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27451  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Food Stamps on: January 03, 2010, 08:44:41 AM

Living on Nothing but Food Stamps

Published: January 2, 2010
CAPE CORAL, Fla. — After an improbable rise from the Bronx projects to a job selling Gulf Coast homes, Isabel Bermudez lost it all to an epic housing bust — the six-figure income, the house with the pool and the investment property.

“Without food stamps we’d probably be starving,” said Rex Britton, who has had trouble finding paving work and lives with his girlfriend, Amy Freeman. More Photos »

The Safety Net
Zero Income
With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

Now, as she papers the county with résumés and girds herself for rejection, she is supporting two daughters on an income that inspires a double take: zero dollars in monthly cash and a few hundred dollars in food stamps.

With food-stamp use at a record high and surging by the day, Ms. Bermudez belongs to an overlooked subgroup that is growing especially fast: recipients with no cash income.

About six million Americans receiving food stamps report they have no other income, according to an analysis of state data collected by The New York Times. In declarations that states verify and the federal government audits, they described themselves as unemployed and receiving no cash aid — no welfare, no unemployment insurance, and no pensions, child support or disability pay.

Their numbers were rising before the recession as tougher welfare laws made it harder for poor people to get cash aid, but they have soared by about 50 percent over the past two years. About one in 50 Americans now lives in a household with a reported income that consists of nothing but a food-stamp card.

“It’s the one thing I can count on every month — I know the children are going to have food,” Ms. Bermudez, 42, said with the forced good cheer she mastered selling rows of new stucco homes.

Members of this straitened group range from displaced strivers like Ms. Bermudez to weathered men who sleep in shelters and barter cigarettes. Some draw on savings or sporadic under-the-table jobs. Some move in with relatives. Some get noncash help, like subsidized apartments. While some go without cash incomes only briefly before securing jobs or aid, others rely on food stamps alone for many months.

The surge in this precarious way of life has been so swift that few policy makers have noticed. But it attests to the growing role of food stamps within the safety net. One in eight Americans now receives food stamps, including one in four children.

Here in Florida, the number of people with no income beyond food stamps has doubled in two years and has more than tripled along once-thriving parts of the southwest coast. The building frenzy that lured Ms. Bermudez to Fort Myers and neighboring Cape Coral has left a wasteland of foreclosed homes and written new tales of descent into star-crossed indigence.

A skinny fellow in saggy clothes who spent his childhood in foster care, Rex Britton, 22, hopped a bus from Syracuse two years ago for a job painting parking lots. Now, with unemployment at nearly 14 percent and paving work scarce, he receives $200 a month in food stamps and stays with a girlfriend who survives on a rent subsidy and a government check to help her care for her disabled toddler.

“Without food stamps we’d probably be starving,” Mr. Britton said.

A strapping man who once made a living throwing fastballs, William Trapani, 53, left his dreams on the minor league mound and his front teeth in prison, where he spent nine years for selling cocaine. Now he sleeps at a rescue mission, repairs bicycles for small change, and counts $200 in food stamps as his only secure support.

“I’ve been out looking for work every day — there’s absolutely nothing,” he said.

A grandmother whose voice mail message urges callers to “have a blessed good day,” Wanda Debnam, 53, once drove 18-wheelers and dreamed of selling real estate. But she lost her job at Starbucks this year and moved in with her son in nearby Lehigh Acres. Now she sleeps with her 8-year-old granddaughter under a poster of the Jonas Brothers and uses her food stamps to avoid her daughter-in-law’s cooking.

“I’m climbing the walls,” Ms. Debnam said.

Florida officials have done a better job than most in monitoring the rise of people with no cash income. They say the access to food stamps shows the safety net is working.

“The program is doing what it was designed to do: help very needy people get through a very difficult time,” said Don Winstead, deputy secretary for the Department of Children and Families. “But for this program they would be in even more dire straits.”

But others say the lack of cash support shows the safety net is torn. The main cash welfare program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, has scarcely expanded during the recession; the rolls are still down about 75 percent from their 1990s peak. A different program, unemployment insurance, has rapidly grown, but still omits nearly half the unemployed. Food stamps, easier to get, have become the safety net of last resort.


“The food-stamp program is being asked to do too much,” said James Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, a Washington advocacy group. “People need income support.”

With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

Food stamps, officially the called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, have taken on a greater role in the safety net for several reasons. Since the benefit buys only food, it draws less suspicion of abuse than cash aid and more political support. And the federal government pays for the whole benefit, giving states reason to maximize enrollment. States typically share in other programs’ costs.

The Times collected income data on food-stamp recipients in 31 states, which account for about 60 percent of the national caseload. On average, 18 percent listed cash income of zero in their most recent monthly filings. Projected over the entire caseload, that suggests six million people in households with no income. About 1.2 million are children.

The numbers have nearly tripled in Nevada over the past two years, doubled in Florida and New York, and grown nearly 90 percent in Minnesota and Utah. In Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, one of every 25 residents reports an income of only food stamps. In Yakima County, Wash., the figure is about one of every 17.

Experts caution that these numbers are estimates. Recipients typically report a small rise in earnings just once every six months, so some people listed as jobless may have recently found some work. New York officials say their numbers include some households with earnings from illegal immigrants, who cannot get food stamps but sometimes live with relatives who do.

Still, there is little doubt that millions of people are relying on incomes of food stamps alone, and their numbers are rapidly growing. “This is a reflection of the hardship that a lot of people in our state are facing; I think that is without question,” said Mr. Winstead, the Florida official.

With their condition mostly overlooked, there is little data on how long these households go without cash incomes or what other resources they have. But they appear an eclectic lot. Florida data shows the population about evenly split between families with children and households with just adults, with the latter group growing fastest during the recession. They are racially mixed as well — about 42 percent white, 32 percent black, and 22 percent Latino — with the growth fastest among whites during the recession.

The expansion of the food-stamp program, which will spend more than $60 billion this year, has so far enjoyed bipartisan support. But it does have conservative critics who worry about the costs and the rise in dependency.

“This is craziness,” said Representative John Linder, a Georgia Republican who is the ranking minority member of a House panel on welfare policy. “We’re at risk of creating an entire class of people, a subset of people, just comfortable getting by living off the government.”

Mr. Linder added: “You don’t improve the economy by paying people to sit around and not work. You improve the economy by lowering taxes” so small businesses will create more jobs.

With nearly 15,000 people in Lee County, Fla., reporting no income but food stamps, the Fort Myers area is a laboratory of inventive survival. When Rhonda Navarro, a cancer patient with a young son, lost running water, she ran a hose from an outdoor spigot that was still working into the shower stall. Mr. Britton, the jobless parking lot painter, sold his blood.

Kevin Zirulo and Diane Marshall, brother and sister, have more unlikely stories than a reality television show. With a third sibling paying their rent, they are living on a food-stamp benefit of $300 a month. A gun collector covered in patriotic tattoos, Mr. Zirulo, 31, has sold off two semiautomatic rifles and a revolver. Ms. Marshall, who has a 7-year-old daughter, scavenges discarded furniture to sell on the Internet.

They said they dropped out of community college and diverted student aid to household expenses. They received $150 from the Nielsen Company, which monitors their television. They grew so desperate this month, they put the breeding services of the family Chihuahua up for bid on Craigslist.

“We look at each other all the time and say we don’t know how we get through,” Ms. Marshall said.


(Page 3 of 3)

Ms. Bermudez, by contrast, tells what until the recession seemed a storybook tale. Raised in the Bronx by a drug-addicted mother, she landed a clerical job at a Manhattan real estate firm and heard that Fort Myers was booming. On a quick scouting trip in 2002, she got a mortgage on easy terms for a $120,000 home with three bedrooms and a two-car garage. The developer called the floor plan Camelot.

With millions of jobs lost and major industries on the ropes, America’s array of government aid — including unemployment insurance, food stamps and cash welfare — is being tested as never before. This series examines how the safety net is holding up under the worst economic crisis in decades.

“I screamed, I cried,” she said. “I took so much pride in that house.”
Jobs were as plentiful as credit. Working for two large builders, she quickly moved from clerical jobs to sales and bought an investment home. Her income soared to $180,000, and she kept the pay stubs to prove it. By the time the glut set in and she lost her job, the teaser rates on her mortgages had expired and her monthly payments soared.

She landed a few short-lived jobs as the industry imploded, exhausted her unemployment insurance and spent all her savings. But without steady work in nearly three years, she could not stay afloat. In January, the bank foreclosed on Camelot.

One morning as the eviction deadline approached, Ms. Bermudez woke up without enough food to get through the day. She got emergency supplies at a food pantry for her daughters, Tiffany, now 17, and Ashley, 4, and signed up for food stamps. “My mother lived off the government,” she said. “It wasn’t something as a proud working woman I wanted to do.”

For most of the year, she did have a $600 government check to help her care for Ashley, who has a developmental disability. But she lost it after she was hospitalized and missed an appointment to verify the child’s continued eligibility. While she is trying to get it restored, her sole income now is $320 in food stamps.

Ms. Bermudez recently answered the door in her best business clothes and handed a reporter her résumé, which she distributes by the ream. It notes she was once a “million-dollar producer” and “deals well with the unexpected.”

“I went from making $180,000 to relying on food stamps,” she said. “Without that government program, I wouldn’t be able to feed my children.”
27452  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fak Ap, part two on: January 03, 2010, 08:14:45 AM

II.c - Why doesn't the Pakistani Army fight the Taleban? - Bad Reasons

The Panjabi Generals of the Pakistani Army remember 1971 vividly. They carry deep emotional scars from that humiliating surrender to the Indian Army and the split of Pakistan. They have sworn to not let that happen again. They also began a campaign to pay back India by trying to separate Kashmir from India.

They got their chance in 1979 when America poured its resources into Pakistan to create a Pashtun force to fight the Russians in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis used American money, American weapons, American expertise to train the Pashtuns into a fighting force. When the Russians left Afghanistan, Pakistan, in a few years, moved the Pashtun Taleban into Afghanistan. This made Afghanistan a Pakistani vassal and gave Pakistan its much desired strategic depth against India.

Since that period, the Pakistani Generals have viewed the Pashtun Taleban as a critical ally and a weapon to be used against India without exposing the Pakistani Panjabi Army to India's retaliation. This role makes the Pashtun Taleban a strategic asset of Pakistan's Panjabi Army and such strategic assets are not given up regardless of whatever pressure America decides to use.

Besides, due to its deeply ingrained anti-India mindset, the Pakistani Army will not even consider moving its core Panjabi divisions from the Indian border. That would signal utter defeat of their dreams and of their strategy of the past 38 years.

Remember that the Panjabi Generals created the Pashtun Taleban, fed it and built it to its current state. They simply refuse to believe that their child would turn on them. They also refuse to believe that they would not be able to squash the Taleban if they really chose to do so.

The Pakistani Panjabis have deep racial contempt for the Pashtuns. They consider the Pashtuns to be illiterate, uneducated, mountain hilly-billies who are way beneath the cultured Panjabis with their literary traditions. Pakistani Panjabis, beginning with their founder Jinnah, used Islam as a banner to unite the poor but never believed in it themselves. The Pakistani Panjabi Generals claim their heritage from the British Army and still carry on the scotch-drinking, non-religious traditions of the British Generals.

Unfortunately, America relies on these Pakistani Panjabi Generals for support as well as knowledge and insight. Admiral Mullen, America's highest military officer, says that he trusts Pakistan's General Kiyani totally and implicitly.

Both America and Pakistan seem to have forgotten the lessons of Iran. America trusted the Shah of Iran implicitly and totally. America believed that the Shah, with his large, American supplied army, would be able quell any rebellion in Iran. The Shah of Iran remained supremely confident until he found out that his army would not fire on his people. Then, one day, he left Iran forever.

We fear the same in Pakistan. The racial contempt of the Pakistani Panjabi Generals is making them blind to the realities on the ground. The Pashtun Taleban are getting Panjabi recruits and building a Panjabi Taleban sub-movement. This combination is rapidly making inroads into rural Panjab and seems poised to take over some semi-urban areas in Panjab.

When they succeed, the Pakistani Panjabi Generals will find that their soldiers are not willing to fire on their rural Panjabi brothers. Then, the Panjabi Generals will leave Pakistan to go to their estates outside Pakistan. Nawab Sharif, Panjab's civilian landlord leader, will run back to Saudi Arabia and Asif Zardari, the Sindhi President, will return to London. America will then exit Pakistan as it exited Iran 30 years ago.

II.D. - America's conception of Taleban a murderous, fanatical Islamic organization

You have to admit that the behavior of the Taleban fits the murderous and fanatical label. Their actions against women have revolted people in Pakistan and around the world. Special Envoy Holbrooke described the Taleban as "murderous" in a CNN interview last week.

But labels can blind people and countries to the underlying reality. The Taleban are not stupid, illiterate crazies as the Pakistani Panjabis and Americans think. The Taleban leaders are extraordinarily intelligent men who understand tactics and strategy. Their game plan combines military tactics with social, religious and media tactics to win hearts & minds besides winning on the ground.

They use their brand of Islam as a way of influencing society, winning recruits and keeping them loyal. They understand that love of land and love of customs is a powerful force. They use Islam as a cry against the secular civil society of Pakistan. This is similar to the "anti secular-progressive culture-warrior" cry of right-wing American opinionators like Bill O'Reilly.

The Taleban are smart. They retreat very quickly when they realize they have made a mistake. The Taleban leaders realized that they made a big mistake when their followers flogged a woman in public. Their media spokesman immediately clarified that this bad behavior was triggered by the presence of "western white women who have entered Pakistan to fight". The New York Times might scoff at this explanation but it does make sense in conservative Pashtun territory. This is sort of like liberal Europeans scoffing at the "American crudity" of Bill O'Reilly.

II.e - The return of Aurnagzeb's model

The Mughal dynasty of Delhi faced the problem of governing a predominantly Hindu population. One extreme model was the "respect for all religions" model of Akbar, called by history as the Greatest Mughal. The other extreme model was that of was his grandson, Aurangzeb.

Every reader of this blog has heard of the Taj Mahal, the greatest monument to love in the world. A few readers might know the name of Shah Jahan, the ruler who built the Taj Mahal. But, very few readers are likely to have heard of his son, Aurangzeb.

Aurangzeb revolted against his father Shah Jahan and his elder brother Dara ShuKoh, the Crown Prince. He won the battle, imprisoned Shah Jahan and killed Dara ShuKoh as well as all his other brothers. Then, Aurangzeb created his model for ruling India.

He was a practicing Muslim but not a fanatic. But his actions seemed fanatical. Like all right-wingers, he ruled to gain the abiding loyalty of his base, the right wing Islamists. He even imposed a tax on non-Muslims called the "Jeeziya", simply for being non-Muslims in his kingdom. He tried to destroy temples but stopped when he realized he was going too far.

The Taleban approach is based on the Aurangzeb model. It has a deep and historical resonance in the entire Indian Subcontinent, let alone Pashtunistan. It evokes memories of the days when the Pashtuns dominated India. A couple of weeks ago, we read a story that the Taleban have imposed the Jeeziya tax of Aurangzeb on the Sikh community in Pashtunistan, a tax for simply being Sikh in Taleban country. Aurangzeb's model worked for him in North India. Who is to say that his model would not work for the Taleban in Pakistan?

So, when America and Pakistan feel racial and cultural contempt for the Taleban, they should watch out. Decisions based on racial and cultural superiority often exact a steep price in war.

Recall that the French despised Ho-Chi-Minh and the Vietnamese racially and culturally. They expressed disdain for this savage "who would teach military strategy to the country of Napoleon". Unless our history is wrong, Ho-Chi-Minh defeated the French Army in the decisive battle of Dien-Bien-Phu. The French left Vietnam in disgrace and America entered Vietnam to inherit French racism and the French outcome.

III. An Immediate, Legal, Globally Acceptable, Cost-Effective and Simple Solution to the Af-Pak Problem

To solve a problem, we often need to go to its genesis. The Af-Pak problem originated in 1893 with the partition of Afghanistan. The solution begins there.

III.a - A Legal, Globally Acceptable, Political Solution

Afghanistan is a protectorate and an ally of America. Nato is involved in Afghanistan and the UN backs this effort. It is time for the United States to back the legal stand of Afghanistan that the 1893 Treaty between British India and Afghanistan is ex parte (because British India does not exist any more) and hence invalid.

America can then push for the reunification of North and South Afghanistan. This will enable America to take the war to the Taleban strongholds in South Afghanistan or Pashtunistan.

America is the ethnic, spiritual, economic and military successor to England. America is ideally placed to invalidate the 1893 British treaty.

England and Continental Europe will support this solution. This solution is in Russia's interests and after some face-saying gestures, Russia will support it. Saudi Arabia, which is getting increasingly worried about the Taleban, will support this solution and so will the Emirates, Kuwait and other Middle Eastern states.

This solution benefits Iran strategically and Iran would support this solution. Iran would get a greater influence in a moderate united Afghanistan than in a virulently anti-Shia Taleban-controlled Afghanistan.

The only obstacle could be China. This solution would possibly cut off China's land access to the Persian Gulf through Pakistan. But, given the global stakes involved, China would abstain from opposing this solution.

It is not generally known that the majority of the Pashtuns in Pashtunistan do not support Islamic fundamentalism. Recall that in the last election, the Pashtuns voted for secular, non-religious parties in Pashtunistan and not for the Islamic parties. Unification of Pashtunistan with Afghanistan and the consequent unification of the Pashtun society on both sides of the Durand Line would be a dream come true for the Pashtuns.

This support of the Pashtuns would be the greatest strength of this legal solution. It will help the Obama Administration finally solve the Af-Pak problem by winning the hearts and minds of the Pashtun people.

The UN ratification of the unification of Afghanistan would be a legal globally acceptable political solution to the Af-Pak problem.

III.b - A Cost-Effective, Quick, Decisive Military Solution

Special Envoy Holbrooke said last week on CNN that the Frontier Corps of Pakistan was originally created by the British. He is correct.

The British created the Pashtun Frontier Corps when they gained legal control of Pashtunistan from the 1893 Durand Treaty. The Frontier Force kept control and peace in Pashtunistan and served as a military liaison between the British Indian Army and the tribal elders of Pashtunistan. This military-administrative-social structure continued until the Pashtun Taleban destroyed it recently. They did so by killing many of the tribal elders, waging attacks on the Frontier Corps and by scaring the administrators into obeying the Taleban.

The American Military and Nato should, after the above legal deal, take immediate control of the Frontier Corps. US Special Forces and US Military Advisors should then guide and train the Frontier Corps. The American Air Force and its Airborne Predators should fly over Pashtunistan legally, take out Taleban strongholds and kill Taleban leaders on sight.

This is the model that allowed America to destroy the Taleban regime in Afghanistan without putting American boots on the ground. In that war, the boots on the ground were those of the Afghan National Alliance. They were advised by US Special Forces and supported by American precision air power. In Pashtunistan, the Frontier Corp would play the role played by the Northern Alliance in North Afghanistan.

The support of the local Pashtuns would provide ample local intelligence just as the support of the north Afghani people provided intelligence during the 2001 war against the Taleban in Afghanistan.

The 2001 war in North Afghanistan was quick, decisive and highly cost-effective. We are convinced that a 2009 war in Pashtunistan would be just as quick, decisive and cost-effective.

Once America and Nato seize military control of Pashtunistan, the Taleban insurgency would be encircled like in Iraq. Then, the David Petraeus strategy can be put into effect in Pashtunistan with the support and participation of the Pashtun tribal elders. Pashtunistan can then be made peaceful as was done in Iraq.

III.c - What About Pakistan?

The political leaders of Pakistan would be in tacit support of this solution. Nawab Sharif's economic interests and political base are in Pakistani Panjab. He stands to lose it all if the Taleban take control of rural Panjab.

Asif Zardari is a Sindhi. He is also a wealthy businessman. He has no interest in maintaining control of Pashtunistan. He would be a big supporter, at least in private, of this solution.

The silent majority in Pakistan would probably oppose an imposed American solution but would accept a globally backed UN solution supported by the Middle Eastern countries. We believe that the average Pakistani Panjabi is angry at the Pashtun Taleban, holds them in racial contempt and is petrified at the thought of being governed by them. So, we believe that the silent majority of Pakistani Panjabis and the Sindhis would support a globally backed unification of Afghanistan.

This leaves the Generals of Pakistan. This solution would end their dreams of strategic depth against India and would create a fear of Indian encirclement via a partnership between a United Afghanistan and India.

But, we are convinced that the Pakistani Panjabi Generals would not oppose a global solution backed by America, Saudi Arabia and the UN. They would not survive if they did so. After all, this solution would leave their empire in Pakistani heartland unchanged and undamaged.

America, Europe and Saudi Arabia can promise substantial civil aid to Pakistan's Panjab and Sindh provinces for their support of the globally acceptable solution. As a result, this solution might finally bring both peace and prosperity to this troubled land.

IV. Is this Solution rapidly becoming obsolete?

As we have said before, the Taleban leaders are not dumb. They remember how their rule in North Afghanistan came to an abrupt end in 2001.

The solution we have proposed may be new to the American Establishment but it will not come as a surprise to the Taleban leaders. They know such a solution would work and work quickly. So, they are rapidly moving to make this solution obsolete.

How? By using a variation of the Donald Rumsfeld dictum. The Taleban are rapidly making the problem bigger, much much bigger.

They are doing so by moving their soldiers and supporters into urban provinces like Buner that border Pakistani Panjab and into Panjab itself. By gaining sanctuary and support in Pakistani Panjab, the Taleban are making the problem so big that it might remain unsolvable.

The Pakistani people might support the cessation of Pashtunistan and the resultant occupation of Pashtunistan by American Military. But, they will not support any occupation of Pakistani Panjab, the society's heartland. The Taleban know this and that is why they are rapidly moving into Pakistani Panjab. The Pakistani Panjabi Generals know this and that is why they allow the Taleban to encroach into Panjab.

V. Final Choice that might be forced upon the Obama Administration

"Speed Kills" is a favorite line of John Madden (the great NFL coach and TV Sports Analyst). The Obama Administration is moving ahead with slow, deliberate planning in their Af-Pak analysis, while the Taleban is moving with great speed to implement its plan. So far, the Taleban speed is killing the chances of success of the Obama Initiatives.

Soon, we fear, the Obama Administration would be faced with two alternatives:

Leave Af-Pak to its own misery and take the risk of being attacked in the American homeland OR
Get into a military confrontation with the Taleban inside Pakistan and with the Pakistani Military.
The first choice would be far worse than Vietnam and the second choice would be far worse than Iraq.

Send your feedback to
27453  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 03, 2010, 08:13:54 AM
From time to time I receive thoughtful reads from a friend in India.  India tends to have a lot more and a lot deeper knowledge of the players involved and the history of how things came to be.  IMHO this piece deserves serious consideration.
Some fresh perspectives on the Fak-Ap problem..

This week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told the US Congress that the situation in Pakistan “poses a mortal threat to the security and safety of our country and the world.”. These are strong words. A “mortal threat” to the security of America, we would think, would require a serious military and strategic response.

That is why we titled our article as we did. Frankly, we were not impressed with Clinton's outburst and neither were Pakistan's Panjabi Generals.

Then Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned that relations with the United States will be threatened unless Islamabad combats the rise of the Taleban. This was serious. After all, Pakistan's Panjabi Army survives on American aid and so the Pakistani generals pretended to comply.

They told their friends in the Taleban leadership to withdraw from their new foray into the Buner province (70 miles from Pakistan's capital) and the Taleban made a public show of its "withdrawal". But, this was only for media consumption.

The American Newspapers and TV shows covered the new Taleban foray extensively and superficially. This coverage showed the total lack of understanding or insight into the Af-Pak problem and the type of urgent solutions needed. This prompted us to write this detailed article and propose the only solution that we think will work.

This position paper features the following sections:

I. The Genesis of the Af-Pak problem
II. Misconceptions, Ignorance and Denial in Pakistan and America
III. An Immediate, Legal, Globally Acceptable, Cost-Effective and Simple Solution to the Af-Pak Problem
IV. Is this Solution rapidly becoming obsolete?
V. Final Choice that might be forced upon the Obama Administration

I. The Genesis of the Af-Pak Problem
The Af-Pak situation began in 1893 when the British-led Indian Army conquered South Afghanistan (the part of Afghanistan below the Khyber Pass) and forced the partition of Afghanistan into North and South. Under the 1893 Treaty, the Afghan King was forced to accede to annexation of South Afghanistan by British-India. Today's border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is still called the "Durand Line" after Mortimer Durand, the Foreign Secretary of British India (see map below left).

When the British left India in 1947, Pakistan inherited the possession of South Afghanistan and the Af-Pak problem was created.

In 1949, Afghanistan declared the 1893 Treaty as ex parte and therefore invalid. Today, Afghanistan does NOT recognize the Durand Line as the legal border and claims all of South Afghanistan (or Pashtunistan as it is popularly called) as an integral part of Afghanistan.

(Pink - Baluch, Green - Pashtuns, Grey - Panjabis, Yellow-Sindhi)

(Durand's Partition of Afghanistan)

The map on the right above shows the ethnic composition of the territory controlled by today's Pakistan. The area in green is the real Pashtun-i-stan or the land of the Pashtuns. This is today the home of the Pashtun Taleban and virtually all of it is under Taleban control. In this article, we refer to the section in green when we refer to Pashtunistan.

From 1947 to 1979, Pashtunistan remained quiet. Actually in 1947, a popular non-violence movement spread through Pashtunistan under the leadership of Badshah Gaffar Khan, popularly called "Sarhad-Gandhi" or "Gandhi-on-the-border". Gaffar Khan wanted his province to become a part of India in 1947 but Nehru, in another act of utter, arrogant stupidity, refused.

So, Pakistan took over Pashtunistan and began the transformation of the non-violent movement into a movement subordinated to the interests of Pakistani Panjabis.

Then, in 1979, America entered the province and flooded it with weapons. Brezinsky toured the province and exhorted the Pashtuns to fight a holy war against the Russian Army that had occupied North Afghanistan. Under American leadership and with American encouragement, angry young men poured into Pashtunistan from all over the Muslim Middle East to fight the Russians. The rest, as they say, is history.

II. Misconceptions, Ignorance and Denial in Pakistan and America

From what we read or hear on TV, the American Media and the American Establishment lack the basic understanding of the nature of the Taleban and remain in total denial about the real problem. Virtually all American commentators are European-American and their frame of reference is the British frame of reference. Notable Pakistani journalists like Ahmad Rashid use this ignorance to sway opinion towards Pakistani interests and notable South Asian journalists like Fareed Zakaria continue to pander to the European-American line of thinking.

II.a - The Taleban Fight movement is a Racial conflict and NOT a Religious Conflict
Look at the ethnic map of Pakistan (above right). The fight in Pakistan is a war between the Green and the Grey; between the Pashtuns of Pashtunistan (or NWFP as Pakistan calls it) and the Panjabis of Pakistani Panjab. These are distinct ethnic groups that have fought wars for more than 2,000 years. Pakistani Panjabis are an Indian ethnic people while the Pashtuns are a mixed breed of Indian, Iranian, Tajik, Uzbek and even Greek blood (going back to post-Alexander days).

Both ethnic groups are Sunni Muslims and so the Pashtun-Panjabi struggle is not a religious struggle but a racial struggle. Panjabis dominate Pakistan, its Government and its all-controlling Army. They have deep contempt for the uneducated Pashtun mountain people.

The main aim of the Pashtun Taleban used to be to reconquer North Afghanistan and unite all of Afghanistan under Pashtun rule. The American presence in North Afghanistan and the determination of the Obama Administration have convinced the Taleban that America will not leave Kabul.

So the Pashtun Taleban have decided move south towards the plains of Pakistani Panjab, a much richer prize than impoverished Afghanistan. They now believe that control of Pakistani Panjab is possible and they have a game plan to win this prize.

The Taleban now controls virtually all of the green area of Pashtunistan. They began this control in the mountain regions called FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas - see map below left), consolidated this control, made peace deals with the Pakistani Panjabi Army and then slowly but surely began the same game further south into the NWFP or the more urban parts of Pashtunistan (see map below left).

Last week, they entered the border province of Buner, 70 miles from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan in Panjab, setting off the alarms in the Obama Administration. Control of Buner would enable the Pashtun Taleban to cut off the road link between Islamabad and Peshawar, the capital of NWFP.

II.b - Why doesn't the Pakistani Army fight the Taleban? - Good Reasons

In 1947, Pakistan was created to comprise of West Pakistan (today's Pakistan) and East Pakistan (today's Bangladesh), separated by over a 1,000 miles of Indian territory. The Pakistani Panjabis had racial contempt for the more eastern Pakistani Bengalis. This racial superiority led to draconian rule by the Panjabis over Bengalis and fostered a deep anger in the Pakistani Bengalis.

In 1971, the Bengalis of Pakistan began a struggle for greater political rights and autonomy. The Pakistani Panjabi Army retaliated with a brutal campaign that backfired. The struggle for autonomy morphed into a struggle for independence and eventually dragged India into a war with Pakistan. This war created the independent state of Bangladesh and split up Pakistan.

The Pakistani Panjabi Army recognizes the parallels between today's Pashtun movement and the 1971 Bengali movement. They also understand the racial element of this struggle and are trying to tone it down.

This is why Pakistan only deploys the pre-dominantly Pashtun para-military force (called the Frontier Corps) against the Taleban. In other words, Pakistani Army is using its Pashtun regiments to fight the Pashtun Taleban. Unfortunately, the Frontier Corps is a poor cousin of the Pakistani Army, poorly trained and poorly armed. The soldiers of the Frontier Corps come from the same villages that the Pashtun Taleban come from. So, their sympathies are with the Pashtun Taleban, their brothers and not with their Panjabi masters.

The Pakistani Generals have NOT deployed its core Panjabi Divisions against the Taleban, despite the major advances made by the Taleban recently. They know fully well that if they do, they risk a full-scale Pashtun-Panjabi civil war, like the 1971 Bengali-Panjabi civil war. We are sympathetic to their point of view.

This is why the Pakistani Panjabi Army prefers to appease the Pashtun Taleban by signing peace deals with them and by ceding huge tracts of Pashtun territory to Taleban's control.
27454  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Corrections and Prison on: January 02, 2010, 06:58:20 PM
There have been many entries on the LEO thread, but it occurs to me to give "Corrections and Prison" its own thread.

We kick things off with this:
27455  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Who will inflitrate whom? on: January 02, 2010, 05:56:29 PM
I forget exactly when I posted it, but Stratfor had what I thought to be a profound insight:  The ANA and the ANP WILL be inflitrated by the enemy.  The question is whether we can infiltrate the enemy?  With President Obama having declared that we will begin leaving in 18 months, the apparent answer is "no". cry angry
27456  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / This thing is not a done deed yet on: January 02, 2010, 05:52:00 PM


Updated January 02, 2010

Senate Dem Asks South Carolina's Top Attorney to 'Call Off the Dogs'

A Democratic senator from Nebraska who played a crucial role in getting health care legislation passed in the Senate last month has asked South Carolina's top attorney to "call off the dogs" -- a reference to the state official's threat to challenge the constitutionality of the bill.

In a phone call Thursday, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., urged South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster to reconsider, Politico reported. McMaster is  the head of a group of 13 GOP state attorneys general who are threatening to file a lawsuit against the Senate health care bill.

Nelson asked McMaster to "call off the dogs," according to a copy of the memo sent by McMaster's chief of staff to other GOP state attorneys general detailing the call and obtained by Politico.

The attorneys general are challenging the constitutionality of a Medicaid provision in the bill that they say benefits Nebraska at the expense of other states.

The deal Nelson cut with Senate Democratic leaders to gain his critical vote would exempt Nebraska from having to pay for the coverage of new enrollees into its Medicaid program and leave the tab with the federal government -- a move expected to cost Uncle Sam $100 million over the next 10 years.

But Nelson told McMaster that the deal wasn't his idea and that the same Medicaid exemption would be offered to every state, according to the memo.

McMaster told Nelson that the state attorneys were seeking to remove the Nebraska Medicaid provision from the bill and that "he saw no way that he -- nor any of the state attorneys general " will support extending the provision to every state, the memo said.

27457  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT/POTH on: January 02, 2010, 10:31:10 AM
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Taliban militants underscored their determination on Friday to prevent Pakistani citizens from forming armed militias to keep them at bay, as a suicide bomber rammed a truck loaded with hundreds of pounds of explosives into families and children crowded on a playground in the northwest.

Local authorities said they had little doubt that the village, Shah Hassan Khel, was chosen because residents were forming a pro-government militia. The village sits at the edge of the tribal area of South Waziristan, where the military opened an offensive to break up Taliban strongholds in October.

The bombing killed at least 89 people and wounded scores more, making it one of the deadliest in a string of suicide attacks that have killed more than 500 Pakistanis since October. The blast was so powerful that it left a number of victims buried under rubble, and the authorities were uncertain exactly how many had died.

The strike was all the more devastating, as the bomber did not choose the most obvious target: a meeting under way of local leaders of the new militia. Instead, he drove his double-cabin pickup truck into the middle of a nearby playing field where teams were playing volleyball. The explosion collapsed homes surrounding the field.

“When we came out, there was a plume of smoke and dust,” said Gul Janan, a member of the pro-government militia, who, along with its other dazed members, had been bruised but not seriously wounded when the roof collapsed on the mosque where they were meeting. They emerged to find their village ravaged.

“Nothing was visible,” Mr. Janan said in a telephone interview. “It was a huge bombing.”

The attack was the latest retaliation for the Pakistani military’s offensive in nearby South Waziristan that had driven the Taliban out of their longstanding sanctuary and into other parts of the Pashtun-dominated northwest.

Militants have intensified their attacks since the offensive began in October, with suicide bombing in major cities, including the military garrison city of Rawalpindi; the capital, Islamabad; the nation’s financial center, Karachi; and Peshawar, the hub of the northwest frontier.

The Pakistani military has also expanded its operations the past year, with offensives in Swat, Buner, South Waziristan and other parts of the northwest. But they have found it impossible to contain militants.

The Taliban fighters have spread far afield and pushed farther into the settled areas of the country, where they carry out attacks with ease, including regions bordering the tribal areas, like the village hit Friday. In those areas, they routinely fight government forces and citizen militias for supremacy.

Militia leaders increasingly have become principal targets, as the Taliban aim to undercut a vulnerable but critical component of the government’s strategy to supplement badly outgunned and underfinanced police forces with the citizen posses.

Two anti-Taliban militia leaders have been killed in the past week in Bajaur — one kidnapped and beheaded and the other killed by a roadside bomb — as Taliban forces have regained strength in the northernmost part of the country’s tribal areas.

“The terrorists are losing the battle and that’s why they have turned to terrorizing the civilians,” said the information minister for North-West Frontier Province, Mian Iftikhar Hussain.

The attack on Friday was clearly also, in the view of local officials, specific retribution for the villagers’ willingness to throw their lot in with the government and organize an anti-Taliban militia.

Mr. Janan said militants were angry with the residents of Shah Hassan Khel for forming what the local people called a “peace committee” to fend off the insurgents.

“They are thugs who claim to be Taliban,” he said of the militants. “They kidnap people for ransom.”

He said that when the attack occurred, the peace committee “was in session to devise a strategy on how to deal with the militants.” Then the blast caved in the roof at the mosque where they were meeting. “Luckily, save for minor bruises, none of us were seriously wounded,” he said.

But he said the bomber drove into a vulnerable crowd of hundreds. “There were a lot of people there watching a match between two local teams,” Mr. Janan said.

The peace committee members and officials in the larger district that includes the village, Lakki Marwat, had been marked men for weeks. They received calls from militants in North Waziristan demanding that they abandon the peace committee, or they would be killed.

Two weeks ago, militants sent a suicide bomber to kill the political leader in Lakki Marwat as he received guests at home. The bomber got close, and many people could have been killed, but the bomber tripped before he could reach his target, setting off part of the bomb and killing only himself.

The United States has stepped up pressure on Pakistan to go after militants based in North Waziristan, including the Taliban network run by Sirajuddin Haqqani, who uses the area to stage his insurgency against American and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Americans commanders consider eliminating sanctuaries in North Waziristan to be critical to the success of President Obama’s troop escalation.

So far the demand has been rebuffed by the Pakistani military, which, along with the intelligence services, has long regarded the Haqqanis as assets to exert influence in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani military says it has its hands full already with its operation in South Waziristan. But many of the militants it was fighting there have simply moved and are now being sheltered by groups in North Waziristan.

Mr. Hussain, the provincial information minister, suggested that they, too, should now be targets. He called for limited operations to flush out militants from their remaining strongholds in the tribal areas.

“The military has done well in South Waziristan,” he said, “but it’s time to go after the militants who have taken shelter in other places.”

Ismail Khan reported from Peshawar, and Richard A. Oppel Jr. from Islamabad, Pakistan. Pir Zubair Shah contributed reporting from Islamabad.
27458  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Euro trade on: January 02, 2010, 10:15:09 AM
The Obama Administration and its European allies are currently looking at a menu of "focused sanctions" on Iran and its leadership. A month ago they were obsessing over China and Russia's cooperation on indubitably innocuous U.N. Security Council sanctions. In both cases, they have the wrong target in mind. Security Council resolutions and focused sanctions serve as public relations window-dressing. Europe is the key to any meaningful behavior-modifying sanctions on Iran. The continued focus on Russia and China's intransigence is allowing Europe to stay under the radar.

Iran has been under three Security Council sanctions in the past decade, while the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has prospered and the plight of the average Iranian has deteriorated. The IRGC, which in 2007 was designated by the U.S. Congress as a terrorist organization, planned and instigated a coup during the recent Iranian elections and bear responsibility for the murder, rape, and oppression of the Iranian people.

According to Mohsen Sazegara, one of the co-founders of the IRGC and current researcher and democracy activist residing in the U.S., the IRGC controls the fundamentals of Iran's economy, with over 800 companies involved in shipping and ship-building, banking, energy, chemicals, heavy construction and machinery, electricity, transport equipment, and import of tear gas for oppressing mass demonstrations. The IRCG's most recent foray into Iran's business activities was the purchase of a 51% share in the Iranian Telecommunications Company for $8 billion, effectively gaining control of all Iranian communications with the outside world.

Who is Iran's main business partner? In 2008 the EU was—in its own words—the "first trade partner of Iran," with imports and exports totalling €25.4 billion ($36.4 billion) followed by China, Japan, and South Korea. The €14.1 billion in European exports to Iran last year, up 1.5% from 2007, included mainly machinery and transport equipment, manufactured goods, chemicals and even dual-use telecommunications equipment responsible for tracking and imprisoning protesters. Of the €11.3 billion in European imports from Iran, 90% is energy-related. Germany, France and Italy top the list, the former two also members of the team involved in nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Yet despite the IRGC's deep involvement in the Iranian economy, the Associated Press reported shortly after the June elections that Daniel Bernbeck, head of the German-Iranian Industry Group, said that "doing business in Iran is a far cry from doing business with the government itself....I see no moral question here at all. We are not doing business with Iran, but with Iranian companies. We are not supporting the government."

In the past two decades Europe's refrain has been that trade keeps the doors of communications open and allows them to openly discuss the nuclear issue and human rights violations. In a 2007 interview with Deutsche Welle magazine, Mechtild Rothe, vice president of the European Parliament, said that "relations with Iran have not reached a point where economic interests should need to suffer. I think it would be much better to negotiate—to speak with each other."

The people of Iran have now spoken loud and clear about their democratic aspirations. The EU, however, continues to pursue its economic interests, save for a range of toothless feel-good statements. As recently as October, the National Iranian Oil Company announced that "negotiations [on the South Pars Gas field] with Shell and Repsol [Spanish firm] in recent weeks have gone in the desired direction and efforts are being made to take action as quickly as possible given the mutual interests in this field." France's Total has also resumed discussions with the Iranian government on another phase of the South Pars Gas field. The AP also reported that, when asked if France would recommend that French businesses scale back trade with Iran, foreign ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux "wouldn't say yes or no".

Since the post-election crackdown discredited Europe's so-called "open doors of communications" strategy, Europeans are now hiding behind the slogan that scaling back business with the IRGC hurts average Iranians. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told the New York Times after the elections that "sanctions weigh in particular on the middle levels of society, but especially on the disadvantaged ones."

In 1968, Archbishop Desmond Tutu responded poignantly to similar criticism on sanctioning South Africa and its impact on the poor: "Moral Humbug," he said. "There is no room for neutrality. Are you on the side of oppression or liberation? Are you on the side of death or life? Are you on the side of good or evil?"

The Europeans and the Obama Administration should finally recognize that their interest in deterring a nuclear Iran coincides with the Iranian people's democratic aspirations. The perpetrator in common is the IRGC. Yet the AP also reported Mr. Desagneaux as saying in June that "the current election crisis shouldn't be lumped in with the standoff over Iran's nuclear program." The IRGC is Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's and the Iranian government's power base, and European trade is enhancing the growth of IRGC's web of companies. Flush with cash, the IRGC has taken over the development of the country's nuclear program, support for insurgencies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Gaza and Lebanon, as well as systematic oppression of the Iranian people. Mr. Sazegara indicates that the Iranian government spent $15 million just to assemble demonstrators on the 30th anniversary of the U.S. hostage crisis.

Why is Washington not more forceful in restraining European trade with Iran? After the passing of the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act in 2007, which legally penalizes companies investing more than $20 million in Iran's energy sector, the EU countries (according to the Congressional Research Service) threatened formal counter-action in the World Trade Organization. A New York Times op-ed by John Vinocur quoted German business newspaper Handelsblatt as saying: "What's needed concerning Iran trade isn't giving in to United States and Israeli pressure."

Despite other valiant efforts by the U.S. Treasury Department, Stratfor Intelligence reports that "no company has ever been officially sanctioned by the United States for dealing with Iran. More often than not the U.S. executive branch will sign waivers for foreign firms… to avoid a serious spat with a firm's country of origin." Under Section 4c and 9c of ILSA, the president may waive sanctions if the violating company's country of origin agrees to impose economic sanctions on Iran, or if it is deemed in the national interest of the U.S.

The prevailing wisdom is that Europe needs Iran for its energy needs and is unable to cut off trade in a recessionary environment. The German-Iranian Chamber of Commerce has been quoted as saying that sanctions on Iran could result in the loss of 10,000 German jobs. Iran ranks as EU's fifth supplier of crude oil after Russia, Norway, Libya, and Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has already stood up to Iran by supporting Saad Hariri's election in Lebanon at the expense of the Iran-supported Hezbollah. It was also the only Arab country to vote in favor of the recent U.N. Resolution blasting the human rights situation in Iran. Saudi Arabia can step in, as it has done at least once in the past, to fill the oil vacuum created by sanctioning the IRGC.

The IRGC needs nuclear weapons technology to survive and firmly anchor its regional influence. To peacefully weaken the IRGC's muscle, Europe has no choice but to act now and cut off their source of capital. If Europe waits too long, it will be faced with an irreversible regional conflict in the Middle East, further exacerbating the current economic crisis. Furthermore, the Iranian blogosphere is buzzing about firms trading with the IRGC, and Mr. Sazegara and his colleagues are compiling a list of companies for mass boycotts. Europe should note that Iranians won't fast forget countries that thwart their march toward democracy and freedom.

Ms. Ameri is the former U.S. assistant secretary of state for educational and cultural affairs, U.S. representative to the 60th U.N. General Assembly and the U.S. public delegate to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
27459  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: NY, Columbia, Eminent Domain on: January 02, 2010, 10:10:47 AM
second post

New York

Columbia University is one of New York's largest landowners, and perhaps the one with the most to gain from the state's power to seize private property. But in a surprise ruling in early December, a state court struck down the city's attempt to take private land in West Harlem and give it to the university. Now that case is becoming an important beachhead in the fight over eminent domain.

Columbia wants the land as part of its 17-acre plan to build a research and academic facility. A decade ago it started acquiring as much of the land as it could. In recent years, however, a few holdouts were impossible to dislodge. The university turned to the Empire State Development Corporation (ESDC), a public company that has the power to compel landowners to sell through eminent domain.

Columbia contends that its academic center will upgrade the neighborhood, create 6,900 jobs, and make immense contributions in biotechnology and health research. There is little reason to doubt any of these assertions. Columbia is one of the nation's leading research institutions and New York City's seventh-largest private employer.
.But should its importance entitle the university to take property owned by others?

Nick Sprayregen, a 47-year-old businessman, says no. He owns Tuck-It-Away Self-Storage, which is located in a brick building inside the footprint of Columbia's project. The business was started by his father in 1980, and he intends to pass it along to his children. So he joined a lawsuit to keep his land. He claims that taking his property would violate the state's constitution. The state can seize land that is considered blighted, but he argues that his neighborhood is sound and had been steadily improving before Columbia launched its expansion plans. He notes that there are excellent new restaurants that have sprung up in the neighborhood, and there are also nice artist studios and lofts, rehabilitated, city-owned apartment buildings, and successful manufacturers.

He acknowledges there is some blight but blames Columbia for it. As recently as August 2002, data prepared by the accounting firm of Ernst & Young for New York City's Economic Development Corporation showed that 54 of the 67 lots in question were in good, very good or fair condition. In November 2007, a study by AKRF Consultants reached a dramatically different conclusion—that the area was "substantially unsafe, unsanitary, substandard, and deteriorated."

What happened, argues Mr. Sprayregen, was that Columbia had increased its ownership or control from a handful of properties in 2001 to 51% in 2007 and 91% of the area today. Along the way it let the properties decay by erecting ugly scaffolding, pushing out commercial tenants, and allowing trash to pile up.

In all, Mr. Sprayregen put 10,000 pages of documents into the court record to show that West Harlem was not blighted before Columbia began its plans. "Is it fair to reward a private entity for its own bad conduct, its own role in producing neighborhood deterioration?" he asks.

State Supreme Court Justice James Catterson seems to agree with Mr. Sprayregen that it isn't. In ruling against Columbia on Dec. 3, he wrote that the use of eminent domain "to benefit a private elite education institution is violative of the Takings Clause of the U.S. Constitution, of the New York Constitution, and the 'first principles of the social contract.'"

Judge Catterson also wrote that "the blight designation in the instant case is mere sophistry. It was utilized by ESDC years after the scheme was hatched to justify the employment of eminent domain but this project has always primarily concerned a massive capital project for Columbia."

Judge Catterson's decision sets up a conflict that will likely shape how eminent domain is used in the future. Just a week before he issued his ruling, New York's highest court, the Court of Appeals, decided in Goldstein et al. v. Urban Development Corporation that ESDC could seize private property in Brooklyn and hand it over to Forest City Ratner, a private developer.

That case was a big setback for private property advocates, who had spent years trying to curtail the use of eminent domain and who got a bump in public support after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. the City of New London (2005) that states could seize private land as part of private development projects.

Now, in the wake of Judge Catterson's ruling, the state's Court of Appeals will likely have to take the issue up again if the case is appealed. Perhaps this time it will impose strict limits on when the power of eminent domain can be used.

State Sen. Bill Perkins, a Harlem Democrat and chairman of the committee on corporations, authorities and commissions, doesn't want to leave it to the courts. He held one public meeting on Judge Catterson's ruling before Christmas and is planning a second this coming week. He also fired off a letter to Democratic Gov. David A. Paterson asking him not to appeal Judge Catterson's ruling, and to impose a "statewide moratorium on the use of eminent domain" until the state legislature can pass legislation that specifies how the power can be used.

The governor hasn't decided what to do, but he doesn't have the luxury of sitting on the sidelines forever. With two conflicting court decisions and a brewing controversy, the legislature will almost certainly pass something that will force him to choose sides.

If Judge Catterson's ruling stands, Mr. Sprayregen he says he will keep running his business. He once told me, "I can coexist with Columbia. Why can't Columbia coexist with me?"

Ms. Vitullo-Martin is director of the Center for Urban Innovation at the Regional Plan Association.
27460  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Health Care bill is Unconstitutional on: January 02, 2010, 10:01:58 AM
President Obama's health-care bill is now moving toward final passage. The policy issues may be coming to an end, but the legal issues are certain to continue because key provisions of this dangerous legislation are unconstitutional. Legally speaking, this legislation creates a target-rich environment. We will focus on three of its more glaring constitutional defects.

First, the Constitution does not give Congress the power to require that Americans purchase health insurance. Congress must be able to point to at least one of its powers listed in the Constitution as the basis of any legislation it passes. None of those powers justifies the individual insurance mandate. Congress's powers to tax and spend do not apply because the mandate neither taxes nor spends. The only other option is Congress's power to regulate interstate commerce.

Congress has many times stretched this power to the breaking point, exceeding even the expanded version of the commerce power established by the Supreme Court since the Great Depression. It is one thing, however, for Congress to regulate economic activity in which individuals choose to engage; it is another to require that individuals engage in such activity. That is not a difference in degree, but instead a difference in kind. It is a line that Congress has never crossed and the courts have never sanctioned.

In fact, the Supreme Court in United States v. Lopez (1995) rejected a version of the commerce power so expansive that it would leave virtually no activities by individuals that Congress could not regulate. By requiring Americans to use their own money to purchase a particular good or service, Congress would be doing exactly what the court said it could not do.

Some have argued that Congress may pass any legislation that it believes will serve the "general welfare." Those words appear in Article I of the Constitution, but they do not create a free-floating power for Congress simply to go forth and legislate well. Rather, the general welfare clause identifies the purpose for which Congress may spend money. The individual mandate tells Americans how they must spend the money Congress has not taken from them and has nothing to do with congressional spending.

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Associated Press
Barack Obama.
.A second constitutional defect of the Reid bill passed in the Senate involves the deals he cut to secure the votes of individual senators. Some of those deals do involve spending programs because they waive certain states' obligation to contribute to the Medicaid program. This selective spending targeted at certain states runs afoul of the general welfare clause. The welfare it serves is instead very specific and has been dubbed "cash for cloture" because it secured the 60 votes the majority needed to end debate and pass this legislation.

A third constitutional defect in this ObamaCare legislation is its command that states establish such things as benefit exchanges, which will require state legislation and regulations. This is not a condition for receiving federal funds, which would still leave some kind of choice to the states. No, this legislation requires states to establish these exchanges or says that the Secretary of Health and Human Services will step in and do it for them. It renders states little more than subdivisions of the federal government.

This violates the letter, the spirit, and the interpretation of our federal-state form of government. Some may have come to consider federalism an archaic annoyance, perhaps an amusing topic for law-school seminars but certainly not a substantive rule for structuring government. But in New York v. United States (1992) and Printz v. United States (1997), the Supreme Court struck down two laws on the grounds that the Constitution forbids the federal government from commandeering any branch of state government to administer a federal program. That is, by drafting and by deliberate design, exactly what this legislation would do.

The federal government may exercise only the powers granted to it or denied to the states. The states may do everything else. This is why, for example, states may have authority to require individuals to purchase health insurance but the federal government does not. It is also the reason states may require that individuals purchase car insurance before choosing to drive a car, but the federal government may not require all individuals to purchase health insurance.

This hardly exhausts the list of constitutional problems with this legislation, which would take the federal government into uncharted political and legal territory. Analysts, scholars and litigators are just beginning to examine the issues we have raised and other issues that may well lead to future litigation.

America's founders intended the federal government to have limited powers and that the states have an independent sovereign place in our system of government. The Obama/Reid/Pelosi legislation to take control of the American health-care system is the most sweeping and intrusive federal program ever devised. If the federal government can do this, then it can do anything, and the limits on government power that our liberty requires will be more myth than reality.

Mr. Hatch, a Republican senator from Utah, is a former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Mr. Blackwell is a senior fellow with the Family Research Council and a professor at Liberty University School of Law. Mr. Klukowski is a fellow and senior legal analyst with the American Civil Rights Union.
27461  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: States and the Stimulus on: January 02, 2010, 10:00:06 AM
Remember how $200 billion in federal stimulus cash was supposed to save the states from fiscal calamity? Well, hold on to your paychecks, because a big story of 2010 will be how all that free money has set the states up for an even bigger mess this year and into the future.

The combined deficits of the states for 2010 and 2011 could hit $260 billion, according to a survey by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Ten states have a deficit, relative to the size of their expenditures, as bleak as that of near-bankrupt California. The Golden State starts the year another $6 billion in arrears despite a large income and sales tax hike last year. New York is literally down to its last dollar. Revenues are down, to be sure, but in several ways the stimulus has also made things worse.

First, in most state capitals the stimulus enticed state lawmakers to spend on new programs rather than adjusting to lean times. They added health and welfare benefits and child care programs. Now they have to pay for those additions with their own state's money.

For example, the stimulus offered $80 billion for Medicaid to cover health-care costs for unemployed workers and single workers without kids. But in 2011 most of that extra federal Medicaid money vanishes. Then states will have one million more people on Medicaid with no money to pay for it.

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Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
 .A few governors, such as Mitch Daniels of Indiana and Rick Perry of Texas, had the foresight to turn down their share of the $7 billion for unemployment insurance, realizing that once the federal funds run out, benefits would be unpayable. "One of the smartest decisions we made," says Mr. Daniels. Many governors now probably wish they had done the same.

Second, stimulus dollars came with strings attached that are now causing enormous budget headaches. Many environmental grants have matching requirements, so to get a federal dollar, states and cities had to spend a dollar even when they were facing huge deficits. The new construction projects built with federal funds also have federal Davis-Bacon wage requirements that raise state building costs to pay inflated union salaries.

Worst of all, at the behest of the public employee unions, Congress imposed "maintenance of effort" spending requirements on states. These federal laws prohibit state legislatures from cutting spending on 15 programs, from road building to welfare, if the state took even a dollar of stimulus cash for these purposes.

One provision prohibits states from cutting Medicaid benefits or eligibility below levels in effect on July 1, 2008. That date, not coincidentally, was the peak of the last economic cycle when states were awash in revenue. State spending soared at a nearly 8% annual rate from 2004-2008, far faster than inflation and population growth, and liberals want to keep funding at that level.

A study by the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Seattle found that "because Washington state lawmakers accepted $820 million in education stimulus dollars, only 9 percent of the state's $6.8 billion K-12 budget is eligible for reductions in fiscal year 2010 or 2011." More than 85% of Washington state's Medicaid budget is exempt from cuts and nearly 75% of college funding is off the table. It's bad enough that Congress can't balance its own budget, but now it is making it nearly impossible for states to balance theirs.

These spending requirements come when state revenues are on a downward spiral. State revenues declined by more than 10% in 2009, and tax collections are expected to be flat at best in 2010. In Indiana, nominal revenues in 2011 may be lower than in 2006. Arizona's revenues are expected to be lower this year than they were in 2004. Some states don't expect to regain their 2007 revenue peak until 2012.

So when states should be reducing outlays to match a new normal of lower revenue collections, federal stimulus rules mean many states will have little choice but to raise taxes to meet their constitutional balanced budget requirements. Thank you, Nancy Pelosi.

This is the opposite of what the White House and Congress claimed when they said the stimulus funds would prevent economically harmful state tax increases. In 2009, 10 states raised income or sales taxes, and another 15 introduced new fees on everything from beer to cellphone ringers to hunting and fishing. The states pocketed the federal money and raised taxes anyway.

Now, in an election year, Congress wants to pass another $100 billion aid package for ailing states to sustain the mess the first stimulus helped to create. Governors would be smarter to unite and tell Congress to keep the money and mandates, and let the states adjust to the new reality of lower revenues. Meanwhile, Mr. Perry and other governors who warned that the stimulus would have precisely this effect can consider themselves vindicated.
27462  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: January 01, 2010, 10:13:45 PM
Official: Danish police stop attack on cartoonist

That peaceful religion of peace is at it again:

Official: Danish police stop attack on cartoonist

By JAN M. OLSEN, Associated Press Writer Jan M. Olsen, Associated Press Writer 4 mins ago

COPENHAGEN – Police foiled an attempt to kill an artist who drew cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that sparked outrage in the Muslim world, the head of Denmark's intelligence service said Saturday.

Jakob Scharf, who heads the PET intelligence service, said a 28-year-old Somalia man was armed with an ax and a knife when he attempted to enter Kurt Westergaard's home in Aarhus shortly after 10 p.m. (2100 GMT) on Friday.

The attack was "terror related," Scharf said in a statement.
"The arrested man has according to PET's information close relations to the Somali terrorist group, al-Shabaab, and al-Qaida leaders in eastern Africa," he said.

Scharf said without elaborating that the man is suspected of having been involved in terror related activities during a stay in east Africa. He had been under PET's surveillance "although this has no connection with cartoonist Kurt Westergaard," he said.

Police shot the Somali man in a knee and a hand, authorities said. Preben Nielsen of the police in Aarhus, where the attack took place, said the suspect was seriously injured but his life was not in danger.

The Somalia man, who had a staying permit in Denmark, was to be charged Saturday with attempted murder for trying to kill Westergaard and a police officer, Scharf said.

It was unclear whether the suspect managed to actually get inside the home of the 75-year-old cartoonist in Denmark's second largest city.

Westergaard, who had his 5-year-old grandson on a sleepover, called police and sought shelter in a specially made safe room in the house, Nielsen said. Police arrived two minutes later and tried to arrest the assailant, who wielded an axe at a police officer. The officer then shot the man.

Westergaard was "quite shocked" but was not injured, Nielsen said.
Westergaard remains a potential target for extremists nearly five years after he drew caricatures including one of the Prophet Muhammad wearing a bomb-shaped turban.

The drawings printed in Denmark's Jyllands-Posten daily in 2005, triggered an uproar a few months later when Danish and other Western embassies in several Muslim countries were torched by angry protesters who felt the cartoons had profoundly insulted Islam.

Islamic law generally opposes any depiction of the prophet, even favorable, for fear it could lead to idolatry.

Westergaard, whose provocative cartoon thrust Denmark into the midst of an international crisis, has been exposed to death threats and an alleged assassination plot.

Throughout the crisis, then-Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen distanced himself from the cartoons but resisted calls to apologize for them, citing freedom of speech and saying his government could not be held responsible for the actions of Denmark's press.
27463  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Fascism, liberal fascism, progressivism: on: January 01, 2010, 07:29:30 AM
27464  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist 29 on: January 01, 2010, 06:37:46 AM
"If a well-regulated militia be the most natural defense of a free country, it ought certainly to be under the regulation and at the disposal of that body which is constituted the guardian of the national security. If standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over the militia in the same body ought, as far as possible, to take away the inducement and the pretext to such unfriendly institutions. If the federal government can command the aid of the militia in those emergencies which call for the military arm in support of the civil magistrate, it can the better dispense with the employment of a different kind of force. If it cannot avail itself of the former, it will be obliged to recur to the latter. To render an army unnecessary will be a more certain method of preventing its existence than a thousand prohibitions upon paper." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 29
27465  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 31, 2009, 07:07:23 PM
Wow shocked

I bet she was grateful for you too!
27466  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Prepper on: December 31, 2009, 01:03:31 PM
Haven't had a chance to look at these yet, but they come recommended:
27467  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: December 31, 2009, 12:48:28 PM
27468  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Disinfo on: December 31, 2009, 12:43:33 PM
Deciphering Disinformation
AN INTER PRESS SERVICE (IPS) REPORT emerged Monday in which a former CIA official claims that a widely circulated document describing Iran’s nuclear weapons plans was fabricated. The document in question appeared in the Times of London on Dec. 14 and cited an “Asian intelligence source” who allegedly provided the newspaper with “confidential intelligence documents” on how Iran was preparing to run tests on a neutron initiator, the component of a nuclear bomb that triggers an explosion.

Former CIA counterterrorism official Philip Giraldi, however, claims in the IPS interview that the Rupert Murdoch publishing empire — which includes the Sunday Times, Fox News and the New York Post in addition to the Times of London — has been used frequently by the Israelis and occasionally by the British government to plant false stories to exaggerate the Iranian nuclear threat. Giraldi has been credited in the past with exposing disinformation campaigns by the previous U.S. administration that were designed to bolster claims that Iraq under Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy uranium from Niger.

Disinformation campaigns are common practice in the world of intelligence. Diplomatic negotiations, economic sanctions and military strikes are all tools of statecraft that require a considerable amount of political energy. In the grey areas of intelligence, however, policymakers have a relatively low-cost option of directly shaping the perceptions of their target audience through carefully calibrated disinformation campaigns. U.S. administrations, for example, often use The New York Times and The Washington Post for leaks while Israel tends to rely on British media outlets like the Times of London to plant stories that support their policy objectives.

“It takes a jolt like this to get Washington to go back to the drawing board and re-examine its assessments on Iran.”
We don’t know if the document on the neutron initiator was completely fabricated, but we do know that these leaks serve a very deliberate political purpose. Israel clearly has an interest in building up the Iranian nuclear threat. The United States has pledged to do its part to neutralize the Iranian nuclear program, and Israel has every incentive to drive the United States toward action. Although they share an interest in eliminating the Iranian nuclear program, each side has very different perceptions of the urgency of the threat and the timetable upon which it must be addressed.

Giraldi’s counter-leak, on the other hand, plays into the interests of the Obama administration. President Obama has no interest in getting pushed into a military conflict with Iran and wants to buy time to deal with the issue. By discrediting intelligence that has influenced the U.S. net assessment on Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Giraldi could quite effectively send the U.S. intelligence community into a tailspin. Obama can then raise the issue of faulty intelligence to gain more time and room to maneuver with Israel. After all, Israel would have a much more difficult time making the case to Washington that Iran is approaching the point of no return in its nuclear weapons program if the United States can argue that the intelligence supporting that assumption is resting on fabricated evidence.

It takes a jolt like this to get various policymakers and intelligence officials in Washington to go back to the drawing board and re-examine their assessments on Iran. And Iran’s nuclear progress is not the only issue in question. Western media outlets and certain U.S. non-governmental institutions are spreading the perception that the opposition movement in Iran has gained considerable momentum and that the Iranian regime is on the ropes. Again, we have to take into account the use of disinformation campaigns. There are a lot of people around the world and in Washington that have an interest in painting the perception of an Iranian regime teetering on the edge of collapse. Twitter, YouTube and a handful of mostly U.S.- and Europe-based reformist Web sites, backed by upper-class Iranian expatriates no less, are a useful way to spread this perception.

But the facts on the ground appear to suggest otherwise. The Dec. 27 Ashura protests, described by many (including our own Iranian sources) as the big showdown between the regime and the opposition, were far more revealing of the marginalization of the opposition and the endurance of the Iranian regime than what many Western media outlets have led their viewers to believe. The protests have failed to break the regime’s tolerance level and have in fact empowered the regime, however fragmented, to crack down with greater force. This is broadly the view we have held since the June protests, but we, like many other intelligence organizations, are also in the process of reviewing our net assessment on Iran. The process is a painfully meticulous one, but one that requires great discipline and, of course, an ability to recognize multiple disinformation campaigns at work.
27469  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on Army Report on: December 31, 2009, 12:36:53 PM
Army History Finds Early Missteps in Afghanistan

Published: December 30, 2009
In the fall of 2003, the new commander of American forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, decided on a new strategy. Known as counterinsurgency, the approach required coalition forces to work closely with Afghan leaders to stabilize entire regions, rather than simply attacking insurgent cells.

An American B-52 headed back to continue a bombing run at Tora Bora, a crucial battle in Afghanistan, in December 2001.

But there was a major drawback, a new unpublished Army history of the war concludes. Because the Pentagon insisted on maintaining a “small footprint” in Afghanistan and because Iraq was drawing away resources, General Barno commanded fewer than 20,000 troops.
As a result, battalions with 800 soldiers were trying to secure provinces the size of Vermont. “Coalition forces remained thinly spread across Afghanistan,” the historians write. “Much of the country remained vulnerable to enemy forces increasingly willing to reassert their power.”

That early and undermanned effort to use counterinsurgency is one of several examples of how American forces, hamstrung by inadequate resources, missed opportunities to stabilize Afghanistan during the early years of the war, according to the history, “A Different Kind of War.”

This year, a resurgent Taliban prompted the current American commander, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, to warn that the war would be lost without an infusion of additional troops and a more aggressive approach to counterinsurgency. President Obama agreed, ordering the deployment of 30,000 more troops, which will bring the total American force to 100,000.

But as early as late 2003, the Army historians assert, “it should have become increasingly clear to officials at Centcom and D.O.D. that the coalition presence in Afghanistan did not provide enough resources” for proper counterinsurgency, the historians write, referring to the United States Central Command and the Department of Defense.

“A Different Kind of War,” which covers the period from October 2001 until September 2005, represents the first installment of the Army’s official history of the conflict. Written by a team of seven historians at the Army’s Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., and based on open source material, it is scheduled to be published by spring.

The New York Times obtained a copy of the manuscript, which is still under review by current and former military officials.

Though other histories, including “In the Graveyard of Empires” by Seth G. Jones and “Descent Into Chaos” by Ahmed Rashid, cover similar territory, the manuscript of “A Different Kind of War” offers new details and is notable for carrying the imprimatur of the Army itself, which will use the history to train a new generation of officers.

The history, which has more than 400 pages, praises several innovations by the Pentagon, particularly the pairing of small Special Operations Forces teams with Afghan militias, which, backed by laser-guided weapons, drove the Taliban from power.

But, once the Taliban fell, the Pentagon often seemed ill-prepared and slow-footed in shifting from a purely military mission to a largely peacekeeping and nation-building one, fresh details in the history indicate.

“Even after the capture of Kabul and Kandahar,” the historians write, “there was no major planning initiated to create long-term political, social and economic stability in Afghanistan. In fact, the message from senior D.O.D officials in Washington was for the U.S. military to avoid such efforts.”

In one telling anecdote from 2004, the history describes how soldiers under General Barno had so little experience in counterinsurgency that one lieutenant colonel bought books about the strategy over the Internet and distributed them to his company commanders and platoon leaders.

In another case, a civil affairs commander in charge of small-scale reconstruction projects told the historians that he had been given $1 million in cash to house and equip his soldiers but that bureaucratic obstacles prevented him from spending a penny on projects. It took months to reduce the red tape, the historians say.

The historians also say that such anecdotes underscore the resourcefulness of commanders faced with unclear guidance and inadequate resources. But limited manpower still had an impact on operations, the history indicates.

When the Taliban was on the run in the spring of 2002, Lt. Gen. Dan K. McNeill, the incoming commander of American forces, traveled to Washington seeking guidance. The message conveyed by the Army’s vice chief of staff, Gen. Jack Keane, was, “Don’t you do anything that looks like permanence,” General McNeill recalled. “We are in and out of there in a hurry.”

Largely as a result of that mandate, General McNeill took only half of his headquarters command from the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C. But as the conflict became more complicated, requiring diplomatic and political operations as well as military ones, General McNeill lacked enough planning personnel, the history suggests. He was replaced in 2003 by an even smaller headquarters unit, the history says.

The lack of resources was also apparent in the training of Afghan security forces, the history shows.

Early in the war, the training program was hampered by poor equipment, low pay, high attrition and not enough trainers. Living conditions for the Afghan army were so poor that Maj. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry likened them to Valley Forge when he took command of the training operation in October 2002.

“The mandate was clear and it was a central task, but it is also fair to say that up until that time there had been few resources committed,” Mr. Eikenberry, now the ambassador to Afghanistan, told the historians, referring to the army training program.

The historians say resistance to providing more robust resources to Afghanistan had three sources in the White House and the Pentagon.

First, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had criticized using the military for peacekeeping and reconstruction in the Balkans during the 1990s. As a result, “nation building” carried a derogatory connotation for many senior military officials, even though American forces were being asked to fill gaping voids in the Afghan government after the Taliban’s fall.

Second, military planners were concerned about Afghanistan’s long history of resisting foreign invaders and wanted to avoid the appearance of being occupiers. But the historians argue that this concern was based partly on an “incomplete” understanding of the Soviet experience in Afghanistan.

Third, the invasion of Iraq was siphoning away resources. After the invasion started in March 2003, the history says, the United States clearly “had a very limited ability to increase its forces” in Afghanistan.

The history provides a detailed retelling of the battle of Tora Bora, the cave-riddled insurgent redoubt on the Pakistan border where American forces thought they had trapped Osama bin Laden in December 2001. But Mr. bin Laden apparently escaped into Pakistan along with hundreds of Qaeda fighters.

The historians call Tora Bora “a lost opportunity” to capture or kill Mr. bin Laden. But they concluded that even with more troops, the American and Afghan forces probably could not have sealed the rugged border. And they deemed the battle a partial success because it “dealt a severe blow to those Taliban and Al Qaeda elements that remained active in Afghanistan.”

The history also recounts well-known battles like Operation Anaconda, in eastern Afghanistan in spring 2002. The history ends in the fall of 2005, when many American officials still felt optimistic about Afghanistan’s future. Postponed parliamentary elections were held that fall, but Taliban attacks were also on the rise.

“It was clear that the struggle to secure a stable and prosperous future for Afghanistan was not yet won,” the history concludes.
27470  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stansberry Research on: December 31, 2009, 12:23:06 PM
This year, I've heard how tough it is for folks to get work and make ends meet. But not in Washington. The following facts should make you madder than a hornet's nest hit by a baseball bat. When I started reading this stuff, I wanted to go to Washington and fire the whole lot of 'em.

First, the government is posting data about the stimulus money spending on the website for all to see. It's part of the new transparency theme from Obama's team. Hah. If this is the stuff it's willing to disclose, I'd hate to know what it's hiding.

One group I trust, the nonprofit investigative news outlet ProPublica, has organized the "recovery" data by state and reported stimulus spending per capita in places around the country.

In most states, the numbers are kind of boring... per capita (per person) spending exceeds $1,000 in only 15 states, and the average of those 15 is $1,241. In the other 35 states, the amount is closer to $900 a head.

However, in D.C., per capita spending totals $5,276.84. Yep, you read that right. Spending in D.C. is at least four times higher than the next 15 states and nearly six times higher than the other 35 states. This means in the area surrounding the capital, thousands of bureaucrats are feeding themselves from the taxpayer trough. They're taking our hard-earned money and spending it on questionable programs.

Consider this outrage: Last summer, internships in D.C. paid city youths for essentially doing nothing. The government gave several hundred disadvantaged kids "internships" to come and learn about politics and the capital. They were supposed to show up every day, check in, and shadow some politicos. Apparently, over the whole summer, only a couple showed up out of hundreds, yet they all got paid. Imagine the lessons they learned. It's a mockery of the ethics of hard work and responsibility.

But it gets worse. The newspaper USA Today reports that before the recession started, the Department of Transportation employed only one person earning more than $170,000 a year. (I might argue even one is too many). Today, more than 1,690 people there earn more than $170,000.

That's not a typo... In 18 months, the government has increased the number of people in one federal department making more than $170,000 by hundreds of thousands of percent. While the average American worries about making ends meet, these federal bureaucrats are taking more and more of our tax dollars. Moreover, I don't understand how there needs to be more than a few people at the Department of Transportation making that kind of money, yet there are thousands of them.

Look, the average federal worker makes $71,206 versus $40,331 in the private sector. I think this is absurd. And the counterargument from the government affairs director at a federal employees union is laughable. It's "because the government employs skilled people," he told the USA Today.

Take the Secret Service. They couldn't keep two party-crashers out of the president's home – I'm sure you heard how a couple walked into a White House State Dinner uninvited and unchallenged at the door. It turns out, hundreds of these sorts of security lapses have gone on under the Secret Service's watch.

Folks, please listen... This nonsense will lead to higher and higher taxes. Unless we tell people in power to stop the nonsense immediately, things will go from bad to worse really quickly. I can't spend more than I earn. Neither can you. What makes lazy government bureaucrats think it works differently when they're spending someone else's money?

I encourage you to do what I do and write your local and national elected officials and tell them to stop spending our hard-earned money and start cutting taxes so people can get back to work. And also remember in upcoming election cycles to vote for people who will be fiscally responsible (we'll try and keep track of this for the 2010 elections). Sitting around and doing nothing about it is simply condoning the behavior.

And finally, I'm often asked if things I do work. Honestly, I don't know because it's hard to test something like writing my elected officials. But unless they know you are mad about government spending and money wasting, there's no chance they'll pull their snouts from Washington's feed trough.


If you don't believe me that taxes will skyrocket across states, cities, and municipalities soon, then just look at what's happening at public airport authorities. I recently rented a car from the Minneapolis airport... I paid a 56% tax on the rental. Seriously... here's my car rental bill:

Base Rate $65
Facility Fee $9.75
Recovery Fee $6.82
Rental Tax $4.03
Vehicle Rental Fee $3.25
Energy Recovery Fee $3
Loyalty Charge $3
Sales Tax $ 6.90
Total Charge $101.75
 That $36.75 equates to a 56% tax rate on the $65 the rental company charges. Think about that for a moment, a 56% tax! And it all reflects pass-along fees and taxes imposed by the airport authority, a state government entity.

Local governments are hurting for money so badly they're dreaming up new ways to raise revenues and that means fees and taxes for everything.

I suspect this sort of taxation will get worse. In many states, income and real estate tax revenues are plummeting... that means taxing consumption – on things like rental cars, gasoline, and even college tuition – is one of the few options left.

Let's hope the Feds don't get any ideas.
27471  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison; Federalist 46 on: December 31, 2009, 10:30:54 AM
"Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of." --James Madison, Federalist No. 46
27472  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Israeli approach on: December 30, 2009, 10:10:52 PM

While North America's airports groan under the weight of another sea-change in security protocols, one word keeps popping out of the mouths of experts: Israelification.

That is, how can we make our airports more like Israel's, which deal with far greater terror threat with far less inconvenience.

"It is mindboggling for us Israelis to look at what happens in North America, because we went through this 50 years ago," said Rafi Sela, the president of AR Challenges, a global transportation security consultancy. He's worked with the RCMP, the U.S. Navy Seals and airports around the world.

"Israelis, unlike Canadians and Americans, don't take s--- from anybody. When the security agency in Israel (the ISA) started to tighten security and we had to wait in line for — not for hours — but 30 or 40 minutes, all hell broke loose here. We said, 'We're not going to do this. You're going to find a way that will take care of security without touching the efficiency of the airport."

That, in a nutshell is "Israelification" - a system that protects life and limb without annoying you to death.

Despite facing dozens of potential threats each day, the security set-up at Israel's largest hub, Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion Airport, has not been breached since 2002, when a passenger mistakenly carried a handgun onto a flight. How do they manage that?

"The first thing you do is to look at who is coming into your airport," said Sela.

The first layer of actual security that greets travellers at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion International Airport is a roadside check. All drivers are stopped and asked two questions: How are you? Where are you coming from?

"Two benign questions. The questions aren't important. The way people act when they answer them is," Sela said.

Officers are looking for nervousness or other signs of "distress" — behavioural profiling. Sela rejects the argument that profiling is discriminatory.

"The word 'profiling' is a political invention by people who don't want to do security," he said. "To us, it doesn't matter if he's black, white, young or old. It's just his behaviour. So what kind of privacy am I really stepping on when I'm doing this?"

Once you've parked your car or gotten off your bus, you pass through the second and third security perimeters.

Armed guards outside the terminal are trained to observe passengers as they move toward the doors, again looking for odd behaviour. At Ben Gurion's half-dozen entrances, another layer of security are watching. At this point, some travellers will be randomly taken aside, and their person and their luggage run through a magnometer.

"This is to see that you don't have heavy metals on you or something that looks suspicious," said Sela.

You are now in the terminal. As you approach your airline check-in desk, a trained interviewer takes your passport and ticket. They ask a series of questions: Who packed your luggage? Has it left your side?

"The whole time, they are looking into your eyes — which is very embarrassing. But this is one of the ways they figure out if you are suspicious or not. It takes 20, 25 seconds," said Sela.

Lines are staggered. People are not allowed to bunch up into inviting targets for a bomber who has gotten this far.

At the check-in desk, your luggage is scanned immediately in a purpose-built area. Sela plays devil's advocate — what if you have escaped the attention of the first four layers of security, and now try to pass a bag with a bomb in it?

"I once put this question to Jacques Duchesneau (the former head of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority): say there is a bag with play-doh in it and two pens stuck in the play-doh. That is 'Bombs 101' to a screener. I asked Ducheneau, 'What would you do?' And he said, 'Evacuate the terminal.' And I said, 'Oh. My. God.'

"Take Pearson. Do you know how many people are in the terminal at all times? Many thousands. Let's say I'm (doing an evacuation) without panic — which will never happen. But let's say this is the case. How long will it take? Nobody thought about it. I said, 'Two days.'"

A screener at Ben-Gurion has a pair of better options.

First, the screening area is surrounded by contoured, blast-proof glass that can contain the detonation of up to 100 kilos of plastic explosive. Only the few dozen people within the screening area need be removed, and only to a point a few metres away.

Second, all the screening areas contain 'bomb boxes'. If a screener spots a suspect bag, he/she is trained to pick it up and place it in the box, which is blast proof. A bomb squad arrives shortly and wheels the box away for further investigation.

"This is a very small simple example of how we can simply stop a problem that would cripple one of your airports," Sela said.

Five security layers down: you now finally arrive at the only one which Ben-Gurion Airport shares with Pearson — the body and hand-luggage check.

"But here it is done completely, absolutely 180 degrees differently than it is done in North America," Sela said.

"First, it's fast — there's almost no line. That's because they're not looking for liquids, they're not looking at your shoes. They're not looking for everything they look for in North America. They just look at you," said Sela. "Even today with the heightened security in North America, they will check your items to death. But they will never look at you, at how you behave. They will never look into your eyes ... and that's how you figure out the bad guys from the good guys."

That's the process — six layers, four hard, two soft. The goal at Ben-Gurion is to move fliers from the parking lot to the airport lounge in a maximum of 25 minutes.

This doesn't begin to cover the off-site security net that failed so spectacularly in targeting would-be Flight 253 bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab — intelligence. In Israel, Sela said, a coordinated intelligence gathering operation produces a constantly evolving series of threat analyses and vulnerability studies.

"There is absolutely no intelligence and threat analysis done in Canada or the United States," Sela said. "Absolutely none."

But even without the intelligence, Sela maintains, Abdulmutallab would not have gotten past Ben Gurion Airport's behavioural profilers.

So. Eight years after 9/11, why are we still so reactive, so un-Israelified?

Working hard to dampen his outrage, Sela first blames our leaders, and then ourselves.

"We have a saying in Hebrew that it's much easier to look for a lost key under the light, than to look for the key where you actually lost it, because it's dark over there. That's exactly how (North American airport security officials) act," Sela said. "You can easily do what we do. You don't have to replace anything. You have to add just a little bit — technology, training. But you have to completely change the way you go about doing airport security. And that is something that the bureaucrats have a problem with. They are very well enclosed in their own concept."

And rather than fear, he suggests that outrage would be a far more powerful spur to provoking that change.

"Do you know why Israelis are so calm? We have brutal terror attacks on our civilians and still, life in Israel is pretty good. The reason is that people trust their defence forces, their police, their response teams and the security agencies. They know they're doing a good job. You can't say the same thing about Americans and Canadians. They don't trust anybody," Sela said. "But they say, 'So far, so good'. Then if something happens, all hell breaks loose and you've spent eight hours in an airport. Which is ridiculous. Not justifiable

"But, what can you do? Americans and Canadians are nice people and they will do anything because they were told to do so and because they don't know any different." 
27473  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt Gingrich on: December 30, 2009, 12:19:05 PM
27474  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Newt Gingrich on: December 30, 2009, 12:15:03 PM
Newt Gingrich in fine form:
27475  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: December 30, 2009, 12:05:54 PM
Grateful that I get to do what I do.
27476  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: December 29, 2009, 11:38:35 PM
U.S. Had Information Before Christmas of a Terror Plot

Two officials said the United States government had
intelligence from Yemen before Christmas that leaders of a
branch of Al Qaeda there were talking about "a Nigerian"
being prepared for a terrorist attack.

Read More:
27477  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ralph Peters: Lying to our selves on: December 29, 2009, 11:19:26 PM
As usual, there's little doubt what Ralph Peters thinks:

Updated: Tue., Dec. 29, 2009, 5:52 PM

Lying to ourselves

Last Updated: 5:52 PM, December 29, 2009

Posted: 12:45 AM, December 29, 2009

On Christmas Day, an Islamist fanatic tried to blow up an airplane whose passengers were mostly Christians. And we helped.

Our government gets no thanks for preventing a tragedy. Only the bomber's ineptitude preserved the lives of nearly 300 innocents.

How did we help Umar Abdulmutallab, a wealthy Muslim university graduate who decided that Allah wanted him to slaughter Christians on their most joyous holiday?

By continuing to lie to ourselves. Although willing -- at last -- to briefly use the word "terror," yesterday President Obama still refused to make a connection between the action, the date and Islam.

Was it just a ticketing accident that led to a bombing attempt on Christmas? Was it all about blackout dates and frequent-flyer miles?

It wasn't. You know it. And I know it. But our government refuses to know it. Despite vast databases crammed with evidence, our leaders -- of both parties -- still refuse to connect Islamist terrorism with Islam.

Our insistence that "Islam's a religion of peace" would have been cold comfort to the family members of those passengers had the bomb detonated as planned.

Abdulmutallab's own father warned our diplomats that his son had been infected by Islamist extremism. Our diplomats did nothing. Why? Because (despite a series of embassy bombings) the State Department dreads linking terrorism to Islam.

Contrast our political correctness with Abdulmutallab's choice of Christmas for his intended massacre. Our troops stand down on Muslim holidays. A captive terrorist merely has to claim that a soldier dog-eared a Koran, and it's courts-martial all around.

We proclaim that the terrorists "don't represent Islam." OK, whom do they represent? The Franciscans? We don't get to decide what's Islam and what isn't. Muslims do. And far too many of them approve of violent jihad.

It gets worse. Instead of focusing on the religious zeal and inspiration of our enemies and how such motivations change the game, our "terrorism experts" agonize over whether such beasts as Abdulmutallab or Maj. Hasan, the Fort Hood assassin for Allah, are really members of al Qaeda or not.

As a Sunday Post editorial pointed out, al Qaeda's far more than a formal organization; it's an idea, a cause. If a terrorist says he's al Qaeda, he is, even if he doesn't have a union card from Jihadi Local 632.

We're dealing with a global Muslim movement, not a Masons' lodge.

And that "global" aspect is especially worrying. Despite limited Special Operations strikes beyond our recognized combat zones, we still don't accept the nature of the threat from jet-set jihadis. Our leaders and our military are obsessed with holding ground in Afghanistan -- even though al Qaeda's growth areas are in Yemen and Africa.

We voluntarily tie ourselves down, while our enemies focus on mobility. Worse, we've convinced ourselves that development aid (the left's all-purpose medicine) is the key to defeating al Qaeda.

That's utter nonsense. Abdulmutallab's a rich kid. He didn't come from a deprived background, bearing the grievances of the slum. He's a graduate of a top English university. And Osama bin Laden's from a super-rich family. How does building a footbridge in Afghanistan deter them?

Most of our home-grown Islamist terrorists hail from middle-class families -- such monsters as Maj. Hasan or the Virginia virgin-chasers under arrest in Pakistan (where jail conditions are a lot worse than at Guantanamo -- can't we just leave 'em there?).

This isn't a revolt of the wretched of the earth. These terrorists are the Muslim-fanatic versions of Bill Ayers and the Weathermen, pampered kids unhappy with the world. Al Qaeda's big guns are re- belling against privilege. There's a lot of Freud in this fundamentalism.

Spoiled brats remade their god in their own vengeful image. And we have to kill them. This one really is a zero-sum game.

We're not just fighting men but a plague of faith. Until Washington accepts that, we'll continue to reap a low return on our investments of blood and treasure.

On Christmas Day, a Muslim fanatic attempted to butcher hundreds of Christians (dead Jews would've been a bonus). Our response? Have airport security analyze the contents of grandma's mini-bottle of shampoo -- we don't want to "discriminate."

With our lies, self-deception and self-flagellation, we're terror's little helpers.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "The War After Armageddon."
27478  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / TSA looking to unionize? on: December 29, 2009, 10:17:46 AM
No idea as to the reliability of this site:
27479  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: December 29, 2009, 10:04:52 AM
An additional offering from my friend:

Now here is the actual public law that these Executive Orders have modified:

You will note that it was passed in 1945 and does not solely address Interpol. It actually affects ALL international organizations (I can think of the World Bank, the U.N., and the International Red Cross off the top of my head):

For the purposes of this title, the term ‘‘international organization’’ means a public international organization in which the United States participates pursuant to any treaty or under the authority of any Act of Congress authorizing such participation or making an appropriation for such participation, and which shall have been designated by the President through appropriate Executive order as being entitled to enjoy the privileges, exemptions, and immunities herein provided.

So it would seem that all affected international organizations have had all the rights accorded by the public law EXCEPT Interpol. Now Interpol has all the rights and priviliges all these other organizations have enjoyed all along.

I fail to see the evil.
27480  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations/ US Sovereignty on: December 29, 2009, 10:03:46 AM
A friend who recently retired from a long and highly distinguished career with the US Marshal's office, sees nothing amiss here and offers the following:
The Reagan version of the EO:

By virtue of the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and statutes of the United States, including Section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (59 Stat. 669, 22 U.S.C. 288), it is hereby ordered that the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), in which the United States participates pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 263a, is hereby designated as a public international organization entitled to enjoy the privileges, exemptions and immunities conferred by the International Organizations Immunities Act; except those provided by Section 2(c), the portions of Section 2(d) and Section 3 relating to customs duties and federal internal-revenue importation taxes, Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6 of that Act. This designation is not intended to abridge in any respect the privileges, exemptions or immunities which such organization may have acquired or may acquire by international agreement or by Congressional action.

The White House,
June 16,1983.

The Obama version of the EO:

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 1 of the International Organizations Immunities Act (22 U.S.C. 288), and in order to extend the appropriate privileges, exemptions, and immunities to the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), it is hereby ordered that Executive Order 12425 of June 16, 1983, as amended, is further amended by deleting from the first sentence the words "except those provided by Section 2(c), Section 3, Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6 of that Act" and the semicolon that immediately precedes them.

December 16, 2009.


So the below sections are the ones affected by Obama's order:

it is hereby ordered that Executive Order 12425 of June 16, 1983, as amended, is further amended by deleting from the first sentence the words "except those provided by Section 2(c), Section 3, Section 4, Section 5, and Section 6 of that Act"
27481  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Hero of #253 on: December 29, 2009, 09:56:19 AM
Terror hero: I didn't hesitate

Last Updated: 10:50 AM, December 27, 2009
Posted: 8:35 AM, December 26, 2009

A Dutch airline passenger told The Post how he leapt into action when an alleged Muslim terrorist tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner packed with 300 people just moments before landing.
Chaos erupted as alleged terrorist Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab, 23, tried to set off a sophisticated explosive device strapped to his body.

"Suddenly, we hear a bang. It sounded like a firecracker went off," said Jasper Schuringa, a film director who was traveling to the US to visit friends.
"When [it] went off, everybody panicked ... Then someone screamed, ‘Fire! Fire!’"
Schuringa, sitting in seat 20J, in the right-most section of the Airbus 330, looked to his left. "I saw smoke rising from a seat ... I didn’t hesitate. I just jumped," he said.
Schuringa dove over four passengers to reach Abdul Mutallab’s seat. The suspect had a blanket on his lap. "It was smoking and there were flames coming from beneath his legs."
"I searched on his body parts and he had his pants open. He had something strapped to his legs."
The unassuming hero ripped the flaming, molten object — which resembled a small, white shampoo bottle — off Abdul Mutallab’s left leg, near his crotch. He said he put out the fire with his bare hands.
Schuringa yelled for water, and members of the flight crew soon appeared with fire extinguishers. Then, he said, he hauled the suspect out of the seat.
"I took him in a choke to the first class and all the people were like, ‘What’s going on?!"
"I don’t feel like a hero," Schuringa told the Post as he recuperated with pals. "It was something that came completely natural ... It was something where I had to do something or it was too late."
27482  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT Arch Liberal shocked to discover , , , on: December 29, 2009, 09:01:30 AM
Published: December 28, 2009
There is a middle-class tax time bomb ticking in the Senate’s version of President Obama’s effort to reform health care.

Recent developments on the struggle over health care with background, analysis, timelines and earlier events from and Google.

The bill that passed the Senate with such fanfare on Christmas Eve would impose a confiscatory 40 percent excise tax on so-called Cadillac health plans, which are popularly viewed as over-the-top plans held only by the very wealthy. In fact, it’s a tax that in a few years will hammer millions of middle-class policyholders, forcing them to scale back their access to medical care.
Which is exactly what the tax is designed to do.

The tax would kick in on plans exceeding $23,000 annually for family coverage and $8,500 for individuals, starting in 2013. In the first year it would affect relatively few people in the middle class. But because of the steadily rising costs of health care in the U.S., more and more plans would reach the taxation threshold each year.

Within three years of its implementation, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the tax would apply to nearly 20 percent of all workers with employer-provided health coverage in the country, affecting some 31 million people. Within six years, according to Congress’s Joint Committee on Taxation, the tax would reach a fifth of all households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 annually. Those families can hardly be considered very wealthy.

Proponents say the tax will raise nearly $150 billion over 10 years, but there’s a catch. It’s not expected to raise this money directly. The dirty little secret behind this onerous tax is that no one expects very many people to pay it. The idea is that rather than fork over 40 percent in taxes on the amount by which policies exceed the threshold, employers (and individuals who purchase health insurance on their own) will have little choice but to ratchet down the quality of their health plans.

These lower-value plans would have higher out-of-pocket costs, thus increasing the very things that are so maddening to so many policyholders right now: higher and higher co-payments, soaring deductibles and so forth. Some of the benefits of higher-end policies can be expected in many cases to go by the boards: dental and vision care, for example, and expensive mental health coverage.

Proponents say this is a terrific way to hold down health care costs. If policyholders have to pay more out of their own pockets, they will be more careful — that is to say, more reluctant — to access health services. On the other hand, people with very serious illnesses will be saddled with much higher out-of-pocket costs. And a reluctance to seek treatment for something that might seem relatively minor at first could well have terrible (and terribly expensive) consequences in the long run.

If even the plan’s proponents do not expect policyholders to pay the tax, how will it raise $150 billion in a decade? Great question.

We all remember learning in school about the suspension of disbelief. This part of the Senate’s health benefits taxation scheme requires a monumental suspension of disbelief. According to the Joint Committee on Taxation, less than 18 percent of the revenue will come from the tax itself. The rest of the $150 billion, more than 82 percent of it, will come from the income taxes paid by workers who have been given pay raises by employers who will have voluntarily handed over the money they saved by offering their employees less valuable health insurance plans.

Can you believe it?

I asked Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., about this. (Labor unions are outraged at the very thought of a health benefits tax.) I had to wait for him to stop laughing to get his answer. “If you believe that,” he said, “I have some oceanfront property in southwestern Pennsylvania that I will sell you at a great price.”

A survey of business executives by Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, found that only 16 percent of respondents said they would convert the savings from a reduction in health benefits into higher wages for employees. Yet proponents of the tax are holding steadfast to the belief that nearly all would do so.

“In the real world, companies cut costs and they pocket the money,” said Larry Cohen, president of the Communications Workers of America and a leader of the opposition to the tax. “Executives tell the shareholders: ‘Hey, higher profits without any revenue growth. Great!’ ”

The tax on health benefits is being sold to the public dishonestly as something that will affect only the rich, and it makes a mockery of President Obama’s repeated pledge that if you like the health coverage you have now, you can keep it.

Those who believe this is a good idea should at least have the courage to be straight about it with the American people.
27483  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: December 29, 2009, 08:39:45 AM
Clashes between security forces and opposition supporters have increased as sundown approaches in Tehran. The violence appears to be propagated by both sides, with footage showing security forces and protesters attacking each other. Reports from opposition sources claim that between four and 16 people have died thus far, including one Basij militiamen. Iran’s state-run media denies that any deaths have occurred.

The Iranian regime’s intimidation tactics in the lead-up to Ashura have evidently not succeeded in keeping protesters off the streets. Protests have thus far been reported in the cities of Tehran (in Vanak, Mohseni, Enqelab and Tajrish squares), Najafabad, Isfahan, Shiraz and Zanjan. Notably, there have been no reports of protests on Dec. 27 emanating from the Shiite holy city of Qom, where large opposition protests occurred earlier in the week for the mourning of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri. In the days leading up to Ashura, STRATFOR received several indications that Iran’s security apparatus would place a great deal of attention on preventing demonstrations in Qom, the seat of the Islamic republic’s clerical establishment and thus a critical city for the regime to protect.

Judging from the rough video footage of the demonstrations and from source reports on the ground, the opposition protests are not as large as anticipated, but are still significant. It appears that the security forces have been somewhat successful in dispersing the crowds. The more dispersed the protesters, the less protection they have as a group and the easier it is for the security forces to crack down.

Opposition sources have been claiming that there is dissent in the security ranks, asserting that some riot police have refused orders to shoot at the protesters and are shooting in the air. Similarly, dissidents claim there have been desertions among the police. These are, of course, partisan claims benefiting the dissidents, and therefore cannot be confirmed. Rumors have been spread in the past about dissent in the security apparatus. This is possible but the security forces have appeared to be effective.

Security on the streets is still being primarily handled by riot police and Basiji militiamen wielding tear gas and batons. Though preparations were made for reinforcements in the lead-up to Ashura, regular army troops and elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps units have not been called in. This suggests that the protests have not yet breached the regime’s tolerance level. Though the security forces have cracked down on protesters with greater ferocity in recent days, the regime still appears wary of using extreme violence on a religious occasion as sensitive as Ashura.

As sunset approaches in Iran, many of the protesters should begin to head home. The younger protesters will likely attempt to hold out for longer. The Ashura protests have not yet produced an unmanageable crisis for the regime, but tensions are mounting, and there is word that the protests may spill over into the next day. At that time, however, the protesters will not have the religious cover of Ashura to protect them from what would likely be a much more aggressive crackdown.
27484  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / George Mason and Zacharia Johnson, VA convention 1788; on: December 29, 2009, 08:06:11 AM
"[W]hen the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain, the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, - who was governor of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, but weaken them, and let them sink gradually, by totally disusing and neglecting the militia." --George Mason, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788

"[T]he people are not to be disarmed of their weapons. They are left in full possession of them." --Zacharia Johnson, speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention, 1788

27485  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: December 29, 2009, 08:03:10 AM
January 2009: WASHINGTON — AirTran Airways apologized Friday to nine Muslims kicked off a New Year's Day flight to Florida after other passengers reported hearing a suspicious remark about airplane security. One of the passengers said the confusion started at Reagan National Airport just outside Washington, D.C., when he talked about the safest place to sit on an airplane.

Orlando, Fla.-based AirTran said in a statement that it refunded the passengers' air fare and planned to reimburse them for replacement tickets they bought on US Airways. AirTran also offered to take the passengers back to Washington free of charge.

On November 17, 2009
A group of thirteen men dressed in traditional Muslim attire were among 73 passengers who boarded AirTran Flight 297 on Tuesday, 17 November 2009, a routine flight scheduled to depart Atlanta Hartsfield Airport, gate C-16 at 4:43 PM ET to Houston Hobby Airport. Reports developed by this investigator found two witnesses who observed direct interaction among all of these Muslim men at the terminal.

As the passengers boarded the aircraft, two of the Muslim men took seats in first class, while the remaining eleven were seated throughout the remaining rows of the aircraft. Most had carrying-on bags that they stowed in the overhead compartments above their seats.

As the aircraft began to taxi to the runway, a female flight attendant was beginning to issue the normal passenger advisories over the PA system. Almost on cue at the time passengers were told to turn off all electronic devices, one of the Muslim men seated in the front of the plane began to use his cell phone in a manner that was described by a flight attendant and passenger “as deliberate and obvious.” He was talking loudly in Arabic, nearly at the level of the flight attendant. Some reports suggest that this man actually called another Muslim passenger, although this has not been immediately confirmed. It is possible, however, as another passenger reported that a Muslim man seated toward the rear of the plane answered his cellular phone at the same time the man in the front began using his.

At this point, the flight attendant in the front of the plane approached the Muslim man using his telephone and instructed him to immediately turn it off. A second female flight attendant did the same at the rear of the aircraft. Concurrent with this cellular activity, two other Muslim men seated adjacent near the middle of the aircraft began operating what one passenger described as a palm type camcorder, ostensibly to view previously taken footage. It is possible, according to one flight attendant interviewed by this investigator, however, that the camcorder was being used for recording purposes. Whatever its use, a third flight attendant, aware of the incidents taking place in the front and rear of the aircraft, approached the two men for the purpose of securing the camcorder. At least two passengers reported that the men became abusive to the flight attendant and initially refused to comply with her request.

It was at this time that most of the passengers began to notice the multiple incidents involving over a dozen men dressed in Islamic attire. Next, as if previously rehearsed, at least ten of the 13 Muslim men aboard the aircraft began to leave their seats at the same time. At least one passenger stated she observed one of the Muslim passengers using his cell phone to take photos of other passengers on the aircraft, while one other Muslim passenger sang loudly in Arabic. According to information provided to this investigator from one of the flight crew who was alerted to an onboard emergency, the aircraft was now being taxied back to the terminal. The TSA, FAA and FBI were notified.

At the terminal
Once back at the terminal, the thirteen men were escorted from the aircraft by TSA and security officials. According to a report from an airline security official, their baggage was also removed and searched, the search finding nothing of apparent danger. According to a law enforcement official interviewed by telephone by this investigator on Monday, investigation revealed that all of the Muslim passengers are acquainted with each other and are associated with (or have ties to) a large Islamic center that has been the subject of investigative interest.

According to one aircraft passenger I interviewed, what happened next was “unbelievable” and caused a great deal of upset among the aircraft passengers and flight crew (some who opted off the flight in anger, fear, or admittedly, a mixture of both emotions).

After a lengthy delay while officials dealt with these Muslim passengers, ten (one uncorroborated report suggests 11) of the Muslim passengers were permitted to re-board the same aircraft to complete their flight. Some passengers and flight crew, traumatized by the blatant actions of the Muslim passengers, refused to travel with the Muslims who caused this orchestrated disturbance.

The flight continues
According to flight logs and information from one of the flight crew who continued with the flight, AirTran 297 ultimately departed Atlanta and arrived in Houston later that evening. The flight, however, was not without its curious incidents by the very same Muslim men who caused the initial delay and disturbance.

During the flight, one passenger interviewed by this investigator described the behavior of two of the Muslim passengers as less overt but still suspicious in nature. Without apparent legitimate purpose, one Muslim passenger moved a stowed bag from one part of the aircraft to another, well away from his seated position. Another spoke loudly in Arabic, with all appearing to interact in one form or another.

Ultimately, the flight landed safely and despite the early incidents in Atlanta, the Muslim passengers appeared able to leave freely from the terminal.

Comments from flight crew and airline personnel
As initially stated, proper and accurate investigation takes time to corroborate eyewitness accounts, which are often unreliable, contradictive and in cases like this, colored by emotion. Having interviewed a total of seven-(7) individuals directly involved in this incident over the last several days, including two law enforcement officers who handled the after action reports, the situation pertaining to the initial 13 and remaining 10 or 11 Muslim men allowed to continue their travels was far greater than an incident involving the unauthorized use of a cell phone that resulted in a minor flight delay, as reported by the mainstream media.

According to one airline security official, “This was a deliberate, well planned attempt to disrupt a domestic flight that was organized in advance of the boarding of these [Muslim] passengers. The purpose of their actions appeared to be multi-faceted, not the least of which was an attempt to change their status from passengers to victims of religious profiling. The situation was handled in a manner that we believe might have avoided an incident like USAir had in 2006, where everyone from the passengers who reported suspicious behavior to the airline was subjected to legal action by the Muslim passengers.”

While litigation might have been avoided, passengers and flight crew remain traumatized, and our air travel system was unnecessarily disrupted during one of the busiest air travel weeks in the U.S. The agenda of the Islamists behind this incident is clear, yet no one in the media seems to have the desire to expose these ideological cretins for what they are.

"We apologize to all of the passengers _ to the nine who had to undergo extensive interviews from the authorities and to the 95 who ultimately made the flight," the statement said. "Nobody on Flight 175 reached their destination on time on New Year's Day, and we regret it."

AirTran said the incident was a misunderstanding, but the steps taken were necessary.

Two U.S. Muslim advocacy groups, however, were critical of the airline's actions. The Muslim Public Affairs Council called on federal officials Friday to open an investigation. And the Council for American-Islamic Relations filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation, saying "It is incumbent on any airline to ensure that members of the traveling public are not singled out or mistreated based on their perceived race, religion or national origin."

Bill Adams, a DOT spokesperson, said the department thoroughly investigates discrimination complaints but would not comment further.

One of the Muslim passengers, Atif Irfan, said the family probably would not fly home with AirTran because members had already booked tickets on another airline, but appreciated the apology.

"It's definitely nice to hear," he said.
27486  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Denzel, Inosanto, Imada on: December 28, 2009, 11:53:17 PM
27487  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / National Tea Party forming?!? on: December 28, 2009, 05:29:33 PM
27488  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: December 28, 2009, 11:56:45 AM
I used to think quite a lot of Peggy Noonan, but in the last few years she has become captured by Washington , , , or pre-mature senility.
27489  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: December 28, 2009, 11:54:44 AM



U.S. security for air travel under new scrutiny
Authorities try to reassure public, although system didn't detect bomber
Adding to the airborne jitters, a second Nigerian man was detained Sunday from the same Northwest flight to Detroit after he locked himself in the plane's bathroom. Officials reported that he was belligerent but genuinely sick, and that, in an abundance of caution, the plane was taken to a remote location for screening before passengers were let off.

Investigators concluded he posed no threat.

In November, Abdulmutallab had been placed in a database of more than 500,000 names of people suspected of terrorist ties. But officials say there was not enough information about his terror activity that would have placed him on a watch list that could have kept him from flying.

'Sacrificing himself'
Officials said he came to the attention of U.S. intelligence last month when his father, a prominent Nigerian banker, reported to the American Embassy in Nigeria about his son's increasingly extremist views.

CNBC's Erin Burnett reported in Abuja, Nigeria, that family members had told her that Abdulmutallab's father had told embassy officials in a letter that his son had spoken of "sacrificing himself."

Still, in appearances on Sunday talk shows, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the traveling public "is very, very safe."

"This was one individual literally of thousands that fly and thousands of flights every year," Napolitano said. "And he was stopped before any damage could be done. I think the important thing to recognize here is that once this incident occurred, everything happened that should have."

Even so, airport security and intelligence played no role in thwarting the plot. Abdulmutallab was carrying PETN, also known as pentaerythritol, the same material convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid used when he tried to destroy a trans-Atlantic flight in 2001 with explosives hidden in his shoes. Abdulmutallab is alleged to have carried the explosive in condom-like pouches attached to his body.

Despite being in the database of people with suspected terrorist ties, Abdulmutallab, who comes from a prominent and wealthy Nigerian family, had a multiple-entry U.S. visa. It was issued last year.

Napolitano said Abdulmutallab was properly screened before getting on the flight to Detroit from Amsterdam.

Reviewing detection systems
The administration is also investigating aviation detection systems to see how the alleged attacker managed to get on board the Northwest flight in Amsterdam with explosive materials, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

No other flights were known to have been targeted. However, Gibbs says federal authorities took precautionary steps "to assume and plan for the very worst." Napolitano said there is no indication yet Abdulmutallab is part of a larger terrorist plot, although his possible ties to al-Qaida are still under investigation.

The United States is reviewing what security measures were used in Amsterdam where he boarded the flight.

"Now the forensics are being analyzed with what could have been done," Napolitano said.

Additional security measures are in place at airports around the world that are likely to slow travelers. Napolitano advised getting to airports earlier.

Congress is preparing to hold hearings on what happened and whether rules need to be changed.

"It's amazing to me that an individual like this who was sending out so many signals could end up getting on a plane going to the U.S.," said Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader in the Senate.

On Saturday, two Middle Eastern men thought to have been acting suspicious aboard a flight bound for Phoenix were detained and questioned by federal anti-terrorism authorities before being released. That incident — and Sunday's incident in Detroit — led the Council on American-Islamic Relations to urge airline security personnel to avoid ethnic and religious profiling.

Gibbs appeared on ABC television's "This Week," NBC's "Meet the Press" and CBS' "Face the Nation." Napolitano spoke on CNN's "State of the Union" as well as on NBC and ABC. McConnell appeared on ABC.

I am out the door for several hours.
27490  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: December 28, 2009, 10:02:55 AM
I have no problem with profiling.
27491  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Women at Arms-- a trust betrayed on: December 28, 2009, 10:01:53 AM
Frankly, a lot of this PC by Pravda on the Hudson, apparently the first of a series, strikes me as PC drivel.  Liberals and women are shocked! absolutely schocked! to discover that men in combat zones makes "inappropriate passes", stalk, intimidate, and worse. 

Maybe the traditional Army knew something when the idea of putting women into combat zones first arose?!?   

I've never served and stand ready to be educated by those who have, but to me even the sub-title of the series "a trust betrayed" bespeaks an appeal to "damsel in distress" archetypes.


Women at Arms
A Peril in War Zones: Sexual Abuse by Fellow G.I.’s

Published: December 27, 2009
BAGHDAD — Capt. Margaret H. White began a relationship with a warrant officer while both were training to be deployed to Iraq. By the time they arrived this year at Camp Taji, north of here, she felt what she called “creepy vibes” and tried to break it off.

Specialist Erica A. Beck, a mechanic and gunner who served in in Iraq, recalled a sexual proposition she called “inappropriate.” She did not report it, she said, because she feared that her commanders would have reacted harshly — toward her.

Women at Arms
A Trust Betrayed

In the claustrophobic confines of a combat post, it was not easy to do. He left notes on the door to her quarters, alternately pleading and menacing. He forced her to have sex, she said. He asked her to marry him, though he was already married. He waited for her outside the women’s latrines or her quarters, once for three hours.

“It got to the point that I felt safer outside the wire,” Captain White said, referring to operations that take soldiers off their heavily fortified bases, “than I did taking a shower.”

Her ordeal ended with the military equivalent of a restraining order and charges of stalking against the officer. It is one case that highlights the new and often messy reality the military has had to face as men and women serve side by side in combat zones more than ever before.

Sexual harassment and sexual assault, which the military now defines broadly to include not only rape but also crimes like groping and stalking, continue to afflict the ranks, and by some measures are rising. While tens of thousands of women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, often in combat, often with distinction, the integration of men and women in places like Camp Taji has forced to the surface issues that commanders rarely, if ever confronted before.

The military — belatedly, critics say — has radically changed the way it handles sexual abuse in particular, expanding access to treatment and toughening rules for prosecution. In the hardships of war, though, the effects of the changes remain unclear.

The strains of combat, close quarters in remote locations, tension and even boredom can create the conditions for abuse, even as they hinder medical care for victims and legal proceedings against those who attack them.

Captain White said she had feared coming forward, despite having become increasingly despondent and suffered panic attacks, because she was wary of she-said-he-said recriminations that would reverberate through the tightknit military world and disrupt the mission. Despite the military’s stated “zero tolerance” for abuse or harassment, she had no confidence her case would be taken seriously and so tried to cope on her own, Captain White said.

A Pentagon-appointed task force, in a report released this month, pointedly criticized the military’s efforts to prevent sexual abuse, citing the “unique stresses” of deployments in places like Camp Taji. “Some military personnel indicated that predators may believe they will not be held accountable for their misconduct during deployment because commanders’ focus on the mission overshadows other concerns,” the report said.

That, among other reasons, is why sexual assault and harassment go unreported far more often than not. “You’re in the middle of a war zone,” Captain White said, reflecting a fear many military women describe of being seen, somehow, as harming the mission.

“So it’s kind of like that one little thing is nothing compared with ‘There is an I.E.D. that went off in this convoy today and three people were injured,’ ” she said, referring to an improvised explosive device.

Common Fears

By the Pentagon’s own estimate, as few as 10 percent of sexual assaults are reported, far lower than the percentage reported in the civilian world. Specialist Erica A. Beck, a mechanic and gunner who served in Diyala Province in Iraq this summer, recalled a sexual proposition she called “inappropriate” during her first tour in the country in 2006-7. “Not necessarily being vulgar, but he, you know, was asking for favors,” she said.

She did not report it, she said, because she feared that her commanders would have reacted harshly — toward her.

“It was harassment,” she said. “And because it was a warrant officer, I didn’t say anything. I was just a private.”


Page 2 of 4)

Her fears were common, according to soldiers and advocates who remain skeptical of the military’s efforts to address abuse. A report last year by the Government Accountability Office concluded that victims were reluctant to report attacks “for a variety of reasons, including the belief that nothing would be done or that reporting an incident would negatively impact their careers.”

When Sgt. Tracey R. Phillips told a superior about an unwanted sexual advance from a private the night their unit arrived in Iraq in May, the accusations unleashed a flurry of charges and countercharges, an initial investigation of her on charges of adultery, a crime in the military justice system, and, according to her account, violations by her commanders of the new procedures meant to ease reporting of abuse.

In the end, she was kicked out of Iraq and the Army itself, while the private remained on duty here.

The military disputed her account but declined to state the reasons for sending her out of Iraq. Her paperwork showed that she received an honorable discharge, though with “serious misconduct” cited as the reason. The so-called misconduct, she said, stemmed from the Army’s allegation that she had had an inappropriate relationship with the private she accused. She denied that.

“If I would have never, ever, ever said anything, I wouldn’t be sitting here,” she said in an interview at her parents’ home near San Antonio. “I’d still be in Iraq.”

At bases around Iraq, many said that acceptance and respect for women in uniform were now more common than the opposite. In part, they said, that reflects a sweeping change in military culture that has accompanied the rise of women through the ranks and into more positions once reserved for men.

“It’s not tolerated — it’s just not,” said Lt. Brenda L. Beegle, a married military police officer, referring to sexual harassment and abuse.

In an interview at Liberty Base, near Baghdad’s airport, she said: “Everyone has heard stories about bad things that have happened. I’ve never had an issue.”

Although exact comparisons to the civilian world are difficult because of different methods of defining and reporting abuse, Pentagon officials and some experts say that the incidence of abuse in the military appears to be no higher than in society generally, and might be lower. It appears to be even lower in combat operations than at bases in the United States, because of stricter discipline and scrutiny during deployments, as well as restrictions on alcohol, which is often a factor in assaults, for example, on college campuses.

Complaints Increase

The number of complaints, though, is rising. Across the military, there were 2,908 reported cases of sexual abuse involving service members as victims or assailants, in the fiscal year that ended in September 2008, the last year for which the Pentagon made numbers available. That was an 8 percent increase from the previous year, when there were 2,688.

In the turbulent regions from Egypt to Afghanistan where most American combat troops are now deployed, the increase in reported cases was even sharper: 251 cases, compared with 174 the year before, a 44 percent increase. The number in Iraq rose to 143, from 112 the year before. Everyone agrees that those represent only a fraction of the instances of assault, let alone harassment.

“A woman in the military is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire in Iraq,” Representative Jane Harman, a Democrat from California, said at a Congressional hearing this year, repeating an assertion she has made a refrain in a campaign of hers to force the military to do more to address abuses.

At least 10 percent of the victims in the last year were men, a reality that the Pentagon’s task force said the armed services had done practically nothing to address in terms of counseling, treatment and prosecution. Men are considered even less likely to report attacks, officials said, because of the stigma, and fears that their own sexual orientation would be questioned. In the majority of the reported cases, the attacker was male.

Senior Pentagon officials argued that the increase in reports did not necessarily signify a higher number of attacks. Rather, they said, there is now a greater awareness as well as an improved command climate, encouraging more victims to come forward.

“We believe the increase in the number of reported cases means the department is capturing a greater proportion of the cases that occurred during the year, which is good news,” said the Pentagon’s senior official overseeing abuse policies, Kaye Whitley.


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The military can no more eradicate sexual abuse than can society in general, but soldiers, officers and experts acknowledge that it is particularly harmful when soldiers are in combat zones, affecting not only the victims but also, as the military relies more than ever on women when the nation goes to war, the mission.

“For the military the potential costs are even higher as it can also negatively impact mission readiness,” the Pentagon’s annual report on sexual abuse said, referring to sexual violence. “Service members risk their lives for one another and bear the responsibility of keeping fellow service members out of harm’s way. Sexual assault in the military breaks this bond.”

Even investigations into accusations, which are often difficult to prove, can disrupt operations. In Sergeant Phillips’s case, she was relieved of her duties leading a squad of soldiers refueling emergency rescue helicopters and other aircraft at Camp Kalsu, south of Baghdad.

Cases like hers suggest that the vagaries of sex and sexual abuse, especially in combat zones, continue to vex commanders on the ground, despite the transformation of the military’s policies.

The majority of sexual abuse allegations end with no prosecution at all. Of 2,171 suspects of investigations that were completed during the fiscal year that ended in September 2008, only 317 faced a court-martial. Another 515 faced administrative punishments or discharges. Nearly half of the completed investigations lacked evidence or were “unsubstantiated or unfounded.”

The Pentagon, facing criticism, maintains that it has transformed the way it handles sexual abuse. In the wake of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as highly publicized cases and revelations of rampant abuse at the Air Force Academy in 2003, the Pentagon created a single agency to oversee the issue and rewrote the rules of reporting, treatment and prosecution. Beginning in October 2007, the Uniform Code of Military Justice expanded the provision that once covered rape — Article 120 — to include other offenses, like indecent exposure and stalking.

The Army, which has provided the bulk of the forces in Iraq, has increased the number of investigators and lawyers trained to investigate accusations. Most bases now have kits to collect forensic evidence in rape cases, which was not the case immediately after the invasion in 2003.

Larger field hospitals in Balad and Mosul now have the same type of sexual assault nurse examiners widely used in the civilian world, as well as a dozen other examiners who are not nurses but are trained to conduct forensic examinations.

The military has set up a system of confidential advisers women can turn to who are outside the usual chain of command — an avenue Sergeant Phillips said she had been denied.

If they want to, the women can now seek medical treatment and counseling without setting off a criminal investigation. And all the services have started educational programs to address aspects of a hierarchical warrior culture that some say contributes to hostility toward women. Posters for the campaign blanket bulletin boards in offices, chow halls and recreational buildings on bases across Iraq.

The military’s efforts, however well intentioned, are often undermined by commanders who are skeptical or even conflicted, suspicious of accusations and fearful that reports of abuse reflect badly on their commands. The Pentagon task force also reported that victims of assault did not come forward because they might “have engaged in misconduct for which they could be disciplined, such as under-age drinking, fraternization or adultery.”

Marti Ribeiro, then an Air Force sergeant, said she was raped by another soldier after she stepped away from a guard post in Afghanistan in 2006 to smoke a cigarette, a story first recounted in “The Lonely Soldier,” a book by Helen Benedictabout women who served in Iraq and elsewhere. When she went to the abuse coordinator, she was threatened with prosecution for having left her weapon and her post.

“I didn’t get any help at all, let alone compassion,” said Ms. Ribeiro, who has since retired and joined the Service Women’s Action Network, a new advocacy organization devoted to shaping the Pentagon’s policy.

The hardships of combat operations often compound the anguish of victims and complicate investigations, as well as counseling and treatment. The Government Accountability Office suggested that the “unique living and social circumstances” of combat posts heightened the risk for assault. Both the G.A.O. and the Pentagon’s task force found that, despite the Pentagon’s policy, remote bases did not have adequate medical and mental health services for victims. The task force also found that abuse coordinators and victim advocates were often ill trained or absent.


Page 4 of 4)

As a result, victims often suffer the consequences alone, working in the heat and dust, living in trailers surrounded by gravel and concrete blast walls, with nowhere private to retreat to. In Captain White’s case, she had to work and live beside the man who assaulted and stalked her until their deployment ended in August and they both went home.

“You’re in such a fishbowl,” she said. “You can’t really get away from someone. You see him in the chow hall. You see him in the gym.”

The Danger Nearby

Captain White’s case is typical of many here, according to military lawyers and experts, in that she knew the man she said assaulted her, circumstances that complicated the investigation and prosecution.

She had dated the warrant officer when they arrived in Fort Dix, N.J., for predeployment training with the 56th Stryker Combat Team. The newly revised article of the Uniform Code of Military Justice says that “a current or previous dating relationship by itself” does not constitute consent.

Once at Camp Taji, a sprawling base just north of Baghdad, she grew troubled by his behavior. He cajoled her with presents and sent her e-mail messages. She said that for fear of running into him, she stopped drinking water after 7 p.m. so she would not have to go to the latrine at night alone.

She never came forward herself. Her case came to light only when military prosecutors questioned her about another investigation involving the warrant officer. He was ultimately charged with 19 offenses, said Lt. Col. Philip J. Smith, a spokesman for the division that oversaw operations in central Iraq. The charges included seven counts of fraternization and two of adultery, interfering with an investigation and, in Captain White’s case, stalking.

After their deployment ended in September, the officer pleaded guilty and resigned from the Army in lieu of prosecution, Colonel Smith said.

Captain White said that she was satisfied with the legal outcome of her case, though her account of it highlighted the emotional strains that sexual abuse causes.

“I’m not saying that I handled it the best way,” she said in an interview after her own retirement from the Army, “but I handled it at the time and in the situation what I thought was the best way, which was just to keep my head down, keep going — which was kind of an Army thing to say: Drive on.”
27492  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on: December 28, 2009, 09:45:46 AM
Second post:

More Questions on Why Terror Suspect Was Not Stopped

Published: December 27, 2009
WASHINGTON — When a prominent Nigerian banker and former government official phoned the American Embassy in Abuja in October with a warning that his son had developed radical views, had disappeared and might have traveled to Yemen, embassy officials did not revoke the young man’s visa to enter the United States, which was good until June 2010.

The police searched the basement of a building in London, where it is believed that Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab had been a student.
Instead, officials said Sunday, they marked the file of the son, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, for a full investigation should he ever reapply for a visa. And when they passed the information on to Washington, Mr. Abdulmutallab’s name was added to 550,000 others with some alleged terrorist connections — but not to the no-fly list. That meant no flags were raised when he used cash to buy a ticket to the United States and boarded a plane, checking no bags.

Now that Mr. Abdulmutallab is charged with trying to blow up a transcontinental airliner over Detroit on Christmas Day, some members of Congress are urgently questioning why, eight years after the Sept. 11 attacks, security measures still cannot keep makeshift bombs off airliners.

On Sunday, as criticism mounted that security lapses had led to a brush with disaster, President Obama ordered a review of the two major planks of the aviation security system — the creation of watch lists and the use of detection equipment at airport checkpoints.

At the same time, a jittery air travel system coped with a new scare. On the same flight that Mr. Abdulmutallab took on Friday — Northwest 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit — an ailing Nigerian man who spent a long time in the restroom inadvertently set off a security alert. It turned out to be a false alarm.

Officials in several countries, meanwhile, worked to retrace Mr. Abdulmutallab’s path and to look for security holes. In Nigeria, officials said he arrived in Lagos on Christmas Eve, just hours before departing for Amsterdam. American officials were tracking his travels to Yemen, and Scotland Yard investigators were checking on his connections in London, where he studied from 2005 to 2008 at University College London and was president of the Islamic Society.

Obama administration officials scrambled to portray the episode, in which passengers and flight attendants subdued Mr. Abdulmutallab and doused the fire he had started, as a test that the air safety system passed.

“The system has worked really very, very smoothly over the course of the past several days,” Janet Napolitano, the Homeland Security secretary said, in an interview on “This Week” on ABC. Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman, used nearly the same language on “Face the Nation” on CBS, saying that “in many ways, this system has worked.”

But counterterrorism experts and members of Congress were hardly willing to praise what they said was a security system that had proved to be not nimble enough to respond to the ever-creative techniques devised by would-be terrorists.

Congressional leaders said the tip from Mr. Abdulmutallab’s father, Alhaji Umaru Mutallab, should have resulted in closer scrutiny of the suspect before he boarded the plane in Amsterdam. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, the ranking minority member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said that his visa should have been revoked, or that he at least should have been given a physical pat-down or a full-body scan.

“This individual should not have been missed,” Ms. Collins said in an interview on Sunday. “Clearly, there should have been a red flag next to his name.”

The episode has renewed a debate that has quietly continued since the 2001 attacks over the proper balance between security and privacy. The government has spent the last several years cutting the size of the watch list, after repeated criticism that too many people were being questioned at border crossings or checkpoints. Now it may be asked to expand it again.

“You are second-guessed one day and criticized on another,” said one Transportation Security Administration official, who asked not to be named because he was not authorized to discuss the matter.

Privacy advocates, for example, have tried to stop or at least slow the introduction of advanced checkpoint screening devices that use so-called millimeter waves to create an image of a passenger’s body, so officers can see under clothing to determine if a weapon or explosive has been hidden. Security officers, in a private area, review the images, which are not stored. Legislation is pending in the House that would prohibit the use of this equipment for routine passenger screening.

To date, only 40 of these machines have been installed at 19 airports across the United States — meaning only a tiny fraction of passengers pass through them. Amsterdam’s airport has 15 of these machines — more than just about any airport in the world — but an official there said Sunday that they were prohibited from using them on passengers bound for the United States, for a reason she did not explain.

(Page 2 of 2)

Michael Chertoff, former secretary of homeland security, and Kip Hawley, who ran the Transportation Security Administration until January, said the new body-scanning machines were a critical tool that should quickly be installed in more airports nationwide.

Machines using millimeter-wave technology scan under passengers' clothes, but only 40 have been installed at U.S. airports.
For now, American aviation officials have mandated that airports across the world do physical pat-downs of passengers on flights headed to the United States, a practice that in the past has also raised privacy objections.
“I understand people have issue with privacy,” Mr. Hawley said Sunday. “But that is a tradeoff, and what happened on the plane just highlights what the stakes are.”

So far, an additional 150 full-body imaging machines have been ordered, but nationwide there are approximately 2,200 checkpoint screening lanes.

One subject of the administration’s security review will be the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or Tide, the extensive collection of data on more than 500,000 people into which the warning from Mr. Abdulmutallab’s father’s was entered.

A law enforcement official said it was not unusual that a one-time comment from a relative would not place a person on the far smaller no-fly list, which has only 4,000 names, or the so-called selectee list of 14,000 names of people who are subjected to more thorough searches at checkpoints.

The point of the Tide database, the official said, is to make sure even the most minor suspicious details are recorded so that they can be connected to new data in the future.

“The information goes in there, and it’s available to all the agencies,” the official said. “The point is to marry up data from different sources over time that may indicate an individual might be a terrorist.”

The debate over watch lists and screening will be shaped in part by the still-emerging details about Mr. Abdulmutallab, his radicalization, his alleged training in Yemen and the bombing attempt. On Sunday, officials were still examining his claim that he received help from a bomb expert in Yemen associated with Al Qaeda.

Mr. Abdulmutallab was moved on Sunday from a University of Michigan hospital and transferred to a federal prison in Milan, Mich.

Mr. Mutallab, the suspect’s father, was scheduled to make a public statement on Monday after talking to Nigerian security officials in Abuja. A cousin of Mr. Abdulmutallab, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to offend the family, said in an interview on Sunday that there was no sign of radicalism in Mr. Abdulmutallab while he was growing up in Nigeria, though he was devout.

“We understand that he met some people who influenced him while in London,” where Mr. Abdulmutallab studied engineering, the cousin said. “He left London and went to Yemen where, we suspect, he mixed up with the people that put him up to this whole business.”

He added: “I think his father is embarrassed by the whole thing, because that was not the way he brought the boy up. All of us are shocked by it.”
27493  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / ISI on: December 28, 2009, 09:36:35 AM
A page of interesting articles on the ISI by the NYT/POTH.  Yes, yes, I know the source, so caveat emptor:
27494  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: December 28, 2009, 09:31:02 AM
The world-wide war of Islamo Fascism on civilization continues and, stimulated by American and Western weakness, appears to enter a new phase.

GM, glad to see that you too are a fan of the Israeli approach.

I will reject the conclusion of the Crudelle piece though:  "But it is a fact that a lot of the financial problems we are now experiencing - including federal deficits, a declining housing market, banking problems, the sickly dollar and a large drop in overall confidence - have, to one degree or another, grown from the aftermath of what happened seven years ago."

War is really expensive, but the problems we face are because of a government created credit bubble which burst.  (The Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government pushing guaranteeing mortgages of the most insane sort, the Fed running interest rates that were effectively zero, the Community Reinvestment Act, the purchase of Congress by these interests, and so much more of this sort)  We could afford this war but for the deranged policies being pursued by our President and his vast left wing conspiracy.
27495  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Reports of the demise of the Death Tax have been exagerated on: December 27, 2009, 09:16:09 PM
Thinking Hard About Retirement and Death

Published: December 25, 2009
WITH 2010 a few days away, there are several tax matters that wealthy investors need to consider next year. The two at the top of the list are whether they should convert their taxable retirement account to a tax-free Roth individual retirement account and how to deal with the uncertainty over the estate tax.

Janine Racanelli, managing director of the Advice Lab, says there are ways to give money to grandchildren other than through an estate.

Jere Doyle, wealth strategist at Bank of New York Mellon, said the wealthy should not get their hopes up for an end to the estate tax.

“There is frustration due to the legislative uncertainty,” said Daniel Kesten, partner in the private client services group at Davis & Gilbert, a tax firm. “Congress had eight years to address this, but they waited until the last year when two wars and health care interrupted their thinking.”

That leaves the wealthy with decisions to make about two of the biggest financial events of their life: retirement and death.

ROTH CONVERSION Starting in 2010, there will no longer be an income limit for Roth I.R.A.’s, which allow people to contribute post-tax money that can appreciate tax-free. The income limit has been $100,000 a year for individuals. The question is whether converting an existing I.R.A., the proceeds of which are taxed when distributed, into a tax-free Roth I.R.A. makes sense.

While Congress approved the change in 2006, the opportunity to convert seems to come at an enticing time. Those whose pretax retirement accounts lost a lot of their value in the last two years might want to withdraw the money, pay tax on the amount and then put it into a Roth. For wealthy investors who do not see themselves falling into a lower income tax bracket at retirement or who believe tax rates will rise significantly, this could be a shrewd move.

But this requires a degree of omniscience that few showed with the recession that began in December 2007. “Why bother?” asked Tony Guernsey, head of national wealth management at Wilmington Trust. “Is it that much money?” He used the example of buying a Treasury bill with a week to maturity: you know the government will pay you back. But the same cannot be said for what the tax landscape — or your wealth — will look like when you retire.

The bigger benefit may come to people who plan to pass their Roth on to heirs. Unlike regular retirement accounts, there is no minimum distribution requirement with a Roth, and the tax-free treatment of its assets can be passed to an heir. “The real benefit is coming in the estate planning aspects,” said Mitch Drossman, national wealth strategist for Bank of America private wealth management. “The beneficiary must take minimum distributions. But it will be growing tax-free and distributed tax-free.”

ESTATE TAX The elephant in the room is the estate tax. Congress has adjourned for the year without making any changes in that tax law. So as of now, that means the tax will disappear in 2010 before reverting in 2011 to the old rate of 55 percent for estates worth more than $1 million.

Jere Doyle, wealth strategist at Bank of New York Mellon, said the wealthy should not get their hopes up for an end to the estate tax. He pointed out that an estate did not have to submit its first tax bill until nine months after a person’s death. The Senate could wait, then, until the summer to decide on the estate tax and make it retroactive to the beginning of the year. This would wreak havoc on estate planning. Even if the Senate acted early in the coming year, it could still lead to a flurry of legal challenges on the constitutionality of reinstating a tax that had disappeared.

But there is a broader issue for moderately wealthy people. When a person dies now, the value of his or her assets gets a “step-up in basis,” which means for tax purposes the assets are valued on the day of death. Without an estate tax, this provision disappears, and the appreciated value is subject to capital gains tax.

The Internal Revenue Service will grant a $1.3 million “artificial basis” on assets of a single person and $3 million for couples if the estate tax disappears. But on the rest of the assets, the heirs will have to determine what the original cost was and pay the capital gains on the appreciated amount. For long-held stock that has split many times, this could be extremely difficult.

“If there is no estate tax in 2010, we have an income tax problem for a larger group of the population,” Mr. Kesten said. He estimated that the number of people affected would go from 6,000 to 60,000.

Still, most advisers and accountants expect that an estate tax will be reinstated, and this has pushed the wealthiest to find new ways to reduce its impact. “If we’re resigned to an estate tax existing, it’s not a call on where rates will go but an acknowledgment we won’t have a repeal,” said Janine Racanelli, managing director and head of the Advice Lab at J. P. Morgan Private Bank.

One way is through giving money to heirs above the $1 million lifetime exemption level and paying the 45 percent gift tax now. This may seem odd at first, since the estate tax is currently the same rate. But the benefit comes from how the taxes are applied: the gift tax is added like sales tax, while the estate tax is deducted like income tax. Mr. Kesten noted that a person with a $30 million estate could give roughly $20 million to his heirs during his lifetime and pay $10 million in gift taxes, or he could leave the $30 million to them and they would receive $15 million, after estate taxes.

Ms. Racanelli points out that giving money to grandchildren above the exemption rate is also better than leaving it to them through the estate. She said a person could save more than $500,000 in taxes on $1 million by giving the money now.

An option to avoid gift and estate taxes is to lend money to heirs. The Internal Revenue Service rate for such intrafamily loans in December is 0.69 percent for up to three years. The money the child makes investing above the I.R.S. rate is not subject to the higher 45 percent gift tax, but instead the lower 15 percent capital gains tax, Mr. Doyle said. If you die before the loan is repaid, however, the outstanding balance could be subject to income tax.

GIFT TAX EXCLUSION One of the most basic but highly effective estate tax strategies is the annual gift tax exclusion. The I.R.S. in 2009 allowed people to give up to $13,000 a year to anyone they wanted, tax-free. (This exclusion is separate from the $1 million lifetime exemption.)

But this is something that many wealthier people overlook, said Phyllis Silverman, vice president and senior trust adviser at PNC Wealth Management. “They’re all very busy and the idea of $13,000 per individual may not make an impact on their minds,” she said. “But when they sit down with their financial adviser, they can see how it will lower their estate costs.”

For those with an estate subject to a 45 percent estate tax, each $13,000 gift will save them at least $5,520 in estate tax, Ms Silverman said. Or consider this example: A married couple with a $10 million estate gives $13,000 a year each to six people for a decade. At the end of that time, they will have given $1.56 million tax-free. Based on the current estate tax rate, they will have also saved $702,000 in taxes by moving that money out of their estate before they die.
27496  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: SF in Afpakia on: December 27, 2009, 08:57:29 PM
lite U.S. Force Expanding Hunt in Afghanistan
Kevin Frayer/Associated Press
American and Afghan troops in Helmand Province. Special Operations units are stepping up attacks on insurgents, officers say.

Published: December 26, 2009
BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan — Secretive branches of the military’s Special Operations forces have increased counterterrorism missions against some of the most lethal groups in Afghanistan and, because of their success, plan an even bigger expansion next year, according to American commanders.

Skip to next paragraph
The New York Times
Officers at Bagram Air Base expect a major fight in Marja.

The commandos, from the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy’s classified Seals units, have had success weakening the network of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the strongest Taliban warrior in eastern Afghanistan, the officers said. Mr. Haqqani’s group has used its bases in neighboring Pakistan to carry out deadly strikes in and around Kabul, the Afghan capital.

Guided by intercepted cellphone communications,(WTF?!?  Why does the NYTimes/Pravda on the Hudson insist on putting this sort of intel out there?!?) the American commandos have also killed some important Taliban operatives in Marja, the most fearsome Taliban stronghold in Helmand Province in the south, the officers said. Marine commanders say they believe that there are some 1,000 fighters holed up in the town.

Although President Obama and his top aides have not publicly discussed these highly classified missions as part of the administration’s revamped strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the counterterrorism operations are expected to increase, along with the deployment of 30,000 more American forces in the next year.

The increased counterterrorism operations over the past three or four months reflect growth in every part of the Afghanistan campaign, including conventional forces securing the population, other troops training and partnering with Afghan security forces, and more civilians to complement and capitalize on security gains.

American commanders in Afghanistan rely on the commando units to carry out some of the most complicated operations against militant leaders, and the missions are never publicly acknowledged.

The commandos are the same elite forces that have been pursuing Osama bin Laden, captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq in 2003 and led the hunt that ended in 2006 in the death of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader in Iraq of the insurgent group Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

In recent interviews here, commanders explained that the special-mission units from the Joint Special Operations Command were playing a pivotal role in hurting some of the toughest militant groups, and buying some time before American reinforcements arrived and more Afghan security forces could be trained.

“They are extremely effective in the areas where we are focused,” said one American general in Afghanistan about the commandos, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the classified status of the missions.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, who is in charge of the military’s Central Command, mentioned the increased focus on counterterrorism operations in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Dec. 9. But he spoke more obliquely about the teams actually conducting attacks against hard-core Taliban extremists, particularly those in rural areas outside the reach of population centers that conventional forces will focus on.

“We actually will be increasing our counterterrorist component of the overall strategy,” General Petraeus told lawmakers. “There’s no question you’ve got to kill or capture those bad guys that are not reconcilable. And we are intending to do that, and we will have additional national mission force elements to do that when the spring rolls around.”

Senior military officials say it is not surprising that the commandos are playing such an important role in the fight, particularly because Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the senior American and NATO officer in Afghanistan, led the Joint Special Operations Command for five years.

In addition to the classified American commando missions, military officials say that other NATO special operations forces have teamed up with Afghan counterparts to attack Taliban bomb-making networks and other militant cells.

About six weeks ago, allied and Afghan special operations forces killed about 150 Taliban fighters in several villages near Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan, a senior NATO military official said.

Some missions have killed Taliban fighters while searching for Pfc. Bowe R. Bergdahl, who was reported missing on June 30 in eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban in July posted a video on jihadist Web sites in which the soldier identified himself and said that he had been captured when he lagged behind on a patrol. A second video was released on Friday.

“We’ve been hitting them hard, but I want to be careful not to overstate our progress,” said the NATO official, speaking on the condition of anonymity in order to describe the operations in detail. “It has not yet been decisive.”

In Helmand, more than 10,000 Marines, as well as Afghan and British forces, are gearing up for a major confrontation in Marja early next year. Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, the senior Marine commander in the south, said in a recent interview, “The overt message we’re putting out is, Marja is next.”

General Nicholson said there were both “kinetic and nonkinetic shaping operations” under way. In military parlance that means covert operations, including stealthy commando raids against specific targets, as well as an overt propaganda campaign intended to persuade some Taliban fighters to defect.

Military officials say the commandos are mindful of General McChrystal’s directive earlier this year to take additional steps to prevent civilian casualties.

In February, before General McChrystal was named to his current position, the head of the Joint Special Operations Command, Vice Adm. William H. McRaven, ordered a halt to most commando missions in Afghanistan, reflecting a growing concern that civilian deaths caused by American firepower were jeopardizing broader goals there.

The halt, which lasted about two weeks, came after a series of nighttime raids by Special Operations troops killed women and children, and after months of mounting outrage in Afghanistan about civilians killed in air and ground attacks. The order covered all commando missions except those against the top leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, military officials said.

Across the border in Pakistan, where American commandos are not permitted to operate, the Central Intelligence Agency has stepped up its missile strikes by Predator and Reaper drones on groups like the Haqqani network.

But an official with Pakistan’s main spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or I.S.I., said there had also been more than 60 joint operations involving the I.S.I. and the C.I.A. in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Baluchistan in the past year.

The official said the missions included “snatch and grabs” — the abduction of important militants — as well as efforts to kill leaders. These operations were based on intelligence provided by either the United States or Pakistan to be used against the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the official said.

“We can expect to see more U.S. action against Haqqani,” a senior American diplomat in Pakistan said in a recent interview.

The increasing tempo of commando operations in Afghanistan has caused some strains with other American commanders. Many of the top Special Operations forces, as well as intelligence analysts and surveillance aircraft, are being moved to Afghanistan from Iraq, as the Iraq war begins to wind down.

“It’s caused some tensions over resources,” said Lt. Gen. Charles H. Jacoby Jr., the second-ranking commander in Iraq.

Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from Islamabad, Pakistan.
27497  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: We the unorganized militia on: December 27, 2009, 10:54:24 AM
From an article by Randy Barnett titled, "The Unorganized Militia is Once Again Needed" found on the legal blog,

According to press reports, a passenger helped subdue the terrorist who was attempting to bring down Northwest #253. This again highlights the importance of the unorganized militia in asymetric warfare. In Saved by the Militia, I offered this analysis in the wake of the success of the general militia on United Airlines #93 in defending Washington from terrorist attack on 9/11:
The characterization of these heroes as members of the militia is not just the opinion of one law professor. It is clearly stated in Federal statutes. Perhaps you will not believe me unless I quote Section 311 of US Code Title 10, entitled, “Militia: composition and classes” in its entirety (with emphases added):
“(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are —
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.”
This is not to score political points at a moment of great tragedy, though had the murderers on these four airplanes been armed with guns rather than knives, reminders of this fact would never end. Rather, that it was militia members who saved whatever was the terrorists’ target — whether the White House or the Capitol — at the cost of their lives points in the direction of practical steps — in some cases the only practical steps — to reduce the damage cause by any future attacks.

You might want to click through to read the whole thing, which includes this:
Here is the cold hard fact of the matter that will be evaded and denied but which must never be forgotten in these discussions: Often — whether on an airplane, subway, cruise ship, or in a high school — only self defense by the “unorganized militia” will be available when domestic or foreign terrorists chose their next moment of murder. And here is the public-policy implication of this fact: It would be better if the militia were more prepared to act when it is needed. (emphasis in original)
And ends with this:
A well-regulated militia does not require a draft or any compulsory training. Nor, as Alexander Hamilton recognized, need training be universal. “To attempt such a thing which would abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable extent, would be unwise,” he wrote in Federalist 29, “and the experiment, if made, could not succeed, because it would not long be endured.” But Congress has the constitutional power to create training programs in effective self-defense including training in small arms — marksmanship, tactics, and gun safety — for any American citizen who volunteers. Any guess how many millions would take weapons training at government expense or even for a modest fee if generally offered?
Rather than provide for training and encouraging persons to be able to defend themselves — and to exercise their training responsibly — powerful lobbying groups have and will continue to advocate passivity and disarmament. The vociferous anti-self-defense, anti-gun crusaders of the past decades will not give up now. Instead they will shift our focus to restrictions on American liberties that will be ineffective against future attacks. [snip]
Rather than make war on the American people and their liberties, however, Congress should be looking for ways to empower them to protect themselves when warranted. The Founders knew — and put in the form of a written guarantee — the proposition that the individual right to keep and bear arms was the principal means of preserving a militia that was “essential,” in a free state, to provide personal and collective self-defense against criminals of all stripes, both domestic and foreign.
A renewed commitment to a well-regulated militia would not be a panacea for crime and terrorism, but neither will any other course of action now being recommended or adopted. We have long been told that, in a modern world, the militia is obsolete. Put aside the fact that the importance of the militia to a “the security of a free state” is hardwired into the text of the Constitution. The events of this week have shown that the militia is far from obsolete in a world where war is waged by cells as well as states. It is long past time we heeded the words of the Founders and end the systematic effort to disarm Americans. Now is also the time to consider what it would take in practical terms to well-regulate the now-unorganized militia, so no criminal will feel completely secure when confronting one or more of its members.
In this column, I was not advocating arming passengers on airplanes (though I would not rule out such a policy if properly regulated). My reference to weapons training concerned other sorts of terrorist attacks where weapons are essential for individual and collective self-defense. One recent example is the terrorist attack on Fort Hood–a mandated “gun free zone”–where military and civilians were slaughtered until armed police officers arrived on the scene and were able to incapacitate the attacker using their handguns. Yet another example of how demonized handguns are a useful tool when in the right hands. Lives would have been saved if some of the army and militia members in the kill zone had been armed. Instead of empowering them to act as militia members, however, they became victims.
One reaction to my column was to ridicule the identification of passengers with militia members. (Here some will predictably dismiss the point by noting that this passenger was a Dutchman, not an American.) Of course, if the general militia consists of the able bodied population as a whole, then this is simply what the word “militia” means, though some want to identify the term with the organized militia. (Of course, the U.S. Code should be revised to include women, and even folks my age.) So it is not lost, the point of my column was three fold:
Contrary to what is claimed by many, the need for a militia continues to exist even in a world of hyper-lethal armies, and especially when engaged in asymetric warfare;
Given this need, it would be better that the militia was well-regulated, which is within the enumerated powers of Congress;
This regulation need not entail any conscription, but voluntary training programs so people feel empowered to defend themselves, as Jasper Schuringa on Northwest #253 apparently did (though he reportedly had to dive over more passive passengers to get to the terrorist), and conscious of their responsibilities as militia members to act when an emergency arises that prevents organized law enforcement or military authorities from taking action.
For those who still resist this idea, let me suggest that general militia membership is a socially constructed state of mind and is one to be encouraged and honed rather than discouraged and ridiculed.
27498  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: December 27, 2009, 10:52:29 AM
Second post:

From an article by Randy Barnett titled, "The Unorganized Militia is Once Again Needed" found on the legal blog,

According to press reports, a passenger helped subdue the terrorist who was attempting to bring down Northwest #253. This again highlights the importance of the unorganized militia in asymetric warfare. In Saved by the Militia, I offered this analysis in the wake of the success of the general militia on United Airlines #93 in defending Washington from terrorist attack on 9/11:
The characterization of these heroes as members of the militia is not just the opinion of one law professor. It is clearly stated in Federal statutes. Perhaps you will not believe me unless I quote Section 311 of US Code Title 10, entitled, “Militia: composition and classes” in its entirety (with emphases added):
“(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
(b) The classes of the militia are —
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.”
This is not to score political points at a moment of great tragedy, though had the murderers on these four airplanes been armed with guns rather than knives, reminders of this fact would never end. Rather, that it was militia members who saved whatever was the terrorists’ target — whether the White House or the Capitol — at the cost of their lives points in the direction of practical steps — in some cases the only practical steps — to reduce the damage cause by any future attacks.

You might want to click through to read the whole thing, which includes this:
Here is the cold hard fact of the matter that will be evaded and denied but which must never be forgotten in these discussions: Often — whether on an airplane, subway, cruise ship, or in a high school — only self defense by the “unorganized militia” will be available when domestic or foreign terrorists chose their next moment of murder. And here is the public-policy implication of this fact: It would be better if the militia were more prepared to act when it is needed. (emphasis in original)
And ends with this:
A well-regulated militia does not require a draft or any compulsory training. Nor, as Alexander Hamilton recognized, need training be universal. “To attempt such a thing which would abridge the mass of labor and industry to so considerable extent, would be unwise,” he wrote in Federalist 29, “and the experiment, if made, could not succeed, because it would not long be endured.” But Congress has the constitutional power to create training programs in effective self-defense including training in small arms — marksmanship, tactics, and gun safety — for any American citizen who volunteers. Any guess how many millions would take weapons training at government expense or even for a modest fee if generally offered?
Rather than provide for training and encouraging persons to be able to defend themselves — and to exercise their training responsibly — powerful lobbying groups have and will continue to advocate passivity and disarmament. The vociferous anti-self-defense, anti-gun crusaders of the past decades will not give up now. Instead they will shift our focus to restrictions on American liberties that will be ineffective against future attacks. [snip]
Rather than make war on the American people and their liberties, however, Congress should be looking for ways to empower them to protect themselves when warranted. The Founders knew — and put in the form of a written guarantee — the proposition that the individual right to keep and bear arms was the principal means of preserving a militia that was “essential,” in a free state, to provide personal and collective self-defense against criminals of all stripes, both domestic and foreign.
A renewed commitment to a well-regulated militia would not be a panacea for crime and terrorism, but neither will any other course of action now being recommended or adopted. We have long been told that, in a modern world, the militia is obsolete. Put aside the fact that the importance of the militia to a “the security of a free state” is hardwired into the text of the Constitution. The events of this week have shown that the militia is far from obsolete in a world where war is waged by cells as well as states. It is long past time we heeded the words of the Founders and end the systematic effort to disarm Americans. Now is also the time to consider what it would take in practical terms to well-regulate the now-unorganized militia, so no criminal will feel completely secure when confronting one or more of its members.
In this column, I was not advocating arming passengers on airplanes (though I would not rule out such a policy if properly regulated). My reference to weapons training concerned other sorts of terrorist attacks where weapons are essential for individual and collective self-defense. One recent example is the terrorist attack on Fort Hood–a mandated “gun free zone”–where military and civilians were slaughtered until armed police officers arrived on the scene and were able to incapacitate the attacker using their handguns. Yet another example of how demonized handguns are a useful tool when in the right hands. Lives would have been saved if some of the army and militia members in the kill zone had been armed. Instead of empowering them to act as militia members, however, they became victims.
One reaction to my column was to ridicule the identification of passengers with militia members. (Here some will predictably dismiss the point by noting that this passenger was a Dutchman, not an American.) Of course, if the general militia consists of the able bodied population as a whole, then this is simply what the word “militia” means, though some want to identify the term with the organized militia. (Of course, the U.S. Code should be revised to include women, and even folks my age.) So it is not lost, the point of my column was three fold:
Contrary to what is claimed by many, the need for a militia continues to exist even in a world of hyper-lethal armies, and especially when engaged in asymetric warfare;
Given this need, it would be better that the militia was well-regulated, which is within the enumerated powers of Congress;
This regulation need not entail any conscription, but voluntary training programs so people feel empowered to defend themselves, as Jasper Schuringa on Northwest #253 apparently did (though he reportedly had to dive over more passive passengers to get to the terrorist), and conscious of their responsibilities as militia members to act when an emergency arises that prevents organized law enforcement or military authorities from taking action.
For those who still resist this idea, let me suggest that general militia membership is a socially constructed state of mind and is one to be encouraged and honed rather than discouraged and ridiculed.
27499  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: December 27, 2009, 10:44:53 AM
Not necessary that and I'd like to ask that we avoid that tone in the future. sad

Returning to the subject at hand, my "libertarian sensibilities" (which I received from our Founding Fathers btw) have nothing to do with the apparent , , , missteps in the case of the moment.

According to reports I saw last night on Greta Van Sustern on FOX (i.e. one hopes for confirmation) the father of the jihadi is the head of the largest bank in Nigeria, is a Muslim and a prominent citizen, reported his own son over a month ago as a jihadi risk. The jihadi apparently has been on some lesser risk lists for some two years now. The jihadi got on the plane in Amsterdam with no luggage and paid cash.  Frankly, it seems like the proper use of intel that was already possessed would have been sufficient to stop this one before it even got going. 

Instead of a demand for bureaucratic competence, apparently the response is that the airlines get to save money by not being allowed to issue pillows and blankets because the jihadi fiddled to set his bomb underwear off under a blanket-- so people with have to bring their jackets on board if they don't want to run the risk of being cold.  Shrewd  rolleyes 

And because he made his attempt in the last hour of a transatlantic flight, we all now will be denied use of the bathroom for the last hour of the flight.  Again, I am not sure of the logic.  If the idea is to screw up the operations of an airport by blowing a plane up over it, tt would seem to me that it would make more sense to blow up the plane as it was taking off i.e. with full gas tanks-- but I am just a lay person winging it on this point.  Regardless, does this no-bathroom-in-the-last-hour rule make sense to you?

Or maybe they should simply pay attention when a father warns them of his son, is on various lists, and pays with cash and gets on with no luggage?  Maybe they should follow the El Al approach?  I'd rather avoid proctology though, thank you very much-- which bring us to my intended point about the Saudi jihadi with the bomb up his anus:t maybe there are some risks which can not be prevented.

Anyway, God bless the American Unorganzed Militia, which saved us once again.
27500  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: December 26, 2009, 11:32:08 PM
TSA is gathering intel?!?  That is news to me , , ,

Anyway, please do not paint me as an all or nothing cardboard stereotype.  I think I have a pretty good record around here. 
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