homes and shops with graffiti and throw stones and home-made bombs into others, and whenever the police try to stop them, they howl about their "human rights."
But it may be that Americans should be even more concerned about the heavy-handedness, without legal justification, emanating from the executive branch in Washington. What does it say about Mr. Obama's respect for the separation of powers that he would instruct Mrs. Clinton to punish an independent court because it did not issue the ruling he wanted?
The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.Since June 28, the U.S. has been pressuring Honduras to put Mr. Zelaya back in the presidency. But neither Mrs. Clinton's spurious "rule of law" claims or the tire iron handed her by Mr. Obama to use against this little country have been effective in convincing the Honduran judiciary that it ought to abandon its constitution.
It seems that Mrs. Clinton is peeved with the court because it ruled that restoring Mr. Zelaya to power under a proposal drafted by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias is unconstitutional. Thus, the State Department decided that in defense of the rule of law it would penalize the members of the Supreme Court for their interpretation of their constitution. Fourteen justices had their U.S. visas pulled.
Since the U.S. already had yanked the visa of the 15th member of the court, the one who signed the arrest warrant for Mr. Zelaya, this action completed Mrs. Clinton's assault on the independence of a foreign democracy's highest court. The lesson, presumably, is that judges in small foreign nations are required to accept America's interpretation of their own laws.
Thousands of readers have written to me asking how all this can happen in the U.S., where democratic principles have been recognized since the nation's founding. Many readers have written that they are "ashamed" of the U.S. and have asked, in effect, "How can I help Honduras?" A more pertinent question may turn out to be, how can they help their own country?
In its actions toward Honduras, the Obama administration is demonstrating contempt for the fundamentals of democracy. Legal scholars are clear on this. "Judicial independence is a central component of any democracy and is crucial to separation of powers, the rule of law and human rights," writes Ahron Barak, the former president of the Supreme Court of Israel and a prominent legal scholar, in his compelling 2006 book, "The Judge in a Democracy."
"The purpose of the separation of powers is to strengthen freedom and prevent the concentration of power in the hands of one government actor in a manner likely to harm the freedom of the individual," Mr. Barak explains—almost as if he is writing about Honduras.
He also warns prophetically about the Chávez style of democracy that has destroyed Venezuela and that Hondurans say they were trying to avoid in their own country. "Democracy is entitled to defend itself from those who seek to use it in order to destroy its very existence," he writes. Americans ought to ask themselves why the Obama administration doesn't seem to agree.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sept. 25 could bear watching
on: September 22, 2009, 08:21:36 AM
I am unfamiliar with this source. Caveat lector:
Islamic Coming-Out Party Set for September 25
Muslims to mount massive march on Washington
By Dr. Paul L. Williams Wednesday, September 16, 2009
‘Islam is coming to America the same way Christianity came to Rome… whether they like it or not. We talk about the Islamic State of North America by 2050… The people of Hamas and Hizbullah are good people; they don’t deserve condemnation, they do good things.” – Imam Abdul Musa of Washington, D.C.
“Our time has come!” proclaims Islam on Capitol Hill, a new non-profit, tax-exempt corporation that is seeking millions in sponsorship.
And the time for the coming out party for Muslims in America is September 25, when over 50,000 adherents of the fabled “religion of peace” are expected to gather on the west front of the U.S. Capitol for a national prayer gathering.
The organizers of the event – - called “the Day of Islamic Unity” – - are expecting a crowd of 50,000 from mosques throughout the country, including a Muslim contingency from Alaska.
The Muslims are expected to pray for “the soul of America” from 4:00 AM until 7:00 PM with state-of-the-art audio amplifiers, so that their cries will resonate throughout the Lincoln and Washington memorials and the halls of Congress.
The first national gathering of Muslims will take place by the site where U.S. Presidents have been inaugurated since 1981.
Key planners of the event, including Hassen Abdellah, say that the inspiration for the event came from Barack Obama’s speech at the University of Cairo in which U.S. President said that Islam is an integral part of American society.
“For the first time in my lifetime,” Mr. Abdellah says of the Obama speech. “I heard someone of his stature speaking about Islam and Muslims not in an adversarial sense, but in the sense of being welcome and acknowledging we are integral citizens in the society — that we’re gainfully employed; we’re educated.”
The Traditional Values Coalition has decried the gathering by saying: “The Day of Islamic Unity is a dangerous event because it will galvanize Islamists into an army that will subvert our institutions and our way of life. Islam isn’t simply a religion; it is a totalitarian geo-political system that seeks total world domination. It seeks to impose Shariah Law on all peoples – by the sword.”
Dr. Paul L. Williams Most recent columns
Paul L. Williams, Ph.D., is the author of such best-selling books as The Day of Islam, The Al Qaeda Connection, Osama’s Revenge: The Next 9/11, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Crusades and The Vatican Exposed. An award-winning journalist, he is a frequent guest on such national news networks as ABC News, CBS News, Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR. Williams operates from his
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Pravda
on: September 22, 2009, 07:47:36 AM
WASHINGTON — President Obama could read the grim assessment of the Afghanistan war from his top military commander there in two possible ways.
Notes from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and other areas of conflict in the post-9/11 era. Go to the Blog »
He could read Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal’s report as a blunt and impassioned last-chance plea for a revamped counterinsurgency strategy bolstered by thousands more combat troops to rescue the beleaguered, eight-year mission.
Or he could read it as a searing indictment of American-led NATO military operations and a corrupt Afghan civilian government, pitted against a surprisingly adaptive and increasingly dangerous insurgency.
Either way, General McChrystal’s 66-page report with the deceptively bland title “Commander’s Initial Assessment” is serving to catalyze the thinking of a president — who is keenly aware of the historical perils of a protracted, faraway war — about what he can realistically accomplish in this conflict, and whether his vision for the war and a commitment of American troops is the same as his general’s.
Mr. Obama faces a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, growing opposition to the war at home from Democrats and a desire to put off any major troop decision while he still needs much political capital to pass major health care legislation in Congress.
But even as the president expresses skepticism about sending more American troops to Afghanistan until he has settled on the right strategy, he is also grappling with a stark reality: it will be very hard to say no to General McChrystal.
Mr. Obama has called Afghanistan a “war of necessity,” and in the most basic terms he has the same goal as President George W. Bush did after the Sept. 11 attacks, to prevent another major terrorist assault.
“Whatever decisions I make are going to be based first on a strategy to keep us safe, then we’ll figure out how to resource it,” Mr. Obama said Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
“We’re not going to put the cart before the horse and just think by sending more troops we’re automatically going to make Americans safe,” he said.
The White House expects General McChrystal’s request to be not just for American troops but for NATO forces as well. This week, the White House is sending questions about his review back to the general in Kabul, Afghanistan, and expects to get responses by the end of next week.
Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who heads the Armed Services Committee, said in an interview Monday that he wants to know how the uncertainty surrounding the recent Afghan elections and a plan to reintegrate Taliban fighters into Afghan society could affect General McChrystal’s troop request.
Mr. Obama has had only one meeting so far on the McChrystal review, but aides plan to schedule three or four more after he returns from the Group of 20 summit meeting in Pittsburgh at the end of this week.
Aides said it should take weeks, not months, to make a decision. “The president’s been very clear in our discussion that he’s open-minded and he’s not going to be swayed by political correctness one way or the other,” Gen. James L. Jones, the national security adviser, said in an interview. “Different people are going to have different opinions, and he wants to hear them, but at the end of the day, he’s going to do what he thinks is the right thing for the United States and most especially for the men and women who have to respond to his orders.”
Senior officers who work with General McChrystal say he was surprised by the dire condition of the Afghan mission when he assumed command in June.
His concerns went beyond the strength and resilience of the insurgency. General McChrystal was surprised by the lack of efficient military organization at the NATO headquarters and that a significant percentage of the troops were not positioned to carry out effective counterinsurgency operations.
There was a sense among General McChrystal’s staff that the military effort in Afghanistan was disjointed and had not learned from the lessons of the past years of the war.
“We haven’t been fighting in Afghanistan for eight years,” said one officer. “We’ve been fighting in Afghanistan for one year, eight times in a row.”
In his assessment, General McChrystal also portrayed a more sophisticated Taliban foe that uses propaganda effectively and taps into the Afghan prison system as a training ground.
Taliban leaders based in Pakistan appoint shadow governors for most provinces, install their own courts, levy taxes, conscript fighters and wield savvy propagandists. They stand in sharp contrast to a corrupt and inept government.
And Taliban fighters exert control not only through bombs and bullets. “The insurgents wage a ‘silent war’ of fear, intimidation and persuasion throughout the year — not just during the warmer weather ‘fighting season’ — to gain control over the population,” the general said in his report.
Administration officials said that the general’s assessment, while very important, was just one component in the president’s thinking.
Asked on CNN on Sunday why after eight months in office he was still searching for a strategy, Mr. Obama took issue. “We put a strategy in place, clarified our goals, but what the election has shown, as well as changing circumstances in Pakistan, is that this is going to be a very difficult operation,” he said, referring to the Afghan election. “We’ve got to make sure that we’re constantly refining it to keep our focus on what our primary goals are.”
Peter Baker and Thom Shanker contributed reporting.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Pravda Times on Sec Def Gates
on: September 22, 2009, 06:46:34 AM
A Pragmatist, Gates Reshapes Policy He Backed Recommend
PETER BAKER and THOM SHANKER
Published: September 21, 2009
WASHINGTON — On his tenth day on the job, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates signed off on an ambitious if politically charged plan to build a new missile shield in Europe. Just two weeks later, he supported an even more wrenching decision to send additional American troops to Iraq, into a war that was not going well.
That was nearly three years, one president and a political lifetime ago. Now serving Barack Obama instead of George W. Bush, Mr. Gates just recommended jettisoning his own missile defense program in favor of a reformulated version and once again is wrestling with whether to send more troops abroad, in this case to Afghanistan.
Quiet and unassuming, Mr. Gates has emerged as the man in the middle between policies of the past he once championed and the revisions and reversals he is now carrying out. His stature and credibility have allowed him to extract concessions on the inside, including on missile defense, according to senior officials, while serving as a formidable shield against Republican spears on the outside.
Along the way, Mr. Gates has become a White House favorite, for both his pragmatic style and his political value. With little national security experience of his own, Mr. Obama has leaned heavily on the holdover Pentagon chief for advice, aides said. And as a result, Mr. Gates has played a central role in reshaping national security policy, including fixing a broken Pentagon procurement system and recalibrating the size of the country’s nuclear arsenal.
“The president values what Secretary Gates says — and not just values, he knows what he brings to the table is 30 years of experience in Democratic and Republican administrations,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff. “He understands that none of these decisions are between good and bad but between bad and worse.”
The looming decision on Afghanistan could put Mr. Gates’s experience to the test as never before. With both Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the top American commander, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, now on record as saying more combat troops would be required for victory, Mr. Gates must balance his commanders’ desires and his president’s stated skepticism.
Mr. Gates has made the transition from the Bush years to the Obama administration with insider skills honed over decades of working for presidents of both parties. He reached out from the start to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to encourage more civilian roles in Afghanistan and Iraq, and teamed up with Mr. Emanuel to kill the F-22 fighter program.
Just as he was in the Bush cabinet, he has at times been caught between high-powered hawk and dove figures. When Mr. Obama sent more troops to Afghanistan this year, Mr. Gates maneuvered between Mrs. Clinton, who strongly favored the reinforcement, and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., who resisted it. And he has been a voice of caution on issues like Mr. Obama’s desire to eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons.
For Republicans, Mr. Gates poses a quandary in assessing Mr. Obama’s national security decisions: do they look at him as a turncoat for dismantling some of Mr. Bush’s policies or as the best hope for moderating changes brought by a Democratic administration?
“He’s got a president who’s pushing in a different direction than the previous president and he’s got to deal with that,” said Peter H. Wehner, a White House strategic adviser to Mr. Bush. “For us in the Bush administration, he’s got a lot of money in the bank because of Iraq and the surge.”
Mr. Wehner recalled a conversation over the weekend with fellow conservatives about the missile defense decision. “Nobody said anything nasty or vicious about him,” he said. “There was genuine puzzlement.”
Mr. Gates’s shifting role can be summed up in terms familiar to the defense secretary, an avid film buff who routinely brings piles of DVDs on long trips and cites favorite movies in conversation to make a point.
In his new memoir, Matt Latimer, a Pentagon speechwriter under Mr. Gates’s predecessor, Donald H. Rumsfeld, compares Mr. Gates to the Harvey Keitel character in “Pulp Fiction” — the one who shows up after the grisly killing to wipe away all traces of blood.
Now that Mr. Gates has evolved from the clean-up guy to one of the most powerful members of the Obama cabinet, senior officials at the Pentagon have come up with their own nickname for him: “The Godfather.”
The missile defense decision demonstrated both the awkwardness and potency of Mr. Gates’s position. The Obama team arrived in office skeptical of the plan Mr. Gates had signed off on in December 2006 to build a system in Eastern Europe to counter potential Iranian intercontinental ballistic missiles.
A new intelligence estimate on global ballistic missile threats in May concluded that Iran was making less progress than expected on such long-range missiles, but rapidly building short- and medium-range missiles that would not be stopped by the Bush program. Mr. Gates accepted that the threat had probably shifted, officials said, and that changing technology meant that the United States could counter shorter-range missiles more effectively with an expanded ship-based SM-3 system.
But officials debated whether to also continue the Bush program. Mr. Gates wanted to keep going in case Iran made a breakthrough in longer-range missiles; other officials wanted a clean break from the old system. In the end, at Mr. Gates’s insistence, the government will continue to finance research and development on interceptors that were at the heart of the Bush plan while deploying the new system.
“Secretary Gates played a pivotal role,” said James L. Jones, the national security adviser. “It was a rich and robust discussion. If there was a dramatic moment, it was when Secretary Gates affirmatively and without hesitation said this is a better solution.”
On Afghanistan, Mr. Gates has repeatedly declared his concern that more troops would make Americans look increasingly like occupiers. But he has recently softened that opposition, citing General McChrystal’s argument that an occupation is defined less by numbers than by how troops carry out their mission.
Whatever the president decides in the coming weeks, it will fall again to Mr. Gates to sell it — to the armed forces, to Congress and to the public. “We need to understand that the decisions that the president faces on Afghanistan are some of the most important he may face in his presidency,” he said at the Pentagon last week. “Frankly from my standpoint, everybody ought to take a deep breath.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers:
on: September 22, 2009, 06:07:12 AM
"I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?" --Benjamin Franklin, to Colleagues at the Constitutional Convention
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Balkans
on: September 21, 2009, 01:34:56 PM
NATO War Crimes and links to Al Qaeda confirmed former UN Commander in the Balkans
We bombed the wrong side?
by Lewis MacKenzie
National Post, 6 April 2004www.globalresearch.ca
11 April 2004
The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/MAC404A.html
Five years ago our television screens were dominated by pictures of Kosovo-Albanian refugees escaping across Kosovo's borders to the sanctuaries of Macedonia and Albania. Shrill reports indicated that Slobodan Milosevic's security forces were conducting a campaign of genocide and that at least 100,000 Kosovo-Albanians had been exterminated and buried in mass graves throughout the Serbian province. NATO sprung into action and, in spite of the fact no member nation of the alliance was threatened, commenced bombing not only Kosovo, but the infrastructure and population of Serbia itself -- without the authorizing United Nations resolution so revered by Canadian leadership, past and present.
Those of us who warned that the West was being sucked in on the side of an extremist, militant, Kosovo-Albanian independence movement were dismissed as appeasers. The fact that the lead organization spearheading the fight for independence, the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), was universally designated a terrorist organization and known to be receiving support from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda was conveniently ignored.
The recent dearth of news in the North American media regarding the increase in violence in Kosovo compared to the comprehensive coverage in the European press strongly suggests that we Canadians don't like to admit it when we are wrong. On the contrary, selected news clips on this side of the ocean continue to reinforce the popular spin that those dastardly Serbs are at it again.
A case in point was the latest crisis that exploded on March 15. The media reported that four Albanian boys had been chased into the river Ibar in Mitrovica by at least two Serbs and a dog (the dog's ethnic affiliation was not reported).Three of the boys drowned and one escaped to the other side. Immediately, thousands of Albanians mobilized and concentrated in the area of the divided city. Attacks on Serbs took place throughout the province resulting in an estimated 30 killed and 600 wounded. Thirty Serbian Christian Orthodox churches and monasteries were destroyed, more than 300 homes were burnt to the ground and six Serbian villages cleansed of their occupants. One hundred and fifty international peacekeepers were injured.
Totally ignored in North America were the numerous statements from impartial sources that said there was no incident between the Serbs, the dog and the Albanian boys. NATO Police spokesman Derek Chappell stated on March 16 that it was "definitely not true" that the boys had been chased into the river by Serbs. Chappell went on to say that the surviving boy had told his parents that they had entered the river alone and that three of his friends had been swept away by the current. Admiral Gregory Johnson, the overall NATO commander, further stated that the ensuing clashes were "orchestrated and well-planned ethnic cleansing" by the Kosovo-Albanians. Those Serbs forced to leave joined the 200,000 who had been cleansed from the province since NATO's "humanitarian" bombing in 1999. The '"cleansees" have become very effective "cleansers."
In the same week a number of individuals posing as Serbs ambushed and killed a UN policeman and his local police partner. During the firefight one of them was wounded which caused an immediate switch from Serbian to Albanian as he screamed, "I've been hit"! The UN pursued the attackers and tracked them to an Albanian-run farm where they discovered weapons and the wounded Albanian who had died from his wounds. Four Albanians were arrested. Once again, the ambush had been reported in the United States but not the follow-up which clearly indicated yet another orchestrated provocation by the Albanian terrorists.
Kosovo is administered by the UN, the very organization many Canadians have indicated they would like to see take over from the United States in Iraq. The fact the UN cannot order its civilian employees to go or stay anywhere -- they have to volunteer -- combined with recent history that saw the UN abandon Iraq after a single brutal attack on their compound in Baghdad and the reality that Kosovo, under the organization's administration, is a basket case, disqualifies it from consideration for such a role.
Since the NATO/UN intervention in 1999, Kosovo has become the crime capital of Europe. The sex slave trade is flourishing. The province has become an invaluable transit point for drugs en route to Europe and North America. Ironically, the majority of the drugs come from another state "liberated" by the West, Afghanistan. Members of the demobilized, but not eliminated, KLA are intimately involved in organized crime and the government. The UN police arrest a small percentage of those involved in criminal activities and turn them over to a judiciary with a revolving door that responds to bribes and coercion.
The objective of the Albanians is to purge all non-Albanians, including the international community's representatives, from Kosovo and ultimately link up with mother Albania thereby achieving the goal of "Greater Albania." The campaign started with their attacks on Serbian security forces in the early 1990s and they were successful in turning Milosevic's heavy-handed response into worldwide sympathy for their cause. There was no genocide as claimed by the West -- the 100,000 allegedly buried in mass graves turned out to be around 2,000, of all ethnic origins, including those killed in combat during the war itself.
The Kosovo-Albanians have played us like a Stradivarius. We have subsidized and indirectly supported their violent campaign for an ethnically pure and independent Kosovo. We have never blamed them for being the perpetrators of the violence in the early '90s and we continue to portray them as the designated victim today in spite of evidence to the contrary. When they achieve independence with the help of our tax dollars combined with those of bin Laden and al-Qaeda, just consider the message of encouragement this sends to other terrorist-supported independence movements around the world.
Funny how we just keep digging the hole deeper!
Maj-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, now retired, commanded UN troops during the Bosnian civil war of 1992.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: The impending storm; 1786
on: September 21, 2009, 08:37:50 AM
"No morn ever dawned more favorable than ours did; and no day was every more clouded than the present! Wisdom, and good examples are necessary at this time to rescue the political machine from the impending storm." --George Washington, letter to James Madison, 1786
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy
on: September 20, 2009, 08:44:59 AM
Nice one GM. That seems to me a very sound piece.
This from the WSJ:
It's been a good few weeks in what used to be called the war on terror. The main credit here goes to the folks in the intelligence community that our friends on the left love to hate.
Credit goes as well to Barack Obama, who as President has abandoned much of his previous opposition to proven antiterror measures like warrantless wiretaps, and who has only stepped up the campaign of targeted hits on terrorist ringleaders. He's fortunate the Bush Administration left him with a potent intelligence team and the precedent of taking the fight, pre-emptively, to the terrorists on their home turf.
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Pakistani army troops fix their long-range gun in Taliban's stronghold of Piochar in the Swat Valley.
.On Monday, U.S. special forces operating in Somalia killed top al Qaeda operative Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, believed to have been a planner in the November 2002 bombing of a hotel in Kenya in which 15 were killed. Also killed in recent days was senior al Qaeda leader Ilyas Kashmiri—via a U.S. drone attack in western Pakistan—and Indonesian terrorist mastermind Noordin Muhammad Top, suspected in the July bombing of two Jakarta hotels.
Last week, too, a British court convicted three men for an August 2006 plot to blow up several airliners over the Atlantic. The convictions were obtained largely on the strength of communications intercepts—possibly warrantless—gathered by the U.S. National Security Agency, according to a report by Britain's Channel 4.
All this follows important gains for the Pakistani army in the area of the Swat valley, which fell briefly to the Taliban in the spring. Key among those gains was the August killing—again by a U.S. drone—of Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud, suspected in the assassination of former Prime Minster Benazir Bhutto. Two of Mehsud's senior deputies were also killed in drone attacks in recent months, while at least eight key al Qaeda commanders have been killed in the last 12 months alone.
For those who were the victims or near-victims of the attacks perpetrated by these men, this is justice. For the rest of us, it is an additional measure of safety. Despite conventional wisdom that killing terrorists only breeds more terrorists and fuels the proverbial "cycle of violence," there is a reason that the U.S. has not been attacked in the eight years since September 11, and that major terrorist plots in Europe have been foiled.
Last week, Britain's Guardian newspaper reported that it had seen interrogation documents showing that European Muslim volunteers "faced a chaotic reception, a low level of training, poor conditions and eventual disillusionment after arriving in Waziristan [Pakistan] last year." It added that there is "evidence that al Qaeda's alliance with the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan is fraying, boosting the prospect of acquiring intelligence that will lead to Bin Laden's capture or death." This from a paper not exactly known as a cheerleader for the use of military force.
The logic of these attacks is simple, even if too many people are reluctant to accept it. Terrorist groups tend to coalesce around charismatic leaders, such as Abimael Guzmán of Peru's Shining Path, Abdullah Ocalan of the Kurdish PKK, or Abu Musab al Zarqawi of al Qaeda in Iraq. Not only are these men difficult to replace, but their death or capture often leads to infighting, disarray and disillusion within the group. As terrorist leaders are forced to spend more time trying to save their own lives, they also have less time to devote to plans for killing others.
None of this means that the war on terror (or whatever you'd like to call it) is anywhere near over. It may never be. But in a struggle in which a day when nothing happens is a victory, it's worth recalling that nothing doesn't happen by accident.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sec Def Gates
on: September 20, 2009, 06:59:02 AM
A Better Missile Defense for a Safer Europe
By ROBERT M. GATES
Published: September 19, 2009
THE future of missile defense in Europe is secure. This reality is contrary to what some critics have alleged about President Obama’s proposed shift in America’s missile-defense plans on the continent — and it is important to understand how and why.
First, to be clear, there is now no strategic missile defense in Europe. In December 2006, just days after becoming secretary of defense, I recommended to President George W. Bush that the United States place 10 ground-based interceptors in Poland and an advanced radar in the Czech Republic. This system was designed to identify and destroy up to about five long-range missiles potentially armed with nuclear warheads fired from the Middle East — the greatest and most likely danger being from Iran. At the time, it was the best plan based on the technology and threat assessment available.
That plan would have put the radar and interceptors in Central Europe by 2015 at the earliest. Delays in the Polish and Czech ratification process extended that schedule by at least two years. Which is to say, under the previous program, there would have been no missile-defense system able to protect against Iranian missiles until at least 2017 — and likely much later.
Last week, President Obama — on my recommendation and with the advice of his national-security team and the unanimous support of our senior military leadership — decided to discard that plan in favor of a vastly more suitable approach. In the first phase, to be completed by 2011, we will deploy proven, sea-based SM-3 interceptor missiles — weapons that are growing in capability — in the areas where we see the greatest threat to Europe.
The second phase, which will become operational around 2015, will involve putting upgraded SM-3s on the ground in Southern and Central Europe. All told, every phase of this plan will include scores of SM-3 missiles, as opposed to the old plan of just 10 ground-based interceptors. This will be a far more effective defense should an enemy fire many missiles simultaneously — the kind of attack most likely to occur as Iran continues to build and deploy numerous short- and medium-range weapons. At the same time, plans to defend virtually all of Europe and enhance the missile defense of the United States will continue on about the same schedule as the earlier plan as we build this system over time, creating an increasingly greater zone of protection.
Steady technological advances in our missile defense program — from kill vehicles to the abilities to network radars and sensors — give us confidence in this plan. The SM-3 has had eight successful tests since 2007, and we will continue to develop it to give it the capacity to intercept long-range missiles like ICBMs. It is now more than able to deal with the threat from multiple short- and medium-range missiles — a very real threat to our allies and some 80,000 American troops based in Europe that was not addressed by the previous plan. Even so, our military will continue research and development on a two-stage ground-based interceptor, the kind that was planned to be put in Poland, as a back-up.
Moreover, a fixed radar site like the one previously envisioned for the Czech Republic would be far less adaptable than the airborne, space- and ground-based sensors we now plan to use. These systems provide much more accurate data, offer more early warning and tracking options, and have stronger networking capacity — a key factor in any system that relies on partner countries. This system can also better use radars that are already operating across the globe, like updated cold war-era installations, our newer arrays based on high-powered X-band radar, allied systems and possibly even Russian radars.
One criticism of this plan is that we are relying too much on new intelligence holding that Iran is focusing more on short- and medium-range weapons and not progressing on intercontinental missiles. Having spent most of my career at the C.I.A., I am all too familiar with the pitfalls of over-reliance on intelligence assessments that can become outdated. As Gen. James Cartwright, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said a few days ago, we would be surprised if the assessments did not change because “the enemy gets a vote.”
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The new approach to European missile defense actually provides us with greater flexibility to adapt as new threats develop and old ones recede. For example, the new proposal provides some antimissile capacity very soon — a hedge against Iran’s managing to field missiles much earlier than had been previously predicted. The old plan offered nothing for almost a decade.
Those who say we are scrapping missile defense in Europe are either misinformed or misrepresenting what we are doing. This shift has even been distorted as some sort of concession to Russia, which has fiercely opposed the old plan. Russia’s attitude and possible reaction played no part in my recommendation to the president on this issue. Of course, considering Russia’s past hostility toward American missile defense in Europe, if Russia’s leaders embrace this plan, then that will be an unexpected — and welcome — change of policy on their part. But in any case the facts are clear: American missile defense on the continent will continue, and not just in Central Europe, the most likely location for future SM-3 sites, but, we hope, in other NATO countries as well.
This proposal is, simply put, a better way forward — as was recognized by Prime Minister Donald Tusk of Poland when he called it “a chance for strengthening Europe’s security.” It is a very real manifestation of our continued commitment to our NATO allies in Europe — iron-clad proof that the United States believes that the alliance must remain firm.
I am often characterized as “pragmatic.” I believe this is a very pragmatic proposal. I have found since taking this post that when it comes to missile defense, some hold a view bordering on theology that regards any change of plans or any cancellation of a program as abandonment or even breaking faith. I encountered this in the debate over the Defense Department’s budget for the fiscal year 2010 when I ended three programs: the airborne laser, the multiple-kill vehicle and the kinetic energy interceptor. All were plainly unworkable, prohibitively expensive and could never be practically deployed — but had nonetheless acquired a devoted following.
I have been a strong supporter of missile defense ever since President Ronald Reagan first proposed it in 1983. But I want to have real capacity as soon as possible, and to take maximum advantage of new technologies to combat future threats.
The bottom line is that there will be American missile defense in Europe to protect our troops there and our NATO allies. The new proposal provides needed capacity years earlier than the original plan, and will provide even more robust protection against longer-range threats on about the same timeline as the previous program. We are strengthening — not scrapping — missile defense in Europe.