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27751  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / WSJ on: January 12, 2009, 02:21:06 AM
Lo siento que sea en ingles:

Optimists have long theorized that Venezuela's Hugo Chávez would meet his Waterloo with the burst of the petroleum bubble. But with oil prices down some 75% from their highs last year and the jackboot of the regime still firmly planted on the nation's neck, that theory requires revisiting.

APIt is true that popular discontent with chavismo has been rising as oil prices have been falling. The disillusionment is even likely to increase in the months ahead as the economy swoons. But having used the boom years to consolidate power and destroy all institutional checks and balances, Mr. Chávez has little incentive to return the country to political pluralism even if most Venezuelans are sick of his tyranny. If anything, he is apt to become more aggressive and dangerous as the bloom comes off his revolutionary rose in 2009 and he feels more threatened.

Certainly "elections" can't be expected to matter much. Mr. Chávez now controls the entire electoral process, from voter rolls to tallying totals after the polls have closed. Under enormous public pressure he accepted defeat in his 2007 bid for constitutional reforms designed to make him president for life. But so what? That loss allowed him to maintain the guise of democracy, and now he has decided that there will be another referendum on the same question in February. Presumably Venezuela will repeat this exercise until the right answer is produced.

Mary Anastasia O'Grady speaks with James Freeman. (Jan. 12)
All police states hold "elections." But they also specialize in combining the state's monopoly use of force with a monopoly in economic power and information control. Together these three weapons easily quash dissent. Venezuela is a prime example.

The Venezuelan government is now a military government. Mr. Chávez purged the armed forces leadership in 2002 and replaced fired officers with those loyal to his socialist cause. Like their counterparts in Cuba, these elevated comandantes are well compensated. Lack of transparency makes it impossible to know just how much they get paid for their loyalty, but it is safe to say that they have not been left out of the oil fiesta that compliant chavistas have enjoyed over the past decade. Even if the resource pool shrinks this year, neither their importance nor their rewards are likely to diminish.

Mr. Chávez has also taken over the Metropolitan Police in Caracas, imported Cuban intelligence agents, and armed his own Bolivarian militias, whose job it is to act as neighborhood enforcers. Should Venezuelans decide that they are tired of one-man rule, chavismo has enough weapons on hand to convince them otherwise.

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Yet the art of dictatorship has been greatly refined since Stalin killed millions of his own people. Modern tyrants understand that there are many ways to manipulate their subjects and most do not require the use of force.

One measure that Mr. Chávez relies on heavily is control of the narrative. In government schools children are indoctrinated in Bolivarian thought. Meanwhile the state has stripped the media of its independence and now dominates all free television in the country. This allows the government to marinate the poor in Mr. Chávez's antimarket dogma. His captive audiences are told repeatedly that hardship of every sort -- including headline inflation of 31% last year -- is the result of profit makers, middlemen and consumerism.

The Orwellian screen is also used to stir up nationalist sentiment against foreign devils, like the U.S., Colombia and Israel. The audience has witnessed violence in Gaza through the lens of Hamas, and last week Mr. Chávez made a show of expelling the Israeli ambassador from Caracas.

Investments in revolution around South America may have to be pared back as revenues drop. But outreach to Iran and Syria is likely to continue since those relations may serve as a source of financing Mr. Chávez's military buildup. In December, the Italian daily La Stampa reported that it has seen evidence of a pact between Caracas and Tehran in which Iran uses Venezuelan aircraft for arms trafficking and Venezuela gets military aid in return. This month Turkish officials intercepted an Iranian shipment bound for Venezuela that reportedly contained materials for making explosives.

Despite all this, the most effective police-state tool remains Mr. Chávez's control over the economy. The state freely expropriates whatever it wants -- a shopping center in Caracas is Mr. Chávez's latest announced taking -- and economic freedom is dead. Moreover, the state has imposed strict capital controls, making saving or trading in hard currency impossible. Analysts are predicting another large devaluation of the bolivar in the not-too-distant future. The private sector has been wiped out, except for those who have thrown in their lot with the tyrant.

The drop in oil revenues may impoverish the state, but the opposition is even poorer. Organizing a rebellion against a less-rich Chávez remains a formidable task.

Write to O'
27752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 11, 2009, 11:18:47 PM
I just signed up.
27753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 11, 2009, 07:04:53 PM
 cry cry cry
27754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics on: January 11, 2009, 06:59:37 PM
I thought the article made a lot of good points.  One I did not agree with was the aversion to animal protein.  Hunting most certainly is an important of the human paradigm.
27755  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Vehicles, driving skills, crime, related issues on: January 10, 2009, 06:28:38 PM

Excellent case study

Footage is so perfect one almost wonders if its staged, but , , ,
27756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics on: January 10, 2009, 06:15:58 PM
Know that PJ O'Rourke is more libertarian than conservative and is side-splitting funny.   I think you will find him an enjoyable read.
27757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 5 pirates drown with ransom on: January 10, 2009, 01:41:46 PM
5 Somali Pirates Whom Hijacked Saudi Supertanker Drown With Ransom


January 10, 2009

5 Somali Pirates Drown With Ransom

Filed at 11:12 a.m. ET

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Five of the Somali pirates who released a hijacked oil-laden Saudi supertanker drowned with their share of a reported $3 million ransom after their small boat capsized, a pirate and a relative of one of the dead men said Saturday.

Pirate Daud Nure said the boat with eight people on board overturned in a storm after dozens of pirates left the Sirius Star following a two-month standoff in the Gulf of Aden that ended Friday.

He said five people died and three people reached shore after swimming for several hours. Daud Nure was not part of the pirate operation but knew those involved.

Abukar Haji, the uncle of one of the dead men, said the deaths were an accident.

''The boat the pirates were traveling in capsized because it was running at high speed because the pirates were afraid of an attack from the warships patrolling around,'' he said.

''There has been human and monetary loss but what makes us feel sad is that we don't still have the dead bodies of our relatives. Four are still missing and one washed up on the shore.''

Saudi Arabian oil minister Ali Naimi said Saturday that the crew of the Sirius Star was safe and that the tanker had left Somali territorial waters and was on its way home.

A Saudi Oil Ministry official said the ship was headed for Dammam, on Saudi Arabia's Gulf coast, but gave no estimated time of arrival. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The Liberian-flagged ship is owned by Vela International Marine Ltd., a subsidiary of Saudi oil company Aramco. A spokesman for the Dubai-based Vela, Mihir Sapru, would not provide details of the ship's destination or plans once in port.

''We are very relieved to know that all the crew members are safe and I am glad to say that they are all in good health and high spirits,'' said a statement by Saleh K'aki, president and CEO of Vela. ''Throughout this ordeal, our sole objective was the safe and timely release of the crew. That has been achieved today.''

U.S. Navy photos released Friday showed a parachute, carrying what was described as ''an apparent payment,'' floating toward the tanker. The Sirius Star and its 25-member crew had been held since Nov. 15. Its cargo of crude oil was valued at US$100 million at the time.

The capture was seen as a dramatic demonstration of the pirates' ability to strike high-value targets hundreds of miles offshore.

On the same day the Saudi ship was freed, pirates released a captured Iranian-chartered cargo ship, Iran's state television reported Saturday. The ship Delight was carrying 36 tons of wheat when it was attacked in the Gulf of Aden Nov. 18 and seized by pirates. All 25 crew are in good health and the vessel is sailing toward Iran, the TV report said.

The pirate-infested Gulf of Aden is one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

The U.S. Navy announced this week it will head a new anti-piracy task force after more than 100 ships were attacked last year. NATO and the European Union already have warships patrolling the Gulf of Aden and have intervened to prevent several ships from being captured.

More than a dozen ships with about 300 crew members are still being held by pirates off the coast of Somalia, including the weapons-laden Ukrainian cargo ship MV Faina, which was seized in September.

The multimillion dollar ransoms are one of the few ways to earn a living in the impoverished, war-ravaged country. Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and nearly half of its population depends on aid.
27758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Libel Tourism on: January 10, 2009, 09:50:53 AM
Second post of the morning:

The farce of foreigners suing Americans for defamation in overseas forums, where the law does not sufficiently protect free speech, is so well-known that it has a fitting nickname: libel tourism. And London is its hot destination. Particularly since 9/11, foreign nationals have cynically exploited British courts in an attempt to stifle any discussion by American journalists about the dangers of jihadist ideology and terrorist supporters.

At long last, U.S. politicians are waking up to the dangers posed by libel tourism, which threatens both the First Amendment and American national security. The trouble is that their efforts, though well-intentioned, are relatively toothless and constitutionally problematic.

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Early last year, New York State passed the nation's first anti-libel tourism law. The law allows state courts to assert authority over foreign citizens based solely on a libel judgment they have obtained abroad against a New Yorker.

The statute's passage was prompted by libel tourism's most frequent flier, Saudi bigwig Khalid bin Mahfouz. He brought a claim in England against author Rachel Ehrenfeld, who alleged in a 2003 book that the international moneyman also financed terrorism. Although "Funding Evil" was published in the U.S., Mr. Mahfouz relied upon (and the British court accepted) the fact that the book was purchased by a small number of British readers on the Internet as sufficient grounds to sue Ms. Ehrenfeld in England.

Under the New York law, the target of a foreign libel suit does not even have to defend himself overseas. If a judgment is entered against him, he can seek a declaration that the foreign tribunal did not live up to First Amendment standards and therefore its ruling cannot be enforced against his U.S. assets. While emotionally satisfying, it does not protect a libel tourism victim's assets outside the U.S.

Moreover, the New York law takes a constitutionally dubious approach to the acquisition of personal jurisdiction over libel tourists. U.S courts have never before claimed jurisdiction over individuals who have no ties whatsoever to the U.S., other than suing an American in a foreign court.

Rep. Peter King (D., N.Y.) and Sens. Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) and Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.) have been advancing federal libel tourism bills. Unfortunately these bills, which are modeled on New York's, carry the same constitutional risks.

It is a mistake to respond to libel tourism by seeking to catch foreign plaintiffs with no U.S. contacts in our jurisdictional net. This smacks of the same legal one-upmanship that makes libel tourism itself so odious.

It is high time for a strategy that would stop libel tourists dead in their tracks, without sacrificing constitutional values. The answer lies not in stretching claims of personal jurisdiction, but in federal legislation that would enable American publishers to sue for damages, including punitive damages, for the harms they have suffered. A proper federal libel tourism bill would punish conduct that takes place overseas -- in this case, the commencement of sham libel actions in foreign courts -- by utilizing the well-recognized congressional authority to apply U.S. laws extraterritorially when compelling interests demand it. The Alien Tort Statute, for example, gives U.S. courts subject matter jurisdiction over brutal acts that violate the "law of nations" wherever they may occur. More recently, Congress has created civil remedies to enable victims of international terrorism and human trafficking to sue in our courts for money damages.

But in devising a robust, substantive cause of action for damages -- a bludgeon that Messrs. King, Specter and Lieberman appropriately include in their bills -- Congress should not change normal personal jurisdiction rules. In order to sue foreigners under the federal libel tourism bill and remain consistent with due process, these individuals would have to visit or transact business in the U.S. in order for the U.S. courts to acquire jurisdiction over them. (Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader charged with genocide, was famously served with an Alien Tort complaint while leaving a Manhattan hotel restaurant.)

Under such a law, U.S. courts would be asked to evaluate, at the beginning stages of a foreign lawsuit, whether the plaintiffs are seeking to punish speech protected under the First Amendment. This type of early intervention by judges has worked very well in the 26 states that have passed laws to discourage frivolous libel suits here in the U.S.

To give this approach sufficiently sharp teeth, the damages awarded in libel tourism cases would have to be very substantial. While it is somewhat unusual in tort law to set statutory damages, it presents no constitutional problems. Accordingly, an effective federal bill should give courts the authority to impose damages that amount to double any foreign judgment, plus court costs and attorneys' fees (in both proceedings) for good measure. Habitual libel tourists who obviously seek to impair Americans' First Amendment freedoms should face even stiffer fines. Such a robust response would make foreign libel adventures fiscally disadvantageous, and should deter most overseas suits from ever being filed.

For libel tourists our courts can't fairly touch, it is better to leave them alone than to overreach and tread into unconstitutional territory. But they may yet pay a price. Availing themselves the pleasures of American life could one day be costly. As Karadzic learned, if you violate U.S. law, don't dine out in Manhattan.

Messrs. Rivkin and Brown are partners in the Washington, D.C., office of Baker Hostetler LLP.
27759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: President Gulliver on: January 10, 2009, 09:42:09 AM
Barack Obama's cabinet choices are understandably getting most media attention, but everyone knows policy is also made by the sub-cabinet. So we think more public scrutiny should be drawn to Mr. Obama's choice of Dawn Johnsen to lead one of the executive branch's most important legal offices. Her appointment makes sense for a President Gulliver, but not for a Commander in Chief fighting terrorists.

Ms. Johnsen became famous in the left-wing blogosphere as an especially arch critic of the Bush Administration's war on terror. As an Indiana University law professor, she took to the Web with such lawyerly analysis as "rogue," "lawless," "outrage," and that's the mild stuff. Now she's been nominated to run the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which interprets the law for the entire executive branch.

One of the OLC's main duties is to defend the Presidency against the inevitable encroachment of the judiciary and Congress on Constitutional authority, executive privilege, war powers, and so forth. Ms. Johnsen knows this, or should, having served as acting OLC head in the Clinton Administration between 1997 and 1998. The office has since become all the more central in a war on terror that has been "strangled by law," to quote Jack Goldsmith, a former Bush OLC chief.

Yet Ms. Johnsen seems to think her job isn't to defend the Presidency but to tie it down with even more legal ropes. She has written that "an essential source of constraint is often underappreciated and underestimated: legal advisors within the executive branch." And in touting her qualifications, the Obama transition cited her recent law review articles "What's a President to Do?: Interpreting the Constitution in the Wake of the Bush Administration's Abuses"; and "Faithfully Executing the Laws: Internal Legal Constraints on Executive Power."

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In other words, Mr. Obama has nominated as his main executive branch lawyer someone who believes in diminishing the powers of the executive branch. This is akin to naming a conscientious objector as the head of the armed forces, or hiring your wife's divorce lawyer to handle your side of the settlement too.

It's also a radical reinvention of the Framers' view that the three branches of the federal government would vigorously assert their powers to achieve the proper political balance. For this reason, OLC's longstanding jurisprudence -- reaching across Administrations of both parties -- emphasizes an expansive reading of Presidential authority. For example, the office has always filed opinions opposing the 1973 War Powers Act, which sought to limit the chief executive's ability to send military forces abroad. Such opinions covered both Bill Clinton's intervention in Kosovo and George H.W. Bush's in Somalia.

Ms. Johnsen's work ignores all of this in an attempt to assail the entire scope of Bush counterterrorism policy, from surveillance to detention to interrogation. She claims that the OLC "misinterpreted relevant constitutional authorities, particularly when seeking to justify actions otherwise prohibited by law." She pays special attention to John Yoo's August 2002 OLC memorandum that set down the legal limits for interrogation, which she calls "the Torture Opinion."

In Today's Opinion Journal


Muslims Against HamasA Regulator With Promise – Really

Ms. Johnsen accuses Mr. Yoo of "seeking maximum flexibility -- that is, the ability to use the most extreme methods possible without risking criminal liability -- in interrogations of suspected al Qaeda operatives." She means this as a condemnation. But this in fact is the OLC's job -- to explore the legal boundaries of vague statutes and treaties to define where lawful interrogation ends and torture begins. You can debate that Mr. Yoo went too far, as Mr. Goldsmith later did when the Bush Administration withdrew the opinion. But Mr. Yoo was acting in good faith in response to the CIA's request for legal clarity, while leaving the policy choices to the war fighters.

And that's where Ms. Johnsen's premises are most dangerous. "In considering whether a proposed action is lawful," she writes, "the proper OLC inquiry is not simply whether the executive branch can get away with it," in the sense of writing opinions that can "withstand judicial review." She sees the OLC staff not as legal technicians working on behalf of the President but as a policy outfit free to quash Presidential actions with which it happens to disagree.

This is far from an academic exercise, because the OLC's advice is traditionally binding for the executive branch except in rare cases where it is overruled by the President or Attorney General. To the extent that such a mentality seeps across the executive branch, it will begin to make our spies and other war fighters risk-averse and overcautious. This is precisely what happened during the Clinton years after Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick's infamous 1995 memo instructed FBI agents and federal prosecutors to go "beyond what the law requires" in limiting their collaboration against al Qaeda.

Suffocating our terror fighters with excessive legal caution can only impair the difficult task of defending a free society that believes in the rule of law from terrorists who believe in neither freedom nor law. If President Obama matures under the burden and accountability of stopping the next terror attack, he may come to regret having Dawn Johnsen around.
27760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: January 10, 2009, 09:16:20 AM
27761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Bush Presidency on: January 09, 2009, 11:55:29 PM

Thank you for raising the level of the discussion.
27762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: January 09, 2009, 08:27:52 PM
That is both funny and scary.  shocked
27763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Scott Grannis! on: January 09, 2009, 02:05:39 PM
The original is at  so if there is any problem with the formatting here, then go there.


Obama's fatal conceit

Obama gave a dire speech today at George Mason University. It sounded impressive, but only if you take it at face value and fail to check the facts or question the logic. He was in full-blown Keynesian mode, arguing that massive government spending is the only thing that can save the day. Here are some key quotes, followed by my rebuttals:

We start 2009 in the midst of a crisis unlike any we have seen in our lifetime - a crisis that has only deepened over the last few weeks.

As I've been pointing out for some time, the economic and financial fundamentals have actually been improving over the last few weeks.

Manufacturing has hit a twenty-eight year low.
He's evidently referring to the ISM manufacturing index. But that index does not measure manufacturing activity, it only measures the percent of respondents who see things getting worse or better; it's a diffusion index, not a level index. Industrial production, as measured by the Fed, is down only 6% from its all-time high, and is 83% above the level of 28 years ago. This is a gross misrepresentation of reality. Shame on all those intelligent economic advisors who let him get away with such a blatant twisting of the statistics.

Many businesses cannot borrow or make payroll.
The economy is not suffering from a shortage of credit, as I've noted repeatedly. All measures of lending to U.S. businesses show rising trends. Bank lending is at or near all-time highs.

We arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility that stretched from corporate boardrooms to the halls of power in Washington, DC.

Corporate boardrooms had very little to do with this crisis. The principal causes of the crisis stretch back to the creation by Congress of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, unique for-profit enterprises that were encouraged to take on increasing levels of risk that were ultimately guaranteed by taxpayers. It was not for lack of regulation that everything came tumbling down—there were plenty of rules in place and plenty of regulatory bodies, but they either failed to act or were discouraged from acting by politicians. Congress bears a heavy burden of the responsibility for the crisis, yet Congress is now being put in charge of fixing the mess.

We cannot depend on government alone to create jobs or long-term growth, but at this particular moment, only government ... can break the vicious cycles that are crippling our economy - where a lack of spending leads to lost jobs which leads to even less spending; where an inability to lend and borrow stops growth and leads to even less credit.

The first clause is absolutely correct, but then he suspends disbelief and reverts to flawed Keynesian thinking and contradicts himself. Spending is not the source of economic growth; were it so we could simply spend our way to prosperity. We can only consume what we produce. Recovery efforts should be directed at increasing work, investment, and production, not at trying to stimulate consumer spending
We need to put money in the pockets of the American people, create new jobs, and invest in our future.

Every dollar the government puts in the pockets of the people is a dollar that comes from the pocket of someone else; how can that result in a bigger or stronger economy? How can the government create jobs that are better or more productive than those created by the private sector? How can government decide what investments are going to produce attractive returns for our future?

We will modernize more than 75% of federal buildings and improve the energy efficiency of two million American homes, saving consumers and taxpayers billions on our energy bills.

Is "modernizing" federal buildings going to produce a return on investment superior to what the private sector could get if its money were not appropriated? I doubt it. Is improving the energy efficiency of a small sector of our economy going to make any difference at all to the planet Earth?

To get people spending again, 95% of working families will receive a $1,000 tax cut.
The majority of working families pay little or no income tax, so this is not a tax cut he's talking about, it's a handout. This is likely to restrain the economy's ability to grow, since it rewards those who aren't producing a lot and punishes those who are (since they won't receive the handout and will have to foot the bill for it). And besides, we've tried rebates before and the results have been dismal. It's almost as bad as throwing money down the drain.

We'll continue the bipartisan extensions of unemployment insurance.
This will only delay the onset of recovery, since it reduces the incentive of the unemployed to find work. We've done this every time the economy slows down, and the main result is to simply increase the ranks of the unemployed. It's a nice humanitarian gesture, but like every government action, it leads in many cases to unintended consequences.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan won't just throw money at our problems - we'll invest in what works.

The fatal conceit of politicians is on display here: how in the world are government bureaucrats going to decide "what works?" A handful of people are going to be making multi-billion dollar decisions using taxpayer money. The potential for waste, fraud, and inefficiency is staggering.

I could go on, but for now, 'nuff said.
27764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Working Pit Bull on: January 09, 2009, 01:56:18 PM
27765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 09, 2009, 01:09:40 PM
I'd love to spread that around.  Is there a URL that goes with it?
27766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / USMC Capt. Brent Morel on: January 09, 2009, 11:03:22 AM
Profiles of valor: U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Brent Morel
United States Marine Corps Capt. Brent Morel of Martin, Tennessee, was a platoon commander with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division during the first offensive in Fallujah as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On 7 April 2004, Morel's platoon encountered enemy fire from more than 50 insurgents. A rocket-propelled grenade crippled the lead vehicle in the convoy, and the platoon was besieged with mortar and machine gun fire. After ordering the last two vehicles to establish flanking positions for the convoy, Morel left his vehicle to lead an assault across an open field to maneuver into firing positions. His assault eliminated several enemy fighters. But seeing his fellow Marines pinned by enemy fire, he again left the safety of his position in order to counterattack. It was then that he issued his final order: "Cover me. We're assaulting through." Though he took out more enemy fighters, he fell mortally wounded. The Marines rallied and defeated the ambush, killing more than 30 terrorists.

When informed of his son's death, Mike Morel could only ask, "Was he in the front?" Yes, he was. He replied, "I always knew that's where he would be." For his bravery, Capt. Morel was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. A second Navy Cross went to Sgt. Willie L. Copeland III, who fought alongside Morel that day.
27767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams on: January 09, 2009, 09:36:11 AM
"Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expense of this protection; and to give his personal service, or an equivalent, when necessary. But no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. In fine, the people of this commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent."

--John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776
27768  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: January 09, 2009, 12:00:28 AM
Agradezco tener un buen y capaz amigo quien me va a ayudar con un problema de negocio.
27769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Update on the cutoff on: January 08, 2009, 11:25:05 PM
Geopolitical Diary: From a Chill to a Freeze in Europe
January 8, 2009
Related Links
Russia, Ukraine: Update on the Natural Gas Cutoff

Russia raised the stakes in the natural gas crisis with Ukraine even higher on Wednesday by shutting off the last of the supplies piping into the country. The standoff has now lasted seven days, with a dozen states in Central, Southern and Eastern Europe seeing their imports shut down 100 percent, and a handful of other countries — like Germany and Italy — seeing the bulk of their supplies disappear.

Russia has changed the game from a simple threat to a possible real crisis. During Russia’s 2006 cutoff of natural gas to Ukraine (and subsequently to Europe), Moscow never cut supplies fully, and it only reduced the flow for two days, so the move had no real impact. It was meant to get Europe’s attention, not to concretely harm the Continent. Russia was letting the West know that it was time for Moscow to get Ukraine back under its umbrella, something that has been shaking out over the past few years.

The current crisis looked as if it were following the same path — until Wednesday, when Russia did not just prolong the cutoff, but expanded it into a full shutdown of supplies through Ukraine. Some European states — Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Bosnia — are shutting down industrial complexes and decreasing access to centralized heating, all while an arctic front moves across the Continent.

So far, the cutoff’s real effects are being felt only in the less-influential European states. Russia’s next step would be to prolong the cutoff, causing industries to close and heating supplies to dwindle in the more influential countries, like Germany. Russia might be just testing out its energy lever on the smaller states to see how long it takes to break them, before threatening (or actually inflicting) the same treatment on the more critical states.

The Russians have the Europeans at break point. Europe can’t bear a Russian natural gas cutoff for much longer. Even with all its energy diversification plans on the table, the fact is that Europe is still heavily dependent on Russian supplies for the next few years. The Europeans have issued ultimatums, held meetings and sent warnings to the Russians, but there is nothing concrete that they can do right now.

Europe’s next practical step would be accommodation. And the main target the Russians want the West to back off on is still Ukraine. A deal on scaling down Western influence in Ukraine won’t be struck within a day, but a more solid and prolonged reversal within Ukraine will be seen — most likely with the end result of a pro-Russian government being installed.

It seems that discussions on this topic already are under way; Stratfor has heard rumors that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a phone conference during the night. Merkel is struggling to make sure that the trap Russia has laid by freezing the Europeans isn’t sprung on Germany, and, at the moment, the price for such assurance is Ukraine.

But this does not mean Russia won’t ask for more than just Ukraine in the near future. Russia has a long laundry list of things it wants to accomplish before it is countered by a freed-up United States, including locking Germany into a neutral stance, restoring its hegemony in the Caucasus, starting up a crisis in the Baltic states and intimidating Poland. But for now (and only now), Russia will settle for Ukraine.
27770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 08, 2009, 09:50:16 PM
Excellent discussion Doug.

I might add that the nature of the spending matters too.  Maintaining and developing infrastructure (our electrical system is BADLY out of date for example, deep problems loom with water supplies as well) is very different than handing out money to people who pay no income taxes as President BO intends to do with his "tax cuts".
27771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 08, 2009, 05:13:43 PM
My understanding is that the true point is not deficit or not, but governmental burden on the economy.  Taxes might be paying for all spending, but if the overall % of GDP is too high, that is the problem.
27772  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movie Fights on: January 08, 2009, 03:41:27 PM
27773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: January 08, 2009, 12:44:04 PM
He Can Outsmart Harry Reid, But Can He Outsmart Voters?

Yesterday, Senator-in-waiting Roland Burris made clear to reporters that he hasn't cut any deal with Senate Democrats to refrain from running for election in his own right in exchange for being seated as an appointive Senator. The Illinois Democrat indicates he doesn't intend to be a placeholder and will run for a full six-year term in 2010, when he turns 73.

What kind of a candidate would Mr. Burris be? On the one hand, he has exhibited both craftiness and chutzpah this week that would serve him well in politics. Given the power of incumbency, it would be tough to lose a March 2010 Democratic primary unless a marquee name took him on one-on-one.

The general election may be a different story. Mr. Burris has a weak political team led by Fred Lebed, his partner in a lobbying firm, who managed Mr. Burris's recent failed races for governor. Don Rose, a noted Democratic political consultant, told that Mr. Burris is often hurt by his "clownish ways" and is a weak campaigner. He would also still retain the stain of having been appointed by Governor Rod Blagojevich, who will likely be out of office and disgraced by the time of the 2010 election.

For that reason, Republicans are preparing for a rare competitive race in normally Democratic Illinois. Their leading candidate for the Senate is Mark Kirk, a five-term congressman from the northern suburbs of Chicago who has a history of winning Democratic and moderate voters in a swing seat.

Mr. Kirk, who has $5 million in campaign funds in the bank, won't be hurt by his high-profile return last week after serving with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, the first time a U.S. House Member has been deployed to a combat zone since World War II.

Although he has a strong interest in foreign affairs, Mr. Kirk says he knows the real challenge in Illinois is cleaning up the state's corruption problem. "Over the next two years, we are going to take on the State of Illinois, the most corrupt state of the union and clean up the Blagojevich excesses," he told reporters last year. It wasn't said, but he may well view one of those excesses to be Mr. Burris and his likely occupancy of a U.S. Senate seat.

-- John Fund

Harry Reid Is Losing

The good news for Majority Leader Harry Reid is that he has more Democrats than ever in the Senate. The bad news is that some of his Democratic colleagues are wondering about his political skills. Mr. Reid found himself completely outmaneuvered this week by Roland Burris, the man appointed to the Senate by scandal-tarred Governor Rod Blagojevich. Left-wing bloggers openly made fun of him, with Jane Hamsher declaring she would love nothing more than to play poker with Mr. Reid.

Other Democrats are openly acknowledging Mr. Reid was outflanked. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told MSNBC's "Hardball" that he could not help but admire the brilliance of the Blagojevich ploy.

"You gotta hand it to Blagojevich," said Mr. Dean said. "What a maneuver! What a maneuver! When his back was against the wall, he outsmarted a lot of people." Mr. Dean also acknowledged the obvious, that the governor will "probably end up in really bad trouble," but in a final burst of enthusiasm Mr. Dean added, "But he'll have something to tell his grandchildren."

Mr. Reid now finds himself preparing to defend his Senate seat in Nevada. While voters in his state trended Democratic last fall, Mr. Reid isn't popular back home and will be vulnerable to a GOP challenge. Like former Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who lost a re-election bid in 2004, Mr. Reid may be further challenged by having to push through high-visibility liberal legislation that will further erode his standing at home.

-- John Fund

Blago Is Winning

With President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid now climbing down from their opposition to seating Roland Burris in the U.S. Senate, one thing is becoming clear: Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is winning.

On Dec. 9, when Mr. Blagojevich was led from his home in handcuffs and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald unveiled a criminal complaint detailing allegations that the governor conspired to sell Mr. Obama's Senate seat, it was hard to imagine the Democrat would be able to withstand the intense pressure to resign for long. But Mr. Blagojevich has proven to be an adept political infighter.

He's done three things to turn the tide. The first was to reshape the battleground by asking the people of Illinois to give him the same presumption of innocence provided anyone else accused of wrongdoing. His quoting of Rudyard Kipling at a press conference has been roundly pilloried on late-night TV, but the governor's remarks have appealed to voters' basic sense of fairness. The second was to hire a crack legal team headed up by uberlawyer Ed Genson, who quickly demanded that the state cover the governor's legal bills. This at first seemed a shameless move, but reinforced the argument that the governor was wrongly targeted because of the office he holds (helped by whispers that Prosecutor Fitzgerald himself may have political ambitions).

The third thing the governor did was decide to fight for every inch of ground. The state legislature is moving to impeach him, but the governor is forcing the House first to conduct a mini trial. His lawyers also have criticized House leaders for bowing to Mr. Fitzgerald's wishes in not making some information and witnesses available for public inspection. "We're fighting shadows," Mr. Genson complained to reporters. Likewise, the governor's decision to appoint Mr. Burris was shocking to Washington leaders who might have hoped that Blago would simply pack his bags and disappear. But it forced a public admission at the highest levels of government that Mr. Blagojevich remains the governor of Illinois with full powers of the office.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fitzgerald has yet to indict the governor on a single charge, leading to accusations that he was too quick to unveil his evidence consisting mostly of conversational bluster. If Mr. Fitzgerald fails to bring an indictment, the governor will almost certainly survive in office. And if he fails to win a conviction, the legislature will likely be unable to remove Blago.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day

"[F]or the various 'green' politicians who see a nationalized U.S. auto industry as the path toward ubiquitous hybrids, their stridency may well be environmentalism's Vietnam. Whatever the truth about 'global warming,' one sure way to turn voters off when it comes to the theory of climate change will be for our nationalized carmakers to produce green cars that constantly need repairs" -- economist John Tamny, on the poor record of government-owned auto makers, writing at

Bair's Reward

"There are some people in the Republican Party who resent the idea of helping others," FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair sniffed recently to the New York Times. Ms. Bair, who has become a discordant Bush administration voice in favor of a taxpayer bailout of underwater homeowners, sounds like nothing so much as a community organizer, which may explain her appeal to President Obama, who reportedly will ask her to stay on in the new administration.

But the President-elect should keep in mind Ms. Bair actually has a serious job to do. According to the FDIC, the mission of her agency is "insuring deposits, examining and supervising financial institutions, and managing receiverships." This job description says nothing about using taxpayer money to subsidize homeowners in an attempt to prevent foreclosures, potentially at a high cost in future default losses judging from the appalling experience so far of modified mortgages.

But the FDIC now directs visitors to a study by Credit Suisse finding that default rates would likely be only 15% under modifications featuring only interest-rate reductions. Not so fast. Even Rod Dubitsky, lead author of the Credit Suisse report, says the 15% rate is "not a really good benchmark" for analyzing the Bair plan, since it applies to borrowers who were current when their loans were modified, not the already delinquent borrowers Ms. Bair would target. Mr. Dubitsky also foresees high failure rates if lenders don't do loan-by-loan analysis when modifying mortgages. Yet Ms. Bair's plan offers a "streamlined" process which skips rigorous evaluation of a borrower's assets and non-mortgage debt.

By keeping on Ms. Bair, Mr. Obama would be all but committing himself to a mortgage bailout. He'll likely find it's not just Republicans who resent having their tax dollars shoveled at a no-win attempt to "help" the mortgage market. The Bush Administration has been unstinting in throwing hundreds of billions at the financial crisis, but recognizes (as do most analysts) that a housing bailout is nearly impossible to design that wouldn't just encourage more homeowners to default.
27774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Like a virgin on: January 08, 2009, 10:44:07 AM
Like a Virgin: The Press Take On Teenage Sex Yes, attitudes do make a difference in behavior.

The chain reaction was something out of central casting. A medical journal starts it off by announcing a study comparing teens who take a pledge of virginity until marriage with those who don't. Lo and behold, when they crunch the numbers, they find not much difference between pledgers and nonpledgers: most do not make it to the marriage bed as virgins.

Like a pack of randy 15-year-old boys, the press dives right in.

"Virginity Pledges Don't Stop Teen Sex," screams CBS News. "Virginity pledges don't mean much," adds CNN. "Study questions virginity pledges," says the Chicago Tribune. "Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds," heralds the Washington Post. "Virginity Pledges Fail to Trump Teen Lust in Look at Older Data," reports Bloomberg. And on it goes.

In other words, teens will be teens, and moms or dads who believe that concepts such as restraint or morality have any application today are living in a dream world. Typical was the lead for the CBS News story: "Teenagers who take virginity pledges are no less sexually active than other teens, according to a new study."

Here's the rub: It just isn't true.

In fact, the only way the study's author, Janet Elise Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins University, could reach such results was by comparing teens who take a virginity pledge with a very small subset of other teens: those who are just as religious and conservative as the pledge-takers. The study is called "Patient Teenagers? A Comparison of the Sexual Behavior of Virginity Pledgers and Matched Nonpledgers," and it was published in the Jan. 1 edition of Pediatrics.

The first to notice something lost in the translation was Dr. Bernadine Healy, the former head of both the Red Cross and the National Institutes of Health. Today she serves as health editor for U.S. News & World Report. And in her dispatch on this study, Dr. Healy pointed out that "virginity pledging teens were considerably more conservative in their overall sexual behaviors than teens in general -- a fact that many media reports have missed cold."

What Dr. Healy was getting at is that the pledge itself is not what distinguishes these kids from most other teenagers. The real difference is their more conservative and religious home and social environment. As she notes, when you compare both groups in this study with teens at large, the behavioral differences are striking. Here are just a few:

- These teens generally have less risky sex, i.e., fewer sexual partners.

- These teens are less likely to have a teenage pregnancy, or to have friends who use drugs.

- These teens have less premarital vaginal sex.

- When these teens lose their virginity they tend to do so at age 21 -- compared to 17 for the typical American teen.

- And very much overlooked, one out of four of these teens do in fact keep the pledge to remain chaste -- amid much cheap ridicule and just about zero support outside their homes or churches.

Let's put this another way. The real headline from this study is this: "Religious Teens Differ Little in Sexual Behavior Whether or Not They Take a Pledge."

Now, whatever the shock that might occasion at CBS or the Washington Post, it comes as no surprise to parents. Most parents appreciate that a pledge of virginity -- a one-time event that might be made at an emotional moment in a teen's life -- is not some talisman that will magically shield their sons and daughters from the strong and normal desires that grow as they discover their sexuality. What these parents hope to do is direct these desires in a way that recognizes sex as a great gift, which in the right circumstances fosters genuine intimacy between a man and a woman and at its freest offers the possibility of new life.

This is not the prevailing view, of course. And these parents know it. Far from conformists living in a comfortable world where their beliefs are never challenged, these families live in an environment where most everything that is popular -- television, the movies, the Internet -- encourages children to grow up as quickly as possible while adults remain locked in perpetual adolescence.

Nor do these families believe their children are better than other kids. Unlike the majority of health experts and their supporters in the press, however, they don't believe that the proper use of the condom is the be all and end all. For these parents, the good news here is that the striking behavioral differences between the average American teen and the two teen groups in this study show that homes and families still exert a powerful influence.

That, alas, is not something you're likely to read in the headlines. For when it comes to challenging the conventional wisdom on issues of sexuality, the American media suddenly become as coy as a cloistered virgin.

Write to
27775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: We are fcuked on: January 08, 2009, 10:18:00 AM
Remember when Dick Cheney was pilloried for reportedly saying, earlier this decade, that "deficits don't matter"? We recall reading any number of press releases denouncing the Vice President for supporting tax cuts that contributed to short-term deficits but also helped the economy grow until the deficits shrank nearly away. Yet somehow none of those same voices are objecting now that the government is spending its way into deficits that are so large they dwarf any during peacetime in U.S. history.

The Congressional Budget Office released its latest budget forecast yesterday, and we now really do have red ink as far as the eye can see. Thanks to a 6.6% decline in revenues due to recession, a spending increase of some $500 billion or 19%, and assorted federal bailouts, the U.S. deficit for fiscal 2009 (ending September 30) will nearly triple to $1.19 trillion. That's 8.3% of GDP, which CBO says "will most likely shatter the previous post-World War II record high of 6.0 percent posted in 1983." It certainly blows away any deficit this decade, not to mention the Reagan years when smaller deficits were the media cause celebre.

But there's more. None of that includes the new fiscal "stimulus" that President-elect Obama has promised to introduce upon taking office in two weeks. The details aren't known, but Mr. Obama and Democrats have been talking about at least $800 billion, and probably $1 trillion, in new spending or various tax credits and reductions over two years. Toss that in and add more expected bailout cash, and if the economy stays slow the deficit could reach $1.8 trillion, or a gargantuan 12.5% of GDP. That 2006 Democratic vow to pass "pay as you go" budgets seems like a lifetime ago, which in political terms it was.

We've long argued that deficits per se are not worth losing sleep over, though we do recall when Robert Rubin and Larry Summers claimed that reducing them was itself an economic virtue because it reduced interest rates. With their acquiescence in the magnitude of these deficits, we trust they will now admit to burying Rubinomics as a serious economic philosophy. Democrats are once again all Keynesians now -- at least until they want to use the deficits as an argument to raise taxes in a year or two.

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As an economic matter, it does make sense to run deficits in a recession rather than to raise taxes in a way that would delay any recovery. Borrowing money to finance a war (Reagan's aircraft carriers in the 1980s) or to pay for tax cuts that promote growth (Reagan and Bush's tax cuts) is often money well spent. Had bipartisan Washington passed a big pro-growth tax cut a year ago, rather than settle in February for $165 billion in no-growth rebates and spending, the economy would be stronger and the deficit lower today.

The economically crucial issue for the long term is how much the government spends, because that is what becomes a claim on current or future taxpayers. This is where the CBO forecast gets scary. Including the Obama stimulus spending and assuming the full $700 billion of bailout money for the banks, insurance companies, auto firms and so forth gets fully spent, federal outlays could approach $4 trillion in 2009. That's double the $2 trillion Congress spent only seven years ago.

Federal expenditures are now rapidly outpacing the growth of the economy, which is expected to be negative this year. CBO estimates that even before the stimulus federal spending will climb to an all-time high 24.9% of GDP, up from the previous post-World War II high of 23.5% in 1985. Add the stimulus and bailout cash and we estimate the federal spending share of GDP will climb to 27.5%. All of this is fast pushing the U.S. to European spending levels, and that's before Mr. Obama's new health-care entitlements.

The problem with most of this spending is that it will be hard to stop once it becomes part of the annual CBO baseline. Congress never reduces spending year over year. While much of the $700 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program money will probably be returned to the Treasury as banks redeem the government's preferred shares, Congress will want to turn around and spend that cash on other things unless the Obama Administration says no.

CBO also reports that some $240 billion of the new spending is for the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which Congress will also want to keep in business as part of its nationalization of the mortgage market. So that $240 billion may never be repaid, though only last year our Solons and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson were assuring us that Fan and Fred were no threat to taxpayers. Think of this as Congress having stolen from taxpayers as a result of its Fannie scam nearly five times what Bernard Madoff may have stolen from his clients.

Whether or not you think new spending will stimulate the economy, the one undeniable truth is that this money has to come from somewhere, which means that it is borrowed or taxed from the private economy. This spending blowout is all but guaranteeing huge future tax increases, and anyone who thinks only the rich will pay is living an illusion. Taxpayers need some new champions in Washington -- and fast.
27776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton on: January 08, 2009, 10:12:40 AM
"To cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying the objects of enterprise, is not among the least considerable of the expedients, by which the wealth of a nation may be promoted."

--Alexander Hamilton, Report on Manufactures, December 1791
27777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 08, 2009, 09:50:27 AM

Just when I think there's hope for you, you go and post something stupid and vapid like that. rolleyes

Our Founding Fathers taught their children to be suicide killers of women and children? 

"Few want to ask what made Hamas engage in that suicidal rocketing in the first place, namely the the Israeli determination to hobble the Gaza economy, destroy the popularly elected Hamas regime and, as in the West Bank, humiliate its people."

What drivel!  Israel's policies are a response to Hamas actively trying to destroy it!  What is so hard to understand here!?!?


The world-wide protests against Israel's ground incursion into Gaza are so full of hatred that they leave me with the terrible feeling that these protests have little to do with the so-called disproportionality of the Israeli response to Hamas rockets, or the resulting civilian casualties.

My fear is that the rage we see in the protesters marching in the streets is far more profound and dangerous than we would like to believe. There are a great many people in the world who, even after Auschwitz, just can't bear the Jewish state having the same rights they so readily grant to other nations. These voices insist Israel must take risks they would never dare ask of any other nation-state -- risks that threaten its very survival -- because they don't believe Israel should exist in the first place.

Just look at the spate of attacks this week on Jews and Jewish institutions around the world: a car ramming into a synagogue in France; a Chabad menorah and Jewish-owned shops sprayed with swastikas in Belgium; a banner at an Australian rally demanding "clean the earth from dirty Zionists!"; demonstrators in the Netherlands chanting "Gas the Jews"; and in Florida, protestors demanding Jews "Go back to the ovens!"

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How else can we explain the double-standard that is applied to the Gaza conflict, if not for a more insidious bias against the Jewish state?

At the U.N., no surprise, this double-standard is in full force. In response to Israel's attack on Hamas, the Security Council immediately pulled an all-night emergency meeting to consider yet another resolution condemning Israel. Have there been any all-night Security Council sessions held during the seven months when Hamas fired 3,000 rockets at half a million innocent civilians in southern Israel? You can be certain that during those seven months, no midnight oil was burning at the U.N. headquarters over resolutions condemning terrorist organizations like Hamas. But put condemnation of Israel on the agenda and, rain or shine, it's sure to be a full house.

Red Cross officials are all over the Gaza crisis, describing it as a full-blown humanitarian nightmare. Where were they during the seven months when tens of thousands of Israeli families could not sleep for fear of a rocket attack? Where were their trauma experts to decry that humanitarian crisis?

There have been hundreds of articles and reports written from the Erez border crossing falsely accusing Israel of blocking humanitarian supplies from reaching beleaguered Palestinians in Gaza. (In fact, over 520 truck loads of humanitarian aid have been delivered through Israeli crossings since the beginning of the Israeli counterattack.) But how many news articles, NGO reports and special U.N. commissions have investigated Hamas's policy of deliberately placing rocket launchers near schools, mosques and homes in order to use innocent Palestinians as human shields?

Many people ask why there are so few Israeli casualties in comparison with the Palestinian death toll. It's because Israel's first priority is the safety of its citizens, which is why there are shelters and warning systems in Israeli towns. If Hamas can dig tunnels, it can certainly build shelters. Instead, it prefers to use women and children as human shields while its leaders rush into hiding.

And then there are the clarion calls for a cease-fire. These words, which come so easily, have proven to be a recipe for disaster. Hamas uses the cease-fire as a time-out to rearm and smuggle even more deadly weapons so the next time, instead of hitting Sderot and Ashkelon, they can target Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The pattern is always the same. Following a cease-fire brought on by international pressure, there will be a call for a massive infusion of funds to help Palestinians recover from the devastation of the Israeli attack. The world will respond eagerly, handing over hundreds of millions of dollars. To whom does this money go? To Hamas, the same terrorist group that brought disaster to the Palestinians in the first place.

The world seems to have forgotten that at the end of World War II, President Harry Truman initiated the Marshall Plan, investing vast sums to rebuild Germany. But he did so only with the clear understanding that the money would build a new kind of Germany -- not a Fourth Reich that would continue the policies of Adolf Hitler. Yet that is precisely what the world will be doing if we once again entrust funds to Hamas terrorists and their Iranian puppet masters.

In less than two weeks, Barack Obama will be sworn in as president of the United States. But there is no "change we can believe in" in the Middle East -- not where Israel is concerned. The double-standard continuously applied to the Jewish state proves that, for much of the world, the real lessons of World War II have yet to be learned.

Mr. Hier, a rabbi, is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance.

27778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Bush Presidency; GW Bush; the Bush Family on: January 08, 2009, 09:44:22 AM
Virtually no one likes President Bush very much these days.  This thread is for saying why, defending him, informative articles on his record, and the like:



Mythmaking is in full swing as the Bush administration prepares to leave town. Among the more prominent is the assertion that the housing meltdown resulted from unbridled capitalism under a president opposed to all regulation.

APLike most myths, this is entertaining but fictional. In reality, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were among the principal culprits of the housing crisis, and Mr. Bush wanted to rein them in before things got out of hand.

Rather than a failure of capitalism, the housing meltdown shows what's likely to happen when government grants special privileges to favored private entities that facilitate bad actors and lousy practices.

Fannie and Freddie are "government-sponsored enterprises" (GSEs), chartered by Congress. As such, they had an implicit promise of taxpayer backing and could borrow money at rates well below competitors.

Because of this, the Bush administration warned in the budget it issued in April 2001 that Fannie and Freddie were too large and overleveraged. Their failure "could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting federally insured entities and economic activity" well beyond housing.

Mr. Bush wanted to limit systemic risk by raising the GSEs' capital requirements, compelling preapproval of new activities, and limiting the size of their portfolios. Why should government regulate banks, credit unions and savings and loans, but not GSEs? Mr. Bush wanted the GSEs to be treated just like their private-sector competitors.

But the GSEs fought back. They didn't want to see the Bush reforms enacted, because that would level the playing field for their competitors. Congress finally did pass the Bush reforms, but in 2008, after Fannie and Freddie collapsed.

The largely unreported story is that to fend off regulation, the GSEs engaged in a lobbying frenzy. They hired high-profile Democrats and Republicans and spent $170 million on lobbying over the past decade. They also constructed an elaborate network of state and local lobbyists to pressure members of Congress.

When Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama, then chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, pushed for comprehensive GSE reform in 2005, Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut successfully threatened a filibuster. Later, after Fannie and Freddie collapsed, Mr. Dodd asked, "Why weren't we doing more?" He then voted for the Bush reforms that he once called "ill-advised."

But Mr. Dodd wasn't the only Democrat to heap abuse on the Bush reforms. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts defended Fannie and Freddie as "fundamentally sound" and labeled the president's proposals as "inane." He later voted for the reforms. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York dismissed Mr. Bush's "safety and soundness concerns" as "a straw man." "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," was the helpful advice of both Sen. Thomas Carper of Delaware and Rep. Maxine Waters of California. Rep. Kendrick Meeks of Florida berated a Bush official at a hearing, saying, "I am just pissed off" at the administration for raising the issue.

Democrats had ready allies among lenders accustomed to GSEs buying their risky mortgages. For example, Angelo Mozilo, CEO of Countrywide Financial, complained that "an overly cumbersome regulatory process" would "reduce, or even eliminate, the incentives for the GSEs and their primary market partners."

It took Fannie and Freddie over three decades to acquire $2 trillion in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. Together, they held $2.1 trillion in 2000. By 2005, the two GSEs held $4 trillion, up 92% in just five years. By 2008, they'd grown another 24%, to nearly $5 trillion. They held almost half of all American mortgages.

The more the president pushed for reform, the more they bought. Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute and Charles Calomiris of the Columbia Business School suggest $1 trillion of this debt was subprime and "liar loans," almost all bought between 2005 and 2007. This bulk-up in risky paper made it possible for banks to lend imprudently on a massive scale.

Some critics blame Mr. Bush because he supported broadening homeownership. But Mr. Bush's goal was for people to own homes they could afford, not ones made accessible by reckless lenders who off-loaded their risk to GSEs.

The housing meltdown is largely a story of greed and irresponsibility made possible by government privilege. If Democrats had granted the Bush administration the regulatory powers it sought, the housing crisis wouldn't be nearly as severe and the economy as a whole would be better off.

That's why some mythmakers are so intent on denying that Mr. Bush worked to rein in the GSEs. But facts are stubborn things, as Ronald Reagan used to say, and in this instance, the facts support Mr. Bush and offer a harsh judgment on key Democrats. Perhaps that explains why so many in the media haven't told the real story.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

27779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 08, 2009, 01:33:01 AM
Judge orders 17 Guantanamo detainees released to U.S.


Marisa Taylor
- McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — In a dramatic setback for the Bush administration, a federal judge ordered the U.S. government Tuesday to immediately release and transfer to the United States 17 Chinese-born Muslims detained for almost seven years at Guantanamo.

The decision marked the first time a court has ordered the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. and could prompt the release of dozens of other Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release by the military but who can’t leave because the government hasn’t found a country to send them to.

Judge Ricardo Urbina declared the continued detention of the group from the ethnic Uighur minority to be “unlawful” and ordered the government to bring the detainees to the U.S. by Friday.

Reading his decision from the bench, Urbina said the government could no longer detain the Uighurs after conceding they weren’t enemy combatants. The judge also agreed with the Uighurs’ lawyers, who’ve argued the group can’t be returned to China because they could be tortured.

Urbina warned the government not to attempt to circumvent the group’s release by detaining them on immigration holds once they reach the U.S., saying “no one is to bother these people until I see them.”

Administration officials said they intend to file an "emergency motion" Tuesday night with the federal appeals court in Washington to block the ruling.

"This decision, we believe, is contrary to our laws, including federal immigration statutes passed by Congress," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "The district court’s ruling, if allowed to stand, could be used as precedent for other detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, including sworn enemies of the United States suspected of planning the attacks of 9/11, who may also seek release into our country."

Urbina, who at times during the hearing appeared to scold Justice Department lawyers, noted the government hadn’t charged the detainees with any crime, revealed any evidence justifying their detention and then “stymied” their release by continuing to assert erroneously that they were enemy combatants.

When government lawyers started to raise security concerns, the judge challenged them to specify what they were, chiding them that “you’ve had seven years to study this.”

He described the government’s use of certain legal jargon as “Kafkaesque,” saying it “begs the question of whether they ever were enemy combatants.”

Supporters from the Uighur-American community who attended the hearing reacted to his ruling with loud applause and cheers.

“The American system has given us justice,” said Rebia Kadeer, president of the World Uighur Congress.

Citing “serious separation-of-power issues,” Justice Department lawyers immediately requested a delay to allow the government time to consider whether to appeal. The judge, however, refused and instead set a hearing to determine the conditions of release.

Despite the prospect of the government’s appeal, Kadeer said: “I believe they will be released.” Kadeer, a leader of the expatriate Uighur community, was once detained for several years in a Chinese prison as a political dissident, but released and sent to the U.S. after the State Department pressured the Chinese government.

Urbina, a Clinton appointee, said the men will be permitted to stay with Uighur families in the Washington area, but will be expected to check in with the court on a regular basis. Next week, the court will consider whether to impose other conditions of their release.

The Uighurs were first shipped to Guantanamo from Afghanistan after their capture by U.S. troops at a weapons training camp. The military accused the group of being members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and said the camp in Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains was run by the Taliban. But the Uighurs denied being members of the group and receiving support from the Taliban.

The Uighurs also have insisted that they consider the U.S. to be an ally in their fight for more political freedom in China. Declassified documents turned over to their lawyers showed that as early as 2003 government officials had concluded they were not enemy combatants and had recommended releasing them.

Attorneys representing the group hailed the ruling as landmark and predicted it could lead to other releases.

“The decision is extraordinary,” said Neil McGaraghan, one of the attorneys. “This is finally a step toward justice.”

The decision comes after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned as “invalid” a military tribunal's conclusion that one of the prisoners, Huzaifa Parhat, is an enemy combatant. The court, the same one that could hear the department's appeal, directed the Pentagon either to release or transfer Parhat or to hold a new tribunal hearing “consistent with the court's opinion.”

After the appellate ruling, the government conceded that it no longer considered any of the Uighurs enemy combatants.

However, Justice Department lawyers continued to argue Tuesday that the release of the group into the U.S. could pose a security risk and warned that the decision could harm international relations with China. The judge dismissed both arguments. Justice Department lawyer John O’Quinn said he did not mean to suggest that the government would immediately move to detain the group once they were in the U.S.
27780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 08, 2009, 01:32:04 AM
Marginal tax rates IMHO are a matter of the deepest import.
27781  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: January 07, 2009, 09:01:26 PM
I've read Ridley's book "The Red Queen" and recommend it highly and have another of his books in my ever growing "to read" pile.  Thanks for the nice find.
27782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Netanyahu on: January 07, 2009, 07:43:49 PM
Militant Islam Threatens Us All
Hamas rockets have the same terror goal as Hitler's blitz.Article
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Imagine a siren that gives you 30 seconds to find shelter before a Kassam rocket falls from the sky and explodes, spraying its lethal shrapnel in all directions. Now imagine this happens day after day, month after month, year after year.

If you can imagine that, you can begin to understand the terror to which hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been subjected. Three years ago Israel withdrew from every square inch of Gaza. And since that withdrawal, our civilians have been targeted by more than 6,000 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. In the face of this relentless bombardment, Israel has acted with a restraint that other countries, faced with a similar threat, would find hard to fathom. Israel's government has finally decided to respond.

For this action to succeed, we must first have moral clarity. There is no moral equivalence between Israel, a democracy which seeks peace and targets the terrorists, and Hamas, an Iranian-backed terror organization that seeks Israel's destruction and targets the innocent.

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In launching precision strikes against Hamas rocket launchers, headquarters, weapons depots, smuggling tunnels and training camps, Israel is trying to minimize civilian casualties. But Hamas deliberately attacks Israeli civilians and deliberately hides behind Palestinian civilians -- a double war crime. Responsible governments do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties, but they do not grant immunity to terrorists who use civilians as human shields.

The international community may occasionally condemn Hamas for putting Palestinian civilians in harm's way, but if it ultimately holds Israel responsible for the casualties that ensue, then Hamas and other terror organizations will employ this abominable tactic again and again.

The charge that Israel is using disproportionate force is equally baseless. Does proportionality demand that Israel fire 6,000 rockets indiscriminately back at Gaza? Does it demand an equal number of casualties on both sides? Using that logic, one would conclude that the United States employed disproportionate force against the Germans because 20 times as many Germans as Americans died in World War II.

In Today's Opinion Journal


The Winter Gas WarWaiting for DoddA Charter Setback in Florida


Business World: Mad Men
– Holman W. Jenkins Jr.The Tilting Yard: An Unrepentant New Dealer Runs for Congress
– Thomas Frank


Iran's Hamas Strategy
– Reuel Marc GerechtBoost Private Investment to Boost the Economy
– Hal VarianThe GOP Should Fight Health-Care Rationing
– Tom PriceIn that same war, Britain responded to the firing of thousands of rockets on its population with the wholesale bombing of German cities. Israel's measured response to rocket fire on its cities has come in the form of surgical strikes. To further root out Hamas terrorists in a way that minimizes Palestinian civilian casualties, Israel's army is now engaged in a ground operation that places its soldiers in great peril. Carpet-bombing of Palestinian cities is not an option that any Israeli leader will entertain.

The goal of this mission should be clear: To end the current round of missile attacks and to remove the threat of such attacks in the future. The only cease-fire or diplomatic initiative that should be accepted is one that achieves this dual objective.

If our enemies assumed that the Israeli public would be divided on the eve of an election, they were wrong. When it comes to exercising our most basic right of self-defense, there is no opposition and no coalition. We stand united against Hamas because we know that only by defeating Hamas can we provide security for our people and hope for a future peace.

We fight to defend ourselves, but in so doing we are also fighting a fanatical ideology that seeks to reverse the course of history and throw the civilized world back into a new dark age. The struggle between militant Islam and modernity -- whether fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, India or Gaza -- will decide our common future. It is a battle we cannot afford to lose.

Mr. Netanyahu, Israel's ninth prime minister, is the chairman of the Likud Party and its candidate for prime minister.

27783  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Seminario con Guro Marc Denny en Argentina on: January 07, 2009, 01:15:49 PM
27784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: January 07, 2009, 01:11:44 PM
Second post of the day

Dianne Speaks Her Mind

Depending on which Democrat you talk with, California Senator Dianne Feinstein is either becoming the conscience of the Senate or Majority Leader Harry Reid's biggest headache.

Ms. Feinstein is 76 years old and rumored to be considering leaving Capitol Hill to run for governor in 2010, a job she almost won two decades ago before quickly switching gears and winning a special election for Senate. Her possibly short time horizon when it comes to Washington may explain some of her recent feistiness.

This week, she bristled when Barack Obama picked fellow Californian Leon Panetta to be CIA director. She bluntly noted he lacked any intelligence experience and that she had not been consulted even though she chairs the Intelligence Committee. An irritated Senator Reid told yesterday: "I think you need better reasons for coming out against somebody than somebody didn't call you."

Mr. Reid was also not happy that Ms. Feinstein, a key member of the Rules Committee, openly bucked the party line on whether Illinois Democrat Roland Burris should be seated despite the fact he was appointed by scandal-implicated Governor Rod Blagojevich. Ms. Feinstein challenged the position of Democratic leaders who rejected Mr. Burris, saying their move called into question the validity of "gubernatorial appointments all over the country."

Mr. Reid is clearly of another view. "It's not valid, her statement," he told Politico. "I told her that. OK?" Nonetheless, many observers expect Mr. Burris to be quietly seated in coming days.

Ms. Feinstein has proven time and time again that she exercises independent judgment on many issues. She gave a moving speech on the Senate floor in 2004 explaining why she was breaking with teacher unions to support a school voucher program in Washington D.C. In 2007, she angered liberals by backing some key Bush judicial nominations along with the appointment of Michael Mukasey to be attorney general.

"She'll take political heat to find common ground," says GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who has often been criticized by members of his own party for apostasy. "I think she'll be one of the key players in this Congress, quite frankly."

The bottom line is that while Majority Leader Reid is tantalizingly close to having the 60 Democrats he needs to break GOP filibusters, he clearly will have to spend some time to keep the ornery Ms. Feinstein in the party corral.

-- John Fund

Holder's Baggage

The confirmation hearing on Eric Holder's nomination to be Attorney General will be a spirited affair. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, let colleagues know yesterday he will scrutinize very closely Mr. Holder's record during his time as the No. 2 man in the Clinton Justice Department.

In a 25-minute floor speech, Mr. Specter said he was worried that Mr. Holder's willingness to follow the lead of President Clinton rather than that of career professionals at Justice invited comparisons to past attorneys general such as Homer Cummings (who backed FDR's court-packing plan) and Alberto Gonzalez (who allowed Bush-era underlings excessive authority). Mr. Specter said both men were unfortunate examples of Justice chiefs who proved to be more loyal to the presidents who appointed them than to the rule of law. "Sometimes it is more important for the attorney general to have the stature and the courage to say 'no' instead of to say 'yes,'" the Pennsylvania Senator told his colleagues.

Mr. Specter listed three decisions during the Clinton presidency that he said demonstrated Mr. Holder's insufficient independence from his political patron: the controversial pardon of fugitive Marc Rich in 2001, the unusual 1999 granting of clemency to 16 members of a Puerto Rican terrorist group despite their lack of remorse for their crimes, and the 1997 rejection of an independent counsel to look into then-Vice President Al Gore's fundraising calls from the White House.

Mr. Holder will no doubt strenuously assert counter examples in which he clearly pursued an independent course, especially in his prosecution of former House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski when Mr. Holder served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in 1993. But the battle lines are clearly drawn. Mr. Holder will almost certainly be confirmed by an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate, but he has been put on notice it will be a bumpy ride.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"[Leon Panetta] is an excellent choice [for CIA director] because he will be loyal to the president first, not to the CIA. Mr. Obama needs someone who can be trusted, a person who will support him when the going gets tough. A 'safe' choice, viewed as inoffensive by the CIA's top bureaucrats, would have been dangerous. . . . The superbly run Obama campaign showed that the Obama people know how to manage an effective organization. Reform of the CIA can begin simply by requiring the CIA to obey existing laws and directives: 1) The CIA must get its clandestine-service officers out of the United States and spying in and on foreign countries. The great majority of CIA employees now live and work within the U.S. 2) Its clandestine operations should move away from embassies because, unlike the old Soviet targets, terrorists and nuclear proliferators do not attend diplomatic cocktail parties. Congress has already funded this move, but the CIA has not complied. 3) Ruthlessly streamline the bloat. Terrorists have flat chains of command and no bureaucratic turfs" -- "Ishmael Jones," a former deep-cover officer with the Central Intelligence Agency and author of a book critical of agency failures, in an interview with National Review.

Quote of the Day II

"If Democrats begin this new Congress with the arbitrary and capricious attitude of 'our way or the highway,' Republicans will not only have no incentive to cooperate, but it virtually guarantees an obstinate minority and that the cycle of partisanship and dysfunctionality will continue. . . . The seating of Rep. Frank McCloskey by House Democrats after the contested election in Indiana's 8th District in 1984 was one of the major contributing factors to creating the current vicious cycle and led to the rise of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. Republicans who had been institutionalists became militants. With what it ultimately cost Democrats, it wasn't worth a single seat" -- political handicapper Charlie Cook, writing in Congress Daily, on why the Obama honeymoon will be short if Congressional Democrats resort to "steamrolling" Republicans to place Al Franken in the Senate.

Buckeye Bailout

It wasn't exactly a recording of "an actual Onstar conversation" call for emergency help, but it sounded like one. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland recently left the following message on the answering machine of his former congressional colleague and incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel: "Rahm, it's Ted. You've never failed me and I need $5 billion."

What's $5 billion of taxpayer money between old chums anyway? Even in the new Obama era of ending business as usual inside the beltway, it's still not what you know, it's who you know. Expect a lot more politicians and high-priced K Street influence peddlers to be cashing in on their relationships as the Obama team prepares to dole out $800 billion in free money. This is a very good time to be a friend, or a friend of a friend, of Mr. Obama.

Mr. Strickland's plea for money symbolizes all that is wrong with this "economic stimulus" jackpot scheme. The Buckeye State has a $7.4 billion budget deficit, or almost 25% of its 2010 operating budget. "We're not crying wolf," Mr. Strickland whined last week. What he didn't say is that pols in Columbus have mostly themselves to blame. During the boom years of 2003-2007, Ohio went on a hog-wild government spending binge. The latest Census Bureau data finds that total Buckeye spending rose by a fat $10 billion, even as family incomes in the state were falling. A lot of that largesse was ladled out under Republican Gov. Bob Taft, but Mr. Strickland has been no skinflint either. Ohio University economist Richard Laffer, an expert on the state's finances, moans that Ohio is a "shining model of what a state should not do to fix its economy. We have one of the worst tax systems with high tax rates and a runaway budget culture."

Mr. Strickland wants taxpayers in other states to bail out Ohio, so it won't have to tighten its belt after its wild shopping spree. The bailout of the states creates the same classic moral hazard problem that has arisen from bailing out irresponsible banks and subprime home buyers and investment houses. Those who acted the most recklessly are first in line for a federal check to reward their financial malfeasance.

In this era of bailout fever, no one is responsible for their own bad decisions, least of all governors. Even while Mr. Strickland is begging his old friends for dollars and the state is up to its eyebrows in red ink, he recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "I think we've acted very reasonably and managed the people's money in a very conservative way." Of course, that all depends on "reasonable" and "conservative" meaning the opposite of what they usually do.

-- Stephen Moore and Robert Costa

27785  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What does Kali Tudo 2 have in store for us?? on: January 07, 2009, 11:20:42 AM
No worries; I did not intend to communicate that I felt bothered.

I too am chomping at the bit to get this out.
27786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: January 07, 2009, 11:16:41 AM
Whoops!  embarassed

Not sure what happened there-- what I meant to post was this:

Israel, Lebanon: Tehran Reins in Hezbollah
Stratfor Today » January 6, 2009 | 2143 GMT

Lebanese students in Beirut affiliated with Hezbollah protest Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip on Jan. 6Summary
While Israel has warned its people that a northern front with Lebanon could open up at the same time as the Israeli military is involved in the Gaza Strip, it appears Iran may be working to keep Hezbollah from opening a northern front.

Related Special Topic Page
Israel, Syria and Lebanon: A Tangled Web
As the Israel Defense Forces continued pounding Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, six Israeli warplanes flew over Lebanon from the night of Jan. 5 through the morning of Jan. 6, reaching as far north as Sidon, according to the Lebanese army. The Israeli overflights occurred amid several warnings by the Israeli political and military leadership that another front could open up on Israel’s northern frontier with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

As Stratfor previously wrote, neither Hezbollah nor Israel is looking for a fight right now. Israel, focused on paralyzing Hamas, does not want to spread its forces thin by confronting Hezbollah. Meanwhile, Hezbollah is content with limiting its support to Hamas to helping maintain the Palestinian group’s supply lines and commanding several Hamas units in Gaza City. A debate has been taking place inside Hezbollah, however, regarding how much more Hezbollah should be doing in this Gaza crisis. More radical elements are arguing that another confrontation with Israel is inevitable, and that the group would be better off battling Israel in a two-front war.

It now appears that Hezbollah’s patrons in Iran are making sure such a scenario does not occur. To this end, Said Jalili, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, visited Damascus and Beirut on Jan. 2-3. During his visit, he met with Hamas’ exiled leadership in Damascus, Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Ahmad Jibril, chief of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). According to a Stratfor source whose information has not been verified, Jalili made it abundantly clear in his meetings that Iran would not authorize Hezbollah to get any more involved in Israel’s war with Hamas.

Iran’s apparent need to restrain Hezbollah from provoking Israel represents a very different picture from 2006, when Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers in Lebanon were believed to have played a direct role in escalating the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah into an all-out war. At that time, Iran was looking to flex its muscles and demonstrate to the United States, Israel and its Sunni Arab rivals that it had Shiite militant proxies under its control that could unleash chaos at Tehran’s will unless certain Iranian demands were met on key issues, like Iraq.

Tehran has proved its point, and in the current scenario Iran does not have much to gain from an Israeli-Hezbollah war. Not only would Hezbollah run the risk of becoming crippled this time around by a better prepared Israel Defense Forces, but Iran is also at a delicate negotiating stage with the incoming U.S. administration. Iran’s main focus is on consolidating the gains it has made thus far in expanding Shiite power in Iraq; having its primary militant proxy in the Levant come under fire would thus do little to further Iranian interests at this time.

But Iran is not only worried about Hezbollah popping a shot across the border. Jalili, according to the source, also sought to ensure that Hezbollah and the PFLP-GC prevent radical Sunni militants milling about in Lebanon from launching a rocket attack on northern Israel. The Iranians apparently are concerned that these Sunni militants, the bulk of whom are either on the payroll of Syrian or Saudi intelligence, could attempt to drag Hezbollah into an all-out war with Israel. There are reportedly hundreds of Sunni sleeper cells in southern Lebanon, most of which are in the Palestinian refugee camps of Rashidiyye and Burj al-Shimali, with others sprinkled throughout several Sunni villages in the deep south.

While the probability of hostilities breaking out on Israel’s northern frontier remains low, there is still a chance for militants outside Iran’s and Hezbollah’s command to open up a new front. Iran does not appear to be taking any chances, but neither is Israel. If an attack is launched from the north, the Israelis will not hesitate to respond
27787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: January 07, 2009, 11:14:28 AM
Gresham's Law

Gresham’s Law Updated
By Paul Eidelberg

Some four centuries ago, English financier Sir Thomas Gresham formulated what has come to be known as “Gresham’s Law,” according to which coins having the least intrinsic value supplant coins having a higher intrinsic value.

Gresham’s Law is the dominant law in the domain of politics, where falsehoods and half-truths or “spin” drive out plain-spoken truths. The ideal of democratic politics is compromise and expedience as opposed to principles, and this seems to exclude truth.

Stated another way: politics is a struggle for power, and to gain power in a democratic society one must go with the mainstream, the center of the political spectrum, where vagueness trumps moral clarity.

Democracy’s political elites insist on your being a “moderate,” a “centrist,” a “pragmatist,” a “pluralist.” Why? Well, to put it plainly, there is no truth. In this democratic age, everything is “relative.”

To refute an opponent nowadays you don’t have to examine his opinions on logical and empirical grounds; it’s enough to call him a “right-winger” or a “hawk.” I say “right-winger” and “hawk” rather than “left-winger” and “dove” because left-wingers and doves dominate the media, including the media of education. Thus, if you are a critic of indiscriminate freedom or of a leveling egalitarianism, the democracy’s ruling elites label you a “reactionary” or a “fascist.” And if you are a critic of the Middle East “peace process,” they label you a “war-monger.”

This dishonest way of dealing with matters of life and death is typical of academics tainted by moral relativism. I have especially in mind morally neutral or “value-free” political scientists. Thus, in an op-ed piece appearing in The Jerusalem Post, one Hebrew University political scientist said that to require more than 51% in a referendum on whether Israel should withdraw from the Golan Heights is to succumb to “Kahanism.” The “reason”? It would render nugatory the votes of Israel’s Arab citizens! No direct comment on this example of intellectual dishonesty or of Gresham’s Law is necessary.

That falsehoods and half-truths are a commonplace in political science is indicated by the fact that political scientists never refer to any politician as “mendacious.” To do so is to make a “value-judgment” which “value-free” (or “worth-less”) political scientists must avoid if they are to be “objective” or “scientific.” A “value-free” political science must therefore be a “truth-free” political science, hence unscientific.

But since “value-free” or morally neutral political science will be found only in democracies, it follows that democratic political scientists are lackeys of democracy—understandably, for democracy endows them with academic freedom. You will never hear them criticizing democracy. This suggests that morally neutral political scientists identify with the Power Elite or Establishment. Indeed, they are part of the Establishment. There is dilemma here.
Morally neutral political scientists are by definition opposed to tradition, especially a religious-based tradition, which proclaims eternal truths and condemns falsehoods and half-truths.

Religion is therefore the main competitor of “value-free” or “truth-free” political science. This is why the political scientist alluded to above opposes an extraordinary majority on the Golan referendum issue—opposes it because it would be a manifestation of what he calls “Jewish exclusivity.” Which means he opposes Jewish peoplehood or nationhood. That’s the objective of those (including nominal or assimilated Jews) who advocate the establishment of an Arab state in Judea and Samaria, the heartland of the Jewish people.

Evident here is the operation of Gresham’s Law: the bad driving out the good. Notice, however, that insofar as political science is “value-free” or “truth-less,” it cheapens and undermines the values and truths of the society in which this political science holds sway. It renders all values equal, and it reduces truths to myths or are merely personal narratives. This is postmodern political science, and it is subversive.

But inasmuch as this political science will be found only in democracies, it follows that “value-free” or morally neutral political science is subversive of democracy. The same may be said of the news media insofar as their mandarins are the products of morally neutral political science. But wait!

Since the media are dominated by the Left; they are not at all morally neutral. Consider the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. A perusal of CNN or BBC reveals they are biased against Israel, which is to say they favor Hamas, a terrorist organization that uses women and children as human shields, an organization, moreover, whose Covenant calls for Israel’s eradication. Dominating these media, therefore, is not moral neutrality but moral reversal. Or to put it terms of Greshem’s Law, those who support Hamas would have the bad supplant the good.
27788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: January 07, 2009, 11:09:39 AM
Wednesday Chronicle
Vol. 09 No. 01
7 January 2009

"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree." --James Madison

Hope 'n' change: "The number one goal of my plan ... is to create three million new jobs, more than 80 percent of them in the private sector." --Barack Obama on creating 600,000 new government jobs

"Potentially we've got trillion-dollar deficits for years to come, even with the economic recovery that we are working on at this point. We're going to have to stop talking about budget reform. We're going to have to totally embrace it. It's an absolute necessity." --Barack Obama on "budget reform," by which he means slashing national defense spending

The Democrats finally have the country where they want it: "The economy is in much worse shape than we thought it was in. There is no short run other than keeping the economy from absolutely tanking. That's the only short run." --Joe Biden

Life's rough: "I can't go to my own barbershop now. I've got to have my barber come to some undisclosed location to cut my hair." --Barack Obama

Everybody's innocent: "I'm here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way. ... As governor I am required to make this appointment." --Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on appointing professional narcissist Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat

Power play: "[T]here's clearly legal authority for us to do whatever we want to. This goes back for generations. ...[There is] a cloud over anyone that comes from the state of Illinois being appointed by [Gov.] Blagojevich." --Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Hurt feelings: "[Rick] Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair. If [Barack Obama] was inviting the Rev. Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing, but being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally given as a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect." --Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)

"According to a just published report (from the Pew Research Center), more Americans today call themselves conservative than liberal, and the relative percentages in each category has hardly changed since George W. Bush was elected to his first term in 2000. Thirty-eight percent of Americans self-identify as conservative, 21 percent as liberal, and 36 percent as moderate." --columnist Star Parker

"From the dawn of the Progressive Era, politicians have sought to minimize the Constitution whenever it got in the way. When the Supreme Court rejected President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs, he threatened to expand and pack the court with more progressive minds. Suddenly, what was previously unconstitutional became constitutional. After seventy years of emasculating the Constitution, it is time for politicians to respect it rather than roll it out as a media prop." --columnist Matt Mayer

"Republicans can be successful by having better ideas than Pelosi, Reid and the Democrats in the House and Senate, not by just being opposed to what the majority is proposing." --Rich Galen

"Bernard Madoff, who stands accused of bilking sophisticated investors out of $50 billion, is reported to have told two of his executives that his business was 'a giant Ponzi scheme.' Politicians go on and on about Wall Street 'greed' and 'irresponsibility.' But Madoff's scam was small compared to Ponzi schemes the government itself runs: Social Security and Medicare. In reality, our money, rather than being invested and kept in an actual 'trust fund,' is immediately given to current retirees in Social Security benefits or to their healthcare providers in Medicare benefits. The government's promise to pay for your retirement pension and medical care is just a promise. And a lie." --John Stossel

"It's often pointed out that Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist. It's more than that. Hamas, with Iran's backing, is committed to Israel's violent destruction." --columnist Mona Charen

"A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt dangerous." --Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

"Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor." --American Poet Robert Frost (1874-1963)

"Life is not holding a good hand; Life is playing a poor hand well." --Danish proverb

"Many of those who voted for [Barack Obama] either dismiss the terrorist threat, or believe none exists. Still worse, some think we should placate our enemies, not vanquish them. That's why a new report from Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff is more than a little disquieting. It suggests that the U.S. faces a real prospect of a serious terror attack sometime in the next five years, particularly from a biological weapon of some sort. 'The threat of terrorism and the threat of extremism has not abated,' Chertoff recently said. And that's not just rhetoric. The Homeland Security Threat Assessment for 2008-2013, leaked to the Associated Press late last week, predicts that terrorists will try some sort of biological weapon on the U.S. in the next five years -- an attack that could overwhelm our health care system, leading to devastating consequences for our economy. The report goes on to warn of outside terror groups such as al-Qaida using our porous borders and poor controls to place terrorist cells inside the United States. Sound unlikely? Recall that just two days before Christmas, five Muslim immigrants were convicted for plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J. It's already here. ... The worst thing that could happen, we fear, is that Obama comes in with a mandate to spend upward of $1 trillion on a stimulus package and then decides to at least partly finance it by cutting defense and anti-terror measures to the bone. There are already warning signs in Obama considering abandoning missile defense and other advanced defense systems, while our potential foes plunge full speed ahead. And his aides suggested the Pentagon's request for 30,000 more troops might be rejected. With Russia boosting its defense outlays by 40% while it builds its nuclear arsenal, China intent on having a blue-water navy to challenge the U.S., and the terrorist threat unabated, it wouldn't be wise to cut back on defense or anti-terrorist efforts right now." --Investor's Business Daily


Gag reflex kicking in: "The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games." --Washington Post reporter Eli Zaslow on Barack Obama's workout habits

Like, dude, he's so awesome: "We're actually talking about how a lot of people think that President-elect Barack Obama is the epitome of cool. Look at that guy. Everything, I mean, even in a baseball cap. Don't you think?" --CBS's "Early Show" co-host Tracy Smith

You asked for it, you got it: "Obama has spent most of his vacation secluded in his oceanfront rental home, some days emerging only to get in that daily workout, where he always draws crowds. In an interview with 60 Minutes just after his election, Obama was already lamenting the loss of the simple things." --NBC correspondent Savannah Guthrie

Wouldn't want to "distract": "Obama's coming into office with a very ambitious agenda, and if you add together what's going on with [Bill] Richardson right now with the [Rod] Blagojevich scandal, is that going to be a distraction in the key early days?" --ABC anchor Dan Harris

Sad commentary: "Quietly, as the United States presidential election and its aftermath have dominated the news, America's three broadcast network news divisions have stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq." --The New York Times

Newspulper Headlines:

Our New Year's Resolution: Watch More Television: "Reading Raises Property Taxes 5 Percent" --Reading (PA) Eagle

We Blame Global Warming: "Twin Cities Streets an Icy Mess; Who's to Blame?" --Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Not to Mention Guns and Religion: "In Tough Times, Americans Cling to Christmas Trees" --Reuters

Wow, That Is Turbulent!: "Oil Rises on Quiet Trading to Cap Turbulent Year" --Associated Press, Dec. 31 ++ "Oil Falls on Quiet Trading to Cap Turbulent Year" --Associated Press, Dec. 31

News You Can Use: "Forget the Economy: Killer Asteroids Could Pose Real Danger" --McClatchy Newspapers

Bottom Stories of the Day: "Obama-Inspired Hope Goes Only So Far in Kenya" --Los Angeles Times

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

Days of Our Lives -- Minnesota: "After 62 days of careful and painstaking hand-inspection of nearly 3 million ballots, after hours and hours of hard work by election officials and volunteers around the state, I am proud to stand before you as the next senator from Minnesota." --wannabe comedian Al Franken

As the World Turns -- Illinois: "I am a United States senator. They can't stop me from doing my senatorial duties." --Illinois Senator-appointee Roland Burris with reference to the Senate Democrat leadership unwilling to allow him to be seated ++ "We are hoping and praying that they will not be able to deny what the Lord has ordained. I am not hesitating. I am now the junior Senator from the state of Illinois. Some people may want to question that and that is their prerogative." --Roland Burris

Young and the Restless -- New York: "I'm really coming into this as somebody who isn't, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, stands for the values of, you know, the Democratic Party. ... I know how important it is to, you know, to be my own person. ... It's really, you know, it's not about just the Kennedy name. It's about my own work and what I've done with those values." --Caroline Kennedy, who is almost as eloquent as Barack Obama, on seeking Hillary Clinton's Senate seat **Kennedy used the words "you know" an astounding 168 times in this interview.

Strange comparisons: "I don't think it's appropriate. It's like putting, you know, [Dick] Cheney in charge of gun control. It's wrong ... it's just wrong." --co-host of "The View" Joy Behar on Barack Obama's choice of pastor Rick Warren for the invocation at his inauguration

"The destruction of the Jews in Israel has been assured with this inhuman attack on civilians in Gaza. Exactly as its Nazi mentors did to the Jews of Warsaw, Israel now bombs innocent civilians who have been imprisoned in concentration camps in Gaza! ... The Zionists look German! The Palestinians look like the Jews of Poland!" --"comedienne" Roseanne Barr

"Observes a perceptive author of a letter to the editor of the New York Times: 'It's amusing that Andrew M. Cuomo, who owes his whole career to his dad, may not get the Senate seat of Hillary Rodham Clinton (who owes her whole career to her husband) because David A. Paterson (who owes his whole career to his dad) may give it to Caroline Kennedy (who owes her whole career to her dad). You would think a state as large as New York could find someone who deserves something on his or her own." --Washington Times editor Wesley Pruden

"n the past few years, we have seen any number of rather obnoxious individuals called to our nation's capitol so that members of the House and Senate could grill them in front of the TV cameras. And while I would normally enjoy watching tobacco, oil and car company CEOs, along with steroid-using baseball cheats, publicly embarrassed, that's not how it's worked out. Instead, because the politicians are so disgustingly arrogant and self-righteous, it's hard not to view their victims in a sympathetic light. All I know is if I were ever guilty or even suspected of a crime, I would certainly want to be attacked by the likes of Christopher Dodd, Charles Schumer and Barney Frank." --columnist Burt Prelutsky

"A question for you in the Drive-By Media. Why do you think Israel would attack Gaza? Is it for their national treasure? Is it because they want all of the scientific discoveries that are being made by Hamas intellectuals?" --radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh

"Barack Obama's Hawaii vacation compound was ringed Monday by Palestinians who are angry about his support for Israel. You can imagine their disappointment. Not only is he the first black president, he's the first guy named Hussein to back Israel." --comedian Argus Hamilton

Jay Leno:

For the next two weeks, President-elect Barack Obama will be living full-time at a hotel right across the street from the White House. This is historic because this is the first time a Democrat has checked into a Washington hotel room under his own name.

Bernie Madoff has been charged with swindling people out of $50 billion. I don't want to say he's unpopular, but [over Christmas] as he was walking in New York, he passed a manger scene and Joseph threw a sandal at him.

Congress says they're looking into the Bernie Madoff scandal. So the guy who made $50 billion disappear, is being investigated by the people who made $750 billion disappear.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Vice President Dick Cheney said he is not a big fan of rap music. I was stunned by that. He gets driven around in a limo; he's surrounded by bodyguards; he shot a guy in the face -- he is a rap star!

27789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coming soon to a border near you-- MexiGaza on: January 07, 2009, 11:03:15 AM
Wednesday, 07 January 2009


The most likely existential security threat to the United States isn't likely to originate from southwest Asian terrorists or a conventional war with China. Instead, it will originate from Mexico's open source insurgency as:
The Mexican state becomes hollow and unable to maintain any semblance of control over its territory. Fiscal bankruptcy, driven by declining oil revenues and a global economic depression, will eliminate any remaining legitimacy it has with the countryside (already tenuous due to extreme income stratification).

The narco-insurgency in the northern provinces morphs into a national open source insurgency with thousands of small groups all willing to fight/corrupt/intimidate the government. Many, if not most, of these groups will be able to power themselves forward financially due to massive flows of money from black globalization. The result will be a diaspora north to the US to avoid the violence.
Economic failure, a loss of legitimacy and economic deprivation in the US creates an environment for the rapid proliferation of domestic groups willing to fight the government in order to advance their economic interests. Catalyzed by connections to Mexico's functional and lucrative bazaar of violence (read "Iraq's Bazaar of Violence" for more on how this works), these groups carve out their own territory in the US. Experience shows that once these groups gain a foothold, they become nearly impossible to defeat (although they can be co-opted).

Sam Dillon, writing for the NYTs, provides us with a good waypoint check on this scenario. Here is a good example of how quickly the infection can spread:

Jerez, a town of 60,000 a few miles northwest of Felipe Angeles in Zacatecas, was until recently a calm place, largely untouched by organized crime, said Abel Márquez Haro, a grocery wholesaler. But recently, scores of men driving Chevrolet Suburbans and carrying automatic rifles established a menacing presence, threatening residents on the street and extorting businesspeople. The identities of the men remain a mystery, but many people in the town say they assume they are traffickers who have abandoned another Mexican state, perhaps to avoid an army crackdown.

The article goes on to explain how these groups are targeting family members of immigrant workers in the US via kidnapping/extortion. The result has been that workers that would have normally returned during an economic downturn, aren't returning due to safety concerns (and many are trying to bring the rest of their families north to safety). NOTE: IF your are wondering how a global depression might impact national security, this is it (I suspect that the biggest hew and cry will be over how the fiscal crisis has led to the rapid defunding of hideously expensive conventional weapons systems, of no use to this threat). If you want spice, think about the implications of an economic collapse of Pakistan (needs to borrow), Russia (needs $70+ oil), and China (needs growth in US consumer spending).

Posted by John Robb on Wednesday, 07 January 2009 at 07:45 AM
27790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's Hamas strategy on: January 07, 2009, 10:56:48 AM

JANUARY 7, 2009
Iran's Hamas Strategy
Radical Shiites back radical Sunnis with the aim of destabilizing the Middle East.


Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that Sunni and Shiite radicals don't work together -- er, except when they do. Proof that the conventional wisdom is badly wrong is on offer in Gaza, where the manifest destiny of the Islamic Republic of Iran is now unfolding. Tehran has been aiding Hamas for years with the aim of radicalizing politics across the entire Arab Middle East. Now Israel's response to thousands of Hamas rocket provocations appears to be doing just that.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends an anti-Israeli demonstration in Tehran, Dec. 12, 2008. A poster at rear shows the late spiritual leader and founder of the Hamas movement, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Born in the 1980s from the ruins of the Palestine Liberation Organization's corrupt and decaying secular nationalism, Hamas is a grass-roots, Sunni Islamist movement that has made Shiite Iran a front-line player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before Hamas, the mullahs had financed the Palestine Islamic Jihad, whose holy warriors became renowned suicide bombers. But Islamic Jihad has always been a fringe group within Palestinian society. As national elections revealed in 2006, Hamas is mainstream.

Although often little appreciated in the West, revolutionary Iran's ecumenical quest has remained a constant in its approach to Sunni Muslims. The anti-Shiite rhetoric of many Sunni fundamentalist groups has rarely been reciprocated by Iran's ruling elite. Since the death in 1989 of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic, quintessentially Shiite leader of the Islamic revolution, Iran's ruling mullahs have tried assiduously to downplay the sectarian content in their militant message.

Khomeini's successor, Ali Khamenei, has consistently married his virulent anti-American rhetoric (Khomeini's "Great Satan" has become Khamenei's "Satan Incarnate") with a global appeal to faithful Muslims to join the battle against the U.S. and its allies. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the most politically adept of the revolution's founding clerics, loved to sponsor militant Sunni-Shiite gatherings when he was speaker of parliament and later as president (1989-1997). He and Mr. Khamenei, who have worked hand-in-hand on national-security issues and have unquestionably authorized every major terrorist operation since the death of Khomeini in 1989, have always been the ultimate pragmatists, even reaching out to Arab Sunni radicals with a strong anti-Shiite bent.

The most radical branch of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad Organization and its most famous member, Ayman al-Zawahiri, became favored Arab poster boys for the clerical regime in the 1980s and 1990s even though Islamic Jihad, like other extremist takfiri Sunni groups, damns Shiites with almost the same gusto as it damns Western infidels. The laissez-passers that Iran gave members of al Qaeda before Sept. 11, 2001 (see the 9/11 Commission Report), the training offered to al Qaeda in the 1990s by the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah (again, see the report), and the "detention" of senior members of al Qaeda fleeing Afghanistan after the American invasion are best seen against the backdrop of clerical Iran's three-decade long outreach to radical Sunnis who loathe Americans more than they hate Shiites.

In 2003, Iran launched two Arabic satellite TV channels both under the guidance of the former Revolutionary Guards commander Ali Larijani, a well-dressed, well-trimmed puritan with a Ph.D. in philosophy who crushed a brief period of intellectual openness in Iran's media in the early 1990s. A favorite of Mr. Khamenei, Mr. Larijani pushed TV content extolling Hamas, anti-Israeli suicide bombers, anti-Semitism and an all-Muslim insurgency in Iraq. Iran's remarkably subdued rhetoric against Arabs who gave loud support to insurgents and holy warriors slaughtering Iraqi Shiites between 2004 and 2007 is inextricably tied to Tehran's determination to keep Muslim eyes focused on the most important issue -- the battle against America and Israel. Iran's full-bore backing of Hezbollah in the July 2006 war with the Jewish State, a conflict that Tehran and its Syrian ally precipitated by their aggressive military support of Hezbollah, drew Sunni eyes further away from Iraq's internecine strife.

The 2006 Lebanon war, which lasted 34 days and saw Hezbollah's Iranian-trained forces embarrass the Israeli army, made Tehran's favorite Arab son, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, one of the most admired men in the Sunni Arab world. This was a remarkable achievement given that Hezbollah had helped Iran train some of the Iraqi Shiite militants who were wreaking a horrific vengeance against Baghdad's Sunni Arabs in 2006 -- a bloodbath that was constantly on Arab satellite television.

Prominent Sunni rulers -- Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah -- have railed against a "Shiite arc" of power forming in the Near East, only to see few echoes develop outside of the region's officially controlled media. Although the Sunni Arab rulers have sometimes shown considerable anxiety about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, Sunni fundamentalist organizations affiliated with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the mother ship for Sunni Islamists, have been much more restrained in expressing their trepidation.

With strong ties to its fundamentalist brethren along the Nile, Hamas has given Iran (really for the first time, and so far at little cost) an important ally within the fundamentalist circles of the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the Islamic revolution's great disappointments was that it failed to produce more allies within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its many offshoots.

The revolution certainly inspired many within the movement in Egypt and in Syria. But Iran's ties to the ruling Syrian Allawite elite -- a heretical Shiite sect that Sunni fundamentalists detest -- complicated its outreach to Sunni militants. When Syria's dictator Hafez Assad slaughtered thousands of Sunni fundamentalists in the town of Hama in 1982, and revolutionary Iran remained largely silent, Tehran's standing within the Muslim Brotherhood collapsed.

With Hamas, Iran has the opportunity to make amends. The mullahs have a chance of supplanting Saudi Arabia, the font of the most vicious anti-Shiite Sunni creed, as the most reliable backer of Palestinian fundamentalists. Even more than the Lebanese Hezbollah, which remains tied to and constrained by the complex matrix of Lebanese politics, Hamas seems willing to absorb enormous losses to continue its jihad against Israel. Where Saudi Arabia has been uneasy about the internecine strife among Palestinians -- it has bankrolled both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas -- Iran has put its money on the former.

Although Fatah, the ruling party within the Palestinian Authority, may get a second wind thanks to the excesses of Hamas and the Israelis' killing much of Hamas's brain power and muscle, it is difficult to envision Fatah reviving itself into an appealing political alternative for faithful Palestinians. Fatah is hopelessly corrupt, often brutal, and without an inspiring raison d'être: a Palestine of the West Bank and Gaza is, as Hamas correctly points out, boring, historically unappealing, and a noncontiguous geographic mess. Fatah only sounds impassioned when it gives vent to its anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, profoundly Muslim roots. It's no accident that the religious allusions and suicide bombers of Fatah and Hamas after 2000 were hard to tell apart. If Hamas can withstand the current Israeli attack on its leadership and infrastructure, then the movement's aura will likely be impossible to match. Iran's influence among religious Palestinians could skyrocket.

Through Hamas, Tehran can possibly reach the ultimate prize, the Egyptian faithful. For reasons both ancient and modern, Egypt has perhaps the most Shiite-sympathetic religious identity in the Sunni Arab world. As long as Hamas remains the center of the Palestinian imagination -- and unless Hamas loses its military grip on Gaza, it will continue to command the attention of both the Arab and Western media -- Egypt's politics remain fluid and potentially volatile. Tehran is certainly under no illusions about the strength of Egypt's military dictatorship, but the uncertainties in Egypt are greater now than they have been since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.

President Hosni Mubarak, Sadat's successor, is old and in questionable health. His jet-setting son or a general may succeed him. Neither choice will resuscitate the regime's legitimacy, which has plummeted even among the highly Westernized elite. The popularity and mosque-power of the Muslim Brotherhood, which would likely win a free election, continues to rise. A turbulent Gaza where devout Muslims are in a protracted, televised fight with the cursed Jews could add sufficient heat to make Egyptian politics really interesting. The odds of Egypt cracking could be very small -- the police powers of the Egyptian state are, when provoked, ferocious -- but they are now certainly enough to keep the Iranians playing.

Where once Ayatollah Khomeini believed in the revolutionary potential of soft power (Iran's example was supposed to topple the pro-American autocrats throughout the Middle East), Khomeini's children are firm believers in hard power, covert action, duplicity and persistence. With Gaza and Egypt conceivably within Tehran's grasp, the clerical regime will be patient and try to keep Gaza boiling.

It is entirely possible that Tehran could overplay its hand among the Palestinians as it overplayed its hand among Iraqi Shiites, turning sympathetic Muslims into deeply suspicious, nationalistic patriots. The Israeli army could deconstruct Hamas's leadership sufficiently that Gaza will remain a fundamentalist mess that inspires more pity than the white-hot heat that comes when jihadists beat infidels in battle. But with a nuclear-armed Iran just around the corner, the mullahs will do their best to inspire.

Ultimately, it's doubtful that Tehran will find President-elect Barack Obama's offer of more diplomacy, or the threat of more European sanctions, to be compelling. The price of oil may be low, but the mullahs have seen worse economic times. In 30 years, they have not seen a better constellation of forces. And as the Shiite prayer goes, perhaps this time round the Sunnis, too, inshallah (God willing), will see the light.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
27791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 07, 2009, 10:43:38 AM

You ain't seen nothing yet!
27792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stability and oil production on: January 07, 2009, 10:40:13 AM
Iraq: Stability and Boosting Oil Production
Stratfor Today » January 7, 2009 | 0017 GMT

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-ShahristaniSummary
Iraq’s oil minister has announced a new tender for the development of 11 major energy fields. The tender is part of a plan to restore — and expand upon — Iraq’s status as a major energy exporter. Whether the plan succeeds, however, depends upon Baghdad’s ability to maintain domestic stability.
Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani on Dec. 31 announced a new international tender for the development of 11 major energy (mostly oil) fields as part of an effort to increase oil production. This second bid round comes six months after the first round of bidding was opened; six oil and two natural gas fields were offered for development in the first round. Al-Shahristani said developing the two sets of fields should allow Baghdad to increase production from its current 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to some 6 million bpd in the next four to five years. The Iraqi government plans to sign the contracts of the first round in mid-2009, while the second round is to be concluded by the end of the same year.

(click image to enlarge)

The 11 fields are Majnoon, West Qurna Phase 2, Halfaya, Gharraf, Badrah, East Baghdad, Kifl/West Kifl/Merjan, Qamarim/Gullabat/Naudman, Najmah/Al-Qayara, Khashm al-Ahmar, and Siba (the last two are natural gas fields). Each field is in a politically sensitive area. Majnoon, West Qurna Phase 2, Halfaya, Gharraf, Kifl/West Kifl/Merjan, Khashm al-Ahmar, and Siba are located in southern provinces where rival Shiite factions are pitted against one another. The East Baghdad field in the capital is in a stronghold of the al-Sadrite movement. The Najmah/Al-Qayara field is in Ninawa province contested between the Kurds and the Sunnis. Khashm al-Ahmar and the Qamarim/Gullabat/Naudman field is in the communally mixed Diyala province.

In addition to the domestic issues, three of the fields are jointly owned with neighboring Iran and Kuwait. Majnoon and Badrah are located on the Iran-Iraq border, while Siba is on the Iraq-Kuwait border. Developing them will require agreements between Iraq and its two neighbors, something that will be complicated by a row over oil fields that led to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and by Iranian interests in Iraq.

Political and security conditions allowing, the development of these fields could allow Iraq to re-emerge as a major oil-exporting state. Despite the global economic downturn, Iraq is the one place that could attract investment from global energy majors given the low cost of development and the potential for success.

As much as 80 percent of Iraq’s energy resources have long remained untapped. Whatever development took place occurred before the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein became president in 1979. From there onward, Iraq’s links to the wider world became constrained. The process began with the 1980-88 war with Iran and exacerbated in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Perhaps the worst period began with the 1991 Persian Gulf War and continued through twelve years of sanctions. The country then experienced nearly five years of insurgency in post-Baathist Iraq.

Together, this sequence of events took the country out of the select club of major oil exporters. This meant there is huge potential for increasing oil production, especially in the light of the technological developments that have taken place in the last three decades and the fact that Iraq has not barely been exposed to them.

The introduction of technology into the country will work well with the nature of Iraq’s oil fields - highly shallow and horizontal pool - and thus immensely facilitate development work. Unlike other oil fields around the world, which are deep below the surface and are in the vertical shafts, Iraq’s oil fields are in many ways large lakes that don’t require a whole lot of drilling. This aspect is extremely important from the point of view of the cost of enhancing production, which is why Iraq is the one place where the world’s energy majors are drawn to.

Having oil fields that require little work to begin production constitutes half the undertaking; being able to ship it is an equally important part of developing the energy sector. The world has many places — like Russia — where there is plenty of oil but where the fields are nowhere near any means of transport, which renders the project cost prohibitive. In Iraq, however, most of the fields are located near existing export points and other transit infrastructure. This means it does not require much effort to transport Iraqi crude.

Najmah/Al-Qayara and East Baghdad are not far from a pipeline running from Baghdad through Baiji to the tri-border area with Syria and Turkey. The Khashim al-Ahmar and Qamarim/Gullabat/Naudman are a little west of the same line. Meanwhile, the pipeline from Basra to Hadith runs through the Kifl/West Kifl/Merjan field near Najaf and runs close to Gharraf. And the Halfaya, Majnoon, West Qurna Phase 2, and Siba are located very close to the pipeline network hubbed at Basra. This leaves Badrah as the only field that is far from any existing pipeline. But since it is close to East Baghdad, it can be linked to the pipeline running north from the capital.

Despite these logistical positives, two key factors have prevented energy majors from leaping at the opportunity since the U.S. move to effect regime-change. The first has been the lack of an internationally recognized government, and the second has been a multifaceted security problem.

The Petraeus strategy allowed the United States to collapse the Sunni insurgency from within in 2007, while U.S.-Iranian dealings took care of the Shiite militia problem. The prospect of violence remains, however, given ongoing Sunni-Shiite and Arab-Kurdish tensions. On the political front, the Shiite-dominated central government has considerably extended its writ in the country. Even so, numerous faultlines at both the intra- and inter-communal levels continue to threaten the gains made over the last two years.

The issue of autonomy, which pits the central government against the Kurdistan Regional Government — especially over energy — continues to prevent the enactment of a national hydrocarbon law. Furthermore, 2009 is an election year, with provincial elections scheduled for Jan. 31 and parliamentary polls slated for later in the year. These votes are the next step in the process toward stabilizing the Iraqi state. If Iraq’s various stakeholders can move past these tensions, they will enhance the chances for success of the Oil Ministry’s plans to expand production.

Given the number of moving parts in the new Iraqi republic, any number of things could go wrong. But so long as Baghdad can maintain status quo in terms of Iraq’s relative security and stability, it stands a good chance to greatly exceed its past status as a major oil-exporting nation.
27793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: January 07, 2009, 09:34:55 AM
"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, 29 November 1802
27794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics on: January 07, 2009, 09:33:31 AM
The depth and diversity of your knowledge continue to impress  cheesy  Very interesting.
27795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 07, 2009, 09:08:37 AM
Oh, I dunno, a country where the people have the right to defend themselves, including with guns; have the right to speak plainly about religious fascism; and have the right to not have the police hack in their personal correspondence and records without a warrant , , , little stuff like that.
27796  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What does Kali Tudo 2 have in store for us?? on: January 07, 2009, 09:04:57 AM
And like that corny ad of years ago about "No wine before its time", I am unable to hurry my editor.  Genius has its privileges  cheesy
27797  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Buzz Builder on: January 07, 2009, 01:20:36 AM
"I have been working in some of the most dangerous night clubs and bars  in boston for the last 8 years. In that time I have seen with devastating consequence what happens when people are caught off guard when knives are involved in street violence. I have seen friends get stabbed, and friends die because of the ambush nature of knives on the street. And I can say that the mindset and skillsets that are cultivated with the DLO material have made the difference on those dark nights where I was truly scared for my life. I have put my life behind this material and I am still here typing this now so it gives you an understanding of how effective this material is. If you are going to put your life behind any training this is the place to start"

Greg "Cyborg Dog" Brown
27798  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Buzz Builder on: January 07, 2009, 01:17:10 AM

"I have been training with Kru Mark Dellogrotte for the past 9 years. I have helped train/sparred with some of the best names in the UFC. I have also had professional fight experience myself. I originally became aware of the Kali-Tudo block of material in 2002 and I have used both the techniques and theorys with success in my training/ sparring/ fighting. I believe that Guro Crafty has an amazing amount of material that will truly open eyes of the MMA community."

Greg "Cyborg Dog" Brown
27799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics on: January 07, 2009, 12:51:52 AM
I am quite sympathetic to the point about the unmeasured costs of industro-agriculture AND completely unpersuaded that putting the government in charge is a good idea.  Have you ever read PJ O'Rourke's "Parliament of Whores"?  The chapter on the Dept of Ag in particular is quite devastating.

PJO'R wrote in the early Clinton years IIRC, and then the Gingrich Revolution nearly finished off the Dept of Ag, which would have been a tremendous blow for freedom, but in one of his worst of many bad moves, President Bush resurrected the Dept of Ag in order to buy mid-west farm votes.  It wasn't necessary politically, it was simply Republican corporate welfare.

Anyway, it is against this sense of things that I measure the idea of a 50 year plan.  Even Lenin and Stalin were humble enough to limit themselves to 5 years tongue     Right now it appears that we are about to see the human global warming hysteria of the eco-liberal fascist-MSM-academic matrix blown up.  The people who said in 1973 that we would be out of oil by 1993, and said the world was cooling, then that the world was warming and that we had to DO SOMETHING!  PUT GOVERNMENT IN CHARGE OF MANAGING THE CLIMATE OF THE PLANET!!! are now about to be wrong once again.

But BO is about to pass out trillions of dollars and I am shocked! absolutely shocked! that articles like this written by two guys who hope to get their fingers in the pie just like Halliburton did  evil would appear in the NYT. cheesy

Somehow the idea of a 50 year government plan for the management of dirt does not appeal , , ,

So what IS to be done?   One thing is to get out the word about the superior nutritional value of organic food.  Bring out the points about minerals and trace minerals missing from humans whose diet is industro-ag.  Look at how the organic food products are developing and deepening into the food chain.  People increasingly want this! 

Look for market driven analysis and solutions.
27800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: January 07, 2009, 12:29:56 AM
There's hope for you yet JDN  cheesy grin
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