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26651  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Ten Myths on: July 28, 2010, 07:07:11 AM
The Dow Jones Industrial Average last week ended up pretty much where it had been a little more than a week earlier. A rousing 200-point rally on Wednesday mostly made up for the distressing 200-point selloff of the previous Friday.

The Dow plummeted nearly 800 points a few weeks ago -- and then just as dramatically rocketed back up again. The widely watched market indicator is down 7% from where it stood in April and up 59% from where it was at its 2009 nadir.

These kinds of stomach-churning swings are testing investors' nerves once again. You may already feel shattered from the events of 2008-2009. Since the Greek debt crisis in the spring, turmoil has been back in the markets.

At times like this, your broker or financial adviser may offer words of wisdom or advice. There are standard calming phrases you will hear over and over again. But how true are they? Here are 10 that need extra scrutiny.

1 "This is a good time to invest in the stock market."
Really? Ask your broker when he warned clients that it was a bad time to invest. October 2007? February 2000? A broken watch tells the right time twice a day, but that's no reason to wear one. Or as someone once said, asking a broker if this is a good time to invest in the stock market is like asking a barber if you need a haircut. "Certainly, sir -- step this way!"

2 "Stocks on average make you about 10% a year."
Stop right there. This is based on some past history -- stretching back to the 1800s -- and it's full of holes.

About three of those percentage points were only from inflation. The other 7% may not be reliable either. The data from the 19th century are suspect; the global picture from the 20th century is complex. Experts suggest 5% may be more typical. And stocks only produce average returns if you buy them at average valuations. If you buy them when they're expensive, you do a lot worse.

3 "Our economists are forecasting..."
Hold it. Ask your broker if the firm's economist predicted the most recent recession -- and if so, when.

The record for economic forecasts is not impressive. Even into 2008 many economists were still denying that a recession was on the way. The usual shtick is to predict "a slowdown, but not a recession." That way they have an escape clause, no matter what happens. Warren Buffett once said forecasters made fortune tellers look good.

4 "Investing in the stock market lets you participate in the growth of the economy."
Tell that to the Japanese. Since 1989 their economy has grown by more than a quarter, but the stock market is down more than three quarters. Or tell that to anyone who invested in Wall Street a decade ago. And such instances aren't as rare as you've been told. In 1969, the U.S. gross domestic product was about $1 trillion, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was at about 1000. Thirteen years later, the U.S. economy had grown to $3.3 trillion. The Dow? About 1000.

5 "If you want to earn higher returns, you have to take more risk."
This must come as a surprise to Mr. Buffett, who prefers investing in boring companies and boring industries. Over the last quarter century, the FactSet Research utilities index has even outperformed the exciting, "risky" Nasdaq Composite index. The only way to earn higher returns is to buy stocks cheap in relation to their future cash flows. As for "risk," your broker probably thinks that's "volatility," which typically just means price ups and downs. But you and your Aunt Sally know that risk is really the possibility of losing principal.

6 "The market's really cheap right now. The P/E is only about 13."
The widely quoted price/earnings (PE) ratio, which compares share prices to annual after-tax earnings, can be misleading. That's because earnings are so volatile -- they're elevated in a boom, and depressed in a bust.

Ask your broker about other valuation metrics, like the dividend yield, which looks at the dividends you get for each dollar of investment; or the cyclically adjusted PE ratio, which compares share prices to earnings over the past 10 years; or "Tobin's q," which compares share prices to the actual replacement cost of company assets. No metric is perfect, but these three have good track records. Right now all three say the stock market's pretty expensive, not cheap.

7 "You can't time the market."
This hoary old chestnut keeps the clients fully invested. Certainly it's a fool's errand to try to catch the market's twists and turns. But that doesn't mean you have to suspend judgment about overall valuations.

If you invest in shares when they're cheap compared to cash flows and assets -- typically this happens when everyone else is gloomy -- you will usually do very well.

If you invest when shares are very expensive -- such as when everyone else is absurdly bullish -- you will probably do badly.

8 "We recommend a diversified portfolio of mutual funds."
If your broker means you should diversify across things like cash, bonds, stocks, alternative strategies, commodities and precious metals, then that's good advice.

But too many brokers mean mutual funds with different names and "styles" like large-cap value, small-cap growth, midcap blend, international small-cap value, and so on. These are marketing gimmicks. There is, for example, no such thing as "midcap blend." These funds are typically 100% invested all the time, and all in stocks. In this global economy even "international" offers less diversification than it did, because everything's getting tied together.

9 "This is a stock picker's market."
What? Every market seems to be defined as a "stock picker's market," yet for most people the lion's share of investment returns -- for good or ill -- has typically come from the asset classes (see No. 8, above) they've chosen rather than the individual investments. And even if this does turn out to be a stock picker's market, what makes you think your broker is the stock picker in question?

10 "Stocks outperform over the long term."
Define the long term? If you can be down for 10 or more years, exactly how much help is that? As John Maynard Keynes, the economist, once said: "In the long run we are all dead."
26652  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DB on PPV TV on: July 28, 2010, 03:09:26 AM
Woof All:

It appears that there is go to be a DB PPV on TV.  Major players e.g. Dish, are involved.  Projected airing date is late fall.

The Adventure continues!

Crafty Dog
26653  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: Guided Dreams on: July 28, 2010, 02:30:55 AM
Nightmares resulting from traumatic events usually fade over time, as the haunting images and terrifying plots become less intense. The dreams may also naturally evolve into what some specialists call “mastery dreams,” in which the dreamer has found a way to ease the pain or horror — say, confronting a rapist or saving someone from a fire. But when that does not happen of its own accord, many therapists use behavioral interventions to reduce nightmares or guide the waking patient toward having a mastery dream — using the conscious mind to control the wild ways of the unconscious.

Some of these techniques have been in use for years. In one treatment, known as lucid dreaming, patients are taught to become aware that they are dreaming while the dream is in progress. In another, called in vivo desensitization, they are exposed while awake to what may be haunting them in their sleep — for example, a live snake, caged and harmless — until the fear subsides. Both techniques have been researched extensively.

More recently, therapists and other experts have been using a technique called dream incubation, first researched in the early 1990s by Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist at Harvard Medical School.

And Hollywood has just produced its own spin on lucid dreaming and the idea of controlling dreams, with the release earlier this month of “Inception,” a thriller whose plot swirls through the darkest layers of the dream world. As Dr. Barrett wrote in an online review of “Inception,” for the International Association for the Study of Dreams, “I love the idea of millions of action-film fans the world over leaving theaters asking each other if they’re ever had a dream in which they knew they were dreaming — or whipping out their smartphones and Googling to find out if you really can learn to influence dream content.”

Using dream incubation for problem solving, Dr. Barrett, the author of “The Committee of Sleep,” which expanded on her initial research, asks patients to write down a problem as a brief phrase or sentence and place the note next to the bed. Then she tells them to review the problem for a few minutes before going to bed, and once in bed, visualize the problem as a concrete image, if possible.

As they are drifting off to sleep, the patients should tell themselves they want to dream about the problem and ideally keep a pen and paper, and perhaps a flashlight or a pen with a lit tip, on the night table. No matter what time they wake up, they should lie quietly before getting out of bed, note whether there is “any trace of a recalled dream and invite more of the dream to return if possible.” They should write down everything they remember.

For reducing nightmares, she helps patients devise a mastery scenario to work with, and they can remind themselves of it as they fall asleep, saying to themselves, “Tonight if I have the dream of the fire, of Vietnam, I want to find a fire hose, freeze the action, speak to the Vietnamese boy,” She said.

Dr. Barry Krakow of the Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences center in Albuquerque and the author of “Sound Sleep, Sound Mind,” helped develop imagery rehearsal therapy. In a 110-page manual he gives his patients, he has them select a nightmare they want to transform into a dream of lesser intensity.

“Change the nightmare any way you wish,” the manual says. “Let new positive images emerge in your mind’s eye to guide you in ‘painting’ your new dream.”

Patients then rehearse the new dream, which could be a less haunting version of the nightmare or a completely different dream, at least once a day for 10 or 20 minutes. He suggests recalling a nightmare only once or twice a week — and only when changing it into a new dream.
26654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Killer Cons for rent on: July 27, 2010, 10:13:47 PM
Mexico: Prison guards let killers out, lent gunsAP - <unday, July 25, 2010 3:08:33 PM By MARK STEVENSON  Mexico: Prison guards let killers out, lent gunsPhoto By AP

Guards and officials at a prison in northern Mexico allegedly let inmates out, lent them guns and allowed them to use official vehicles to carry out drug-related killings, including the massacre of 17 people last week, prosecutors said Sunday.

After carrying out the killings the inmates would return to their cells, the Attorney General's Office said in a revelation that was shocking even for a country wearied by years of drug violence and corruption.

"According to witnesses, the inmates were allowed to leave with authorization of the prison director ... to carry out instructions for revenge attacks using official vehicles and using guards' weapons for executions," office spokesman Ricardo Najera said at a news conference.
The director of the prison in Gomez Palacio in Durango state and three other officials were placed under a form of house arrest pending further investigation. No charges have yet been filed.

Prosecutors said the prison-based hit squad is suspected in three mass shootings, including the July 18 attack on a party in the city of Torreon, which is near Gomez Palacio. In that incident, gunmen fired indiscriminately into a crowd of mainly young people in a rented hall, killing 17 people, including women.
26655  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Student ordered to change religious views on: July 27, 2010, 10:00:45 PM
Lawsuit Claims College Ordered Student to Alter Religious Views on
Homosexuality, Or Be Dismissed
By Joshua Rhett Miller

Published July 27, 2010

Jennifer Keeton, 24, has been pursuing a master's degree in school
counseling at Augusta State University since last year, but school officials
have informed her that she'll be dismissed from the program unless she
alters her "central religious beliefs on human nature and conduct,"
according to a civil complaint filed last week.

A graduate student in Georgia is suing her university after she was told she
must undergo a remediation program due to her beliefs on homosexuality and
transgendered persons.

The student, Jennifer Keeton, 24, has been pursuing a master's degree in
school counseling at Augusta State University since 2009, but school
officials have informed her that she'll be dismissed from the program unless
she alters her "central religious beliefs on human nature and conduct,"
according to a civil complaint filed last week.

"[Augusta State University] faculty have promised to expel Miss Keeton from
the graduate Counselor Education Program not because of poor academic
showing or demonstrated deficiencies in clinical performance, but simply
because she has communicated both inside and outside the classroom that she
holds to Christian ethical convictions on matters of human sexuality and
gender identity," the 43-page lawsuit reads.

Keeton, according to the lawsuit, was informed by school officials in late
May that she would be asked to take part in a remediation plan due to
faculty concerns regarding her beliefs pertaining to gay, lesbian, bisexual
and transgender issues.

"The faculty identifies Miss Keeton's views as indicative of her improper
professional disposition to persons of such populations," the lawsuit reads.

The remediation plan, according to the lawsuit, noted Keeton's "disagreement
in several class discussions and in written assignments with the gay and
lesbian 'lifestyle,'" as well as Keeton's belief that those "lifestyles" are
cases of identity confusion.

If Keeton fails to complete the plan, including additional reading and the
writing of papers describing the impact on her beliefs, she will be expelled
from the Counselor Education Program, the lawsuit claims.

Keeton has stated that she believes sexual behavior is the "result of
accountable personal choice rather than an inevitability deriving from
deterministic forces," according to the suit.

"She also has affirmed binary male-female gender, with one or the other
being fixed in each person at their creation, and not a social construct or
individual choice subject to alteration by the person so created," the
lawsuit reads. "Further, she has expressed her view that homosexuality is a
'lifestyle,' not a 'state of being.'"

In a statement to, Augusta State University officials declined
to comment specifically on the litigation, but said the university does not
discriminate on the basis of students' moral, religious, political or
personal views or beliefs.

"The Counselor Education Program is grounded in the core principles of the
American Counseling Association and the American School Counselor
Association, which defines the roles and responsibilities of professional
counselors in its code of ethics," the statement read. "The code is included
in the curriculum of the counseling education program, which states that
counselors in training have the same responsibility as professional
counselors to understand and follow the ACA Code of Ethics."

David French, senior counsel at the Alliance Defense Fund, which filed the
lawsuit against Augusta State University on Keeton's behalf, said no
university has the right to force a citizen to change their beliefs on any

"The university has told Jennifer Keeton that if she doesn't change her
beliefs, she can't stay in the program," he told "She won't
even have a chance to counsel any students; she won't have a chance to get a
counseling degree; she'll be expelled."

Keeton, who is not available for interviews according to French, believes
that people have "moral choices" regarding their sexuality, he said.

"A student has a right to express their point of view in and out of class
without fear or censorship or expulsion," French said.

Thank you
Jeff Hussey
Phone. 705.879.2870   Fax. 705.438.5893
26656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: July 27, 2010, 04:24:13 PM
Cracks in support?  Or carping from the Left which is left with no where to go?

"An unfulfilled promise to overhaul the nation's patchwork immigration system, which Hispanics overwhelmingly want to see fixed, also may be to blame".   

This is a euphemism for amnesty.

I'm not seeing much cause for hope of Rep political competence here and fear in the middle to long term that the Reps will screw this up and, like the aftermath of Prop 187 here in CA, be lastingly screwed.
26657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: July 27, 2010, 04:19:28 PM
I too like Newt.  Indeed I like him a lot, but it is true that he played the spoiled brat about that Air Force One incident and did fold to Clinton and the Dems.  Newt did side with the RINO Reps in upstate NY.  I am bummed to see him go spineless against the NAACP.

Doug, you are quite right we need to now where our weaknesses are.
26658  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Registered Fighters for the Sept 2010 Gathering on: July 27, 2010, 04:12:33 PM

Kaju Dog
Guide Dog
Padraig Mara
Peter Andrada
Steve Lawson
26659  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: July 27, 2010, 12:37:40 PM
26660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: July 27, 2010, 12:36:33 PM
"Time permitting I will try to post and answer the thought leaders of left-economics like Krugman, Reich and Obama."


An excellent start on a most worthy mission.  I look forward to more.
26661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on Wikilieaks on: July 27, 2010, 10:52:40 AM
I am open to additional thoughts changing my mind, but at the moment I cannot see a good end here outside of outside the box thoughts such as those I recently posted.  As best as I can tell Obama's psuedo-surge has ensured this.

WikiLeaks and the Afghan War
July 27, 2010

By George Friedman

On Sunday, The New York Times and two other newspapers published summaries and excerpts of tens of thousands of documents leaked to a website known as WikiLeaks. The documents comprise a vast array of material concerning the war in Afghanistan. They range from tactical reports from small unit operations to broader strategic analyses of politico-military relations between the United States and Pakistan. It appears to be an extraordinary collection.

Related special topic page
The War in Afghanistan
Tactical intelligence on firefights is intermingled with reports on confrontations between senior U.S. and Pakistani officials in which lists of Pakistani operatives in Afghanistan are handed over to the Pakistanis. Reports on the use of surface-to-air missiles by militants in Afghanistan are intermingled with reports on the activities of former Pakistani intelligence chief Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul, who reportedly continues to liaise with the Afghan Taliban in an informal capacity.

The WikiLeaks
At first glance, it is difficult to imagine a single database in which such a diverse range of intelligence was stored, or the existence of a single individual cleared to see such diverse intelligence stored across multiple databases and able to collect, collate and transmit the intelligence without detection. Intriguingly, all of what has been released so far has been not-so-sensitive material rated secret or below. The Times reports that Gul’s name appears all over the documents, yet very few documents have been released in the current batch, and it is very hard to imagine intelligence on Gul and his organization, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate, being classified as only secret. So, this was either low-grade material hyped by the media, or there is material reviewed by the selected newspapers but not yet made public. Still, what was released and what the Times discussed is consistent with what most thought was happening in Afghanistan.

The obvious comparison is to the Pentagon Papers, commissioned by the Defense Department to gather lessons from the Vietnam War and leaked by Daniel Ellsberg to the Times during the Nixon administration. Many people worked on the Pentagon Papers, each of whom was focused on part of it and few of whom would have had access to all of it.

Ellsberg did not give the Times the supporting documentation; he gave it the finished product. By contrast, in the WikiLeaks case, someone managed to access a lot of information that would seem to have been contained in many different places. If this was an unauthorized leak, then it had to have involved a massive failure in security. Certainly, the culprit should be known by now and his arrest should have been announced. And certainly, the gathering of such diverse material in one place accessible to one or even a few people who could move it without detection is odd.

Like the Pentagon Papers, the WikiLeaks (as I will call them) elicited a great deal of feigned surprise, not real surprise. Apart from the charge that the Johnson administration contrived the Gulf of Tonkin incident, much of what the Pentagon Papers contained was generally known. Most striking about the Pentagon Papers was not how much surprising material they contained, but how little. Certainly, they contradicted the official line on the war, but there were few, including supporters of the war, who were buying the official line anyway.

In the case of the WikiLeaks, what is revealed also is not far from what most people believed, although they provide enormous detail. Nor is it that far from what government and military officials are saying about the war. No one is saying the war is going well, though some say that given time it might go better.

The view of the Taliban as a capable fighting force is, of course, widespread. If they weren’t a capable fighting force, then the United States would not be having so much trouble defeating them. The WikiLeaks seem to contain two strategically significant claims, however. The first is that the Taliban is a more sophisticated fighting force than has been generally believed. An example is the claim that Taliban fighters have used man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) against U.S. aircraft. This claim matters in a number of ways. First, it indicates that the Taliban are using technologies similar to those used against the Soviets. Second, it raises the question of where the Taliban are getting them — they certainly don’t manufacture MANPADS themselves.

If they have obtained advanced technologies, this would have significance on the battlefield. For example, if reasonably modern MANPADS were to be deployed in numbers, the use of American airpower would either need to be further constrained or higher attrition rates accepted. Thus far, only first- and second-generation MANPADS without Infrared Counter-Countermeasures (which are more dangerous) appear to have been encountered, and not with decisive or prohibitive effectiveness. But in any event, this doesn’t change the fundamental character of the war.

Supply Lines and Sanctuaries
What it does raise is the question of supply lines and sanctuaries. The most important charge contained in the leaks is about Pakistan. The WikiLeaks contain documents that charge that the Pakistanis are providing both supplies and sanctuary to Taliban fighters while objecting to American forces entering Pakistan to clean out the sanctuaries and are unwilling or unable to carry out that operation by themselves (as they have continued to do in North Waziristan).

Just as important, the documents charge that the ISI has continued to maintain liaison and support for the Taliban in spite of claims by the Pakistani government that pro-Taliban officers had been cleaned out of the ISI years ago. The document charges that Gul, the director-general of the ISI from 1987 to 1989, still operates in Pakistan, informally serving the ISI and helping give the ISI plausible deniability.

Though startling, the charge that Islamabad is protecting and sustaining forces fighting and killing Americans is not a new one. When the United States halted operations in Afghanistan after the defeat of the Soviets in 1989, U.S. policy was to turn over operations in Afghanistan to Pakistan. U.S. strategy was to use Islamist militants to fight the Soviets and to use Pakistani liaisons through the ISI to supply and coordinate with them. When the Soviets and Americans left Afghanistan, the ISI struggled to install a government composed of its allies until the Taliban took over Kabul in 1996. The ISI’s relationship with the Taliban — which in many ways are the heirs to the anti-Soviet mujahideen — is widely known. In my book, “America’s Secret War,” I discussed both this issue and the role of Gul. These documents claim that this relationship remains intact. Apart from Pakistani denials, U.S. officials and military officers frequently made this charge off the record, and on the record occasionally. The leaks on this score are interesting, but they will shock only those who didn’t pay attention or who want to be shocked.

Let’s step back and consider the conflict dispassionately. The United States forced the Taliban from power. It never defeated the Taliban nor did it make a serious effort to do so, as that would require massive resources the United States doesn’t have. Afghanistan is a secondary issue for the United States, especially since al Qaeda has established bases in a number of other countries, particularly Pakistan, making the occupation of Afghanistan irrelevant to fighting al Qaeda.

For Pakistan, however, Afghanistan is an area of fundamental strategic interest. The region’s main ethnic group, the Pashtun, stretch across the Afghan-Pakistani border. Moreover, were a hostile force present in Afghanistan, as one was during the Soviet occupation, Pakistan would face threats in the west as well as the challenge posed by India in the east. For Pakistan, an Afghanistan under Pakistani influence or at least a benign Afghanistan is a matter of overriding strategic importance.

(click here to enlarge image)
It is therefore irrational to expect the Pakistanis to halt collaboration with the force that they expect to be a major part of the government of Afghanistan when the United States leaves. The Pakistanis never expected the United States to maintain a presence in Afghanistan permanently. They understood that Afghanistan was a means toward an end, and not an end in itself. They understood this under George W. Bush. They understand it even more clearly under Barack Obama, who made withdrawal a policy goal.

Given that they don’t expect the Taliban to be defeated, and given that they are not interested in chaos in Afghanistan, it follows that they will maintain close relations with and support for the Taliban. Given that the United States is powerful and is Pakistan’s only lever against India, the Pakistanis will not make this their public policy, however. The United States has thus created a situation in which the only rational policy for Pakistan is two-tiered, consisting of overt opposition to the Taliban and covert support for the Taliban.

This is duplicitous only if you close your eyes to the Pakistani reality, which the Americans never did. There was ample evidence, as the WikiLeaks show, of covert ISI ties to the Taliban. The Americans knew they couldn’t break those ties. They settled for what support Pakistan could give them while constantly pressing them harder and harder until genuine fears in Washington emerged that Pakistan could destabilize altogether. Since a stable Pakistan is more important to the United States than a victory in Afghanistan — which it wasn’t going to get anyway — the United States released pressure and increased aid. If Pakistan collapsed, then India would be the sole regional power, not something the United States wants.

The WikiLeaks seem to show that like sausage-making, one should never look too closely at how wars are fought, particularly coalition warfare. Even the strongest alliances, such as that between the United States and the United Kingdom in World War II, are fraught with deceit and dissension. London was fighting to save its empire, an end Washington was hostile to; much intrigue ensued. The U.S.-Pakistani alliance is not nearly as trusting. The United States is fighting to deny al Qaeda a base in Afghanistan while Pakistan is fighting to secure its western frontier and its internal stability. These are very different ends that have very different levels of urgency.

The WikiLeaks portray a war in which the United States has a vastly insufficient force on the ground that is fighting a capable and dedicated enemy who isn’t going anywhere. The Taliban know that they win just by not being defeated, and they know that they won’t be defeated. The Americans are leaving, meaning the Taliban need only wait and prepare.

The Pakistanis also know that the Americans are leaving and that the Taliban or a coalition including the Taliban will be in charge of Afghanistan when the Americans leave. They will make certain that they maintain good relations with the Taliban. They will deny that they are doing this because they want no impediments to a good relationship with the United States before or after it leaves Afghanistan. They need a patron to secure their interests against India. Since the United States wants neither an India outside a balance of power nor China taking the role of Pakistan’s patron, it follows that the risk the United States will bear grudges is small. And given that, the Pakistanis can live with Washington knowing that one Pakistani hand is helping the Americans while another helps the Taliban. Power, interest and reality define the relations between nations, and different factions inside nations frequently have different agendas and work against each other.

The WikiLeaks, from what we have seen so far, detail power, interest and reality as we have known it. They do not reveal a new reality. Much will be made about the shocking truth that has been shown, which, as mentioned above, shocks only those who wish to be shocked. The Afghan war is about an insufficient American and allied force fighting a capable enemy on its home ground and a Pakistan positioning itself for the inevitable outcome. The WikiLeaks contain all the details.

We are left with the mystery of who compiled all of these documents and who had access to them with enough time and facilities to transmit them to the outside world in a blatant and sustained breach of protocol. The image we have is of an unidentified individual or small group working to get a “shocking truth” out to the public, only the truth is not shocking — it is what was known all along in excruciating detail. Who would want to detail a truth that is already known, with access to all this documentation and the ability to transmit it unimpeded? Whoever it proves to have been has just made the most powerful case yet for withdrawal from Afghanistan sooner rather than later.

26662  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Lost in Translation on: July 27, 2010, 01:41:41 AM
Do the languages we speak shape the way we think? Do they merely express thoughts, or do the structures in languages (without our knowledge or consent) shape the very thoughts we wish to express?

Take "Humpty Dumpty sat on a..." Even this snippet of a nursery rhyme reveals how much languages can differ from one another. In English, we have to mark the verb for tense; in this case, we say "sat" rather than "sit." In Indonesian you need not (in fact, you can't) change the verb to mark tense.

In Russian, you would have to mark tense and also gender, changing the verb if Mrs. Dumpty did the sitting. You would also have to decide if the sitting event was completed or not. If our ovoid hero sat on the wall for the entire time he was meant to, it would be a different form of the verb than if, say, he had a great fall.

In Turkish, you would have to include in the verb how you acquired this information. For example, if you saw the chubby fellow on the wall with your own eyes, you'd use one form of the verb, but if you had simply read or heard about it, you'd use a different form.

Do English, Indonesian, Russian and Turkish speakers end up attending to, understanding, and remembering their experiences differently simply because they speak different languages?

These questions touch on all the major controversies in the study of mind, with important implications for politics, law and religion. Yet very little empirical work had been done on these questions until recently. The idea that language might shape thought was for a long time considered untestable at best and more often simply crazy and wrong. Now, a flurry of new cognitive science research is showing that in fact, language does profoundly influence how we see the world.

The question of whether languages shape the way we think goes back centuries; Charlemagne proclaimed that "to have a second language is to have a second soul." But the idea went out of favor with scientists when Noam Chomsky's theories of language gained popularity in the 1960s and '70s. Dr. Chomsky proposed that there is a universal grammar for all human languages—essentially, that languages don't really differ from one another in significant ways. And because languages didn't differ from one another, the theory went, it made no sense to ask whether linguistic differences led to differences in thinking.

Use Your Words
Some findings on how language can affect thinking.

Russian speakers, who have more words for light and dark blues, are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue.
Some indigenous tribes say north, south, east and west, rather than left and right, and as a consequence have great spatial orientation.
The Piraha, whose language eschews number words in favor of terms like few and many, are not able to keep track of exact quantities.
In one study, Spanish and Japanese speakers couldn't remember the agents of accidental events as adeptly as English speakers could. Why? In Spanish and Japanese, the agent of causality is dropped: "The vase broke itself," rather than "John broke the vase."
.The search for linguistic universals yielded interesting data on languages, but after decades of work, not a single proposed universal has withstood scrutiny. Instead, as linguists probed deeper into the world's languages (7,000 or so, only a fraction of them analyzed), innumerable unpredictable differences emerged.

Of course, just because people talk differently doesn't necessarily mean they think differently. In the past decade, cognitive scientists have begun to measure not just how people talk, but also how they think, asking whether our understanding of even such fundamental domains of experience as space, time and causality could be constructed by language.

For example, in Pormpuraaw, a remote Aboriginal community in Australia, the indigenous languages don't use terms like "left" and "right." Instead, everything is talked about in terms of absolute cardinal directions (north, south, east, west), which means you say things like, "There's an ant on your southwest leg." To say hello in Pormpuraaw, one asks, "Where are you going?", and an appropriate response might be, "A long way to the south-southwest. How about you?" If you don't know which way is which, you literally can't get past hello.

About a third of the world's languages (spoken in all kinds of physical environments) rely on absolute directions for space. As a result of this constant linguistic training, speakers of such languages are remarkably good at staying oriented and keeping track of where they are, even in unfamiliar landscapes. They perform navigational feats scientists once thought were beyond human capabilities. This is a big difference, a fundamentally different way of conceptualizing space, trained by language.

Differences in how people think about space don't end there. People rely on their spatial knowledge to build many other more complex or abstract representations including time, number, musical pitch, kinship relations, morality and emotions. So if Pormpuraawans think differently about space, do they also think differently about other things, like time?

To find out, my colleague Alice Gaby and I traveled to Australia and gave Pormpuraawans sets of pictures that showed temporal progressions (for example, pictures of a man at different ages, or a crocodile growing, or a banana being eaten). Their job was to arrange the shuffled photos on the ground to show the correct temporal order. We tested each person in two separate sittings, each time facing in a different cardinal direction. When asked to do this, English speakers arrange time from left to right. Hebrew speakers do it from right to left (because Hebrew is written from right to left).

Pormpuraawans, we found, arranged time from east to west. That is, seated facing south, time went left to right. When facing north, right to left. When facing east, toward the body, and so on. Of course, we never told any of our participants which direction they faced. The Pormpuraawans not only knew that already, but they also spontaneously used this spatial orientation to construct their representations of time. And many other ways to organize time exist in the world's languages. In Mandarin, the future can be below and the past above. In Aymara, spoken in South America, the future is behind and the past in front.

In addition to space and time, languages also shape how we understand causality. For example, English likes to describe events in terms of agents doing things. English speakers tend to say things like "John broke the vase" even for accidents. Speakers of Spanish or Japanese would be more likely to say "the vase broke itself." Such differences between languages have profound consequences for how their speakers understand events, construct notions of causality and agency, what they remember as eyewitnesses and how much they blame and punish others.

In studies conducted by Caitlin Fausey at Stanford, speakers of English, Spanish and Japanese watched videos of two people popping balloons, breaking eggs and spilling drinks either intentionally or accidentally. Later everyone got a surprise memory test: For each event, can you remember who did it? She discovered a striking cross-linguistic difference in eyewitness memory. Spanish and Japanese speakers did not remember the agents of accidental events as well as did English speakers. Mind you, they remembered the agents of intentional events (for which their language would mention the agent) just fine. But for accidental events, when one wouldn't normally mention the agent in Spanish or Japanese, they didn't encode or remember the agent as well.

In another study, English speakers watched the video of Janet Jackson's infamous "wardrobe malfunction" (a wonderful nonagentive coinage introduced into the English language by Justin Timberlake), accompanied by one of two written reports. The reports were identical except in the last sentence where one used the agentive phrase "ripped the costume" while the other said "the costume ripped." Even though everyone watched the same video and witnessed the ripping with their own eyes, language mattered. Not only did people who read "ripped the costume" blame Justin Timberlake more, they also levied a whopping 53% more in fines.

Beyond space, time and causality, patterns in language have been shown to shape many other domains of thought. Russian speakers, who make an extra distinction between light and dark blues in their language, are better able to visually discriminate shades of blue. The Piraha, a tribe in the Amazon in Brazil, whose language eschews number words in favor of terms like few and many, are not able to keep track of exact quantities. And Shakespeare, it turns out, was wrong about roses: Roses by many other names (as told to blindfolded subjects) do not smell as sweet.

Patterns in language offer a window on a culture's dispositions and priorities. For example, English sentence structures focus on agents, and in our criminal-justice system, justice has been done when we've found the transgressor and punished him or her accordingly (rather than finding the victims and restituting appropriately, an alternative approach to justice). So does the language shape cultural values, or does the influence go the other way, or both?

Languages, of course, are human creations, tools we invent and hone to suit our needs. Simply showing that speakers of different languages think differently doesn't tell us whether it's language that shapes thought or the other way around. To demonstrate the causal role of language, what's needed are studies that directly manipulate language and look for effects in cognition.

Journal Communitydiscuss..“ That language embodies different ways of knowing the world seems intuitive, given the number of times we reach for a word or phrase in another language that communicates that certain je ne sais quoi we can't find on our own.

.—Steve Kallaugher.
 One of the key advances in recent years has been the demonstration of precisely this causal link. It turns out that if you change how people talk, that changes how they think. If people learn another language, they inadvertently also learn a new way of looking at the world. When bilingual people switch from one language to another, they start thinking differently, too. And if you take away people's ability to use language in what should be a simple nonlinguistic task, their performance can change dramatically, sometimes making them look no smarter than rats or infants. (For example, in recent studies, MIT students were shown dots on a screen and asked to say how many there were. If they were allowed to count normally, they did great. If they simultaneously did a nonlinguistic task—like banging out rhythms—they still did great. But if they did a verbal task when shown the dots—like repeating the words spoken in a news report—their counting fell apart. In other words, they needed their language skills to count.)

All this new research shows us that the languages we speak not only reflect or express our thoughts, but also shape the very thoughts we wish to express. The structures that exist in our languages profoundly shape how we construct reality, and help make us as smart and sophisticated as we are.

Language is a uniquely human gift. When we study language, we are uncovering in part what makes us human, getting a peek at the very nature of human nature. As we uncover how languages and their speakers differ from one another, we discover that human natures too can differ dramatically, depending on the languages we speak. The next steps are to understand the mechanisms through which languages help us construct the incredibly complex knowledge systems we have. Understanding how knowledge is built will allow us to create ideas that go beyond the currently thinkable. This research cuts right to the fundamental questions we all ask about ourselves. How do we come to be the way we are? Why do we think the way we do? An important part of the answer, it turns out, is in the languages we speak.

—Lera Boroditsky is a professor of psychology at Stanford University and editor in chief of Frontiers in Cultural Psychology.
26663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: So what? on: July 27, 2010, 01:35:01 AM
We've long believed the U.S. government classifies too many documents as secret, and now we know for sure. How else to explain why Sunday's release of some 92,000 previously confidential documents reveals so little that we didn't already know about the war in Afghanistan? This document dump will only matter if it becomes an excuse for more of America's political class to turn against a war they once supported.

One news item we could find in the orchestrated rollout on and three newspapers is that the Taliban have heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles, perhaps even Stingers of the sort we gave the Afghan rebels to fight the Soviets in the 1980s. But even if they do have Stingers, the U.S. continues to dominate the skies and few U.S. aircraft have been shot down.

Another, more important, disclosure is how closely Iran has been working with the Taliban, as well as with al Qaeda and other Sunni extremists. This makes logical sense, given Iran's support for terrorists in Iraq and its general desire to chase America from the region. But the evidence should discredit those who think Tehran can be made peaceable by diplomatic entreaties.

Among the many nonscoops in the documents, we learn that war is hell, especially for infantry, and that sometimes troops make mistakes; that drone aircraft sometimes crash; that a forward U.S. base near the Pakistan border was ill-positioned to defend against Taliban attacks and had to be abandoned; and that many Afghan officials are corrupt and that Afghan troops flee often under fire. Any newspaper reader knew as much.

Far from being the Pentagon Papers redux, the larger truth is how closely the ground-eye view in these documents reinforces what U.S. officials were long saying: that the war wasn't going well, the Taliban were making gains, and a new and invigorated strategy was needed to combat them. Both the Bush and Obama Administrations made the same diagnosis in recent years, neither one kept it secret, and this year Mr. Obama followed through with an increase in troops levels and a renewed counterinsurgency.

The most politically explosive documents concern the conflicting loyalties of Pakistan's Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI. Nearly 200 reports allege that the Pakistani military intelligence arm is in cahoots with the Taliban, despite claiming to side with America. This is undoubtedly true but also no surprise.

The ISI helped the U.S. arm and organize the mujahideen against the Soviets, and it kept doing so to fill the Afghan power vacuum after America abandoned the region in the early 1990s. The reports released this week allege—often citing a single source or uncertain information—that the ISI helped train Afghan suicide bombers, plotted to poison beer slated for GIs, and schemed to assassinate President Hamid Karzai. It isn't clear how many of these plots were ever attempted, but there's no doubt that many Pakistanis doubt U.S. staying power, fear Indian influence in Afghanistan, and want to use the Taliban to shape events on their Western border.

Then again, we also know that Pakistan has shifted its behavior in a more pro-American direction in the last 14 months as the Taliban began to threaten Pakistan's own stability. Responding to a surge of terrorism against Pakistani targets, the Pakistani army has pushed Islamist insurgents from the Swat Valley and even South Waziristan. It has taken heavy casualties in the process. Islamabad now actively aids U.S. drone strikes against Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in the mountains along its Afghan border.

Pakistan can and should do more to pursue the terrorist enclaves along the border, as well as in Quetta and Karachi. The question is what's the best way to persuade their leaders to act. U.S.-Pakistan cooperation has been one of the Obama Administration's foreign policy successes, and it would be a tragedy if the leak of selective documents, often out of context, would now poison that cooperation.

Pakistan's military elites already see evidence of weak American will in President Obama's declared desire to start a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan next summer. While parts of the ISI are fighting on the wrong side, the U.S. needs to stay engaged with Islamabad both to bring more stability to Afghanistan and especially to destroy terrorist sanctuaries that remain a threat to the U.S. mainland.

That is why it is so disconcerting, if also predictable, to see the usual political suspects seize on the media hullabaloo to claim the Afghan effort is hopeless. The political left, which can't forget Vietnam, is comparing the WikiLeakers to Daniel Ellsberg and even the Tet offensive. Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry, who pays close attention to the region and has led the fight for more U.S. aid to Pakistan, nonetheless declared that, "However illegally these documents came to light, they raise serious questions about the reality of America's policy toward Pakistan and Afghanistan."

As informed as he is, Mr. Kerry can't possibly have learned all that much from these documents. His statement is more worrisome as a signal of political panic, a desire to placate his party's growing opposition to President Obama's war effort. Yet this is precisely the time when cooler political heads should be putting the documents into context, explaining the importance of U.S. ties to Pakistan, and above all giving Generals David Petraeus and James Mattis the time they need to succeed in that crucial theater. We can't afford another liberal antiwar stampede.
26664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Updated Declaration of Independence on: July 27, 2010, 01:28:18 AM
26665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Death of Paper Money on: July 27, 2010, 12:56:58 AM

The Death of Paper Money

As they prepare for holiday reading in Tuscany, City bankers are buying up rare copies of an obscure book on the mechanics of Weimar inflation published in 1974.
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard

Ebay is offering a well-thumbed volume of "Dying of Money: Lessons of the Great German and American Inflations" at a starting bid of $699 (shipping free.. thanks a lot).

The crucial passage comes in Chapter 17 entitled "Velocity". Each big inflation -- whether the early 1920s in Germany, or the Korean and Vietnam wars in the US -- starts with a passive expansion of the quantity money. This sits inert for a surprisingly long time. Asset prices may go up, but latent price inflation is disguised. The effect is much like lighter fuel on a camp fire before the match is struck.

People’s willingness to hold money can change suddenly for a "psychological and spontaneous reason" , causing a spike in the velocity of money. It can occur at lightning speed, over a few weeks. The shift invariably catches economists by surprise. They wait too long to drain the excess money.

"Velocity took an almost right-angle turn upward in the summer of 1922," said Mr O Parsson. Reichsbank officials were baffled. They could not fathom why the German people had started to behave differently almost two years after the bank had already boosted the money supply. He contends that public patience snapped abruptly once people lost trust and began to "smell a government rat".

Some might smile at the Bank of England "surprise" at the recent the jump in Brtiish inflation. Across the Atlantic, Fed critics say the rise in the US monetary base from $871bn to $2,024bn in just two years is an incendiary pyre that will ignite as soon as US money velocity returns to normal.

Morgan Stanley expects bond carnage as this catches up with the Fed, predicting that yields on US Treasuries will rocket to 5.5pc. This has not happened so far. 10-year yields have fallen below 3pc, and M2 velocity has remained at historic lows of 1.72.

As a signed-up member of the deflation camp, I think the Bank and the Fed are right to keep their nerve and delay the withdrawal of stimulus -- though that case is easier to make in the US where core inflation has dropped to the lowest since the mid 1960s. But fact that O Parsson’s book is suddenly in demand in elite banking circles is itself a sign of the sort of behavioral change that can become self-fulfilling.

As it happens, another book from the 1970s entitled "When Money Dies: the Nightmare of The Weimar Hyper-Inflation" has just been reprinted. Written by former Tory MEP Adam Fergusson -- endorsed by Warren Buffett as a must-read -- it is a vivid account drawn from the diaries of those who lived through the turmoil in Germany, Austria, and Hungary as the empires were broken up.

Near civil war between town and country was a pervasive feature of this break-down in social order. Large mobs of half-starved and vindictive townsmen descended on villages to seize food from farmers accused of hoarding. The diary of one young woman described the scene at her cousin’s farm.

"In the cart I saw three slaughtered pigs. The cowshed was drenched in blood. One cow had been slaughtered where it stood and the meat torn from its bones. The monsters had slit the udder of the finest milch cow, so that she had to be put out of her misery immediately. In the granary, a rag soaked with petrol was still smouldering to show what these beasts had intended," she wrote.

Grand pianos became a currency or sorts as pauperized members of the civil service elites traded the symbols of their old status for a sack of potatoes and a side of bacon. There is a harrowing moment when each middle-class families first starts to undertand that its gilt-edged securities and War Loan will never recover. Irreversible ruin lies ahead. Elderly couples gassed themselves in their apartments.

Foreigners with dollars, pounds, Swiss francs, or Czech crowns lived in opulence. They were hated. "Times made us cynical. Everybody saw an enemy in everybody else," said Erna von Pustau, daughter of a Hamburg fish merchant.

Great numbers of people failed to see it coming. "My relations and friends were stupid. They didn’t understand what inflation meant. Our solicitors were no better. My mother’s bank manager gave her appalling advice," said one well-connected woman.

"You used to see the appearance of their flats gradually changing. One remembered where there used to be a picture or a carpet, or a secretaire. Eventually their rooms would be almost empty. Some of them begged -- not in the streets -- but by making casual visits. One knew too well what they had come for."

Corruption became rampant. People were stripped of their coat and shoes at knife-point on the street. The winners were those who -- by luck or design -- had borrowed heavily from banks to buy hard assets, or industrial conglomerates that had issued debentures. There was a great transfer of wealth from saver to debtor, though the Reichstag later passed a law linking old contracts to the gold price. Creditors clawed back something.

A conspiracy theory took root that the inflation was a Jewish plot to ruin Germany. The currency became known as "Judefetzen" (Jew- confetti), hinting at the chain of events that would lead to Kristallnacht a decade later.

While the Weimar tale is a timeless study of social disintegration, it cannot shed much light on events today. The final trigger for the 1923 collapse was the French occupation of the Ruhr, which ripped a great chunk out of German industry and set off mass resistance.

Lloyd George suspected that the French were trying to precipitate the disintegration of Germany by sponsoring a break-away Rhineland state (as indeed they were). For a brief moment rebels set up a separatist government in Dusseldorf. With poetic justice, the crisis recoiled against Paris and destroyed the franc.

The Carthaginian peace of Versailles had by then poisoned everything. It was a patriotic duty not to pay taxes that would be sequestered for reparation payments to the enemy. Influenced by the Bolsheviks, Germany had become a Communist cauldron. partakists tried to take Berlin. Worker `soviets' proliferated. Dockers and shipworkers occupied police stations and set up barricades in Hamburg. Communist Red Centuries fought deadly street battles with right-wing militia.

Nostalgics plotted the restoration of Bavaria’s Wittelsbach monarchy and the old currency, the gold-backed thaler. The Bremen Senate issued its own notes tied to gold. Others issued currencies linked to the price of rye.

This is not a picture of America, or Britain, or Europe in 2010. But we should be careful of embracing the opposite and overly-reassuring assumption that this is a mild replay of Japan’s Lost Decade, that is to say a slow and largely benign slide into deflation as debt deleveraging exerts its discipline.

Japan was the world’s biggest external creditor when the Nikkei bubble burst twenty years ago. It had a private savings rate of 15pc of GDP. The Japanese people have gradually cut this rate to 2pc, cushioning the effects of the long slump. The Anglo-Saxons have no such cushion.

There is a clear temptation for the West to extricate itself from the errors of the Greenspan asset bubble, the Brown credit bubble, and the EMU sovereign bubble by stealth default through inflation. But that is a danger for later years. First we have the deflation shock of lives. Then -- and only then -- will central banks go too far and risk losing control over their printing experiment as velocity takes off. One problem at a time please.
26666  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Day by Day: Declaration of Independence on: July 26, 2010, 06:20:14 PM
Second post of the day:
26667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Not that Kunstler: What is it? on: July 26, 2010, 12:44:53 PM

What Is It?
By James Howard Kunstler
on July 26, 2010 9:26 AM

The New York Times ran a story of curious import this morning: "Mel Gibson Loses Support Abroad." Well, gosh, that's disappointing. And just when we needed him, too. Concern over this pressing matter probably reflects the general mood of the nation these dog days of summer - and these soggy days, indeed, are like living in a dog's mouth - so no wonder the USA has lost its mind, as evidenced by the fact that so many people who ought to know better, in the immortal words of Jim Cramer, don't know anything.

Case in point: I visited the Slate Political Gabfest podcast yesterday. These otherwise excellent, entertaining, highly educated folk (David Plotz, Emily Bazelon, and Daniel Gross, in for vacationing John Dickerson) were discussing the ramifications of the economic situation on the upcoming elections. They were quite clear about not being able to articulate the nature of this economic situation, "...this recession, or whatever you want to call it..." in Ms. Bazelon's words. What's the point of sending these people to Ivy League colleges if they can't make sense of their world.

Let's call this whatever-you-want-to-call-it a compressive deflationary contraction, because that's exactly what it is, an accelerating systemic collapse of activity due to over-investments in hyper-complexity (thank you John Tainter). A number of things are going on in our society that can be described with precision. We've generated too many future claims on wealth that does not exist and has poor prospects of ever being generated. That's what unpayable debt is. We have such a mighty mountain of it that the Federal Reserve can "create" new digital dollars until the cows come home (and learn how to play chamber music), but they will never create enough new money to outpace the disappearance of existing notional money in the form of welshed-on loans. Hence, money will continue to disappear out of the economic system indefinitely, citizens will grow poorer steadily, companies will go out of business, and governments at all levels will not have money to do what they have been organized to do.

This compressive deflationary collapse is not the kind of cyclical "downturn" that we are familiar with during the two-hundred-year-long adventure with industrial expansion - that is, the kind of cyclical downturn caused by the usual exhalations of markets attempting to adjust the flows of supply and demand. This is a structural implosion of markets that have been functionally destroyed by pervasive fraud and swindling in the absence of real productive activity.

The loss of productive activity preceded the fraud and swindling beginning in the 1960s when other nations recovered from the traumas of the world wars and started to out-compete the USA in the production of goods. Personally, I doubt this was the result of any kind of conspiracy, but rather a comprehensible historical narrative that worked to America's disadvantage. Tough noogies for us. The fatal trouble began when we attempted to compensate for this loss of value-creation by ramping up the financial sector to a credit orgy so that every individual and every enterprise and every government could enjoy ever-increasing levels of wealth in a system that no longer really produced wealth.

This was accomplished in the financial sector by "innovating" new tradable securities based on getting something for nothing. That is what the aggregate mischief on Wall Street and its vassal operations was all about. The essence of the fraud was the "securitization" of debt, because the collateral was either inadequate or altogether missing. That's how you get something for nothing. The swindling came in when these worthless certificates were pawned off on credulous "marks" such as pension funds and other assorted investors.

Tragically, everybody in a position to object to these shenanigans failed to issue any warnings or ring the alarm bells - and this includes the entire matrix of adult authority in banking, government (including the law), academia, and a hapless news media. Everyone pretended that the orgy of mortgage-backed securities, collateralized debt and loan obligations, structured investment vehicles, collateralized debt obligations, and other chimeras of capital amounted to things of real value.

Certainly the editors and pundits in the media simply didn't understand the rackets they undertook to report. You can bet that the players on Wall Street made every effort to mystify the media with arcane language, and they succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. (Making multiple billions of dollars by trading worthless certificates based on getting something for nothing must be the ultimate definition of succeeding beyond one's wildest dreams.) It's harder to account for the dimness of the news media. I doubt they were in on the caper. More likely there is a correlation between their low pay and their low capacity. But I wouldn't discount the fog of assumptions and expectations about the way the world is supposed to work that can disable even people of intelligence.

I'm as certain as the day is long that the folks on Wall Street, from the myrmidons in the trading pits to the demigods like John Thain, with his thousand-dollar trash basket, knew that they were trafficking in tainted paper. Many of them deserve to be locked up in the federal penitentiary for years on end, and they probably never will because president Barack Obama lacked the courage to set the dogs of justice after them and now it is too late.

The most confused of any putative authorities are the academic economists, lost in the wilderness of their models and equations and their quaint expectations of the way things ought to go if you can tweak numbers. These are the people who believe with the faith of little children that if you can measure anything you can control it. They will go down in history as the greatest convocation of clowns ever assembled, surpassing all the collected alchemists, priests, and vizeers employed in the 1500 years following the fall of Rome.

It's harder to tell whether the elected officials and their appointees in sensitive places like the Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI had a clue as to the scale of misconduct in the financial sector, or if they were bought off plain and simple, or just too stupid to understand what was going on all around them. The term "regulatory capture" provides valuable insight. How could Christopher Cox at the SEC fail to notice the stupendous malfeasance in the mortgage-related securities rackets. Why isn't he working for fifty cents a day in the laundry of Allenwood Federal Correctional Facility? Why is the grifter of Countrywide mortgage favors, Christopher Dodd, still free to guzzle the fabled bean soup in the Senate lunch room? I could go on in this vein for two hundred pages, but you get the drift.

The collective failure of authority, whether of intention or oversight or mental deficiency boggles the mind. And it leaves us where we are: in a compressive deflationary contraction, a.k.a. the long emergency. This is not a cyclical recession. It's the end of one thing and the beginning of another thing, another phase of history in which people will have to learn to live differently or perish. I'm convinced that just about very elected official who can be swept out of office will be swept out of office - even if their replacements turn out to be a very unsavory gang of sadists and morons who will certainly make things worse.

But these dog days of summer nobody will be paying attention, even as the markets themselves roll over and puke, as I rather imagine they will between now and Halloween, if not next week.
P.S. I have not come to any conclusions about the fate of the Macondo blow-out and the claims of Matthew Simmons, though I have certainly got a lot of mail about it, some of it very intelligent. The BP oil spill has vanished from the news headlines again as the world waits for the final push at the relief wells. We do know that we are entering the heart of the hurricane season and that will make for some excitement.
26668  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Estudio: 1 contra 1 no lo es on: July 26, 2010, 12:20:21 PM
26669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: July 25, 2010, 04:52:45 PM
Isn't C. Romer that chunky bureaucratic drone female who is BO's chief economist?  Fascinating that she would think this AND publish it!
26670  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Meyer: The BART Shooting Tragedy on: July 25, 2010, 12:07:30 PM
 Less Lethal Issues in Law Enforcement
- Sponsored by TASER International

with Capt. Greg Meyer (ret.)   

The BART shooting tragedy: Lessons to be learned

I was the use-of-force expert for former BART Officer Johannes Mehserle, who was charged with first-degree murder, then convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Since his conviction 30 hours ago (as I write this), Johannes Mehserle sits in the Los Angeles County Jail, awaiting sentencing in a few weeks. We are left to wonder why. I’ll try to provide some answers.

Related Feature:

Mehserle verdict: Involuntary manslaughter

Mehserle was found not guilty of second-degree murder, and not guilty of voluntary manslaughter.

My mission in working with the Mehserle defense was to explain to the jury the policy, training, equipment, and tactical issues that affected Johannes Mehserle’s actions on the BART platform during the early-morning hours of January 1, 2009. It was obvious from the beginning that this incident grew out of yet another case of weapons confusion involving a TASER and a handgun.

Certainly there are a number of lessons to be learned. My article is directed at police trainers and policy makers, and any of the rest of you in law enforcement that wonder how such a tragic mistake could happen, and what can be done to prevent future similar situations.

So what happened out there? I will give you the facts as I know them.

There was a fight on a BART train in Oakland involving New Year’s Eve celebrants. The train engineer called for police assistance. Police pulled people believed to be the fighters off the train. Several were detained who cooperated, and they were handcuffed without any use of force. Oscar Grant was at times cooperative, and at times he resisted. When it was his turn to be handcuffed, he physically resisted. He was taken to the ground, face down. One officer controlled his head and shoulders. Officer Mehserle’s job was to handcuff Grant. Grant “turtled” his right arm underneath his body. Mehserle (who is pretty big and strong) tried mightily for several seconds to get Grant’s arm out.

Mehserle was unable to gain control of the right hand and arm, despite strenuous efforts, clearly established on the video. Earlier that night Mehserle was present when other officers recovered a gun from a suspect's right-front pocket. Three prior documented times in his short career, he and his partner had removed guns from suspects' right-front pockets.

Mehserle observed Oscar Grant's hand going into the right-front pocket. Mehserle worried that Grant may be going for a gun. Mehserle decided to stop the action with a TASER. Mehserle never considered using his handgun. He himself had taken a 5-second ride with a TASER back-shot during his first TASER training less than four weeks earlier, and experienced neuromuscular incapacitation.

One of the wild myths out there in the public about this case is the assertion that an officer would never pull a TASER if he or she thought they might be facing a deadly force scenario. This is false. Officers frequently use TASERs in imminent deadly force situations (sometimes wisely, sometimes not, but that’s for another article). I introduced a multi-page exhibit that documented many, many such cases from court records around the country.

Mehserle loudly announced to the other officer, "Tony, get back, I'm going to tase him. I'm going to tase him." Multiple witnesses (including at least one of Oscar Grant's nearby handcuffed buddies) heard Mehserle's "I'm going to tase him" announcement, and so testified.

At the time, BART did not issue TASERs and holsters individually to officers. They are rotated, shift to shift. Sometimes you get one, sometimes you don't. When you get one, there are three different holster configurations at BART. Weak-side/weak-hand; strong-side/weak-hand crossdraw; and (the one Mehserle happened to have that particular night) strong-hand/cross-draw. They also informally allowed weak-side drop holsters, although that was not written in their policy. (I know that some of you prefer “dominant” and “nondominant” and other labels for the strong-hand, weak-hand concept. No offense, I get it, but for my whole career it was strong-hand, weak-hand, so permit me at this advanced age to use that terminology.)

Mehserle's (strong) right hand moved to his right side (instead of to his left-front, where his TASER was located in a cross-draw holster), and he partially gripped his handgun with his fingers. His right thumb moved back and forth in the air, in and out toward his own ribcage, inches above where the handgun holster safety was, consistent with the motion needed to undo the TASER holster safety strap if a TASER holster were there (which it was not); and totally inconsistent with undoing the Level-3 handgun holster — these motions are clearly seen on video.

For about four seconds, Mehserle unsuccessfully tugged at his handgun, then it came out. Dr. Lewinski testified that Mehserle subconsciously performed an “automatic program” (one that he was very practiced at) when his decision-making degraded under stress. We know from research that under stress, performance is negatively affected, and we react with movements that are most familiar to us.

Mehserle raised himself up to a level consistent with firing a TASER to achieve a minimally good dart spread. (Weeks earlier he had learned that two feet of distance gets you a four-inch dart spread, which is the minimum spread needed to achieve NMI.) Mehserle aimed at Grant's back and fired ONCE (i.e., not the two or three times that officers are trained to shoot a handgun in rapid succession when facing an immediate deadly force threat.)

Witnesses stated (and multiple videos confirmed) that a moment after the shot, Mehserle looked stunned, in shock; he immediately returned his handgun to its holster, contrary to training to scan and assess when you shoot somebody; then he immediately placed his hands on his forehead, exhibited a bewildered look on his face and uttered panicked expletives.

Mehserle bent down, handcuffed Oscar Grant as per standard post-shooting practice, located the bullet hole and applied direct pressure, tried to keep Grant talking, and watched him fade away.

All of Mehserle’s movements except the mistake of drawing the handgun itself instead of the TASER, were consistent with drawing and activating and deploying darts from a TASER. One of the videos also clearly shows Mehserle's right thumb in an upward-sweeping motion along the left side frame of the gun as soon as he draws it, in a manner and place totally consistent with activating the TASER arming switch (safety). There is no decocking device on Mehserle’s Sig Sauer P226DAK handgun, so that thumb move was not at all consistent with preparing to shoot a handgun. We can also see on video that Mehserle’s left hand was placed near the frame of the handgun (not on the grip), and that his left hand reflexively flew upward and away from the handgun when the shot occurred.

I've tentatively concluded that the jury went with involuntary manslaughter on the basis that Mehserle was engaged in a lawful act—the arrest of Oscar Grant III — and that he accidentally drew his handgun while intending to draw his TASER. The jury found that he was criminally negligent in that he didn’t reasonably follow policy and training.

I presented an exhibit for the jury documenting the seven known weapons-confusion cases in the past nine years where an officer shot someone while intending to use his or her TASER. Here is a reprint of the text of that exhibit:

March 2001. Sacramento, CA police officer intends to fire a TASER at a resisting handcuffed suspect in backseat of police car. He instead draws and fires his handgun, shooting the suspect. (nonfatal, M26, strong-side leg holster, strong-hand draw)
September 2002. A Rochester, MN police officer intends to fire a TASER at a resisting suspect. He instead draws and fires his handgun, shooting the suspect. (nonfatal, M26, strong-side cargo pocket, strong-hand draw)
October 2002. A Madera, CA police officer intends to fire a TASER at a resisting handcuffed suspect in the back seat who was attempting to kick out the window of the police car. She instead draws and fires her handgun, shooting the suspect. (fatal; strong side leg holster, M26, strong-hand draw)
October 2003. A Somerset County, MD sheriff's deputy intends to fire a TASER at a fleeing warrant suspect. He instead draws and fires his handgun and shoots the suspect. (nonfatal; M26, strong-side leg holster, strong-hand draw)
September 2005. A Victoria (BC) constable intends to fire a TASER at a resisting suspect. He instead draws and fires his handgun, shooting the suspect. (nonfatal; X26, strong-side cargo pocket, strong-hand draw).
June 2006. A Kitsap County, WA sheriff's deputy intends to fire a TASER at a suspect. She instead draws and fires her handgun, shooting the suspect. (nonfatal; M26, strong-side holster, strong-hand draw)
January 2009. A BART police officer in Oakland, CA intends to fire a TASER at a resisting suspect who is prone and refusing to give up his arm for handcuffing. He instead draws and fires his handgun, shooting the suspect. (fatal; X26, strong-hand cross-draw)

Only Mehserle was criminally prosecuted.

Late in the game, a few days before my testimony, it occurred to me that all of the incidents involved a strong-hand TASER draw, regardless of holster type or placement. The lesson from that is to get the strong hand out of the game! Consider requiring an officer’s TASER to be in weak-side holsters requiring a weak-hand draw to reduce the possibility of another tragic case. Dr. Bill Lewinski (Force Science Research Center) and I have discussed this issue, and we believe that it would significantly reduce the risk (maybe not totally eliminate, but reduce the chance) of having a weapon-confusion incident. A few months ago, BART changed policy to require weak-side, weak-hand-draw TASER holsters only. We were precluded from mentioning that in front of the jury.

I also testified about BART’s training, which did not put trainees through stress-inducing scenarios. It is essential that trainers put officers through their paces with training that is dynamic, stress-inducing, and requires officers to make quick force-options decisions. The training must truly test the officer's ability to be ready for stressful encounters on the street.

As Dr. Lewinski told me, “You need rapid decision-making under stress with time pressure. You need to build the decision-making process under stress in order to condition the officer for the realities on the street.”

Do you do that at your agency?!

Several media outlets are reporting that the jury also found that the California law involving the use of a gun during the commission of a crime (the so-called "gun enhancement") applied in this case. This one is a head-scratcher, because according to my reading of the jury instructions on that issue he would have had to intentionally use the firearm. That seems contrary to the involuntary manslaughter verdict. Legal experts are weighing in on the applicability of that law (designed to discourage robbers and such from having guns) to this case. We’ll see what the judge does during sentencing.

It was an absolute pleasure working with defense attorney Mike Rains. He is right up there with the best that an officer could ever find, and I’ve worked with many. It is most unfortunate that Mike Rains was not brought in to defend Mehserle in the early hours and days after the incident, things might have turned out way different.

Lesson: make sure you are provided a very experienced police use-of-force attorney from the get-go if you are involved in a shooting or other major use-of-force incident.

As soon as I started examining the case, I recommended to attorney Mike Rains that he also retain Dr. Bill Lewinski of the Force Science Research Center as Mehserle’s expert on the biomechanics concerning the weapons-confusion issue. By now I would imagine that most if not all readers would know of Dr. Lewinski’s sterling credentials and reputation. It is always a pleasure to work with such a dedicated professional. See

Needless to say, this was a very difficult, politically-charged, heart-wrenching case. From the beginning of my involvement in January 2009, it was clear that there would be no winners. If you’re interested in the political and racial aspects and questionable charging decision of the Alameda County (Oakland, Calif.) district attorney in this case, look elsewhere. Others have written about that, and still others will. Being an LAPD guy, I take the Jack Webb approach: just the facts! And that’s what I’ve tried to provide you.

About the author

Greg Meyer, a retired Captain from the Los Angeles Police Academy, served for 30 years, including eight years as a commanding officer. Greg is a member of the National Advisory Board of the Force Science Research Center, a member of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP).

He holds the Certified Litigation Specialist credential of the Americans for Effective Law Enforcement (AELE), and is a member of the AELE seminar faculty for lethal and nonlethal weapons issues.

Greg can be reached at:

This column is sponsored by TASER International for the purpose of disseminating important information related to less lethal technologies, products, policies and training.
26671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: July 25, 2010, 10:54:17 AM
This post would be better in the Immigration thread.
26672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Laredo? (no idea where to fit his) on: July 25, 2010, 10:52:47 AM
If there is any more on this subject please post it on the Homeland Security thread.
26673  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Registered Fighters for the Sept 2010 Gathering on: July 23, 2010, 03:10:46 PM
To the best of my knowledge we are still waiting on the registration forms Pappy.
26674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / In case your local Pravda missed this , , , on: July 23, 2010, 12:22:58 PM

Hizbullah trying to stop UNIFIL patrols

UN Peacekeepers in southern Lebanon attacked

07/03/2010 22:20

A number of recent clashes between United Nations soldiers in southern Lebanon and local villagers could lead to an escalation along the Israeli-Lebanese border as Hizbullah works to prevent peacekeepers from implementing Security Council Resolution 1701.

On Saturday, two UNIFIL vehicles, including an armored personnel carrier, were blocked by a large group of civilians as the convoy traveled on a road north of the southern Lebanese village of Kabrikha. Stones were also thrown at UNIFIL forces in another village on Saturday.

The civilians stoned the patrol, which decided to leave the scene, hitting a motorcycle that had been parked blocking the road. The crowd then surrounded the patrol, punctured the vehicles’ tires, smashed the windows, and tried grabbing weapons mounted on the vehicles. In response, the soldiers, from the French Battalion, fired warning shots in the air.

The commander of the patrol was attacked and his weapon was stolen. A group of civilians took him to a nearby home where he received medical treatment, UNIFIL said in a statement.

UNIFIL reinforcements and Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) troops arrived at the scene, recovered the weapons and restored calm.

UNIFIL Force Commander Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas called on the LAF to ensure the security of UNIFIL forces. “It is incumbent on the Lebanese authorities to ensure the security and freedom of movement for UNIFIL within its area of operation,” Cuevas said.

Israeli defense officials say villagers affiliated with Hizbullah

Saturday’s clashes were the latest in a series of attacks against UNIFIL troops in southern Lebanon in recent weeks. Last Tuesday, residents of Kfar Kila hurled stones at UN vehicles. In the village of Hirbeit Sleim, where a Hizbullah arms cache hidden inside a home blew up last year, residents held a massive protest calling for an end to UNIFIL patrols in the village.

Israeli defense officials said that the escalation in violence was due to increased UNIFIL activity throughout southern Lebanon since Cuevas, a Spanish officer, took command of the peacekeeping force in January. The officials also said that the so-called villagers who attacked the peacekeepers were likely affiliated with Hizbullah.

“UNIFIL has been doing more in recent months,” one Israeli defense official said. “Hizbullah is not happy with this and is trying to deter the peacekeepers from entering the villages which is home to most of their arms caches these days.”

The attacks came just ahead of the fourth anniversary of the Second Lebanon War, following which UNIFIL was beefed up to its present force of about 13,000.
26675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: July 22, 2010, 11:07:46 PM
Ah ha!

Thank you.
26676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: July 22, 2010, 09:10:22 PM
"to bing"   huh
26677  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Registered Fighters for the Sept 2010 Gathering on: July 22, 2010, 09:07:55 PM

Kaju Dog
Guide Dog
Padraig Mara
Peter Andrada
26678  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 22, 2010, 06:53:17 PM
Grateful that an apparent impending conflict has been resolved.
26679  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Registered Fighters for the Sept 2010 Gathering on: July 22, 2010, 03:21:05 PM
These are the registrations we have so far.

Kaju Dog
Padraig Mara
Peter Andrada
26680  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: July 22, 2010, 02:51:33 PM
what is the URL for that?
26681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Deem and Pass Budget on: July 22, 2010, 05:28:55 AM

Return to the Article

July 04, 2010

The 'Deem'n Pass' budget
Cindy Simpson

Once again, the Democrats have shown a willingness to bypass procedure to further their own agenda.  As Human Events' Connie Hair reported yesterday:

Last night, as part of a procedural vote on the emergency war supplemental bill, House Democrats attached a document that "deemed as passed" a non-existent $1.12 trillion budget. The execution of the "deeming" document allows Democrats to start spending money for Fiscal Year 2011 without the pesky constraints of a budget.

The procedural vote passed 215-210 with no Republicans voting in favor and 38 Democrats crossing the aisle to vote against deeming the faux budget resolution passed. 

Never before -- since the creation of the Congressional budget process -- has the House failed to pass a budget, failed to propose a budget then deemed the non-existent budget as passed as a means to avoid a direct, recorded vote on a budget, but still allow Congress to spend taxpayer money.

Representative Paul Ryan issued a statement on behalf of the House Republican Budget Committee entitled "The Majority's Budget Deemer:  An Admission of Fiscal Failure." Ryan opens with a scathing analysis:

What House Democratic leaders call a "budget enforcement resolution" is in fact just another "deeming" scheme - one that concedes they cannot meet their most fundamental governing responsibility: writing a congressional budget. They have created a masquerade that only advances their spend-as-you-go philosophy, accelerating the march toward a fiscal and economic crisis. They are doing so because a majority of rank-and-file Democrats cannot vote for a budget with trillion-dollar deficits. As even House Budget Committee Chairman Spratt has acknowledged: "You can say that that's a lack of courage."

Ryan's statement further explains that the "budget enforcement resolution" is not a "budget" or a "resolution," and he clearly reveals its deceptive facts and figures.  He concludes by stating: "This is far more than a failure of procedure or politics. It is an abdication of a fundamental responsibility by a Majority that is losing both its will, and its ability, to govern - and it is threatening America's prosperity in the process."

Throw this latest maneuver of the Dems into the pile and one wonders if "threatening" has become something more like "destructing."  If Congress can't reign in its reckless spending, America will continue its ride on the donkey's back beyond the "deem'n pass" into territory resembling a banana republic.

Page Printed from: at July 08, 2010 - 03:13:02 PM CDT
26682  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor 7/19/10 on: July 22, 2010, 05:17:51 AM

Mexico Security Memo: July 19, 2010
July 19, 2010 | 2011 GMT
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Torreon Massacre and Overall Violence

A group of armed men traveling in some eight sport utility vehicles arrived just after midnight July 18 at the Italia Inn, a popular party venue just outside Torreon, Coahuila state, where a birthday party was taking place. The gunmen entered the facility and indiscriminately fired some 166 rounds at party guests who were dancing to a live band. A total of 18 people were killed, with 12 men and five women dying at the scene and one woman succumbing to her injuries later.

The Coahuila attorney general’s office did not say which criminal organization was responsible for the attack, but STRATFOR sources in Mexico claim the attack was in retaliation for the failure of the Italia Inn’s owner to pay extortion fees. The Comerca Lagunera metropolitan area of Mexico, which includes Torreon, Coahuila state, and Gomez Palacio, Durango state, is contested by the Los Zetas organization and Sinaloa cartel, and either group may have been responsible for the attack.

This incident is just the latest in the increasing number of extraordinarily violent attacks that have occurred this year in Mexico. The Mexican government estimated the death toll from organized crime-related violence from January through June 2010 to be 7,048 — only 700 deaths fewer than 2009’s annual total and dramatically more than death counts previously reported by the Mexican media, most of which have been between 6,000 and 6,500.

The violence throughout Mexico shows no sign of slowing, either. The Calderon administration insists its countercartel strategy is still playing out and will be re-evaluated in December 2010. The current strategy in place in Juarez is said to be the intended strategy nationwide, but the death toll from organized crime-related violence in Juarez has already surpassed 1,500 with nearly five-and-a-half months left in 2010 (the total in 2009 was 3,014). In the near term, the Mexican government has shown no signs it intends to change the strategy before its set evaluation date, but if the current trends in violence hold, Mexico would be on pace to well surpass the previous 2009 annual record for organized crime-related killings.

Juarez Explosion Controversy

Conflicting reports continue to emerge about a small improvised explosive device (IED) allegedly planted by the La Linea gang inside a car in Juarez, Chihuahua state, and used against Mexican security forces the evening of July 15. The Mexican government has allowed members of the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau (ATF) and FBI to inspect the scene, along with ATF canine explosive detection teams, and both agencies have collected evidence to be processed in the United States.

Press reports from Mexico and around the world continue to refer to the device as a “car bomb,” which would mark an unprecedented escalation in tactics, though there is no evidence to support this claim. STRATFOR sources in the Mexican government have indicated that federal law enforcement and military personnel involved in the investigation continue to contradict each other about everything from the composition of the device to the exact sequence of events, showing the confusion even within the government. In addition, there are unsubstantiated rumors circulating that accuse the Mexican government of attempting to cover up the true sequence of events for political reasons, given the wide variety of possible scenarios being reported as well as the erroneous claim by a variety of Mexican officials and agencies that the device was a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED).

A Mexican military spokesman for the fifth military zone claimed July 18 the device used in the attack on Mexican security forces consisted of approximately 10 kilograms (22 pounds) of commercial-grade explosives — though the military had stated July 16 that the device was composed of 10 kilograms of C-4 high explosives. Regardless of the composition of the device (though a reliable STRATFOR source in the Mexican government has confirmed the explosive substance to have been an industrial explosive gel known as TOVEX), crime scene photography and news footage of the aftermath of the blast do not support the claim that a 10-kilogram device was used. Several car windows in the immediate vicinity of the purported VBIED were not blown out and the chassis of the vehicle in which the IED was placed was intact, though it suffered a great deal of damage from the resulting fire.

Additionally, the use of the term “car bomb” or VBIED implies a new capability for the Mexican cartels, which, in STRATFOR’s judgment, they have yet to demonstrate. The blast and the damage observed fell more in line with a very small IED, or even a couple of hand grenades, placed inside of a car. One possible reason for using the terms VBIED and “car bomb” is to scare the residents of Mexico and the U.S. border region for political and/or financial purposes. Several groups stand to gain from the increased fear of this “new cartel capability” such as the Juarez and Chihuahua state governments, press outlets, private security companies, U.S. border state governments and law enforcement agencies. Also, claiming that La Linea — and the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization (VCF) for which it is an enforcement arm — are now using indiscriminate terror tactics like detonating bombs will play to the advantage of their rivals, the Sinaloa cartel, in the minds of civilians. Such tactics are likely to increase collateral damage inflicted on civilians as well as draw the Mexican government’s attention more squarely on La Linea and the VCF and away from Sinaloa operations in the region.

(click here to view interactive graphic)

July 12

One person was killed, three were injured and three were arrested after a car chase in Zapopan, Jalisco state. During the incident, a group of gunmen reportedly attacked two people with firearms and grenades after a car accident. A firefight also occurred between police and the suspected criminals.

July 13

Authorities announced the arrest of nine suspected members of the Sinaloa cartel, including Jorge Antonio Arias Flores, in the municipality of Xalisco, Nayarit state. Arias Flores is believed to be the head of the Sinaloa cartel for Nayarit state.
Police discovered three bodies hanging from two bridges in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. Several messages were found near the bodies and the crime was attributed to the Cartel Pacifico Sur (CPS).
Residents of the Las Arenillas neighborhood of Santiago Tepatlaxco, Mexico state, discovered the bodies of two men wrapped in sacks.
The Guanajuato state attorney general’s office announced the capture of seven suspected LFM kidnappers who are linked to eight kidnappings and four murders in the state.

July 14

Police in the municipality of Netzahualcoyotl, Mexico state, spotted a man loading a suspicious package into a vehicle and arrested him after a car chase into the Gustavo A. Madero neighborhood of Mexico City. Police discovered 12 firearms, 45 magazines and 657 rounds of ammunition in the vehicle.
Three people were shot to death in their vehicle after leaving a party in Culiacan, Sinaloa state.
One soldier and three suspected criminals were killed during several firefights in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state. Two people were arrested after the incident and authorities seized approximately 31,600 rounds of ammunition.

July 15

Five people suspected of carrying out an express kidnapping were arrested in the municipality of Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state.
The decapitated body of an unidentified man was discovered near the central market in Chilpancingo, Guerrero state. The victim’s fingers had been severed.
Six suspected La Familia Michoacana members were arrested during a raid on a house in the Heroes Tecamac neighborhood in Tecamac, Mexico state.
One state security agent was killed and two others were injured after approximately 15 gunmen attacked a vehicle transporting a prisoner in Otumba, Mexico state.

July 16

Police arrested 13 people and seized several firearms during a riot in the municipality of Othon P. Blanco, Quintana Roo state. The rioters were led by a government official from the municipality of Subteniente Lopez, Quintana Roo state, and were believed to be aiding the smuggling of firearms and drugs into Mexico from Belize.
The unidentified bodies of two men bearing signs of torture were discovered in the municipality of Iztapalapa, Mexico state.
Three members of the same family, including an infant, traveling by car in Mazatlan, Sinaloa state, were killed in a drive-by shooting by unidentified gunmen.

July 17

The Secretariat of National Defense announced the arrest of six suspected CPS members during a raid on a safe-house in Cuernavaca, Morelos state. Some of the suspects are believed to have been responsible for several recent murders in Cuernavaca.
Two policemen were killed and three were injured after being attacked by unidentified gunmen in the municipality of Santiago, Nuevo Leon state.
Four policemen were killed in an ambush by unidentified gunmen in the municipality of Acapulco, Guerrero state.
Police in Tijuana, Baja California state, seized approximately 500 kilograms of marijuana during a raid in the Guadalupe Victoria neighborhood. One suspect was arrested during the incident.

July 18

Unidentified gunmen killed a police commander in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state, during a drive by shooting in a convenience store parking lot.
Soldiers in the municipality of Culiacan, Sinaloa state, arrested two men after a car chase. The suspects had reportedly fired at a military patrol in the area.

Read more: Mexico Security Memo: July 19, 2010 | STRATFOR
26683  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The ICJ's Kosovo Opinion on: July 22, 2010, 05:08:18 AM
Some inconvenient truths in here , , ,


Russia: The ICJ's Kosovo Opinion
July 19, 2010 | 2100 GMT

International Court of Justice President Hisashi Owada (C) opens the Dec. 9, 2009, hearing on Kosovo’s secession from SerbiaSummary
The U.N. International Court of Justice is set to present its opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia. While Russia is publicly siding with the Serbs against Kosovo’s independence, Moscow stands to gain — at least rhetorically — no matter how the court rules.


At 3 p.m. local time July 22 in The Hague, the U.N. International Court of Justice (ICJ) will present its advisory opinion on the legality of Kosovo’s February 2008 unilateral declaration of independence (UDI) from Serbia. The opinion will not be legally binding — it is an advisory opinion requested by the U.N. General Assembly at the behest of Belgrade — but will in essence determine whether, according to international law, Kosovo’s declaration of independence was legal.

Regardless of the ICJ opinion, the circumstances surrounding Kosovo’s UDI remain unchanged. Kosovo is still a de facto Western protectorate with explicit security guarantees from NATO, and Serbia has neither the military capacity to change the status quo nor the desire to try to do so, in light of its efforts to become an EU member state.

Russia, Serbia’s main ally on the Kosovo matter, has stated that it hopes the ICJ ruling will force new talks between Serbs and Kosovars. Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said July 15 that Russia continues to oppose Kosovo’s independence and supports Belgrade’s position that Kosovo is a sovereign part of Serbia. But Moscow stands to benefit no matter the outcome of the ICJ deliberations.

The Intertwined Crisis of Kosovo and Georgia

Kosovo’s UDI came 9 years after NATO’s 1999 war against what was then known as Yugoslavia forced Belgrade to relinquish its physical control over the province. The stated reasons for NATO’s military campaign in 1999 were atrocities committed by Yugoslav military and paramilitary forces against the Albanian population of Kosovo. Serbia had waged a number of military conflicts throughout the 1990s, the purpose of which were to expand Belgrade’s influence in the Balkans. Thus, the West wanted to eliminate Serbia — and its leader, Slobodan Milosevic — as a regional threat and rival.

(click here to enlarge image)
But the underlying geopolitical context was also NATO’s evolution from a regional security grouping with no mandate to act outside of its membership’s immediate defense to an organization with a mandate to keep order in Europe, and, eventually, beyond. NATO took action in Kosovo without U.N. Security Council (UNSC) approval and despite strong Russian and Chinese opposition. The precedent was set for the U.S. and its allies to act without addressing the interests of other fellow UNSC permanent members (as the U.S. would later repeat in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq invasion).

For Russia, NATO’s actions in Kosovo were untenable. Since Russia is not part of NATO — in fact, the alliance had been created to defend Europe against Soviet invasion — Moscow realized that Kosovo established an extraordinary precedent. NATO determined that an intervention was necessary in a matter of European security, intervened militarily and then resolved the post-conflict environment according to its interests. It did so against a stated Moscow ally, with dubious evidence and reasoning. The West did not stop there either; Kosovo was followed by NATO expansion into the former Soviet sphere in Eastern Europe and the defeat of a pro-Kremlin Ukrainian government.

In this context, the 2008 Kosovo UDI was just another in a line of decisions on European security taken by the West in which Moscow’s protests were ignored. Russia, therefore, formulated a response to the West.

On Feb. 15, 2008, two days before the Kosovo UDI, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with the presidents of Georgian breakaway republics South Ossetia and Abkhazia. After the meeting, the Russian foreign ministry released a statement stating, “The declaration of sovereignty by Kosovo and its recognition will doubtlessly be taken into account in [Russia’s] relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” The West did not heed the warning, doubting Russia’s resolve to respond, and Russia used supposed Georgian atrocities against South Ossetians in August 2008 to parallel the West’s actions against Serbia and justify a military intervention that led to Moscow-supported independence for the two breakaway republics.

Russia and the ICJ Opinion

Moscow now stands to benefit, at least rhetorically, no matter what opinion the ICJ supports. A ruling that the UDI was legal also legitimizes Russia’s support for the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. While the West has made the legal argument that the Kosovo case is unique and sets no precedent, the non-Western opinion on the matter (with very few exceptions) is that it does. In theory, it also opens the possibility that more countries will recognize the two republics, as Moscow would have a case that Kosovo and the two Georgian territories are not different.

However, Moscow does not need South Ossetia and Abkhazia to gain international recognition for its control of the two provinces to pay dividends. Moscow already controls the two provinces economically, politically and militarily and can use them to pressure Georgia — still a U.S. ally — if need be. Therefore, if the ICJ rules that the UDI was illegal, Moscow will not fret much about the legal implications. Instead, it will be able to show that its support for Belgrade has, from the beginning, been justified and that the West, led by the United States, broke international law by encouraging Kosovo to declare independence unilaterally and without recourse to the UNSC. Moscow will use the ICJ opinion in that case to show that it has been a supporter of international law and sanctity of sovereignty.

Kosovo was a redline issue for Moscow in 2008 because it set a precedent that allowed the West to intervene militarily and redraw European borders without asking Russia for its opinion. Russia’s 2008 war against Georgia was the response Moscow used to counter the West’s perceived belligerence. The ICJ opinion, whichever way it goes, will be an added boon for Moscow.

Read more: Russia: The ICJ's Kosovo Opinion | STRATFOR
26684  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Fanning the flames of Jihad on: July 22, 2010, 04:51:38 AM
Fanning the Flames of Jihad
July 22, 2010

By Scott Stewart

On July 11, 2010, al-Malahim Media, the media arm of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), published the first edition of its new English-language online magazine “Inspire.” The group had tried to release the magazine in late June, but for some reason — whether a technical glitch, virus (as rumored on some of the jihadist message boards) or cyberattack — most of the initial file released was unreadable.

The magazine was produced by someone who has a moderate amount of technological savvy, who speaks English well and who uses a lot of American idioms and phraseology. We did not note any hint of British or South Asian influence in the writing. A government source has suggested to us (and we have seen the claim repeated in the media) that Inspire was produced by a U.S citizen who was born in Saudi Arabia named Samir Khan. Khan is a well-known cyber-jihadist — indeed, The New York Times did an excellent story on Khan in October 2007. Given Khan’s background, history of publishing English-language jihadist material and the fact that he reportedly left the United States for Yemen in 2009 and has not returned, it does seem plausible that he is the driving force behind Inspire.

The magazine contains previously published material from Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu Musab al-Suri and Anwar al-Awlaki. While it also contains new material, this material, especially from al-Awlaki and AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi (aka Abu Bashir), is consistent with their previously published statements. One of the messages by al-Awlaki featured in Inspire, “A Message to the American People,” was previously released to CNN and reissued by al-Malahim on the Internet July 19, almost as if to validate Inspire. Even though the way in which some of the material in Inspire is presented is quite elementary, and could lead some to believe the magazine might be a spoof, we have found no analytical reason to doubt its authenticity.

Presentation aside, the material is quite consistent with what we have seen released by al-Malahim media in its Arabic-language materials over many months. When closely examined, the inaugural issue of Inspire provides a good gauge of AQAP’s thought and suggests the general direction of the broader jihadist movement.


In a letter from the editor appearing at the beginning of the magazine, the purpose of Inspire is clearly laid out: “This magazine is geared towards making the Muslim a mujahid.” The editor also clearly states that Inspire is an effort by al-Malahim Media to reach out to, radicalize and train the millions of English-speaking Muslims in the West, Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Inspire does not represent any sort of major breakthrough in jihadist communication. English-language jihadist material has been available on the Internet since the early 1990s on sites such as, and jihadists have released other magazines directly targeting English-speaking audiences. What is remarkable about Inspire is that it was released by al-Malahim and AQAP. Within the jihadist movement, AQAP has assumed the vanguard position on the physical battlefield over the past year with links to several attacks or attempted attacks in the West. AQAP has also been frequently mentioned in Western media over the past several months, and it appears that al-Malahim is trying to exploit that notoriety in order to get the attention of English-speaking Muslims.

Regarding AQAP’s links to recent attacks, Inspire follows the trend of AQAP publications and leaders in recent months in praising Fort Hood shooter Maj. Nidal Hasan and failed Christmas Day bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and lifting them up as examples for all jihadists to follow. “We call on every Muslim who feels any jealousy for their religious beliefs to expel the polytheists from the Arabian Peninsula, by killing all of the crusaders working in embassies or otherwise, and to declare war against the crusaders in the land of the Prophet Muhammad — peace be upon him — on the ground, sea and air. And we call on every soldier working in the crusader armies and puppet governments to repent to Allah and follow the example of the heroic mujahid brother Nidal Hassan [sic]; to stand up and kill all the crusaders by all means available to him.…”

In the article discussing Abdulmutallab, the author again brags about the manufacturing of the improvised explosive device used in the Christmas Day attack even though that device, like the one used in the assassination attempt against Saudi Deputy Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, failed to achieve the objective. “The mujahidin brothers in the manufacturing department managed with the grace of Allah to make an advanced bomb. The bomb had been tested and proven effective as it has passed through the detector ports. The martyrdom bomber managed with the grace of Allah to reach his target, but due to a technical glitch, the bomb did not explode completely; and we will continue on our path until we get what we want….” This statement would seem to indicate that if AQAP is able to recruit a willing suicide bomber who is able to travel to the West, they will again attempt to attack an airliner using a similar device.

Airliners remain vulnerable to such attacks. STRATFOR has previously noted when discussing AQAP and its innovative IED designs, there are many ways to smuggle IED components on board an aircraft if a person has a little imagination and access to explosives. As we wrote in September 2009, three months before the Christmas Day bomber’s attempted attack, efforts to improve technical methods to locate IED components must not be abandoned, but the existing vulnerabilities in airport screening systems demonstrate that an emphasis needs to be placed not only on finding the bomb but also on finding the bomber.

Throughout the magazine, articles criticize the U.S. operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen; Saudi operations against jihadists; the burqa ban in Europe and even global warming — Inspire carried a reproduction of a statement purportedly authored by Osama bin Laden earlier this year titled “The Way to Save the Earth” that criticizes U.S. policy regarding climate change and calls for economic jihad against the United States.

The magazine also contained a portion of a previously-released message titled “From Kabul to Mogadishu” by al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri that encouraged the people of Yemen to join al Qaeda in its global struggle. It only quoted a part of the original message that pertained to Yemen and omitted portions that pertained to other locations.

AQAP Revealed

In addition to the recycled content from al Qaeda’s core leadership, Inspire also contains quite a bit of new and interesting content from AQAP’s military and theological leaders. An interview with AQAP leader Nasir al-Wahayshi provided al-Wahayshi the opportunity to reinforce several points he has been making for months now regarding his call for jihadists to conduct simple attacks using readily available weapons. “My advice to my Muslim brothers in the West is to acquire weapons and learn methods of war. They are living in a place where they can cause great harm to the enemy and where they can support the Messenger of Allah.” Al-Wahayshi continued “…a man with his knife, a man with his gun, a man with his rifle, a man with his bomb, by learning how to design explosive devices, by burning down forests and buildings, or by running over them with your cars and trucks. The means of harming them are many so seek assistance from Allah and do not be weak and you will find a way.”

This call was echoed by Adam Gadahn in March 2010 when the American-born spokesman for al Qaeda prime advised jihadists to strike targets that were close to them with simple assaults and urged his audience to not “wait for tomorrow to do what can be done today, and don’t wait for others to do what you can do yourself.”

These calls are part of a move toward a leaderless resistance model of jihadism that has accompanied the devolution of the jihadist threat from one based on al Qaeda the group to a broader threat based primarily on al Qaeda franchises and the wider jihadist movement. (STRATFOR is currently putting the finishing touches on a book that details our coverage of this devolutionary process since 2004.) With this shift, more attacks such as the Times Square bombing attempt, the Fort Hood shooting and the June 1, 2009, Little Rock shootings can be anticipated.

In an effort to provide training in terrorist tradecraft to such grassroots and lone-wolf jihadists, Inspire contains a section called “Open Source Jihad,” which is the term that AQAP uses to refer to leaderless resistance. This section is intended to serve as “a resource manual for those who loathe tyrants.” The material is intended to allow “Muslims to train at home instead of risking a dangerous travel abroad,” and one part exclaims, “Look no further, the open source jihad is now at hand’s reach.” The section also contains a lengthy step-by-step guide to constructing simple pipe bombs with electronic timers, bearing the rhymed title “Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of Your Mom.” The images of New York City contained in this section serve as a reminder of the importance New York holds in jihadist thought as a target. Such rudimentary improvised explosive devices are unlikely to cause mass casualties, but like the pipe bombs employed by Eric Rudolph, they could prove deadly on a small scale if they are employed effectively.

When considering this concept of leaderless resistance and of using publications like Inspire to train aspiring jihadists, it is important to remember that this type of instruction has only a limited effectiveness and that there are many elements of terrorist tradecraft that cannot be learned by merely reading about them. In other words, while the jihadist threat may be broadening in one way, it is also becoming less severe, because it is increasingly emanating from actors who do not possess the skill of professional terrorist operatives and who lack the ability to conduct complex and spectacular attacks.

Cartoon Controversy

One of the other features in Inspire is an article by Anwar al-Awlaki, the American-born Yemeni cleric who has been linked to Nidal Hasan, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, Faisal Shahzad and two of the 9/11 hijackers. In his article, titled “May Our Souls be Sacrificed for You,” al-Awlaki focuses on the controversy that arose over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed that first appeared in 2005. Although the cartoons were published nearly five years ago, the jihadists have not allowed the issue to die down. To date, the jihadist response to the cartoons has resulted in riots, arsons, deaths, the 2008 bombing of the Danish Embassy in Islamabad and an attack in January 2010 in which a man armed with an axe and knife broke into the home of Jyllands-Posten newspaper cartoonist Kurt Westergaard in Denmark and allegedly tried to kill him. The Kashmiri militant group Harkat-ul-Jihad e-Islami (HUJI) also dispatched American operative David Headley to Denmark on two occasions to plan attacks against Jyllands-Posten and Westergaard in what HUJI called “Operation Mickey Mouse.”

In his Inspire article, al-Awlaki states, “If you have the right to slander the Messenger of Allah, we have the right to defend him. If it is part of your freedom of speech to defame Muhammad it is part of our religion to fight you.” Al-Awlaki continues: “This effort, the effort of defending the Messenger of Allah, should not be limited to a particular group of Muslims such as the mujahidin but should be the effort of the ummah, the entire ummah.” He also referred to a 2008 lecture he gave regarding the cartoon issue titled “The Dust Will Never Settle Down” and notes that, “Today, two years later, the dust still hasn’t settled down. In fact the dust cloud is only getting bigger.” He adds that “Assassinations, bombings, and acts of arson are all legitimate forms of revenge against a system that relishes the sacrilege of Islam in the name of freedom.”

Inspire also features a “hit list” that includes the names of people like Westergaard who were involved in the cartoon controversy as well as other targets such as Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who produced the controversial film Fitna in 2008; Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who wrote the screenplay for the movie Submission (filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, the director of Submission, was murdered by a jihadist in November 2004); and Salman Rushdie, author of the book The Satanic Verses. Most of these individuals have appeared on previous jihadist hit lists. A new notable addition was American cartoonist Molly Norris, who was added due to her idea to have a day where “everybody draws Mohammed.” Norris made her suggestion in response to threats against the irreverent animated television program South Park by Muslims over a brief scene in an episode that lampooned the Prophet. Comedy Central censored the South Park episode featuring Mohammed because of the threats, provoking Norris’s suggestion.

Al-Awlaki and AQAP appear to believe they can use the anger over the Mohammed cartoons to help them inspire Muslims to conduct attacks. In this edition of Inspire, they are clearly attempting to fan the flames to ensure that the dust will not settle down. They are also seeking to train these radicalized individuals to kill people, although, as we note above, that is a difficult task to do remotely over the Internet.

One other thing the magazine seeks to accomplish is to help make the jihadist training experience better for English speakers who seek to travel to jihadist training camps abroad. There have been anecdotal reports of Westerners who have traveled to get training and who have not had positive experiences during the process — and of at least one Somali-American who was executed after expressing his desire to leave an al Shabaab training camp and return home. In light of this problem, AQAP includes an article in Inspire titled “What to Expect in Jihad” and designed to reduce the “confusion, shock and depression” that can be experienced by trainees at such camps. The article also provides a list of things to bring to the training camp, including a friend to help ease the loneliness, and recommends that aspiring jihadists learn the local language.

The time and effort that AQAP put into this first issue of Inspire, and the support the magazine apparently receives from important AQAP figures such as al-Wahayshi and al-Awlaki, are strong indicators of the group’s intent to support leaderless resistance as a way to attack the West, something AQAP has had some difficulty doing itself.
26685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Power Balances and the ChonAn incident on: July 22, 2010, 04:45:16 AM
Power Balances and the ChonAn Incident

United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates met Tuesday with South Korean Defense Minister Kim Tae Young and announced the official date for the long-delayed naval exercises called “Invincible Spirit,” which will be held on July 25-28 in the East Sea. The exercises will include the USS George Washington Carrier Strike Group and four F-22 Raptors among a host of other American and Korean ships and aircraft. On Wednesday, Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — accompanied by a delegation of top U.S. officials from the military, State Department and National Security Council — will hold the first ever “2+2” round of talks with their South Korean counterparts in a show of solidarity after the alleged North Korean surprise attack on the South Korean navy corvette, the ChonAn, on March 26.

In short, the United States is attempting to give a substantial commitment to South Korea to show that it will come to its defense when needed, and dispel fears to the contrary that were raised following the ChonAn incident. Gates, along with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen and Pacific Command Chief Admiral Robert Willard, stressed that the military exercise is only the first step in what will be a series of exercises between the two states to demonstrate alliance strength, improve operational skills and readiness and deter North Korea from future provocations. The meeting will conclude with a joint statement about the alleged attack and an outline of future military cooperation. Previously, the United States held 2+2 talks with regional partners like Japan and Australia, but not South Korea, so the meetings between the top defense and foreign affairs ministers are meant to represent a promotion of the status of the U.S. and Korean alliance. The two sides will also likely discuss their decision to delay the transfer of wartime operational control over Korean forces for three years to 2015, and may discuss ways to ratify the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement that was signed in 2007.

From the Korean point of view, this commitment badly needed demonstrating. Seoul’s response to the ChonAn incident has been constrained from the start, and the United States bears some responsibility. Unwilling to risk a war with North Korea, Seoul pursued mostly symbolic and diplomatic means of retribution. But even these efforts were diluted or moderated, primarily due to intervention by China and unwillingness on the part of the United States to pressure Beijing. The limitations on Korea’s ability to rally an international response was emblematized by the United Nations Security Council’s presidential statement on the incident, which condemned the attack without naming North Korea as the attacker.

“The ChonAn incident has brought into relief the constraints that bind the different players in Northeast Asia.”
From the United States’ point of view, instability on the peninsula became entangled in the broader U.S.-China dynamic, and Washington proved unwilling to risk a deeper rift with China. This is why the United States repeatedly delayed the military exercises and has resisted sending its aircraft carrier to the West Sea. But the vacillations and cautiousness in dealing with Beijing gave Seoul the impression that Washington’s response was not as rapid and unequivocal as it should have been and that its commitment to the alliance was weaker than promised.

In this way, the ChonAn incident has brought into relief the constraints that bind the different players in Northeast Asia. In the aftermath of the Korean War, a balance of power was put in place enabling the United States to remove the majority of its forces, as it is currently attempting to do with Iraq and eventually Afghanistan. This balance has held so far, but it has faced serious tests. The ChonAn incident presented yet another test, and each player performed a role. North Korea orchestrated a sudden and inflammatory provocation as part of its strategy of keeping enemies off guard and neighbors divided, called attention to matters of its concern — such as the disputed maritime border and lack of a peace treaty — and managed to pull all of this off with relative impunity. South Korea scrambled to respond to the incident in a way that would appear strong without triggering an internecine war, while striving to reassure its public, get assistance from the United States (its chief security guarantor) and win over other international players.

Meanwhile, China served as an abettor of the North Korean regime amid a barrage of criticism from the United States and its allies. It managed to mount such harsh resistance to U.S. plans as to extract concessions, creating divisions between Washington and a disappointed (but still needy) Seoul. Japan and Russia remained aloof; Russia basically supported Beijing, and Tokyo basically supported Washington. The United States struggled to balance its commitment to the alliance with its desire to maintain relations with China, a crucial economic player and one Washington would rather not fight with at present. And yet Beijing inevitably remained opposed to the U.S. response since it brought the most powerful navy in the world — and by no means an ally — right up to China’s strategic core.

While the balance of power continues to hold, recent events reveal that it cannot be taken for granted. The sinking of the ChonAn would normally be considered an act of war, and not all regions would be able to prevent a downward spiral of unintended consequences after such an event. Pyongyang’s alleged ambush seems a particularly flagrant and reckless example of its time-tried strategy – a fact that may reflect the political elite’s attempt to manage a potentially highly destabilizing leadership succession. Most importantly, China’s regime is facing up to some deeply held fears about future strategic challenges. It sees greater U.S. pressure coming to bear against its economic policies and growing regional influence; it sees heightening internal and external risks to its economic model and social cohesion; and it fears that too much compromise with foreign powers will lead it to the fate of its predecessor, the nationalist Chinese republic that undermined its own credibility by allowing foreign powers to take advantage of it through economic and naval means. Beijing’s perspective explains its staunch resistance to the American and Korean show of force. But crucially, with the United States preoccupied with the task of establishing balances of power elsewhere, Washington itself has played a decisive role in putting limits on the alliance’s show of force.
26686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: A week in the War on: July 22, 2010, 04:40:08 AM

Aside from the sporadic impact of a few artillery rockets in Kabul late July 19 and July 20, the one-day International Conference on Afghanistan, attended by more than 40 foreign ministers, appears to have gone smoothly — perhaps too smoothly. While commitments have been renewed and assurances have been given, there do not appear to have been any groundbreaking or unexpected shifts. Nevertheless, there are several developments worth noting:

The conference focused less on talk of the U.S. 2011 deadline to begin a drawdown and more on emphasizing that Afghanistan would take control of the domestic security situation, with Afghan security forces leading operations in all parts of the country by 2014. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the shift to Afghan control would happen slowly, based on “conditions, not calendars.”
Of the $14 billion in aid that flows into Afghanistan annually, the government in Kabul reportedly manages only about 20 percent. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has argued against the practice, in part applied by donors to ensure more control over how the money is spent and to sidestep concerns over corruption in the Afghan government. At the conference, Karzai obtained a pledge that Kabul will be allowed to manage some 50 percent of aid money within two years.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton emphasized for the first time that while Washington was still moving toward putting the Haqqani network on its terrorist list, that the U.S. would not necessarily rule out Afghan efforts to reconcile with it — something Washington has long opposed.

(click here to enlarge image)
Ultimately, the real movement and significance of the conference is regional. The American shift on the Haqqanis and the signing of a transit agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan that Islamabad had long blocked are both signs that Washington and Islamabad have made significant progress in coordinating their Afghan policies. U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard C. Holbrooke acknowledged as much to reporters in Islamabad on July 18 when he spoke of a “dramatic acceleration” in cooperation between the two countries. There are even reports that the United States is now revising its strategy to embrace the idea of negotiating with senior members of the Taliban through third parties.

So as the American strategy shifts toward more regional accommodation and reliance on regional allies, and as foreign forces move closer to drawing down, the regional dynamics will become increasingly defining for Afghanistan. Indeed, Washington especially seems to be realizing that a real exit strategy cannot take place without regional understandings — particularly from Pakistan.

Community Police Initiative

In another shift, Afghan President Hamid Karzai on July 14 conceded to pressure from the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Gen. David Petraeus and U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Karl Eikenberry to the recruitment of as many as 10,000 personnel for service in a more comprehensive, nationwide community police initiative. Karzai did achieve concessions like the inclusion of the new personnel under the aegis of the Interior Ministry.

While this compromise will allow for the creation of a force that may be able to confront the Taliban in new ways, it also exacerbates the long-term risks of such an initiative. The community police will be linked to a system that has been ineffective at both supplying its own local police forces and managing issues of corruption and infiltration by the Taliban. The concessions also fail to address the issue that the underlying and inherent loyalty of these new community police is to their locality rather than the government in Kabul. This was one of Karzai’s main complaints about this initiative, although the new personnel are ostensibly not to be trained in “offensive” tactics.

It remains to be seen whether the compromise and implementation will have the hoped-for short-term tactical impact. The real question is whether those possible short-term gains will justify longer-term issues that are sure to arise with the establishment of such armed groups. For Washington, they may. For Kabul, the answer is far less certain.

Afghan Security Forces Violence

Two American civilian trainers and one Afghan soldier were reportedly killed July 20 near Mazar-e-Sharif by another Afghan soldier serving alongside them as a trainer. The event comes less than a week after the killing of three British soldiers by an Afghan soldier at a base in Helmand province. The week before that, on July 7, five Afghan soldiers were killed by friendly fire from a NATO helicopter.

Although there are inherent problems with indigenous forces being penetrated and compromised, as well as issues of mutual interference with a dispersed and indigenous force, this series of developments begins to stand out. This is not the first time Afghan soldiers or police have been killed in airstrikes, but the killings of foreign troops by uniformed Afghans only further complicates deep-seated issues of trust. While in neither case can such danger ever be completely eliminated, these developments come at a time when ISAF and indigenous forces must work more closely together. An increase in distrust could seriously impact operational practices and effectiveness.

Mullah Omar’s Guidance

NATO announced July 18 it had obtained a June communique from top Afghan Taliban commander Mullah Mohammed Omar allegedly issuing new orders to his Afghan commanders. In the guidance, Omar modifies the previous year’s guidance to avoid civilian casualties, calling on his commanders to capture or kill Afghan civilians working for foreign forces or the Afghan government — a small and specific subset of the population. It is not yet clear whether this claim is genuine. However, the June 9 public hanging of a seven-year-old boy and an alleged suicide bombing at a wedding the same day that killed some 40 people — both attributed to the Taliban, though the group claims the wedding attack was an ISAF strike — demonstrate that either the guidance has changed or some commanders are violating it.

(click here to enlarge image)
Omar’s alleged shift in guidance may seem to run counter to his earlier focus on not antagonizing the population — a sentiment readily understandable to foreign forces waging a counterinsurgency. But it may indicate that the Taliban has made far more progress in winning over a key portion of the population and can therefore act more aggressively against locals on the opposite end of the political spectrum — and from their perspective this would be a very selective and surgical targeting of a small subset of people. So the shift may reflect confidence in the strength of that local support; indeed, at least from the Taliban’s constituency, more aggressive and ruthless tactics may not only be acceptable but desired.

This is, after all, a struggle that is now in an extremely decisive phase. ISAF forces are already having some difficulties securing the population in key focus areas in Afghanistan’s southwest. Already Taliban night letters and other forms of intimidation have made the local population extremely hesitant to cooperate not only out of fear for their lives in the immediate future but also once foreign forces depart. So despite the ongoing struggle to convince Afghan civilians that the other side is responsible for the vast majority of civilian deaths (a struggle the Taliban is not necessarily losing because it is better at getting its message out in a compelling way), an aggressive campaign by the Taliban against local civilians could erode the ISAF’s position and local support more than it costs the Taliban local supporters.
26687  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Open Gathering Sept 19, 2010 on: July 21, 2010, 05:11:58 PM
It will either be at the same location as last year or at Gokor's gym which is in the same general vicinity.
26688  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hotter than Hillary on: July 21, 2010, 03:30:33 PM
26689  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Follow up to Gurkha kukri beheading post on: July 21, 2010, 03:17:33 PM
third post of the day:
26690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: July 21, 2010, 10:56:11 AM
26691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Environmental issues on: July 21, 2010, 10:05:38 AM
Restating Doug's comments:  "All costs to a transaction should be born by the buyer and/or seller."  Costs not born by them are "external diseconomies".

What makes sense to me is to tax external diseconomies instead of good things like profit, savings, inheritance, captial gains, etc.
26692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: US troops in Pak on: July 21, 2010, 08:31:28 AM
WASHINGTON—U.S. Special Operations Forces have begun venturing out with Pakistani forces on aid projects, deepening the American role in the effort to defeat Islamist militants in Pakistani territory that has been off limits to U.S. ground troops.

The expansion of U.S. cooperation is significant given Pakistan's deep aversion to allowing foreign military forces on its territory. The Special Operations teams join the aid missions only when commanders determine there is relatively little security risk, a senior U.S. military official said, in an effort to avoid direct engagement that would call attention to U.S. participation.

The U.S. troops are allowed to defend themselves and return fire if attacked. But the official emphasized the joint missions aren't supposed to be combat operations, and the Americans often participate in civilian garb.

Pakistan has told the U.S. that troops need to keep a low profile. "Going out in the open, that has negative optics, that is something we have to work out," said a Pakistani official. "This whole exercise could be counterproductive if people see U.S. boots on the ground."

Because of Pakistan's sensitivities, the U.S. role has developed slowly. In June 2008, top U.S. military officials announced 30 American troops would begin a military training program in Pakistan, but it took four months for Pakistan to allow the program to begin.

The first U.S. Special Operations Forces were restricted to military classrooms and training bases. Pakistan has gradually allowed more trainers into the country and allowed the mission's scope to expand. Today, the U.S. has about 120 trainers in the country, and the program is set to expand again with new joint missions to oversee small-scale development projects aimed at winning over tribal leaders, according to officials familiar with the plan.

Such aid projects are a pillar of the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, which the U.S. hopes to pass on to the Pakistanis through the training missions.

U.S. military officials say if U.S. forces are able to help projects such as repairing infrastructure, distributing seeds and providing generators or solar panels, they can build trust with the Pakistani military, and encourage them to accept more training in the field.

"You have to bring something to the dance," said the senior military official. "And the way to do it is to have cash ready to do everything from force protection to other things that will protect the population."

Congressional leaders last month approved $10 million in funding for the aid missions, which will focus reconstruction projects in poor tribal areas that are off-limits to foreign civilian aid workers.

The Pakistani government has warned the Pentagon that a more visible U.S. military presence could undermine the mission of pacifying the border region, which has provided a haven for militants staging attacks in Pakistan as well as Afghanistan.

The U.S. has already aroused local animosity with drone strikes targeting militants in the tribal areas, though the missile strikes have the tacit support of the Pakistani government and often aid the Pakistani army's campaign against the militants.

Providing money to U.S. troops to spend in communities they are trying to protect has been a tactic used for years to fight insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The move to accompany Pakistani forces in the field is even more significant, and repeats a pattern seen in the Philippines during the Bush administration, when Army Green Berets took a gradually more expansive role in Manila's fight against the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf in the southern islands of Mindanao.

There, the Green Berets started in a limited training role, and their initial deployment unleashed a political backlash against the Philippine president. But as the Philippine military began to improve their counterinsurgency skills, Special Operations Forces accompanied them on major offensives throughout the southern part of the archipelago.

In Pakistan, the U.S. military helps train both the regular military and the Frontier Corps, a force drawn from residents of the tribal regions but led by Pakistani Army officers.

The senior military official said the U.S. Special Operations Forces have developed a closer relationship with the Frontier Corps, and go out into the field more frequently with those units. "The Frontier Corps are more accepting partners," said the official.

For years the Frontier Corps was underfunded and struggled to provide basic equipment for its soldiers. A U.S. effort to help equip the force has made them more accepting of outside help.

Traveling with the Frontier Corps is dangerous. In February, three Army soldiers were killed in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province when a roadside bomb detonated near their convoy. The soldiers, assigned to train the Frontier Corps, were traveling out of uniform to the opening of a school that had been renovated with U.S. money.

The regular ular Pakistani military also operates in the tribal areas of Pakistan, but they are less willing to go on missions with U.S. forces off the base, in part because they believe appearing to accept U.S. help will make them look weak, the senior U.S. military official said. The Pakistani official said the military simply doesn't need foreign help.

During the past two years, Pakistan has stepped up military operations against the militant groups that operate in the tribal areas. Although Washington has praised the Pakistani offensives, Pentagon officials have said Pakistan's military needs help winning support among tribal elders. If successful, the joint missions and projects may help the Pakistani military retain control of areas in South Waziristan, the Swat valley and other border regions they have cleared of militants.

In Pakistan, the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad will retain final approval for all projects, according to Defense officials. But congressional staffers briefed on the program said the intent is to have Pakistani military forces hand out any of the goods bought with the funding or pay any local workers hired.

"The goal is never to have a U.S. footprint on any of these efforts," said a congressional staffer.
26693  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The International Conference on: July 21, 2010, 08:26:54 AM
The Real Heart of the International Conference in Kabul

On Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon co-chair a nearly unprecedented international conference in Kabul attended by 40 foreign ministers, including U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Some 60 international dignitaries have arrived in the Afghan capital, where Karzai will attempt to show evidence of progress, address international concerns about rampant corruption and competent governance, and convince international donors that more aid should be channeled through and overseen directly by his government. (As it is, huge swaths of aid monies deliberately bypass his government due to concerns about corruption.) But at the end of the day, the conference is not about financial aid.

Financial aid matters because as rudimentary as it is, the Afghan government — particularly its security forces — cannot be fiscally supported and sustained by the war-ravaged and undeveloped Afghan economy. But donor countries are also unlikely to be surprised by Karzai’s claims of progress or comforted by his promises. For the most part, those countries made their decisions about giving before they arrived in Kabul. In any event, monetary donations are easier to make than troop contributions to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Most countries are more focused on reducing the latter, while the former allows them to appear to invest something in the Afghan mission.

“It is Afghanistan’s neighbors that will be the ones to watch most closely.”
This is not lost on Kabul, or the wider region. With the surge nearing full strength, the next year will be an incredibly important one for Washington and Kabul. But Karzai, his domestic competitors and his neighbors are looking beyond the surge to a world in which the foreign troop presence inexorably declines. Not only is it clear to everyone in and around Afghanistan that the withdrawal of foreign forces is nearing, but it is clear that the American strategy for that withdrawal is failing to achieve its objectives within the timetable the Americans have set for themselves.

The real heart of this conference is not how compelling Karzai’s message is to the West. It is about the maneuverings of Islamabad, New Delhi and Tehran, as well as Ankara, which is attempting to establish itself as a power broker in the conflict. Kabul must balance these powers — as well as the United States — in order to shape the post-NATO environment.

That environment has already begun to take shape, with a rapprochement between the Americans and the Pakistanis, as well as an emerging Afghan-Pakistani understanding — one that Turkey has played no small part in. All this comes at the expense of India, which until recently quietly established contacts and built its influence. But New Delhi now appears to be re-evaluating its strategy, while still seeking to ensure its own interests, namely that some sort of lid remains on Islamist extremism in Afghanistan. Iran is in the midst of all this. Though its foremost interests — and its greatest influence — are on its western flank in Iraq, Tehran also looks to ensure its interests in Afghanistan, and to use its influence there as leverage for a larger settlement with the Americans. Indeed, Iran’s foreign minister told Karzai on Monday that a regional approach was needed in Afghanistan.

Nothing will be solved Tuesday. Afghanistan’s challenges are difficult to overstate on the best of days, and are complicated by the confluence of a resurgent Taliban and a foreign power nearing the limit of its finite commitment to the country while attempting to re-establish balances of power to Afghanistan’s west and southeast. But as the Americans focus on withdrawing troops and re-establishing regional balances of power, it is Afghanistan’s neighbors — not fickle Western donors — who will be the ones to watch most closely.
26694  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ground Zero Mosque on: July 21, 2010, 08:02:33 AM
A Mosque Maligned

Robert Wright on culture, politics and world affairs.(Marc:  He is the author of two outstanding books on evolutionary biology/psychology: The Moral Animal and Non-Zero Sum)

Just to show you how naïve I am: When I first heard about the plan to build a mosque and community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks, I didn’t envision any real opposition to it.

Sure, I can understand how some people traumatized by 9/11 — firefighters who survived it, or people whose loved ones didn’t — might not like the idea. But I’d have thought that opinion leaders of all ideological stripes could reach consensus by applying a basic rule of thumb: Just ask, “What would Osama bin Laden want?” and then do the opposite.

Bin Laden would love to be able to say that in America you can build a church or synagogue anywhere you want, but not a mosque. That fits perfectly with his recruiting pitch — that America has declared war on Islam. And bin Laden would thrill to the claim that a mosque near ground zero dishonors the victims of 9/11, because the unspoken premise is that the attacks really were, as he claims, a valid expression of Islam.

Apparently I was wrong. Two New York politicians — Representative Peter King and Rick Lazio, a candidate for governor — are ginning up opposition to the project, as is the Weekly Standard.

Their strategy is to ask dark questions about the motivations behind the project (known as Park51 because of its address on Park Place). Those motivations reside in an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement, the project’s co-sponsors. So far as I can tell, Rauf is a good person who genuinely wants to build a more peaceful world. (I met him briefly last year at a venue where we had both been asked to give talks about compassion — his from an Islamic perspective, mine from a secular perspective.  Here’s the talk he gave.)

But if you think Rauf’s good intentions are going to keep him safe from the Weekly Standard, you underestimate that magazine’s creative powers. Its latest issue features an article about Park51 chock full of angles that never would have occurred to me if some magazine had asked me to write an assessment of the project’s ideological underpinnings. For example: Rauf’s wife, who often speaks in support of the project and during one talk reflected proudly on her Islamic heritage, “failed to mention another feature of her background: She is the niece of Dr. Farooq Khan, formerly a leader of the Westbury Mosque on Long Island, which is a center for Islamic radicals and links on its Web site to the paramilitary Islamic Circle of North America (I.C.N.A.), the front on American soil for the Pakistani jihadist Jamaat e-Islami.”

Got that?  Rauf’s wife has an uncle who used to be “a leader” of a mosque that now has a Web site that links to the Web site of an allegedly radical organization. (I’ll get back to the claim that the Westbury Mosque is itself a “center for Islamic radicals.”)

The odd thing is that the author of this piece, Stephen Schwartz, is a self-described neoconservative whose parents were, by his own account, communists. You’d think he might harbor doubts about how confidently we can infer people’s ideologies from the ideologies of their older relatives. You’d also think he might disdain McCarthyite guilt-by-association tactics.

You’d be wrong. Schwartz’s piece goes on and on, weaving webs of association so engrossing that you have to keep reminding yourself that they have nothing to do with Rauf. At one point Schwartz spends several paragraphs damning someone whose connection to Park51 seems to consist of having spoken favorably about it.

If we are going to stigmatize everyone who in any sense supports Hamas, we are going to be tarring with a pretty broad brush.
.As for the views of Rauf himself: In Schwartz’s universe, Rauf’s expressions of opposition to terrorism are themselves grounds for suspicion. Rauf, says Schwartz, has “cloaked the Cordoba effort in the rhetoric of reconciliation, describing himself and his colleagues as ‘the anti-terrorists.’”

Rauf has been the imam at a Manhattan mosque for a quarter of a century, so you’d think that, if he actually had  radical views, there would be some evidence of that by now.  Just to give you some idea of what solid evidence of radicalism looks like: Representative King, who shares the Weekly Standard’s grave suspicions about Rauf, supported the Irish Republican Army back when it was killing lots of innocent civilians. He raised money for the I.R.A. and said it was “the legitimate voice of occupied Ireland” and praised the “brave men and women who this very moment are carrying forth the struggle against British imperialism in the streets of Belfast and Derry” and in various other ways backed this terrorist group. If Rauf’s past looked like King’s past, there would indeed be cause for concern.

A big question when reading any Weekly Standard piece about nefarious Muslims is: What is the operative  definition of “radical”? This question is worth spending some time on, because if the Standard is defining the term loosely, then the six-degrees-of-separation chains it uses to link people to radicalism are even less relevant than they seem.

Apparently one Weekly Standard criterion for radicalism is support for Hamas. Thus, Schwartz notes that the real estate developer for the project has a business partner who has an uncle (you still with us?) who dramatically affirmed his support for Hamas after the recent blockade-running flotilla incident.

Now, there are a lot of Arabs and Muslims, including Americans, who don’t consider Hamas evil incarnate. You might divide  Hamas “supporters” into two camps:

“Hard” supporters say that Palestinians were wrongly dispossessed of their land six decades ago and that brutal tactics are therefore warranted. So what I call a terrorist they consider a freedom fighter.

“Soft” supporters may not approve of all Hamas tactics, but they note the following: In 2006, Hamas, with American and Israeli approval, participated in a Palestinian election and won — and, right after this victory, there were signs that Hamas might be willing to abandon terrorism, at least provisionally. But Israel and the United States decided that, while it was fine for Hamas to participate in elections, winning was unacceptable, and Hamas wouldn’t be allowed to govern. So Hamas  seized control of Gaza, and Israel then subjected the people of Gaza to a crippling economic blockade (which, even after the post-flotilla “loosening,” doesn’t let Gaza export anything to speak of). Forced to choose between Israel and Hamas in this standoff, these “soft” supporters side with Hamas.

I can see how Israelis would have a different view of Hamas, which not so long ago pursued a concerted strategy of killing Israeli civilians, and could revive that strategy any day and still hasn’t accepted Israel’s right to exist. It’s understandable that Israelis hate Hamas, and Americans, including the people at the Weekly Standard, have every right to share this hatred.

Still, the point is that, whether the Weekly Standard likes it or not, there are a number of Arabs and Muslims, including Americans, who in one sense or another support Hamas and who aren’t dangerously radical from an American perspective; they didn’t support the 9/11 attacks or the Fort Hood shooting or the would-be underwear bombing. So if we are going to stigmatize everyone who in any sense supports Hamas — or even associates with someone whose uncle supports Hamas — we are going to be tarring with a pretty broad brush, excluding from a crucial American dialogue too many people for the dialogue to be productive. (Thomas Friedman recently made a similar argument in criticizing CNN’s reflexive firing of an editor who tweeted something favorable about a leader of Hezbollah after he died.)

So when Schwartz asserts that a Long Island mosque is a “center for Islamic radicals,” I personally have to suspend judgment until I hear from someone who has researched the matter and has a more useful definition of radicalism than Schwartz does. Meanwhile, I’ll just remind myself that this mosque has nothing to do with Rauf anyway.

One thing Peter King and Rick Lazio demand is that Rauf unequivocally denounce Hamas. In other words, they want him to go beyond just not being a professed supporter of Hamas and, in effect, criticize everyone who supports Hamas in even the “soft” sense.

No doubt Osama bin Laden, if apprised of the situation, would hope that Rauf will cave in to these demands and ritually denounce Hamas. Because the Muslims who are most vulnerable to bin Laden’s recruiting pitch are, it’s safe to say, at least somewhat sympathetic to Hamas. And if moderate Muslims like Rauf can be pressured into adopting Israel’s position, and thus be depicted by truly radical Muslims as Zionist tools, that will make them less effective in their tug of war with bin Laden for the hearts and minds of the vulnerable.

Pathetically, Rick Lazio seems to have made his demand for an “investigation” into Park51 the centerpiece-du-jour of his gubernatorial campaign. Happily, Mayor Bloomberg has shown true moral leadership and opposed Lazio’s demands in clear language. “Government should never — never — be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray,” Bloomberg said last week. “We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here and praying the way they want to pray.” Amen.
26695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: July 20, 2010, 05:49:46 PM
Very interesting.  Nice find CCP.
26696  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's record on partial birth on: July 20, 2010, 05:46:00 PM
Pasting this from the Kagan thread here too:

BO voted for a remarkably extreme partial birth abortion law.  Anyone have details at hand?"
Just to the left of NARAL and Barbara Boxer, he voted against protecting the surviving babies of botched abortions.  His reasons to oppose do not match the facts told by the people on his committee in IL.

The Born-Alive Infants Protection Act (BAIPA) both in the Illinois and Federal legislatures was meant to make illegal death by neglect of born but unwanted infants.  Or as Obama called it: Restrictive Choice legislation.

At the end of the hearing (IL Senate Health and Human Services Committee, 2003, Barack Obama, Chairman), according to the official records of the Illinois State senate, Obama thanked Stanek (video of RN Stanek below) for being “very clear and forthright,” but said his concern was that Stanek had suggested “doctors really don’t care about children who are being born with a reasonable prospect of life because they are so locked into their pro-abortion views that they would watch an infant that is viable die.” He told her, “That may be your assessment, and I don’t see any evidence of that. What we are doing here is to create one more burden on a woman and I can’t support that.”

Video of the testifying nurse:

One mainstream reference from when Hillary was the frontrunner:
 SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Jan. 17, 2007
Obama Record May Be Gold Mine For Critics
(AP)  Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama may have a lot of explaining to do.
He voted against requiring medical care for aborted fetuses who survive.

Barbara Boxer voted for it when it passed unanimously in the U.S. Senate 98-0 and unanimously in the US House.  She said:  "(H)is amendment [Rick Santorum introducing BAIPA] certainly does not attack Roe in any way," said Boxer. "His amendment makes it very clear that nothing in this amendment gives any rights that are not yet afforded to a fetus. Therefore, I, as being a pro-choice senator on this side, representing my colleagues here, have no problem whatsoever with this amendment." - Barbara Boxer on the floor of the senate, 2001.
26697  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for a Good Pair of Sticks... on: July 20, 2010, 05:35:41 PM
No worries. smiley
26698  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for a Good Pair of Sticks... on: July 20, 2010, 02:52:59 PM
Have you seen this thread?
26699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Conspiracy on: July 20, 2010, 02:00:04 PM
Moving BBG's post to here:

Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright
By Jonathan Strong - The Daily Caller   1:15 AM 07/20/2010

It was the moment of greatest peril for then-Sen. Barack Obama’s political career. In the heat of the presidential campaign, videos surfaced of Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, angrily denouncing whites, the U.S. government and America itself. Obama had once bragged of his closeness to Wright. Now the black nationalist preacher’s rhetoric was threatening to torpedo Obama’s campaign.

The crisis reached a howling pitch in mid-April, 2008, at an ABC News debate moderated by Charlie Gibson and George Stephanopoulos. Gibson asked Obama why it had taken him so long – nearly a year since Wright’s remarks became public – to dissociate himself from them. Stephanopoulos asked, “Do you think Reverend Wright loves America as much as you do?”

Watching this all at home were members of Journolist, a listserv comprised of several hundred liberal journalists, as well as like-minded professors and activists. The tough questioning from the ABC anchors left many of them outraged. “George [Stephanopoulos],” fumed Richard Kim of the Nation, is “being a disgusting little rat snake.”

Others went further. According to records obtained by The Daily Caller, at several points during the 2008 presidential campaign a group of liberal journalists took radical steps to protect their favored candidate. Employees of news organizations including Time, Politico, the Huffington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Guardian, Salon and the New Republic participated in outpourings of anger over how Obama had been treated in the media, and in some cases plotted to fix the damage.

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Michael Tomasky, a writer for the Guardian, also tried to rally his fellow members of Journolist: “Listen folks–in my opinion, we all have to do what we can to kill ABC and this idiocy in whatever venues we have. This isn’t about defending Obama. This is about how the [mainstream media] kills any chance of discourse that actually serves the people.”

“Richard Kim got this right above: ‘a horrible glimpse of general election press strategy.’ He’s dead on,” Tomasky continued. “We need to throw chairs now, try as hard as we can to get the call next time. Otherwise the questions in October will be exactly like this. This is just a disease.”

(In an interview Monday, Tomasky defended his position, calling the ABC debate an example of shoddy journalism.)

Thomas Schaller, a columnist for the Baltimore Sun as well as a political science professor, upped the ante from there. In a post with the subject header, “why don’t we use the power of this list to do something about the debate?” Schaller proposed coordinating a “smart statement expressing disgust” at the questions Gibson and Stephanopoulos had posed to Obama.

“It would create quite a stir, I bet, and be a warning against future behavior of the sort,” Schaller wrote.

Tomasky approved. “YES. A thousand times yes,” he exclaimed.

The members began collaborating on their open letter. Jonathan Stein of Mother Jones rejected an early draft, saying, “I’d say too short. In my opinion, it doesn’t go far enough in highlighting the inanity of some of [Gibson's] and [Stephanopoulos’s] questions. And it doesn’t point out their factual inaccuracies …Our friends at Media Matters probably have tons of experience with this sort of thing, if we want their input.”

Jared Bernstein, who would go on to be Vice President Joe Biden’s top economist when Obama took office, helped, too. The letter should be “Short, punchy and solely focused on vapidity of gotcha,” Bernstein wrote.

In the midst of this collaborative enterprise, Holly Yeager, now of the Columbia Journalism Review, dropped into the conversation to say “be sure to read” a column in that day’s Washington Post that attacked the debate.

Columnist Joe Conason weighed in with suggestions. So did Slate contributor David Greenberg, and David Roberts of the website Grist. Todd Gitlin, a professor of journalism at Columbia University, helped too.

Journolist members signed the statement and released it April 18, calling the debate “a revolting descent into tabloid journalism and a gross disservice to Americans concerned about the great issues facing the nation and the world.”

The letter caused a brief splash and won the attention of the New York Times. But only a week later, Obama – and the journalists who were helping him – were on the defensive once again.

Jeremiah Wright was back in the news after making a series of media appearances. At the National Press Club, Wright claimed Obama had only repudiated his beliefs for “political reasons.” Wright also reiterated his charge that the U.S. federal government had created AIDS as a means of committing genocide against African Americans.

It was another crisis, and members of Journolist again rose to help Obama.

Chris Hayes of the Nation posted on April 29, 2008, urging his colleagues to ignore Wright. Hayes directed his message to “particularly those in the ostensible mainstream media” who were members of the list.

The Wright controversy, Hayes argued, was not about Wright at all. Instead, “It has everything to do with the attempts of the right to maintain control of the country.”

Hayes castigated his fellow liberals for criticizing Wright. “All this hand wringing about just
how awful and odious Rev. Wright remarks are just keeps the hustle going.”

“Our country disappears people. It tortures people. It has the blood of as many as one million Iraqi civilians — men, women, children, the infirmed — on its hands. You’ll forgive me if I just can’t quite dredge up the requisite amount of outrage over Barack Obama’s pastor,” Hayes wrote.

Hayes urged his colleagues – especially the straight news reporters who were charged with covering the campaign in a neutral way – to bury the Wright scandal. “I’m not saying we should all rush en masse to defend Wright. If you don’t think he’s worthy of defense, don’t defend him! What I’m saying is that there is no earthly reason to use our various platforms to discuss what about Wright we find objectionable,” Hayes said.

(Reached by phone Monday, Hayes argued his words then fell on deaf ears. “I can say ‘hey I don’t think you guys should cover this,’ but no one listened to me.”)

Katha Pollitt – Hayes’s colleague at the Nation – didn’t disagree on principle, though she did sound weary of the propaganda. “I hear you. but I am really tired of defending the indefensible. The people who attacked Clinton on Monica were prissy and ridiculous, but let me tell you it was no fun, as a feminist and a woman, waving aside as politically irrelevant and part of the vast rightwing conspiracy Paula, Monica, Kathleen, Juanita,” Pollitt said.

“Part of me doesn’t like this shit either,” agreed Spencer Ackerman, then of the Washington Independent. “But what I like less is being governed by racists and warmongers and criminals.”

Ackerman went on:

I do not endorse a Popular Front, nor do I think you need to. It’s not necessary to jump to Wright-qua-Wright’s defense. What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger’s [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. Obviously I mean this rhetorically.

And I think this threads the needle. If the right forces us all to either defend Wright or tear him down, no matter what we choose, we lose the game they’ve put upon us. Instead, take one of them — Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country? What lurks behind those problems? This makes *them* sputter with rage, which in turn leads to overreaction and self-destruction.

Ackerman did allow there were some Republicans who weren’t racists. “We’ll know who doesn’t deserve this treatment — Ross Douthat, for instance — but the others need to get it.” He also said he had begun to implement his plan. “I previewed it a bit on my blog last week after Commentary wildly distorted a comment Joe Cirincione made to make him appear like (what else) an antisemite. So I said: why is it that so many on the right have such a problem with the first viable prospective African-American president?”

Several members of the list disagreed with Ackerman – but only on strategic grounds.

“Spencer, you’re wrong,” wrote Mark Schmitt, now an editor at the American Prospect. “Calling Fred Barnes a racist doesn’t further the argument, and not just because Juan Williams is his new black friend, but because that makes it all about character. The goal is to get to the point where you can contrast some _thing_ — Obama’s substantive agenda — with this crap.”

(In an interview Monday, Schmitt declined to say whether he thought Ackerman’s plan was wrong. “That is not a question I’m going to answer,” he said.)

Kevin Drum, then of Washington Monthly, also disagreed with Ackerman’s strategy. “I think it’s worth keeping in mind that Obama is trying (or says he’s trying) to run a campaign that avoids precisely the kind of thing Spencer is talking about, and turning this into a gutter brawl would probably hurt the Obama brand pretty strongly. After all, why vote for him if it turns out he’s not going change the way politics works?”

But it was Ackerman who had the last word. “Kevin, I’m not saying OBAMA should do this. I’m saying WE should do this.”

Read more:
26700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Kagan on: July 20, 2010, 11:16:54 AM

BTW, amidst his innumerable "present" votes while an IL legislator, BO voted for a remarkably extreme partial birth abortion law.  Anyone have details at hand?
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