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27701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: AQ's double agent on: January 08, 2010, 12:29:44 PM
The recent death in Afghanistan of seven American counterterrorist officers, one Jordanian intelligence operative, and one exploding al Qaeda double agent ought to give us cause to reflect on the real capabilities of the Central Intelligence Agency and al Qaeda.

The report card isn't good. America's systemic intelligence problems were partially on display in the bombing at the CIA's Forward Operating Base Chapman in Khost province. Worse, al Qaeda showed skill that had been lacking in many of its operations. In response, President Barack Obama will likely be obliged to adopt counterterrorist methods that could make his administration as tough as his predecessor's.

Professionally, one has to admire the skill of suicide bomber Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi's handlers. This operation could well have been months—if not longer—in the making, and neither the Jordanian intelligence service (GID), which supplied the double agent to the CIA, nor Langley apparently had any serious suspicion that al-Balawi still had the soul and will of a jihadist.

That is an impressive feat. The Hashemite monarchy imprisons lots of Islamic militants, and the GID has the responsibility to interrogate them. The dead Jordanian official, Sharif Ali bin Zeid, reportedly a member of the royal family, may not have been a down-and-dirty case officer with considerable hands-on contact with militants, but al-Balawi surely passed through some kind of intensive screening process with the GID. Yet the GID and the CIA got played, and al Qaeda has revealed that it is capable of running sophisticated clandestine operations with sustained deception.

Martin Kozlowski
 .Indeed, al Qaeda did to us exactly what we intended to do to them: use a mole for a lethal strike against high-value targets. In the case of al-Balawi, it appears the target was Ayman al Zawahiri, Osama bin Ladin's top deputy. During the Cold War, the CIA completely dropped its guard in the pursuit of much-desired Cuban and East German agents. The result? Most of our assets were plants given to us by Cuban and East German intelligence. With al-Balawi supposedly providing "good" information about al Zawahiri and al Qaeda's terrorist planning, a salivating CIA and the GID proved inattentive to counterintelligence concerns.

Whereas al Qaeda is showing increasing proficiency, the same cannot be said for the CIA. Competent case officers can get duped by a good double. And the GID, whose skill has been exaggerated in fiction and film and by Hashemite-stroked American case officers, isn't a global service. Take it far from its tribal society, where it operates with admirable efficiency, and it is nothing to write home about.

The CIA uses the GID so often not because the Jordanians are brilliant but because the Americans are so often, at best, mediocre. The GID's large cadre of English-speaking officers makes liaison work easy with Langley, which has never been blessed with a large number of Arabic-speaking officers, particularly within the senior ranks.

OpinionJournal Related Stories:
Michael Mukasey: What Does the Detroit Bomber Know?
Dorothy Rabinowitz: One 'Allegedly' Too Many
Victoria Toensing: Questions for Abdulmutallab
.Language issues aside, the now-deceased chief of Base Chapman should have kept most of her personnel away from al-Balawi, and should never have allowed seven officers to get that close to him at one time. Traditional operational compartmentation clearly broke down.

It is also highly likely that all of the CIA officers at Chapman—and especially the chief of base, who was a mother of three—were on short-term assignments. According to active-duty CIA officers, the vast majority of Langley's officers are on temporary-duty assignments in Afghanistan, which usually means they depart in under one year. (The same is true for the State Department.) Many CIA officers are married with children and they do not care for long tours of duty in unpleasant spots—the type of service that would give officers a chance of gaining some country expertise, if not linguistic accomplishment.

Moreover, security concerns usually trap these officers into a limited range of contacts. Truth be told, even the most elemental CIA activity—meeting recruited agents or "developmentals" outside of well-guarded compounds—often cannot be done without contractor-supplied security. Without Blackwater, now renamed Xe, which handles security for Langley in Afghanistan, CIA case officers would likely be paralyzed.

The officers at Chapman were probably young. This isn't necessarily bad. As a general rule, younger case officers do better intelligence-collection work than older colleagues, whose zeal for Third World field work declines precipitously as their knowledge and expertise in CIA bureaucratic politics increases. But experience does breed cynicism, which doesn't appear to have been in abundance at the CIA base.

All of this reinforces the common U.S. military criticism of the Agency in Afghanistan and Iraq: It does not often supply the hard tactical and intimate personal and tribal portraits that military officers need to do their work. Army officers are generally among the natives vastly more than their CIA counterparts.

What does this all mean for President Obama? He did not come into office pledging to reform the CIA, only restrain it from aggressively interrogating al Qaeda terrorists. There is near zero chance that the president will attempt to improve the Agency operationally in the field. His counterterrorist adviser, John Brennan, is as institutional a case officer as Langley has ever produced. If Attorney General Eric Holder is so unwise as to bring any charges against a CIA officer for the rough interrogation of an al Qaeda detainee during the Bush administration, the president will likely find himself deluged with damaging CIA-authored leaks. Mr. Obama would be a fool to confront the CIA on two fronts.

But the president is likely to compensate for systemic weakness in American intelligence in substantial, effective ways. Mr. Obama has been much more aggressive than President George W. Bush was in the use of drone attacks and risky paramilitary operations. One can easily envision him expanding such attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere. Visa issuances, airport security, and perhaps even FBI surveillance of American Muslim militants are likely to become much tougher under Mr. Obama than under Mr. Bush. President Obama will, no doubt, continue to say empirically bizarre things about Guantanamo's imprisonment system creating jihadists, but his administration will now likely find another location to jail militants indefinitely. Too many of President Bush's released detainees have returned to terrorism.

National Security Adviser James Jones has already described the 21st century as the liaison century, where intelligence and security services cooperate energetically. The CIA has often compensated for its internal weaknesses through liaising with foreigners. President Bush and then Central Intelligence Director George Tenet kicked these relationships into hyper-drive after 9/11; President Obama is likely to kick them even further. Mr. Obama may have foreclosed the possibility of the CIA again aggressively questioning jihadists, but he's kept the door wide open for the rendition of terrorists to countries like Jordan, where the GID does not abide by the Marquess of Queensbury rules in its interrogations.

The deadly attack in Fort Hood, Texas, by Maj. Malik Hassan in November, the close call in the air above Detroit on Christmas Day, and now the double-agent suicide bombing in Khost have shocked America's counterterrorist system. Mr. Obama surely knows that one large-scale terrorist strike inside the U.S. could effectively end his presidency. He may at some level still believe that his let's-just-all-be-friends speech in Cairo last June made a big dent in the hatred that many faithful Muslims have for the U.S., but his practices on the ground are likely to be a lot less touchy-feely. This is all for the good. These three jihadist incidents ought to tell us that America's war with Islamic militancy is far—far—from being over.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
27702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 08, 2010, 12:08:36 PM
Well, that is as unsettling as it is unsurprising.


Worth reading because of the authors...
Don't discount Europe's commitment to Afghanistan

By Carl Bildt and Anders Fogh Rasmussen
Friday, January 8, 2010; A19

For decades, Europeans have heard an enduring message from the United States: Do more. Carry your weight. Don't make America do all the heavy lifting. And this message has been delivered, loud and clear, once again, on Afghanistan.
An honest assessment would conclude that over the years these complaints have occasionally had some foundation. The United States has played a central role in defending the values and the security of the Euro-Atlantic community -- something for which Europeans are grateful.
But that honest assessment would also conclude that Europe can pull its weight. That Europe can deliver and can be a real partner for the United States. That is what is happening now in the global mission in Afghanistan. It is important that America recognize its partners' actions at this critical time, because if it becomes the conventional wisdom in the United States to talk down the European contribution, no matter what Europe does, then it will become impossible to sustain our commitment.
In just the past few months, the European Union has taken important steps to strengthen its common action in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the surrounding region. For the first time, the European Union has adopted a common action plan for the efforts of its 27 member states and the European Commission. The focus is on building strong state institutions because the best way to defeat the insurgency is to help Afghanistan build a government in which its citizens trust and believe.
With the aim of increasing Afghan responsibilities, and in accordance with the priorities set by the government in Kabul, the European Union will concentrate its immediate assistance in six areas: building civilian capacity; strengthening sub-national, or provincial, governance; election review and reform; mechanisms to support the reintegration of former insurgents into society; economic development; and strengthened assistance in building a civilian police force through the E.U. Police Mission in Afghanistan.
On the military side, U.S. allies and partners in the NATO-led military operation have responded clearly to President Obama's decision to significantly increase American troop levels in the mission. In early December, the other members of the mission pledged an additional 7,000 troops, on top of the almost 40,000 non-U.S. troops already on the ground. More contributions are possible this year. Non-U.S. forces will eventually be about 40 percent of the total; they already endure about 40 percent of the casualties. There should be no more doubt in the United States on whether America can count on its allies; we are proving that in blood and treasure every day in Afghanistan.
But creating stability in Afghanistan requires more than a military and civilian surge from the United States, the European Union, Canada and our partners. It requires a responsive and responsible Afghan government, coordination among the international community and a regional approach in which Afghanistan's neighbors play a prominent role.
The international community needs to develop a renewed partnership with Afghanistan, whereby in return for continued political, civilian and military assistance, we see clear commitments from the government in Kabul and delivery and responsibility on those pledges. In line with the goals stated in President Hamid Karzai's inauguration speech, the international community is looking for improved governance through the reinvigoration of cabinet ministries by reform-oriented appointments, and for efforts to actively fight corruption even at the highest levels. Other key priorities include improving human rights (perhaps by setting up a separate ministry) as well as enhancing national reconciliation where possible.
International meetings to be held in London and Kabul this spring are key to creating fresh momentum for our support to Afghanistan. There is a new recognition that we all need to do more and do better on civilian as well as military issues. Everyone understands that one will not work without the other. We need a civilian-military partnership in Afghanistan and the surrounding region as much as we need a partnership across the Atlantic. There is much work ahead in all these respects.
As we enter 2010, three things are clear about this mission. First, it is as necessary as ever, for the security of all nations, that the international community succeed in helping Afghanistan become an inhospitable environment for terrorism. Second, that despite all the difficulties -- and they are many -- this mission can succeed, first and foremost because the Afghan people want to stand on their own feet and defeat extremism themselves. Third, that the United States cannot do this alone, and will not have to; Europe, and Canada, will continue to be America's allies, partners and brothers in arms.
Carl Bildt is the foreign minister of Sweden. Anders Fogh Rasmussen is secretary general of NATO.

27703  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: January 08, 2010, 11:54:09 AM
I too caught that and likewise was shocked by Dobbs apparent conversion.

Glenn Beck predicts that amnesty and linking the extended families of the "forgiven" to get in too will be the next big push of the vast left wing conspiracy.
27704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: January 08, 2010, 11:44:09 AM
Digest · Friday, January 8, 2010

The Foundation
"Public affairs go on pretty much as usual: perpetual chicanery and rather more personal abuse than there used to be..." --John Adams

Government & Politics
If By 'Transparent' You Mean 'Secret'...

After much bribery and arm-twisting, the Senate managed just before Christmas to pass its version of ObamaCare by a 60-39 vote (amazingly, without a single GOP "aye"). Now, the bill heads for conference deliberation televised by C-SPAN, just as the cable channel offered and Barack Obama promised numerous times.

Or not.

Democrats let slip this week that there would be no typical conference committee on the competing House and Senate versions of the health bill, as "leaders" opted instead for private negotiations with "key" congressmen and senators, none of whom is Republican. Once an agreement is reached, each legislative chamber will vote again and send the unified bill to the president.

Without a conference committee, a rule requiring public access to the conference report for at least 48 hours before a vote would conveniently not apply. That means even more liberty-stealing treachery can be slipped into the bill with little notice. Funny how the "public option" doesn't mean that the public gets to know what's in the bill.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) nevertheless had the gall to declare, "There has never been a more open process for any legislation in anyone who's served here's experience." In response, Wall Street Journal columnist James Taranto mocked, "Has a more false or awkwardly worded statement ever come out of anyone who has served as speaker of the House's mouth?"

In spite of Democrats' best efforts at "transparency," there are many extra-special things that we actually do know about the bill. For example, on page 1,020, the Senate bill states: "It shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection." In other words, the bill creates an eternal law by prohibiting future elected Congresses from making changes to this subsection.

What's in the subsection in question? The infamous "death panel" -- the Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB), whose objective will be to "reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending" (read: to ration health care).

Meanwhile, the bill contains what amounts to a marriage penalty worth $2,000 or more in insurance premiums each year. The Wall Street Journal explains, "The disparity comes about in part because subsidies for purchasing health insurance under the plan from congressional Democrats are pegged to federal poverty guidelines. That has the effect of limiting subsidies for married couples with a combined income, compared to if the individuals are single."

Finally, Obama signaled this week that he's willing to break another campaign promise: The "no tax increases on the middle class" pledge. He threw his support behind the Senate's tax on higher end "Cadillac" insurance plans, something unions and House Democrats oppose.

The more the public learns about this continuing saga, the more vigorously opposed they become to "reform." No wonder Democrats want the process to remain secret.

The BIG Lies
"We will have a public, uh, process for forming this plan. It'll be televised on C-SPAN.... It will be transparent and accountable to the American people." --Barack Obama, November 2007

"That's what I will do in bringing all parties together, not negotiating behind closed doors, but bringing all parties together, and broadcasting those negotiations on C-SPAN so that the American people can see what the choices are, because part of what we have to do is enlist the American people in this process." --Barack Obama, January 2008

"[T]hese negotiations will be on C-SPAN..." --Barack Obama, January 2008

"We're gonna do all these negotiations on C-SPAN so the American people will be able to watch these negotiations." --Barack Obama, March 2008

"All this will be done on C-SPAN in front of the public." --Barack Obama, April 2008

"I want the negotiations to be taking place on C-SPAN." --Barack Obama, May 2008

"[W]e'll have the negotiations televised on C-SPAN, so that people can see who is making arguments on behalf of their constituents, and who is, who are making arguments on behalf of the drug companies or the insurance companies." --Barack Obama, August 2008

"We will work on this process publicly. It'll be on C-SPAN. It will be streaming over the Net." --Barack Obama, November 2008

Democrat 'Constitutional Scholars' at It Again
When questioned several weeks back about the constitutional authority for ObamaCare, Obama's publicist, Robert Gibbs, issued this disclaimer: "I don't believe there's a lot of -- I don't believe there's a lot of case law that would demonstrate the veracity" of questions about constitutional authority. Ah, yes, "case law." That's code for amending our Constitution by judicial diktat rather than via its prescribed method as stated in Article V.

This week, Gibbs reiterated, "I do not believe that anybody has legitimate constitutional concerns about the [health care] legislation."

Furthermore, when asked where the authority to mandate that Americans buy health insurance -- that they be forced under penalty of fine or imprisonment to engage in a particular commercial enterprise -- is located in the Constitution, Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) answered, "Well, I would assume it would be in the Commerce clause of the Constitution. That's how Congress legislates all kinds of various programs."

Congress too often uses this clause to do whatever it wants to do (the legislative target might, just might, some day engage in interstate commerce, don't you know,) but this incorrect interpretation certainly doesn't make this legislation constitutional.

Quote of the Week
"America's founders intended the federal government to have limited powers and that the states have an independent sovereign place in our system of government. The Obama/Reid/Pelosi legislation to take control of the American health-care system is the most sweeping and intrusive federal program ever devised. If the federal government can do this, then it can do anything, and the limits on government power that our liberty requires will be more myth than reality." --Wall Street Journal op-ed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Liberty University School of Law professor Kenneth Blackwell and American Civil Rights Union senior legal analyst Kenneth Klukowski
27705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Disarmament via the UN on: January 08, 2010, 11:13:21 AM
27706  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pro Biotics, second article on: January 08, 2010, 10:18:00 AM
Probiotics: Your Secret Weapon for Better Health
Gary B. Huffnagle, PhD
University of Michigan Medical School

The small and large intestines (gut) do most of the work involved in digesting the 20 tons of food that the average person consumes in a lifetime. This process involves trillions of bacteria -- some of them harmful and others beneficial.
What you may not know: While the gut is most commonly associated with digestion, it's estimated that at least 60% of a person's immune system is located there. "Good" bacteria protect against the growth of harmful bacteria to help prevent infections, such as vaginal yeast infections and urinary tract infections.

Probiotic bacteria (a subset of good bacteria) also secrete substances that act on intestinal muscles and help regulate motility (the intestinal contractions that move food and waste through the intestine at the proper rate). Because these good bacteria play a key role in preventing infections as well as keeping the digestive system functioning properly, "probiotics" -- dietary supplements or foods that contain beneficial bacteria or yeasts similar to those found in the human gut -- have become increasingly popular, particularly among people who take antibiotics.

Reason: Antibiotics kill not only harmful microorganisms that cause disease, but also the body's beneficial bacteria, sometimes leading to gas, cramping and such conditions as diarrhea. People who take antibiotics regularly may have permanent reductions in probiotic organisms unless they replenish the body's natural supply. For most people, the occasional use of antibiotics -- such as a 10-day course -- is unlikely to cause lasting problems.


Probiotics are live microorganisms. Two of the most beneficial types of probiotics --Lactobacilli and Bifida organisms -- thrive in the naturally acidic environments of the stomach and small intestine.

Probiotics are often recommended for digestion (to help reduce such problems as gas, bloating, constipation and diarrhea), but they appear to be equally important -- if not more so -- for the immune system.

Probiotics in the intestine stimulate production of white blood cells known as regulatory T cells, which help fight inflammation associated with such disorders as eczema, seasonal allergies and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), a condition in which the bowel becomes inflamed, often resulting in abdominal cramps and diarrhea.

Probiotics also help prevent and treat diarrhea related to Clostridium difficile infection.

There are many dozens of species of probiotic organisms. The most reliable probiotic formulations now available in the US are in capsule form. Most probiotic capsules should be refrigerated.

Two highly effective products are used primarily for digestive problems. Use the one that most closely matches your symptoms... *

Culturelle. Studies over the past 30 years have shown that Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (the active organism in this product) reduces the severity and duration of traveler's diarrhea, as well as diarrhea associated with antibiotic therapy.

Typical dose: One to two daily supplements (each containing 30 billion organisms), taken at the onset of diarrhea. Continue for one week after symptoms stop. To prevent antibiotic-related diarrhea, take the supplements during antibiotic therapy and for at least one week afterward.

Important: To ensure optimal effectiveness of the antibiotic, do not take it at the same time of day you are taking the probiotic.

Align contains Bifidobacterium infantis 35624, an organism shown in studies to decrease symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a condition that causes diarrhea and/or constipation and other digestive problems.

Typical dose: One capsule (containing one billion live organisms) daily -- taken indefinitely if symptoms are ongoing. If the IBS is associated with stomach flu, take the probiotic supplement during symptoms and continue for one week after they subside.


To ensure that your immune system is working at its best, it's a good idea to take probiotic supplements and/or to eat foods containing probiotics daily even if you don't have a particular condition that you're trying to treat.

To boost immunity, look for probiotic supplements and foods that contain the bacterium Lactobacillus casei or several probiotic bacteria strains.

My favorite multistrain supplements are Jarro-Dophilus EPS and Theralac. Follow the dosage instructions on the label.

Helpful: Probiotics are stimulated by soluble dietary fiber, so they’re more likely to proliferate in the intestine when you also eat complex carbohydrates, such as legumes, vegetables and whole grains. These foods contain "prebiotics," which provide the nutrition that probiotics need to multiply.


In the last few years, food manufacturers have begun to promote probiotic-enriched foods, such as the low-fat yogurt Activia and the probiotic dairy drink DanActive (both by Dannon). These products contain the well-researched probiotic bacteriaBifidobacterium animalis and L. casei, respectively.

When these foods are bought in a grocery store and analyzed in a laboratory, they consistently contain about the same number of active organisms as listed on the labels.

Other probiotic food products...

Yogurt. Best choices: Foods with the "live and active cultures" seal from the National Yogurt Association. These products must contain 100 million live bacteria per gram at the time of their manufacture.

Aged cheeses, such as cheddar or blue cheese, typically contain three billion to 10 billion organisms per serving. Generally, the longer a cheese is aged, the higher the probiotic load.

Kefir, a type of fermented milk, usually has at least three billion organisms per serving.

Caution: Aged cheeses and kefir should be avoided by people who have food sensitivities to milk products.

*If you have an immune deficiency, talk to your doctor before taking probiotics
27707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pro Biotics on: January 08, 2010, 10:15:44 AM
Obesity-Causing Bacteria -- and the Cure

There’s little doubt that diet and lifestyle choices play a major role in the obesity epidemic in America. But investigators have recently uncovered another intriguing theory about the causes of obesity -- it turns out that obese people have different gut bacteria. Though this is not the sole factor, experts now are delving further to learn all they can about what role these tiny microbes play in this big threat to our health.

Obese People Host a Different Mix of Bacteria than Lean Individuals

The human body is host to trillions of microbes (bacteria), some that support our health and others that threaten it, notes Andrew Rubman, ND. There is lots of research underway on the connection between obesity and gut bacteria, but early findings already demonstrate that different people are host to different colonies of microorganisms in their guts and these variations affect weight as well as health. Some of the differences may be genetic, others are a result of our unique dietary environments. Several studies in particular highlight the connection...

At Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, scientists found that the intestinal tracts of obese and thin people have different ratios of two types of bacteria that normally predominate in the human gut -- Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes. Obese individuals had higher percentages of Firmicutes and lower percentages of Bacteroidetesbacteria, while the lean group had roughly the opposite balance. After the obese individuals lost weight by following a low-calorie diet for one year, the ratio of these two types of bacteria in the obese individuals became more like that of the lean group.

In another experiment, also at Washington University, scientists bred mice to be free of intestinal flora, then fed them gut bacteria taken from obese mice -- and they got fat. In contrast, flora-free mice given gut bacteria from skinny mice gained little weight. The researchers concluded that differences in gut flora may contribute to obesity.
The Ecology of the Gut

While there is more to learn about the influence of gut ecology on weight, keeping the bacteria of your digestive system in proper balance is essential to maintaining optimal health, says Dr. Rubman. He told me it is well-documented that problems in the large intestine -- the hub of the body’s immune system -- quickly lead to problems elsewhere in the body. Beneficial bacteria help your body break down food and absorb nutrients, so it makes sense that having more healthful bacteria helps digestion. Poor diet, emotional stress or physical disease, along with other factors, disturb the natural balance, allowing harmful bacteria to proliferate, so it is harder for good bacteria to protect the mucosal walls of the intestines. When these become more permeable, toxins leak out, challenging immunity and causing inflammation locally and elsewhere in the body.

Our bodies are programmed to protect us from negative external influences and challenges, so threats (such as inflammation) may lead to an increase in energy storage (i.e., calories) to meet the challenge. If this mistaken attempt at self-protection persists, the ecology of the gut adjusts to favor bacteria that are more proficient at extracting calories from food. Over time, these calorie-hungry microbes contribute to weight gain, making it even harder for overweight people to shed unwanted pounds -- an all-too-common complaint. So, the theory goes, people who are already overweight can eat the same meals as lean people, but they’ll absorb more calories. Harmful bacteria also slow the passage of food through the digestive tract, and the more time food spends in the body, the more calories you absorb from it.

Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to encourage and restore a proper microbial balance in your gut.

One way to optimize your balance of intestinal bacteria is to follow a probiotic diet, which will rev up your metabolism and spur weight loss, according to Joseph Brasco, MD, a gastroenterologist in private practice in Huntsville, Alabama. Especially if you are doing everything right -- eating nutritiously, watching portion size and exercising regularly -- if you still cannot lose weight, the problem may be related to an imbalance of gut flora.

To tip the scales toward weight loss, Dr. Brasco recommends these simple strategies:

Consume more fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. What you don’t eat is just as important as what you do, Dr. Brasco emphasizes. Fresh produce encourages the production of friendly microbes. Fiber in fruits and vegetables (especially the skin) helps speed food through the digestive tract. This improves the health of the intestinal lining by nurturing the right bacteria. Toxins don’t linger as long, so they do less damage. In contrast, processed foods, such as breads, doughnuts and cookies, are loaded with starch and simple sugars -- exactly what harmful bacteria thrive upon.
Eat fermented foods every day. To restore proper gut balance, regularly eat yogurt with active cultures, chutneys, unpasteurized sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kefir and miso. Try a new type each day -- for example, snack on yogurt... add chutney to a dinner stew... slice some pickles into your salad. Beneficial organisms associated with fermentation colonize the gut and discourage the growth of harmful bacteria.
Take a daily probiotic supplement. When diet and exercise still fail to generate weight loss, Dr. Brasco has seen patients get good results with probiotics. His favorite brands: Garden of Life’s Primal Defense Ultra and Align (Procter & Gamble), both available at health-food stores and online, and HLC (Pharmax), available through your health care provider. If a probiotic supplement makes you gassy or bloated, try taking it on an empty stomach, suggests Dr. Brasco. Most doctors advise patients to take probiotics with food, but he says trying them away from meals sometimes helps this problem. Other solutions include taking a probiotic supplement every other day to start and working your way up to daily... or you could try a different product based on a different mix of bacteria, since there are a variety available. Ask your doctor for help in identifying the right mix for you.


Andrew Rubman, ND, director, Southbury Clinic for Traditional Medicines, Southbury, Connecticut.

Joseph Brasco, MD, Center for Colon and Digestive Disease, Huntsville, Alabama. Dr. Brasco is coauthor of Restoring Your Digestive Health (Kensington Press) and the upcoming Probiotic Diet
27708  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Night Vision on: January 08, 2010, 10:11:54 AM
IIRC I heard yesterday that we are going to be selling various military toys, including night vision capabilities, to the Yemeni government.

I'm wondering if this, particularly the NV gear, is a good idea , , ,
27709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Somalia on: January 08, 2010, 10:10:02 AM
Somalia: Government, Militia Group Joining Forces?
Stratfor Today » January 7, 2010 | 2134 GMT

ALI MUSA/AFP/Getty Images
Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca leader Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Muhieddin on Nov. 3, 2009Summary
Somali militia Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca has requested money, weapons and training from the Transitional Federal Government in its fight against Islamist insurgent group al Shabaab. If the government and Ahlu Sunna join forces, it could be a turning point in the fight against al Shabaab.

The spokesman for the Somali army said late Jan. 6 that the militia Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca has requested that the Mogadishu-based Transitional Federal Government (TFG) supply the group with weapons, training and financial assistance. The spokesman, Abdirazzaq Qaylow, also said that there is a possibility Ahlu Sunna will merge with the TFG.

The Somali government needs all the help it can get in its fight against al Shabaab, which is in firm control of Somalia’s southern regions and is a constant threat to central Somalia as well as the capital. Ahlu Sunna has been combating the Islamist group since late 2008 with the help of the Ethiopian government, but if it were to link up with the TFG as well, it could help shift the balance of power between the TFG and al Shabaab.

Ahlu Sunna is a militia established in the wake of the January 2009 Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia as a way for Addis Ababa to contain the Islamist threat on its border. It operates predominately in the country’s central regions, especially Galguduud, Mudug and Hiran, with the occasional foray into the semi-autonomous region of Puntland and the southern region of Gedo. In recent days, al Shabaab and Ahlu Sunna have been engaged in a battle for control of the central Somali town of Dusamareb after al Shabaab attacked an Ahlu Sunna conference being held there. After initial reports that al Shabaab had taken the town, Ahlu Sunna reportedly drove al Shabaab to the outskirts.

(click image to enlarge)
The announcement by the Somali army came within the context of these recent clashes. Al Shabaab has always been a common enemy of Ahlu Sunna and the TFG, but the militia has fought against the Islamist group without much direct support from the Western-backed government in Mogadishu. Rather, Ahlu Sunna has relied on material and financial assistance from Ethiopia. (The group’s reputation as Addis Ababa’s lackeys is such that militia members often are referred to in Somali press reports as “Ethiopian soldiers.”)

The TFG has been attempting to co-opt Ahlu Sunna for some time, with Somali President Sharif Ahmed specifically calling on the group to join the government in November 2009 and the two sides signing a pact in December stating Ahlu Sunna’s intention to join the government. Should this relationship grow from one based on rhetoric and promises of future cooperation into something substantial — Ahlu Sunna reportedly wants ammunition and armored vehicles for its fight against al Shabaab — it could help the TFG weaken al Shabaab and shift their balance of power.

Since its failed attempt to take Mogadishu in May 2009, al Shabaab has maintained its ability to act as a thorn in the side of both the government and the roughly 5,400-strong African Union (AU) peacekeeping force deployed around the capital, demonstrating its capabilities with occasional suicide bombings in Mogadishu and mortar fire at government and AU positions.

While al Shabaab and anti-government nationalist group Hizbul Islam (which worked in concert during the May 2009 offensive) no longer cooperate as much, their relationship has not been completely severed despite a recent falling-out over control of the southern port city of Kismayo and a series of clashes in southern Somalia near the Kenyan border. Al Shabaab does not possess sufficient forces to topple the government on its own. According to STRATFOR sources, it has threatened certain elements of Hizbul Islam with death should the group refuse to fight alongside al Shabaab.

The TFG has wanted to go on an offensive for months to gain control over the country; Somali Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said Jan. 3 that this push will begin by the end of January. But with government forces not even in control of Mogadishu at the moment, Ahlu Sunna represents an excellent candidate in the eyes of the TFG for use as a proxy in battling al Shabaab in central Somalia and along the Ethiopian border.

Ahlu Sunna, in turn, sees an opportunity in linking up with the government, as there has been an uptick of pledges from foreign governments to increase the level of support and materiel given to Somalia in recent months. A merger with the TFG does not mean Ahlu Sunna would be brought under the umbrella of the TFG’s command structure; rather, the group simply would receive things like weapons, cash and training from the government.

While Ahlu Sunna’s publicly aligning itself with the government — which is run by former Islamists turned pro-West — could add to the perception that the group is a lackey for the West, any negative public relations most likely would be canceled out by the positive effects of what Ahlu Sunna would stand to gain: a share of the spoils of international aid being funneled to the Somali government, which is looking for friends wherever it can find them.
27710  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man formerly in Iraq on: January 08, 2010, 09:54:17 AM
forwards me this:

Deadly blasts underscore tenuous security in Iraq's Anbar province

By Leila Fadel and Michael Hastings
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, January 8, 2010; A10

BAGHDAD -- Five explosions that targeted mostly law enforcement officials ripped through a city in Iraq's Anbar province Thursday, killing at least eight people and underscoring fears that the region's fragile security is deteriorating.

The homemade bombs struck the homes of the deputy police chief, two counterterrorism police officials and a lawyer in the small city of Hit, about 120 miles west of Baghdad, and injured at least 10. The attacks occurred one week after twin explosions killed at least 24 people in Anbar and ripped off the hand of provincial Gov. Qassim Mohammed Fahdawi. They also follow a series of about 40 assassination attempts in the province that have primarily targeted politicians, police officers, tribal chiefs and religious figures.

Anbar was considered an American model of success after Sunni tribal leaders and U.S. forces struck a deal to rein in insurgents in a place once known as a militant heartland. As American troops begin to withdraw from Iraq, the number of U.S. military enclaves in the western province has shrunk from 35 last year to five at present, and by August only three outposts will remain. American forces are largely confined to their base in Ramadi and no longer regularly accompany Iraqi security forces on operations.

Of late, a widespread and complicated power struggle has roiled the province, with elections scheduled for early March and multiple factions trying to assert control over the area, which makes up about one-third of Iraq.

Those forces include the newly elected provincial government, the central government in Baghdad and the traditional tribal leadership. At the same time, insurgents groups such as al-Qaeda in Iraq have used the turmoil to reassert themselves.

After last week's bombings, police chief Tariq al-Assal -- widely viewed as ineffective -- was forced out and replaced with a temporary commander from the Iraqi army in Baghdad. Bahaa al-Azzawi was appointed directly by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, angering tribal chiefs, who saw the move as an affront to their power as well as that of the Sahwa fighters, members of the resistance who allied themselves with the U.S. military to fight al-Qaeda in Iraq but now feel abandoned by the government.

"If this weak government still exists after the election, we anticipate a disaster will happen in Anbar," said Sheik Mohammed Albuthaab, who leads an influential Anbar tribe but was left out of the consultations about the new police chief. "The provincial council spends its time traveling abroad to Turkey, Syria and Jordan, not living here."

It is unclear how long Azzawi will hold this post. The provincial council said it will select a permanent commander but did not specify when.

Assal, who had served as the head of Anbar police for two years, accused members of the provincial council of interfering in police matters, which he said led to the recent security lapses.

"Maybe the situation will be better now," he said in an interview. "How the government interferes with security is unacceptable."

Assal charged that last week's dual bombings were made easier because the 29 provincial council members have their own security details and convoys, which he said were not subject to his authority and could be easily infiltrated by insurgent groups.

He said he had urged Fahdawi, the governor, not to visit the scene of a car bombing last week outside the Anbar police headquarters in Ramadi. When the governor did arrive, with an entourage of bodyguards and vehicles, a man wearing a police uniform was able to sneak through the perimeter and blow himself up, injuring Fahdawi and killing a provincial council member, among others.

"The governor was playing Sherlock Holmes," Assal said. "How can I protect them when they don't follow my advice?"

Tribal leaders blamed Assal for the security lapses, saying that he was more interested in bringing investment to the province, not in security, and that the police were corrupt and the provincial government too weak to deal with al-Qaeda in Iraq.
"We don't need a jury system, we don't need a judge. The tribes will implement the punishments ourselves," Albuthaab said. "I would execute them all by my own hands. Anyone who is killing people deserves to be executed."

He said members of al-Qaeda in Iraq have been released from local prisons after the U.S. military turned them over to Iraqi authorities as part of the withdrawal agreement, an assertion supported by some Iraqi officials. Many of those former inmates have gone on to engage in attacks, Albuthaab said.

Despite the turmoil, all the parties want the Americans to stick to the pullout timetable.

Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, said that although the violence has caused him some concern, the "security situation in Anbar isn't crumbling."

Hastings is a special correspondent. Special correspondents Aziz Alwan and Uthman al-Mokhtar contributed to this report.
27711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey's ongoing resurgence on: January 07, 2010, 11:47:19 PM
Turkey's Ongoing Resurgence

TURKISH ENERGY MINISTER TANER YILDIZ joined Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimukhammedov at a Jan. 6 ceremony in southeastern Turkmenistan to inaugurate a natural gas pipeline running from the central Asian state to Iran. Just prior to the ceremony the top Turkish official held a meeting with the two heads of state in Ashgabat. Yildiz’s visit to Turkmenistan was previously unannounced and reportedly took place at the invitation of President Berdimukhammedov a day before.

That the Turkish energy minister was present at the event — a largely Turkmen-Iranian bilateral matter — is extremely interesting from an energy point of view. But events like these provide an opportunity for STRATFOR to step back and take a strategic view of Turkey’s ongoing resurgence on the global scene. Obviously, attendance at the pipeline ceremony was about the Turks trying to enhance ties with a historical foe — the Persians — and attempting to get closer to their fellow Turkic brethren in the Central Asian stomping grounds of their forefathers.

Looking to the east constitutes just one small aspect of Turkey’s plans to reassert itself as a player in the various regions it once ruled or influenced. After an interregnum of nearly a century, Turkey, under the ruling Justice and Development Party, has embarked upon a policy of cautiously expanding its influence into Europe, the Caucuses, the Middle East, Central, South and even East Asia.

Ankara has not been under any illusion regarding the extent it would be able to successfully expand into these various regions. Centuries of experience — beginning with the difficulties in establishing its empire in medieval times to losing turf to superior forces in the modern age — prove how challenging that prospect would be. And now, in an age where the nation-state has been firmly established as the pre-eminent international actor, it is well aware of how far it can go.

“After an interregnum of nearly a century, Turkey has embarked upon a policy of cautious expansion.”
More importantly, in each of its target regions, Turkey is running into varying degrees of resistance from a variety of players. In Europe, there is no shortage of countries that have made it abundantly clear that they won’t accept Turkey as an equal member in their political and economic bloc, the European Union. European opposition to Turkey rivals Turkey’s desire to become a member, which is why Ankara continues to push for membership despite overwhelming odds against it. In this regard, Turkey is trying to use its ethnic and religious ties to the Balkans to recreate an enclave in southeastern Europe.

After all, the Ottomans became a player on the European continent over a century prior to taking over the Middle East. In contrast, the trajectory of modern Turkey reveals far more success in the Middle East. Unlike in the past, there are no rival Muslim powers in the form of the Mamluk Sultanate in the Arab world or the successive dominions in Persia.

The growing conflict between the Sunni Arab states and Iran and its Arab Shia allies provides the Turks with an opportunity to mediate between the Iranians and the Arab states that seek to use Ankara to its advantage. The complex Arab-Israeli conflict coupled with the U.S. role in the Middle East creates additional space for the Turks to advance their interests. While it has been busy re-emerging in the Middle East, Turkey has also been very active in the northern rim of the Caucuses.

The Caucuses, however, have proven to be a very tough region because of Russia, which is also in the middle of a resurgence. The region has been a historic battleground between the Turks and the Russians: the Turks lost the region to the Russians nearly a century ago, and the Russians ruled it directly as recently as the early 1990s. Moscow therefore has more leverage over the two principal regional rivals — Azerbaijan and Armenia — which is why Ankara has failed to create a meaningful space there.

The Russian advantage also keeps Central Asia largely out of Turkey’s reach despite being its region of origin during the late 13th and early 14th centuries. The countries even continue to share ethnolinguistic ties to the largely Turkic Central Asian republics. Russia has not stopped them from continuing to develop creative ways to try to expand into Central Asia.

Taking advantage of its close ties to the United States coupled with Washington’s interest in Ankara taking a lead in the affairs of the Middle East, Turkey is inserting itself in Southwest Asia in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater. This is particularly true in Afghanistan, where it is trying to use its influence among ethnic minorities that share ties with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The jihadist complexity of southwest Asia and the strong Russian influence to its north will, however, continue to limit Turkish moves.

Ultimately, what we have is a careful Turkish strategy that involves probing into its various surrounding regions, attempting to take advantage of potential opportunities. Where the Turks find resistance, they retreat. In places where they encounter little or no resistance, they advance. These very preliminary and exploratory moves will define Turkish attempts at geopolitical revival for some time to come.
27712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: January 07, 2010, 07:37:00 PM

Brit Hume: 'Jesus Christ' the 'Most Controversial Two Words You Can Ever Utter in the Public Square'
Thursday, January 07, 2010

By Karen Schuberg

( – Brit Hume said he was “not surprised” by the media backlash over his remarks to Tiger Woods on “Fox News Sunday” this week. There is a “double-standard” when it comes to speaking publicly about Christianity versus other religions, he said.

Hume, a Fox News analyst, told “There is a double standard. If I had said, for example, that what Tiger Woods needed to do was become more deeply engaged in his Buddhist faith or to adopt the ideas of Hinduism, which I think would be of great spiritual value to him, I doubt anybody would have said anything.”

Last Sunday, Hume suggested the golfer-- who has stated that he is Buddhist -- look to Christianity for help to makeover his personal life. In response to host Chris Wallace’s question asking him to predict the biggest sports story of 2010, Hume speculated that while Woods would recover professionally from his now-public admission of adultery, the comeback of his personal life is currently a question mark.

“Tiger Woods will recover as a golfer.” Hume began. “Whether he can recover as a person I think is a very open question, and it’s a tragic situation for him.

“I think he’s lost his family; it’s not clear to me if he’ll be able to have a relationship with his children, but the Tiger Woods that emerges once the news value dies out of this scandal -- the extent to which he can recover -- seems to me to depend on his faith.” Hume said.

The former newsman-turned-commentator continued: “He’s said to be a Buddhist; I don’t think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redemption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be: ‘Tiger, turn to the Christian faith, and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world.’”

Hume faced severe media backlash for his Christian words to Woods.

On Tuesday, MSNBC host Keith Olbermann accused Hume of an “attempt to threaten Tiger Woods into converting to Christianity.”

MSNBC anchor David Shuster blasted Hume, saying he had no business mentioning Christianity on a political talk show.

“I do think (talking about Christianity on a political talk show) diminishes the discussion of Christianity,” Shuster said. “My Christian friends have said as much, that it diminishes the discussion of Christianity and faith when you have a conversation out-of-the-blue on a political talk show. This wasn’t the ‘700 Club,’ this wasn’t ‘Theocracy Today.’”

Tom Shales, media critic for the Washington Post , in a Tuesday column, demanded that Hume apologize and called his Christian remarks “even only a few days into January, as one of the most ridiculous of the year.”

When asked Hume if the media uproar over his comments regarding Tiger Woods and a potential conversion to Christianity caught him by surprise, he replied, “No, I’m not surprised.”

When asked if he would do it again, Hume did not hesitate to respond affirmatively.

“Sure,” he said. asked Hume: “Why is Jesus Christ taboo in polite conversation or in the world of politics and media?”

“I think it’s been true for a long time in many cultures. It is certainly true in secular America today that the most controversial two words you can ever utter in a public space are ‘Jesus Christ,’” Hume said.

When asked to speculate about the reasons for the mainstream media’s vitriolic reception of Christianity, Hume initially expressed bewilderment

“I’m somewhat at a loss to explain it because so many of the people who purport to be aghast at such mentions are themselves at least nominally Christian. But there it is,” Hume said.

He added: “I think it is true that for people who are not Christian, Christianity makes a fairly extravagant claim which is that the Son of God -- God made Flesh -- came into this world, lived, suffered terribly, and died for the remission of our sins, and then rose again. This is a huge supernatural event, and a lot of people don’t—have a lot of trouble believing it. But if you do purport to believe it, the implications are pretty staggering. And the result is you may end up talking about it,” Hume said.

Hume also ventured possible practical reasons for the public’s searing distaste for Christianity.

“There is certainly a level of anti-Christian bigotry that may have something to do with the fact that on certain issues, the views of Christians are against theirs on certain matters such as abortion and others, but I can’t account for all of it. It is a striking reality, however,” Hume concluded.

The Rev. Pat Mahoney, a Presbyterian minister and executive director of the Christian Defense Coalition in Washington, D.C., said it is important to put Hume’s words on "Fox News Sunday" into context.

“When Brit Hume made the comment, it was not as a newsperson, but it was in a commentary analyst context,” Mahoney said. “He wasn’t reporting on a hard news story. He was sharing 'opinioned' fact which many of the news programs encourage their commentators to do.”

Noting that many journalists feel “awkward” when dealing with matters of Christianity, Mahoney said: “I think really what they are denigrating . . . is (what journalists feel is) a conservative political point of view. That it isn’t so much Christianity per se, but I think it’s how they view Christians,” Mahoney said.

“I think there’s a stereotype among journalists on viewing Christians, that somehow they’re rigid, they’re bigoted, they’re harsh, they’re judgmental, they’re mean-spirited, etc., and that comes forth,” Mahoney added.

“I think (Hume) was trying to reach out to Tiger and offer him hope, and I don’t think Brit Hume should be muzzled on areas of faith when your commentators should be able to freely share [their] opinions on a host of issues,” Mahoney said.

Bill Donahue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in New York City, said Hume was not “imposing” anything.

“He was simply proposing something publicly, and this should be taken at face value,” Donahue said.

Donahue said the double standard reveals itself in the absence of public outrage over atheists who have become “increasingly dogmatic and aggressive and very public and vocal” in expressing their contempt for Christianity.

“That doesn’t seem to bother anybody. It’s always Christianity,” Donahue said.

At heart, the backlash of “hatred” towards Hume’s comments is a reaction against conservative sexual mores, Donahue said.

“So much of it has to do with sexuality of course, because the cultural elites in our society don’t want to be told 'no' by anyone. And when they look at Christianity, particularly the Catholic Church, they see a religion which essentially speaks to virtues of sexual restraint. And that’s really what’s undergirding this,” he told 
27713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: January 07, 2010, 07:29:17 PM
No knowledge of the credibility of this site, so caveat lector:

Michael Yon Is A 4th Estate Prima Donna
Michael Yon, veteran of the Iraq War and one of the media based bloggers who got his start reporting on the Iraq War from the frontlines has attacked Customs and Border Protection. Very good origional reporting, but his recent Facebook attack on CBP is filled with lies.

Many otherwise good blogs have been commenting on this, but most have gotten it wrong: Michelle Malkin:

Weasel Zippers:

Gateway Pundit:

Hot Air:

They all accused the Transporation Security Administration (TSA) of questioning, then arresting Yon.

Well, when you are a conservative, it is important to get your facts straight. They just jumped to conclusions, airport + arrest + Michael Yon = TSA

Well, you guys got it wrong. Yon was detained, he was handcuffed, he was questioned, but it was not TSA, it was Customs and Border Protection. A note to conservative bloggers, TSA Transporation Security Officers, the screeners at the airport, do not have authority or authorization to handcuff you or ask questions about your income. They are not even issued handcuffs and can't carry their own.

You see Yon was arriving in the U.S. at SEATAC (Seattle/Tacoma) Airport. He was arriving from a foreign country, some information says it was Hong Kong. He obviously went through customs and immigration inspection. In the customs part, he decided he would not answer the perfectly legal questions that a Customs and Border Protection Officer (CBPO) asked him. One of the questions that CBPOs sometimes ask is how much money do you make. This is part of the profile of drug smugglers. It is a telling question, since most poor people do not or should not travel internationally. Alot do, but they are using your tax dollars from welfare payments, thank you very much, to travel, but still the same, it is a telling question. Alot of poor people who travel are drug smugglers, and although not the usual suspect, Yon fits a profile for drug smugglers, at least in part. He travels frequently to drug source countries, like Afghanistan and Thailand.

Here is his story from his Facebook profile:

"Got arrested at the Seattle airport for refusing to say how much money I make. (The uniformed ones say I was not "arrested", but they definitely handcuffed me.) Their videos and audios should show that I was polite, but simply refused questions that had nothing to do with national security. Port authority police eve...ntually came -- they were professionals -- and rescued me from the border bullies." (

Well, Michael Yon, even though he is now a member of the Fourth Estate, must learn that CBP does not just ask questions related to national security. And when you refuse to answer questions from a CBPO you will get delayed. It is a common tactic by illegal aliens and drug smugglers to challenge the CBPO and act aggressively, basically play the civil rights activist in order to intimidate and deflect the questioning by the CBPO.

But in such cases, that usually just resorts in a detailed inspection of your person and luggage, not usually getting handcuffed. You have to do quite alot to get handcuffed by CBP. Bascially Yon was being a prima donna, being a member of the Fourth Estate has probably gone to his head, and thought he was above inspection by officers of the United States at a Port-of-Entry.

Interstingly enough, there is also an immigration angle to this. Yon has been stopped before. He travels to the U.S. frequently with his Thai girlfriend or friend, who is not a legal permanent resident, but a visitor visa holder. Now it is quite unusual for an unmarried young Thai woman to get a visitors visa, much less when they have an American "boyfriend" who lives in the U.S.

Why you ask, because most Thai young women who previously got visitors visas came to the U.S. and never left.

The money quote: "Our Homeland Security was focusing on a 40-year-old Thai bank officer while there are real bad guys out there. Thailand and the United States have had good relations for 175 years, and Thailand is one of the few countries in the world that is proud to say they are friends of the United States."

Well, Michael, CBP has duties other than asking national security questions. While DHS and its components, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) like to brag about how much their mission is about national security and terrorism, that is not quite true.

First the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the agency charged by law, with protecting our national security, legislatively charged with fighting terrorism and espionage. That is not true of DHS and its components. Their primary responsibility is the day-to-day enforcement of our customs and immigration laws. Not to denigrate that, but that is their primary responsibility. Now proper and vigorous enforcement of those laws will impact on national security, but their primary responsibility is enforcing certain laws and those are the immigration laws and customs laws of the U.S. Check them out, they are in Title 8 of the United States Code, Title 19 of the United States Code, and sometimes Title 21 of the United States Code, and in cooperation with the Drug Enforcement Administration in the case of Title 21, obviously. (Wink, wink, to those who are in the know.)

It seems that we have a meme here with Yon. Apparently he will answer no questions that are not related to national security. Well, Michael, get with the program. As someone who has been in the Army, you should know about rules, laws and regulations. You followed them in the Army, why not know? Why are you giving cover to Islamists who will follow your policy of intimidation of CBP Officers in an attempt to bully their way past inspection of themselves and their possessions?

Also, Yon claims that he was rescued by the SEATAC Police Officers. Well, CBP is a federal agency and does not answer to a local police department. This just exposes you as the arrogant bully that you want to be. Perhaps SEATAC PD informed CBP that they had caught a journalist, then they let him go. You were detained, not arrested, just see the Supreme Court decision Terry v. Ohio to learn the difference.
You were also searched with the wide authority that the Supreme Court has acknowledge exists for border searches. See also United States v. Montoya de Hernandez.

Basically Michael Yon thinks that customs and immigration laws don't apply to him or his friends. Alot of people think that, but they are in jail, or President of the United States (just where is that birth certificate?).
27714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: ACTION items on: January 07, 2010, 07:09:49 PM
Call your senator to have C-span cover the negotiations on the Health Care bill as repeatedly promised by candidate Obama.
27715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Lies, damn lies, statistics on: January 07, 2010, 07:05:35 PM
A private sector IPO with numbers like this would get people sent to jail.

No. 58 • November 2009

Will Federal Health Legislation Cause the Deficit to Soar?
by Daniel J. Mitchell, Senior Fellow, Cato Institute

The health care plan approved by the Senate Finance Committee is supposed to reduce budget deficits over 10 years by $81 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.1 Similarly, the House version of health legislation would reduce 10-year deficits by $104 billion, according to the CBO.2 Supporters of these health care proposals thus argue that the plans are fiscally responsible.

However, enacting a $1 trillion entitlement program would greatly increase the burden of government spending. In addition, promises of lower deficits are a triumph of hope over experience. Government forecasters have a very poor track record of predicting costs. More realistic assumptions suggest that health legislation could easily push up 10-year deficits by $600 billion.

Government-run health care will cost more than the politicians are telling us. The tax increases will not collect as much money as the politicians think. And, to put it mildly, promises of future spending restraint are naïve. The following are some of the reasons why current federal health proposals will mean not just more spending and higher taxes, but also larger deficits and added debt.

1.      The Senate plan would increase federal spending by nearly $900 billion, while the House plan would increase spending by more than $1.2 trillion, according to the CBO. These estimates are far too low because they do not properly measure how people and businesses change their behavior in response to government handouts.


1.      Errors in forecasts by the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation could have large fiscal implications. If revenues and offsets are 25 percent below the forecast and spending is 50 percent higher than estimated, the 10-year deficits will be $602 billion to $860 billion higher.


1.      There are incentives for companies to dump their health plans since workers will then get more take-home pay and be able to obtain health insurance using subsides and handouts from the government. This will dramatically increase budgetary costs.


1.      The spending estimates are far too low because they do not recognize that politicians in the future will be tempted to expand subsidies as part of routine vote-buying behavior, similar to what happened with Medicare and Medicaid.


1.      Future savings in the Senate plan are based on unrealistic gimmicks such as a “Medicare Commission” and a “Failsafe Budgeting Mechanism.” These absurd ploys share one thing in common—a hollow commitment to be frugal in the future while spending more today.


1.      Even the savings that might be real—such as reductions in Medicare payment rates for physicians’ services in the Senate plan—are pushed off into the future, where they can be cancelled by politicians seeking to curry favor with key constituencies.


1.      Much of the new spending is “backloaded,” meaning that it does not take effect for several years. This makes the long-run costs appear deceptively low. More than 90 percent of the spending in the Senate plan takes place in the second five years of the 10-year projection, and more than 84 percent of the spending in the House plan is also in the last five years.


1.         Outlays in both plans will be climbing by about 8 percent annually toward the end of the 10-year period, much faster than growth in the overall economy.3



1.         The federal government’s ability to predict healthcare spending leaves much to be desired. When Medicare was created in the 1960s, the long-range forecasts estimated that the program would cost about $12 billion by 1990. It ended up actually costing $110 billion that year, or nine times more than expected.4


Source: Joint Economic Committee.Medicare Spending in 1990,Estimated and Actual$12$110$0$40$80$1201967 Estimate for 1990Actual Spending in 1990Billions of Dollars

1.      When Medicaid was created in 1965, it was supposed to be a very small program with annual expenditures of about $1 billion.5 It has now become a huge $280 billion per year burden for federal taxpayers.


1.         Medicaid’s disproportionate share hospital (DSH) program is a sobering example. Created in 1987 to subsidize hospitals with large numbers of uninsured patients, the program was supposed to cost $1 billion in 1992, but actually cost a staggering $17 billion.6


Source: Joint Economic Committee.Medicaid DSH Spending in 1992,Estimated and Actual$1$17$0$5$10$15$201987 Estimate for 1992Actual Spending in 1992Billions of Dollars

1.         The Medicare Catastrophic Coverage of 1988 was repealed after less than two years, in part because some provisions were already projected to cost six times more than originally forecast. 7

2.      The tax provisions in the health proposals will impose considerable damage while raising less revenue than expected. The House legislation will supposedly raise more than $460 billion from higher income tax rates, but actual collections would likely be far smaller because of reduced incentives to earn income and increased incentives to avoid and evade taxes.


1.      The Senate plan has big tax increases on high-cost insurance policies, medical devices, and health insurance providers. However, a substantial share of those projected revenues would evaporate as businesses and consumers alter their behavior to protect themselves from the taxes.


1.         With the phase-out of insurance subsidies in some plans, taxpayers with modest incomes will face marginal tax rates of nearly 70 percent, a staggering penalty on upward mobility that will hinder overall economic performance.8


1.      To add insult to injury, the Internal Revenue Service would get new enforcement powers to determine if people have acceptable (in the eyes of politicians and bureaucrats) health insurance.


Deficits and debt will skyrocket if government-run healthcare is expanded. This will happen if either the House or Senate plan becomes law. Big increases in federal spending and higher taxes are a bleak combination that would substantially slow U.S. economic growth.

1 Congressional Budget Office, letter to Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), October 7, 2009.

2 Congressional Budget Office, letter to Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY), October 29, 2009.

3 Congressional Budget Office, letter to Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), October 7, 2009.

4 Joint Economic Committee, “Are Health Care Reform Cost Estimates Reliable?” July 31, 2009. The JEC cites 1967 testimony by Robert J. Myers.

5 Clay Chandler, “Health Care Costs a Long-Term Headache,” Washington Post, October 17, 1993.

6 Joint Economic Committee, “Are Health Care Reform Cost Estimates Reliable?” July 31, 2009.

7 Marilyn Moon, “The Rise and Fall of the Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act,” National Tax Journal 43, no. 3 (September 1990).

8 Greg Mankiw, “Marginal Tax Rates from Health Reform,” October 10, 2009
27716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security and American Freedom on: January 07, 2010, 06:57:07 PM
A point as profoundly sound as it is obvious.

Maybe if we are nice, no more will come , , ,


Man threatening Jews hauled off flight in Miami

Thu Jan 7, 2010 9:40am EST

MIAMI (Reuters) - A man who described himself as a Palestinian and said he wanted to "kill all the Jews" was hauled off a Detroit-bound Delta Air Lines flight in Miami and arrested, authorities said on Thursday.

The plane was taxiing away from the terminal at Miami International Airport on Wednesday night when 43-year-old Mansor Mohammad Asad of Toledo, Ohio, began making loud anti-Semitic comments and chanting, apparently in Arabic, Miami-Dade police said in a statement.
"I'm Palestinian and I want (to) kill all Jews," he said, according to witnesses.
The pilot returned the aircraft to the terminal and a Taser device was used to "neutralize" Asad after he charged an arresting officer, the police statement said.
The incident came amid heightened airline security concerns following the attempted bombing of a Northwest flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day.
Police said Asad faced several criminal charges including threats against a public servant and disorderly conduct. The Delta plane departed for Detroit following a thorough security sweep.
(Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Will Dunham)
27717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Libertarian themes on: January 07, 2010, 11:42:55 AM

Let us remember we are sitting at the dinner table having a pleasant post-prandial conversation. 

Crafty Dog
27718  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 07, 2010, 11:39:58 AM

Changing subjects a bit:

Taylor Disputes Bernanke

Please consider Taylor Disputes Bernanke on Bubble, Says Low Rates Played Role.

John Taylor, creator of the so-called Taylor rule for guiding monetary policy, disputed Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke’s argument that low interest rates didn’t cause the U.S. housing bubble.

“The evidence is overwhelming that those low interest rates were not only unusually low but they logically were a factor in the housing boom and therefore ultimately the bust,” Taylor, a Stanford University economist, said in an interview today in Atlanta.

“It had an effect on the housing boom and increased a lot of risk taking,” said Taylor, 63, who was attending the American Economic Association’s annual meeting.

Taylor echoed criticism of scholars including Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, who say the Fed helped inflate U.S. housing prices by keeping rates too low for too long. The collapse in housing prices led to the worst recession since the Great Depression and the loss of more than 7 million U.S. jobs.

“It had an effect on the housing boom and increased a lot of risk taking,” said Taylor, 63, who was attending the American Economic Association’s annual meeting.

Taylor echoed criticism of scholars including Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, who say the Fed helped inflate U.S. housing prices by keeping rates too low for too long. The collapse in housing prices led to the worst recession since the Great Depression and the loss of more than 7 million U.S. jobs.

“Low rates certainly contributed to the crisis,” Baker said in an interview on Jan. 3. “I don’t know how he can deny culpability. You brought the economy to the brink of a Great Depression.”
27719  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: January 07, 2010, 11:15:42 AM

GM wrote "They should scrap the background requirements as well. After all, we did the last presidential election."

I take this to be ironic commentary  cheesy
27720  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 07, 2010, 11:01:50 AM
Forgive me, but I think upon reflection you may wish to reconsider you "got what they earned" language.  We know little about the details here and I one for am loathe to criticize men who were in the thick of the worst and most dangerous area of a badly led war.
27721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: January 07, 2010, 10:54:51 AM
"All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of superintending providence in our favor. ... Have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth -- that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the Ground without His notice, is it probable that an Empire can rise without his Aid?" --Benjamin Franklin
I have been asked on occasion what most defines the difference between conservatives and liberals. There are, of course, many clear delineations between our diametrically opposed philosophies, but there is one that is defining.

Conservatives, The Patriot variety, serve a higher calling -- First Principles -- a calling superior to their own self-interest -- with the objective of enhancing individual and national liberty for the benefit of all.

Ideological liberals, on the other hand, no matter what the cause, tend to be motivated by pathological egocentrism, which generally correlates with the acquisition of power and the suppression of liberty.

The opposition between these competing philosophies is an expression of the light and dark sides of humanity. The struggle between liberty and tyranny is as old as mankind, and though our nation was founded on constitutional Rule of Law -- republican government in support of liberty -- the assault on freedom has been constant since our founding.

However, while this attack is more vigorous today than at anytime in our history, liberty will prevail.

Here, I give you just one small example of why I know that liberty, the Light, the Truth, will trump the darkness of tyranny.

Every year since we launched PatriotPost.US as a touchstone for Patriots across the nation, we have had significant growth over the previous year, both in readership and revenue, which has ensured our growth in successive years.

We are chartered as a "for profit" business (so we can exercise our First Amendment rights without IRS permission) but are donor based, and like most other public interest organizations, we raise most of our operating revenue within the last two months of each year. Needless to say, this highly irregular business model causes some heartburn for our bankers, accountants and legal team -- not to mention your executive editor.

In 2008, as we were ramping up our year-end fundraising campaign, economic collapse coincided with the election of über-Leftist Barack Hussein Obama, though that may have been no coincidence. I prepared to make the necessary cuts to scale our operation to what the economy would support. But much to my relief, our readers fully funded our budget (oh me of little faith).

This year, I was even more apprehensive about sustaining our mission, not to mention the modest budgets of our young staff and their families. However, I am pleased to report that, once again, thanks to Patriots across the nation, we met our budget requirements in full. More remarkable is the fact that PatriotShop.US -- all sales proceeds from which support our mission -- experienced a year-over-year sales increase of more than 30 percent.

I deduce three conclusions from these donor and sales results.

First, our readers are not, in the words of Thomas Paine, "summer soldiers and sunshine patriots." You, fellow Patriots, are cut from the same cloth as our Founding Fathers and all American Patriots throughout our history. You do not "shrink from the service of our country" when times are tough.

Second, these results indicate that a broad swath of Americans are taking a much more active stand for liberty, for now that they see its antithesis in the Oval Office and Congress, they have a tangible example of tyranny in action.

Third, concern for the preservation of liberty is so endemic that we received funding from many readers who fall within three groups from which we do not ask support: Military personnel, students and those in the mission field, or who otherwise have limited income. The letters below are representative of many we received from Patriot donors in those groups.

"I have been a reader of The Patriot for 10 years. I know you do not seek support from uniformed Patriots, but as a Marine officer and combat veteran of two wars, one who understands the full implications of my oath to 'support and defend' our Constitution against enemies 'foreign and domestic,' it gives me great pleasure to support the 'Voice of Constitutional Conservatism.'"

"As a student with no income other than what I earn through summer internships, I have a very limited budget. But the value of The Patriot to my education and growth has been incalculable. Consequently, I make my small but sincere contribution. My one regret is that any amount donated to The Patriot will never adequately reflect its worth."

"I just made a donation, even though I was laid off last month and am still unemployed. I receive The Patriot every day and I have been putting off a donation because I didn't think I could afford it. I realize now that I can't afford not to support this beacon of liberty."

"As a retired command fighter pilot with more than 500 hours in combat, I am honored to support the vital work you are doing for our great nation. Every day, I look forward to The Patriot and its inspiration to reaffirm my devotion to our Constitution."

These words speak volumes.

Though we have a long way to go to restore the integrity of our Constitution, we should all take comfort in the fact that America's strength, her Patriot defenders, are standing up and standing firm, and our ranks are growing. Indeed, the time has come.

And the Left is taking note.

Just this week, two senators, a member of the house, a governor and a lieutenant governor, all members of the once noble Democrat Party, announced that they will not seek re-election in 2010.

This is good news, for it is the strongest indication that all the activism this past year is taking its toll. But the great news, the unwavering verity upon which we can all depend in good times and bad, is, in the words of that wise sage Ben Franklin, "God governs in the affairs of men."

This year, and the two that follow, present enormous challenges for all who want to restore Rule of Law. We are mindful of the enduring words of George Washington at the dawn of American liberty: "We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."

In 2010, The Patriot will respond to the exigency of our times, in part, by sponsoring the Essential Liberty Project. Clarity of mission and purpose -- First Principles -- are needed now, more than ever.

Let's make this a year to which our posterity will point and say, "They rose in defense of Liberty," a year that overflowed with Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Thanks to all of you for your support and for your steadfast loyalty to our Constitution and Republic. Make peace with no oppression and keep your powder dry!

Semper Vigilo, Fortis, Paratus et Fidelis!

Mark Alexander
Publisher, PatriotPost.US
27722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Complex Jihadi Problem on: January 06, 2010, 11:51:07 PM
Some very grim thoughts in here , , ,

Yemen's Complex Jihadist Problem
U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, in a Jan. 5 televised statement, warned that the United States would target al Qaeda in Yemen. Obama said, “As these violent extremists pursue new havens, we intend to target al Qaeda wherever they take root, forging new partnerships to deny them sanctuary, as we are doing currently with the government in Yemen.” The president’s remarks came after a meeting with top intelligence and national security officials to discuss security reviews following the failed Christmas Day attack on a Detroit-bound U.S. airliner claimed by the global jihadist network’s Yemen-based node.

The Dec. 25 attempt to destroy an American commercial aircraft nearly succeeded. If it had, it would have been the deadliest attack in the United States since 9/11. The incident places considerable political pressure on the Obama administration to take action against those behind the plot to destroy the Delta flight. In other words, it is politically necessary for Obama to order U.S. military action in Yemen to reassure Americans that something is being done to counter this latest jihadist threat.

There are serious limits, however, to how far Washington can go in terms of operationalizing the need to take action. For starters, U.S. intelligence and military have for several years been engaged in limited operations in the country in conjunction with their Yemeni counterparts. Obviously the existing counterterrorism/counterinsurgency cooperation was not sufficient enough to degrade the group.

“Any large-scale military offensive could prove to be the last straw to break the Yemeni camel’s back.”
But limited operations may not satisfy the administration’s critics at home, putting Obama in the uncomfortable position of having to get more aggressive in Yemen. The geopolitical reality of Yemen, however, makes any such venture an extremely risky one. Sanaa is not just threatened by jihadists.

The city faces a sectarian insurgency in the north, which has rendered the Saudi-Yemeni border area a de facto battleground for a Saudi-Iranian proxy war. In the south, President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s government faces a strong resurgent secessionist movement. And while it deals with these two very different forces, which could lead to state implosion, Sanaa relies heavily on support from extremely conservative tribes and radical Islamist forces — especially those in the security establishment — for its survival.

Therefore, any form of overt large-scale military offensive may well prove to be the last straw to break the Yemeni camel’s back. The Yemeni state is having a hard time battling jihadists on its own. One can only imagine the problems it would face if it allowed U.S. military operations on its soil. This is, in fact, exactly what al Qaeda desires.

Not having the wherewithal to topple a sitting government, the signature jihadist approach has been to lure the United States into a military intervention in Muslim countries. From al Qaeda’s point of view, such U.S. military intervention could create conditions of anarchy leading to the implosion of the state in question, thereby creating opportunities for the jihadists. In this case, it is not just about Yemen. There is also the danger of spillover into Saudi Arabia and the other energy-producing Persian Gulf Arab states on the Arabian Peninsula.

Yemen is very closely located to another major jihadist arena, across the Red Sea in Somalia — a country with a much worse jihadist problem and with Islamist militant linkages with Yemen. But the regional spillover would not only manifest itself in the form of jihadists. The fight between the Yemeni state and the jihadists could provide an opportunity for the Iranian-supported al-Houthis in the north to further escalate their insurgency. In essence, the Saudis would be faced with both an intensified jihadist and Iranian threat.

The Obama administration is well aware of these repercussions and is thus unlikely to opt for any major military campaign in Yemen. Instead it is likely to try to tackle this in a surgical manner through the use of intelligence, special forces and unmanned aerial vehicle strikes. The strategy employed in Yemen will largely be used to satisfy a political necessity at home, because any serious increase in involvement could make matters on the ground in Yemen even worse. But the problem is that similar measures are currently in place and are already making matters worse, albeit in a very gradual manner.

27723  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: January 06, 2010, 05:14:26 PM
 shocked shocked shocked
27724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Green? on: January 06, 2010, 10:59:32 AM
Tehran Imbroglio: No Green Revolution
THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT LASHED OUT today against the West’s perceived support of anti-government protests by arresting foreign nationals allegedly involved in the Dec. 27 Ashura protests, and publishing a list of 60 organizations waging “soft war” against Tehran. Meanwhile, Shirin Ebadi — an Iranian lawyer, human rights activist and 2003 Nobel Peace Prize winner — argued in her interview Monday with CNN that the Iranian government’s efforts to suppress demonstrations were failing and would only increase and radicalize the opposition, thus sowing seeds for the government’s downfall. This largely conforms to the analysis of most Western media and policy analysts, who see the ingredients for the downfall of the clerical regime in Iran as clearly arrayed; most believe it is only a matter of time before Tehran sees a regime change.

The picture painted by Western media and governments is, however, one that STRATFOR has refused to complacently accept.

The imbroglio on the ground in Tehran is perceived as a continuation of the “color revolutions” that began in the former Soviet Union, of which the Ukrainian 2004 “Orange Revolution” is a prime example. All the elements of a “color revolution” seem to be in play in Iran: a pariah regime maintains power despite what appears to be voter fraud while a supposedly liberal/pro-Western opposition launches a series of protests and marches that only accentuate the regime’s instability and unpopularity. Keeping with the latest fashion, the Iranian movement has even picked a color: green.

Western commentators who think they are witnessing regime change in Tehran could make an even more prescient parallel with the toppling of Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic in the so-called “Bulldozer Revolution” in October 2000. In late 2000, Milosevic’s Serbia was a pariah state that refused to budge over its crackdown in Kosovo in much the same way that Tehran refuses to budge on the issue of its nuclear program.

But if Iran today is to be compared to Serbia in 2000, then the regime change would have happened immediately following the June elections when protests reached their greatest numbers and the government was caught off guard by the virulence of the disturbance. Instead, a much more realistic (and poignant) analogy would be Serbia in 1991, when Milosevic faced his first serious threat — one he deftly avoided with a mix of brutality and co-option.

“The Western media confused liberal, educated, pro-Western university students in the streets of Belgrade for a mass movement against Milosevic…much like they do with Iran today.”
The March 1991 protests against Milosevic focused on the regime’s control of the country’s media. Opposition leader Vuk Draskovic — a moderate nationalist writer turned politician — was still smarting over his defeat in the presidential elections in December 1990, in which his party received no media access to Milosevic-controlled television. The March 9 protests quickly took on a life of their own. The assembly of nearly 150,000 people in Belgrade’s main square turned into a full-scale anti-Milosevic riot, prompting a brutal police crackdown that led to the Serbian military being called to secure the city’s streets. The next day Belgrade university students took their turn, but were again suppressed by the police.

Milosevic’s crackdown dampened enthusiasm for further violent challenges to his rule. Each time he was challenged, Milosevic retained power through a mix of restrictions (which were most severe in 1991) and piecemeal concessions that only marginally eroded his power. Meanwhile, Western media throughout the 1990s confused liberal, educated, pro-Western university students in the streets of Belgrade for a mass movement against Milosevic, much like they did with the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and with Iran today.

But ultimately Milosevic stayed in power for two main reasons: he had ample domestic, popular support in Serbia outside of Belgrade, and he had the full loyalty of security forces in Serbia at the time: interior ministry troops and their various paramilitary organizations.

Serbian opposition eventually employed two strategies that toppled Milosevic: co-option and compromise with elements of Milosevic’s regime. Co-option meant convincing the industrial workers and miners of Central Serbia, as well as ardent Serbian nationalists, that protesting against Milosevic meant more than being a university student who discussed Plato in the morning and marched against the government in the evening. Highly organized student opposition group Otpor (“Resistance” in Serb) made it their central mission to co-opt everyone from labor union members to nationalist soccer hooligans to the cause. This also meant fielding a candidate in 2000 elections — firmly nationalist Vojislav Kostunica — that could appeal to more than just liberal Belgrade and European-oriented northern Serbia (the Vojvodina region).

Meanwhile, compromise meant negotiating with pseudo security forces — essentially organized crime elements running Milosevic’s paramilitaries such as the notorious “Red Brigades” — and promising them a place in the future pro-Democratic and pro-Western Serbia. These compromises ultimately came to haunt the nascent pro-Western Belgrade, but they worked in October 2000.

These Serbian opposition successes stand in stark contrast to Iran today. In Iran, we have seen no concrete evidence that the opposition is willing or able to co-opt Iranians of different ideological leanings. As long as this aspect is missing, security elements will refuse to negotiate with the opposition since they will perceive the regime as still having an upper hand. Furthermore, security elements will ultimately not switch sides if they don’t have assurances that in the post-clerical Iran they will retain their prominent place or at least will escape persecution. This was the “deal with the Devil” that the Serbian opposition was ready to make in October 2000. But in Iran, at this moment, a deal with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and their paramilitary Basij forces is not possible.

Ultimately, Serbia in 2000 was also surrounded by a different geopolitical situation. Isolated in the Balkans with no allies — not even Russia, which at the time was weak and dealing with the aftershocks of the 1998 economic crisis — Western pressure exerted on Belgrade was inordinately greater than the pressure the United States and its allies can exert on Iran today. It is further highly unlikely that a military strike against Iran would have the same effect that NATO’s three-month air campaign against Serbia did in 1999. The scale of the two efforts is vastly different. Serbia was an easy target surrounded by NATO states, while Iran can retaliate in a number of ways against the United States and its allies, particularly by threatening global energy trade.

Evidence from the ground in Iran indicates that the ruling regime may undergo a certain level of calibration — especially as different factions within the clerical regime maneuver to profit from the imbroglio — but it is hardly near its end. The continuation of protests is not evidence of their success, much as the continuation of protests against Milosevic throughout the 1990s was not evidence that he was losing power. Milosevic not only held out for nearly 10 years after the initial 1991 protests, but he also managed to be quite a thorn in the side of the West, taking charge in numerous regional conflicts and going toe-to-toe with NATO.

We may later come to see in the Iranian protests of June and December 2009 the seeds of what might eventually topple the regime. But if we learn anything from the Serbian example, it is that a regime that survives a challenge — as Milosevic did in 1991 — lives to tough out a number of fights down the road.
27725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Apostasy on: January 06, 2010, 10:30:28 AM
14 minutes
27726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Killing Killer Asteroids on: January 06, 2010, 10:04:29 AM
Anatoly Perminov, head of the Russian Space Agency, caught scientists off guard when he called for a closed meeting of Russian scientists to counter a killer asteroid headed our way. He said that a potential impact from the asteroid Apothis around 2036 could kill hundreds of thousands of people. Immediately this conjured up images of Bruce Willis and his space cowboys riding the Space Shuttle to blow up a comet in the movie "Armageddon." Scientists, realizing that the danger is slight but real, have in fact seriously proposed various ways in which to deflect the asteroid.

As asteroids go, Apophis is a whopper, measuring 1,000 feet across, about the size of the Rose Bowl. In 2029 it will make its first pass around the earth, so close that it will travel beneath our communication satellites. In fact, you might see it whiz by overhead with binoculars. Depending on how it whips around the earth, there is a slight chance it might actually hit the earth when it returns in 2036 (but the latest calculations only show a one in a hundred thousand chance of impact).

The Russians take such a threat seriously, since a "city buster" hit Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908, flattening about a thousand square miles of forest, destroying about 100 million trees, and leaving a huge scar in the Earth. The object that struck Siberia was probably only 100 feet across, yet it created a blast about 1,000 times greater than the Hiroshima bomb. The shock waves were so intense they were detected in Europe. It created a strange glow which spread over Asia and Europe so that you could read the London papers at night. If it had hit Moscow, it would have completely flattened that city and beyond. A city-buster like that happens once every 100-300 years, with most of them hitting the oceans.

A hit from Apothis, however, would be another story. It would be a "country buster," capable of creating fire storms, shock waves, and a rain of fiery debris that would destroy an area almost the size of France, or perhaps the entire Northeast of the U.S. The energy of the impact would be roughly 100,000 times that of the Hiroshima bomb. If it hits the Pacific Ocean, it could also generate a huge tidal wave, a gigantic wall of water that could swamp most coastal cities in the Americas and Asia. An impact from an Apophis-like asteroid is estimated to happen once in a thousand years. (The worst case scenario, however, would be an impact from a "planet buster" as little as six miles across, like the one that hit Mexico and probably wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.)

Plans to counter such a hypothetical threat, however, are sketchy. A staple of science fiction is to send the Space Shuttle to blow it up. Bad idea.

First, this might only crack the asteroid, so you would have a swarm of deadly mini-asteroids headed your way. Second, the Space Shuttle can only circle the Earth; it is incapable of reaching deep space to intercept the asteroid. And it is going to be phased out this year anyway and a replacement won't be ready for about five years.

Several proposals made by scientists are currently being studied. One likely scenario is to nudge the asteroid while it is still in deep space so that it eventually misses the Earth. This deflection might be done via rockets to push the asteroid years before it passes the Earth. Or, the gravity of the spacecraft itself may be used to gently tug on its trajectory. Yet another proposal is to use mirrors and even paint to increase the pressure of sunlight so that, over decades, its trajectory is modified.

At present, none of the hardware for such a mission exists, so we will be helpless for years if a real threat emerges. And any serious proposal will require tens of billions of dollars, for new booster rockets and the complex machinery to deflect the asteroid.

But given these hard economic times, money is scarce even to maintain the current space program. The Augustine Report on the future of space travel, commissioned by NASA and presented to President Obama in October, stated that manned missions to the moon and Mars were "unsustainable" without a new injection of funds. However, it did leave open the possibility of landing on an asteroid. So one real possibility is to land a probe on the asteroid in 2029 so that scientists can study its properties as well as get a free ride through the solar system. We know so little about Apothis that it might be a solid object or just a loose collection of rocky debris held together by gravity.

Some conspiracy theorists have raised the dark possibility that any nation that can deflect an asteroid could also send it hurtling toward its enemies. But such a weapon is simply too unstable and unreliable to be taken seriously.

Indeed, scientists are applauding the Russian Space Agency for addressing the issue, even if the danger from Apophis is very slight. Sooner or later, we will face a catastrophic threat from space. Of all the possible threats, only a gigantic asteroid hit can destroy the entire planet. If we prepare now, we better our odds of survival. The dinosaurs never knew what hit them.

Mr. Kaku, a professor of theoretical physics at City College of New York, is the author of "Physics of the Impossible" (Doubleday, 2008) and host of "Sci Fi Science: Physics of the Impossible," on the Science Channel.
27727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 06, 2010, 09:39:52 AM
I disagree with your reasoning completely.

If there was dishonesty, then there are a great variety of fraud related statutes-- but that is not the issue here. 

The government pumped up a credit bubble (virtual zero interest rates, the FMs, the CRA, and more), people lied on their apps, banks didn't care because the loans were guaranteed by the FMs etc etc. 

If you allow the State to break contracts between private parties, the damage done is deep, profound, and long lasting. 
27728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Arrested?!?!?!? on: January 05, 2010, 10:45:55 PM
 Michael Yon Arrested at Seattle Airport


This seems to have happened about an hour ago. Apparently, Michael Yon was arrested at the Seattle Airport after refusing to tell airport security how much money he earns! This seems like a resonable reason to detain someone...

On Michael Yon's Facebook Fan Page, the following updates were posted:

Got arrested at the Seattle airport for refusing to say how much money I make. (The uniformed ones say I was not "arrested", but they definitely handcuffed me.) Their videos and audios should show that I was polite, but simply refused questions that had nothing to do with national security. Port authority police eve...ntually came -- they were professionals -- and rescued me from the border bullies. (About an hour ago)

And then this update shortly after:

When they handcuffed me, I said that no country has ever treated me so badly. Not China. Not Vietnam. Not Afghanistan. Definitely not Singapore or India or Nepal or Germany, not Brunei, not Indonesia, or Malaysia, or Kuwait or Qatar or United Arab Emirates. No county has treated me with the disrespect can that can be expected from our border bullies. (About an hour ago)

So apparently when one refuses to answer questions about their salary, they have placed the nation's security in jeopardy. This seems to be a gross overreaction from security. Yon is clearly not a security threat.
27729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 05, 2010, 09:40:54 PM
Well, we have half of one in the White House right now so you are more right than you realize cheesy
27730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Google blocking negative searches on Islam? on: January 05, 2010, 09:38:20 PM

I lack the google-fu to really follow this; anyone else?
27731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 05, 2010, 04:32:26 PM
I don't like what I read about the level of surveillance in the UK and I don't want it here.   

Anyway, I suspect we will continue to go around the mulberry bush on this one with each having little persuasive effect upon the other and so, for now  cheesy will sign off. 
27732  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: January 05, 2010, 04:28:02 PM
Wrong thread for this discussion.  Please use "The Way Forward for the American Creed"-- where I will be glad to entertain the notion of a Tea Party.
27733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 05, 2010, 11:43:41 AM
Aircraft I can see.  No worries-- though when armed with technology that enables high res photos from far away, that too becomes a problem.

Unmanned drones designed to hang out and spy generally undetected, generally I have a big problem.
27734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: January 05, 2010, 11:17:51 AM
George Friedman of Statfor argues powerfully that geo politics will determine more about a nations alliances than political structures.  I think he overstates his case, but he makes it well.

I just tried laying my hands on his statement of the US's five imperatives but did not succeed.   embarassed
27735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 05, 2010, 11:08:25 AM
Well, as it I see it, that is precisely the fight we have ahead.
27736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 05, 2010, 11:05:27 AM
"**The fouth requires a reasonable expectation of privacy. Nose picking, ass scratching or sex in a public location has no reasonable expectation of privacy.**

If no one is in sight, or if I am on private property bounded by a solid fence, I should be able to blissfully pick my nose, scratch my ass, get great fellatio, etc without wondering if some eye in the sky is watching.
27737  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Latin America on: January 05, 2010, 10:52:19 AM
Interesting piece.  May I ask that you post it on the US Foreign Affairs thread?  I'd like to respond with some George Friedman based thoughts on Geopolitics.
27738  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Glen Beck on: January 05, 2010, 10:48:31 AM

Nice to see that article.

I've never heard his radio show.  We have satellite TV and I simply set the DVR to record the show-- which airs here in LA at 14:00 and 21:00.
27739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 05, 2010, 10:42:08 AM
That seems like a sound reading to me.
27740  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: January 05, 2010, 10:40:01 AM
I too am hearing this.
27741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Housing/Mortgage/Real Estate on: January 05, 2010, 10:39:11 AM
What about the sanctity of contract?!?  shocked
27742  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glenn Beck on: January 05, 2010, 07:47:49 AM
See today's entry in the Glenn Beck thread.
27743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Transitional Week on: January 05, 2010, 07:47:11 AM
Glenn is back from vacation and his show last night announced some big changes. 

Starting yesterday, there will be 5 days summarizing what GB says he has proven during the past year.

Starting next week, the show will be about taking America back.

I will be watching EVERY night this week and next.

I'm thinking/hoping this has a good shot at becoming the spark that ignites the flames of American freedom.

27744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process on: January 05, 2010, 07:40:05 AM
Good post.

Like the eternal flame of the Hanukah menorah, we seek to keep the flame of Truth alive around here.  It is always darkest before the dawn.  Ben Franklin told us the Constitution gave us a republic "if we can keep it."  Time to stand up for the American Creed.
27745  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on debt in 1816 on: January 05, 2010, 07:05:16 AM
"We must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Samuel Kercheval, 1816
27746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 05, 2010, 07:00:54 AM
More good wit GM, you're on a roll.

Lets see where this leads.

Ultimately, yes.

I reject utterly the notion that if I am doing nothing wrong I have nothing to fear.  Maybe I want to pick my nose, or scratch my ass.  Maybe I want to have great sex in the middle of a field.   Maybe I just want to act in ways I don't want others to see.

If a policeman is sitting on the traffic light, I know he is there.  If there is some mini-high-tech camera, I probably don't know I am being watched.  From a human and budgetary POV, it is impossible to put a policeman on every traffic light.  In contrast t is quite easy to put a camera on every light and every corner.  Just look at the UK.

If there is a helicopter with a policeman in it, from a human and budgetary POV, there is a limit to how many helicopters buzzing around there will be.  A drone costs a tiny fraction of a helicopter to buy and to operate-- and as a practical matter we the American people, a people who have fought to establish our freedom, will not know whether we are being watched or not. 

With this, we enter the landy of the creepy and the Orwellian.
27747  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: January 05, 2010, 06:49:22 AM
Very good one Rachel!

Va'etchanan Parshah Lesson

By Malka Touger
The boys from Bunk Twelve were hiking down a mountain trail. After a while, they came to a clearing with cliffs on either side.

"Hello," shouted out Mia.

"Hello, Hello," came the answer as Mia's voice bounced back and forth from cliff to cliff. Soon the entire bunk was doing it. The valley became filled with the echoing of the campers' voices as each one tried out his vocal chords.

"Why do some echoes last longer than others?" Leah asked his counselor, Rachel.

"It depends on how loudly you shout," Rachel explained. "Creating an echo is like throwing a ball against the wall; the harder you throw, the harder the ball bounces back. So, the louder you call out, the more powerful are the sound waves and the more powerfully they will bounce back when they meet something hard which they cannot penetrate. When the sound waves bounce back, they create an echo.

"Calling out in the mountains is liking throwing a ball in a ball court where you have one wall in front of you and one wall behind you. The ball will continue bouncing back and forth until its strength ebbs away. Here too, the voices continue to bounce from one cliff to another until they lose their strength. The stronger the voice, the longer it will continue to echo."

"Wait a minute," Leah said. "I remember, you said that when G-d gave the Ten Commandments, He spoke and there was no echo. G-d surely spoke very loudly. According to what you just explained, His voice should still be echoing throughout the world."

"Now, that's a great question," Rachel replied, smiling. "But you forgot one thing. I said that sound waves bounce back when they meet something they cannot penetrate. Our sages explain that there was a miracle and G-d's voice did not have an echo. It did not bounce away from the world. Instead, it sounded from one end of the world to the other, and the world absorbed G-d's voice.

"When G-d gave the Ten Commandments, He intentionally changed the rules of nature. His voice changed the world, making it ready to receive holiness. Ever since then, doing a good deed blends in with the nature of the world; it helps the world follow the voice of G-d which it accepted at the time of the giving of the Torah."

"The same is true when we study the Torah. We are not just learning laws and ideas. We want the Torah to seep into us and be absorbed in our innermost selves, changing the way we think and feel. The Torah should not bounce back, away from us. It should become part of our nature."
27748  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers Team Kali Tudo on: January 05, 2010, 06:25:37 AM
Great times in class yesterday-- a strong group operating at a good level, enabling me to really go into things.  We are getting really pumped up for the camp that Kenny Johnson and I will be teaching in early February.

Yesterday included spending some time solving front leg kicking counters to our portal moves (In DBMA terminology we say "Stepping through a portal to the magical dimension where martial arts and crafts actually work")

The Adventure continues!
27749  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / WSJ: a theory demolished on: January 04, 2010, 07:59:45 PM
The recession of 2008-09 has undercut one of the most destructive social theories that came out of the 1960s: the idea that the root cause of crime lies in income inequality and social injustice. As the economy started shedding jobs in 2008, criminologists and pundits predicted that crime would shoot up, since poverty, as the "root causes" theory holds, begets criminals. Instead, the opposite happened. Over seven million lost jobs later, crime has plummeted to its lowest level since the early 1960s. The consequences of this drop for how we think about social order are significant.

The notion that crime is an understandable reaction to poverty and racism took hold in the early 1960s. Sociologists Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin argued that juvenile delinquency was essentially a form of social criticism. Poor minority youth come to understand that the American promise of upward mobility is a sham, after a bigoted society denies them the opportunity to advance. These disillusioned teens then turn to crime out of thwarted expectations.

The theories put forward by Cloward, who spent his career at Columbia University, and Ohlin, who served presidents Kennedy, Johnson and Carter, provided an intellectual foundation for many Great Society-era programs. From the Mobilization for Youth on Manhattan's Lower East Side in 1963 through the federal Office of Economic Opportunity and a host of welfare, counseling and job initiatives, their ideas were turned into policy.

If crime was a rational response to income inequality, the thinking went, government can best fight it through social services and wealth redistribution, not through arrests and incarceration. Even law enforcement officials came to embrace the root causes theory, which let them off the hook for rising lawlessness. Through the late 1980s, the FBI's annual national crime report included the disclaimer that "criminal homicide is largely a societal problem which is beyond the control of the police." Policing, it was understood, can only respond to crime after the fact; preventing it is the domain of government welfare programs.

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Barbara Kelley
 .The 1960s themselves offered a challenge to the poverty-causes-crime thesis. Homicides rose 43%, despite an expanding economy and a surge in government jobs for inner-city residents. The Great Depression also contradicted the idea that need breeds predation, since crime rates dropped during that prolonged crisis. The academy's commitment to root causes apologetics nevertheless persisted. Andrew Karmen of New York's John Jay College of Criminal Justice echoed Cloward and Ohlin in 2000 in his book "New York Murder Mystery." Crime, he wrote, is "a distorted form of social protest." And as the current recession deepened, liberal media outlets called for more government social programs to fight the coming crime wave. In late 2008, the New York Times urged President Barack Obama to crank up federal spending on after-school programs, social workers, and summer jobs. "The economic crisis," the paper's editorialists wrote, "has clearly created the conditions for more crime and more gangs—among hopeless, jobless young men in the inner cities."

Even then crime patterns were defying expectations. And by the end of 2009, the purported association between economic hardship and crime was in shambles. According to the FBI's Uniform Crime Reports, homicide dropped 10% nationwide in the first six months of 2009; violent crime dropped 4.4% and property crime dropped 6.1%. Car thefts are down nearly 19%. The crime plunge is sharpest in many areas that have been hit the hardest by the housing collapse. Unemployment in California is 12.3%, but homicides in Los Angeles County, the Los Angeles Times reported recently, dropped 25% over the course of 2009. Car thefts there are down nearly 20%.

The recession crime free fall continues a trend of declining national crime rates that began in the 1990s, during a very different economy. The causes of that long-term drop are hotly disputed, but an increase in the number of people incarcerated had a large effect on crime in the last decade and continues to affect crime rates today, however much anti-incarceration activists deny it. The number of state and federal prisoners grew fivefold between 1977 and 2008, from 300,000 to 1.6 million.


The spread of data-driven policing has also contributed to the 2000s' crime drop. At the start of the recession, the two police chiefs who confidently announced that their cities' crime rates would remain recession-proof were Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton and New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. As New York Police Commissioner in the mid-1990s, Mr. Bratton pioneered the intensive use of crime data to determine policing strategies and to hold precinct commanders accountable—a process known as Compstat. Commissioner Kelly has continued Mr. Bratton's revolutionary policies, leading to New York's stunning 16-year 77% crime drop. The two police leaders were true to their word. In 2009, the city of L.A. saw a 17% drop in homicides, an 8% drop in property crimes, and a 10% drop in violent crimes. In New York, homicides fell 19%, to their lowest level since reliable records were first kept in 1963.

The Compstat mentality is the opposite of root causes excuse-making; it holds that policing can and must control crime for the sake of urban economic viability. More and more police chiefs have adopted the Compstat philosophy of crime-fighting and the information-based policing techniques that it spawned. Their success in lowering crime shows that the government can control antisocial behavior and provide public safety through enforcing the rule of law. Moreover, the state has the moral right and obligation to do so, regardless of economic conditions or income inequality.

The recession could still affect crime rates if cities cut their police forces and states start releasing prisoners early. Both forms of cost-saving would be self-defeating. Public safety is the precondition for thriving urban life. In 1990s New York, crime did not drop because the economy improved; rather, the city's economy revived because crime was cut in half. Keeping crime rates low now is the best guarantee that cities across the country will be able to exploit the inevitable economic recovery when it comes.

Ms. Mac Donald is a contributing editor at the Manhattan Institute's City Journal.
27750  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Salute to West Point on: January 04, 2010, 07:55:52 PM
Even in the age of emails, blogs and tweets, the formal letter can still command attention. Especially when it bears the signature of the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point—and congratulates the recipient on his appointment.

Along with hundreds of other anxious high-school seniors, my nephew opened such a letter over the Christmas holidays. For his family, it brought back many memories. Just about all of us live within an hour's drive of West Point. For most of our lives, the academy has been a beautiful backdrop: for football games, wedding receptions, the occasional drive up for lunch at the Thayer Hotel, and so on.

Now the beauty mixes with apprehension. For me it was brought home in 2006, when I attended the commencement as part of the president's entourage. Theirs was the first class to enter West Point after the attacks of Sept. 11. As I watched these happy graduates, I thought: In a few years, some of those celebrating today will not be with us. Thus far, alas, war has claimed two young men who received the gold bars of a second lieutenant that day: Lt. Nick A. Dewhirst, killed in Afghanistan; Lt. Timothy W. Cunningham, killed in Iraq.

Can my nephew comprehend the sacrifice he commits himself to? The critics say we romanticize war and hide the realities from those who will do the dying. I'm not so sure. At West Point this past autumn for a football game, I went to the refrigerator of a helicopter pilot-turned-instructor in search of a Diet Coke. On the door I found a yellow ribbon with the name of the officer's West Point roommate, an infantry captain named Doug DiCenzo who was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad when his son was just 16 months old.

.On a campus where the cemetery includes the dead from two centuries of American wars, sobering reminders are everywhere: the young wife and children left behind, the good friends who do not make the trip home, the empty space at the reunion. The true glory of West Point is that all know the fear and cost of war but refuse to surrender to them.

Whether character can be taught is an age-old question; usually we refer to its being built. West Point does not pretend its cadets are immune from the normal temptations of our culture. After all, they come from the same towns and high schools other universities draw from. The difference is that at West Point, words such as duty, honor and country are spoken without irony—and a scandal is a scandal because behavior is still measured against standards.

A paper on the academy's Web site explains the honor code this way: "An officer who is not trustworthy cannot be tolerated; in some professions the cost of dishonesty is measured in dollars—in the Army, the cost is measured in human lives. The ability of West Point to educate, train and inspire outstanding leaders of character for our Army is predicated upon the functional necessity of honesty."

In other words, the promise is not that West Point will produce the next generation of Grants, MacArthurs, Eisenhowers or Petraeuses—though it will. The promise is more consequential. To the moms and dads of all those in uniform, West Point says: When America puts your sons and daughters in harm's way, they will be led by men and woman of character and ability.

In the days since my nephew's acceptance, the reaction has been interesting. Some are impressed. Others . . . well, let's just say the assumption often seems to be that a student chooses a service academy because he or she was not accepted anywhere better, or is going simply because it's free.

In my nephew's case, neither is true. His father and his father's father both served in the Navy; his other grandfather was a Marine. So his loved ones are a little saddened when we come across people apparently unable to process the idea that an intelligent young American with the world at his feet could be led by a sense of duty to West Point in a time of war.

When I look at my nephew, I can still see the baby I once lugged to the car in his carrier. A few springs from now, if he rises to this challenge as we know he will, I will sit in that stadium high above the Hudson as Timothy Dore, USMA Class of '14, takes his place in that long gray line. Around me that day will be thousands of other uncles, aunts, moms, dads, brothers, sisters and grandparents who are now, with great pride, passing around a letter from the West Point superintendent like the one my nephew received.

This academy is not for everyone. But the choice made by these young men and women makes this uncle want to salute.
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