Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iranian Crackdown goes global
on: December 04, 2009, 08:45:41 PM
By FARNAZ FASSIHI
NEW YORK -- His first impulse was to dismiss the ominous email as a prank, says a young Iranian-American named Koosha. It warned the 29-year-old engineering student that his relatives in Tehran would be harmed if he didn't stop criticizing Iran on Facebook.
Green in Berlin
Rapper Jay-Z and U2 brightened Berlin's Brandenburg Gate with green lighting during a performance of "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," a U2 song inspired by a 1972 altercation between British troops and protesters in Northern Ireland. During the performance, Jay-Z rapped in support of the Iranian protesters. Watch the video on YouTube.
.Two days later, his mom called. Security agents had arrested his father in his home in Tehran and threatened him by saying his son could no longer safely return to Iran.
"When they arrested my father, I realized the email was no joke," said Koosha, who asked that his full name not be used.
Tehran's leadership faces its biggest crisis since it first came to power in 1979, as Iranians at home and abroad attack its legitimacy in the wake of June's allegedly rigged presidential vote. An opposition effort, the "Green Movement," is gaining a global following of regular Iranians who say they never previously considered themselves activists.
The regime has been cracking down hard at home. And now, a Wall Street Journal investigation shows, it is extending that crackdown to Iranians abroad as well.
In recent months, Iran has been conducting a campaign of harassing and intimidating members of its diaspora world-wide -- not just prominent dissidents -- who criticize the regime, according to former Iranian lawmakers and former members of Iran's elite security force, the Revolutionary Guard, with knowledge of the program.
Part of the effort involves tracking the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube activity of Iranians around the world, and identifying them at opposition protests abroad, these people say.
Interviews with roughly 90 ordinary Iranians abroad -- college students, housewives, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople -- in New York, London, Dubai, Sweden, Los Angeles and other places indicate that people who criticize Iran's regime online or in public demonstrations are facing threats intended to silence them.
Vote: Will Iran quell opposition from Iranians living outside the country?
.View Full Image
Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, third from right, leads actors in expressing support for Iran's opposition movement at the Venice film festival in September.
.Although it wasn't possible to independently verify their claims, interviewees provided consistently similar descriptions of harassment techniques world-wide. Most asked that their full names not be published.
Today's crisis echoes the events of three decades ago, when Iran's Islamic revolution first bloomed. Back then, Iranians around the world pooled their energy and money to help oust Iran's monarch, the shah. This time, the global community is backing a similar effort, using new tools including Facebook and Twitter. YouTube videos providing step-by-step instructions for staging civil disobedience rack up thousands of views.
But now, unlike 30 years ago, Iran's leadership is striking back across national borders.
Dozens of individuals in the U.S. and Europe who criticized Iran on Facebook or Twitter said their relatives back in Iran were questioned or temporarily detained because of their postings. About three dozen individuals interviewed said that, when traveling this summer back to Iran, they were questioned about whether they hold a foreign passport, whether they possess Facebook accounts and why they were visiting Iran. The questioning, they said, took place at passport control upon their arrival at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Five interviewees who traveled to Iran in recent months said they were forced by police at Tehran's airport to log in to their Facebook accounts. Several reported having their passports confiscated because of harsh criticism they had posted online about the way the Iranian government had handled its controversial elections earlier this year.
Before this past summer, "If anyone asked me, 'Does the government threaten Iranians abroad or their families at home,' I would say, 'Not at all,'" says Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent lawyer inside Iran. "But now the cases are too many to count. Every day I get phone calls and visits from people who are being harassed and threatened" because of relatives' activities abroad.
More on Iran
Fighting a Regime He Helped Create
WSJ.com/Mideast: News, video, graphics
.In November, the deputy commander of Iran's armed forces, Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, wrote an editorial in the conservative newspaper Kayhan that "protesters inside and outside Iran have been identified and will be dealt with at the right time."
In Germany, a national intelligence report indicates that Iranian intelligence operatives are monitoring about 900 critics of the Iranian regime within Germany. One German intelligence official, Manfred Murch, said last month that his staff has identified "Iranian intelligence agents" trying to intimidate protesters in Germany by videotaping them. A German foreign-ministry official said Germany rejected requests from Iran to restrict anti-Iranian protests there.
Mohammad Reza Bak Sahraei, a diplomat at Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York, didn't respond to written questions about Iran's intelligence activities abroad. "The allegation that the Islamic Republic of Iran has created limitations and problems for Iranians who are visiting Iran from abroad is false," Mr. Sahraei said.
In recent months, he said, "Many Iranians have returned to Iran and visited their family members. Until now we have no reports of any limitations being imposed on them. Representatives of Iran abroad are doing their utmost to facilitate traveling for Iranians to Iran."
The crisis in Iran started with June's controversial re-election of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Claims of vote fraud spawned massive street protests, and a bloody crackdown.
The post-election violence has turned Iran's relationship with overseas Iranians on its head. Previously, Iran generally enjoyed good relations with its diaspora. Most opposition movements were on the fringe -- for instance, royalists calling for the shah's return. But the violent suppression of street protests "showed people the true nature of Iran's regime," says Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
There are approximately four million Iranians abroad. The U.S. is home to the largest number, totaling at least several hundred thousand. They rank among the nation's best educated and most affluent immigrant groups.
At first, many protesters inside Iran and abroad simply wanted a vote recount. But after the violence, they began calling for a complete overhaul of Iran's Islamic system, up to and including change that would remove Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from power. Around the world, Iranians took to the streets to march in protest against the events in Iran.
Iranian police in June chase protesters after the controversial election.
.An Iranian engineer in his 30s who lives in a German-speaking area of Europe, and who attended protests there this year, described having his passport, cellphone and laptop confiscated when he later traveled to Tehran. He said he was called in for questioning several times, blindfolded, kicked and physically abused, and asked to hand over his email and Facebook passwords.
Interrogators showed him images of himself participating in protests in Europe, he said, and pressed him to identify other people in the images.
"I was very scared. My knees were trembling the whole time and I kept thinking, 'How did this happen to me?'" he said recently. "I only went to a few demonstrations, and I don't even live in Iran."
He said he was told he was guilty of charges including attending antiregime protests abroad, participating in online activities on Facebook and Twitter that harmed Iran's national security and leaving comments on opposition Web sites. He said he was given a choice: Face trial in Iran, or sign a document promising to act as an informant in Europe.
He says he signed the paper, took his passport and left Iran after a month. He says he has received follow-up emails and phone calls but hasn't responded to them.
Other Iranians abroad report receiving email threats tied to their online activities. In Los Angeles in June, an Iranian-American graduate student named Hamid said he received an email that read in part: "Stop spreading lies about Iran on Facebook." He said he received it after he changed his Facebook profile picture to a "V" symbol, for victory, dripping with blood to protest the Iran violence, along with a message about wanting to travel to Iran to support the opposition.
The email, written in Farsi, read in part, "We know your home address in Los Angeles. Watch out, we will come after you," according to Hamid.
There is no way to identify the email's anonymous sender, who signed it "Spider." Other Iranians interviewed in the U.S. and Europe reported receiving similar emails in recent months. Some emails were signed "Spider," they said, while others were signed "Revolutionary Hossein," a possible reference to one of the most revered saints in Shiite Islam.
No matter how widespread, the worries are sowing panic in the overseas community. Concerns about the safety of friends and family are so prevalent among younger Iranians that a number have changed their surnames on Facebook to "Irani" (which means simply "from Iran") to be harder to single out.
Omid Habibinia, a dissident Iranian who left Iran seven years ago for Europe, says he has always been harassed, but the pressure has grown this year. He claims Iranian security services early this year created a fake Facebook account for him and tried to "friend" people on his behalf and ask them questions. Other Iranian dissidents, along with some journalists, described similar experiences.
Officials at Facebook said the company often gets reports of fake profiles and will remove them after a review. A spokeswoman declined to comment on specific profiles that have been removed, including the one Mr. Habibinia described. She said deleted profiles no longer reside on Facebook's servers, making it impossible to trace their origins. She said she wasn't aware of complaints of harassment on Facebook at the hands of Iranian security services.
One 28-year-old physician who lives in Dubai said that in July he was asked to log on to his Facebook account by a security guard upon arrival in Tehran's airport. At first, he says, he lied and said he didn't have one. So the guard took him to a small room with a laptop and did a Google search for his name. His Facebook account turned up, he says, and his passport was confiscated.
After a month and several rounds of interrogations, he says, he was allowed to exit the country.
During Iran's historic 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranians abroad played an instrumental role in transforming the movement from a fringe idea led by a frail cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, into a global force that eventually toppled the monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Iranians abroad flocked to Mr. Khomeini's side, lending his movement language skills, money and, ultimately, global legitimacy.
In the current crisis, Iran is eager to prevent a similar scenario.
To cut communication between Iranians inside and outside the country, Iran slowed Internet speeds so that accessing an online email account could take close to a half-hour. It blocked access to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. For a while, an automated message warned people making international phone calls not to give information to outsiders.
Tracking Internet crimes -- from political dissent to pornography -- has long been a priority of the regime. Iran's local media openly report on Internet-monitoring centers inside the country's judiciary and armed forces that are staffed with English-speaking, tech-savvy young people.
Late last month, at a military parade in Tehran, intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi announced the training of "senior Internet lieutenants" to confront Iran's "virtual enemies online." This month Iran announced a 12-member unit within the armed forces called the Internet Crime Unit to track individuals "spreading lies and insults" about the regime.
Iran's elite security force, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with the intelligence ministry each have their own, separate Internet-monitoring units that track prominent political figures and activists, according to dissidents including Mohsen Sazegara, one of the original founders of the Revolutionary Guard who is now in exile in the U.S. After the June election crisis, these Internet-monitoring units expanded their work to include the online activity of Iranians abroad, these people say.
In the U.S., Koosha, the young engineering student whose father was briefly arrested in Tehran, says he was never politically active before. But this past summer, he said, he watched the turmoil in Iran and "I couldn't just sit and do nothing, I felt too guilty." He watched "people my age getting beaten and killed in the streets for expressing their opinion," he said. "The least I could do was to show my solidarity."
That's when he took steps that attracted the unwelcome attention. He attended a few rallies organized by opposition supporters near where he lives in the U.S. And then, when a prominent human-rights lawyer was jailed in Iran, Koosha created an online petition.
After his father was detained, Koosha took down his petition. "I was terrified and furious," he said. And he doesn't talk politics anymore when he calls his parents in Tehran.
But he's still finding ways to express his views. In September, he biked from Toronto to New York with his brother as part of the group Bicycling for Human Rights in Iran. "They want to control even Iranians who don't live under their rule," he says.
—Jeanne Whalen in London, David Crawford in Berlin and Christopher Rhoads in New York contributed to this article.
Write to Farnaz Fassihi at firstname.lastname@example.org
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 04, 2009, 06:34:01 PM
Any comments on this season's TUF?
And here's this:
From: Eskrima-FMA <email@example.com
Former NFL great Herschel Walker training in San Jose for mixed martial arts
By Mark Emmons
San Jose Mercury News
Former Heisman Trophy winner Herschel Walker last played football in 1997.
He's now 47, an age when many ex-NFL players already are hobbled by arthritis
and other degenerative ailments.
But not Walker. Despite what he cheerfully describes as "my advanced years,"
he has come to San Jose to train for a new career in the burgeoning brutal
sport of mixed martial arts. He's scheduled to climb inside a steel cage for
his debut Jan. 30 in Miami.
And, yes, he knows everyone has a simple question: What the heck are you
"I wouldn't have gotten into this if I didn't know I could do it," said
Walker, a fifth-degree black belt in tae kwon do. "I can fight."
Walker added that he doesn't need more money or publicity. But he does need
That's why he now is spending his days sweating with other MMA fighters at San
Jose's American Kickboxing Academy, which has become a hub for the emerging
sport. One grueling session this week saw him repeatedly punching and kicking
a heavy bag, then grappling with rising heavyweight star Cain Velasquez, who
is 20 years his junior.
Although there are hints of his age in his facial features, Walker looks just
as athletic as when he was a workhorse running back who retired as the NFL's
No. 2 combined-yardage leader - right down to a sculpted physique featuring
"I understand why people would hear that he wants to fight and say, 'Yeah,
right,' " said American
Kickboxing Academy head trainer Javier Mendez. "But he's not a 47-year-old
man. He's got the body of a 20-year-old. He's absolutely ripped. He's not
normal. He's one of a kind."
Football legend, Olympian, danseur
Walker was one of the most heralded running backs in football history. He won
the 1982 Heisman at Georgia before playing 15 pro seasons. Despite
eye-catching statistics like once rushing for 1,514 yards with Dallas, Walker
is most remembered for the blockbuster 1989 trade where the Cowboys sent him
to Minnesota for five players and six draft picks.
He also could evade conventional thinking as deftly as would-be tacklers,
always marching to the beat of his own drummer.
A world-class sprinter, he competed in the two-man bobsled at the 1992 Winter
Olympics. He danced ballet. He now owns a food company and earlier this year
appeared on "The Celebrity Apprentice" reality TV show.
In 2008, Walker also created a stir with the memoir "Breaking Free," which
asserted he had suffered for years with dissociative identity disorder, a
controversial mental illness also known as multiple personality disorder. He
described how the condition nearly drove him to suicide, destroyed his
marriage and is the reason he doesn't remember winning the Heisman. But
treatment brought the disorder under control, he said.
"When the book first came out, everybody would look at me and make a cross
with their fingers like I was a vampire because of the stigma," said Walker, a
Dallas resident. "Now when I walk in an airport, I have five people come up to
me and start telling their story like I'm Dr. Walker."
He even uses the condition to poke fun at himself as he talks about his MMA
"This will be my 20-year-old personality fighting in the cage," Walker joked.
"The 40-year-old one won't come back out until afterward."
One reason Walker wants to fight is simply because he can.
Always a fitness fanatic, he has stayed in supreme condition with a daily
workout regimen highlighted by 3,500 sit-ups and from 750 to 1,500 push-ups.
He eats one meal a day - mostly salads and soups, and never red meat - and
sleeps only three to four hours a night.
"I could still play football today," said Walker, who is 6-foot-1 and 217
pounds. "Now I couldn't take every snap. I've slowed down a little bit, but
I'm still faster than 80 percent of the guys in the league. That's why I know
I can step into the cage."
'Green' but driven, Walker 'no joke'
MMA combines elements of martial arts, boxing and wrestling. And San Jose has
become something of a mecca for the sport as it gains mainstream acceptance.
The promotion company Strikeforce, which is putting on Walker's fight, is
based here. He decided to temporarily move to San Jose because the American
Kickboxing Academy gym is one of the country's top fight camps.
"He's no joke," Mendez said of Walker. "He's green. But he's got unbelievable
ability and is really, really strong. He also has a willingness to learn. You
can see why he was such a great football player. He won't shy away from
The September announcement that Walker had signed with Strikeforce raised
eyebrows. But one person all but chortled with laughter - Dana White, the
outspoken leader of Ultimate Fighting Championship, the sport's top promotion
company and a Strikeforce competitor. "Freak show" also is how he dismissively
refers to a Walker bout.
"He's too old for football, but he thinks he's young enough to fight?" White
added. "Fighting is a young man's sport. You need speed, agility,
explosiveness. All that stuff goes away with age."
Walker is aware of the taunting.
"Dana is just mad because he's not the only show in town, and that's fine,"
said Walker, who plans to donate his MMA earnings to charity. "But he really
doesn't know what kind of athlete I am."
The plan is for him to spend the next two months at the American Kickboxing
Academy, proving to trainers Mendez and Bob Cook that he's ready. For now,
Walker is a rookie again. New fighters at the gym have to do chores, which is
why Walker will be cleaning equipment Sunday morning.
"He doesn't complain and hasn't expected any special privileges, which is good
because he's gotten none," Mendez said.
After a workout, Walker was thanking Velasquez and other fighters for their
"I might not be up to the best fighters yet," Walker said. "But I'll tell you
what: I'm working at it."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues
on: December 04, 2009, 12:16:33 PM
"There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily." --George Washington
Government & Politics
The Scandal That Never Happened
If you have watched only network news for the last two weeks, you may not have heard about the flap over climate change data. It's the biggest scandal to rock the scientific world in quite some time.
As we noted Tuesday, servers from the UK's University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit (CRU) were hacked into and some 62 megabytes of data were subsequently made public. (We're not discounting the inside whistleblower theory yet.) The data include e-mail communications between noted scientists in the field of global warming, including Phil Jones and Keith Briffa of the CRU and Michael Mann from Pennsylvania State University. The release is so damning that Jones has temporarily stepped down as CRU director, pending an investigation.
In an effort to play up Mann-made global warming, the communications discuss various ways to manipulate, suppress or even destroy data showing the earth's climate to be cooling. Still, Rajendra Pachauri, who chairs the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), insists, "This private communication in no way damages the credibility of the AR4 findings." AR4 is the latest IPCC report.
On the contrary, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a leading opponent of anthropogenic warming theories, said, "It appears that, in an attempt to conceal the manipulation of climate data, information disclosure laws may have been violated. I certainly don't condone the manner in which these emails were released; however, now that they are in the public domain, lawmakers have an obligation to determine the extent to which the so-called 'consensus' of global warming, formed with billions of taxpayer dollars, was contrived in the biased minds of the world's leading climate scientists." Billions of dollars only scratches the surface of the cost of fighting phantom warming.
Indeed, these revelations should be devastating to the envirofascists' cause. But their accomplices on the nightly news have done their best to ignore the story, focusing instead on a golfer who can't drive straight (roadway, not fairway) and a killer whale that ate a great white shark. (To their credit, newspapers such as The New York Times and Washington Post have devoted numerous stories to the scandal, though the Post laughably editorialized, "None of it seriously undercuts the scientific consensus on climate change.")
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs also downplayed the story, saying, "In the order of several thousand scientists have come to the conclusion that climate change is happening. I don't think that any of that is, quite frankly among most people, in dispute." Except, yes, it is.
The importance of the truth can't be overstated, especially in the world of science and particularly with the climate summit at Copenhagen set for next week. To wit, the IPCC study blaming humans for global warming will be the basis for discussions among world leaders on how best to handicap developed industrial economies. The scientists involved in writing that report are the same ones implicated by the scandalous e-mails, leading us to conclude that much of the report -- and therefore the efforts of the world's political leaders -- is based upon lies.
Not that it was ever about the climate, mind you. Political leaders are interested in one thing: power. As Pachauri declared, "Today we have reached the point where consumption and people's desire to consume has grown out of proportion." Their goal is to redistribute our money and limit our consumption.
The scandal has possibly cost Al Gore, the "Profit" of Doom, some cold cash. Gore will be attending the Copenhagen conference and was to offer a handshake and a picture for the bargain price of $1,200. But it appears the Goracle has cancelled the engagement due to "unforeseen changes" in his schedule. If he can't even predict his own schedule, why should we believe his weather forecasts?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / AAR: Virginia Tech
on: December 04, 2009, 10:29:15 AM
AAR=After Action Report
Its the NYTimes/Pravda on the Hudson, so caveat lector
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Fri, December 04, 2009 -- 11:01 AM ET
Report on Virginia Tech Shooting Finds Notification Delays
During the worst campus shooting spree in American history,
Virginia Tech officials locked down some administrative
buildings and told their own families more than an hour and a
half before the rest of the campus was alerted, according to
revisions made in the state's official report on the tragedy.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sustainability
on: December 04, 2009, 09:38:56 AM
Sustainability: An Assault on Economics
Mises Daily: Friday, December 04, 2009 by Tyler A. Watts
Ah, the greens. They're not just treehuggers anymore. They've been browbeating us to recycle, eat soy, save energy, drive less, ride the bus, and a thousand other ways to "act local" for many years now. Now they've even got a hip new huckster on the big screen: "No Impact Man," your conductor on a first-class guilt trip to ecoland. Despite the massive popularity of their cause, I don't think they're satisfied. They want to control us. If we don't watch out, these people hell-bent on saving the planet are going to end up micromanaging our daily lives.
The idea of sustainability itself sounds pretty benign — it merely implies that people ought to be forward thinking, prudent, and thrifty in their use of economic resources. And I'm OK with this basic idea — on the surface, it sounds like simple wisdom, in league with similarly bland and benevolent values like responsibility and generosity.
But deep down, there's something unsettling about the basic premise of sustainability. Sustainability advocates — let's call them "sustainists" — are damning in their fervor, poise, and rhetoric. Their ideology is pregnant with an accusation that the way things currently are is somehow unsustainable. There's an alarmism here which essentially claims, "there's a crisis, it's your fault for being ignorant, irrational, and greedy. You must do as we say to fix it, or we'll all die."
This alarmist crusade, which underlies the sustainability movement, should rankle people with an economic understanding of the world. A basic tenet of economics is that markets are self-correcting and orderly; prices indicate resource constraints and guide people in economizing on their use. Prices change as underlying supply and demand conditions change, inducing appropriate adjustments in consumption and production patterns. Prices channel the profit motive — a natural aspect of the human condition — into productive and innovative activities. In short, prices work.
Sustainists are either ignorant or in denial of this basic lesson. Either way, we economists have our work cut out for us.
The Sustainists' Lament
The gist of the problem, as the sustainists see it, is that people are using resources irresponsibly — either using them up too fast, using too much of them, or using them in a way that will have negative long-term ramifications. In brief, sustainists disapprove of other peoples' actions, and are taking steps to correct their wayward brethren.
Because these wasteful others, through either ignorance, laziness, or stubbornness, will not wake up and adopt sustainable practices on their own, sustainists see the need for a self-conscious effort — organized campaigns, eco–guilt trips, and yes, even laws — to correct this misuse of resources. We need to change our patterns of action; we need a motivating force beyond mere "economic self-interest" (i.e., the profit motive). Sustainability, then, has become a full-fledged crusade to "save the planet," and if you're not part of the solution, you're surely part of the problem.
Let's interpret this through the lens of economics. Sustainability arguments fall under one of two broad categories: (1) The nonrenewable resources argument that the supplies of certain important resources are shrinking; by the time people realize this it will be "too late" — resource shortages will strain the capitalist economies to the breaking point. (2) The climate-change argument that there are large, though delayed, negative externalities to current patterns of resource use.
Whatever their type, sustainability arguments invoke market failure. Indeed, the very practices cited as unsustainable arise on the free market. Therefore some outside corrective, whether aggressive moral suasion or economic regulation, is needed to prevent the impending catastrophe of unsustainable resource use.
Are Prices Not Sufficient?
I don't want to dwell on the particulars of the sustainability movement. There are dozens of manifestations, from green building to organic farming to mandatory recycling to decarbonization — indeed, the sustainability bandwagon (which of course is painted green and powered by renewable energy) seems infinitely expandable to include every industry and interest group under the sun. Instead, I want to draw out the essential implications of the sustainability movement.
The sustainability movement is an assault on economics. It claims at its core that prices don't operate through time to direct consumption and production decisions in a sustainable way. A lesson in basic economics should suffice to defend against the sustainists' attack.
Prices arise in the market economy as a concomitant of mutually beneficial exchange. People want things that improve their lives — we call this value. Some valuable things are more scarce than others; take the classic case of water and diamonds. In absolute terms, water is more valuable than diamonds: you don't need diamonds to live.
Yet water is, pound for pound, far cheaper. Why? Although it's valuable, it is also relatively abundant; in many parts of the world, it literally does fall from the sky. The price of any good reflects this combination of value and scarcity. We're willing to pay more for valuable things as they become relatively scarce (e.g., oil); and we needn't pay as much for valuable things as they become more abundant (e.g., grain).
Likewise, as scarce things lose their value, people are no longer willing to pay for them (e.g., typewriters), and people must pay more for scarce things that suddenly become sought after (e.g., vintage Michael Jackson records). The awesome thing about prices is that they seamlessly convey this combination of facts about an item's value (demand) and it's scarcity (supply). Prices, of course, are subject to change — prices of certain goods fluctuate every day. But this is a good thing; discernable trends in prices over time indicate relative changes in the "market fundamentals" of supply and demand.
In this sense, prices reliably guide individuals, both consumers and producers, toward a rational use of resources. Savvy consumers listen to the prices; a rising price trend tells them to cut back on that particular item, and a falling price tells them to go ahead and use a little more of it. The same basic logic applies on the production side.
Entrepreneurs, driven by the profit motive, are like bloodhounds sniffing out these price trends in search of profit opportunities — chances to create value through exchange. If the price of a good trends strongly upwards over time (indicating it has become scarcer and/or more valuable), they rush to find cheaper substitutes. The cheaper the substitutes, the higher the profits to be had, especially if you're the first to market. If prices trend downwards over time (indicating that the resource is becoming more abundant relative to its usefulness), entrepreneurs devote their efforts elsewhere.
The general outcome of these economic processes is captured by the statement "prices coordinate." In other words, the price system acts as an "invisible hand," guiding people — both consumers and producers — in their economic actions. The real beauty of this free-market price system is that it brings about its own kind of sustainability. This is not so much sustainability in the use of particular resources — for particular goods fall in and out of favor according to supply and demand factors — but sustainability of high economic growth and high standards of living in the economically developed, capitalist economies.
Take, as an example, the transition in the market for interior illumination: tallow candles were replaced by whale-oil lamps, which were replaced by kerosene lamps, which were replaced by incandescent bulbs powered by electricity. There was no social or political pressure needed to accomplish this evolution; there was no "peak whale oil" movement, no kerosene conservationists, no sustainability crusade of yore. All it took was a functional price system, combined with the ever-present entrepreneurial drive for profits under a competitive, free-market order.
Likewise, in our time as sustainists and other worrywarts fret about resource depletion, the price system remains functional, quietly yet assuredly guiding individuals to economize on resources, search out profitable substitutes, and anticipate future trends. All this happens without preaching, without crusades, and without activism.
Is the Sustainability Crusade Sustainable?
How long will sustainists be able to beat their drum, simultaneously trumpeting their greener-than-thou self-image and attempting, with varying degrees of coercion, to make the rest of us act "sustainable" too? With the global warming scare losing credibility by the day, the likelihood of sustainists being able to claim even a moral victory is fading.Barring the earth melting down from a little bit of smoke, I'm not too worried about sustainists having much of a long-run impact.
Hardcore sustainists are asking for a radically disruptive change from the natural order of the free-market economy. They're asking us to forego wealth and embrace privation in the name of their cause. Although citizens of the Western democracies have seemingly become easy marks for anything green, we will only go so far toward saving the planet, especially when it becomes apparent that sustainability requires a march toward poverty and a deeply regimented and regulated society (and that the planet's not really in peril, after all).
Also, and perhaps more importantly, people in developing countries will be increasingly turned off by the sustainists' demands for sacrifice. Having just arrived at the high living standards that long-term capitalist development yields, my sense is that they will turn a cold shoulder to the idea of ratcheting down their development.
The current resurgence of the classical-liberal tradition in economics will also reduce the appeal of sustainability. The idea of imposed or centrally planned sustainability will crumble under the realization that the spontaneous order wrought by the invisible hand of the free-market price system is amazingly sustainable in and of itself. Add to the mix the hardships of the current recession, and it won't be long before enough people, even sustainist crusaders come crawling back, box of chocolates in hand, to the free-market economy.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Separation of powers case
on: December 04, 2009, 07:11:46 AM
Congress wants to wallop business with even more regulation in the wake of the financial panic, but perhaps the Members should pause on Monday and visit the Supreme Court. The Justices will hear arguments on whether major portions of the last great Congressional overreaction, the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act, are constitutional.
Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Board was brought in 2006 by Brad Beckstead, whose small Nevada accounting firm endured a costly examination under Sarbox rules. At issue is whether the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, or PCAOB, which supervises compliance with the law, violates the Constitution's separation of powers. Under the Appointments Clause, all "officers" of the United States must be appointed by the President and accountable to him—a condition PCAOB members do not meet.
The board's five members are instead hired by the commissioners of the Securities and Exchange Commission, who are appointed by the President. This arrangement passed muster in a 2-1 decision by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, on the dubious grounds that the members were "inferior officers" and accountable to the President through the SEC. Never mind that they are not "directed and supervised" by the SEC, the traditional requirement for inferior officers.
The dissenter on the D.C. Circuit panel, Judge Brett Kavanaugh, called the case the most important separation of powers case in 20 years and said the appeals court had created a constitutional hash. Though the PCAOB "performs numerous regulatory and law enforcement functions at the core of the executive power," he wrote, for the first time in U.S. history we have "an independent agency whose heads are appointed by and removable only for cause by another independent agency."
The PCAOB has indeed grown as a politically unaccountable entity with vast power to regulate business. Texas Senator Phil Gramm warned at its creation that Congress was setting up a board with "massive unchecked power" to "make decisions that affect all accountants and everybody they work for, which directly or indirectly is every breathing person in the country."
Massive is the right word. The accounting board's wide-open mandate—to make whatever rules "may be necessary or appropriate in the public interest or for the protection of investors"—has cost the economy nearly $1 trillion, according to a study by AEI and the Brookings Institution. The benefit is supposed to be investor protection. But despite these costs, the law did nothing to warn about the meltdown of mortgage-backed securities, much less expose Bernie Madoff or other fraudsters.
These realities contributed to the welcome 37-32 November vote in the House Financial Services Committee to exempt small businesses from section 404b of Sarbox, which governs audit requirements. Sponsored by Democrat John Adler and Republican Scott Garrett, both of New Jersey, the provision was supported by the Obama Administration and 10 Democrats joined Republicans in support.
As the Supremes now take their turn, the case has implications the regulation-loving press corps hasn't noticed. A decision to uphold the PCAOB would open the door for Congress to create any number of equally unaccountable regulators across the economy. However, a ruling against the PCAOB could bring down the whole law because Sarbox does not have a "severability clause," which means that if one part goes down the entire law may be invalidated.
Debates over the Appointments Clause haven't typically divided the Supreme Court along liberal and conservative lines, so the outcome is hard to handicap. As Hans Bader and John Berlau of the Competitive Enterprise Institute point out, in the 1995 case Ryder v. United States, the High Court ruled unanimously that "an individual or firm disciplined by a government agency can challenge that discipline if agency officials were improperly appointed."
At stake here isn't merely a poorly written law that has done great economic harm. The issue is whether Congress, in its haste, can ignore the Constitutional order that has ensured accountable government for 230 years.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Articulating our cause/strategy against Islamic Fascism
on: December 03, 2009, 10:25:38 PM
It's been brought to my attention by several reliable sources that the
Defense Department has brought Louay Safi to Fort Hood as an instructor, and
that he has been lecturing on Islam to our troops in Fort Hood who are about
to deploy to Afghanistan. Safi is a top official of the Islamic Society of
North America (ISNA), and served as research director at the International
Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT).
Worse, last evening, Safi was apparently permitted to present a check
(evidently on behalf of ISNA) to the families of the victims of last month's
Fort Hood massacre. A military source told the blogger Barbarossa at the
Jawa Report: "This is nothing short of blood money. This is criminal and the
Ft. Hood base commander should be fired right now."
ISNA was identified by the Justice Department at the Holy Land Foundation
terrorism financing conspiracy trial as an unindicted co-conspirator. The
defendants at that trial were convicted of funding Hamas to the tune of
millions of dollars. This should have come as no surprise. ISNA is the
Muslim Brotherhood's umbrella entity for Islamist organizations in the
United States. It was established in 1981 to enable Muslims in North America
"to adopt Islam as a complete way of life" - i.e., to further the
Brotherhood's strategy of establishing enclaves in the West that are
governed by sharia. As I detailed in an essay for the April 20 edition of
NR, the Brotherhood's rally-cry remains, to this day, "Allah is our
objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our
way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope." The Brotherhood's
spiritual guide, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who issued a fatwa in 2004
calling for attacks on American forces in Afghanistan, openly declares that
Islam will "conquer America" and "conquer Europe."
Also established in 1981, the IIIT is a Saudi funded think-tank dedicated,
it says, to the "Islamicization of knowledge" - which, Zeyno Baran (in
Volume 6 of the Hudson Institute's excellent series, "Current Trends in
Islamist Ideology") has aptly observed, "could be a euphemism for the
rewriting of history to support Islamist narratives." Years ago, the Saudis
convinced the United States that the IIIT should be the military's go-to
authority on Islam. One result was the placement of Abdurrahman Alamoudi to
select Muslim chaplains for the armed forces. Alamoudi has since been
convicted of terrorism and sentenced to 23 years in federal prison.
As noted in this 2003 Frontpage report, 2002 search warrant links Safi to an
entity called the "Safa Group." The Safa Group has never been charged with a
crime, but the affidavit allegest its involvement in moving large sums of
money to terrorist fronts. Safi was also caught on an FBI wiretap of Sami
al-Arian, a former leader in the murderous Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).
The year was 1995, and the topic of the discussion between Safi and al-Arian
was Safi's concern that President Clinton's executive order prohibiting
financial transactions with terrorist organizations would negatively affect
al-Arian. More recently, al-Arian has been convicted of conspiring to
provide material support to terrorism.
At Human Events a couple of months back, Rowan Scarborough had a disturbing
report about the FBI's "partnering" efforts with Islamist groups - including
the very same ISNA that the Justice Department had cited as an unindicted
co-conspirator in the terrorism financing conspiracy. A prominent figure in
the report was Louay Jafi:
Safi is a Syrian-born author who advocates Muslim American rights through
his directorship of ISNA's Leadership Development Center. He advocates
direct talks between Washington and Iran's leaders. He has spoken out
against various law enforcement raids on Islamic centers.
In a 2003 publication, "Peace and the Limits of War," Safi wrote, "The war
against the apostates [non-believers of Islam] is carried out not to force
them to accept Islam, but to enforce the Islamic law and maintain order."
He also wrote, "It is up to the Muslim leadership to assess the situation
and weigh the circumstances as well as the capacity of the Muslim community
before deciding the appropriate type of jihad. At one stage, Muslims may
find that jihad, through persuasion or peaceful resistance, is the best and
most effective method to achieve just peace." [ACM: Implicitly, this
concedes there is a time for violent jihad, too.]
At ISNA's annual convention in Washington in July, one speaker, Imam
Warith Deen Umar, criticized Obama for having two Jewish people - Rahm
Emanuel and David Axelrod - in the White House. "Why do this small number of
people have control of the world?" he said, according to a IPT transcript.
He said the Holocast was punishment for Jews "because they were serially
disobedient to Allah."
[Steven] Emerson's group [the Investigative Project on Terrorism]
collected literature at the convention approved for distribution by ISNA. It
said the pamphlets and books featured "numerous attempts to portray U.S.
prosecution of terrorists and terror supporters as anti-Muslim bigotry;
dramatic revisionist history that denied attacks by Arab nations and
Palestinian terrorists against Israel; anti-Semitic tracts and hyperbolic
rants about a genocide and holocaust of Palestinians."
Asked if the FBI should sever ties with ISNA, Emerson said, "ISNA is an
unindicted co-conspirator. It's a Muslim Brotherhood group. I think in terms
of legitimacy there should be certain expectations of what the group says
publicly. If it continues to espouse jihad and anti-Semitism, I think it
nullifies it right to have the FBI recognize it."
If you want to get a sense of the garbage our troops are being forced to
endure in Fort Hood's classrooms, check out Jihad Watch, where my friend Bob
Spencer has more on this episode and on his prior jousts with Safi, here,
here, and here.
What on earth is this government doing, and will Congress please do
something about it?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 03, 2009, 07:46:42 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama’s long-awaited announcement on U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan is not sitting well in Islamabad or New Delhi. While Pakistan now has to figure out how to keep American forces from taking more aggressive action against jihadists in Pakistan, India does not want to deal with the messy aftermath of a U.S. military exit from the region in two years. Meanwhile, the jihadists operating in Pakistan have a greater incentive to create a crisis on the Indo-Pakistani border through rogue attacks in India — a scenario that could well upset Obama’s exit strategy from Afghanistan.
U.S. President Barack Obama announced Dec. 1 the broad strokes of his administration’s strategy for the war in Afghanistan. In short, he said there are three main objectives: deny al Qaeda a safe haven on the Afghan-Pakistani border, halt the momentum of the Taliban offensive in Afghanistan with an additional 30,000 troops, and train and build Afghan security and civilian forces to deal with the jihadist threat themselves. Notably, Obama also refused to commit to a long-haul nation-building strategy in Afghanistan. On the contrary, he defined the endgame for the war and specified that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan could begin as early as July 2011.
Pakistan’s primary concern with the strategy has to deal with the first objective: denying al Qaeda a safe haven. It is well known that al Qaeda’s safe haven is not in Afghanistan, where U.S. troops are concentrated, but in Pakistan, where Pakistani forces employ a much more nuanced method of distinguishing between “good” and “bad” jihadists.
Under the Obama plan, the U.S. military is evidently working on a tight timeline to demonstrate (prior to the 2012 U.S. elections) that al Qaeda has been defeated. The United States needs results and it needs them fast. Pakistan can thus assume that the United States is about to apply a lot more pressure on Islamabad to dismantle al Qaeda in Pakistan.
But Pakistan’s definition of “bad” jihadists does not mesh with that of the United States. Indeed, the targets of Pakistan’s offensive in Swat and South Waziristan have been those Taliban militants who have clearly turned against the Pakistani state, namely the Tehrik-i-Taliban movement. Al Qaeda and its allies, on the other hand, have strategically kept their focus on Afghanistan while maintaining a safe haven in Pakistan. If Pakistan widens the scope of its counterinsurgency efforts to include the militants on Washington’s hit list — particularly the Haqqani network, the Mullah Omar-led group of Afghan Taliban, Maulvi Nazir, Hafiz Gulf Bahadir and other high-value targets with strong linkages to al Qaeda — then the Pakistani military will be forced to deal with a bigger backlash.
Pakistan continues to deliberate over how the United States actually intends to achieve its objective of denying al Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan. In private discussions with Pakistani leaders, the United States has delivered an ultimatum to Islamabad: either give up its militant-proxy project and enjoy the political, economic and military benefits of an enhanced relationship with Washington or the United States will take unilateral action on Pakistani soil. Such unilateral action would go beyond the CIA’s unmanned aerial vehicle strikes in the borderlands and likely entail sending in fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft with special forces for quick “get in and get out” operations against al Qaeda targets deep inside Pakistani territory. The United States carried out such an overt incursion in Pakistan in September 2008 in South Waziristan, which led to widespread popular backlash inside the country.
This type of unilateral U.S. military action is a redline for the Pakistani military. The impression STRATFOR has gotten from Pakistani military sources is that Islamabad is still quite confident that the United States won’t risk a serious destabilization of Pakistan in pursuit of its counterterrorism objectives. In fact, Pakistani officials have made it a point to paint a doomsday scenario for the United States should the Pakistani military be pushed to the edge in its fight against Pakistani jihadists while trying to hold a feeble government and shaky economy together.
Pakistan will thus try to hedge as best it can to keep U.S. forces at bay. The Pakistani military has a strategic imperative to continue along the current path and engage in limited military offensives against those jihadists who have turned on the Pakistani state while turning a blind eye to those jihadists whose efforts are focused on Afghanistan and/or India. But the United States is unlikely to tolerate Pakistan’s way of handling its jihadist threat, particularly now that U.S. forces are under a tight deadline to neutralize al Qaeda in Pakistan.
As U.S. pressure on Islamabad and the threat to Pakistani sovereignty inevitably increase in the months ahead, Pakistan will rely more heavily on intelligence cooperation with Washington to manage its relationship with the United States. STRATFOR’s Geopolitical Intelligence Report this week discusses in depth how the U.S. battle against al Qaeda and its jihadist allies is largely an intelligence war, one in which Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate could play a crucial role in penetrating al Qaeda and the Taliban. The more reliant the United States is on Pakistani intelligence to achieve its aims in Afghanistan, the better able Islamabad will be in convincing Washington that it’s better off leaving the Pakistani segment of the U.S.-jihadist war to the Pakistanis — or so Pakistan hopes. At the end of the day, Pakistan cannot escape its fear that the United States will take more aggressive action on Pakistani soil with or without Islamabad’s consent.
Pakistan also has a deeper dilemma to contend with concerning its relationship with the United States. Though Pakistan’s alliance with the United States has often left Pakistan feeling betrayed, Pakistan still needs a great power patron with enough interest in the region, like the United States, to counter India. During the Cold War, Pakistan was the key for the United States in containing Soviet expansion in South-Central Asia. Today, Pakistan is the key to containing radical Islamism. In both cases, Pakistan has benefited from U.S. political, economic and military support in its attempts to level the playing field with India.
Though the U.S. partnership with Pakistan against the jihadists is fraught with complications, Pakistan still does not want the day to come when U.S. forces draw down from the region and leave it to Islamabad to pick up the pieces of the jihadist war. If the United States is sufficiently satisfied with its mission in the region by the summer of 2011 to draw down forces according to the timeline Obama laid out, U.S. interest in Pakistan will wane and Islamabad will be left in a difficult position. Pakistan is feeling especially vulnerable these days considering the United States’ growing strategic partnership with India next door.
Pakistan can therefore be expected to lay heavy demands on the United States to restrain India if Washington expects greater cooperation from Islamabad. Pakistan is already urging the United States to restrict Indian influence in Afghanistan, which is viewed by Islamabad as nothing short of an Indian encirclement strategy. Whereas India has been careful to specify that its support for Afghanistan is primarily economic, Pakistan remains convinced that the Indian presence in Afghanistan, whether in the form of consulates or construction companies, is simply a front for Indian Research and Analysis Wing intelligence agents to exploit the Baloch and jihadist insurgencies in Pakistan.
Moreover, Pakistan will continue to insist to the United States that it cannot devote more forces to combating the jihadist threat in its western periphery as long as it has to worry about the high concentration of Indian troops along the Indo-Pakistani border to the east. New Delhi, however, remains convinced that Pakistan continues to support militant proxies against India and is unlikely to heed any U.S. request to back off the border with Pakistan to assuage Islamabad’s concerns when the threat of another militant attack remains real and near.
Obama telephoned Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the eve of his Dec. 1 speech to brief him on his strategy for Afghanistan. India publicly expressed support for the strategy, maintaining the image that U.S.-Indian relations are tightening following Singh’s official state visit to the United States the previous week. Privately, however, India has reason to be skeptical of Obama’s plan.
There is no getting around the fact that Obama is attempting to define an endgame for the U.S. war in Afghanistan, recognizing the need to free up the U.S. military for crises beyond South Asia. This is not to say that the United States will completely abandon the region or that the threat of militant Islam will not persist, but removing thousands of U.S. troops in the region certainly changes the equation in New Delhi’s mind. The last thing India wants is for the United States to draw down its commitment to Afghanistan (and thus ease up pressure on Pakistan) in two years, leaving New Delhi to deal with the aftermath. Indeed, when Singh met with Obama at the White House, he told the U.S. president to stay resolute on his mission in Afghanistan, warning that a U.S. defeat there would have catastrophic consequences.
India sees the benefit of developing a closer partnership with the United States but also wants Washington to do its part to convince Pakistan to give up its decades-long policy of supporting proxy militants against India. Now that Pakistan is experiencing the side effects of its own militant-proxy strategy, India’s hope is that with enough U.S. pressure, Pakistan can be induced to clean up its militant landscape. Yet if the United States is preparing its exit from the region, India may end up losing a valuable lever to use against Pakistan.
Jihadist Wild Card
New Delhi and Islamabad have different reasons to be concerned about U.S. strategy in the region, but there is one area of concern that is common to both: rogue jihadists operating on Pakistani soil.
Al Qaeda and its jihadist allies are examining Obama’s strategy just as intently as everyone else. These jihadists can quite easily deduce that more pressure will be brought to bear on their safe havens in northwest Pakistan, thus threatening their survival. There is a clear intent, therefore, for these jihadists to keep Pakistan focused on the Indian threat on its eastern border in order to alleviate the pressure on their jihadist bases in the northwest. The best way to do this is to create a conflict between India and Pakistan through a large-scale militant attack in hopes of inducing an Indian military response and possibly triggering another near-nuclear confrontation on the border.
Pakistan wants to avoid getting bogged down in a fight with India while trying to deal with its jihadist problems at home. Though Pakistan is trying to rein in many of its former militant proxies, it still has to worry about a number of rogues that could embroil Pakistan in a conflict that it did not ask for. The 2001 bombing of the Indian parliament and the 2008 attacks in Mumbai revealed signs of jihadist involvement that may not have been under direct Pakistani control. Pakistan can attempt to stave off such a crisis by sharing intelligence on militant plots and actors with India through a U.S. channel, but even with enhanced intelligence cooperation, an attack could still happen.
India is already bracing itself for such a scenario and is still grappling with the dilemma that any Indian military response inside Pakistan — even limited strikes — would risk emboldening the jihadists, seriously destabilizing Pakistan and bringing the region to the brink of a nuclear conflagration. India struggled with this issue in the wake of the Mumbai attacks and it appears undecided on how to react to another major attack. In any case, a crisis along the border can be expected, and it would be up to the United States to put out the fire.
The United States is already giving itself a limited timetable to complete its objectives in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it needs Pakistan’s cooperation to make its strategy work. A crisis on the Indo-Pakistani border would certainly jeopardize those plans, since Pakistan would devote its energy to dealing with India (its primary existential threat) rather than al Qaeda and the Taliban. Throw the threat of nuclear war into the equation, and the United States has an entirely new challenge.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: December 03, 2009, 07:39:14 PM
Friday Feature /Only Supply Side Can Fix $1.4 Trillion Deficit
RICH KARLGAARD, "Digital Rules" on Forbes.com (11/30/09): school of
economic public policy known as "supply side" is out of favor, but it is
not as dead as it looks. The theory works. The production of goods and
services does indeed create its own demand. Otherwise, low productivity
countries would be wealthy. Jamaica would be as rich as Singapore. As Josh
Lerner points out here: "In 1965 the two nations were equal in wealth.
Four decades later, their standing was dramatically different. What
accounts for the difference?"
Lerner answers his own question:
Soon after independence, Singapore aggressively invested in infrastructure
such as its port, subsidized its system of education, maintained an open
and corruption-free economy, and established sovereign wealth funds that
made a wide variety of investments. It has also benefited from a strategic
position on the key sea lanes heading to and from East Asia. Jamaica,
meanwhile, spent many years mired in political instability, particularly
the disastrous administration of Michael Manley during the 1970s. Dramatic
shifts from a market economy to a socialist orientation and back again,
with the attendant inflation, economic instability, crippling public debt,
and violence, made the development and implementation of a consistent
long-run economic policy difficult.
But in explaining Singapore's economic growth, it is hard not to give
considerable credit to its policies toward entrepreneurship. The
government has experimented with a wide variety of efforts to develop an
In other words, Singapore invested in supply. It built infrastructure with
government funds. It kept taxes low, regulations light, trade open and
laws simple but rigorously enforced so as to encourage private investment.
President Obama is a thorough-going demand-sider. The $787 billion
stimulus package, tax "cuts" for people who aren't paying taxes, Cash for
Clunkers--could it be any clearer? Demand side has a fatal flaw. It takes
the production of goods and services for granted. Demand side takes you to
Jamaica, not Singapore.
The critics of supply side argue that it, too, has a fatal flaw: deficits.
Does it? Sure, when government spends more than it takes in.
Supply side, in fact, is the only way out of the deficit nightmare....
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington
on: December 03, 2009, 05:59:38 AM
"We are either a United people, or we are not. If the former, let us, in all maters of general concern act as a nation, which have national objects to promote, and a national character to support. If we are not, let us no longer act a farce by pretending to it." --George Washington, letter to James Madison, 1785
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters)
on: December 02, 2009, 11:04:56 PM
Your points are lucid, but I submit that there is something qualitatively different about being effortlessly being able to keep track of ALL of someone's movements, or to recover what they were retroactively.
"Nothing in the Fourth Amendment prohibited the police from augmenting their sensory faculties with such enhancement as science and technology afforded them in this case."
I'm not sure that the truth of this statement, which after all is limited to the facts presented, means that it applies across the board.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game
on: December 02, 2009, 04:35:26 PM
"Had a great success with the the running dog this past Monday. We have a BJJ brown belt who spars with us on Mondays who has a very strong guard game. When we hit the ground from the clinch the material just clicked finally. As soon as I got into the RD squat and started trapping with the strikes he didn't know what to do. He tapped out because he couldn't stop the strikes or get to a better position without getting hit. In round two I was able to do it again and get the run over.
Thank you Guro Crafty."
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game
on: December 02, 2009, 12:20:42 PM
A FB post:
"I've been trying the 'Running Dog' in bjj. Both the step over heel hook and the walk-over single leg crab worked against white belts quite easily. Moving up the food chain, I tried on a purple belt. I did catch the walk-over single leg crab, but it took some scrabling to finalize it. Finally, I tried it against one of our brown belts. He beat the walk-over pretty handily, but it set me up for the step over heel hook, which I submitted him with... And all this without the striking set-ups. Good stuff, Guro! Keep it coming! Woof!!!!"
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters)
on: December 02, 2009, 12:16:16 PM
Also coming a real long way is the Orwellian potential of ever accelerating technological capabilities , , ,
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 02, 2009, 11:07:12 AM
4th post of the morning.
Tis a rare event, but a reasoned piece from Thomas Friedman:
This I Believe
THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: December 1, 2009
Let me start with the bottom line and then tell you how I got there: I can’t agree with President Obama’s decision to escalate in Afghanistan. I’d prefer a minimalist approach, working with tribal leaders the way we did to overthrow the Taliban regime in the first place. Given our need for nation-building at home right now, I am ready to live with a little less security and a little-less-perfect Afghanistan.
I recognize that there are legitimate arguments on the other side. At a lunch on Tuesday for opinion writers, the president lucidly argued that opting for a surge now to help Afghans rebuild their army and state into something decent — to win the allegiance of the Afghan people — offered the only hope of creating an “inflection point,” a game changer, to bring long-term stability to that region. May it be so. What makes me wary about this plan is how many moving parts there are — Afghans, Pakistanis and NATO allies all have to behave forever differently for this to work.
But here is the broader context in which I assess all this: My own foreign policy thinking since 9/11 has been based on four pillars:
1. The Warren Buffett principle: Everything I’ve ever gotten in life is largely due to the fact that I was born in this country, America, at this time with these opportunities for its citizens. It is the primary obligation of our generation to turn over a similar America to our kids.
2. Many big bad things happen in the world without America, but not a lot of big good things. If we become weak and enfeebled by economic decline and debt, as we slowly are, America may not be able to play its historic stabilizing role in the world. If you didn’t like a world of too-strong-America, you will really not like a world of too-weak-America — where China, Russia and Iran set more of the rules.
3. The context within which people live their lives shapes everything — from their political outlook to their religious one. The reason there are so many frustrated and angry people in the Arab-Muslim world, lashing out first at their own governments and secondarily at us — and volunteering for “martyrdom” — is because of the context within which they live their lives. That was best summarized by the U.N.’s Arab Human Development reports as a context dominated by three deficits: a deficit of freedom, a deficit of education and a deficit of women’s empowerment. The reason India, with the world’s second-largest population of Muslims, has a thriving Muslim minority (albeit with grievances but with no prisoners in Guantánamo Bay) is because of the context of pluralism and democracy it has built at home.
4. One of the main reasons the Arab-Muslim world has been so resistant to internally driven political reform is because vast oil reserves allow its regimes to become permanently ensconced in power, by just capturing the oil tap, and then using the money to fund vast security and intelligence networks that quash any popular movement. Look at Iran.
Hence, post-9/11 I advocated that our politicians find sufficient courage to hike gasoline taxes and seriously commit ourselves to developing alternatives to oil. Economists agree that this would ultimately bring down the global price, and slowly deprive these regimes of the sole funding source that allows them to maintain their authoritarian societies. People do not change when we tell them they should; they change when their context tells them they must.
To me, the most important reason for the Iraq war was never W.M.D. It was to see if we could partner with Iraqis to help them build something that does not exist in the modern Arab world: a state, a context, where the constituent communities — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — write their own social contract for how to live together without an iron fist from above. Iraq has proved staggeringly expensive and hugely painful. The mistakes we made should humble anyone about nation-building in Afghanistan. It does me.
Still, the Iraq war may give birth to something important — if Iraqis can find that self-sustaining formula to live together. Alas, that is still in doubt. If they can, the model would have a huge impact on the Arab world. Baghdad is a great Arab capital. If Iraqis fail, it’s religious strife, economic decline and authoritarianism as far as the eye can see — the witch’s brew that spawns terrorists.
Iraq was about “the war on terrorism.” The Afghanistan invasion, for me, was about the “war on terrorists.” To me, it was about getting bin Laden and depriving Al Qaeda of a sanctuary — period. I never thought we could make Afghanistan into Norway — and even if we did, it would not resonate beyond its borders the way Iraq might.
To now make Afghanistan part of the “war on terrorism” — i.e., another nation-building project — is not crazy. It is just too expensive, when balanced against our needs for nation-building in America, so that we will have the strength to play our broader global role. Hence, my desire to keep our presence in Afghanistan limited. That is what I believe. That is why I believe it.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 02, 2009, 10:54:38 AM
third post of the morning
Obama Announces New U.S. Afghan Strategy
.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, speaking at West Point, laid out his new strategy for “concluding” the Afghan war. The short version is as follows: 30,000 additional U.S. troops will begin deployment at the fastest possible rate beginning in early 2010; the force’s primary goal will be to enable Afghan forces to carry on the war themselves; U.S. troops will begin withdrawing by July 2011 and complete their withdrawal by the end of the president’s current term.
Obama outlined a series of goals for U.S. forces, the four most critical of which STRATFOR will reproduce here. The first is to deny al Qaeda a safe-haven. The second is to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government, largely by securing key population centers. The third is to strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s Security Forces and government so that more Afghans can get into the fight. The fourth is to create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.
“In many ways the new strategy seems less like an active military strategy than one of a series of mild gambles.”
Let us first look at the somewhat obvious points from STRATFOR’s point of view:
There isn’t a lot that you can do in 18 months, even with that many troops. You certainly cannot eradicate the Taliban. Even reversing the Taliban’s momentum as Obama hopes to do is a very tall order. And you might find it fairly difficult to root out the apex leadership of al Qaeda, especially if it is in Pakistan instead of Afghanistan. Simply pursuing that goal would require the regular insertion of forces into Pakistan, enraging the country upon which NATO military supply chains depend. Even more so, having full withdrawal by the end of Obama’s current term puts a large logistical strain on the force, giving it less manpower to achieve its goals — particularly once the drawdown begins in July 2011. For most of the period in question, the United States will have far fewer than the roughly 100,000 troops at the ready that the Obama policy envisions.
In many ways the new strategy seems less like an active military strategy than one of a series of mild gambles: that the force will be sufficient to (temporarily) turn the tide against the Taliban, that this shift will be sufficient to allow the Afghan army to step forward, and that this shift will be sufficient to allow U.S. forces to withdraw without major incident. That’s tricky at best.
Now for the less-than-obvious points:
Ramrodding 30,000 troops into Afghanistan immediately will severely tax the military. Bear in mind that the drawdown in Iraq has only recently begun, and forces pulled from Iraq will either need substantial time to rest and retool before they can do something else, which in many cases may to be shipped off to Afghanistan. The ability of U.S. ground forces to react to any problem anywhere in the world in 2010 just decreased from marginal to nonexistent. Many of America’s rivals are sure to take note.
However, by committing to a clear three-year timeframe, Obama is aiming for something that Bush did not. He is bringing the U.S. military back into the global system as opposed to its current sequestering in the Islamic world. The key factor that has enabled many states to challenge U.S. power in recent years — Russia’s August 2008 war with Georgia perhaps being the best example — is that the United States has lacked the military bandwidth to deploy troops outside of its two ongoing wars. If Obama is able to carry out his planned Iraqi and Afghan withdrawals on schedule, the United States will shift rapidly from massive overextension to full deployment capability.
And so states that have been taking advantage of the window of opportunity caused by American preoccupation now have something new to incorporate into their plans: the date the window closes.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 02, 2009, 10:53:40 AM
second post of the morning:
Obama's Plan and the Key Battleground
December 2, 2009
By George Friedman
U.S. President Barack Obama announced the broad structure of his Afghanistan
strategy in a speech at West Point on Tuesday evening. The strategy had
three core elements. First, he intends to maintain pressure on al Qaeda on
the Afghan-Pakistani border and in other regions of the world. Second, he
intends to blunt the Taliban offensive by sending an additional 30,000
American troops to Afghanistan, along with an unspecified number of NATO
troops he hopes will join them. Third, he will use the space created by the
counteroffensive against the Taliban and the resulting security in some
regions of Afghanistan to train and build Afghan military forces and
civilian structures to assume responsibility after the United States
withdraws. Obama added that the U.S. withdrawal will begin in July 2011, but
provided neither information on the magnitude of the withdrawal nor the date
when the withdrawal would conclude. He made it clear that these will depend
on the situation on the ground, adding that the U.S. commitment is finite.
In understanding this strategy, we must begin with an obvious but unstated
point: The extra forces that will be deployed to Afghanistan are not
expected to defeat the Taliban. Instead, their mission is to reverse the
momentum of previous years and to create the circumstances under which an
Afghan force can take over the mission. The U.S. presence is therefore a
stopgap measure, not the ultimate solution.
The ultimate solution is training an Afghan force to engage the Taliban over
the long haul, undermining support for the Taliban, and dealing with al
Qaeda forces along the Pakistani border and in the rest of Afghanistan. If
the United States withdraws all of its forces as Obama intends, the Afghan
military would have to assume all of these missions. Therefore, we must
consider the condition of the Afghan military to evaluate the strategy's
Afghanistan vs. Vietnam
Obama went to great pains to distinguish Afghanistan from Vietnam, and there
are indeed many differences. The core strategy adopted by Richard Nixon (not
Lyndon Johnson) in Vietnam, called "Vietnamization," saw U.S. forces working
to blunt and disrupt the main North Vietnamese forces while the Army of the
Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) would be trained, motivated and deployed to
replace U.S. forces to be systematically withdrawn from Vietnam. The
equivalent of the Afghan surge was the U.S. attack on North Vietnamese Army
(NVA) bases in Cambodia and offensives in northern South Vietnam designed to
disrupt NVA command and control and logistics and forestall a major
offensive by the NVA. Troops were in fact removed in parallel with the
Nixon faced two points Obama now faces. First, the United States could not
provide security for South Vietnam indefinitely. Second, the South
Vietnamese would have to provide security for themselves. The role of the
United States was to create the conditions under which the ARVN would become
an effective fighting force; the impending U.S. withdrawal was intended to
increase the pressure on the Vietnamese government to reform and on the ARVN
Many have argued that the core weakness of the strategy was that the ARVN
was not motivated to fight. This was certainly true in some cases, but the
idea that the South Vietnamese were generally sympathetic to the Communists
is untrue. Some were, but many weren't, as shown by the minimal refugee
movement into NVA-held territory or into North Vietnam itself contrasted
with the substantial refugee movement into U.S./ARVN-held territory and away
from NVA forces. The patterns of refugee movement are, we think, highly
indicative of true sentiment.
Certainly, there were mixed sentiments, but the failure of the ARVN was not
primarily due to hostility or even lack of motivation. Instead, it was due
to a problem that must be addressed and overcome if the Afghanistation war
is to succeed. That problem is understanding the role that Communist
sympathizers and agents played in the formation of the ARVN.
By the time the ARVN expanded - and for that matter from its very
foundation - the North Vietnamese intelligence services had created a
systematic program for inserting operatives and recruiting sympathizers at
every level of the ARVN, from senior staff and command positions down to the
squad level. The exploitation of these assets was not random nor merely
intended to undermine moral. Instead, it provided the NVA with strategic,
operational and tactical intelligence on ARVN operations, and when ARVN and
U.S. forces operated together, on U.S. efforts as well.
In any insurgency, the key for insurgent victory is avoiding battles on the
enemy's terms and initiating combat only on the insurgents' terms. The NVA
was a light infantry force. The ARVN - and the U.S. Army on which it was
modeled - was a much heavier, combined-arms force. In any encounter between
the NVA and its enemies the NVA would lose unless the encounter was at the
time and place of the NVA's choosing. ARVN and U.S. forces had a tremendous
advantage in firepower and sheer weight. But they had a significant
weakness: The weight they bought to bear meant they were less agile. The NVA
had a tremendous weakness. Caught by surprise, it would be defeated. And it
had a great advantage: Its intelligence network inside the ARVN generally
kept it from being surprised. It also revealed weakness in its enemies'
deployment, allowing it to initiate successful offensives.
All war is about intelligence, but nowhere is this truer than in
counterinsurgency and guerrilla war, where invisibility to the enemy and
maintaining the initiative in all engagements is key. Only clear
intelligence on the enemy's capability gives this initiative to an
insurgent, and only denying intelligence to the enemy - or knowing what the
enemy knows and intends - preserves the insurgent force.
The construction of an Afghan military is an obvious opportunity for Taliban
operatives and sympathizers to be inserted into the force. As in Vietnam,
such operatives and sympathizers are not readily distinguishable from loyal
soldiers; ideology is not something easy to discern. With these operatives
in place, the Taliban will know of and avoid Afghan army forces and will
identify Afghan army weaknesses. Knowing that the Americans are withdrawing
as the NVA did in Vietnam means the rational strategy of the Taliban is to
reduce operational tempo, allow the withdrawal to proceed, and then take
advantage of superior intelligence and the ability to disrupt the Afghan
forces internally to launch the Taliban offensives.
The Western solution is not to prevent Taliban sympathizers from penetrating
the Afghan army. Rather, the solution is penetrating the Taliban. In
Vietnam, the United States used signals intelligence extensively. The NVA
came to understand this and minimized radio communications, accepting
inefficient central command and control in return for operational security.
The solution to this problem lay in placing South Vietnamese into the NVA.
There were many cases in which this worked, but on balance, the NVA had a
huge advantage in the length of time it had spent penetrating the ARVN
versus U.S. and ARVN counteractions. The intelligence war on the whole went
to the North Vietnamese. The United States won almost all engagements, but
the NVA made certain that it avoided most engagements until it was ready.
In the case of Afghanistan, the United States has far more sophisticated
intelligence-gathering tools than it did in Vietnam. Nevertheless, the basic
principle remains: An intelligence tool can be understood, taken into
account and evaded. By contrast, deep penetration on multiple levels by
human intelligence cannot be avoided.
Obama mentioned Pakistan's critical role. Clearly, he understands the
lessons of Vietnam regarding sanctuary, and so he made it clear that he
expects Pakistan to engage and destroy Taliban forces on its territory and
to deny Afghan Taliban supplies, replacements and refuge. He cited the Swat
and South Waziristan offensives as examples of the Pakistanis' growing
effectiveness. While this is a significant piece of his strategy, the
Pakistanis must play another role with regard to intelligence.
The heart of Obama's strategy lies not in the surge, but rather in turning
the war over to the Afghans. As in Vietnam, any simplistic model of
loyalties doesn't work. There are Afghans sufficiently motivated to form the
core of an effective army. As in Vietnam, the problem is that this army will
contain large numbers of Taliban sympathizers; there is no way to prevent
this. The Taliban is not stupid: It has and will continue to move its people
into as many key positions as possible.
The challenge lies in leveling the playing field by inserting operatives
into the Taliban. Since the Afghan intelligence services are inherently
insecure, they can't carry out such missions. American personnel bring
technical intelligence to bear, but that does not compensate for human
intelligence. The only entity that could conceivably penetrate the Taliban
and remain secure is the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). This
would give the Americans and Afghans knowledge of Taliban plans and
deployments. This would diminish the ability of the Taliban to evade
attacks, and although penetrated as well, the Afghan army would enjoy a
chance ARVN never had.
But only the ISI could do this, and thinking of the ISI as secure is hard to
do from a historical point of view. The ISI worked closely with the Taliban
during the Afghan civil war that brought it to power and afterwards, and the
ISI had many Taliban sympathizers. The ISI underwent significant purging and
restructuring to eliminate these elements over recent years, but no one
knows how successful these efforts were.
The ISI remains the center of gravity of the entire problem. If the war is
about creating an Afghan army, and if we accept that the Taliban will
penetrate this army heavily no matter what, then the only counter is to
penetrate the Taliban equally. Without that, Obama's entire strategy fails
as Nixon's did.
In his talk, Obama quite properly avoided discussing the intelligence aspect
of the war. He clearly cannot ignore the problem we have laid out, but
neither can he simply count on the ISI. He does not need the entire ISI for
this mission, however. He needs a carved out portion - compartmentalized and
invisible to the greatest possible extent - to recruit and insert operatives
into the Taliban and to create and manage communication networks so as to
render the Taliban transparent. Given Taliban successes of late, it isn't
clear whether he has this intelligence capability. Either way, we would have
to assume that some Pakistani solution to the Taliban intelligence issue has
been discussed (and such a solution must be Pakistani for ethnic and
Every war has its center of gravity, and Obama has made clear that the
center of gravity of this war will be the Afghan military's ability to
replace the Americans in a very few years. If that is the center of gravity,
and if maintaining security against Taliban penetration is impossible, then
the single most important enabler to Obama's strategy would seem to be the
ability to make the Taliban transparent.
Therefore, Pakistan is important not only as the Cambodia of this war, the
place where insurgents go to regroup and resupply, but also as a key element
of the solution to the intelligence war. It is all about Pakistan. And that
makes Obama's plan difficult to execute. It is far easier to write these
words than to execute a plan based on them. But to the extent Obama is
serious about the Afghan army taking over, he and his team have had to think
about how to do this.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 02, 2009, 08:37:56 AM
Regarding President BO's speech last night:
Let me see if I have this straight:
1) This is a "must win war";
2) We will begin leaving in 18 months;
3) We will leave our fate in the hands of the Afghan Army whether it is ready or not;
4) Pakistan and the people of Afghanistan, knowing that we are leaving, will align with us;
5) We can't afford to stay any longer than because we need to pass the President's health care, cap and trade, and so much other spending;
6) Therefore we will give Gen. McChrystal less troops than he has said are necessary to prevent defeat.
Is that about right?
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington and others
on: December 02, 2009, 06:57:55 AM
"No country upon earth ever had it more in its power to attain these blessings than United America. Wondrously strange, then, and much to be regretted indeed would it be, were we to neglect the means and to depart from the road which Providence has pointed us to so plainly; I cannot believe it will ever come to pass." --George Washington, letter to Benjamin Lincoln, 1788
"I hope, some day or another, we shall become a storehouse and granary for the world." --George Washington, letter to Marquis de Lafayette, 1788
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters)
on: December 02, 2009, 06:46:26 AM
I'm thinking the matter deserves more interest and concern than that , , ,
Anyway, here's another case in the Kelo line:
Floridians who think life's a beach should be watching the Supreme Court closely today when the Justices hear oral arguments about whether the state may confiscate private waterfront land for a dubious public purpose.
The case, Stop the Beach Renourishment v. Florida Dep't of Environmental Protection, began in 2003, when home owners in the Florida Panhandle objected to changes in their property lines caused by a "beach renourishment" program. Typically done in the name of deterring erosion, the government carts in truckloads of sand, making the beach bigger. But rather than extending the property of the owner, the state declares itself owner of the sandy addition, effectively separating waterfront home owners from the water itself.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled 5-2 for the state and claimed the program doesn't mean the state can go around "creating as much dry land between upland property and the water as it pleases." There's a point, they said, at which such beach additions would represent an unconstitutional taking. But the problem is where exactly that point occurs: Without a specific demarcation, it's a slippery slope for how much land the state may seize without having to compensate the private owners.
To reach its decision, the Florida high court had to throw over 100 years of common law to declare that waterfront property owners have "no independent right of contact with the water." In a scathing dissent, Florida Justice Fred Lewis wrote that for the court to say that waterfront rights are unconnected with ownership of the land abutting water is a non sequitur. The court had "butchered Florida law," he wrote, and "unnecessarily created dangerous precedent based on a manipulation of the question actually certified."
Beach renourishment has been controversial around the country as a waste of money spent on sand that literally washes back into the ocean. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, by 2002 more than $2.5 billion of federal money had been spent on beach projects. According to a May report by Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, many are special interest projects for wealthy communities and have few environmental benefits.
The Florida case is all the weirder because the beaches in question aren't threatened by erosion and some have grown naturally in recent years, adding to the suspicion that "beach renourishment" is a state pretext to gain waterfront rights in a desirable area. Unable to stop the state from dumping the new sand on their beaches, several owners offered to pay the state their pro-rata share of the sand distribution to maintain exclusive rights to their waterline. Florida refused the deal.
If the state wants to create a public beach, it may have the power to do so by invoking eminent domain and compensating owners for their loss. Short of that, the action is a taking that violates the Fifth Amendment, and this case provides an opportunity for the Supreme Court to begin making amends for the damage it did to property rights in the 2005 case of Kelo v. New London.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Follow the money
on: December 01, 2009, 10:24:34 AM
What often prevents these things is the cost. This includes the question of what to do when the sun doesn't shine or the wind doesn't blow-- electricity doesn't really "store" well, so a 24/7 system is needed.
Follow the Money
Last year, ExxonMobil donated $7 million to a grab-bag of public policy institutes, including the Aspen Institute, the Asia Society and Transparency International. It also gave a combined $125,000 to the Heritage Institute and the National Center for Policy Analysis, two conservative think tanks that have offered dissenting views on what until recently was called—without irony—the climate change "consensus."
To read some of the press accounts of these gifts—amounting to about 0.00027% of Exxon's 2008 profits of $45 billion—you might think you'd hit upon the scandal of the age. But thanks to what now goes by the name of climategate, it turns out the real scandal lies elsewhere.
Climategate, as readers of these pages know, concerns some of the world's leading climate scientists working in tandem to block freedom of information requests, blackball dissenting scientists, manipulate the peer-review process, and obscure, destroy or massage inconvenient temperature data—facts that were laid bare by last week's disclosure of thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit, or CRU.
But the deeper question is why the scientists behaved this way to begin with, especially since the science behind man-made global warming is said to be firmly settled. To answer the question, it helps to turn the alarmists' follow-the-money methods right back at them.
Consider the case of Phil Jones, the director of the CRU and the man at the heart of climategate. According to one of the documents hacked from his center, between 2000 and 2006 Mr. Jones was the recipient (or co-recipient) of some $19 million worth of research grants, a sixfold increase over what he'd been awarded in the 1990s.
View Full Image
Al Gore wins the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize: Doing well by doing good?
.Why did the money pour in so quickly? Because the climate alarm kept ringing so loudly: The louder the alarm, the greater the sums. And who better to ring it than people like Mr. Jones, one of its likeliest beneficiaries?
Thus, the European Commission's most recent appropriation for climate research comes to nearly $3 billion, and that's not counting funds from the EU's member governments. In the U.S., the House intends to spend $1.3 billion on NASA's climate efforts, $400 million on NOAA's, and another $300 million for the National Science Foundation. The states also have a piece of the action, with California—apparently not feeling bankrupt enough—devoting $600 million to their own climate initiative. In Australia, alarmists have their own Department of Climate Change at their funding disposal.
And all this is only a fraction of the $94 billion that HSBC Bank estimates has been spent globally this year on what it calls "green stimulus"—largely ethanol and other alternative energy schemes—of the kind from which Al Gore and his partners at Kleiner Perkins hope to profit handsomely.
Supply, as we know, creates its own demand. So for every additional billion in government-funded grants (or the tens of millions supplied by foundations like the Pew Charitable Trusts), universities, research institutes, advocacy groups and their various spin-offs and dependents have emerged from the woodwork to receive them.
The Climate Emails
The Economics of Climate Change
Rigging a Climate 'Consensus'
Global Warming With the Lid Off
Climate Science and Candor
.Today these groups form a kind of ecosystem of their own. They include not just old standbys like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace, but also Ozone Action, Clean Air Cool Planet, Americans for Equitable Climate Change Solutions, the Alternative Energy Resources Association, the California Climate Action Registry and so on and on. All of them have been on the receiving end of climate change-related funding, so all of them must believe in the reality (and catastrophic imminence) of global warming just as a priest must believe in the existence of God.
None of these outfits is per se corrupt, in the sense that the monies they get are spent on something other than their intended purposes. But they depend on an inherently corrupting premise, namely that the hypothesis on which their livelihood depends has in fact been proved. Absent that proof, everything they represent—including the thousands of jobs they provide—vanishes. This is what's known as a vested interest, and vested interests are an enemy of sound science.
Which brings us back to the climategate scientists, the keepers of the keys to the global warming cathedral. In one of the more telling disclosures from last week, a computer programmer writes of the CRU's temperature database: "I am very sorry to report that the rest of the databases seems to be in nearly as poor a state as Australia was. . . . Aarrggghhh! There truly is no end in sight. . . . We can have a proper result, but only by including a load of garbage!"
This is not the sound of settled science, but of a cracking empirical foundation. And however many billion-dollar edifices may be built on it, sooner or later it is bound to crumble.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hypothermia
on: November 30, 2009, 10:41:48 AM
Immersion Hypothermia Skills that can save a life
Hypothermia and Immersion Hypothermia are both killers. Most cases of hypothermia happen in the outdoors in 50 degree F weather and are preventable- dress properly (no cotton!), stay hydrated, and do something about it when you get wet or begin losing dexterity such as build a fire & shelter, get back to the vehicle, or into the sleeping bag. A good hypothermia recipe is to have a cup of hot chocolate with a tablespoon of butter and I always carry this solution in a thermos when on the winter trail.
Keep in mind that the statistics bear out that the classic "survivor" lost in the wilds each year is injured and hypothermic.
Immersion Hypothermia is a real killer and you only have a limited amount of time on your hands. The best info comes from this U of Toronto Professor who has studied it the most and is on YouTube. Pass this vid around to those who spend time playing ice hockey, ice-fishing, or traveling the wilds in winter. It can be a lifesaver to know- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysnKtuUTt8k
Another test I do with my students on winter survival courses is to have them place their hands (minus gloves) in the snow for a count of 60 seconds. After this, they must get a fire going using their matches, lighter, or spark rod. With a loss of dexterity, the spark-rod wins out as it involves gross-motor movement compared to the lighter and matches. Try this test of your gear in the backyard next snowfall and see how the gear holds up when the hands are numb.
Cottonballs smeared with vaseline and used for tinder is the other half of the picture in successfully starting a fire when the forest is buried in snow and your hands are numb.
Ancient Pathways Survival Schoolhttp://www.apathways.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Thought crimes
on: November 30, 2009, 10:27:11 AM
Faith & Family
"Peter Vidala was being harassed at work-subjected, over and over again, to views he found offensive. When he finally spoke up, he was fired. It's an illustration of the double standard that often prevails when it comes to same-sex 'marriage.' Vidala was a deputy manager at a Brookstone store in Boston's Logan Airport. Last August, a manager visiting from another store told Vidala she was planning to 'marry' her female partner. Vidala said he 'quickly changed the subject.' As a Christian, he considered homosexual behavior immoral, and same-sex 'marriage' an 'oxymoron.' The woman's comments made him uncomfortable. But the visiting manager didn't get the message-or maybe she did. She talked about her wedding plans over and over. Vidala later told Fox new she was goading him into commenting on her relationship. Vidala said, 'By the fourth time she mentioned it, I felt God wanted me to express how I felt about the matter. So I did.' He told her, 'Regarding your homosexuality, I think that's bad stuff.' He also reported that he had intended to tell her he would prefer she not bring up the subject at work, but she just started laughing. And then she told him, 'Get over it ... keep your opinions to yourself.' She then complained to human resources, and Vidala was fired. Why? Because by 'imposing' his beliefs on her, it constituted 'harassment.' So pummeling a junior-level Christian employee with endless comments he finds offensive is OK. But making a single critical comment to a lesbian senior-level employee is a firing offense. Even more disturbing is the reason Brookstone gave to back up its decision. In Massachusetts, same-sex 'marriage' is legal. So a lesbian employee can prattle on about her wedding plans without harassing anyone. The implications of this are frightening. If same-sex 'marriage' is foisted upon other states, then expressing disagreement with it-or even criticizing the homosexual lifestyle-could become a firing offense for everyone. If employers had taken this attitude 90 years ago, people could have lost their jobs for disagreeing with laws forbidding women from voting! This is how far the gay agenda has come in this country. Any disagreement is portrayed as hatred and harassment. And the victim-as in this case-is often a Christian. Peter Vidala's firing will have one beneficial effect, at least. It will help the rest of us understand why same-sex 'marriage' laws are like no other. Oppose them beforehand or speak out afterward, and you will be punished." --author Chuck Colson
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Swiss Minarets
on: November 30, 2009, 01:44:19 AM
Nearly 58% of Swiss voters Sunday cast their ballots in favor of banning the construction of new minarets in the Alpine republic, a surprise result that led at least one Swiss member of parliament to declare that "the foundations of Switzerland's direct democracy have failed."
That is clearly wrong. Swiss direct democracy shows its mettle when Swiss voters use it to stand up to their political elites, as happened here. Having said that, Sunday's vote, for all the hand-wringing leading up to it, was a decidedly mild-mannered sort of protest. The construction of new minarets is banned, but the building of mosques is unaffected, and the vote does not affect the four existing minarets in the country. Nobody's freedom of worship is threatened, but a symbolic message has been sent.
But what message, exactly? The vote betrays an undercurrent of fear among the Swiss—a fear that is not without cause. There is no denying the connection between radical imams and terrorist acts. Nor should anyone look away from the fact that too many European Muslims flatly reject the norms of their host countries, sometimes in ways that are criminal: honor killings, child brides and the like.
Yet banning minarets does nothing to address that fear. It merely makes it less likely that the average Swiss will be confronted by a visible symbol of Islam upon his skyline. Thus, even as a symbolic gesture, it seems to encourage a head-in-the-sand approach toward the 5% of Swiss who are Muslim. In much of Europe, this is the norm anyway, the result of political correctness and cowardice.
Rather than being a blow against that attitude, Sunday's vote seems only to reinforce it. Banning minarets won't do anything to assimilate Switzerland's or Europe's Muslims, or to ensure that economic opportunity is available to everyone of whatever creed, or to deal with Western Europe's demographic problem of too few newborns.
The ban, in other words, does too much and too little at once. Too much because it becomes a very visible and easily exploited symbol of supposed European intolerance. But it accomplishes too little because it seeks merely to hide from view the problems that gave rise to the fear of the minaret in the first place.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Honduras
on: November 30, 2009, 01:35:57 AM
Unless something monumental happens in the Western Hemisphere in the next 31 days, the big regional story for 2009 will be how tiny Honduras managed to beat back the colonial aspirations of its most powerful neighbors and preserve its constitution.
Yesterday's elections for president and Congress, held as scheduled and without incident, were the crowning achievement of that struggle.
National Party candidate Porfirio Lobo was the favorite to win in pre-election polls. Yet the name of the victor is almost beside the point. The completion of these elections is a national triumph in itself and a win for all people who yearn for liberty.
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Casting a vote in Tegucigalpa, Nov. 29
.The fact that the U.S. has said it will recognize their legitimacy shows that this reality eventually made its way to the White House. If not Hugo Chávez's Waterloo, Honduras's stand at least marks a major setback for the Venezuelan strongman's expansionist agenda.
The losers in this drama also include Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Spain, which all did their level best to block the election. Egged on by their zeal, militants inside Honduras took to exploding small bombs around the country in the weeks leading to the vote. They hoped that terror might damp turnout and delegitimize the process. They failed. Yesterday's civic participation appeared to be at least as good as it was in the last presidential election. Some polling stations reportedly even ran short, for a time, of the indelible ink used to mark voter pinkies.
Latin socialists tried to discredit Honduran democracy as part of their effort to force the reinstatement of deposed President Manuel Zelaya. Both sides knew that if that happened the electoral process would be in jeopardy.
Mr. Zelaya had already showed his hand when he organized a mob to try to carry out a June 28 popular referendum so that he could cancel the elections and remain in office. That was unlawful, and he was arrested by order of the Supreme Court and later removed from power by Congress for violating the constitution.
It is less well-known that as president, according to an electoral-council official I interviewed in Tegucigalpa two weeks ago, Mr. Zelaya had refused to transfer the budgeted funds—as required by law—to the council for its preparatory work. In other words, he didn't want a free election.
Mr. Chávez didn't want one either. During the Zelaya government the country had become a member of Mr. Chávez's Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which includes Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua. If power changed hands, Honduran membership would be at risk.
Last week a government official told me that Honduran intelligence has learned that Mr. Zelaya had made preparations to welcome all the ALBA presidents to the country the night of his planned June referendum. Food for a 10,000-strong blowout celebration, the official added, was on order.
ALBA has quite a bit of clout at the Organization of American States (OAS) these days, and it hasn't been hard for Mr. Chávez to control Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. The Chilean socialist desperately wants to be re-elected to his OAS post in 2010. Only a month before Mr. Zelaya was deposed, Mr. Insulza led the effort to lift the OAS membership ban on Cuba. When Mr. Zelaya was deposed, Mr. Insulza dutifully took up his instructions sent from Caracas to quash Honduran sovereignty.
Unfortunately for him, the leftist claims that Honduras could not hold fair elections flew in the face of the facts. First, the candidates were chosen in November 2008 primaries with observers from the OAS, which judged the process to be "transparent and participative." Second, all the presidential candidates—save one from a small party on the extreme left—wanted the elections to go forward. Third, though Mr. Insulza insisted on calling the removal of Mr. Zelaya a "military coup," the military had never taken charge of the government. And finally, the independent electoral tribunal, chosen by congress before Mr. Zelaya was removed, was continuing with the steps required to fulfill its constitutional mandate to conduct the vote. In the aftermath of the elections Mr. Insulza, who insisted that the group would not recognize the results, presides over a discredited OAS.
The Americas in the News
Get the latest information in Spanish from The Wall Street Journal's Americas page.
.At least the Obama administration figured out, after four months, that it had blundered. It deserves credit for realizing that elections were the best way forward, and for promising to recognize the outcome despite enormous pressure from Brazil and Venezuela. President Obama came to office intent on a foreign policy of multilateralism. Perhaps this experience will teach him that freedom does indeed have enemies.
Almost 400 foreign observers from Japan, Europe, Latin America and the U.S. traveled to Honduras for yesterday's elections. Peru, Costa Rica, Panama, the German parliament and Japan will also recognize the vote. The outpouring of international support demonstrates that Hondurans were never as alone these past five months as they thought. A good part of the world backs their desire to save their democracy from chavismo and to live in liberty.
Write to: O'Grady@wsj.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: 500,000
on: November 30, 2009, 01:34:05 AM
Mohamed ElBaradei caps his contentious and ultimately failed 12-year stint as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency today, having spent many years enabling Iran's nuclear bids only to condemn them in his final days in office. Mr. ElBaradei combined his rebuke of Iran with his familiar calls for more negotiation, but we'll take his belated realism about Iran as his tacit admission that Dick Cheney and John Bolton have been right all along. Let's hope the education of the Obama Administration doesn't take as long.
As if to underscore the point, yesterday the Iranian government ordered up 10 additional uranium enrichment plants on the scale of its already operational facility in Natanz, which has a planned capacity of 54,000 centrifuges. That could mean an eventual total of more than 500,000 centrifuges, or enough to enrich about 160 bombs worth of uranium each year. Whether it can ever do that is an open question, but it does give a sense of the scale of the regime's ambitions.
The decision is also a reminder of how unchastened Iran has been by President Obama's revelation in September that Iran had been building a secret 3,000 centrifuge facility near the city of Qom. The IAEA's governing board finally got around on Friday to rebuking Iran for that deception, a vote the Administration trumpeted because both Russia and China voted with the United States. But perhaps only within the Obama Administration can a symbolic gesture by the IAEA be considered a diplomatic triumph.
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."Time is running out for Iran to address the international community's growing concerns about its nuclear program," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday, but the West has said this many times before. Earlier this year, Mr. Obama said Iran had a deadline of September.
The regime scoffed at Mr. Obama after he delivered a conciliating message for the Persian New Year in March, scoffed again after he mildly criticized its post-election crackdown and killing spree in June (following days of silence), and scoffed a third time by rejecting the West's offer last month to enrich Iran's uranium for it. Yet the Administration insists the enrichment deal is still Iran's for the taking. "A few years ago [the West] said we had to completely stop all our nuclear activities," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said last month. "Now look where we are today."
Those are the words of a man who believes he has Mr. Obama's number. And until the President, his advisers and the Europeans realize that only punitive sanctions or military strikes will force it to reconsider its nuclear ambitions, an emboldened Islamic Republic will continue to march confidently toward a bomb over the wreckage of Mohamed ElBaradei's—and Barack Obama's—best intentions.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom
on: November 28, 2009, 06:41:06 PM
Putting aside the utter stupidity of the Obama team's decision, Stratfor discusses some practical details:
A Terrorist Trial in New York City
November 18, 2009 | 2153 GMT
By Ben West and Fred Burton
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Nov. 13 that the U.S. Justice Department had decided to try five suspected terrorists currently being held at Guantanamo Bay in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, located in lower Manhattan. The five suspects — Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarek bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Ali Abdul-Aziz Ali and Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi — are all accused of being involved in the 9/11 plot, with Mohammed describing himself as the mastermind in a 2003 confession.
The announcement follows from U.S. President Barack Obama’s first executive order, which he signed on Jan. 22, to close the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and another executive order to suspend the military tribunals set up under the Bush administration to try suspected terrorists. Holder’s decision has generated much debate and highlighted the legal murkiness concerning the status of Guantanamo detainees and how best to bring them to justice.
Beyond this murkiness is the perceived security threat of bringing five suspected terrorists accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to trial in New York City. Former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he thought holding the trial in New York would put residents at risk. And Andrew McCarthy, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, wrote in The New Republic that the trial will “create a public-safely nightmare for New York City.” Numerous other observers and media outlets around the world have voiced similar security concerns about the New York trial.
Although there has been much criticism of the decision to hold the trial in New York City, when it comes to prosecuting terror suspects, the Southern District of New York knows what it’s doing. The staff of the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York has gained considerable knowledge and expertise prosecuting terror cases over the years, just as the U.S. Marshals Service Special Operations Group (SOG) has gained much experience providing security for those trials. It was in the Southern District of New York in 1995 that Omar Abdel Rahman, aka the Blind Sheikh, was tried for the so-called Landmarks Plot of 1993 and received a life sentence. In 1996, Abdel Basit (aka Ramzi Yousef) and two co-conspirators were also tried in the Southern District and sentenced to life in prison for their roles in the Bojinka Plot, which also included an indictment for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (the staff of the Southern District has been familiar with Mohammed for some time now). The attackers behind the 1998 attacks against the U.S. embassies were also prosecuted in the Southern District of New York and sentenced to life imprisonment. Few other courts have so much experience handling and prosecuting high-profile terrorism cases, so it should have come as no surprise that Holder named the district as the venue for the upcoming trial. On top of all this, the World Trade Center towers were also in the Southern District of New York, putting the deadliest site of the 9/11 attacks under the Southern District’s jurisdiction.
The case will be prosecuted jointly by the offices of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, led by Preet Bharara, and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, led by Neil H. MacBride. The Eastern District of Virginia has also successfully prosecuted several terrorism cases, including those of John Walker Lindh in 2002, the Virginia Jihad Network in 2005 and Zacarias Moussaoui in 2006.
While some believe that trying the so-called “Gitmo Five” in New York City will result in more terrorist attacks in the city, STRATFOR does not anticipate a marked increase in the number of plots or attacks. New York City has long been a popular target for radical Islamists — there have been nine known plots involving targets in New York uncovered since the 9/11 attacks, including two in the past six months. In May 2009, four men were arrested for attempting to detonate explosives outside a synagogue in the Bronx, and in September, Najibullah Zazi was arrested for plotting to detonate backpack explosives on trains in New York City. Other plots have included a 2007 plan to detonate fuel tanks at John F. Kennedy International Airport, a 2006 plot to detonate explosives in the Holland Tunnel and a 2004 plot to attack a subway station near Madison Square Garden.
New York City remains an alluring target for jihadists because of its symbolism. Home to more than 8 million people, it is the largest city in the United States and a global financial and media center. Whatever happens there gets more exposure and publicity than virtually anywhere else in the world. It is also a perceived center of Jewish wealth and culture (New York has the second-largest Jewish population behind Tel Aviv), compounding the threat from Islamist radicals. New York City will remain a terrorist target for many reasons other than the Gitmo Five trial. It is also interesting to note that none of the city’s other high-profile terrorism trials has ever resulted in a retaliatory attack against the city.
In addition to the federal prosecutors who will be involved in the trial having experience dealing with terrorism cases, the New York Police Department has the training, manpower and focus to provide effective physical security. Federal agents, including those of the U.S. Marshals Service SOG, will be primarily responsible for handling the five suspects and providing security inside the federal courthouse. The building is one of the most secure federal courthouses in the country, equipped with anti-vehicle borne explosive device barricades, 24-hour guard posts and high-resolution video cameras. The U.S. Marshals will be augmented by NYPD “Hercules” teams (designed to provide a surge of police presence in an area to prevent or disrupt criminal and terrorist operations) and will likely place sniper teams on nearby rooftops for added security. Vehicular and pedestrian traffic around the courthouse will be severely limited, with nearby streets closed to traffic and nearby subway entrances closed to riders.
During the trial, the five defendants will be held at the Metropolitan Correctional Complex, which is connected to the courthouse via a third-of-a-mile-long underground tunnel. This significantly reduces the threat of terrorist attack or a disruption of the proceedings by allowing security forces to control the geography of the trial venue and spot unusual activity. Another geographic benefit is the fact that Manhattan is an island with limited access points (bridges and tunnels), which makes it easier to seal off the area and control who or what gets in or out. These factors do not necessarily preclude an attack, especially a suicide attack in which the perpetrator is undeterred by the risk of death, but do decrease the options of an attacker and increase the options of law enforcement personnel in dealing with the potential risks.
Because the courthouse will be under such tight security, any attacker able to penetrate the island cordon and slip into the area would likely go after softer targets surrounding the building. The NYPD will be responsible for protecting areas outside the courthouse and will probably create a secure buffer around the complex, the depth of which will depend on the severity of any given threat. Police would have the wherewithal to put whole sections of the city under heavy lockdown and provide a level of physical security designed to thwart terrorist activities that have reached the latter stages (deployment, attack and escape). This buffer would both protect softer targets nearby and make it that much harder for would-be attackers to infiltrate the courthouse. The NYPD also has the intelligence-collecting capabilities (informants, undercover officers, surveillants, analysts, etc.) to keep a close eye on any potential threat in the area leading up to and during the trial. The NYPD developed these capabilities with a vengeance following the 9/11 attacks, and in the years since it has become quite adept at conducting preventative counterterrorism investigations rather than just reactive ones.
In addition to the NYPD, other first-responders in New York — the fire department, emergency medical services and transportation agencies — are experienced and well-trained in dealing with terrorist attacks and can support security efforts surrounding the trial. Given the 9/11 experience, Manhattan residents and workers are also well-versed in emergency action plans and preparations.
Certainly, the fact that such a high-profile trial will be held in New York City will temporarily add to the workload of federal and municipal security and emergency personnel, but in some ways it will be little more than a routine effort. The city is used to high-profile events, regularly hosting such events as the U.N. General Assembly, with its attendant flow of international VIPs. New York City has been and will remain a prime terrorist target, and the people responsible for maintaining security in the city are very good at what they do. Indeed, Manhattan — given its recent history of civic trauma and intense focus on counterterrorism — may very well possess the safest civilian court in the country.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Here's the Stratfor on Sanctions
on: November 28, 2009, 06:31:34 PM
By George Friedman
The Iranian government has rejected, at least for the moment, a proposal from the P-5+1 to ship the majority of its low-enriched uranium abroad for further enrichment. The group is now considering the next step in the roadmap that it laid out last April. The next step was a new round of sanctions, this time meant to be crippling. The only crippling sanction available is to cut off the supply of gasoline, since Iran imports 35 percent of its refined gasoline products. That would theoretically cripple the Iranian economy and compel the Iranians to comply with U.S. demands over the nuclear issue.
We have written extensively on the ability of sanctions to work in Iran. There is, however, a broader question, which is the general utility of sanctions in international affairs. The Iranian government said last week that sanctions don’t concern it because, historically, sanctions have not succeeded. This partly explains Iranian intransigence: The Iranians don’t feel they have anything to fear from sanctions. The question is whether the Iranian view is correct and why they would believe it — and if they are correct, why the P-5+1 would even consider imposing sanctions.
The Assumptions of Sanctions
We need to begin with a definition of sanctions. In general, sanctions are some sort of penalty imposed on a country designed to cause it sufficient pain to elicit a change in its behavior. Sanctions are intended as an alternative to war and therefore exclude violence. Thus, the entire point of sanctions, as opposed to war, is to compel changes of behavior in countries without resorting to force.
Normal sanctions are economic and come in three basic forms. First, there is seizing or freezing the assets of a country or its citizens located in another country. Second, sanctions can block the shipment of goods (or movement of people) out of the target country. Third, sanctions can block the movement of goods into a country. Minor sanctions are possible, such as placing tariffs on products imported from the target country, but those sorts of acts are focused primarily on rectifying economic imbalances and are not always driven by political interests. Thus, the United States placed tariffs on Chinese tires coming into the United States. The purpose was to get China to change its economic policies. On the other hand, placing sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s or on Sudan today are designed to achieve political and military outcomes.
It is important to consider the underlying assumptions of the decision to impose sanctions. First, there is the assumption that the target country is economically dependent in some way on the country or countries issuing the sanctions. Second, it assumes that the target country has no alternative sources for the economic activity while under sanctions. Third, it assumes that the pain caused will be sufficient to compel change. The first is relatively easy to determine and act on. The next two are far more complex.
Obviously, sanctions are an option of stronger powers toward weaker ones. It assumes that the imposition of sanctions will cause more pain to the target country than it will to the country or countries issuing sanctions, and that the target country cannot or will not use military action to counter economic sanctions. For example, the United States placed sanctions on the sale of grain to the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It discovered that while the sanctions were hurting the Soviets, they were hurting American farmers as well. The pain was reciprocal and there was an undertone of danger if the Soviets had chosen to counter the sanctions with military force. An example of that concerned Japan in 1941. The United States halted the shipment of oil and scrap metal to Japan in an attempt to force it to reshape its policies in China and Indochina. The sanctions were crippling, as the Americans expected. However, the Japanese response was not capitulation, but Pearl Harbor.
To understand the difficulties of determining and acting on the assumptions of imposing sanctions, consider Cuba. The United States has imposed extensive economic sanctions on Cuba for years. During the first decades of the sanctions, they were relatively effective, in the sense that third countries tended to comply rather than face possible sanctions themselves from the United States. As time went on, the fear of sanctions declined. A European country might have been inclined to comply with U.S. sanctions in the 1960s or 1970s, for both political reasons and for concern over potential retaliatory sanctions from the United States. However, as the pattern of international economic activity shifted, and the perception of both Cuba and the United States changed within these countries, the political implication to comply with U.S. wishes declined, while the danger of U.S. sanctions diminished. Placing sanctions on the European Union would be mutually disastrous and the United States would not do it over Cuba, or virtually any other issue.
As a result, the sanctions the United States placed on Cuba have dramatically diminished in importance. Cuba can trade with most of the world, and other countries can invest in Cuba if they wish. The flow of American tourists is blocked, but European, Canadian and Latin American tourists who wish to go to Cuba can go. Cuba has profound economic problems, but those problems are only marginally traceable to sanctions. Indeed, the U.S. embargo has provided the Castro regime with a useful domestic explanation for its economic failures.
This points to an interesting characteristic of sanctions. One of the potential goals of placing sanctions on a country is to generate unrest and internal opposition , forcing regime change or at least policy change. This rarely happens. Instead, the imposition of sanctions creates a sense of embattlement within the country. Two things follow from this. First, there is frequently a boost in support for the regime that might otherwise not be there. The idea that economic pain takes precedence over patriotism or concern for maintaining national sovereignty is not a theory with a great deal of empirical support. Second, the sanctions allow a regime to legitimize declaring a state of emergency — which is what sanctions intend to create — and then use that state of emergency to increase repression and decrease the opportunity for an opposition to emerge.
Consider an extreme example of sanctions during World War II, when both the Axis and Allies tried to use airpower as a means of imposing massive economic hardship on the population, thereby attempting to generate unrest and opposition to the regime. Obviously, strategic bombing is not sanctions, but it is instructive to consider them in this sense. When we look at the Battle of Britain and the strategic bombing campaigns against Germany and Japan, we find that countereconomic warfare did not produce internal opposition that the regime could not handle. Indeed, it could reasonably be argued that it increased support for the regime. It is assumed that economic hardship can generate regime change, yet even in some of the most extreme cases of economic hardship, that didn’t happen.
Imposing an effective sanctions regime on a country is difficult for two reasons. First, economic pain does not translate into political pressure. Second, creating effective economic pain normally requires a coalition. The United States is not in a position to unilaterally impose effective sanctions. In order to do that, it must act in concert with other countries that are prepared not only to announce sanctions but — and this is far more important and difficult — also to enforce them. This means that it must be in the political interest of all countries that deal with the target to impose the sanctions.
It is rarely possible to create such a coalition. Nations’ interests diverge too much. Sometimes they converge, as in South Africa prior to the end of apartheid. South Africa proved that sanctions can work if there is a coalition that does not benefit extensively from economic and political ties with the target country, and where the regime is composed of a minority within a very large sea of hostility. South Africa was a special case. The same attempt at a sanctions regime in Sudan over Darfur has failed because many countries have political or economic interests there.
It is also difficult to police the sanctions. By definition, as the sanctions are imposed, the financial returns for violating them increase. Think of U.S. drug laws as a form of sanctions. They raise the price of drugs in the United States and increase the incentives for smugglers. When a broad sanctions regime was placed on Iraq, vast amounts of money were made from legitimate and illegitimate trading with Iraq. Regardless of what a national government might say (and it may well say one thing and do another) individuals and corporations will find ways around the sanctions. Indeed, Obama’s proposed sanctions on corporations are intended precisely for this reason. As always, the issue is one of intelligence and enforcement. People can be very good at deception for large amounts of money.
The difficulty of creating effective sanctions raises the question of why they are used. The primary answer is that they allow a nation to appear to be acting effectively without enduring significant risks. Invading a country, as the United States found in Iraq, poses substantial risks. The imposition of sanctions on relatively weaker countries without the ability to counter the sanctions is much less risky. The fact that it is also far less effective is compensated for by the lowered risk.
In truth, many sanction regimes are enforced as political gestures, either for domestic political reasons, or to demonstrate serious intent on the international scene. In some cases, sanctions are a way of appearing to act so that military action can be deferred. No one expects the sanctions to change the regime or its policies, but the fact that sanctions are in place can be used as an argument against actions by other nations.
This is very much the case with Iran. No one expects Russia or China (or even many of the European states) to fully comply with a sanctions regime on gasoline. Even if they did, no one expects the flow of gasoline to be decisively cut off. There will be too many people prepared to take the risk of smuggling gasoline to Iran for that to happen. Even if the U.S. blockaded Iranian ports, the Caucasus and Central Asia are far too disorderly and the monetary rewards of smuggling are too great of an incentive to make the gasoline sanctions effective. Additionally, the imposition of sanctions will both rally the population to the regime as well as provide justification for an intense crackdown. The probability of sanctions forcing policy changes or regime change in Iran is slim.
Balancing Acquiescence and War
But sanctions have one virtue: They delay or block military action. So long as sanctions are being considered or being imposed, the argument can be made to those who want military action that it is necessary to give the sanctions time to work. Therefore, in this case, sanctions allow the United States to block any potential military actions by Israel against Iran while appearing domestically to be taking action. Should the United States wish to act, the sanctions route gives the Europeans the option of arguing that military action is premature. Furthermore, if military action took place without Russian approval while Russia was cooperating in a sanctions regime, it would have increased room to maneuver against U.S. interests in the Middle East, portraying the United States as trigger-happy.
The ultimate virtue of sanctions is that they provide a platform between acquiescence and war. The effectiveness of that platform is not nearly as important as the fact that it provides a buffer against charges of inaction and demands for further action. In Sudan, for example, no one expects sanctions to work, but their presence allows business to go on as usual while deflecting demands for more significant action.
The P-5+1 is now shaping its response to Iran. They are not even committed to the idea of sanctions. But they will move to sanctions if it appears that Israel or the United States is prepared to move aggressively. Sanctions satisfy the need to appear to be acting while avoiding the risks of action.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Whackostan offensive
on: November 28, 2009, 06:27:23 PM
Pakistan: The South Waziristan Offensive Continues
Stratfor Today » November 25, 2009 | 2145 GMT
NASEER MEHSUD/AFP/Getty Images
A Pakistani army soldier guards his South Waziristan post Nov. 18 as he watches internally displaced civilians fleeing from military operations against Taliban militants
Inspector-General of the Pakistani Frontier Corps Maj. Gen. Tariq Khan said Nov. 24 that South Waziristan would be split into two separate agencies. The statement comes nearly six weeks into a Pakistani military offensive to root out Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) forces from their stronghold in South Waziristan, and will form part of Pakistan’s political strategy to maintain alliances with neutral tribal leaders and prevent the Taliban from re-entrenching themselves in the region.
The military offensive Rah-i-Nijat is entering its sixth week of ground operations in South Waziristan. The Pakistani army has been fighting through a section of South Waziristan home to the Mehsud tribe that was, until recently, the center of operations for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The military has employed a strategy of attacking this area from three directions: Jandola-Sararogha, Shakai-Kaniguram and Razmak-Makeen. Each axis has led to the capture of major roads and major population centers in the area — objectives that deny militants mobility and sanctuary.
The military has not completely consolidated its control over the area — militant ambushes, mortar and improvised explosive devices (IED) attacks continue. However, the military has captured and cleared the major population centers of Sararogha, Kaniguram and Makeen, and is now moving to other strategic population centers such as Ladha (where there is a fort that was taken by the TTP in 2008) and Janata, as well as clearing smaller villages outside of the larger towns.
It is important to emphasize that military operations are ongoing and that the Pakistani forces deployed to South Waziristan will be tied up there for some time. Presently, there is no withdrawal plan and the military has not indicated when operation Rah-i-Nijat will conclude. This also means that internally displace persons (IDPs) in South Waziristan will continue to be without homes for a while. However, the total IDPs resulting from Rah-i-Nijat number around 300,000 — much more manageable for the government than the nearly 2 million IDPs that resulted from Rah-i-Rast, the May 2009 military operation in the Swat Valley.
Pakistan, however, still faces many challenges, including how it can mitigate the dispersion of soldiers and prevent the TTP from simply re-establishing itself outside of South Waziristan. Even before military operations began, many of the high-level TTP commanders were believed to have fled to other areas of Pakistan, so it is key that the militant threat does not return and re-establish itself as soon as the military operations end. By the nature of non-state groups like the Taliban, leaders are elusive, so capturing or killing all of them is extremely difficult, but disrupting their bases of operations will likely weaken their power and frustrate their objectives against the Pakistani state.
In addition to the South Waziristan, the army has also paid considerable attention to the northern Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) agencies of Bajaur, Orakzai, and Khyber, where pre-existing Taliban allies remain strong and have likely attracted at least some fleeing militants from South Waziristan. Militants in Bajaur Agency continue to engage the Pakistani army, and as recently as Nov. 22, the army killed 16 militants in an operation there that was part of the larger mission of preventing the spread of militant fighters. Despite recent success against militants in Bajaur, Islamabad still faces belligerents there.
Meanwhile, in Orakzai Agency (which was the home of current TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud before he took over following Baitullah Mehsud’s death), the Pakistani air force has conducted a sustained air campaign against several militant positions and killed scores of militants. However, it is clear that the TTP and its militant allies have maintained their capability to attack the Pakistani state, as seen by the string of attacks since Rah-i-Nijat began.
Additionally, Pakistani ground forces and helicopter gunships have been patrolling Khyber Agency to protect the major route that is used to supply NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan as well as deny militants a sanctuary from which they can strike at nearby Peshawar. Lashkar-i-Islam (LI) in collaboration with the TTP is likely responsible for recent attacks in Peshawar. Even though LI is more oriented toward organized crime and making money by smuggling goods into Afghanistan, it has an interest in allying with the TTP (which it has been in competition with) in order to resist the state’s offensive.
The Nov. 24 announcement that South Waziristan will be divided and politically administered as two separate agencies (raising the number of agencies in FATA from seven to eight) is also part of Islamabad’s strategy to maintain order in South Waziristan once the military mission there is complete. The specific geographical split is not yet clear, but it will largely divide the Mehsud and Waziri tribal areas. The Mehsud area is in the center of South Waziristan, where the TTP has its largest presence and, consequently, where the Pakistani military has launched operation Rah-i-Nijat. The Waziri tribal area (largely under the control of Taliban warlord Maulvi Nazir Ahmad) is located primarily in the west along the border with Afghanistan.
Maulvi Nazir and the Waziri tribes located along the Afghan border have cooperated with Islamabad by remaining neutral before and during the execution of Rah-i-Nijat. Nazir’s forces are more concerned with fighting Western forces in Afghanistan and have not taken up arms against Islamabad. The understanding reached between Islamabad and Nazir was an effort to divide forces in South Waziristan in order to isolate the TTP and its leadership from neighboring tribes, whose combined resistance to the Pakistani military would have frustrated their mission. Splitting South Waziristan agency in two would be a continuation of the strategy to divide control of the geographically difficult-to-govern territory in order to weaken remaining TTP elements. This also would have put the TTP’s area of operation under Islamabad’s direct control without unnecessarily impeding upon other actors in the region (like the Waziris) whom Islamabad is wary of further alienating.
Islamabad is considering several options to govern South Waziristan and FATA in general after Rah-i-Nijat. First, FATA may lose its autonomous status and become another province, which would give Islamabad more control over the area’s governance and services. Another option would be to follow the recent example of Gilgit-Baltistan in the north, which is not a new province but will now be responsible for its own regional executive, legislature and judiciary. FATA could also be incorporated into the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and its governing structures assimilated into the NWFP’s government (which is much more closely controlled than FATA). Regardless of what happens, it will be quite some time before military control on the ground can permit effective political changes that would drastically alter the way the area is governed.
The federal government is responsible for these decisions, which is itself suffering from destabilizing disputes like the one surrounding the National Reconciliation Ordinance — a highly controversial piece of legislation that granted amnesty to politicians accused of corruption and other criminal activity, many of whom are part of the current government.
But for now, the Pakistani military is still occupied with the task of securing the area and preventing the TTP from taking back what it has lost. The future success of this offensive depends upon the outcome of the political battle in Islamabad over the NRO, which will be heating up once the legislation expires on Nov. 28.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Nukes and a presidential struggle
on: November 28, 2009, 06:21:07 PM
Pakistan: Nuclear Weapons and a Presidential Struggle
Stratfor Today » November 28, 2009 | 1915 GMT
VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Sept. 29 in ItalySummary
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari late on Nov. 27 handed over control of the country’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. The move is more about the president’s political survival than the South Asian nation’s nuclear weapons. Zardari’s efforts are unlikely to bear fruit and the potential political instability could have grave implications for Islamabad’s counter-insurgency efforts against jihadists and Washington’s plans for the region.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari late on Nov. 27 transferred power of the country’s nuclear arsenal to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. According to a statement from presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Zardari issued the 2009 National Command Authority (NCA) Ordinance — an amendment to the original ordinance that was issued by former President Pervez Musharraf naming the president chairman and the prime minister vice-chairman. The amendment is part of a re-promulgation of 27 ordinances that were enacted by Musharraf, which the Supreme Court ruled on July 31would expire on Nov. 28 if parliament did not approve them.
The move is Zardari’s way of catering to the demand from across the country that he shed powers he inherited from Musharraf, yet allowing him to retain control over the government. He hopes giving up the chairmanship will help defuse pressure from the military — the state’s principal stakeholder.
The military opposes Zardari primarily because it perceives he is working with the United States to weaken the position of the military through the recently approved Kerry-Lugar Aid package. The military has also been particularly concerned that the multibillion-dollar assistance program undermines the country’s national defense by seeking to limit its nuclear weapons arsenal. But domestic and international circumstances limit the military’s ability to get rid of the president, hence the increasingly complex legal procedures against him.
From Zardari’s point of view, the chairmanship is symbolic: The nuclear establishment is dominated by the military. The chairmanship was significant under Musharraf, who served as president and military chief. Currently, with a civilian president, the real players in the nuclear establishment are the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee (CJCSC); Gen. Tariq Majid, who heads the powerful Development Control Committee (DCC); and the director general of Strategic Plans Division (SPD), retired Lt. Gen. Khalid Kidwai.
The chairman only plays a role when rare strategic decisions have to be made — at which time the entire committee meets. Given that the chairman, despite being the committee’s head, is one of many NCA members who are among the top brass and civilian leadership in the nation, Zardari is not losing much by handing the post over to Gilani. If anything, it could help, given that Gilani is more acceptable to the military and the country as a whole. The DCC and the Employment Control Committee (which includes the defense, interior and finance ministers, the CJCSC, the SPD chief and the three armed services chiefs with the foreign minister at the helm) make up the NCA.
As far as command and control of the nuclear arsenal are concerned, these political maneuverings and domestic changes are superficial. The nuclear establishment is not affected by the political changes. In the event of a true crisis, the civilian and military leadership would be jointly involved in nuclear decisions.
In addition to the NCA move, Zardari on Nov. 27 told private television channel Express News that the controversial 17th amendment would be abolished by parliament in December. The 17th amendment of 2003 rendered Musharraf more powerful than the legislature or the prime minister, as opposed to the original 1973 constitution. Yet it is unclear to what extent Zardari, who also heads the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, would be willing to heed to the growing demand that he shed powers he enjoys, including the right to dismiss parliament and appoint the military chiefs.
The country’s constitution calls for a parliamentary form of government in which the popularly elected prime minister is the chief executive, while the president, elected by national and provincial legislatures, is a ceremonial head of state. However, through long periods of military rule, through some crafty constitutional and political engineering, the president has remained powerful while the prime minister was relegated to the status of a vice-president. Interestingly, it is ironic that the military wants to return to the original system, when it favored a strong presidency in the past.
Ideally, Zardari would like to appoint the next army chief when Gen. Ashfaq Kayani retires in November 2010. Given Zardari’s weak position and the pressure from the military, he is likely to also relinquish this authority to the prime minister. As head of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party — and in his pursuit to hold onto that role — Zardari must try to retain control of the government, even as he is forced to accept a presidency with ceremonial powers. The dilemma for Zardari is: How does he retain control over the government should he be forced to accept a presidency with ceremonial powers?
Furthermore, within months he may face a constitutional ouster, given the brewing controversy surrounding the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which also expired Nov. 28. Musharraf in late 2007 issued the NRO, which granted amnesty to politicians accused of corruption, murder and other criminal activity.That made it possible for Zardari and many of his key allies to rise to power. The law’s expiration sets into motion a political and constitutional crisis because of the revival of all criminal cases against thousands of senior government officials — a development temporarily delayed by the Eid al-Adha holiday.
Once the country returns from the holiday, the domestic political crisis will likely overshadow all other issues. Because Zardari has legal immunity from prosecution so long as he holds the office of president, it will be sometime before the presidency will be affected. However, many senior Cabinet ministers, appointees and bureaucrats will have to face the courts – overwhelming the judiciary. Zardari’s opponents seek to force him out of office by challenging his eligibility to run for the presidency in the Supreme Court, which is expected to be the main event in the coming legal storm.
Pakistan’s civilian institutions historically have been weak, with political instability hardwired into the state system. Even as the civilian institutions try to assert themselves, the end result is the same instability — and it comes at a critical time when the country’s military has its hands full with a major counter-insurgency offensive against jihadists. This latest round of instability could exacerbate the problems the United States and its NATO allies face as they try to come up with a strategy for neighboring Afghanistan.