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27751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Other fronts on the clash between cultures on: February 22, 2007, 09:34:42 PM
WAZIRISTANISATION OF SOUTHERN THAILAND - INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO. 196

By B. Raman

The Thai counter-terrorism agencies have not yet been able to arrest the inexorable Waziristanisation of the four Muslim-majority provinces of Southern Thailand. Targeted attacks with small arms and ammunition on individuals with extreme cruelty, multiple explosions with minimum casualties and attacks on places considered anti-Islam such as places of entertainment continue to be reported almost every day. The individuals targeted are not only Buddhists, but also public servants, including Muslims, viewed as collaborators of the Government. The ground situation resembles partly that in the  the Waziristan area of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan and partly that in Bangladesh. There are no similarities with the ground situation in the rest of South-East Asia.

2. The targeted attacks with extreme cruelty on individuals viewed as collaborators of the Government and the attacks on places such as Karoke bars viewed as symbols of non-Islamic decadence call to mind what has been happening in South and North Waziristan almost every day. Very often, the Pakistani authorities have no clue as to who is behind the continuing violence in the Waziristan area. Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban, the local Taliban, tribal militant groups of various hues, followers of individual tribal leaders, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Chechens from Russia and  the Uighurs from the Xinjiang region of China have all been blamed on different occasions by the Pakistani authorities with no conclusive evidence. Unidentifiable jihadi forces orchestrated by an invisible command and control have been keeping the security forces at bay. So too in Southern Thailand.

3. At least in Waziristan some individual leaders and the organisations to which they belong have been identified---such as Baitullah Mehsud and Abdullah Mehsud of the local Taliban, Tohir Yuldashev of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Ayman al-Zawahiri of Al Qaeda and Jalaluddin Haqqani of the Neo Taliban. They are as invisible as the jihadi leaders in Southern Thailand, but they are at least audible. They keep disseminating audio messages, issuing statements, talking to the media over satellite phones etc. In Waziristan, human intelligence is as scanty as in Southern Thailand, but technical intelligence has been forthcoming from the US agencies operating in the area.

4. In Southern Thailand, the jihadi leaders are neither visible nor audible. No recorded messages, no statements, no TECHINT intercepts, no HUMINT derived either from sources or during the interrogation of arrested suspects. There are hardly any arrests----not even accidental. Counter-terrorism agencies often get a lucky break in the form of suspects accidentally intercepted and detained, failed attacks due to human error on the part of the terrorists or malfunctioning of their improvised explosive devices. One hears of hardly any such lucky-break in Southern Thailand. There is evidently no satisfactory data-base which could enable analysts to quantify the threat and assess the results of the counter-terrorism efforts.

5. There are two major differences from Waziristan, though.An increasing number of terrorist strikes in the Waziristan area are by suicide bombers. Suicide bombers are yet to make their appearance in Southern Thailand. Suicide bombers are normally used to kill high-profile targets and for mass casualty terrorism. The second major difference is that in Waziristan there is evidence of complicity of some serving and retired officers of the Pakistan army and intelligence with the jihadis. There is so far no evidence of such complicity in Southern Thailand.

6.  The Thai jihadis seem content for the time being with attacking low profile targets such as teachers, Buddhist monks, junior public servants etc. They continue to avoid mass casualty terrorism like the jihadis in Bangladesh. Multiple explosions with minimum public casualties have been a defining characteristic of the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JUM) of Bangladesh. Demonstrating its presence and reach with widespread multiple explosions with calibrated low-level lethality in order not to antagonise public opinion is the JUM's modus operandi. So too in Southern Thailand.

7. The Thai jihadis seem to be graduating to spectacular economic terrorism, which would cause serious economic damage with minimum human casualties as illustrated by their latest arson attack on a major rubber godown of Southland Rubber Co's branch in Yala town on February 21,2007. Attacks on tourist spots cause large human casualties as one saw in Bali twice, Mombasa and other places. Hence, their avoidance of attacks on tourism spots. Attacks on foreign targets bring international pressure and strengthen international intelligence co-operation. Hence avoidance of attacks on foreign targets so far.

8. Considerable intelligence and thinking have gone into the planning of  the jihad in southern Thailand. It is a low intensity conflict with low-intensity, but continuous bleeding. Counter-terrorism operations in Southern Thailand are like fighting an invisible enemy in the dark. One can neither fight effectively nor talk productively.  The Government's expression of regrets for past deaths of jihadi cadres and innocent civilians and its readiness for a dialogue have remained unreciprocated. Malaysia's offer of co-operation with the Thai authorities is unlikely to make a difference to the situation unless it co-operates through intelligence sharing..

9. When the terrorists are not known and they are not prepared to talk, one has to start talking to the community from which the jihadis have arisen. This is where police-community relations count. They seem to hardly exist in Southern Thailand. Apart from strengthening the intelligence capability and physical security, building up effective police-community relations has to be an important component of the counter-terrorism strategy. The Government has to encourage local non-Governmental initiatives to make  the police and the community interact with each other. Announcement of very handsome rewards for actionable intelligence and a safe channel for communicating such intelligence which will safeguard the anonymity and life of the source is another important requirement.

10. The Government has two options: Either remain in a state of helplessness on the ground that the identities of the jihadi leaders are not known and they are not willing to talk; or find new ways of coming out of the present darkness. The first option would mean more and more bleeding. With some imagination and luck, the second option could produce results. There appears to be no third option.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: itschen36@gmail.com)
27752  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Multiple player situations on: February 22, 2007, 08:19:26 PM
Fascinating story of a pro MMA fighter against several people in Bali:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rOQLg7Kc8So
27753  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: February 22, 2007, 07:30:33 PM
Venezuela: A Foray into Punitive Diplomacy
Summary

Tensions between Costa Rica and Venezuela escalated following an announcement Feb. 21 by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez that a Venezuelan-owned aluminum plant in Costa Rica will be closed. Though Chavez maintains that the motives behind the move are not political, his announcement follows recent criticism of Venezuela by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. Chavez has successfully relied on oil diplomacy to gain alliances, but closure of the plant indicates he also has punitive measures planned for his critics.

Analysis

The announced closure of an aluminum plant in Costa Rica has ignited a diplomatic row between Costa Rica and Venezuela. The plant, located in Puntarenas province, is owned by Venezuelan state company Alunasa, which was a Costa Rican enterprise acquired by Venezuela in 1990. The plant produces 9,000 tons of aluminum each year and exports to many countries, including the United States, Mexico and Canada.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez confirmed late Feb. 21 that he is calling for the closure of the plant for "geopolitical, technical and economic" reasons, strongly denying that the move is in retaliation against Costa Rica over diplomatic tensions between the nations (no date was given for the closure). Chavez contends that the plant will be more economically profitable in a new location. Though this location has not been specified, the plant likely will be re-established in a state allied with Chavez, such as Ecuador or Bolivia.

Costa Rica has rejected Chavez's rationale; a government minister noted that moving the factory will cost at least $25 million and result in two years of downtime before operations can resume at the present level. In addition, given the plant's 25-year history in Costa Rica, the closure spells serious economic trouble for Puntarenas province. According to government estimates, at least 20 percent of the local population will be impacted by the closure.

But economic reasons are not Chavez's true motivation. Instead, he is angered by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias' recent criticism of Venezuela, in which Arias called Chavez's regime a "democratic dictatorship" and criticized Chavez's newly endowed special powers under the Enabling Law. Chavez responded publicly to Arias' statements, accusing the Central American leader of pandering for U.S. favor.

Chavez's idea of diplomacy revolves around oil, as is shown by his world tours and bilateral accords in 2006. Costa Rica was on his list of allies under the Petrocaribe Accord, in which Venezuela agreed to provide affordable crude to several Caribbean and Central American countries regardless of market fluctuations.

Chavez sees Costa Rica's public criticism of Venezuela as a de facto violation of his oil-induced friendship. Costa Rica is hardly the first nation to be critical of Venezuela. Brazil, Argentina and Mexico all have challenged Chavez's economic and political agendas. Faced with these regional giants, however, Chavez has been relatively powerless. He is taking punitive action against Costa Rica -- a geopolitical adversary too weak to challenge him -- simply because he can.

The closure of the Costa Rican plant is one of Chavez's first forays into punitive diplomacy, and it is not likely to be his last. The move could indicate a shift in his method of dealing with dissent -- but only if the dissenter is less powerful than he. The smaller nations of the Caribbean and Central America -- almost all of which fall under the Petrocaribe deal -- are in this vulnerable category.
27754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: February 22, 2007, 04:18:21 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070221/...aA0VWDCsJH2ocA
Porn DVD screams prompt sword 'rescue'

Wed Feb 21, 12:53 PM ET


OCONOMOWOC, Wis. - A man says he broke into an apartment with a cavalry sword because he thought he heard a woman being raped, but the sound actually was from a pornographic movie his upstairs neighbor was watching.
ADVERTISEMENT
if(window.yzq_d==null)window.yzq_d=new Object();window.yzq_d['K6qnBUSOxIY-']='&U=13asqris9%2fN%3dK6qnBUSOxIY-%2fC%3d566543.9983984.10676935.1442997%2fD%3dLREC% 2fB%3d4289887';
"Now I feel stupid," said James Van Iveren, who has been charged in the case. "This really is nothing, nothing but a mistake."
According to a criminal complaint, the neighbor told police that Van Iveren pounded on the door and kicked it open without warning Feb. 12, damaging the frame and lock.
"Where is she?" Van Iveren demanded, thrusting the sword at the neighbor, the complaint said. "Where is she?"
The neighbor told police Van Iveren became increasingly aggressive as he repeated the question, insisting that he had heard a woman being raped. The complaint said that, with the sword pointed at him, the neighbor led Van Iveren throughout the apartment, opening closet doors to prove he was alone.
The neighbor later played for police the part of the DVD he believed Van Iveren heard downstairs.
Van Iveren, 39, of Oconomowoc, was charged with criminal trespass, criminal damage and disorderly conduct, all while using a dangerous weapon, and is due in court March 5. Together, the misdemeanor counts carry a maximum sentence of 33 months in jail.
Van Iveren said Tuesday that he heard a woman "screaming for help," grabbed the sword, bounded up the stairs, kicked in the apartment door and confronted the man who lived there.
"I intended to hold it behind my back and knock. But I froze and instead, what happened happened," he told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Contesting his neighbor's account, Van Iveren said he didn't look anywhere in the apartment except the front room, and that he never threatened the neighbor with the sword.
"I had the sword extended. But that was all," he said.
Van Iveren, who lives with his mother in the downstairs apartment, said he did not call police when he heard the noises because he does not have a telephone. He said he barely knew the upstairs tenant.
Police seized Van Iveren's sword, which he said was a family heirloom.
27755  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / R1 Open Session on: February 22, 2007, 04:15:59 PM
Sunday March 4th, 2007

3x3 minute rounds
Headgear, gloves, cup, mouthpiece
Win by KO, TKO or Submission

Fighters wanted, contact
r1gundo@yahoo.com or 310-322-5552
Provide the following info:
Age, weight, school, instructor, years training

All fighters must pre-register.

Gym fee for spectators
27756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Unorganized Militia on: February 22, 2007, 04:12:38 PM
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Police: U.S. seniors fight off muggers, killing one




SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) -- A tour group of U.S. senior citizens fought off a band of muggers in eastern Costa Rica, sending two of the assailants fleeing and killing a third, police said Thursday.

One of the tourists -- a retired U.S. serviceman whom officials estimated was in his 70s -- allegedly put Warner Segura in a headlock and broke his clavicle after the 20-year-old and two other men armed with a knife and gun held up their tour bus Wednesday, said Luis Hernandez, the police chief of Limon, 80 miles east of San Jose.

The Americans had arrived in Limon on the Carnival Cruise Lines ship Carnival Liberty.

"It was a group of 12 senior citizens from the United States who were going to spend a few hours in the area, but their tour bus entered a dangerous sector known as Cieneguita", Hernandez said.

The tourists drove Segura to the local Red Cross branch, but he was declared dead, Hernandez said. He declined to give the names or hometowns of the tourists.
The Red Cross also treated one of the tourists for an anxiety attack, Hernandez said.

Costa Rican authorities said they did not plan to file charges against the tourists, who left on their cruise ship after the incident.

"They were in their right to defend themselves after being held up," Hernandez said.

Hernandez said Segura had previous charges against him for assaults.


http://www.cnn.com/2007/WORLD/americ...rss_topstories
27757  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knife vs. Gun on: February 22, 2007, 04:04:24 PM
Woof All:

Just a quick yip as a bit of a teaser:  The seminar Gabe Suarez and I just gave this past January was very much about the themes of this thread-- and yes there will be a DVD, the working title of which is "DLO 2:  Bringing a Gun to a Knife fight".

TAC,
CD
27758  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Peru on: February 22, 2007, 02:57:33 PM
U.S./PERU: U.S. Rep. John Murtha challenged the pending free trade agreement (FTA) between the United States and Peru on Feb. 21, calling it a threat to national security. Murtha says the FTA would allow Dubai Ports World (DPW) -- which is invested in Peru -- to invest in the United States. Although the FTA has been challenged in Congress on the grounds that it does not protect labor interests, the DPW issue is new. The FTA text does allow the United States to bar any investment on national security grounds, but Murtha argues that DPW could sue the United States for such action, potentially costing U.S. taxpayers legal fees. It is not clear that DPW would want to invest in the United States; the company has faced major political obstacles to its partnership with the U.S. port management. Murtha is making a barely veiled attempt to oppose the U.S./Peru FTA in the name of DPW, an established bogeyman.

stratfor.com

-----------

Para mi, Murtha es un gran hijo de , , , muchos padres.  Lo mas probable aqui es que el este' usando el DPW asunto para esconder que Murtha este' comprado por algun negocio que busca prevenir la competencia que ese acuerdo va a facilitar.
27759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Particular Stocks on: February 22, 2007, 02:37:05 PM
KVHI has been scaring me a bit of late and been scraping along a support line, so today was a nice day.  Here's this from yesterday:

KVH Joins Lazydays in Providing Satellite TV to RV Owners
7:30 AM EST February 21, 2007
KVH Industries, Inc., (Nasdaq: KVHI) announced today that Lazydays RV SuperCenter(R), the nation's number one RV dealership, has joined KVH's nationwide independent RV dealer network. Lazydays will offer KVH's premier line of TracVision(R) mobile satellite television antennas, and the TracNet(TM) mobile Internet system. Offering satellite TV systems to customers directly through leading independent RV dealers like Lazydays is a key element in KVH's commitment to enhancing its national RV dealer network and providing its customers with the best sales, installation, and after sale support available in the RV marketplace.

"We are thrilled to be joining forces with Lazydays to bring live satellite TV and HDTV programming to RV customers," said Ian Palmer, KVH's executive vice president for satellite sales. "We believe that independent dealerships offer the greatest value to our customers in terms of sales, quality installation, support, and customer satisfaction. Lazydays RV SuperCenter has earned its place as the nation's largest single-point dealership due to its professionalism, commitment to customer satisfaction, and its outstanding facilities and staff. They will provide KVH customers with outstanding service in selecting the right equipment, installation, and after-sale support. We look forward to building on this valued relationship and, in doing so, benefit KVH, Lazydays, and most of all, our mutual customers."

Lazydays is now offering its customers KVH's award-winning TracVision satellite TV product family, including the in-motion TracVision R5, the stationary, automatic TracVision R4, and the premier TracVision R6 in-motion satellite TV system. These all-digital, HDTV-ready systems allow RV passengers throughout North America to enjoy more than 300 channels of digital programming and commercial-free music via the DIRECTV(R), DISH Network(TM), and ExpressVu services. Lazydays will also offer KVH's TracNet 100 Mobile Internet system, which provides mobile high-speed Internet access via the TV screens of the RV as well as through an integrated WiFi network that turns the RV into a rolling hot spot.

"Our priority is to offer our customers the best experience possible at all times, whether it's the quality of the accessories they choose, the installation and service, or the entertainment options available," said Bob Grady, director of parts and service for Lazydays. "KVH shares our commitment to superior quality and the TracVision satellite TV systems are a great match for our mission and our customers' expectations."

About Lazydays

Lazydays RV SuperCenter (lazydays.com), founded in 1976, is the largest single-site RV dealership in the world. Located on 126 acres outside Tampa, Florida, Lazydays has an 86,600 sq. ft. main building, 273 service bays, 300 RV campsites and more than 1,200 RVs on display. This national RV destination will host more than one million visitors and serve more than 300,000 meals this year alone.

About KVH Industries, Inc.

Middletown, RI-based KVH Industries, Inc., is a leading provider of in-motion satellite TV and communication systems, having designed, manufactured, and sold more than 100,000 mobile satellite antennas for applications on boats, RVs, trucks, buses, and automobiles. Winner of the prestigious General Motors Innovative Design Award, CES Innovation Award, 22 National Marine Electronics Association "Best Product" awards, and a finalist for the Automotive News PACE Award, KVH's mission is to connect mobile customers with the same digital television entertainment, communications, and Internet services that they enjoy in their home and offices.
27760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: February 22, 2007, 08:14:48 AM
http://www.nbc5.com/news/11075310/detail.html?dl=headlineclick

Two Chicago-Area Men Arrested In Ohio Terrorism Case

POSTED: 4:14 pm CST February 21, 2007
UPDATED: 7:55 pm CST February 21, 2007


Two cousins were arrested Wednesday on federal charges of conspiring to wage holy war against Americans overseas, including U.S. military forces in Iraq.



Zubair A. Ahmed, 27, of suburban North Chicago, and Khaleel Ahmed, 26, of Chicago, were accused along with three other men who already had been under indictment on charges of plotting acts of terrorism against Americans overseas.

The fresh indictment returned by a grand jury in Cleveland added the two Chicago-area men to the roster of defendants and brought additional charges against the three other men.

The cousins, both American citizens, appeared briefly in Chicago before U.S. Magistrate Judge Geraldine Soat Brown, who ordered them sent to Ohio for arraignment. Prosecutors asked her to order them held in custody and sent to Ohio as federal prisoners. Defense attorneys asked for bond.

A hearing on whether to permit bond was set for 2:30 p.m. Monday.

Defense attorneys Gerald Collins and Brian Sieve said they had just met the two defendants, knew little about them and had no comment on the case.

The indictment claims that, between June 2004 and February 2006, the cousins and the other three men -- Mohammad Zaki Amawi, 27, and Marwan Othman El-Hindi, 42, both formerly of Toledo, and Wassim I. Mazloum, 22, formerly of Sylvania, Ohio -- conspired to "kill or maim persons in locations outside of the United States, to including U.S. armed forces personnel serving in Iraq."

The conspiracy allegedly included finding fresh recruits to commit terrorist acts and seeking out sites for training in firearms, hand-to-hand combat and the use of explosives. The men also allegedly agreed to raise funds for "jihad training" and download Internet information on improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

"They were perhaps not as intimately involved as the original three individuals from Toledo," said Bill Edwards of the U.S. Attorney's Office. "But, they did get involved, they knew one of the original individuals, Mr. El-Hindi."

A shadowy figure was described in the indictment only as the Trainer, a U.S. citizen with a military background. The indictment said the two cousins met with the trainer in July 2004 and discussed sniper tactics, counter-surveillance techniques and the use of heavy machine guns.

The three Ohio men, currently in federal custody, were charged in the original indictment with conspiring to provide material support to terrorists. Amawi was also charged with verbally threatening the president of the United States and unlawful distribution of a video concerning suicide bomber vests.

"They certainly knew exactly what was going on," Edwards said. "They talked to 'The Trainer' about being trained in 50-caliber machine guns. Mr. El-Hindi informed The Trainer that the two Ahmeds had attempted at one point to travel to Afghanistan or Iraq."

Wednesday's indictment charged Amawi with distributing information about explosive chemicals downloaded from the Internet and charged El-Hindi with distributing information about explosives and making false statements to officials.

The five men face a maximum penalty of life in prison if convicted of conspiring to kill Americans overseas, according to federal prosecutors.

Meanwhile, prosecutors in Cleveland said a separate indictment was returned charging Bilal Mazloum, 22, of Sylvania, Ohio, brother of Wassim I. Mazloum, with making a false statement to federal agents.

In addition, El-Hindi and Ashraf Zaim, 39, of Ottawa Hills, Ohio, are charged in a separate, seven-count indictment with conspiring to commit theft of public funds, making false statements and wire fraud in connection with a $40,000 federal grant they obtained to operate clinics for low-income taxpayers.
27761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Islamic Countries: on: February 22, 2007, 07:58:00 AM
Egyptian Court Sentences Blogger Charged With Insulting Islam to 4 Years in Prison

Thursday , February 22, 2007

ALEXANDRIA, Egypt —
An Egyptian blogger was convicted of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak and sentenced to four years in prison on Thursday in Egypt's first prosecution of a blogger.
Abdel Kareem Nabil, a 22-year-old former student at Egypt's Al-Azhar University, an Islamic institution, had pleaded innocent to all charges, and human rights groups had called for his release.
Nabil, who used the blogger name Kareem Amer, had sharply criticized Al-Azhar on his Web log, calling it "the university of terrorism" and accusing it of suppressing free thought. He also often criticized Mubarak's regime on the blog.
In one post, he said Al-Azhar University "stuffs its students' brains and turns them into human beasts ... teaching them that there is not place for differences in this life."
He was a vocal critic of conservative Muslims and in other posts described Mubarak's regime as a "symbol of dictatorship."
The university threw him out last year and pressed prosecutors to put him on trial.
The judge issued the verdict in a brief, five-minute session in a court in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria. He sentenced Nabil to three years in prison for insulting Islam and inciting sedition and another year for insulting Mubarak. Nabil had faced a possible maximum sentence of up to nine years in prison.
Nabil, wearing a gray T-shirt and sitting in the defendants pen, gave no reaction and his face remained still as the verdict was read. He was immediately taken from the pen and put in a prison truck and did not comment to reporters.
Egypt arrested a number of bloggers last year, most of them for connections to Egypt's pro-democracy reform movement. Nabil was arrested in November, and while other bloggers were freed, Nabil was put on trial — a sign of the sensitivity of his writings on religion.
Hafiz Abou Saada, head of the Egyptian Human Rights Organization, described the verdict as "very tough"
"This is a strong message to all bloggers who are put under strong surveillance that the punishment will very strong," he told the Associated Press.
Two U.S. congressmen also expressed deep concern about the arrest of Nabil — who also goes by the blogger name of Kareem Amer — and called for the charges to be dropped.
"The Egyptian government's arrest of Mr. Amer simply for displeasure over writings on the personal Web log raises serious concern about the level of respect for freedoms in Egypt," Reps. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., and Barney Frank, D-Mass., wrote to U.S. Ambassador Nabil Fahmy.
The Bush administration has not commented on Nabil's trial, despite its past criticism of the arrests of Egyptian rights activists.
__________________
27762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: February 21, 2007, 07:26:25 PM
A Real Outing
The Los Angeles Times boasts that it has identified three CIA pilots who are facing kidnapping charges in Germany over a 2003 counterterrorism operation there:

The names they used were all aliases, but The Times confirmed their real identities from government databases and visited their homes this month after a German court in January ordered the arrest of the three "ghost pilots" and 10 other alleged members of the CIA's special renditions unit on charges of kidnapping and causing serious bodily harm to Khaled Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, three years ago.

None of the pilots responded to repeated requests for comment left with family members and on their home telephones. The Times is not publishing their real names because they have been charged only under their aliases.

But it does offer plenty of details about them:

In real life, the chief pilot is 52, drives a Toyota Previa minivan and keeps a collection of model trains in a glass display case near a large bubbling aquarium in his living room. Federal aviation records show he is rated to fly seven kinds of aircraft as long as he wears his glasses. . . .

His copilot, who used the alias Fain, is a bearded man of 35 who lives with his father and two dogs in a separate subdivision. . . .

The third pilot, who used the alias Bird, is 46, drives a Ford Explorer and has a 17-foot aluminum fishing boat. Certified as a flight instructor, he keeps plastic models of his favorite planes mounted by the fireplace in his living room in a house that backs onto a private golf course here [in a town of 13,000 the Times identifies in its dateline].

Remember all the outrage when Robert Novak "outed" Valerie Plame, who apparently worked a desk job at CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.? Here the L.A. Times is publishing extensive personal details on three men who have actually done dangerous work defending the country. Where's the outrage?

WSJ
27763  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Tippy-tappy drills-- threat or menace? on: February 21, 2007, 07:13:23 PM
Woof Maija:

The term "tippy tappy drills" is intended by its original users to be critical of many of the drills found in the FMA-- kind of like the term "Dead Patterns" is used by some of these individuals.  And just as we in DBMA proudly use the term "Dead Patterns" for things that we do, so too we absorb the usage of the name "tippy tapping drills".  Examples would be sombrada, hubud-lubud, knife tapping, and things of that sort.  These can be fixed patterns or interactive, with fixed stance or not.

 Some say that these drills were made up to amuse American students and that in the Philippines such drilling was far less important than here in the US.  Some say that these drills promote bad habits as well as good ones.  Some say that these drills are useless, etc.

Does this help?
27764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Survival issues outside the home on: February 21, 2007, 05:33:31 PM
All:

This thread is intended to be a companion thread to the Survival-- hunkering down in the home thread.  The idea is to enable the conversation in each to be more focused.

I'll begin this thread with:

In the eco-system in which I find myself, many plausible disaster scenarios could lead to the fellow members of my species also seeking gasoline making it very difficult and/or time-consuming to get gasoline.

Therefor I am interested in the advantages and disadvantages of buying a diesel pick up truck (my current truck is 17 years old and smells of 17 years of sweat  tongue ) and putting it through a conversion for about $800 that would enable it to ALSO run on

a) bio-diesel, which is eco-friendly and already available at some stations here in CA, and, more importantly

b) bio fuel e.g. soybean oil or the like.

My thought with the latter is that I could safely store quite a bit of soybean oil at the house and in the event of sustained non-availability of gasoline be good to go for quite some time.

Similarly, in an "Escape from LA" kind of scenario that I could throw 100 gallons (or whatever) in the back of the truck and be good to go for quite a ways-- again, without the safety issues of storing gasoline.

Does anyone know anything about this?

Marc

PS:  This also keeps money out of the pockets of the mad mullahs et al of Iran and the rest of the mideast as well as makes for a cleaner environment.

27765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 21, 2007, 01:22:23 PM
CLINTON VOWS TO END U.S. ‘ARROGANCE’ AS PRESIDENT: Hillary Rodham Clinton vowed yesterday to change the United States so it’s no longer an “arrogant power” that alienates the world. “When I’m president, I’m going to send a message to the world that America is back - we’re not the arrogant power that we’ve been acting like for the last six years,” Sen. Clinton said during her first campaign stop in the Sunshine State.
27766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone' on: February 21, 2007, 12:31:09 PM

I suppose I could post this on the Afg-Pak thread, but it seems like a pretty good example of "America Alone".

=============

ITALY: The Italian Senate voted against a measure to keep Italy's approximately 1,900 soldiers in Afghanistan. Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema had said the government should resign if the bill failed to pass, since it was a crucial test of the government's unity.

stratfor.com
27767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Survivalist, Prepper/prepping issues on: February 21, 2007, 11:43:15 AM
All:

On the nearby "Epidemics" thread, SB Mig has a good post today that, inter alia, brings up the survivalist issues that could arise during a epidemic such as having to hunker down in one's home for an extended stretch.

As an Angeleno, such questions have been on my radar screen for a while due to the plethora of possibilities for pandemonium in the greater Los Angeles region-- earthquake, brushfire, terrorism, mass breakdown of social order (think of the Rodney King riots), shut off of water to LA etc.   An epidemic is simply one more SHTF scenario for us.  Being snowed in might be one for other parts of the country.

Anyway, this thread is for asking questions and sharing tips about being able to hunker down at home for an extended stretch.

I'll kick things off:

We have a large generator.  At a hardware store it probably would have cost over $800 but at Costco we were able to get it for under $400.  We have 15 gallons of gasoline.  We start up the generator about twice a year to make sure all is well.

I am looking into solar packs for cell phones and lap top computers

We have somewhere between 25 and 50 gallons of water.

I am not clear on how many days of food that does not require cooking that we have-- but I should be.

The house has suitable levels of firepower for social disorder as well.

TAC,
Marc

PS:  I see SB Mig has just added this to his post:  http://www.slate.com/id/2148772/sidebar/2149226/ent/2148778/
It looks very useful-- thanks SB!
27768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Inspirational thoughts on: February 21, 2007, 11:29:41 AM
Woof All:

Sometimes we run across something that helps us center ourselves.  This thread is for sharing such things-- and yes, feel free to run the risk of being a bit corny.

Marc
=============================

 
God's Coffee

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to
visit their old university professor. Conversation soon turned into
complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and
returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups - porcelain,
plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite ---
telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said:
"If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up,
leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is normal for you to
want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems
and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee. In most
cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we
drink.

What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you
consciously went for the best cups... And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this: Life is the coffee; the jobs, money and position in
society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and
the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of Life we
live.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the
coffee God has provided us."God brews the coffee, not the cups.........
Enjoy your coffee!

"The happiest people don't have the best of everything. They just make
the best of everything they have."

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Leave the rest
to God.
27769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: February 21, 2007, 11:24:49 AM
Woof Buzwardo:

Good to have you with us again!

That was a quality read-- I have been spreading it forward from here.

Marc
27770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 21, 2007, 11:23:29 AM
stratfor.com

Geopolitical Diary: Chemical Strikes -- the Beginning of a Trend?

A chlorine-filled truck exploded outside a restaurant at a rest stop near Taji, north of Baghdad, on Tuesday. This is the second incident involving chlorine gas in only a few weeks. In Ar Ramadi, Iraq, a tank of chlorine in a garbage truck exploded Jan. 30; however, the chemical aspect of the attack went largely unnoticed because no casualties were attributed to the chlorine.

Details of Tuesday's explosion remain unclear. Iraqi authorities are speculating that the vehicle was a tanker truck rigged with explosives. They also are questioning whether it was in fact chlorine gas or combustible fuel that was used in an attempt to boost a conventional explosive. It was initially thought that it was a tanker truck filled with liquefied natural gas. The bombers could have made the same mistake.

Regardless of what was actually used, the deaths from the attack are surprisingly low. Bulk chlorine is a target of militants worldwide. It seems this attack was poorly executed, since the device probably exploded prematurely. Though it is easy to attach an explosive charge to a tanker truck, it is not easy to rupture the tank in order to maximize dispersal without burning up the chemical agent that needs to be dispersed.

That said, chlorine gas is not a weapon of mass destruction capable of taking out an entire city. Even with the most modern chemical weapon delivery systems, chlorine gas is incapable of inflicting massive casualties. These incidents are not in any way indicative of a new technical capability, merely of a new tactic. The only technical capability these attacks have demonstrated is that of placing chlorine tanks and explosives in close proximity -- and this has not been done with skill. There are several reasons the most recent attack could have failed; there perhaps were too many explosives, an insufficient concentration or quantity of chlorine and it might have occurred in a sparsely populated area.

However, a trend is starting to emerge that will only be reinforced by a psychological and human toll that insurgent operational planners will not overlook -- some 150 injuries associated with chlorine gas exposure, including respiratory irritation and vomiting, and five fatalities. And improvements in the techniques of employing even these improvised devices could nevertheless send casualty tolls much higher.

However, though chemical weapons will certainly undermine an already crumbling domestic U.S. support base, U.S. forces were not the primary target in either Tuesday's or the Jan. 30 incident.

Hardened U.S. troops are ill at ease even about chemical strikes they are trained to deal with. But such strikes are even more terrifying to Iraqi civilians with no training or equipment. If the fear of being blown up at the market turns into a fear of being subjected to a chemical attack, a new degree of hostility toward the Sunni insurgency could develop.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops could be increasingly spotted with gas masks on their left hips. With the sanitation situation as poor as it is in Iraq, chlorine will continue to be necessary, although some precautions could be taken to better protect large shipments. Ultimately, this has not yet become a meaningful opposition to the U.S. surge and it has certainly not indicated a new technical skills set. Nevertheless, the psychological impact of chemical weapons use in Iraq should not be underestimated.
27771  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Tippy-tappy drills-- threat or menace? on: February 21, 2007, 11:19:24 AM
Woof All:

On the DBMA Association Forum, in the context of a larger discussion, one of our members commented:

"The mentality gained from doing many of the middle range knife tapping drills seems to emphasize standing and exchanging at middle range until the opponent is down and out.   This is risky business at best."

So, I'd like to put up for discussion the merit or lack thereof and drawbacks of what are sometimes sarcastically called "tippy-tappy drills".

Fasten your seat belts, this could get lively cheesy

TAC,
CD
27772  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Wali Songo Silat with Pendekar Steve Benitez on: February 20, 2007, 10:29:06 PM
Woof All:

Highly impressive Wali Songo man Tony Felix is on the DBMA Board of Advisors.  This is his teacher. 

Crafty Dog

==============================

PENCAK SILAT
SEMINAR

Direct from London, Pendekar Steven Benitez of Walisongo Pencak Silat returns to Los Angeles for a one-time workshop on Pukulan (striking).

A well-rounded martial art from Indonesia, Walisongo Silat is renowned for its supreme physical conditioning, explosive yet fluid ground movement, and rapid-fire striking.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to train Pencak Silat with Pendekar Benitez in your home town!

When: Sunday March 4
    12 noon – 4PM

  Where: Rey Diogo BJJ
8733 Venice Blvd
LA, 90034

How much: $75 cash
27773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's Great Power Strategy: The INF Treaty on: February 20, 2007, 08:36:53 PM
Second post of the day:

The INF Treaty: Implications of a Russian Withdrawal
By Nathan Hughes and Peter Zeihan

Russia is poised to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) signed by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President Ronald Reagan in December 1987. The treaty prohibits development and deployment of all land-based short-, medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) with ranges of 300 to 3,400 miles, as well as all ground-launched cruise missiles. Inspections verifying the treaty were completed in 2001, although elimination was effectively concluded nearly a decade earlier.

Moscow has been dropping hints that it might withdraw from the INF since at least late August. However, two looming developments make this appear to be more of a certainy than rhetoric. First, U.S. basing agreements with Poland and the Czech Republic for ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations now look quite likely to be approved. Second, the 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or START 1, is set to expire in 2009, and Washington has failed to respond to Moscow's numerous offers to launch negotiations on a replacement treaty. Having benefited from the decay in Russia's military strength since the end of the Cold War, the United States clearly has no interest in such a treaty.

As the odds of having a basic U.S. BMD system in Europe increase, Russian statements alluding to a withdrawal from the INF have become more frequent. For example, speaking before the Duma on Feb. 8, First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov (who at the time was defense minister) characterized Russian signing of the treaty in 1987 as a mistake. On Feb. 19, Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russian Strategic Rocket Forces, went even further, threatening that Russian nuclear missiles could be targeted any U.S. BMD installation in Europe. He stopped short of actually threatening to load targeting data into Russia's missile guidance systems, but his meaning was clear.

In a certain sense, Solovtov's implicit threats are meaningless. Russia has no leverage to actually prevent the construction of BMD facilities in Europe, and it would not benefit from mounting a direct military challenge to the United States. But that does not mean the general's statements are completely without sense: If Moscow has a means to legitimately threaten European states -- likely using intermediate-reach ballistic missiles, as during the Cold War -- it retains influence within the region and can leverage that against the United States, as Russia attempts to reassert itself as a great power.

With that in mind, then, let's consider the escape clause that is written into the INF: To withdraw, a signatory must provide six months' notice along with a statement explaining "extraordinary events" that endanger the withdrawing party's "supreme interests." Though there is no defined threshold for "extraordinary events," Moscow has been laying the groundwork for withdrawal by characterizing the emplacement of U.S. BMD installations in Europe as just that.

The Purpose of a Treaty

The 1987 INF treaty was implemented to remove a direct, overwhelming threat to the NATO and Warsaw Pact allies in Europe, drastically reducing the chances and consequences of a conflict between NATO and Warsaw Pact states -- but that was hardly the only reason it was negotiated, signed, ratified and implemented.

For the Soviets, the INF was not to be viewed as simply a stand-alone treaty by either negotiating team. Behind the Iron Curtain, it represented a fundamental break with past ideology. Before 1982, the leadership had been convinced of the Soviet Union's permanence. But with the rise of Yuri Andropov and, later, Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet leadership realized it was losing the Cold War and needed to reach out to the West in a way that would achieve understanding as well as pave the way for future collaboration. The INF treaty was the first crowbar used to pry open the door for Western-Soviet negotiations on everything from troop levels to energy deals to, of course, more arms control treaties.

In the West, the rationale for the treaty was more complex. The conventional military balance in Europe always favored the Soviets; it must be remembered that it was NATO, not the Soviet Union, that maintained a nuclear first-strike doctrine. So on the surface, removing intermediate nuclear weapons seemed to be a self-defeating move. But most of NATO's weapons, then and now, were of American origin -- and for the Americans, the INF served a number of purposes. Removing nuclear weapons with short flight times from hair-trigger alert was a no-brainer for the United States' European allies, but the corresponding calculus in the United States went much deeper.

First, Soviet propaganda in the 1970s had proved quite successful in stirring up European public opinion against the presence of U.S. nuclear forces on the Continent. Because the United States possessed a robust ICBM capability, eliminating intermediate forces not only raised the level of European security but also removed an irritant in trans-Atlantic relations.

For Washington, the second purpose behind the treaty built upon the first. When U.S. weapons systems were stored on allies' territory, those allies often wanted to have a say in how or when those weapons were used. Removing the intermediate missiles from service left the United States fully reliant on its home- and submarine-based ICBMs -- weapons over which no one but Washington could claim influence. The INF treaty technically might have limited U.S. options, but a more holistic evaluation reveals that it actually laid the foundation for a truly unfettered U.S. strategic policy. It is noteworthy that officials who were instrumental in shaping sovereignty-maximizing U.S. strategic policy in recent years, such as Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, served in the Reagan administration's diplomatic service at the time the INF treaty was being patched together.

Third, ICBMs were expensive. Ironically, the Americans saw this as a good thing. The United States possessed the economic gravitas to maintain an ICBM arms race if it needed to; it was an open question at the time whether the Soviets could do the same. In hindsight, of course, the answer was "no." Nor did this come as a shock in Moscow: During the Khrushchev era, in the early 1960s, the Soviets had sought to avoid bearing the cost burden of an ICBM capability. Instead, the Kremlin stationed intermediate-range missiles in Cuba in order to achieve strategic parity with Washington on the cheap. Only after the Cuban missile crisis ended, with the Soviet climb-down, did the Soviets begin making the appropriations necessary to fund a full ICBM program. Now fast-forward to the 1980s: in implementing INF, the Americans locked the Soviets into the most expensive weapons regime available at the time.

Strategic Rocket Forces and Decay

Ultimately, the Russian decision to leave the INF is grounded in these last two factors in American thinking -- as well as the simple fact that the rest of the world has pushed past the Cold War mentality.

For Washington, the war against jihadists has become an overwhelming priority. But even outside of that context, the United States, its NATO allies and indeed, the rest of the world, have already plunged into a pervasive post-Cold War restructuring that is indicative of a shift in defense priorities.

Western European states are far more concerned with domestic matters -- many of them with the rising Arab Muslim demographic in the populace -- than with anything Russians might do. The United States and the Chinese are watching each other warily and taking steps to prepare for what both fear will be a new clash of titans down the road. Only the Central Europeans remain preoccupied with Moscow. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that it is Central European states that have been inordinately willing to cooperate with the United States on a missile defense system. Though the system ostensibly is designed to protect the United States against a theoretical missile strike from a state like Iran, the system could target Russian ballistic missile launches -- though only a tiny fraction of any nuclear barrage.

For the Central Europeans, that is reason enough in and of itself to participate in the BMD system; for the Americans, this is merely a side benefit.

Because it anticipates a strategic competition with China eventually, the United States sees limitations on its nuclear arsenal as impractical. Washington almost certainly will walk away from the START I treaty -- which places specific limits on the size and type of nuclear forces the United States and Russia are permitted to possess -- when it comes up for renegotiation in 2009. This would leave it free to force China into the same sort of crushing arms race that so damaged the Soviet Union.

And that means Russia is doing the only thing it realistically can: rattling its nuclear saber.

Russia's problem is that its nuclear arsenal is precisely the problem. Despite its best efforts, Russia's aging nuclear deterrent has continued to crumble, without adequate maintenance. Nor are replacements being made at anything close to a sufficient rate. The fielding of the new SS-27 Topol-M ICBM -- the only fundamentally new missile system that Russia has operationalized since the Cold War's end -- has been excruciatingly slow, with only 45 fielded in nearly a decade and a mere seven new missiles slated for deployment in 2007. The Topol's submarine-launched equivalent, the Bulava, has been so plagued by technical difficulties and delays that it still has not been deployed.

The one thing in all of this that has softened the blow for Russia has been START I. With this treaty in force, Moscow could cling to the hope of one day again achieving some semblance of parity with Washington -- indeed, the treaty was the very embodiment of the Cold War balance of power. But the only way to perpetuate that balance today would be to implement a replacement treaty for START I that allows Russia to retire even more of its expensive, aging arsenal while still maintaining the psychological high-ground of "equality" with the United States. Moscow now understands that this option is not in the cards.

We expect START I to fall by the wayside, discarded in the face of U.S. strategic needs. In order to mitigate the damage, Russia will have no choice but to abandon the INF treaty in response.

The Nuclear Saber and Marginalization

Yet nuclear weapons remain Russia's one trump card. The scale and reach of its Soviet-era Strategic Rocket Forces -- the very heart of Russia's strategic nuclear missile forces -- give Moscow entry to the premier class of world powers (meaning those possessing nukes on the world-smashing level). The nuclear deterrent remains Russia's best means of guaranteeing is territorial integrity (which, given its vast land mass and longest border in the world, cannot be done with conventional ground forces alone).

In the last 16 years, Russia has watched helplessly as the Strategic Rocket Forces eroded, along with Moscow's control over the states of Eastern Europe and along its periphery in the Caucasus. Moscow has attempted to wield its energy supplies as a means of control and to reassert itself diplomatically on the world stage, and it will continue to do so. However, these steps have not been sufficient to prevent U.S. encroachment into Russia's traditional sphere of influence. In fact, some of the countries along its periphery have been quite blunt in citing such tactics as reasons for their decisions to join the U.S. missile shield.

And now, the United States is poised to deploy BMD assets on Russia's doorstep.

From Russia's perspective, the establishment of the new BMD system in Europe would represent the worst of all possible worlds. Its very existence not only would spotlight Moscow's declining diplomatic prowess, but also would testify to Russia's marginalization in the international system.

It is true that any BMD base would not pose a challenge to a Strategic Rocket Forces strike against the West in the near term. The system, assuming it works, at best would be able to shoot down only a handful of missiles at a time, and Russia (despite its many problems) still has hundreds of ICBMs in working order. The long-term picture is rather different: Russian military technological advancements have slowed to a crawl since 1992, while the United State continues to incrementally improve. Therefore, it is entirely possible that the BMD system of 2020 might pose a realistic threat to Russia's strategic ICBM deterrent.

The IRBM Option

Having withdrawn from the INF, Russia would be free to once again begin construction of intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) as a means of leveling the playing field. With Russia unable to challenge the United States directly, the establishment of a new Missile Army made up of IRBMs would threaten NATO in a way it has not known since the Cold War.

Russia pioneered "cold launch" technology -- an advanced launch technique -- and has fielded several land-based solid-fuel IRBMs since the 1970s. Though these systems date back 20 years or more, it makes little difference to the populations of the cities within their range whether the nuclear warhead that hits them was designed in 1960 or in 2005. Most important, these IRBMs are much cheaper than the ICBMs of the Strategic Rocket Forces. Intercontinental strike capability is priced at a premium.

Though a direct arms race with the United States remains out of the question, a lopsided race in which the Russians focus on IRBMs could change the game entirely. A barrage of several dozen IRBMs easily could overwhelm a small squadron of BMD interceptors based in Europe -- as well as any system that the United States conceivably might field in the next 20 years.

To be clear, this is not an option that would buy Russia parity with the United States. But it would be a stout reminder to Europe -- and to the United States by extension -- that even a weakened Moscow is not to be trifled with. Unable to reclaim the global power it wielded during the Soviet era, Russia nevertheless could use a new IRBM force to threaten Europe and, in so doing, resurrect a host of diplomatic options that served Kremlin interests very well in the past.

Such a step might not mark Russia as a resurgent world power, but it certainly would reforge perceptions of Russia as a power that is impossible to ignore.
27774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 20, 2007, 05:59:25 PM
REVIEW & OUTLOOK

Europe and the Mullahs
How the EU subsidizes trade with Iran.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

On the record, Europe claims to be as concerned as America about a nuclear-armed Iran. The record also shows, however, that Europe's biggest countries do a booming business with the Islamic Republic. And so far for the Continentals, manna trumps security.

The European Union--led by Germany, France and Italy--has long been Iran's largest trading partner. Its share of Iran's total imports is about 35%. Even more notable: Its trade with Tehran has expanded since Iran's secret nuclear program was exposed. Between 2003 and 2005, Europe's exports rose 29% to €12.9 billion; machinery, transport equipment and chemicals make up the bulk of the sales. Imports from Iran, predominantly oil, increased 62% to €11.4 billion in that period.

In the absence of an official embargo against Tehran, private EU companies have sought commercial opportunities in Iran. But the real story here is that these businesses are subsidized by European taxpayers. Government-backed export guarantees have fueled the expansion in trade. That, in turn, has boosted Iran's economy and--indirectly by filling government coffers with revenues--its nuclear program. The German record stands out. In its 2004 annual report on export guarantees, Berlin's Economics Ministry dedicated a special section to Iran that captures its giddy excitement about business with Tehran.





"Federal Government export credit guarantees played a crucial role for German exports to Iran; the volume of coverage of Iranian buyers rose by a factor of almost 3.5 to some €2.3 billion compared to the previous year," the report said. "The Federal Government thus insured something like 65% of total German exports to the country. Iran lies second in the league of countries with the highest coverage in 2004, hot on the heels of China."
Iran tops Germany's list of countries with the largest outstanding export guarantees, totaling €5.5 billion. France's export guarantees to Iran amount to about €1 billion. Italy's come to €4.5 billion, accounting for 20% of Rome's overall guarantee portfolio. Little Austria had, at the end of 2005, €800 million of its exports to Iran covered by guarantees.

The Europeans aren't simply facilitating business between private companies. The vast majority of Iranian industry is state-controlled, while even private companies have been known to act as fronts for the country's nuclear program. EU taxpayers underwrite trade and investment that would otherwise be deterred by the risks of doing business with a rogue regime.





It's also hard not to see a connection between Europe's commercial interests and its lenient diplomacy. The U.N.'s December sanctions resolution orders countries to freeze the assets of only 10 specific companies and 12 individuals with ties to Iran's nuclear program. Europe's governments continue to resist U.S. calls for financial sanctions, and the German Chamber of Commerce recently estimated that tougher economic sanctions would cost 10,000 German jobs.
As if on cue, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier last week detected in Tehran a "new ambition" to resume talks. The last time the Europeans promoted such diplomatic negotiations, Iran won two more years to get closer to its goal of becoming a nuclear power. In 2004, according to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily, then-Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer told Iranians to consider Europe a "protective shield" against U.S. pressure. The EU continues to provide a shield for its business interests in Iran, and thus a lifeline to a regime that is unpopular at home and sponsors terror abroad.

WSJ
27775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: February 20, 2007, 05:24:20 PM
More Al-Qaedism?

Over four years ago, I wrote of a phenomenon I dubbed “Al-Qaedism” to explain why random violence and terrorism by individual Muslims—while not connected with al-Qaeda per se—were still a danger. Often the ill or unhappy try to justify their own failings of inadequacy with a sort of cosmic Islamic rage against the West—one also often abetted by our own failure to counter our enemies’ rhetoric or eagerness to hush up the psychology of such attacks:

“Rather than confront the reality of past character flaws, mental instability, failed marriages, or the bleak future of no money, dead-end jobs, or social ostracism, the al Qaedist — whether an erstwhile Black Muslim, a Middle Eastern immigrant with a criminal past, or mixed-up pampered suburbanites who dabble in fundamentalism — seeks notoriety for his crimes, and therein perhaps at last a sense of importance.”

Beside the numerous examples I listed in that 2002 article, we have witnessed since a number of similar killings—especially Muslim drivers trying to run down others in a sort of politicized road rage, that were officially not listed as acts of terrorism. In this regard, I remember especially the 2006 attack in San Francisco by Omeed Aziz Popal, who apparently chose the area around a Jewish community center to run over people. And then the same year, there was the similar car ramming at the University of North Carolina by Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar, a graduate student apparently furious over our treatment of Muslims abroad.

I recall all this in the context of the latest shootings in Utah by Solejman Talovic, a Bosnian Muslim, and the recent ramming of Tennessee students by cabdriver Ibrihim Ahmed.

None of these are organized terrorist acts, much less orchestrated by al Qaeda. Rather, the constant furor against the West and sense of victimhood that reverberates in the radical mosques, madrassas, and in worldwide Islamic media, often enhanced and abetted by Western Leftist hysteria, reaches many in a vague and haphazard way to instill a sort of paranoia and desire to lash out at “them”.

And now and again, those with mental problems, or plagued with a sense of failure, or angry about some such grievance, will strike out in terrorist fashion. Likewise we now learn that the sick Ali Abu Kamal, who in 1997 went up the Empire State Building to kill random Americans (he murdered one and wounded several others), was not just despondent over financial losses as reported. But, as his family now brags, Kamal was furious at Israel and America—again a way of rationalizing personal setbacks through cosmic issues that once again reflects the effects of Islamist propaganda on unhinged minds.

The only mystery is that in our politically-correct efforts to deny the possibility of any and all links between such random violence and formal radical Islam, we then go to the other extreme, and deny there is any loose connection at all with perceived Muslim grievance. And that sadly only results in wide scale public cynicism that once again authorities appear hedging for political reasons.

Keep Quiet

U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton announced to the world that she wants a 90-day deadline to start pulling American troops from Iraq. Other Democrats in Congress, according to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, will soon declare their intentions to cut-off of US funding for all military deployments in Iraq.

Well aside from the paradox that the Congress had just approved unanimously the appointment of Gen. David Petraeus (the hero in the recent spate of anti-Bush books on Iraq) to take command of coalition forces in Iraq—the planner of a surge over 20,000 American troops into Baghdad—it is always a mistake in war to assure enemies of our intention not to fight any longer (unless of course you are indifferent to losing).

Do We remember all that?

The most famous example was the 1974 Foreign Relations Act. Passed in the wake of Watergate scandal, the congressional resolution cut off all military assistance to the South Vietnamese government. But that pubic stand-down only encouraged the North Vietnamese communists to violate the Paris peace accords and renew the war—without any more worries of U.S arms shipments or air strikes.

The Neutrality Acts of the 1930s, passed by an isolationist Congress, forbade U.S. military assistance to, or trade in war material with, any belligerent, regardless of whether they were aggressors or victims. Such actions of “conscious” only emboldened Nazi Germany, Italy, and Japan to attack democracies and other neutral states. Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo were convinced that whatever their provocations, the United States had no stomach to stand up to any of them, or even to join Britain and France in a united front of resistance. World War II with its 50 million dead followed.

Often even mere assurances of restraint by American officials, that suggest either inaction or weariness, have had the same effect as congressional resolutions in assuring interested observers that the United States would either not act in the face of aggression—or tire more quickly of ongoing fighting than their our enemies.

In a routine policy address Cold War warrior and Secretary of States Dean Acheson once warned the communist bloc that the American defensive perimeter in the Pacific went from Aleutians to Japan to the Ryukyus and onto the Philippine Islands. But Acheson, perhaps inadvertently, left out the Korean Peninsula. Many argued at the time that this omission gave the green light for the communists to invade South Korea in 1950 on their erroneous assumption that the United States would not intervene in an area outside its sphere of influence. Three years and hundreds of thousands of war dead followed.

Jimmy Carter had a far worse habit of telegraphing his intention to enemies. In 1977 he declared that America had outgrown its “inordinate fear of communism”. But by that time, global communism from Stalin to Mao had killed nearly 100 million of its own and invaded dozens of natural countries. Nothing “inordinate” about that.

So next when Carter made it clear that he would not retaliate immediately against Iran for storming of the US embassy in November 1979, it was not much of a surprise that the Soviet Union quickly invaded Afghanistan—unafraid of an America that wouldn’t use force to free its own diplomats or punish those who took them.

In a July 1990 in a meeting with Saddam Hussein, then American ambassador Arpil Glaspie purportedly assured the Iraqi government that “ we have no opinion on the Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait.” Saddam attacked Kuwait a little more than a week later.

In everyone of our wars, there have been terrible setbacks—winter 1776, summer 1864, spring 1918, winter 1942, autumn 1974, and now winter 2007. In almost all of these weeks of depression, there were terrible blunders, and ensuing grumblings about the conduct of the war. Any time we announced our intention in advance to quit or scale back, we later came to regret it; and on the far more numbers occasions when we did not, we did not.

If in peacetime it is wise to keep quiet and carry a big stick, in war it is even more critical not to assure our enemies that we won’t fight to achieve victory.
27776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: February 20, 2007, 05:14:20 PM
Sorry, no URL for this one, but it seems credible.
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

New Threats Arise For Border Agents

Sat Feb 17, 1:52 PM ET



It's not just the number of people coming into the U.S. that is a concern for the Department of Homeland Security, but it's from which countries they are coming.

They cross in the cover of darkness and in broad daylight.

Border Patrol agents in San Diego stop nearly 400 illegal border crossers each day.

"We have five or six a day; that's just on a day shift," said Border Patrol agent Tim Feige.

There is no telling how many they don?t stop.

"We never know what they're here for or what their intentions are," added Feige.

10News joined agents on patrol and saw firsthand what they face. In one incident, two men and one woman tried to sneak by right in front of agents. They first hid and then surrendered. The group turned out to be Mexican citizens with no criminal records, and they were processed and sent back to Mexico.

Because 85 percent of those apprehended by agents are from Mexico, the Department of Homeland Security classifies the others detained as "OTMs," or Other Than Mexican.

"They try to pass themselves off as being from Mexico," said Border Patrol agent Allen Gustafson.

Last year, OTMs came from 148 of the 193 countries in the world. Several came from what Homeland Security terms ?special interest? countries -- countries that are considered a great threat.

10News learned that in the last six months, agents along the Southwest border caught 15 people from Iran, 35 from Pakistan, 12 from Jordan, two from Syria and five from Lebanon. These are numbers Homeland Security would not officially release.

"We're more aware, not only of terrorists, but terrorist weapons," said Gustafson.

Agents who patrol the coastline have radiation detection equipment and try to at least eyeball every incoming boat.

"The busiest time is the fishing months, when there's a lot of boat traffic. Everyone has got a boat out here; they try to blend in with the regular traffic," said Gustafson.

Potential terrorists are not the only concern.

Agents said many violent criminals cross the border.

"In fact, we caught a person who was number 17 on Mexico's most wanted list," said Feige.

A top priority for the Federal Bureau of Investigation is to stop the influx of a notoriously brutal gang called the MS-13 -- the Mara Salvatrucha -- a group linked to violence across California and 32 other U.S. states.

According to reports, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras export members of the MS-13 gang.

10News learned that agents have stopped 26,035 undocumented people from El Salvador, 11,781 from Guatemala and 16,370 from Honduras in the last six months. The two fences that line the U.S.-Mexico border stop car traffic, but agents said they look to slow down the people on foot.

"If we have a group jumping the fence, we can get there twice as fast as maybe one of the bigger trucks can," said Border Patrol supervisor George Gibson.

The goal of agents is to catch those crossing and those who help the crossers.

"They usually use these ladders they weld out of rebar, so one of our objectives is to try and grab that ladder before they get it back south," said Gibson.

It is rewarding but frustrating work. The stakes are high, and every day it is more of the same.

In the last six months, nearly 1,200 people from China were caught trying to enter the U.S. illegally.

Agents said Chinese nationals pay smugglers up to $30,000 for passage to the U.S.
27777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 20, 2007, 05:05:51 PM
From Newt's mailing list:

==========================

'Come to Cooper Union'

As I've mentioned to you before here in "Winning the Future," former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and I are doing something different on February 28 in New York City. We're meeting at Cooper Union, the site of Abraham Lincoln's most famous pre-presidential speech, to do something about the lack of debate in our presidential debates.

On February 28 at Cooper Union, Gov. Cuomo and I will have a 90-minute, unrestricted, unrehearsed dialogue about the major challenges confronting America today.

We will also issue a challenge to the men and women running for President: Come to Cooper Union and participate in the Lincoln Dialogue Series.

Toss out the rule book, put aside the negative, partisan attacks, and come debate the issues.

Today's Presidential Debates: 32 Pages of Ground Rules

We're going to Cooper Union for a very specific reason: To remind our fellow Americans of a time when campaign debates were real debates, not a series of poll-tested, consultant-written, 30-second sound bites.

Here's how far we've come since that time:

In the 1996 campaign, the rules for the presidential debates were a full 11 pages of dos and don'ts for the candidates. But the consultants who control today's campaigns were just getting started.

By 2004, the debate rules had ballooned to 32 pages, including one rule that ordered the moderator to stop any candidate who dared to depart from the script to refer to someone in the audience.

In addition, the candidates were ordered to "submit to the staff of the [Debate] Commission prior to the debate all such paper and any pens or pencils with which a candidate may wish to take notes during the debate."

Pen and pencils. Talk about the vital stuff of democracy!

Presidential debates are supposed to be an opportunity for Americans to get to know their choices for the leader of our great nation. But how can you get to know someone through 32 pages of rules restricting their speech?

We don't have presidential debates today, we have kabuki theatre: Maximally choreographed, minimally informative performance art by the various candidates.

Watch the Cooper Union Event Live at the Northport Community Arts Center

So what does this have to do with Joan Jackson? And what does it have to do with you?

When Joan Jackson heard that Mario Cuomo and I were going to debate at Cooper Union, her first instinct wasn't to hope that I would use the opportunity to score partisan political points against Gov. Cuomo. It wasn't even to come to Cooper Union and support me.

Joan Jackson's first instinct was to figure out how she could bring our debate to others in her community.

So she went to work. She met with the superintendent of her local public school and told him about the debate between me and Mario Cuomo. He told Joan that she could use the auditorium in the Northport Community Arts Center that is attached to the public school and extend an invitation to the whole county to view the event on their big screen. In 24 hours, she did just that. She contacted the local Republican and Democratic Party leadership and local elected officials and invited them to come. She's writing a news release for the local paper. She stood up at a community meeting and told her neighbors about the debate. The school superintendent even offered to serve cookies and punch.

(Continued below)

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What You Can Do to Get Involved

Joan Jackson is an extraordinary American, but she would be the first to tell you that she isn't unique. She's simply looking for something more meaningful and more productive than our current, negative, partisan campaign culture. And she is doing something about it.

From talking to you and reading your e-mail to me, I know that members of the Winning the Future community share this desire for meaningful, substantive dialogue. We want solutions, not sound bites.

For those of you who are looking to be more than passive spectators in a stale, empty political play, look no further than Joan Jackson. Contact your local school or community center and ask them to carry our February 28 debate live. We will broadcast the event live and on-demand via web cast on www.AmericanSolutions.com.

Then tell your friends, reach out to both Democrats and Republicans. Alert the local paper. Got a blog? Host this YouTube message from me advertising the webcast, and include a link to AmericanSolutions.com, where your readers can sign up for an email reminder.

So come on, toss out the rulebook of politics as usual. Bring the history and the dialogue of Cooper Union to your own community. And be a modern American citizen leader like Joan Jackson.

For more information, just go to Newt.org or AmericanSolutions.com. I hope you'll join us on February 28.

  Your friend,
 
 Newt Gingrich


P.S. - In case you missed it, I wanted to let you know the latest in the fight to promote English as the language of American success and cultural unity. The mayor of Nashville, Tenn., has vetoed a local measure that would have required all government documents to be in English, except where required by federal law to "protect or promote public health, safety or welfare." The mayor said he was afraid the city would be sued if he allowed the bill, which was passed by a vote of 23-14, to become law. Speaking as someone who last week in "Winning the Future" called for the federal government to print all its documents in English, I agree with what Councilman Eric Crafton, the sponsor of the bill, told the AP when he was informed of the mayor's fears: "It's almost ridiculous to the point of being absurd for the mayor to say, 'Well, I'm afraid that somebody might sue us because we want to conduct our business in English.' To me it's a lack of courage and a lack of leadership."

P.P.S. - As I mentioned on Fox News Sunday this weekend, the agreement reached between the United States and North Korea last week only rewards the bad behavior of the North Korean dictatorship. The signal it sends to other dictatorships pursuing nuclear weapons like Iran is to ignore the Americans, ignore the threat of sanctions, get your nuclear weapons, and then cut a deal later, because in the end, the democracies are going to cave. You can read my analysis here.
27778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam in North Africa, Mali, the Magreb on: February 20, 2007, 09:27:27 AM
Its the NY Slimes, so read with care-- but several interesting things in this piece.
=======================================================

North Africa Feared as Staging Ground for Terror
By CRAIG S. SMITH
NY Times
Published: February 20, 2007
TUNIS — The plan, hatched for months in the arid mountains of North Africa, was to attack the American and British Embassies here. It ended in a series of gun battles in January that killed a dozen militants and left two Tunisian security officers dead.

But the most disturbing aspect of the violence in this normally placid, tourist-friendly nation is that it came from across the border in Algeria, where an Islamic terrorist organization has vowed to unite radical Islamic groups across North Africa.
Counterterrorism officials on three continents say the trouble in Tunisia is the latest evidence that a brutal Algerian group with a long history of violence is acting on its promise: to organize extremists across North Africa and join the remnants of Al Qaeda into a new international force for jihad.

[Last week, the group claimed responsibility for seven nearly simultaneous bombings that destroyed police stations in towns east of Algiers, the Algerian capital, killing six people.]

This article was prepared from interviews with American government and military officials, French counterterrorism officials, Italian counterterrorism prosecutors, Algerian terrorism experts, Tunisian government officials and a Tunisian attorney working with Islamists charged with terrorist activities.

They say North Africa, with its vast, thinly governed stretches of mountain and desert, could become an Afghanistan-like terrorist hinterland within easy striking distance of Europe. That is all the more alarming because of the deep roots that North African communities have in Europe and the ease of travel between the regions. For the United States, the threat is also real because of visa-free travel to American cities for most European passport holders.

The violent Algerian group the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, known by its French initials G.S.P.C., has for several years been under American watch.

“The G.S.P.C. has become a regional terrorist organization, recruiting and operating in all of your countries — and beyond,” Henry A. Crumpton, then the United States ambassador at large for counterterrorism, said at a counterterrorism conference in Algiers last year. “It is forging links with terrorist groups in Morocco, Nigeria, Mauritania, Tunisia and elsewhere.”

Officials say the group is funneling North African fighters to Iraq, but is also turning militants back toward their home countries.

The ambitions of the group are particularly troubling to counterterrorism officials on the watch for the re-emergence of networks that were largely interrupted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. While most estimates put the current membership of the group in the hundreds, it has survived more than a decade of Algerian government attempts to eradicate it. It is now the best-organized and -financed terrorist group in the region.

Last year, on the fifth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Al Qaeda chose the G.S.P.C. as its representative in North Africa. In January, the group reciprocated by switching its name to Al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb, claiming that the Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, had ordered the change.

“Al Qaeda’s aim is for the G.S.P.C. to become a regional force, not solely an Algerian one,” said the French counterterrorism magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguière, in Paris. He calls the Algerian group the biggest terrorist threat facing France today.

“We know from cases that we’re working on that the G.S.P.C.’s mission is now to recruit people in Morocco and Tunisia, train them and send them back to their countries of origin or Europe to mount attacks,” he said.

The G.S.P.C. was created in 1998 as an offshoot of the Armed Islamic Group, which along with other Islamist guerrilla forces fought a brutal decade-long civil war after the Algerian military canceled elections in early 1992 because an Islamist party was poised to win.

In 2003, a G.S.P.C. leader in southern Algeria kidnapped 32 European tourists, some of whom were released for a ransom of 5 million euros (about $6.5 million at current exchange rates), paid by Germany.

Officials say the leader, Amari Saifi, bought weapons and recruited fighters before the United States military helped corner and catch him in 2004. He is now serving a life sentence in Algeria.

Change of Leadership

Since then, an even more radical leader, Abdelmalek Droukdel, has taken over the group. The Algerian military says he cut his teeth in the 1990s as a member of the Armed Islamic Group’s feared Ahoual or “horror” company, blamed for some of the most gruesome massacres of Algeria’s civil war.

He announced his arrival with a truck bomb at the country’s most important electrical production facility in June 2004, and focused on associating the group with Al Qaeda.

Links to the G.S.P.C. soon began appearing in terrorism cases elsewhere in North Africa and in Europe.

In 2005, Moroccan authorities arrested a man named Anour Majrar, and told Italy and France that he and two other militants had visited G.S.P.C. leaders in Algeria earlier that year.

================



His interrogation led to arrests in Algeria, Italy and France, where Mr. Majrar’s associates were quickly linked to an attempted robbery of 5 million euros at an armored car depot in Beauvais, north of Paris. A hole had been blown in a wall at the depot with military-grade C4 plastic explosives, but it was not big enough for the men to get through.

A later investigation turned up Kalashnikov assault rifles, French Famas military assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, TNT and two more pounds of C4. French counterterrorism officials say the group was planning attacks on the Paris Metro, the city’s Orly Airport, and the headquarters of the Direction de la Surveillance du Territoire, France’s domestic intelligence agency.
Italian prosecutors say a related cell in Milan was planning attacks on the city’s police headquarters and on the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, whose 15th-century fresco depicts the Prophet Muhammad in hell.

The G.S.P.C. or its members in Algeria appear to have become a touchstone for groups suspected of being terror cells across the region, in much the way that Qaeda representatives in London were a decade ago.

Wiretaps, interrogation of terrorism suspects and recovered documents suggest that the network has associates in France, Italy, Turkey and even Greece, which is favored as an entry point to Europe because of its relatively lax immigration controls, counterterrorism officials say.

There had been hints that the North African groups were planning more formal cooperation as far back as 2005, when Moroccan intelligence authorities found messages sent by Islamic militants to Osama bin Laden, according to European counterintelligence officials.

Evidence of an Alliance

Indications that a cross-border alliance was under way came in June 2005, when the G.S.P.C. attacked a military outpost in Mauritania, killing 15 soldiers. The attackers fled into Mali, according to the United States military.

Moroccan police officers raiding suspected Islamic militant cells last summer also found documents discussing a union between the G.S.P.C. and the Islamic Combatant Group in Morocco, the Islamic Fighting Group in Libya and several smaller Tunisian groups, intelligence officials say.

In September, Al Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, released a videotape in which he said that his global terrorist network had joined forces with the G.S.P.C.

The video was followed by an unsettling increase in terrorist attacks across the region, including one against Halliburton employees in Algeria in December that left one Algerian dead and nine people wounded.

But the strongest evidence yet of the G.S.P.C.’s North African cross-border cooperation came in January when Tunisia announced that it had killed 12 Islamic extremists and captured 15 of them. Officials said that six of the extremists had crossed into the country from Algeria.

Their 36-year-old leader, Lassad Sassi, was a former Tunisian policeman who ran a terrorist cell in Milan until May 2001 before fleeing to Algeria, according to an Italian prosecutor, Armando Spataro.

Mr. Sassi, now dead, is still listed as a defendant in a current terrorism trial in Milan, which began before he died. He was charged in absentia with providing military clothing and money to the G.S.P.C. while financing and planning suicide bomb attacks in Italy.

Tunisian officials say that Mr. Sassi and five other men — four Tunisians and one Mauritanian — crossed the rugged border from Algeria into Tunisia months ago.

They set up a base in the mountains of Djebel Terif, where Mr. Sassi trained 20 other Tunisian men in the use of automatic weapons and explosives.

A Trail of Violence

The decision to move against the group began when the police in the Tunis suburb of Hammam Lif detained a young woman in December who led them to a house where a gun battle left two suspected terrorists dead, two officers wounded and two other men in custody, a police officer involved said. His account of the events could not be independently verified.

Another arrest led the police into the hills toward the training camp.

Three of the militants and a Tunisian Army captain were killed during a chase through the mountains. Tunisian security forces mounted a search in which 13 more men were arrested and Mr. Sassi was killed.

The remnants of the group fled and members were later tracked down and killed in another gun battle.

Tunisian officials have sought to play down the G.S.P.C. link, and have said the recently dismantled group’s target was the West.

In fact, according to Samir Ben Amor, a Tunisian attorney who defends many young Tunisian Islamists, more than 600 young Tunisian Islamists have been arrested in the past two years — more than 100 in the past two months — trying to make their way to Iraq to fight the United States.

“It’s the same thing that we saw in Bosnia, Kosovo and above all Afghanistan,” said Mr. Bruguière, the French magistrate. “Al Qaeda’s objective is to create an operational link between the groups in Iraq and the G.S.P.C.”

Tunisia is among the most vulnerable of the North African countries, because its rigid repression of Islam has created a well of resentment among religious youth, and its popularity as a tourist destination for Europeans makes it a target.

Tunisian security forces found Google Earth satellite images of the American and British Embassies as well as the names of diplomats who worked in both buildings. But according to the police officer involved in the case and journalists in Tunisia, the targets also included hotels and nightclubs.

An attack on those sites would have dealt a heavy blow to Tunisia’s tourist industry, one of the country’s most important sources of foreign exchange. An April 2002 bombing of a synagogue on the Tunisian tourist island of Djerba, for which the G.S.P.C. claimed responsibility, helped sink the country’s economic growth that year to its slowest rate in a decade.
27779  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Are there Knights? on: February 20, 2007, 09:14:25 AM
Woof All:

I know I still have the question presented about DB/DBMA in all of this, but this AM before I start my day I would like to offer some rambling thoughts on a different element of this thread.

Knights in shining armor were Christian and the Code of Chivalry was in that context, so it occurs to me to extract the universal concept here we may benefit from contemplating this a bit.

Although I am Jewish, recently I read "The Way of the Wild Heart" by John Eldredge a Christian oriented author, which I would describe as an interesting blend of Jungian archetypal analysis and "Manly Christianity" (see the thread of this name on our "Humanities" forum nearby).  There is much in JE's writing that will be familiar to readers of Jungian's such as Robert Bly (author of "Iron John" and other books)  JE is of the Christian school of thought that contrary to the representations of many, Christianity is NOT a pacifist religion and that there has been a feminization of it contrary to God's word/Jesus's  teachings.

"The Way of the Wild Heart" is written about the stages of a man's life and how to father them.   These stages overlap greatly and there is tremendous variation within them.   Working from memory, I would say that JE organizes them thusly:

1) I am embarrassed to say that I do not remember the exact name for this stage but I have lent the book to a friend and so cannot look it up  embarassed  The gist of it is that throught the age of 12 is that the primary mission of the father is to let his son know that he believes in him and takes delight in him;
2) The Ranger/Cowboy takes place from 12 to 21.  Here the boy begins to learn competence in the way of the world in things that often have overtones of danger: chopping wood, competence with tools, rough and tumble activities, hiking/camping, etc.
3) The Warrior begins around 18 and continues until , , , ,.
4)  The Lover begins around 26.  By the Lover, JE does not mean being able to have sex with lots of women or give them lots of orgasms, but to have a sense of the wonder and beauty of Life.  Art and Music are examples of this.  He uses the Torah's King David as an example when he writes Psalms of great beauty.  His point is that until a man has developed this part of himself he is not of much real use to a woman and contrasts young men/males of today who are stuck in the Ranger/Warrior phase and lack the ability to move forward and emotionally commit to a woman and to family life.
5) The King, whom he defines as "Someone whom can be trusted with power" (I like this definition).  For most men this is being the leader of their family
6) The Sage-- an advisor to Kings

Using this framework, Chivalry is the development of the understanding in medieval Christian Warrior culture of bringing the Lover to the Warrior-- thus preparing the way for the emergence of the King e.g. King Arthur.

It is interesting to note that in Homer's Iliad the the book ends not with the sacking of Troy, but with the funerals for Patroclus and Hector.  This drives us modern westerners crazy and thus we see the movie "Troy" include the sacking of Troy.  But why did Homer conclude the Iliad as he did?  Achilles' squabbles with King Agamemnon over Respect are those of a Warrior missing a certain something.  He becomes ashamed of his disrespect to the fallen Hector when confronted by Hector's father, the old King Priam, who is the Sage who teaches him about the seasons of Life.  Achilles' weeps for all that he has done and realizes that he must grant his enemies Respect. 

This for Homer is what the Iliad is about-- the beginning of a new Archetype in Greece's Warrior culture.

Anyway, big themes hastily composed at the start of a very busy day.  Please forgive the inarticulate and imprecise and vague expression.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog

PS:  I will look to get to the themes about the Dog Brothers and DBMA in the next couple of days.




27780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: February 20, 2007, 08:28:02 AM
All:

Although this piece is principally about Poland, I have decided to put it here in this thread about Russia.  Stratfor has been very big for a couple of years ago on the subject of Russia and its interpretation of and reaction to US influence in its "near abroad" especially the Ukraine.   

I've seen some mention in the news in the last few days about the Russians making noises about pulling out of some sort of missile treaty with the US because of the missile defense missiles that the US is seeking to put in eastern Europe to defend Iranian capabilities (referenced in this article here)

Marc
==================================

stratfor.com

Geopolitical Diary: Trying to Redefine Poland

Polish President Lech Kaczynski on Feb. 17 released a 374-page report on the workings of the recently liquidated Military Intelligence Service (WSI). The report betrays the country's intelligence apparatus of the past 15 years, outing its practices, people, connections and expertise. Opposition leaders have said the report is a guidebook to Poland's national security. Kaczynski dissolved the WSI in October 2006, saying the agency had overstepped its jurisdiction and infiltrated every aspect of Polish life with agents in political parties, media and businesses. The report is intended to make public the problems that led to the WSI's demise; instead, its opponents are calling it one of the largest breaches of Polish national security.

Uproar over the report is increasing, and former Polish President Lech Walesa has called the move political suicide for the president and his identical twin brother, Prime Minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski. However, the move fits into their proclaimed agenda of rooting out all old (communist) institutions, protecting Poland against Russia, solidifying Poland on the international stage and becoming the key European ally for the United States.

But this all assumes that the Kaczynski twins do in fact have such an agenda in mind and have not completely fallen off the wagon, as many of their opponents like to believe. The Kaczynskis are internationally known for making brash choices. Since late 2005, the Kaczynskis have gone through myriad Cabinet ministers, collapsed the government and gone head-to-head with the European Union on many substantial policies. Though these moves have given them an unpredictable reputation, they control enough of the government to ensure they cannot be ousted by a vote of no confidence. The twins are clearly consolidating their power in order to reshape the very definition of what Poland is today.

What the Polish fear most is a Russian resurgence as a great power -- an assertion that has recently become more apparent. Russia has been consolidating power at home, expanding its influence through its energy infrastructure and getting involved in international disputes, such as that with Iran. If the Polish are going to consolidate their power, effectively purge Soviet influence and become weighty enough to be the front line against Russia, then this is the time to do it -- not after Russia fully awakens. And the new government has been swift to both restructure itself and gain influence.

In reshaping Poland, Lech Kaczynski is not only purging the old members of government, but also is ensuring that they can never return. Like his predecessors, Kaczynski vowed to root out communists and their collaborators from the government. But unlike his predecessors, he has actually taken the drastic moves to do so, turning the purge into a virtual communist witch-hunt. The move both rids Soviet influence and consolidates the twins' power in the government. The release of the WSI report is one of the largest and most decisive moves along these lines. By naming people in the WSI who are connected to Soviet intelligence, Kaczynski ensures their names will forever be known for -- alleged or true -- Soviet-ties. The move undermines the entire structure of the WSI and all of its former personnel, ensuring that it and those attached to it can never recover.

Now Poland must create a new, and inevitably non-Russian, model of government and security. This will take years to accomplish and leaves Poland highly vulnerable in the short term. In the meantime, Poland is counting on the United States for protection. However, if this plan is executed, then Poland will be a key -- if not the key -- U.S. ally in continental Europe to counterbalance the Russians. In recent decades this role has been Germany. This is not to say that Poland will replace Germany as the U.S. partner against Russia, especially not in the next few years. However, Poland could become the core of those countries once on the "wrong" side of the Iron Curtain and increase its influence in Europe. And though this would protect Germany, Berlin would still loathe Poland's regional influence.

This all said, it is still just the Kaczynskis' agenda in a government that could be consolidating, but that is still shaky and unpredictable. A shakeup to this degree is very difficult to pull off even under a stable government. And Poland is keeping with its traditional tactic of looking to a power that is not geographically nearby to deal with those near. The last time Poland did this was in World War II, when it looked to the French to help prevent the Germans from invading, which did not work out too well. This time it is looking to the United States. And though it has promised protection to many of its NATO allies, Washington has never had to prove itself. Poland certainly is pushing for a U.S. guarantee since it is inking the deal for a U.S. national missile defense interceptor base to move in as soon as possible.
27781  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Crimes using knives on: February 19, 2007, 02:47:19 PM
An attempted robbery using sticks

http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=04e0c0b111
27782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Here comes Newt on: February 19, 2007, 01:59:37 PM
Here comes Newt
By Dick Morris and Eileen McGann
Thursday, February 15, 2007


To echo the famous Negro League pitcher Satchel Paige: “Don’t look back, Newt Gingrich might be gaining on you.” Newt, consigned by many observers to Elizabeth Dole or Dan Quayle status in this GOP nominating process, appears to be moving up into contention, overtaking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and battling to be the conservative alternative to either former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani or Arizona Sen. John McCain.

To grasp what’s happening, don’t think of states like New Hampshire or Iowa or worry whether it’s too early or too late. The key to following the Republican presidential nominating process this year is to recognize its essential similarity to the tennis’s U.S. Open at Forest Hills. There are quarter-finals, semi-finals, and finals.


 
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich speaks at the GOP Christmas dinner dance in Manchester, N.H., Friday, Dec. 15, 2006. (AP Photo/Cheryl Senter) In the quarter-finals, the center and the right each sort out the nominees to choose their candidate. On center court, Giuliani seems to be gaining a decisive lead over McCain’s impoverished presidential campaign. But on the right-hand court, unnoticed by most pundits, Gingrich seems to be building a lead over Romney and a host of conservative wannabes. The ultimate winner of the Giuliani/McCain quarter-final will face the winner of the Gingrich/Romney match-up in the semi-finals.

As McCain drops in the polls — he’s down to 22 percent while Rudy is up at 34 percent in the latest Fox News poll — some conservatives seem eager for a “real Republican” to challenge for the nomination. Their first choice, former Virginia Sen. George Allen, lies a-moldering in the grave and his runner-up, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, has gone home to Tennessee.

Most observers assumed that Romney would fill the void. But he doesn’t seem to have been able to do so. It may be a racist refusal to vote for a Mormon or, more charitably, Romney’s flip-flop-flip from pro-life to pro-choice to pro-life, or it may have been his inconsistency on gay issues, but Mitt seems to be going the way of his father — out of contention. The Fox News poll, which recorded a surge to up to 8 percent of the GOP vote in its Dec. 5-6 tally, now has Romney dropping back to only 3 percent of the vote.

Enter Newt. Hungry for new ideas and desperate after losing Congress, Republican voters seem to be rallying to the only real genius in the race — the former Speaker. The statute of limitations seems to have expired on his personal scandals and Gingrich is striking a responsive chord among conservatives.

Fox News’s Jan. 30-31 survey had Newt leaving Romney way behind and challenging McCain for second place. The former Speaker’s vote share was 15 percent, giving him third place in the current standings.

Episodically, I just addressed a 450-person Lincoln Day dinner of the Lane County Republican Party in Eugene, Ore. A show of hands brought these results: Giuliani, 50 percent; Gingrich, 30 percent; McCain, 6 percent; Romney, 4 percent. A few days before, a speech to an Orlando investors group produced similar results.

But, as the slogan of the New York State Lottery goes: “You can’t win if you don’t play.” Newt’s current posture of waiting until the fall of 2007 to see how the process sorts itself out won’t work. The process abhors a vacuum. If Gingrich doesn’t move out to respond to the affection of the GOP base, one of the minor-leaguers — Huckabee, Brownback, Gilmore, Thompson, Hunter or Tancredo — will.

The irony of the GOP field at the moment is that while most Republicans are conservatives, the two frontrunners — Rudy and McCain — are moderates. And this isn’t Nelson Rockefeller’s Republican Party anymore! Gingrich is filling a real political need and if he moves out smartly and files his paperwork, takes his announcement bows, and journeys to Iowa and New Hampshire as a candidate, he might well be a contender.
 

Morris, a former political adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of Condi vs. Hillary: The Next Great Presidential Race. To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to www.dickmorris.com
 
27783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: February 19, 2007, 11:02:49 AM
1241 GMT -- RUSSIA -- A bird flu outbreak near Moscow involves the dangerous H5N1 strain that can infect humans, Russian health officials confirmed Feb. 19. Nikolai Vlasov, a senior official at Russia's health watchdog Rosselkhoznadzor, said the strain is probably related to the Asian type of the virus and might have been carried by wild birds migrating from the Caucasus, Balkans or Asian regions. The outbreak, Russia's second of 2007, is the first to be recorded near the capital.

stratfor.com
27784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 19, 2007, 11:00:30 AM
1247 GMT -- IRAN -- Deliveries of uranium fuel for Iran's Russian-built Bushehr nuclear plant could be delayed because of late payments, which could derail the launch schedule, a Russian Federal Nuclear Power Agency spokesman said Feb. 19. Russia had agreed to begin shipping fuel by March for a September launch, with electricity generation to start by November. The Iranians reportedly have cited technical reasons for the payment delays.

stratfor.com
27785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: February 19, 2007, 10:59:08 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Examining Syria's Fears

In the Middle East, there was a series of events on Sunday that point toward growing pressure for Syria.

First, Syrian President Bashar al Assad paid a visit to Tehran, where Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told him Damascus needs to support the government in Iraq, and al Assad spoke out against rumors of a rift between Syria and Iran. The state-owned al-Baath daily in Damascus seemed to support his statements, writing -- in the context of Iranian-Syrian relations -- that, "Though their visions are not identical on everything, they however agree on two basic issues: Iraqi unity and the departure of the occupation forces, and the support of the political process in Iraq."

Meanwhile, Stratfor received word of a deal that Saudi Arabia has offered to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who (along with some other Hamas officials) is based in Damascus. Riyadh apparently has offered to provide protection and diplomatic status to Meshaal and other members of the movement's politburo, without preconditions, should they experience any pressure from Iran or Syria to renege on the agreement signed in Mecca with the rival Fatah party.

The implications of such an offer to Hamas are, for Syria, significant. The Syrians have been harboring Hamas and other rejectionist Palestinian groups in hopes of using them as a bargaining chip with Israel, from which Damascus would hope one day to regain the Golan Heights. The Saudis, however, recently were able to bring Hamas and Fatah leaders together to forge a power-sharing deal -- one which appears to be making progress. This raises concerns that Damascus might be losing its influence over Hamas. The concerns are underscored by the offer Riyadh reportedly made to Meshaal, since it means the Islamist Palestinian movement could find an alternative sanctuary.

An even more terrifying prospect for the Syrians, however, would be for Iran to pursue its own national interests in partnership with others, leaving Damascus completely out in the cold, regionally speaking. This is not necessarily an irrational fear -- and it would explain al Assad's decision to visit Tehran at this particular time, as well as a comment he made, in calling for closer cooperation between Iran and Syrian, that the United States and Israel are trying to sow discord among Muslim states.

It is clear that securing its influence in Iraq is one of Tehran's primary goals, and Syria recognizes that Iran might be willing to cooperate with the United States and the Arabs to achieve this end. Moreover, the Alawite-Baathist regime has not been blind to recent negotiations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, or the fact that Iran has called for cooperation between Hamas and Fatah. The perception is that Iran is willing to help ease the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in exchange for U.S. concessions in Iraq.

The Syrians' worst nightmare, of course, would involve Iran and Saudi Arabia working out a deal to stabilize Lebanon. Saudi-Iranian dealings in recent weeks prompted Hezbollah to back away from demonstrations that had been designed to bring down the Lebanese government. And it would not be beyond the pale for Iran to acquiesce to a broader agreement between Hezbollah (its proxy) and Saudi Arabia's Sunni allies, if Tehran was able to secure its goals in Iraq in exchange.

Such a deal would be immensely detrimental for Syria, given its significant interests in Lebanon. The only way to ensure that something like this does not come to pass is for Damascus to work closely with Tehran. Iran, of course, wants Syria to cooperate on Iraq, as Khamenei clearly stated on Sunday.

At this point, it remains to be seen whether Iran and Syria can work out a mutually acceptable arrangement. But from all appearances, the rumors of a rift between Iran and Syria may indeed have some merit.

stratfor.com
27786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: February 19, 2007, 10:33:10 AM
Rep. Jefferson is the man in whose refrigerator the FBI found $90,000 in cash.

=================

Rep. Jefferson to Get Homeland Security Seat
Associated Press
Saturday, February 17, 2007; Page A09


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who yanked embattled Rep. William J. Jefferson off a powerful tax committee last year, has decided to put him on the Homeland Security panel, aides to the Louisiana Democrat confirmed yesterday.

The move infuriated some Republicans, who accuse him of being a potential security risk.

Jefferson has been the subject of an ongoing federal bribery investigation related to a telecommunications deal in Africa. His Capitol Hill office and his homes in Washington and New Orleans have been raided by the FBI, and he was kicked off the Ways and Means Committee last June after affidavits and evidence seized in the raids became public.

Nevertheless, Jefferson won reelection in December to a ninth term, and he has been an outspoken critic of the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. Pelosi's decision to appoint Jefferson to the committee must still be formally approved by House Democrats.

"It sends a terrible message," said Rep. Peter T. King (N.Y.), the committee's ranking Republican. "They couldn't trust him to write tax policy, so why should he be given access to our nation's top secrets or making policy for national defense?

"Members of the committee have access to intelligence secrets, plots here in the country, overseas, and people under suspicion. This shows how unimportant the Democrats think homeland security is," King said.

Jefferson's chief of staff, Eugene Green, called King's criticism "ridiculous and just politics."

"Representing New Orleans as he does, we're very concerned as to what happened in the wake of Hurricane Katrina," Green said. "It's just natural for the congressman to serve his constituents on a committee of this nature."

27787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 18, 2007, 12:26:17 PM
Why the Iraq war is turning into America's defeat
(http://www.suntimes.com/news/steyn/260810,CST-EDT-steyn18.article)
 
February 18, 2007
 
BY MARK STEYN Sun-Times Columnist
 
The week's news from Iraq: According to the state television network, the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq, Abu Ayyub al-Masri, was wounded in a clash with security forces just north of Baghdad. A senior deputy was killed. (Turns out this report was apparently in error.)
 
Meanwhile, the punk cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has decided that discretion is the better part of mullahs and has temporarily relocated to Iran. That's right: The biggest troublemaker in Iraq is no longer in Iraq. It may be that his Persian vacation is only to marry a cousin or two and consult with the A-list ayatollahs, but the Mookster has always had highly sensitive antennae when it comes to his own physical security -- he likes being the guy who urges martyrdom on others rather than being just another schmuck who takes one for the team. So the fact that urgent business requires him to be out of town for the Big Surge is revealing at the very least of how American objectives in Iraq are not at the mercy of forces beyond their control; U.S. military and political muscle can shape conditions on the ground -- if they can demonstrate they're serious about doing so.
 
Which these days is a pretty big "if." Reporting the sudden relocation, the New York Times decided -- in nothing flat -- that it was yet another disastrous setback. In Iraq, no news is good news, and Sadr news is badder news:
 
''With the new American offensive in Baghdad still in its early days, American commanders have focused operations in the eastern part of the city, a predominantly Shiite area that has long been the Mahdi Army's power base.
 
''If Mr. Sadr had indeed fled, his absence would create a vacuum that could allow even more radical elements of the Shiite group to take power.''
 
As my National Review colleague Rich Lowry marveled: ''So now we need to keep Sadr in Iraq because he's such a stabilizing influence!'' Of course! As Hillaire Belloc wrote, ''Always keep a hold of Nurse/For fear of finding something worse'' -- and, even when Nurse Sadr is blowing up the kids in the nursery every day, it's best to cling to her blood-drenched apron strings because the next nurse will be an even bigger psycho. America is a big helpless baby who's blundered into a war zone he can never hope to understand.
 
According to a report by the New York Sun's Eli Lake last month, Iran is supporting Shia insurgents in Iraq and Sunni insurgents in Iraq. In other words, it's on both sides in the so-called civil war. How can this be? After all, as the other wise old foreign-policy "realists" of the Iraq Study Group assured us only in December, Iran has "an interest in avoiding chaos in Iraq.''
 
Au contraire, the ayatollahs have concluded they have a very clear interest in fomenting chaos in Iraq. They're in favor of Sunni killing Shia, and Shia killing Sunni, and if some vacationing Basque terrorists wanted to blow up the Spanish Cultural Center in Mosul, they'd be in favor of that, too. The Iranians don't care who kills whom as long as every night when Americans turn on the evening news there's smoke over Baghdad. As I say in my book, if you happen to live in Ramadi or Basra, Iraq is about Iraq; if you live in Tehran, or Cairo, or Bei-jing, Moscow, Pyongyang or Brussels, Iraq is about America. American will. American purpose. American credibility.
 
There was a TV station somewhere -- was it Thunder Bay, Ontario? -- that used to show a continuous loop of a roaring fireplace all night, and thousands of viewers would supposedly sit in front of it for hours because it was such a reassuringly comforting scene. The networks could save themselves a lot of money by adopting the same approach: Run a continuous loop of a smoking building in Baghdad all night while thousands of congressmen and pundits and think-tankers and retired generals run around Washington shrieking that all is lost. America is way out of its league! A dimwitted tourist in a fearful land of strange people who don't watch "American Idol." Iraq is so culturally alien that not a single Sunni, Shia or Kurd has come forward claiming to be the father of Anna Nicole's baby!
 
Get a grip, chaps! In Iraq, everyone's a tourist. This al-Qaida honcho, al-Masri, is an Egyptian. His predecessor, Zarqawi, was a Jordanian. Al-Sadr is a Persian stooge. For four decades, the country was a British client. Before that, it was a Turkish province. The Middle East is a crazy place and a tough nut to crack, but the myth of the unbeatable Islamist insurgent is merely a lazy and more neurotic update of the myth of the unbeatable communist guerrilla, which delusion led to so much pre-emptive surrender in the '70s. Nevertheless, in the capital city of the most powerful nation on the planet, the political class spent last week trying to craft a bipartisan defeat strategy, and they might yet pull it off. Consider this extraordinary report from the Washington Post:
 
"Democratic leaders have rallied around a strategy that would fully fund the president's $100 billion request for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan but would limit his ability to use the money. . . . The plan is aimed at tamping down calls from the Democrats' liberal wing for Congress to simply end funding for the war.
 
"The Murtha plan, based on existing military guidelines, includes a stipulation that Army troops who have already served in Iraq must be granted two years at home before an additional deployment. . . . The idea is to slowly choke off the war by stopping the deployment of troops from units that have been badly degraded by four years of combat."
 
So "the Murtha plan" is to deny the president the possibility of victory while making sure Democrats don't have to share the blame for the defeat. But of course he's a great American! He's a patriot! He supports the troops! He doesn't support them in the mission, but he'd like them to continue failing at it for a couple more years. As John Kerry wondered during Vietnam, how do you ask a soldier to be the last man to die for a mistake? By nominally "fully funding" a war you don't believe in but "limiting his ability to use the money." Or as the endearingly honest anti-war group MoveCongress.org put it, in an e-mail preview of an exclusive interview with the wise old Murtha:
 
"Chairman Murtha will describe his strategy for not only limiting the deployment of troops to Iraq but undermining other aspects of the president's foreign and national security policy."
 
"Undermining"? Why not? To the Slow-Bleed Democrats, it's the Republicans' war. To an increasing number of what my radio pal Hugh Hewitt calls the White-Flag Republicans, it's Bush's war. To everyone else on the planet, it's America's war. And it will be America's defeat.
 
©Mark Steyn, 2007
27788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Brittney Spears Tattoo on: February 18, 2007, 09:39:21 AM
That's very funny. cheesy

Tangent:  I find it remarkable that this woman gets a pass for using her fame, money, and kitty for luring Kevin Federline away from a woman who was pregnant with his child and had already had a child with him.  Despicable.

27789  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Dog Brothers East Cost Seminar featuring Guro Marc “Crafty Dog” Denny on: February 18, 2007, 09:33:32 AM
Hah!

That picture is from 1998 or 1999 IIRC which would make me 46 or 47.  The dog is "Moro/Morro", who was my second Akita.   I was still dyeing my hair back then, so there is no grey  cheesy  The foto is from the shoot that Martial Arts Illustrated did for what turned out to be my first cover shot. 


PS:  Regarding the name "Moro".  Several years after I had named him I had some Filipinos tell me that despite my honorable intentions, the dog's name was offensive.  "What about the MILF (the Moro Islamic Liberation Front)?" I asked-- rather reasonablyI thought.  But this rejoinder was deemd insufficient, so to get along I renamed him "Morro", after Morro Bay on the California coast and Morro never knew the difference.
27790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Howl of Respect to our Soldiers/Veterans on: February 17, 2007, 11:02:42 PM


http://s75.photobucket.com/albums/i312/ChrisFry/?action=view&current=02_FEB_07_ABC_DFW_Welcome.flv
27791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: February 17, 2007, 10:39:43 PM
COWARDS GIVE UP ON GIS - & GIVE IN TO EVIL
By RALPH PETERS


February 17, 2007 -- PROVIDING aid and comfort to the enemy in wartime is treason. It's not "just politics." It's treason.
And signaling our enemies that Congress wants them to win isn't "supporting our troops."

The "nonbinding resolution" telling the world that we intend to surrender to terrorism and abandon Iraq may be the most disgraceful congressional action since the Democratic Party united to defend slavery.

The vote was a huge morale booster for al Qaeda, for Iraq's Sunni insurgents, and for the worst of the Shia militias.

The message Congress just sent to them all was, "Hold on, we'll stop the surge, we're going to leave - and you can slaughter the innocent with our blessing."

We've reached a low point in the history of our government when a substantial number of legislators would welcome an American defeat in Iraq for domestic political advantage.

Yes, some members voted their conscience. But does anyone believe they were in the majority?

This troop surge might not work. We can't know yet. But we can be damned sure that the shameful action taken on the Hill while our troops are fighting isn't going to help.

And a word about those troops: It's going to come as a shock to the massive egos in Congress, but this resolution won't hurt morale - for the simple reason that our men and women in uniform have such low expectations of our politicians that they'll shrug this off as business as usual.

This resolution has teeth, though: It's going to bite our combat commanders. By undermining their credibility and shaking the trust of their Iraqi counterparts, it makes it far tougher to build the alliances that might give Iraq a chance.

If you were an Iraqi, would you be willing to trust Americans and risk your life after the United States Congress voted to abandon you?

Now that Donald Rumsfeld's gone, the Democrats are doing just what they pilloried the former Secretary of Defense for doing: Denying battlefield commanders the troops and resources they need.

Congresswoman Pelosi, have you no shame?

As a former soldier who still spends a good bit of time with those in uniform, what infuriates me personally is the Doublespeak, Stalin-Prize lie that undercutting our troops and encouraging our enemies is really a way to "support our troops."

As for bringing them home, why not respect the vote the troops themselves are taking: Sustained re-enlistment rates have been at a record high.

And our soldiers and Marines know they'll go back to Iraq or Afghanistan. And no, Senator Kerry, it's not because they're too stupid to get a "real" job like yours or because they're "mercenaries." Some Americans still believe in America.

If our troops are willing to fight this bitter war, how dare Congress knife them in the back?

On Thursday night, I was in Nashville as a guest of the 506th Regimental Combat Team - with whom I'd spent all too brief a time in Baghdad.

The occasion was their welcome-home ball, complete with dress uniforms spangled with awards for bravery. Proud spouses sat beside their returned warriors.

Of course, those soldiers were glad to be home with their loved ones. But they also know they'll go back to one theater of war or another - and no one complained.

They share a value that Congress has forgotten: duty. They're willing to bear the weight of the world on their shoulders. Because they know that freedom has a price.

As you entered the ballroom for the event, the first thing you saw was a line of 34 photographs. A single white candle softly lit each frame. Those were the members of the 506th who didn't come home.

Soldiers honor their dead. It's the least Congress could do to honor the living men and women in uniform.

You don't support our troops by supporting our enemies.

Ralph Peters' latest book is "Never Quit The Fight."


 
27792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: February 17, 2007, 01:20:57 PM
Monetary Policy and the State of the Economy
by Ron Paul
by Ron Paul




Statement at Hearing of the House Financial Services Committee, February 15, 2007


Transparency in monetary policy is a goal we should all support.  I've often wondered why Congress so willingly has given up its prerogative over monetary policy.  Astonishingly, Congress in essence has ceded total control over the value of our money to a secretive central bank.

Congress created the Federal Reserve, yet it had no constitutional authority to do so.  We forget that those powers not explicitly granted to Congress by the Constitution are inherently denied to Congress – and thus the authority to establish a central bank never was given.  Of course Jefferson and Hamilton had that debate early on, a debate seemingly settled in 1913.

But transparency and oversight are something else, and they're worth considering.  Congress, although not by law, essentially has given up all its oversight responsibility over the Federal Reserve.  There are no true audits, and Congress knows nothing of the conversations, plans, and actions taken in concert with other central banks.  We get less and less information regarding the money supply each year, especially now that M3 is no longer reported.

The role the Fed plays in the President's secretive Working Group on Financial Markets goes unnoticed by members of Congress.  The Federal Reserve shows no willingness to inform Congress voluntarily about how often the Working Group meets, what actions it takes that affect the financial markets, or why it takes those actions.

But these actions, directed by the Federal Reserve, alter the purchasing power of our money.  And that purchasing power is always reduced.  The dollar today is worth only four cents compared to the dollar in 1913, when the Federal Reserve started.  This has profound consequences for our economy and our political stability.  All paper currencies are vulnerable to collapse, and history is replete with examples of great suffering caused by such collapses, especially to a nation's poor and middle class.  This leads to political turmoil.

Even before a currency collapse occurs, the damage done by a fiat system is significant.  Our monetary system insidiously transfers wealth from the poor and middle class to the privileged rich.  Wages never keep up with the profits of Wall Street and the banks, thus sowing the seeds of class discontent.  When economic trouble hits, free markets and free trade often are blamed, while the harmful effects of a fiat monetary system are ignored. We deceive ourselves that all is well with the economy, and ignore the fundamental flaws that are a source of growing discontent among those who have not shared in the abundance of recent years.

Few understand that our consumption and apparent wealth is dependent on a current account deficit of $800 billion per year.  This deficit shows that much of our prosperity is based on borrowing rather than a true increase in production.  Statistics show year after year that our productive manufacturing jobs continue to go overseas.  This phenomenon is not seen as a consequence of the international fiat monetary system, where the United States government benefits as the issuer of the world's reserve currency.

Government officials consistently claim that inflation is in check at barely 2%, but middle class Americans know that their purchasing power – especially when it comes to housing, energy, medical care, and school tuition – is shrinking much faster than 2% each year.

Even if prices were held in check, in spite of our monetary inflation, concentrating on CPI distracts from the real issue.  We must address the important consequences of Fed manipulation of interest rates. When interests rates are artificially low, below market rates, insidious mal-investment and excessive indebtedness inevitably bring about the economic downturn that everyone dreads.

We look at GDP numbers to reassure ourselves that all is well, yet a growing number of Americans still do not enjoy the higher standard of living that monetary inflation brings to the privileged few.  Those few have access to the newly created money first, before its value is diluted.

For example:  Before the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system, CEO income was about 30 times the average worker's pay.  Today, it's closer to 500 times.  It's hard to explain this simply by market forces and increases in productivity.  One Wall Street firm last year gave out bonuses totaling $16.5 billion.  There's little evidence that this represents free market capitalism.

In 2006 dollars, the minimum wage was $9.50 before the 1971 breakdown of Bretton Woods.  Today that dollar is worth $5.15.  Congress congratulates itself for raising the minimum wage by mandate, but in reality it has lowered the minimum wage by allowing the Fed to devalue the dollar.  We must consider how the growing inequalities created by our monetary system will lead to social discord.

GDP purportedly is now growing at 3.5%, and everyone seems pleased.  What we fail to understand is how much government entitlement spending contributes to the increase in the GDP.  Rebuilding infrastructure destroyed by hurricanes, which simply gets us back to even, is considered part of GDP growth.  Wall Street profits and salaries, pumped up by the Fed's increase in money, also contribute to GDP statistical growth.  Just buying military weapons that contribute nothing to the well being of our citizens, sending money down a rat hole, contributes to GDP growth!  Simple price increases caused by Fed monetary inflation contribute to nominal GDP growth.  None of these factors represent any kind of real increases in economic output.  So we should not carelessly cite misleading GDP figures which don't truly reflect what is happening in the economy.  Bogus GDP figures explain in part why so many people are feeling squeezed despite our supposedly booming economy.

But since our fiat dollar system is not going away anytime soon, it would benefit Congress and the American people to bring more transparency to how and why Fed monetary policy functions.

For starters, the Federal Reserve should:

Begin publishing the M3 statistics again.  Let us see the numbers that most accurately reveal how much new money the Fed is pumping into the world economy.
Tell us exactly what the President's Working Group on Financial Markets does and why.
Explain how interest rates are set.  Conservatives profess to support free markets, without wage and price controls.  Yet the most important price of all, the price of money as determined by interest rates, is set arbitrarily in secret by the Fed rather than by markets!  Why is this policy written in stone? Why is there no congressional input at least?
Change legal tender laws to allow constitutional legal tender (commodity money) to compete domestically with the dollar.
How can a policy of steadily debasing our currency be defended morally, knowing what harm it causes to those who still believe in saving money and assuming responsibility for themselves in their retirement years?  Is it any wonder we are a nation of debtors rather than savers?

We need more transparency in how the Federal Reserve carries out monetary policy, and we need it soon.

February 17, 2007

Dr. Ron Paul is a Republican member of Congress from Texas.
27793  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Are there Knights? on: February 17, 2007, 01:17:50 PM
Woof All:

I am delighted to see both Maija and Michael Brown joining in.  A hearty woof of welcome to both of you!

I will need a more leisurely moment to put down some thoughts for this thread, but for the moment share an article written by Dog Hig, who is one of our DBMA instructors in the UK.   I gather that this piece will be published in the UK's "Martial Arts Illustrated" or "Combat", so please do not forward it from here.

TAC,
CD
=====================================================

The Spirituality of the Gathering


In the time I’ve been training in DBMA, the question I’ve been asked more than any other has to “Why do you want to fight at the Gathering?”

It’s a question that’s been asked of me by everyone, family, friends, students, people I meet at seminars, someone even asked me it just before the last Gathering in Bern. The reason for them asking the question changes from person to person, some are asking because they want to try it but want to make sure it’s a sane thing to do first. Others just don’t get it, they see the risk but not the reward.
This article is more for the latter.

The first time I saw the Dog Brothers on tape, I had conflicting emotions.
My first feeling was confusion, why would they do this???
I’d been told by my first instructors that the weapons side of the art was so effective, you could never test it. They said to do so would leave both parties badly injured and there was too much risk. Besides everything we were training had already been battle tested by those who had gone before us. There was no need to put ourselves at risk.
Yet there it was on film, a bunch of guys using their skill to defend themselves and putting their health on the line.
My second feeling was anticipation, because I wanted to do it as well.

The path to my first Gathering took me a few years, but looking back on it, the main thing that stopped me going sooner was me. That wasn’t a bad thing, for all the good I have to say about a Gathering, it’s a dangerous thing to do & you need to be doing it for the right reasons. To paraphrase Crafty “Sometimes, especially the first time, you should just watch”

When I got to Switzerland that first time, the fear running through me was immense. On more than one occasion I thought of backing out & had conversations with Guro Crafty & Guro Lonely about the emotions I was feeling. The openness with which they discussed their own pre-fight emotions will always amaze me. It all boiled down to one thing, if you weren’t scared, there was something wrong. It reassured me to realize that despite all their skill and successful experience, the fear was still there and they did it anyway. My own fear, while still a powerful force, started to seem a little less dominating.

The moment of truth came quickly, the fighters had assembled & Crafty said the Magic words “"No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with which he came and our goal is that no one spends the night in the hospital. However, only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times. No suing no one for no reason for nothing, no how, no way."”
Guro Lonely got up and put on his mask for the first fight of the day. If I didn’t do it now, I’d never do it. I felt a moment of detachment as I put on my mask and walked to the centre. The Drummers started, we tapped in & the two most spiritual minutes of my life started.

For the two minutes that we fought, nothing else outside existed, my job, my credit card bills, and the fact that my car needed new brakes….
For the fist time that I can remember, I existed only in the moment. Every second that passed was the only second that mattered. Everything except what was in front of me faded in perspective. A man who is extremely skilled in what he does, pushing me to the limit of what he feels I can take (at one point, I could have sworn that Lonely smiled at me through his mask after setting me up beautifully. He swears he didn’t). The only thing to protect me is the stick in my hand, the light gloves & the thin mask on my face. In those two minutes I experienced a feeling of responsibility and self awareness that had been missing in my life till that point.
In day to day life it’s easy to pass responsibility for everything onto everyone else. You trip in the street, someone should have fixed the paving. You crash your car, the other guy should have watched where he was going. You get knocked out or hurt, your corner or the ref should have stopped the fight earlier.

Here was a place where only I was responsible for my actions, I made the choice to come, I did the extra hours at work to buy my plane ticket, I stood up, I put on my mask and if I got hurt, it was due to the choices I alone had made.
If however I grew in some way, regardless of the outcomes of any of my fights, learned a little, matured a little, moved a little bit closer to being the type of man I want be. Then this would be down to how I dealt with the path I’d chosen.
This was and is a very powerful realisation.

The realisation that I solely was responsible for the direction of those two minutes,  and how I chose to deal with any consequences, has passed through to the rest of my life & I hope it will be with me for a long time to come.

There are a hundred other reasons to fight at a Gathering, for one thing you’ll never meet more honest or friendly people. For me though, it’ll always be to again experience those two minutes and rediscover the awareness they teach. That only I am responsible for my course in this life, and anything else is just excuses or fear.

To remind myself, that when it comes down to it, “Only you are responsible for you”


“Dog” Graeme Higgins has been training FMA for the last 10 years and is the first person in the UK to be both accepted into the Dog Brothers tribe and made a Lakan Guro in Dog Brothers Martial Arts.

To Contact Graeme, please visit
www.combative.co.uk or www.myspace.com/elhig   

For more information on Dog Brothers UK, please visit
www.DogBrothers.co.uk or www.myspace.com/DogBrothersUK
27794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Moderate Muslim intimidated in Tulsa OK on: February 17, 2007, 12:43:32 PM
Moderate Muslim intimidated in Tulsa OK

http://hotair.com/archives/2007/02/16/jamal-miftah-a-moderate-muslims-plight/
27795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: February 17, 2007, 12:28:34 PM
A Horror Travelogue
by Srdja Trifkovic
Thousands of young Muslims, armed with clubs and sticks and shouting, “Allahu akbar!” riot and force the police to retreat. Windows are smashed; stores are looted; cars are torched. Europeans unlucky or careless enough to be trapped by the mob are viciously attacked, and some are killed.

The scene could be Mogadishu in the aftermath of Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address; or Tripoli during the Danish-cartoons fury; or Karachi, Kabul, Gaza, and countless other cities in Dar al-Islam’s heartland, on any number of occasions. Yet a year ago, such scenes were unfolding, for weeks on end, in places with such names as Clichy-sous-Bois, Argenteuil, and La Courneuve. The trouble in the banlieus finally ended, as various Muslim “community leaders” had claimed it would, only when various levels of French officialdom quietly accepted that there were de facto no-go areas within the country, mini-Islamistans run by the dominant local majority. “Mon Clichy à moi, c’est ça!” just about sums it up, on the official website of Clichy-sous-Bois, whose population is 80-percent Muslim.

In practice, this means that local groceries refrain from selling wine, and young Muslim men feel emboldened to use violence against “sluts”—women who do not follow Islamic ways. Many more French-born Arab girls wear the hijab today than did so a year ago: It is their protection against mutilation and gang rape. Failing to do so makes them fair game for both: A knife slash across the scarfless girl’s cheek from the lip to the ear is especially common and known as a “smile.”

The demand for communal self-rule is not new, and it will be made with increasing frequency in the years to come. Of some 25 million Muslims in Western Europe, the majority already consider themselves autonomous, a community justifiably opposed to the decadent host society of infidels. This demand is but the first step: It will lead to the clamoring for the adoption of sharia within segregated Muslim communities and, finally, for the imposition of sharia on the society as a whole.

Europe’s elite class is prepared for this challenge. Dutch Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner—a Christian Democrat—sees the demand as perfectly legitimate and argues that sharia could be introduced “by democratic means.” Muslims have a right to follow the commands of their religion, even if that included some “dissenting rules of behavior”: “It is a sure certainty for me: if two thirds of all Netherlanders tomorrow would want to introduce Sharia, then this possibility must exist. Could you block this legally? It would also be a scandal to say ‘this isn’t allowed’! The majority counts. That is the essence of democracy.”
=============

The same “essence” was reiterated in similar terms last July by Jens Orback, the Swedish Integration [sic] Minister, who declared in a radio debate, “We must be open and tolerant towards Islam and Muslims because when we become a minority, they will be so towards us.” Yes, when we become a minority; the fact that, four months later, both Orback and his Social Democratic government remain in power aptly illustrates Sweden’s political and cultural scene.

Until a generation ago, Sweden used to be one of the safest and most law-abiding countries in the world. Today, in the southern city of Malmö, the authorities are no longer able to deal with the problem of crime among Muslim immigrants, 90 percent of whom are on welfare. They make up one third of the city’s 300,000 people; at the city’s Rosengrad School, of 1,000 students, only 2 were Swedes last year. “If we park our car it will be smashed—so we have to go very often in two vehicles, one just to protect the other,” says policeman Rolf Landgren. Both vehicles are needed to escort Swedish ambulance drivers into certain neighborhoods. Robberies of all sorts increased by 50 percent in 2004 alone, with gangs of young Muslims specializing in mugging old people visiting the graves of relatives. Thomas Anderberg, head of statistics for the Malmö police, reported a doubling of “rapes by ambush” in 2004. Almost all of the increase is attributable to Muslim men raping Swedish women.

Next door in Norway and Denmark, two thirds of all men arrested for rape are “of non-western ethnic origin”—the preferred euphemism for Middle Eastern and North African Muslims—although they account for under five percent of their residents. The number of rapes in Oslo in the summer of 2006 was twice that of the previous summer. All “gang rapes” in Denmark in 2004 were committed by immigrants and “refugees.”

The victims are overwhelmingly Scandinavian women, yet only one in twenty young Muslim men say they would marry one. Their reluctance is explained by an Islamic scholar, Mufti Shahid Mehdi, who told an audience in Copenhagen that European women who do not wear a headscarf were “asking to be raped.” His view is shared by Unni Wikan, a professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo and a self-described feminist; she holds that “Norwegian women must take their share of responsibility for these rapes” because Muslim men found their manner of dress provocative: “Norwegian women must realize that we live in a multicultural society and they must adapt themselves to it.”

Swedish courts are adapting by introducing sharia principles into civil cases. An Iranian man divorcing his Iranian wife was ordered by the high court in the city of Halmestad to pay Mahr, Islamic dowry ordained by the Koran as part of the Islamic marriage contract.
In the judicial sphere, Britain has gone even further, legitimizing sharia compliance even in criminal cases. A key tenet of sharia is that non-Muslims cannot try Muslims, or even testify against them; and this has been upheld by Peter Beaumont, QC, senior circuit judge at London’s Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey. Before the trial of Abdullah el-Faisal, a preacher accused of soliciting the murder of “unbelievers,” Justice Beaumont announced that, “[f]or obvious reasons, members of the jury of the Jewish or Hindu faith should reveal themselves, even if they are married to Jewish or Hindu women, because they are not fit to arbitrate in this case.” (One can only speculate what would be the reaction if equally “obvious reasons” were invoked in an attempt to exclude Muslims from the trial of BNP Chairman Nick Griffin for “Islamophobia.”)

The legitimization of sharia has also penetrated culture—both high and popular. In the fall of 2005, British audiences enjoyed a widely acclaimed production of Tamburlaine the Great, Christopher Marlowe’s 16th-century classic. Few noticed, however, that several irreverent references to Muhammad had been deleted. An essential scene in the play, in which the Koran is burned, became the destruction of “a load of books” relating to any culture or religion. Director David Farr and Simon Reade, Old Vic’s artistic director, said that, if they had not altered the original, it “would have unnecessarily raised the hackles of a significant proportion of one of the world’s great religions.” Both agreed that, in any event, the censored version—produced partly with public funds—was better than the original, making the play more powerful and relevant.

====================

The British Council, another taxpayer-funded organization that sponsors cross-cultural projects, sacked one of its press officers, Harry Cummins, for publishing four articles in London’s Sunday Telegraph. British Muslims took exception to his observation that Muslims had rights to practice their religion in the United Kingdom that were not enjoyed by Christians in the Islamic world, “despite the fact that these Christians are the original inhabitants and rightful owners of almost every Muslim land.” His cardinal sin was to note that “it is the black heart of Islam, not its black face, to which millions object.” Abdul Bari, deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, welcomed Cummins’ firing but expressed “dismay” that the publishing company had not taken action against the editor of the Sunday Telegraph as well.

Public funds were also used to build state-of-the-art senior housing in London’s East End. This housing is to be reserved strictly for Muslim “elders”: English and other white pensioners need not apply. Sirajul Islam, in charge of social services at the local borough of Tower Hamlets, responded to the journalists’ questions about racial and religious equality by stating that a “one size fits all” approach to public services was no longer acceptable in 21st-century Britain: “Tower Hamlets is fortunate to have a diverse mix of communities, and the council strives to ensure that its services are responsive to the differing and changing needs of its residents.”
That these and other fortunes are befalling Britain under “New Labour” is perhaps to be expected, but the revamped Tory Party hardly offers an alternative. Determined that out-Blairing Blair is the only way to regain power, it has, under David Cameron, jumped on the multiculturalist bandwagon and come out in support of retaining and expanding racial, ethnic, and sex-based quotas. Cameron’s colleague, Conservative Party Chairman Francis Maude, claims that immigration has been “fantastically good” for the United Kingdom.

Such inanities are light years away from Churchill’s warning, over a century ago, that “no stronger retrograde force exists in the world” than Islam:

Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science—the science against which it had vainly struggled—the civilization of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilization of ancient Rome.
Churchill’s prescience could not envisage the possibility that the invader would find his best friends and allies at No. 10, Downing Street, at the European Community Headquarters in Brussels, and in dozens of chancelleries and palaces across the Old Continent. Their joint efforts are helping change the face of Europe. Its southern maritime frontier is as porous as that on the Rio Grande. Boats packed with thousands of migrants from Africa and Asia land somewhere along Europe’s coasts every day. Their numbers are unknown, but the cumulative effect is not in doubt: By 2050, these people will account for one third of Europe’s young residents.
In Germany, mostly Muslim immigrants already account for about one quarter of all teenagers and ten percent of the population as a whole. But mention “integration” to Evelyn Rühle, a teacher in Wedding, a predominantly Turkish suburb of Berlin, and she will murmur, “disintegration, more likely,” with a sad smile. Her students’ Muslim parents routinely demand the separation of girls and boys in sports and take their children out of biology classes. Most students speak poorer German than immigrant children did 20 years ago. Their extracurricular activities are limited to attending Koran classes, and many speak only Turkish or Arabic at home.
The growth of digital television has made a host of Turkish and Arabic-language channels available, intensifying language problems and nurturing identities that are informed more by the situation in Lebanon, Gaza, or Iraq than by the events in Paris, Berlin, or London. Millions of Muslim youths all over Europe live in a parallel universe that has very little to do with the host country, toward which they have a disdainful and hostile attitude.

The elite class responds to hostility with ever-greater inclusiveness. Giuseppe Pisanu, Italy’s former minister of the interior, who is responsible for controlling the country’s borders, declared three years ago that the high fatality rate of North African illegals on the high seas en route to Sicily was “a dreadful tragedy that weighs on the conscience of Europe.” His reaction was paradigmatic of the utopian liberal mind-set. If “Europe” should feel guilty that people who have no right to come to its shores are risking their lives while trying to do so illegally, then only the establishment of a free passenger-ferry service between Africa and Southern Europe—with no passport or customs formalities required upon arrival, and a free shuttle to Rome or Milan—would offer some relief to that burdened conscience. Now that Sr. Pisanu and his boss, Silvio Berlusconi, have been replaced by a leftist government even more deeply committed to tolerance and diversity, this solution may finally become a reality.

The tangible results in Italy are as devastating as the moral and spiritual ones. In Venice, the invaders have taken over the Piazza San Marco. In Genoa, the marvelous palazzi that Rubens so admired have been seized by them “and are now perishing like beautiful women who have been raped.” In the late Oriana Fallaci’s native Florence, a huge tent was erected next to the cathedral to pressure the Italian government to give immigrants “the papers necessary to rove about Europe,” and to “let them bring the hordes of their relatives” to Italy. As Fallaci described it:

A tent situated next to the beautiful palazzo of the Archbishop on whose sidewalk they kept the shoes or sandals that are lined up outside the mosques in their countries. And along with the shoes or sandals, the empty bottles of water they’d used to wash their feet before praying. A tent placed in front of the cathedral with Brunelleschi’s cupola and by the side of the Baptistery with Ghiberti’s golden doors . . . Thanks to a tape player, the uncouth wailing of a muezzin punctually exhorted the faithful, deafened the infidels, and smothered the sound of the church bells . . . And along with the yellow streaks of urine, the stench of the excrement that blocked the door of San Salvatore al Vescovo: that exquisite Romanesque church (year 1000) that stands at the rear of the Piazza del Duomo and that the sons of Allah transformed into a shithouse.

Europe is increasingly populated by aliens who physically live there but spiritually belong to the umma. They do not want to “adapt” to Florence or any other new abode they conquer; offended and intimidated by beauty and order, they instinctively want to remake it in the image of Anatolia, Punjab, or the Maghreb. Their influx, made possible by the Pisanu malaise, is making the transformation irreversible.

A century ago, Pisanu’s class shared social commonalities that could be observed in Monte Carlo, Carlsbad, or Paris, depending on the season. Their lingua franca was French. Englishmen, Russians, and Austrians shared the same outlook and sense of propriety, but they nevertheless remained rooted in their national traditions, the only permanent vessels in which Weltanschauung could be translated into Kultur. Today’s “United Europe,” by contrast, does not create social and civilizational commonalities—except on the basis of wholesale denial of old mores, inherited values, and “traditional” culture. It creates a cultural similarity that has morphed into the dreary sameness of antidiscriminationism. The Continent is ruled by a secular theocracy focused on the task of reforming and reshaping the individual consciences of its subjects.

======================

The fruits are greeted with haughty arrogance by Tariq Ramadan, professor of Islamic studies at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, and a grandson of Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan insists that Muslims in the West should conduct themselves not as hyphenated citizens seeking to live by “common values” but as though they were already living in a Muslim-majority society and were exempt on that account from having to make concessions to the faith of others. Muslims in non-Muslim countries should feel entitled to live on their own terms, Ramadan says, while, “under the terms of Western liberal tolerance,” society as a whole should be obliged to respect that choice.

If such respect continues to be extended, by the end of this century, there will be no “Europeans” who are members of ethnic groups that share the same language, culture, history, and ancestors and inhabit lands associated with their names. The shrinking populations will be indoctrinated into believing—or else simply forced into accepting—that the demographic shift in favor of Muslim aliens is actually a blessing that enriches their culturally deprived and morally unsustainable societies.
The “liberal tolerance” and the accompanying “societal obligation” that Tariq Ramadan invokes are key. “No other race subscribes to these moral principles,” Jean Raspail wrote a generation ago, “because they are weapons of self-annihilation.” They need to be understood and discarded. The upholders of those principles must be removed from all positions of power and influence if Europe is to survive.

Foreign-affairs editor Srdja Trifkovic is the author, most recently, of Defeating Jihad.
This article first appeared in the December 2006 issue of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture.
27796  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: February 17, 2007, 09:14:17 AM
!Que' sorpresa!

=================
NY Times
Chavez threatens jail , , ,

CARACAS, Venezuela, Feb. 16 — Faced with an accelerating inflation rate and shortages of basic foods like beef, chicken and milk, President Hugo Chávez has threatened to jail grocery store owners and nationalize their businesses if they violate the country’s expanding price controls.

Food producers and economists say the measures announced late Thursday night, which include removing three zeroes from the denomination of Venezuela’s currency, are likely to backfire and generate even more acute shortages and higher prices for consumers. Inflation climbed to an annual rate of 18.4 percent a year in January, the highest in Latin America and far above the official target of 10 to 12 percent.

Mr. Chávez, whose leftist populism remains highly popular among Venezuela’s poor and working classes, seemed unfazed by criticism of his policies. Appearing live on national television, he called for the creation of “committees of social control,” essentially groups of his political supporters whose purpose would be to report on farmers, ranchers, supermarket owners and street vendors who circumvent the state’s effort to control food prices.

“It is surreal that we’ve arrived at a point where we are in danger of squandering a major oil boom,” said José Guerra, a former chief of economic research at Venezuela’s central bank, who left Mr. Chavez’s government in 2004. “If the government insists on sticking to policies that are clearly failing, we may be headed down the road of Zimbabwe.”

For now, Venezuela remains far from any nightmarish economic meltdown. The country, which has the largest conventional oil reserves outside the Middle East, is still enjoying a revenue windfall from historically high oil prices, resulting in a surge in consumer spending and lavish government financing for an array of social welfare and infrastructure programs. Dollar reserves at the central bank total more than $35 billion.

The economy grew by more than 10 percent last year, helping Mr. Chávez glide to a re-election victory in December with 63 percent of the vote. Yet economists who have worked with Mr. Chávez’s government say that soaring public spending is overheating Venezuela’s economy, generating imbalances in the distribution of products from sugar to basic construction materials like wallboard.

Public spending grew last year by more than 50 percent and has more than doubled since the start of 2004, as Mr. Chávez has channeled oil revenues into social programs and projects like bridges, highways, trains, subways, museums and, in a departure for a country where baseball reigns supreme, soccer stadiums.

In an indicator of concern with Mr. Chávez’s economic policies, which included nationalizing companies in the telephone and electricity industries, foreign direct investment was negative in the first nine months of 2006. The last year Venezuela had a net investment outflow was in 1986.

Shortages of basic foods have been sporadic since the government strengthened price controls in 2003 after a debilitating strike by oil workers. But in recent weeks, the scarcity of items like meat and chicken has led to a panicked reaction by federal authorities as they try to understand how such shortages could develop in a seemingly flourishing economy.

Entering a supermarket here is a bizarre experience. Shelves are fully stocked with Scotch whiskey, Argentine wines and imported cheeses like brie and Camembert, but basic staples like black beans and desirable cuts of beef like sirloin are often absent. Customers, even those in the government’s own Mercal chain of subsidized grocery stores, are left with choices like pork neck bones, rabbit and unusual cuts of lamb.

With shoppers limited to just two large packages of sugar, a black market in sugar has developed among street vendors in parts of Caracas. “This country is going to turn into Cuba, or Chávez will have to give in,” said Cándida de Gómez, 54, a shopper at a private supermarket in Los Palos Grandes, a district in the capital.

José Vielma Mora, the chief of Seniat, the government’s tax agency, oversaw a raid this month on a warehouse here where officials seized about 165 tons of sugar. Mr. Vielma said the raid exposed hoarding by vendors who were unwilling to sell the sugar at official prices. He and other officials in Mr. Chávez’s government have repeatedly blamed the shortages on producers, intermediaries and grocers.
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Page 2 of 2)



Those in the food industry argue that the price controls prevented them from making a profit after inflation rose and the value of Venezuela’s currency plunged in black market trading in recent weeks. The bolívar, the country’s currency, fell more than 30 percent to about 4,400 to the dollar in unofficial trading following Mr. Chávez’s nationalization of Venezuela’s main telephone company, CANTV, and its largest electric utility, Electricidad de Caracas.

Fears that more private companies could be nationalized have put further pressure on the currency as rich Venezuelans try to take money out of the country. Concern over capital flight has made the government jittery, with vague threats issued to newspapers that publish unofficial currency rates (officially the bolívar is quoted at about 2,150 to the dollar).

Regardless of efforts to stop illicit currency trading, the weaker bolívar has made imported food, fertilizers and agricultural equipment more expensive. Venezuela, despite boasting some of South America’s most fertile farmland, still imports more than half its food, largely from Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and the United States.

Supermarket owners expressed relief when the government this week cut value-added taxes on retail food sales and raised the prices on more than 100 staples in an effort to alleviate the shortages. The announcement included an average 32 percent increase in beef prices and a 45 percent increase in chicken prices.

Following Mr. Chávez’s nationalization threat, supermarket owners were cautious in their public statements. “As long as we are complying with the regulations, I don’t believe there will be any type of reprisal,” said Luis Rodríguez, executive director of the National Supermarket Association.

But many were clearly torn, afraid that their stores could be seized if they complained, but at a loss as to how to continue operating. “If I don’t sell at the regulated price they’ll fine me, and if I don’t sell meat I’ll be out of business,” said a butcher shop owner here.

During his television broadcast, Mr. Chávez said his measures would be laid out in a decree, a power that his rubber-stamp legislature just bestowed upon him. He acknowledged that removing taxes on food sales would deprive the government of more than $3 billion in revenues, higher than the military budget, but he said tax increases on luxuries like beach homes and yachts would make up for part of the shortfall.

Mr. Chávez also said he would raise subsidies for state-owned grocery stores. Economists say such subsidies, together with hefty loans to farmers, have allowed the price controls to function relatively well until recent weeks.

But recent expropriations of farms and ranches, part of Mr. Chávez’s effort to empower state-financed cooperatives, have also weighed on domestic food production as the new managers retool operations. So has the flood of petrodollars into the economy, easing food imports and making some domestic producers uncompetitive, an affliction common to oil economies.

“There seems to be a basic misunderstanding in Chávez’s government of what is driving scarcity and inflation,” said Francisco Rodríguez, a former chief economist at Venezuela’s National Assembly who teaches at Wesleyan University.

“There are competent people in the government who know that Chávez needs to lower spending if he wants to defeat these problems,” Mr. Rodríguez said. “But there are few people in positions of power who are willing to risk telling him what he needs to hear.”

=====================

Rodriguez es una idiota.  Inflacion esta' causado por exceso de circulante monetario-- punto y fin.  Y nunca funciona controles de precio salvo en muy corto plazo.  Siempre llegan a donde esta' Venezuela se encuentra en este momento.  Un gobierno no se puede prohibir la ley de la gavidad (the law of gravity) ni la ley de oferta y demanda.  Tampoco funciona jamas falta de respeto de los derechos de propriedad privada.
27797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NRA vs. The UN on: February 17, 2007, 08:57:43 AM
A debate between the UN and the NRA.  Shows just how extreme and uninformed the UN/anti-gun position is.
In four parts:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmg_zMuQEDk
27798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 16, 2007, 08:00:55 PM
Iran: A Second Attack in Zahedan
February 16, 2007 22 09  GMT



A strong explosion occurred during the evening of Feb. 16 in the southeastern Iranian city of Zahedan, in Sistan-Balochistan province. According to the Iranian Baztab News agency, the explosion was caused by a noise bomb that was placed in front of a police car. Iranian security forces reportedly are engaged in a shootout with several militants.

From the initial details of the blast, this appears to be a planned ambush of Iranian security forces. By placing the noise bomb in front of the police car, the perpetrators were able to draw the police to the area of the attack, where they could then fire on the officers. There are no details as of yet on the number of attackers or security forces involved.

This is the second attack in Zahedan in the past two days. On Feb. 14, a Baloch militant group called Jundallah claimed responsibility for a bus bombing that killed 11 elite Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps members and wounded 31 others. In response to that attack, Iranian police detained 65 suspects and aired the confession of one of them during a two-minute broadcast on Iran's state-run Hamoun television. The suspect, Nasrollah Shamsi Zehi, said he escaped to Pakistan after robbing a bank in Zahedan. He was then trained by Jundallah for two months and told he would receive $1,200 for each mission. According to a Baztab report citing an unnamed Iranian security source, the detainees have no connections inside Iran. Instead, they were trained by intelligence agencies and were tasked with assassinating regional Sunni leaders in order to foment a provincial or national crisis.

The Zahedan attacks fall in line with U.S. efforts to supply and train Iran's ethnic minorities to destabilize the Iranian regime.
27799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt on: February 16, 2007, 07:54:43 PM
http://www.newt.org/multimedia/default.asp?mi=408

An audio excerpt from a Newt Q&A.  I must say, Newt continues to impress me.  I hope he will run!

27800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Islam & Democracy part three on: February 16, 2007, 07:37:39 PM
The greatest casualties of this broad-brush repression were basic values of tolerance, political pluralism, and free speech that are essential to democracy. The institutions of democracy, like an independent judiciary, free political parties, civil society, and the separation of powers, were undermined. On realizing that the non-violent, democratic path to power or reform was blocked, some felt vindicated in embracing violence as the only way of bringing about change. Polarization, extremism, and political violence all flourished. It is worth mentioning that liberal, pluralistic forms of political Islam have been a particular casualty of this unpromising political climate. On the one hand, they have been subjected to repression by state authorities as undesirable expressions of political dissent. On the other, they have been marginalized by some within the political Islamic movement itself for being utopian and ineffectual.

At the same time as many U.S. allies in the region were stifling democracy (with only token criticism at best from the West), the United States strongly criticized its foes in the region as enemies of democracy and human rights. There is no doubt that the governments of Iran and Sudan and that of the Taliban in Afghanistan were richly deserving of such criticisms, but the violations of human rights perpetrated by these regimes in particular were added to the indictment against Islamism in general. The mostly unspoken accepted wisdom became that U.S. allies in Egypt, Jordan, or Tunisia may have their failings, but we have to choose between them and the Iranian mullahs, the Taliban, and Sudan's National Islamic Front, and that choice is easily made. Human rights also became a vehicle for criticizing other regional foes like Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

Hicks asserted that many people in the Muslim world and elsewhere quickly recognized a double standard in U.S. advocacy of human rights and democracy in the region. If the United States is so critical of Iran for not better protecting women's rights, then why is it silent about the abject situation of women in Saudi Arabia? If the Iraqi people deserve to choose their own leaders, then what about the Egyptian people or the Tunisian people? In Afghanistan, the United States was willing to cooperate with the mujahedin, and to call them freedom fighters, during the conflict with the Soviet Union, even though their commitment to democracy was virtually non-existent, Hicks pointed out.

There has been a glaring contradiction between U.S. rhetoric supporting democracy and human rights, on the one hand, and a policy that held major violators of human rights like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to be key strategic allies while at the same time condoning repression by other allies, like Egypt, on the other hand. The perception of double standards was exacerbated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where many Muslim observers thought that Israel was allowed to disregard international law with impunity, whereas Muslim states like Iraq or Libya could be subjected to international sanctions or even armed intervention for their departures from international norms.

U.S. policy, Hicks continued, recognized the importance to regional stability and political development of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The first Bush administration and the Clinton administration expended considerable effort in promoting the Madrid process and then the Oslo process. However, even these well-intentioned initiatives, especially in the middle and later phases of the Oslo process, had negative repercussions for democratization in the region. Supporting the "peace process" became an article of faith and the main goal of U.S. policy in the Arab world. Dissent from this orthodoxy was regarded as unhelpful by the United States. U.S. allies claimed that they were taking great political risks for peace by going against the views of their people, and this assertion was generally accepted. U.S. policy did not seem to question what was creating this public mood that was supposedly hostile to peace with Israel and whether more repression was the way to deal with it. In fact, many U.S. allies were fanning the flames of anti-Israeli sentiment and exploiting such feelings as a distraction from domestic problems and as another reason to keep the lid on political dissent.

Out of this morass of contradictions and double standards it is not surprising that some hostility toward U.S. policy developed, and some skepticism about the values the United States claimed to espouse. Indeed, some in the Muslim world expressed open hostility toward democracy and human rights as alien western values, and found an enthusiastic audience in doing so. Hicks asserted that this hostility is largely a reaction to the use to which such values had been put by cynical authoritarian governments and by the West, rather than a lack of identification with common values of justice and human dignity. Unfortunately, a kind of self-fulfilling stereotyping of Muslim attitudes to human rights and democracy has developed, partly as a result of the disaffection expressed by many in the Muslim world towards "democracy" and "human rights" as they have experienced them in practice.

What can be done? Hicks noted that promoting democracy abroad is not something new for the U.S. government, even if there has been less of it in the Muslim world than elsewhere. There are lessons to be drawn from Eastern Europe and Latin America, regions where democratic advances since the end of the Cold War are discernible, and from the former Soviet Union and parts of Africa, where signs of progress are often less apparent. Perhaps the most important lesson is that there is no single prescription that will ensure a transition to democracy. Local conditions vary enormously. In the vast and diverse Muslim world it will be necessary for the U.S. government to develop country-specific plans to promote democracy.

Hicks then offered four recommendations:

Increase substantially both the proportion and the amount of U.S. foreign assistance that is spent on promoting democracy in the Muslim world. It is important to note that simply spending more is not a solution by itself. We can learn from the example of U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt, which has remained at high levels even while foreign aid budgets elsewhere were evaporating. In Egypt the United States has funded democratization projects and supplied hundreds of millions of dollars of other civilian assistance while, by any measure, democratic freedoms have contracted. To succeed the United States must demand accountability from the recipient governments. The question then becomes, is the United States willing to have a more adversarial relationship with regional leaders, and perhaps to see some of them overthrown, as part of the messy process of promoting democracy? These leaders, after all, are valued because they are seen as assisting in the protection of vital U.S. national interests.
Provide governments and other key interest groups in Muslim societies with incentives to encourage democratic reforms. A major commitment to foreign assistance to the Muslim world by the U.S. government would provide an attractive incentive to recipient governments to embark on the path to reform. Foreign assistance should be linked to clear progress in strengthening institutions of accountability. Here domestic interest groups independent of existing power elites take on a particular importance, because existing leaders typically have little interest in diluting their own privileges. When providing foreign assistance, the U.S. government must insist that there be a free press, that the judiciary be independent, and that civil society organizations operate free from governmental interference.
Incentives should come not in the form of aid alone, which inevitably has some patronizing connotations. Real partnerships, especially in the field of trade, but also in a host of other areas, including cultural and educational ones, are also important. The positive impact on democratic reforms of Turkey's accession process to the European Union is a good case in point. Because many sectors of Turkish society anticipate benefits from EU membership, there has been a considerable groundswell of support for the stringent reforms required by the European Commission. The process of change has been and is painful to many entrenched interests. Nevertheless, the business community has put pressure on the government to press forward with political as well as economic reforms. Business elites in other Muslim states, who recognize the benefits of participating in the global marketplace, and who also recognize that the price of entry is compliance with international standards, are a largely untapped resource for democratic change.
Take seriously the existing framework of multilateral agreements and treaties that bear on democratization, such as those in the field of human rights. Since there is skepticism over the U.S. government's motives in promoting democracy in the Muslim world, it is wise to disarm doubters by embracing multilateral approaches with like-minded governments wherever possible. Treaty bodies within UN human rights mechanisms—like the Human Rights Committee and the Committee Against Torture, which oversee state compliance with treaties like the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Convention Against Torture and other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment—are highly regarded for the integrity of the work of their members, who sit as independent experts. Their work is often favorably compared to the politicized machinations of the UN Human Rights Commission, for example. Yet these effective bodies are chronically underfunded. Members operate with little or no research support and their findings are virtually unknown beyond the world of human rights specialists. It would surely be a sound investment for the U.S. government to lend its financial and political support to the work of these under-appreciated institutions.
Promote regional accountability mechanisms. The Muslim world is lacking in regional accountability mechanisms. The great virtue of such mechanisms is that they cannot be accused of being alien or inauthentic because they are of the region over which they exercise jurisdiction. Again, Turkey provides an example of the merits of such mechanisms. One of the reasons for Turkey's advantage over other Muslim states in its progress towards democratization is its longstanding participation in the human rights mechanisms of the Council of Europe, especially its acceptance of the right of individual citizens to petition the European Court of Human Rights and its agreement to be bound by the rulings of the court. The benefits go beyond the individual cases that have been heard before the court. Turkey's legal community and human rights organizations increasingly know and make use of the fact that there is a functioning mechanism for them to resort to in the face of state violations. The United States should make great efforts to promote effective regional mechanisms of accountability within existing regional institutions like the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the League of Arab States.
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