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27701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT on: April 25, 2009, 08:15:26 AM
ama Tactic Shields Health Care Bill From a Filibuster
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy CARL HULSE
Published: April 24, 2009
WASHINGTON — At the prodding of the White House, Democratic Congressional leaders have agreed to pursue a plan that would protect major health care legislation from Republican opposition by shielding it from last-minute Senate filibusters.

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The aggressive approach reflects the big political claim that President Obama is staking on health care, and with it his willingness to face Republican wrath in order to guarantee that the Democrats, with their substantial majority in the Senate, could not be thwarted by minority tactics.

While some Democratic senators were reluctant to embrace the arrangement, Mr. Obama made clear at a White House session on Thursday afternoon that he favored it, people with knowledge of the session said.

Mr. Obama has given way in some battles with Congress, but the new stance suggests he may be much less willing to compromise when it comes to health care, his top legislative priority, even if it means a bitter partisan fight.

The no-filibuster arrangement is fiercely opposed by Republican leaders, who say health care is too important to be exempted from the Senate rules that usually mean major bills must win support from 60 senators.

At the White House meeting this week, Mr. Obama told senators from both parties that he did not want a health care overhaul to fail if it came up a vote shy of the 60 needed to break filibusters, the people with knowledge of the session said. Republicans have used the procedure themselves in the past, but Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, told Mr. Obama in the meeting that that approach was likely to heighten partisan tensions in Congress.

The arrangement is spelled out in a tentative budget agreement reached Thursday night between Congressional leaders and the White House, allowing health legislation that meets budget targets to be approved by a simple Senate majority, under a process known as reconciliation.

Democrats say they intend to use the process as a last resort, and will include a provision in the budget that would not trigger the Senate shortcut until Oct. 15. That would leave the door open for months of negotiations over health care legislation, which the Democrats hope to deliver by the end of the year.

“Virtually everyone who has been part of these discussions recognizes that reconciliation is not the preferred way to write this legislation,” said Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “But the administration wants to have a reconciliation instruction as an insurance policy.”

Mr. Conrad said the decision not to invoke the no-filibuster rule until mid-October was intended “as a signal that people are very serious and want this to work through the normal give-and-take.”

But that might not mollify Republicans, who say that once Democrats have the ability to fast-track the measure they will have no incentive to negotiate seriously with Republicans.

Republicans have threatened to use their own procedural weapons to bog down the Senate if Democrats adopt a budget that restricts filibusters on an issue as important as health care.

“The floor of the Senate will become a very untidy place if they start using reconciliation for major policy,” warned Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, senior Republican on the budget panel.

Mr. Conrad and Representative John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, the House Budget Committee chairman, were hammering out final details of the $3.5 trillion budget in talks with the administration that were expected to head into the weekend.

“Most issues have been resolved,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said Friday, “but there are some that have not.”

The Democrats can rely on 58 votes in the Senate, and expected to add a 59th once the courts finish their review of the disputed election in Minnesota. But Mr. McConnell said that using the no-filibuster approach on health care “without the benefit of a full and transparent debate, does a disservice to the American people.”

“It would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis,” he said.

Mr. Conrad had advised against using reconciliation, saying it did not lend itself to such a complex issue as health care.

But Mr. Conrad came under intense pressure from the White House, his own Senate leadership and the House to include it, to guard against Republicans’ using the filibuster to kill a health care bill. Proponents of reconciliation note that House and Senate Republicans have so far stood almost united against the new administration’s major initiatives.

Besides the agreement to use reconciliation, negotiators were coming to terms on lingering tax issues and the overall level of domestic spending, with the amount originally requested by Mr. Obama expected to be reduced by about $10 billion for 2010. The White House was pushing for final approval of a budget by Wednesday to put a successful coda on the Obama administration’s first 100 days.

The tentative agreement would also apply reconciliation rules to a less-partisan fight over student lending, but does not include filibuster protection for energy or climate-change legislation.

Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, said Friday that he would prefer not to pursue health legislation through the reconciliation process.

“I think it gets in the way,” Mr. Baucus said, explaining that his goal was to produce a health care bill that could “get significantly more than 60 votes.”

“If we jam something down somebody’s throat, it’s not sustainable,” he said.

But other leading Democrats say they need the ability to circumvent filibusters if Republicans refuse to negotiate. They noted that Republicans often relied on reconciliation when they held power, notably using it to enact President George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.

Senate rules give the minority party, in this case the Republicans, ample ability to snarl the legislative process in a chamber where much activity is conducted under agreements between majority and minority leadership.

Republicans could force multiple votes on mundane matters, slow walk administration nominations, force Democrats to spend days teeing up bills for debate and require lengthy bills to be read in full. In 2005, Democrats threatened to bring the Senate to a halt using similar tactics when Republicans said they would strip them of the ability to filibuster judicial nominations. That showdown was averted.

Now, Republicans would run some political risk of being portrayed as obstructing health care and other initiatives sought by a popular new president if they were seen as shutting down the Senate out of pique.

Robert Pear contributed reporting.
27702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Nattering nabob of negativism" on: April 25, 2009, 08:10:54 AM
Woof JKrenz:

Following up on your previous post concerning the matter of "plans":

First, I hope I do not grate on your nerves as a "nattering nabob of negatavism" (my fellow seniors may recognize an effort at humor here-- the quote is from disgraced VP under Richard Nixon Spiro Agnew).  There you are, fighting to protect us and I keep whining "Where's the plan?  WTF is the plan?"

You wrote:

"As far as a plan?  I don't mean to sound too cynical but everyday I spend over here (not sure about India), the less I think that the concept of a "plan" is something easily comprehended by folks in this part of the world unless they are directly benefited by it immediately and tangibly."

No doubt this is true, but my concern is US.  As events in Iraq showed us, having the right plan/strategy is essential.  As events in Iraq showed, and show us right now, having a Commander in Chief with commitment to the cause is essential-- and lack of commitment is catastropic.  I could be wrong, but IMHO right now we may be beginning to see the unraveling of everything we have fought for in Iraq because of the President's determination to bug out regardless of the consequences.  In a larger sense I worry about his innate ability to commit to anything requiring force of arms when the going gets tough-- and General Petraeus has just said that Afpakia could easily be a worse situation than Iraq was.    Do we the American people have what it takes to stay the course?  Does our President?

But I am getting ahead of myself-- so allow me to return to the matter of "WTF is "The Plan"?"

One example of a plan would be what retired Col Ralph Peters has suggested-- working from memory it was something like this:  Go in and kick ass, then leave while saying "Do something stupid again" and we'll be back even harder to kick your asses again.

Another example of a plan would be to seek to establish democracy and women's rights and defund the enemy by taking out the opium crops.

Another example would be to maintain a low grade war of indefinite duration keeping the AQ-Taliban distracted by by lobbing in Predators and the life.

Another example would be to take out Pakistan's nukes and come home.

These are all plans.  WTF is the plan under President Obama?

As best as I can tell it is to:

1) Give less troops than required and lob predators until , , , what?
2) Not address the role of the opium trade in financing the enemy
3) Continue to maintain the fantasy of the Durand Line (i.e. that there is a border between Afg and Pak and not simply Pashtunstan)
4) Wonder WTF to do as Pak collapses.
5) Lack the will to go after Pak's nukes-- and certainly Secretary Clinton and his recent responses to North Korea's missile test bodes quite poorly here.

27703  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Dog Brothers en Rosario, Argentina on: April 25, 2009, 07:32:16 AM
Nicolas participa frequentemente en nuestro foro para instructores dando buenos informes sobre sus clases y haciendome preguntas.  Estoy muy contento con su tarea en Argentina.
27704  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: April 25, 2009, 07:21:37 AM
Por favor comparta articulos aqui sobre la situacion.
27705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: BO's bug out produces the predicted on: April 25, 2009, 07:17:59 AM
As our man in Iraq has been warning for some time now , , ,

BAGHDAD — A deadly outburst of violence appears to be overwhelming Iraq’s police and military forces as American troops hand over greater control of cities across the country to them. On Friday, twin suicide bombings killed at least 60 people outside Baghdad’s most revered Shiite shrine, pushing the death toll in one 24-hour period to nearly 150.

Iraqis at the site of one of two suicide attacks outside a shrine on Friday in Baghdad burned incense and placed candles. Nearly half of those killed were Iranians making a pilgrimage.

Like many recent attacks, the bombings appeared intended to inflame sectarian tensions, to weaken Iraq’s security forces and to discredit its government.

The bombings on Friday ominously echoed attacks like the one at a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February 2006 that unleashed a wave of sectarian bloodshed and pushed the country toward civil war.

The latest bombings — there have been at least 18 major attacks so far this month — so far have not prompted retaliatory attacks, but they have strained what remains a fragile society deeply divided between Sunnis and Shiites.

Two suicide bombers struck within five minutes of each other on streets leading to the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim and his grandson. One of the attacks, and perhaps both, were carried out by women, witnesses said.

Nearly half of those killed were Iranians making a pilgrimage to the shrine, a golden-domed landmark in the predominantly Shiite Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad that is devoted to 2 of the 12 imams of Shiite Islam. At least 125 people were wounded, many of them also Iranians.

A loose coalition of Sunni militant forces, the Islamic State of Iraq, has claimed responsibility for carrying out many of the recent attacks.

Seemingly attentive to the public wrath, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki took the unusual step of ordering the creation of a special committee to investigate the attack on Friday and the lapses in security that apparently allowed it to happen. The state television network, Al Iraqiya, reported on Friday evening that Mr. Maliki also ordered the detention of two national police commanders responsible for security in the area.

The killing of so many Iranians prompted Iraq to close its border crossing to Iran at Muntheriya in Diyala Province, through which thousands of Iranians a week pass on pilgrimages to Iraq’s holy Shiite sites.

The deadliest of the three bombings on Thursday struck a restaurant filled with Iranian travelers in Muqdadiya, a town in Diyala not far from the border. The toll in that attack rose to 56, with Iranians making up the majority of the dead. Over all, at least 89 people were killed in the bombings on Thursday, and more than 100 were wounded.

After the attacks on Friday, angry Iraqis who gathered amid the bloody debris blamed lax security and corruption of the police and government officials for what had happened. Some of their anger had a strongly sectarian cast.

“They have been ruling us for 1,400 years,” said a Shiite army soldier who identified himself only as Abu Haidar, referring to the Sunni domination of Shiites in Iraq. “We took it over for four years, and they are slaughtering us.”

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella insurgent group that includes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, describes the recent attacks as part of a campaign called Harvest of the Good, which it announced in March.

In a statement distributed on extremist Web sites at the time, the group’s leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, ridiculed President Obama as “Washington’s black man” and called his plan to withdraw American forces by 2011 an “implied avowal of defeat.”

On Thursday, Iraq’s military claimed to have arrested Mr. Baghdadi, but what was touted as a major success appeared to be in question.

Extremist Web sites denied his arrest, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors claims and other statements by terrorist and extremist groups. The American military command also said in a statement that it could not confirm “the arrest or capture” of the leader, who the American military believes to be a fictitious Iraqi figurehead of a movement that includes many foreign fighters.

American and Iraqi officials have expressed growing concern that the Islamic State of Iraq, Al Qaeda and other extremists have been able to regroup and exploit gaps in security that are forming as American commanders have closed scores of combat outposts across the country, leaving day-to-day security in the hands of the Iraqis. “All the killing of Shiites is done by Al Qaeda,” a man who identified himself only as Abu Mohammed said after Friday’s bombings. “America was not able to finish them off. How can our forces do it?”

A senior national police official on Friday bluntly cited the limitations of Iraq’s security forces and their equipment for detecting explosives, typically hand-held wands used at checkpoints that the official described as fakes.


(Page 2 of 2)

“We need to redeploy our security units to fill gaps because the American withdrawal gave the terrorists motives to reactivate their sleeper cells,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he said he would be punished for speaking frankly about such shortcomings. “We need more cars, modern equipment to detect explosives.”

A relative of a victim of a suicide bombing outside the Kazimiyah hospital in Baghdad on Friday.
Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Mohammed Jasim, a senior commander at the Ministry of Defense, cited other factors behind the recent violence. They included what he called “reactions to political issues” that had divided Iraq since provincial elections in January and the release of thousands of detainees held by American forces into a feeble economy.

As part of a new security agreement with Iraq that took effect this year, the Americans are required to release all Iraqis in their custody or to transfer them to Iraqi jails. “They are releasing detainees randomly, and some of the detainees who have been released might still have contact with Al Qaeda,” General Jasim said in a telephone interview. “And when they return back to their normal life and do not find work, they return back to Al Qaeda.”

General Jasim also lamented the inability of Iraqi forces to stop attacks against what he described as soft targets, like markets and mosques. “The security procedures are continuing,” he said, “but the security forces cannot exist in every inch.”

It was not clear whether the attacks on Friday were specifically aimed at Iranians or the Shiite site they were visiting. The chief administrator at the shrine, Sheik Fadhil al-Anbari, blamed the police for failing to stop the bombings, which he said were intended to disrupt an economy that the visiting pilgrims had bolstered.

“The crowds of the Iranian visitors have brought a boom to the economy in Kadhimiya, and Al Qaeda does not want this,” he said in a telephone interview. “These attacks are clearly meant to sabotage the country.”

27706  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: April 25, 2009, 07:02:50 AM
Ready to start shipping any day now!!!  Waiting to get our shipment from the dupe house!
27707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Gregg on: April 25, 2009, 07:01:25 AM
Sen. Judd Gregg is perhaps best known for something he didn't do. Two weeks into the Obama administration, he announced that he was leaving the Senate to become commerce secretary. Two weeks later, he withdrew his name, drawing a testy jab from the administration for denying it a bipartisan feather in its cap.

Zina SaundersIt's hard to reconcile the man who nearly boarded the Obama express with the tough-minded Republican senator who sat across from The Wall Street Journal's editorial board at our offices earlier this week. As for the lessons he learned from his dalliance with the administration, he reserves his criticism for himself: "I should have been smart enough to see the daylight before I walked in the door. . . . I don't think there's any big lesson here for anybody but myself, which is the obvious: It would have been impossible for me to be with the president 100% of the time, which is what a cabinet secretary has to be."

Just how obvious that should have been became clear in the course of our interview. Also obvious, Mr. Gregg said, was that the Obama administration is filled with "really capable, dedicated, smart, sharp people with an agenda that they intend to pursue aggressively."

The kind words mostly stop there. From health care to global warming, financial regulation, spending and tax policy, Mr. Gregg doesn't pull any punches in his criticism of the new president. He may be "a charismatic person" with "a very strong understanding of who he is and what he wants to do," but when it comes to the substance of what Mr. Obama seeks to accomplish, Mr. Gregg is less charitable. "They have a goal," the senator says, "and he's very open about it. They are going to grow this government."

Mr. Gregg believes the stakes are high. "This is the first time a budget's had real meaning in a long time," he says. In recent years, presidential budgets have been formulaic exercises. Even if Congress went on to adopt them, they would only serve, at best, as rough guidelines for the real work of crafting the appropriations bills that actually set discretionary funding levels. But this budget "is real, and he [Mr. Obama] intends to push it."

That's bad news, in Mr. Gregg's view, because "We're headed on an unsustainable path. The simple fact is these [budget] numbers don't work and the practical implications of them are staggering for the nation and the next generation."

His "main concern," he says, "is that if you look at the Obama budget, it projects on average about a $1 trillion deficit [every year] over the next 10 years." And as a result of all that spending, "You see the size of government growing from 21% [of gross domestic product] to 22%, to 23%, 24%, 25% . . . toward 30%."

Set against this spending growth, Mr. Gregg points out, "the revenue base is only so big. Granted, right now it's way down because of the economic situation. But even if you took it back to an economy that's performing extremely well, say [revenues of] even 19% [of GDP], you can't close that gap under the present projected situation. And so we're in trouble. And the policies of this administration are driving that to an even more acute situation." Spending and deficits are both heading skyward, and government debt held by the public is heading toward 80% of GDP.

For Mr. Gregg, this is like living a nightmare. He has been a hard-nosed advocate for government spending restraint since his days as a Congressman (1981-87) and governor of New Hampshire (1987-93). At times, his commitment to fiscal responsibility led him to oppose tax cuts when they weren't matched by spending restraint. Those stances incurred the ire of his Republican colleagues, but he always stuck to his fiscal-responsibility guns. Now he's staring down a spending explosion that makes those battles look picayune.

One of the big drivers of government spending in the Obama budget is universal health insurance. And on this point, Mr. Gregg says, "At least Obama was half-way honest about how much he was going to spend on health care. He had it at $600 billion. And the real number . . . is $1.2 trillion." But that's better than Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad. "What Conrad did was take the entire amount off-budget and not account for any of it." Mr. Obama's budget, therefore, "was honest to a higher degree. It held itself to a higher degree of integrity than the Senate budget or the House budget."

Well, except for one point: "the huge savings that they claimed on defense spending, which was a total fraud." Mr. Gregg refers to the fact that the administration's budget builds the full cost of the surge in Iraq into the budget baseline. Under that assumption, we would continue to appropriate money for the surge every year for the next 10 years. That allows the administration to "find" $1.6 trillion in savings, "all of which is spending we would never do," according to Mr. Gregg.

Health-care reform is not just about the price tag. How it gets done matters too. And in Mr. Gregg's view, the Obama administration's goal is crystal-clear. "This is a single-payer government. . . . It doesn't want to say that publicly and it rejects it publicly. But the goal is to push that substantively. Because that's what they believe." In other words, what Mr. Obama bills as a "public option" for those who need health insurance but can't get it through their employer or in the private market would soon become the only option -- even for those happy with their current insurance.

Before you cry "conspiracy," Mr. Gregg argues that he has history on his side. The Democrats, he says, pulled the same public-private switcheroo before with student loans for college. Back in the late 1990s, "there was a huge debate in the committee . . . between myself and [Senator Ted] Kennedy over a private plan versus a public plan." In the end, they compromised -- the government would offer loans directly to students, but that program would have to compete with private-sector lenders. "And the agreement was very formal, and the record shows this very clearly. We agreed to level the playing field, put both plans on the playing field at an equal status and see who won. Well, private plans won. Big time."

Given the choice, most borrowers went to the private sector for their loans. But the Democrats who wanted to nationalize the student-loan market did not take defeat in the marketplace gracefully. "They didn't like that," Mr. Gregg says. "So ever since then they've tilted the playing field back and now they're going to wipe out the private plans in their budget."

When it comes to health insurance, Mr. Gregg expects more of the same. "That's the scenario that you're going to see if you have a public plan for insurance that competes with the private plans. That's the game plan" -- call it competition at first, but tighten the screws until the private insurers leave the market or get forced out. But with health-care spending representing 17% of GDP and climbing, the stakes are much, much larger. "Everyone in this country is affected by these policies."

And while the aspiration for universal coverage may be noble, the practical realities of getting there may prove harder for the American public to swallow. "There's no question," the senator says, "that this is a debate about rationing to a large degree. All your single-payer systems are rationing systems. It's also a debate about technology and innovation. Because you will not have capital pursuing technology, innovation and science if it's health-care related, because the return on capital won't be there. And these things are so expensive, especially on the pharmaceutical side and the biologic side, that you'll dramatically slow improvements in the quality of health care through science with a single-payer plan." Mr. Gregg thinks that critique will resonate with the public.

Even so, given the balance of power in Washington, Mr. Gregg gives the Democrats good chances of success in nationalizing our health-insurance market. "I think the odds are pretty good that it's going to happen -- that you'll have a major health-care reform bill pass." As he says, "Elections have consequences."

That said, Mr. Gregg doesn't necessarily think the American people will be happy with those consequences if the Democrats succeed in pushing through a "stalking horse" for a single-payer health-care system. "If they produce a partisan bill and pass it on a party-line vote, it's their baby," he warns. "They're going to have to defend it in the next election cycle and it's likely that it's not going to be perceived as fair by the American people."

Moreover, he says, "I don't think the American people want unilateral government control over the entire health-care system. I think most people understand that we've got a pretty good health-care system. It doesn't reach as many people as it should, and that has to be corrected. But it's innovative, it gives you decent health care for most Americans, and it's a lot better than any of the other countries that have these massive national plans."

That, together with the runaway spending and growing pile of debt, could yet set the stage for a Republican comeback, and sooner than most pundits would predict. Mr. Gregg will not run for re-election when his current term ends next year. Republicans, he says, "became very clouded as to what we stood for under the Bush presidency." But now they're getting their "definition" back.

"We're beginning to speak in a much more definitional voice on issues that were historically Republican issues: fiscal responsibility, giving individuals the opportunity to go out and create a better life for themselves, American exceptionalism, viewing America as a special place, not apologizing for our nation. These are things that we've always, as a party, resonated around. And I think we're starting to do it again." He corrects himself: "I know we are."

The Republican excesses during the Bush administration "haven't been forgiven and they haven't been forgotten" by voters. But if the president and his majorities in Congress get their way, voters will, Mr. Gregg believes, be ready for an alternative. "And we're the only show in town."

Mr. Carney is a member of the Journal's editorial board and the coauthor of "Freedom, Inc.," forthcoming from Crown Business in the fall.

27708  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: April 25, 2009, 06:57:18 AM
1. Supreme Court decision on search incident to arrest in vehicles:

In a 5-to-4 decision, the majority overturned the rule in New York v. Belton, 453 U. S. 454 (1981). Police may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to arrest of an occupant or recent occupant only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrestee might access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest.

The case is Arizona v. Gant, #07-542, 2009 WL 1045962, 2009 U.S. Lexis 3120, viewable at
27709  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: April 25, 2009, 06:56:38 AM

It is my hope that this thread will see lots of contributions and discussions, for example in this moment are there any suggestions for the Swine Flu now threatening to break out quite nastily?  Many are dead in Mexico already, where schools and Museums are already closed.  See the last several entries at
27710  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / "Swine Flu"-- cuantos muertos en Mexico? on: April 25, 2009, 12:54:09 AM
?Que honda con el "swine flu"?!? the mexican counts are
different than what we are seeing in the news but it has other good info.

27711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More on Swine Flu on: April 25, 2009, 12:50:57 AM
27712  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: April 25, 2009, 12:45:46 AM
Looking forward to a rocking good time tomorrow!
27713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: April 24, 2009, 10:46:06 PM the mexican counts are
 different than what we are seeing in the news but it has other good info.
27714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rubin advocates for BO on: April 24, 2009, 10:44:52 PM
Beneath the attacks on President Barack Obama's performance at recent meetings abroad lie two fundamental questions about American foreign policy. The first is the extent to which Washington should make changing despised leaders of other countries a primary goal. The second is how to use the power of the presidency.

APWhat the chorus of Mr. Obama's critics is ignoring is that the 2008 election was, in part, a referendum on President Bush's policy of regime change and his approach to diplomacy.

Candidate Barack Obama could not have been clearer. He was going to talk to foreign leaders directly whether the United States agreed with their policies or not. And the purpose of this new diplomacy, Mr. Obama emphasized, was not to change regimes around the world but to advance American interests. His opponent, Sen. John McCain, took the opposite view. He wouldn't be seen in the company of Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. And as far as Iran was concerned, Mr. McCain would demand that Tehran capitulate on a series of issues as the price for a meeting with the president.

Despite the results of November's election, Mr. Obama's critics are judging him on the basis of the old Bush calculus. Whether it is Venezuela or Cuba, they assess Mr. Obama's actions based on whether or not they immediately contribute to the downfall of a regime. If not, then they go off in high dudgeon.

Worse yet, Mr. Obama's critics are using the same logic that contributed to early failures in Iraq. They say the president's politeness to Hugo Chávez, for example, should be judged by the standards of the Cold War. They point to the fact that dissidents in Eastern Europe were heartened when President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire." But that truth doesn't always translate to other parts of the world. If Iraq has taught us anything, it is that not all countries respond the same way when a dictator falls. Unfortunately, many heirs to the Reagan tradition haven't learned that policy by analogy is a risky business.

Whether the challenge is Afghanistan, Pakistan or nuclear proliferation, the new administration seems determined not to be distracted by the advocates of regime change or the likes of Hugo Chávez. Instead, the Obama administration has used recent summits in London, Prague and Trinidad as a way to restore respect for the U.S. abroad, and to build the base of support that is necessary to achieve larger goals.

Mr. Obama not only has a different view than Mr. Bush about the ends of U.S. foreign policy, but he has also promised to use different means than his predecessor. Mr. Bush believed that he could extract concessions from recalcitrant governments as the price of admission for dialogue with the U.S. When it came to preventing North Korea from building nuclear weapons, or Iran from developing nuclear technology, the Bush policy failed. Denying direct access to U.S. officials did not compel the governments in Pyongyang or Tehran to reverse course.

Soon enough Mr. Obama's critics will be howling that he is meeting with the leaders of problematic countries with no dramatic concessions to show for it. But again, they will be missing the point. As he made clear during the campaign, the president believes direct diplomacy is a tool in America's arsenal. It is not a prize to be won.

Mr. Obama's new diplomacy is well-suited to an era of democratic government and instant communication. By refusing to snub Hugo Chávez, Mr. Obama makes it harder for dictators and anti-American activists to demonize the U.S. Of course, national security is not a popularity contest. But since governments around the world are increasingly democratic, they must respond to the attitudes of their people. A popular America has more leverage at the negotiating table on issues from trade to terrorism. While Republican operatives may dismiss the significance of having a president the world admires, the fact is that Mr. Obama's popularity brings tangible benefits we have lost over the last eight years.

If the president's critics continue to judge him by Bush-era standards of diplomacy and regime change, they are going to have a lot to shout about over the next four years. But the majority of Americans who supported Barack Obama will withhold judgment and give the administration the opportunity to implement its initiatives on climate change, nuclear proliferation, Afghanistan and Iran. They may even give the new policies time to work.

Mr. Rubin, an adjunct professor at Columbia's School of International Affairs, was an assistant secretary of state under President Bill Clinton.
27715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Say when , , , on: April 24, 2009, 10:35:09 PM
Forwarded to me by a MD friend in India:

Some incisive comments about why the puki army wont fight the telebunnies.. from
0230 GMT April 25, 2009

With Pakistan, there's the news...

Pakistan Army chief delivers stern warning to the militants that they will be severely dealt with unless they stop taking over more territory...Chief says Army rank and file have decided to do their duty...Taliban withdrawing from Buner...Army operation in Swat imminent in 48 hours...Chief says US pronouncements warning of collapse of Pakistan are to be condemned...a democratic nation of 170-million cannot be intimidated by a few insurgents...Army will be gloves off in dealing with rebels in Swat...Government says Buner is being dealt with, 250 troops have been sent to restore law and order...etc etc etc


Then there's the news


Non-resident Taliban are withdrawing from Buner; local Taliban will stay, and will not carry arms as Taliban has come to Buner "only to preach true Islam" and wish to harm no-one...non-resident Taliban have been responsible for looting some local houses...250 lightly armed police did try and enter Buner, but after one convoy was ambushed the police are withdrawing...locals says Taliban controls entire district, including government/administration builds, government officials have fled, women nowhere to be seen in the bazaars except a few fully covered...withdrawing Taliban are moving into Swabi District...etc etc etc


You've guessed it...


The first version is the Pakistan Government's official version, the second is the reality. How can the Pakistan Army, which has been sitting licking its wounds, and which did absolutely nothing as the Pakistan overran Buner, and taunted the army by staging a victory past right outside the Punjab Regimental Center in Mardan, now suddenly launch a major operation to clear Swat in 48 hours? Doesn't it take a couple of weeks at least to plan things in detail, make sure officers and men know what they're doing, arrange the logistics, etc etc.?

Could it be a co-inky-dinky that the army began issuing these stern warnings right after Massa Sam threatened the direst consequences if Pakistan did not move against the insurgents? PS: you didn't hear about the US threats to Pakistan because that's all "diplomacy" behind the scenes.

And having had its sorry rear whupped three times by the Taliban in Swat by the Taliban, how come the Army will eliminate the insurgents? And 'scuse us, are you going to drop nukes on the Taliban when you say you will be gloves off? Because, dear Army, you already have many times thrown everything you have against the Taliban to no avail: tank, artillery, helicopter gunships, and unrestricted air bombardment.


Now let's analyze the real news a bit...

So suppose its World War II, and the Allies are advancing up Italy, and several divisions are withdrawn. Do the Germans think the Allies are defeated and so they are withdrawing. No, dear boys and girls, those withdrawing divisions are going to a new invasion of Southern France, opening a new front against Germany. The Allies are so confident they're going to take Italy they decide to redeploy several divisions (was it seven divisions? memory is a bit foggy). As far as GHQ Berlin is concerned, this is Not Good News.

So look at this folks: just week before last, Taliban had not overrun Swabi District. It was contested territory. So if they are now "withdrawing" from Buner into Swabi, is it for the spring time blossoms and fresh air? Hardly. They're preparing to overrun Swabi District. This is Not Good News. as Bill Roggio has explained, once they take control of Swabi, Mardan, and Haripur  Districts, it's the beginning of the end for Islamabad.

The situation is so serious, Pakistan Government is deploying Rangers to the hills outside Islamabad, and the Rangers HQ is issuing heroic statements such as: "To get to Islamabad they will have to get past us."

Problemo, dudes. Agreed the Rangers are not the Frontier Corps, but they are also lightly-armed paramilitary. They havent seen action for 37 years. They are also locally recruited, and where do people think the insurgents fighting India in Kashmir for the last 22 years come from? Surprise: they come from the Punjab. So if we say the Frontier Corps would not fight the insurgents in the NWFP because they were kin, why should Pakistan Rangers fight to defend Islamabad when they will also be fighting kin?

Not so fast, McGee you say, there's no such thing as the Punjab Taliban. Quite right, Meinherr. Punjab fundamentalist insurgent groups go by different names, and they've joined up with the Taliban. They want now to overthrow the Government of Pakistan as much as the Taliban do because they believe the GOP, under pressure from US, has abandoned the jihad against India; even though the Kashmir insurgency has restarted, these lads have bigger ambitions than just getting killed in Kashmir for the next 22 years.

And - surprise: the bulk of the Pakistan Army is Punjabi. a lot of hot air has been passed about the Pakistan Army not wanting to fight the Taliban because they are brothers. Hello, peeps. There's unlikely to be any village in Pakistan Punjab that doesn't have a significant number of men in the Army. Pakistan Army Punjabi, Sindhi, and Baluchi troops refused to fight the NWFP Taliban just as much as the NWFP troops. Why when upward of 70% of the Army is Punjabi, are these men now going to suddenly start fighting, particularly when their own brothers (literally) join in the attack on Islamabad?


Now to the nub of the matter


Every time we try and explain why Pakistan won't fight the Taliban regardless of what the US does, we get diverted by events. These darn insurgents don't have the decency to wait till Editor finishes his exposition before making their next advance. Bally unsporting. So we're going to summarize our argument in a few  quick paras, and expound away another time.

First, Pakistan is not going to sacrifice its national security for the US, and its national security requires control of Afghanistan.

Second, every last person in Pakistan aside from a few bootlickers have had it to here with the Americans. Americans have beaten and cursed and spat on the Pakistani dog for so long, the dog is ready to fight back even if its knows it will be killed. There is a point beyond you cannot push a human being: he will not do your will, even if you shoot him. The Pakistanis are there.

Editor and others who know what's going in Pakistan can assure Washington: if the Army is required by its senior officers to take anything more than symbolic action against the Taliban, the senior officers will be killed. The senior officer have no intention of being killed, if only because they above all have had to smile and bow and scrape to the Americans.

But you are wrong, Editor, will say a dozen people who have just returned from their tenth trip to Pakistan. The government, bureaucracy, army, are all against the Taliban. They will fight.

Really? So when is it they will fight? They haven't so far, and pretty soon - months, likely, all of Pakistan west of the Indus will be Indian country. We can go only by Pakistan's deeds, not words, and its deeds show it has not fought. So where's the evidence they will fight?

Oh right, they SAY they will fight. So in eight years the Americans have not learned the Pakistanis are past masters of saying one thing and doing another? Every American who deals with the Pakistanis know this. If Head Office doesn't know it, then good luck America, you deserve to lose Pakistan.

The rank and file Pakistani soldier doesn't want to fight Taliban. He wants to kick American butt, all the way to Kabul and points west. Rank and file cannot go up against the Americans: the Americans will destroy the Pakistan military inside of two weeks. But they can kick away by continuing to back the Taliban.

Last, and perhaps most important, we're going to say something that is so obvious to anyone familiar with Pakistan, but that's so not obvious to the great majority of Americans: the army and the people of Pakistan no longer want to fight for Pakistan under the command of the current military and civil leadership.

For decades Pakistanis have chafed under the rule of the Brown Imperialists. They hate them, but saw no alternative, and saw no way of overthrowing their brown oppressors. All this business about Benazir the Great Democrat was just so much twaddle. Benazir was no different from anyone else who have ruled Pakistan in six decades. They have ALL been oppressors.

The Taliban, for the first time in Pakistan's history, are offering an alternative to the Brown Imperialists. They are offering Pakistanis a reason and a means to fight - not the Taliban, but the BI's. And guess who the Americans are allied and identified with?

Hint 1: Its not the people of Pakistan. Hint 2: Restudy Russia 1917, particularly the army. Hint 3: after that, study Iran 1979.

Is the Pakistan revolution going to happen tomorrow? Cant say. Will it happen day after? Still cant say. Is it never going to happen? Can say: it is going to happen.

As for Head Office, aka Toon Town, aka Washington, here's our solution to the problem: Pray, and pray hard. We got nothing to lose. Because its all lost already.

27716  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / After the fight on: April 24, 2009, 10:06:28 PM
Kicking this thread off with a nice post from Gabe Suarez on the WT forum:

 After The Fight - What To Say?


At GOTX, they are discussing the after-event-discourse. In other words, what do you say...or not, after you have whacked an attacker. As expected, the variety of advice is as different as people's choices in guns and ammo. A prevailing attitude is to simply shut up and say nothing under any circumstances. I disagree and here is why -

I have been in a few of these and also investigated quite a few of these. I noted some trends, as well tried to use those trends to my benefits when it was my turn at the plate.

The bad guys will not be "keeping quiet". They will be telling the cops you pulled on them, perhaps create some appearance of racism if they can exploit it, and generally make it look like you are the bad guy. What happened may not be obvious to the cops who come out to investigate.

So picture this scene. Two guys have been, as we used to say, "eye f*cking you", and followed you for some time, maybe yelling stuff at you. Finally, while you did your best to avoid the issue, they pressed the confrontation and attacked with sufficient force to justify a gun solution.

You shoot one of them, wounding him, and the other runs off. You saw the first man drop his pistol in a clump of ivy and the other man throw his knife on a rooftop as he ran away.

You immediately call 911 and give a very cryptic account of what happened..."there has been a shooting...I'm the victim...send help".

In the meantime, one of the assailants...the one who got away, is also calling. His story is a little different. According to him you called them "dirty Norwegians", and pulled your gun on them and shot his buddy. As far as the police know...they got two calls. One a cryptic call, from someone who seemed to be concealing somet6hing, and another reporting what amounts to a racial hate crime.

They arrive on scene and after controlling the event, ask you what happened. What you do now will have a bearing on the rest of your life.

The guys who advocate saying nothing will not be able to point to the two weapons which were discarded...and which will disappear as soon as the scene is cleared. The police may not even look for them since no one told them they were in existence. No one will tell them you are a good guy who was a victim of an attempted robbery, as the ONLY info paints you as some KKK wannabe.'ll have a lawyer...but all of the evidence the police may have collected will no longer be available, and the investigation will not have been an even and equal one, but rather one where you alone are the suspect.

See the point??

Is it hard to control your mouth? Yes it is. But no harder than to control your trigger finger, your desire to drink to excess, or to control the vertical displacement of your zipper. As the Nike commercial said....Just Do It.

It, like many other things, can be trained and developed. If you ignore it, it will never be developed.

Think in these train gun handling and shooting skills to make them reflexive in the most stressful event someone is ever likely to face....and we tend to do fine. The guys who never train...thinking they will "rise to the occasion" usually fail. To say, "I will simply say nothing", is in that same line of thinking is it not?

I agree that saying nothing is a good default, but the default is not always a good idea.

What I have done with success is this. I give a limited statement and them excuse myself from any further questions until my mouthpiece arrives.

Anything I say focuses on what the bad guy(s) have done and not on what I may have done. Something like this -

"Officer. I am glad you are here. Thank God.

I am a good guy. I was minding my own business on my way home when those two guys attacked me.

The one in the blue shirt had a knife. He threw it up there on the roof as he ran away. there should be some blood on it from my arm when I blocked his attempt to stab me.

The guy on the gurney was armed with a pistol. He dropped it right there in that pile of ivy when he fell.

I was terrified. Boy am I glad you guys are here.

Listen...I am still a little shaken up. I want to cooperate with you guys. This has never happened to me (or this hasn't happened in a while). I have heard stories of good guys getting sued for saying too much. My attorney is on his way and as soon as he arrives I will be happy to give a statement with him there. Until then, I think I need to sit down and calm my blood pressure."

At that point things are no longer in your control but you have set the investigation on the proper course, and the truth will be determined instead of being overlooked.
27717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yemen: Reality bites BO in butt again on: April 24, 2009, 08:32:12 AM
Yemen Dispute Slows Closing of Guantánamo
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LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy WILLIAM GLABERSON and ROBERT F. WORTH
Published: April 23, 2009
The Obama administration’s effort to return the largest group of Guantánamo Bay detainees to Yemen, their home country, has stalled, creating a major new hurdle for the president’s plan to close the prison camp in Cuba by next January, American and Yemeni officials say.

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Canada Told to Request the Return of a Citizen at Guantánamo (April 24, 2009) “We’re at a complete impasse,” said one American official who is involved in the issue but was speaking without authorization and so requested anonymity. “I don’t know that there’s a viable Plan B.”

The Yemeni government has asked Washington to return its detainees and has said that it would need substantial aid to rehabilitate the men. But the Obama administration is increasingly skeptical of Yemen’s ability to provide adequate rehabilitation and security to supervise returned prisoners. In addition, American officials are wary of sending detainees to Yemen because of growing indications of activity by Al Qaeda there.

The developments are significant for the Obama administration because the 97 Yemeni detainees make up more than 40 percent of the remaining 241 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. The question of what to do with them “is integral to the process of closing Guantánamo,” said Ken Gude, an associate director at the Center for American Progress who has written about closing the prison camp.

The standoff over the Yemeni detainees comes on top of other difficulties that have emerged since President Obama announced his intention to close the prison that has drawn international criticism for years.

Some Republicans in Congress have mounted stiff resistance to closing Guantánamo, and officials in some American communities, fearing that terrorism suspects could be tried or held in their courts or prisons, said they would fight any such plans. Also, while some European governments have promised to resettle detainees, specific agreements have been slow in coming.

The Yemenis not only are the biggest group of detainees, but also are widely seen as the most difficult to transfer out of Guantánamo. Other countries are wary of many of the Yemeni detainees because jihadist groups have long had deep roots in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world and the homeland of Osama bin Laden’s father. If the Yemenis are not sent home, there may be few other options for many of the 97 men, detainees’ lawyers and human rights groups say.

Still, Muhi al-Deen al-Dhabi, Yemen’s deputy foreign affairs minister, said in an interview that the United States was now trying to persuade other countries to accept Yemeni detainees and appeared to have rejected Yemen’s request to have its citizens at Guantánamo returned.

“If the United States is going to transfer the Yemeni detainees to a third party, we cannot stop that,” Mr. Dhabi said.

Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, met last month with Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser, John O. Brennan. The State Department said Mr. Brennan raised “the U.S. government’s concerns about the direct return of detainees to Yemen.”

The Bush administration also failed to reach a deal with President Saleh, but the Obama administration had hoped to get increased cooperation from Yemen, which critics say has a history of coddling Islamic extremists and releasing convicted terrorists. Complicating the task is the fact that security in Yemen has been deteriorating for more than a year, with several terrorist attacks, including a suicide bombing outside the American Embassy compound in September that killed 13 people.

Among the 97 Yemeni detainees are some men who appear to be candidates for transfer to other countries, including about a dozen with ties to Saudi Arabia. American officials have described some of the Yemenis as jihadist foot soldiers and have suggested that a few, like a student captured while visiting other Yemenis in Pakistan, may simply have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Perhaps a dozen or more Yemeni detainees could face prosecution in the United States, including Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was charged in the Bush administration’s military commission system with being a coordinator of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But with just nine months remaining before Mr. Obama’s January 2010 deadline for closing the prison, some lawyers for the men say they are becoming convinced that there may be no viable strategy to relocate them.

David H. Remes, a lawyer for 16 Yemeni detainees, said it appeared that many of the men might remain in American custody. “Unless President Obama reconsiders his decision to close Guantánamo,” Mr. Remes said, “the Yemeni detainees would have to be brought to the U.S. and put in some sort of prison.”

Although administration officials would not comment on the talks with Yemen, a senior administration official said the government was “working to ensure that any detainee who is transferred abroad will be appropriately monitored, rehabilitated, and assimilated back into their society.”

The complexities of the issues surrounding the detainees are a reflection of Yemen’s tangled domestic and international problems. It is a state that often appears on the verge of chaos. A weak central government is fighting a persistent insurgency in the north, restive separatists in the south and a growing Qaeda presence.

Some Yemeni officials say President Saleh, a wily former army officer, has used the internal threats — and perhaps even nurtured them — to press the United States and Yemen’s neighbor Saudi Arabia for more aid.

As a result, people who have discussed the detainee issues with Yemeni officials say the Obama administration’s frustration with the Yemeni government may be well founded.

Mr. Saleh has publicly demanded the return of the detainees. But Joanne Mariner, director of Human Rights Watch’s terrorism and counterterrorism program, said that after meeting top Yemeni officials, it appeared that the Saleh government seemed to see the detainees as a potential source of security and financial problems.

“Politically, they need to give the impression that they’re fighting to get their people back,” Ms. Mariner said, but she added that it was not clear whether the Yemeni officials were working to meet any American requirements.

One senior Yemeni official, she said, seemed to suggest that Yemen would require a huge payment from the American government to resettle the detainees. A proper rehabilitation program, the official claimed, could cost as much as $1 million for each detainee, totaling nearly $100 million.

In the recent interview, Mr. Dhabi, the deputy foreign affairs minister, did not mention a price tag. But he said that creating a rehabilitation program would be “long, costly and would require cooperation.” He said the Americans were “disappointed” to hear that.

Every option for the Yemenis at Guantánamo seems to have its roadblocks. There have long been reports that many Yemeni detainees may go to Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program for former jihadists. That program has been widely praised in the Middle East, despite recent disclosures that some graduates who are former Guantánamo detainees have returned to terrorism.

But the Saudis have noted that Yemen demands that its citizens be sent home, and a high-level Saudi official said his country would not take any of the detainees unless Yemen asked it to.

William Glaberson reported from New York, and Robert F. Worth from Beirut, Lebanon. Margot Williams contributed reporting from New York.
27718  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Farmer, anti-federalist letter on: April 24, 2009, 08:17:32 AM
"Besides, to lay and collect internal taxes in this extensive country must require a great number of congressional ordinances, immediately operation upon the body of the people; these must continually interfere with the state laws and thereby produce disorder and general dissatisfaction till the one system of laws or the other, operating upon the same subjects, shall be abolished."

--Federal Farmer, Antifederalist Letter, 10 October 1787
27719  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Using the courts of Kenya on: April 24, 2009, 08:15:07 AM
Published: April 23, 2009
MOMBASA, Kenya — In the shadow of Fort Jesus, a 16th-century Portuguese stronghold that truly belongs to the era of slave raiders and pirate ships, is the office of Kenya’s premier pirate lawyer.

More than three dozen Somali pirates are behind bars in Shimo la Tewa, the notoriously decrepit prison in Mombasa.
And these days, the lawyer, Francis Kadima, is very busy.

On Thursday morning, his newest batch of clients suddenly arrived: 11 thin-faced, bewildered suspects who were marched into a Mombasa courtroom to face charges of piracy on the high seas. This month, French commandos captured them — and a small arsenal — after they were suspected of trying to commandeer a cargo ship.

“When I first started handling pirate cases, I thought these guys would be like kidnappers, strong, you know, and really crafty and sophisticated,” Mr. Kadima said. “But not these guys. They’re just ordinary. If anything, they’re expressionless.”

Kenya is emerging as the venue of choice for piracy cases and an important piece of the worldwide crackdown on piracy. The spate of recent hijackings off Somalia’s coast has stiffened international resolve. Just a few months ago, foreign warships would catch suspected pirates cruising around in speedy skiffs with guns and ladders and then dump them back on the Somali beach because of sticky legal questions. Those days are just about gone.

Now, the piracy suspects are getting a one-way ticket to Mombasa, a historic port town where Kenyan officials are all too eager to punish the seafaring thugs imperiling their vital shipping industry. Under recent, innovative agreements with the United States, Britain and the European Union, Kenya has promised to try piracy suspects apprehended by foreign navies. In return, the other countries have agreed to improve Kenya’s antiquated courts. Many Kenyan judges still wear wigs and take everything down by hand, making trials agonizingly slow.

In a few cases, countries that have caught piracy suspects accused of attacking their own citizens have chosen to prosecute them back home. That was demonstrated this week, when a wide-eyed young Somali man landed in New York to face charges that he had kidnapped an American sea captain. But according to maritime law experts, that is not necessary.

“The law on piracy is 100 percent clear,” said Kenneth Randall, dean of the University of Alabama School of Law and an international law expert. “Any country can arrest these guys and prosecute them at home.”

When it comes to putting pirates on trial, there are some practical complications, like serving papers to witnesses who may be Filipino or Kenyan sailors with no mailing addresses who spend all year at sea. Or finding a Somali translator in Mumbai, India, or Copenhagen.

In light of those problems, most nations have been hesitant to undertake piracy trials. As a result, there is growing support for the Kenyan solution. Today, more than three dozen Somali pirates sit behind bars in Shimo la Tewa, Mombasa’s notoriously decrepit prison, which just so happens to be a few miles up the beach from some of this country’s most magnificent palm-fringed resorts.

Western diplomats are hoping that this courtroom effort, coupled with a reinvigorated military response involving warships from more than a dozen nations, will put a dent in Somalia’s stubborn piracy problem. At a meeting in Brussels on Thursday, donor nations pledged more than $200 million for Somalia, much of it for security, on land and at sea.

Last year, Somali pirates hijacked more than 40 ships, netting tens of millions of dollars in ransom. Many major shipping companies are now opting to sail all the way around Africa instead of risking the Somali seas.

Antti Lehmusjarvi, a legal adviser for the European Union who came to the Mombasa courthouse on Thursday to observe the arraignment of the 11 piracy suspects, said Kenya was the best solution — for now.

“Obviously, Kenya needs assistance,” Mr. Lehmusjarvi said. He rattled off all the help the European Union was providing, including computers and money to bring more qualified Kenyan judges to Mombasa. “But the law here is very clear,” he said. “And in Somalia, a stable legal framework doesn’t exist.”

Section 69 (1) of the Kenyan penal code reads, “Any person who, in territorial waters or upon the high seas, commits any act of piracy jure gentium is guilty of the offence of piracy.” The punishment can be life in prison.

But Mr. Kadima, a former magistrate himself, takes issue with this. Kenya has not ratified international maritime conventions, he said, and the recent agreements signed with other countries were not approved by Kenya’s Parliament and therefore are not enforceable.

“You can’t just go around making up laws, you know,” he said. “There is a process.”

Mr. Kadima, 50, who took on his first piracy case in March, said he had yet to see a shilling from any of his piracy cases, though he conceded that the publicity was good for business.

He said all of his clients had uttered the same excuse for why they had been caught on the high seas with serious firepower.

“They said they were just fishermen,” he said. “Fishermen who needed to protect themselves.”

Does he really believe that?

“A lawyer doesn’t need to believe,” Mr. Kadima explained. “He goes by what he is told.”

27720  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: April 23, 2009, 08:37:14 PM
A post from WT:

Some argue that since several of the Founding Fathers were Masons, and Masons only require belief in a supreme being, that they were simple deists.

Webster defines deism as: a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe

While two of the more well known members of our group were influenced by deism, I would not count that as a view held by a large number and surly not a majority.

And while Masons set a minimum, there is nothing that says you cannot hold Christian or Jewish beliefs.

It is a rather long list, but this may help:

For example:

It is generally agreed upon that Washington's beliefs could be described as "deist" during at least part of his life. Deism
for Washington, as with most historical figueres classified as deists, was never an actual religious affiliation, but was a classification of theological belief. As nearly all major political figures from Washington's era can be described as "deists" if a sufficiently broad definition is used an if the correct quotations are selected, classifying Washington as a Deist may not by particularly useful or distinctive.
27721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A worrying new blend in swine flu on: April 23, 2009, 05:17:49 PM

Seven people in U.S. hit by strange new swine flu 23 Apr 2009 20:54:48 GMT
Source: Reuters
 *Five new cases found in addition to two people on Tuesday

*CDC says no reason for concern yet

*Flu is unusual mixture but no deaths seen

(Updates throughout with quotes, details)

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) - Seven people have been diagnosed with a strange and unusual new kind of swine flu in California and Texas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

All seven people have recovered but the virus itself is a never-before-seen mixture of viruses typical among pigs, birds and humans, the CDC said.

"We are likely to find more cases," the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat told a telephone briefing. "We don't think this is time for major concern around the country."

The CDC reported the new strain of swine flu on Tuesday in two boys from California's two southernmost counties.

Now, five more cases have been seen -- all found via normal surveillance for seasonal influenza. None of the patients, whose symptoms closely resembled seasonal flu, had any direct contact with pigs.

"We believe at this point that human-to-human spread is occurring," Schuchat said. "That's unusual. We don't know yet how widely it is spreading ... We are also working with international partners to understand what is occurring in other parts of the world."

Two of the new cases were among 16-year-olds at the same school in San Antonio "and there's a father-daughter pair in California," Schuchat said. One of the boys whose cases was reported on Tuesday had flown to Dallas but the CDC has found no links to the other Texas cases.


Unusually, said the CDC's Nancy Cox, the viruses all appear to carry genes from swine flu, avian flu and human flu viruses from North America, Europe and Asia.

"We haven't seen this strain before, but we hadn't been looking as intensively as we have," Schuchat said. "It's very possible that this is something new that hasn't been happening before."

Surveillance for and scrutiny of influenza has been stepped up since 2003, when highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza reappeared in Asia. Experts fear this strain, or another strain, could spark a pandemic that could kill millions.

H5N1 currently only rarely infects people but has killed 257 out of 421 infected in 15 countries since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

The influenza strain is an H1N1, the same family as one of the seasonal flu viruses now circulating. Now that the normal influenza season is waning, it may be easier to spot cases of the new swine flu, Schuchat said.

Only one of the seven cases was sick enough to be hospitalized and all have recovered, Schuchat said.

"This isn't something that a person could detect at home," she said. The new cases appear to have somewhat more vomiting and diarrhea than is usually seen in flu, which mostly causes coughing, fever, sore throat and muscle aches.

The CDC is asking doctors to think about the possibility of swine flu when patients appear with these symptoms, to take a sample and send it to state health officials or the CDC for testing.

Cox said the CDC is already preparing a vaccine against the new strain, just in case. "This is standard operating procedure," Cox said. The agency will issue daily updates at

Seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people globally in an average year. And every few decades, a completely new strain pops up and it can cause a pandemic, a global epidemic that kills many more than usual. (Editing by Eric Walsh)
27722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 23, 2009, 12:21:12 PM

The possible reactions of the Indians to all this is a very interesting point.

Would it be to neutralize Pak nukes?  How clear are they/we on where the nukes and nuke material is?  How well protected is it?  Or would the plan be to simply kick ass, take names, and then , , , what?

27723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs on: April 23, 2009, 11:32:18 AM
second post of morning:

The following hints of further excrement storms about to hit the fan.  Combine with bad news in the Euro banking pipeline, and I find myself wondering if we have not yet seen the bottom in the market.

U.S.: A Death at Freddie Mac
Stratfor Today » April 22, 2009 | 2102 GMT

Alex Wong/Getty Images
A man walks on the grounds of Freddie Mac headquarters in McLean, Va., on April 22Summary
The acting chief financial officer of the U.S. government-backed Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (also known as “Freddie Mac”), David Kellermann, was found dead in his home April 22. Kellermann’s death — which police are calling an apparent suicide — raises many questions about what Kellermann knew and how his death will affect the future of Freddie Mac.

Related Link
The Financial Crisis in the United States
David Kellermann, the acting chief financial officer of the U.S. government-backed Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (also called “Freddie Mac”) was found dead on April 22. Police in Vienna, Va., have said the death may be a suicide. According to reports from media quoting unnamed police sources, Kellermann was found hanged in the basement of his home. The details on Kellermann’s death are still forthcoming and until an official autopsy is conducted the exact cause of death, and circumstances surrounding it, will remain unknown.

Kellermann was named a senior vice president and acting chief financial officer at Freddie Mac in the September 2008 government-initiated shake up. Prior to holding those posts he was the principal accounting officer and corporate controller — essentially the main accountant — for the mortgage giant. He was one of the longest-tenured members of the current, and government-revamped, Freddie Mac executive board and had worked for the institution for 16 years.

Freddie Mac is a government-created and state-sponsored institution designed to supplement the secondary market for U.S. mortgages. It buys mortgages from banks that issued them to consumers, often packaging them into blocks and then chopping those blocks into securities that investors buy and resell. The idea behind government-sponsored enterprises like Freddie Mac is to generate demand in a secondary market, and thus to increase the overall pool of money available for U.S. mortgage lending.

However, many of the mortgage tranches that were packaged into securities were precisely the sort of assets at the root of the financial meltdown that became the subprime mortgage crisis. Freddie Mac and its sister institution the Federal National Mortgage Association (also known as “Fannie Mae”) own almost half of the approximately $12.1 trillion U.S. market for residential mortgages and securities. Because of their unwieldy size and growing instability, the government stepped in and took the two institutions under conservatorship in September 2008 to prevent a complete meltdown of the financial system.

Part of the government’s plan for Freddie Mac was to take over the institution, replace the leadership and start sifting through the incomprehensible maze of packaged mortgages that were sold to investors as mortgage backed securities. With Kellermann’s death, however, this task — which was already approaching Sisyphean proportions — becomes most likely impossible.

Kellermann was not an outside appointee; he was promoted from within and represents the core institutional memory of Freddie Mac. Most importantly, he represents the accounting institutional memory, which means that he not only most likely knew about all of the bad decisions that were made regarding securitization, but also knew of them as they were being made. Under any circumstances, in any organization, the loss of a person of Kellermann’s stature would be crippling; under the circumstances at Freddie Mac, it is catastrophic.

The death of Freddie Mac’s most important accounting and financial employee now puts the government’s plans for Freddie Mac’s continued existence into question. Assets held by Freddie Mac are still very valuable; only a small percentage of the entire mortgage market is actually non-performing (although defaults are rising due to the effects of the recession) and far from all of that is in foreclosure, so there is a lot of value left in the institution. Without possession of first-hand knowledge to trace back and unwind the process through which securities were created, there would be little point in maintaining Freddie Mac as a single institution. It could get broken up by the government and sold in pieces, letting private investors sift though much smaller chunks of the mess on their own time.

What this would mean for the mortgage market is at present unclear. With total assets of $2.2 trillion, Freddie Mac would be the biggest institution the U.S. government has ever dismantled. But the real kicker is that this would be just the prelude to an even bigger unwinding. Everything that has beset Freddie Mac has also plagued its sister company, Fannie Mae — which has $3.11 trillion in total assets and is also in conservatorship.

27724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: States' rights, limits on federal power on: April 23, 2009, 11:14:58 AM
"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

--James Madison, Federalist No. 45
27725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The case for a federalism amendment on: April 23, 2009, 11:03:13 AM
In response to an unprecedented expansion of federal power, citizens have held hundreds of "tea party" rallies around the country, and various states are considering "sovereignty resolutions" invoking the Constitution's Ninth and Tenth Amendments. For example, Michigan's proposal urges "the federal government to halt its practice of imposing mandates upon the states for purposes not enumerated by the Constitution of the United States."

Suffragettes celebrate the 19th Amendment, 1920.
While well-intentioned, such symbolic resolutions are not likely to have the slightest impact on the federal courts, which long ago adopted a virtually unlimited construction of Congressional power. But state legislatures have a real power under the Constitution by which to resist the growth of federal power: They can petition Congress for a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution.

Article V provides that, "on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states," Congress "shall call a convention for proposing amendments." Before becoming law, any amendments produced by such a convention would then need to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

An amendments convention is feared because its scope cannot be limited in advance. The convention convened by Congress to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation produced instead the entirely different Constitution under which we now live. Yet it is precisely the fear of a runaway convention that states can exploit to bring Congress to heel.

Here's how: State legislatures can petition Congress for a convention to propose a specific amendment. Congress can then avert a convention by proposing this amendment to the states, before the number of petitions reaches two-thirds. It was the looming threat of state petitions calling for a convention to provide for the direct election of U.S. senators that induced a reluctant Congress to propose the 17th Amendment, which did just that.

What sort of language would restore a healthy balance between federal and state power while protecting the liberties of the people?

One simple proposal would be to repeal the 16th Amendment enacted in 1913 that authorized a federal income tax. This single change would strike at the heart of unlimited federal power and end the costly and intrusive tax code. Congress could then replace the income tax with a "uniform" national sales or "excise" tax (as stated in Article I, section Cool that would be paid by everyone residing in the country as they consumed, and would automatically render savings and capital appreciation free of tax. There is precedent for repealing an amendment. In 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment that had empowered Congress to prohibit the sale of alcohol.

Alternatively, to restore balance between federal and state power and better protect individual liberty, the repeal of the income tax amendment could be folded into a new "Federalism Amendment" like this:

Section 1: Congress shall have power to regulate or prohibit any activity between one state and another, or with foreign nations, provided that no regulation or prohibition shall infringe any enumerated or unenumerated right, privilege or immunity recognized by this Constitution.

Section 2: Nothing in this article, or the eighth section of article I, shall be construed to authorize Congress to regulate or prohibit any activity that takes place wholly within a single state, regardless of its effects outside the state or whether it employs instrumentalities therefrom; but Congress may define and punish offenses constituting acts of war or violent insurrection against the United States.

Section 3: The power of Congress to appropriate any funds shall be limited to carrying into execution the powers enumerated by this Constitution and vested in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof; or to satisfy any current obligation of the United States to any person living at the time of the ratification of this article.

Section 4: The 16th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed, effective five years from the date of the ratification of this article.

Section 5: The judicial power of the United States to enforce this article includes but is not limited to the power to nullify any prohibition or unreasonable regulation of a rightful exercise of liberty. The words of this article, and any other provision of this Constitution, shall be interpreted according to their public meaning at the time of their enactment.

Except for its expansion of Congressional power in Section 1, this proposed amendment is entirely consistent with the original meaning of the Constitution. It merely clarifies the boundary between federal and state powers, and reaffirms the power of courts to police this boundary and protect individual liberty.

Section 1 of the Federalism Amendment expands the power of Congress to include any interstate activity not contained in the original meaning of the Commerce Clause. Interstate pollution, for example, is not "commerce . . . among the several states," but is exactly the type of interstate problem that the Framers sought to specify in their list of delegated powers. This section also makes explicit that any restriction of an enumerated or unenumerated liberty of the people must be justified.

Section 2 then allows state policy experimentation by prohibiting Congress from regulating any activity that takes place wholly within a state. States, of course, retain their police power to regulate or prohibit such activity subject to the constraints imposed on them, for example, by Article I or the 14th Amendment. And a state is free to enter into compacts with other states to coordinate regulation and enforcement, subject to approval by Congress as required by Article I.

Section 3 adopts James Madison's reading of the taxing and borrowing powers of Article I to limit federal spending to that which is incident to an enumerated power. It explicitly allows Congress to honor its outstanding financial commitments to living persons, such its promise to make Social Security payments. Section 4 eliminates the federal income tax, after five years, in favor of a national sales or excise tax.

Finally, Section 5 authorizes judges to keep Congress within its limits by examining laws restricting the rightful exercise of liberty to ensure that they are a necessary and proper means to implement an enumerated power. This section also requires that the Constitution be interpreted according to its original meaning at the time of its enactment. But by expanding the powers of Congress to include regulating all interstate activity, the Amendment greatly relieves the political pressure on courts to adopt a strained reading of Congress's enumerated powers.

Could such a Federalism Amendment actually be adopted? Stranger things have happened -- including the adoption of each of the existing amendments. States have nothing to lose and everything to gain by making this Federalism Amendment the focus of their resistance to the shrinking of their reserved powers and infringements upon the rights retained by the people. And this Federalism Amendment would provide tea-party enthusiasts and other concerned Americans with a concrete and practical proposal by which we can restore our lost Constitution.

Mr. Barnett is a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University and the author of "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty" (Princeton, 2005).
27726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I'm shocked! Absolutely shocked! on: April 23, 2009, 10:48:59 AM
Senator Feinstein's husband cashes in on crisis
On the day the new Congress convened this year, Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced legislation to route $25 billion in taxpayer money to a government agency that had just awarded her husband's real estate firm a lucrative contract to sell foreclosed properties at compensation rates higher than the industry norms.
Mrs. Feinstein's intervention on behalf of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was unusual: the California Democrat isn't a member of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs with jurisdiction over FDIC; and the agency is supposed to operate from money it raises from bank-paid insurance payments - not direct federal dollars.

Documents reviewed by The Washington Times show Mrs. Feinstein first offered Oct. 30 to help the FDIC secure money for its effort to stem the rise of home foreclosures. Her letter was sent just days before the agency determined that CB Richard Ellis Group (CBRE) - the commercial real estate firm that her husband Richard Blum heads as board chairman - had won the competitive bidding for a contract to sell foreclosed properties that FDIC had inherited from failed banks.
About the same time of the contract award, Mr. Blum's private investment firm reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it and related affiliates had purchased more than 10 million new shares in CBRE. The shares were purchased for the going price of $3.77; CBRE's stock closed Monday at $5.14.
27727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An email I received on: April 23, 2009, 03:59:46 AM
An email I received:

Before Heller, and now Nordyke, numerous law review articles and other material debating what the Second Amendment means, the origins of it, collective right v. individual rights...were published.

But I haven't yet come across any scholarship discussing what types of arms would be necessary to preserve the second amendment's core purpose as discussed in Heller and Nordyke - Self Defense and Defense Against Tyranny.

Right now the cases are focusing on incorporation, getting it applicable to the states, but once that is successful...then what?

Eventually, an assault weapon ban case will be before the court.

It's easy to argue how your rights have been infringed upon when you can't even buy a gun, or you have to keep it in a condition that renders it useless...but it's a lot harder to sell a court on overturning an assault weapon ban.

A Court will ask, "Well, won't a revolver, a pistol or a shotgun do just as well to preserve your right to bear arms? Why do you need a weapon such as an AR-15/a 30 round magazine/other... to preserve your right to bear arms when other options are available to you under the law you are contesting?".

Has anything published from a constitutional law & tactical point of view on what kind of arms would be needed at a minimum to make rights under the second amendment anything more than dead letter?

If it has...someone let me know were I can get a copy...But, if it hasn't been done yet, Why not do it?

If no material exists for a court or future litigants to look at, something that addresses the issue from a trainer's prospective on the "minimum arms" needed to keep the right to bear arms from being relegated to uselessness, and to address how the case law in other areas such as reproductive freedom and privacy rights should apply to such arms...

Why not create it? Why not set the standard before a court starts to look for one?

Anybody interested?

27728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: FBI's Ali Soufan on: April 23, 2009, 03:47:54 AM
Here's another take on all this:

My Tortured Decision
        By ALI SOUFAN
Published: April 22, 2009

FOR seven years I have remained silent about the false claims magnifying the effectiveness of the so-called enhanced interrogation techniques like waterboarding. I have spoken only in closed government hearings, as these matters were classified. But the release last week of four Justice Department memos on interrogations allows me to shed light on the story, and on some of the lessons to be learned.

One of the most striking parts of the memos is the false premises on which they are based. The first, dated August 2002, grants authorization to use harsh interrogation techniques on a high-ranking terrorist, Abu Zubaydah, on the grounds that previous methods hadn’t been working. The next three memos cite the successes of those methods as a justification for their continued use.

It is inaccurate, however, to say that Abu Zubaydah had been uncooperative. Along with another F.B.I. agent, and with several C.I.A. officers present, I questioned him from March to June 2002, before the harsh techniques were introduced later in August. Under traditional interrogation methods, he provided us with important actionable intelligence.

We discovered, for example, that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Abu Zubaydah also told us about Jose Padilla, the so-called dirty bomber. This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.

There was no actionable intelligence gained from using enhanced interrogation techniques on Abu Zubaydah that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions — all of which are still classified. The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.

Defenders of these techniques have claimed that they got Abu Zubaydah to give up information leading to the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a top aide to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and Mr. Padilla. This is false. The information that led to Mr. Shibh’s capture came primarily from a different terrorist operative who was interviewed using traditional methods. As for Mr. Padilla, the dates just don’t add up: the harsh techniques were approved in the memo of August 2002, Mr. Padilla had been arrested that May.

One of the worst consequences of the use of these harsh techniques was that it reintroduced the so-called Chinese wall between the C.I.A. and F.B.I., similar to the communications obstacles that prevented us from working together to stop the 9/11 attacks. Because the bureau would not employ these problematic techniques, our agents who knew the most about the terrorists could have no part in the investigation. An F.B.I. colleague of mine who knew more about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed than anyone in the government was not allowed to speak to him.

It was the right decision to release these memos, as we need the truth to come out. This should not be a partisan matter, because it is in our national security interest to regain our position as the world’s foremost defenders of human rights. Just as important, releasing these memos enables us to begin the tricky process of finally bringing these terrorists to justice.

The debate after the release of these memos has centered on whether C.I.A. officials should be prosecuted for their role in harsh interrogation techniques. That would be a mistake. Almost all the agency officials I worked with on these issues were good people who felt as I did about the use of enhanced techniques: it is un-American, ineffective and harmful to our national security.

Fortunately for me, after I objected to the enhanced techniques, the message came through from Pat D’Amuro, an F.B.I. assistant director, that “we don’t do that,” and I was pulled out of the interrogations by the F.B.I. director, Robert Mueller (this was documented in the report released last year by the Justice Department’s inspector general).

My C.I.A. colleagues who balked at the techniques, on the other hand, were instructed to continue. (It’s worth noting that when reading between the lines of the newly released memos, it seems clear that it was contractors, not C.I.A. officers, who requested the use of these techniques.)

As we move forward, it’s important to not allow the torture issue to harm the reputation, and thus the effectiveness, of the C.I.A. The agency is essential to our national security. We must ensure that the mistakes behind the use of these techniques are never repeated. We’re making a good start: President Obama has limited interrogation techniques to the guidelines set in the Army Field Manual, and Leon Panetta, the C.I.A. director, says he has banned the use of contractors and secret overseas prisons for terrorism suspects (the so-called black sites). Just as important, we need to ensure that no new mistakes are made in the process of moving forward — a real danger right now.

Ali Soufan was an F.B.I. supervisory special agent from 1997 to 2005.
27729  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: April 23, 2009, 03:25:52 AM
California Ride-Along Explorer Rescues Deputy

Posted: April 22nd, 2009 11:44 AM EDT
The Stockton Record

VALLEY SPRINGS, Calif. -- A 16-year-old Explorer Scout riding along Friday with a Calaveras County sheriff's deputy may have saved the deputy's life during a brawl in Valley Springs, a Sheriff's Department spokesman said Monday.
Sgt. Dave Seawell, a department spokesman, did not identify the teenager but said Deputy Michael Dittman was on the verge of losing consciousness during a Friday night brawl when the Explorer intervened to pull an assailant's forearm off of Dittman's throat.
"I think he probably saved Dittman's life," Seawell said.

According to a written release, Dittman was called about 11:30 p.m. to a disturbance in the 100 block of Daphne Street in Valley Springs. Dittman reported that he arrived to find three men fighting on the front porch of a residence.
The deputy reportedly ordered the men to stop fighting. They ignored the command, and Dittman prepared to use his stun gun, Seawell said in the release.

The release described the events as follows:

Thomas E. Jones, 51, at the time was reportedly trying to restrain his son, Thomas C. Jones, from assaulting Michael Koppi, 22. But when the elder Jones realized the stun gun was pointed at his son, he confronted Dittman.
The deputy warned Thomas E. Jones to get out of the way. At that point, Thomas C. Jones broke free from Koppi and charged at Dittman.

The stun gun malfunctioned, and all three men then assaulted Dittman.

The deputy, realizing his stun gun failed to operate, tried to reholster it.

Thomas E. Jones grabbed the stun gun while Thomas C. Jones punched Dittman in the face. The deputy lost the stun gun to the elder Jones, who tried to turn it on the deputy. He failed to do so when Dittman struck the elder Jones on the arm with his baton.
The deputy said he struck both Joneses with his baton multiple times with little or no effect. The younger Jones wrestled the baton away while the older Jones punched the deputy in the face.

The fight continued, and Dittman and the younger Jones fell to the ground while the older Jones punched the deputy in the face. The younger Jones pushed his forearm into the deputy's throat.

Dittman reported he felt himself on the verge of losing consciousness when the Explorer intervened, pulling the arm away.
Then the elder Jones pushed the Explorer away.

As Dittman tried to get control of the younger Jones, his father tried to choke Dittman.

For a second time, Dittman felt himself on the verge of passing out and reluctantly was finally reaching for his firearm when Deputy Josh Crabtree arrived and successfully stunned Thomas E. Jones with a stun gun. Dittman and the Explorer were then able to handcuff Thomas C. Jones.

The father was booked into Calaveras County Jail on charges of battery on a peace officer, assault on a peace officer with a stun gun, resisting arrest, removing a weapon from a peace officer and public intoxication. His bail was set at $110,000.
His son was jailed on charges of assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer, battery on a peace officer, resisting arrest, removing a weapon from a peace officer and public intoxication. His bail was set at $125,000.

Koppi was booked into jail on charges of battery on a peace officer, resisting arrest and public intoxication. A 16-year-old girl was also arrested at the scene for public intoxication and resisting or delaying an officer.

Dittman was treated at Mark Twain St. Joseph's Hospital for multiple cuts and bruises to his head and neck.

The Explorers program is a division of the Boy Scouts of America devoted to exploring careers.
"This is not something we expect our Explorers to do," Seawell said.
Combat is not part of the program, he said.
27730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 23, 2009, 03:20:42 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Taliban Problem Going Critical in Pakistan
April 22, 2009

A spokesman for Pakistan’s military said Tuesday that the peace agreement between the government and Islamist militants in the Swat region has given the Taliban an opportunity to regroup, after having been flushed out by army operations some months back. Elsewhere, the information ministers of both the federal government and North-West Frontier Province warned the Taliban group in Swat, the Tehrik-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-Muhammadi (TNSM), to uphold its end of the peace deal and disarm, or face government action.

These comments followed statements made during the weekend by TNSM leader Maulana Sufi Muhammad: He denounced Pakistan’s constitution, parliament and Supreme Court as un-Islamic and called for Sharia to be imposed throughout the country. In a related development, the rebellious imam of Islamabad’s Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz — who led a bloody rising in July 2007 — was released on bail. He told followers to be ready to make sacrifices to ensure that Islam is enforced through the entire country.

As expected, the Swat “Sharia for peace” deal appears to be falling apart — within a week of being ratified. The collapse is yet another manifestation of a weakened Pakistani state being manipulated by Taliban rebels. But a far important point is that the current situation is untenable.

Pakistani government leaders cannot remain on the path of negotiations while the Taliban are going for the jugular. The entire rationale behind the peace agreement was that the insurgency in Swat could be ended if Sharia was enforced in the restive area. The Taliban not only have shown that they are unwilling to disarm, but their ambitions are escalating from a local to a national level.

This leaves the government with two choices: Either continue down the current path — allowing the jihadists to advance their cause while trying to avoid confrontation — or draw the line. In either case, conflict would be inevitable.

The difference is one of time and location. The Pakistanis either can fight the jihadists now, seeking to limit the conflict to the Pashtun regions of the northwest, or wait to fight — while the jihadists move to strengthen their ability to strike in Punjab province, the heart of Pakistan. The state is being pushed toward taking action by both the deteriorating security situation at home and mounting pressure from the United States. But it is not clear whether there is sufficient political will in Islamabad to go on the offensive.

Much of this is because the state is caught between the contradictory needs to combat the “bad” Taliban (those that fight in Pakistan) while still maintaining influence over the “good” ones (those that fight in Afghanistan). This distinction itself is a problem: The jihadist landscape is far more complicated than such neat binary categorizations would seem to allow. The problems Islamabad faces in this regard offer a glimpse of what the Obama administration can expect in its efforts to distinguish between what Washington sees as Taliban it can deal with versus Taliban it cannot deal with.

Overall, Pakistan’s situation is far more dire than the situation the United States will face in Afghanistan as it increases troop commitments and seeks out pragmatic Taliban with whom to negotiate. For Islamabad, the war is hitting home now more than ever.

27731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The next Vince Foster? on: April 22, 2009, 01:22:16 PM
Freddie Mac chief financial officer found dead in apparent suicide

David Kellermann, 41, was found dead in his home in Vienna, Virginia before dawn

Daniel Nasaw in Washington,
Wednesday 22 April 2009 15.37 BST

The acting chief financial officer of troubled US mortgage giant Freddie Mac was found dead in an apparent suicide this morning.

David Kellermann, 41, was found dead in his home in Vienna, Virginia on the outskirts of Washington, before dawn. Fairfax county, Virginia police said no foul play was evident and that the cause and manner of death was under investigation by the state medical examiner. CNN reported Kellermann had hung himself, citing a law enforcement source. Police spokeswoman Lucy Caldwell said police responded to the house just before 5am (10am BST). She would not say who called police but said others were in the house.

Kellermann was named acting chief financial officer in September, after Anthony Piszel resigned following a government-takeover of the firm and a dramatic internal shake-up of the management. He reported directly to Chief Executive Officer John Koskinen. Before that he was senior vice-president and led the company's accounting and finance operations.

Kellerman had been with the company 16 years in a variety of positions.
As acting chief financial officer, Kellermann was charged with certifying the truth and accuracy of the company's financial statements and certain regulatory filings.

The company remains under government conservatorship and has received billions in loans from the US treasury department to help keep it afloat.

But the company has complained that requirements from the treasury department and other US government offices conflict with its long-term business objectives, and last month warned investors that the conflict could lead to "suboptimal outcomes".

The McLean, Virginia-based company finances home mortgages by purchasing loans from mortgage lenders. It has been battered by floods of loan defaults caused by the credit crunch and plummeting home values. In 2008, the company lost $50.1bn (£34.4bn), compared to $3.1bn in 2007.

The company was chartered by the US Congress in 1970. At the end of 2008, Freddie Mac held $1.8tn in single-family home loans.

At least six other financial services executives have committed suicide under stress from the current credit crisis. Those include Germany's fifth richest man, Adolf Merckle, who in January threw himself under a train in an act his family blamed on his company's "desperate situation". In December, a French fund manager who had lost $1.4bn of clients' money to Bernard Madoff's ponzi scheme was found dead at his desk in New York.

In a statement, Koskinen praised Kellermann's "extraordinary work ethic and integrity".

"The Freddie Mac family is truly saddened by the news this morning of David Kellermann's death," he said. "We extend our deepest condolences to David's family and loved ones for this terrible personal tragedy."
27732  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: April 22, 2009, 08:42:39 AM
Will The Tea Parties Matter?
by Newt Gingrich

The elite media tried to ignore us.  The government labeled us "extremists."  But on April 15, more than one million Americans came together, spontaneously, to defend fairness and freedom.  I know because Callista and I were there. Here is our story.

A Reaction to the Left's Effort to Create a Radical, Secular,
and Socialist America

Callista and I spent last Wednesday evening at the New York City Tea Party in City Hall Park. We had a terrific time, as did the crowd that the New York Police estimated numbered 12,500 fellow citizens.  The Tea Party in New York was a great example of the nature of the entire movement: It was a grassroots citizens' initiative aroused in reaction to the left's aggressive effort to create a more radical, secular, and socialist country.  The force behind the New York Tea Party was Kellen Giuda, a 26-year-old small businessman (three employees), who decided on his own to organize a protest.

A Modern Day Sam Adams

At the New York Tea Party, I called Kellen a modern day Sam Adams.

Like the original 1773 Boston Tea Party, the nationwide Tea Parties of 2009 were held in response to a government treating Americans as subjects to be commanded rather than citizens with God-given rights.

Kellen Giuda is a citizen, not a subject. His first internet-based effort led 300 people to get together. These 300 then reached out and organized an effort which drew 12,500 people to City Hall Park. It was a bubbling-up of the grassroots comparable to anything the left-wing anti-war movement had been able to achieve in the last eight years.

More than One Million Americans Held Tea Parties

Dave Ryan, the head of American Solutions, had a great time with Fox News' Sean Hannity and 20,000 fellow citizens in Atlanta on Wednesday evening.  My friend and co-author Bill Forstchen estimated there were 1,500-plus citizens at the Asheville Tea Party.

Rick Tyler, founding director of Renewing American Leadership, helped drive tens of thousands of people of faith out to Tea Party Day rally sites around the country.

Will the Tea Parties Be a Moment Quickly Forgotten
or the Start of Something Big?

Adam Waldeck, the Tea Party coordinator for American Solutions, reported that the Tax Day Tea Party effort organized in at least 850 sites, with more than one million people all told.

An impressive showing, especially considering that the elite media virtually ignored the movement, no big donor or organization was behind it, and right and center-right leaning Americans generally have jobs and lack the professional protest and "community organizing" prowess and funding of the left.  Still, David Axelrod, President Obama's chief strategist, said on CBS's "Face the Nation" last Sunday that the Tea Party movement was potentially "unhealthy."  So what does this movement really mean? Will the 2009 Tax Day Tea Parties be a brief moment in time quickly forgotten or the beginning of something big?

Dispelling the Media Myths about the Tea Parties

Liberal politicians and pundits did their best to discredit the Tea Parties by describing them, first, as a partisan Republican movement, and, second, as a revolt of greedy rich people who don't want to pay more income tax.

But as Callista and I saw - and anyone who went to a Tea Party with an open mind would have seen as well - the Tea Parties were not essentially Republican. People were as disgusted with big spending under President Bush as they are opposed to big spending under President Obama. This was a powerful movement of Americans fed up with the irresponsible politicians of both parties. In most cities they did not have a politician speaking. In some places, politicians were barred from speaking and forced to listen.

Alarm at the Growing Burden of Government on All Americans

Second, Tea Party participants were not simply angry about higher federal income taxes. Like Kellen Giuda, they were alarmed at the growing burden of government on all Americans, and the America we are leaving to our children both born and unborn. Taxing future generations to pay for our irresponsible spending is the epitome of "taxation without representation" which was precisely in line with the spirit of the Boston Tea Party in 1773.

What the elite media missed is that state and local taxes are going up for everyone. Add that to higher gasoline taxes, corporate taxes, death taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, and the threat of an energy tax. All of these combine to convince people that the general burden of government is getting bigger.

The Obama budget being negotiated in a House-Senate Conference Committee this week projects an astounding $9 trillion increase in federal debt over the next eight years. Since no one expects the liberals in control of Washington to cut spending, this level of debt virtually guarantees either higher taxes for the middle class or higher inflation. Higher taxes or higher inflation - either path means declining incomes, declining savings, and fewer economic opportunities for every American.

The elite media didn't get this. The Americans at the Tea Parties last week did. They understand that more government means more taxes and more taxes means less freedom. That's why we came out.

The Real Meaning of the Tea Parties: Fairness, Responsibility, and Freedom

But more important than understanding what the Tea Parties were not is understanding what they were. I believe there are three much deeper meanings to the Tea Party movement that the elite media completely missed. The first is fairness, the second is responsibility, and the third is freedom.

Fairness is the great Achilles heel of the left. As Callista and I travel around the country, more and more people tell us how unfair it is for the government to pick winners and losers.

More and more people tell us they are disgusted that the government is subsidizing those who bought houses they couldn't afford while making those who worked hard, lived prudently and saved for a home they could afford help pay for the transfer of wealth to those who chose to live beyond their means.

Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility: The Choice of the Next Generation

The Obama Administration's new budget document is entitled "A New Era of Responsibility," yet there is nothing responsible about increasing the size of the federal debt by $9 trillion over the next decade. This means that the average 21-year-old college graduate will have to pay $114,000 over the course of his or her lifetime just to pay for the interest on the new Obama debt.

Burdening the next generation with this much debt is the height of irresponsibility. It's akin to the parents of today buying and driving a mid-range Porsche 911 and stiffing their kid with the bill. It's going to get harder and harder for new college graduates to pay down school loans, their first car, a down payment on a mortgage, and start a new family if part of every paycheck has to go to pay for their parents' $100,000 sports car.

The Most Radical Administration and Congress in American History?

The ultimate underlying force behind the Tea Parties is the cause of freedom. There is increasing recognition that this is the most radical administration and most radical Congress in American history.

This is a left-wing team that wants to raise taxes, undermine charities, churches, and synagogues, (see my piece in Christianity Today) impose a radical secular agenda (eliminating the conscience clause protecting doctors of faith from being compelled to perform abortions is just one example), create bigger and bigger bureaucracies and take control of more and more of the private sector. This is a left-wing team dedicated to centralizing power in Washington.

The Difference Between Subjects and Citizens

The Democrats, Republicans and Independents who went to Tea Parties last week want the same thing that the patriots of 1773 wanted: To be treated as free citizens with inalienable rights, not indentured subjects of an all-powerful government.

Subjects don't complain when government makes their lives more secular and more socialized.

But citizens demand the "right to pursue happiness" as their Creator endowed them in the Declaration of Independence.

Citizens do not want to be told that they can earn up to $250,000, but above that, they are illegitimate possessors of the "people's wealth" and should expect to have it taken by the government.

Citizens do not want to be told that members of Congress or bureaucrats in the Treasury will set salary schedules and decide income for Americans in private business.

The Tea Parties were a reaction to all these threats to the American way of life.

Will the Tea Party Movement Matter? July 4 May Tell the Story

All that said, if the Tea Parties prove to be a one-time event they will probably not matter.  But if the Tea Party movement is the beginning of a larger, broader and deeper dialogue about the future of America then they will matter a great deal.

People are wondering what they can do next. American Solutions has an easy answer: Contact your representatives in Washington and urge them to oppose the big spending, big deficits, big government, big taxes, and big debt Obama Budget. Visit to learn more.

Then, we should make July 4, 2009 "American Freedom Day." Tea Party activists across America should plan to go out and recruit supporters from every Fourth of July celebration in their community.

If one million freedom-loving Americans work from now to July 4, the size of the Tea Party movement will grow dramatically.

As Tea Party leaders around the country email, chat, and call each other, they should learn the lessons from this past week and begin laying plans to make July 4, 2009 a day that goes down as a decisive turning point in the history of defending freedom.
27733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson to Milligan on: April 22, 2009, 08:37:10 AM
"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Joseph Milligan, 6 April 1816
27734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / No inquiry into past use on: April 22, 2009, 08:31:23 AM
The often-suspect NYTimes weighs in with an interesting article:


April 22, 2009
In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Inquiry Into Their Past Use
WASHINGTON — The program began with Central Intelligence Agency leaders in the grip of an alluring idea: They could get tough in terrorist interrogations without risking legal trouble by adopting a set of methods used on Americans during military training. How could that be torture?

In a series of high-level meetings in 2002, without a single dissent from cabinet members or lawmakers, the United States for the first time officially embraced the brutal methods of interrogation it had always condemned.

This extraordinary consensus was possible, an examination by The New York Times shows, largely because no one involved — not the top two C.I.A. officials who were pushing the program, not the senior aides to President George W. Bush, not the leaders of the Senate and House Intelligence Committees — investigated the gruesome origins of the techniques they were approving with little debate.

According to several former top officials involved in the discussions seven years ago, they did not know that the military training program, called SERE, for Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape, had been created decades earlier to give American pilots and soldiers a sample of the torture methods used by Communists in the Korean War, methods that had wrung false confessions from Americans.

Even George J. Tenet, the C.I.A. director who insisted that the agency had thoroughly researched its proposal and pressed it on other officials, did not examine the history of the most shocking method, the near-drowning technique known as waterboarding.

The top officials he briefed did not learn that waterboarding had been prosecuted by the United States in war-crimes trials after World War II and was a well-documented favorite of despotic governments since the Spanish Inquisition; one waterboard used under Pol Pot was even on display at the genocide museum in Cambodia.

They did not know that some veteran trainers from the SERE program itself had warned in internal memorandums that, morality aside, the methods were ineffective. Nor were most of the officials aware that the former military psychologist who played a central role in persuading C.I.A. officials to use the harsh methods had never conducted a real interrogation, or that the Justice Department lawyer most responsible for declaring the methods legal had idiosyncratic ideas that even the Bush Justice Department would later renounce.

The process was “a perfect storm of ignorance and enthusiasm,” a former C.I.A. official said.

Today, asked how it happened, Bush administration officials are finger-pointing. Some blame the C.I.A., while some former agency officials blame the Justice Department or the White House.

Philip D. Zelikow, who worked on interrogation issues as counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005 and 2006, said the flawed decision-making badly served Mr. Bush and the country.

“Competent staff work could have quickly canvassed relevant history, insights from the best law enforcement and military interrogators, and lessons from the painful British and Israeli experience,” Mr. Zelikow said. “Especially in a time of great stress, walking into this minefield, the president was entitled to get the most thoughtful and searching analysis our government could muster.”

After years of recriminations about torture and American values, Bush administration officials say it is easy to second-guess the decisions of 2002, when they feared that a new attack from Al Qaeda could come any moment.

If they shunned interrogation methods some thought might work, and an undetected bomb or bioweapon cost thousands of lives, where would the moral compass point today? It is a question that still haunts some officials. Others say that if they had known the full history of the interrogation methods or been able to anticipate how the issue would explode, they would have advised against using them.

This account is based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former senior officials of the C.I.A., White House, Justice Department and Congress. Nearly all, citing the possibility of future investigations, shared their recollections of the internal discussions of a classified program only on condition of anonymity.

Leaked to the news media months after they were first used, the C.I.A.’s interrogation methods would darken the country’s reputation, blur the moral distinction between terrorists and the Americans who hunted them, bring broad condemnation from Western allies and become a ready-made defense for governments accused of torture. The response has only intensified since Justice Department legal memos released last week showed that two prisoners were waterboarded 266 times and that C.I.A. interrogators were ordered to waterboard one of the captives despite their belief that he had no more information to divulge.

But according to many Bush administration officials, including former Vice President Dick Cheney and some intelligence officers who are critics of the coercive methods, the C.I.A. program would also produce an invaluable trove of information on Al Qaeda, including leads on the whereabouts of important operatives and on terror schemes discussed by Al Qaeda. Whether the same information could have been acquired using the traditional, noncoercive methods that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the military have long used is impossible to say, and former Bush administration officials say they did not have the luxury of time to develop a more patient approach, given that they had intelligence warnings of further attacks.

Michael V. Hayden, who served as C.I.A. director for the last two years of the Bush administration, devoted part of his last press briefing in January to defending the C.I.A. program. “It worked,” Mr. Hayden insisted.

“I have said to all who will listen that the agency did none of this out of enthusiasm,” he said. “It did it out of duty. It did it with the best legal advice it had.”

A Program Takes Shape

When Mr. Bush assigned the C.I.A. with the task of questioning high-level Qaeda captives in late 2001, the agency had almost no experience interrogating the kind of hostile prisoners it soon expected to hold.

It had dozens of psychiatrists, psychologists, polygraphists and operations officers who had practiced the arts of eliciting information and assessing truthfulness. Their targets, however, were not usually terrorists, but foreigners offering to spy for the United States or C.I.A. employees suspected of misdeeds.

Agency officials, led by Mr. Tenet, sought interrogation advice from other countries. And, fatefully, they contacted the military unit that runs the SERE training program, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, which gives American pilots, special operations troops and others a sample of the brutal interrogation methods they might face as prisoners of war. Mr. Tenet declined to be interviewed.

By late 2001, the agency had contracted with James E. Mitchell, a psychologist with the SERE program who had monitored many mock interrogations but had never conducted any real ones, according to colleagues. He was known for his belief that a psychological concept called “learned helplessness” was crucial to successful interrogation.

Martin Seligman, a prominent professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania who had developed the concept, said in an interview that he was puzzled by Dr. Mitchell’s notion that learned helplessness was relevant to interrogation.

“I think helplessness would make someone more dependent, less defiant and more compliant,” Dr. Seligman said, “but I do not think it would lead reliably to more truth-telling.”

Still, forceful and brainy, Dr. Mitchell, who declined to comment for this article, became a persuasive player in high-level agency discussions about the best way to interrogate Qaeda prisoners. Eventually, along with another former SERE psychologist, Bruce Jessen, Dr. Mitchell helped persuade C.I.A. officials that Qaeda members were fundamentally different from the myriad personalities the agency routinely dealt with.

“Jim believed that people of this ilk would confess for only one reason: sheer terror,” said one C.I.A. official who had discussed the matter with Dr. Mitchell.

Overwhelmed with reports of potential threats and anguished that the agency had failed to stop the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet and his top aides did not probe deeply into the prescription Dr. Mitchell so confidently presented: using the SERE tactics on Qaeda prisoners.

A little research on the origin of those methods would have given reason for doubt. Government studies in the 1950s found that Chinese Communist interrogators had produced false confessions from captured American pilots not with some kind of sinister “brainwashing” but with crude tactics: shackling the Americans to force them to stand for hours, keeping them in cold cells, disrupting their sleep and limiting access to food and hygiene.

“The Communists do not look upon these assaults as ‘torture,’ ” one 1956 study concluded. “But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture.”

Worse, the study found that under such abusive treatment, a prisoner became “malleable and suggestible, and in some instances he may confabulate.”

In late 2001, about a half-dozen SERE trainers, according to a report released Tuesday night by the Senate Armed Services Committee, began raising stark warning about plans by both the military and the C.I.A. to use the SERE methods in interrogations.

In December 2001, Lt. Col. Daniel J. Baumgartner of the Air Force, who oversaw SERE training, cautioned in one memo that physical pressure was “less reliable” than other interrogation methods, could backfire by increasing a prisoner’s resistance and would have an “intolerable public and political backlash when discovered.” But his memo went to the Defense Department, not the C.I.A.

One former senior intelligence official who played an important role in approving the interrogation methods said he had no idea of the origins and history of the SERE program when the C.I.A. started it in 2002.

“The agency was counting on the Justice Department to fully explore all the factors contributing to a judgment about legality, including the surrounding history and context,” the official said.

But it was the C.I.A. that was proposing the methods, and John Yoo, the Justice Department official who was the principal author of a secret August 2002 memorandum that authorized the interrogation program, was mostly interested in making a case that the president’s wartime powers allowed for the harsh tactics.

A Persuasive Case

After the March 28, 2002, capture in Pakistan of the Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah — the C.I.A.’s first big catch after Sept. 11 — Mr. Tenet told Ms. Rice, then the national security adviser, he wanted to discuss interrogation, several former officials said. At a series of small-group and individual briefings attended by Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Ms. Rice and Attorney General John Ashcroft, Mr. Tenet and his deputy, John McLaughlin, laid out their case.

They made a persuasive duo, former officials who heard their pitch recalled. Mr. Tenet, an extroverted former Congressional staff member, was given to forceful language about the threat from Al Qaeda, which he said might well have had operations under way involving biological, radiological or even nuclear weapons. Mr. McLaughlin, a career intelligence analyst, was low-key and cerebral, and some White House officials said they found his support for the methods reassuring.

In the briefings, Mr. Tenet said that after extensive research, the agency believed that only the methods he described — which he said had been used on thousands of American trainees — could extract the details of plots from hardened Qaeda fanatics.

“It was described as a program that was safe and necessary, that would be closely monitored by medical personnel,” a former senior official recalled. “And it was very much in the context of the threat streams that were just eye-popping at the time.”

Mr. Tenet’s descriptions of each proposed interrogation method was so clinical and specific that at one briefing Mr. Ashcroft objected, saying that cabinet officials should approve broad outlines of important policies, not the fine details, according to someone present. The attorney general later complained that he thought Mr. Tenet was looking for cover in case controversy erupted, the person said.

Ms. Rice insisted that Mr. Ashcroft not just pass along the conclusions of his Office of Legal Counsel, where Mr. Yoo worked, but give his personal assurance that the methods were legal under domestic and international law. He did.

The C.I.A. then gave individual briefings to the secretary of defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, and the secretary of state, Colin L. Powell. Neither objected, several former officials said.

Mr. Cheney, whose top legal adviser, David S. Addington, was closely consulting with Mr. Yoo about legal justification, strongly endorsed the program. Mr. Bush also gave his approval, though what details were shared with him is not known.

With that, the C.I.A. had the full support of the White House to begin its harshest interrogations. Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney have never publicly second-guessed their decision. Though some former officials expressed regret that such a momentous decision was made so quickly without vital information or robust debate, none were willing to be quoted by name.

There was one more check on intelligence programs, one designed in the 1970s to make sure independent observers kept an eye on spy agencies: Congress. The Senate and House Intelligence Committees had been created in the mid-1970s to prevent any repeat of the C.I.A. abuses unearthed by the Senate’s Church Committee.

As was common with the most secret programs, the C.I.A. chose not to brief the entire committees about the interrogation methods but only the so-called Gang of Four — the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate and House committees. The rest of the committee members would be fully briefed only in 2006.

The 2002 Gang of Four briefings left a hodgepodge of contradictory recollections that, to some Congressional staff members, reveal a dysfunctional oversight system. Without full staff support, few lawmakers are equipped to make difficult legal and policy judgments about secret programs, critics say.

Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, who in 2002 was the ranking Democrat on the House committee, has said in public statements that she recalls being briefed on the methods, including waterboarding. She insists, however, that the lawmakers were told only that the C.I.A. believed the methods were legal — not that they were going to be used.

By contrast, the ranking Republican on the House committee at the time, Porter J. Goss of Florida, who later served as C.I.A. director, recalls a clear message that the methods would be used.

“We were briefed, and we certainly understood what C.I.A. was doing,” Mr. Goss said in an interview. “Not only was there no objection, there was actually concern about whether the agency was doing enough.”

Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, who was committee chairman in 2002, said in an interview that he did not recall ever being briefed on the methods, though government officials with access to records say all four committee leaders received multiple briefings.

Senator Richard C. Shelby of Alabama, the senior Republican on the committee, declined to discuss the briefings.

Vicki Divoll, general counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2002 and a former C.I.A. lawyer, would have been a logical choice to advise senators on the legal status of the interrogation methods. But because of the restricted briefings, Ms. Divoll learned about them only years later from news media accounts.

Ms. Divoll, who now teaches government at the United States Naval Academy, said the interrogation issue revealed the perils of such restricted briefings.

“The very programs that are among the most risky and controversial, and that therefore should get the greatest congressional oversight,” she said, “in fact get the least.”

27735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Internet, Cyberwar on: April 21, 2009, 11:10:54 PM
Related threads:
27736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia, Turkey, Caucasus on: April 21, 2009, 02:40:22 PM
Turkey: Challenges To Ankara's Influence in the Caucasus
Stratfor Today » April 20, 2009 | 1648 GMT

Russian President Dmitri Medvedev (L) shakes hands with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Russia on April 17


Recent top-level meetings between Azerbaijan and Russia revealed the obstacles that Turkey faces in attempting to broaden its sphere of influence in the Caucasus. While Azerbaijan is threatening to move its natural gas eastward toward Russia and edge the Turks out, the Turks are exploring their options with the Europeans while continuing to probe the limits to its cooperation with Russia in the Caucasus.


A series of meetings between top Azerbaijani and Russian officials in Moscow that were held April 16-18 have shed light on what exactly Turkey is up against in trying to enlarge its footprint in the Caucasus.

STRATFOR has been closely tracking negotiations between Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia. Turkey’s attempt to restore diplomatic relations with Armenia and fortify Ankara’s foothold in the Caucasus was being done under Moscow’s close supervision. Russia was willing to allow Turkey to patch things up with Yerevan, so long as Ankara stayed true to its pledge to remain neutral in Russia’s ongoing tussle with the West.

However, Russia came to doubt Turkey’s intentions when U.S. President Barack Obama made clear to the world during his visit to Ankara in early April that the United States and Turkey were reinvigorating their alliance, and that Washington would be Ankara’s biggest supporter in its regional rise. Azerbaijan, meanwhile, was deeply resentful that its Turkish patrons were leaving Baku out of the negotiations with Armenia and leaving the contentious Nagorno-Karabakh issue out of the deal. As far as Baku is concerned, if Turkey betrays Azerbaijan by striking a deal with Armenia that does not include a demand for Yerevan to return Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, then the Azerbaijanis have no choice but to turn to Moscow to try and keep the Turks in line. So, the Russians invited Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to Moscow for talks.

Aliyev was apparently treated quite well during his three-day trip to Moscow, where he met with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, President Dmitri Medvedev and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin. The Russians allowed Aliyev to vent against Turkey and reassured him that Moscow would stand behind Baku. Shortly after Aliyev’s meetings with Putin and Sechin, he told Russia’s Vesti state television channel in an interview that he would like Russia to serve as a transit state for Azerbaijan to transport natural gas to Europe. In other words, Europe can forget about trying to diversify its energy supply away from Russia through Turkey. With Azerbaijan now shifting into Moscow’s camp due to its recent falling out with Ankara, Aliyev is threatening to send his country’s natural gas east through Russia to reach the Europeans, thereby giving Moscow more political leverage in its energy relationship with Europe.

According to a STRATFOR source in Baku, Aliyev made this statement because Russia and Azerbaijan struck a deal to expand the Soviet-era natural gas pipelines running between the two countries. During the trip, Azerbaijan’s state-owned energy firm SOCAR signed a deal with Gazprom to send natural gas extracted from the second phase of Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field (which is expected to become operational in November 2009) to Russia and on to Europe. Shah Deniz contains 1.2 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves and, in its first phase of production, pumps 8.6 billion cubic meters (bcm) annually, which goes to Europe. The second phase of the field is expected to pump another 8.6 bcm annually. This deal between Azerbaijan and Russia is a major blow to Turkey, who was expecting to sign the Shah Deniz deal at the April 16 Black Sea Economic Cooperation summit in Yerevan so that it could reap more revenues from transiting Azerbaijan’s natural gas to Europe via Greece.

As STRATFOR reported, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier requested to be present at the Russian-Azerbaijani talks in Moscow so that he would not be caught by surprise by any deals between Moscow and Baku (such as the aforementioned Shah Deniz deal) that would edge the Turks out of the energy equation. Though Moscow granted Erdogan’s request to attend the meeting, Erdogan did not show up. Instead, STRATFOR was told that he sent a Turkish delegation to Moscow for talks while he spent the weekend in Hannover, Germany, where he attended former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s birthday party.

During Aliyev’s meeting with the Turkish officials who did show up in Moscow, Aliyev apparently lashed out against Ankara over its perceived betrayal, telling the Turkish delegation “we were supposed to be one nation of two states, yet you have left us in the dark and have now lost our confidence.” Fearful that the Turks would sidestep the Nagorno-Karabakh issue to make the deal with Armenia go through, Aliyev made clear that he could not tolerate Turkey’s refusal to share documents that were being exchanged between Turkey and Armenia that detailed the timetable and conditions attached to normalizing relations. He also expressed his disappointment with the Russians and Europeans for leaving Azerbaijan out of these talks, but Putin and Sechin assuaged him by pointing out that the Russians were the ones bringing Azerbaijan back into the fold. Azerbaijan will follow up with these talks with Russia when Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian travels to Moscow on April 24.

Given Azerbaijan’s threats to cut energy cooperation with Turkey and send its natural gas east toward Russia, the Turks are backing off the Armenia deal for the time being. The timetable for announcing a peace deal has already been delayed indefinitely, and Erdogan made a gesture to Baku when he announced during his trip to Hannover that “a decision to open the border gate with Armenia will depend on the Nagorno-Karabakh issue being solved. If the Armenian occupation of Azeri territory continues, Turkey will not open its border gate.”

Turkey has set the Nagorno-Karabakh condition to temporarily calm Baku, but Ankara is still keeping its options open with Armenia. A STRATFOR source in Baku explained that the Turkish negotiators told Aliyev that Turkey would not be the one mediating Armenian-Azerbaijani talks over the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and would not set firm conditions on the Armenians to resolve the territorial dispute. In essence, Turkey is signaling to Baku that it is washing its hands of the Nagorno-Karabakh issue in order to keep its negotiations with Yerevan alive. The Armenians, meanwhile, see the writing on the wall and are privately discussing what to do now that the Turks are clearly waffling on the deal.

The Turks are not about to bend to Russian and Azerbaijani demands that easily. After all, Turkey knows Azerbaijan cannot put all its trust in Moscow, who is backing Baku’s chief rivals in Yerevan simultaneously. Azerbaijan still needs Turkey’s support and is using these talks with Russia to grab Ankara’s attention. At the same time, Turkey wants to test how far it can actually go in cooperating with the Russians in the Caucasus before the Russians feel threatened enough by Ankara’s relationship with the West to pull the plug on the Armenia deal.

Erdogan also wants to see how he can use these negotiations to gain leverage in Turkey’s talks with the Europeans, particularly on energy issues and Turkey’s EU accession bid. If the Europeans get serious about Turkish EU membership, Turkey could find it worthwhile to stand up against Russian wishes in the Caucasus by signing on to energy projects that circumvent the Russian network. Erdogan likely discussed these issues while in Germany, and this will be the main item on the agenda when Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan arrives in Prague on April 21 for an EU-Turkey ministerial meeting. So far, the Turks appear to be unimpressed by the European Union’s recent move to open chapters on taxation and on social policy and employment in its EU membership negotiations. Turkey wants to see the Europeans demonstrate their seriousness in these talks by opening a key chapter on energy and by assuring Ankara that these talks will actually lead somewhere.

Nonetheless, German and French opposition to Turkey’s EU accession will not be easy to overcome, and all it takes is one veto in the EU voting bloc to kill Ankara’s chances of making it into the club should talks even progress that far to begin with. Turkey will take its time to explore its options in Europe while it stalls on Armenia, but the Russians are already laying the groundwork with Azerbaijan to constrain Turkey’s moves in the Caucasus.
27737  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: April 21, 2009, 02:36:06 PM
Mexico Security Memo: April 20, 2009
Stratfor Today » April 20, 2009 | 2149 GMT
Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
A Possible Clue to El Chapo’s Whereabouts

A Roman Catholic archbishop in Durango state sparked a minor controversy this past week by publicly stating that Mexico’s most wanted drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera lives near the small town of Guanacevi, Durango, as everyone knows except the authorities. The claim came as he was criticizing the government for not adequately investigating reports of organized criminal activity. The statement prompted inquiries from several politicians, and brought a response from the federal attorney general’s office that anyone with such information about criminals or fugitives was obligated to come forward. The archbishop later clarified that he was simply repeating rumors he had heard from his parishioners, and that he had no firsthand knowledge of El Chapo’s whereabouts.

Given Guzman’s legendary status, rumors and myths about him are in no short supply. Over the past two years, he has been said to be hiding in several spots in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and even Brazil. Against this backdrop and given the lack of supporting evidence, it is difficult to judge the credibility of the archbishop’s statement. Even so, it is among the more plausible theories regarding Guzman’s potential whereabouts.

Guanacevi is a small town in the eastern foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range. The western edge of this range extends into eastern Sinaloa state, considered the home of the Sinaloa cartel and Guzman himself. The rugged terrain associated with this area makes road access difficult, decreasing the likelihood that an army patrol might pass by at random. Moreover, authorities pursuing someone through this region on foot or in a vehicle would be at a disadvantage vis-a-vis locals given their lack of knowledge of the various routes through mountains.

While it is certainly possible that the rumors about Guzman living near Guanacevi are just that, STRATFOR would not be surprised to learn that he spends at least part of his time in this area. But had he been living near Guanacevi, he most certainly has moved on by now given the archbishop’s statement.

Prison Convoy Attacked in Nayarit State
At least six federal agents and two prison employees reportedly were killed April 18 when their convoy came under attack by an estimated 30-40 armed men around 2 p.m. local time. The agents were transporting nine prisoners — including Geronimo “El Primo” Gamez Garcia, an important member of the Beltran Leyva drug trafficking organization (BLO) — from the Nayarit state airport to a federal penitentiary some 20 miles away. This was the final leg of a transfer of these prisoners, who had been held in a federal facility near Mexico City. Although the agents ultimately delivered all nine prisoners to their destination, the fact that the attack occurred and caused so many casualties highlights the vulnerabilities associated with these types of convoys as they are operated at present.

Based on various media accounts and statements from federal officials, it appears the convoy may have been ambushed at multiple points along the route, with the attackers also pursuing the convoy on one occasion and engaging it from the rear. The first incident reportedly occurred less than 1 mile from the airport exit, and began with the attackers driving a large agricultural truck onto the two-lane road in an attempt to block its path. The convoy was traveling at a high rate of speed, however, and managed to avoid the truck and to continue driving as two teams of assailants armed with assault rifles opened fire on the convoy from each side of the road.

This initial ambush appears to have disabled at least three convoy vehicles, killing at least two federal agents and two officials from the prison. One SUV reportedly pursued what remained of the convoy, firing on it several times before pulling away. Several reports also describe two additional attacks on the convoy at other points along the route to the prison, though federal officials have not confirmed this.

While this is certainly not the first time gunmen have attacked prisoner transfer convoys in Mexico, this particular incident appears to have involved a high degree of pre-operational planning and tactical intelligence. That no prisoners were reported wounded during the various gunbattles, for example, suggests that the gunmen knew what vehicles the prisoners were riding in and avoided firing at those vehicles. This assumes, of course, that the objective of the attack was to rescue one of the prisoners, not to capture him for interrogation and execution. In addition, the assailants also had foreknowledge of which prisoners were to be transferred — something reportedly kept secret even from the federal agents assigned to the convoy.

The BLO has a history of high-ranking penetrations of federal law enforcement. Of all the drug cartels in Mexico, they seem to have the best intelligence network inside the federal government. Considering that this attack looks to have been a well-planned attempt to free a high-ranking BLO member, it appears that intelligence network remains intact.

Click image to enlarge

April 13
Authorities in Venustiano Carranza, Michoacan state, found the body of an unidentified woman with a single gunshot wound to the head.
A sixteen-year-old boy died in Celaya, Guanajuato state, when a police officer shot him once in the chest and fled with several other officers. Authorities are investigating possible motives.
One man died when multiple assailants shot him several times as he sat outside his home in Guasave, Sinaloa state.
Mexican soldiers exchanged gunfire with a group of men in Reynosa, Tamaulipas state, after responding to an anonymous tip regarding armed men in the area. Authorities reported no casualties and no arrests, but seized an assortment of firearms and grenades from an abandoned vehicle at the scene.
April 14
Federal authorities announced the arrest in Tecpan de Galeana, Guerrero state, of Ruben “El Nene” Granados Vargas, a lieutenant of the Beltran Leyva drug trafficking organization responsible for various cartel activities in the region.
Authorities in Santa Ana, Sonora state, seized an assortment of firearms and ammunition from a series of safe houses, including what appears to be an M2 Browning .50 caliber and an M1919 Browning .30 caliber, though a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives official told reporters that the guns were actually semi-automatic variants of those weapons that came from U.S. sources.
April 15
One soldier and 15 alleged drug traffickers died during an eight-hour gunbattle in a remote area near San Miguel Totolapan, Guerrero state. An unknown number of suspects were also detained after the firefight in possession of eight vehicles, assorted assault rifles, grenades and two .50-caliber Barrett rifles.
April 16
Authorities found the bodies of three people bearing signs of torture in the trunk of a car in Petatlan, Guerrero state. The victims were reported kidnapped from Zihuatanejo two days before.
The body of an unidentified man was found in Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, with a note signed by La Familia warning against cooperating with Los Zetas. Two bodies with similar messages were found the following morning.
April 17
Police in San Lucas, Michoacan state, found the bodies of four unidentified men; three of the victims had been beheaded.
April 19
Authorities in Morelia, Michoacan state, arrested some 44 members of La Familia crime organization. One of the suspects detained was Rafael “El Cede” Cedeno Hernandez, who stands accused of managing the organization’s activities in Lazaro Cardenas, as well as of running a religious group designed to recruit and indoctrinate new members.
27738  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Zirconia KOs Liddell on: April 21, 2009, 01:41:33 PM
Am I fair to call this an example of the Zirconia technique the I teach in "Kali Tudo"?
27739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Selective Outrage on: April 21, 2009, 12:50:50 PM
Few places on earth have been as systematically brutalized over the past decade as Chechnya. So you might have thought that the Russian government's decision last week to declare an end to its "counterterrorism" operations in the territory would have been an occasion for somber reflection in the Western media. Forget it. It's a 600-word news item at best.

Here's a contrast to ponder. Since the beginning of the second intifada in the autumn of 2000, roughly 6,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. That figure includes combatants, as well as those killed in January's fighting in Gaza.

As for Chechnya, there are no solid figures for the number of civilians killed since the second war began in late 1999; estimates range anywhere between 25,000 and 200,000. Chechnya's population, at a little over one million, is about one-third or one-fourth that of the Palestinians. That works out to between 25 to 200 Chechen deaths per 1,000, as against 1.5 to 2 Palestinian deaths per 1,000.

Now type the words "Palestine" and "genocide" into Google. When I did so Monday, I got 1,630,000 results. Next, substitute "Chechnya" for "Palestine." The number is 245,000. Taking the Google results as a crude measure of global outrage, that means the outrage over the Palestinian situation was 6.6 times greater than over the Chechen one. Yet Chechen fatalities were anywhere between 13 to 133 times greater.

Final calculation: With an "outrage" ratio of 6.6 to one, but a proportional kill ratio of one to 13 (at the very low end), it turns out that every Palestinian death receives somewhere in the order of 28 times the attention of every Chechen death. Remember that in both cases we're mainly talking about Muslims being killed by non-Muslims.

I'll admit this math exercise is a bit of a gimmick. But it raises a worthwhile question: Why is Palestinian life so dear in the eyes of the world -- and Chechen life so cheap?

Maybe the answer is that the Palestinian cause is morally worthier than Chechnya's. But that can't be right. Yes, Chechen terrorists have committed spectacular atrocities, notably the 2004 Beslan school massacre. Yet modern terrorism is a genre Palestinians practically invented. As it is, Chechnya has been suffering grievously under Russia's thumb since the 1800s. (Just read Tolstoy's "Hadji Murat.") If colonialism is your beef, the case for Chechen independence is inarguable.

Maybe, then, the answer is that there is no shortage of imagery of Palestinian death, and thus it engages more of the world's attention. By contrast, the Russians imposed a virtual media blockade on Chechnya, and journalists who covered the story, like Anna Politkovskaya, had a way of ending up dead.

But imagery need not simply be televised to be vivid, nor does the world lack for testimonials of Russian brutality. "I remember a Chechen female sniper," a Russian soldier told L.A. Times reporter Maura Reynolds. "We just tore her apart with two armored personnel carriers, having tied her ankles with steel cables. There was a lot of blood, but the boys needed it."

Maybe it's that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is simply more important strategically than Russia's war against Chechnya, in the same way that the attacks of 9/11 mattered more in the scheme of things than, say, Tamil Tiger atrocities in Sri Lanka.

Yet even before 9/11, there was evidence that al Qaeda was feeding money and arms to Chechen fighters, putting Chechnya squarely into the context of what became the global war on terror. Evidence of al Qaeda involvement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sparser, and only came to light in 2007.

Of course, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict inflames the Muslim world in a way the Chechen one does not. But why is that, when so many more Muslims are being victimized by Russia?

Then too, why does the wider world participate in the Muslim world's moral priorities? Why, for instance, do high-profile Western writers like Portuguese Nobelist José Saramago make "solidarity" pilgrimages to Ramallah, but not to the Chechen capital of Grozny? Why do British academics organize boycotts of their Israeli counterparts, but not their Russian ones? Why is Palestinian statehood considered a global moral imperative, but statehood for Chechnya is not?

Why does every Israeli prime minister invariably become a global pariah, when not one person in a thousand knows the name of Chechen "President" Ramzan Kadyrov, a man who, by many accounts, keeps a dungeon near his house in order to personally torture his political opponents? And why does the fact that Mr. Kadyrov is Vladimir Putin's handpicked enforcer in Chechnya not cause a shudder of revulsion as the Obama administration reaches for the "reset" button with Russia?

I have a hypothesis. Maybe the world attends to Palestinian grievances but not Chechen ones for the sole reason that Palestinians are, uniquely, the perceived victims of the Jewish state. That is, when they are not being victimized by other Palestinians. Or being expelled en masse from Kuwait. Or being excluded from the labor force in Lebanon. Things you probably didn't know about, either. As for the Chechens, too bad for their cause that no Jew will ever likely become president of Russia.

Write to
27740  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 21, 2009, 10:51:11 AM
Transnational strategies to eviscerate the Second Amendment via the UN:

With Harold Koh at the State Department this is going to get REALLY bad!
27741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Buchanan on: April 21, 2009, 10:16:47 AM
The Apologists
by  Patrick J. Buchanan


For 50 minutes, Obama sat mute, as a Marxist thug from Nicaragua delivered his diatribe, charging America with a century of terrorist aggression in Central America.

After Daniel Ortega finished spitting in our face, accusing us of inhumanity toward Fidel Castro's Cuba, Obama was asked his thoughts.

"I thought it was 50 minutes long. That's what I thought."

Hillary Clinton was asked to comment: "I thought the cultural performance was fascinating," she cooed.

Pressed again on Ortega's vitriol, Hillary replied: "To have those first-class Caribbean entertainers all on one stage and to see how much was done in such a small amount of space. I was overwhelmed."

Thus the nation that won the Cold War, contained the cancer of Castroism in Cuba, liberated Grenada, blocked communist takeovers of Guatemala and the Dominican Republic, and poured scores of billions in aid into this region was left undefended by its own leaders at the Summit of the Americas.

Nor was this the only unanswered insult. Hugo Chavez, who has called Obama an "ignoramus" and Bush "El Diablo," walked over to a seated U.S. president and handed him the anti-American tract "Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent."

The book blames Latin America's failures on white Europeans.

It opens, "Renaissance Europeans ventured across the oceans and buried their teeth in the throats of the Indian civilizations."

Civilizations? Before Pizarro and Cortez, the Inca and Aztec empires these conquistadors overthrew were into human sacrifice.

Evo Morales, the Aymaran president of Bolivia, who is using the race card against Bolivians of European descent, implied a U.S. role in an assassination plot against him.

Argentina's Cristina Kirchner, who allegedly received black-bag money from Chavez, ripped into America for its role in the 1980s. Under Reagan, America aided Britain in the Falklands War, after the Argentine junta invaded the islands, and assisted the Contras in their war of national liberation to oust Ortega's Sandinistas.

Again, Obama offered no defense of his country.

President Lula da Silva of Brazil, who blames the world financial crisis on "white, blue-eyed bankers," told Obama that any future Summit of the Americas without the Castro brothers was unacceptable.

Perhaps Obama believes in turn-the-other-cheek diplomacy, though it is hard to find much success in history for such a policy. Perhaps pacifism is in his DNA. Perhaps he shares the indictment of America that is part of the repertoire of every Latin demagogue.

Whatever his motive, in Trinidad, there were not two sides to the story. There were the trashers of America on the Latino left and a U.S. president who wailed plaintively, "I'm thankful that President Ortega did not blame me for things that happened when I was 3 months old."

But, the Bay of Pigs, had it succeeded, would have given Cubans 50 years of freedom instead of the brutal dictatorship they have had to endure. And it took place four months before Barack was born.

Obama's silence -- signifying, as it does, assent -- in the face of attacks on his country is of a piece with the "contrition tour" of his secretary of state.

"Clinton Scores Points by Admitting Past U.S. Errors," was the headline over Saturday's New York Times story by Mark Landler:

"It has become a recurring theme of Hillary Rodham Clinton's early travels as the chief diplomat of the United States: She says that American policy on a given issue has failed, and her foreign listeners fall all over themselves in gratitude.

"On Friday, Mrs. Clinton said ... that the uncompromising policy of the Bush administration toward Cuba had not worked. ...

"The contrition tour goes beyond Latin America. In China, Mrs. Clinton told audiences that the United States must accept its responsibility as a leading emitter of greenhouse gases. In Indonesia, she said the American-backed policy of sanctions against Myanmar had not been effective. And in the Middle East, she pointed out that ostracizing the Iranian government had not persuaded it to give up its nuclear weapons ambitions."

Sandler wrote that Hillary brought to mind Bill Clinton:

"On a single trip to Africa in 1998 ... Bill Clinton apologized for American participation in slavery; American support of brutal African dictators; American 'neglect and ignorance' of Africa; American failure to intervene sooner in the Rwandan genocide of 1994; American 'complicity' in apartheid ... ."

Yet, as C.S. Lewis reminds us in "God in the Dock," "The first and fatal charm of national repentance is ... the encouragement it gives us to turn from the bitter task of repenting our own sins to the congenial one of bewailing -- but, first, of denouncing -- the conduct of others."

Bewailing the policies of Bush as failures and standing mute in the face of attacks on his country and predecessors may come back to bite Obama.

For when Jimmy Carter assumed a posture of moral superiority over LBJ and Richard Nixon, by declaring, "We have gotten over our inordinate fear of communism," it came back to bite him, good and hard.
27742  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams on: April 21, 2009, 09:24:42 AM
"But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations... This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution."

--John Adams, letter to H. Niles, 13 February 1818
27743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Consistency is the hobgoblins of small minds on: April 21, 2009, 09:23:43 AM
Helen Thomas: Why is the president blocking habeas corpus from prisoners at Bagram? I thought he taught constitutional law. And these prisoners have been there . . .

Robert Gibbs: You're incorrect that he taught on constitutional law.

You know we live in interesting times when Helen Thomas is going after Barack Obama. Miss Thomas was asking the White House press secretary last week why detainees at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan should not have the same right to challenge their detention in federal court that last year's Supreme Court ruling in Boumediene v. Bush gave to Guantanamo's detainees. All Mr. Gibbs could do was interrupt and correct the doyenne of the White House press corps about Mr. Obama's class as a law professor.

The precipitate cause of Miss Thomas's question was a ruling earlier this month by federal district Judge John Bates. Judge Bates says that last year's Supreme Court ruling on Gitmo does apply to Bagram. The administration has appealed, saying that giving detainees such rights could lead to protracted litigation, disclosure of intelligence secrets and harm to American security. The wonderful irony is that, at least on the logic, everyone is right.

Start with Judge Bates. The judge is surely correct when he says the detainees brought in to Bagram from outside the country are "virtually identical" to those held at Guantanamo. He's also correct in asserting that the Supreme Court ruled the way it did out of concern "that the Executive could move detainees physically beyond the reach of the Constitution and detain an individual" at Bagram.

But President Obama's appeal is also right. Though most headlines from the past few days have focused on the release of Justice Department memos on CIA interrogation, the president's embrace of the Bush position on Bagram is far more striking. Mr. Gibbs became tongue-tied while trying to explain that stand. But the Justice Department brief is absolutely correct in asserting that "there are many legitimate reasons, having nothing to do with the intent to evade judicial review, why the military might detain an individual in Bagram."

Finally, critics like Miss Thomas also have it right. In a long and thorough post called "Obama and habeas corpus -- then and now," Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional law litigator who blogs at, exposes the gaping contradiction between past Obama rhetoric on the inviolability of the right to habeas corpus and the new Obama reality. He also quotes Mr. Obama's reaction to Boumediene as a "rejection of the Bush administration's attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo."

Manifestly, Mr. Greenwald believes that "black hole" is simply moving to Bagram. "I wish I could be writing paeans celebrating the restoration of the Constitution and the rule of law," he writes. "But these actions -- these contradictions between what he said and what he is doing, the embrace of the very powers that caused so much anger towards Bush/Cheney -- are so blatant, so transparent, so extreme, that the only way to avoid noticing them is to purposely shut your eyes as tightly as possible and resolve that you don't want to see it, or that you're so convinced of his intrinsic Goodness that you'll just believe that even when it seems like he's doing bad things, he must really be doing them for the Good."

How can all these people be right? The answer is that each is responding to a different contradiction raised by the president's Guantanamo policy. In an impassioned 2006 speech on the Senate floor on the right to habeas corpus, Mr. Obama declared, "I do not want to hear that this is a new world and we face a new kind of enemy." During the campaign, his language implied that all we needed to settle the detainee issue once and for all was to shut down Gitmo.

As president, he is finding out that this very much is a new world, that we do face a new enemy, and that the problems posed by Guantanamo have less to do with the place than the people we detain there.

Put simply, the U.S. needs the ability to detain people we know to be dangerous without the evidence that might stand up in a federal criminal court. Because we can't say when this war will end, moreover, we also need to be able to detain them indefinitely. This is what makes the war on terror different, and why our policies will never fit neatly into a legal approach that is either purely criminal or purely military.

The good news is that Mr. Obama is smart enough to know that the relative obscurity of Bagram, not to mention the approval he has received on Guantanamo, enables him to do the right thing here without, as Mr. Greenwald notes, worrying too much that he will be called to account for a substantive about-face.

The bad news is that we seem to have reached the point where our best hope for sensible war policy now depends largely on presidential cynicism.
27744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BAckdoor nationalization on: April 21, 2009, 09:15:27 AM
Just when you think the political class may have learned something in months of trying to fix the banking system, the ghost of Hank Paulson returns to haunt the Treasury. The latest Beltway blunder -- and it would be a big one -- is the Obama Administration's weekend news leak that it may insist on converting its preferred shares in some of the nation's largest banks into common equity.

The stock market promptly tumbled by more than 3.5% yesterday, with J.P. Morgan falling 10% and financial stocks as a group off 9%, as measured by the NYSE Financials index. Note to White House: Sneaky nationalizations aren't any more popular with investors than the straightforward kind.

The occasion for this latest nationalization trial balloon is the looming result of the Treasury's bank strip-tease -- a.k.a. "stress tests." Treasury is worried, with cause, that some of the largest banks lack the capital to ride out future credit losses. Yet Secretary Timothy Geithner and the White House have concluded that they can't risk asking Congress for more bailout cash.

Voila, they propose a preferred-for-common swap, which can conjure up an extra $100 billion in bank tangible common equity, a core measure of bank capital. Not that this really adds any new capital; it merely shifts the deck chairs on bank balance sheets. Why Treasury thinks anyone would find this reassuring is a mystery. The opposite is the more likely result, since it signals that Treasury no longer believes it can tap more public capital to support the financial system if the losses keep building.

Worse, wholesale equity conversion would mean the government owns a larger share of more banks and is more entangled than ever in their operations. Giving Barney Frank more voting power is more likely to induce panic than restore confidence. Simply look at the reluctance of some banks -- notably J.P. Morgan Chase -- to participate in Mr. Geithner's private-public toxic asset sale plan. The plan is rigged so taxpayers assume nearly all the downside risk, but the banks still don't want to play lest Congress they become even more subject to political whim.

A backdoor nationalization also creates more uncertainty, not less, by offering the specter of an even lengthier period of federal control over the banking system. And it creates the fear of even more intrusive government influence over bank lending and the allocation of capital. These fears have only been enhanced by the refusal of Treasury to let more banks repay their Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) money.

As it stands, banks and their owners at least know how much they owe Uncle Sam, and those preferred shares represent a distinct and separate tier of bank capital. Once the government is mixed in with the rest of the equity holders, the value of its investments -- and the cost to the banks of buying out the Treasury -- will fluctuate by the day.

Congress is also still trying to advance a mortgage-cramdown bill that would hammer the value of already distressed mortgage-backed securities, and now the Administration is talking up legislation to curb credit-card fees and interest. Both of these bills would damage bank profits, but large government ownership stakes would leave the banks helpless to oppose them. (See Citigroup, 36% owned by the feds and now a pro-cramdown lobbyist.)

We've come to this pass in part because the Obama Administration is afraid to ask Congress for the money for a meaningful bank recapitalization. And it may need that money now in part because Mr. Paulson's Treasury insisted on buying preferred stock in all the big banks instead of looking at each case on its merits. That decision last fall squandered TARP money on banks that probably didn't need it and left the Administration short of funds for banks that really do.

The sounder strategy -- and the one we've recommended for two years -- is to address systemic financial problems the old-fashioned way: bank by bank, through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and a resolution agency with the capacity to hold troubled assets and work them off over time. If the stress tests reveal that some of our largest institutions are insolvent or nearly so, it's then time to seize the bank, sell off assets and recapitalize the remainder. (Meanwhile, the healthier institutions would get a vote of confidence and could attract new private capital.)

Bondholders would take a haircut and shareholders may well be wiped out. But converting preferred shares to equity does nothing to help bondholders in the long run anyway. And putting the taxpayer first in line for any losses alongside equity holders offers shareholders little other than an immediate dilution of their ownership stake. Treasury's equity conversion proposal increases the political risks for banks while imposing no discipline on shareholders, bondholders or management at failed or failing institutions.

The proposal would also be one more example of how Treasury isn't keeping its word. When he forced banks to accept public capital whether they needed it or not, Mr. Paulson said the deal was temporary and the terms wouldn't be onerous. To renege on those promises now will only make a bank recovery longer and more difficult.

27745  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: April 21, 2009, 02:25:07 AM
Geopolitical Diary: CIA Directors Speak About Memo Releases
April 20, 2009
The Obama administration’s decision to release four previously classified memos from former President George W. Bush’s administration on now-banned interrogation techniques late last week sparked a flurry of articles and debate over the weekend. Critics denounce the “enhanced interrogation techniques” as morally reprehensible torture and want the details brought to light. But on Sunday, former CIA Director Michael Hayden publicly criticized the White House over the release, arguing that it made CIA interrogators’ jobs more difficult.

Hayden, a Bush appointee to the top post in Langley, reportedly was one of four former directors — a mixture of Bush and Clinton appointees — to contact the White House last month in order to warn that the Obama administration’s decision to release the memos would compromise intelligence efforts. These four directors — Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet and John Deutch — are approaching the issue from the perspective of intelligence practitioners. Their argument is that the memos, which specifically detail now-banned interrogation methods, reveal more information on the threshold at which interrogators are legally obligated to stop. Subjects who are aware of these limits, the line of reasoning goes, are better positioned to endure the methods that are used.

These methods were hardly the most draconian used — indeed, captives handed over to foreign governments experienced far worse in many cases. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that even these limited methods could be psychologically devastating if applied over time by a skilled interrogator. Former Vice President Dick Cheney has claimed that their use helped prevent a terrorist attack, though details and evidence of that are scarce.

Cheney’s assertion brings to mind — perhaps not unintentionally — the idea of a captured terrorist refusing to reveal information about an impending and devastating attack on the verge of being carried out. This is great fodder for dramatic television series and movies, but getting to that point is an intelligence-intensive process. A great deal of tactical information on the individual — what he knows, the organization he works for and that organization’s activities — is all necessary to get to that point. This is rarely the case in either police work or the intelligence community — and if authorities did have that much highly specific intelligence, the time-consuming process of torture is rarely either necessary or an efficient means of gathering further details.

Interrogation is rightly termed a dark art. It is difficult to do well, and takes well-trained and experienced interrogators to apply techniques that compel subjects to accurately reveal information they intend to keep secret. Done poorly, these harsh techniques only compel the individual to tell the interrogators what they think they want to hear — some true, but much made up. Indeed, this was reportedly the case with the interrogation of al Qaeda operative Abu Zubaydah. False or made-up information is often a problem — even when skilled practitioners (who are very rare) are used. The issue is commonly mentioned in criticism of torture in general.

And in the months and years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, this was how harsh interrogation techniques were being applied: with little concrete intelligence on individual subjects specifically or al Qaeda in general out of a nonspecific and highly generic concern about another impending al Qaeda attack. Dr. George Friedman will explore this issue in depth in this week’s Geopolitical Intelligence Report.
27746  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: April 21, 2009, 02:11:24 AM
" I thought that the Silva's side kicks to the knee were interesting in that they weren't the range rinding kicks of bjj like royce used effectively in the early UFCs, but more like a straightforward attempt to disrupt his opponents ACL.  I wonder if attacks like this which are designed to inflict serious permanent injury are going to make a comeback in the UFC."

I'd call them chasse's more than I would side kicks, but still the question is an interesting one.
27747  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pak going down on: April 20, 2009, 07:32:36 PM
Sent to me by someone who has seen and done interesting things in Afpakia:

----- Original Message -----
From: Sent: Monday, April 20, 2009 5:30 PM
Subject: Fw: Buy your ammo now

Experts predict Pakistan's collapse
Kansas City Star
17 April 2009
A growing number of U.S. intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials have concluded that there's little hope of preventing nuclear-armed Pakistan from disintegrating into fiefdoms controlled by Islamist warlords and terrorists.
“It's a disaster in the making on the scale of the Iranian revolution,” said a U.S. intelligence official with long experience in Pakistan who requested anonymity.
Pakistan's fragmentation into warlord-run fiefdoms that host al-Qaida and other terrorist groups would have grave implications for the security of its nuclear arsenal; for the U.S.-led effort to pacify Afghanistan; and for the security of India, the nearby oil-rich Persian Gulf and Central Asia, the U.S. and its allies.
“Pakistan has 173 million people and 100 nuclear weapons, an army which is bigger than the American Army, and the headquarters of al-Qaida sitting in two-thirds of the country which the government does not control,” said David Kilcullen, a counterinsurgency consultant to the Obama administration.
“Pakistan isn't Afghanistan, a backward, isolated, landlocked place that outsiders get interested in about once a century,” agreed the U.S. intelligence official. “It's a developed state.”
He added: “The implications of this are disastrous for the U.S.”
The experts interviewed by McClatchy Newspapers said their views aren't a worst case scenario, but a realistic expectation based on the militants' gains and the failure of Pakistan's leadership to respond.
“The place is beyond redemption,” said a Pentagon adviser who asked not to be further identified. He continued: “If you look out 10 years, I think the government will be overrun by Islamic militants.”
That pessimistic view has been bolstered by Islamabad's surrender this week of areas outside the frontier tribal region to Pakistan's Taliban movement and by a growing militant infiltration into the rest of the nation.
27748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: April 20, 2009, 07:21:51 PM

Newt at Tea Party:
27749  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Well-armed People on: April 20, 2009, 03:51:15 PM
"The panel instead follows the Supreme Court's "selective incorporation" cases under the Due Process Clause, and concludes that the right to bear arms "ranks as fundamental, meaning 'necessary to an Anglo-American regime of ordered liberty.'"

 shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked
27750  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: April 20, 2009, 03:47:46 PM
Torture and the U.S. Intelligence Failure
April 20, 2009

By George Friedman

The Obama administration published a series of memoranda on torture issued under the Bush administration. The memoranda, most of which dated from the period after 9/11, authorized measures including depriving prisoners of solid food, having them stand shackled and in uncomfortable positions, leaving them in cold cells with inadequate clothing, slapping their heads and/or abdomens, and telling them that their families might be harmed if they didn’t cooperate with their interrogators.

On the scale of human cruelty, these actions do not rise anywhere near the top. At the same time, anyone who thinks that being placed without food in a freezing cell subject to random mild beatings — all while being told that your family might be joining you — isn’t agonizing clearly lacks imagination. The treatment of detainees could have been worse. It was terrible nonetheless.

Torture and the Intelligence Gap
But torture is meant to be terrible, and we must judge the torturer in the context of his own desperation. In the wake of 9/11, anyone who wasn’t terrified was not in touch with reality. We know several people who now are quite blasé about 9/11. Unfortunately for them, we knew them in the months after, and they were not nearly as composed then as they are now.

Sept. 11 was terrifying for one main reason: We had little idea about al Qaeda’s capabilities. It was a very reasonable assumption that other al Qaeda cells were operating in the United States and that any day might bring follow-on attacks. (Especially given the group’s reputation for one-two attacks.) We still remember our first flight after 9/11, looking at our fellow passengers, planning what we would do if one of them moved. Every time a passenger visited the lavatory, one could see the tensions soar.

And while Sept. 11 was frightening enough, there were ample fears that al Qaeda had secured a “suitcase bomb” and that a nuclear attack on a major U.S. city could come at any moment. For individuals, such an attack was simply another possibility. We remember staying at a hotel in Washington close to the White House and realizing that we were at ground zero — and imagining what the next moment might be like. For the government, however, the problem was having scraps of intelligence indicating that al Qaeda might have a nuclear weapon, but not having any way of telling whether those scraps had any value. The president and vice president accordingly were continually kept at different locations, and not for any frivolous reason.

This lack of intelligence led directly to the most extreme fears, which in turn led to extreme measures. Washington simply did not know very much about al Qaeda and its capabilities and intentions in the United States. A lack of knowledge forces people to think of worst-case scenarios. In the absence of intelligence to the contrary after 9/11, the only reasonable assumption was that al Qaeda was planning more — and perhaps worse — attacks.

Collecting intelligence rapidly became the highest national priority. Given the genuine and reasonable fears, no action in pursuit of intelligence was out of the question, so long as it promised quick answers. This led to the authorization of torture, among other things. Torture offered a rapid means to accumulate intelligence, or at least — given the time lag on other means — it was something that had to be tried.

Torture and the Moral Question
And this raises the moral question. The United States is a moral project: its Declaration of Independence and Constitution state that. The president takes an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. The Constitution does not speak to the question of torture of non-citizens, but it implies an abhorrence of rights violations (at least for citizens). But the Declaration of Independence contains the phrase, “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind.” This indicates that world opinion matters.

At the same time, the president is sworn to protect the Constitution. In practical terms, this means protecting the physical security of the United States “against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Protecting the principles of the declaration and the Constitution are meaningless without regime preservation and defending the nation.

While this all makes for an interesting seminar in political philosophy, presidents — and others who have taken the same oath — do not have the luxury of the contemplative life. They must act on their oaths, and inaction is an action. Former U.S. President George W. Bush knew that he did not know the threat, and that in order to carry out his oath, he needed very rapidly to find out the threat. He could not know that torture would work, but he clearly did not feel that he had the right to avoid it.

Consider this example. Assume you knew that a certain individual knew the location of a nuclear device planted in an American city. The device would kill hundreds of thousands of Americans, but he individual refused to divulge the information. Would anyone who had sworn the oath have the right not to torture the individual? Torture might or might not work, but either way, would it be moral to protect the individual’s rights while allowing hundreds of thousands to die? It would seem that in this case, torture is a moral imperative; the rights of the one with the information cannot transcend the life of a city.

Torture in the Real World
But here is the problem: You would not find yourself in this situation. Knowing a bomb had been planted, knowing who knew that the bomb had been planted, and needing only to apply torture to extract this information is not how the real world works. Post-9/11, the United States knew much less about the extent of the threat from al Qaeda. This hypothetical sort of torture was not the issue.

Discrete information was not needed, but situational awareness. The United States did not know what it needed to know, it did not know who was of value and who wasn’t, and it did not know how much time it had. Torture thus was not a precise solution to a specific problem: It became an intelligence-gathering technique. The nature of the problem the United States faced forced it into indiscriminate intelligence gathering. When you don’t know what you need to know, you cast a wide net. And when torture is included in the mix, it is cast wide as well. In such a case, you know you will be following many false leads — and when you carry torture with you, you will be torturing people with little to tell you. Moreover, torture applied by anyone other than well-trained, experienced personnel (who are in exceptionally short supply) will only compound these problems, and make the practice less productive.

Defenders of torture frequently seem to believe that the person in custody is known to have valuable information, and that this information must be forced out of him. His possession of the information is proof of his guilt. The problem is that unless you have excellent intelligence to begin with, you will become engaged in developing baseline intelligence, and the person you are torturing may well know nothing at all. Torture thus becomes not only a waste of time and a violation of decency, it actually undermines good intelligence. After a while, scooping up suspects in a dragnet and trying to extract intelligence becomes a substitute for competent intelligence techniques — and can potentially blind the intelligence service. This is especially true as people will tell you what they think you want to hear to make torture stop.

Critics of torture, on the other hand, seem to assume the torture was brutality for the sake of brutality instead of a desperate attempt to get some clarity on what might well have been a catastrophic outcome. The critics also cannot know the extent to which the use of torture actually prevented follow-on attacks. They assume that to the extent that torture was useful, it was not essential; that there were other ways to find out what was needed. In the long run, they might have been correct. But neither they, nor anyone else, had the right to assume in late 2001 that there was a long run. One of the things that wasn’t known was how much time there was.

The U.S. Intelligence Failure
The endless argument over torture, the posturing of both critics and defenders, misses the crucial point. The United States turned to torture because it has experienced a massive intelligence failure reaching back a decade. The U.S. intelligence community simply failed to gather sufficient information on al Qaeda’s intentions, capability, organization and personnel. The use of torture was not part of a competent intelligence effort, but a response to a massive intelligence failure.

That failure was rooted in a range of miscalculations over time. There was the public belief that the end of the Cold War meant the United States didn’t need a major intelligence effort, a point made by the late Sen. Daniel Moynihan. There were the intelligence people who regarded Afghanistan as old news. There was the Torricelli amendment that made recruiting people with ties to terrorist groups illegal without special approval. There were the Middle East experts who could not understand that al Qaeda was fundamentally different from anything seen before. The list of the guilty is endless, and ultimately includes the American people, who always seem to believe that the view of the world as a dangerous place is something made up by contractors and bureaucrats.

Bush was handed an impossible situation on Sept. 11, after just nine months in office. The country demanded protection, and given the intelligence shambles he inherited, he reacted about as well or badly as anyone else might have in the situation. He used the tools he had, and hoped they were good enough.

The problem with torture — as with other exceptional measures — is that it is useful, at best, in extraordinary situations. The problem with all such techniques in the hands of bureaucracies is that the extraordinary in due course becomes the routine, and torture as a desperate stopgap measure becomes a routine part of the intelligence interrogator’s tool kit.

At a certain point, the emergency was over. U.S. intelligence had focused itself and had developed an increasingly coherent picture of al Qaeda, with the aid of allied Muslim intelligence agencies, and was able to start taking a toll on al Qaeda. The war had become routinized, and extraordinary measures were no longer essential. But the routinization of the extraordinary is the built-in danger of bureaucracy, and what began as a response to unprecedented dangers became part of the process. Bush had an opportunity to move beyond the emergency. He didn’t.

If you know that an individual is loaded with information, torture can be a useful tool. But if you have so much intelligence that you already know enough to identify the individual is loaded with information, then you have come pretty close to winning the intelligence war. That’s not when you use torture. That’s when you simply point out to the prisoner that, “for you the war is over.” You lay out all you already know and how much you know about him. That is as demoralizing as freezing in a cell — and helps your interrogators keep their balance.

U.S. President Barack Obama has handled this issue in the style to which we have become accustomed, and which is as practical a solution as possible. He has published the memos authorizing torture to make this entirely a Bush administration problem while refusing to prosecute anyone associated with torture, keeping the issue from becoming overly divisive. Good politics perhaps, but not something that deals with the fundamental question.

The fundamental question remains unanswered, and may remain unanswered. When a president takes an oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,” what are the limits on his obligation? We take the oath for granted. But it should be considered carefully by anyone entering this debate, particularly for presidents.

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