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27501  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: September 30, 2010, 11:24:59 AM
Here's Stratfor's report on the same matter:

Pakistan Blocks ISAF Supply Lines After Border Incident
September 30, 2010 | 1332 GMT

NATO supply trucks traveling through the Khyber PassRelated Special Topic Page
The War in Afghanistan
Attack helicopters supporting International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops on the Afghan-Pakistani border reportedly fired upon a Pakistani Frontier Corps position Sept. 30, killing three paramilitary Frontier Corps troops and wounding three others. According to Pakistani media reports, there have been two incidents of ISAF attack helicopters engaging targets in Pakistan. One took place before dawn and one at 9:30 a.m. local time, both northwest of Parachinar, the main town in the Kurram agency of Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, according to preliminary reports. The ISAF forces were operating in the Dand Patan district of Afghanistan’s Paktia province. ISAF has claimed that its troops were responding to mortar fire and remained on the Afghan side of the border, and it believes that at least one of the two places engaged by close air support could have been on the Afghan side of the border. The Pakistani government quickly issued strong condemnation of the incident.

(click here to enlarge image)
There is no shortage of potential scenarios for what actually happened on the ground. ISAF troops are regularly engaged from the Pakistani side of the border, and cross-border exchanges of fire and fighting on the border are common. ISAF may have even been fired upon from the Frontier Corps position. Or it may have been an error on the ISAF’s part and the Frontier Corps position was accidentally or inappropriately engaged. Pakistan has suggested that the Frontier Corps position was deliberately engaged.

But the facts in this case are really beside the point. According to a well-placed STRATFOR source in Pakistan, the Pakistani army’s General Headquarters considers this the fourth incident in less than a week — and the most offensive because the Pakistanis believe their troops were directly targeted. Just two days earlier, Pakistan warned that it would stop protecting ISAF supply lines to Afghanistan if foreign aircraft continued engaging targets across the border. Following through on that threat, the Pakistanis closed the border crossing over the Khyber Pass at Torkham in response to the Sept. 30 incident.

It is not yet clear how long the border will remain closed in protest. Short disruptions are completely manageable logistically in Afghanistan and have been accommodated in the past. But the government in Islamabad has been feeling increased pressure as U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle strikes on militant positions in Pakistan’s tribal areas have increased, and widespread domestic dissatisfaction with the response to the humanitarian disaster caused by flooding earlier this year has only further strained the government.

Domestically, Islamabad has little room to compromise or back down on this. Moving forward, the key issue is not the facts of this particular incident, but the Pakistani government’s response — essentially whether this is largely for show, and what Islamabad demands of the United States operationally. At this stage it is unclear how long this situation will persist but it is very likely that the move to block the supply route was designed to force the United States to back off from the latest wave of cross-border operations.

27502  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Israel? on: September 30, 2010, 11:18:07 AM
In a Computer Worm, a Possible Biblical Clue
Published: September 29, 2010

Deep inside the computer worm that some specialists suspect is aimed at slowing Iran’s race for a nuclear weapon lies what could be a fleeting reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them.

That use of the word “Myrtus” — which can be read as an allusion to Esther — to name a file inside the code is one of several murky clues that have emerged as computer experts try to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue Stuxnet program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment.

Not surprisingly, the Israelis are not saying whether Stuxnet has any connection to the secretive cyberwar unit it has built inside Israel’s intelligence service. Nor is the Obama administration, which while talking about cyberdefenses has also rapidly ramped up a broad covert program, inherited from the Bush administration, to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. In interviews in several countries, experts in both cyberwar and nuclear enrichment technology say the Stuxnet mystery may never be solved.

There are many competing explanations for myrtus, which could simply signify myrtle, a plant important to many cultures in the region. But some security experts see the reference as a signature allusion to Esther, a clear warning in a mounting technological and psychological battle as Israel and its allies try to breach Tehran’s most heavily guarded project. Others doubt the Israelis were involved and say the word could have been inserted as deliberate misinformation, to implicate Israel.

“The Iranians are already paranoid about the fact that some of their scientists have defected and several of their secret nuclear sites have been revealed,” one former intelligence official who still works on Iran issues said recently. “Whatever the origin and purpose of Stuxnet, it ramps up the psychological pressure.”

So a calling card in the code could be part of a mind game, or sloppiness or whimsy from the coders.

The malicious code has appeared in many countries, notably China, India, Indonesia and Iran. But there are tantalizing hints that Iran’s nuclear program was the primary target. Officials in both the United States and Israel have made no secret of the fact that undermining the computer systems that control Iran’s huge enrichment plant at Natanz is a high priority. (The Iranians know it, too: They have never let international inspectors into the control room of the plant, the inspectors report, presumably to keep secret what kind of equipment they are using.)

The fact that Stuxnet appears designed to attack a certain type of Siemens industrial control computer, used widely to manage oil pipelines, electrical power grids and many kinds of nuclear plants, may be telling. Just last year officials in Dubai seized a large shipment of those controllers — known as the Simatic S-7 — after Western intelligence agencies warned that the shipment was bound for Iran and would likely be used in its nuclear program.

“What we were told by many sources,” said Olli Heinonen, who retired last month as the head of inspections at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, “was that the Iranian nuclear program was acquiring this kind of equipment.”

Also, starting in the summer of 2009, the Iranians began having tremendous difficulty running their centrifuges, the tall, silvery machines that spin at supersonic speed to enrich uranium — and which can explode spectacularly if they become unstable. In New York last week, Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, shrugged off suggestions that the country was having trouble keeping its enrichment plants going.

Yet something — perhaps the worm or some other form of sabotage, bad parts or a dearth of skilled technicians — is indeed slowing Iran’s advance.

The reports on Iran show a fairly steady drop in the number of centrifuges used to enrich uranium at the main Natanz plant. After reaching a peak of 4,920 machines in May 2009, the numbers declined to 3,772 centrifuges this past August, the most recent reporting period. That is a decline of 23 percent. (At the same time, production of low-enriched uranium has remained fairly constant, indicating the Iranians have learned how to make better use of fewer working machines.)

Computer experts say the first versions of the worm appeared as early as 2009 and that the sophisticated version contained an internal time stamp from January of this year.

These events add up to a mass of suspicions, not proof. Moreover, the difficulty experts have had in figuring out the origin of Stuxnet points to both the appeal and the danger of computer attacks in a new age of cyberwar.

For intelligence agencies they are an almost irresistible weapon, free of fingerprints. Israel has poured huge resources into Unit 8200, its secretive cyberwar operation, and the United States has built its capacity inside the National Security Agency and inside the military, which just opened a Cyber Command.

But the near impossibility of figuring out where they came from makes deterrence a huge problem — and explains why many have warned against the use of cyberweapons. No country, President Obama was warned even before he took office, is more vulnerable to cyberattack than the United States.


Page 2 of 2)

For now, it is hard to determine if the worm has infected centrifuge controllers at Natanz. While the S-7 industrial controller is used widely in Iran, and many other countries, even Siemens says it does not know where it is being used. Alexander Machowetz, a spokesman in Germany for Siemens, said the company did no business with Iran’s nuclear program. “It could be that there is equipment,” he said in a telephone interview. “But we never delivered it to Natanz.”

But Siemens industrial controllers are unregulated commodities that are sold and resold all over the world — the controllers intercepted in Dubai traveled through China, according to officials familiar with the seizure.

Ralph Langner, a German computer security consultant who was the first independent expert to assert that the malware had been “weaponized” and designed to attack the Iranian centrifuge array, argues that the Stuxnet worm could have been brought into the Iranian nuclear complex by Russian contractors.

“It would be an absolute no-brainer to leave an infected USB stick near one of these guys,” he said, “and there would be more than a 50 percent chance of having him pick it up and infect his computer.”

There are many reasons to suspect Israel’s involvement in Stuxnet. Intelligence is the single largest section of its military and the unit devoted to signal, electronic and computer network intelligence, known as Unit 8200, is the largest group within intelligence.

Yossi Melman, who covers intelligence for the newspaper Haaretz and is at work on a book about Israeli intelligence over the past decade, said in a telephone interview that he suspected that Israel was involved.

He noted that Meir Dagan, head of Mossad, had his term extended last year partly because he was said to be involved in important projects. He added that in the past year Israeli estimates of when Iran will have a nuclear weapon had been extended to 2014.

“They seem to know something, that they have more time than originally thought,” he said.

Then there is the allusion to myrtus — which may be telling, or may be a red herring.

Several of the teams of computer security researchers who have been dissecting the software found a text string that suggests that the attackers named their project Myrtus. The guava fruit is part of the Myrtus family, and one of the code modules is identified as Guava.

It was Mr. Langner who first noted that Myrtus is an allusion to the Hebrew word for Esther. The Book of Esther tells the story of a Persian plot against the Jews, who attacked their enemies pre-emptively.

“If you read the Bible you can make a guess,” said Mr. Langner, in a telephone interview from Germany on Wednesday.

Carol Newsom, an Old Testament scholar at Emory University, confirmed the linguistic connection between the plant family and the Old Testament figure, noting that Queen Esther’s original name in Hebrew was Hadassah, which is similar to the Hebrew word for myrtle. Perhaps, she said, “someone was making a learned cross-linguistic wordplay.”

But other Israeli experts said they doubted Israel’s involvement. Shai Blitzblau, the technical director and head of the computer warfare laboratory at Maglan, an Israeli company specializing in information security, said he was “convinced that Israel had nothing to do with Stuxnet.”

“We did a complete simulation of it and we sliced the code to its deepest level,” he said. “We have studied its protocols and functionality. Our two main suspects for this are high-level industrial espionage against Siemens and a kind of academic experiment.”

Mr. Blitzblau noted that the worm hit India, Indonesia and Russia before it hit Iran, though the worm has been found disproportionately in Iranian computers. He also noted that the Stuxnet worm has no code that reports back the results of the infection it creates. Presumably, a good intelligence agency would like to trace its work.
27503  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Way Forward for the American Creed on: September 30, 2010, 10:56:23 AM
Good points about the CBO and the JCT.  To this list of two I would add a third, "Baseline Budgeting" which is the unique set of rules which apply to governmental bookkeeping.  Example?  A 10% rate of increase is projected over 5 years.  Then in year 2, the rate of increased is reduced to 6%.  Under BB, this is called a 4% cut.  shocked angry angry

Anyway, here's this:
Alexander's Essay – September 30, 2010

The New and Improved GOP?
"And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor." --The Signers
Republican congressional leaders have issued their 21-page "Pledge to America" with the objective of convincing "the American people we have learned our lesson and we are ready to govern," as one of them claimed.

However, this Pledge amounts to "Trust Us, Version 2.0," and reads like a punch list for all the things Republicans did not do when they held the House, Senate and the White House, just a few short years ago. (As you may recall, Republicans controlled the House for the first six years of George W. Bush's presidency, and the House sets the budget.) It notes that its objective is to "stem the relentless growth in government that has occurred over the past decade," a large measure of which occurred under Republican rule.

The new Pledge is modeled after Newt Gingrich's successful "Contract with America," which was issued six weeks before the 1994 midterm election in the first term of another charismatic charlatan, Bill Clinton. That pledge propelled the GOP into a House majority for the first time in four decades.

The current slate of Republican leaders are hoping that enough of Barack Hussein Obama's supporters have awakened to the error of their ways, and will propel Republicans into the majority again. (It remains to be seen if enough Republicans have awakened to the error of their ways, and if so, can they follow up with a presidential nominee in 2012 with a bit more gravitas than Bob Dole, who, as Bush 41 did in 1992, gave Clinton the presidency.)

The Pledge spells out a few elements of the Reagan model for economic restoration, which Republicans promise to enact if they achieve a congressional majority after the November elections. To that end, it serves as a benchmark for accountability.

It vows to stop any tax increase scheduled after 1 January 2011.

It promises to end the much-maligned Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), revokes any unspent "stimulus" dollars, and commits to "roll back government spending to pre-stimulus, pre-bailout levels," which would reduce the budget by $120 billion in 2011 -- only about 10 percent of the deficit, but that's a start. It also pledges to end government intervention in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the massive mortgage entities that seeded the current economic decline.

It obligates Republicans to pass legislation requiring congressional approval for any government regulation that would have more than a $100 million impact on the economy (cap-and-trade legislation), effectively holding legislators accountable for the labyrinth of regulations which have greatly stifled job growth and productivity, and which cost consumers hundreds of billions of dollars annually.

While failing to address non-discretionary spending such as entitlements and debt service, which constitute most of the $3.8 trillion budget, the Pledge does promise a vote to "repeal and replace the government takeover of health care." This, of course, leads us to ask: Replace it with what?

The Pledge commits to put a cap on non-military government hiring and spending, but it lacks earmark reform (especially attached to military spending bills) and fails to mention the line-item veto, much less a Balanced Budget Amendment. It requires a "sunset clause" for any new federal program, which would require legislators to renew funding periodically -- and face the consequences of those votes.

The Pledge affirms, "Foreign terrorists do not have the same rights as American citizens," which is to say that acts of terrorism will not be watered down into mere criminal acts. It also "reaffirms the authority of state and local law enforcement to assist in the enforcement of all federal immigration laws," and the immediate need to secure our southern border.

However, the most important element of the Pledge is this: It assures that Republicans will pass legislation requiring "the specific constitutional authority upon which the bill is justified" for any and all legislation ... which will most assuredly put the contest between Rule of Law and the so-called "living constitution" front and center, where it belongs.

The Republicans' current Pledge is clearly a stepchild of the "Contract from America," a grassroots effort by the Tea Party movement to restore constitutional integrity. The Tea Party has thus rung the bell of wayward Republicans, most of whom are now promising to reform their ways.

Will the Pledge succeed?

The short answer is, yes, because among the diminished ranks of Republicans left in the House and Senate there are about 120 members who have been steadfast in their commitment to the conservative principles outlined in the Republican Platform, as their voting records attest. In other words, there is still a powerful core contingent of conservative Republicans in Congress.

But, the real chance of success lies in the influx of an outstanding slate of new candidates running on conservative principles, those who did not need a Pledge to America to run. And keep your eye on those outspoken Republican women among them -- they are leading the charge in defense of our Constitution.

Unfortunately, plenty of pantywaist RINOs, Republicans who have most certainly not voted consistently in support of conservative principles, will still hold congressional seats after November, and they will certainly derail some of the Pledge's commitments.

The bottom line, however, is not whether Republicans stick to their Pledge to America, but whether they will honor their sacred oath to "support and defend" our Constitution, as specified in Article VI, clause 3. It is that pledge which should, first and foremost, guide every elected official.

Finally, allow me a few words about the language in the preamble to the Republican Pledge: "America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny. Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course."

The language above is a Beltway-processed knockoff of the real thing from our Declaration of Independence which set forth as follows: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness [and] whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government."

The latter is not about replacing "government agendas" when they become destructive to liberty, it is about replacing government.

Politicians of every stripe should take note: The defense of Essential Liberty was the foundation of the first Tea Party back in 1773, and it remains so in today's Tea Party movement. Millions of Patriots once again avow, "with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor."

That is how Republicans should close their Pledge.
27504  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTB/LATimes: Children left behind on: September 30, 2010, 10:38:42 AM
Not looking to disrupt the flow here, but a moment for another in my random reminders that China has some very weak links in its chain.,0,4655427.story

27505  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB on PPV TV on: September 30, 2010, 09:24:04 AM
Ummm , , , not sure why you would think that.  From the very beginning part of the deal has been that Dog Brothers Inc. gets all rights to the footage etc.  Footage has been appearing in publicly offered for sale videos/DVDs for some 17 years now!  And there was the Nat Geo show too, which has been aired many, many times.

Anyway, here is the In Demand schedule for the show: 
1) In Demand.
iN1 10/18 at 10:00pm

iN1 10/18 at 1:00am

iN3 10/19 at 6:00pm

iN2 10/20 at 1:30pm

iN3 10/21 at 11:00am

iN1 10/21 at 9:00pm

iN2 10/22 at 10:30am

iN3 10/23 at 12:00pm

iN1 10/25 at 11:00pm

iN2 10/27 at 7:30am

iN1 10/28 at 8:00pm

iN2 10/29 at 6:30pm

iN1 10/30 at 8:00am

iN3 10/30 at 11:00am

27506  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-5 on: September 30, 2010, 12:27:06 AM
I heard yesterday that the plethora of silenced pistols finding their way into Iraq, and which are becoming the preeminent means of hits, are coming in from Iran.
I also heard that one member of the Commission on Integrity was whacked several weeks back by a gunman with silenced pistol, as he sat in his car right at an entrance into the Green Zone.  The gunman then just melted away.
This is always a difficult senario when pontificating on personal security in a place like Iraq.  We always tell them "alter your routes."  Well there aren't very many entrances into the Green Zone, and it's not like it's convenient to go to another one.  That could add another hour to your commute.  Sometimes there simply aren't any alternate routes.  In Karmah, or Hadithah, or other places I have been, there is basically one road in and out of those places.
So what does that leave?  Altering your times?  Well you can't get into the Green before a certain time.  And you pretty much want to be out before sunset.  So once again the window of option is not that large.
I am sure it doesn't help that half the Iraqis I see driving are on a cell phone, so they don't have the alert level they need to maybe pickup on an attack in progress.

27507  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: What the US Navy is doing in the Desert on: September 30, 2010, 12:22:34 AM
Pappy Dog:

That Riverine concept is interesting. 
27508  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Negotiations with the Taliban on: September 30, 2010, 12:10:25 AM
The Necessity -- and Difficulties -- of Negotiations With the Taliban

Afghan President Hamid Karzai made an impassioned speech on Tuesday calling for the Taliban to enter into negotiations to reach a political settlement. His office then announced the names of 68 former officials and tribal leaders who will form the High Peace Council. This council, which was decided upon in June during the National Council for Peace, Reconciliation and Reintegration, is to be responsible for negotiations with the Taliban — and the government in Kabul is, at least in theory, expected to abide by the agreement the council reaches. Of course, Karzai has handpicked the council members, so his interests are protected. The day before Karzai’s speech, The New York Times published comments from the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus, that “very high-level” Taliban leaders have reached out to the “highest levels” of the Afghan government. The correlation of these events indicates that considerable movement has occurred this week on efforts to set the stage for negotiations with the Taliban.

Not only did elements of the Taliban issue denials on Tuesday regarding Petraeus’ assertion, but also another Taliban spokesman insisted that the Afghan people were anxiously anticipating a Taliban victory in Afghanistan. While some factions of the Taliban might be interested in a negotiated settlement, as a whole the movement has maintained considerable internal discipline and is not being forced to the negotiating table out of fear of defeat.

“The Taliban lose little by being at the negotiating table; they can always walk away.”
But negotiation and political accommodation can stem from both fear and opportunity. It is the role of force of arms to provide the former, and the current counterinsurgency strategy has not instilled — and does not appear close to instilling — that fear. But U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force efforts have not been without their tactical effect. The squeeze has been put on Taliban funds, and special operations forces raids have reduced the Taliban’s ranks. There is certainly the opportunity for a settlement that brings political accommodation about sooner rather than later and at a reduced cost to the Taliban in terms of lives and effort. The Taliban lose little by being at the negotiating table; they can always walk away. And they do not harbor illusions about being able to return to power and control the country to the degree they did at the turn of the century.

So the question is not one of whether talks might take place. They already have taken place behind closed doors, and they will no doubt continue. The question is what the cost will be, in terms of concessions, of convincing the Taliban to negotiate meaningfully and genuinely on a political settlement on a timeframe compatible with U.S. constraints. Because the United States, and by proxy Karzai’s regime, are now at the height of their military strength, and because the Taliban — not Washington and Karzai — enjoy the luxury of time, the Taliban have little incentive to allow negotiations to proceed rapidly or make significant concessions themselves.

Thus, the question becomes what price the Taliban will demand from their position of strength and whether that price is one that not only Kabul and Washington, but also Islamabad (which could well be key to a negotiated settlement), will accept. That remains very much in doubt. None of the underlying realities of the U.S.-led war effort in Afghanistan have suddenly shifted.

The developments of recent days essentially provide additional infrastructure to facilitate negotiations, but it is unclear whether an agreement on political accommodation is reachable or on what timetable any agreement might be implemented. Nevertheless, political accommodation will both underlie and facilitate a U.S. drawdown, so the prospects for progress will warrant careful scrutiny.
27509  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Pelosi-Reid deficits on: September 29, 2010, 02:57:28 PM
During a recent press conference, President Obama blamed George W. Bush for the nation's fiscal condition. "When I walked in," he declared, "wrapped in a nice bow was a $1.3 trillion deficit sitting right there on my doorstep." Earlier this year he asserted that "we came in with $8 trillion worth of debt over the next decade."

Neither statement is correct, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). True enough, the outgoing Bush administration bequeathed big deficits to Mr. Obama. The expected 2009 deficit was $1.19 trillion, not $1.3 trillion, however—and the actual deficit for 2009 came in at $1.41 trillion, meaning that the new president added some $220 billion to the total.

 Steve Moore in Washington with the latest on the looming tax increases.
.Far more significant, however, was the president's misstatement that Mr. Bush and the Republicans left the country with $8 trillion of debt over the next 10 years. The CBO's projected 10-year deficit when Mr. Obama took office was actually $4.09 trillion. Now, after 20 months of his presidency, the expected deficit has almost doubled, to $7.68 trillion.

A strong case can be made that the people most responsible for the gigantic deficits we face today are neither George W. Bush nor Barack Obama. The real culprits are Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Congress controls the purse strings. When Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid rose to their present jobs in January 2007, the deficit was $161 billion. It had been on a downward trajectory from $413 billion in 2004. Three years later, the Pelosi-Reid Congress had added $1.2 trillion to the deficit.

Of course, Mr. Bush sponsored or signed into law many of these deficit-raising bills, such as the bank bailouts and effective tax rebates of 2008. But the Democratic Congress passed them.

View Full Image

Associated Press
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, right, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
.Long forgotten is the promise Mrs. Pelosi made on the day she became speaker: "Our new America will provide unlimited opportunity for future generations, not burden them with mountains of debt." I think future generations would like a do-over.

Today, Mr. Obama and Democrats in Congress love to talk about how Mr. Bush turned a $200 billion Clinton surplus into a $1 trillion deficit. Indeed he did, though they ignore the 9/11 terrorist attacks that happened less than a year after Mr. Bush became president. Those attacks were fiscal game-changers, jolting the economy to a temporary standstill and requiring unplanned spending for homeland security and antiterrorism efforts.

For the sake of comparison, let's look at the Pelosi-Reid fiscal record over 10 years. In January 2007, the CBO projected a $379 billion surplus over the next decade. Now, after four years under Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Reid, and two years of Mr. Obama in the White House, the 2007-2016 projection is a deficit of $7.16 trillion.

This deterioration of the nation's fiscal situation is arguably the worst in United States history, and it was brought to us courtesy of a congressional leadership that pledged "pay as you go" budgeting to bring the budget into balance.

It is no wonder that Americans are not eager to retain the services of these two spendthrifts as leaders of Congress.

Mr. Moore is senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page.
27510  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Chronicle 9/29/10 on: September 29, 2010, 02:44:13 PM
Chronicle · September 29, 2010

The Foundation
"In reality there is perhaps no one of our natural Passions so hard to subdue as Pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will now and then peek out and show itself." --Benjamin Franklin

The Demo-gogues
With friends like these... "People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up. ... If people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place. ... It is inexcusable for any Democrat or progressive right now to stand on the sidelines in this midterm election. ... The idea that we've got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible." --Barack Obama hammering his own base in an interview with Rolling Stone

"[I want to] remind our base constituency to stop whining and get out there and look at the alternatives. This president has done an incredible job. He's kept his promises." --Joe Biden on the same talking points

"And so those who don't get -- didn't get everything they wanted, it's time to just buck up here, understand that we can make things better, continue to move forward and -- but not yield the playing field to those folks who are against everything that we stand for in terms of the initiatives we put forward." --Joe Biden

"We have an electorate that doesn't always pay that much attention to what's going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what's happening." --Sen. John Kerry (D-MA), another snotty elitist lecturing voters

The GOP's best friend: "f we allow this to be a referendum on whether people are happy where they are now, we'll lose." --Joe Biden

But on the other hand: "I guarantee you we're going to have a majority in the House and a majority in the Senate. I absolutely believe that." --Biden

Patronizing: "There are strains in the Tea Party that are troubled by what they saw as a series of instances in which the middle-class and working-class people have been abused or hurt by special interests and Washington, but their anger is misdirected." --Barack Obama

"[Fox News has] a point of view that I disagree with. It's a point of view that I think is ultimately destructive for the long-term growth of a country that has a vibrant middle class and is competitive in the world." --Obama in the Rolling Stone interview

On fiscal responsibility: "What I'm seeing out of the Republican leadership over the last several years has been a set of policies that are just irresponsible, and we saw in their Pledge to America a similar set of irresponsible policies. ... [Although GOP leaders] say they want to balance the budget, they propose $4 trillion worth of tax cuts and $16 billion in spending cuts, and then they say we're going to somehow magically balance the budget. That's not a serious approach." --Barack Obama, who must consider Republicans amateurs when it comes to blowing money

Editorial Exegesis
"Democrats seeking to boost voter turnout this fall are beginning to sound like the late comedian Chris Farley's portrayal of a 'motivational speaker' on Saturday Night Live. Farley's character sought to inspire young people by announcing that they wouldn't amount to 'jack squat' and would someday be 'living in a van down by the river.' ... This week President Obama chimed in with another uplifting message about the American electorate. Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone that the tea party movement is financed and directed by 'powerful, special-interest lobbies.' But this doesn't mean that tea party groups are composed entirely of corporate puppets. Mr. Obama graciously implied that a small subset of the movement is simply motivated by bigotry. The President said 'there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as the President.' The tea party is now supported by a third of the country in some polls. Perhaps advocates for smaller government shouldn't take Mr. Obama's comments personally. In the new Democratic attacks on the voting public, not even Democrats are spared. Vice President Joe Biden recently urged the party's base to 'stop whining' and 'buck up,' a message echoed by Mr. Obama in his Rolling Stone interview. The President ... added that 'if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place.' Making the case for left-wing voters to show up in November, Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone that he is presiding over 'the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward.' We'd agree, but his problem is that most Americans don't like that agenda and millions of voters in both parties wanted him to oversee an economic expansion instead. Blaming the voters is not unheard of among politicians, but usually they wait until after an election." --The Wall Street Journal

"We demand entire freedom of action and then expect the government in some miraculous way to save us from the consequences of our own acts.... Self-government means self-reliance." --President Calvin Coolidge (1873-1933)

"There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want merely because you think it would be good for him." --American writer Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988)

"Progressives want to raise taxes on individuals who make more than $200,000 a year because they say it's wrong for the rich to be 'given' more money. Sunday's New York Times carries a cartoon showing Uncle Sam handing money to a fat cat. They just don't get it. As I've said before, a tax cut is not a handout. It simply means government steals less. What progressives want to do is take money from some -- by force -- and spend it on others. It sounds less noble when plainly stated." --columnist John Stossel

"Americans are learning once again that campaign rhetoric is no substitute for sound economics. And any American President who promises to make your life better by vilifying your fellow countryman, is a very dangerous character indeed." --columnist Austin Hill

"What optimistic Americans used to call a rising tide that lifts all boats is now once again derided as trickle-down economics. In other words, a newly peasant-minded America is willing to become collectively poorer so that some will not become wealthier." --historian Victor Davis Hanson

Point: "Obama and his cronies keep referring to 'the last decade' in their sorry attempt to blame the Republicans for the present state of the nation. The truth, however, is that the GOP only ran things for the first six of those 10 years. Once the liberals took control of Congress in 2006, it was Dodd, Frank and Obama, along with their good friends at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who brought about the housing meltdown and the ensuing financial collapse. Since 2008, it's been the Obama administration that has sent the national deficit soaring through the stratosphere." --columnist Burt Prelutsky

Counterpoint: "In the 'Pledge to America' they unveiled last week, House Republicans promise they will 'launch a sustained effort to stem the relentless growth in government that has occurred over the past decade.' Who better for the job than the folks who ran the government for most of that time?" --columnist Jacob Sullum

"[The tea party movement] is about electing people who are going to get the Federal government to stop pressing the handle that has been flushing America's wealth, ingenuity, and capacity for hard work down the toilet bowl of history by promising more and more to people who have produced less and less until no one has anything." --political analyst Rich Galen

The sycophant's lament: "People don't appreciate some of the amazing legislative agenda that [Barack Obama has] accomplished. Is this a failure of leadership? Has he allowed the opposition to define him?" --ABC's Christiane Amanpour

Asking the tough questions: "Former President Clinton said he doesn't think the Democrats, and you included, have been rigorous enough in pushing back against some of the Republican attacks. Over these next five weeks [before the November election], Mr. President, do you intend to change your tone or your emotion in terms of your pushing back?" --NBC's Matt Lauer to BO

Demented: "You think business can sit on those billions and trillions of dollars for two more years after they screw Obama this time? Are they going to keep sitting on their money so they don't invest and help the economy for two long years to get Mr. Excitement Mitt Romney elected president? Will they do that to the country?" --MSNBC's Chris Matthews

The "living constitution": "Joe Miller, the Palin-blessed Republican nominee for Senate in Alaska, suggests that Social Security is unconstitutional because it wasn't in the Constitution. The Constitution is a dazzling document, but do these originalists really think things haven't changed since then? If James Madison beamed down now, he would no doubt be stunned at the idea that America had evolved so far but was hemming itself in by the strictest interpretation of his handiwork. He might even tweet about it." --New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd

Newspulper Headlines:
Breaking News From March: "Democrats Decide on Political Suicide" --The New Republic website

Questions Nobody Is Asking: "Will God Save the Democrats?"

Answers to Questions Nobody Is Asking: "Why Democrats Are Pushing a Series of Bills Doomed to Fail" --Christian Science Monitor

The One Thing They Know About: "Congress Changes Intellectual Disability Wording" --Associated Press

Out on a Limb: "Bill Clinton: There's a 50-50 Chance for Peace Deal" (Israel)

News You Can Use: "Manhattan Is No Place to Juice Up Your Mitsubishi Clown Mobile" --Bloomberg

Breaking News From 1 Samuel 17:50-51: "Humiliating Doesn't Begin to Describe Giants' Performance" --CBS Sports website

Bottom Stories of the Day: "Obama Calls Republican Leaders 'Irresponsible'" --ABC news website (U.S.)

(Thanks to The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto)

Village Idiots
Pot and kettle: "If you love deficits, you will love the Republican plan." --White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer, who must have missed the deficit quadrupling under Democrat control

More lectures: "People have a right to be angry. They have a right to be disappointed. But they still have to be make a choice. An election is not a referendum on their anger. It's a choice between two candidates." --Bill Clinton

That's a good question: "Do you know how many political and economic decisions are made in this world by people who don't know what in the living daylights they are talking about?" --Bill Clinton

We know what's best for you: "[T]here's a little Homer Simpson in all of us. Sometimes we have self-control problems, sometimes we're impulsive and that in these circumstances, both private and public institutions, without coercing, can make our lives a lot better. Once we know that people are human and have some Homer Simpson in them, then there's a lot that can be done to manipulate them." --Obama regulatory czar Cass Sunstein, on helping us make "right choices"

We're not buying what you're selling: "I'm extremely sensitive to the feelings of the families of 9/11." --Ground Zero Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

Short Cuts
"President Obama's old sloganeering has worn thin. It's time for a new motto for the most powerful man in the world. And he's up to the challenge. Obama's new slogan: 'It's not me, it's you.'" --columnist Ben Shapiro

"On the political gimmickry scale, the GOP's new 'Pledge to America' is worse than some, better than others. Let's say it falls somewhere between the Federalist Papers and a Harry Reid press release -- which, admittedly, pins it down as much as saying you lost a cufflink somewhere between Burkina Faso and Cleveland." --columnist Jonah Goldberg

"This week, all we've heard about is how [Christine] O'Donnell once said she went on a date with a guy in high school who claimed to be a witch. (So what? Bill Clinton married one!)" --columnist Ann Coulter

"President Obama signaled a change in U.S. policy toward the Third World Thursday in a U.N. speech. He said he intends to promote commerce and free trade with poor nations rather than just give them money. If it works there, he's going to try it here." --comedian Argus Hamilton

"I've got some problems with evolution myself. ... I look around at, say, Democrats, and I say, 'That's evolved?'" --columnist P.J. O'Rourke
27511  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Closer ties with US? (China) on: September 29, 2010, 01:21:37 PM

The recent trip by Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to the United States offered several hints on Manila’s foreign policy plans, namely, its desire to balance China and the United States off each other, and expand economic and political cooperation with Washington while avoiding a direct confrontation with Beijing.

Newly elected Philippine President Benigno Aquino III arrived back in Manila on Sept. 20 following his weeklong visit to the United States, his first official foreign trip as president. During his visit, Aquino attended various business conferences, the U.N. General Assembly summit, the second U.S.-Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) leaders’ meeting, and held a bilateral meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

Since his inauguration in late June, Aquino has not provided many clues on his foreign policy intentions. However, evidence from the trip suggests that his preferred course may be to expand ties with the United States while being careful to avoid directly confronting China, and play both powers off one another. With Washington looking to re-engage in the Asia-Pacific region, Manila may find an eager partner on its economic development plans, a priority after years of underperformance.

Aquino was accompanied on his trip by dozens of top Philippine business leaders seeking investment from multinational corporations under the auspices of the Public-Private Partnership initiative heavily promoted by the new government. The United States is atop the list of countries where Manila has sought this investment, and according to Aquino, the trip has yielded $2.4 billion from various global giants, including Coca-Cola, Pfizer, Hewlett-Packard and JPMorgan Chase, and secured more than 43,000 new jobs that will be established over the next three years. Aquino also witnessed the signing of a $434 million grant through the U.S. government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) antipoverty initiative.

Aside from the business deals, the trip has indicated Manila’s foreign policy inclinations in multiple ways. One highly contentious issue at the U.S.-ASEAN summit was the maritime disputes in the South China Sea, in which countries including the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and China all stake claims over various islands. The United States has increased its involvement in these disputes as part of its Asia-Pacific re-engagement plan, pushing for free navigation in the waters and taking the side of ASEAN nations against China, which has become more assertive on its claims. While ASEAN claimants do not oppose (and to some extent encourage) U.S. involvement when it could improve their position in dealing with China, most do not want such involvement to become so obtrusive as to spark a confrontation with Beijing.

Until this point, Aquino’s administration has declined to request U.S. assistance in territorial disputes, with Foreign Secretary Alberto Romulo emphasizing that the issue is “a matter between ASEAN and China,” and Philippine defense officials reiterating during U.S. Pacific Command chief Robert Willard’s visit to the country that the Philippines has no desire for a territorial confrontation. This appears to have changed recently, as the Philippines has shown more aggressiveness on the disputed Spratly islands, which several other countries also claim. The Philippine government announced a plan Sept. 14 to repair and upgrade its military outposts, including the airport and other facilities in the Spratlys and said four government ministers would soon visit, a move criticized by China.

In another example of increased aggressiveness, the draft of a joint declaration prepared by the United States and the Philippines for the Sept. 24 U.S.-ASEAN summit in New York originally intended to address the South China Sea and reassert the principles of a nonviolent dispute resolution enshrined in the 2002 China-ASEAN code of conduct agreement. The explicit mention of the South China Sea was stricken from the final statement after consultation with other ASEAN member states concerned about offending China, but Aquino appeared to be undeterred, telling the Council on Foreign Relations that ASEAN members should respond as a bloc if China attempts to dictate the future of the South China Sea.

Though it may be unrelated, it is worth noting that the Aquino administration’s newfound assertiveness coincided with a strain in Sino-Philippine relations over the fallout from a hostage crisis that left eight Chinese tourists dead in Manila. Beijing initially exerted substantial pressure on the Aquino government to investigate the incidents but then backed off, perhaps to avoid pushing Manila closer to Washington ahead of the just-concluded trip by Aquino. The language in the original ASEAN draft resolution would appear to prove these fears well founded, but the eventual acquiescence to tone down the resolution by omitting reference to the South China Sea may indicate Manila is not willing to risk a direct confrontation with Beijing at this point.

Using the United States to balance against Beijing in the near term as well as deeper and more long-lasting security concerns about territorial disputes appear to have affected Aquino’s decision on reviewing the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) — a legal framework for U.S. soldiers stationed in the Philippines. Aquino was expected to raise the issue in his meeting with Obama, but reports have indicated he declined to discuss it, likely fearing it could jeopardize his country’s entreaties to the United States. Instead, he discussed possible joint removal of war materials on Corregidor Island left from World War II.

While this suggests the new government appeared to be on the track of improving the relations with Washington, it is being careful to avoid directly challenging Beijing. Despite the recent strain in relations, Aquino while in New York expressed a wish to see Chinese leaders, Beijing has offered an invitation to Aquino for a visit, and the Philippines has several investment deals planned with China as well. Ultimately, Manila’s goal for years has been to avoid relying on one single power. Maintaining good relations with both powers enabled the Philippines to balance the United States and China off each other. Particularly since the new government places economic rebuilding as the country’s primary goal, cash-rich China could play an important role in the process.

Read more: The Philippine Push for Closer Ties with Washington | STRATFOR
27512  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: September 29, 2010, 11:20:16 AM
Democrats seeking to boost voter turnout this fall are beginning to sound like the late comedian Chris Farley's portrayal of a "motivational speaker" on Saturday Night Live. Farley's character sought to inspire young people by announcing that they wouldn't amount to "jack squat" and would someday be "living in a van down by the river."

Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, who prefers sailing vessels to vans by the river, recently tried out the Farley method. Said Mr. Kerry, "We have an electorate that doesn't always pay that much attention to what's going on so people are influenced by a simple slogan rather than the facts or the truth or what's happening." Bay State voters are surely thrilled to be represented by a man so respectful of their concerns.

This week President Obama chimed in with another uplifting message about the American electorate. Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone that the tea party movement is financed and directed by "powerful, special-interest lobbies." But this doesn't mean that tea party groups are composed entirely of corporate puppets. Mr. Obama graciously implied that a small subset of the movement is simply motivated by bigotry.

The President said "there are probably some aspects of the Tea Party that are a little darker, that have to do with anti-immigrant sentiment or are troubled by what I represent as the President." The tea party is now supported by a third of the country in some polls.

Perhaps advocates for smaller government shouldn't take Mr. Obama's comments personally. In the new Democratic attacks on the voting public, not even Democrats are spared. Vice President Joe Biden recently urged the party's base to "stop whining" and "buck up," a message echoed by Mr. Obama in his Rolling Stone interview. The President demanded that his supporters "shake off this lethargy," warning that it would be "inexcusable" for liberals to stay home on Election Day.

Mr. Obama added that "if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place." Making the case for left-wing voters to show up in November, Mr. Obama told Rolling Stone that he is presiding over "the most successful administration in a generation in moving progressive agendas forward."

We'd agree, but his problem is that most Americans don't like that agenda and millions of voters in both parties wanted him to oversee an economic expansion instead. Blaming the voters is not unheard of among politicians, but usually they wait until after an election.
27513  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coming soon to a homeland near you? on: September 29, 2010, 10:22:37 AM
27514  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 28, 2010, 08:05:50 PM
That is very interesting JDN, from what you say, China seems to have a plausible claim at least.  Should I want to cite a source, what source would that be?

27515  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Pre-orders now being taken on: September 28, 2010, 04:49:22 PM

It should begin shipping in 7-10 days.
27516  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Mex Security Memo 9/27/10 on: September 28, 2010, 04:43:15 PM
Mexico Security Memo: Sept. 27, 2010
September 27, 2010 | 1936 GMT
      PRINT Text Resize:


Arrest of El Tigre
Mexican Federal Police agents arrested Margarito “El Tigre” Soto Reyes and
eight other integral members of the Sinaloa Federation in an operation in
Zapopan, Jalisco state, the afternoon of Sept. 25. Soto Reyes assumed
control of the Sinaloa Federation’s methamphetamine trafficking, production
and supply chain after the death of Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal in
a Mexican military operation July 29. The U.S. Immigration and Customs
Enforcement agency reported that Soto Reyes was responsible for sending
nearly half a ton of methamphetamine to the United States each month after
procuring precursor chemicals (pseudoephedrine and ephedrine) via the “South
Pacific” route — from Argentina through Peru, Panama and Central America to
Mexico — and manufacturing the drug in rural drug labs in west-central
Mexico. Several key operational players in the organization’s
methamphetamine logistical and manufacturing line were among the eight
arrested with Soto Reyes:

  a.. Juan Pedro Mora, who allegedly was responsible for procuring precursor
chemicals from suppliers in South America, often posing as a veterinarian
  b.. Martin Terrazas Leyva, who was in charge of Soto Reyes’ personal
affairs and security as well as monitoring shipments of narcotics;
  c.. Hilarion Diaz Rosas, who reportedly was responsible for the physical
security for the various large-scale drug laboratories where the
organization would manufacture large quantities of methamphetamine; and
  d.. Maximino Martinez Sanchez, who allegedly was responsible for the
organization’s massive drug manufacturing operations in the large and often
rural drug labs.
The others arrested with Reyes reportedly were employees at the drug labs.

El Nacho’s death in July appeared to decapitate the leadership of the
Sinaloa Federation’s methamphetamine production operations, possibly
damaging relationships with suppliers and trafficking contacts, but it did
not really affect the organization’s capacity to produce and traffic
methamphetamine. The operation that netted Soto Reyes and his top
operational leaders likely has done more damage to the Sinaloa Federation,
as it will be incredibly difficult to replace the operational knowledge and
expertise taken out of commission by the arrests, and it will certainly
impede the organization’s ability to produce and traffic methamphetamine in
the short term. Furthermore, the detailed knowledge and information that
could be gleaned from those arrested Sept. 25 likely will lead to follow-on
raids and arrests of other Sinaloa Federation operational assets.

The Sinaloa Federation arguably has been the biggest producer and trafficker
of methamphetamine in Mexico for the past several years, but its reduced
operational capacity could result in other organizations like La Familia
Michoacana (LFM), which also has a history of methamphetamine production in
the region, moving in and taking a larger portion of the Mexican
methamphetamine production market. Even though LFM and the Sinaloa
Federation are part of the New Federation alliance with the Gulf Cartel
against Los Zetas, business operations typically are seen as more important
than these types of cartel agreements and could be a point of contention
between the two organizations.

Attacks on Mayors in Nuevo Leon and Chihuahua
Unknown gunmen shot and killed Prisciliano Rodriguez Salinas, the mayor of
Doctor Gonzalez, Nuevo Leon state, and another city employee in an ambush
near the entrance of Rodriguez’s ranch outside the city around 9:30 p.m.
local time Sept. 23. Doctor Gonzalez is a small rural agricultural community
about 56 km (35 miles) east of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state, and is located
in a region that has been rife with conflict between Los Zetas and the New
Federation and has seen numerous Mexican military operations. Several people
were brought in for questioning in the shooting, including three brothers
who were involved in a land dispute with Rodriguez, but all have since been
released. The ambush style of the attack on Rodriguez bears the hallmark of
a cartel-sanctioned operation; however, no group has officially been accused
of being behind the attack.

Also, Ricardo Solis Manriquez, the mayor-elect of Gran Morelos, Chihuahua
state, was shot multiple times in the head in an attack inside a business
along the Cuauhtemoc-Chihuahua highway around 1:30 p.m. local time Sept. 24
by a group of armed men in two cars. Solis underwent seven hours of
emergency surgery and is reportedly in critical condition in the intensive
care unit.

Rodriguez is the second mayor to have been killed in two months in Nuevo
Leon state after the death of Santiago Mayor Edelmiro Cavazos Leal, whose
body was found Aug. 18 after he was reported kidnapped. The recent attacks
on elected officials in both Nuevo Leon and Chihuahua state continue to show
the brazenness of criminal groups operating in the region and that no
position of authority in the region is safe from the reach of these groups.
While no motive for the attacks on Rodriguez and Solis has been declared
officially, and there has been no indication that either mayor was working
with a criminal organization, it is common for organized crime groups to
target their rivals’ support structure, which has included local law
enforcement and local elected officials in past cases. With endemic
corruption still a large issue, particularly in these two regions of Mexico,
it cannot immediately be ruled out that these two mayors were simply working
for the wrong side of the cartel conflict taking place in their respective

Click to view map

Sept. 20
  a.. Unidentified gunmen killed a former coordinator for the state attorney
general’s office in Durango, Durango state. The victim had resigned from his
post three days earlier.
  b.. Police discovered five dismembered bodies in Tanhuato, Michoacan
state. The letter “J” had been carved into the victims’ backs.
  c.. A woman was killed in the Benito Juarez neighborhood of
Nezahualcoyotl, Mexico state, by an unidentified gunman. The attacker shot
the victim once in the chest.
Sept. 21
  a.. Police in the municipality of Tlajomulco de Zuniga discovered a
severed head and a dismembered body next to a sign warning that the remains
were booby trapped with explosives. No explosives were found at the scene.
  b.. Residents of Ascension, Chihuahua state, beat two suspected kidnappers
to death.
  c.. Four men died in an ambush in the municipality of Atotonilco de Tula,
Hidalgo state.
  d.. Unidentified gunmen killed two children of Ecologist Green Party of
Mexico President Sonia Hernandez in Otatitlan, Veracruz state.
Sept. 22
  a.. Unidentified gunmen attacked a ministerial police station in the
Urdiales neighborhood of Monterrey, Nuevo Leon state. No injuries were
  b.. Two severed heads were discovered near the entrance to the settlement
of “El 30” in the municipality of Acapulco, Guerrero state.
  c.. Unidentified gunmen killed three people at a seafood restaurant in San
Ignacio, Sinaloa state.
Sept. 23
  a.. Police arrested Carlos Barragan Figueroa, a suspected leading figure
of Los Zetas, in Cancun, Quintana Roo state. Barragan Figueroa is suspected
of ordering an attack on a bar, which resulted in the deaths of eight
  b.. Seven people were killed during a firefight between suspected
organized crime groups in Acapulco, Guerrero state. Soldiers arrested five
policemen at the scene who were allegedly accompanying a group of gunmen.
Sept. 24
  a.. Authorities announced the arrest of a suspected La Linea gunman
identified as “El 7,” who is believed to have participated in the killing of
an El Diario journalist in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, in 2008.
  b.. Police discovered the mutilated body of an unidentified man in a
drainage canal in the Anahuac neighborhood of San Nicolas de los Garza,
Nuevo Leon state.
  c.. Two suspected cartel gunmen were killed during a firefight with
soldiers in the municipality of General Teran, Nuevo Leon state.
Sept. 25
  a.. Unidentified gunmen killed the Mexican Roma community patriarch in a
Mexico City hospital.
  b.. Four men suspected of dismembering two people were arrested in
Zapotlanejo, Jalisco state, after a firefight with police.
  c.. Police arrested suspected Sinaloa cartel member Margarito “El Tigre”
Soto Reyes in Zapopan, Jalisco state. Soto Reyes is believed to be the
successor to Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villarreal.
Sept. 26
  a.. Soldiers arrested the leader of Los Zetas in Quintana Roo state,
identified as Jose de Fernandez Lara Diaz, and seized several weapons, 1.35
million pesos (more than $107,000) and $36,000.
  b.. Police found the bodies of four men abandoned near a highway in
Cuernavaca, Morelos state. A message near the victims attributed the crime
to the Cartel Pacifico Sur.

Read more: Mexico Security Memo: Sept. 27, 2010 | STRATFOR
27517  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Single men, you may be out of luck on this one , , , on: September 28, 2010, 03:57:23 PM
27518  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies/TV of interest on: September 28, 2010, 03:10:38 PM
I am very sorry to hear that Andy Whitfield's health problems continue and pray for his health to return.

I know they have been advertising a prequel season (The Rise of Krixus seems to be the theme), but still AW's withdrawal leaves a huge and perhaps fatal gap in the show for the show's future.  How can he be replaced at this point?
27519  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 28, 2010, 02:34:06 PM
So, what is the legal background to our giving the islands to Japan?  How did we acquire dominion over them?
27520  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: September 28, 2010, 02:30:04 PM
Glenn Beck had an incredible clip of Sen Kerry yesterday wherein he rather directly accuses American voters of being clueless.

27521  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lieberman: China can shut down the internet, why can't we? on: September 28, 2010, 02:27:54 PM

This site is often quite irresponsible so read with care.  Caveat lector!
27522  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: More drones in Waziristan on: September 28, 2010, 07:35:27 AM
Certainly it is hard to square with reports like this:

 WASHINGTON — The C.I.A. has drastically increased its bombing campaign in the mountains of Pakistan in recent weeks, American officials said. The strikes are part of an effort by military and intelligence operatives to try to cripple the Taliban in a stronghold being used to plan attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.

As part of its covert war in the region, the C.I.A. has launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of American casualties before the Obama administration’s comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy set for December. American and European officials are also evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based in Pakistan.

The strikes also reflect mounting frustration both in Afghanistan and the United States that Pakistan’s government has not been aggressive enough in dislodging militants from their bases in the country’s western mountains. In particular, the officials said, the Americans believe the Pakistanis are unlikely to launch military operations inside North Waziristan, a haven for Taliban and Qaeda operatives that has long been used as a base for attacks against troops in Afghanistan.

Beyond the C.I.A. drone strikes, the war in the region is escalating in other ways. In recent days, American military helicopters have launched three airstrikes into Pakistan that military officials estimate killed more than 50 people suspected of being members of the militant group known as the Haqqani network, which is responsible for a spate of deadly attacks against American troops.

Such air raids by the military remain rare, and officials in Kabul said Monday that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three raids, and acted in self-defense after militants fired rockets at an allied base just across the border in Afghanistan. At the same time, the strikes point to a new willingness by military officials to expand the boundaries of the campaign against the Taliban and Haqqani network — and to an acute concern in military and intelligence circles about the limited time to attack Taliban strongholds while American “surge” forces are in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials have angrily criticized the helicopter attacks, saying that NATO’s mandate in Afghanistan does not extend across the border in Pakistan.

As evidence of the growing frustration of American officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has recently issued veiled warnings to top Pakistani commanders that the United States could launch unilateral ground operations in the tribal areas should Pakistan refuse to dismantle the militant networks in North Waziristan, according to American officials.

“Petraeus wants to turn up the heat on the safe havens,” said one senior administration official, explaining the sharp increase in drone strikes. “He has pointed out to the Pakistanis that they could do more.”

Special Operations commanders have also been updating plans for cross-border raids, which would require approval from President Obama. For now, officials said, it remains unlikely that the United States would make good on such threats to send American troops over the border, given the potential blowback inside Pakistan, an ally.

But that could change, they said, if Pakistan-based militants were successful in carrying out a terrorist attack on American soil. American and European intelligence officials in recent days have spoken publicly about growing evidence that militants may be planning a large-scale attack in Europe, and have bolstered security at a number of European airports and railway stations.

“We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano before a Senate panel last week.

The senior administration official said the strikes were intended not only to attack Taliban and Haqqani fighters, but also to disrupt any plots directed from or supported by extremists in Pakistan’s tribal areas that were aimed at targets in Europe. “The goal is to suppress or disrupt that activity,” the official said.

The 20 C.I.A. drone attacks in September represent the most intense bombardment by the spy agency since January, when the C.I.A. carried out 11 strikes after a suicide bomber killed seven agency operatives at a remote base in eastern Afghanistan.

According to one Pakistani intelligence official, the recent drone attacks have not killed any senior Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Many senior operatives have already fled North Waziristan, he said, to escape the C.I.A. drone campaign.

Over all the spy agency has carried out 74 drone attacks this year, according to the Web site The Long War Journal, which tracks the strikes. A vast majority of the attacks — which usually involve several drones firing multiple missiles or bombs — have taken place in North Waziristan.

The Obama administration has enthusiastically embraced the C.I.A.’s drone program, an ambitious and historically unusual war campaign by American spies. According to The Long War Journal, the spy agency in 2009 and 2010 has launched nearly four times as many attacks as it did during the final year of the Bush administration.

One American official said that the recent strikes had been aimed at several groups, including the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The United States, he said, hopes to “keep the pressure on as long as we can.”

But the C.I.A.’s campaign has also raised concerns that the drone strikes are fueling anger in the Muslim world. The man who attempted to detonate a truck filled with explosives in Times Square told a judge that the C.I.A. drone campaign was one of the factors that led him to attack the United States.

In a meeting with reporters on Monday, General Petraeus indicated that it was new intelligence gathering technology that helped NATO forces locate the militants killed by the helicopter raids against militants in Pakistan.

In particular, he said, the military has expanded its fleet of reconnaissance blimps that can hover over hide-outs thought to belong to the Taliban in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

The intelligence technology, General Petraeus said, has also enabled the expanded campaign of raids by Special Operations commandos against Taliban operatives in those areas.

Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan.
27523  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The World's Oceans on: September 28, 2010, 07:06:57 AM
This thread may include subjects such as depletion of fish, ocean currents and their temperatures, dead zones (i.e. no oxygen, such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico) trash (e.g. the vast whirlpool of trash in the Pacific) and more.  We begin with  , , , waves.

Terrors of the sea

Are "rogue waves" responsible for the disappearance of dozens of ships every year?


THE CLOCK READ midnight when the 100-foot wave hit the ship, rising from the North Atlantic out of the darkness. Among the ocean’s terrors, a wave this size was the most feared and the least understood, more myth than reality—or so people had thought. This giant was certainly real. As the RRS Discovery plunged down into the wave’s deep trough, it heeled 28 degrees to port, rolled 30 degrees back to starboard, then recovered to face the incoming seas. What chance did they have, the 47 scientists and crew aboard this research cruise gone horribly wrong? A series of storms had trapped them 250 miles off the coast of Northern Ireland in the black void east of Rockall, a volcanic island that is nicknamed Waveland for the nastiness of its surrounding waters. More than a thousand wrecked ships lay on the seafloor below.


Captain Keith Avery steered his vessel directly into the onslaught, just as he’d been doing for five days. While weather like this was common in the cranky North Atlantic, these waves were unlike anything he’d encountered in 30 years of seafaring. And worse, they kept rearing up from different directions. Avery knew their only hope was to remain where they were, with their bow pointed into the waves. Turning around was too risky; if one of these giants caught Discovery broadside, there would be long odds on survival. A breaking 100-foot wave packs 100 tons of force per square meter and can tear a ship in half.

Below deck, the scientists huddled in their cabins nursing black eyes and broken ribs. Ten days earlier, in late January 2000, they had left port in Southampton, England, on what they had hoped would be a typical three-week trip to Iceland and back. Along the way they’d stop and sample the water for salinity, temperature, oxygen and other nutrients. From these tests the team would draw a picture of what was happening out there, how the ocean’s basic characteristics were shifting, and why. These are not small questions on a planet that is 71 percent covered in salt water. As the Earth’s climate changes—as the winds increase, as the oceans heat up—what does all this mean for us? Trouble, most likely, and this team was in the business of finding out how much. It was deeply frustrating for them to be lashed to their bunks rather than out on the deck working.

The trip was far from a loss, however. During the endless trains of massive waves, Discovery itself was collecting data that would lead to a chilling revelation. The ship was ringed with instruments; everything that happened out there was being precisely measured. Months later, long after Avery had returned everyone safely to the Southampton docks, Penny Holliday, one of the expedition’s two chief scientists, began to analyze these figures and would discover that the waves they had experienced were the largest ever scientifically recorded in the open ocean. The significant wave height, an average of the largest 33 percent of the waves, was 61 feet, with frequent spikes far beyond that. At the same time, none of the state-of-the-art weather forecasts and wave models—the information upon which all ships, oil rigs, fisheries, and passenger boats rely—had predicted these behemoths. In other words, under this particular set of weather conditions, waves this size should not have existed. And yet they did.

HISTORY IS FULL of eyewitness accounts of giant waves, monsters in the 100-foot range and beyond, but until very recently scientists dismissed them. The problem was this: According to the basic physics of ocean waves, the conditions that would produce a 100-footer were so far beyond rare as to virtually never happen. Anyone who claimed to have seen one, therefore, was engaging in nautical tall tales or outright lies.

Even so, it was difficult to discount a report from the polar hero Ernest Shackleton, hardly the type for hysterical exaggeration. During his crossing from Antarctica to South Georgia Island in April 1916, Shackleton recorded an encounter with a wave far larger than any he had seen in 26 years of experience on the ocean. “It was a mighty upheaval of the ocean,” he wrote. When the wave hit his ship, Shackleton and his crew were “flung forward like a cork.” Fast bailing and major luck were all that saved them from capsizing. “Earnestly we hoped that never again would we encounter such a wave.”

The men on the 850-foot cargo ship München would have seconded that, if any of them had survived their rendezvous with a similar wave on Dec. 12, 1978. Considered unsinkable, the München was a cutting-edge craft, the flagship of the German Merchant Navy. At 3:25 a.m., fragments of a Morse code Mayday, emanating from 450 miles north of the Azores, signaled that the vessel had suffered grave damage from a wave. But even after 110 ships and 13 aircraft were deployed—the most comprehensive search in the history of shipping—the ship and its 27 crew were never seen again. A haunting clue was left behind: Searchers found one of the München’s lifeboats, usually stowed 65 feet above the water, floating empty. Its twisted metal fittings indicated that it had been torn away. “Something extraordinary” had destroyed the ship, concluded the official report.

The München’s disappearance points to the main problem with proving the existence of a giant wave: If you run into that kind of nightmare, it’s likely to be your last. The force of waves is hard to overstate. An 18-inch wave can topple a wall built to withstand 125-mph winds, for instance, and 5-foot-tall surf regularly kills people caught in the wrong places. The number of people who’ve witnessed a 100-foot wave and made it back home to describe the experience is very small.

Then, in 1995, something happened that no one could ignore. On Jan. 1 that year, the North Sea was feisty due to a pair of storms, a brutish one crawling northward and a smaller one moving southward to meet it. Statoil’s Draupner oil-drilling platform sat somewhere between them, about 100 miles off the tip of Norway. For the crew who lived on the rig it was a New Year’s Day of 38-foot seas rolling by, as measured by the laser wave recorder on the platform’s underside.

Unpleasant, perhaps, but not especially dramatic—until 3 p.m., when an 85-foot wave careened over the horizon and walloped the rig at 45 mph. While the Draupner sustained only moderate damage, the proof was there. This wasn’t a case of laser malfunction or too many aquavit toasts the night before. It was the first confirmed measurement of a freak wave, more than twice as tall and steep as its neighbors, a teetering maniac ripping across the North Sea.

They were out there all right. You could call them whatever you wanted—rogues, freaks, giants—but the bottom line was that no one had accounted for them. The engineers who’d built the Draupner rig had calculated that once every 10,000 years the North Sea might throw them a 64-foot curveball in 38-foot seas. Eighty-five-foot waves were not part of the equation. But the rules had changed. Now scientists had a set of numbers that pointed to an unsettling truth: Some of these waves make their own rules. Suddenly the emphasis shifted from explaining why giant waves couldn’t simply leap out of the ocean to figuring out how it was that they did.

This was a matter of much brow sweat for the oil industry, which would prefer that its multimillion-dollar rigs not be swept away. It had happened before. In 1982 the Ocean Ranger, a 337-foot-high oil platform located 170 miles off the coast of Newfoundland, was struck by an outsize wave in heavy weather. We’ll never know how big the wave was exactly, for there were no survivors. Built to withstand 110-foot seas, the Ocean Ranger had capsized and sank close to instantly, killing all 84 people on board.

In the nautical world things were even more troubling. Across the global seas ships were meeting these waves, from megaton vessels like theMünchen down to recreational sailboats. At best, the encounters resulted in damage; at worst, the boats vanished. “Two large ships sink every week on average [worldwide], but the cause is never studied to the same detail as an air crash. It simply gets put down to ‘bad weather,’” said Dr. Wolfgang Rosenthal, senior scientist for the MaxWave Project, a consortium of European scientists that convened in 2000 to investigate the disappearing ships.

While Rosenthal’s numbers may be high, his point is well taken. Exact statistics of ships scuttled by giant waves are impossible to come by, but it is clear that every year, on average, more than two dozen large ships sink or otherwise go missing, taking their crews with them. When I first read about the missing ships, I was astonished. In the high-tech marine world of radar, GPS, and satellite surveillance, how could hundreds of enormous vessels just get swallowed up by the sea? Imagine the headlines if even a single 747 slipped off the map with all its passengers and was never heard from again. After the Draupner incident, it became undeniable: No one had a clue how waves behaved in the most extreme forms.

A WAVE MIGHT seem to be a simple thing, but in fact a wave of any kind is the most complicated form in nature. Paradoxically, a wave is both an object and a motion. When wave energy moves through water, the water itself doesn’t actually go anywhere. The wave energy does. It’s like cracking a whip.

In order to exist, waves require a disturbing force and a restoring force. In the ocean that disturbing force is usually, but not always, the wind. (Earthquakes, underwater landslides, and the gravitational pull of the sun and moon can also play this role.) The restoring force is usually, but not always, gravity. And all of this goes to explain why, if you’re serious about trying to pin down a wave, you turn to equations rather than words.

But math fails even the experts, because waves in nature do all sorts of bizarre stuff. When Penny Holliday finally got around to studying her data from Discovery’s stormy February 2000 trip, she and a colleague at the National Oceanographic Center in Southampton concluded that most of the higher-than-expected waves the ship encountered were created by an effect known as “resonance.” Resonance is an aspect of nonlinearity that is endlessly complex when scrawled across a whiteboard, but kindergarten-simple when explained by the analogy of a kid pumping his legs on a swing, dramatically boosting his height on each pass. Energy is continually being added to the system, more and more and more, in erratic bursts. Likewise in the North Atlantic, wind energy surged into the waves until they grew to enormous proportions.

But the freak waves—the mutants that are three or four times taller than anything else in the surrounding seas? One of Holliday’s colleagues, Peter Challenor, admits that an explanation for those giants is a long way off. “We don’t have that random messy theory for nonlinear waves. At all,” he says. “People have been working actively on this for the past 50 years at least. We don’t even have the start of a theory.”


The ocean, it seems, doesn’t subscribe to the orderly explanations that we would like it to. Its depths still hold more secrets than anyone can count.
27524  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Paine: on: September 28, 2010, 06:58:23 AM
"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer." --Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776
27525  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat thought piece: Pak and the US exit on: September 28, 2010, 06:57:29 AM
Not all of this makes sense to me (e.g. the comment on India) but George Friedman is no fool.  What do we make of this?


Pakistan and the U.S. Exit From Afghanistan
September 28, 2010
By George Friedman

Bob Woodward has released another book, this one on the debate over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration. As all his books do, the book has riveted Washington. It reveals that intense debate occurred over what course to take, that the president sought alternative strategies and that compromises were reached. But while knowing the details of these things is interesting, what would have been shocking is if they hadn’t taken place.

It is interesting to reflect on the institutional inevitability of these disagreements. The military is involved in a war. It is institutionally and emotionally committed to victory in the theater of combat. It will demand all available resources for executing the war under way. For a soldier who has bled in that war, questioning the importance of the war is obscene. A war must be fought relentlessly and with all available means.

But while the military’s top generals and senior civilian leadership are responsible for providing the president with sound, clearheaded advice on all military matters including the highest levels of grand strategy, they are ultimately responsible for the pursuit of military objectives to which the commander-in-chief directs them. Generals must think about how to win the war they are fighting. Presidents must think about whether the war is worth fighting. The president is responsible for America’s global posture. He must consider what an unlimited commitment to a particular conflict might mean in other regions of the world where forces would be unavailable.

A president must take a more dispassionate view than his generals. He must calculate not only whether victory is possible but also the value of the victory relative to the cost. Given the nature of the war in Afghanistan, U.S. President Barack Obama and Gen. David Petraeus — first the U.S. Central Command chief and now the top commander in Afghanistan — had to view it differently. This is unavoidable. This is natural. And only one of the two is ultimately in charge.

The Nature of Guerrilla Warfare

In thinking about Afghanistan, it is essential that we begin by thinking about the nature of guerrilla warfare against an occupying force. The guerrilla lives in the country. He isn’t going anywhere else, as he has nowhere to go. By contrast, the foreigner has a place to which he can return. This is the core weakness of the occupier and the strength of the guerrilla. The former can leave and in all likelihood, his nation will survive. The guerrilla can’t. And having alternatives undermines the foreigner’s will to fight regardless of the importance of the war to him.

The strategy of the guerrilla is to make the option to withdraw more attractive. In order to do this, his strategic goal is simply to survive and fight on whatever level he can. His patience is built into who he is and what he is fighting for. The occupier’s patience is calculated against the cost of the occupation and its opportunity costs, thus, while troops are committed in this country, what is happening elsewhere?

Tactically, the guerrilla survives by being elusive. He disperses in small groups. He operates in hostile terrain. He denies the enemy intelligence on his location and capabilities. He forms political alliances with civilians who provide him supplies and intelligence on the occupation forces and misleads the occupiers about his own location. The guerrilla uses this intelligence network to decline combat on the enemy’s terms and to strike the enemy when he is least prepared. The guerrilla’s goal is not to seize and hold ground but to survive, evade and strike, imposing casualties on the occupier. Above all, the guerrilla must never form a center of gravity that, if struck, would lead to his defeat. He thus actively avoids anything that could be construed as a decisive contact.

The occupation force is normally a more conventional army. Its strength is superior firepower, resources and organization. If it knows where the guerrilla is and can strike before the guerrilla can disperse, the occupying force will defeat the guerrilla. The occupier’s problems are that his intelligence is normally inferior to that of the guerrillas; the guerrillas rarely mass in ways that permit decisive combat and normally can disperse faster than the occupier can pinpoint and deploy forces against them; and the guerrillas’ superior tactical capabilities allow them to impose a constant low rate of casualties on the occupier. Indeed, the massive amount of resources the occupier requires and the inflexibility of a military institution not solely committed to the particular theater of operations can actually work against the occupier by creating logistical vulnerabilities susceptible to guerrilla attacks and difficulty adapting at a rate sufficient to keep pace with the guerrilla. The occupation force will always win engagements, but that is never the measure of victory. If the guerrillas operate by doctrine, defeats in unplanned engagements will not undermine their basic goal of survival. While the occupier is not winning decisively, even while suffering only some casualties, he is losing. While the guerrilla is not losing decisively, even if suffering significant casualties, he is winning. Since the guerrilla is not going anywhere, he can afford far higher casualties than the occupier, who ultimately has the alternative of withdrawal.

The asymmetry of this warfare favors the guerrilla. This is particularly true when the strategic value of the war to the occupier is ambiguous, where the occupier does not possess sufficient force and patience to systematically overwhelm the guerrillas, and where either political or military constraints prevent operations against sanctuaries. This is a truth as relevant to David’s insurgency against the Philistines as it is to the U.S. experience in Vietnam or the Russian occupation of Afghanistan.

There has long been a myth about the unwillingness of Americans to absorb casualties for very long in guerrilla wars. In reality, the United States fought in Vietnam for at least seven years (depending on when you count the start and stop) and has now fought in Afghanistan for nine years. The idea that Americans can’t endure the long war has no empirical basis. What the United States has difficulty with — along with imperial and colonial powers before it — is a war in which the ability to impose one’s will on the enemy through force of arms is lacking and when it is not clear that the failure of previous years to win the war will be solved in the years ahead.

Far more relevant than casualties to whether Americans continue a war is the question of the conflict’s strategic importance, for which the president is ultimately responsible. This divides into several parts. This first is whether the United States has the ability with available force to achieve its political goals through prosecuting the war (since all war is fought for some political goal, from regime change to policy shift) and whether the force the United States is willing to dedicate suffices to achieve these goals. To address this question in Afghanistan, we have to focus on the political goal.

The Evolution of the U.S. Political Goal in Afghanistan

Washington’s primary goal at the initiation of the conflict was to destroy or disrupt al Qaeda in Afghanistan to protect the U.S. homeland from follow-on attacks to 9/11. But if Afghanistan were completely pacified, the threat of Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism would remain at issue because it is no longer just an issue of a single organization — al Qaeda — but a series of fragmented groups conducting operations in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, North Africa, Somalia and elsewhere.

Today, al Qaeda is simply one manifestation of the threat of this transnational jihadist phenomenon. It is important to stop and consider al Qaeda — and the transnational jihadist phenomenon in general — in terms of guerrillas, and to think of the phenomenon as a guerrilla force in its own right operating by the very same rules on a global basis. Thus, where the Taliban apply guerrilla principles to Afghanistan, today’s transnational jihadist applies them to the Islamic world and beyond. The transnational jihadists are not leaving and are not giving up. Like the Taliban in Afghanistan, they will decline combat against larger American forces and strike vulnerable targets when they can.

There are certainly more players and more complexity to the global phenomenon than in a localized insurgency. Many governments across North Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have no interest in seeing these movements set up shop and stir up unrest in their territory. And al Qaeda’s devolution has seen frustrations as well as successes as it spreads. But the underlying principles of guerrilla warfare remain at issue. Whenever the Americans concentrate force in one area, al Qaeda disengages, disperses and regroups elsewhere and, perhaps more important, the ideology that underpins the phenomenon continues to exist. The threat will undoubtedly continue to evolve and face challenges, but in the end, it will continue to exist along the lines of the guerrilla acting against the United States.

There is another important way in which the global guerrilla analogy is apt. STRATFOR has long held that Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism does not represent a strategic, existential threat to the United States. While acts of transnational terrorism target civilians, they are not attacks — have not been and are not evolving into attacks — that endanger the territorial integrity of the United States or the way of life of the American people. They are dangerous and must be defended against, but transnational terrorism is and remains a tactical problem that for nearly a decade has been treated as if it were the pre-eminent strategic threat to the United States.

Nietzsche wrote that, “The most fundamental form of human stupidity is forgetting what we were trying to do in the first place.” The stated U.S. goal in Afghanistan was the destruction of al Qaeda. While al Qaeda as it existed in 2001 has certainly been disrupted and degraded, al Qaeda’s evolution and migration means that disrupting and degrading it — to say nothing of destroying it — can no longer be achieved by waging a war in Afghanistan. The guerrilla does not rely on a single piece of real estate (in this case Afghanistan) but rather on his ability to move seamlessly across terrain to evade decisive combat in any specific location. Islamist-fueled transnational terrorism is not centered on Afghanistan and does not need Afghanistan, so no matter how successful that war might be, it would make little difference in the larger fight against transnational jihadism.

Thus far, the United States has chosen to carry on fighting the war in Afghanistan. As al Qaeda has fled Afghanistan, the overall political goal for the United States in the country has evolved to include the creation of a democratic and uncorrupt Afghanistan. It is not clear that anyone knows how to do this, particularly given that most Afghans consider the ruling government of President Hamid Karzai — with which the United States is allied — as the heart of the corruption problem, and beyond Kabul most Afghans do not regard their way of making political and social arrangements to be corrupt.

Simply withdrawing from Afghanistan carries its own strategic and political costs, however. The strategic problem is that simply terminating the war after nine years would destabilize the Islamic world. The United States has managed to block al Qaeda’s goal of triggering a series of uprisings against existing regimes and replacing them with jihadist regimes. It did this by displaying a willingness to intervene where necessary. Of course, the idea that U.S. intervention destabilized the region raises the question of what regional stability would look like had it not intervened. The danger of withdrawal is that the network of relationships the United States created and imposed at the regime level could unravel if it withdrew. America would be seen as having lost the war, the prestige of radical Islamists and thereby the foundation of the ideology that underpins their movement would surge, and this could destabilize regimes and undermine American interests.

The political problem is domestic. Obama’s approval rating now stands at 42 percent. This is not unprecedented, but it means he is politically weak. One of the charges against him, fair or not, is that he is inherently anti-war by background and so not fully committed to the war effort. Where a Republican would face charges of being a warmonger, which would make withdrawal easier, Obama faces charges of being too soft. Since a president must maintain political support to be effective, withdrawal becomes even harder. Therefore, strategic analysis aside, the president is not going to order a complete withdrawal of all combat forces any time soon — the national (and international) political alignment won’t support such a step. At the same time, remaining in Afghanistan is unlikely to achieve any goal and leaves potential rivals like China and Russia freer rein.

The American Solution

The American solution, one that we suspect is already under way, is the Pakistanization of the war. By this, we do not mean extending the war into Pakistan but rather extending Pakistan into Afghanistan. The Taliban phenomenon has extended into Pakistan in ways that seriously complicate Pakistani efforts to regain their bearing in Afghanistan. It has created a major security problem for Islamabad, which, coupled with the severe deterioration of the country’s economy and now the floods, has weakened the Pakistanis’ ability to manage Afghanistan. In other words, the moment that the Pakistanis have been waiting for — American agreement and support for the Pakistanization of the war — has come at a time when the Pakistanis are not in an ideal position to capitalize on it.

In the past, the United States has endeavored to keep the Taliban in Afghanistan and the regime in Pakistan separate. (The Taliban movements in Afghanistan and Pakistan are not one and the same.) Washington has not succeeded in this regard, with the Pakistanis continuing to hedge their bets and maintain a relationship across the border. Still, U.S. opposition has been the single greatest impediment to Pakistan’s consolidation of the Taliban in Afghanistan, and abandoning this opposition leaves important avenues open for Islamabad.

The Pakistani relationship to the Taliban, which was a liability for the United States in the past, now becomes an advantage for Washington because it creates a trusted channel for meaningful communication with the Taliban. Logic suggests this channel is quite active now.

The Vietnam War ended with the Paris peace talks. Those formal talks were not where the real bargaining took place but rather where the results were ultimately confirmed. If talks are under way, a similar venue for the formal manifestation of the talks is needed — and Islamabad is as good a place as any.

Pakistan is an American ally which the United States needs, both to balance growing Chinese influence in and partnership with Pakistan, and to contain India. Pakistan needs the United States for the same reason. Meanwhile, the Taliban wants to run Afghanistan. The United States has no strong national interest in how Afghanistan is run so long as it does not support and espouse transnational jihadism. But it needs its withdrawal to take place in a manner that strengthens its influence rather than weakens it, and Pakistan can provide the cover for turning a retreat into a negotiated settlement.

Pakistan has every reason to play this role. It needs the United States over the long term to balance against India. It must have a stable or relatively stable Afghanistan to secure its western frontier. It needs an end to U.S. forays into Pakistan that are destabilizing the regime. And playing this role would enhance Pakistan’s status in the Islamic world, something the United States could benefit from, too. We suspect that all sides are moving toward this end.

The United States isn’t going to defeat the Taliban. The original goal of the war is irrelevant, and the current goal is rather difficult to take seriously. Even a victory, whatever that would look like, would make little difference in the fight against transnational jihad, but a defeat could harm U.S. interests. Therefore, the United States needs a withdrawal that is not a defeat. Such a strategic shift is not without profound political complexity and difficulties. But the disparity between — and increasingly, the incompatibility of — the struggle with transnational terrorism and the war effort geographically rooted in Afghanistan is only becoming more apparent — even to the American public.
27526  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 27, 2010, 11:36:15 PM
As someone pointed out, the current trajectory seems to lead to us being run off of our alliance with Taiwan; perhaps in the aftermath of our , , , departure from Iraq and Afghanistan.   
27527  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: September 27, 2010, 09:12:17 PM
Prudent?  Yeah that's what was said with Alsace-Lorraine, Sudentland (sp?) and Austria too.

Hell, maybe we could crank up the printing press and pay off all the bonds they hold.  Of course then no one would lend us money any more , , , which could be a good thing.  cheesy
27528  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Never fear, UNOOSA is ready! on: September 27, 2010, 08:37:43 PM
UN to appoint Earth contact for aliens

THE United Nations was set today to appoint an obscure Malaysian astrophysicist to act as Earth’s first contact for any aliens that may come visiting.

Mazlan Othman, the head of the UN's little-known Office for Outer Space Affairs (Unoosa), is to describe her potential new role next week at a scientific conference at the Royal Society’s Kavli conference centre in Buckinghamshire.

She is scheduled to tell delegates that the recent discovery of hundreds of planets around other stars has made the detection of extraterrestrial life more likely than ever before - and that means the UN must be ready to coordinate humanity’s response to any “first contact”.

During a talk Othman gave recently to fellow scientists, she said: “The continued search for extraterrestrial communication, by several entities, sustains the hope that some day humankind will receive signals from extraterrestrials.

"When we do, we should have in place a coordinated response that takes into account all the sensitivities related to the subject. The UN is a ready-made mechanism for such coordination.”

Professor Richard Crowther, an expert in space law and governance at the UK Space Agency and who leads British delegations to the UN on such matters, said: “Othman is absolutely the nearest thing we have to a ‘take me to your leader’ person.”

However, he thinks humanity’s first encounter with any intelligent aliens is more likely to be via radio or light signals from a distant planet than by beings arriving on Earth. And, he suggests, even if we do encounter aliens in the flesh, they are more likely to be microbes than anything intelligent.

Read more:
27529  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 9/22 Energy subsidies withdrawn on: September 27, 2010, 11:02:40 AM
Iran's Subsidy Issue Adds to Domestic, International Tensions

The Iranian government withdrew energy subsidies without prior notice of the exact date the subsidies would end, leaving many Iranian consumers taken aback by hefty electricity bills, Reuters reported on Tuesday. According to the report, some households claimed their bills were as much as 1,000 percent higher than the previous month’s. This development follows a government move to hold off on cutting gasoline subsidies for at least one month.

The latest round of sanctions (from the United Nations, United States and European Union) has not led Tehran to capitulate to Western pressure. That said, Iran is ending subsidies on essential goods and services, and Tehran would not be carrying out such an initiative if it was not essential for the country’s economic health, especially given the significant risk of public backlash.

“It appears as though the Islamic republic has reached an impasse with itself.”
The manner in which the subsidies on power supplies were pulled after the delay in ending the subsidies on fuel shows that the regime is concerned about domestic unrest. It was only this past February that the regime was able to contain the eight-month upheaval created by the Green Movement following the controversial re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Though Iranian authorities put an end to street agitation, the regime continues to face a much more serious problem: infighting between Ahmadinejad and his opponents spread across the entire Iranian political establishment.

Officials representing both sides can be seen daily using Iran’s various official and semi-official media organs to attack each other. It appears as though the Islamic republic has reached an impasse with itself. What makes this even more significant is that Iran is also at a major crossroads internationally, given the controversy over its nuclear program, the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan and other regional matters.

Iran sees an historic opportunity to consolidate its influence in its immediate abroad, from where the United States is trying to withdraw militarily. In Iraq, Washington needs to be able to reach a settlement with Tehran on a balance of power in Baghdad that is acceptable to both sides. In Afghanistan, where the United States is trying to create the conditions for as early an exit as possible, Iran also holds significant influence.

Washington, for its part, wants to be able to reach an understanding with Iran so that it can withdraw from the countries to both the west and east of the Islamic republic. But it wants to be able to do so in such a way that Iranian ambitions for regional dominance are kept in check. As long as Tehran can negotiate from a position of relative strength this is not possible.

This is where both the intra-elite struggle in Tehran and the subsidies issue are of immense potential significance. Both issues are so complex that it is difficult to predict their outcome, but if either issue evolves unfavorably for Tehran, it could undermine the Islamic republic’s bargaining power and give the United States an opening to exploit.
27530  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Tajikstan Attacks and Islamist Militancy in Central Asia on: September 27, 2010, 11:00:47 AM
The Tajikistan Attacks and Islamist Militancy in Central Asia
September 23, 2010

By Ben West

Militants in Tajikistan’s Rasht Valley ambushed a military convoy of 75 Tajik troops Sept. 19, killing 25 military personnel according to official reports and 40 according to the militants, who attacked from higher ground with small arms, automatic weapons and grenades. The Tajik troops were part of a nationwide deployment of security forces seeking to recapture 25 individuals linked to the United Tajik Opposition militant groups that had escaped from prison in Dushanbe on Aug. 24. The daring prison break was conducted by members of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and saw five security guards killed and the country put on red alert. According to the Tajik government, after the escape, most of the militants fled to the Rasht Valley, an area under the influence of Islamist militants that is hard to reach for Tajikistan’s security forces and thus rarely patrolled by troops.

Sunday’s attack was one of the deadliest clashes between militants and the Tajik government since the Central Asian country’s civil war ended in 1997. The last comparable attack was in 1998, when militants ambushed a battalion of Interior Ministry troops just outside Dushanbe, killing 20 and kidnapping 110. Sunday’s incident was preceded by a Sept. 3 attack on a police station that involved a suicide operative and a vehicle-borne improvised explosive device (VBIED) in the northwest Tajik city of Khujand that killed four police officers. Suicide attacks are rare in Tajikistan, and VBIEDs even more so. The Khujand attack also stands out as it occurred outside militant territory. Khujand, Tajikistan’s second-largest city after the capital, is located at the mouth of the Fergana Valley, the largest population center in Central Asia.

This represents a noticeable increase in the number and professionalism of militant operations in Tajikistan. Regardless of whether the September attacks can be directly linked to the Aug. 24 jailbreak in Dushanbe, the sudden re-emergence of attacks in Tajikistan after a decade of quiet in Central Asia deserves our attention. In short, something is percolating in the valleys of Central Asia that has reawakened militant groups more or less dormant for a decade. This unrest will likely continue and possibly grow if Tajik security forces can’t get control of the situation.

The Central Asian Core’s Divided Geography

Greater Central Asia, which encompasses southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and western China, comprises the northeastern frontier of the Muslim world. A knot of mountain ranges defines the geography of the region’s core, which forms a buffer between the Chinese and Russian spheres of influence. The region’s rugged terrain acts as a force multiplier for local populations seeking their own sovereignty, complicating foreign powers’ efforts to control the region.

(click here to enlarge image)
The Fergana Valley is the best-suited land in Central Asia for hosting a large population. Soviet leader Josef Stalin split the valley up between the Soviet republics that would become the countries of Central Asia to ensure the region remained divided, however. Uzbekistan controls most of the basin itself; Tajikistan controls the most accessible entrance to the valley from the west; and Kyrgyzstan controls the high ground around the valley. Uzbekistan also controls several exclaves within Kyrgyzstan’s portion of the valley, affording the Uzbek government and Uzbek citizens (including militants) access fairly deep into Kyrgyz territory. Meanwhile, the Rasht Valley follows the Vakhsh River across the Tajik-Kyrgyz border, giving locals (again including militants) a passage through the mountainous border region south of the Fergana Valley. These complex geographic and political divisions ensure that no one country can dominate Central Asia’s core, and hence Central Asia itself.

The Militants of Central Asia

An often-confusing assortment of militant groups has called Central Asia home since the end of the Soviet Union, many of which have split or joined up with one another. The most significant players in the region’s militant landscape include:

Islamic Renaissance Party (IRP). Founded in 1990, it was the first Islamist political party to gain Soviet recognition. After it was banned throughout Central Asia in 1992, many of its members resorted to violence.
Islamic Revival Party of Tajikistan (IRPT). The Tajik branch of the IRP, the IRPT was active during the Tajik civil war of 1992-97 but has since turned to the political sphere.
United Tajik Opposition (UTO). UTO was an umbrella organization for the groups that fought against the Moscow-backed Tajik government during the Tajik civil war, but most of its members turned to politics at the end of the war. UTO derived much of its strength from constituent Islamist groups like the IRP, but it also encompassed the Democratic Party of Tajikistan and the ethnic Gharmi group.
Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT). Founded in East Jerusalem in 1953, HT seeks to establish a worldwide caliphate. The group is present in more than 40 countries; its Central Asian base is Uzbekistan. The group promotes ideological extremism, though it does not directly engage in violence. Even so, the region’s security forces have targeted it.
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). A militant Islamic group aligned with al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban, IMU was formed in 1998 after the UTO turned to politics. Its ultimate aim was to transform Uzbekistan into an Islamic state. IMU leaders since have spread to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Islamic Jihad Union/Group (IJU). The IJU split off from IMU; it has a small presence in Europe.
Movement for the Islamic Revival of Uzbekistan (MIRU). MIRU was formed in 1994 and was incorporated into the IMU in 1998.
East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). A group primarily focused on independence for the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, ETIM is thought to have ties with the IMU.
Islamic Movement of Turkistan (IMT). Like ETIM, IMT is thought to have ties with the IMU.

Islam and Militants in Central Asia

Historically, the moderate form of Islam known as Sufism predominated in Central Asia, with Salafism (a far more conservative form of Islam also called Wahhabism) being very much in the minority. Islam was strongly suppressed during Russian, and later Soviet, rule, however. Soviet security forces frequently raided mosques and madrassas, and Muslim religious leaders were routinely arrested. Generations of religious repression saw Sufism’s role in the region decline as Central Asians became more secular. Salafism was able to capitalize on this vacuum as the Central Asian Soviet republics gained independence in 1991, aided materially and in manpower by their co-religionists beyond the Soviet sphere. Sufism, by contrast, was much more localized and could not draw on such resources.

By 1991, when Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan all got independence, many Salafists in Central Asia (and elsewhere) had incorporated violence into their ideology, classifying them as jihadists. With growing influence, groups like the IRPT (although banned in 1993) allied with secular opposition groups to fight the government during Tajikistan’s five-year civil war. During this time, radical Islamists who turned to violence attacked Dushanbe from their bases in the Rasht and Tavildara valleys in northern Tajikistan as well as from Kunduz and Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan, where they relied on the large population of Tajik-Afghans (some of whom had ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda) for support. After the civil war, many IRPT leaders joined the political process, leaving only a hardened remnant in the valleys to the north or in Afghanistan.

Later, the IMU began its campaign to bring down the Uzbek government in 1998. Uzbek President Islam Karimov used a heavy hand against the IMU and other Islamists. The IMU accordingly found it easier to operate in neighboring Kyrgyzstan, including the Uzbek exclaves of So’x and Shohimardon.

By 2000, militants faced government crackdowns throughout Central Asia, though they could still operate in Tajikistan and across the border in Afghanistan. The IMU, for example, was largely wiped out after 9/11 and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the battle of Kunduz. The Taliban and IMU had decided to make a stand against the Northern Alliance and U.S. forces in Kunduz, but the Taliban withdrew, leaving the IMU to fend for itself. The IMU lost one of its two founding members and leaders, Juma Namangani, in the subsequent crushing defeat. While the IMU managed a few more large-scale attacks in Tashkent, including suicide attacks on the Israeli and U.S. embassies and the Uzbek prosecutor general’s office in 2004, this did not signal a resurgence. Its remaining members relocated along with other fractured militant groups to northwestern Pakistan, where they took advantage of smuggling opportunities to raise funds. In August 2009, the IMU’s other founder and leader, Tahir Yuldashev, died in a suspected U.S. missile strike in Pakistan. The involvement of Yuldashev and his fighters in the Islamist insurgency in Pakistan shows just how far the IMU had deviated from its original goal of toppling the Uzbek government. While the Uzbek and Tajik governments routinely blame attacks such as the Sept. 19 raid on the IMU, the group is no longer the coherent movement it was in the late 1990s.

Islamist Militant Fragmentation

Now, governments frequently use the IMU as a catchall phrase for Islamists in Central Asia who would like to overthrow the regions’ governments. In reality, various factors divide the region’s militants, and continuing to use convenient labels like IMU frequently masks real shifts and complexities in Central Asia’s militant landscape. These groups are divided by the particular conditions of their areas of operation, by ethnicity and tribe, and by their particular cause.

Groups like the IMU depend on commanders of militants in places like the Rasht, Tavildara or Fergana valleys to carry out the attacks. The situations in each valley are quite different. For example, the increasing Tajik military presence in the Rasht Valley means militant commanders there will have different missions from commanders in the Fergana Valley, to say nothing of the IMU members fighting NATO forces in Afghanistan or smuggling drugs in Pakistan. The name IMU to a large degree has become a generic label for Islamic militant activity in a similar fashion to how the devolution of al Qaeda has shifted the original understanding of the group and its name.

Ethnicity and tribal structures also complicate the picture. Central Asia is a hodge-podge of ethnicities, including Tajiks, Uzbeks, Kyrgyzs, Turkmen, Kazakhs and Uighurs. They speak different languages and have different customs, leading to highly localized, clan-based loyalties. Various groups and subgroups frequently cross national borders, making the activities of some factions more transnational in their ambitions or more interested in creating their own state rather than taking power from the government of the day.

And militants’ shifting causes vary considerably. In hostile terrain like that of Central Asia, it is difficult enough to survive, much less adhere to consistent ideological goals. Groups like the IRPT frequently started as peaceful political groups, fractured, and then became more militant during the Tajik civil war, only to rejoin the political process.

The Regional Outlook

The past has shown that violence in one country can quickly spread to its neighbors. Thus, while Uzbekistan has largely mitigated the militant threat through strict security measures, it remains vulnerable due to its proximity to the chaotic countries of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and the geographically distorted borders around the Fergana Valley.

The Afghan question also looms large. With the United States and NATO set to begin withdrawing troops from Afghanistan in less than a year, Central Asian countries will face a much less restrained Taliban in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s relative weakness in northern Afghanistan will mitigate this threat, but the region will nonetheless be in limbo after NATO withdraws. For their part, Central Asia’s militants hope the Western withdrawal and the hoped-for Taliban rise to power will restore Afghanistan as a militant safe haven from which to pursue their home-country ambitions. And this prospect, of course, makes Central Asian governments quite uneasy.

Complicating matters, Russia is moving to protect its interests in Central Asia by moving up to 25,000 troops to Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to increase security at its military installations there. Central Asian states are looking to balance their security needs in light of a destabilizing Afghanistan by accepting more Russian troops.

Between increasing militant activity in Tajikistan after years of relative quiet, the impending Western withdrawal from Afghanistan and a resurgent Russia, Central Asia faces challenging times ahead.
27531  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Detroit on: September 27, 2010, 10:52:49 AM
Pasting here Gorden's email seeking kindred spirits in the Detroit area.
Hey guys,

I'm Gorden.  I'm from Hannover,Germany.  I excercised with jörg Beier,Christian Eckert,Stephan from munich,grumpy dog from mainz,etc and one time in a year with lonely dog at the loreley summer camp since Three Years.

Now i'm in the US during the Next two Weeks to visit a friend of Mine in Detroit.

I would like to tso some exercise here with dogs from the US,but i didn't find anything in the Web in the Area of Detroit or Michigan. Can you Support me with some contact Data of Brothers?

Hope, you can help me.  I would really appreciate to hear from you guys!

ake Care.  Have a good Time.

Gorden Linnemann
Hannover, Germany
27532  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Breathe deeply three times on: September 27, 2010, 10:41:59 AM
second post of the morning:,0
27533  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Silenced hits on: September 27, 2010, 10:26:05 AM
Our man in Iraq reports today as follows:

"A few weeks back I told some of you I noticed a trend towards silenced pistols in hits.  Well I spoke today to somebody who works closely with the Ministry of Interior, and he said attacks by silenced pistols are off the charts and are now a more likely occurrence than a non-silenced pistol.
"Since the jihadist movement learns from each other, and adopts each other's effective tactics, and since we know stuff happening stateside is only a matter of time, keep this in mind even in the homeland."
27534  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-4 on: September 27, 2010, 10:24:50 AM
Second post of the day:

A few weeks back I told some of you I noticed a trend towards silenced pistols in hits.  Well I spoke today to somebody who works closely with the Ministry of Interior, and he said attacks by silenced pistols are off the charts and are now a more likely occurrence than a non-silenced pistol.
Since the jihadist movement learns from each other, and adopts each other's effective tactics, and since we know stuff happening stateside is only a matter of time, keep this in mind even in the homeland.
27535  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pebble Bed Reactors on: September 27, 2010, 08:26:14 AM
27536  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: September 27, 2010, 08:07:16 AM , , , though I think the example of ending the Iran-Iraq War well wide of the mark , , , et seq
27537  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Day by Day on: September 27, 2010, 08:06:08 AM
27538  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Soldiers' Angels on: September 27, 2010, 07:50:22 AM
From Michael Yon, who has this site's full support:

Dear Friend,
I have just returned to Afghanistan and I’m writing to tell you about a new book project I’m working on and an important organization that I’m backing with this book. I hope you will too.
Soldiers’ Angels is a volunteer-led nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the American soldier in the field.  Morally, materially, and spiritually. Its volunteers number over 200,000.  In my opinion, SA is the most effective of all civilian support groups. You’ve read about them in some of my dispatches as I have been a champion of their heroic efforts for years.
Soldier’s Angels has a number of great projects, including Adopt a Soldier, which matches one soldier in the field to one supporter or family at home who sends a letter every week and a care package at least once a month. But their most important contribution is also one of the most expensive is theFirst Response Backpack.
U.S. military personnel who are injured or wounded are moved out to treatment so fast that sometimes their gear and personal items never catch up with them.  Evacuated in the clothing damaged or removed during treatment, these soldiers often find themselves without basic supplies. A Soldiers’ Angels First Response Backpack provides comfortable clothing, a full set of travel-sized toiletries and accessories, an international calling card the soldier can use to phone home, and a handmade Blanket of Hope. To date, Soldiers’ Angels has distributed more than 15,000 backpacks to the wounded.
I’ve seen the great impact Soldiers’ Angels has in the field, so you won’t be surprised that I want to help them. Or that I’m asking you to join me in that effort.
I am currently at work on a new book called IRAQ: INSIDE THE INFERNO. It will cover my years reporting in the field from 2005-2008. It will tell, with words and pictures, the dramatic story of how we won the war in Iraq – not primarily with our overwhelming technology, not with shock and awe destruction, but with the far more important force of American values.
The book will assemble some two hundred of the most powerful, telling, and dramatic photographs I have taken in Iraq (many never before published). With my publisher, Richard Vigilante Books, we have enlisted an award-winning documentary producer from Discovery Channel, Karen Kraft, and her handpicked team to create the book.  Pictures of American warriors at work, engaged in killing terrorists or rebuilding a school or a shattered neighborhood. My intent is to combine the best of my pictures with the best of my writing to create an entirely new type of experience. And for the final product to have the enduring memorial value of the most treasured, well-crafted volume in a great library.
IRAQ: INSIDE THE INFERNO will come off the press for shipment late this year before the holidays, but my publisher is not going to ship the regular version to bookstores until Spring. Why?  Because we want to raise $50,000 to help Soldiers’ Angels.
To meet this goal, my publisher is creating a limited number of boxed, signed, and numbered deluxe editions of the book to be offered exclusively to my supporters and both of us are contributing a portion of our proceeds to Soldier’s Angels.
This 220 page, full color book will be printed on the finest paper used for art books and bound using timeless techniques of the book-makers’ craft. Here are some of the details:

- The pages will be Smythe sewn, not just glued the way most books are today.
- The paper is acid free and guaranteed to last 800 years without yellowing or deterioration.
-  The beautiful cloth cover – not plastic or some other synthetic fabric – will be gold stamped on both front and spine.
- And each book will be encased in a cloth-covered, gold stamped slipcase.
I will personally sign and hand-number each copy of this special edition and enclose a certificate, suitable for framing, to memorialize your support of my mission and of Soldiers’ Angels.
The cost for each signed, numbered deluxe copy is $49.95, plus shipping.  A lot of money, but here is the bottom line:  The money we raise from sales of this book is crucial not only to support my own mission but for our goal of raising at least $50,000 for Soldiers’ Angels. That’s why we have tried so hard to create a work that expresses our gratitude for your support. As you know, I have returned to Afghanistan just days ago and my arrangement with my publisher provides book royalties to me earlier than a traditional publishing arrangement in order to assist me with my mission.
My publisher is now accepting pre-orders for IRAQ: INSIDE THE INFERNO. Pre-ordering will guarantee you a copy – we can print this special edition only once – and within days of the book coming off the press. If our experience with the special signed edition of my last book, A Moment of Truth in Iraq, is any guide, it will sell out, so the only way to absolutely guarantee you will be able to get a copy is to pre-order.
More importantly, pre-orders will help us raise funds for Soldiers’ Angels more quickly. I’d be thrilled if we could raise all of the $50,000 we have targeted for Soldiers’ Angels on pre-orders of the special edition alone. If we can do that, then we can raise even more.
I think you’ll love the book and hope you’ll pre-order today. It makes a great gift, especially because it is also a gift to the American soldier, who, as I said in A Moment of Truth In Iraq, ‘is not only the most dangerous man in the world, but the best man, too.’

Very Respectfully,
Michael Yon
27539  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Littering with water bottles? on: September 27, 2010, 07:26:08 AM
BUENOS AIRES NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE, Ariz. — In this remote, semidesert landscape along the United States-Mexico border, water is a precious commodity — and a contentious one, too.

Two years ago, Daniel J. Millis was ticketed for littering after he was caught by a federal Fish and Wildlife officer placing gallon jugs of water for passing immigrants in the brush of this 118,000-acre preserve.
“I do extreme sports, and I know I couldn’t walk as far as they do,” said Mr. Millis, driving through the refuge recently. “It’s no surprise people are dying.”

Mr. Millis, 31, was not the only one to get a ticket. Fourteen other volunteers for Tucson-based organizations that provide aid to immigrants crossing from Mexico to the United States were similarly cited. Most of the cases were later dropped, but Mr. Millis and another volunteer for a religious group called No More Deaths were convicted of defacing the refuge with their water jug drops.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit weighed in on Mr. Millis’s appeal this month, ruling that it was “ambiguous as to whether purified water in a sealed bottle intended for human consumption meets the definition of ‘garbage.’ ” Voting 2-to-1, a three-judge panel overturned Mr. Millis’s conviction.

The issue remains far from settled, though. The court ruled that Mr. Millis probably could have been charged under a different statute, something other than littering. And the Fish and Wildlife Service continues to forbid anyone to leave gallon jugs of water in the refuge — a policy backed by this state’s immigration hardliners, who say comforting immigrants will only encourage them to cross.

From 2002 to 2009, 25 illegal immigrants died while passing through the refuge’s rolling hills, which are flanked by mountains and are home to pronghorns, coyotes, rattlesnakes and four different kinds of skunks. Throughout southern Arizona, the death toll totaled 1,715 from 2002 to 2009, with this year’s hot temperatures putting deaths at a record-breaking pace.

The Border Patrol has installed rescue beacons in remote areas along the border, including several in the Buenos Aires refuge, to allow immigrants in distress to call for help. Those who are injured and have been left behind by their guides are often so desperate they no longer fear deportation.

Still, the federal government has acknowledged that additional steps are needed to keep deaths down on its land. In 2001, it gave another aid group, Humane Borders, a permit to keep several large water drums on the refuge, each of them marked by a blue flag and featuring a spigot to allow immigrants to fill their water bottles for the long trek north.

Last year, the government considered but ultimately decided against allowing No More Deaths to tether gallon jugs to trees to allow immigrants in more remote areas to drink without taking the jugs on their way.

Right now, even after the court decision, there is what amounts to a standoff. This month, the federal government said it was willing to allow more 55-gallon drums on main pathways in the refuge. It said it would not permit any gallon jugs.

But the water jugs continue to appear.

Last week, Gene Lefebvre, a retired minister who co-founded No More Deaths, hiked along a path popular among immigrants until he reached a clearing where volunteers for his organization had recently left some jugs.

Each bottle had markings on it noting the date it was left and the exact location on the group’s GPS mapping software. There were also signs of encouragement for the immigrants: a heart and a cross on one bottle and the words, “Good luck, friends,” on another.

“We’d give water to anyone we found in the desert, even the Border Patrol,” Mr. Lefebvre said.

But opponents say the water drops are encouraging immigrants to continue to come across the border illegally. The critics say there ought to be Border Patrol agents stationed near the water stations to arrest those who are crossing illegally as soon as they finish drinking. So furious are some at the practice of aiding immigrants that they have slashed open the water jugs, crushed them with their vehicles or simply poured the water into the desert.

The Buenos Aires refuge is among the most troubled of the 551 refuge areas across the country, the federal government says. The reason is its location, adjacent to the border.

“Since its establishment in 1985, refuge staff have worked diligently to protect species such as the endangered masked bobwhite quail and pronghorn, as well as offer meaningful visitor recreational opportunities,” a recently released government report on the water controversy said. “However, over the past decade an increasing amount of refuge time and energy has been required to address the growing issue of illegal traffic entering the U.S. across refuge lands.”

In 2006 and 2007, an estimated 250,000 to 300,000 illegal immigrants crossed the refuge annually, along with Border Patrol agents pursing them, federal officials say. “As a result, refuge lands have been marred by illegal trails and roads, litter and degraded habitat,” said a government report on the problem.

The numbers have dropped in recent years, to 31,500 in 2008 and about 20,000 in 2009. “This still averages approximately 50 to 60 illegal immigrants traveling through the refuge daily,” the government report said.

Mr. Millis, a former high school Spanish teacher who now works for the Sierra Club, disputes the notion that leaving out water jugs is luring more immigrants. He said it was border enforcement efforts that had pushed those seeking to cross into dangerous desert areas.

As for spoiling the environment, he said he collected as many jugs as he left behind. He also recounts how he found the dead body of a 14-year-old Salvadoran girl near the refuge days before he was ticketed.

“People are part of the environment,” he said.
27540  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Free market bites minimum wage in ass on: September 27, 2010, 07:15:36 AM
NEWCASTLE, South Africa — The sheriff arrived at the factory here to shut it down, part of a national enforcement drive against clothing manufacturers who violate the minimum wage. But women working on the factory floor — the supposed beneficiaries of the crackdown — clambered atop cutting tables and ironing boards to raise anguished cries against it.

Thoko Zwane, 43, who has worked in factories since she was 15, lost her job in Newcastle when a Chinese-run factory closed in 2004. More than a third of South Africans are jobless.

“Why? Why?” shouted Nokuthula Masango, 25, after the authorities carted away bolts of gaily colored fabric.

She made just $36 a week, $21 less than the minimum wage, but needed the meager pay to help support a large extended family that includes her five unemployed siblings and their children.

The women’s spontaneous protest is just one sign of how acute South Africa’s long-running unemployment crisis has become. With their own industry in ruinous decline, the victim of low-wage competition from China, and too few unskilled jobs being created in South Africa, the women feared being out of work more than getting stuck in poorly paid jobs.

In the 16 years since the end of apartheid, South Africa has followed the prescriptions of the West, opening its market-based economy to trade, while keeping inflation and public debt in check. It has won praise for its efforts, and the economy has grown, but not nearly fast enough to end an intractable unemployment crisis.

For over a decade, the jobless rate has been among the highest in the world, fueling crime, inequality and social unrest in the continent’s richest nation. The global economic downturn has made the problem much worse, wiping out more than a million jobs. Over a third of South Africa’s workforce is now idle. And 16 years after Nelson Mandela led the country to black majority rule, more than half of blacks ages 15 to 34 are without work — triple the level for whites.

“The numbers are mind-boggling,” said James Levinsohn, a Yale University economist.

As the debate about unemployment intensifies, the government’s failure to produce a plan 16 months after President Jacob Zuma took office promising decent jobs has led analysts to question his leadership, though he has promised to act soon.

Experts debate the causes of the country’s gravest economic problem, with some contending that higher wages negotiated by politically powerful trade unions have suppressed job growth.

But most agree that the roots of the crisis lie deeper, in an apartheid past that consigned blacks to inferior schools, drove many from their land, homes and businesses and forced millions into segregated townships and rural areas where they remain cut off from the engines of the economy.

Then with the advent of democracy in 1994, the African National Congress-led government had to simultaneously rebuild an economy staggered by sanctions and prepare a disadvantaged black majority to compete in a rapidly globalizing world.

Further complicating matters, just as poorly educated blacks surged into the labor force, the economy was shifting to more skills-intensive sectors like retail and financial services, while agriculture and mining, which had historically offered opportunities for common laborers, were in decline.

The country’s leaders invested heavily in schools, hoping the next generation would overcome the country’s racist legacy, but the failures of the post-apartheid education system have left many poor blacks unable to compete in an economy where accountants, engineers and managers are in high demand. The shortage of skilled workers has constrained companies’ ability to expand, economists say, and in some cases, professionals from other African countries have taken the jobs.

The fall of tariff barriers since 1994 has also exposed industries like garment manufacturing to low-wage competition from Asia. As Chinese-made clothing has flooded the domestic market, the number of garment workers employed in South Africa has plummeted to 60,000 from 150,000 in 1996. If the more than 300 factories violating minimum wages ultimately close down, 20,000 more jobs could vanish.

“We’re at a crossroads,” said Leon Deetlefs, national compliance manager for the bargaining council of union and employer representatives that sets minimum wages for the garment manufacturing industry. “There are a huge number of workers who stand to lose their jobs.”

Last year, as South Africa’s economy contracted amid the global financial crisis, unions negotiated wage increases that averaged 9.3 percent. The International Monetary Fund hypothesized in a report last week that companies were unable to pass on higher labor costs during the country’s recession and laid off workers instead, contributing to job losses that were among the highest seen in the G20 industrialized nations.

Mr. Zuma promised last week at a national gathering of the governing party in Durban that the cabinet would act soon.

But it remains unclear how decisively he can move. His party, the African National Congress, conceded in a report last week that its alliance remained divided over what should be done. Eight months ago, Mr. Zuma proposed a wage subsidy to encourage the hiring of young, inexperienced workers. But it ran into vociferous opposition from Cosatu, the two-million-member trade union federation that is part of the governing alliance, which contended that it would displace established workers. The plan has stalled.

While officials wrangle, the unemployment crisis festers in places like Newcastle. During the rowdy protests at the factory last month, the police warned that the situation could turn violent, according to Mr. Deetlefs, the bargaining council official. The sheriff withdrew. The factory closed.


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But broader resistance from Newcastle factory owners and concerns about large job losses led to a monthlong moratorium on factory shutdowns after 26 were closed nationally. Officials from the government and the bargaining council are now pushing offending factories to come up with plans to pay minimum wage.

The shuttered factory here has since reopened. When the clock strikes five, thousands of black women still pour from the factories here and line up at bus stands for the ride back to their townships. But workers fear the reprieve will not last.

Newcastle’s garment industry is a product of apartheid’s social engineering. The apartheid state sought to keep most blacks from moving to dynamic big cities reserved for whites by offering large subsidies to light industry to locate on the borderlands of rural areas.

The Taiwanese began opening clothing factories here in the 1980s. And since the end of apartheid, entrepreneurs from mainland China have joined them. Some of the more successful Chinese factory owners drive BMWs and Mercedes Benzes, but others operate on a shoestring. All say they must be allowed to pay wages on a lower scale to stay in business.

At the Wintong factory, proprietors Ting Ting Zhu and her husband, Hui Cong Shi, who are saving to put their only child through college, say they start a machinist at $36 a week, far less than the minimum wage. They themselves live in a single room in their red brick factory.

The women who work for them, also striving for their families, have seen their industry wither. Some 7,000 people in Newcastle have lost their jobs in recent years as three large factories went out of business. Emily Mbongwa, 52, was one of the casualties. She lost her job in 2004. She never found another one.

“The factory passed away,” she explained sadly, as if describing a death in the family.

During the apartheid years, Ms. Mbongwa, who never learned to read or write, worked as a maid in the home of a white Afrikaaner family, rising at 6 a.m. to make breakfast and finishing at 9 p.m. after the dinner dishes were done. She tended the family’s two boys, but when they got to be 9 or 10 years old, they started called her derogatory names for a black woman.

After the family moved away, she went to work at a garment factory, where she said she was treated with respect. The hours there were shorter, the pay better and she started a small business selling shoes to other workers. She eventually earned enough to build her home.

Now, she is back to where she started, surviving by looking after other women’s children. She charges $14 a month for each of the five children she watches from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., five days a week. One recent morning, a woman arrived and passed her baby through the back door to Miss Mbongwa, who was wearing a loose house dress and black wool cap.

Holding the baby on her lap, she said wistfully, “Long ago, there was a lot more work in Newcastle.”
27541  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sundry; States Rights, God, others on: September 27, 2010, 06:52:56 AM
Our thanks to Freki for having handled the responsibility of this thread for so long, but now other matters call upon him:
"[T]he importance of piety and religion; of industry and frugality; of prudence, economy, regularity and an even government; all ... are essential to the well-being of a family." --Samuel Adams, letter to Thomas Wells, 1780
"As parents, we can have no joy, knowing that this government is not sufficiently lasting to ensure any thing which we may bequeath to posterity: And by a plain method of argument, as we are running the next generation into debt, we ought to do the work of it, otherwise we use them meanly and pitifully. In order to discover the line of our duty rightly, we should take our children in our hand, and fix our station a few years farther into life; that eminence will present a prospect, which a few present fears and prejudices conceal from our sight." --Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776
"The great leading objects of the federal government, in which revenue is concerned, are to maintain domestic peace, and provide for the common defense. In these are comprehended the regulation of commerce that is, the whole system of foreign intercourse; the support of armies and navies, and of the civil administration." --Alexander Hamilton, remarks to the New York Ratifying Convention, 1788

"Were we directed from Washington when to sow, and when to reap, we should soon want bread." --Thomas Jefferson, autobiography, 1821
"While the constitution continues to be read, and its principles known, the states, must, by every rational man, be considered as essential component parts of the union; and therefore the idea of sacrificing the former to the latter is totally inadmissible." --Alexander Hamilton, speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, 1788
"This balance between the National and State governments ought to be dwelt on with peculiar attention, as it is of the utmost importance. It forms a double security to the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. Indeed, they will  both be prevented from overpassing their constitutional limits by a certain rivalship, which will ever subsist between them." --Alexander Hamilton, speech to the New York Ratifying Convention, 1788
"[T]he States can best govern our home concerns and the general government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore ... never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold at market." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge William Johnson, 1823

"In the next place, the state governments are, by the very theory of the constitution, essential constituent parts of the general government. They can exist without the latter, but the latter cannot exist without them." --Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833


"When you assemble from your several counties in the Legislature, were every member to be guided only by the apparent interest of his county, government would be impracticable. There must be a perpetual accomodation and sacrifice of local advantage to general expediency." --Alexander Hamilton, Speech at the New York Ratifying Convention, 1788

"The true test is, whether the object be of a local character, and local use; or, whether it be of general benefit to the states. If it be purely local, congress cannot constitutionally appropriate money for the object. But, if the benefit be general, it matters not, whether in point of locality it be in one state, or several; whether it be of large, or of small extent." --Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833


"I consider the foundation of the Constitution as laid on this ground that 'all powers not delegated to the United States, by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states or to the people.' To take a single step beyond the boundaries thus specially drawn around the powers of Congress, is to take possession of a boundless field of power, not longer susceptible of any definition." --Thomas Jefferson, Opinion on the Constitutionality of a National Bank, 1791


"The proposed Constitution, so far from implying an abolition of the State governments, makes them constituent parts of the national sovereignty, by allowing them a direct representation in the Senate, and leaves in their possession certain exclusive and very important portions of sovereign power. This fully corresponds, in every rational import of the terms, with the idea of a federal government." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 9

"There is one transcendant advantage belonging to the province of the State governments... --I mean the ordinary administration of criminal and civil justice." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 17


"But as the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, EXCLUSIVELY delegated to the United States." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 32

"But ambitious encroachments of the federal government, on the authority of the State governments, would not excite the opposition of a single State, or of a few States only. They would be signals of general alarm... But what degree of madness could ever drive the federal government to such an extremity." --James Madison, Federalist No. 46


"[H]is was the singular destiny and merit, of leading the armies of his country successfully through an arduous war, for the establishment of its independence; of conducting its councils through the birth of a government, new in its forms and principles, until it had settled down into a quite and orderly train; and of scrupulously obeying the laws through the whole of his career, civil and military, of which the history of the world furnishes no other example." --Thomas Jefferson, on George Washington in a letter to Dr. Walter Jones, 1814

"Well known to be the greatest philosopher of the present age; -- all the operations of nature he seems to understand, --the very heavens obey him, and the Clouds yield up their Lightning to be imprisoned in his rod." --William Pierce, on Benjamin Franklin, 1787


"He was certainly one of the most learned men of the age. It may be said of him as has been said of others that he was a 'walking Library,' and what can be said of but few such prodigies, that the Genius of Philosophy ever walked hand in hand with him." --James Madison, on Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Samuel Harrison Smith, 1826

"Some talked, some wrote, and some fought to promote and establish it, but you and Mr. Jefferson thought for us all. I never take a retrospect of the years 1775 and 1776 without associating your opinions and speeches and conversations with all the great political, moral, and intellectual achievements of the Congress of those memorable years." --Benjamin Rush, to John Adams, 1812


"His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision. He was indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man." --Thomas Jefferson, on George Washington in a letter to Dr. Walter Jones, 1814

"Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed." --Thomas Jefferson, on George Washington in a letter to Dr. Walter Jones, 1814


"Hamilton was indeed a singular character. Of acute understanding, disinterested, honest, and honorable in all private transactions, amiable in society, and duly valuing virtue in private life, yet so bewitched & perverted by the British example, as to be under thoro' conviction that corruption was essential to the government of a nation." --Thomas Jefferson, on Alexander Hamilton in The Anas

"[He] will live in the memory and gratitude of the wise & good, as a luminary of Science, as a votary of liberty, as a model of patriotism, and as a benefactor of human kind." --James Madison, on Thomas Jefferson in a letter to Nicholas P. Trist, 1826


"I have sometimes asked myself whether my country is the better for my having lived at all? I do not know that it is. I have been the instrument of doing the following things; but they would have been done by others; some of them, perhaps, a little better." --Thomas Jefferson, 1800


"It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe." --James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, 1785


"I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this Truth, that God governs in the Affairs of Men. And if a Sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without his Notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?" --Benjamin Franklin, Motion for Prayers in the Constitutional Convention, 1787

"The belief in a God All Powerful wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the world and to the happiness of man, that arguments which enforce it cannot be drawn from too many sources nor adapted with too much solicitude to the different characters and capacities impressed with it." --James Madison, letter to Frederick Beasley, 1825


"A State, I cheerfully admit, is the noblest work of Man: But Man, himself, free and honest, is, I speak as to this world, the noblest work of God…." --James Wilson, Chisholm v. Georgia, 1793

"It is the duty of all men in society, publicly, and at stated seasons, to worship the SUPREME BEING, the great Creator and Preserver of the universe. And no subject shall be hurt, molested, or restrained, in his person, liberty, or estate, for worshipping GOD in the manner most agreeable to the dictates of his own conscience; or for his religious profession or sentiments; provided he doth not disturb the public peace, or obstruct others in their religious worship." --John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776


"To grant that there is a supreme intelligence who rules the world and has established laws to regulate the actions of his creatures; and still to assert that man, in a state of nature, may be considered as perfectly free from all restraints of law and government, appears to a common understanding altogether irreconcilable. Good and wise men, in all ages, have embraced a very dissimilar theory. They have supposed that the deity, from the relations we stand in to himself and to each other, has constituted an eternal and immutable law, which is indispensably obligatory upon all mankind, prior to any human institution whatever. This is what is called the law of nature....Upon this law depend the natural rights of mankind." --Alexander Hamilton

"I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristicks of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation." --George Washington, circular letter of farewell to the Army, 1783

"It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors." --George Washington, Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789


"Stability in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which are among the chief blessings of civil society." --James Madison, Federalist No. 37, 1788


"The instrument by which [government] must act are either the AUTHORITY of the laws or FORCE. If the first be destroyed, the last must be substituted; and where this becomes the ordinary instrument of government there is an end to liberty! "--Alexander Hamilton, Tully, No. 3, 1794

27542  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: September 27, 2010, 06:36:22 AM
Electricity has often been an infrastructure investment that fits within free market concepts, but a goodly part of what Friedman advocates does not.  What he advocates is , , , well I suppose fascism would not be far off the mark; it certainly is state directed.  We see what economic clusterfcuks such an approach here in the US can produce.  Will it be different for the Chinese?

(IIRC we have a thread on nuclear power.  Any info about the pebble bed reactor would be a good fit there, hint hint.)
27543  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: Govt seeks more wiretapping of internet on: September 27, 2010, 06:28:20 AM
Breaking News Alert
The New York Times
Mon, September 27, 2010 -- 12:46 AM ET

U.S. Is Working to Ease Wiretapping on the Internet

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are
preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet,
arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism
suspects is "going dark" as people increasingly communicate
online instead of by telephone.

Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services
that enable communications -- including encrypted e-mail
transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites
like Facebook and software that allows direct "peer to peer"
messaging like Skype -- to be technically capable of
complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would
include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted

Read More:
27544  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq returns-3 on: September 27, 2010, 06:23:05 AM
I hear that the Iraqis recently opened fire on a Danish embassy vehicle in the IZ that tried to roll past a checkpoint without stopping.  I am told bullets hit vehicle.
No surprise.  My old partner and I saw far too many people in the IZ who drove up too fast on these checkpoints and didn't give the Iraqis time to digest their approach.  I always considered it utter arrogance.  And then they would come back to the office and whine how the Iraqis were harrassing them.
27545  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / China's moonshots on: September 26, 2010, 09:51:06 PM
OK freemarketeers, analyze this:

China is doing moon shots. Yes, that’s plural. When I say “moon shots” I mean big, multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing investments. China has at least four going now: one is building a network of ultramodern airports; another is building a web of high-speed trains connecting major cities; a third is in bioscience, where the Beijing Genomics Institute this year ordered 128 DNA sequencers — from America — giving China the largest number in the world in one institute to launch its own stem cell/genetic engineering industry; and, finally, Beijing just announced that it was providing $15 billion in seed money for the country’s leading auto and battery companies to create an electric car industry, starting in 20 pilot cities. In essence, China Inc. just named its dream team of 16-state-owned enterprises to move China off oil and into the next industrial growth engine: electric cars.

Josh Haner/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman
Go to Columnist Page ».Not to worry. America today also has its own multibillion-dollar, 25-year-horizon, game-changing moon shot: fixing Afghanistan.

This contrast is not good. I was recently at a Washington Nationals baseball game. While waiting for a hot dog, I overheard the conversation behind me. A management consultant for a big national firm was telling his colleagues that his job was to “market products to the Department of Homeland Security.” I thought to myself: “Oh, my! Inventing studies about terrorist threats and selling them to the U.S. government, is that an industry now?”

We’re out of balance — the balance between security and prosperity. We need to be in a race with China, not just Al Qaeda. Let’s start with electric cars.

The electric car industry is pivotal for three reasons, argues Shai Agassi, the C.E.O. of Better Place, a global electric car company that next year will begin operating national electric car networks in Israel and Denmark. First, the auto industry was the foundation for America’s manufacturing middle class. Second, the country that replaces gasoline-powered vehicles with electric-powered vehicles — in an age of steadily rising oil prices and steadily falling battery prices — will have a huge cost advantage and independence from imported oil. Third, electric cars are full of power electronics and software. “Think of the applications industry that will be spun out from electric cars,” says Agassi. It will be the iPhone on steroids.

Europe is using $7-a-gallon gasoline to stimulate the market for electric cars; China is using $5-a-gallon and naming electric cars as one of the industrial pillars for its five-year growth plan. And America? President Obama has directed stimulus money at electric cars, but he is unwilling to do the one thing that would create the sustained consumer pull required to grow an electric car industry here: raise taxes on gasoline. Price matters. Sure, the Moore’s Law of electric cars — “the cost per mile of the electric car battery will be cut in half every 18 months” — will steadily drive the cost down, says Agassi, but only once we get scale production going. U.S. companies can do that on their own or in collaboration with Chinese ones. But God save us if we don’t do it at all.

Two weeks ago, I visited the Coda Automotive battery facility in Tianjin, China — a joint venture between U.S. innovators and investors, China’s Lishen battery company and China National Offshore Oil Company. Yes, China’s oil company is using profits to develop batteries.

Kevin Czinger, Coda’s C.E.O., who drove me around Manhattan in his company’s soon-to-be-in-production electric car last week, laid out what is going on. The backbone of the modern U.S. economy was locally made cars powered by locally produced oil. It started us on a huge growth spurt. In recent decades, though, that industry was supplanted by foreign-made cars run on foreign oil, so “now every time we buy a car we’re exporting $15,000 of capital, paying for it with borrowed money and running it on foreign energy sources,” says Czinger. “We’ve gone from autos being a middle-class-making-machine to a middle-class-destroying-machine.” A U.S. electric car/battery industry would reverse that.

The Coda, 14,000 of which will be on the road in California over the next year and can travel 100 miles on one overnight charge, is a combination of Chinese-made batteries and complex American-system electronics — all final-assembled in Oakland (price: $37,000). It is a win-win start-up for both countries.

If we both now create the market incentives for consumers to buy electric cars, and the plug-in infrastructure for people to drive them everywhere, it will be a win-win moon shot for both countries. The electric car industry will flourish in the U.S. and China, and together we’ll tackle the next challenge: using auto battery innovations to build big storage batteries for wind and solar. However, if only China puts the gasoline prices and infrastructure in place, the industry will gravitate there. It will be a moon shot for them, a hobby for us, and you’ll import your new electric car from China just like you’re now importing your oil from Saudi Arabia.
27546  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Did the Russkis plant stuxnet? on: September 26, 2010, 07:18:35 PM
Russia’s decision to ban the transfer of heavy military equipment to Iran falls under Russia’s agreement to the UNSC sanctions against Iran, signed in June. The decree also bans several Iranians involved in Iran’s nuclear activities from transiting Russian territory and prohibits Russian legal entities or individuals from rendering financial services to operations if there are reasons to believe the operations might be related to Iran’s nuclear activities. The ban on nuclear-related personnel and financial services is interesting because Russia built the bulk of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear facility and still has some 200 scientists in Iran running the plant.

Russia’s move is meant to make a statement: Moscow and Washington are coordinating on the Iran issue. Russia wavered on agreeing to the U.S.-designed sanctions for years in order to use its vote as leverage against the United States, as tensions were rising between Moscow and Washington. Iran traditionally was part of the game between the two countries; for example, when Washington pursued military agreements with Georgia, Moscow would do the same with Iran.

But in the past six months, Russia and the United States seemed to have evolved from this tenuous relationship and have come to a temporary agreement on a series of issues. Russia signed onto the Iran sanctions, agreed to allow increasing amounts of U.S. military supplies to transit its territory to Afghanistan, and agreed to upgrade and repair NATO members’ military equipment used in Afghanistan. In turn, Washington has agreed to a series of large modernization deals in Russia and has backed off its bilateral relationships with many former Soviet states (like Georgia and Ukraine), allowing Russia time to consolidate its power in the former Soviet sphere.

Medvedev’s decree comes as Washington is considering opening talks with Tehran. Iran was more able to stand up to the United States while Russia was its primary power patron. Russia’s apparent abandonment of Iran decreases Tehran’s leverage in any future talks with Washington.

But as with most of Russia’s concessions, there is a loophole in the decree. The document specifies that vehicles, vessels or aircraft under the Russian state flag will not transfer military equipment to Iran. This means Russia could deliver the equipment using other states’ territory or transportation methods. Russia also could fulfill its military contracts with Iran through its military industrial joint ventures with its neighbors, such as Kazakhstan and Belarus. In short, Russia has quite a bit of room to maneuver should it need to use Iran as leverage against the United States again.

Wondering if the Russkis planted stuxnet at Bushehr?  Word is that the common strand to stuxnet infected areas is that a certain Russian contractor was there , , ,
27547  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: on: September 26, 2010, 07:12:28 PM
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev on Sept. 22 signed a decree banning Russia from transferring heavy military equipment, including the S-300 strategic air defense system, to Iran. On the same day, the United States expressed interest in Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia joining the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty, which Russia has wanted since the Baltic states gained their independence. This trade-off is the result of Moscow and Washington reaching an informal agreement on several contentious issues. However, these concessions are not without problems and loopholes.

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev signed a decree Sept. 22 banning Russia from transferring the S-300 strategic air defense system, armored vehicles, warplanes and helicopters to Iran, in compliance with the U.S.-led U.N. Security Council (UNSC) sanctions against the country. On the same day, the United States said it is interested in the Baltic states (Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania) joining the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE), which Russia has been pushing for since the countries gained their independence and began joining Western institutions.

These developments come as Moscow and Washington have reached at least an informal temporary agreement on a series of contentious issues between them and on the eve of the foreign ministers’ meeting of the NATO-Russia Council in New York. But the concessions by Russia and the United States come with problems and loopholes.

Russia’s decision to ban the transfer of heavy military equipment to Iran falls under Russia’s agreement to the UNSC sanctions against Iran, signed in June. The decree also bans several Iranians involved in Iran’s nuclear activities from transiting Russian territory and prohibits Russian legal entities or individuals from rendering financial services to operations if there are reasons to believe the operations might be related to Iran’s nuclear activities. The ban on nuclear-related personnel and financial services is interesting because Russia built the bulk of Iran’s Bushehr nuclear facility and still has some 200 scientists in Iran running the plant.

Russia’s move is meant to make a statement: Moscow and Washington are coordinating on the Iran issue. Russia wavered on agreeing to the U.S.-designed sanctions for years in order to use its vote as leverage against the United States, as tensions were rising between Moscow and Washington. Iran traditionally was part of the game between the two countries; for example, when Washington pursued military agreements with Georgia, Moscow would do the same with Iran.

But in the past six months, Russia and the United States seemed to have evolved from this tenuous relationship and have come to a temporary agreement on a series of issues. Russia signed onto the Iran sanctions, agreed to allow increasing amounts of U.S. military supplies to transit its territory to Afghanistan, and agreed to upgrade and repair NATO members’ military equipment used in Afghanistan. In turn, Washington has agreed to a series of large modernization deals in Russia and has backed off its bilateral relationships with many former Soviet states (like Georgia and Ukraine), allowing Russia time to consolidate its power in the former Soviet sphere.

Medvedev’s decree comes as Washington is considering opening talks with Tehran. Iran was more able to stand up to the United States while Russia was its primary power patron. Russia’s apparent abandonment of Iran decreases Tehran’s leverage in any future talks with Washington.

But as with most of Russia’s concessions, there is a loophole in the decree. The document specifies that vehicles, vessels or aircraft under the Russian state flag will not transfer military equipment to Iran. This means Russia could deliver the equipment using other states’ territory or transportation methods. Russia also could fulfill its military contracts with Iran through its military industrial joint ventures with its neighbors, such as Kazakhstan and Belarus. In short, Russia has quite a bit of room to maneuver should it need to use Iran as leverage against the United States again.

On the same day as Russia’s latest concession to the United States, U.S. Ambassador to NATO Ivo Daalder said the Baltic states should join the CFE — a Cold War arms control treaty that is a central pillar of Europe’s military-security and conventional arms control architecture. The CFE places explicit and itemized ceilings on conventional military hardware — such as main battle tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, attack helicopters and fighter aircraft — throughout the European theater for both NATO and the former Warsaw Pact states (including Russia west of the Urals). Russia’s problem with the CFE is that it was signed before many of the post-Soviet states existed — when Soviet forces were stationed in East Berlin, not when NATO was encroaching on St. Petersburg. The Baltic states’ absence from the CFE is one of Russia’s biggest fears because the three countries are NATO members and are on Russia’s doorstep.

Washington has made similar statements on the CFE before, but this latest statement comes as Russia is increasing pressure on the Baltic states to become more neutral toward Russia. The Baltics have already been concerned during the past few months about losing their traditional Western patron, Poland, and the trio could see any pressure to join the CFE as the United States also giving in to Russia.

Like the Russian concession, the U.S. statement on the CFE is not without its problems. There is no guarantee the Baltics will follow through on Washington’s suggestion. The United States has announced before that it is interested in the Baltics joining the treaty, but no such action has been taken yet. And while the United States has given assurances about pulling back its support for Georgia, the Baltic states remain NATO members — unlike Georgia — and continue to enjoy the alliance’s security guarantee.

Washington and Moscow are using hollow, rhetorical promises to each other in order to maintain the warming trend in their bilateral relations. In order to resolve larger issues of interest for each state — such as the U.S. standoff with Iran and the war in Afghanistan, and Russia’s resurgence and drive for modernization — the countries need each other. Neither the United States nor Russia believes the current detente will last; rather, Washington and Moscow are working to deal with larger issues in the short term.
Thursday, November 18, 2010   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

U.S.-Russian Relations in Pre-Summit Flux

Just days before the NATO summit in Lisbon in which Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama will meet, Medvedev has postponed his annual State of the State address from Nov. 22 to Nov. 30 to account for a possible shift in U.S.-Russian relations, according to STRATFOR sources in Moscow.

Over the past six months, Moscow and Washington had set many of their disagreements aside to achieve more critical goals. Russia wanted aid on its modernization and privatization programs, a cessation of Western support for Georgia and Ukraine, and a freeze on ballistic missile defense (BMD) plans in Russia’s periphery. The United States wanted Russia to sign onto sanctions against Iran and to drop support for Tehran, as well as provide increased logistical support for the war in Afghanistan. On all these issues, there was some sort of common ground found, meaning that Moscow and Washington seemed to have struck a temporary detente.

“START seems to be just the beginning of a possible breakdown in the “reset” with Russia.”
One bellwether to judge U.S.-Russian relations has been the new START Treaty — the nuclear arms reduction treaty between the United States and Russia. Obama and Medvedev agreed on START in April and it looked as if it would pass in both countries’ legislatures, especially in time for the November NATO summit. STRATFOR sources in Moscow even indicated that a delegation from the United States two months ago ensured that relations were in a warming period and that START would be signed.

But there has been a shift in Washington in the past month since the November U.S. elections.

Since the elections, the U.S. Senate — which must ratify START – has shifted positions. There are senators who are either vociferously opposed to the START document or against it in its current form. There is even a concern that since the elections, START may not even make it to the floor for debate. Russian officials have directly linked the Senate’s stall on START to a possible break of any reset in relations between Moscow and Washington. Part of the Senate debate on START is whether the United States should even contribute to Russia’s modernization program, which Obama agreed to on Medvedev’s last visit. A delay or reversal on either issue on the U.S. side is an indication that Washington is either divided over the future of Russian relations or is starting to cool from its recent warming.

But problems in the Senate over relations with Russia seem to be just the beginning of a possible breakdown in the “reset” with Russia.

The next issue is that at the NATO summit, there is the NATO treaty on BMDs that could possibly include Russia’s participation in some yet undefined format in any future BMD projects. But this Russian participation would not preclude Washington from making a bilateral deal on setting up missile defense installations – in countries such as Poland and Czech Republic. While Russia would enjoy being included in a NATO treaty on BMD, it is much more concerned with Washington’s bilateral deals on BMD projects in Central Europe. This is an issue Russia had previously assumed was frozen, but without the new NATO treaty covering U.S. bilateral deals, the issue of BMD in Central Europe is back on the table much to Russia’s chagrin.

Lastly, there are rumors that military support from the West is returning to Georgia. At this time, STRATFOR cannot confirm these rumors from Moscow sources, but if true, every guarantee Russia struck over the summer with the United States on forming a temporary detente has been abandoned.

This is the fear Moscow has going into this NATO summit over the weekend. Russia seems to be unsure if all the recent signs over the past few weeks on START, modernization, BMD and Georgia are really a decision in the United States to return to an aggressive stance with Russia, or if there are other explanations, like party politics in Washington. This is why Medvedev has pushed back his State of the State address, and sources say that a second version of the speech is being written in which the president won’t be so warm on relations with the United States.

What happens next will be key. If the U.S. has abandoned its understandings with Russia, then it is time for Moscow to reciprocate. This could mean that everything from resuming support for Iran to pulling back on support for the mission in Afghanistan could be considered in the Kremlin.

27548  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Whose money is it anyway? on: September 26, 2010, 07:08:25 PM
Whose Money Is It Anyway?
"A just security to property is not afforded by that government under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species." --James Madison

He may be the Joker, but the joke is on you.My children are big fans of Drew Carey's comedy show, "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Carey selects scenarios for the cast, who then improvise characters, songs and scenes. At the end of each assignment, Carey then arbitrarily assigns "1,000 points" to the funniest performer adding the caveat, "But the points don't matter."

I mention this because there's another improvisational comedy show that the whole world has been watching for almost two years. Unfortunately, this one uses real scenarios, which have real consequences for millions of real people. The cast is far less creative than Carey and his comedy troupe, but, unfortunately, these real world points do matter.

I am, of course, talking about The BHO Show, and Obama's cadre of characters, who do his political bidding as they endeavor to accomplish "the fundamental transformation of the United States of America."

The underlying theme of The BHO Show is that bigger government is better government -- that the central government should be the ultimate arbiter of all enterprise through either taxation or regulation. To support this theme, Obama's cast is tasked with reinventing the truth in order to expand the Barackracy.

One of the most subtle but insidious means used by the BHO Players to subjugate the masses is manipulation of the common vernacular, the use of common words in a revised context to reframe the perceptions of the audience.

For example, government spending becomes "investment." Tax cuts "cost the government." Lower taxes are those that the government "can't afford." Redistributing your income to those who pay no taxes becomes "a rebate." Advocating for lower taxes is framed as "selfish."

BHO's cast even twists the most basic economic formulations. For example, they insist that lower taxes cause deficits, while anyone with a wisp of wit knows that spending causes deficits. They insist that pilfering trillions of dollars in tax obligations from future generations is justified by counting fictitious "jobs created or saved" now, but only an ideological Socialist believes the role of the central government is to "create or save jobs."

Of course, the show's host is the master of this deceptive dialect, especially effective when armed with Teleprompters.

In his most recent calls for tax increases, Obama claimed, "I can't give tax cuts to the top 2 percent of Americans ... and lower the deficit at the same time. ... It would cost us $700 billion to do it. ... We are not going to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars to give tax cuts to people who don't need them. ... On average millionaires would get a check of a hundred thousand dollars. ... We can't give away $700 billion to folks who don't need it. ... We can't afford the $700 billion price tag."

This nugget of ObamaSpeak translates, "Your money is actually my money, so I'll determine how much of it you can keep. If I let you keep more of your money, it will cause deficits, because I'm certainly not going to cut spending. Let me be clear, if I give a small business owner who wants to create a private sector job a tax break, it'll cost me a government job. I'm not going to fund private sector job growth when these business owners already have enough well-paid employees."

Given all this, I'd submit that the most fitting title for The BHO Show is, "Whose Money Is It Anyway?"

On this question, he certainly has the Leftmedia stumped.

Consider this "analysis" of tax cuts from CNN's Ali Velshi: "[L]et me put this into perspective. First, it's not free. Extending the tax breaks to the top 3 percent of earners would cost between $650 and $700 billion. Extending it for the rest of us is going to cost a lot more, possibly $3 trillion."

Notably, however, one lone Leftmedia talkinghead takes exception to BHO's wacky wordplay. MSNBC's Chris "The Thrill" Matthews nitpicks, "I have one small [SMALL?] tweak to make to what the president said today -- he should stop saying that giving people tax cuts is giving people money. It's their money! A tax cut is when the government doesn't take our money. It's an important distinction."

Of course, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

In regard to the growing ranks of conservative Republicans who are steadfastly refusing to negotiate with Obama on his proposed tax increases, Obama says, "They are the Party of 'No.'"

But the fact is, those conservatives are restoring "the Party of Know," the Party of Ronald Reagan, whose timeless model for economic restoration is the only path to prosperity. They understand the consequences of tax increases and see through Obama's myths about tax cuts.

Will they succeed?

Thomas Jefferson declared, "Excessive taxation ... will carry reason and reflection to every man's door, and particularly in the hour of election." However, his was an era when taxation was levied, appropriately, on consumption -- in other words, when the burden of the cost of government was appropriately spread over enough people to ensure accountability.

Today, however, almost 90 percent of the cost of government is borne by 25 percent of income earners, and more than 50 percent of Americans now have no net income tax liability. Consequently, I have often quoted George Bernard Shaw: "A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul." (See how you rank as a taxpayer.)

The only hope for restoring the "reason and reflection" of which Jefferson wrote is to replace the current system of taxation with a national sales tax or a flat income tax. Unfortunately, the socialist fix is in: Few among that 50 percent of Americans with no net income tax liability will now vote themselves a share of the cost of government.

There is, however, another path to reason and reflection, which is a more enduring formula for success. The Tea Party movement has founded its grassroots platform on an appeal to restore Essential Liberty and Rule of Law as established by our Constitution, and that appeal is spreading the "brushfires of freedom."

To that end, I encourage every American Patriot reading these words to join one more Freedom Front, and help us distribute a small but highly effective instrument for educating Americans on First Principles, the Tea Party Primer. With tools like this pocket guide increasing the ranks of those steadfastly devoted to Liberty, in a few election cycles we will yank The BHO Show, and others like it, off the viewing schedule, and restore the integrity of our Constitution.

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, The Patriot Post
27549  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / good stuxnet piece on: September 26, 2010, 10:28:20 AM
27550  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH on Stuxnet on: September 26, 2010, 09:23:33 AM
Iran Fights Malware Attacking ComputersBy DAVID E. SANGER
Published: September 25, 2010
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LinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink. WASHINGTON — The Iranian government agency that runs the country’s nuclear facilities, including those the West suspects are part of a weapons program, has reported that its engineers are trying to protect their facilities from a sophisticated computer worm that has infected industrial plants across Iran.

Bits: Malicious Software Program Attacks Industry (September 24, 2010) The agency, the Atomic Energy Organization, did not specify whether the worm had already infected any of its nuclear facilities, including Natanz, the underground enrichment site that for several years has been a main target of American and Israeli covert programs.

But the announcement raised suspicions, and new questions, about the origins and target of the worm, Stuxnet, which computer experts say is a far cry from common computer malware that has affected the Internet for years. A worm is a self-replicating malware computer program. A virus is malware that infects its target by attaching itself to programs or documents.

Stuxnet, which was first publicly identified several months ago, is aimed solely at industrial equipment made by Siemens that controls oil pipelines, electric utilities, nuclear facilities and other large industrial sites. While it is not clear that Iran was the main target — the infection has also been reported in Indonesia, Pakistan, India and elsewhere — a disproportionate number of computers inside Iran appear to have been struck, according to reports by computer security monitors.

Given the sophistication of the worm and its aim at specific industrial systems, many experts believe it is most probably the work of a state, rather than independent hackers. The worm is able to attack computers that are disconnected from the Internet, usually to protect them; in those cases an infected USB drive is plugged into a computer. The worm can then spread itself within a computer network, and possibly to other networks.

The semiofficial Mehr news agency in Iran on Saturday quoted Reza Taghipour, a top official of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, as saying that “the effect and damage of this spy worm in government systems is not serious” and that it had been “more or less” halted.

But another Iranian official, Mahmud Liai of the Ministry of Industry and Mines, was quoted as saying that 30,000 computers had been affected, and that the worm was “part of the electronic warfare against Iran.”

ISNA, another Iranian news agency, had reported Friday that officials from Iran’s atomic energy agency had been meeting in recent days to discuss how to remove the Stuxnet worm, which exploits some previously unknown weaknesses in Microsoft’s Windows software. Microsoft has said in recent days that it is fixing those vulnerabilities.

It is extraordinarily difficult to trace the source of any sophisticated computer worm, and nearly impossible to determine for certain its target.

But the Iranians have reason to suspect they are high on the target list: in the past, they have found evidence of sabotage of imported equipment, notably power supplies to run the centrifuges that are used to enrich uranium at Natanz. The New York Times reported in 2009 that President George W. Bush had authorized new efforts, including some that were experimental, to undermine electrical systems, computer systems and other networks that serve Iran’s nuclear program, according to current and former American officials.

The program is among the most secret in the United States government, and it has been accelerated since President Obama took office, according to some American officials. Iran’s enrichment program has run into considerable technical difficulties in the past year, but it is not clear whether that is because of the effects of sanctions against the country, poor design for its centrifuges, which it obtained from Pakistan, or sabotage.

“It is easy to look at what we know about Stuxnet and jump to the conclusion that it is of American origin and Iran is the target, but there is no proof of that,” said James Lewis, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and one of the country’s leading experts on cyberwar intelligence. “We may not know the real answer for some time.”

Based on what he knows of Stuxnet, Mr. Lewis said, the United States is “one of four or five places that could have done it — the Israelis, the British and the Americans are the prime suspects, then the French and Germans, and you can’t rule out the Russians and the Chinese.”

President Obama has talked extensively about developing better cyberdefenses for the United States, to protect banks, power plants, telecommunications systems and other critical infrastructure. He has said almost nothing about the other side of the cybereffort, billions of dollars spent on offensive capability, much of it based inside the National Security Agency.

The fact that the worm is aimed at Siemens equipment is telling: the company’s control systems are used around the world, but have been spotted in many Iranian facilities, say officials and experts who have toured them. Those include the new Bushehr nuclear power plant, built with Russian help.

But Bushehr is considered by nuclear weapons experts to be virtually no help to Iran in its suspected weapons program; there is more concern about the low-enriched uranium produced at Natanz, which could, with a year or more of additional processing, be converted to bomb fuel.
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