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27251  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Federalist 57 on: April 02, 2010, 07:05:32 AM
"The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust." --James Madison, Federalist No. 57
27252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lithuania on: April 02, 2010, 06:55:39 AM
The following piece from POTH (so caveat lector) brings up the case of Lithuania, which apparently is following the radical idea of cutting spending.  As such Lithuania bears watching.

VILNIUS, Lithuania — If leaders of the world’s many indebted countries want to see what austerity looks like, they might want to visit this Baltic nation of 3.3 million.

“You have to do the most difficult cuts as quickly as possible,” Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius said of the austerity plan.
Faced with rising deficits that threatened to bankrupt the country, Lithuania cut public spending by 30 percent — including slashing public sector wages 20 to 30 percent and reducing pensions by as much as 11 percent. Even the prime minister, Andrius Kubilius, took a pay cut of 45 percent. And the government didn’t stop there. It raised taxes on a wide variety of goods, like pharmaceutical products and alcohol. Corporate taxes rose to 20 percent, from 15 percent. The value-added tax rose to 21 percent, from 18 percent.

The net effect on this country’s finances was a savings equal to 9 percent of gross domestic product, the second-largest fiscal adjustment in a developed economy, after Latvia’s, since the credit crisis began.

But austerity has exacted its own price, in social and personal pain. Pensioners, their benefits cut, swamped soup kitchens. Unemployment jumped to a high of 14 percent, from single digits — and an already wobbly economy shrank 15 percent last year.

Remarkably, for the most part, the austerity was imposed with the grudging support of Lithuania’s trade unions and opposition parties, and has yet to elicit the kind of protest expressed by the regular, widespread street demonstrations and strikes seen in Greece, Spain and Britain. 

To be sure, Mr. Kubilius has many critics here and abroad. Government austerity in the midst of a recession runs counter to the Keynesian approach of increasing public expenditures to fight a downturn. That was the path most countries chose. But Mr. Kubilius and his team say that with a budget deficit of 9 percent of G.D.P., a currency fixed to the euro and international bond markets unwilling to lend to Lithuania, the government had no choice but to show the world it could impose its own internal devaluation by cutting public spending, restoring competitiveness and reclaiming the good will of the bond markets.

Another motivation was to conform to the rules of membership for the euro currency union, which Lithuania hopes to join by 2014.

Indeed, outside of Ireland, no country in Europe has come close to replicating Lithuania’s severe spending cuts without the aid of the International Monetary Fund. Ireland passed the most austere budget in the country’s history, and public sector pay cuts were a centerpiece of the government’s reform effort. The Finance Ministry has forecast growth of 1.5 percent this year, and this week Moody’s increased its outlook on the Lithuanian economy to stable, from negative.

“From a credit rating perspective, Lithuania has put itself on positive trajectory,” said Kenneth Orchard, a senior credit officer in Moody’s sovereign risk group.

As European nations consider what the social and political costs will be when they take steps to cut public sector spending, Lithuania offers a real-time case study of the societal trade-offs.  Speed and communication are the most crucial to success, Mr. Kubilius said in an interview in his office last week.

“You have to have a dialogue with your social partners, and you have to do the most difficult cuts as quickly as possible,” he said. “I told them this is history. You need to decide now how you want to be described in our history books.”

Like Latvia and Estonia, Lithuania rode a boom driven by banking and real estate earlier this decade. Construction came to dominate the economy, and low interest rates spurred a housing boom. Many Lithuanians took out low-interest-rate mortgages denominated in foreign currencies. With the onset of the crisis, house prices plunged, building ground to a halt and quite suddenly thousands lost their jobs and began to default on their debts.

While the quaint cobblestone streets of Vilnius may project an air of prosperity, one does not need to travel far to witness the pain many Lithuanians are feeling. Monika Midveryte, a university student, and her mother are now supporting the family after her father lost his construction job. Now, she said, he sits at home in front of the television drinking his troubles away. “He has no hope.”

The psychological toll has been immense. Suicides have increased in a country where the suicide rate of 35 per 100,000 is already one of the world’s highest, local experts say. According to figures collected by the Youth Psychological Aid Center, telephone calls to its hot line from people who said they were on the verge of committing suicide nearly doubled last year to 1,400, from 750.


(Page 2 of 2)

As the president of Solidarumas, one of Lithuania’s largest trade unions, Aldona Jasinskiene has an acute understanding of how bad things are — not just as the head of her union, but as a mother. For more than a year, her salary has paid the 2,300 litas, about $900, in monthly mortgage payments for her 40-year-old son, who lost his construction job. Ms. Jasinskiene says his mental health is suffering, he is fighting with his wife and his family of four dines on potatoes three times a day. Now, with her own pension having been slashed, she is left with just 300 litas a month to support herself and her 15-year-old granddaughter.

Ms. Jasinskiene said she signed the agreement with the government because unions, which are extremely weak in Lithuania, were not capable of calling the type of general strike well known in other parts of Europe, and because she wanted to do what she could to prevent even deeper cuts. While Mr. Kubilius points to positive signs like renewed growth, busy cafes in Vilnius and upgrades by the credit agencies, from her vantage point, Ms. Jasinskiene sees no upturn.

“He is telling you a fairy tale,” she said. “Unemployment is going up and up.”

Algirdas Malakauskis, a priest at St. Francis and St. Bernardine Friary, has also experienced the recession’s toll firsthand. He has had to preside over an increasing number of funerals for people who have taken their own lives. Parishioners now come to him seeking work, and his elderly parents, whose pensions have been cut, are angry.

Like a surprising number of people here, however, he has not turned on the government. “You can see they are doing everything that they can to keep the situation stable,” he said.

Still, the tough measures have drawn criticism outside Lithuania.

“The internal devaluation strategy may have succeeded in delivering short-term stabilization, but at what cost?” asked Charles Woolfson, a professor of labor studies at the University of Glasgow who has expertise in the Baltics. Professor Woolfson points out that deepening social alienation in Lithuania has resulted in the sharpest rise in emigration since the country joined the European Union in 2004.

“Then it was the migration of the hopeful,” he said. “Now it is the migration of the despairing.”

There is no greater totem to the excesses of the lending frenzy that gave Lithuania one of the highest growth rates in Europe in 2007 than the sparkling Swedbank office building. Completed just last year, it is 16 stories high and monopolizes the modest Vilnius skyline. Swedbank is the dominant bank in Lithuania, and its aggressive lending to first-time home buyers — including Ms. Jasinskiene’s son — continues to be a millstone for many here.

“People are angry,” said Odeta Bloziene, who runs a unit within the bank that gives advice to Lithuanians who are having trouble repaying their loans. “But we never run away from our customers.”

In the reception area of the bank’s headquarters, bankers laughed and drank beer from a well-stocked bar as rock music played in the background. It is a far remove from the soup kitchen at St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church in Vilnius, where 500 people a day line up for a free meal of soup and Lithuanian pancakes.

Mecislovas Zukauskas, 88, a retired electrician, has lived through the devastations of World War II, the Soviet occupation and, most recently, the death of his wife. He is taking his pension cut in stride.

“The government does what it wants to do,” he said. “We can do nothing.”
27253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: April 02, 2010, 06:37:50 AM
Coincidentally enough, here's this from Pravda On The Hudson (POTH a.k.a. the NYT) so read between the lines:

WASHINGTON — Tensions between China and the United States have ebbed significantly in recent days, with the countries now working together to deter Iran’s nuclear ambitions and with the Obama administration backing off a politically charged clash over China’s currency.

The warming trend was evident in the Chinese government’s announcement on Thursday that President Hu Jintao will attend a nuclear security summit meeting in Washington later this month. American officials had feared that Mr. Hu would skip the talks to express China’s anger over recent diplomatic clashes, including a White House decision to sell arms to Taiwan and President Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader.

But this week, the drumbeat of bad news — and an underlying narrative of a rising China flexing its muscles against a debt-laden United States — has suddenly given way to talk of collaboration.

On Thursday night, President Obama spoke with Mr. Hu for about an hour by telephone, a chat that lasted so long that Air Force One had to be held for 10 minutes on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base after landing so that Mr. Obama could finish up the conversation. Chinese television reported that Mr. Hu expressed a desire for healthier ties, while stressing Beijing's sensitivity about Taiwan and Tibet.

For now, the United States is setting aside potentially the most divisive issue in the relationship, deferring a decision on whether to accuse China of manipulating its currency, the renminbi, until well after Mr. Hu’s visit, according to a senior administration official. That decision, the official said, reflects a judgment that threatening China is not the best way to persuade it to allow the renminbi to appreciate against the dollar.

Many economists expect China to act on its own to loosen the tight link of the renminbi to the dollar — a policy that keeps the currency’s value depressed and makes China’s exports more competitive in global markets.

Still, the administration’s decision not to force the currency issue now could carry political risks at home. Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have introduced legislation calling for trade sanctions against China if it does not change its currency policy. And unions and manufacturers cite the undervalued Chinese currency as a major culprit for lost jobs.

The White House would not comment on the currency issue, but an official said that if China did not take action on its own, the administration could raise the issue again at the Group of 20 summit meeting in June. The White House welcomed Mr. Hu’s visit as proof that its policy of engaging with China on strategic issues of common interest had paid off.

“We have an important relationship with China, one in which there are many issues of mutual concern that we work on together,” said a White House spokesman, Bill Burton. “But there also will be times where we disagree. I think this proves the point that despite those disagreements, we can work together on issues like nuclear proliferation.”

The relationship between the countries was also affected last week when Google, citing Chinese censorship, began redirecting users in China to its uncensored Hong Kong search engine.

On Wednesday, China appeared to throw its support behind new United Nations sanctions aimed at putting pressure on Iran over its nuclear program. The Security Council has been stymied by China’s insistence on diplomacy over sanctions.

American officials said they expected China to wrangle over the wording of a United Nations resolution, with a goal of watering down the measures against Tehran. Indeed, on Thursday, Iran’s nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, arrived in Beijing for talks with China’s foreign minister, Yang Jiechi. The ministry appeared to steer clear from any commitment for sanctions.

Still, earlier this week, Mr. Obama expressed optimism that the major powers could unite this spring behind a resolution that would apply new pressure on Iran over its nuclear program.

The administration has engaged in intensive talks with Chinese officials to demonstrate to Beijing the destabilizing effect of a nuclear-armed Iran. A crucial advance, officials said, came in early March when an American delegation, led by Deputy Secretary of State James B. Steinberg and the National Security Council’s senior director for Asia, Jeffrey A. Bader, visited Beijing.

Mr. Hu’s visit will take place only two days before the Obama administration faces a deadline to decide whether to label China a “currency manipulator,” meaning that it intervenes in currency markets to gives its exporters an artificial advantage. Pressure in the United States has been building to take that step, which could initiate a Congressional process that would lead to slapping tariffs on Chinese imports.

But given the potential for embarrassing Mr. Hu — and for sending bilateral relations into another tailspin — the administration decided not to report on April 15, one of the deadlines set by Congress and the Treasury Department to issue a report on possible currency manipulation.

Nicholas R. Lardy, an economist at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, said the Treasury Department could delay the deadline for weeks. “As a practical matter, they’ve got a lot of wiggle room,” he said. Mr. Lardy added that he thought it was unlikely that China would have agreed to a visit by Mr. Hu unless there was at least an informal assurance by the Treasury that China would not immediately be named a currency manipulator.

Lawmakers signaled that they would not be easily mollified if the administration gave Beijing a pass on its currency.

“The most important issue in the Chinese-American relationship is currency,” said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, who introduced a bill threatening China with trade sanctions. “It relates to American jobs, American wealth and the future of this country. This issue should not be traded for another.”

Relations between the countries began to fray in November, soon after Mr. Obama went to China on a state visit that was more circumscribed than American officials would have liked.

In the months that followed, tensions increased. American officials accused China of thwarting a climate change deal in Copenhagen and Chinese leaders threatened to punish the United States for a $6 billion weapons deal for Taiwan. In February, China’s Foreign Ministry called in the American ambassador for a scolding about Mr. Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama, whom China calls a separatist.

But then came a thaw. In recent days, public statements in Beijing and Washington hinted at fading tensions. Mr. Steinberg, the deputy secretary of state, declared that United States did not support independence for Taiwan and Tibet. And Mr. Obama, at an event on Monday for China’s new ambassador to Washington, offered generous praise for China.
27254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: April 02, 2010, 06:18:20 AM
Hi Rachel:

"Would  and Marc like to make a bet on Israel  still existing  January 20,2013?   I can think of some great charities  that could use the help when you are forced to eat your words."

Well, GM can ably speak for himself, so I limit my question to me:

What words would I be eating?
27255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: April 02, 2010, 06:12:00 AM
Sec'y of the Treasury Geithner has recently been talking a bit about how the Chinese should revalue the renimbi (sp?).  Coincidentally we now begin to hear that the Chinese may get on board for some lesser level of sanctions against Iran.

(Not that sanctions are really a meaningful strategy.  I agree with Stratfor that they are more a way to pretend to be doing something.  Basically I think we have already decided on some sort of containment strategy.  I suspect the ensuing nuclear arms race throughout the region and much of the world will cause us to deeply regret this.)
27256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: April 02, 2010, 06:06:13 AM
A different tone of voice would serve this article better; I post it more for its list of examples:

Concerning "right wing" and "left wing":  In my opinion, these two terms, which have become quite deeply rooted, are used quite often in ways that ultimately are confusing and/or logically incoherent.

QUESTION:  Lets see if we mean the same thing by the word "rightist":  Is a rightist someone who believes in a more or less intrusive, controlling government?

27257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: April 01, 2010, 10:31:25 AM
This man does not have enough power!  Lets give him some more:
27258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Currency Debate on: April 01, 2010, 07:43:07 AM
China's Currency Debate
THE WAR OF WORDS BETWEEN CHINA and the United States on the subject of China’s currency, the yuan or renminbi, saw a momentary reprieve on Tuesday, when two out of three newly appointed members of the People’s Bank of China monetary policy committee entered the debate. Just one day after being appointed, Li Daokui said China should adjust its exchange rate on its “own initiative” before September, so that the currency does not get caught up in the politics of U.S. midterm elections. Xia Bin said China should resume its policy of permitting the yuan to gradually appreciate, as was done from 2005 to 2008. Separately, U.S. President Barack Obama met with China’s new ambassador to the United States and called for a “positive relationship” with China, only hinting at the underlying economic strains by saying the two should work together on sustainable and “balanced” global economic growth.

On the surface, Li’s statement was absurd. The question of China’s fixed exchange rate — its peg to the U.S. dollar, giving it an advantageous position in U.S. markets — has been thoroughly entangled in U.S. domestic politics since Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner used the word “manipulation” during his confirmation hearings in early 2009, and has become more so in recent months. Although the U.S. economy has emerged from recession, unemployment remains lodged at nearly 10 percent, a fact that gnaws on the Democratic Party as it approaches already contentious elections in November. Not only are the Democrats historically linked to U.S. manufacturers and more inclined to use protectionist policies to defend them, but also they traditionally have fewer qualms about pushing back on America’s East Asian trade partners.

Congress has already leapt into action, proposing a bill that would force the U.S. Treasury Department to take a strict interpretation when it assesses whether to accuse China of formally “manipulating” its currency in a report due April 15. The bill would clear the way for punitive measures as well. Bottom line, few issues could be more politicized. Having passed a major domestic hurdle with health care, Obama has set his sights on a foreign policy victory. But sanctions on Iran have already been watered down, and the surge is only beginning in Afghanistan. In other words, playing hardball on China’s currency is one foreign policy issue where Obama can boost his party in elections. And joblessness — not Iran’s nuclear program — is the American public’s number one concern.

“Few today are willing to accept the idea that a country with a $4.9 trillion economy — a country that recently surpassed Germany as the world’s leading exporter and will soon surpass Japan as the second biggest economy overall — deserves to skirt international rules.”
The proper way to interpret Li’s remarks, then, is to focus on his emphasis on China not succumbing to U.S. pressure, but changing its currency policy on its “own initiative.” With the U.S. government bearing down, Li’s statement appears crafted to begin the process of saving face. Domestically, the Chinese government cannot be seen as caving in to American demands. But for months China has internally debated the merits and flaws of removing the currency peg. What Li is doing is reaffirming that currency appreciation would assist in China’s badly needed economic restructuring by boosting domestic purchasing power, weeding out inefficient industries and making others more competitive, and fighting inflation expectations. He is arguing that appreciation is not some foreign imposition, but rather a Chinese policy implemented for the good of the Chinese people.

China is thus signaling to the United States that there is no need to get overexcited or overaggressive. The currency will move. The only questions concern magnitude and timing. For the Chinese, it is critical to limit and prolong the currency’s appreciation, since they argue each percentage point increase in the yuan’s value will shave the already razor-thin profit margins of China’s all-important exporters. The last time Beijing allowed the yuan to strengthen, in 2005, it ascended about 20 percent over the course of three years. The situation now is more delicate as it does not come amid one of the biggest credit and consumption booms in history, but amid a period of recovery from global recession in which China’s major export markets have begun to increase savings and cut back on spending. In short, Beijing knows that if it allows the yuan to rise it will do so during a time of weaker external demand than before — not to mention the problem of creeping wage inflation on China’s coasts, which will also eat away at exporters’ profits.

What is surprising is the extent to which the debates over the exchange rate adopt China’s rationale. In governments and institutions, among academics and experts of every stripe, in the United States, Europe and Japan, an increasingly abstruse debate has circulated around the precise expectations, limits, measures and effects of each degree of yuan appreciation. Some say the currency is undervalued by 20 percent, others say 40 percent. Getting China to revalue the yuan by X amount would save Y jobs and reduce the trade deficit by Z.

But the flurry of discussion masks the central problem. China’s policies assume that the world will graciously allow it to break the norms of international trade by strictly controlling the value of its currency, as many developing countries do. They ask the developed world to patiently suffer the evisceration of its own manufacturing sector until such time as Beijing believes it can wean its industries off a weak currency, and push them out of the nest to try their wings. For decades this assumption was economically beneficial for almost everyone. But circumstances have changed. Few are willing to accept the idea that a country with a $4.9 trillion economy — a country that recently surpassed Germany as the world’s leading exporter and will soon surpass Japan as the second biggest economy overall — deserves to skirt international rules. Not to mention the elephant in the room: China’s apparent exemption from full currency convertibility.

The United States, for one, does not appear willing to grant these favors any longer, and sees this fundamental point — China’s deviation from set standards — as true regardless of midterm elections. Washington sees China’s position as ludicrous, and while it may not immediately demand full convertibility, it is showing every sign of attacking the yuan peg. Beijing sees the currency peg as anything but ludicrous, since strengthening the currency inherently threatens social instability. Which would explain why the Chinese are reaffirming their own reasons for gradually strengthening the yuan, negotiating to allay Washington’s agitation and rushing to prepare for the economic fallout at home.
27259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: April 01, 2010, 07:40:38 AM
The Hutarees: Exposure and Vulnerability
April 1, 2010
By Fred Burton and Ben West

On March 29, an indictment accusing nine individuals of planning attacks against police officers was unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. Those named in the indictment had been arrested by a joint anti-terrorism task force consisting of the FBI, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and state and local police. Raids took place from March 27 to 29, with most of the arrests occurring in Washtenaw County in southeastern Michigan, near the border with Ohio. Other arrests took place in Ohio and Indiana. Photos and video of the raids showed special operations police staging outside targeted properties with armored personnel carriers, assault rifles and helicopter support — unusually overwhelming measures, likely taken because of suspicion that the group was plotting to kill police officers.

The individuals referred to themselves as “Hutarees,” a name meaning “Christian Soldiers” according to the group’s Web site, although it is unclear what language the word might come from. The federal indictment indicated that the apparent leader of the group, David Brian Stone, was known to make up names for tactical operations and maneuvers, so it is likely he coined the name of the group as well. The meaning given the term reflects the group’s extremist Christian beliefs and its claims that it was preparing to defend itself and others in the name of Christianity. According to the Hutaree Web site:

Jesus wanted us to be ready to defend ourselves using the sword and stay alive using equipment … We, the Hutaree, are prepared to defend all those who belong to Christ and save those who aren’t. We will still spread the word, and fight to keep it, up to the time of the great coming.

All the task force raids transpired and ended peacefully, with one of the members, Joshua Matthew Stone, David’s son, holding out the longest. All nine individuals were charged Monday with seditious conspiracy; attempts to use weapons of mass destruction; teaching and demonstrating the use of explosive materials; and carrying a firearm for criminal violence. According to the indictment, the nine individuals trained in small-unit paramilitary tactics and acquired and trained with firearms, live ammunition, explosives, uniforms, communication equipment and medical supplies. It consisted of two units, one led by David Stone and the other led by his son Joshua, and the two units met and trained together roughly once a month. Another son, David Brian Stone Jr., served as the militia’s explosives instructor and demonstrator.

The most incriminating act the group committed was plotting to kill police officers by luring them into a trap. The group was planning to cause a police traffic stop or fake a 911 call and attack the responding officers, then follow up with more attacks during the official funerals that would follow. The indictment also accuses the elder David Brian Stone of instructing the group to kill anyone who happened upon and did not acquiesce to the group during an exercise set to take place in April 2010. This overt and imminent threat likely precipitated the raid that led to the arrests in late March. The group allegedly intended to trigger a larger uprising against the U.S. government in response to Hutaree activities, a charge that carries connotations of terrorism.

A Lack of Operational Security

Federal charges against the Hutarees relate to events as far back as August 2008, approximately when the group began plotting against the federal government, according to the indictment. It is unclear exactly how federal investigators collected information on the group, although it is not too difficult to imagine, given the group’s relatively high profile. For one thing, it maintained a Web site with photos of members, scheduled meeting times and forums where members and visitors could post comments and communicate with each other. This made it very easy for anyone to find the group and initiate contact with it, which in turn made it an easy target for enforcement.

The group displayed on its Web site and in a YouTube video footage of members training in small-unit tactics, images that never depicted more than six or seven people at a time. A group photo on their Web site shows 17 people, presumably the entire Hutaree membership, a relatively small group for a militia. The videos show them patrolling through woodlands and conducting small-arms firing exercises from behind vehicles. One video shows a mock-up of an improvised explosive device being detonated by a man crossing a tripwire and “killing” him, a demonstration that substantiates the accusation in the indictment that the group was attempting to acquire explosive materials and construct improvised explosive devices. In that same video, members of the group are seen setting fire to the UN flag and raising a flag bearing their own Hutaree insignia: an “H” overlaying a cross with two crossed spears at the bottom. However, the weapons displayed by the group varied: Some members brandished semi-automatic assault rifles while others held bolt-action hunting rifles. The lack of weapon standardization indicates that the group was still operating at a low level of organization.

The group was also thought to have had connections with other militias in the region. The federal indictment specifically mentions a meeting with several other groups that Hutarees planned to attend Feb. 6 in Kentucky. The meeting was meant to “facilitate better communications, cooperation, and coordination between the various militias.” Such contact with other militias is probably what emboldened the Hutarees to expect a coordinated uprising from these groups when the Hutarees started their offensive against the U.S. government. Although representatives of the group were ultimately unable to attend the February meeting, their intention to go indicates that they communicated with other groups in the region, and this would have increased the number of people who knew about them and could report on their activities. (In fact, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Detroit field office, Andrew Arena, confirmed that an outside militia member had gone to the FBI after interacting with the Hutaree group.) It also means that the group likely engaged in e-mail and/or telephone contact with outsiders, which would allow law enforcement authorities to keep tabs on the group’s thoughts and plans.

Finally, one of the arrested individuals, Kristopher Sickles, had been a guest numerous times on nationally syndicated radio shows, once in August 2009 under the pseudonym “Pale Horse.” Publicly, Sickles associated himself with the Ohio militia, a fact that, when combined with details from the indictment, indicates that the group was not necessarily exclusive and that members of the Hutarees also trained with other groups in the region. The fact that the Hutarees trained together only once a month gave members ample opportunity to be involved in other militia activities. The fact that Hutaree members associated with other groups is not surprising; it would have helped them expand the movement and improve communications. But it would also have undermined the authority of any one group and prevented a clear hierarchy from forming, since the foot soldiers would not have answered to any one commander. This sort of dynamic dilutes any one group’s potency and leaves it more vulnerable to detection.

In his radio talk-show interviews, Sickles claimed he and his compatriots were “practicing their constitutional rights” by collecting firearms and ammunition and encouraging others to do so as well, emphasizing the need to “be prepared.” When asked what he was preparing for, Sickles named the economic crisis and the threat of U.S. involvement in more foreign wars while alluding to certain unanticipated and unnamed threats. He did not advocate the radical Christian ideology that was put forward by other members of the Hutarees and certainly did not publicly advocate attacking law enforcement officers.

The Risk of Going Public

Maintaining such a public profile greatly reduces the ability of any group to carry out surprise attacks on police officers and opens the group to infiltration. Sure enough, the federal indictment alludes to at least one case in which David Brian Stone sent diagrams and information on explosive devices over the Internet to “a person he believed capable of manufacturing the devices,” wording that indicates that either the FBI was using a source or an undercover agent had convinced Stone that he was an explosives expert who could help them. Such a source would be able to keep tabs on the group and draw them out. This tactic is extremely common in domestic counterterrorism cases involving Islamist militants and shows how the terrorist attack cycle is vulnerable, no matter who the actors are. Other cases, such as the Newburgh, N.Y., plot, involved law enforcement penetration into the suspected group and promises to deliver explosive material.

Successful domestic terror attacks require a high degree of isolation on the part of the operatives. The more people brought in to assist with the operation and become familiar with the group’s intentions, the higher the group’s risk of discovery. Unlike successful domestic terrorists before them, like Timothy McVeigh and Theodore Kaczynski, the Hutarees failed spectacularly at maintaining isolation, and this allowed authorities to penetrate their circle and maintain surveillance, thus mitigating any threat they posed.

The targets that the Hutarees had identified were police officers, who themselves are vulnerable targets (as seen in the fatal shootings in Seattle in November 2009), and considering the tactics the Hutarees devised to lure officers in and the arsenal they possessed, they certainly posed a risk. However, the degree of publicity that the Hutarees generated indicates that they were not practicing good tradecraft when it came to operational security — making the group an easy target for federal law enforcement agencies. This is an Achilles’ heel for many militant and criminal conspiratorial plots, especially plots originating inside the United States, where federal, state and local agencies are able to monitor a group’s e-mail, voice communications and activities.
27260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist 34 on: April 01, 2010, 07:34:17 AM
"Constitutions of civil government are not to be framed upon a calculation of existing exigencies, but upon a combination of these with the probable exigencies of ages, according to the natural and tried course of human affairs. Nothing, therefore, can be more fallacious than to infer the extent of any power, proper to be lodged in the national government, from an estimate of its immediate necessities." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 34
27261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NSA Wiretaps held illegal on: April 01, 2010, 07:20:56 AM
Federal Judge Finds N.S.A. Wiretaps Were IllegalBy CHARLIE SAVAGE and JAMES RISEN
Published: March 31, 2010
LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink. WASHINGTON — A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the National Security Agency’s program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration’s effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush.

In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been “subjected to unlawful surveillance,” the judge said the government was liable to pay them damages.

The ruling delivered a blow to the Bush administration’s claims that its surveillance program, which Mr. Bush secretly authorized shortly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, was lawful. Under the program, the National Security Agency monitored Americans’ international e-mail messages and phone calls without court approval, even though the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, required warrants.

The Justice Department said it was reviewing the decision and had made no decision about whether to appeal.

The ruling by Judge Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, rejected the Justice Department’s claim — first asserted by the Bush administration and continued under President Obama — that the charity’s lawsuit should be dismissed without a ruling on the merits because allowing it to go forward could reveal state secrets.

The judge characterized that expansive use of the so-called state-secrets privilege as amounting to “unfettered executive-branch discretion” that had “obvious potential for governmental abuse and overreaching.”

That position, he said, would enable government officials to flout the warrant law, even though Congress had enacted it “specifically to rein in and create a judicial check for executive-branch abuses of surveillance authority.”

Because the government merely sought to block the suit under the state-secrets privilege, it never mounted a direct legal defense of the N.S.A. program in the Haramain case.

Judge Walker did not directly address the legal arguments made by the Bush administration in defense of the N.S.A. program after The New York Times disclosed its existence in December 2005: that the president’s wartime powers enabled him to override the FISA statute. But lawyers for Al Haramain were quick to argue that the ruling undermined the legal underpinnings of the war against terrorism.

One of them, Jon Eisenberg, said Judge Walker’s ruling was an “implicit repudiation of the Bush-Cheney theory of executive power.”

“Judge Walker is saying that FISA and federal statutes like it are not optional,” Mr. Eisenberg said. “The president, just like any other citizen of the United States, is bound by the law. Obeying Congressional legislation shouldn’t be optional with the president of the U.S.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman, Tracy Schmaler, noted that the Obama administration had overhauled the department’s procedures for invoking the state-secrets privilege, requiring senior officials to personally approve any assertion before lawyers could make it in court. She said that approach would ensure that the privilege was invoked only when “absolutely necessary to protect national security.”

The ruling is the second time a federal judge has declared the program of wiretapping without warrants to be illegal. But a 2006 decision by a federal judge in Detroit, Anna Diggs Taylor, was reversed on the grounds that those plaintiffs could not prove that they had been wiretapped and so lacked legal standing to sue.

Several other lawsuits filed over the program have faltered because of similar concerns over standing or because of immunity granted by Congress to telecommunications companies that participated in the N.S.A. program.

By contrast, the Haramain case was closely watched because the government inadvertently disclosed a classified document that made clear that the charity had been subjected to surveillance without warrants.

Although the plaintiffs in the Haramain case were not allowed to use the document to prove that they had standing, Mr. Eisenberg and six other lawyers working on the case were able to use public information — including a 2007 speech by an F.B.I. official who acknowledged that Al Haramain had been placed under surveillance — to prove it had been wiretapped.

Judge Walker’s opinion cataloged other such evidence and declared that the plaintiffs had shown they were wiretapped in a manner that required a warrant. He said the government had failed to produce a warrant, so he granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiffs.

But Judge Walker limited liability in the case to the government as an institution, rejecting the lawsuit’s effort to hold Robert S. Mueller III, the F.B.I. director, personally liable.

Mr. Eisenberg said that he would seek compensatory damages of $20,200 for each of the three plaintiffs in the case — or $100 for each of the 202 days he said they had shown they were subjected to the surveillance. He said he would ask the judge to decide how much to award in punitive damages, a figure that could be up to 10 times as high. And he said he and his colleagues would seek to be reimbursed for their legal fees over the past five years.

The 2005 disclosure of the existence of the program set off a national debate over the limits of executive power and the balance between national security and civil liberties. The arguments continued over the next three years, as Congress sought to forge a new legal framework for domestic surveillance.

In the midst of the presidential campaign in 2008, Congress overhauled the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to bring federal statutes into closer alignment with what the Bush administration had been secretly doing. The legislation essentially legalized certain aspects of the program. As a senator then, Barack Obama voted in favor of the new law, despite objections from many of his supporters. President Obama’s administration now relies heavily on such surveillance in its fight against Al Qaeda.

The overhauled law, however, still requires the government to obtain a warrant if it is focusing on an American citizen or an organization inside the United States. The surveillance of Al Haramain would still be unlawful today if no court had approved it, current and former Justice Department officials said.

But since Mr. Obama took office, the N.S.A. has sometimes violated the limits imposed on spying on Americans by the new FISA law. The administration has acknowledged the lapses but said they had been corrected.
27262  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 31, 2010, 08:42:56 PM
I'd be delighted to see a more severe penalty.
27263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More on Vallejo on: March 31, 2010, 08:31:39 PM
More on Vallejo:

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Vallejo's Inept City Council Blows It

I had high hope that a Vallejo bankruptcy would set the tone fore dealing with unions. Sadly, that is not the case. Please considerVallejo's Painful Lessons in Municipal Bankruptcy by Steven Greenhut.

In 2008, Vallejo, Calif., was nearly broke. Faced with falling tax revenues, rising pension costs, and unmovable public-employee unions, the city was unable to pay its bills and declared bankruptcy. Now, as it prepares to emerge from Chapter 9, officials in Los Angeles, San Diego and other cities across the state are looking to see if Vallejo has blazed a trail for them to get out from under their own crushing pension costs. What they're finding is that even bankruptcy may not be enough to break the grip unions have on the public purse.

A report issued by the Cato Institute last September noted that 74% of the city's general budget was eaten up by police and firefighter salaries and overtime along with pension obligations.

The study also found that lavish pay and benefit packages were a root cause of the city's problems. In Vallejo compensation packages for police captains top $300,000 a year and average $171,000 a year for firefighters. Regular public employees in the city can retire at age 55 with 81% of their final year's pay guaranteed. Police and fire officials can retire at age 50 with a pension that pays them 90% of their final year's salary every year for life and the lives of their spouses.

To permanently bring its spending in line with its tax base, however, at some point Vallejo will have to do something about its pensions. U.S. bankruptcy judge Michael McManus, as the National law Journal reported last March, "held the city of Vallejo, Calif., has the authority to void its existing union contracts in its effort to reorganize."

But when it came to voiding those contracts on pensions—a major driver of public expenses—the city blinked. The "workout plan" the city approved in December calls for cuts in services, staff and even some benefits, such as health benefits for retirees. However, it does not touch public-employee pensions. Indeed, it increases the pension contributions the city pays.

This week, the city did approve a new firefighter contract that trims pension benefits for new hires and requires existing firefighters to pay more into their pensions. But that contract doesn't touch existing pensions. Nor does it affect police officers or other city workers. It also leaves the city with a $1.2 million shortfall. "The majority [of council members] did not have the political will to touch the pink elephant in the room—public safety influence, benefits and pay," Vice Mayor Stephanie Gomes told me.
Vallejo will eventually be back in bankruptcy court. Hopefully they will get it right next time.

In the meantime, if you live in Vallejo, I advise voting with your feet. Vallejo's mayor and city council are clearly inept, or alternatively bought and paid by the unions.

Steven Greenhut's Plunder!

I encourage you to read Plunder! How Public Employee Unions are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation by Steven Greenhut.

Plunder! is a fantastic book. I finished it weeks ago, but have not had time yet to do a review. I will. In the meantime I assure you it is well worth a read. It will open your eyes as to what is happening and why in regard to public unions.

Plunder! is now on my recommended reading list on the left.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
27264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: March 31, 2010, 02:28:43 PM

Too many points to address in my day, so for the moment I will refresh your memory with this:

"Liberal Fascism/Progressivism/Corporate Fascism is destroying  our country as we know it."

Please note "corporate fascism" as part of the mix.    I don't accept calling the Huts "fascist" because there is nothing in the record of which I am aware that indicates they are for the large coercive state you seem to favor or that they call for religious coercion.  Indeed, as best as I can tell their starting point is a desire to be left alone.

Concerning the new HC law-- IMHO it deliberately contains the seeds of destruction for the remainder of private sector health care insurance.  BO has already been campaigning for single payer a.k.a. nationalized/socialized medicine.
27265  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 31, 2010, 02:19:16 PM
Some good points there.
27266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Vallejo goes for broke on: March 31, 2010, 02:16:15 PM
Vallejo Goes for Broke
Can bankruptcy save California’s cities from staggering pension obligations?
31 March 2010
As California cities and counties struggle to fulfill the generous pay and pension commitments that they made to public employees during flush economic times, some politicians have taken comfort in a usually forbidding word: bankruptcy. Top officials in Los Angeles and San Diego have raised the B-word in recent weeks, and almost everyone is paying attention to developments in Vallejo (population 117,000), on the edge of the San Francisco Bay Area. The blue-collar port city filed for bankruptcy in May 2008, after it couldn’t pay its bills. Now, observers are watching to see whether Vallejo—the biggest California city to file for bankruptcy so far—offers a road map out of the mire.

Blame Vallejo’s politics, dominated by public-sector unions, for the city’s sorry fiscal situation. “Police and firefighter salaries, pensions and overtime accounted for 74 percent of Vallejo’s $80 million general budget, significantly higher than the state average of 60 percent,” reported a 2009 Cato Institute study. The study highlighted a shocking level of enrichment: pay and benefit packages of more than $300,000 a year for police captains and average firefighter compensation packages of $171,000 a year. Pensions are luxurious: regular public employees can retire at age 55 with 81 percent of their final year’s pay guaranteed, come hell or a stock-market crash. Police and fire officials in Vallejo, as in much of California, can retire at age 50 with 90 percent of their final year’s pay guaranteed, including cost-of-living adjustments for the rest of their lives and the lives of their spouses. And that’s before taking advantage of the common pension-spiking schemes that propel payouts even higher.

When a city spends so much taxpayer money on retirees, it doesn’t have much left over for services that might actually benefit the public. That’s why Vallejo has been slashing police services and has even warned residents to use the 911 system judiciously. “Since 2005, the number of police officers has dropped from 158 to 104,” a San Francisco Chronicleeditorial about Vallejo pointed out recently. “In 2008, Vallejo had a higher violent crime rate than any other comparable city in California.” And it isn’t just public safety that has suffered. A 2008 Chronicle article reported on a budget plan that “cuts funding for the senior center, youth groups and arts organizations, to the dismay of residents.” Citizens complain about an increasingly decrepit downtown.

All this thrift could go only so far, however. Hence Vallejo’s bankruptcy, which could theoretically remove the city’s crushing obligations to retired employees. Unfortunately, it isn’t clear yet whether the pension promises will actually wind up rescinded. Yes, a judge has ruled that “city labor contracts can be overturned in bankruptcy,” reports Ed Mendell on his well-respected CalPensions blog, but a “ ‘workout plan’ approved by the City Council in December, described as an opening position in labor negotiations, cuts nearly all general fund spending, except for employee pensions.” Though the city eventually voted to reduce firefighter pensions for new hires and to require a larger pension contribution by firefighters, it did not touch existing pensions or pensions for police officers. Vallejo’s avoidance of the pension issue makes it less likely that other cities could declare bankruptcy and then easily dispose of their burdensome pension promises.

That’s unfortunate, because plenty of California cities are in similar straits. For years, local elected officials in Vallejo and throughout the state (and the nation, for that matter) have rapidly fattened pension benefits for public employees, worrying more about the next election cycle than about the ability of their municipalities to make good on all the lush promises. Once these contracts are approved, they become binding and must be fulfilled on the backs of current and future taxpayers.

True, the Orange County Board of Supervisors, which granted massive pension increases twice in the past decade, is making an unusual legal attempt to reduce its pension obligations: it’s pursuing a lawsuit claiming that the retroactive portion of one increase was an unconstitutional gift of public funds. That’s a worthy effort but a long shot. Most California jurisdictions think that bankruptcy is a more feasible alternative if salary and pension costs push them toward insolvency.

The Chronicle editorial, taking Vallejo to task for entering bankruptcy, prescribes two alternatives: more “help” from Sacramento (a nonstarter, given the state’s nearly $21 billion budget deficit) and higher local taxes. That’s certainly what California’s muscular public-sector unions would like to see. They backed legislation that would make it nearly impossible for localities to abrogate their labor contracts in a bankruptcy. Now they’re advocating tax-raising plans and railing against the two-thirds vote requirement to pass budgets and tax increases in the California State Legislature.

Cities across the nation should pay close attention to Vallejo’s workout plan. If bankruptcy isn’t a fix for past profligate spending on public employees, then more debt and higher taxes may be inevitable—a sobering thought in an already-struggling economy.
27267  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: March 31, 2010, 07:52:42 AM
Any reactions to the Stratfor piece I posted yesterday.  Its hypothesis seems to me to be quite an eye-opener that turns things upside down.
27268  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: March 31, 2010, 07:34:14 AM
"I heard liberal co-host of 'The View' (I don't know her name) on the Tonight Show say "Karl Rove was attacked today at a book signing - HA HA HA!!!" followed by several derisive comments about him."   This is so common that most of us notice it no more than a fish notices water.  The completely uncoded hatred and violent imagery that was aimed at Bush makes what we see now seem pale in comparison.

"I listen to the right-wingers on the radio all the time, and they would be having a field day if this recent incident involved Muslims instead of Christians.  The Rush Limbaughs, Glenn Becks, Sean Hanntiys, etc. would be calling for them to be sent directly to Guantanamo without even a trial.  They've had very little to say about this, and have certainly not called for "profiling" of white, Christian men as potential terrorists."

RL has too low a content/time ratio for me and I find SH to be such an ass and a mental mediocrity that I only watch his show if there is a guest of interest to me e.g. Newt Gingrich-- so I can't speak from a personally informed perspective on them.  I do watch GB quite regularly and think quite a bit of him.    That said, we don't have a world-wide movement of white Christian men making war spearheaded by terrorist tactics on our country.  If we did, I suspect we might see some different reactions from them.

"I can think of many, many examples of the right wingers on talk radio hysterically accusing Obama and the Democrats of all kinds of nasty stuff.  Too many to post here.  I think the author of the column I posted is correct is pointing out that it's only a matter of time before some nut takes them seriously.  No, they don't specifically urge their listeners to do actual violence, but there is a LOT of coded speech that is pretty racist and all but say outright that violence would be justified.  I don't think I'm exaggerating here either."

GB has very consistently and very insistently anticipated that some would go over the edge in response to the dangers to our Republic.  Even the opening graphics of his show for all of 2009 showed MLK as a Founding Father on a par with George Washington and Thomas Jefferson-- which is not what a man who is like how you see GB would do.

This brings us to the larger point.  Liberal Fascism/Progressivism/Corporate Fascism is destroying  our country as we know it.   Our HC system is about to be destroyed by a law that was forced through by the progressives/liberal fascists.   As this law phases in my life will be less free when I go to my doctor-- which inevitably will involve matters of life and death-- because not only will I have fewer doctors from whom to choose and innovations diminished, but those left will be forced by the State to follow courses of treatment in the the treatments that they offer.  The absolutely deranged levels of deficit spending are making debt slaves of us all.  As best as I can figure, under the BO ten-year "plan" (Soviet Russia used to have ten year plans too) each of us, including our children, will be some $30,000 further indebted.  The suffocation of economic freedom, the regulations, the debt burden, and the taxes that go with all of this (many of which are designed to "nudge" us to behaviors the State wishes to impose upon us) all presents the largest threat to American freedom that I have seen in my lifetime.  Government is FORCE and BO et al are massively expanding governmental FORCE into our lives.   

IMHO the best strategy is voting (which is badly diminished by gerrymandering and campaign finance law to the benefit of both the Democrat and Republican wings of the Incumbent Party) and the example of MLK.  IMHO we are still quite far from a situation which calls for the exercise pf the God-given inalienable revolutionary rights of the American people. 

A less violent/force-driven approach to Life by those in Congress and the White House would do wonders in calming things down.

27269  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 31, 2010, 06:45:41 AM
Sorry, I do not agree at all.

I get the bit about risks.  That said I prefer a fighter that does not take advantage of any time lag in the referee's arrival after an opponent is KO'd over one who dishes out gratuitous shots to an already unconscious man.

Pulhares's behavior here presents an entirely different question.  Submission was clearly made , , , and ignored.  THEN the ref sought to break the hold, and was resisted.   Palhares has to be held as knowing the lasting damage that a heel hook is intended to do, and he did it.  To hold him accountable for what he did IMO has nothing to do with hindsight.  Indeed it is precisely the egregiousness of his behavior that eliminates that issue.

I get some of these guys have "a mean streak".  That is PRECISELY why they need to be held accountable with a clear violation such as was the case here.

27270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: March 30, 2010, 11:50:40 PM
IF the charges against these Hutaree folks are roughly true, then these arrests, a fair trial, and long sentences are in order.  OTOH the timing here is very convenient, and the BO administration is well-populated with Alinsky-ites, progressives, socialists, and marxists.  Let us watch this one closely.

Furthermore, I would strongly quibble with the idea that these folks, if guilty, are fascists.  Fascism, be it corporatist or liberal, is about a very strong state and these folks are quite contrary to that.  A different term is needed.
27271  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Head Count for the Tribal Gathering on: March 30, 2010, 05:25:07 PM
12: Cyborg Dog will be coming from Boston, but due to injury will not be fighting.
27272  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: March 30, 2010, 05:18:13 PM
Concerning the location:

Temecula is out.  Instead we will be doing the Flash Mob thing in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.  Fighters, please email me at for further info.

27273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Crunch Time on: March 30, 2010, 05:12:35 PM
China: Crunch Time
March 30, 2010
By Peter Zeihan

The global system is undergoing profound change. Three powers — Germany, China and Iran — face challenges forcing them to refashion the way they interact with their regions and the world. We are exploring each of these three states in detail in three geopolitical weeklies, highlighting how STRATFOR’s assessments of these states are evolving. First we examined Germany. We now examine China.

U.S.-Chinese relations have become tenser in recent months, with the United States threatening to impose tariffs unless China agrees to revalue its currency and, ideally, allow it to become convertible like the yen or euro. China now follows Japan and Germany as one of the three major economies after the United States. Unlike the other two, it controls its currency’s value, allowing it to decrease the price of its exports and giving it an advantage not only over other exporters to the United States but also over domestic American manufacturers. The same is true in other regions that receive Chinese exports, such as Europe.

What Washington considered tolerable in a small developing economy is intolerable in one of the top five economies. The demand that Beijing raise the value of the yuan, however, poses dramatic challenges for the Chinese, as the ability to control their currency helps drive their exports. The issue is why China insists on controlling its currency, something embedded in the nature of the Chinese economy. A collision with the United States now seems inevitable. It is therefore important to understand the forces driving China, and it is time for STRATFOR to review its analysis of China.

An Inherently Unstable Economic System
China has had an extraordinary run since 1980. But like Japan and Southeast Asia before it, dramatic growth rates cannot maintain themselves in perpetuity. Japan and non-Chinese East Asia didn’t collapse and disappear, but the crises of the 1990s did change the way the region worked. The driving force behind both the 1990 Japanese Crisis and the 1997 East Asian Crisis was that the countries involved did not maintain free capital markets. Those states managed capital to keep costs artificially low, giving them tremendous advantages over countries where capital was rationally priced. Of course, one cannot maintain irrational capital prices in perpetuity (as the United States is learning after its financial crisis); doing so eventually catches up. And this is what is happening in China now.

STRATFOR thus sees the Chinese economic system as inherently unstable. The primary reason why China’s growth has been so impressive is that throughout the period of economic liberalization that has led to rising incomes, the Chinese government has maintained near-total savings capture of its households and businesses. It funnels these massive deposits via state-run banks to state-linked firms at below-market rates. It’s amazing the growth rate a country can achieve and the number of citizens it can employ with a vast supply of 0 percent, relatively consequence-free loans provided from the savings of nearly a billion workers.

It’s also amazing how unprofitable such a country can be. The Chinese system, like the Japanese system before it, works on bulk, churn, maximum employment and market share. The U.S. system of attempting to maximize return on investment through efficiency and profit stands in contrast. The American result is sufficient economic stability to be able to suffer through recessions and emerge stronger. The Chinese result is social stability that wobbles precipitously when exposed to economic hardship. The Chinese people rebel when work is not available and conditions reach extremes. It must be remembered that of China’s 1.3 billion people, more than 600 million urban citizens live on an average of about $7 a day, while 700 million rural people live on an average of $2 a day, and that is according to Beijing’s own well-scrubbed statistics.

Moreover, the Chinese system breeds a flock of other unintended side effects.

There is, of course, the issue of inefficient capital use: When you have an unlimited number of no-consequence loans, you tend to invest in a lot of no-consequence projects for political reasons or just to speculate. In addition to the overall inefficiency of the Chinese system, another result is a large number of property bubbles. Yes, China is a country with a massive need for housing for its citizens, but even so, local governments and property developers collude to build luxury dwellings instead of anything more affordable in urban areas. This puts China in the odd position of having both a glut and a shortage in housing, as well as an outright glut in commercial real estate, where vacancy rates are notoriously high.

There is also the issue of regional disparity. Most of this lending occurs in a handful of coastal regions, transforming them into global powerhouses, while most of the interior — and thereby most of the population — lives in abject poverty.

There is also the issue of consumption. Chinese statistics have always been dodgy, but according to Beijing’s own figures, China has a tiny consumer base. This base is not much larger than that of France, a country with roughly one twentieth China’s population and just over half its gross domestic product (GDP). China’s economic system is obviously geared toward exports, not expanding consumer credit.

Which brings us to the issue of dependence. Since China cannot absorb its own goods, it must export them to keep afloat. The strategy only works when there is endless demand for the goods it makes. For the most part, this demand comes from the United States. But the recent global recession cut Chinese exports by nearly one fifth, and there were no buyers elsewhere to pick up the slack. Meanwhile, to boost household consumption China provided subsidies to Chinese citizens who had little need for — and in some cases little ability to use — a number of big-ticket products. The Chinese now openly fear that exports will not make a sustainable return to previous levels until 2012. And that is a lot of production — and consumption — to subsidize in the meantime. Most countries have another word for this: waste.

This waste can be broken down into two main categories. First, the government roughly tripled the amount of cash it normally directs the state banks to lend to sustain economic activity during the recession. The new loans added up to roughly a third of GDP in a single year. Remember, with no-consequence loans, profitability or even selling goods is not an issue; one must merely continue employing people. Even if China boasted the best loan-quality programs in history, a dramatic increase in lending of that scale is sure to generate mountains of loans that will go bad. Second, not everyone taking out those loans even intends to invest prudently: Chinese estimates indicate that about one-fourth of this lending surge was used to play China’s stock and property markets.

It is not that the Chinese are foolish; that is hardly the case. Given their history and geographical constraints, we would be hard-pressed to come up with a better plan were we to be selected as Party general secretary for a day. Beijing is well aware of all these problems and more and is attempting to mitigate the damage and repair the system. For example, it is considering legalizing portions of what it calls the shadow-lending sector. Think of this as a sort of community bank or credit union that services small businesses. In the past, China wanted total savings capture and centralization to better direct economic efforts, but Beijing is realizing that these smaller entities are more efficient lenders — and that over time they may actually employ more people without subsidization.

But the bottom line is that this sort of repair work is experimental and at the margins, and it doesn’t address the core damage that the financial model continuously inflicts. The Chinese fear their economic strategy has taken them about as far as they can go. STRATFOR used to think that these sorts of internal weaknesses would eventually doom the Chinese system as it did the Japanese system (upon which it is modeled). Now, we’re not so sure.

Since its economic opening in 1978, China has taken advantage of a remarkably friendly economic and political environment. In the 1980s, Washington didn’t obsess overmuch about China, given its focus on the “Evil Empire.” In the 1990s, it was easy for China to pass inconspicuously in global markets, as China was still a relatively small player. Moreover, with all the commodities from the former Soviet Union hitting the global market, prices for everything from oil to copper neared historic lows. No one seemed to fight against China’s booming demand for commodities or rising exports. The 2000s looked like they would be more turbulent, and early in the administration of George W. Bush the EP-3 incident landed the Chinese in Washington’s crosshairs, but then the Sept. 11 attacks happened and U.S. efforts were redirected toward the Islamic world.

Believe it or not, the above are coincidental developments. In fact, there is a structural factor in the global economy that has protected the Chinese system for the past 30 years that is a core tenet of U.S. foreign policy: Bretton Woods.

Rethinking Bretton Woods
Bretton Woods is one of the most misunderstood landmarks in modern history. Most think of it as the formation of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and the beginning of the dominance of the U.S. dollar in the international system. It is that, but it is much, much more.

In the aftermath of World War II, Germany and Japan had been crushed, and nearly all of Western Europe lay destitute. Bretton Woods at its core was an agreement between the United States and the Western allies that the allies would be able to export at near-duty-free rates to the U.S. market in order to boost their economies. In exchange, the Americans would be granted wide latitude in determining the security and foreign policy stances of the rebuilding states. In essence, the Americans took what they saw as a minor economic hit in exchange for being able to rewrite first regional, and in time global, economic and military rules of engagement. For the Europeans, Bretton Woods provided the stability, financing and security backbone Europe used first to recover, and in time to thrive. For the Americans, it provided the ability to preserve much of the World War II alliance network into the next era in order to compete with the Soviet Union.

The strategy proved so successful with the Western allies that it was quickly extended to World War II foes Germany and Japan, and shortly thereafter to Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and others. Militarily and economically, it became the bedrock of the anti-Soviet containment strategy. The United States began with substantial trade surpluses with all of these states, simply because they had no productive capacity due to the devastation of war. After a generation of favorable trade practices, surpluses turned into deficits, but the net benefits were so favorable to the Americans that the policies were continued despite the increasing economic hits. The alliance continued to hold, and one result (of many) was the eventual economic destruction of the Soviet Union.

Applying this little history lesson to the question at hand, Bretton Woods is the ultimate reason why the Chinese have succeeded economically for the last generation. As part of Bretton Woods, the United States opens its markets, eschewing protectionist policies in general and mercantilist policies in particular. Eventually the United States extended this privilege to China to turn the tables on the Soviet Union. All China has to do is produce — it doesn’t matter how — and it will have a market to sell to.

But this may be changing. Under President Barack Obama, the United States is considering fundamental changes to the Bretton Woods arrangements. Ostensibly, this is to update the global financial system and reduce the chances of future financial crises. But out of what we have seen so far, the National Export Initiative (NEI) the White House is promulgating is much more mercantilist. It espouses doubling U.S. exports in five years, specifically by targeting additional sales to large developing states, with China at the top of the list.

STRATFOR finds that goal overoptimistic, and the NEI is maddeningly vague as to how it will achieve this goal. But this sort of rhetoric has not come out of the White House since pre-World War II days. Since then, international economic policy in Washington has served as a tool of political and military policy; it has not been a beast unto itself. In other words, the shift in tone in U.S. trade policy is itself enough to suggest big changes, beginning with the idea that the United States actually will compete with the rest of the world in exports.

If — and we must emphasize if — there will be force behind this policy shift, the Chinese are in serious trouble. As we noted before, the Chinese financial system is largely based on the Japanese model, and Japan is a wonderful case study for how this could go down. In the 1980s, the United States was unhappy with the level of Japanese imports. Washington found it quite easy to force the Japanese both to appreciate their currency and accept more exports. Opening the closed Japanese system to even limited foreign competition gutted Japanese banks’ international positions, starting a chain reaction that culminated in the 1990 collapse. Japan has not really recovered since, and as of 2010, total Japanese GDP is only marginally higher than it was 20 years ago.

China’s Limited Options
China, which unlike Japan is not a U.S. ally, would have an even harder time resisting should Washington pressure Beijing to buy more U.S. goods. Dependence upon a certain foreign market means that market can easily force changes in the exporter’s trade policies. Refusal to cooperate means losing access, shutting the exports down. To be sure, the U.S. export initiative does not explicitly call for creating more trade barriers to Chinese goods. But Washington is already brandishing this tool against China anyway, and it will certainly enter China’s calculations about whether to resist the U.S. export policy. Japan’s economy, in 1990 and now, only depended upon international trade for approximately 15 percent of its GDP. For China, that figure is 36 percent, and that is after suffering the hit to exports from the global recession. China’s only recourse would be to stop purchasing U.S. government debt (Beijing can’t simply dump the debt it already holds without taking a monumental loss, because for every seller there must be a buyer), but even this would be a hollow threat.

First, Chinese currency reserves exist because Beijing does not want to invest its income in China. Underdeveloped capital markets cannot absorb such an investment, and the reserves represent the government’s piggybank. Getting a 2 percent return on a rock-solid asset is good enough in China’s eyes. Second, those bond purchases largely fuel U.S. consumers’ ability to purchase Chinese goods. In the event the United States targets Chinese exports, the last thing China would want is to compound the damage. Third, a cold stop in bond purchases would encourage the U.S. administration — and the American economy overall — to balance its budgets. However painful such a transition may be, it would not be much as far as retaliation measures go: “forcing” a competitor to become economically efficient and financially responsible is not a winning strategy. Granted, interest rates would rise in the United States due to the reduction in available capital — the Chinese internal estimate is by 0.75 percentage points — and that could pinch a great many sectors, but that is nothing compared to the tsunami of pain that the Chinese would be feeling.

For Beijing, few alternatives exist to American consumption should Washington limit export access; the United States has more disposable income than all of China’s other markets combined. To dissuade the Americans, China could dangle the carrot of cooperation on sanctions against Iran before Washington, but the United States may already be moving beyond any use for that. Meanwhile, China would strengthen domestic security to protect against the ramifications of U.S. pressure. Beijing perceives the spat with Google and Obama’s meeting with the Dalai Lama as direct attacks by the United States, and it is already bracing for a rockier relationship. While such measures do not help the Chinese economy, they may be Beijing’s only options for preserving internal stability.

In China, fears of this coming storm are becoming palpable — and by no means limited to concerns over the proposed U.S. export strategy. With the Democratic Party in the United States (historically the more protectionist of the two mainstream U.S. political parties) both in charge and worried about major electoral losses, the Chinese fear that midterm U.S. elections will be all about targeting Chinese trade issues. Specifically, they are waiting for April 15, when the U.S. Treasury Department is expected to rule whether China is a currency manipulator — a ruling Beijing fears could unleash a torrent of protectionist moves by the U.S. Congress. Beijing already is deliberating on the extent to which it should seek to defuse American anger. But the Chinese probably are missing the point. If there has already been a decision in Washington to break with Bretton Woods, no number of token changes will make any difference. Such a shift in the U.S. trade posture will see the Americans going for China’s throat (no matter whether by design or unintentionally).

And the United States can do so with disturbing ease. The Americans don’t need a public works program or a job-training program or an export-boosting program. They don’t even have to make better — much less cheaper — goods. They just need to limit Chinese market access, something that can be done with the flick of a pen and manageable pain on the U.S. side.

STRATFOR sees a race on, but it isn’t a race between the Chinese and the Americans or even China and the world. It’s a race to see what will smash China first, its own internal imbalances or the U.S. decision to take a more mercantilist approach to international trade.
27274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: March 30, 2010, 04:09:57 PM

That comes up blank for me.
27275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: March 30, 2010, 11:08:48 AM

Homeland Security thread would also be a good place for it. 

Anyway, very interesting that the tracks returned to Mexico.  A targeted hit by a coyote operation to clear a corridor?
27276  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 30, 2010, 10:55:33 AM
I got some Converse Army type boots after working with some special folks a few years ago, but frankly I don't like them at all.  They are blister factories.  I much prefer the civilian type Merrills hiking boots that I am using now in total comfort.
27277  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 30, 2010, 10:52:55 AM
Well, what I saw was the opponent vigorously and clearly tapping on the A-hole in submssion, and the A-hole merrily continuing to crank and then not immediately responding to the ref.  The man knew exactly what a heel hook is and what it does.  His behavior is reprehensible, and the attitude displayed in the Sherdog mini-piece earns disrespect as well.
27278  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 30, 2010, 08:18:55 AM

Thanks for the news-- and my disrespect to Sherdog for missing the point.
27279  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Violent knife attack video on: March 30, 2010, 08:15:53 AM

The "grab and stab" variation of the Prison Sewing Machine is a terrible problem, as is "Push and Poke".  In DBMA's DLO material we seek to answer these variations of PSM wink 

Next time we get together I'll be glad to see what you think of our efforts.

27280  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 30, 2010, 08:12:11 AM
I am wearing a weight vest, but why the ankle weights?
27281  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Supremacy Clause on: March 30, 2010, 08:10:12 AM
Who’s Supreme? The Supremacy Clause Smackdown

by Brion McClanahan

When Idaho Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter signed HO391 into law on 17 March 2010, the “national” news media circled the wagons and began another assault on State sovereignty. The bill required the Idaho attorney general to sue the federal government over insurance mandates in the event national healthcare legislation passed. The lead AP reporter on the story, John Miller, quoted constitutional “scholar” David Freeman Engstrom of Stanford Law School as stating that the Idaho law would be irrelevant because of the “supremacy clause” of the United States Constitution.

In his words, “That language is clear that federal law is supreme over state law, so it really doesn’t matter what a state legislature says on this.” Now that Barack Obama has signed healthcare legislation into law, almost a dozen States have filed suit against the federal government, with Idaho in the lead. Battle lines have been drawn. Unfortunately, the question of State sovereignty and the true meaning of the “supremacy clause” may be swallowed up in the ensuing debate.

Engstrom’s opinion is held by a majority of constitutional law “scholars,” but he is far from correct, and Idaho and the thirty seven other States considering similar legislation have a strong case based on the original intent of the powers of the federal government vis-à-vis the States.

The so-called “supremacy clause” of the Constitution, found in Article 6, states, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding [emphasis added].”

The key, of course, is the italicized phrase. All laws made in pursuance of the Constitution, or those clearly enumerated in the document, were supreme, State laws notwithstanding. In other words, the federal government was supreme in all items clearly listed in the document.

A quick reading of the Constitution illustrates that national healthcare is not one of the enumerated powers of the federal government, so obviously Engstrom’s blanket and simplistic statement is blatantly incorrect, but his distortion of the supremacy clause goes further.

The inclusion of such a clause in the Constitution was first debated at the Constitutional Convention on 31 May 1787. In Edmund Randolph’s initial proposal, called the Virginia Plan, the “national” legislature had the ability to “legislate in all cases to which the separate states are incompetent…” and “to negative all laws passed by the several states contravening, in the opinion of the national legislature, the Articles of Union….” John Rutledge, Pierce Butler, and Charles Pinckney of South Carolina challenged the word “incompetent” and demanded that Randolph define the term. Butler thought that the delegates “were running into an extreme, in taking away the powers of the states…” through such language.

Randolph replied that he “disclaimed any intention to give indefinite powers to the national legislature, declaring that he was entirely opposed to such an inroad on the state jurisdictions, and that he did not think any considerations whatever could ever change his determination [emphasis added].” James Madison, the author of the Virginia Plan, was not as forthcoming as to his sentiment. Ultimately, Madison preferred a negative over State law and wished the national legislature to be supreme in call cases. But he was not in the majority.

The Convention again broached a federal negative on State law on 8 June 1787. Charles Pinckney, who presented a draft of a constitution shortly after Randolph offered the Virginia Plan, believed a national negative necessary to the security of the Union, and Madison, using imagery from the solar system and equating the sun to the national government, argued that without a national negative, the States “will continually fly out of their proper orbits, and destroy the order and harmony of the political system.” Such symbolism made for a beautiful picture, but it belied reality.

To most of the assembled delegates, the national government was not the center of the political universe and the States retained their sovereignty. Hugh Williamson of North Carolina emphatically stated he “was against giving a power that might restrain the states from regulating their internal police.”

Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts was against an unlimited negative, and Gunning Bedford of Delaware believed a national negative was simply intended “to strip the small states of their equal right of suffrage.” He asked, “Will not these large states crush the small ones, whenever they stand in the way of their ambitious or interested views?”

When the negative power was put to a vote, seven States voted against it and three for it, with Delaware divided (and Virginia only in the affirmative by one vote). Roger Sherman of Connecticut summarized the sentiment of the majority when he stated he “thought the cases in which the negative ought to be exercised might be defined.” Since the negative did not pass, such a definition was unnecessary.

Thus, the federal government was supreme only in its enumerated powers and it did not have a negative over State law. Supremacy had limits.

By the time the Constitution was debated in the several State ratifying conventions in 1787 and 1788, the “supremacy clause” galvanized opponents of the document. The Constitution, they said, would destroy the States and render them impotent in their internal affairs. The response from proponents of ratification illuminates the true intent of the clause. William Davie, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention from North Carolina and proponent of the Constitution, responded to attacks levied on the “supremacy clause” by stating that:

    This Constitution, as to the powers therein granted, is constantly to be the supreme law of the land. Every power ceded by it must be executed without being counteracted by the laws or constitutions of the individual states. Gentlemen should distinguish that it is not the supreme law in the exercise of power not granted. It can be supreme only in cases consistent with the powers specially granted, and not in usurpations [emphasis added].

Davie wasn’t alone in this opinion. Future Supreme Court justice James Iredell of North Carolina argued that, “This clause [the supremacy clause] is supposed to give too much power, when, in fact, it only provides for the execution of those powers which are already given in the foregoing articles….If Congress, under pretence of executing one power, should, in fact, usurp another, they will violate the Constitution [emphasis added].”

Furthermore, in a foreshadowing of nullification, Iredell argued that, “It appears to me merely a general clause, the amount of which is that, when they [Congress] pass an act, if it be in the execution of a power given by the Constitution, it shall be binding on the people, otherwise not [emphasis added]. Other ratifying conventions had similar debates, and proponents of the Constitution continually reassured wavering supporters that the Constitution would only be supreme within its delegated authority.

Most bought their assurances, though to staunch opponents, the Constitution still vested too much power in the central authority. The States would lose their sovereignty, they argued, and as a result, these men demanded an amendment to the Constitution that expressly maintained the sovereignty of the States and placed limits on federal power. Even several moderate supporters of the Constitution embraced this idea.

Ultimately, the three most powerful States in the Union, New York, Massachusetts, and Virginia, demanded that a bill of rights be immediately added to the Constitution; near the top of those recommended amendments on every list, a State sovereignty resolution. These ultimately became the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Clearly the intent of this amendment was to mitigate any design the federal government had on enlarging its powers through the “supremacy clause.” If the power was not enumerated in the Constitution and the States were not prohibited by the Constitution from exercising said power, then that power was reserved to the States.

Several other constitutional “scholars” have weighed in on the debate in the last week, and each has invoked the “supremacy clause” to defend their opposition to State action against healthcare. Duke Law Professor Neil Siegel went so far as to suggest that the States are not reading the Tenth Amendment correctly. In perhaps the most outlandish statement of the debate, he also said, “Any talk of nullification bothers me because it’s talk of lawlessness.”

I guess Mr. Siegel has failed to consider that Idaho bill HO391 was passed by a legitimate legislative body elected by the people of the State. That would make it lawful.

mcclanahan-founding-fathersOf course, this debate ultimately boils down to loose interpretation verses strict construction. Thomas Jefferson had the best line on this issue. When asked to read between the lines to “find” implied powers, Jefferson responded that he had done that, and he “found only blank space.”

The original intent of both the “supremacy clause” and the Tenth Amendment indicate that Idaho and the other States challenging Obamacare are justified and correct and that the legal profession is either in the tank for the federal government or has not read either the debates of the Constitutional Convention and/or the State ratifying debates. This should make people like Engstrom and Siegel, rather than legitimate State law directed at unconstitutional authority, irrelevant.

Brion McClanahan holds a Ph.D in American history from the University of South Carolina and is the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers (Regnery, 2009).
27282  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: March 30, 2010, 08:09:38 AM
I've also posted this in the Issues in the American Creed thread on the SCH forum.
27283  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: March 30, 2010, 08:07:19 AM
For "Prgressivism" post here:
27284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / part two on: March 30, 2010, 08:02:16 AM


While Iran is the main trafficking route for Afghan-produced opiates, Pakistan is the most common first stop for drugs out of Afghanistan. The long border between the two countries is virtually impossible to control, and smuggling across the border is very common, especially for the Taliban. Indeed, opiate production and smuggling through Pakistan has provided essential support to the Afghan Taliban, which raised an estimated $450 million to $600 million between 2005 and 2008, according to the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

Drugs enter the country along the northwest Afghan-Pakistani border and then take several paths across Pakistan. One is from southern Afghanistan across the border to the city of Quetta, which is an important transit point for Afghan opiates and a center of Afghan Taliban activity. About a quarter of the opiates that enter Pakistan are then taken into Iran through Balochistan province. Another important route is south through the Indus valley toward Karachi, a port city on the Arabian Sea and a key hub for organized crime in Pakistan. Once they leave the port of Karachi, the largest port in the region, drugs can be moved all over the world. Shipments of drugs are usually hidden in cargo containers, or they can be smuggled aboard commercial airliners. Afghan opiates moving through Pakistan also make their way to India and China, although Myanmar supplies most of the opiates to these markets.

Central Asia

Opiates moving north out of Afghanistan into Central Asia follow numerous routes. According to the United Nations, Tajikistan reported the most seizures in 2008, but tracking drug seizures does not necessarily indicate where most of the drugs are going. It does show where drug trafficking is the most volatile, where competing actors (including the government) are battling for turf and stealing each other’s shipments. Afghan opiates are certainly trafficked north from Afghanistan through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, but most of the northbound product goes through Turkmenistan along the northern route to Russia.

(click here to enlarge image)

In many ways, this route is the most efficient one out of Afghanistan. Turkmenistan borders western Afghanistan, where some of the major opium-producing provinces are, so it is the shortest route north, linked to Afghanistan’s northern trafficking route out of Herat. Also, the terrain between western Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, consisting for the most part of hilly desert that is very difficult to monitor, is relatively easy to traverse undetected. Uzbekistan’s border with Afghanistan is relatively flat, but it is disconnected from Afghanistan’s poppy-cultivating areas and defined in part by a river that is difficult to cross. Tajikistan also serves as a border crossing, since its western border with Afghanistan provides access (albeit through routes that are far from ideal) into Central Asia. Eastern Tajikistan, however, is covered in rugged mountains and very lightly populated, making the efficient trafficking of anything very difficult. Finally, traffickers in southern Turkmenistan have the benefit of working under the protection of the Mary clan, the largest of five major clans that dominate Turkmenistan’s political landscape. Occupying Turkmenistan’s Mary region, the clan is largely blocked from having any kind of real power in the government, but it has been given control of the lucrative drug trade in Turkmenistan in order to ensure its loyalty.

(click here to enlarge image)

Crossing the border from Afghanistan to Turkmenistan is the trickiest part of the Central Asian journey. Avoiding government checkpoints is relatively easy, since the border is an uninhabited desert and traffickers can simply drive across in most places. However, they do face the threat of roaming bandits in search of profitable targets to rob — such as heroin smugglers. For this reason, traffickers are constantly changing their routes, taking advantage of a roughly 90-mile-wide and 130-mile-long desert corridor in southwestern Turkmenistan between the Iranian border and the Murghab River that is crisscrossed by a network of jeep paths created to evade bandits. Once traffickers get through this desert, they enter the protection of the Mary clan, which provides secure trafficking north to the Kazakh border.

From there, drugs pass through Kazakhstan and farther north to Russian consumer markets, hitting regional distribution hubs along the way to Moscow. Russian organized-crime groups (primarily the Moscow Mob) and elements within the Federal Security Service provide cover to traffickers along this route (for a price, of course).


The majority of Afghan opiates go to three main markets: Iran, Russia and Europe. Together they account for the consumption of about 66 percent of Afghan opiates. Iran is the main consumer of the unrefined opium, accounting for 42 percent of the world’s total, while heroin is more common in Russia and Europe, accounting for 21 percent and 26 percent of the world’s total, respectively. In the 1990s Russia was more of a transit market than a consumption market for opiates. This began to change in the late 1990s, when the rate of heroin use in Russia rose rapidly. Between 1998 and 1999, the number of Russian users increased 400 percent, absorbing much of the product that used to go on to other markets. As wealth in Russia (i.e., Moscow and St. Petersburg) rose over the past decade, the Russian consumer market helped absorb even more of the product flow. Recently, Afghan opiates also have begun to supply Chinese consumers and may now account for as much as 25 percent of that market. The United States, a huge market for illicit opiates, is low on the list because most of the heroin consumed there is produced in Colombia and Mexico.

Russia has largely become a consumer market for Afghan opiates, with southern land routes through Iran and Turkey and maritime routes taking over most of the supply to Europe. The significance of this is that countries along the southern trafficking routes, such as Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, are benefiting more from the financial gains of opiate trafficking while Russia is suffering more from the social strains of opiate use. Russia is estimated to have as many as 2.5 million consumers of illicit opiates, and the Russian government recently estimated that Russians spend $17 billion annually on Afghan opiates.

So it does make sense that post-Soviet Russia is starting to lobby for opium-crop eradication in Afghanistan. But it will not happen overnight. Winning hearts and minds is a painstaking process, and weaning farmers from a lucrative cash crop will take time. Popular support for the U.S./NATO mission has become a valuable currency in Afghanistan, as valuable as opium profits are to the growers and traffickers, and some kind of balance must be struck between the two. In the coming years, with the U.S. and NATO on watch, interdiction of traffickers may well take precedence over destroying the poppy fields of struggling Afghan farmers.
27285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Opium Trade on: March 30, 2010, 08:01:27 AM
As the U.S. drawdown from Iraq continues, the renewed focus on stabilizing Afghanistan includes a new counterinsurgency strategy. Along with more restrictive rules of engagement comes a less urgent insistence on opium-poppy eradication — this in a country that produces more than 90 percent of the world’s opium supply. The transition to other cash crops is still part of the long-term solution, but it will take time to determine the best approach. Meanwhile, opium production will remain a primary livelihood for thousands of rural Afghans. And there are plenty of other players — from the Taliban and certain members of the Afghan government to the Iranian military and the Moscow Mob — who have a vested interest in the enterprise.

At a NATO conference in Brussels March 24, NATO spokesman James Appathurai rejected suggestions from Russian counternarcotics director Victor Ivanov that an opium crop eradication program be implemented in Afghanistan. Over the past 20 years, Russia has gone from being a trans-shipment route for heroin to a major consumer of heroin, the second largest market in the world behind Europe. Such a development has dramatic effects on public health and social stability in a country already facing dire demographic challenges, so it makes sense that Russia would take an interest in eliminating the source of the drugs.

However, opium cultivation has become a main source of income for thousands of rural Afghans, and as we recently saw in the NATO-led push into southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, making peace with the locals by not interfering with their livelihood is a higher priority than eradicating their opium poppies. Right now, as a new counterinsurgency strategy takes shape in Afghanistan, Russian counternarcotics officials are unlikely to get much cooperation from NATO when it comes to the destruction of crops. That will likely come in time. The Russians may find more immediate cooperation in interdicting opiate trafficking in Afghanistan, which is largely managed by militant factions opposing NATO forces.

Afghanistan is at the center of the global trade in illicit opiates, with more than 90 percent of the world’s opium supply originating there. (The country also is a huge cultivator of marijuana, which is a significant cash crop but not as significant as opium.) Despite the fact that opium poppies can be grown in a variety of climates and soil conditions, its production is so concentrated in Afghanistan and countries like it because the cultivation of opium poppies can thrive only in regions with limited government control. Within Afghanistan, the cultivation of poppies is concentrated in the south and west of the country, with Helmand province alone accounting for more than half of Afghanistan’s total production. These are also the regions of the country where Afghan government control is the weakest and Taliban control is the strongest.

Besides Afghanistan, the other big opium producers are Myanmar, Pakistan, Laos and Mexico, but these countries make up only a fraction of overall production. Southeast Asia previously dominated opium production during the 1970s and most of the 1980s, while Afghanistan’s opium was consumed regionally. It was not until the mid-1990s that Afghanistan went from being one of several large opium-growing countries to producing more than 50 percent of the world’s supply. As Afghanistan’s importance in the global opiate trade has grown, so has the value of trafficking routes out of the country. When Southeast Asian opium dominated the world market, Thailand and China were the main routes through which the product reached the consumer. Now, with Afghanistan producing most of the world’s opium, Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia are the most important transit countries.

The trafficking of opiates out of Afghanistan to outside consumer markets is a highly lucrative business. The annual global market for illicit opiates is estimated to be about $65 billion, which, to put it in context, is roughly equal to the gross domestic product (GDP) of Croatia. In 2009, according to U.N. estimates, the opiate trade accounted for $2.3 billion of the Afghan economy, or about 19 percent of the country’s GDP. The flow of drugs in one direction and money in the other is of strategic significance because it provides financial support for regional players, some of whom are militant groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban. Because production is centralized in Afghanistan, actors immediately surrounding Afghanistan control routes to and profits from the primary consumer markets in Iran, Russia and Europe.


Opiates are the family of refined narcotics to which heroin, morphine, codeine and other often-abused substances belong. Opiates such as morphine were developed in the 19th century for medicinal purposes and are still widely used (although much more restricted) today. Heroin is processed in a way that allows faster absorption into the system, making it a more potent form of morphine. Both, along with other related drugs, are refined from opium, a naturally occurring product of the opium poppy plant.

Opium is produced by slitting the seed pod of opium poppies to extract the sap. The sap oozes out as a thick brown-black gum which is then formed into bricks that are sold to traffickers and distributors. The poppy growing season in Afghanistan runs from planting in December to harvest in April. But the growing season does not greatly affect the times of the year that the drugs are trafficked, since Afghan farmers and traffickers have built up an opium stockpile of approximately 12,000 tons, which is enough to supply about two years worth of global demand. Only 10 percent of this stockpile is in the hands of Afghan farmers, with the rest under the control of traffickers and militants both in Afghanistan and along the trafficking routes. This stockpile buffers against extreme market fluctuations by providing a steady stream of product that evens out the spike in supply during harvesting season, and it also serves a safety net in case of seizures or crop destruction. This suggests a fairly high level of planning and organization among those trafficking opiates.

After the opium is collected by farmers it is usually sold to traffickers, who will often refine the opium further before moving it out of Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, this system is well organized, with farmers and traffickers often having agreements that run for several years. About 60 percent of the opium produced in Afghanistan is processed into heroin and, to a lesser extent, morphine, before being moved out of the country. Refining also takes place all along the transit route from Afghanistan, especially in Iran and Russia, but it makes sense to refine the opium as close to the production site as possible. Refining opium into heroin and morphine gives traffickers a number of advantages over trafficking unrefined opium as a commodity. Heroin and morphine are more compact (10 kilograms of opium produce one kilogram of heroin), which makes it more efficient to transport. And one kilogram of heroin can fetch upward of 100 times more than a kilogram of opium, making it more cost effective to transport.

The technology required to convert opium to heroin is very basic, requiring little more than a container to heat the opium in and some chemicals. However, some of the chemicals needed are difficult to acquire, acetic anhydride being the most important, and these have to be smuggled into Afghanistan. Anti-drug authorities have made a concerted effort to target the precursor trade, and this has made acquiring these chemicals in the necessary quantities (more than 13,000 tons a year) in Afghanistan difficult. However, refining in Afghanistan is still very common, and one sign of this has been the recent anthrax deaths of heroin users in Europe. The infected users were likely consuming heroin cut with ground-up goat bones, which is more prevalent in Afghanistan than the more commonly used sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and is known to host anthrax spores.

Trafficking Routes

Illicit opiates are moved out of Afghanistan through three main routes. About 40 percent of Afghanistan’s opiates travel through Iran to reach their end markets, while 30 percent goes through Pakistan and 25 percent through central Asia, with the last 5 percent having an indeterminate route. Afghan opiates are trafficked all over the world, but the most important end markets are Russia, Europe and Iran.


Iran’s land bridge connecting south Asia to the Middle East and Anatolian Peninsula has long been a trafficking route for all sorts of products, both licit and illicit. In 2007, more than 80 percent of the world’s opium seizures and 28 percent of its heroin seizures were made in Iran. Since 1979 more than 3,600 police officers and soldiers have been killed in violence between the Iranian government and drug traffickers. Before Afghanistan became the world’s leading opium-producing country, Iran was primarily a consumer of illicit opiates; trafficking through the country was very limited. This began to change as Afghanistan’s importance in opium cultivation rose in the 1990s and Iran became the main route through which Afghan opiates reach the wealthy consumer markets in Europe (Iran is still a substantial consumer of opiates, particularly unrefined opium). Those opiates that are trafficked through Iran continue onward to Turkey and Azerbaijan, with the Turkish route being the most important, accounting for approximately 80 percent of the opiates consumed in Europe.

Afghan opiates enter Iran via three main routes: by land from Afghanistan, by land from Pakistan and by sea from Pakistan, with small amounts coming over the border to Turkmenistan. Within Iran the product is moved toward the northwestern regions of the country and on to Europe and Russia along two main routes. Drugs that come directly from Afghanistan are moved north of the Dasht-e-Kavir desert toward Tehran, and then on to Turkey or Azerbaijan. Most of what is smuggled in from Pakistan is moved south of the Kavir-e-Lut desert and then on toward Esfahan and Tehran. What is brought in by sea goes mainly to the ports of Bandar Abbas and Chabahar, before moving northwest with the rest of the flow. While opiates trafficked through Iran do go in other directions — mainly toward the Arabian Peninsula and into Iraq — most are bound for consumer markets in Europe or are consumed domestically. Once in Iran, the drugs are moved mainly by car and truck. Drug seizures are fairly common throughout Iran, but especially on the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, along the northern and central corridors, and in Tehran.

Cross-border ethnic links are important to the smuggling of Afghan drugs in all of the countries of the region. This is particularly true in southeastern Iran, where the Baloch ethnic group is heavily involved in the drug trade. There are significant populations of Balochis in Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and they move with relative ease between these countries. Government control over this border region is weak and traffickers move around in heavily armed groups with little fear of the authorities. Most of the drugs that cross the border in this region are transported by large, well-armed and motorized convoys. This is in contrast to the northern route, where drugs are more often brought over on foot or by camel or donkey — and frequently in the stomachs of these animals — before being loading into vehicles for transit across Iran.

One reason that we know of Balochi involvement in drug trafficking between southwest Pakistan and Iran is that the Iranian government is anxious to associate militant separatist groups in the region with drug trafficking, and the Balochs in southern Iran are among the most active separatists in the country. News reports of raids and seizures along Iran’s border with Pakistan tend to play up this aspect of the trade.

Little is known about the groups that are moving Afghan drugs through Iran, but given the substantial value of the drugs and the logistical management needed to ensure a steady flow of product, these groups seem to know what they are doing. The system must be organized at a higher level, and with the absence of official blame being placed on a nationwide organized-crime network, it is very likely that the Iranian government is involved. STRATFOR sources in Iran indicate that individual Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and military commanders oversee the flow of drugs through their regions, receiving a lucrative income in a country beset by multiple economic problems due to sanctions and the threat of more to come.

Given the value of opiates passing through Iran, estimated to be worth about $20 billion once they reach the street (approximately 5 percent of Iran’s GDP), it is hard to believe that a state whose geography predisposes it to land trade would fight so hard to keep the financial boon linked to opiates out of the system. Seizures are still made across the country, but these are more likely triggered by traffickers who refuse to cooperate with the authorities managing the trade. In recent months Iranians have also been arrested for drug smuggling in a number of Southeast Asian countries, suggesting an expanded geographical scope for Iranian drug traffickers.

27286  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: March 28, 2010, 09:43:03 PM
Woof All:

The situation in Temecula is that my brother's house is in foreclosure and no longer functionally available to us.  We can still use the land, but the house has no water (e.g. toilets of no use) etc.

OTOH I have scouted at least three good locations in the Hermosa area and am thinking that we should hold the Gathering there.  If we have to move from one location, we have others as backups.  Much greener, much nicer area, and much closer to the airport ( miles vs. 100 miles)

27287  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Toronto: March 27-28, 2010 on: March 28, 2010, 09:38:40 PM
And good times they were!  Lots of Kali Tudo, DLO, and Stickgrappling.

The Adventure continues!
27288  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: How long does it take various knife wounds to incapacitate? on: March 28, 2010, 09:37:34 PM
Woof Kase:

Care to offer a synopsis?
27289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: March 28, 2010, 06:21:22 PM
I agree.
27290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: March 28, 2010, 06:19:24 PM
I will need to think more about Will's analysis here-- it is intriguing.

Even if it is correct, the political problem remains: demographics.  Without Latino birthrates, US population would decline; Latinos are an ever increasing % of US citizenry.  They tend to vote strongly Democrat.  Groups that tend to vote Republican tend to be aging and in decline, both in absolute numbers and as a % of the population.  The Republican party is already fairly irrelevant in the northeast of the US and with demographic trends in place will become a shrinking minority.  THIS was Bush-Rove-McCain's impetus in supporting amnesty-- to remain competitive for the Latino vote.

27291  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 28, 2010, 06:11:34 PM
Grateful for a fine weekend with a fine group here in Toronto. The Adventure continues!
27292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: U.S. Census 2010 on: March 28, 2010, 07:40:04 AM
Ten years ago, for race I answered "human" for my family and me.  When that "friendly stranger" showed up at my door, I sent her packing.

This time around, again I have answered "human".
27293  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 28, 2010, 07:35:58 AM
Wating for the fight I thought Mir too relaxed, and Carsen perhaps too worried cheesy  I thought Carsen showed excellent knees to the thighs up against the fence.

Who was that a-hole who kepty applying the heel hook after his opponent tapped and the ref starting pulling him off!? angry  VERY wrong  angry angry angry  I want to know his name so I can cheer when karma bites him in the ass. evil

PS:  Good times watching the crowd at the bar here in Toronto cheer its man on.

27294  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Conditioning on: March 27, 2010, 07:11:38 PM
Woof Rarick:

Tail wags for the kind words of encouragement.

Since I last posted on this thread I have done 6.16 miles with 40 lbs at 3 MPH and a 5 trip day at Bluff Cove with 40 lbs plus some lesser workouts.  Although I may be losing a bit by doing a seminar this weekend (I am in Toronto as I type) this week I will seek to test myself a bit for level ground distance with 40 lbs.
27295  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Toronto: March 27-28, 2010 on: March 27, 2010, 07:18:22 AM
Woof from Toronto:

Looking forward to good times!
27296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: March 26, 2010, 12:00:18 PM
Yon is reader supported.  Best thing is to set up a monthly payment so that he can budget accordingly.
27297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Toronto on: March 26, 2010, 11:56:54 AM
Off to Toronto until Monday night.
27298  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dogs Best Friend: on: March 26, 2010, 08:42:34 AM
Woof Kaju:

I leave in a few hours for Toronto and rreturn Monday night and will try to figure out next week how to post some pictures of Zapata and/or Moro.

27299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / M. Yon: The Scent of Weakness on: March 25, 2010, 10:41:16 AM

Yon's track record in this is quite strong.

Kandahar Province, Afghanistan
25 March 2010

Dogs have been trained to carry bombs to attack enemies for decades.  The Soviets and others have used dogs as low-tech smart bombs.  Yet canine platoons likely would rebel if they caught scent they were being duped to die.

Today, more sophisticated people employ men (mostly) to deliver bombs in Afghanistan.  Gullible souls are selected, conditioned, trained and deployed.  Malleable minds are identified then loaded with psychic software that uses their minds to create a vision.  Evil persons of superior intellect identify the raw material—that raw material might be an engineer from a stable family—and trains them to fetch myths.

Suicide attackers have murdered countless thousands of people around the world.  They go by various names, such as Kamikaze, Black Tiger, and Martyr.

The attackers are not all men.  Some are Tigresses.  My friend Alex Perry met a wannabe Black Tigress in Sri Lanka.  She was 18.  Alex described the girl in Time Magazine:

“But asked when she hoped to achieve her dream of being a suicide bomber, she grinned, squirmed and buried her face in her arms. "She's already written her application," said her commander, Lt. Col. Dewarsara Banu, smiling at her charge's shyness. "But there's still no reply." "Why hasn't there been a reply?" whined Samandi, looking up with the one eye, her left, that survived a shot to the head and fiddling with the capsule of cyanide powder around her neck. "I want this. I want to be a Black Tiger. I want to blast myself for freedom."

How Sri Lanka's Rebels Build a Suicide Bomber.

Many people are persuaded by cult artifices into any sort of behavior, including ritual suicide and murder.  It’s crucial to understand that many suicide-murders are part of a religious ceremony.  The attack is the climax of the ceremony.  This is neither complicated, nor subtle.

Suicide murders are merely a small fraction of cult behaviors.  Cults often do not revolve around religions.  Communist cadres once fanned across the globe, teaching that capitalism must die on a global scale for communism to reach its imagined grandeur.  Yet even as communist countries have failed across the world, true believers intoned the conviction that “real communism” had never been tried, and if it were, it would fulfill its promises.  This “willing suspension of disbelief” demonstrates an important aspect often organic to cults: when cult prophecies are proven wrong, we might expect the cult to disintegrate in face of the evidence.  Yet instead of disintegrating, powerful cults often refortify, strengthen, and redouble recruitment.  Failure can cause them to grow.

Some cult leaders are true believers while others are true deceivers.  From the outside, cults often can be easy to spot, though the hardest cult to see is the one you are in.

We face an increasing number of suicide murders here in the “Muslim world”—in places where suicide attacks were previously unheard of.  Some people are coerced into suicide, such as the unfortunate women who were raped and defiled in Iraq, then shamed and coerced into suicide for the sake of  “honor.”  Or the case of a young Libyan, captured by soldiers from a unit I was with in Iraq.  The Libyan was thankful for his capture: Iraqis were trying to force him to wear a suicide bomb.

Others are “brainwashed” and reloaded with brainware whose program creates suicide murderers.

A few weeks ago, on the morning of March 1st, just close by Kandahar Airfield, a suicide murderer waited in ambush.  An American convoy from the 82nd Airborne was crossing the Tarnak River Bridge when the man detonated his car bomb, sending a heavily armored American MRAP off the bridge.  At 0735, the boom thundered across Kandahar Airfield.  I felt the explosion and turned around to look for a mushroom.  The sound was vigorous enough that I thought we may have been hit on base.  There it was: the orange mushroom cloud of dust gathered and could be seen floating away.  It was off base in the direction of Highway 4 to Kandahar.

American Soldier Ian Gelig and several Afghans were killed.  It’s difficult to know how many locals are killed and wounded in attacks; often they die later or are never taken to hospitals.

Soldiers from 5/2 Stryker Brigade Combat team were planning to conduct a mission that morning that required crossing the now badly damaged bridge.  Our mission was cancelled, as were many other missions for the next couple days.  In addition to killing Ian Gelig, the single attacker impacted the flow of the war in this crucial battle space.

Nearly two weeks later, on Saturday 13 March, I was preparing to go on another mission with 5/2 SBCT soldiers.  Shortly before our departure, just up the road in Kandahar City, a serious attack unfolded at night, including three or four suicide attackers.  About 35 people were killed and roughly another 50 wounded.  Again, our mission was cancelled because the roads were closed, though by morning we took helicopters and bypassed the incident.  Turns out, the enemy was disappointed with their attack.  About half the attacks apparently did not go off, while American and Afghan forces responded more quickly than the enemy had expected and limited the damage.  According to intelligence, the Taliban are extremely paranoid.  Taliban leadership suspected there had been an inside informant.  They planned to conduct a purge.  Meanwhile, I got one report from the ground that Afghans believed most of the casualties were caused by Afghan police who are said to have fired wildly during the attack.  One man told me that an Afghan position randomly fired his 12.7mm DsHK machine gun across the city.  (These guns are so large they can rip a man in two.)  Whether the allegation is true or false is not known by me, though it stands alone as a bullet in the information war.

Ground Sign

On 8 April 2006, I was driving with a friend from Lashkar Gah to Camp Bastion when shortly after we left the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) at Lash, a suicide attacker struck.  We escaped entirely, hearing about the attack later.  Some days later, we drove back to Lash.  On 13 April, a second suicide attack happened at the same place, shaking the building while I was writing a dispatch about how the war was going sour.

These were the first two suicide attacks in Lashkar Gah.

(A couple more suicide attackers were killed in that same close area in Lash while I was writing this dispatch in neighboring Kandahar.)

Lone Wolf suicide murders occur, but the context of these first two bombings in Lashkar Gah indicated that a system was in place, and the suicide bombers were not terribly expensive to buy.  If those suicide bombers were expensive or hard to come by, the commander likely would have saved them for special missions of high specific significance.  Yet the targets of the two attacks were small and tactical, of little specific significance.  Why would a commander waste “smart ammo” on tactical targets?   Perhaps the “price” of the ammo—whether through coercion or bribery—must be reasonable, and he can buy more.

One intelligence report indicates that a certain Mullah paid cash and wheat seed to the father of Shafiqullah Rahman and Mohammed Hashim who detonated suicide car bombs on 11 November and 19 November 2009.

Suicide attackers come in different “grades.”  Some are illiterate, unsophisticated people, unsuited for complex targeting.  A plotter could not expect to select an illiterate village boy from the hinterlands of Zabul Province to move to Florida, obtain a place to live and begin flight training to crash airplanes into buildings.

Just days before 9/11, in Afghanistan, attackers passed themselves off as international journalists and managed to kill Ahmad Shah Massoud.  A couple days later, on 9/11, hijackers attacked the United States.  The killers were polyglots who combined savvy with international experience to wage complex attacks, such as was seen in Mumbai, India.  Another sophisticated international suicide attack occurred in Afghanistan in December 2009, killing seven CIA agents.

More locally, within a short distance of this keyboard, suicide attackers who are spent on random convoys or “common targets” probably tend to be simple folk.  Many suicide attackers in Afghanistan are believed to be street children or young people from dirt-poor villages, for instance from Zabul Province.  Most are thought to be young, uneducated and impoverished.  These unfortunates are believed to be conditioned in madrassas in Pakistan, and in fact our intelligence people believe that there might be three madrassas in one particular town, where suicide bombers are conditioned and shipped straight into Kandahar Province.

IEDs are by far our biggest threat here, yet suicide attacks are also deadly while generating more press.  Also, IEDs generally only affect people who go where the IEDs are, while suicide murderers are known to hijack “random” airplanes far away from the perceived battlefield.  Most victims of the suicide murderers we face are other Muslims.  This was also true in Iraq where murderers would attack mosques or funeral processions, as an example.

In both Iraq and Afghanistan, civilian casualties cause the people to turn against the side perpetrating the casualties.  This photo was taken after a suicide bombing in Mosul, Iraq, in May 2005.  The neighborhood had been pro-insurgent.  After this bomb in the midst of children, the neighborhood turned against the terrorists.  The little girl’s name was Farah.  She died shortly after this moment.

There was a time when Americans seemed to view suicide attacks as a sign of the complete conviction of the enemy, an immutable dedication to their cause that many people found terrifying and cause for soul-searching.  “What could we have done to provoke such anger?” Yet with time, American views of suicide attacks have matured and become more grounded.  Firstly, Americans in particular are far less afraid of suicide attackers and extremely unlikely to capitulate with anyone who attacks on American soil.  Suicide attackers hit American soil.  In Iraq and Afghanistan, they have become commonplace.  Secondly, most importantly, wild use of suicide attackers is seen not as evidence that we are attacking the “wrong people” whose dedication to their cause is unstoppable, but as concrete evidence that we are attacking the right people and that they should be destroyed.  Japanese Kamikaze attacks are ingrained in the psyche of generations of Americans born post-World War II.  Despite enemy demonstrations of absolute conviction, our military is today stationed peacefully in Japan.

Overuse of suicide attackers does not appear to cause Americans to cower, but to evoke Americans to want to kill the perpetrator.

Al Qaeda in Iraq was partially but significantly undone by overuse of suicide attackers.  The Taliban is marching down the same path, but top-tier Taliban are smarter than al Qaeda and are trying to avert backlash.

Savage behavior continues to turn people against the Taliban.  Realizing this, Mullah Omar and his Taliban issued a code of conduct in 2009: “Rules and Regulations for Mujahidin.”

Item 41:

Make sure you meet these 4 conditions in conducting suicide attacks:

A-Before he goes for the mission, he should be very educated in his mission.
B-Suicide attacks should be done always against high ranking people.
C-Try your best to avoid killing local people.
D-Unless they have special permission from higher authority, every suicide attack must be approved by higher authority.

In 2009, one report indicated there were 148 suicide bombings or attempts in Afghanistan.  Suicide murders continue to occur a short drive from here that are not meeting the above requirements.  Taliban continue to hit all manner of targets, and regularly slaughter non-combatant men, women and children.

Within a week subsequent to the publication of this dispatch, suicide murderers will likely kill innocent people here.  The Taliban’s efforts at repackaging themselves as kinder, gentler mass-murderers is failing.  Their suicide bombing campaign is backfiring.  The Taliban are losing their cool.  Something is in the air.  The enemy remains very deadly, yet the scent of their weakness is growing stronger while our people close the in.
27300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: March 25, 2010, 10:34:37 AM
Now apparently the Obama team is planning to go for amnesty for the 11-20 million illegal aliens and future Democrat voters and the 30-50 million family members now in their home countries that they will be able to anchor in the coming decades angry

Oh, and by the way, these 11-20 million illegal and soon to be amnestied new Democratic voters, a goodly % of whom will wind up on Medicaid, are not part of the budgetary calculations of the new Health Law , , ,
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