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27701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: March 08, 2009, 08:52:18 PM
I'm confused.  What is the Iranian birth rate?
27702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: BO adopts Bush's position on: March 08, 2009, 08:41:53 PM
The Obama Administration this week released its predecessor's post-9/11 legal memoranda in the name of "transparency," producing another round of feel-good Bush criticism. Anyone interested in President Obama's actual executive-power policies, however, should look at his position on warrantless wiretapping. Dick Cheney must be smiling.

APIn a federal lawsuit, the Obama legal team is arguing that judges lack the authority to enforce their own rulings in classified matters of national security. The standoff concerns the Oregon chapter of the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, a Saudi Arabian charity that was shut down in 2004 on evidence that it was financing al Qaeda. Al-Haramain sued the Bush Administration in 2005, claiming it had been illegally wiretapped.

At the heart of Al-Haramain's case is a classified document that it says proves that the alleged eavesdropping was not authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. That record was inadvertently disclosed after Al-Haramain was designated as a terrorist organization; the Bush Administration declared such documents state secrets after their existence became known.

In July, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the President's right to do so, which should have ended the matter. But the San Francisco panel also returned the case to the presiding district court judge, Vaughn Walker, ordering him to decide if FISA pre-empts the state secrets privilege. If he does, Al-Haramain would be allowed to use the document to establish the standing to litigate.

The Obama Justice Department has adopted a legal stance identical to, if not more aggressive than, the Bush version. It argues that the court-forced disclosure of the surveillance programs would cause "exceptional harm to national security" by exposing intelligence sources and methods. Last Friday the Ninth Circuit denied the latest emergency motion to dismiss, again kicking matters back to Judge Walker.

In court documents filed hours later, Justice argues that the decision to release classified information "is committed to the discretion of the Executive Branch, and is not subject to judicial review. Moreover, the Court does not have independent power . . . to order the Government to grant counsel access to classified information when the Executive Branch has denied them such access." The brief continues that federal judges are "ill-equipped to second-guess the Executive Branch."

That's about as pure an assertion of Presidential power as they come, and we're beginning to wonder if the White House has put David Addington, Mr. Cheney's chief legal aide, on retainer. The practical effect is to prevent the courts from reviewing the legality of the warrantless wiretapping program that Mr. Obama repeatedly claimed to find so heinous -- at least before taking office. Justice, by the way, is making the same state secrets argument in a separate lawsuit involving rendition and a Boeing subsidiary.

Hide the children, but we agree with Mr. Obama that the President has inherent Article II Constitutional powers that neither the judiciary nor statutes like FISA can impinge upon. The FISA appeals court said as much in a decision released in January, as did Attorney General Eric Holder during his confirmation hearings. It's reassuring to know the Administration is refusing to compromise core executive-branch prerogatives, especially on war powers.

Then again, we are relearning that the "Imperial Presidency" is only imperial when the President is a Republican. Democrats who spent years denouncing George Bush for "spying on Americans" and "illegal wiretaps" are now conspicuously silent. Yet these same liberals are going ballistic about the Bush-era legal memos released this week. Cognitive dissonance is the polite explanation, and we wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Holder released them precisely to distract liberal attention from the Al-Haramain case.

By the way, those Bush documents are Office of Legal Counsel memos, not policy directives. They were written in the immediate aftermath of a major terrorist attack, when more seemed possible, and it would have been irresponsible not to explore the outer limits of Presidential war powers in the event of a worst-case scenario. Based on what we are learning so far about Mr. Obama's policies, his Administration would do the same.


27703  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: March 07, 2009, 07:27:41 AM
Grateful for this day that I will be taking my son Cub Scout camping.
27704  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Julian Austin Rodriguez: a student of Surf Dog on: March 07, 2009, 07:26:55 AM
Surf Dog tells me he was swarmed by a large group.


ESCONDIDO ---- A 17-year-old died Sunday after being stabbed during a fight at a house party on Felicita Road, officials said.

Julian Austin Rodriguez of San Jacinto was pronounced dead at the scene, the medical examiner's office said.

Escondido police Lt. Bob Benton said police were called to break up the fight in the 2000 block of Felicita shortly before midnight.

Officers found Rodriguez on the ground near the party, suffering from a stab wound, Benton said.

Police and paramedics were unable to save the boy's life, he said.

On Sunday afternoon, police were still interviewing people who were at the party, Benton said.

They did not yet have an estimate of the number of witnesses to the stabbing because they believe many people fled when police arrived, he said.

Benton said it remained unclear what started the fight. No information was available about possible suspects.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Police Department at (760) 839-4722, or call the department's anonymous Tip Line at (760) 743-TIPS (8477).
27705  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 07, 2009, 05:44:29 AM
I must be getting even older and more out of date.

"Sloopier"?  huh
27706  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: March 07, 2009, 05:43:12 AM
I thought so  rolleyes cheesy
27707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / OctoMom on: March 07, 2009, 05:30:44 AM
What about those octuplets?

Government indifference to responsible fatherhood is what made the tragedy of OctoMom possible. 

What are we to make of the case of Nadya Suleman, the California woman who gave birth to octuplets through IVF? The case has inspired lots of internet chatter and water cooler talk. I maintain that insurance and government funding are the least of the worries of this case. The case illustrates two deep problems with our current attitudes toward artificial reproductive technology (ART). First, no one has a right to have a baby. Second, the state should not be in the business of deliberately separating father from their children.

No one has a right to a baby. That is because becoming a parent is something no one can do alone. It is the ultimate team effort. To say that a woman is entitled to a baby comes awfully close to saying that someone is required to help her have one. But this is obviously nonsense. No one is required to help her.

What we mean to say when we think that someone has a right to a baby is something like this: I have the right to try to persuade someone to cooperate with me in the physical act necessary to create a baby. I am not entitled to the cooperation of any one particular person, or to some generalized cooperation from society at large. I am only entitled to try.

If I am successful at getting someone’s cooperation, the child’s father has as much entitlement to that child as I do. Both parents have rights and responsibilities toward their child. This protects the legitimate interests of the child in having the care of both parents, as well as the legitimate interests of both parents in the well-being of their child. Those rights, which flow naturally from the organic reality of human sexuality, inhere in both parents.

Even if one agrees with me that no woman is entitled to the cooperation of any particular man in impregnating her, one might still object that my position is hopelessly old-fashioned and out-of-date. Technology relieves us of the necessity of having any kind of personal relationship with your child’s other parent. We allow unmarried women access to artificial reproductive technology, complete with anonymous sperm donors, on a regular, and completely unregulated basis. So why are we now all of a sudden hysterical over a woman exercising her “free choice” to implant all the frozen embryos she has on hand? Any woman is entitled to unlimited access to the use of artificial reproductive technology, provided that she can pay for it.

But look at what this position actually entails. We are permitting women to have babies without any relationship with their child’s father. Under normal circumstances, we think there is something wrong with parents who don’t cooperate with each other for the good of their children. In the case of artificial reproductive technology, we not only permit it, we enlist the aid of the state to make it possible. The legal intervention of the state permits a woman to do something that could not be possible in the ordinary course of human life: she can have a baby without ever having even a single encounter with her child’s father. The state enables all the arrangements that make this possible. The state makes the sperm donor, that is to say, the child’s father, a “legal stranger” to the child. The state preserves the anonymity of the donor, which obviously could not happen in a normal encounter.

Now children get separated from their parents all the time. But we usually recognize this as an unavoidable tragedy, from which any humane soul would spare the child if we could. But in the case of artificial reproductive technology with anonymous sperm donors, the state is actively separating a child from his or her father. The state itself is enabling something that we ordinarily strive to prevent.

And why is the state acting as the agent of separating children from parents? Because the woman wants the state to do so. But her desires are sufficient reason to violate so basic a right as the child’s right to affiliation with both parents.

This is the real tragedy which the Nadya Suleman case brings to light. It is not that she made an unconventional decision, in part using other people’s money, and counting on financial support from her parents and the state. The problem is that no one has a right to have a child, in the way that anyone with the ability to pay has a right to buy a house. This use of the language of the market assumes the very point that is necessary to prove, and which I believe can not be proved: namely that a child is a kind of commodity, to which other people have rights and entitlements. The child is not an object of rights, but a person who has rights of his or her own. The child is an end in himself or herself.

The violation of rights in this case took place well before she and her doctor decided to implant “a lot” of embryos, rather than a “reasonable” number. The real violation took place when she decided, with the help of the state, that she was entitled to the use of someone else’s genetic material to achieve her personal reproductive goals.

I am second to none in my admiration for the market. But not everything should be treated as if it were a commodity. Children are not commodities, and neither is someone else’s genetic material. It is time to rethink our whole approach to artificial reproductive technology.

Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse is the Founder and President of the Ruth Institute, and author of Love and Economics: Why the Laissez-Faire Family Doesn’t Work, newly reissued in paperback.
27708  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 06, 2009, 09:54:10 PM
At this point I doubt Jackson pyschologically/emotionally.
27709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: March 06, 2009, 08:18:44 PM
"Who can explain exactly how AIG has lost so much money?"

I gather that "mark to market" played the overwheliming role in its most recent losses.

The larger point about the opportunities for vast corruption is valid though IMHO.
27710  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The dreaded "I-word" on: March 06, 2009, 05:53:17 PM
Levy suspect's illegal status stirs media debate
Jennifer Harper (Contact)
Friday, March 6, 2009
It has become the dreaded "I-word" at many news organizations.

Much of the press has shunned the terms "illegal alien" or "illegal immigrant" to describe Ingmar Guandique, recently charged by police and federal prosecutors in the 2001 slaying of Washington intern Chandra Levy.

The designation of Guandique - who entered the U.S. illegally in 2000, was convicted of two nonfatal attacks on women and incarcerated - has reignited a debate over whether a person's immigration status is relevant to the story. Journalists also are debating whether the words "illegal" and "immigrant" are too loaded to use in an already emotionally charged story. And maybe even racist.

The National Association of Hispanic Journalists has long cautioned journalists against using the word "illegal" in copy and headlines. The practice is "dehumanizing" and "stereotypes undocumented people who are in the United States as having committed a crime," said Joseph Torres, the group's spokesman.

That has not prevented Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly from repeatedly calling Guandique an "illegal alien," though Fox used plain old "Salvadoran immigrant" in its news coverage. Guandique has been called "Salvadoran immigrant," "incarcerated felon," "suspect" and "jailed attacker" in assorted accounts.

"Too many journalists don't want to provide ammunition to those who want stricter immigration laws, so avoid connecting illegal immigrants to evidence which will bolster the argument that illegals cause harm," said Brent Baker of the Media Research Center.

"So, when police charge an illegal immigrant with murdering Chandra Levy, reporters for CBS, CNN and AP benignly describe him as a 'Salvadoran immigrant' or as simply 'a laborer from El Salvador,' " Mr. Baker said.

USA Today, the Washington Examiner and The Washington Times, however, referred to Guandique as an "illegal immigrant."

"We aspire to give our readers as much accurate and relevant information as possible. Ingmar Guandique's immigration status and his entire criminal history fell within our definition of reporting as near as possible the whole truth. We saw no reason to censor ourselves or deny information to our readers," said Michael Hedges, managing editor of the Examiner.

"The suggestion that immigration status somehow is irrelevant or should be treated like race in a crime story seems flawed. Being white or black or Hispanic or Asian isn´t a crime. Entering the country illegally is," said John Solomon, executive editor of The Times.

"If a suspect entered the country illegally and then committed a crime, as is alleged in the Levy case, it is relevant information to the reader. If the illegal immigrant hadn´t gotten into the country, he or she might not have been in a position to commit the crime," Mr. Solomon said.

The Washington Post, which has produced extensive coverage of the case in the past year, often opted for the term "Salvadoran day laborer," though the paper does not forbid its journalists from designating immigration status.

"We don't have any such policy. Our view is that any reference to someone's immigration status, employment, race, ethnicity, nationality or other characteristic should be relevant, and add context and understanding for readers. We are aware of the debate about whether describing the Chandra Levy suspect as an 'illegal immigrant' is scaremongering, and we've discussed it and believe we've stuck to our principle," said editorial spokeswoman Kris Coratti.

Although Guandique entered the country illegally, he was eligible for "temporary protected status" granted by President Bush to Salvadorans who had been in the U.S. before February 2001. Guandique had filed for that status and received authorization to reside and work in the U.S. while his application was pending. His request ultimately was denied.

"This is a very complicated matter. The goal is to make sure that journalists are specific and precise in the use of words like 'illegal,' 'immigrant' and 'undocumented.' It gets complex because different news organizations have different policies, and journalists themselves interpret those policies," said Robert Steele, a media ethicist at the Poynter Institute.

 "There is a widespread and I believe logical argument that the broad use of certain terms in disrespectful. The press should be particularly cautious and conservative in our use of the term 'alien.' It should only be used when referring to certain specific laws," he added.
"Our style is to use 'illegal immigrant,' rather than 'undocumented worker' or 'illegal alien,' for those who have entered the country illegally," said Darrell Christian, editor of the Associated Press stylebook.

"Based on Webster´s definitions, 'immigrant' is a broader term. 'Alien' is a resident who beats political allegiance to another country; 'immigrant' is someone who comes to another country to settle, whether legally or illegally. Not all non-U.S. citizens living in the United States would be considered workers, undocumented or not," Mr. Christian said.

The most recent AP coverage of the Levy case did not examine the legality of Guandique's immigration status, and refers to him as a "Salvadoran immigrant," "inmate" and "convict."

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Copyright 2009 The Washington Times, LLC
27711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: March 06, 2009, 05:26:55 PM

But may I suggest that the discussion here should be more about the actual strategies being pursued, their merits, their alternatives, etc.?

For example, the merits vel non of Russia being a supply line for us to Afg, what are the alternatives?  What about the idea of persuading Russia to work with us against Iranian nukes instead of for them?  Should we seek the collapse of Pak?  Should we be in Afpakia? etc etc
27712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: March 06, 2009, 04:58:38 PM
Ummm GM, that hardly qualifies as "Big Picture WW3"  cheesy
27713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia on: March 06, 2009, 04:57:30 PM
BOHICA Hillary
27714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: March 06, 2009, 01:22:30 PM
Well, supporting the breakaway of Bosnia seemed unsound to me.

So too did failing to increase the size of the US military in 2003-2004.  Even candidate Sen. Kerry was calling for an increase of 50,000 IIRC.  The failure to expand meant that the % of our capabilities we already had committed meant we couldn't back up what we were doing in Eastern Europe and Georgia.    Don't start what you can't finish-- Bush left us looking bad and weak in Georgia when the Russian busted their move, and his Afg strategy (strategy, what strategy?!?) now leaves us fcuked.  I don't think selling out eastern Europe in order to depend on the Russians in great part for supplies during a war that apparently we are expanding is anything near a plausible idea, but still the conversation needs to acknowledge it seems to me that Bush did not leave us well situated with Russia.
27715  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: March 06, 2009, 01:04:16 PM
Gracias por tus informes.  Veo que por cada post que hay casi doscientos personas leyendolo.  Impresionante!
27716  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: March 06, 2009, 01:01:32 PM
Busco entrar a la platica la semana que viene , , ,
27717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 06, 2009, 12:59:26 PM
As we continue with this CONVERSATION, lets all take at least three deep breaths and remember the code here.
27718  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: March 06, 2009, 12:57:39 PM
We share our POV of His Glibness, but in fairness the question must be raised-- Did not Bush overplay our hand with Russia and leave us badly off-balance?
27719  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 06, 2009, 12:51:17 PM
ONce I had a chiro tell me one leg was longer than the other and put a shim-- and it gave me a bad knee.   I prefer to think of it as aligment issues with the hip-- as discussed in the URL you cite.  I will give it a good look.  Thank you.
27720  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: March 06, 2009, 12:24:14 PM
Jackson-Jardine:  Predictions?
27721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: March 06, 2009, 10:46:16 AM
Fcuk!!!  Another gaddammed technology to vampire life!!!  angry angry angry tongue cheesy
27722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: March 06, 2009, 10:39:27 AM
I will make a mental note about the reliability of that source, thank you for the catch.

Rachel has sidebarred me.  She may be taking a break from things here.  I am working on persuading her to change her mind.
27723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: March 06, 2009, 10:37:00 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Change in U.S. Foreign Policy
March 6, 2009 | 0410 GMT
The foreign ministers of NATO states gathered Thursday in Brussels to discuss the pressing geopolitical topics of the day: Russia, Afghanistan and Iran. For some, it was a summit filled with hope; for others, intense fear; for all, groundbreaking change.

At the summit, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton first leaked — and then openly announced — that she would like to invite Iran to an international conference on March 31 to map out a strategy for Afghanistan. This marks the first real sign from the Obama administration that it intends to follow through with its pledge to extend a hand to Iran, should Tehran “unclench its fist” — beginning with a multilateral setting in which Iran’s regional influence would be recognized.

Although this is clearly a break from Washington’s past pattern of dealings with Tehran, it should not come as a surprise. The toppling of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001 and of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003 presented the Iranians and the Americans with a menu of mutual interests, particularly in shaping post-Baathist Iraq. Relations over the years have been rocky (to say the least), but various bouts of behind-the-scenes cooperation have brought them to a point that it’s now politically acceptable to talk about diplomatic engagement in both Iran and the United States. In other words, this is much more of an evolutionary, rather than a revolutionary, change.

The real revolutionary change lies in the U.S. administration’s plans for dealing with Russia. When the NATO meeting began Thursday morning, Lithuania — on behalf of the Baltic states — tried to block a resolution that would restore ties with Moscow, under the guise of the NATO-Russia Council. Lithuania — along with Estonia, Latvia and Poland — has made it abundantly clear to Washington that it does not trust the Russians. These countries are all relying heavily on the planned U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems in Central Europe to guarantee their security against a resurgent Russia. By early afternoon, however, Lithuania’s protests had been swept aside and NATO states voted unanimously — in line with the wishes of Washington and other heavyweights — to restore ties with Moscow.

Then, Clinton moved on to the more contentious item on her agenda: breaking the news to the Georgian delegation – in a hastily scheduled meeting that took place shortly after the NATO-Russia Council vote — that the United States needs some space in their relationship. This means Tbilisi will more or less need to fend for itself the next time Russia starts rumbling in its neighborhood. In other words: The Georgians should forget about NATO membership for now, because the Americans have bigger problems to work on with the Russians.

This is Barack Obama’s biggest break from Bush administration policies. Even during the Russo-Georgian war last August and the shutoff of natural gas to Ukraine and downstream customers this winter, the Bush administration did not falter from its (at least rhetorical) position that the United States would stand behind the two former Soviet republics and continue pushing for their inclusion in NATO, at Russia’s expense. But the Obama administration, still fresh from the inauguration, is forging ahead with two big issues that require the Russians’ cooperation: developing an alternate supply route to Afghanistan and compelling Iran to curb its nuclear program. In order to win that cooperation, the Obama administration is very clearly signaling to Russia that it is willing to make concessions to get negotiations moving.

By disappointing the Georgians at this summit, the United States just moved the line of Russian influence in the former Soviet periphery several hundred miles to the west. The United States essentially told a recently war-ravaged country on the border of Russia — whose only real protection derives from its alliance with Washington — that the need for the United States to work out a deal with Russians is a bigger priority right now than providing for Georgia’s security. That message is likely to be met with horror throughout much of central and eastern Europe and with delight in Moscow. That said, the diplomatic stage is still being set, and there is much more to be worked out in the United States’ distrust-filled relationships with both Tehran and Moscow. We will be watching for Russia’s reaction to the U.S. gestures on Friday, when Clinton meets with her Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and for the level of actual progress in negotiations in the month before Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev meet.

Regardless, Thursday’s events provided very clear indicators that Washington has — for the time being — chosen a new foreign policy path that will win some and lose some. Now is the prime moment for the major global powers to reposition themselves.
27724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: An eye for two eyes on: March 06, 2009, 10:31:44 AM
Acid Trip
In 2004, an Iranian man named Majid developed feelings for a woman named Ameneh Bahrami. She did not reciprocate his interest, and he took the rejection poorly: He splashed acid on her face, causing her to go blind.

The Associated Press reports that an Iranian court has passed sentence in the case, ruling that Majid "should also be blinded with acid based on the Islamic law system of 'qisas,' or eye-for-an-eye retribution." But there's a catch:

Bahrami, who moved to Spain after the attack to get medical treatment, said Wednesday that under Iranian law, she is entitled to blind him in only one eye, unless she pays €20,000 ($25,110), because in Iran women are not considered equal to men.
"They have told us that my two eyes are equal to one of his because in my country each man is worth two women. They are not the same," she told Cadena SER. , , ,
27725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: March 06, 2009, 10:17:50 AM
Obama funds $20M tax payer dollars to immigrate Hamas Refugees to the USA

This is the news that didn't make the headlines...

By executive order, President Barack Obama has ordered the expenditure of $20.3 million in migration assistance to the Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza. The "presidential determination" which allows hundreds of thousands of Palestinians with ties to Hamas to resettle in the United States was signed on January 27 and appeared in the Federal Register on February 4th.

Few on Capitol Hill took note that the order provides a free ticket replete with housing and food allowances to individuals who have displayed their overwhelming support of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) in the parliamentary election of January 2006.

Now we learn that he is allowing hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refuges to move to and live in the US at American taxpayer expense.

To verify for yourself:
27726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Risks to travel in Mexico on: March 06, 2009, 08:31:41 AM
Mexico: Spring Break Travel and Security Risks
Stratfor Today » March 5, 2009 | 1257 GMT

A Mexican federal police officer at a checkpoint in the resort city of AcapulcoSummary
As spring break season approaches, warnings about travel to Mexico invite a closer look at security in the country’s popular resort cities.

On March 2, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives became the latest government agency to release an alert warning citizens of the risks associated with visiting Mexico. In previous weeks, the U.S. State Department and the Canadian foreign affairs department also have issued travel alerts, and several American universities have urged their students to avoid visiting Mexico during the spring break season.

The impetus for these warnings, of course, is the continuously deteriorating security situation in Mexico created by ongoing drug cartel violence and the government’s response. On one hand, the bulk of this violence is concentrated in specific areas far from the country’s coastal resort towns, and thousands of foreign tourists visit the country each year, encountering at most only minor security issues. On the other hand, organized crime-related violence is extremely widespread in Mexico, and there are few places in the country that do not carry significant security risks. Firefights between soldiers and cartel gunmen armed with assault rifles have erupted without warning in small mountain villages and in large cities like Monterrey, as well as in resort towns like Acapulco and Cancun. In addition, it is important to understand the risks associated with traveling to a country that is engaged in ongoing counternarcotics operations involving thousands of military and law enforcement personnel.

While there are important differences among the security environments in Mexico’s various resort areas, as well as between the resort towns and other parts of Mexico, there also are some security generalizations that can be made about the entire country. For one, Mexico’s reputation for crime and kidnapping is well-deserved, and locals and foreigners alike often become victims of assault, express kidnappings and other crimes. Further complicating the situation is the fact that the general decline in law and order, combined with large-scale counternarcotics operations that occupy the bulk of Mexico’s federal forces, has created an environment in which criminals not associated with the drug trade can flourish. Carjackings and highway robberies in particular have become increasingly common in Mexican cities along the U.S. border and elsewhere in the country — an important risk to weigh for anyone considering driving through the area.

Other security risks in the country come from the security services themselves. When driving, it is important to pay attention to the military-manned highway roadblocks and checkpoints that are established to screen vehicles for drugs or illegal immigrants. On several occasions, the police officers and soldiers manning these checkpoints have opened fire on innocent vehicles that failed to follow instructions at the checkpoints, which are often not well-marked. In addition, Mexico continues to face rampant police corruption problems that do not appear to be improving, meaning visitors should not be surprised to come across police officers who are expecting a bribe or are even involved in kidnapping-for-ransom gangs.

Along with the beautiful beaches that attract foreign tourists, many well-known Mexican coastal resort towns also offer port facilities that have long played strategic roles in the country’s drug trade. Drug traffickers have used both legitimate commercial ships as well as fishing boats and other surface vessels to carry shipments of cocaine from South America to Mexico. In addition, many drug cartels have often relied on hotels and resorts to launder drug proceeds. Because of the importance of these facilities, drug-trafficking organizations generally seek to limit violence in such resort towns — not only to protect existing infrastructure there, but also to avoid the attention that violence affecting wealthy foreign tourists would draw.

But despite the cartels’ best intentions, there remains great potential for violence in many of these resort areas. For one, the Mexican government occasionally conducts arrests and raids against suspected drug traffickers in resort cities, and it is all too common for these criminals — armed with assault rifles and grenades — to violently resist capture, sometimes leading to protracted firefights and pursuits throughout the town. Second, many of these areas are disputed territory for the country’s warring cartels, and these ongoing turf battles can easily get out of hand. In either case, collateral damage to innocent bystanders is a very real possibility, as two Canadian tourists discovered in Acapulco in February 2007 when they were wounded during a drive-by shooting.

While security issues are a concern in almost every area of Mexico, the various coastal resort communities have unique characteristics that influence the type of crime and cartel activity seen there.

Cancun has historically been an important port of entry for South American drugs transiting Mexico on their way to the United States. It traditionally has been an operating area for the Gulf cartel and its former enforcement arm, Los Zetas. Today, Zeta activity in the area remains very high, though drug flow through the region has tapered off as aerial and maritime trafficking have decreased. Consequently, the Zetas operating in the area have branched out to other criminal enterprises, such as alien smuggling, extortion and kidnapping. There also have been suggestions that many members of the Cancun city police have been on the Zeta payroll; these rumors surfaced after the February assassination of a retired army general on charges that he was involved in the killing. These developments brought new federal attention to the city, including rumors that the federal government planned to deploy additional military troops to the region to investigate the local police and conduct counternarcotics operations. Few, if any, additional troops have been sent to Cancun, but ongoing shake-ups in the law enforcement community there have only added to the area’s volatility.

Along with Cancun, Acapulco has been one of Mexico’s more violent resort cities during the last few years of the cartel wars. Rival drug cartels have battled police and each other within the city as well as in nearby towns. The nearby resort town of Zihuatanejo, for example, recently experienced a police strike after several officers there were targeted in a series of grenade attacks in February. Suspected drug traffickers continue to attack police in Zihuatanejo, and at least six officers have been killed within the past week.

Puerto Vallarta
Puerto Vallarta’s location on the Pacific coast makes it strategically important to trafficking groups that send and receive maritime shipments of South American drugs and Chinese ephedra, a precursor chemical used in the production of methamphetamine, much of which is produced in the surrounding areas of the nearby city of Guadalajara. It is believed that several of Mexico’s largest and most powerful drug cartels maintain a presence in Puerto Vallarta and the nearby municipality of Jarretaderas for the purposes of drug trafficking. Despite this presence, however, incidents of cartel violence in Puerto Vallarta are relatively low. Threats from kidnapping gangs or other criminal groups are also lower in this resort city than in the rest of the country, and, like elsewhere, there is no indication that Americans or other international tourists are specifically targeted.

Mazatlan, located just a few hundred miles north of Puerto Vallarta, has been perhaps the most consistently violent of Mexico’s resort cities during the past few months. It is located in Sinaloa state, one of the country’s most violent areas, and the bodies of victims of drug cartels or kidnapping gangs appear on the streets there on a weekly basis. As in other areas, there is no evidence that the violence in Mazatlan is directed against foreign tourists, but the sheer level of violence means the potential for collateral damage is high.

Cabo San Lucas
Located on the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, Cabo San Lucas has been relatively insulated from the country’s drug-related violence and can be considered one of the safer places in Mexico for foreign tourists. Although historically it has been a stop on the cocaine trafficking routes, Cabo San Lucas’ strategic importance decreased dramatically after the late 1990s as the Tijuana cartel lost its contacts with Colombian cocaine suppliers. As a result, the presence of drug traffickers in the area has been limited over the last five years. That said, it is still part of Mexico, and the city experiences problems with crime — including organized crime and kidnappings. Within the last year, for example, police have dismantled at least two kidnapping gangs in Cabo San Lucas, and in nearby La Paz, the son of a local airline owner was shot to death by several men armed with assault rifles
27727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: March 06, 2009, 08:06:29 AM
 huh huh huh
27728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan; Jefferson; Madison; Washington; Madison; Jefferson on: March 06, 2009, 07:42:01 AM
Now it doesn't require expropriation or confiscation of private property or business to impose socialism on a people. What does it mean whether you hold the deed ... or the title to your business or property if the government holds the power of life and death over that business or property? And such machinery already exists. The government can find some charge to bring against any concern it chooses to prosecute. Every businessman has his own tale of harassment. Somewhere a perversion has taken place. Our natural, unalienable rights are now considered to be a dispensation of government, and freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp as it is at this moment." --Ronald Reagan
"War is not the best engine for us to resort to; nature has given us one in our commerce, which if properly managed, will be a better instrument for obliging the interested nations of Europe to treat us with justice."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Pickney, 29 May 1797
"[C]ommercial shackles are generally unjust, oppressive and impolitic. ...f industry and labour are left to take their own course, they will generally be directed to those objects which are the most productive, and this in a more certain and direct manner than the wisdom of the most enlightened legislature could point out."

--James Madison, speech to Congress, 9 April 1789

"I think all the world would gain by setting commerce at perfect liberty."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, 7 July 1785

"Harmony, liberal intercourse with all Nations, are recommended by policy, humanity and interest. But even our Commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand: neither seeking nor granting exclusive favours or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of Commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing with Powers so disposed; in order to give trade a stable course."

--George Washington, Farewell Address, 19 September 1796
"A just security to property is not afforded by that government, under which unequal taxes oppress one species of property and reward another species." --James Madison


"The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive. ... I like a little rebellion now and then. It is like a storm in the atmosphere." --Thomas Jefferson

27729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bush and BO as CIC on: March 05, 2009, 04:40:31 PM
Second post of the afternoon:
27730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH: The Triumph of Banality on: March 05, 2009, 03:48:08 PM
March 4, 2009
The Triumph of Banality
Obama didn't invent dishonesty in political discourse — but he has a talent for it.
by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online

One of the most tired rhetorical tropes in Washington starts with, “We must . . . ” In the age of Obama, this is now usually followed by “Get the cost of our health care under control,” or “Invest in the education of our youth,” or “Spend wisely.” Such promises usually devolve into pleas for more money. They rarely explore how we ended up in the first place with such severe crises in health care and education — and with trillions in borrowing to spend trillions more that we do not have.

The cost of health care is spiraling out of control, and not just because the proverbial evil “they” (fill in the blank: pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies, medical corporations, trial lawyers, etc.) charge too much. Such profit-mongering entities may well gouge us, owing to a lack of competition, fear of lawsuits, or government mandates and interference. Yet the larger culprit is, of course, we the people. The cost of our health care is soaring because, to be frank, that health care is usually very good, and it does things routinely that almost no one else in the world contemplates — such as providing 83-year-olds with heart-valve replacements, 78-year-olds with hip and knee replacements, and those who drink, smoke, and are chronically obese with drugs and weekly doctor visits.

When I grew up in rural California in the 1960s, an obese uncle in his early 70s had “heart trouble.” That translated into some nitroglycerin tablets, and otherwise about the same regimen offered President Eisenhower after his in-office heart attack: Try to quit smoking, eat less, more bed rest — and good luck!

Forty years later, that same patient would have a bypass, and an expensive battery of medications and weekly follow-up doctor visits — and would make it not to 73 years old (as my uncle was when he died), but to 78 or 80, or even 90.

If we wish to get health-care costs under control, then we should at least be honest with the American people and admit that we are all paying a collective fortune largely for three reasons: (1) to keep functioning into their 60s those who drank, smoked, and ate too much and in a past era would have passed on at 60; (2) to give us all an extra three to five years of mobility and functionality after we reach 75; (3) to fit us up with IVs, feeding tubes, and respirators so that in our last six months of life we can die in a rest home or among machines and specialists in a hospital rather than in our own home with a few morphine tablets for pain and a bowl of soup with a straw on the nightstand.

My dentist warned me in 1962 to brush three times a day, since he could predict a depressing train of events to come for most of the more fortunate rural patients who could pay for his care: surely fillings in your 20s and 30s, hopefully caps in your 40s, maybe root canals and crowns in your 50s, and, unfortunately, false teeth after that. And now? We confidently expect all sorts of restorative dentistry and tooth implants to such a degree that the old common sight of a normal American middle-class fellow with a couple of missing teeth or even a shiny, crass glistening gold incisor is now the exception.

Again, health care is expensive because Americans, with some good reason, have decided that the ancient tragic view — we all age and break down, and pay for the sins of our 20s and 30s in our 50s and 60s — can at last be replaced by the therapeutic promise of vigor and health into our 80s.

What could be done? President Obama could try some honesty. Thus he might say, “We are spending hundreds of billions to keep us healthy, vital, and alive in ways unimaginable a few years ago. To keep our part of the bargain, we must then encourage the aging to remain active and working — and delay retirement. If we are living to 80 rather than 65, then surely we can start receiving Social Security benefits at 67 rather than at 62. What we save in postponed payouts can go to the greater cost of keeping us alive to 80.”

President Obama also promises historic new rates of high-school and college graduation. Again, he seems to think the present problem is the absence of money — as if brilliant, gifted, and motivated young people are ending up at McDonald’s rather than doing quantum physics because the bogeymen “they” raised the bar and didn’t give them enough college scholarship support.

More banality. The truth is quite different. First, too many of contemporary minority youth — the growing Hispanic and African-American underclass that may well soon make up 40 percent of our nation’s student body — for a variety of reasons beyond the government’s control (e.g., from inordinate patterns of illegitimacy; greater absence of two-parent families; above-average parental drug use, incarceration rates, and felony convictions; and a pervasive ethic of machismo that disdains “acting white” with your nose in a book), simply are not as competitive as other students in grade and high schools. In reaction, the good-hearted state, at the 11th hour of college entry, seeks to ensure an equality of result through affirmative action, set-asides, de facto quotas, and government subsidies. When poorly prepped minority students subsequently do not graduate from college at rates commensurate with other groups, the Left cries “racism” — and we are again back to asking for more money rather than a radical change of heart.

President Obama apparently cannot say, “Americans — each time you have a child out of wedlock, each time you take an illicit drug, each time you break the law or go to jail, each time you romanticize brutality rather than honor scholarship, each time you allege the racism of the others rather than look into your own soul, you do your own small part in ensuring that we might not educate your child as we should — no matter how many thousands of dollars we lavish upon him.”

Second, for all American youth, too much government money, not too little, is pouring into education. From some 20 years’ experience in higher public education in California, I have come to know a familiar student profile:

Age: 18–30
Units enrolled: 6–9
Residence: Still at home
Job: 20 hours a week at minimum wage to pay for car, insurance, video games, entertainment incidentals (but not rent, food, laundry, etc.)
Major: Either undeclared or changing
Goal: Return to school every other semester, work part-time, party, and put off becoming autonomous

Such students, in today’s grade-inflated university, are able to get Cs and Bs for F and D work, to cobble together state and federal loans, student work assistance, and grants — and to delay growing up while they sleepwalk through a largely therapeutic curriculum. Eric Holder may call us cowards for not discussing race more openly, but if he were to examine the current class offerings at a California public university, or read the syllabi of the courses, he would quickly discover that race, class, and gender are the common themes — an approach designed to encourage grievance and separatism, which consumes precious student hours at the expense of real learning in the liberal arts and hard sciences.

If President Obama is serious about education, then he might also remonstrate with universities to bare their books, keep their costs below the rate of inflation, mandate a cutoff of student support after four years, insist that the BA or BS degree be contingent on some sort of final exit examination, re-examine tenure — and invest in vocational and trade schools rather than continue subsidizing community-studies, sociology, education, and physical-education degrees. One brilliant plumber, gifted carpenter, or adept auto mechanic does more for the American economy (and our collective values) than a dozen 20-something sociology majors in progress.

All government officials talk of spending wisely, but they never tell us the true extent of their financial malfeasance. Imagine if last week, in his address to Congress, President Obama had said something like the following: “We must cut spending, since the borrowed money must come from somewhere. Either we print more paper dollars, and eventually ruin the value of our currency in the manner now common in Zimbabwe or Argentina; or we continue to borrow from the Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans, and therefore mortgage both our honor and our autonomy; or, in the manner of War Bonds during the Second World War, we will have to ask you all to forgo stocks, 401(k)s, and real-estate investments, and instead each month, as part of your patriotic duty, buy U.S. government savings bonds that garner almost no interest, to subsidize our nation’s lavish borrowing and spending.”

Only that way could we have an honest national debate on whether the proposed high-speed rail between Vegas and LA is worth making Americans soon pay $10 for a Big Mac; or whether federally subsidized community organizing justifies more begging for help from the Communist government in Beijing; or whether we would all like to accept 0.05 interest on our government bonds to finance the mortgage bailout of those in arrears on their home debt.

In short, for each word devoted to spending, we need one word of honest exegesis about “paying for it.”

For the last 20 years, all our presidents have talked much about health care, education, and spending, while saying little. Either they were not honest enough to tell us the truth — or they were convinced that, like children, we simply couldn’t handle it if they did.

©2009 Victor Davis Hanson
27731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 05, 2009, 11:33:53 AM

Beautiful.  One last request.  What is the URL of the clip itself?

Thank you.

27732  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 05, 2009, 01:08:52 AM

Thank you for the piece on spinal stenosis.  My sense of it is that is exactly why it is important that the femurs be balanced between internal and external, the hip flexors be released, and the hips be balanced.   I suspect in a large % of cases that sustained tension from the flexors contribute mightily to the stenosis.

Am I missing something here?
27733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word on: March 05, 2009, 01:05:30 AM
Thank you Rachel.  I like this one too.

Reminds me of a Jewish joke about an old man who has spent his life following all the little rules as specified in the Torah.  Every he prays morning and evening for God's assistance, but his life his for excrement.  His wife a shrew, his sons bums, the daughters unmarried etc etc.  Imagine a good Jewish joke well told here.

His neighbor is everything he is not.  Follows virtually none of the rules, never prays, etc and his life is great.  A beautiful wife who loves him, many children and grandchildren, all of them happy and productive, etc etc.

Finally one day as the old man is praying once again asking for help, he gets mad and angrily demands an explanation from God for all this.  He runs through the list of what he has done and how much he has prayed to God and contrasts his neighbor and their respective results.  In conclusion he shouts "God!  I want to know why!"

God answers him.  He says "Because you noodge (sp?) too much."

27734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: March 05, 2009, 12:29:38 AM
"I suppose, and I can't discern if it's inflation adjusted either."

Umm , , , as best as I can tell, that is another way of saying the same thing smiley

Its a pet peeve of mine.
27735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor:Russia's Sleight of Hand on: March 05, 2009, 12:27:33 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia's Sleight of Hand
March 4, 2009
Speaking at a press conference in Madrid on Tuesday, Russian President Dmitri Medvedev said that it was “not productive” to link talks over a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system in Europe with the perceived security threat from Iran, as proposed by Washington.

The topic came up as Medvedev spoke alongside Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at a press conference about a number of unrelated topics. The question he was responding to seemed to come out of left field, suggesting that the Kremlin planted the question, and perhaps the journalist. The question concerned a secret letter exchange between U.S. President Barack Obama and Medvedev — an exchange that was made public on Tuesday after a leak to The New York Times.

For the Russians, a quid pro quo on BMD and Iran is simply unacceptable. It isn’t because the Russians have heightened sensibilities — they are the masters of linking otherwise unrelated topics together for discussion and action — but because they are thinking much bigger these days. They want a grand bargain with the Americans, and they want it now.

Ever since it became clear in late 2003 that the war in Iraq would serve as more of a sandbag than a springboard for U.S. policy, the Russians have enjoyed the light streaming through a window of opportunity. Pretty much all U.S. ground forces are spoken for by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even if both wars were declared over today, it would be more than two years before all forces could be withdrawn, rested and re-equipped for future deployments. U.S. expeditionary capability is currently limited to the Air Force and naval aviation – tools that are hardly small fry, especially when you are on the receiving end, but which are not particularly useful for blocking Russian moves in states that were part of the Soviet Union, like Ukraine or Georgia. Blocking such actions can be done only with ground forces, and those forces simply are not available right now.

Thus, from the Russian perspective, the time to negotiate with the Americans about the broad spectrum of relations is now. They do not want a short list of quid pro quo arrangements that will let the Americans push off the bigger issues until another day. They want everything — and they mean everything — settled now, when their power is at a relative high compared to that of the United States.

The Russians do not want a simple rejiggering of existing disarmament treaties; they want fundamentally new ones that extend the current nuclear parity with the United States, codifying it to the finest detail possible. They want to shoot down the plans for BMD, a technology that one day could render the Russian nuclear deterrent obsolete. They want the United States to publicly recognize Russian dominance throughout the former Soviet Union, and — again, publicly — put an end to Western military, political and economic encroachment into Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Central Asia.

Part of the ability to get such a grand bargain at such a fortuitous time, of course, rests in the ability to convince the other side that your own tools are even more robust than they may seem. You must convince the other side your rise to power is inevitable. It comes to shaping perceptions, and in this the Russians are peerless.

Remember Cold War propaganda? It was certainly on parade in Spain, not just in the shaping of a press conference where the quid pro quo comments garnered such attention, but in a phalanx of “deals” that the Russian delegation signed.

Most notable was a supposedly ironclad natural gas swap deal between state energy firm Gazprom and Spain’s Repsol. Under the deal, Repsol would gain access to Russian production sites in exchange for Russian access to the Spanish retail market. The centerpiece of the agreement involves liquefied natural gas (LNG), which would come from the offshore Shtokman field. Again the message was dramatic: Even European states that do not currently receive Russian energy are lining up to get access! There is one glitch: Shtokman is a pipe dream. Gazprom possesses neither offshore nor LNG expertise. Shtokman will be realized only if Gazprom pays someone to develop it — and that certainly isn’t going to happen during a global credit crunch.

Not to be outdone, the Russian state press had its own response to the New York Times leak on the quid pro quo of BMD for Iran. Editorials expounded that there was no deal to be had because the Russians had already suspended their plans to deploy nuclear-tipped Iskander missiles to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Since the Russians had unilaterally declared this, there was no need for BMD.

This issue is primarily one of fine print. While the Iskanders have been tested, there is no evidence that any have actually been deployed — to Kaliningrad or elsewhere — and even less evidence that the Russians have figured out how to mate a nuclear warhead to the missiles. Put simply, the Russian “concession” sounds great to the untrained ear — no nukes in Europe — but the Iskanders are not yet a reality, let alone a bargaining chip.

Propaganda and disinformation are as much part of Russia’s negotiating package as its nuclear capabilities and Latin American populist movements. Russia never really abandoned the tool, but we haven’t seen such aggressive message-planting for quite some time. Then again, the stakes haven’t been this high in a while.
27736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 04, 2009, 11:00:54 PM
Is there a source or a URL with the datum?  Sorry to be so relentless, but I don't want to get hung out to dry on this one , , ,
27737  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy on: March 04, 2009, 10:59:46 PM
While conceptually the point that there are other variables that the marginal rate is relevant, I agree fully with Doug's point about the pivotal role of the marginal rate.

I too would like to see some examples of some of the data tossed out by JDN e.g. "the actual tax rates paid by US corporations are extraordinarily low, around 6%."

Also, the GAO IMHO is occasionally impartial-- and frequently at key moments does Congress's bidding. 
27738  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: March 04, 2009, 08:44:00 PM
I'd love to spread that around but I know I am going to be asked when Bush was speaking.  Do you have any idea Chad?
27739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran can develop 50 nukes on: March 04, 2009, 08:39:55 PM
second post of the day

Iran can develop a nuclear weapon within a year and has access to enough fissile material to produce up to 50 nuclear weapons, a panel of current and former U.S. officials advising the Obama administration said Wednesday.

By James Rosen
Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Iran can develop a nuclear weapon within a year and has ready access to enough fissile material to produce up to 50 nuclear weapons, according to a panel of current and former U.S. officials advising the Obama administration.

William Schneider, Jr., chairman of the Defense Science Board and a former under secretary of state in the Reagan administration, offered those estimates Wednesday during a news conference announcing the release of a new "Presidential Task Force" report on Iran by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

The report, entitled "Preventing a Cascade of Instability: U.S. Engagement to Check Iranian Nuclear Progress," was signed by a team of policymakers, former officials and Iran scholars that included Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind..
Also signing on to the early draft form were two individuals expected to play significant roles in the development of the Obama administration's foreign policy: former Ambassador Dennis Ross, named last month by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as a special envoy on the Iran issue, and Robert Einhorn, a former assistant secretary of state who is expected to accept a senior position dealing with non-proliferation issues.

The "cascade" refers to a set of 164 high-speed centrifuges used to enrich uranium to the high levels necessary to produce a nuclear weapon. The United Nations' nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, recently reported that Iran has enough low enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon, and currently has 5,600 centrifuges operating at its pilot enrichment facility in Natanz. Iran has declared its intention to add another 45,000 centrifuges over the next five years.

But Schneider said Iran has already "perfected the industrial aspects of enriching uranium," and can easily develop a nuclear weapon long before 2014.

"The ability to go from low enriched uranium to highly enriched uranium, especially if [the Iranians] expand the number of centrifuges, would be a relatively brief period of time, perhaps a year or so, before they'd be able to produce a nuclear weapon," Schneider said at the news conference. "So it's not a long-distance kind of problem."

Moreover, Schneider warned that the fundamentalist Islamic regime in Tehran -- which has threatened to wipe Israel off the map and equipped and funded regional terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah -- has access to significant amounts of the raw fissile material that would be the core ingredient in such a nuclear arsenal.

These indigenous natural resources include "yellowcake," the raw uranium ore that is converted to gas and then fed into the cascades of centrifuges. "Iran has enough yellowcake in the country to perhaps produce enough highly enriched uranium, if they go to that length, to produce perhaps fifty nuclear weapons," Schneider said.

Neither of the other two panel members who appeared alongside Schneider at the news conference -- Eugene Habiger, a retried four-star general and former commander in chief of the U.S. Strategic Command, and Nancy Soderberg, a former ambassador to the U.N. and National Security Council staffer during the Clinton administration -- disputed Schneider's claims.
The Washington Instiyute's nine-page report also warned that Israel "may feel compelled" to take military action to try to destroy or retard the Iranian nuclear program if Russia sells the S-300 surface-to-air missile system to Iran.

"Israeli leaders seem convinced that at least for now, they have a military option," the report states.

"However, Israelis see the option fading over the next one to two years, not only because of Iran's nuclear progress and dispersion of its program but also because of improved Iranian air defenses, especially the expected delivery of the S-300. ... Israel therefore may feel compelled to act before the option disappears."

Schneider, who along with Habiger and Soderberg conferred with high-level officials from Israel, Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain during a trip to the Middle East last December, reported that the Israeli military still believes it can hold the Iranian nuclear apparatus "at risk," but will no longer hold that view if Tehran acquires more sophisticated air defense technology from Moscow.
"It is the transfer of the S-300 that is likely to be a trigger for Israeli action," Schneider said. "The time frame is getting compressed and we need to act quickly if we are going to be successful [in resolving the issue peacefully]."

"Time is not on our side," agreed Habiger. "We've been mucking about on this issue for years now."

Habiger and Soderberg said it remains possible for the U.S., by working with Russia, China and Arab allies in the Persian Gulf, to persuade Iran not to obtain a nuclear weapon.

"They are a rational actor," Soderberg said of the Iranian regime. "They are deterrable." If the costs of pursuing the nuclear program are made sufficiently high, the panel said -- particularly through the imposition of sanctions on Iran's oil and gas sector -- Tehran's "cost-benefit analysis" could be changed.

Iran's defense minister visited Moscow last month to press for the Russian state-controlled arms exporter, Rosoboronexport, to sell Iran the S-300 system. Russian officials, at least publicly, were non-committal.
However, Iran signed a $700 million contract with Russia in 2005 to purchase 29 low-to-medium altitude surface-to-air missiles, which were delivered the following year and became operational in early 2007.
27740  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Time to defecate or get off the pot on: March 04, 2009, 04:11:24 PM
As a Presidential candidate, Barack Obama called a nuclear Iran "a grave threat" and said "the world must prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." But he also called for direct, high-level talks in the hopes that the mullahs could be persuaded to abandon their nuclear dreams.

APWe've never held out much hope for those talks, which would inevitably be complicated and protracted. Mr. Obama is already trying to lure Russian help on Iran by offering to trade away hard-earned missile defense sites in Eastern Europe. Russia's President claims to be unimpressed. And now it turns out that the rate at which Iran's nuclear programs are advancing may render even negotiations moot.

That's a fair conclusion from the latest report by the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency. Among other disclosures, the IAEA found that Iran has produced more than 1,000 kilograms of low enriched uranium (LEU), enough for a single bomb's worth of uranium after further enrichment. The IAEA also found that Iran had underreported its stock of LEU by about 200 kilograms, which took the agency by surprise partly because it only checks Iran's stockpile once a year. This is the basis for Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Michael Mullen's weekend acknowledgment that the U.S. believes Iran has enough fissile material to make a bomb.

Iran now possesses 5,600 centrifuges in which it can enrich uranium -- a 34-fold increase from 2006 -- and plans to add 45,000 more over five years. That will give Tehran an ability to make atomic bombs on an industrial scale. Iran has also announced that it plans to begin operating its Russian-built reactor at Bushehr sometime this spring. That reactor's purposes are ostensibly civilian, but it will eventually produce large quantities of spent fuel that can covertly be processed into weapons-usable plutonium.

That's not all. The IAEA says its inspectors have been denied access to a heavy water reactor in Arak, and that Iran has put a roof over the site "rendering impossible the continued use of satellite imagery to monitor further construction inside the reactor building." Most proliferation experts agree that the Arak reactor, scheduled for completion in 2011, can have no purpose other than to produce weapons-grade plutonium.

True to form, Iran continues to deny the IAEA access to other parts of its nuclear programs, including R&D facilities and uranium mines. "Regrettably," says the report, "as a result of the continued lack of cooperation by Iran in connection with the remaining issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme, the Agency has not made any substantive progress on these issues."

Further Reading
Click here to read the IAEA report.
The report contains much more of this. It is the latest in a long line of reports that should have sounded alarms but instead have accustomed the world to conclude that a nuclear Iran is something we'll just have to live with. Well, not the entire world: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned last week that "time is slipping through our fingers" when it comes to stopping Tehran. "What is needed," he added, "is a two-pronged course of action which includes ironclad, strenuous sanctions . . . and a readiness to consider options in the event that these sanctions do not succeed."

Nobody -- Mr. Obama least of all -- can doubt what Mr. Barak means by "options." Nor should the Administration doubt that an Israeli strike, however necessary and justified, could put the U.S. in the middle of a broader Middle East war. If Mr. Obama wants to avoid a security crisis in the first year of his watch, he will have to get serious about Iran now.
27741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: March 04, 2009, 04:04:00 PM
I find the visual presentation quite misleading.  A move from 200 to 400 is 100%, yet shows the same as a move from 1400 to 1600, which is roughly 14.14 %.
27742  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Alignment on: March 04, 2009, 08:55:53 AM
Thank you, looking forward to it! cool
27743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Expecting a deluge of mockery over this BO gem tomorrow? on: March 04, 2009, 12:45:34 AM
Expecting a deluge of MSM mockery over this BO gem tomorrow?

Yeah, right.

"What you’re now seeing is a profit and earnings ratios get to the point that buying stocks is a good thing if you have a long-term perspective on it,” the President said to reporters after meeting in the Oval Office with visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown."
27744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Poem on: March 03, 2009, 09:02:11 PM
Tax Poem
At first I thought this was funny...then I realized the awful truth of it.
Be sure to read all the way to the end!
Tax his land, 
Tax his bed, 
Tax the table 
At which he's fed. 
Tax his tractor, 
Tax his mule, 
Teach him taxes 
Are the rule. 
Tax his work, 
Tax his pay, 
He works for peanuts 
Tax his cow, 
Tax his goat, 
Tax his pants, 
Tax his coat. 
Tax his ties, 
Tax his shirt, 
Tax his work, 
Tax his dirt. 
Tax his tobacco, 
Tax his drink, 
Tax him if he 
Tries to think.. 
Tax his cigars,   
Tax his beers, 
If he cries 
Tax his tears. 
Tax his car, 
Tax his gas, 
Find other ways 
To tax his ass. 
Tax all he has 
Then let him know 
That you won't be done 
Till he has no dough. 
When he screams and hollers,
Then tax him some more, 
Tax him till 
He's good and sore.. 
Then tax his coffin, 
Tax his grave, 
Tax the sod in 
Which he's laid. 
Put these words 
Upon his tomb, 
'Taxes drove me to my doom...' 
When he's gone, 
Do not relax, 
Its time to apply 
The inheritance tax .& nbsp;
Accounts Receivable Tax 
Building Permit Tax 
CDL license Tax
Cigarette Tax 
Corporate Income Tax 
Dog License Tax 
Excise Taxes 
Federal Income Tax 
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA) 
Fishing License Tax 
Food License Tax 
Fuel Permit Tax 
Gasoline At x (44.75 cents per gallon) 
Gross Receipts Tax 
Hunting License Tax 
Inheritance Tax 
Inventory Tax   ; ;
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax) 
Liquor Tax 
Luxury Taxes 
Marriage License Tax 
Medicare Tax 
Personal Property Tax 
Property Tax 
Real Estate Tax 
Service Charge Tax 
Social Security Tax 
Road Usage Tax 
Sales Tax 
Recreational Vehicle Tax 
School Tax 
State Income Tax 
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA) 
Telephone Federal Excise Tax 
Telephone Federal Universal Service Fee Tax 
Telephone Fed er al,
State and Local Surcharge Taxes 
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax 
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax 
Telephone State and Local Tax 
Telephone Usage Charge Tax 
Utility Taxes 
Vehicle License Registration Tax 
Vehicle Sales Tax 
Watercraft Registration Tax 
Well Permit Tax 
Workers Compensation Tax 

Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was the most prosperous in the world.  We had absolutely no national debt, had the largest middle class in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids. 
What in the hell happened?
Can you spell 'politicians?' 
And I still have to 'press 1' for English!?!?!?!?
27745  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: March 03, 2009, 07:08:37 PM
Woof All:

Our editor ran into some serious technical challenges integrating the mini-DV footage and the new HD technology into one format.  These have now been resolved.

Sorry for the delay  embarassed
27746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: March 03, 2009, 03:24:20 PM
I agree with this article.

Unfortunately the Democrats (and RINOs like McCain) are determined to import tens of millions of Mexicans (the 10-15 million already here, plus their families and relatives because they will vote Democratic.

How can we separate these two issues when Congress goes to work on this?
27747  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 100,000 foot soldiers in cartels? on: March 03, 2009, 03:17:23 PM

100,000 Foot Soldiers in Mexican Cartels

March 3, 2009

by Sara A. Carter

To dilute the will to win is to destroy the purpose of the game. There is no substitute for victory.

--General Douglas MacArthur

The U.S. Defense Department thinks Mexico's two most deadly drug cartels together have fielded more than 100,000 foot soldiers - an army that rivals Mexico's armed forces and threatens to turn the country into a narco-state.

'It's moving to crisis proportions,' a senior U.S. defense official told The Washington Times. The official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the sensitive nature of his work, said the cartels' 'foot soldiers' are on a par with Mexico's army of about 130,000.

The disclosure underlines the enormity of the challenge Mexico and the United States face as they struggle to contain what is increasingly looking like a civil war or an insurgency along the U.S.-Mexico border. In the past year, about 7,000 people have died - more than 1,000 in January alone. The conflict has become increasingly brutal, with victims beheaded and bodies dissolved in vats of acid.

The death toll dwarfs that in Afghanistan, where about 200 fatalities, including 29 U.S. troops, were reported in the first two months of 2009. About 400 people, including 31 U.S. military personnel, died in Iraq during the same period.

The biggest and most violent combatants are the Sinaloa cartel, known by U.S. and Mexican federal law enforcement officials as the 'Federation' or 'Golden Triangle,' and its main rival, 'Los Zetas' or the Gulf Cartel, whose territory runs along the Laredo,Texas, borderlands.

The two cartels appear to be negotiating a truce or merger to defeat rivals and better withstand government pressure. U.S. officials say the consequences of such a pact would be grave.

'I think if they merge or decide to cooperate in a greater way, Mexico could potentially have a national security crisis,' the defense official said. He said the two have amassed so many people and weapons that Mexican President Felipe Calderon is 'fighting for his life' and 'for the life of Mexico right now.'

As a result, Mexico is behind only Pakistan and Iran as a top U.S. national security concern, ranking above Afghanistan and Iraq, the defense official added.

Other U.S. officials and Mexico specialists agreed with this assessment.

Michael V. Hayden, who left as CIA director in January, put Mexico second to Iran as a top national security threat to the United States. His successor, Leon E. Panetta, told reporters at his first news conference that the agency is 'paying ... a lot of attention to' Mexico.

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CBS' '60 Minutes' on Sunday that 'the stakes are high for the safety of many, many citizens of Mexico and the stakes are high for the United States no doubt.'

In a December interview with The Times, President Bush said his successor would need to deal 'with these drug cartels in our own neighborhood. And the front line of the fight will be Mexico.'

A State Department travel advisory last month seemed timed to caution U.S. students contemplating spring breaks south of the border.

'Some recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades,' the advisory said.

Independent analysts warn that narco-terrorists have infiltrated the Mexican government, creating a shadow regime that further complicates efforts to contain and destroy the cartels.

'My greatest fear is that the tentacles of the shadow government grow stronger, that the cartels have penetrated the government and that they will be able to act with impunity and that this ever stronger shadow government will effectively evolve into a narco-state,' said Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign policy studies at the Cato Institute in Washington.

The Mexican Embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on the drug war.

Mr. Calderon, however, has adamantly denied assertions that Mexico is becoming a failed state.

The Mexican government has 'not lost any part - any single part - of the Mexican territory to drug cartels,' he recently told the Associated Press.

His comments run counter to the impressions of U.S. law enforcement officials and some Mexican journalists reporting in Ciudad Juarez, a city just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

On a recent morning here, the once-bustling border town of 1.3 million was more like a ghost town.

'It's empty,' said a vendor of freshly baked tortillas and salsa, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Maria. 'We are in a losing war against the narco-traffickers. My business is dying, and soon it will join the graveyard of businesses that have had to close down. No one comes Juarez anymore.'

More than 1,800 people have been killed in the city since last year. The number continued to climb as The Times visited, with more than 20 deaths in one week.

In response to the challenge, U.S. and Mexican authorities have stepped up raids on cartel members in both countries.

Last week, U.S. and Mexican forces arrested 755 people, including 52 in the United States associated with the Sinaloa cartel. However, cartel leader Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is still at large. He is thought to be living in Sinaloa and protected by hired gunmen and Mexican federal officials on his payroll, said a U.S. law enforcement official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the ongoing intelligence operations.

Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spokesman Garrison Courtney said last week's raids put a dent in cartel operations but that public attention to the crisis has been long in coming.

'If we don't start paying attention, the violence - which has already spilled into the U.S. - is going to get worse,' Mr. Courtney said. 'This is a shared interest between the United States and Mexico to go after these drug traffickers.'

In recent years, however, U.S. officials have been reluctant to share information with Mexican counterparts, fearing that they will leak to the cartels.

DEA officials interviewed by The Times said the Sinaloa cartel employs Mexican federal officials, while other cartels pay off local governments and police.

'Many times, what you see isn't really what's going on,' said a DEA official, who asked not to be named because of the nature of his work. 'Many times the death of federal officers or local police isn't a cartel making the hit, but the cartels themselves in the government fighting one another. The same thing has happened to the Mexican army, where the cartels have also bought loyalty to move dope into the U.S.'

Mr. Courtney said the Mexican cartels have 'evolved into the Colombian cartels of the 1980s. Even the government's reaction to what's going on there right now and over the last five years is what the government of Colombia faced when they went after Pablo Escobar. Juarez has seen an escalation in that same type of brutal violence.'

Escobar was a Colombian drug lord who died in 1993.

More than 2,000 Mexican army soldiers and 425 federal police are patrolling in Chihuahua state, where Ciudad Juarez is located. More than 45,000 Mexican troops have been engaged in the drug war since Mr. Calderon took office in 2006.

Mr. Carpenter said the use of the Mexican military may be backfiring.

'I said at the time when Calderon called the military to take the lead role in confronting the cartels that he was undertaking a massive gamble,' Mr. Carpenter said. 'It is clear now that he is losing that gamble if he has not already lost it.'

A U.S. counterterrorism official said, however, that the severity of the crisis was bringing the U.S. and Mexican governments closer and that the CIA will work closely with Mexico if asked for guidance.

'Both countries have a common interest in clamping down on the cartels, and that has shaved away some of the underlying historical tensions in what has long been a close relationship with Mexico,' said the official, who spoke on the condition that he not be named. 'The Mexicans understand - perhaps more so than at any time in recent memory - that we are genuine about taking these people on.'

Meanwhile, thousands of Mexicans daily cross the Santa Fe bridge, which connects Ciudad Juarez to El Paso, ironically one of the safest U.S. cities.

'Why should we have to live like this?'asked Maria, the vendor. 'Why do our children have to die, while our neighbors live like nothing is happening? Every day we pray for something different, for peace. Every day our prayers are left unanswered.'
27748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / IBD on: March 03, 2009, 11:40:05 AM
Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told CNN on Sunday that Iran has enough enriched uranium to make a nuclear weapon.

"We think they do, quite frankly," Mullen said.

Tehran retorted that the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency monitors Iran's nuclear facility at Natanz. But the IAEA was shocked last month to find 209 kilograms more low-enriched uranium at Natanz than expected, enough for up to 25 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium — or one Hiroshima-sized device.

Speaking of incompetence, the U.S. intelligence community in October 2007 asserted "with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program."

That National Intelligence Estimate said: "Tehran's decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005."

That hasn't seemed to have quelled Admiral Mullen's worries.

Consider, after all, the long list of examples proving the cloudiness of our spy agencies' crystal ball. Two days before Saddam Hussein's march into Kuwait in 1990, for instance, the CIA was telling President George H.W. Bush that an invasion was unlikely.

Less than a week before Moscow's Christmas 1979 invasion of Afghanistan, the agency's top Soviet analysts claimed, "The pace of Soviet deployments does not suggest . . . urgent contingency."

And back in 1950, two days before 300,000 Red Chinese troops assaulted American forces in Korea, the CIA repeated to President Eisenhower that the Chinese would not invade.

How many times must Inspector Clouseau bumble before we stop taking him seriously?

Thomas C. Reed and Danny B. Stillman's new history of nuclear proliferation, "The Nuclear Express," recounts Israel's successful — and fairly speedy — quest for the bomb. By the spring of 1963, President John F. Kennedy knew Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion was lying about Israel's Dimona "civilian" reactor.

JFK "sent harsh messages to Ben-Gurion, but to no avail; delay and obfuscation were Ben-Gurion's stock and trade."

By the end of 1963 the Dimona plant was producing plutonium. By 1966, Israel apparently conducted "a hydronuclear or near-zero yield test" of a prototype bomb beneath the Negev desert.

Four decades later, delay and obfuscation are now Tehran's stock and trade. But unlike Tel Aviv, their nuclear intentions are not defensive but jihadist. And they are a clear and present danger to us.
27749  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 6 Pillars of Russian Power part 2 on: March 03, 2009, 10:53:11 AM

The Reality of Russian Power
So while Russia might be losing its financial security and capabilities, which in the West tend to boil down to economic wealth, the global recession has not affected the reality of Russian power much at all. Russia has not, currently or historically, worked off of anyone else’s cash or used economic stability as a foundation for political might or social stability. Instead, Russia relies on many other tools in its kit. Some of the following six pillars of Russian power are more powerful and appropriate than ever:

Geography: Unlike its main geopolitical rival, the United States, Russia borders most of the regions it wishes to project power into, and few geographic barriers separate it from its targets. Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic states have zero geographic insulation from Russia. Central Asia is sheltered by distance, but not by mountains or rivers. The Caucasus provide a bit of a speed bump to Russia, but pro-Russian enclaves in Georgia give the Kremlin a secure foothold south of the mountain range (putting the August Russian-Georgian war in perspective). Even if U.S. forces were not tied down in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States would face potentially insurmountable difficulties in countering Russian actions in Moscow’s so-called “Near Abroad.” Russia can project all manner of influence and intimidation there on the cheap, while even symbolic counters are quite costly for the United States. In contrast, places such as Latin America, Southeast Asia or Africa do not capture much more than the Russian imagination; the Kremlin realizes it can do little more there than stir the occasional pot, and resources are allotted (centrally, of course) accordingly.

Politics: It is no secret that the Kremlin uses an iron fist to maintain domestic control. There are few domestic forces the government cannot control or balance. The Kremlin understands the revolutions (1917 in particular) and collapses (1991 in particular) of the past, and it has control mechanisms in place to prevent a repeat. This control is seen in every aspect of Russian life, from one main political party ruling the country to the lack of diversified media, limits on public demonstrations and the infiltration of the security services into nearly every aspect of the Russian system. This domination was fortified under Stalin and has been re-established under the reign of former President and now-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. This political strength is based on neither financial nor economic foundations. Instead, it is based within the political institutions and parties, on the lack of a meaningful opposition, and with the backing of the military and security services. Russia’s neighbors, especially in Europe, cannot count on the same political strength because their systems are simply not set up the same way. The stability of the Russian government and lack of stability in the former Soviet states and much of Central Europe have also allowed the Kremlin to reach beyond Russia and influence its neighbors to the east. Now as before, when some of its former Soviet subjects — such as Ukraine — become destabilized, Russia sweeps in as a source of stability and authority, regardless of whether this benefits the recipient of Moscow’s attention.

Social System: As a consequence of Moscow’s political control and the economic situation, the Russian system is socially crushing, and has had long-term effects on the Russian psyche. As mentioned above, during the Soviet-era process of industrialization and militarization, workers operated under the direst of conditions for the good of the state. The Russian state has made it very clear that the productivity and survival of the state is far more important than the welfare of the people. This made Russia politically and economically strong, not in the sense that the people have had a voice, but in that they have not challenged the state since the beginning of the Soviet period. The Russian people, regardless of whether they admit it, continue to work to keep the state intact even when it does not benefit them. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Russia kept operating — though a bit haphazardly. Russians still went to work, even if they were not being paid. The same was seen in 1998, when the country collapsed financially. This is a very different mentality than that found in the West. Most Russians would not even consider the mass protests seen in Europe in response to the economic crisis. The Russian government, by contrast, can count on its people to continue to support the state and keep the country going with little protest over the conditions. Though there have been a few sporadic and meager protests in Russia, these protests mainly have been in opposition to the financial situation, not to the government’s hand in it. In some of these demonstrations, protesters have carried signs reading, “In government we trust, in the economic system we don’t.” This means Moscow can count on a stable population.

Natural Resources: Modern Russia enjoys a wealth of natural resources in everything from food and metals to gold and timber. The markets may take a roller-coaster ride and the currency may collapse, but the Russian economy has access to the core necessities of life. Many of these resources serve a double purpose, for in addition to making Russia independent of the outside world, they also give Moscow the ability to project power effectively. Russian energy — especially natural gas — is particularly key: Europe is dependent on Russian natural gas for a quarter of its demand. This relationship guarantees Russia a steady supply of now-scarce capital even as it forces the Europeans to take any Russian concerns seriously. The energy tie is something Russia has very publicly used as a political weapon, either by raising prices or by cutting off supplies. In a recession, this lever’s effectiveness has only grown.
Military: The Russian military is in the midst of a broad modernization and restructuring, and is reconstituting its basic warfighting capability. While many challenges remain, Moscow already has imposed a new reality through military force in Georgia. While Tbilisi was certainly an easy target, the Russian military looks very different to Kiev — or even Warsaw and Prague — than it does to the Pentagon. And even in this case, Russia has come to rely increasingly heavily on its nuclear arsenal to rebalance the military equation and ensure its territorial integrity, and is looking to establish long-term nuclear parity with the Americans. Like the energy tool, Russia’s military has become more useful in times of economic duress, as potential targets have suffered far more than the Russians.
Intelligence: Russia has one of the world’s most sophisticated and powerful intelligence services. Historically, its only rival has been the United States (though today the Chinese arguably could be seen as rivaling the Americans and Russians). The KGB (now the FSB) instills fear into hearts around the world, let alone inside Russia. Infiltration and intimidation kept the Soviet Union and its sphere under control. No matter the condition of the Russian state, Moscow’s intelligence foundation has been its strongest pillar. The FSB and other Russian intelligence agencies have infiltrated most former Soviet republics and satellite states, and they also have infiltrated as far as Latin America and the United States. Russian intelligence has infiltrated political, security, military and business realms worldwide, and has boasted of infiltrating many former Soviet satellite governments, militaries and companies up to the highest level. All facets of the Russian government have backed this infiltration since Putin (a former KGB man) came to power and filled the Kremlin with his cohorts. This domestic and international infiltration has been built up for half a century. It is not something that requires much cash to maintain, but rather know-how — and the Russians wrote the book on the subject. One of the reasons Moscow can run this system inexpensively relative to what it gets in return is because Russia’s intelligence services have long been human-based, though they do have some highly advanced technology to wield. Russia also has incorporated other social networks in its intelligence services, such as organized crime or the Russian Orthodox Church, creating an intricate system at a low price. Russia’s intelligence services are much larger than most other countries’ services and cover most of the world. But the intelligence apparatus’ most intense focus is on the Russian periphery, rather than on the more expensive “far abroad.”
Thus, while Russia’s financial sector may be getting torn apart, the state does not really count on that sector for domestic cohesion or stability, or for projecting power abroad. Russia knows it lacks a good track record financially, so it depends on — and has shored up where it can — six other pillars to maintain its (self-proclaimed) place as a major international player. The current financial crisis would crush the last five pillars for any other state, but in Russia, it has only served to strengthen these bases. Over the past few years, there was a certain window of opportunity for Russia to resurge while Washington was preoccupied with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This window has been kept open longer by the West’s lack of worry over the Russian resurgence given the financial crisis. But others closer to the Russian border understand that Moscow has many tools more potent than finance with which to continue reasserting itself.

27750  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: March 03, 2009, 10:52:02 AM
The Financial Crisis and the Six Pillars of Russian Strength
March 3, 2009

By Lauren Goodrich and Peter Zeihan

Related Link
The Russian Resurgence
Putin’s Consolidation of Power
Russian Energy and Foreign Policy
Russia’s Military

Under the leadership of Vladimir Putin, Russia has been re-establishing much of its lost Soviet-era strength. This has given rise to the possibility — and even the probability — that Russia again will become a potent adversary of the Western world. But now, Russia is yet again on the cusp of a set of massive currency devaluations that could destroy much of the country’s financial system. With a crashing currency, the disappearance of foreign capital, greatly decreased energy revenues and currency reserves flying out of the bank, the Western perception is that Russia is on the verge of collapsing once again. Consequently, many Western countries have started to grow complacent about Russia’s ability to further project power abroad.

But this is Russia. And Russia rarely follows anyone else’s rulebook.

The State of the Russian State

Russia has faced a slew of economic problems in the past six months. Incoming foreign direct investment, which reached a record high of $28 billion in 2007, has reportedly dried up to just a few billion. Russia’s two stock markets, the Russian Trading System (RTS) and the Moscow Interbank Currency Exchange (MICEX), have fallen 78 and 67 percent respectively since their highs in May 2008. And Russians have withdrawn $290 billion from the country’s banks in fear of a financial collapse.

One of Moscow’s sharpest financial pains came in the form of a slumping Russian ruble, which has dropped by about one-third against the dollar since August 2008. Thus far, the Kremlin has spent $200 billion defending its currency, a startling number given that the currency still dropped by 35 percent. The Russian government has allowed dozens of mini-devaluations to occur since August; the ruble’s fall has pushed the currency past its lowest point in the 1998 ruble crash.

The Kremlin now faces three options. First, it can continue defending the ruble by pouring more money into what looks like a black hole. Realistically, this can last only another six months or so, as Russia’s combined reserves of $750 billion in August 2008 have dropped to just less than $400 billion due to various recession-battling measures (of which currency defense is only one). This option would also limit Russia’s future anti-recession measures to currency defense alone. In essence, this option relies on merely hoping the global recession ends before the till runs dry.

The second option would be to abandon any defense of the ruble and just let the currency crash. This option will not hurt Moscow or its prized industries (like those in the energy and metals sectors) too much, as the Kremlin, its institutions and most large Russian companies hold their reserves in dollars and euros. Smaller businesses and the Russian people would lose everything, however, just as in the August 1998 ruble crash. This may sound harsh, but the Kremlin has proved repeatedly — during the Imperial, Soviet and present eras — that it is willing to put the survival of the Russian state before the welfare and survival of the people.

The third option is much like the second. It involves sealing the currency system off completely from international trade, relegating it only to use in purely domestic exchanges. But turning to a closed system would make the ruble absolutely worthless abroad, and probably within Russia as well — the black market and small businesses would be forced to follow the government’s example and switch to the euro, or more likely, the U.S. dollar. (Russians tend to trust the dollar more than the euro.)

According to the predominant rumor in Moscow, the Kremlin will opt for combining the first and second options, allowing a series of small devaluations, but continuing a partial defense of the currency to avoid a single 1998-style collapse. Such a hybrid approach would reflect internal politicking.

The lack of angst within the government over the disappearance of the ruble as a symbol of Russian strength is most intriguing. Instead of discussing how to preserve Russian financial power, the debate is now over how to let the currency crash. The destruction of this particular symbol of Russian strength over the past ten years has now become a given in the Kremlin’s thinking, as has the end of the growth and economic strength seen in recent years.

Washington is interpreting the Russian acceptance of economic failure as a sort of surrender. It is not difficult to see why. For most states — powerful or not — a deep recession coupled with a currency collapse would indicate an evisceration of the ability to project power, or even the end of the road. After all, similar economic collapses in 1992 and 1998 heralded periods in which Russian power simply evaporated, allowing the Americans free rein across the Russian sphere of influence. Russia has been using its economic strength to revive its influence as of late, so — as the American thinking goes — the destruction of that strength should lead to a new period of Russian weakness.

Geography and Development

But before one can truly understand the roots of Russian power, the reality and role of the Russian economy must be examined. From this perspective, the past several years are most certainly an aberration — and we are not simply speaking of the post-Soviet collapse.

All states economies’ to a great degree reflect their geographies. In the United States, the presence of large, interconnected river systems in the central third of the country, the intracoastal waterway along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, the vastness of San Francisco Bay, the numerous rivers flowing to the sea from the eastern slopes of the Appalachian Mountains and the abundance of ideal port locations made the country easy to develop. The cost of transporting goods was nil, and scarce capital could be dedicated to other pursuits. The result was a massive economy with an equally massive leg up on any competition.

Russia’s geography is the polar opposite. Hardly any of Russia’s rivers are interconnected. The country has several massive ones — the Pechora, the Ob, the Yenisei, the Lena and the Kolyma — but they drain the nearly unpopulated Siberia to the Arctic Ocean, making them useless for commerce. The only river that cuts through Russia’s core, the Volga, drains not to the ocean but to the landlocked and sparsely populated Caspian Sea, the center of a sparsely populated region. Also unlike the United States, Russia has few useful ports. Kaliningrad is not connected to the main body of Russia. The Gulf of Finland freezes in winter, isolating St. Petersburg. The only true deepwater and warm-water ocean ports, Vladivostok and Murmansk, are simply too far from Russia’s core to be useful. So while geography handed the United States the perfect transport network free of charge, Russia has had to use every available kopek to link its country together with an expensive road, rail and canal network.

One of the many side effects of this geography situation is that the United States had extra capital that it could dedicate to finance in a relatively democratic manner, while Russia’s chronic capital deficit prompted it to concentrate what little capital resources it had into a single set of hands — Moscow’s hands. So while the United States became the poster child for the free market, Russia (whether the Russian Empire, Soviet Union or Russian Federation) has always tended toward central planning.

Russian industrialization and militarization began in earnest under Josef Stalin in the 1930s. Under centralized planning, all industry and services were nationalized, while industrial leaders were given predetermined output quotas.

Perhaps the most noteworthy difference between the Western and Russian development paths was the different use of finance. At the start of Stalin’s massive economic undertaking, international loans to build the economy were unavailable, both because the new government had repudiated the czarist regime’s international debts and because industrialized countries — the potential lenders — were coping with the onset of their own economic crisis (e.g., the Great Depression).

With loans and bonds unavailable, Stalin turned to another centrally controlled resource to “fund” Russian development: labor. Trade unions were converted into mechanisms for capturing all available labor as well as for increasing worker productivity. Russia essentially substitutes labor for capital, so it is no surprise that Stalin — like all Russian leaders before him — ran his population into the ground. Stalin called this his “revolution from above.”

Over the long term, the centralized system is highly inefficient, as it does not take the basic economic drivers of supply and demand into account — to say nothing of how it crushes the common worker. But for a country as geographically massive as Russia, it was (and remains) questionable whether Western finance-driven development is even feasible, due to the lack of cheap transit options and the massive distances involved. Development driven by the crushing of the labor pool was probably the best Russia could hope for, and the same holds true today.

In stark contrast to ages past, for the past five years foreign money has underwritten Russian development. Russian banks did not depend upon government funding — which was accumulated into vast reserves — but instead tapped foreign lenders and bondholders. Russian banks took this money and used it to lend to Russian firms. Meanwhile, as the Russian government asserted control over the country’s energy industries during the last several years, it created a completely separate economy that only rarely intersected with other aspects of Russian economic life. So when the current global recession helped lead to the evaporation of foreign credit, the core of the government/energy economy was broadly unaffected, even as the rest of the Russian economy ingloriously crashed to earth.

Since Putin’s rise, the Kremlin has sought to project an image of a strong, stable and financially powerful Russia. This vision of strength has been the cornerstone of Russian confidence for years. Note that STRATFOR is saying “vision,” not “reality.” For in reality, Russian financial confidence is solely the result of cash brought in from strong oil and natural gas prices — something largely beyond the Russians’ ability to manipulate — not the result of any restructuring of the Russian system. As such, the revelation that the emperor has no clothes — that Russia is still a complete financial mess — is more a blow to Moscow’s ego than a signal of a fundamental change in the reality of Russian power.
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