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26751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: August 11, 2007, 01:09:51 AM
Bush orders new crackdown on U.S. border

By: Mike Allen
Aug 9, 2007 08:53 PM EST
 
 
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The Bush administration announced plans Friday to enlist state and local law enforcement in cracking down on illegal immigrants, which previously was largely a federal function.

The administration unveiled a series of tough border control and employer enforcement measures designed to make up for security provisions that failed when Congress rejected a broad rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws in June.

The plans were announced by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez.

The package revealed Friday has 26 elements, and the administration announcement said they "represent steps the Administration can take within the boundaries of existing law to secure our borders more effectively, improve interior and worksite enforcement, streamline existing guest worker programs, improve the current immigration system, and help new immigrants assimilate into American culture.

After the announcement, President Bush released a statement in Kennebunkport, Maine, saying that despite the failure of Congress to pass a new law, his administration "will continue to take every possible step to build upon the progress already made in strengthening our borders, enforcing our worksite laws, keeping our economy well-supplied with vital workers, and helping new Americans learn English."

As part of the new measures, the secretary of Homeland Security will deliver regular “State of the Border” reports beginning this fall.

In one of the most interesting revelations, the plans call for the administration to “train growing numbers of state and local law enforcement officers to identify and detain immigration offenders whom they encounter in the course of daily law enforcement.”

“By this fall, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will have quintupled the number of enforcement teams devoted to removing fugitive aliens (from 15 to 75 in less than three years),” a summary of the plan states.

The announcement is aimed at restoring Bush’s credibility with conservatives who were dismayed that he pushed so hard for broad immigration reform, including a guest worker program for people now here illegally, before the border was more secure.

“The biggest message that emerged from this failed immigration bill is that if immigration reform is to happen in the future, they must first restore the American people's confidence that the federal government is serious about securing our borders and enforcing our immigration laws,” said a Senate Republican leadership official. “Frankly, this should have been addressed several years ago.”

 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney jumped on the announcement with a supportive statement ahead of Saturday's straw poll in Iowa, calling the new package "a weclome development" and declaring that the nation "must get serious if we are to secure our nation's borders."

As part of the package, Bush is planning to increase muscle at the Mexican border, as conservatives have long pleaded.

“The administration will add more border personnel and infrastructure, going beyond previously announced targets,” according to the summary. “The Departments of State and Homeland Security will expand the list of international gangs whose members are automatically denied admission to the U.S.”

Employers will face tough new scrutiny and requirements. “There are now 29 categories of documents that employers must accept to establish identity and work eligibility among their workers,” the summary says. “The Department of Homeland Security will reduce that number and weed out the most insecure.”

“The Department of Homeland Security will raise the civil fines imposed on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants by approximately 25 percent,” the summary continues. “The administration will continue its aggressive expansion of criminal investigations against employers who knowingly hire large numbers of illegal aliens.”

The administration is promising to reduce processing times for immigration background checks by adding agents and converting paper documentation to electronic forms.

And the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration say they will study and report on the technical and recordkeeping changes necessary to deny credit in our Social Security system for illegal work.

Under the tougher menu, the administration vows to fund additional beds for people caught breaching the border, ensuring that illegal entrants are returned to Mexico rather than being let go because there’s no space for them, as often occurred in the past.

“The administration will implement an exit requirement at airports and seaports by the end of 2008, and will launch a pilot land-border exit system for guest workers,” the summary says. “By the end of 2008, the administration will require most arrivals at our ports-of-entry to use passports or similarly secure documents.”

Other elements of the package:

—The Department of Labor will reform the H-2A agriculture worker program so farmers can readily hire legal temporary workers, while protecting their rights.

—The Department of Labor will issue regulations streamlining the H-2B program for non-agricultural seasonal workers.

—The Department of Homeland Security will extend, from one year to three, the length of the NAFTA-created TN visa for professional workers from Canada and Mexico, removing the administrative hassle of annual renewals for these talented workers.

—The Office of Citizenship will unveil in September a revised naturalization test that emphasizes fundamentals of American democracy, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

—The Office of Citizenship will introduce a Web-based electronic training program and convene eight regional training conferences for volunteers and adult educators who lead immigrants through the naturalization process.

—The Department of Education will develop a free, Web-based model to help immigrants learn English.
 
http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0807/5323.html
26752  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Suzanne Spezzano: Majadpahit Silat on: August 10, 2007, 11:10:24 PM
Things are super adventurous for me at the moment, so a proper full-length review from me will have to wait a bit, but for the moment I will say that Pappy's description is right on.
26753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: August 10, 2007, 11:00:58 PM
Ambitions
August 10, 2007 21 18  GMT



Summary

Talk of Russia making a grand return to the Mediterranean by developing a naval base off the Syrian coast has given Syria a unique opportunity to play off a resurrection of Cold War tensions between Washington and Moscow. Though a Russian naval presence on Syrian soil would give Damascus a stronger deterrence against external aggression, the Syrian regime is not willing to sell its national security to the Russians just yet. For now, Syria's focus will remain on using the Iraq negotiations to break out of its diplomatic isolation.

Analysis

Speculation is arising over the seriousness of Russia's plan to resurrect its naval presence on the Mediterranean. So far, Syria has gone out of its way to deny that any such plan exists, insisting that all talk of Russia using Syrian port facilities in Tartus and Latakia is a figment of Israel's propaganda machine.

But beyond the statements, Syria is facing a very interesting political decision. Russia sees a window of opportunity in which the United States' attention is absorbed in Iraq and in its intensely delicate negotiations with Iran. Though the thought of Russia sending warships to the Mediterranean could have provoked a strong U.S. response a decade ago, it is no secret that the U.S. military's bandwidth is greatly constrained and there is room for other major powers -- like Russia -- to start playing in the Middle Eastern sandbox again.

A Russian naval presence off the Syrian coast could allow Syrian President Bashar al Assad's regime to better inoculate itself against a potential attack by the United States or Israel. Damascus is nervously watching for any movement in the U.S.-Iran talks over Iraq. Like the Russians, the Syrians enjoy the fact that U.S. military forces have their hands too full to seriously think about engaging them in a round of forceful behavior modification. With or without a solid political resolution in Baghdad, the U.S. military position in Iraq is not going to last forever, and Syria will not be able to stay under the radar as easily as it has over the past six years. Without a strong defensive missile shield of its own, the Syrians could look to their Russian guests at Tartus and Latakia to get the Israelis, Americans or even the Turks to think twice about threatening Syria militarily.

At most, a Russian naval presence off the Syrian coast would complicate plans to strike Syria. The Russians have pledged to set up sophisticated air defenses around the Latakia and Tartus naval bases that will also provide an air umbrella for the entire Syrian coast and parts of the hinterland. Syria has formally depended on Russia for military supplies and training since the Cold War. While the supplies are nice, Damascus still does not view Russia as a reliable military ally should things come to a head. Al Assad likely remembers well his father's distrust of Kremlin support during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, in which both the United States and the Soviet Union worked to ensure the war ended in a stalemate. Syria has also watched how the Russians have strung along the Iranians over the construction of the Bushehr nuclear reactor (now running a decade behind schedule), and has not enjoyed having to grovel for arms sales, particularly during Russian President Vladimir Putin's reign.

Though trust is very much an issue, a Russian naval fleet would still serve a clear purpose in Syria's view. The United States would unlikely be prepared to risk engaging in a military confrontation with Russia (which could very well lead to a crisis with Washington's European allies) on any level for the sake of targeting the Syrian regime. Furthermore, Israel would be troubled by -- among other things -- the potential concurrent deployment of land-based air defense assets, like late-model S300 batteries, to a Russian facility. These are highly capable air defense assets that Syria has been trying to acquire for a decade. Though Damascus could not rely on them to actually defend Syrian interests, their mere presence would change the threat environment for Israel and make things like low-level flights over al Assad's summer home in Latakia a bit riskier. In short, the Russians would be offering an attractive insurance policy for the Syrians.

But Syria is also looking at another window of opportunity in Iraq, where it sees the United States desperate for a political resolution. Syria is in the process of demonstrating in any way possible that it can play a key role in suppressing the Iraq insurgency and getting Iraq's former Baathists on board with a political deal. The Iraq negotiations would then serve as an avenue for Syria to extract political concessions in Lebanon and break out of its diplomatic isolation by normalizing relations with the United States, moving al Assad a huge step ahead in his quest for national security. The Syrian regime is also well aware that Israel and the United States privately prefer keeping the al Assad regime intact for lack of a better, non-Islamist alternative. As long as al Assad faces no immediate threat of regime change, he has ample room to negotiate his way to Washington's good side while the Iraq talks are in play.

Moreover, the Syrians cannot expect the Russians to show up on their doorstep anytime soon. While Russia could park a handful of surface combatants from the Black Sea Fleet in Tartus or Latakia tomorrow, the construction of more meaningful naval facilities takes time and considerable investment. There is no clear indication that Russia has a genuine interest in making such an investment now, though Moscow has much to gain by talking about it and playing up the threat of Russia's expansionist desires.

The Syrians likely will keep the Russian naval option on the table, but for now al Assad's focus is on exploiting the Iraq talks to gain U.S. recognition. So far, this plan is progressing, with Syria just having wrapped up a two-day international security conference -- attended by the United States -- aimed at stabilizing Iraq. The United States is also looking into different ways to work with the Syrians while appearing to keep its guard up, including channeling messages through the Canadians to the Syrian regime.

Damascus will publicly downplay any talk of the Russian naval fleet to avoid rocking the boat with Washington while the Iraq negotiations are in progress. But should Syria feel the United States is not willing to play ball over Iraq, the Russian naval base option gives Damascus a most useful bargaining chip to play both sides of the U.S.-Russian divide

stratfor.com
26754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: August 10, 2007, 09:01:46 AM
Second post of the morning:

Geopolitical Diary: Russian 'Smiles'

The commander of Russia's strategic bomber force, Maj. Gen. Pavel Androsov, announced with a bit of flair Thursday that two of his Tu-95 bombers had ventured down to the U.S. military base at Guam during the Valiant Shield 2007 exercises involving nearly 100 U.S. aircraft in the Western Pacific, and had "exchanged smiles" with U.S. fighter pilots before turning back toward home. The incident actually happened Wednesday; the U.S. military only rarely comments on Russian forces buzzing U.S. assets, in order to minimize Russian public relations buzz. True to form, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a two-sentence statement downplaying the entire incident.

Wednesday's flight came amid an annual training exercise for the Russian 37th Air Army, and in the wake of several similar incidents this summer north of Fife, Scotland. Post-Cold War Russian military posturing and testing of foreign airspace is nothing new. But the flight to Guam is noteworthy nonetheless.

The incident is only the most recent in a long line of aggressive Russian actions. In the summer to date, similar intrusions have occurred off Alaska, Norway, the United Kingdom, Iceland and Japan. Russian "youth movements" have sparked riots in Estonia, the Russian Strategic Rocket Forces has threatened to put nuclear weapons back in the Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad, the navy has mused about a permanent base in Syria, and Russian jets stand accused of firing a missile on Georgia. Taken together, all of this is simply normal Russian behavior.

For 1985, that is.

Since 1989, Russian military assets have on occasion challenged a maritime border or buzzed an aircraft carrier, but such developments have not been weekly events since the Cold War. This sort of activity is a new -- or perhaps we should say, "old" -- chapter in Russian strategic thinking.

The story of Russia in the 17 years since the Cold War ended has been one of precipitous decline economically, politically, militarily and demographically. However, during President Vladimir Putin's two terms, Russia has arrested -- and haltingly reversed -- the first three declines. This does not mean the Russians have truly turned the corner -- the economy is more addicted to commodity exports than ever before, the Kremlin is closer to political ossification than the "efficiency" of a true autocracy, and new or well-maintained military equipment is certainly not the norm -- but a floor has definitely been inserted under the country, halting the fall.

Military reform has been under way for some time. That the Russian army has professionalized itself down below 200,000 conscripts is, in and of itself, an amazing achievement. But while deliberate, the task remains daunting, and the pace slow. Yet even if Russia had stopped its military research and development programs -- which it did not -- even late-Soviet military technology would leave Russia in a unique military position. And as the recent military adventurism vividly demonstrates, there is a pattern in Russian actions: the incidents are not isolated, and there is no direction in which the Russians are not pushing out. This is a strategy that has an excitingly (and disturbingly) familiar feel to it.

The American Cold War strategy of "containment" was not something dreamed up on some idle Tuesday. The geography of the former Soviet Union is hostile not just to economic and political development, but also to military expansion. Vast interior distances make the transport of armies as difficult as that of goods, while natural maritime choke points like the Japanese Islands, the Turkish straits and "The Sound" between Sweden and Denmark naturally limit Moscow's naval reach -- and have for centuries. The bottom line for the United States was that by aligning with all of Russia's neighbors, it could force the Soviet Union to focus on building tanks to defend is mass -- because Moscow never knew from which direction an attack (or multiple attacks) would come.

Yet just as Eurasia's geography dictated the containment strategy, that same geography predetermined the Russian counterstrategy. Russia's one advantage in fact mirrors its greatest disadvantage: its huge expanse is difficult to defend -- the source of the paranoia that most associate with all things Russian -- but it also grants whoever rules Russia a wealth of options in terms of where to strike out. Russia's counterstrategy was simple: push out everywhere until a weak spot appears in the containment cordon.

Though the Cold War ended, containment never really did, and it has been nearly a generation since the Russians tested their cage. Russia -- and the world -- has changed in fundamental ways. But ultimately the biggest difference between now and 1991 is not so much Russia's relative weakness or America's relative preoccupation with Iraq, but Washington's list of allies. It is longer -- and less militarily capable -- than ever.

And therein lies the rub. The real key to containment was not the belt of Russian border states, but the American commitment to guarantee their security. What ultimately made containment work was the belief that the United States would be willing to meet Russia on the field of battle wherever and whenever Moscow pushed. Washington utterly lacked the freedom to decline any fight for fear that the entire alliance structure of containment would unravel. The most famous examples of these tests of American resolve are the wars in Korea and Vietnam.

Weak spots aplenty can be found on the Russian periphery these days. Georgia is a failed state even on the brightest of days; the Baltic states are no less defensible against the Red Army now than they were when they broke away from the Soviet Union in 1991; the entire Russian-Kazakh border is more of a joke than the U.S.-Canadian border in terms of security; Washington's once-solid relations with Russian borderlands such as Turkey and Korea are not what they once were; and Germany, France and the United Kingdom are, if anything, even less interested in going to bat for Lithuania than Washington is.

Ultimately, the disparity between Androsov's announcement and the Pentagon's bureaucratic reply is symptomatic of the way each nation sees its old Cold War adversary. Pentagon planners do not talk about Russia like they used to. They do -- and not without some cause -- crack jokes, something that is actually rather easy to do when one considers that the propeller-driven Tu-95s, designed in the early 1950s, were "intruding" on the newest fighter jets in the world, zipping supersonically around Guam.

But the simple truth of the matter is that Russia is one of only two countries in the world that can casually move strategic offensive weapons like the air-launched AS-15 cruise missiles across the face of the planet. The Tu-95 is certainly not a top-shelf plane these days -- but when it's carrying a highly accurate cruise missile with an 1,800-mile range and a nuclear warhead, it doesn't have to be.

The credibility of containment comes down to perception as much as the hard and fast details of competing military hardware. And managing perception -- as the "exchanged smiles" over Guam indicate -- remains a Russian skill second to none.

stratfor.com
26755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The New Right to Life on: August 10, 2007, 08:23:26 AM
WSJ

The New Right to Life
By ROGER PILON
August 10, 2007; Page A11

The wheels of justice turn slowly, especially for the dying. On Tuesday the D.C. Circuit, sitting en banc, reversed a 15-month-old decision by a panel of the court that had recognized a constitutional right of terminally ill patients to access potentially life-saving drugs not yet finally approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Given the poor quality of Tuesday's opinion in Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs v. Eschenbach -- "startling," said the dissent -- one wonders why it took so long. The opinion's one virtue is that it brings out clearly how far modern "constitutional law" has strayed from the Constitution, a document written to protect liberty, not federal regulatory schemes.

 
Represented by the Washington Legal Foundation, Abigail Alliance is named for Abigail Burroughs, a 21-year-old college student who died of cancer in 2001. Their argument could not be more simple or straightforward, nor could Tuesday's dissent, written by Judge Judith Rogers and joined by Chief Judge Douglas Ginsburg, the majority in the earlier opinion. Citing the Fifth Amendment's right to life, the Ninth Amendment's assurance to the Constitution's ratifiers that the rights retained by the people far exceed those named in the document, and the Supreme Court's "fundamental rights" jurisprudence, Judge Rogers argued that the right to life, the right to self-preservation, and the right against interference with those rights -- which the FDA is guilty of -- are of one piece. They are deeply rooted in common law and the nation's history and traditions, implicit in the concept of ordered liberty, and thus "fundamental."

Indeed, it is startling, she noted, that the rights "to marry, to fornicate, to have children, to control the education and upbringing of children, to perform varied sexual acts in private, and to control one's own body have all been deemed fundamental, but the right to try to save one's life is left out in the cold despite its textual anchor in the right to life." Because the rights at issue here are "fundamental," she concluded, the court must apply, in judicial parlance, "strict scrutiny." The burden is on the FDA to show why its interference is justified -- to show that its regulatory interests are compelling and its means narrowly tailored to serve those interests.

There, precisely, is where Tuesday's majority demurred. In a long footnote, Judge Thomas Griffith, who had dissented in the earlier opinion but wrote now for the majority, recast the right at issue as "the right to access experimental and unproven drugs in an attempt to save one's life." Through such "tragic wordplay," as the dissent put it, the right ceases to be "fundamental," under Supreme Court precedents, because it is "not deeply rooted in the Nation's history and traditions."

So described, the right is not "deeply rooted," of course, because the very idea of "experimental and unproven drugs" implies a regulatory regime like the FDA, and that is a recent development. Yet as the dissent detailed, for most of our history individuals were free to take whatever drugs they wanted without a doctor's prescription. It was only in 1951 that Congress created a category of prescription drugs. Then in 1962 it began requiring drug companies to conduct extensive tests to ensure drug "efficacy," which led to long delays for drug approval and to the deaths of countless patients who would gladly have borne the unknown risks for a chance at life.

As a legal matter, what Judge Griffith achieved with his linguistic legerdemain was a shift in the burden of proof: No longer would the government need to justify its restrictions; the dying would have to try to overcome those restrictions. But that would be impossible because now the court would no longer strictly scrutinize the government's rationale. Rather, it would apply a "rational basis" test under which the government would win as long as it had any reason for restricting access. Deference so complete, the dissent noted, amounts to nothing less than "judicial abdication."

Plainly, the issues here go well beyond this case, which is doubtless why the court decided to rehear it en banc. And they go beyond liberal and conservative as well, as the mixed seven who joined Judge Griffith's opinion should indicate. What we have here, arguably, is a revolt of sorts by Judge Rogers and Chief Judge Ginsburg against what passes today for "constitutional law." Reducing that revolt to a simple question: Under a Constitution that expressly protects the right to life, how did we get to where government can effectively restrict the right, and the courts will do nothing?

The answer for liberal jurists is simple. Since the Progressive Era they've worked assiduously to create the modern redistributive and regulatory state, constitutional impediments notwithstanding. Following Franklin Roosevelt's infamous 1937 threat to pack the Supreme Court with six new members, the Court facilitated that agenda by distinguishing "fundamental" and "nonfundamental" rights, protected by "strict scrutiny" and "rational basis scrutiny" respectively. That invention opened the floodgates to ever-expanding legislative schemes. But liberals didn't always win in the legislatures, so they turned increasingly to the courts, urging judges to find "fundamental" rights by consulting "evolving social values."

That led to a conservative backlash and a call for "judicial restraint," especially after the Court found a fundamental "right" to abortion in 1973. Both sides, therefore, have reasons to urge judicial restraint and deference to the administrative state. Modern liberals don't want judges interfering with the legislative creation of the welfare state's social and economic rights. Conservatives hope to frustrate those legislative efforts while forestalling the judicial creation of such rights. Thus, they urge judges to protect only those rights found expressly in the Constitution -- and will describe rights, as here, to avoid even the hint of judicial activism.

In a word, then, liberal jurists could rule against Abigail Alliance to ensure the dominance of the regulatory regime. Conservative jurists, viewing that regime as "settled law," could do likewise to avoid even the appearance of judicial activism. The approach of liberals is understandable: Long ago they abandoned the written for the "living" Constitution, which enables ad hoc adjudication, the rule of law notwithstanding. The approach of conservative "originalists," however, is less easily explained, since they purport to take the Constitution seriously.

Yet in Robert Bork's "The Tempting of America," where conservatives often turn, we find an answer. Describing what he calls the "Madisonian dilemma," Judge Bork writes that America's "first principle is self-government, which means that in wide areas of life majorities are entitled to rule, if they wish, simply because they are majorities. The second principle is that there are nonetheless some things majorities must not do to minorities, some areas of life in which the individual must be free of majority rule." (emphasis added)

That turns Madison on his head. James Madison stood for limited government, not wide-ranging democracy. His first principle was that in wide areas individuals are entitled to be free simply because they are born free. His second principle was that in some areas majorities are entitled to rule because we have authorized them to. That gets the order right: individual liberty first, self-government second, as a means for securing liberty.

Yet we repeatedly see conservative jurists, as here, ignoring the true Madison -- deferring to the legislature when their duty, as Madison put it, is to stand as "an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive." A perfect example is Justice Antonin Scalia's dissent in a 2000 case, Troxel v. Granville, which found that Washington State's grandparent visitation act violated the right of fit parents to control access to their children. Dissenting, Justice Scalia argued that although the parental right is among the unalienable rights proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence and the unenumerated rights retained pursuant to the Ninth Amendment, that amendment does not authorize "judges to identify what [those rights] might be, and to enforce the judges' list against laws duly enacted by the people." Thus, just as the Abigail Alliance majority did, he would defer to the legislature to tell us what those rights are -- the very legislature that had extinguished the parental right that he had just located in the Ninth Amendment.

The problem with that view, of course, is that it renders the Ninth Amendment a nullity -- hardly what an originalist wants. Moreover, while recognizing retained unenumerated rights as "constitutional," it reduces them to a second class status since they are unenforceable. And that means they are not rights at all since rights are invoked, in the political context, only defensively, against threats from the majority. Yet on this view they can be extinguished by a mere majority.

There is, of course, no bright line between enumerated and unenumerated rights. In interpreting the Constitution, inferences are essential. As Judge Rogers put it, "were it impermissible to draw any inferences from a broader right to a narrower right, nearly all of the Supreme Court's substantive due process case law would be out of bounds." The only question, therefore, is whether the inferences are drawn correctly, and from sound underlying principles. To do that well, however, judges must have a sure grasp of those principles. That is the main problem today, as Tuesday's decision illustrates. The Framers would be appalled to see federal bureaucrats standing between dying patients and the medicines that might save them -- sanctioned by a Constitution turned upside-down. Fortunately, this case will be appealed and the Supreme Court may yet examine it afresh.

Mr. Pilon is vice president for legal affairs at the Cato Institute and director of Cato's Center for Constitutional Studies.

26756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: August 10, 2007, 12:09:36 AM
The stock market is looking pretty scary  shocked  but a good day for my LNOP smiley

Anyway the market would surely like the following:

Cap-Gains Logic
By DONALD L. LUSKIN
August 10, 2007; Page A10

Here's some advice to the Democrats on how to raise the revenues they'll need to pay for all the spending they have in mind. Don't hike the capital gains tax rate. Don't lower it, either. Eliminate the capital gains tax entirely.

How can tax revenues be increased by eliminating a tax? It's simple, when the tax in question is on capital gains. Capital itself exerts a multiplier effect that benefits the entire economy. Investment in new plant, equipment, business processes and whole companies creates new and higher paying jobs, and higher levels of economic activity, all of which generate additional tax revenues far in excess of what government would lose by foregoing cap-gains taxes.

This idea has broad theoretical support. Former Clinton Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers has written, "the elimination of capital income taxation would have very substantial economic effects" which "might raise steady-state output by as much as 18%." Economist Jack L. Treynor has shown that "the level of taxation on capital that is 'fairest' -- i.e., most beneficial -- to labor is zero." And Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert E. Lucas, Jr., has concluded, "neither capital gains nor any of the income from capital should be taxed at all." These economists think in terms of very complex models. But the real-world intuition here is quite straightforward.

The cap-gains tax is a barrier to the investment of capital. Without it, capital will flow to investments that otherwise wouldn't have been made. The cost of eliminating the barrier is foregone revenues from that particular tax. But those revenues are small, usually deferred and non-recurring. In their place, government receives large and recurring revenues from corporate taxes, sales taxes, wage taxes and dividend taxes -- all generated by new economic activity.

The cap-gains tax is a poor revenue raiser, because any given capital gain is a one-time event that can only be taxed once, and in many cases, ends up not being taxed at all. Consider Microsoft. Since the company went public 20 years ago, its market value has increased by about $275 billion. A generous estimate of the cap-gains tax revenues we could expect from this increase is about $40 billion.

Actual collections will surely be less. Many shares will never be sold -- held by founders who wish to retain control, or by people who wish to avoid paying taxes. Many shares will be gifted to charitable foundations, as Bill Gates has done for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, out of the tax collector's reach. Even for those shares that will eventually be sold, from today's perspective the resulting tax revenues have to be discounted, as they won't be collected for years.

At the same time, Microsoft has been a fountain of other tax revenues. Since the company went public, I estimate that, in cumulative present-value terms, corporate taxes already paid total roughly $60 billion; sales taxes paid by Microsoft's customers total roughly $11 billion; income taxes paid by Microsoft's employees total roughly $12 billion, and dividend taxes paid by Microsoft's shareholders total about $3 billion. These four sources of tax revenues over the last 20 years total $86 billion -- more than twice our generous estimate of the notional cap-gains tax revenues ($40 billion) for the same period.

Moreover, unless Microsoft's stock price increases -- which it's had a hard time doing the last couple years -- the estimated $40 billion in cap-gains tax revenues will never grow to a larger number. But corporate taxes, sales taxes, income taxes and dividend taxes will continue to be generated year after year. Even if assuming Microsoft's business stops growing (it has been reliably growing at better than 10% per year), the present value of the tax revenues from these other sources is roughly $182 billion. Added to the revenues already collected, the total is $268 billion.

There is also all the new taxable economic activity enabled by Microsoft's products. It's impossible to estimate a dollar value for it, but we can be sure it is a multiple of the value created within Microsoft. In this context, there is nothing unique about Microsoft. Anytime capital is invested, the small, deferred and non-recurring revenues that can be expected from the cap-gains tax are a tiny fraction of the perpetual revenues from other economic activities, generated directly and indirectly.

While eliminating the cap-gains tax may well induce companies like Microsoft to generate additional taxable activity, there's a more important opportunity here. Eliminating the cap-gains tax will cause the economy to generate more innovators like Microsoft.

For each new Microsoft, the cost to government would mean $40 billion in foregone revenues. But for those new Microsofts that wouldn't have existed otherwise, the payoff would mean raking in $268 billion.

That's a smart trade-off. If the Democrats were really interested in raising revenues -- and not just making life harder for a handful of wealthy private equity players -- it's a trade-off they should eagerly make.

Mr. Luskin is chief investment officer of Trend Macrolytics LLC.
WSJ
26757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: August 10, 2007, 12:06:08 AM
Young Russia's Enemy No. 1
Anti-Americanism Grows

Vladimir Putin's belligerent rhetoric and actions toward the United States and its allies have begun prompting pundits to debate whether a new Cold War is afoot. But how has the Russian president's message played to his home audience? A survey we commissioned by the Levada Analytic Center of 1,802 Russians ages 16 to 29 offers some insight. We focused on this "Putin generation" because it is Russia's political and economic future. In the days after the Soviet collapse, it seemed reasonable to hope, even expect, that this generation, as the collective beneficiaries of a putative post-Soviet transition to economic prosperity and political freedom, would embrace the United States as a friend of Russia. Yet our survey, conducted in April and May, found that a majority of young Russians view the United States as enemy No. 1. And while Putin's rhetoric is driving this development, human rights violations associated with U.S. counterterrorism policies have played a role.

Putin has become increasingly vocal in his accusations that the United States seeks to impose its ideas and interests on the rest of the world, going so far as to liken American policies to those of the Third Reich. He frequently cites the "dangers" of foreign influence, suggesting that Russia is encircled by enemies and that foreign governments finance Russian organizations to meddle in Russia's affairs. Putin virulently rejects any foreign criticism of episodes from Russia's Soviet past or of such current policies as media restrictions, brutality in the North Caucasus and the persecution of Kremlin opponents. This campaign seems motivated by domestic political considerations; the creation of foreign "enemies" is a tactic long used to distract people from the shortcomings of their own government, rally support for authoritarian measures, or both.

But these themes resonate with young Russians. Nearly 80 percent agreed that "the United States tries to impose its norms and way of life on the rest of the world," we found. Nearly 70 percent disagreed that the United States "does more good than harm." Three-quarters agreed that the "United States gives aid in order to influence the internal politics of countries."

When asked which of five words best described the United States in relation to Russia, 64 percent chose either "enemy" or "rival." We asked the same question in regard to six other countries. Georgia, another target of Putin's, ranked second in terms of the percentage who chose these words -- but that was only at 44 percent. The other countries were less likely to be viewed as enemies or rivals, even though some represent an arguably equal or greater threat: China (27 percent), Iran (21 percent), Ukraine (21 percent), Germany (13 percent) and Belarus (12 percent). Substantially more than the 18 percent who described America as a "partner" or "ally" used these positive terms to characterize the other countries. Putin's rhetoric is an influence on these and two other findings: 54 percent agreed that Stalin "did more good than bad" and 63 percent agreed that the Soviet collapse was the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th Century."

We also found that Bush administration counterterrorism policies have helped the Kremlin cultivate this hostility toward America. Critics of certain U.S. policies assert that practices departing from long-standing international law -- such as indefinite detention and extraordinary rendition -- are linked to the worldwide decline of America's reputation and moral sway, key elements of "soft" power. Our data support these claims. Respondents tended to believe that the United States tortures terrorism suspects (52 percent), renders them to countries that practice torture (44 percent) and detains them without due process or legal representation (46 percent). Very few respondents -- 9 to 13 percent -- believed these allegations to be false; the rest found it "hard to say."

Generally, respondents condemned these practices (42 to 57 percent, with only 15 to 29 percent approving). Moreover, our statistical modeling demonstrates that perceptions of American human rights violations relate directly to anti-American sentiment: Young Russians who believed that the United States tortures or unlawfully detains terrorist suspects had considerably more negative views of the U.S. government than those who did not.

The legacy of a new generation of Russians who are nostalgic for the Soviet Union, ambivalent about Stalin and hostile toward the United States may jeopardize U.S.-Russian relations long after Putin is gone. Thus, in addition to countering Putin's aggressive stance in the short term, this U.S. administration and the next needs to develop longer-term strategies to reverse the tide of growing anti-American sentiment among young Russians. Changing U.S. counterterrorism policies is a good place to start. The goal should be to restore the vision of America expressed by Andrei Sakharov: "In fact, we don't idealize America and see a lot that is bad or foolish in it, but America is a vital force, a positive factor in our chaotic world."

Sarah E. Mendelson directs the Human Rights and Security Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Theodore P. Gerber is a professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn...080202148.html
26758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 09, 2007, 11:06:53 PM
Some of the Dem candidates can be found in this compilation of "That was then, this is now".
26759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Asia on: August 09, 2007, 10:38:59 PM
http://abc.net.au/news/stories/2007/08/10/2001243.htm?section=justin
 
Two beheaded, clinics attacked in Thailand
Posted 6 hours 19 minutes ago


Two Buddhist health workers have been gunned down in a clinic in Thailand's restive south, while two others were beheaded in a grisly killing spree blamed on separatist rebels, police say.

Three other people have been killed in shooting attacks around the Muslim-majority region bordering Malaysia, in the latest sign of intensifying violence this month.  The attacks came as authorities stepped up a crackdown on separatists in the region where more than 2,400 people have been killed and thousands more wounded since the unrest broke out in January 2004.

The two health workers were killed inside a clinic in Pattani province late on Wednesday (local time), when militants stormed into the building and shot them at their desks, police said.

Authorities shut down 15 nearby clinics in response and could not say when they would reopen.  Separatist rebels also torched two schools in Pattani, gutting the buildings early on Thursday.  Rebels often attack government schools as they are seen as symbols of Thailand's attempt to impose Buddhist Thai culture on the Muslim-majority region.  Meanwhile, militants have beheaded two elderly Buddhists inside their homes in Pattani and then set the houses on fire, police say.

The charred remains of the headless bodies were found early on Thursday.

In nearby Narathiwat province, three people including a soldier were killed in separate shootings.

The restive region was once an autonomous Malay sultanate until Buddhist Thailand annexed it a century ago. Separatist violence has flared periodically ever since.  After the military seized power in Thailand last September, the post-coup Government offered a series of olive branches to the militants but the unrest has only worsened.  This year the Government has boosted military spending and deployed more security forces as part of a tougher approach to tackling the militants.  More than 200 people are being held at army bases around the region as part of the Government's latest crackdown.

 
26760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islamist-Mexican ties on: August 09, 2007, 10:36:15 PM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070809/NATION/108090085/1001
 
Californian seeks hearing on Islamic, Mexican ties
By Sara A. Carter
August 9, 2007


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

A ranking House Republican yesterday demanded a hearing based on recent reports that Islamic terrorists embedded in the United States are teaming with Mexican drug cartels to fund terrorism networks overseas.

Rep. Ed Royce, ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs terrorism and nonproliferation subcommittee, said the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) document ? first reported yesterday by The Washington Times ? highlights how vulnerable the nation is when fighting the war on terrorism.

"I'll be asking the terrorism subcommittee to hold a hearing on the DEA report's disturbing findings," said Mr. Royce of California. "A flood of name changes from Arabic to Hispanic and the reported linking of drug cartels on the Texas border with Middle East terrorism needs to be thoroughly investigated."

Likewise, Rep. John Culberson, Texas Republican, said the DEA document revealed startling evidence that Islamic radicals are camouflaging themselves as Hispanics while conducting business with violent drug-trafficking organizations.

"I have been ringing the bell about this serious threat of Islamic individuals changing their surnames to Hispanic surnames for three to four years," Mr. Culberson said. "Unfortunately, Homeland Security's highest priority is to hide the truth from Congress and the public. I just hope we're not closing the barn door after terrorists have already made their way in."

Mr. Culberson, a member of the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, yesterday wrote a letter to the subcommittee's chairman, Rep. David E. Price, North Carolina Democrat, requesting a full investigation and hearing into the matter. A spokesman for Mr. Price said the committee is contacting the law-enforcement agencies and will work closely with Mr. Culberson's office on the matter.

"We certainly want to learn more about the matter from the agencies involved," said Paul Cox, press secretary to Mr. Price.

The 2005 DEA report outlines several incidents in which multiple Middle Eastern drug-trafficking and terrorist cells in the U.S. are funding terrorism networks overseas with the aid of Mexican cartels. These sleeper cells use established Mexican cartels with highly sophisticated trafficking routes to move narcotics ? and other contraband ? in and out of the United States, the report said.

These "persons of interest" speak Arabic, Spanish and Hebrew fluently, according to the document.

The report includes photographs of known Middle Easterners who "appear to be Hispanic; they are in fact, all Spanish-speaking Arabic drug traffickers supporting Middle East terrorism from their base of operations" in the southwestern United States, according to the DEA.

Michael Maxwell, a senior analyst with the House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee, said that the report is evidence that terrorism cells exist in the U.S. and are being aided by dangerous narco-trafficking cartels.

"While the procurement of fraudulent or multiple identities by terrorists to hide criminal activity is not new, the information suggests terrorist tradecraft is evolving and relationships now exist between Mexican and Middle Eastern individuals or groups, embedded here in the United States," he added.

The ties are as deep as family, according to the DEA report, which said that a Middle Eastern member of the Muslim Brotherhood, involved in narcotics sales and other crimes, married into a Mexican narcotics family.

"One of the targets of this investigation is an Arabic man," the document said.

A 2006 Department of Homeland Security intelligence report — also obtained by The Times — said that Al Qaeda has tried and is planning on using the Southwest border to enter the U.S.

Mark Juergensmeyer, director of the Orfalea Center for Global & International Studies at the University of California at Santa Barbara and a terrorism specialist, said that links between terrorism and narcotics trafficking have been well-established in foreign nations, such as Afghanistan.

But Mr. Juergensmeyer said the DEA report linking terrorist organizations in the United States to Mexican drug cartels displays a new evolution in terrorist tactics and poses a serious concern in the area of security.

"In some ways, that's even more frightening to think that drug-trafficking organizations in Mexico may adopt some jihadist ideology," he said. "If it's an ideology being adopted by a drug culture then that makes this situation very dangerous."

 
26761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: August 09, 2007, 10:25:14 PM
Prosperous Haven in Mexico Is Invaded by Drug Violence

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, August 4, 2007; A01



MONTERREY, Mexico -- Biti Rodriguez could have gone anywhere for her 10-year-old's birthday party. But Incredible Pizza, a mammoth restaurant and fun house tucked into the corner of a strip mall here, offered her something that suddenly has become a consuming obsession: safety.

She herded her daughter, Alejandra, and a dozen other giggling girls through two metal detectors one recent afternoon at this pizza parlor that promises "incredible security for your children," then dumped bags of presents on a table to be probed by a guard. It took a while to actually get inside, but Rodriguez didn't care. She thinks all the extra security is "super bien" -- super good.

Not so long ago, metal detectors at a pizza place would have been unimaginable in Monterrey, Mexico's third-largest metropolitan area, with more than 3.6 million residents. The city once seemed as if it could do no wrong -- two years ago it was named the safest city in Latin America by an international consulting group, it boasted the region's wealthiest residential neighborhood, and it was a strong competitor for the Major League Baseball franchise that became the Washington Nationals.

But in the past year, the drug violence raging across Mexico has landed hard in Monterrey, jarring residents who once felt immune to the shootouts so common in other big Mexican cities.

In the first six months of 2007, Monterrey registered 162 killings, nearly as many as were recorded in all of last year and about 50 more than in all of 2004. But it wasn't just the killings that shook up the Biti Rodriguezes of this city -- it was the brazenness of the killers.

A hit man walked calmly into the landmark Gran San Carlos restaurant, past rows of Monterrey's signature hanging roasted cabrito, or goat, and shot dead a man seated at a table beneath the stained-glass cupola. Gunmen launched volleys of bullets into a popular seafood restaurant at the height of the lunch rush, and police officers were mowed down in broad daylight.

The killings triggered tremors of fear. Newspapers now run daily tallies of slayings. A roadside hotel has advertised bulletproof rooms. Heavily armored cars have become a new status symbol, with corporate chieftains dishing out as much as $400,000 for Mercedes-Benz sedans that ward off not only bullets but also grenades. In the San Pedro Garza Garcia suburb, where hillside palaces rival the mansions of Beverly Hills, a new saying was born: "There are no Tuesdays without killings."

"I can't say Monterrey is the safest city in Mexico anymore -- that would be a lie," Jesús Marcos Giacomán, president of the 122-year-old Monterrey Chamber of Commerce and Tourism, said in an interview. "I can say we're going to make it the safest again."

An Economic Powerhouse

Monterrey wraps around the stunning, rocky peaks of the Sierra Madre, 130 miles southwest of McAllen, Tex. Gleaming towers form its skyline, and U.S.-style malls and upscale restaurants line its wide boulevards.

Known as the "Sultanate of the North" because of its popularity with Middle Eastern businessmen, Monterrey revved into an economic powerhouse after the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect in 1994. The world's largest cement maker is here, as well as Mexico's biggest beer producer and one of the world's largest glass manufacturers. Major American corporations operate huge plants.

For the past five years, Monterrey stayed mostly peaceful while the rival Sinaloa and Gulf drug cartels fought over territory in other cities near the border, such as Nuevo Laredo. But something more complicated has happened here in the past year, Aldo Fasci Zuazua, deputy attorney general of Nuevo Leon state, said in an interview at his Monterrey office.

For unknown reasons, the local drug lords who warehouse cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana for the big cartels began fighting each other, Fasci said. Their bloody battles unnerved the national and transnational cartels that counted on Monterrey's small-time operators to funnel tons of drugs into the United States.

A business that had run smoothly for years was suddenly a mess, and the national cartels felt compelled to sweep into Monterrey to "restore order," Fasci said. In the vernacular of organized crime, that meant killing people.

Fear Takes Hold

By April, assassinations were so rampant that the U.S. Embassy issued a travel warning for Monterrey noting that "Mexican and foreign bystanders" had been killed in Mexico. The next month, the business magazine America Economia dropped Monterrey from the top of its list of best places to do business in Latin America, a blow for a city that reaped a bonanza of publicity in 1999 when Fortune magazine dubbed it Latin America's top business locale.

Within days of America Economia's piece, Mexican President Felipe Calderón dispatched federal troops to patrol Monterrey's streets, one in a series of military assaults against cartel strongholds across the country.

Monterrey's wealthy -- the city is said to be home to more than a dozen of Mexico's most powerful families -- were well prepared to withstand the violence in their streets. Top corporations began hiring armed security forces. Executives and their families now travel in protective bubbles ringed by bodyguards and live behind high walls fitted with motion sensors and cameras.

But Monterrey's middle class, the pride of a state that boasts that its annual per-capita income of $14,000 is twice the national average, became frantic. Biti Rodriguez cringed each night when she watched the news. In her neighborhood, parents stopped letting their kids walk to school. School administrators tightened rules about who could pick up children.

Authorities know that private schools accept drug dealers' money to educate their kids, but "there's nothing that the government can do about it," Fasci said.

Rodriguez felt compelled to do something she'd never done before: She started locking the doors of her suburban Monterrey home.

Underworld Infiltration

With hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the pockets of drug traffickers, authorities here suspect that organized crime has diversified, investing in criminal enterprises such as kidnapping and the smuggling of illegal immigrants, as well as legitimate businesses such as real estate.

The underworld has infiltrated state and municipal governments and police forces, damaging confidence in public institutions even though about 400 law enforcement officers suspected of corruption have been taken off the streets. One councilman here estimated that as many 200,000 people in the state of Nuevo Leon -- 5 percent of the population -- may be involved directly or indirectly in the drug trade.

Local politicians, especially in the many municipalities that abut Monterrey, say they feel like targets. One recent afternoon, a municipal councilman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that he "feels threatened all the time" and that even the most minor decisions become complicating labyrinths that can paralyze local governments afraid of unknowingly angering drug lords.

To protect himself, he conducts extensive investigations, gaming out every possible scenario about the possible ripple effects of his votes. But those inquiries carry risks, too. "If you're asking all these questions," he said, "sometimes these narcos find out and get nervous."

Although he can afford to buy a car, he doesn't. He said driving the same car would make him easy to spot, so some days he grabs a taxi, other days he hops a bus. His route to the office varies from day to day -- it takes much longer, but he feels safer.

His municipality and others around Monterrey suffer from police shortages as officers quit rather than risk their lives at a time when several dozen officers have been killed. Authorities say police victims range from good cops who challenge the cartels to corrupt cops killed for favoring one cartel over another.

José Antonio Samaniego Hernández might have been one of those good cops, his family said in an interview. He survived one assassination attempt but was gunned down three months later while leaving the ramshackle home where he lived in a cramped bedroom with his wife, daughter and mother. Samaniego became a number that day -- execution victim No. 33 of 2007, according to the newspaper Milenio.

But to Anna Calderón Garcia, 15, he was the police officer down the street, the guy in the uniform who stopped to talk to all the kids. He was also one of half a dozen police officers she has known -- either as neighbors or because they spoke at her school -- who have been shot dead.  After never hearing a gunshot in her life, Calderón said, she has twice been startled by gunfire. One night while leaving a Wal-Mart, she and friends saw the bodies of two slain policemen lying in the parking lot.

"It changed my life forever," she said. "Now I'm always looking around me, wondering if I might get shot."

While most of the shooting victims in Monterrey have been alleged drug traffickers, innocent victims have also fallen, including a 42-year-old mother of five caught in the crossfire during a gun battle in December.

Kids in Calderón's class, like children in so many other places, once dreamed of being police officers, putting on uniforms, playing a glamorous real-life game of cops-and-robbers. Not anymore.  She lives three blocks from a funeral home and cups her ears when she hears sirens. Each time, she said, she whispers to herself: "Another dead one."

26762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks on: August 08, 2007, 10:47:39 AM
After the scare of the other day, LNOP is recovering nicely and then some  cool   With a basis of 1.89
MVIS hit a 3x for me before backing off considerably, but now looks to be headed back up.

POT is doing nicely for me. Hat tip to Scott Grannis.

Took a position in MA per David Gordon-- who has a new post on his blog on it.
26763  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Did Filipino Martial Arts Revolutionize Boxing? on: August 08, 2007, 08:15:37 AM
http://www.fmadigest.com/Issues/special-editions/2007/Special-Edition_Filipino-Boxers.pdf


Comments?

26764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: August 08, 2007, 07:36:21 AM
Second post of the morning:

WSJ

Reason and Wiretaps
What the terrorist surveillance fight is really all about.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

To hear the critics tell it, the warrantless wiretapping law passed by Congress this weekend is an immoral license for a mad President Bush and his spymasters to eavesdrop on all Americans. For those willing to believe such things, mere facts don't matter. But for anyone still amenable to reason, the deal is worth parsing for its national security precedents, good and bad. The next Democratic President might be grateful.

The good news is that the new law will at least allow the National Security Agency to monitor terrorist communications again. That ability has been severely limited since January, when Mr. Bush agreed to put the wiretap program under the supervision of a special court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The new law provides a six-month fix to the outdated FISA provision that had defined even foreign-to-foreign calls as subject to a U.S. judicial warrant.

The first duty of Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell is to prevent the next terrorist attack, and it's disgraceful that some have vilified him for trying to revive our intelligence ability in that cause. His effort has been no different, and no less honorable, than a general arguing for more troops.





But it's important to understand for the debate ahead why all of this has become so ferociously controversial. Opposition from the Democratic left to this intelligence program isn't merely part of the partisan blood feud against a weak President near the end of his term. It is part of a far larger ideological campaign to erode Presidential war powers. Goaded by the ACLU and much of the press corps, many Democrats want to use the courts and lawsuits to restrict Mr. Bush and future Presidents in their ability to gather intelligence in the war on terror. For a flavor of this strategy, spend a few minutes on the ACLU's Web site.
In that regard, even the weekend deal is far from encouraging. For example, the new law does not offer explicit liability protection for telecom companies that cooperate with the wiretap program. Instead, the most Democrats would accept is language to "compel" the cooperation of these companies going forward. The Administration hope is that this "I had no choice" claim will be an adequate defense against future lawsuits, but in the U.S. tort lottery that is no sure thing.

Meantime, Democrats blocked any retroactive liability protection for companies that thought they were doing their patriotic duty by cooperating with the National Security Agency after 9/11. The goal here isn't merely to open another rich target for the tort bar. It is to use lawsuits to raise the costs for private actors of cooperating with the executive branch. Even if they lose at the ballot box or in Congress, these antiwar activists still might be able to hamstring the executive via the courts.

That's also the explicit strategy in trying to expand the reach of the special FISA court to all wiretaps, foreign and domestic. The left is howling that the NSA will no longer need a FISA warrant for each wiretap (of which there were 2,176 in 2006). That's the best part of the bill. But the Administration did concede to let FISA judges review the procedures for wiretapping up to 120 days after the fact. If a judge objects, the wiretapping can at least continue, pending appeal all the way to the Supreme Court.

This is the kind of review that judges are neither allowed to perform under the Constitution, nor equipped to provide as a matter of policy. Whatever the merits of the 1978 FISA law, no Administration has ever conceded that that law trumped a President's power to make exceptions to FISA if national security requires it. To do so would be a direct infringement on the President's Article II powers as Commander in Chief to protect the nation against its enemies.

The courts have been explicit about this, with the FISA appellate court asserting in a 2002 opinion (In Re: Sealed Case) that "we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power." FISA established a process by which certain domestic wiretaps in the context of the Cold War could be approved, not a limit on what wiretaps were ever allowed.

In the weekend deal, the Bush Administration grants the FISA court power to review procedures even for foreign communications, which is unprecedented. Under Article III of the Constitution, the courts are granted the power to settle disputes. The judiciary also has power under the Fourth Amendment, which gives courts the ability to issue warrants. But nowhere does the Constitution empower our nation's judges to serve as foreign policy advisers or reviewers of intelligence policy. Judges have no particular expertise on intelligence, and in any case they are unaccountable to voters if their decisions are faulty. Recent news reports have suggested that several current FISA judges are uncomfortable with making such intelligence decisions, and rightly so.

As for the possibility that Presidents will abuse this power, fear of exposure is an even more powerful disincentive than legal constraint. The political costs of being seen as spying on Americans for partisan ends would be tremendous. Congress, on the other hand, is only too happy to use the courts to squeeze executive power, in part because this allows the Members to dodge responsibility themselves. If there's another terror attack, the President still gets the blame even if some unelected judge refused a warrant. Congress can blame everyone else.

This is a statutory version of Senator Jay Rockefeller's famous decision to write a letter to Dick Cheney objecting to the warrantless wiretap program after he'd been briefed on it, but then sticking the letter (literally) in a drawer. Only after the program was exposed did he unearth the letter to show he'd objected all along, though he'd done nothing at all to stop it.





The weekend law expires in six months, and it would be nice to think enough Democrats would put aside this ideological obsession to work with Mr. Bush on a more permanent wiretap statute. Given the current state of Beltway rationality, we aren't optimistic.
As negotiations unfold, we hope the President resists any deal that compromises the ability of his successors to defend the country. In 18 months, Mr. Bush will be leaving office, but the terrorist threat will continue. The stakes are too large for any President to accept new judicial limitations on his ability to track terrorists at home or abroad. Rather than accept such limits, Mr. Bush could use Congressional recalcitrance as an opportunity to withdraw the terrorist surveillance program from FISA authority, and thus toss the issue squarely in the middle of the 2008 Presidential campaign.
26765  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: filipino Weapons and Armour on: August 08, 2007, 07:32:24 AM
Woof Jikiri:

Thank you for sharing!

Obviously it is quite a serious collection.  What can you tell us about it?

yip!
CD
26766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: FDA vs. last resort terminally ill patients on: August 08, 2007, 07:14:51 AM
NY Times

Court Rejects the Right to Use Drugs Being Tested
By ANDREW POLLACK
Published: August 8, 2007
A federal appeals court ruled yesterday that patients with terminal illnesses do not have a constitutional right to use medicines that have not yet won regulatory approval.

The 8-to-2 decision by the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit came in a closely watched and emotional case that pitted desperate patients willing to try unproven, even risky, therapies against those arguing that drugs should be proved safe and effective before they are made available.

The decision preserves the current regulatory system. If it had gone the other way “it would have undermined the entire drug approval process,” said William B. Schultz, a former deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, who wrote an amicus brief arguing against the early access to drugs.

The case was filed against the Food and Drug Administration in 2003 by the Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs, a group founded by a man whose daughter Abigail died from cancer after a long battle to receive treatment with experimental drugs that were eventually approved.

The group, joined by the Washington Legal Foundation, argued that forcing patients to wait years for a drug to go through the process of clinical trials deprived dying patients of their right to self-defense and violated the Fifth Amendment clause stating that people cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law.

A district court ruled against the Abigail Alliance. That decision was reversed by an appeals court panel, but the full appeals court yesterday upheld the original district court decision.

Judge Thomas B. Griffith, writing for the majority, said a right to experimental drugs was not deeply rooted in the nation’s history and tradition. Judge Griffith said the right of self-defense “cannot justify creating a constitutional right to assume any level of risk without regard to the scientific and medical judgment expressed through the clinical testing process.”

In a dissent, Judge Judith W. Rogers wrote that it was “startling” that the “right to try to save one’s life is left out in the cold,” not protected by the due process clause of the Constitution, “despite its textual anchor in the right to life.”

Frank Burroughs, the founder of the Abigail Alliance, said his group was “dumbfounded that most of the justices tragically missed the merits of the case.” Mr. Burroughs vowed to appeal to the Supreme Court.

While critics often accuse the F.D.A. of letting unsafe drugs on the market, this case points to pressure on the agency from the opposite direction — patients who say it is too stringent in approving drugs for serious diseases. Many prostate cancer patients and advocacy groups, for instance, have recently criticized the agency for not approving a drug called Provenge.

The agency sometimes does lower the bar for approval of medicines for life-threatening diseases. And the companies developing such drugs can make them available before approval under some circumstances.

But Mr. Burroughs said such programs were inadequate. His organization advocates that drugs be made available to terminally ill patients as early as the conclusion of the first of three phases of clinical trials.

Some drug companies, doctors and other patient groups oppose that idea. Mr. Schultz, for instance, filed his brief supporting the current system on behalf of the National Organization for Rare Disorders, a patient advocacy group.

He and others say that if drugs were made available after only preliminary testing, drug companies would have little incentive to conduct full clinical trials to determine if a drug really works. That would allow companies to “profit from offering empty hope,” said Robert Erwin of the Marti Nelson Cancer Foundation, a patient advocacy group.

26767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Guantanamo on: August 08, 2007, 07:11:37 AM
NYTimes

Britain Asks to Take Back 5 Guantánamo Detainees
 
By RAYMOND BONNER
Published: August 8, 2007
LONDON, Aug. 7 — In a shift in policy, Britain on Tuesday asked the United States to release five detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who have resided in Britain but are not citizens.

Back Story With The Times’s Raymond Bonner (mp3)The Bush administration has said it has been looking for ways to reduce the Guantánamo population, and ultimately close the detention center there, which the request by the British might advance.

“We saw this as an opportunity to achieve ultimately the closure of Guantánamo,” a British official said, speaking on the customary condition of anonymity.

Under former Prime Minister Tony Blair, the government had insisted that it had no obligation to assist the men because they were not British citizens, though all had legal residence status here.

A senior American official said the impetus for the policy shift had come from a lawsuit in Britain in which some of the remaining British detainees sought to force the government to intervene on their behalf.

The State Department appeared to welcome the move, which American and British officials said had been under discussion for several months, including during talks in July between the British foreign secretary, David Miliband, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. The Bush administration has been working with other countries to reduce the detainee population at Guantánamo, the State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said in Washington on Tuesday. The base at Guantánamo now holds about 385 detainees.

At the same time, Mr. McCormack flagged a potentially contentious issue: what restrictions, if any, will be placed on the detainees if they are returned to Britain. Before releasing them, the United States wants assurances that they “would be secured, meaning that they wouldn’t be allowed to walk free,” he said.

A Pentagon spokesman, Cmdr. J. D. Gordon, said conditions set by the United States for the release of any Guantánamo detainee to a host government include providing “credible assurances that they will be treated humanely” and guarantees “that the countries will take steps to mitigate the threat that these individuals pose to the United States and its allies.”

Commander Gordon said 420 detainees had been released from Guantánamo, 38 of whom were no longer viewed as “enemy combatants.” Commander Gordon said about 80 more detainees had been cleared for departure.

The British Foreign Office said in a statement that if the men were returned, they would be subject to the same security considerations “as would apply to any other foreign national in this country.” It said talks between the United States and Britain about the men’s release “may take some time.”

Nine British citizens were released from Guantánamo in 2004 and 2005. The Bush administration had expected those men to be tried and incarcerated for some period, and was dismayed when they were allowed to go free. Several have gone on to become near-celebrities here.

One sticking point has been the conditions that the United States wants imposed on any detainees returned to Britain.

In the lawsuit here on behalf of some of the British detainees, British officials said that if the men were to be returned, the United States wanted them to be jailed for a period of time. Upon their release, the United States wanted them to be closely monitored, including communications intercepts, according to statements by David Richmond, the director general for intelligence at the Foreign Office, and William Nye, the director of counterterrorism at the Home Office. The statements were filed last year in a case brought by two of the five detainees whose transfer is now being considered.

Such conditions would be illegal under British and European human rights laws, and would require an onerous commitment of British intelligence resources, the British officials have said.

Clive Stafford Smith, a lawyer who represents the five men, said, “We’d be willing to submit to any reasonable restrictions.”

Referring to Gordon Brown, the new prime minister, Mr. Stafford Smith said the British move was “a sign that the new Brown administration recognizes that human rights are important in the battle against terrorism.”

One of the five men on the list Britain submitted Tuesday, Jamil el-Banna, was approved to leave Guantánamo by the American military authorities in May, but is still being held because the British would not take him.

Mr. Banna was seized by the Central Intelligence Agency in 2002 in Gambia, where he had gone on a business trip. British intelligence agencies had been monitoring him because of his ties to Islamic radicals here and had alerted the C.I.A. of his travel to Gambia. But the agency had specifically requested that he not be arrested, according to a recent British government report.

The four other men are Shaker Aamer, Omar Deghayes, Binyam Mohamed and Abdennur Sameur.

Several Bush administration officials said that particular scrutiny would be given to Mr. Aamer and Mr. Mohamed, who are considered more serious threats than the others.

Mr. Mohamed, a gangly Ethiopian who had lived in Washington for two years as a teenager before his family moved to Britain, was seized in Pakistan in April 2002 and turned over to the Americans. His was one of the early cases of rendition, the Bush administration’s policy of secretly moving suspected terrorists to third countries for interrogation.

Mr. Mohamed was taken to Morocco, Mr. Stafford Smith said, where he was held and interrogated for 18 months. According to the accounts he gave to his lawyer, he was brutally abused there. American officials initially said he was an accomplice of Jose Padilla in a plot to detonate a dirty bomb in the United States. That charge against Mr. Padilla was eventually dropped. Mr. Mohamed has not been formally charged.

Mr. Deghayes, who moved to Britain from Libya in 1986, was seized in Pakistan in January 2002. He has been held in Guantánamo as an enemy combatant, and military officials have contended that he traveled from Pakistan to Afghanistan under the guidance of Al Qaeda, and that he had a good relationship with Osama bin Laden.

The American evidence against him also included a photograph that was said to show him in Chechnya. At Mr. Deghayes’s administrative review board hearing at Guantánamo in 2005, he generally denied links to Al Qaeda and introduced testimony from a expert that he was not the person in the picture.

Mr. Deghayes has been a leader of hunger strikes at Guantánamo, as has Mr. Aamer, a native of Saudi Arabia. He has denied American accusations that he had ties to Al Qaeda.

The fifth detainee, Mr. Sameur, is an Algerian who fled his country in 1999 and was granted political asylum in Britain. In 2001 he went to Afghanistan, where American officials have accused him of training at a Qaeda camp, which he denies. He fled Afghanistan in October 2002, and was picked up by the Pakistani Army and turned over to the Americans.

Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington.
26768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: August 08, 2007, 12:25:27 AM
China: The Deceptive Logic for a Carrier Fleet
Summary

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy continues to push for aircraft carrier capability, despite ongoing internal debate and dissent. While a carrier is a valuable naval asset, China's pursuit must be understood as an expensive choice that entails considerable opportunity costs.

Analysis

China appears committed to deploying the Soviet-built Varyag aircraft carrier in at least a training role around or after 2010, with the potential for further pursuits, despite contradictory claims in recent weeks. The People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) will have to sacrifice much to continue this costly endeavor.

The Chinese Logic

A carrier fleet substantially expands a country's naval capability, so it is easy to understand China's ambition. The British, for example, would never have been able to take back the Falkland Islands in 1982 without the HMS Invincible and the HMS Hermes. Furthermore, the Chinese have carefully noted the decisive role the U.S. Navy's carrier fleet has played in Washington's global naval dominance.

For the Chinese, a carrier fleet means several things. It is a mark of status as a great power, a massive and ambitious national undertaking, a way to alter the current dynamics of air power in the region, a tool to project force beyond the East and South China seas and a means of expanding China's ability to protect ever-expanding import and export routes.

There is logic to China's view of carrier capability as a mark of great power, and the British operation to retake the Falklands is a perfect example: To have global influence, you must have global reach, which becomes a tool of foreign policy and affects the perception of a nation's naval power. China is quite aware that it is the only permanent member of the U.N. Security Council to never deploy an operational carrier.

China also is the nation that built the Great Wall. More recently, China built the Three Gorges Dam to supply a full 10 percent of domestic electricity supply and now has plans to land on the moon. The Chinese have a certain penchant for massively ambitious projects, and the construction of a carrier fleet certainly falls into that category. But such plans have often been pursued with a consequences-be-damned determination -- one that accepts enormous inefficiencies and the commitment of huge resources also needed elsewhere. The opportunity costs of this particular attempt at a great leap forward cannot be underestimated.

A desire for international recognition as a great power and a tendency to bite off more than one can chew hardly make for a prudent investment, and as much as 50 percent of China's motivation to develop a carrier capability could fall into one of these categories.

Global Vulnerability

From a more strategic perspective, the Chinese are aware of their great vulnerability due to exposed import and export routes. With exports that reach nearly every corner of the globe and an already heavy reliance on Africa for energy resources (and ongoing pursuits of Latin American energy resources), China has the global vulnerabilities of an empire but not the naval ability to protect them. This is the core geopolitical weakness Beijing hopes a carrier fleet might solve. As Beijing becomes increasingly reliant on other countries for raw materials and trade endeavors, it faces a continued shift away from long traditions of being a land power to participating -- and competing -- in the maritime world.





The Situation Close to Home

This competition is a big part of the problem. Beijing is facing a serious expansion of military power in the region. All branches of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) already face technologically superior competition from some of China's closest neighbors. The South Korean navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Forces are now both equipped with domestic variants of the highly capable U.S. Arleigh Burke design (including the Aegis weapon system) in service. In 2004, Japan shifted F-15C fighter jets to Xaidi Island (Shimoji), uncomfortably close to Taiwan, adding to the complexity of any offensive across the Formosa Strait.

Because of this game of catch-up, Beijing has no shortage of military projects -- especially naval projects -- it could get more economical, near-term and effective results from. Consider the amphibious warfare pursuits of South Korea, Japan and Australia, which are much more manageable and realistic steps for each country. China has instead persisted along the carrier route, and is consequently behind the curve in its amphibious capability.

The PLAN, along with the other branches of the PLA, has made admirable improvements in the last decade. There has been progress in areas such as missile technology and nuclear submarine propulsion -- progress more realistically within China's technological grasp than a meaningful carrier fleet -- and it is precisely these more realistic, near-term pursuits and improvements that will suffer.

Carriers do not come cheap. The Varyag was originally purchased with more than $500 million in work still required. Carrier aircraft must then be acquired (talks are under way for the purchase of 50 Russian Su-33 navalized "Flankers" for something in the ballpark of $2.5 billion) and appropriate escorts and auxiliary ships dedicated or built. Even without start-up costs, the United States spends more than a $1 billion annually simply to deploy, operate and maintain a single carrier strike group -- and a meaningful carrier fleet requires not just one carrier, but three.

And for what?

Effective and meaningful carrier aviation is the product of decades of extensive first-hand experience at sea. The establishment of a trained cadre of naval aviators, efficient flight-deck operations and naval doctrine cannot be reverse engineered, and further investment will be necessary for China to even begin to adequately explore these core competencies. China is in effect neglecting its own current weaknesses in order to attempt to compete in one of the most technically demanding and certainly the most expensive naval pursuits there is -- carrier aviation.

The deployment of a carrier will be seen as an unmistakable sign of Chinese ambitions and will draw even closer attention and more intense competition from not only the U.S. Navy, but also from Beijing's regional competitors -- something the PLAN simply does not need right now.

In other words, China will be stretching itself to build a rudimentary carrier fleet -- a pursuit that will necessarily involve costly sacrifices elsewhere within the navy. Of all the things Beijing hopes to gain from that carrier fleet, more will be lost in the process of attaining it. It might be seen as a great leap forward, but it will ultimately represent movement in the opposite direction.

stratfor.com

26769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: August 08, 2007, 12:22:21 AM
A particularly fine post from Michael Yon:

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/bread-and-a-circus-part-ii-of-ii.htm
26770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 07, 2007, 11:56:18 PM
The Major Diplomatic and Strategic Evolution in Iraq
By George Friedman

U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker met Aug. 6 with Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi and Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie. Separately, a committee of Iranian, Iraqi and U.S. officials held its first meeting on Iraqi security, following up on an agreement reached at a July ambassadorial-level meeting.

The U.S. team was headed by Marcie Ries, counselor for political and military affairs at the embassy in Baghdad. Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, who handles Iraq for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, led the Iranian team. A U.S. Embassy spokesman described the talks as "frank and serious," saying they "focused, as agreed, on security problems in Iraq." Generally, "frank and serious" means nasty, though they probably did get down to the heart of the matter. The participants agreed to hold a second meeting, which means this one didn't blow up.

Longtime Stratfor readers will recall that we have been tracing these Iranian-American talks from the back-channel negotiations to the high-level publicly announced talks, and now to this working group on security. A multilateral regional meeting on Iraq's future was held March 10 in Baghdad, followed by a regional meeting May 4 in Egypt. Then there were ambassadorial-level meetings in Baghdad on May 28 and July 24. Now, not quite two weeks later, the three sides have met again.

That the discussions were frank and serious shouldn't surprise anyone. That they continue in spite of obvious deep tensions between the parties is, in our view, extremely significant. The prior ambassadorial talk lasted about seven hours. The Aug. 6 working group session lasted about four hours. These are not simply courtesy calls. The parties are spending a great deal of time talking about something.

This is not some sort of public relations stunt either. First, neither Washington nor Tehran would bother to help the other's public image. Second, neither side's public image is much helped by these talks anyway. This is the "Great Satan" talking to one-half of what is left of the "Axis of Evil." If ever there were two countries that have reason not to let the world know they are meeting, it is these two. Yet, they are meeting, and they have made the fact public.

The U.S. media have not ignored these meetings, but they have not treated them as what they actually are -- an extraordinary diplomatic and strategic evolution in Iraq. Part of the reason is that the media take their cues from the administration about diplomatic processes. If the administration makes a big deal out of the visit of the Icelandic fisheries minister to Washington, the media will treat it as such. If the administration treats multilevel meetings between Iran and the United States on the future of Iraq in a low-key way, then low-key it is. The same is true for the Iranians, whose media are more directly managed. Iran does not want to make a big deal out of these meetings, and therefore they are not portrayed as significant.

It is understandable that neither Washington nor Tehran would want to draw undue attention to the talks. The people of each country view the other with intense hostility. We are reminded of the political problems faced by Chinese Premier Chou En-lai and U.S. President Richard Nixon when their diplomatic opening became public. The announcement of Nixon's visit to China was psychologically stunning in the United States; it was less so in China only because the Chinese controlled the emphasis placed on the announcement. Both sides had to explain to their publics why they were talking to the mad dogs.

In the end, contrary to conventional wisdom, perception is not reality. The fact that the Americans and the Iranians are downplaying the talks, and that newspapers are not printing banner headlines about them, does not mean the meetings are not vitally important. It simply means that the conventional wisdom, guided by the lack of official exuberance, doesn't know what to make of these talks.

There are three major powers with intense interest in the future of Iraq: the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The United States, having toppled Saddam Hussein, has completely mismanaged the war. Nevertheless, a unilateral withdrawal would create an unacceptable situation in which Iran, possibly competing with Turkey in the North, would become the dominant military power in the region and would be in a position to impose itself at least on southern Iraq -- and potentially all of it. Certainly there would be resistance, but Iran has a large military (even if it is poorly equipped), giving it a decided advantage in controlling a country such as Iraq.

In addition, Iran is not nearly as casualty-averse as the United States. Iran fought a war with Iraq in the 1980s that cost it about a million casualties. The longtime Iranian fear has been that the United States will somehow create a pro-American regime in Baghdad, rearm the Iraqis and thus pose for Iran round two of what was its national nightmare. It is no accident that the day before these meetings, U.S. sources speculated about the possible return of the Iraqi air force to the Iraqis. Washington was playing on Tehran's worst nightmare.

Saudi Arabia's worst nightmare would be watching Iran become the dominant power in Iraq or southern Iraq. It cannot defend itself against Iran, nor does it want to be defended by U.S. troops on Saudi soil. The Saudis want Iraq as a buffer zone between Iran and their oil fields. They opposed the original invasion, fearing just this outcome, but now that the invasion has taken place, they don't want Iran as the ultimate victor. The Saudis, therefore, are playing a complex game, both supporting Sunni co-religionists and criticizing the American presence as an occupation -- yet urgently wanting U.S. troops to remain.

The United States wants to withdraw, though it doesn't see a way out because an outright unilateral withdrawal would set the stage for Iranian domination. At the same time, the United States must have an endgame -- something the next U.S. president will have to deal with.

The Iranians no longer believe the United States is capable of creating a stable, anti-Iranian, pro-American government in Baghdad. Instead, they are terrified the United States will spoil their plans to consolidate influence within Iraq. So, while they are doing everything they can to destabilize the regime, they are negotiating with Washington. The report that three-quarters of U.S. casualties in recent weeks were caused by "rogue" Shiite militia sounds plausible. The United States has reached a level of understanding with some nonjihadist Sunni insurgent groups, many of them Baathist. The Iranians do not want to see this spread -- at least not unless the United States first deals with Tehran. The jihadists, calling themselves al Qaeda in Iraq, do not want this either, and so they have carried out a wave of assassinations of those Sunnis who have aligned with the United States, and they have killed four key aides to Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, a key Shiite figure.

If this sounds complicated, it is. The United States is fighting Sunnis and Shia, making peace with some Sunnis and encouraging some Shia to split off -- all the time waging an offensive against most everyone. The Iranians support many, but not all, of the Shiite groups in Iraq. In fact, many of the Iraqi Shia have grown quite wary of the Iranians. And for their part, the Saudis are condemning the Americans while hoping they stay -- and supporting Sunnis who might or might not be fighting the Americans.

The situation not only is totally out of hand, but the chance that anyone will come out of it with what they really want is slim. The United States probably will not get a pro-American government and the Iranians probably will not get to impose their will on all or part of Iraq. The Saudis, meanwhile, are feeling themselves being sucked into the Sunni quagmire.

This situation is one of the factors driving the talks.

By no means out of any friendliness, a mutual need is emerging. No one is in control of the situation. No one is likely to get control of the situation in any long-term serious way. It is in the interests of the United States, Iran and Saudi Arabia that the Iraq situation stabilize, simply because they cannot predict the outcome -- and the worst-case scenario for each is too frightening to contemplate.

None of the three powers can bring the situation under control. Even by working together, the three will be unable to completely stabilize Iraq and end the violence. But by working together they can increase security to the point that none of their nightmare scenarios comes true. In return, the United States will have to do without a pro-American government in Baghdad and the Iranians will have to forgo having an Iraqi satellite.

Hence, we see a four-hour meeting of Iranian and U.S. security experts on stabilizing the situation in Iraq. Given the little good will between the two countries, defining roles and missions in a stabilization program will require frank and serious talks indeed. Ultimately, however, there is sufficient convergence of interests that holding these talks makes sense.

The missions are clear. The Iranian task will be to suppress the Shiite militias that are unwilling to abide by an agreement -- or any that oppose Iranian domination. Their intelligence in this area is superb and their intelligence and special operations teams have little compunction as to how they act. The Saudi mission will be to underwrite the cost of Sunni acceptance of a political compromise, as well as a Sunni war against the jihadists. Saudi intelligence in this area is pretty good and, while the Saudis do have compunctions, they will gladly give the intelligence to the Americans to work out the problem. The U.S. role will be to impose a government in Baghdad that meets Iran's basic requirements, and to use its forces to grind down the major insurgent and militia groups. This will be a cooperative effort -- meaning whacking Saudi and Iranian friends will be off the table.

No one power can resolve the security crisis in Iraq -- as four years of U.S. efforts there clearly demonstrate. But if the United States and Iran, plus Saudi Arabia, work together -- with no one providing cover for or supplies to targeted groups -- the situation can be brought under what passes for reasonable control in Iraq. More important for the three powers, the United States could draw down its troops to minimal levels much more quickly than is currently being discussed, the Iranians would have a neutral, nonaggressive Iraq on their western border and the Saudis would have a buffer zone from the Iranians. The buffer zone is the key, because what happens in the buffer zone stays in the buffer zone.

The talks in Baghdad are about determining whether there is a way for the United States and Iran to achieve their new mutual goal. The question is whether their fear of the worst-case scenario outweighs their distrust of each other. Then there is the matter of agreeing on the details -- determining the nature of the government in Baghdad, which groups to protect and which to target, how to deal with intelligence sharing and so on.

These talks can fail in any number of ways. More and more, however, the United States and Iran are unable to tolerate their failure. The tremendous complexity of the situation has precluded either side from achieving a successful outcome. They now have to craft the minimal level of failure they can mutually accept.

These talks not only are enormously important but they also are, in some ways, more important than the daily reports on combat and terrorism. If this war ends, it will end because of negotiations like these.

stratfor.com

26771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: August 07, 2007, 11:44:12 PM
RUSSIA/IRAN: Russia has told Iran that it will not deliver fuel for Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear reactor unless Tehran reveals details of its past atomic activities, an unnamed European diplomat told The Associated Press. An unnamed U.S. official reportedly said Russia is not meeting commitments with Iran regarding the reactor, delaying activation of the facility.

CHINA: China is willing to do some "creative thinking" with the international community in the Nuclear Suppliers Group on the issue of the Indian-U.S. 123 nuclear deal, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman told Press Trust of India. The statement is significantly more optimistic than past statements by the Chinese government about possible approval of the deal.

Stratfor.com
26772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A theory of affluence on: August 07, 2007, 09:02:37 AM
In Dusty Archives, a Theory of Affluence
By NICHOLAS WADE
Published: August 7, 2007

For thousands of years, most people on earth lived in abject poverty, first as hunters and gatherers, then as peasants or laborers. But with the Industrial Revolution, some societies traded this ancient poverty for amazing affluence.

Breaking Out of a Malthusian Trap Historians and economists have long struggled to understand how this transition occurred and why it took place only in some countries. A scholar who has spent the last 20 years scanning medieval English archives has now emerged with startling answers for both questions.

Gregory Clark, an economic historian at the University of California, Davis, believes that the Industrial Revolution — the surge in economic growth that occurred first in England around 1800 — occurred because of a change in the nature of the human population. The change was one in which people gradually developed the strange new behaviors required to make a modern economy work. The middle-class values of nonviolence, literacy, long working hours and a willingness to save emerged only recently in human history, Dr. Clark argues.

Because they grew more common in the centuries before 1800, whether by cultural transmission or evolutionary adaptation, the English population at last became productive enough to escape from poverty, followed quickly by other countries with the same long agrarian past.

Dr. Clark’s ideas have been circulating in articles and manuscripts for several years and are to be published as a book next month, “A Farewell to Alms” (Princeton University Press). Economic historians have high praise for his thesis, though many disagree with parts of it.

“This is a great book and deserves attention,” said Philip Hoffman, a historian at the California Institute of Technology. He described it as “delightfully provocative” and a “real challenge” to the prevailing school of thought that it is institutions that shape economic history.

Samuel Bowles, an economist who studies cultural evolution at the Santa Fe Institute, said Dr. Clark’s work was “great historical sociology and, unlike the sociology of the past, is informed by modern economic theory.”

The basis of Dr. Clark’s work is his recovery of data from which he can reconstruct many features of the English economy from 1200 to 1800. From this data, he shows, far more clearly than has been possible before, that the economy was locked in a Malthusian trap _ — each time new technology increased the efficiency of production a little, the population grew, the extra mouths ate up the surplus, and average income fell back to its former level.

This income was pitifully low in terms of the amount of wheat it could buy. By 1790, the average person’s consumption in England was still just 2,322 calories a day, with the poor eating a mere 1,508. Living hunter-gatherer societies enjoy diets of 2,300 calories or more.

“Primitive man ate well compared with one of the richest societies in the world in 1800,” Dr. Clark observes.

The tendency of population to grow faster than the food supply, keeping most people at the edge of starvation, was described by Thomas Malthus in a 1798 book, “An Essay on the Principle of Population.” This Malthusian trap, Dr. Clark’s data show, governed the English economy from 1200 until the Industrial Revolution and has in his view probably constrained humankind throughout its existence. The only respite was during disasters like the Black Death, when population plummeted, and for several generations the survivors had more to eat.

Malthus’s book is well known because it gave Darwin the idea of natural selection. Reading of the struggle for existence that Malthus predicted, Darwin wrote in his autobiography, “It at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones to be destroyed. ... Here then I had at last got a theory by which to work.”

Given that the English economy operated under Malthusian constraints, might it not have responded in some way to the forces of natural selection that Darwin had divined would flourish in such conditions? Dr. Clark started to wonder whether natural selection had indeed changed the nature of the population in some way and, if so, whether this might be the missing explanation for the Industrial Revolution.
==========

The Industrial Revolution, the first escape from the Malthusian trap, occurred when the efficiency of production at last accelerated, growing fast enough to outpace population growth and allow average incomes to rise. Many explanations have been offered for this spurt in efficiency, some economic and some political, but none is fully satisfactory, historians say.

Breaking Out of a Malthusian Trap Dr. Clark’s first thought was that the population might have evolved greater resistance to disease. The idea came from Jared Diamond’s book “Guns, Germs and Steel,” which argues that Europeans were able to conquer other nations in part because of their greater immunity to disease.

In support of the disease-resistance idea, cities like London were so filthy and disease ridden that a third of their populations died off every generation, and the losses were restored by immigrants from the countryside. That suggested to Dr. Clark that the surviving population of England might be the descendants of peasants.

A way to test the idea, he realized, was through analysis of ancient wills, which might reveal a connection between wealth and the number of progeny. The wills did that, , but in quite the opposite direction to what he had expected.

Generation after generation, the rich had more surviving children than the poor, his research showed. That meant there must have been constant downward social mobility as the poor failed to reproduce themselves and the progeny of the rich took over their occupations. “The modern population of the English is largely descended from the economic upper classes of the Middle Ages,” he concluded.

As the progeny of the rich pervaded all levels of society, Dr. Clark considered, the behaviors that made for wealth could have spread with them. He has documented that several aspects of what might now be called middle-class values changed significantly from the days of hunter gatherer societies to 1800. Work hours increased, literacy and numeracy rose, and the level of interpersonal violence dropped.

Another significant change in behavior, Dr. Clark argues, was an increase in people’s preference for saving over instant consumption, which he sees reflected in the steady decline in interest rates from 1200 to 1800.

“Thrift, prudence, negotiation and hard work were becoming values for communities that previously had been spendthrift, impulsive, violent and leisure loving,” Dr. Clark writes.

Around 1790, a steady upward trend in production efficiency first emerges in the English economy. It was this significant acceleration in the rate of productivity growth that at last made possible England’s escape from the Malthusian trap and the emergence of the Industrial Revolution.

In the rest of Europe and East Asia, populations had also long been shaped by the Malthusian trap of their stable agrarian economies. Their workforces easily absorbed the new production technologies that appeared first in England.

It is puzzling that the Industrial Revolution did not occur first in the much larger populations of China or Japan. Dr. Clark has found data showing that their richer classes, the Samurai in Japan and the Qing dynasty in China, were surprisingly unfertile and so would have failed to generate the downward social mobility that spread production-oriented values in England.

After the Industrial Revolution, the gap in living standards between the richest and the poorest countries started to accelerate, from a wealth disparity of about 4 to 1 in 1800 to more than 50 to 1 today. Just as there is no agreed explanation for the Industrial Revolution, economists cannot account well for the divergence between rich and poor nations or they would have better remedies to offer.

Many commentators point to a failure of political and social institutions as the reason that poor countries remain poor. But the proposed medicine of institutional reform “has failed repeatedly to cure the patient,” Dr. Clark writes. He likens the “cult centers” of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund to prescientific physicians who prescribed bloodletting for ailments they did not understand.

If the Industrial Revolution was caused by changes in people’s behavior, then populations that have not had time to adapt to the Malthusian constraints of agrarian economies will not be able to achieve the same production efficiencies, his thesis implies.

=================

Page 3 of 3)


Dr. Clark says the middle-class values needed for productivity could have been transmitted either culturally or genetically. But in some passages, he seems to lean toward evolution as the explanation. “Through the long agrarian passage leading up to the Industrial Revolution, man was becoming biologically more adapted to the modern economic world,” he writes. And, “The triumph of capitalism in the modern world thus may lie as much in our genes as in ideology or rationality.”

Breaking Out of a Malthusian Trap What was being inherited, in his view, was not greater intelligence — being a hunter in a foraging society requires considerably greater skill than the repetitive actions of an agricultural laborer. Rather, it was “a repertoire of skills and dispositions that were very different from those of the pre-agrarian world.”

Reaction to Dr. Clark’s thesis from other economic historians seems largely favorable, although few agree with all of it, and many are skeptical of the most novel part, his suggestion that evolutionary change is a factor to be considered in history.

Historians used to accept changes in people’s behavior as an explanation for economic events, like Max Weber’s thesis linking the rise of capitalism with Protestantism. But most have now swung to the economists’ view that all people are alike and will respond in the same way to the same incentives. Hence they seek to explain events like the Industrial Revolution in terms of changes in institutions, not people.

Dr. Clark’s view is that institutions and incentives have been much the same all along and explain very little, which is why there is so little agreement on the causes of the Industrial Revolution. In saying the answer lies in people’s behavior, he is asking his fellow economic historians to revert to a type of explanation they had mostly abandoned and in addition is evoking an idea that historians seldom consider as an explanatory variable, that of evolution.

Most historians have assumed that evolutionary change is too gradual to have affected human populations in the historical period. But geneticists, with information from the human genome now at their disposal, have begun to detect ever more recent instances of human evolutionary change like the spread of lactose tolerance in cattle-raising people of northern Europe just 5,000 years ago. A study in the current American Journal of Human Genetics finds evidence of natural selection at work in the population of Puerto Rico since 1513. So historians are likely to be more enthusiastic about the medieval economic data and elaborate time series that Dr. Clark has reconstructed than about his suggestion that people adapted to the Malthusian constraints of an agrarian society.

“He deserves kudos for assembling all this data,” said Dr. Hoffman, the Caltech historian, “but I don’t agree with his underlying argument.”

The decline in English interest rates, for example, could have been caused by the state’s providing better domestic security and enforcing property rights, Dr. Hoffman said, not by a change in people’s willingness to save, as Dr. Clark asserts.

The natural-selection part of Dr. Clark’s argument “is significantly weaker, and maybe just not necessary, if you can trace the changes in the institutions,” said Kenneth L. Pomeranz, a historian at the University of California, Irvine. In a recent book, “The Great Divergence,” Dr. Pomeranz argues that tapping new sources of energy like coal and bringing new land into cultivation, as in the North American colonies, were the productivity advances that pushed the old agrarian economies out of their Malthusian constraints.

Robert P. Brenner, a historian at the University of California, Los Angeles, said although there was no satisfactory explanation at present for why economic growth took off in Europe around 1800, he believed that institutional explanations would provide the answer and that Dr. Clark’s idea of genes for capitalist behavior was “quite a speculative leap.”

Dr. Bowles, the Santa Fe economist, said he was “not averse to the idea” that genetic transmission of capitalist values is important, but that the evidence for it was not yet there. “It’s just that we don’t have any idea what it is, and everything we look at ends up being awfully small,” he said. Tests of most social behaviors show they are very weakly heritable.

He also took issue with Dr. Clark’s suggestion that the unwillingness to postpone consumption, called time preference by economists, had changed in people over the centuries. “If I were as poor as the people who take out payday loans, I might also have a high time preference,” he said.

Dr. Clark said he set out to write his book 12 years ago on discovering that his undergraduates knew nothing about the history of Europe. His colleagues have been surprised by its conclusions but also interested in them, he said.

“The actual data underlying this stuff is hard to dispute,” Dr. Clark said. “When people see the logic, they say ‘I don’t necessarily believe it, but it’s hard to dismiss.’ ”

NY TIMES
26773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 06, 2007, 08:45:05 PM
I didn't say I supported it.  I simply answered your questin as to why it was like that.

That said, I think if you were to surf through the past several years of this forum you will find kindred spirits around here for getting serious.  Amongst the more recent calls for getting serious is the thread called "The Phony War" started by yours truly.
26774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: August 06, 2007, 08:16:52 PM
Mexico Security Memo: Aug. 6, 2007
August 06, 2007 18 27  GMT



Accelerating Violence

The violent trend that began several weeks ago in northern Mexico has continued this week and appears to be increasing. Drug-related killings occurred this week in Nuevo Leon, Sonora, Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango states -- all cartel battlegrounds. It is important to note, however, that other regions of the country also experience drug-related violence on a regular basis, such as the southern states of Guerrero and Michoacan.

Territorial control in these two states has long been of strategic importance to the Sinaloa cartel because of the port city of Acapulco, an important port of entry for drugs coming from South America. This control is frequently challenged by rival Gulf cartel operatives, who violently attempt to disrupt the Sinaloa cartel's operations. Examples this week of such violence include the killings of a city official's brother and a city police chief.


Two Dead Agents and Zhenli Ye Gon

Authorities confirmed Aug. 1 that two men found dead the day before in Guerrero state were agents of the Federal Investigative Agency. Federal police officers turn up dead nearly every week in Mexico. These two agents, however, were involved in the investigation of Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese-Mexican businessman accused by the United States and Mexico of supplying pseudoephedrine to Mexican cartels for manufacturing methamphetamine, a phenomenon discussed in a previous Mexico Security Memo.

Since authorities seized more than $200 million in cash -- comprising more than two tons of $100 bills -- from Ye Gon's Mexico City home earlier this year, the case has gained national attention in Mexico. Speaking at a forum on organized crime in Latin America, a Colombian national police official accused Ye Gon of having links to Chinese organized crime and added that the Chinese mafia has set up illegal casinos and money laundering operations in many parts of Latin America. The claims shed light on the complex nature of organized criminal enterprises, which have direct and indirect links to drug trafficking.






An EPR Uptick

The Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR), which claimed responsibility in July for attacks against oil pipelines in Guanajuato and Queretaro states and against a federal prison in Chiapas state, has increased its operational tempo. Most recently, it placed two small explosive devices in Oaxaca. The increased frequency of attacks is unusual for the EPR, and requires close attention. The Oaxaca bombs were the EPR's fourth attack in as many weeks and as many states. This increased frequency must have demanded a major effort by the EPR, whose actual membership likely numbers in the low hundreds (much lower than it claims).

Even if the EPR is shifting its focus from symbolic targets to strategic economic targets, and even if the group can sustain this increased tempo, it is unlikely to carry out attacks designed to kill. The group so far has been content to conduct attacks that send messages. Even when given the opportunity to cause casualties -- as in the jail attack -- it has not done so. Whether the group will continue the same high frequency of attacks remains unknown. If it does, government facilities, foreign companies, nongovernmental organizations and economic targets throughout the country are at risk of similar attacks.


July 30

A decomposing body was found stuffed in a plastic container in Apodaca, Nuevo Leon state.

The leader of a peasant union in Zacapu, Michoacan state, was found dead with at least three gunshot wounds. He reportedly was abducted July 27 by a group of armed men and was being held for ransom.

Police in Sonora state responding to an anonymous tip found the body of a suspected drug trafficker in the northern city of Caborca. The victim was found shot to death with bound hands.

A man in Atoyac, Guerrero state, died of multiple shotgun wounds.

July 31

Authorities in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, discovered the body of a U.S. citizen of Cuban origin who had been shot multiple times. He reportedly was involved in illegally smuggling Cuban immigrants into Mexico.

The brother of a city official in Arcelia, Guerrero state, was wounded after being shot several times by a group of gunmen.

The body of a man was found wrapped in a blanket with a note pinned on it in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. He had been tortured and shot several times.

Two men were found shot to death in separate incidents in Michoacan state, one in the town of La Huacana and the other in Ziracuaretiro.

Aug. 1

A small explosive device detonated at a department store in Oaxaca, Oaxaca state, while another device was found unexploded at a bank. No one was injured by the bombs, which were claimed by EPR.

Authorities confirmed that two men found dead July 31 in Guerrero state were Federal Investigative Agency agents.

Aug. 2

Officials discovered the body of an unidentified individual in Penjamo, Guanajuato state, who had been shot several times.

Three people died in apparent drug-related killings in Durango state. Two occurred in Tamazula and one in Santiago Papasquiaro.

The body of a man was found in Tlalnepantla, Mexico state, with multiple gunshot wounds and bound hands.

Officials in Sonora state discovered the body of a man shot three times and left on the side of a highway.

Aug. 4

A group of armed men shot and killed the police chief of Paracho, Michoacan state, who was traveling unarmed to the state capital, Morelia.

Police in Paracho, Michoacan state, went on strike following the city police chief's killing, demanding better equipment.

Aug. 5

A senior journalist for El Semanario in Oaxaca state was shot three times.

Authorities in Hacienda Nueva, Aguascalientes state, discovered the body of a man nearly severed at the waist.
26775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 06, 2007, 08:06:00 PM
I suspect it has to do with the fact that if you stand for wiping out most of the income of a really poor country and the other side is more than willing to benefit from it, that it looks like a losing equation.
26776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 06, 2007, 08:03:58 PM
Good dog!  grin
26777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 06, 2007, 08:02:47 PM
Here's some more from Stat.  Worth reading both.

U.S.: The Delicate Diplomatic Dance with Iran
Summary

The United States and Iran held a third round of direct public-level talks Aug. 6 to discuss ways to reach their agreed-upon goals for stability in Iraq. Motivated by the threats to their national interests, both sides are moving forward in their negotiations, but Washington and Tehran must still overcome many hurdles before implementing their plans to establish security and stability in Iraq. Since the United States is representing the Sunnis in these talks, it will have to balance various Sunni factions' demands as it proceeds to deal with Iran.

Analysis

Iranian, Iraqi and U.S. security officials Aug. 6 held the first meeting of a tripartite security committee looking to ease the insurgency in Iraq. The U.S. delegation was led by Marcie Ries, minister-counselor for political and military affairs, and the Iranian delegation was headed by the Foreign Ministry point man on Iraq, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian. Officials from all three sides described the talks -- which were held in Baghdad and lasted about four hours -- as positive. The same day, Iranian Ambassador to Iraq Hassan Kazemi Qomi and his U.S. counterpart, Ryan Crocker, met in the presence of Iraqi National Security Adviser Muwaffaq al-Rubaie in his office. Meanwhile, the secular noncommunal Iraqiya List parliamentary bloc, led by former interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, temporarily suspended the participation of five of its ministers in the Cabinet. The bloc controls 40 parliamentary seats.

The United States and Iran are making significant progress in their strategic dialogue, as evidenced by the speed of their follow-up meetings since they first participated in the multilateral regional meeting on Iraq's future in Baghdad on March 10. The two sides participated in a second follow-up regional meeting May 4 in Egypt and two ambassadorial-level meetings in Baghdad on May 28 and July 24, and additional meetings are expected.

But when it comes to actually implementing their agreed-upon plans, Iran and the United States continue to face multiple obstacles. The five Iraqiya List ministers' temporary boycott of the Cabinet, which came a few days after six ministers from the main Sunni parliamentary bloc resigned from the Cabinet, symbolizes those obstacles. The Iranians face difficulties in getting the Iraqi Shia to agree to a deal with the United States, because the Iraqi Shia are the most divided communal group in the country.

But the United States, representing Sunni interests -- both those of the Iraqi Sunnis and of the Arab Sunni states in the region -- faces its own set of quandaries because its engagement with the minority community has led to the proliferation of actors in the Sunni political landscape.

That said, the challenges Washington faces from within the Sunni community are not so severe that the Bush administration is forced to pause in its dealings with Iran to address the Sunni concerns. This is because a sufficient number of Sunni players support the United States' efforts -- despite the politicians resigning from the al-Maliki administration. These actors include tribal leaders, Sunni nationalist insurgent elements and senior Sunnis within the security and intelligence apparatuses. In fact, for the purposes of the current stage of talks with Iran, this group of Sunnis is sufficient because the immediate task is to bring security to Iraq. Moreover, the Tawafoq Iraqi Front, the Sunni parliamentary bloc that quit the Cabinet, enjoys some influence among the Sunni insurgents.

Additionally, Iraqi Sunnis and their allies among the Sunni Arab states are not completely comfortable with the United States' taking the lead on dealing with Iran (and, by extension, the Iraqi Shia) on their behalf. Indeed, the Sunnis would like to play a greater role in the tripartite U.S.-Iranian-Iraqi security committee talks to ensure their interests are being addressed. This is why different Sunni actors are reacting differently to Washington and Tehran's progress. One example of this is the incident reported Aug. 6, in which Iraqi Shiite pilgrims with ties to senior officials in Baghdad were beaten by Saudi religious police in Mecca. The Saudis are trying to subvert the U.S.-Iranian talks by creating tensions between Iraq's Shia and Sunnis, but the Saudis do not have the leverage to damage the process extensively.

For now, the United States can afford to move ahead with the Iranians regarding the security talks. Soon, however, Washington will have to attend to the Sunni political principals' grievances. Iran and its Arab Shiite allies in Iraq will change the political situation in Iraq in a bid to limit the political concessions being given to the Sunnis, especially regarding the Sunni demand for a reversal of the de-Baathification policy.

Many Sunni insurgents will not want to silence their guns until they see some progress on the de-Baathification issue. This means Washington will have to get Tehran and its Iraqi Shiite allies to agree to concessions -- a move that is expected to slow the current pace of U.S.-Iranian talks. In the end, each side knows that if there is to be a deal, there will have to be a simultaneous give-and-take between the Shia and the Sunnis involving political and security guarantees.
26778  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 06, 2007, 07:41:03 PM
Mon Aug 6, 7:38 AM ET
 


BANGKOK, Thailand - Thai police officers who break rules will be forced to wear hot pink armbands featuring "Hello Kitty," the Japanese icon of cute, as a mark of shame, a senior officer said Monday.

ADVERTISEMENT
 
Police officers caught littering, parking in a prohibited area, or arriving late — among other misdemeanors — will be forced to stay in the division office and wear the armband all day, said Police Col. Pongpat Chayaphan. The officers won't wear the armband in public.

The striking armband features Hello Kitty sitting atop two hearts.

"Simple warnings no longer work. This new twist is expected to make them feel guilt and shame and prevent them from repeating the offense, no matter how minor," said Pongpat, acting chief of the Crime Suppression Division in Bangkok.

"(Hello) Kitty is a cute icon for young girls. It's not something macho police officers want covering their biceps," Pongpat said.

He said police caught breaking the law will be subject the same fines and penalties as any other members of the public.

"We want to make sure that we do not condone small offenses," Pongpat said, adding that the CSD believed that getting tough on petty misdemeanors would lead to fewer cases of more serious offenses including abuse of power and mistreatment of the public by police officers.

Hello Kitty, invented by Sanrio Co. in 1974, has been popular for years with children and young women. The celebrity cat adorns everything from diamond-studded jewelry, Fender guitars and digital cameras to lunch boxes, T-shirts and stationery.
26779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 06, 2007, 07:22:52 PM
Geopolitical Diary: A Well-Timed Announcement on Iraq

U.S. forces in Iraq said on Sunday they killed the planner of two attacks against the Shiite al-Asakariyah shrine complex during an air strike east of As Samarra on Aug. 2. A U.S. military spokesman identified the top jihadist operative as Haitham Sabah Shaker Mohammed al-Badri, al Qaeda in Iraq's leader in Salahuddin province. Al-Badri is believed to have masterminded the February 2006 attack against the shrine -- which triggered a massive Shiite backlash against Sunnis -- and another attack June 13 that destroyed the shrine's two minarets.

The timing of this announcement is quite telling. It came a day before the third round of direct public U.S.-Iranian talks are set to take place in Baghdad. This round is expected to focus on the composition and agenda of a tripartite security committee created during the second round of talks July 24. At the upcoming meeting, representatives will decide which security officials will represent Washington, Tehran and Baghdad on the committee and how it will accomplish its Herculean tasks. One of these will be to divvy out responsibility for working with those who oppose a U.S.-Iranian settlement. Each side will attempt to rein in the group with which it has the most influence: Iran will take the Shia and the Americans the Sunnis.

Though public distrust has marred past rounds of negotiations, this time might be different -- and not just in its atmospherics. The Americans now are figuratively dropping a head on the table as a token of sincerity. One of the few groups al Qaeda hates more than the Americans is the Shia, who they see as heretics; the Iranians are Shia, and al-Badri was one of the most active al Qaeda operatives working against the sect.

No matter what happens during the Aug. 6 meeting, the Iranians are very interested in ensuring that Sunni political power in Baghdad is limited; even more than they want to eliminate the jihadists, they do not want to see the return of a Saddam Hussein-like figure. That means the Iranians want to make sure the Iraqi military remains a nonoffensive force. This is why the Iranians likely are carefully studying remarks made Sunday by Iraqi air force commander Lt. Gen. Kamal al-Barzanji.

Speaking at a press briefing in Baghdad, al-Barzanji expressed hope that Iran will return some of the scores of Iraqi warplanes that flew to the country ahead of the 1991 Gulf War, meanwhile acknowledging that many of them are probably beyond repair. He added that the Iraqi air force, which has been built up from scratch since 2004, currently has only 45 aircraft -- for transport and reconnaissance -- and helicopters. Additionally, U.S. Brig. Gen. Bob Allardice, commander of the air force transition team, said a program to train new aviators has begun, and that the new air force currently has no offensive capability.

The two most critical issues concerning the Iranians in terms of the future of Iraq are the role of the Baathists and the nature of the Iraqi armed forces -- both of which relate to Iran's national security interests and Tehran's expectation of being able to use Iraq as a launch pad to project its power into the region and beyond in the future. Therefore, the statements from the Iraqi and U.S. air force commanders were hardly a coincidence. On the contrary, they were arranged to coincide with the upcoming talks -- reminding the Iranians that while Washington is willing to offer up mutual enemies as a gesture of trust, it is not without options in Iraq, and it is Tehran's turn to deliver.   stratfor.com
26780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: August 06, 2007, 07:10:37 PM
Tom:

Please forgive me, but what does this have to do with media issues?
26781  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Unorganized Militia on: August 06, 2007, 07:06:15 PM
The Patriot Post
Founders' Quote Daily

"[T]he people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are
left in full possession of them."

-- Zacharia Johnson (speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention,
25 June 1778)

Reference: The Debates of the Several State..., Elliot, vol. 3
(646)
26782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 06, 2007, 06:58:41 PM
I've seen similar reports-- although the idea of Iraqi "donations" sounds a bit implausible, the ransom racket is probably pretty active. 

As for financing AQ, I suspect the fact that Afg now produces over 95% of the western world's opium may have something to do with it even more.
26783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: August 06, 2007, 06:54:12 PM
On the City funded Islamic school:

 http://hotair.com/archives/2007/08/06/intifada-nyc/

It would appear that the initial suspicions have basis , , ,
26784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: August 06, 2007, 11:36:57 AM

Domestic Terror in Iran
Iran has just carried out the largest wave of executions since 1984.

BY AMIR TAHERI
Monday, August 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

It is early dawn as seven young men are led to the gallows amid shouts of "Allah Akbar" (Allah is the greatest) from a crowd of bearded men as a handful of women, all in hijab, ululate to a high pitch. A few minutes later, the seven are hanged as a mullah shouts: "Alhamd li-Allah" (Praise be to Allah).

The scene was Wednesday in Mashad, Iran's second most populous city, where a crackdown against "anti-Islam hooligans" has been under way for weeks.

The Mashad hangings, broadcast live on local television, are among a series of public executions ordered by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad last month as part of a campaign to terrorize an increasingly restive population. Over the past six weeks, at least 118 people have been executed, including four who were stoned to death. According to Saeed Mortazavi, the chief Islamic prosecutor, at least 150 more people, including five women, are scheduled to be hanged or stoned to death in the coming weeks.

The latest wave of executions is the biggest Iran has suffered in the same time span since 1984, when thousands of opposition prisoners were shot on orders from Ayatollah Khomeini.

Not all executions take place in public. In the provinces of Kurdistan and Khuzestan, where ethnic Kurdish and Arab minorities are demanding greater rights, several activists have been put to death in secret, their families informed only days after the event.





The campaign of terror also includes targeted "disappearances" designed to neutralize trade union leaders, student activists, journalists and even mullahs opposed to the regime. According to the latest tally, more than 30 people have "disappeared" since the start of the new Iranian year on March 21. To intimidate the population, the authorities also have carried out mass arrests on spurious grounds.
According to Gen. Ismail Muqaddam, commander of the Islamic Police, a total of 430,000 men and women have been arrested on charges related to drug use since April. A further 4,209 men and women, mostly aged between 15 and 30, have been arrested for "hooliganism" in Tehran alone. The largest number of arrests, totaling almost a million men and women according to Mr. Muqaddam, were related to the enforcement of the new Islamic Dress Code, passed by the Islamic Majlis (parliament) in May 2006.

Most of those arrested, he says, spent a few hours, or at most a few days, in custody as "a warning." By last week, 40,000 were still in prison. Of these, 20,363 men and women are held on charges related to violating the Islamic Dress Code. According to the Deputy Chief of Police Gen. Hussein Zulfiqari, an additional 6,204 men and women are in prison on charges of "sexual proximity" without being married.

The wave of arrests has increased pressure on the nation's inadequate prison facilities. At a recent press conference in Tehran, the head of the National Prisons Service, Ali-Akbar Yassaqi, appealed for a moratorium on arrests. He said Iran's official prisons could not house more than 50,000 prisoners simultaneously while the actual number of prisoners at any given time was above 150,000. Mr. Yassaqi also revealed that each year on average some 600,000 Iranians spend some time in one of the 130 official prisons.

Since Mr. Ahmadinejad ordered the crackdown, work on converting 41 official buildings to prisons has started, with contracts for 33 other prisons already signed. Nevertheless, Mr. Yassaqi believes that, with the annual prison population likely to top the million mark this year, even the new capacities created might prove insufficient.

There are, however, an unknown number of unofficial prisons as well, often controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or militias working for various powerful mullahs. Last week, human rights activists in Iran published details of a new prison in Souleh, northwest of Tehran, staffed by militants from the Lebanese branch of Hezbollah. According to the revelations, the Souleh prison is under the control of the "Supreme Guide" Ali Khamenehi, and used for holding the regime's most "dangerous" political foes.

The regime especially fears the growing free trade union movement. In the past four months, free trade unionists have organized 12 major strikes and 47 demonstrations in various parts of the country. They showed their muscle on International Labor Day on May 1 when tens of thousands of workers marched in Tehran and 18 provincial capitals. The regime retaliated by arresting scores of trade unionists and expelling many others.

According to Rajab-Ali Shahsavari, leader of the Union of Contractual Workers, 25,795 unionists have been fired since April. He estimates that now over 1,000 workers are losing their jobs each day, as the regime intensifies its crackdown.

Worse still, the number of suspicious deaths among workers has risen to an all-time high. According to Deputy Labor Minister Ibrahim Nazari-Jalali, 1,047 workers have died in "work-related accidents" since April. Labor sources, however, point out that none of the accidents have been investigated and, in at least 13 cases, the workers who died may have been killed by goons hired by the regime.

The biggest purge of universities since Khomeini launched his "Islamic Cultural Revolution" in 1980 is also under way. Scores of student leaders have been arrested and more than 3,000 others expelled. Labeling the crackdown the "corrective movement," Mr. Ahmadinejad wants university textbooks rewritten to "cleanse them of Infidel trash," and to include "a rebuttal of Zionist-Crusader claims" about the Holocaust. Dozens of lecturers and faculty deans have been fired.

The nationwide crackdown is accompanied with efforts to cut Iranians off from sources of information outside the Islamic Republic. More than 4,000 Internet sites have been blocked, and more are added each day. The Ministry of Islamic Orientation has established a new blacklist of authors and book titles twice longer than what it was a year ago. Since April, some 30 newspapers and magazines have been shut and their offices raided. At least 17 journalists are in prison, two already sentenced to death by hanging.





The regime is trying to mobilize its shrinking base by claiming that the Islamic Republic is under threat from internal and external foes. It was in that context that the four Iranian-American hostages held in Tehran were forced to make televised "confessions" last month about alleged plots to foment a "velvet revolution."
Over 40 people have been arrested on charges of espionage since April, 20 in the southern city of Shiraz. Khomeinist paranoia reached a new peak last week when the authorities announced, through the Islamic Republic News Agency, the capture of four squirrels in the Western city of Kermanshah and claimed that the furry creatures had been fitted with "espionage devices" by the Americans in Iraq and smuggled into the Islamic Republic.

Mr. Ahmadinejad likes to pretend that he has no worries except "Infidel plots" related to the Islamic Republic's nuclear ambitions. The truth is that, faced with growing popular discontent, the Khomeinist clique is vulnerable and worried, extremely worried. The outside world would do well to carefully monitor and, whenever possible, support the Iranian people's fight against the fascist regime in Tehran.

Iran today is not only about atomic bombs and Iranian-American hostages. It is also about a growing popular movement that may help bring the nation out of the dangerous impasse created by the mullahs.

Mr. Taheri is author of "L'Irak: Le Dessous Des Cartes" (Editions Complexe, 2002).
WSJ
26785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: August 06, 2007, 11:32:20 AM


Mad House
Congress needs an intervention.

Monday, August 6, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The House of Representatives almost turned into the Fight Club Thursday night, when Democrats ruled that a GOP motion had failed even though, when the gavel fell, the electronic score board showed it winning 215-213 along with the word FINAL. The presiding officer, Rep. Mike McNulty (D., N.Y.), actually spoke over the clerk who was trying to announce the result.

In the ensuing confusion several members changed their votes and the GOP measure to deny illegal aliens benefits such as food stamps then trailed 212-216. Boiling-mad Republicans stormed off the floor. The next day, their fury increased when they learned electronic records of the vote had disappeared from the House's voting system.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi made matters worse when she told reporters, "There was no mistake made last night." Majority Leader Steny Hoyer had to rescue her by acknowledging that, while he thought no wrongdoing had occurred, the minority party was "understandably angry." Under pressure, the House unanimously agreed to create a select committee, with subpoena powers, to investigate Republican charges the vote had been "stolen."

Congress appears to be gripped by a partisanship that borders on tribal warfare. In a forthcoming book, Los Angeles Times columnist Ron Brownstein compares it to a "second Civil War" that has led to "the virtual collapse of meaningful collaboration" between the two parties. Public disenchantment with Washington is such that now both New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democratic former senator Sam Nunn of Georgia are musing openly about an independent run for president. But Congress itself has to act if it doesn't want to degenerate into one of those fist-wielding European or Asian parliaments we occasionally see on TV.





The breakdown has been a long time coming. In the 1980s, after almost 40 years of control, House Democrats had become arrogant and casually exercised the near-absolute power that body gives the majority. In 1985, Democrats insisted on handing a disputed Indiana House seat to the Democratic incumbent by a four-vote margin despite clear evidence that ballots had been handled in a completely arbitrary way during a special recount by a House task force. In 1987, Speaker Jim Wright held open a budget vote for an extra 10 minutes in a frantic effort to convince someone to change his vote. The maneuver prompted then-Rep. Dick Cheney to call Mr. Wright "a heavy-handed son of a bitch."
Republicans didn't act any better during the reign of Majority Leader Tom DeLay. In 2003, a massive Medicare prescription drug entitlement was passed only after a vote was held open for three hours at 3 a.m. as Mr. DeLay strong-armed reluctant GOP members into voting for it. Votes were held open at least a dozen times during the last years of the Republicans' troubled control of the House.

Democrats issued a report in early 2006 pointing out the abuses of GOP rule. None other than Newt Gingrich admitted that he thought his party was too dismissive of the rights of the minority and risked a backlash if Democrats regained control.

Indeed, that happened with stunning speed after the GOP's fall from power last November. Despite Ms. Pelosi's pledge that "we would have the most honest and open government," the new majority quickly adopted a whatever-it-takes approach to passing legislation. Last week alone, a dubious ethics bill was passed less than 24 hours after being introduced. The bill expanding health-care coverage to children was rewritten at 1 a.m., a rule harshly limiting debate was passed at 3 a.m., and the bill was sent to the floor for a final vote the same day.

The Senate operates under a different rule book that is more open to debate. But it has its own problems, such as allowing individual senators to put holds on legislation and presidential nominees without revealing that they're behind the delaying tactic. It's become a cliché that nothing passes the Senate without 60 votes. But that wasn't the case in the past. Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson dominated the Senate in the 1950s with just a one- or two-vote advantage over Republicans and routinely passed legislation by margins that close. When filibusters were real and actually required senators to stay on the floor, they were threatened--and employed--less frequently.

But it's the House where the elbows have become sharp as razor blades. Despite efforts by members to form a "civility caucus" to find ways to cooperate across party lines, it is increasingly apparent that the inmates of the House asylum aren't the best judges of how to better working conditions there.





Almost exactly a year ago, former speakers Thomas Foley and Newt Gingrich, a Democrat and his Republican successor, appeared at the American Enterprise Institute to discuss "How Congress Is Failing America." The two old warhorses conducted a remarkably civilized exchange and proved that with the passage of time they had clearly put aside old animosities. Mr. Foley joked that if he heard today's Newt Gingrich on the campaign stump, his reaction would be "I think I'll vote for this guy." He added in a more serious vein, "I think he's absolutely dead right in his diagnosis of what's happening to this country and to the Congress."
Both men decried a runaway spending process, the demise of bipartisan committee deliberations, and the gerrymandered districts that have led to the election of more fierce partisans and fewer centrists. Both called for an end to the earmark culture that distorts budget deliberations. The two agreed that for real change to occur, Congress needs fresh blood. However, they disagreed on the desirability of term limits, with Mr. Gingrich favoring them and Mr. Foley demurring.

Mr. Foley also made a very prescient warning. He urged his fellow Democrats not to exact retribution or respond in kind to heavy-handed GOP tactics should they win back control that November, as they ended up doing: "Democrats [should] clearly and intensely [promise] that if they take the majority back again, they will not go back and try to pay back, so to speak, what they felt were the excesses and even the outrages of this period, but will promise minority rights in reaching those majority decisions."

Clearly, his fellow Democrats in the House haven't been following his advice. Maybe they ought to appoint Messrs. Foley and Gingrich to head an outside task force to recommend ways to make the House work again. If the House had the sense to recognize it had to appoint a select committee to investigate last Friday's vote fiasco, it should see the possible benefits of having an outside group weigh in on its dysfunctional ways.

Democrats and Republicans alike have an interest in reform. Scenes like last Friday's meltdown on the House floor can only lower Congress's dismal approval ratings. With both parties held in low regard, we could be heading for a repeat of the 1990 and 1992 elections, which took place at a time of economic uncertainty and bipartisan congressional scandals involving the House bank and post office. In those years, House incumbents in both parties went down to defeat--14 in 1990 and 24 in 1992.

Incumbents loathe political uncertainty. If Democrats and Republicans don't find a way to stop the erosion of pubic confidence in their work, they could be heading into a 2008 election in which neither party has a clear advantage and voters are looking to take scalps in both their camps. This just might be one of those rare times where House members should resort to outside intervention.

WSJ
26786  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dirty Bomb radiation protection on: August 06, 2007, 02:00:12 AM
Question:

Los Angeles is a city likely to go into heavy gridlock in the event of Islamofascist attack.  If the attack is a dirty bomb, what are the realistic options for the citizen at home or caught in the mother of all gridlock on some LA freeway.  Picture a woman with children in a van.  What is she to do?  I've heard iodine potassium (IIRC) tablets protect the thyroid gland.  Is there some sort of mask that lessens inhalation of nasties into lungs?  Will a child wear these?  What else?

TIA,
CD
26787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: August 06, 2007, 01:50:11 AM
Interesting point.
26788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 06, 2007, 12:57:29 AM
Tom:   Lets post your question/answer in a thread relevant to its content.  This thread is about Islamic Fascism vs. Free Speech.
26789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 05, 2007, 04:09:49 PM
Tom: 

The logic of you post #111 eludes me, both as a response in the context of this thread to what Buz posted or in general.  As best as I can tell, as has been explained in this thread and on this forum with what I perceive to be reasonable clarity NO ONE is calling for killing anyone because they are Iraqi.

Marc
26790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 04, 2007, 12:51:05 PM
PAKISTAN: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto will return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile to run in parliamentary elections expected in December or January 2008, despite running the risk of being arrested, Reuters reported, citing comments from a Bhutto spokesman. Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has met with Bhutto, who leads the opposition Pakistan People's Party, twice recently in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, creating speculation that the two have reached a political compromise allowing for her return.

stratfor.com
26791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Nuclear War? on: August 04, 2007, 12:49:49 PM
U.S./INDIA: The United States and India have released the text of the 123 civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. The 22-page document, which covers nuclear technology sharing, fuel supply and security protocol, will stay in effect for 40 years and can be terminated on a year's notice if a change in the security environment occurs. The United States will help India obtain approval from the 45-member Nuclear Suppliers Group before the agreement is submitted to the U.S. Congress for approval.
stratfor.com
26792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 04, 2007, 12:45:16 PM
Concerning whether we are fighting AQ in Iraq, see the following piece from the Left Angeles Times today:

==============

Aided by U.S., militants widen reach
A Sunni group, partners in the fight against Al Qaeda in Iraq, is becoming more ambitious. Some fear it can't be trusted.
By Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Times Staff Writer
August 4, 2007


 
‘Goldmine of Information'
 click to enlargeBAGHDAD — The leader of the Revolutionaries of Amiriya sits in his headquarters in an abandoned high school here, explaining the militant group's latest mission: policing and rebuilding Sunni Muslim neighborhoods.

"We need to return the services to the neighborhoods. Al Qaeda destroyed streets, schools, electricity, even mobile phone towers," said the man known as Abu Abed, or Saif. "They made the people here desperate."

Since partnering with U.S. forces in May to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq in the walled, middle-class west Baghdad neighborhood of Amiriya, the Sunni militant group has broadened its reach to overseeing city services. And it is pushing ambitious plans to police a few other Sunni neighborhoods, against the wishes of the Iraqi army and government, some Sunni leaders and U.S. soldiers, who say the militants can't be trusted.

U.S. military leaders, who have used the same tactic in Al Anbar province, say their goal is to turn the fighters into Iraqi police in areas where the Shiite-dominated security forces aren't trusted, or can't go.

Military commanders acknowledge that there's a risk that the Sunni fighters they're attempting to co-opt could betray them or fuel the country's civil war by turning their arms on Shiite militias such as Al Mahdi army and Badr Organization. But U.S. strategists are betting that giving the Sunni Arab groups a stake in a stable Iraq, and paying them a monthly salary, will quell violence and help U.S. forces repel Al Qaeda in Iraq, one of several high-profile Sunni Arab groups in the insurgency against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

"You make them dependent on you for a paycheck, you take their biometrics; you've got their names, you know where they go for work every day because they work for you," a U.S. diplomat said of the experiment.

"You have got commanders over them. This is a much safer place to be than having these guys out in the wilderness fighting you."

Analysts say the experiment is risky at best.

"They may be infiltrated by the unturned insurgents like Al Qaeda in Iraq and use knowledge gained about American forces and positions to abet attacks on our troops," said Bruce Riedel, a senior fellow in foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "Most of all, their loyalty to the central government is questionable at best, so you are creating even more warlords and militias in an already confused and volatile situation."

Already, U.S. commanders have begun reining in their new allies.

"You can watch your own neighborhoods, but you can't watch somebody else's neighborhood," U.S. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said he has told tribal leaders in the Taji area north of the capital, where Sunni militias have been enlisted in policing roles.

Saif, the Amiriya Revolutionaries commander, is becoming a power broker of sorts between U.S. forces and Sunni groups eager to assume the same roles in Khadra, Shurta overpass, Haifa Street and Bakriya, and in more mixed neighborhoods such as Adhamiya, Bab al Muadam and Fadil.

"All I need and ask of the U.S. is protection for me and my fighters," he said. "We still apply the law."



'Going undercover'

Last month, the militants, clad in T-shirts and tracksuits and openly toting AK-47 assault rifles, greeted U.S. soldiers visiting the group's headquarters in the former high school.

Saif, 35, looked more like a police detective than a militant, in pressed slacks and a button-down plaid shirt, a gold Iraq pin on his lapel and a black pistol strapped to his right thigh.

Capt. Dustin Mitchell, 30, who serves as a liaison with the group, said he was impressed by their ability to find weapons stockpiles, roadside bombs and Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders.

"It's like going undercover in the police, in civilian clothing. And that's kind of something we can't do as white boys in the U.S. Army," Mitchell said. "It's just a goldmine of information that you ain't going to find anywhere else."

Saif, a former member of Saddam Hussein's military, said many in his group had been members of the 1920 Revolution Brigade and Islamic Army, groups that have fought U.S. forces, Al Qaeda in Iraq and Shiite militias.

Asked whether his men had fought U.S. troops, Saif, with soldiers looking on, smiled.
----------

"If the door gets broken down and my family is inside, I'm going to defend myself, I'm going to defend my family," he said. "Then I discover he's my friend, that he came from a faraway country to give me freedom."

Saif claims to have killed 22 Al Qaeda in Iraq operatives during two months of working with U.S. forces.

"We are the sons of this neighborhood, of the streets," Saif said. Residents trust them "because they know what kind of morals we have."

Reviews are mixed from U.S. soldiers who have worked with the Revolutionaries of Amiriya.

Sgt. Joe Frye, 31, of Panama City, Panama, has watched them search homes, nimbly traversing streets laced with roadside bombs with a speed and stealth that can't be matched by armored U.S. convoys.

"We've accomplished more in the few weeks working with these guys than in the nine months we've been here," Frye said.

But Lt. Brendan Griswold, 24, says he's seen members of the group, who often patrol in black ski masks, confiscate cars with little cause, a common complaint among Amiriya residents. Other soldiers reported seeing the militants beat suspects with rifle butts during raids.

"I don't like going out with them. I don't trust them," Griswold said during a patrol in Amiriya. "They get a little bit out of control."

Plan is paying off

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Dale Kuehl, a West Point graduate whose 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, has provided supplies, ammunition and other aid to the militants, said the partnership was paying off. U.S. and Iraqi casualties, explosions and shootings in Amiriya have dropped in the last three months, military records show, and U.S. and Iraqi troops have detained more suspects, defused more bombs and seized more weapons.

"Even with [the] surge, you can't put a soldier on every street corner," he said. "That's the value of what they do."

Kuehl is trying to persuade Iraqi army leaders to support the group, but those commanders remain critical of the fighters.

"We've been in government four years, and we're not giving weapons to anyone who comes," Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammed Askari said. "If we don't control those people, they will use their arms against us."

Kuehl acknowledges that as the Revolutionaries of Amiriya grows, the group may abandon plans to join the Iraqi police and become a Sunni counterpoint to the Shiite militias they have long fought.

"The challenge will be trying to keep it under control," Kuehl said of the group. "We do not want this to become another sectarian militia."

The U.S. military collects identifying information from the members, including fingerprints and retina scans, but the fighters are not screened or supervised.

"You don't know how far you can trust them a few months from now," said Sgt. David Alexander, 24, of Amarillo, Texas, stationed in a bombed-out bunker near the group's office. "They're with us now because we have a common goal. But what happens when we kill all the Al Qaeda guys? … If they want to go out and capture somebody for revenge, there's nobody to prevent them from doing that."

Saif seemed to confirm those fears, saying that even as his men become Iraqi police officers, they will continue to go after Shiite militias to avenge dead comrades, including his brothers.

"It is our nature as Iraqis," he said. "We have revenge issues."



26793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mindanao's Rising Tensions on: August 04, 2007, 12:36:11 PM
stratfor.com

Philippines: Mindanao's Rising Tensions
Two improvised explosive devices exploded at a bus terminal in Koronadal City on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao on Aug. 3, killing one person and wounding seven. South Cotabato province's police chief said the bombing followed an extortion attempt by a group calling itself al-Khobar. This latest attack will only add to the already high tensions on Mindanao resulting from the beheading of 10 Philippine marines in July.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in fact, has been threatening to launch an all-out offensive against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) -- the militant group it holds partly responsible for the marines' deaths -- though the operation has been put on hold because of pressure from the World Bank and multinational corporations operating in Mindanao. The possibility for an escalation in violence remains, however, as the enraged marines are unlikely to be satisfied with the small concessions MILF has made to atone for the attack, which also resulted in the shooting deaths of four other marines.

Bombings are fairly common on Mindanao, and usually are related to crime rather than militancy. Many of the militant attacks are blamed on several rogue factions that split off from MILF in protest of the group's entrance into peace talks with the Philippine government. These smaller groups, which use extortion and kidnapping for ransom as primary means of funding, operate in Mindanao's remote villages and small towns, where the group's leadership cannot exercise control over them. The Communist New People's Army and the militant Islamist Abu Sayyaf group also use kidnapping and extortion to fund themselves.





The July 10 battle that ended with the beheadings started when hundreds of MILF fighters ambushed a marine contingent as it searched for a kidnapped Italian priest in MILF territory on the island of Basilan. The priest, who had been kidnapped a month earlier from the town of Payao on Mindanao, was released near Karamutan municipality on Mindanao nine days after the ambush.

After the beheadings, the AFP demanded that the MILF surrender those responsible or else face an all-out offensive. MILF acknowledged initiating the ambush, but said the marines were in its territory in violation of a cease-fire agreement with Manila. The AFP contends the beheadings were carried out by both MILF and Abu Sayyaf members.

The Philippine government put the offensive on hold in response to threats by the World Bank and foreign contractors -- mainly Japanese and Canadian nongovernmental organizations working on infrastructure and development projects on Mindanao -- to suspend aid projects if violence escalates. There are fears that if the AFP initiates a major offensive against MILF, elements of the group will retaliate with attacks against soft targets on Mindanao.

In an effort to prevent more fighting, MILF has turned over a few fighters suspected of participating in the ambush. Also, on Aug. 3, two suspects from Abu Sayyaf surrendered to authorities, bringing a rifle they said was taken from one of the dead marines. These small gestures, however, are unlikely to satisfy the AFP, which has issued about 130 arrest warrants for rebels suspected to have been involved in the beheadings. Because MILF has split into so many different factions, the main group's leadership, which apparently is attempting to work with the government, is unlikely to be able to deliver the suspects.

The AFP, particularly the marines, undoubtedly is champing at the bit to retaliate against MILF for the gruesome attack. Meanwhile, many of Mindanao's Christian inhabitants also are urging the government to take a stronger stance against MILF. If MILF fails to deliver a good portion of the suspects, Manila could accede to the military demand for action and approve a major offensive -- something it has done in the past when the group has dragged its feet on issues important to the government. Severe military action, in fact, could spur the MILF leadership to make more serious efforts to rein in its various splinter factions.
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26794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: August 04, 2007, 10:44:12 AM
Woof Tom:

All this is a tad confusing.  Are you referring to post #967, 971, 974 or 975 and now that you have read it/them, how does affect what you are saying?

26795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: August 03, 2007, 10:43:23 AM
Gents:

With this forum, I like to keep a fairly tight leash on thread coherency. Lets take a look at the title of the this thread.  The question of whether IF is a sound term readily falls within this heading, but we are starting to drift into a shapeless mishmash of subjects here.  By all means please continue the conversation, but please move the question(s) presented to the relevant
thread(s).

Marc
26796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: August 03, 2007, 10:32:44 AM
Sicko Europe
By DANIELE CAPEZZONE
August 3, 2007; Page A9

Rome

We live in an age of unprecedented medical innovation. Unfortunately, most of today's cutting-edge research is conducted outside Europe, which was once a pioneer in this field. About 78% of global biotechnology research funds are spent in the U.S., compared to just 16% in Europe. Americans therefore have better access to modern drugs. One result is that in the U.S., the annual death rate from cancer is 196 per 100,000 people, compared to 235 in Britain, 244 in France, 270 in Italy and 273 in Germany.

It is both a tragedy and an embarrassment that Europe hasn't kept up with the U.S. in saving and improving lives. What's to blame? The Continent's misguided policies and state-run health-care systems. The reasons vary from country to country, but broadly speaking, the custodians of public health budgets aren't devoting the necessary resources to get patients the most modern and advanced medicines, and are happier with the status quo. We often see news headlines about promising new cures and vaccines next to headlines about patients who can't get life-saving drugs as politicians impose ever stricter prescription controls on doctors.

The human toll can be measured in deaths and unnecessary suffering. It also costs us a lot of money. Prevention is cheaper than treatment. Modern medicine can prevent many medical complications that would otherwise require hospitalization and other expensive care. For every euro spent on new medicine, national health-care systems could save as much as €3.65 in later treatments, according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study.

This situation is especially dire in Italy. The government has capped spending on pharmaceuticals at 13% of total health-care expenditures while letting expenses for infrastructure and staff skyrocket. From 2001 to 2005, general health expenses in Italy grew by 31% while expenditure on medicines increased a mere 1.7%. Italian patients might well have been better off if the reverse was the case, but the state bureaucrats who make these decisions refuse to acknowledge the benefits of advanced drugs.

Also as a result, pharmaceutical research in Italy is falling behind even faster than in the rest of Europe. In 2004, pharmaceutical R&D spending was €3.9 billion in Germany, €3.95 billion in France and €4.78 billion in Britain, compared to only €1.01 billion in Italy.

Part of the problem is that regional authorities manage most of Italy's health-care spending. A strike by health-care personnel has an immediate impact on the region, but the consequences of cutting the budget for medicines are only felt in the long term and distributed across the nation. Hence, local authorities continue to focus on personnel and infrastructure in an age when medical research has become the most efficient way to improve public health.

Most recently, some Italian regions decided to drastically expand the scope of reference pricing, in open defiance of the central government. Reference pricing is used in most European countries to reduce government spending on medicine and is one of the reasons the Continent is lagging behind in pharmaceutical research. New drugs are grouped with existing drugs used to treat the same medical condition, and the government typically limits reimbursement to the cheapest price in the reference group. This way, patients are discouraged from using the most modern and more expensive medicine.

The Italian regions, however, are taking reference pricing one step further by grouping together drugs that do not necessarily have identical therapeutic effects. This way, the reference groups grow larger, and the regions can save more money. But patients are forced to choose between paying high out-of-pocket expenses or the risk of taking the wrong medicine.

This is a tragic state of affairs in a country with a higher natural demand for advanced medicine than most others in Europe. The older people get, the more likely they are to get ill, and today 20% of Italians are 65 years of age or older -- by far the largest percentage of any European country. The proportion is projected to rise to 24.5% by 2020.

Italian leaders have a responsibility to prevent parochialism from undermining public health and pharmaceutical research. But it is worth repeating that the combination of an aging population and an inefficient health-care system is a European, not exclusively Italian, problem.

It is time for politicians and regulators to confront our backward health-care systems and unleash the powers of medical research. Besides expanding drug budgets, European countries should work together to deregulate the pharmaceutical industry -- for instance, by speeding up the approval process for new drugs. The EU can better ensure that drug patents are adequately protected both in Europe and around the world against compulsory licensing and other infringements. Finally, we should give medical researchers tax incentives to slow the brain drain to the U.S. -- much like Ireland is attracting artists with favorable tax laws. We Europeans are getting older; we should be getting wiser, healthier and happier, too.

Mr. Capezzone is the president of the productivity committee of the Italian Chamber of Deputies.

WSJ
26797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Job Creation in Mexico on: August 03, 2007, 10:26:45 AM
WSJ

Mexico's Job-Creation Problem
By JOEL KURTZMAN
August 3, 2007; Page A9

Why do so many Mexicans leave their families, friends and homes to make the arduous journey to the United States?

It's a central question to the immigration debate and is essential for setting workable policies. But it's also a question that has rarely been asked.

After looking at the numbers, what I discovered is that Mexico has a job-creation problem. During President Vicente Fox's six years in office his goal was to create six million jobs across all sectors of the economy. Mr. Fox fell far short of that goal. Between 2000 and 2006, the period when he was in office, Mexico created only 1.4 million jobs. Though accurate figures are difficult to arrive at, the Government Accountability Office estimates that during each year of Mr. Fox's presidency between 400,000 and 700,000 illegal immigrants arrived in the U.S. from Mexico. The number of illegal immigrants from Mexico was roughly equal to the number of jobs Mr. Fox did not create.

If one were to do a CAT scan of Mexico's economy, one would find a country with the potential to become a job creator's paradise. Mexico has far more oil than fast-growing Dubai (a net labor importer) and almost as much as Qatar, another labor importer. If Mexicans working in the U.S. are any indication, Mexico has a work force that is trained and disciplined. With thousands of miles of coastline, Mexico is a tourist haven. It shares a border with its largest trading partner. But even with these positive attributes, Mexico's job-creation engine has stalled.

Research shows that big companies -- especially big Mexican companies -- do not create many jobs. Jobs are created by entrepreneurs who start companies from scratch. To perform their job-creating function, entrepreneurs need access to capital, which is where Mexico falls short. According to the Milken Institute's 2006 Capital Access Index, Mexico ranks a dismal 43rd with regard to capital access out of 122 countries studied. To compare, the U.S., the world's top job-creating developed country, ranks No. 4, and Hong Kong, Asia's most vibrant, entrepreneurial hub, ranks No. 1.

Mexicans with drive, ambition and a willingness to take risks sneak across the border to the U.S. But they don't just come for jobs. They also come for the capital. When these immigrants arrive they don't just sell their labor, many start small businesses in the food, construction, maintenance and landscaping trades. When those businesses are launched, illegal Mexican immigrants hire other illegal Mexican immigrants. A great deal of Mexico's job creation takes place inside the U.S.

Mexico's financial and economic structures fail at providing entrepreneurs with the capital they need to create jobs. The economy is too concentrated, with nearly half of it controlled by a single family -- that of the billionaire Carlos Slim. A handful of other families own the bulk of Mexico's remaining wealth. Mexico's legal and business structures effectively fence off from competition whole sectors of the economy. In telecommunications, petroleum and much of the real-estate and tourism sectors, real competition is restricted. Mexico could jumpstart its job-creation engine by opening these sectors of its economy to real competition.

Mexico's oil wealth is another job-creator's nightmare. It is controlled by a single government-owned company, Pemex. Even with today's high oil prices, Pemex is the world's most heavily indebted oil company and one of the least efficient producers. Pemex -- whose monopoly status is protected by the Mexican constitution -- is so bogged down by bureaucracy, conflicting interests, political meddling and sweetheart union deals, that it has failed to find any new oil reserves in years. It is not that new oil reserves don't exist. Last year, Chevron found huge deposits in the U.S.-portion of the Gulf of Mexico. The problem with Pemex is that it isn't really looking for oil. If Mexico's oil industry were opened up to competition, even within the confines of its constitution, not only would more oil be found, more jobs would be created.

Mexico's financial system is to entrepreneurship what sharks are to a swimmer's beach. Banking, which is conservative and risk-averse, dominates Mexico's financial system, accounting for about 55% of all financial assets, compared with just 24% of all financial assets in the U.S. In the U.S., the capital markets and a diverse array of funds provide most of the capital. If that weren't enough, Mexico's top three banks control 60% of all banking assets. If entrepreneurs are turned down by the first bank, they really have only two more places to apply. For a country its size, Mexico's stock and bond markets are hugely underdeveloped when measured as a percentage of GDP.

Household credit is also scarce in Mexico and amounts to only about 5% of GDP, versus 65% in the U.S. Without access to credit, Mexico's consumer and retail sectors have not grown sufficiently. These sectors could be vibrant job-creation engines if Mexicans had wider access to credit.

But perhaps most strikingly, Mexico has not yet succeeded in building a robust residential mortgage market. Whereas the U.S. has $8.2 trillion outstanding in residential mortgages, Mexico, with a population a third the size of U.S., has just $47 billion outstanding. Not only that, more than half of Mexico's homes are self-built and substandard. As a result, the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas estimates Mexico has a housing deficit of five million units. If mortgages were cheap and plentiful -- through the increased use of mortgage securitization tools, for example -- the epicenter of demand for Mexico's trade- and craftsmen would not be California, Arizona, Texas and Florida. It would be in Mexico.

Solving the immigration problem will not happen unless Mexico solves its job-creation problem. To do that, Mexico needs to modernize and open up to competition its antiquated and concentrated economic and financial systems. For decades, Mexico has argued that if it were to do so, America would take over. It's time to dispel that urban myth with a little reality. If Mexico can succeed in providing capital to risk-taking Mexicans, they will create jobs in Mexico, not just in the U.S.

Mr. Kurtzman, a senior fellow at the Milken Institute, is co-author of the forthcoming book, "Global Edge: Using the Opacity Index to Manage the Risk of Cross-border Business" (Harvard Business School Press).
26798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The New Race for the Arctic: on: August 03, 2007, 10:22:09 AM
 New Race for the Arctic
By ERIC POSNER
August 3, 2007; Page A8

Melting polar ice and the high cost of energy are creating a new battleground at the top of the world. Yesterday a Russian mini-sub released a capsule containing a Russian flag onto the seabed at the North Pole. This was the climax of a research expedition whose purpose is to support Russia's claim to what could be billions of tons of oil and gas reserves in an area of the Arctic twice the size of France. Russia has already been setting up new military and civilian posts, such as in the Zemlya Frantsa Iosifa archipelago in the northeastern Barents Sea.

Meanwhile, Canada has reasserted its claim over the melting Northwest Passage, a portion of the Arctic Ocean linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Its recent announcement that it will build patrol vessels in order to establish sovereignty over the passage had a belligerent tone uncharacteristic of our peaceful neighbor.

The United States has long resisted both claims. The international legal arguments are esoteric, but boiled down they amount to this: Russia's claim is based on the principle that a coastal nation controls the mineral resources of its continental shelf, and the as-yet unproved assertion, which the U.S. disputes, that the continental shelf abutting Russian territory extends deep into the Arctic. Canada argues that the straits composing the Northwest Passage amount to inland seas, and therefore are subject to Canadian sovereignty, just as the U.S. controls Lake Michigan. The U.S. replies that these straits are part of the high seas, and thus anyone can enter them without obtaining Canada's consent.

Power, not international law, will settle the issue. Indeed, international law recognizes this fact by making title dependent on a nation's ability to exert control over an area. That is why Russia is sending ships into the Arctic, and why Canada is saying that it will patrol the Northwest Passage. As long as such expressions of power are credible, other nations, disadvantaged by distance, will generally acquiesce and sovereignty will be extended accordingly.

Russia's expression of power is credible; Canada's is not. Canada cannot prevent other countries from sending ships up the Northwest Passage, as the U.S. has demonstrated from time to time for just this purpose. The melting of the Northwest Passage will significantly shorten the sea route between oceans, as well as open up access to energy resources. The U.S. does not want Canada to reap all the benefits of control of the passage, but this is a side show. The real threat is the Russian bear, not the Canadian beaver.

The world is divided into two types of space: areas controlled by states and areas that are uncontrolled. Oceans are mostly uncontrolled, with the significant exception of territorial seas, where states have been able to exert some control with naval resources. International law has long recognized states' control over their coastal seas (which extend about 12 miles), which means they can block and regulate foreign shipping in those areas. The high seas, however, are free to all.

The major naval powers have always advanced the principle of freedom of the seas for the simple reason that their naval forces dominate them. But "commons" are subject to overexploitation, and overfishing has been the predictable consequence of uncontrolled oceans. Predictable and unavoidable: If no one can control the oceans, then the problem cannot be solved by giving a country nominal title to them.

Where a state can exert control, it is best for it to do so, because this avoids the commons problem. It is in the world's interest for Canada to control the Northwest Passage, even if it will profit and has the formal power to keep the rest of the world out. Canada has an interest in protecting the passage and exploiting its resources, which the rest of the world can purchase. But given its military weakness, Canada cannot have this control without the support of the U.S.

Russia's claims present a different case. It is re-emerging as a global troublemaker, and its claims are far more ambitious than Canada's. At some point, Russia, the U.S. and other countries will carve up the Arctic into mutually exclusive economic zones. Russia is positioning itself to take the lion's share. Russia has major advantages over Canada and the U.S. in the battle over the Arctic. Control over the seas is determined by two things: power and propinquity. With respect to the Arctic, Russia has both. The U.S. has power but not, for the most part, propinquity; Canada has propinquity but not power. As long as the U.S. and Canada are at loggerheads over the Northwest Passage, they will have trouble resisting Russia's claims to the rest of the Arctic.

If the U.S. supports Canada's claim to the Northwest Passage, in return for some sort of guarantee of U.S. military and civilian access, the two countries will strengthen their position vis-à-vis Russia. As the world heats up, the two countries need to prepare themselves for the re-emergence of old rivalries, and in the battle over control of the Arctic, the U.S. and Canada are natural allies.

Mr. Posner, professor of law at the University of Chicago, is co-author of "The Limits of International Law" (Oxford University Press, 2005).
WSJ
26799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: August 03, 2007, 09:42:30 AM
'Get Smart' in Washington
Democrats pretend to be serious about intelligence.

Friday, August 3, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Imagine this scenario: U.S. intelligence against al Qaeda has declined by two-thirds because of court restrictions, and President Hillary Rodham Clinton is asking Congress to fix the problem. But Senate Republicans refuse to cooperate until the White House turns over executive branch documents, and because they won't protect phone companies from lawsuits for cooperating on the wiretaps.

Do you think President Clinton would be denouncing Congress? Or that there might be a political uproar? Or that the press corps would assail Republicans for endangering national security?

Yet this is precisely what is now happening in Washington--albeit with the political party roles reversed--and almost nobody seems to care. President Bush is mum while his aides beg Congress to do something, and Democrats claim they want to help but keep adding legal roadblocks that would continue to limit U.S. intelligence. The only person showing any alarm is Pete Hoekstra of Michigan, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, but he's in the minority and so is ignored by the press.

As we reported last week, Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell has been working behind the scenes for weeks to restore what even Democrats now concede is declining U.S. ability to eavesdrop on terrorists abroad. The phone companies have limited their cooperation due to the risk of lawsuits following the New York Times exposure of the wiretap program in 2005.





Mr. Bush's January decision to subject these wiretaps to the supervision of the special FISA court has eroded intelligence even further. In many cases, the National Security Agency now needs a warrant to tap even foreign-to-foreign contacts that happen to be routed through U.S. telephone switches. No wonder Osama bin Laden thinks America is a "weak horse." Our politicians are behaving with all the gravitas of Don Adams listening to the phone in his shoe in "Get Smart."
Democrats are the worst actors here because they won't even agree to mere six-month legal fix before they leave town this weekend for their August vacation. The White House has already compromised far too much and is only asking for two main temporary changes: Allow foreign-to-foreign calls to be tapped without a warrant. And if Democrats won't give the phone companies retroactive liability protection, then at least give them prospective immunity so they can cooperate from now on.

But even this is proving to be too much for Democratic leaders, who are apparently worried more about MoveOn.org than they are about another intelligence failure. They say they want to fix the foreign-to-foreign problem. But they're worried that a suspected foreign terrorist might call someone in the U.S., either a citizen or permanent resident, and so they have been insisting that any wiretap on that terrorist's communications require a warrant from the FISA court.

Thus if Ayman al-Zawahiri calls a terror cell in Detroit to give the green light for an operation, the NSA had better get a warrant before it listens in. Warrants for wiretaps on such calls originating overseas have never been required on FISA, for the obvious reason that foreign enemies don't deserve the same due process protections as U.S. citizens. What Democrats are seeking is an entirely new restriction on the executive branch's ability to gather intelligence during wartime.

By our deadline yesterday evening, Democrats were also still insisting on limiting warrantless wiretaps to known "foreign terrorists." Admiral McConnell, the DNI, wants to be able to listen in to the larger universe of "foreign targets" as well, because America's enemies include state actors and others who may not be terrorists or linked to al Qaeda. In other words, Democrats want the NSA to get a warrant even to listen to, say, North Korean spies.

And all of this, keep in mind, would only be for a six-month fix. If Mr. Bush wants a permanent fix for the next President, the White House would still have to deal with Democratic demands for documents related to the origins of the warrantless wiretap program after 9/11. Judiciary Chairman Pat Leahy has been blocking any wiretap compromise until the White House discloses documents that may well be protected under executive privilege. Mr. Leahy's purpose isn't to sort out the right policy but to score partisan points by claiming the Bush Administration has broken the law. Never mind that every President has claimed the Constitutional power to wiretap our enemies without a warrant in the name of national security.
This episode is most distressing for what it reveals about the unseriousness of our political class. Democrats so loathe the Bush Administration that they are willing to throw away one of our best weapons in the war against al Qaeda. It's long past time the President stopped pleading with Congress, and started explaining this outrage to the American people.

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26800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: August 03, 2007, 09:36:23 AM
On His Armor
A refugee to our shores finds a way to protect our soldiers.

BY BRENDAN MINITER
Friday, August 3, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

It's not every day that you get to take a heavy armor panel into the family backyard and blast away at it with a shotgun. But on this occasion, I was doing my brother-in-law David Warren a favor. We were testing a new kind of armor he developed that he hoped would protect American soldiers. That day three years ago was among the first of many tests--bringing him from a workshop in his garage to the Pentagon and eventually to the front lines in Iraq.

Something of an American success story, David arrived in this country in 1975, an 8-year-old refugee from Vietnam. His father, a U.S. soldier, disappeared and was likely killed in action during the war. His mother couldn't manage to fend for her family when the communists took control of the country; so David lived on the streets in Saigon for a while before, thanks to a little divine intervention, he ended up on a flight that eventually took him to New York. He was adopted by an American family and grew up on a farm in the Hudson Valley. When he graduated from high school, he joined the Marines. And during his four-year stint, he served very briefly in the Persian Gulf just before the liberation of Kuwait.

David always liked to tinker. He used to make a good living at a security company that designed surveillance systems, and he held nearly a half-dozen patents. But none for armor.





After reading a story I had published on this Web site and a later one in The Wall Street Journal about U.S. soldiers in Iraq not receiving all the armor they needed to shield themselves from insurgent attacks, he changed course. Why, he asked me, was the U.S. military unable to move armor to the front lines fast enough? I explained that it wasn't just the bureaucratic snafus in Washington that held up the armor plating. It was also the manufacturing bottlenecks that made it difficult to quickly fabricate and ship hardened steel and other materials used for armor.
And so David decided to design a new kind of armor that would be lighter than steel and easier to produce. Part of him, he tells me, was drawn to the difficulty of it. "You challenged me to stop a bullet," he'd say on several occasions over the next few years.

But there was another reason as well. As a refugee and a former Marine, he empathized with both the American soldiers and the Iraqi civilians caught in the crossfire. He saw the fight in Iraq as more than toppling a dictator. He saw it as a return of the U.S. to the kind of war that it had abandoned in Southeast Asia. And this was his opportunity to turn his talents to the aid of a country that had taken him in.

"It all really leads up to this," he told me. So David took a steep cut in pay and pulled away from his security business--though the company kept him on the payroll to support his venture. He played around with several different types of metals and other substances. He found a financial backer and a plastics manufacturer, Wayne Schaeffer, who helped him work on the armor designs. And, within a few months, I found myself in David's backyard about to test his home-made product.

To my amazement, and maybe David's too, the panel withstood the shotgun blast. It also withstood a shot from a high-powered rifle. Seeing his armor's success, David sold the rights to one of his patents to raise more funds. Eventually, he got to show his armor to the folks at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa), who put it through several rounds of tests, including a few bomb explosions. After David made more improvements, he was contacted by some soldiers in Iraq who had heard about his armor and wanted to put it on their vehicles.





Late last year, David went to Baghdad. He spent several days with soldiers to see, firsthand, what they needed. In the coming months he expects to send large panels of his armor to Iraq, where they will be bolted onto military vehicles. If all goes according to plan, he'll get orders for more panels, which he and his partners will build in a factory they're setting up in Kingston, N.Y.
During the course of the past three years, as David worked his way through several prototypes, he received plenty of help. Nearly every manufacturer he approached--about a dozen--has donated time or materials; sometimes they moved him to the top of their order lists. Each, it seems, feels he owes it to the men and women fighting to protect our way of life. But maybe David feels it a little more.

Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of OpinionJournal.com.
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