Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs, spending, budget process
on: December 09, 2009, 06:32:05 AM
I'm against the govt distorting, managing, directing, "partnering with" the economy. Period.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Giving peace a chance
on: December 09, 2009, 06:30:09 AM
Richard T. Antoun, a respected Binghamton University anthropology professor
who grew up in Shrewsbury, spent his entire career seeking peace. His work
focused on bridging the divide between religions and cultures, particularly
in the Middle East.
But the 77-year-old professor's life ended violently Friday when he was
stabbed multiple times in his campus office, allegedly by a graduate student
whom he was advising on his doctoral thesis.
The student, Abdulsalam S. al-Zahrani, 46, was from Saudi Arabia. Mr. Antoun
was serving on the dissertation committee for Mr. Zahrani's graduate thesis
and apparently had known him for quite some time, according to news reports.
The university's Web site says Mr. Zahrani's doctoral thesis is called
"Sacred Voice, Profane Sight: The Senses, Cosmology, and Epistemology in
Early Arabic Culture."
Mr. Zahrani was immediately arrested and charged with second-degree murder
and is being held without bail. The motive for the attack is unclear.
Linda Miller of Holden, Mr. Antoun's youngest sister, said she has many
positive memories of her brother, a man who strove for peace in all things.
"He was interested in bringing forth understanding between different
cultures and religions," she said. "He tried to explain and help people
understand current events, particularly in the Middle East."
Mr. Antoun was "a sociocultural anthropologist who has conducted research
among peasants in Jordan, urbanites in Lebanon, peasant-farmers in Iran, and
migrants in Texas and Greece," according to the Web site for Binghamton
University, which is part of the State University of New York system. He
taught at the University of Chicago, Manchester University in England and
Cairo University, according to his résumé, which is also posted on the site.
Mr. Antoun had written six books focusing on the Middle East, and spent much
of his long career educating people about the region and its people. His
2001 book, "Understanding Fundamentalism: Christian, Muslim and Jewish
Movements," was particularly timely, coming out just before the terrorist
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He retired from teaching at Binghamton University
in 1999, but remained active on campus and within the anthropology
Mrs. Miller said she last saw her brother in November, when he and his son
Nicholas stayed at the Holden home she shares with her husband, David. Mr.
Antoun and his son had dinner, and the next day attended a New England
Patriots game. It was a ritual they performed every year.
She last spoke to her brother on Thanksgiving.
"There is going to be a big hole," she said of his death. "I am bent on
keeping his memory alive."
Mr. Antoun returned to his hometown regularly to visit family and speak
about events in the Middle East.
Speaking in 2001 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester, where
David Miller is minister emeritus, Mr. Antoun said that religious
fundamentalism thrives when a government fails to provide for its people.
"One reason fundamentalists are winning out is they are providing services
the government is not," he said. The only way Afghans obtained an education,
he said, was to go to a Taliban school, where they would not only receive an
Islamic education but were fed as well.
Mrs. Miller said her brother was scheduled to give a lecture at Assumption
College in the spring, part of a course being offered by Worcester Institute
for Senior Education. The course is called "Islam: Religion, History and
Culture, an Overview." Mr. Antoun was scheduled to speak about the role of
women in Islam, and then would be chairman of a panel discussion following
Born in Worcester, Mr. Antoun grew up in Shrewsbury, graduating from
Shrewsbury High School in 1949. He attended Williams College, and earned a
doctorate from Harvard University in 1963.
Mrs. Miller said her older brother had an unquenchable passion for baseball,
following the Boston Braves until they left for Milwaukee, and then the
Boston Red Sox. She remembers quizzing him for hours on the statistics
printed on the backs of his numerous baseball cards - information that never
left her and has helped her to solve countless crossword puzzles.
"He was an incredibly loving older brother, he nurtured me in that sense,"
she said. When she was in high school, he would pull her essays apart to
improve them. When she spent a semester abroad at 19, she went to Manchester
University in England in part because her older brother was teaching there.
"It's been a lifelong, supportive, happy relationship," she said.
He leaves behind his wife of 17 years, Rosalyn, as well as two of her sons,
his 40-year-old son, Nicholas, and their shared grandchildren.
A memorial service for Mr. Antoun will be held on Friday at the Unitarian
Universalist Church sanctuary in Binghamton, N.Y.
Just google "Zahrani Emails" to get a picture of the motive. Another sudden jihadi.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sundry
on: December 09, 2009, 06:07:31 AM
"The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred
as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice
to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence." --John Adams
"Every man who loves peace, every man who loves his country, every man who loves liberty ought to have it ever before his eyes that he may cherish in his heart a due attachment to the Union of America and be able to set a due value on the means of preserving it." --James Madison, Federalist No. 41
"We are firmly convinced, and we act on that conviction, that with nations as with individuals our interests soundly calculated will ever be found inseparable from our moral duties, and history bears witness to the fact that a just nation is trusted on its word when recourse is had to armaments and wars to bridle others." --Thomas Jefferson, Second Inaugural Address, 1805
"Let the American youth never forget, that they possess a noble inheritance, bought by the toils, and sufferings, and blood of their ancestors; and capacity, if wisely improved, and faithfully guarded, of transmitting to their latest posterity all the substantial blessings of life, the peaceful enjoyment of liberty, property, religion, and independence." --Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Lets do what Europe does (right!)
on: December 09, 2009, 06:04:05 AM
Kill Jobs, Get Rich--What's Not to Like?
The EU Referendum blog has a fascinating story on how Cap'n Trade--or, as it's called in Europe, the "emission trading scheme"--works. It seems that the Corus Group, a London-based steel maker that is a subsidiary of India's Tata Group, is shutting down one of its plants--a plant the company bought just two years ago "as part of its strategy to give it better access to European (including UK markets) [sic]."
Closing the plant, the site explains, will give the company an ETS jackpot:
With redundancy and decommissions costs, very little of that can actually come from the process of closing down the Redcar plant. But, with a capacity of 3,000,000 tons of steel, closure of the plant will deliver further "savings" over 6 million tons of carbon dioxide, worth an additional £80 million per annum at current rates but around £200 million at expected market levels.
This, even for a company the size of Tara steel, is a considerable windfall, over and above the money it will already make from the EU scheme. But, with a little manipulation, the company can still double its money. By "offshoring" production to India and bringing emissions down – from over twice the EU level--to the level currently produced by the Redcar plant, it stands to make another £200 million per annum from the UN's Clean Development Mechanism.
Thus we see Indian plants being paid up to £30 a ton for each ton of carbon dixoide "saved" by building new plant, while the company which owns them also gets gets paid £30 for each ton of carbon dioxide not produced in its Redcar plant. That gives it an estimated £400 million a year from the closure of the Redcar plant up to 2012--potentially up to £1.2 billion. And that is over and above benefitting from cheaper production costs on the sub-continent.
So the company gets a windfall for moving jobs from Britain to India, and the new plant will produce no less carbon than before. Brilliant, isn't it? We can't wait till America has such a policy.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tina Brown
on: December 09, 2009, 05:50:41 AM
Tina Brown at The Daily Beast, Dec. 3:
It's a strange paradox for a great wordsmith, but whenever Obama makes an important policy speech these days he leaves everyone totally confused. His first health-care press conference back in July triggered a season of raucous political Rorschach and left his hopeful followers utterly baffled about what they were being asked to support.
Now White House envoys are being dispatched all over the globe to explain what the president really meant about the date when troops will or won't be pulled out of Afghanistan. . . .
Does Obama create confusion on purpose? Is this his "process" based on his confession that he's a screen onto which people project things? Is it a strategy so that whatever bill trickles out of Congress or however many soldiers linger in Afghanistan, he can claim that the outcome is what he meant it all along? . . .
Or is it that there is so much subtext to every part of this message that the simple heads of the electorate are just not pointy enough to comprehend it?
I have come to the conclusion that the real reason this gifted communicator has become so bad at communicating is that he doesn't really believe a word that he is saying. He couldn't convey that health-care reform would be somehow cost-free because he knows it won't be. And he can't adequately convey either the imperatives or the military strategy of the war in Afghanistan because he doesn't really believe in it either.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Major Hasan and the Koran
on: December 09, 2009, 05:47:16 AM
By SALAM AL-MARAYATI
Maj. Nidal Hasan's lawyer is considering an insanity plea as a strategy for his client. That might be the only legal option available to the man accused of the shooting rampage at Fort Hood. But Nidal Hasan should also consider a religious option: repentance.
He should take responsibility for his horrific act of violence. He should beg for forgiveness from God for murdering 13 people and injuring 31 more. He should apologize to the families of the victims. He should ask for forgiveness from his fellow members of the military, and from the American people, as he betrayed our entire nation—including Muslim-Americans who are paying the price for his shameful and un-Islamic actions.
Maj. Hasan is granted the presumption of innocence in our courts of law, be they civilian or military. His military-appointed lawyer will likely advise him not to confess to anything. Legally, that may be sound advice. But religiously that advice cuts against the grain of the divine value of justice. Maj. Hasan must take responsibility for committing two major sins in Islam—the murder of his fellow citizens and the violation of two oaths he took.
Maj. Hasan took an oath as a member of the U.S. military to defend our country. He also took a Hippocratic oath to protect his patients. The violation of these oaths is a violation of the Quranic principle which states that making a pledge to anyone is tantamount to making a pledge to God. The Quran states: "(Be not like those) who use their oaths as a means of deceiving one another" (16:92).
His now infamous PowerPoint presentation is rife with distortions of the Quran. Entitled "The Koranic Worldview As It Relates to Muslims in the U.S. Military," it provides anything but a Quranic perspective. Maj. Hasan's critical fault in understanding the Quran was his failure to distinguish between two very important categories of verses: those tied to the specific context of seventh-century Arabia, and those that are absolute and permanent.
He ignores the Quranic mandates, for example, to stand for justice even if it is against your own interest, and to avoid transgression in the pursuit of justice. Yet the most troubling part of his presentation are his conclusions. One of them is: "Muslims are moderate (compromising) but God is not." There are two critical flaws in this one sentence.
OpinionJournal Related Stories:
Dorothy Rabinowitz: Dr. Phil and the Fort Hood Killer
Reuel Marc Gerecht: Major Hasan and Holy War
After the Fort Hood Massacre
.First, to make any kind of declaration about God being unforgiving violates Islam's central teachings of mercy and compassion. The Quran makes it clear that human beings are meant to embody God's generous spirit. To argue otherwise is to violate God's will and Islam's goal of peacemaking.
Second, being moderate is about upholding religious values while working with other members of society for the greater good. Extremists believe they are compromising their Islamic values when living in the West. This is not true. And Muslim-haters oblige them with the converse, when they argue that the West should not tolerate Muslims. This is not just.
Maj. Hasan's hodgepodge of verses from the Quran and quotes from extremists left out the most important Quranic verse in his section on enjoining peace and forgiveness: "God invites you into the abode of peace" (10:25). Nor did he include the admonition by the Prophet Muhammad never to harm the innocent and never to target noncombatants.
Nidal Hasan doesn't just need legal support; he needs religious consultation that could help him see the enormity of his situation when he faces his Creator. Unfortunately, he may become an icon for violent extremism, leading other young people and civilians to their deaths.
So what should the U.S. government do? Consider allowing Muslim-American religious leaders to meet with Nidal Hasan. Muslim leaders could encourage him to repent. And they could engage Maj. Hasan on his deeply flawed understanding of Islam, explaining that the Quran is an instrument to take people from darkness to light, not the opposite.
Nidal Hasan is reportedly reading letters. I hope he reads this article, for his sake and for the sake of our country.
Mr. Al-Marayati is executive director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: the Rabbit Ears Wars
on: December 09, 2009, 05:43:02 AM
You stupidly built a drive-in theater in the desert just as your customers were all deciding to stay home and watch HBO. Fortunately, the theater turns out to be sitting on a mountain of oil.
With a few asterisks, such is the situation of old-style TV broadcasters, whose viewers have fled to cable or satellite but whose spectrum is lusted after by the wireless industry. According to a much-noted study sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, in the hands of the broadcasters, that spectrum is worth a mere $12 billion. In the hands of mobile phone carriers struggling to meet explosive growth for mobile broadband, it would be worth $62 billion.
To the Silicon Valley types who people the Obama administration, this suggests a rational policy: Pay broadcasters to give up some or all of the airwaves used to send signals to their dwindling rabbit-ear audience. Turn it over to mobile phone folks at a hefty markup.
Blair Levin, a veteran telecom analyst who heads the FCC's broadband efforts, has floated a Hindenburg of a trial balloon by broaching just such a deal with broadcasters. Virtually all agree that any such "grand bargain," to be politically deliverable, must enlist the willing, nay eager, participation of broadcast station owners. No problem—broadcasters would be the biggest winners, right?
Sadly, remember what happened to the original Hindenburg. Broadcasters, who have a keen sense of political realities, note that their broadcast licenses don't actually confer a property right, so whatever deal the FCC struck with them, Congress would certainly rewrite it to make sure Congress got all the money. Broadcasters would receive squat, and probably be vilified as bandits in the process.
"Pipe dream" was the verdict of Colleen Brown, chief of Fisher Communications, owner of 20 stations in the Pacific Northwest.
"Politically they would fall flat on their face," opined Sinclair Broadcasting's Mark Aitken, estimating the agency's chances selling a cash-for-spectrum deal to Congress.
But, hold on. We mentioned asterisks. The FCC and Mr. Levin are correct (and brave) in pointing out the need for a market mechanism to guide spectrum to its highest and best uses. But the FCC is in no position to know whether mobile broadband is that higher and better use. A reason is the regulatory straitjacket, including ownership limits, that for decades has prevented license holders themselves from exploring new broadcast business models.
OpinionJournal Related Stories:
Jenkins: Neutering the Net
Jenkins: The Coming Mobile Meltdown
.For the truth is, broadcast offers impressive economies for distributing rich media content compared to the Internet. An infinity of users can be served by a single bitstream. It doesn't matter how many receivers tune into a TV broadcast. It never gets overloaded.
Consider a small company called Sezmi, now testing in Los Angeles a competitor to cable and satellite TV. Users get a box with a powerful HDTV antenna, allowing them to receive not just traditional over-the-air TV channels but also popular cable networks, broadcast locally using spare capacity leased from TV stations.
A separate broadband connection supplies on-demand movies and even material plucked from YouTube. And to help make the most of limited bandwidth, each also comes with a giant terabyte-sized disk drive capable of storing many hours of programming, automatically downloaded in advance based on a viewer's demonstrated habits and tastes.
All this, of course, would also yield a cornucopia of information with which to deliver the truly individualized advertising that TV ad buyers crave.
Who knows whether Sezmi will pan out technologically, and at the very-much-cheaper-than-cable price the company touts. The FCC quite properly worries about a coming mobile capacity crunch, with all those proliferating iPhones. But throwing spectrum at it won't be the only solution. Greater integration of fixed and wireless will help. Software innovation, cramming more bits into the same frequency, will help. So will usage-based pricing. And as Sezmi shows, local storage can substitute for bandwidth too.
The FCC is looking in the right direction, but we need more than just a "market solution" to liberate spectrum from the current government-approved incumbents. We need a market that can fully explore the potential of all the business models that might contest to find the highest and best use of that resource.
In the meantime, the agency's trial balloon is having a perverse effect, spurring broadcasters to new Potemkin feats to prove they are making full use of their existing spectrum, such as rolling out new digital "subchannels" that nobody watches. Some broadcasters even invoke the 1962 All-Channel Receiver Act and insist a new "golden age of broadcasting" is around the corner—just as soon as the FCC mandates that every smart phone be capable of receiving over-the-air TV signals.
In short, one picture is starting to come in clearly: The spectrum puzzle won't be solved by the clean and simple deal the agency envisioned just a month ago.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stimulus 3
on: December 09, 2009, 05:38:15 AM
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere,
diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedies" -- Groucho Marx
Democrats want TARP to become a revolving line of political credit..
If at first fiscal stimulus doesn't succeed, spend, spend again. That's the motto President Obama embraced yesterday, even if he didn't use the word "stimulus," which has managed to set a political record in the speed with which it has become unpopular with voters. This time, the spending is being called "Proposals to Accelerate Job Growth and Lay the Foundation for Robust Economic Growth."
But wasn't that also supposed to be the point of last February's $787 billion stimulus, or for that matter of the Nancy Pelosi-George W. Bush $165 billion stimulus of February 2008?
Nearly two years after that first Keynesian stimulus that was supposed to prevent a recession, and nearly a year after the second that the White House said would keep the jobless rate below 8%, the President now feels obliged to propose a third. Like the joke about Paul Krugman having predicted seven of the last two recessions, sooner or later the White House is bound to get the political timing right.
This time around, the President is at least suggesting a couple of good ideas. One proposal would revive his 2008 campaign promise for a zero capital gains tax on new investments in small business stock. Mr. Obama dropped the idea from his first stimulus because liberals on Capitol Hill hate the words "capital gains," but yesterday he proposed a zero rate for one year.
View Full Image
Eight of the 18 California Conservation Corps workers were hired by the U.S. Forest Service as part of the federal stimulus plan.
.Another decent idea would extend enhanced expensing for small business that was otherwise set to expire at the end of this year. This will allow businesses to immediately expense up to $250,000 of certain investments, which should help with business cash flow.
Both ideas would reduce the cost of capital, and thus would partially counteract the many tax increases coming from the House and Senate that would raise the cost of capital and hiring. These tax reductions also recognize that the only source of real long-term job creation is private business.
Most of the rest of Mr. Obama's proposals are unfortunately a grab-bag of greatest Congressional mis-hits. They include a "new" tax credit for small business hiring that looks suspiciously like Jimmy Carter's jobs tax credit that led to few net new jobs and was abandoned after a year.
There's also a flood of new spending, with the amount presumably to come later from Congress (oh oh!), on highways and other public works. Perhaps you thought these "shovel-ready" projects had been included as part of Stimulus II. Alas, that was merely the sales pitch. In the event, the bulk of that money was shovel-readied to such transfer payments as Medicaid, welfare, community block grants, and cash for the clunkers who run failing public schools. This time, we're told, roads and bridges really will get the money—and you can bet they'll all be built with higher Davis-Bacon wage rates that will balloon their cost, too.
OpinionJournal Related Stories:
TARP's Moment of Truth
A Merry TARP Christmas
Rolling Up the TARP
.How will this all be paid for? Well, there are the huge tax increases to come in 2011, if not earlier, as well as more federal borrowing. This time, however, Mr. Obama is also proposing to use funds repaid by banks to the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program. When Congress passed TARP a year ago, the Democrats who ran the joint vowed that the cash was intended to save the financial system and that any returns would promptly go to pay down the debt. As Candidate Obama put it, "every penny" would go "directly back to the American people." That was then.
Now, we're heading into a new election year and Treasury says it expects the bailout to cost $200 billion less than expected, and that it should be able to recover all but $42 billion of the $370 billion it has lent to financial firms. That ought to be cause for rejoicing—and for using the cash to reduce a federal deficit that reached $1.4 trillion in fiscal 2009 and after two months is on pace to be even higher in 2010.
Instead, TARP is now morphing into a revolving line of Democratic political credit. Barney Frank wants to divert at least $4 billion to bail out more home owners. Virginia Senator Mark Warner wants $50 billion for loans to small business. Mr. Obama proposed yesterday to use TARP to finance his own ideas as part of Stimulus III, and if he and fellow Democrats succeed the taxpayers will never see this cash again.
The President tried to recast his "every penny" promise yesterday by arguing that recycled TARP cash would create jobs and thus revenue to bring down the deficit. This is also Speaker Nancy Pelosi's new talking point. They're right that a strong economy is the best way to reduce deficits, but their spend and spend again policies only make closing those deficits more difficult.
One note of hope here is that the White House admits that the TARP statute restricts its use to the "stabilization" of the financial system. The law also specifies that repaid money must go to deficit reduction, a fact that allowed Mrs. Pelosi to gather enough votes to pass TARP last year. This means Democrats are going to have to rewrite the law to spend TARP on pork and green jobs, giving Senate Republicans some leverage and Blue Dog Democrats another chance to write the ad scripts for their 2010 opponents.
As the President gladly admitted yesterday, the economy is recovering and even the job market is healing. If Congress won't reduce taxes, the best stimulus now would be for Congress to stop scaring private job creators by promising to help them. Just do nothing at all.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / part 2
on: December 09, 2009, 05:23:10 AM
Boxing during Public Holidays
During the early 1910s, boxing was sometimes part of the festivities
associated with public holidays such as Fleet Week, New Year's, and the
Fourth of July. For instance, on July 9, 1910, Jim Hoao fought a military
boxer at Aloha Park in Honolulu.
Honolulu in 1910. Photographer: Robert K. Bonine. Courtesy the Library of
Congress, Panoramic Photographs Collection, LC-USZ62-125408.
However, because of opposition from the US District Attorney, Jefferson
McCarn, there was no off-post boxing in Hawaii between July 4, 1913 (Young
Johnson versus Kaina Opo at Wailuku) and December 31, 1918.
The bout that got things started again was part of the New Year's
celebration at the Iolani Palace, and it featured a Chinese
("Happy-Go-Lucky", originally from Macao) against a Filipino (Raphael
Carpenterio, "the Manila Demon"). Although no admission was charged, the
Advertiser still called it "the first real stage affair of its kind held in
Honolulu since 'Old Rose' Jeff McCarn assassinated the sport in Hawaii." On
August 21, 1919, there were also boxing matches between soldiers and sailors
at Moili'ili Park. Non-military participants included Carpenterio, Young
Johnson, Akana, and En You Kau.
YMCA patronage was probably involved in this post-World War renaissance, as
on March 4, 1919, the Central YMCA of Honolulu organized a "stunt night"
that featured boxing, wrestling, sumo, and judo. The boxers included Jimmie
Flynn versus Jimmie White, Price versus Wilkinson; and the Wright brothers
against each other. All the boxers on this card were welterweights except
Wilkinson, who was a middleweight. Similarly, in September 1928, the Oahu
County YMCA organized a camp at which boys boxed. The athletic director at
the Y, Charles Pease, was a former soldier who based his program on World
War-era military training.
Additionally, veterans and fraternal groups sometimes organized smokers as
fund-raisers. For example, on May 13, 1922, the Veterans of Foreign Wars
hosted a bout featuring Dynamite Tommy Short and Kid Oba (Jack Osoi). Short
tried for the knockout, but ended up with a draw. Similarly, on August 29,
1925, the American Legion staged a smoker at the Hilo Armory.
During the 1920s, boxing left the vaudeville houses and public parks for
On Big Island, the Women's Christian Temperance Union was strongly opposed
to boxing. Consequently, efforts to promote boxing in Hilo led to legal
action. To the disgust of the temperance leaguers, the court actions
eventually led to the legalization of boxing in the Territory, but
meanwhile, there was little organized boxing on the Big Island.
However, on Oahu, the Honolulu business community generally supported
organized boxing. For example, fans attending the fight between Battling
Bolo (Elias Cantere) and Alky Dawson at the Honolulu Armory on March 18,
1927 included the territorial governor (Star-Bulletin publisher Wallace
Farrington) and the Honolulu mayor (Charles Arnold). According to the
Advertiser (April 15, 1928), their official stance was that these bouts were
legal as long as admission was not charged at the gate and the fighters
received payment in private.
The Hawaiian fight clubs of the 1920s were usually warehouses with a ring in
one corner. To avoid legal problems, police got in free and boxing fans
bought daily memberships rather than tickets. Prices for daily memberships
ranged from 50¢ in the gallery to $2.00 in stage seating, and these
memberships had to be purchased in advance.
Ethnicity played an important role in these fight clubs. For example, many
Filipinos were inspired to become boxers by the victories of Pancho Villa,
the first Filipino to become a world boxing champion. Meanwhile, K. Oki, a
Honolulu businessman of Japanese descent, was inspired to provide financial
support to Honolulu boxing clubs after seeing Japanese college students
boxing at Tokyo's Hibiya Park during 1926.
A bout between boxers from Chuo University (left) and Hosei University in
Tokyo. Many Japanese collegiate boxers of the mid-1930s were ethnically
Korean. From Arthur Grix, Japans Sport in Bild und Wort (Berlin: Wilhelm
For Filipinos living on Oahu, Honolulu's Rizal Athletic Club was an
important fight club. Rizal held its first smoker on July 8, 1922, and in
the main event, Kid Parco defeated Alky Dawson in six. The preliminaries
were supposed to feature Jackie Wright versus Cabayon, Hayward Wright versus
Pedro Suerta, Tommy Dawson versus Moniz, and Tommy Short versus Kid Oba.
Unfortunately, Kid Oba was a no-show, as he died of lockjaw on June 28,
1922. He was aged 17. Other boxers associated with Rizal Athletic Club
smokers include Patsy Fernandez, Battling Bolo, Young Malicio, Clever Feder,
Pedro Suerta, Moniz Santiago, and Cabayon.
For Portuguese, an important club was the Kewalo Athletic Club, managed by
A.K. Vierra. Portuguese boxing idols included Don "Lefty" Freitas and Jack
For Chinese, it was the Chinese American Athletic Association, managed by
Chang Kau. Chang's brother Dick boxed professionally in California, and
later became a well-known Honolulu coach. Other Chinese boxers of the 1920s
included Jackie Young, Young Loo, Ah Bing, Smiling Ching, Lanky Lau, K.H.
Young, and Lefty Long.
Dick Chang posing with California boxer Paul de Hate around 1927. Note
16-ounce training gloves. Courtesy the Paul Lou collection.
In addition, there were fight clubs for Koreans such as Walter Cho, and for
Japanese such as Patsy Fukuda, Henry Kudo, and the brothers Spud and "K.O."
Kuratsu. Cho went on to become a well-known referee, while Fukuda became
coach of Hawaii's 1949 AAU boxing team.
Spud Kuratsu. The inscription reads, "To Paul Aloha, Spud Kuratsu." Courtesy
the Paul Lou collection.
Training Methods and Contests
Regardless of ethnicity, bootleg boxers used similar methods during
training. As a rule, they began hard training about three weeks before a
scheduled match. A typical training day included sparring 6-10 rounds before
work in the morning. In the afternoon, after work, the boxers ran about ten
miles uphill, and then walked back.
The gloves most boxers wore during both sparring and fighting weighed just 6
ounces. In addition, they did not wear headgear, as it had only just been
introduced. Thus, during sparring, boxers generally tried to avoid hurting
During contests, things could get heated. For example, Nelson Tavares
recalled Jack McFadden forcing him into clinches and then spitting in his
face (Advertiser, April 9, 1949).
As a rule, however, the goal was simply to give the crowd a lot of action.
For example, here is how William Peet (Advertiser, January 6, 1941) recalled
a Kewalo Athletic Club fight of the late 1920s:
The main event was to have been a six rounder between Kohala Lion [Modesto
Cabuag] and Big Bolo or Battling Bolo (Elias Cantere), a Filipino with a
murderous right. The Kohala Lion failed to show up, so J. Donovan Flint,
present chairman of the Territorial Boxing Commission, agreed to box three
fast rounds with Bolo as an exhibition, in order that the cash customers
would feel that they had not been cheated . they were not cheated as things
Flint, a good boxer, one-time Pacific Coast collegiate champion [at
Stanford], was to have refereed the main scrap. He put on the gloves with
Bolo. The first round was fast and interesting. In the second round, Mr.
Flint forgot to pull his punches and tapped Bolo a stiff jab on the nose.
Bolo uncorked a right from the ring floor, the blow landed flush on the jaw,
and the lights went out for J. Donovan. He says he was only dazed, but I saw
the fight and helped Brother Flint come back to earth.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Arrival of the Bolo Punch in HI 1893-1920
on: December 09, 2009, 05:22:17 AM
Big hat tip to Chaz Siangco, who brought this wonderful piece to my
attention. Note the reference to "the Battling Bolo" Elias Cantere in the
closing paragraphs. Cantere was Chaz's "lolo".
Journal of Combative Sport, Mar 2003
Western Boxing in Hawaii: The Bootleg Era, 1893-1929
By Joseph R. Svinth, with Curtis Narimatsu, Paul Lou, and Charles Johnston
Copyright © EJMAS 2003. All rights reserved.
On January 17, 1893, American settlers led by Sanford B. Dole overthrew the
Hawaiian monarchy. Dole and his friends then offered the Hawaiian Islands to
the United States. The US Congress wanted to accept Dole's offer, but
President, Grover Cleveland was an isolationist who disliked filibustering,
as causing insurrection for purposes of advancing American economic
interests was then known. Consequently, the US government rejected Dole's
offer. Nonplused, on July 4, 1894, Dole and his friends established the
Republic of Hawaii, with Dole as its president.
Three years later, William McKinley became President of the United States.
McKinley. McKinley was an expansionist, as imperialism was then known, and
so, in June 1898, the US government voted to annex Hawaii. The US Navy
landed troops at Honolulu in August 1898, and Hawaiian sovereignty
transferred to the United States.
Message from William McKinley nominating Sanford B. Dole as governor of
Hawaii. Note the letterhead, "Executive Mansion," rather than "White House."
Courtesy the Center for Legislative Archives, National Archives and Record
Administration, Anson McCook Collection of Presidential Signatures,
From August 1898 until December 1941, the Territory of Hawaii was under
joint military and civilian administration. However, following the Japanese
attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US Army put the Territory of
Hawaii under martial law. Because the Army's leadership did not trust people
of Japanese ancestry, martial law did not end until October 24, 1944. To
reduce the risk of undergoing extended martial law in future, Hawaii's
civilian leaders, many of whom were of Japanese ancestry, began pushing hard
for statehood, which was achieved on August 20, 1959.
Because of the confluence of social and political factors, the history of
Western boxing in Hawaii has three separate eras.
a.. The first is the Bootleg Era. From 1893-1929, boxing was legal in
Hawaii only if sponsored by the military. In town, the police rarely tried
to enforce anti-boxing legislation, but the threat was always there. This
severely restricted civilian boxing.
b.. The second is the Territorial Era. From 1929 to 1959, boxing was legal
throughout the Territory of Hawaii. A territorial commission supervised
bouts in town, but the US military continued to exert considerable control
over life in and around Honolulu. The YMCA, the Catholic Youth Organization,
and the Honolulu newspapers all supported boxing, and through their
patronage, the Territorial Era became the Golden Age of Hawaiian boxing.
c.. The third is the Statehood Era. From 1959 to the present, boxing has
been legal in the State of Hawaii. The state boxing commission continued to
supervise bouts in town, but the military, church groups, and newspapers
gradually withdrew their patronage. Meanwhile, jet planes made it
unnecessary for boxers heading for Australia or Asia to spend a few days in
Honolulu en route, and network television broadcasts hurt local fight clubs
by introducing televised boxing from the Mainland. The professional market
withered, and so, since statehood, most Hawaiian boxers either have been
amateurs or made their reputations outside the state.
The following discusses the bootleg era, 1893-1929.
In 1893, the US Navy began stationing warships at Honolulu, where their
sailors and Marines were used to prop up the Dole administration. There were
boxers aboard these warships. For example, during the winter of 1893-1894,
the future heavyweight champion Tom Sharkey, then serving aboard USS
Philadelphia, fought at least 14 bouts in Honolulu.
Boxing aboard USS New York, July 3, 1899. Photographer: Edward H. Hart.
Courtesy the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Detroit
Publishing Company Collection, LC-D4-32317.
The First New York Volunteer Infantry established the first Army camps in
Honolulu during the summer of 1898, and the Regular Army established its
first permanent post, Fort Shafter, in 1907. In January 1913, the War
Department transferred a black regiment, the 25th Infantry, to Fort Shafter.
Some of these soldiers were boxers. Thus, the Honolulu Advertiser wrote,
"The Twenty-fifth is proud of its colored ringmasters and particularly of
Hollie Giles, a welterweight of 155 pounds, who is described by the men as a
'whirlwind' fighter; Morgan, a heavyweight at 190 pounds; Carson, a light
heavyweight, and Ananias Harris, a light heavyweight."
In those days, military boxing was subject to Sections 320 and 321 of the US
Code. These statutes stated that exchanging blows for money or a thing of
any value, or for a championship, or for which admission was charged, or for
which money was wagered, was illegal. In 1915, the Army circumvented these
laws by ruling that soldiers could box in garrison if there were no
admission charges, no challenges from the ring, no decisions announced at
the end of fights, and no obvious gambling. The first smoker following this
decision took place at Schofield Barracks on October 9, 1915, and
subsequently, boxing exhibitions were common on holidays such as
Thanksgiving, New Year's, and the Fourth of July.
Early boxing promoters at Schofield Barracks included Major Edmund Butts,
whose publications included books and magazine articles touting the benefits
of boxing as a pastime for soldiers, and the regimental chaplain. During the
early 1920s, local promoters included Tommy Marlowe and Lieutenant Barnard
of the 5th US Cavalry, and Sergeant John Stone of the Ordnance Department.
At Fort_Derussy, promoters included Sergeant Anthony Biddle of the 17th US
Cavalry. Boxers assigned to Army units in Hawaii during the late 1910s
included the 25th Infantry's Henry Polk ("Rufus Williams") and Private
Settles ("the Kentucky Chap"), and the Signal Corps' Joseph Podimik ("Joe
According to the Advertiser (November 27, 1915), the Schofield ring was "set
up on the cavalry parade and an abundance of chairs at the ringside, an
amphitheatre of bleachers, and seats on the adjoining troop quarters [gave]
better accommodations than [did] the seating arrangement of any hall on
post." Unfortunately, the Schofield bleachers provided no protection from
the afternoon rains, and without electric lights to illuminate the twilight,
the audience had a hard time seeing the last rounds of the main event.
During the 1910s, Pearl Harbor became a major US naval base, and in 1921,
Sub Base Pearl Harbor's Sharkey Theater became the first covered boxing
arena in Hawaii. [EN1] From 1918-1924, civilians often attended Pearl Harbor
bouts. However, this ended in 1924, when Rear Admiral John McDonald decided
to close Pearl Harbor boxing matches to civilians and soldiers. The reason
was that McDonald felt that it was ungentlemanly for the audience to boo and
make disparaging remarks about the contestants and referees.
Once Pearl Harbor closed to civilians, the Hawaii National Guard began
patronizing boxing. Guard boxing coaches included Jim Hoao and Bill Huihui,
both of whom had boxed professionally in Hawaii during the early 1900s.
Boxers trained by these men included Patsy Fukuda, Hiram Naipo, and Gus
Sproat. The Honolulu Armory was the usual venue for these fights.
Patsy Fukuda, circa 1930. Courtesy Patrick Fukuda.
Hawaii's most acclaimed military boxer of the bootleg era was probably
Sergeant Peniel R. "Sammy" Baker. Baker began his amateur career at
Schofield Barracks in 1922. At the time, he was 20 years old, and serving in
the 21st Infantry. Baker was the Hawaiian military welterweight champion in
1923 and 1924, and a runner-up in the selection for the US Olympic team in
May 1924. Following the Olympic tryouts, Baker transferred to Mitchel Field,
on Long Island. Baker obtained his discharge in September 1924, and by 1928,
he was ranked the fifth best welterweight in the world.
Bill Huihui was among the earliest Hawaiian-born boxers. Born at Pauoa,
Oahu, in 1875, Huihui went to sea as a young man, and learned to box in San
Francisco. In 1902, he started boxing for Honolulu's Kapiolani Athletic
Club, and his first Hawaiian professional bout took place soon afterwards,
at the Orpheum Theater. This was a 4-round semi-main event, and the opponent
was Jack Latham. Subsequent opponents included Nelson Tavares, Jack Weedy,
Dick Sullivan, Kid De Lyle, and Tim Murphy. Huihui retired from the ring
around 1909, but continued coaching boxers until at least 1924. Because he
worked as a policeman, Huihui's local trainers may have included the
Honolulu Police Department boxing instructor, R.A. Wood, a Scot who settled
in Honolulu in the early 1900s.
Bill Huihui. From the Advertiser, September 10, 1904
Another early Hawaii-born boxer was Nelson Tavares, "the Punchbowl Demon."
Tavares claimed the Territorial lightweight championship from 1905 until
1908, and his opponents included the middleweights Cyclone Kelly, Dick
Sullivan, Tim Murphy, and Mike Patton, and the lightweights Charlie Riley,
Frankie Smith, Frank Rafferty, and Joe Leahy. After retiring from the ring,
Tavares became a garage owner on Bishop Street.
Nelson Tavares. From the Advertiser, June 17, 1908
During the 1910s, a few Hawaii-born boxers began establishing reputations on
the Mainland. For example, in October 1912, the Advertiser mentioned that
Manuel "Battling" Viera of Hilo was boxing in San Francisco. Viera was still
fighting in San Francisco in 1919, when he fought a four-round draw with Joe
"Young" Azevedo. Originally from Honolulu. Azevedo began boxing in Oakland
around January 1913, at which time he was aged 17. Azevedo's wins included
at least two victories over Tommy McFarland and another over former
lightweight champion Ad Wolgast. After a ring injury caused him to go blind
in one eye, Azevedo settled in Sacramento, where he died of a heart attack
on February 19, 1934.
Until the 1910s, many Honolulu boxing matches took place inside vaudeville
theaters. To circumvent laws prohibiting prizefighting, these matches were
called exhibitions. For example, on May 28, 1904, Paddy Ryan organized a
boxing card at the New Chinese Theater on Hotel Street. The main event
featured Frank Nichols of Honolulu versus USS New York's Sailor Robinson.
Likewise, on June 22, 1911, the Honolulu Eagles hosted a show at the Bijou
Theater that featured "fun in boxing land." The main event featured Mike
Patton, who claimed to be the champion of the Far East. Finally, on June 11,
1913, Jim Hoao lost a 15-round decision to Private Morris Kilsner during a
bout held at Honolulu's Ye Liberty Theater. [EN2]
Famous champions sometimes took part in these exhibitions. For example,
during July 1894, John L. Sullivan was on a trip to Australia, and while in
Honolulu, he gave an exhibition at the Opera House. His opponent was a
sparring partner named Fitzsimmons (not Bob). Similarly, during November
1907, the visiting lightweight champion Jimmy Britt gave a demonstration to
the "sport-loving people of Honolulu." The Advertiser noted that the latter
exhibition was "of such character that women can safely attend." (In those
days, society discouraged women from attending fights, but some went anyway,
usually watching from backstage.)
John L. Sullivan. Lithograph by Scott C. Carbee, sometime between 1880 and
1910. Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,
Another way that vaudeville managers circumvented the law was by advertising
the boxing as part of a novelty act. For example, in December 1915, the
Welsh welterweight Fred Dyer, who advertised himself as "the singing boxer,"
appeared at the Popular Theater in Honolulu. Dyer was en route to California
from Australia, where his opponents included Fritz Holland and Les Darcy.
The vaudeville promoters generally arranged these fights without asking the
consent of either boxer. Instead, they simply told the men that they had a
fight lined up. Then the boxers either showed up or they didn't.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF
on: December 08, 2009, 05:11:53 PM
A very successful oilman dies. He faces Saint Peter, who says, “You’ve been a good man and normally I’d send you to heaven, but heaven is full. We only have a place in hell.”
The oilman says, “Any chance I could talk to other oilmen who are in heaven? Maybe I can convince someone to switch places with me?”
Saint Peter says, “It’s never happened before, but sure, I don’t see any harm in it.”
The oilman goes to heaven, finds an oilmen convention and yells, “They found a huge oil discovery in hell!” Oilmen are stampeding out of heaven to hell, and our oilman is running with them.
Saint Peter asks him “Why are you going to hell with them? I have a spot in heaven, you can stay.”
The oilman answers – “Are you kidding, what if it’s true?”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cicero
on: December 08, 2009, 03:53:47 PM
"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance."
-- Cicero (55 BC)
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters
on: December 08, 2009, 10:33:38 AM
Mexico Security Memo: Dec. 7, 2009
Stratfor Today » December 8, 2009 | 0006 GMT
Related Special Topic Page
Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Zeta Prison Break
Presumed members of Los Zetas staged a brazen prison raid Dec. 4 in Escobedo, Nuevo Leon state, killing two state police officers guarding the prison and freeing 23 inmates. At the same time in nearby Juarez, Zetas engaged a Mexican military unit in a firefight in an apparent attempt to distract the superior security force away from the prison. While details are still coming in, the incident highlights the uphill battle the Mexican government is fighting as it tries to professionalize its law enforcement ranks.
The firefight in Juarez resulted in the deaths of 12 members of Los Zetas, including Ricardo “El Gori” Almanza Morales, the group’s regional leader in Monterrey. Nevertheless, the engagement served its purpose. As the firefight was under way, a Chevrolet pickup truck rammed the gates of the prison in Escobedo, whereupon armed men entered the facility and killed the two guards. The men then were able to free the prisoners, who included 16 former Garcia municipal police officers charged with colluding with organized crime after an investigation into the death of the Garcia police. Members of the federal police unit charged with guarding the prison were inexplicably off-site eating, leaving the prison very vulnerable.
Los Zetas have shown before that they will go to great lengths to protect and rescue fellow members and associates. A similar well-planned and coordinated operation took place in May in Zacatecas that freed more than 50 prisoners, although not a single shot was fired. This indicated that several — if not all — of the prison guards were complicit in the operation. The use of diversionary tactics in Juarez suggests a similarly high level of operational planning and coordination in the Escobedo prison break. It is also testament to the extent to which Los Zetas have penetrated local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and further indicates the level of corruption that still exists as Mexican President Felipe Calderon continues his security reforms.
A March Against Violence in Ciudad Juarez
On Dec. 6, in Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua state, some 5,000 citizens took to the streets during noon hour to protest the presence of the Mexican military and federal police and the high levels of violence in the city. The citizens were complaining that the presence of the federal forces has served only to fuel the violence rather than suppress it and that the federal personnel were running protection rackets against businesses and private citizens. The presence and use of the Mexican military on the streets of Mexican cities has come under increased scrutiny as allegations of human rights violations have mounted and its effectiveness has come into question.
Violence has continued to rise in the Juarez metropolitan area despite its having the highest concentration of security forces in the country — some 8,500 personnel. Nevertheless, more than 2,200 organized-crime related deaths have occurred so far this year. Still, the military seems to be the only viable option for the Mexican government, at least at the moment. While the military is not immune to corruption, Mexican law enforcement agencies are notoriously more corrupt, and none more so than the Juarez police (the enforcement arm for the Juarez cartel, La Linea, consists of former and current Juarez police officers).
The cartels have not ignored the public’s frustration over the Mexican military operating in its midst. Cartels have gone as far as to pay private citizens to protest the military’s presence. While there is no indication that there was any cartel involvement in the Dec. 6 protests in Juarez, the cartels undoubtedly are taking note and will likely leverage the growing public frustration.
(click here to enlarge image)
Two men were reportedly kidnapped by a group of armed men in Ecuandureo, Michoacan state. Their bodies were later found with several gunshot wounds.
Three Mexican nationals were arrested in the Panama City International Airport for trying to smuggle cocaine inside their stomachs. The group was allegedly coming from Bolivia and bound for Guadalajara, in Jalisco state.
A kidnapping victim of Los Zetas who was rescued Nov. 25 from a safe house in Cancun, Quintana Roo state, and had agreed to cooperate with authorities, was found decapitated.
Six men were kidnapped by a group of armed men in Ecuandureo, Michoacan.
Four individuals set fire to 28 vehicles that were supposed to be delivered to the Tijuana Municipal Public Security Secretariat in Tijuana, Baja California state.
An Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) activist was gunned down by a group of several armed men at a restaurant inside the Nuevo Santa Fe Hotel in Oaxaca, Oaxaca state.
Edgar Enrique Bayardo de Villar, former director of operations for the Federal Preventive Police and an informant for Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, was assassinated by two men in a Starbucks cafe in Mexico City.
Three men were found dead with their hands and feet bound in separate locations around the city of Acapulco, Guerrero state. On two of the bodies were messages from Arturo “El Jefe de Jefes” Beltran-Leyva.
A fragmentation grenade detonated outside the Union de Isidoro Montes de Oca Municipal Investigative Police station in Guerrero state. There were no reported injuries or damage reported.
The body of a man showing signs of torture and 30 stab wounds was discovered in the Tiamba neighborhood of Uruapan, Michoacan state.
Roberto Torres Salinas, director of operations for the Public Security Secretariat in Gomez Palacio, Durango state, was assassinated by a group of armed men. Torres Salinas reportedly was shot more than 50 times as he arrived at his home.
Federal police arrested 13 men who allegedly worked for the Arellano Felix Organization to construct a smuggling tunnel in Tijuana, Baja California, that ran under the border into the United States.
Members of the federal police arrested three individuals reportedly associated with a kidnapping cell of the La Familia Michoacana organization in Morelia, Michoacan.
A municipal police patrol in San Francisco de los Romo, Aguascalientes state, was ambushed by a group of armed men. Two of the officers were killed and three were wounded.
The U.S. Department of Treasury designated 22 individuals and 10 companies associated with the Beltran-Leyva Organization as “specially designated narcotics traffickers.” This effectively freezes any of the designees’ financial assets in the United States and forbids any U.S. citizens from conducting financial or commercial transactions with individuals or companies listed.
The brother of Joel Torres Felix, a PRI leader in Culiacan, Sinaloa state, was gunned down by a group of armed men in the southern outskirts of Culiacan.
Five people were killed, including a federal police agent and commander, in a firefight between state and federal law enforcement agencies and suspected drug traffickers at a safe house in Coyuca de Catalan, Guerrero.
Members of the anti-kidnapping force of the Morelos attorney general’s office arrested six members of the kidnapping gang Los Yeseros in Cuernavaca.
A federal police agent was gunned down in Escuinapa, Sinaloa state, by a group of men travelling in a car armed with AK-47s.
Los Zetas staged an operation to free 23 of their associates from a prison in Escobedo, Nuevo Leon, killing two guards in the process. A diversionary fire fight with a military unit in Juarez resulted in 12 Zetas being killed, including Monterrey Zeta leader Ricardo “El Gori” Almanza Morales.
Members of the Mexican army and navy detained nine suspected kidnappers who had hours earlier kidnapped a truck driver and stole his load of 30,000 liters of diesel.
Mexico extradited Francisco Javier Mora to the United States to stand trial for the trafficking of cocaine and methamphetamine and Fermin Bucheta Temich to be tried for the sexual abuse of a minor.
A group of armed men assassinated a man outside his home in Uruapan, Michoacan.
The Mexican Navy announced the seizure of 262 kilograms of cocaine and four speed boats and the arrest of nine individuals after a joint U.S. Coast Guard and Mexican navy operation in the Pacific Ocean near the Mexico-Guatemala border.
Some 5,000 citizens of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, took to the streets to protest the presence of the Mexican military and federal police and the high levels of violence in the city.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq
on: December 08, 2009, 10:06:29 AM
I posted about Ahmad Diaa in the Rest in Peace thread with some comments about his courage against Islamic Fascism and the comments of so many other ordinary Iraqi Muslims.
My friend then said:
"Most of the Muslims I met over there could have cared less about a caliphate. Extremist Islam was not their thing. Many did not even go to mosque on Friday. They are Muslim like I am Catholic. That is their religious identification, as Catholic is mine. They have their cultural values that comport with Islamic principles but a desire to impose their view of the world on others? Absolutely not.
"But those wielding weapons and planting bombs command attention and "respect.". They dominate moderates who are by definition moderate.
"I blame al Maliki for his insistence on tearing down T-walls and opening up the Iraqi people once again to be bled out by Jihadists and other anti-government insurgents. T-walls and tight checkpoints gave the Iraqi people some breathing room over the past few years, and he is throwing all caution to the wind."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / R.I.P. Ahmad Diaa
on: December 08, 2009, 08:56:53 AM
"Our man in Iraq" is back home in America, but as also posted on the Iraq thread today he writes:
"One of the bombs today targeted the new location that the Iraqi HJC (Higher Judiciary Council) guys I used to work and coordinate with moved to (the old "Karkh Appellate courthouse"). That is where they moved much of the judicial operations to after the October bomb destroyed the Ministry of Justice building. Several of those guys did not survive the blast. One of them was a guy named Ahmad Diaa who I probably liked more than any other Iraqi I met over there.
"It is a very sad day for me."
So, for my friend, I pause to remember his friend Ahmad Diaa-- and all the other people who happen to be Muslim but who take a stand against the Islamic Fascism. The numbers of people who do so and the vastness of their courage often goes unnoticed.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our man in Iraq reports
on: December 08, 2009, 08:55:19 AM
"Our man in Iraq" is back home in America, but today he writes:
"One of the bombs today targeted the new location that the Iraqi HJC (Higher Judiciary Council) guys I used to work and coordinate with moved to (the old "Karkh Appellate courthouse"). That is where they moved much of the judicial operations to after the October bomb destroyed the Ministry of Justice building. Several of those guys did not survive the blast. One of them was a guy named Ahmad Diaa who I probably liked more than any other Iraqi I met over there.
"It is a very sad day for me."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Jihadist Strategic Dilema
on: December 07, 2009, 05:34:09 PM
The Jihadist Strategic Dilemma
December 7, 2009
By George Friedman
With U.S. President Barack Obama’s announcement of his strategy in Afghanistan, the U.S.-jihadist war has entered a new phase. With its allies, the United States has decided to increase its focus on the Afghan war while continuing to withdraw from Iraq. Along with focusing on Afghanistan, it follows that there will be increased Western attention on Pakistan. Meanwhile, the question of what to do with Iran remains open, and is in turn linked to U.S.-Israeli relations. The region from the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush remains in a war or near-war status. In a fundamental sense, U.S. strategy has not shifted under Obama: The United States remains in a spoiling-attack state.
Related Special Topic Page
The Devolution of Al Qaeda
As we have discussed, the primary U.S. interest in this region is twofold. The first aspect is to prevent the organization of further major terrorist attacks on the United States. The second is to prevent al Qaeda and other radical Islamist groups from taking control of any significant countries.
U.S. operations in this region mainly consist of spoiling attacks aimed at frustrating the jihadists’ plans rather than at imposing Washington’s will in the region. The United States lacks the resources to impose its will, and ultimately doesn’t need to. Rather, it needs to wreck its adversaries’ plans. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the primary American approach consists of this tack. That is the nature of spoiling attacks. Obama has thus continued the Bush administration’s approach to the war, though he has shifted some details.
The Jihadist Viewpoint
It is therefore time to consider the war from the jihadist point of view. This is a difficult task given that the jihadists do not constitute a single, organized force with a command structure and staff that could express that view. It is compounded by the fact that al Qaeda prime, our term for the original al Qaeda that ordered and organized the attacks on 9/11 and in Madrid and London, is now largely shattered.
While bearing this in mind, it must be remembered that this fragmentation is both a strategic necessity and a weapon of war for jihadists. The United States can strike the center of gravity of any jihadist force. It naturally cannot strike what doesn’t exist, so the jihadist movement has been organized to deny the United States that center of gravity, or command structure which, if destroyed, would leave the movement wrecked. Thus, even were Osama bin Laden killed or captured, the jihadist movement is set up to continue.
So although we cannot speak of a jihadist viewpoint in the sense that we can speak of an American viewpoint, we can ask this question: If we were a jihadist fighter at the end of 2009, what would the world look like to us, what would we want to achieve and what might we do to try to achieve that?
We must bear in mind that al Qaeda began the war with a core strategic intent, namely, to spark revolutions in the Sunni Muslim world by overthrowing existing regimes and replacing them with jihadist regimes. This was part of the jihadist group’s long-term strategy to recreate a multinational Islamist empire united under al Qaeda’s interpretation of Shariah.
The means toward this end involved demonstrating to the Muslim masses that their regimes were complicit with the leading Christian power, i.e., the United States, and that only American backing kept these Sunni regimes in power. By striking the United States on Sept. 11, al Qaeda wanted to demonstrate that the United States was far more vulnerable than believed, by extension demonstrating that U.S. client regimes were not as powerful as they appeared. This was meant to give the Islamic masses a sense that uprisings against Muslim regimes not dedicated to Shariah could succeed. In their view, any American military response — an inevitability after 9/11 — would further incite the Muslim masses rather than intimidate them.
The last eight years of war have ultimately been disappointing to the jihadists, however. Rather than a massive uprising in the Muslim world, not a single regime has been replaced with a jihadist regime. The primary reason has been that Muslim regimes allied with the United States decided they had more to fear from the jihadists than from the Americans, and chose to use their intelligence and political power to attack and suppress the jihadists. In other words, rather than trigger an uprising, the jihadists generated a strengthened anti-jihadist response from existing Muslim states. The spoiling attacks in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as in other countries in the Horn of Africa and North Africa, generated some support for the jihadists, but that support has since diminished and the spoiling attacks have disrupted these countries sufficiently to make them unsuitable as bases of operation for anything more than local attacks. In other words, the attacks tied the jihadists up in local conflicts, diverting them from operations against the United States and Europe.
Under this intense pressure, the jihadist movement has fragmented, though it continues to exist. Incapable of decisive action at the moment, it has goals beyond surviving as a fragmented entity, albeit with some fairly substantial fragments. And it is caught on the horns of a strategic dilemma.
Operationally, jihadists continue to be engaged against the United States. In Afghanistan, the jihadist movement is relying on the Taliban to tie down and weaken American forces. In Iraq, the remnants of the jihadist movement are doing what they can to shatter the U.S.-sponsored coalition government in Baghdad and further tie down American forces by attacking Shiites and key members of the Sunni community. Outside these two theaters, the jihadists are working to attack existing Muslim governments collaborating with the United States — particularly Pakistan — but with periodic attacks striking other Muslim states.
These attacks represent the fragmentation of the jihadists. Their ability to project power is limited. By default, they have accordingly adopted a strategy of localism, in which their primary intent is to strike existing governments while simultaneously tying down American forces in a hopeless attempt to stabilize the situation.
The strategic dilemma is this: The United States is engaged in a spoiling action with the primary aim of creating conditions in which jihadists are bottled up fighting indigenous forces rather than being free to plan attacks on the United States or systematically try to pull down existing regimes. And the current jihadist strategy plays directly into American hands. First, the attacks recruit Muslim regimes into deploying their intelligence and security forces against the jihadists, which is precisely what the United States wants. Secondly, it shifts jihadist strength away from transnational actions to local actions, which is also what the United States wants. These local attacks, which kill mostly Muslims, also serve to alienate many Muslims from the jihadists.
The jihadists are currently playing directly into U.S. hands because, rhetoric aside, the United States cannot regard instability in the Islamic world as a problem. Let’s be more precise on this: An ideal outcome for the United States would be the creation of stable, pro-American regimes in the region eager and able to attack and destroy jihadist networks. There are some regimes in the region like this, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The probability of creating such stable, eager and capable regimes in places like Iraq or Afghanistan is unlikely in the extreme. The second-best outcome for the United States involves a conflict in which the primary forces battling — and neutralizing — each other are Muslim, with the American forces in a secondary role. This has been achieved to some extent in Iraq. Obama’s goal is to create a situation in Afghanistan in which Afghan government forces engage Taliban forces with little or no U.S. involvement. Meanwhile, in Pakistan the Americans would like to see an effective effort by Islamabad to suppress jihadists throughout Pakistan. If they cannot get suppression, the United States will settle for a long internal conflict that would tie down the jihadists.
A Self-Defeating Strategy
The jihadists are engaged in a self-defeating strategy when they spread out and act locally. The one goal they must have, and the one outcome the United States fears, is the creation of stable jihadist regimes. The strategy of locally focused terrorism has proved ineffective. It not only fails to mobilize the Islamic masses, it creates substantial coalitions seeking to suppress the jihadists.
The jihadist attack on the United States has failed. The presence of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has reshaped the behavior of regional governments. Fear of instability generated by the war has generated counteractions by regional governments. Contrary to what the jihadists expected or hoped for, there was no mass uprising and therefore no counter to anti-jihadist actions by regimes seeking to placate the United States. The original fear, that the U.S. presence in Iraq and Afghanistan would generate massive hostility, was not wrong. But the hostility did not strengthen the jihadists, and instead generated anti-jihadist actions by governments.
From the jihadist point of view, it would seem essential to get the U.S. military out of the region and to relax anti-jihadist actions by regional security forces. Continued sporadic and ineffective action by jihadists achieves nothing and generates forces with which they can’t cope. If the United States withdrew, and existing tensions within countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan were allowed to mature undisturbed, new opportunities might present themselves.
Most significantly, the withdrawal of U.S. troops would strengthen Iran. The jihadists are no friends of Shiite Iran, and neither are Iran’s neighbors. In looking for a tool for political mobilization in the Gulf region or in Afghanistan absent a U.S. presence, the Iranian threat would best serve the jihadists. The Iranian threat combined with the weakness of regional Muslim powers would allow the jihadists to join a religious and nationalist opposition to Tehran. The ability to join religion and nationalism would turn the local focus from something that takes the jihadists away from regime change to something that might take them toward it.
The single most powerful motivator for an American withdrawal would be a period of open quiescence. An openly stated consensus for standing down, in particular because of a diminished terrorist threat, would facilitate something the Obama administration wants most of all: a U.S. withdrawal from the region. Providing the Americans with a justification for leaving would open the door for new possibilities. The jihadists played a hand on 9/11 that they hoped would prove a full house. It turned into a bust. When that happens, you fold your hand and play a new one. And there is always a hand being dealt so long as you have some chips left.
The challenge here is that the jihadists have created a situation in which they have defined their own credibility in terms of their ability to carry out terrorist attacks, however poorly executed or counterproductive they have become. Al Qaeda prime’s endless calls for action have become the strategic foundation for the jihadists: Action has become an end in itself. The manner in which the jihadists have survived as a series of barely connected pods of individuals scattered across continents has denied the United States a center of gravity to strike. It has also turned the jihadists from a semi-organized force into one incapable of defining strategic shifts.
The jihadists’ strategic dilemma is that they have lost the 2001-2008 phase of the war but are not defeated. To begin to recoup, they must shift their strategy. But they lack the means for doing so because of what they have had to do to survive. At the same time, there are other processes in play. The Taliban, which has even more reason to want the United States out of Afghanistan, might shift to an anti-jihadist strategy: It could liquidate al Qaeda, return to power in Afghanistan and then reconsider its strategy later. So, too, in other areas.
From the U.S. point of view, an open retreat by the jihadists would provide short-term relief but long-term problems. The moment when the enemy sues for peace is the moment when the pressure should be increased rather than decreased. But direct U.S. interests in the region are so minimal that a more distant terrorist threat will be handled in a more distant future. As the jihadists are too fragmented to take strategic positions, U.S. pressure will continue in any event.
Oddly enough, as much as the United States is uncomfortable in the position it is in, the jihadists are in a much worse position.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Pearl Harbor: December 7, 1941
on: December 07, 2009, 12:01:14 PM
Remembering Pearl Harbor
"December 7, 1941 -- a date which will live in infamy -- the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan. ... Always will we remember the character of the onslaught against us. No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might, will win through to absolute victory. ... With confidence in our armed forces -- with the unbounded determination of our people -- we will gain the inevitable triumph -- so help us God." --Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat far removed from today's crop of defeatists
On that fateful "Day of Infamy," 353 Japanese planes attacked a military target killing 2,390 American servicemen and civilians and wounding 1,282. The attack sank or damaged eight battleships, three cruisers, three destroyers and one minelayer and destroyed 188 aircraft. It took four years and the full military-industrial capability of the United States to defeat Japan. It is with honor and respect for those who died or suffered terrible injuries that Sunday morning that we should never again fall into the slumber that allowed such a tragedy as Pearl Harbor -- or the attack on Sept. 11, 2001 -- again.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Announcement
on: December 07, 2009, 11:41:42 AM
As some of you may have noticed, I enjoy naming things in a way I find
humorous. For example, in our "Kali Tudo" (tm) subsystem a particular
movement is named "The Dracula" (see our first KT DVD for an intro to this
In this regard, this past weekend I named a particular Dracula-based
combination as "Dracula brings the stake, hammer, and cross." The stake is a
particular uppercut (often done as a bolo punch) followed by a hammerfist
and a cross. Rhythmically it is a triplet and it is devastatingly
effective-- as the
saying goes "No brag, just fact." In training you must be careful not to
or knock your partner out!
Punning horrifically, using the homonym "steak" for "stake" I start riffing
about wanting your steak well done, medium, rare, or bloody , , , and
humorously someone asked how Dracula could use a cross. I explained that
many years ago there was a movie called "The Fearless Vampire Slayers" by
Roman Polanski (yes the one who hides in Europe from US rape charges
concerning drugging a 13 year old girl) which starred Sharon Tate (who was
later murdered by the Manson family). Anyway, there is a scene where a
vampire bursts through Sharon Tate's window and she, bosom bursting out of
her nightie, whips out a cross and holds it towards the vampire to repel him
and the vampire responds in a heavy Yiddish accent "Ach! Haff you gott ze
wrong vampire!"... As Dracula I can bring the cross, unaffected by it,
precisely because I am Jewish." Then, in an example of the strange,
deranged erudition that runs through the DBMA tribe someone brought the
following to my attention:http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/011025_Vampires.html#fn0
someone else "Why did Dracula cross to the head? Because he already threw
the stake and hammer."
But, as I so often do, I digress , , ,
Anyway, the larger point here is that it is a matter of deep fascination to
me to see the formulas of the Art begin to reveal themselves to me. Since
its inception in our "Kali Tudo" (tm) DVD, the Dracula Game has continued to
grow and to deepen into one of the most important and formidable games
within Kali Tudo; but as fun as it can be to blow someone's mind in MMA
sparring, the deeper point as I see it is in the reification of the promise
of the Art to have "consistency across categories"-- that our movements are
the same whether we know if the opponent/enemy has a weapon or not.
In the real world there often will not be time to discern whether a furtive
movement is the load of a punch or the access of a weapon and select either
a response for an empty handed attack or a weapon attack. Thus we seek
"consistency across categories" i.e. our movements are essentially the same
regardless of the fight in which we find ourselves. In "the interface of
gun, knife, empty hand" (a "Die Less Often" fight in DBMA parlance) it is
of profound help not to need to know whether the opponent/enemy has a weapon
in his hand in order to select the correct response. Our movement is the
same and the quicker for not having to make that determination. In the
split-second realities of DLO situations, this is vital! Furthermore not
only does the Dracula work really well in MMA, it is also a fundamental
close-quarter DLO technique, including for IFWA (In Fight Weapon Access).
In this regard I would like to mention that this winter's DBMA Training Camp
approaches soon-- February 6-7 to be precise at the Boxing Works Gym in
Hermosa Beach (Los Angeles) CA.
This winter's camp will include the Dracula Game and more-- including guest
instructor Kenny Johnson, whom I via Rigan Machado. Kenny is a world class
MMA Wrestling coach. For example, he was the MMA Wrestling Coach on Team
Noguiera on Spike TV's "The Ultimate Fighter". He coaches Anderson Silva,
and others of that ilk.
We got to know each other when I asked him for a lesson to help me
with certain wrestling based questions I had (re "the Rico" and also my
lousy underhooks) He was intrigued by what I was doing and we began light
sparring and exchanging knowledge. This has continued. A month or two ago
he came by my Monday "Kali Tudo" class. We taught together and the rapport
was really good. I think people will really enjoy this camp with the two of
us working together.
We know that with a camp that you must travel to us, so as we always do in
DBMA, we are keeping our cost to you down. The cost of the camp will be
$200. The LEO discount will be 15%. For active duty service personnel the
discount will be 25% and veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan the discount will
be 50%. Anyone with combat citations, the camp will be free.
For up to date conversation about the camp, the thread of record ishttp://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1955.0
Walk as warriors for all our days!
Guro Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dracula and the Stake
on: December 07, 2009, 10:06:40 AM
As some of you may have noticed, I enjoy naming things in a way I find humorous. For example, in our "Kali Tudo" (tm) subsystem a particular movement is named "The Dracula" (see our first KT DVD for an intro to this material).
In this regard, this past weekend I named a particular Dracula-based combination as "Dracula brings the stake, hammer, and cross. Punning horrifically I start riffing about wanting your steak well done, medium, rare, or bloody , , , Someone asked how Dracula could use a cross.
"Many years ago there was a movie called "The Fearless Vampire Slayers" by Roman Polanski (yes the one who hides in Europe from US rape charges concerning drugging a 13 year old girl) and starring Sharon Tate-- who was later murdered by the Manson family , , , but I digress (as I so often do). Anyway, there is a scene where a vampire bursts through Sharon Tate's window and she, bosom bursting out of her nightie, whips out a cross and holds it towards the vampire; the vampire responds in a heavy Yiddish accent "Ach! Haff you gott ze wrong vampire!"...
"As Dracula I can bring the cross, unaffected by it, precisely because I am Jewish."
Then, in an example of the strange erudition that runs through the DBMA tribe someone brought the following to my attention:http://www.ucalgary.ca/~elsegal/Shokel/011025_Vampires.html#fn0
The Right Vampire?*
Jewish Free PressOctober 25, 2001, pp. 8-9.
Dan, Joseph. The Esoteric Theology of Ashkenazi Hasidism. Jerusalem: Mosad Bialik, 1968.
Trachtenberg, Joshua. Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion, Temple Books. New York: Atheneum, 1970.
In that 1967 film classic "the Fearless Vampire Killers," there is a memorable scene in which a lady tries in vain to fend off the vampire Shagal by waving a cross at him. The creature of the night, with an unmistakable Yiddish intonation, retorts "Boy have you got the wrong vampire!"
Indeed, the literary and cinematic depiction of vampires, from Dracula onwards, has been so strongly imbued with Christian symbolism that the very idea of a Jewish vampire makes an easy target for such comedic moments; notwithstanding the tragic medieval blood libels that charged Jews with using Christian blood in the preparation of Passover matzah.
Nevertheless, the study of medieval Jewish texts teaches us that a belief in vampire-like creatures was very intense in certain Jewish communities. Not surprisingly, this belief tended to surface in settings where it was also prevalent among their non-Jewish neighbours. That the concept was of foreign origin is also indicated by the non-Hebrew names by which the fearsome creatures were designated.
Most of the Jewish references to vampires are contained in the writings of the Hasidei Ashkenaz, a mystical pietistic movement that flourished in thirteenth-century Germany. The monsters were usually female, and were referred to as estries. The term is French, and derives from strix, a Latin word for a night-owl. The ancient Romans believed that the owls consume human blood, and Petronius tells a scary tale about a certain Cappadocian who was snatched away by a strix, and later found dead. The striges were said to be terrible women who could turn themselves into dreadful birds of prey, with huge talons, misshapen heads and breasts full of poisonous milk. In medieval folklore, they continued to be associated with screech owls
Cannibalistic behaviour typified the medieval German estries, who were believed to have a special fondness for the flesh of children. During the Middle Ages, the striges were given a Christian interpretation, and they were perceived as servants of Satan and his demons. They were usually portrayed as witches who practiced sorcery and flew through the air.
Several chilling stories about them were preserved by the Hasidei Ashkenaz, especially in the most important collection of the group's lore, Rabbi Judah the Pious's Sefer Hasidim.
According to Sefer Hasidim, the Talmud was referring to estries when it spoke about beings who were created at twilight on the first Friday, and whose bodies were not completed when God ceased working at the onset of the Sabbath.
A different theory was proposed by the fifteenth-century commentator Rabbi Menahem Zioni. Basing himself on midrashic sources, he claimed that it was the builders of the Tower of Babel who were transformed into vampires, werewolves, wood- and water-spirits, and sundry monsters.
The same author speaks of men and women who, by anointing their bodies with special oils, are able to fly. They must, however, return home before the break of dawn.
The sixteenth-century exegete Rabbi Obadiah Sforno speculated that supernatural beings like demons could not consume normal food. It follows, therefore, that their diet consists of the most subtle and spiritual substance, and this must be blood, which the Torah equates with the power of life. By extension, humans who desire to befriend the spirits will offer them blood; while those who aspire to partake of supernatural powers are likely to consume blood themselves.
In one story that appears in Sefer Hasidim, a woman who was an estrie fell ill, and was watched over during the night by two unsuspecting ladies. When one of the guardians dozed off, the patient suddenly stood up and began to unravel her hair. In true Dracula-like style, the estrie tried to fly off and to suck out the blood of the slumbering lady. Fortunately, her alert companion managed to cry out and wakened her, and the two of them were able to seize the estrie and prevent her from carrying out her nefarious scheme.
The Sefer Hasidim had no doubt that the estrie's survival depended on her success in slaying her victim. If prevented from doing so, the estrie perished. "This is because a being who was created from blood needs to swallow blood from flesh."
The medieval texts prescribe several different ways to restrain the estries--none of which involve crosses, holy water or wooden stakes. They could be controlled by the imposing of an oath upon them. Furthermore, since their powers were somehow dependent on the loosening of their hair, they could be rendered harmless if the hair was somehow held in check. And if a known estrie was included in the prayer for the sick that is recited in the synagogue, then the congregation was cautioned not to respond "Amen"!
Although an estrie could be injured by a physical blow, the effect of the blow could be undone if she was allowed to eat bread and salt belonging to her assailant. Conversely, bread and salt also worked as an antidote to injuries inflicted by the estrie.
At first glance, it is hard to imagine how anyone would be stupid enough to offer bread and water to an estrie after taking the trouble to attack her. However, we must bear in mind that the creatures were capable of morphing themselves into different forms, and therefore were not easy to recognize. Rabbi Zioni described this ability in detail, and noted that they had a special propensity for turning into cats.
Sefer Hasidim records a case of a suspected estrie who had assumed feline form. However, a certain Jew recognized her true identity (the source does not indicate how), and struck her. On the following day, a lady asked him for some bread and salt, and the imprudent Jew would have complied, had it not been for an old man who appeared on the scene and warned him of his folly.
As with our familiar vampires, the malevolent power of the estries did not cease with their deaths. For this reason, it was important to examine their corpses very carefully. Rabbi Eliezer Rokeah states that if the estrie has her mouth open when she is buried, you may be certain that she will continue to devour children for a year after her death. In order to curtail such anti-social behaviour, it is crucial to stuff her mouth with earth.
Most of the Hebrew descriptions of estries seem to assume that the creatures were not Jewish. However, at least one story implies otherwise.
Thus, we read in in Sefer Hasidim about some students who wanted to inflict capital punishment on women who were accused of baby-eating. The rabbi reminded them that, while in exile, Jewish courts did not have such authority. He did, however, suggest that an announcement be issued in the synagogue, in the presence of the suspects, that if any harm should befall the children, then they would have their teeth filed on the stones surrounding the well. If the accused were in fact guilty, then the ordeal would result in their inevitable deaths.
Of course, the fact that the estries in this story attended synagogue proves that they were Jews--and observant Jews at that!
To the best of my knowledge, Jewish sources have not recorded any vampire sightings for several centuries now. Nor is there any truth to the widespread rumours that the blood-suckers have been recruited as fundraisers for the United Jewish Appeal.
Nevertheless--purely as a precaution--parents are advised take some precautions the next time a sweet old bubbeh tells them that their precious infant looks "sweet enough to eat."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / James Grant: The loss of the gold standard
on: December 07, 2009, 08:50:33 AM
Ben S. Bernanke doesn't know how lucky he is. Tongue-lashings from Bernie Sanders, the populist senator from Vermont, are one thing. The hangman's noose is another. Section 19 of this country's founding monetary legislation, the Coinage Act of 1792, prescribed the death penalty for any official who fraudulently debased the people's money. Was the massive printing of dollar bills to lift Wall Street (and the rest of us, too) off the rocks last year a kind of fraud? If the U.S. Senate so determines, it may send Mr. Bernanke back home to Princeton. But not even Ron Paul, the Texas Republican sponsor of a bill to subject the Fed to periodic congressional audits, is calling for the Federal Reserve chairman's head.
I wonder, though, just how far we have really come in the past 200-odd years. To give modernity its due, the dollar has cut a swath in the world. There's no greater success story in the long history of money than the common greenback. Of no intrinsic value, collateralized by nothing, it passes from hand to trusting hand the world over. More than half of the $923 billion's worth of currency in circulation is in the possession of foreigners.
View Full Image
President Richard M. Nixon after his Aug. 15, 1971, speech which established that dollars could not be exchanged for gold.
.In ancient times, the solidus circulated far and wide. But it was a tangible thing, a gold coin struck by the Byzantine Empire. Between Waterloo and the Great Depression, the pound sterling ruled the roost. But it was convertible into gold—slip your bank notes through a teller's window and the Bank of England would return the appropriate number of gold sovereigns. The dollar is faith-based. There's nothing behind it but Congress.
But now the world is losing faith, as well it might. It's not that the dollar is overvalued—economists at Deutsche Bank estimate it's 20% too cheap against the euro. The problem lies with its management. The greenback is a glorious old brand that's looking more and more like General Motors.
You get the strong impression that Mr. Bernanke fails to appreciate the tenuousness of the situation—fails to understand that the pure paper dollar is a contrivance only 38 years old, brand new, really, and that the experiment may yet come to naught. Indeed, history and mathematics agree that it will certainly come to naught. Paper currencies are wasting assets. In time, they lose all their value. Persistent inflation at even seemingly trifling amounts adds up over the course of half a century. Before you know it, that bill in your wallet won't buy a pack of gum.
For most of this country's history, the dollar was exchangeable into gold or silver. "Sound" money was the kind that rang when you dropped it on a counter. For a long time, the rate of exchange was an ounce of gold for $20.67. Following the Roosevelt devaluation of 1933, the rate of exchange became an ounce of gold for $35. After 1933, only foreign governments and central banks were privileged to swap unwanted paper for gold, and most of these official institutions refrained from asking (after 1946, it seemed inadvisable to antagonize the very superpower that was standing between them and the Soviet Union). By the late 1960s, however, some of these overseas dollar holders, notably France, began to clamor for gold. They were well-advised to do so, dollars being in demonstrable surplus. President Richard Nixon solved that problem in August 1971 by suspending convertibility altogether. From that day to this, in the words of John Exter, Citibanker and monetary critic, a Federal Reserve "note" has been an "IOU nothing."
From the Solidus to the Euro
A guide to currencies through the ages.
Art Resource, NY
A gold coin introduced around A.D. 310, early in the reign of Emperor Constantine I. In the Byzantine currency system, it was the prime coin against which other coins could be exchanged and was used in international trade and major payrolls. Its use continued into the 11th century, when Constantine IX began debasing it.
The U.K. currency is the oldest currency still in use. Its paper form was introduced when the Bank of England was formed in 1694.
American Numismatic Society
The Coinage Act of 1792 affirmed the dollar as the U.S. currency unit and specified that each was to equal the value of the Spanish milled dollar and was to contain 371 4/16 grains of pure, or 416 grains of standard, silver.
Deutsche Bundesbank/Getty Images
This common currency for 16 European Union countries launched on Jan. 1, 1999, replacing, among others, Italy's lira, Germany's Deutsche mark and France's franc. The euro erased most of Western Europe's monetary borders.
.To understand the scrape we are in, it may help, a little, to understand the system we left behind. A proper gold standard was a well-oiled machine. The metal actually moved and, so moving, checked what are politely known today as "imbalances." Say a certain baseball-loving North American country were running a persistent trade deficit. Under the monetary system we don't have and which only a few are yet even talking about instituting, the deficit country would remit to its creditors not pieces of easily duplicable paper but scarce gold bars. Gold was money—is, in fact, still money—and the loss would set in train a series of painful but necessary adjustments in the country that had been watching baseball instead of making things to sell. Interest rates would rise in that deficit country. Its prices would fall, its credit would be curtailed, its exports would increase and its imports decrease. At length, the deficit country would be restored to something like competitive trim. The gold would come sailing back to where it started. As it is today, dollars are piled higher and higher in the vaults of America's Asian creditors. There's no adjustment mechanism, only recriminations and the first suggestion that, from the creditors' point of view, enough is enough.
So in 1971, the last remnants of the gold standard were erased. And a good thing, too, some economists maintain. The high starched collar of a gold standard prolonged the Great Depression, they charge; it would likely have deepened our Great Recession, too. Virtue's the thing for prosperity, they say; in times of trouble, give us the Ben S. Bernanke school of money conjuring. There are many troubles with this notion. For one thing, there is no single gold standard. The version in place in the 1920s, known as the gold-exchange standard, was almost as deeply flawed as the post-1971 paper-dollar system. As for the Great Recession, the Bernanke method itself was a leading cause of our troubles. Constrained by the discipline of a convertible currency, the U.S. would have had to undergo the salutary, unpleasant process described above to cure its trade deficit. But that process of correction would—I am going to speculate—have saved us from the near-death financial experience of 2008. Under a properly functioning gold standard, the U.S. would not have been able to borrow itself to the threshold of the poorhouse.
Anyway, starting in the early 1970s, American monetary policy came to resemble a game of tennis without the net. Relieved of the irksome inhibition of gold convertibility, the Fed could stop worrying about the French. To be sure, it still had Congress to answer to, and the financial markets, as well. But no more could foreigners come calling for the collateral behind the dollar, because there was none. The nets came down on Wall Street, too. As the idea took hold that the Fed could meet any serious crisis by carpeting the nation with dollar bills, bankers and brokers took more risks. New forms of business organization encouraged more borrowing. New inflationary vistas opened.
Not that the architects of the post-1971 game set out to lower the nets. They believed they'd put up new ones. In place of such gold discipline as remained under Bretton Woods—in truth, there wasn't much—markets would be the monetary judges and juries. The late Walter Wriston, onetime chairman of Citicorp, said that the world had traded up. In place of a gold standard, it now had an "information standard." Buyers and sellers of the Treasury's notes and bonds, on the one hand, or of dollars, yen, Deutschemarks, Swiss francs, on the other, would ride herd on the Fed. You'd know when the central bank went too far because bond yields would climb or the dollar exchange rate would fall. Gold would trade like any other commodity, but nobody would pay attention to it.
I check myself a little in arraigning the monetary arrangements that have failed us so miserably these past two years. The lifespan of no monetary system since 1880 has been more than 30 or 40 years, including that of my beloved classical gold standard, which perished in 1914. The pure paper dollar regime has been a long time dying. It was no good portent when the tellers' bars started coming down from neighborhood bank branches. The uncaged teller was a sign that Americans had began to conceive an elevated opinion of the human capacity to manage financial risk. There were other evil omens. In 1970, Wall Street partnerships began to convert to limited liability corporations—Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette was the first to make the leap, Goldman Sachs, among the last, in 1999. In a partnership, the owners are on the line for everything they have in case of the firm's bankruptcy. No such sword of Damocles hangs over the top executives of a corporation. The bankers and brokers incorporated because they felt they needed more capital, more scale, more technology—and, of course, more leverage.
In no phase of American monetary history was every banker so courageous and farsighted as Isaias W. Hellman, a progenitor of an institution called Farmers & Merchants Bank and of another called Wells Fargo. Operating in southern California in the late 1880s, Hellman arrived at the conclusion that the Los Angeles real-estate market was a bubble. So deciding—the prices of L.A. business lots had climbed to $5,000 from $500 in one short year—he stopped lending. The bubble burst, and his bank prospered. Safety and soundness was Hellman's motto. He and his depositors risked their money side-by-side. The taxpayers didn't subsidize that transaction, not being a party to it.
In this crisis, of course, with latter-day Hellmans all too scarce in the banking population, the taxpayers have born an unconscionable part of the risk. Wells Fargo itself passed the hat for $25 billion. Hellmans are scarce because the federal government has taken away their franchise. There's no business value in financial safety when the government bails out the unsafe. And by bailing out a scandalously large number of unsafe institutions, the government necessarily puts the dollar at risk. In money, too, the knee bone is connected to the thigh bone. Debased banks mean a debased currency (perhaps causation works in the other direction, too).
Many contended for the hubris prize in the years leading up to the sorrows of 2008, but the Fed beat all comers. Under Mr. Bernanke, as under his predecessor, Alan Greenspan, our central bank preached the doctrine of stability. The Fed would iron out the business cycle, promote full employment, pour oil on the waters of any and every major financial crisis and assure stable prices. In particular, under the intellectual leadership of Mr. Bernanke, the Fed would tolerate no sagging of the price level. It would insist on a decent minimum of inflation. It staked out this position in the face of the economic opening of China and India and the spread of digital technology. To the common-sense observation that these hundreds of millions of willing new hands, and gadgets, might bring down prices at Wal-Mart, the Fed turned a deaf ear. It would save us from "deflation" by generating a sweet taste of inflation (not too much, just enough). And it would perform these feats of macroeconomic management by pushing a single interest rate up or down.
It was implausible enough in the telling and has turned out no better in the doing. Nor is there any mystery why. The Fed's M.O. is price control. It fixes the basic money market interest rate, known as the federal funds rate. To arrive at the proper rate, the monetary mandarins conduct their research, prepare their forecast—and take a wild guess, just like the rest of us. Since December 2008, the Fed has imposed a funds rate of 0% to 0.25%. Since March of 2009, it has bought just over $1 trillion of mortgage-backed securities and $300 billion of Treasurys. It has acquired these assets in the customary central-bank manner, i.e., by conjuring into existence the money to pay for them. Yet—a measure of the nation's lingering problems—the broadly defined money supply isn't growing but dwindling.
The Fed's miniature interest rates find favor with debtors, disfavor with savers (that doughty band). All may agree, however, that the bond market has lost such credibility it once had as a monetary-policy voting machine. Whether or not the Fed is cranking too hard on the dollar printing press is, for professional dealers and investors, a moot point. With the cost of borrowing close to zero, they are happy as clams (that is, they can finance their inventories of Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities at virtually no cost). The U.S. government securities market has been conscripted into the economic-stimulus program.
Neither are the currency markets the founts of objective monetary information they perhaps used to be. The euro trades freely, but the Chinese yuan is under the thumb of the People's Republic. It tells you nothing about the respective monetary policies of the People's Bank and the Fed to observe that it takes 6.831 yuan to make a dollar. It's the exchange rate that Beijing wants.
On the matter of comparative monetary policies, the most expressive market is the one that the Fed isn't overtly manipulating. Though Treasury yields might as well be frozen, the gold price is soaring (it lost altitude on Friday). Why has it taken flight? Not on account of an inflation problem. Gold is appreciating in terms of all paper currencies—or, alternatively, paper currencies are depreciating in terms of gold—because the world is losing faith in the tenets of modern central banking. Correctly, the dollar's vast non-American constituency understands that it counts for nothing in the councils of the Fed and the Treasury. If 0% interest rates suit the U.S. economy, 0% will be the rate imposed. Then, too, gold is hard to find and costly to produce. You can materialize dollars with the tap of a computer key.
Let me interrupt myself to say that I am not now making a bullish investment case for gold (I happen to be bullish, but it's only an opinion). The trouble with 0% interest rates is that they instigate speculation in almost every asset that moves (and when such an immense market as that in Treasury securities isn't allowed to move, the suppressed volatility finds different outlets). By practicing price, or interest-rate, control, the Bank of Bernanke fosters a kind of alternative financial reality. Let the buyer beware—of just about everything.
A proper gold standard promotes balance in the financial and commercial affairs of participating nations. The pure paper system promotes and perpetuates imbalances. Not since 1976 has this country consumed less than it produced (as measured by the international trade balance): a deficit of 32 years and counting. Why has the shortfall persisted for so long? Because the U.S., uniquely, is allowed to pay its bills in the currency that only it may lawfully print. We send it west, to the central banks of our Asian creditors. And they, obligingly, turn right around and invest the dollars in America's own securities. It's as if the money never left home. Stop to ask yourself, American reader: Is any other nation on earth so blessed as we?
There is, however, a rub. The Asian central banks do not acquire their dollars with nothing. Rather, they buy them with the currency that they themselves print. Some of this money they manage to sweep under the rug, or "sterilize," but a good bit of it enters the local payment stream, where it finances today's rowdy Asian bull markets.
A monetary economist from Mars could only scratch his pointy head at our 21st century monetary arrangements. What is a dollar? he might ask. No response. The Martian can't find out because the earthlings don't know. The value of a dollar is undefined. Its relationship to other currencies is similarly contingent. Some exchange rates float, others sink, still others are lashed to the dollar (whatever it is). Discouraged, the visitor zooms home.
Neither would the ghosts of earthly finance know what to make of things if they returned for a briefing from wherever they were spending eternity. Someone would have to tell Alexander Hamilton that his system of coins is defunct, as is, incidentally, the federal sinking fund he devised to retire the public debt (it went out of business in 1960). He might have to hear it more than once to understand, but Congress no longer "coins" money and regulates the value thereof. Rather, it delegates the work to Mr. Bernanke, who, a noted student of the Great Depression, believes that the cure for borrowing too much money is printing more money.
Walter Bagehot, the Victorian English financial journalist, would be in for a jolt, too. It would hardly please him to hear that the Fed had invoked the authority of his name to characterize its helter-skelter interventions of the past year. In a crisis, Bagehot wrote in his 1873 study "Lombard Street," a central bank should lend without stint to solvent institutions at a punitive rate of interest against sound collateral. At least, Bagehot's shade might console itself, the Fed was faithful to the text on one point. It did lend without stint.
If Bagehot's ghost would be chagrined, that of Bagehot's sparring partner, Thomson Hankey, would be exultant. Hankey, a onetime governor of the Bank of England, denounced Bagehot in life. No central bank should stand ready to bail out the imprudent, he maintained. "I cannot conceive of anything more likely to encourage rash and imprudent speculation..., " wrote Hankey in response to Bagehot. "I am no advocate for any legislative enactments to try and make the trading community more prudent."
Hankey believed in the price system. It might pain him to discover that his professional descendants have embraced command and control. "We should have required [banks to hold] more capital, more liquidity," Mr. Bernanke rued in a Senate hearing on Thursday. "We should have required more risk management controls." Roll over, Isaias Hellman.
So our Martian would be mystified and our honored dead distressed. And we, the living? We are none too pleased ourselves. At least, however, being alive, we can begin to set things right. The thing to do, I say, is to restore the nets to the tennis courts of money and finance. Collateralize the dollar—make it exchangeable into something of genuine value. Get the Fed out of the price-fixing business. Replace Ben Bernanke with a latter-day Thomson Hankey. Find—cultivate—battalions of latter-day Hellmans and set them to running free-market banks. There's one more thing: Return to the statute books Section 19 of the 1792 Coinage Act, but substitute life behind bars for the death penalty. It's the 21st century, you know.
James Grant, editor of Grant's Interest Rate Observer, is the author, most recently, of "Mr. Market Miscalculates" (Axios Press).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF
on: December 07, 2009, 08:34:14 AM
Proofreading is a dying art, wouldn't you say?
Man Kills Self Before Shooting Wife and Daughter
This one I caught in the SGV Tribune the other day and called the Editorial Room and asked who wrote this. It took two or three readings before the editor realized that what he was reading was impossible!!! They put in a correction the next day.
I just couldn't help but send this along. Too funny.
Something Went Wrong in Jet Crash, Expert SaysNo crap, really? Ya think?
Police Begin Campaign to Run Down Jaywalkers
Now that's taking things a bit far!
Panda Mating Fails; Veterinarian Takes Over
What a guy!
Miners Refuse to Work after Death
No-good-for-nothing' lazy so-and-so's!
Juvenile Court to Try Shooting Defendant
See if that works any better than a fair trial!
War Dims Hope for Peace
I can see where it might have that effect!
If Strike Isn't Settled Quickly, It May Last Awhile
Cold Wave Linked to Temperatures
Who would have thought!
Enfield ( London ) Couple Slain;PoliceSuspect Homicide
They may be on to something!
Red Tape Holds Up New Bridges
You mean there's something stronger than duct tape?
Man Struck By Lightning:Faces Battery Charge
He probably IS the battery charge!
New Study of Obesity Looks for LargerTest Group
Weren't they fat enough?!
Astronaut Takes Blame for Gas in Spacecraft
That's what he gets for eating those beans!
Kids Make Nutritious Snacks
Do they taste like chicken?
Local High SchoolDropoutsCut in Half
Chainsaw Massacre all over again!
Hospitals are Sued by 7 Foot Doctors
Boy, are they tall!
And the winner is....
Typhoon Rips Through Cemetery; Hundreds Dead
Did I read that right?
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article
on: December 06, 2009, 09:00:03 PM
Let the puns begin-- I named a Dracula combination today: "The Dracula brings the stake, hammer, and a cross."
Would you like your stake well done, medium, rare, or bloody?
How can Dracula use a cross without it hurting him? In my case, I am Jewish.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / part 2
on: December 06, 2009, 10:37:49 AM
part 2 of third post of morning:
Page 4 of 6)
Mr. Gates and others talked about the limits of the American ability to
actually defeat the Taliban; they were an indigenous force in Afghan
society, part of the political fabric. This was a view shared by others
around the table, including Leon E. Panetta, the director of the C.I.A., who
argued that the Taliban could not be defeated as such and so the goal should
be to drive wedges between those who could be reconciled with the Afghan
government and those who could not be.
With Mr. Biden leading the skeptics, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Gates and Admiral
Mullen increasingly aligned behind a more robust force. Mrs. Clinton wanted
to make sure she was a formidable player in the process. "She was determined
that her briefing books would be just as thick and just as meticulous as
those of the Pentagon," said one senior adviser. She asked hard questions
about Afghan troop training, unafraid of wading into Pentagon territory.
After a meeting where the Pentagon made a presentation with impressive
color-coded maps, Mrs. Clinton returned to the State Department and told her
aides, "We need maps," as one recalled. She was overseas during the next
meeting on Oct. 14, when aides used her new maps to show civilian efforts
but she participated with headphones on from her government plane flying
back from Russia.
Mr. Gates was a seasoned hand at such reviews, having served eight
presidents and cycled in and out of the Situation Room since the days when
it was served by a battery of fax machines. Like Mrs. Clinton, he was
sympathetic to General McChrystal's request, having resolved his initial
concern that a buildup would fuel resentment the way the disastrous Soviet
occupation of Afghanistan did in the 1980s.
But Mr. Gates's low-wattage exterior masks a wily inside player, and he knew
enough to keep his counsel early in the process to let it play out more
first. "When to speak is important to him; when to signal is important to
him," said a senior Defense Department official.
On Oct. 22, the National Security Council produced what one official called
a "consensus memo," much of which originated out of the defense secretary's
office, concluding that the United States should focus on diminishing the
Taliban insurgency but not destroying it; building up certain critical
ministries; and transferring authority to Afghan security forces.
There was no consensus yet on troop numbers, however, so Mr. Obama called a
smaller group of advisers together on Oct. 26 to finally press Mrs. Clinton
and Mr. Gates. Mrs. Clinton made it clear that she was comfortable with
General McChrystal's request for 40,000 troops or something close to it; Mr.
Gates also favored a big force.
Mr. Obama was leery. He had received a memo the day before from the Office
of Management and Budget projecting that General McChrystal's full
40,000-troop request on top of the existing deployment and reconstruction
efforts would cost $1 trillion from 2010 to 2020, an adviser said. The
president seemed in sticker shock, watching his domestic agenda vanishing in
front of him. "This is a 10-year, trillion-dollar effort and does not match
up with our interests," he said.
Still, for the first time, he made it clear that he was ready to send more
troops if a strategy could be found to ensure that it was not an endless
war. He indicated that the Taliban had to be beaten back. "What do we need
to break their momentum?" he asked.
Four days later, at a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Oct. 30, he
emphasized the need for speed. "Why can't I get the troops in faster?" he
asked. If they were going to do this, he concluded, it only made sense to do
this quickly, to have impact and keep the war from dragging on forever.
"This is America's war," he said. "But I don't want to make an open-ended
Bridging the Differences
Now that he had a sense of where Mr. Obama was heading, Mr. Gates began
shaping a plan that would bridge the differences. He developed a
30,000-troop option that would give General McChrystal the bulk of his
request, reasoning that NATO could make up most of the difference.
"If people are having trouble swallowing 40, let's see if we can make this
smaller and easier to swallow and still give the commander what he needs," a
senior Defense official said, summarizing the secretary's thinking.
The plan, called Option 2A, was presented to the president on Nov. 11. Mr.
Obama complained that the bell curve would take 18 months to get all the
troops in place.
He turned to General Petraeus and asked him how long it took to get the
so-called surge troops he commanded in Iraq in 2007. That was six months.
"What I'm looking for is a surge," Mr. Obama said. "This has to be a surge."
Page 5 of 6)
That represented a contrast from when Mr. Obama, as a presidential
candidate, staunchly opposed President Bush's buildup in Iraq. But unlike
Mr. Bush, Mr. Obama wanted from the start to speed up a withdrawal as well.
The military was told to come up with a plan to send troops quickly and then
begin bringing them home quickly.
And in another twist, Mr. Obama, who campaigned as an apostle of
transparency and had been announcing each Situation Room meeting publicly
and even releasing pictures, was livid that details of the discussions were
"What I'm not going to tolerate is you talking to the press outside of this
room," he scolded his advisers. "It's a disservice to the process, to the
country and to the men and women of the military."
His advisers sat in uncomfortable silence. That very afternoon, someone
leaked word of a cable sent by Ambassador Eikenberry from Kabul expressing
reservations about a large buildup of forces as long as the Karzai
government remained unreformed. At one of their meetings, General Petraeus
had told Mr. Obama to think of elements of the Karzai government like "a
crime syndicate." Ambassador Eikenberry was suggesting, in effect, that
America could not get in bed with the mob.
The leak of Ambassador Eikenberry's Nov. 6 cable stirred another storm
within the administration because the cable had been requested by the White
House. The National Security Council had told the ambassador to put his
views in writing. But someone else then passed word of the cable to
reporters in what some in the process took to be a calculated attempt to
head off a big troop buildup.
The cable stunned some in the military. The reaction at the Pentagon, said
one official, was "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot" - military slang for an expression
of shock. Among the officers caught off guard were General McChrystal and
his staff, for whom the cable was "a complete surprise," said another
official, even though the commander and the ambassador meet three times a
A Presidential Order
By this point, the idea of some sort of time frame was taking on momentum.
Mrs. Clinton talked to Mr. Karzai before the Afghan leader's inauguration to
a second term. She suggested that he use his speech to outline a schedule
for taking over security of the country.
Mr. Karzai did just that, declaring that Afghan forces directed by Kabul
would take charge of securing population centers in three years and the
whole country in five. His pronouncement, orchestrated partly by Mrs.
Clinton and diplomats in Kabul, provided a predicate for Mr. Obama to set
out his own time frame.
The president gathered his team in the Situation Room at 8:15 p.m. on Nov.
23, the unusual nighttime hour adding to what one participant called a
momentous wartime feeling. The room was strewn with coffee cups and soda
Mr. Obama presented a revised version of Option 2A, this one titled "Max
Leverage," pushing 30,000 troops into Afghanistan by mid-2010 and beginning
to pull them out by July 2011. Admiral Mullen came up with the date at the
direction of Mr. Obama, despite some misgivings from the Pentagon about
setting a time frame for a withdrawal. The date was two years from the
arrival of the first reinforcements Mr. Obama sent shortly after taking
office. Mr. Biden had written a memo before the meeting talking about the
need for "proof of concept" - in other words, two years ought to be enough
for extra troops to demonstrate whether a buildup would work.
The president went around the room asking for opinions. Mr. Biden again
expressed skepticism, even at this late hour when the tide had turned
against him in terms of the troop number. But he had succeeded in narrowing
the scope of the mission to protect population centers and setting the date
to begin withdrawal. Others around the table concurred with the plan. Mr.
Obama spoke last, but still somewhat elliptically. Some advisers said they
walked out into the night after 10 p.m., uncertain whether the president had
actually endorsed the Max Leverage option or was just testing for reaction.
Page 6 of 6)
Two days later, Mr. Obama met with Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker and a
critic of the Afghan war. The president outlined his plans for the buildup
without disclosing specific numbers. Ms. Pelosi was unenthusiastic and
pointedly told the president that he could not rely on Democrats alone to
pass financing for the war.
The White House had spent little time courting Congress to this point. Even
though it would need Republican support, the White House had made no
overtures to the party leaders.
But there was back-channel contact. Mr. Emanuel was talking with Senator
Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who urged him to settle on a
troop number "that began with 3" to win Republican support. "I said as long
as the generals are O.K. and there is a meaningful number, you will be
O.K.," Mr. Graham recalled.
The day after Thanksgiving, Mr. Obama huddled with aides from 10:30 a.m. to
9:15 p.m. refining parameters for the plan and mapping out his announcement.
He told his speechwriter, Ben Rhodes, that he wanted to directly rebut the
comparison with Vietnam.
On the following Sunday, Nov. 29, he summoned his national security team to
the Oval Office. He had made his decision. He would send 30,000 troops as
quickly as possible, then begin the withdrawal in July 2011. In deference to
Mr. Gates's concerns, the pace and endpoint of the withdrawal would be
determined by conditions at the time.
"I'm not asking you to change what you believe," the president told his
advisers. "But if you do not agree with me, say so now." There was a pause
and no one said anything.
"Tell me now," he repeated.
Mr. Biden asked only if this constituted a presidential order. Mr. Gates and
others signaled agreement.
"Fully support, sir," Admiral Mullen said.
"Ditto," General Petraeus said.
Mr. Obama then went to the Situation Room to call General McChrystal and
Ambassador Eikenberry. The president made it clear that in the next
assessment in December 2010 he would not contemplate more troops. "It will
only be about the flexibility in how we draw down, not if we draw down," he
Two days later, Mr. Obama flew to West Point to give his speech. After three
months of agonizing review, he seemed surprisingly serene. "He was," said
one adviser, "totally at peace."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: BO's decision
on: December 06, 2009, 10:36:33 AM
WASHINGTON - On the afternoon he held the eighth meeting of his Afghanistan
review, President Obama arrived in the White House Situation Room ruminating
about war. He had come from Arlington National Cemetery, where he had
wandered among the chalky white tombstones of those who had fallen in the
rugged mountains of Central Asia.
How much their sacrifice weighed on him that Veterans Day last month, he did
not say. But his advisers say he was haunted by the human toll as he
wrestled with what to do about the eight-year-old war. Just a month earlier,
he had mentioned to them his visits to wounded soldiers at the Army hospital
in Washington. "I don't want to be going to Walter Reed for another eight
years," he said then.
The economic cost was troubling him as well after he received a private
budget memo estimating that an expanded presence would cost $1 trillion over
10 years, roughly the same as his health care plan.
Now as his top military adviser ran through a slide show of options, Mr.
Obama expressed frustration. He held up a chart showing how reinforcements
would flow into Afghanistan over 18 months and eventually begin to pull out,
a bell curve that meant American forces would be there for years to come.
"I want this pushed to the left," he told advisers, pointing to the bell
curve. In other words, the troops should be in sooner, then out sooner.
When the history of the Obama presidency is written, that day with the chart
may prove to be a turning point, the moment a young commander in chief set
in motion a high-stakes gamble to turn around a losing war. By moving the
bell curve to the left, Mr. Obama decided to send 30,000 troops mostly in
the next six months and then begin pulling them out a year after that,
betting that a quick jolt of extra forces could knock the enemy back on its
heels enough for the Afghans to take over the fight.
The three-month review that led to the escalate-then-exit strategy is a case
study in decision making in the Obama White House - intense, methodical,
rigorous, earnest and at times deeply frustrating for nearly all involved.
It was a virtual seminar in Afghanistan and Pakistan, led by a president
described by one participant as something "between a college professor and a
Mr. Obama peppered advisers with questions and showed an insatiable demand
for information, taxing analysts who prepared three dozen intelligence
reports for him and Pentagon staff members who churned out thousands of
pages of documents.
This account of how the president reached his decision is based on dozens of
interviews with participants as well as a review of notes some of them took
during Mr. Obama's 10 meetings with his national security team. Most of
those interviewed spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal
deliberations, but their accounts have been matched against those of other
participants wherever possible.
Mr. Obama devoted so much time to the Afghan issue - nearly 11 hours on the
day after Thanksgiving alone - that he joked, "I've got more deeply in the
weeds than a president should, and now you guys need to solve this." He
invited competing voices to debate in front of him, while guarding his own
thoughts. Even David Axelrod, arguably his closest adviser, did not know
where Mr. Obama would come out until just before Thanksgiving.
With the result uncertain, the outsize personalities on his team vied for
his favor, sometimes sharply disagreeing as they made their arguments. The
White House suspected the military of leaking details of the review to put
pressure on the president. The military and the State Department suspected
the White House of leaking to undercut the case for more troops. The
president erupted at the leaks with an anger advisers had rarely seen, but
he did little to shut down the public clash within his own government.
"The president welcomed a full range of opinions and invited contrary points
of view," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said in an interview
last month. "And I thought it was a very healthy experience because people
took him up on it. And one thing we didn't want - to have a decision made
and then have somebody say, 'Oh, by the way.' No, come forward now or
forever hold your peace."
The decision represents a complicated evolution in Mr. Obama's thinking. He
began the process clearly skeptical of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal's request
for 40,000 more troops, but the more he learned about the consequences of
failure, and the more he narrowed the mission, the more he gravitated toward
a robust if temporary buildup, guided in particular by Defense Secretary
Robert M. Gates.
Yet even now, he appears ambivalent about what some call "Obama's war." Just
two weeks before General McChrystal warned of failure at the end of August,
Mr. Obama described Afghanistan as a "war of necessity." When he announced
his new strategy last week, those words were nowhere to be found. Instead,
while recommitting to the war on Al Qaeda, he made clear that the larger
struggle for Afghanistan had to be balanced against the cost in blood and
treasure and brought to an end.
Aides, though, said the arduous review gave Mr. Obama comfort that he had
found the best course he could. "The process was exhaustive, but any time
you get the president of the United States to devote 25 hours, anytime you
get that kind of commitment, you know it was serious business," said Gen.
James L. Jones, the president's national security adviser. "From the very
first meeting, everyone started with set opinions. And no opinion was the
same by the end of the process."
Taking Control of a War
Mr. Obama ran for president supportive of the so-called good war in
Afghanistan and vowing to send more troops, but he talked about it primarily
as a way of attacking Republicans for diverting resources to Iraq, which he
described as a war of choice. Only after taking office, as casualties
mounted and the Taliban gained momentum, did Mr. Obama really begin to
confront what to do.
Page 2 of 6)
Even before completing a review of the war, he ordered the military to send
21,000 more troops there, bringing the force to 68,000. But tension between
the White House and the military soon emerged when General Jones, a retired
Marine four-star general, traveled to Afghanistan in the summer and was
surprised to hear officers already talking about more troops. He made it
clear that no more troops were in the offing.
With the approach of Afghanistan's presidential election in August, Mr.
Obama's two new envoys - Richard C. Holbrooke, the president's special
representative to the region, and Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, a retired
commander of troops in Afghanistan now serving as ambassador - warned of
trouble, including the possibility of angry Afghans marching on the American
Embassy or outright civil war.
"There are 10 ways this can turn out," one administration official said,
summing up the envoys' presentation, "and 9 of them are messy."
The worst did not happen, but widespread fraud tainted the election and
shocked some in the White House as they realized that their partner in
Kabul, President Hamid Karzai, was hopelessly compromised in terms of public
At the same time, the Taliban kept making gains. The Central Intelligence
Agency drew up detailed maps in August charting the steady progression of
the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, maps that would later be used
extensively during the president's review. General McChrystal submitted his
own dire assessment of the situation, warning of "mission failure" without a
fresh infusion of troops.
While General McChrystal did not submit a specific troop request at that
point, the White House knew it was coming and set out to figure out what to
do. General Jones organized a series of meetings that he envisioned lasting
a few weeks. Before each one, he convened a rehearsal session to impose
discipline - "get rid of the chaff," one official put it - that included
Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Gates and other
cabinet-level officials. Mr. Biden made a practice of writing a separate
private memo to Mr. Obama before each meeting, outlining his thoughts.
The first meeting with the president took place on Sept. 13, a Sunday, and
was not disclosed to the public that day. For hours, Mr. Obama and his top
advisers pored through intelligence reports.
Unsatisfied, the president posed a series of questions: Does America need to
defeat the Taliban to defeat Al Qaeda? Can a counterinsurgency strategy work
in Afghanistan given the problems with its government? If the Taliban
regained control of Afghanistan, would nuclear-armed Pakistan be next?
The deep skepticism he expressed at that opening session was reinforced by
Mr. Biden, who rushed back overnight from a California trip to participate.
Just as he had done in the spring, Mr. Biden expressed opposition to an
expansive strategy requiring a big troop influx. Instead, he put an
alternative on the table - rather than focus on nation building and
population protection, do more to disrupt the Taliban, improve the quality
of the training of Afghan forces and expand reconciliation efforts to peel
off some Taliban fighters.
Mr. Biden quickly became the most outspoken critic of the expected
McChrystal troop request, arguing that Pakistan was the bigger priority,
since that is where Al Qaeda is mainly based. "He was the bull in the china
shop," said one admiring administration official.
But others were nodding their heads at some of what he was saying, too,
including General Jones and Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.
A Review Becomes News
The quiet review burst into public view when General McChrystal's secret
report was leaked to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post a week after the
first meeting. The general's grim assessment jolted Washington and lent
urgency to the question of what to do to avoid defeat in Afghanistan.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Gen. David
H. Petraeus, the regional commander, secretly flew to an American air base
in Germany for a four-hour meeting with General McChrystal on Sept. 25. He
handed them his troop request on paper - there were no electronic versions
and barely 20 copies in all.
The request outlined three options for different missions: sending 80,000
more troops to conduct a robust counterinsurgency campaign throughout the
country; 40,000 troops to reinforce the southern and eastern areas where the
Taliban are strongest; or 10,000 to 15,000 troops mainly to train Afghan
General Petraeus took one copy, while Admiral Mullen took two back to
Washington and dropped one off at Mr. Gates's home next to his in a small
military compound in Washington. But no one sent the document to the White
House, intending to process it through the Pentagon review first.
Mr. Obama was focused on another report. At 10 p.m. on Sept. 29, he called
over from the White House residence to the West Wing to ask for a copy of
the first Afghanistan strategy he approved in March to ramp up the fight
against Al Qaeda and the Taliban while increasing civilian assistance. A
deputy national security adviser, Denis McDonough, brought him a copy to
reread overnight. When his national security team met the next day, Mr.
Obama complained that elements of that plan had never been enacted.
Page 3 of 6)
The group went over the McChrystal assessment and drilled in on what the
core goal should be. Some thought that General McChrystal interpreted the
March strategy more ambitiously than it was intended to be. Mr. Biden asked
tough questions about whether there was any intelligence showing that the
Taliban posed a threat to American territory. But Mr. Obama also firmly
closed the door on any withdrawal. "I just want to say right now, I want to
take off the table that we're leaving Afghanistan," he told his advisers.
Tension with the military had been simmering since the leak of the
McChrystal report, which some in the White House took as an attempt to box
in the president. The friction intensified on Oct. 1 when the general was
asked after a speech in London whether a narrower mission, like the one Mr.
Biden proposed, would succeed. "The short answer is no," he said.
White House officials were furious, and Mr. Gates publicly scolded advisers
who did not keep their advice to the president private. The furor rattled
General McChrystal, who, unlike General Petraeus, was not a savvy Washington
operator. And it stunned others in the military, who were at first
"bewildered by how over the top the reaction was from the White House," as
one military official put it.
It also proved to be what one review participant called a "head-snapping"
moment of revelation for the military. The president, they suddenly
realized, was not simply updating his previous strategy but essentially
starting over from scratch.
The episode underscored the uneasy relationship between the military and a
new president who, aides said, was determined not to be as deferential as he
believed his predecessor, George W. Bush, was for years in Iraq. And the
military needed to adjust to a less experienced but more skeptical commander
in chief. "We'd been chugging along for eight years under an administration
that had become very adept at managing war in a certain way," said another
Moreover, Mr. Obama had read "Lessons in Disaster," Gordon M. Goldstein's
book on the Vietnam War. The book had become a must read in the West Wing
after Mr. Emanuel had dinner over the summer at the house of another deputy
national security adviser, Thomas E. Donilon, and wandered into his library
to ask what he should be reading.
Among the conclusions that Mr. Donilon and the White House team drew from
the book was that both President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B.
Johnson failed to question the underlying assumption about monolithic
Communism and the domino theory - clearly driving the Obama advisers to
rethink the nature of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
The Pakistan Question
While public attention focused on Afghanistan, some of the most intensive
discussion focused on the country where Mr. Obama could send no troops -
Pakistan. Pushed in particular by Mrs. Clinton, the president's team
explored the links between the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban and Al
Qaeda, and Mr. Obama told aides that it did not matter how many troops were
sent to Afghanistan if Pakistan remained a haven.
Many of the intelligence reports ordered by the White House during the
review dealt with Pakistan's stability and whether its military and
intelligence services were now committed to the fight or secretly still
supporting Taliban factions. According to two officials, there was a study
of the potential vulnerability of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, posing
questions about potential insider threats and control of the warheads if the
Pakistani government fell.
Mr. Obama and his advisers also considered options for stepping up the
pursuit of extremists in Pakistan's border areas. He eventually approved a
C.I.A. request to expand the areas where remotely piloted aircraft could
strike, and other covert action. The trick would be getting Pakistani
consent, which still has not been granted.
On Oct. 9, Mr. Obama and his team reviewed General McChrystal's troop
proposals for the first time. Some in the White House were surprised by the
numbers, assuming there would be a middle ground between 10,000 and 40,000.
"Why wasn't there a 25 number?" one senior administration official asked in
an interview. He then answered his own question: "It would have been too
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Diplomacy that will live in infamy
on: December 06, 2009, 10:16:12 AM
Saw this piece in POTH (NYT) today. I have no idea whether it is leftist revisionist drivel or has merit.
Diplomacy That Will Live in Infamy
By JAMES BRADLEY
Published: December 5, 2009
SIXTY-EIGHT years ago tomorrow, Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. In the brutal Pacific war that would follow, millions of soldiers and civilians were killed. My father — one of the famous flag raisers on Iwo Jima — was among the young men who went off to the Pacific to fight for his country. So the war naturally fascinated me. But I always wondered, why did we fight in the Pacific? Yes, there was Pearl Harbor, but why did the Japanese attack us in the first place?
In search of an answer, I read deeply into the diplomatic history of the 1930s, about President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s policy on Asia, and his preparation — or lack thereof — for a major conflict there. But I discovered that I was studying the wrong President Roosevelt. The one who had the greater effect on Japan’s behavior was Theodore Roosevelt — whose efforts to end the war between Japan and Russia earned him the Nobel Peace Prize.
When Theodore Roosevelt was president, three decades before World War II, the world was focused on the bloody Russo-Japanese War, a contest for control of North Asia. President Roosevelt was no fan of the Russians: “No human beings, black, yellow or white, could be quite as untruthful, as insincere, as arrogant — in short, as untrustworthy in every way — as the Russians,” he wrote in August 1905, near the end of the Russo-Japanese War. The Japanese, on the other hand, were “a wonderful and civilized people,” Roosevelt wrote, “entitled to stand on an absolute equality with all the other peoples of the civilized world.”
Roosevelt knew that Japan coveted the Korean Peninsula as a springboard to its Asian expansion. Back in 1900, when he was still vice president, Roosevelt had written, “I should like to see Japan have Korea.” When, in February 1904, Japan broke off relations with Russia, President Roosevelt said publicly that he would “maintain the strictest neutrality,” but privately he wrote, “The sympathies of the United States are entirely on Japan’s side.”
In June 1905, Roosevelt made world headlines when — apparently on his own initiative — he invited the two nations to negotiate an end to their war. Roosevelt’s private letter to his son told another story: “I have of course concealed from everyone — literally everyone — the fact that I acted in the first place on Japan’s suggestion ... . Remember that you are to let no one know that in this matter of the peace negotiations I have acted at the request of Japan and that each step has been taken with Japan’s foreknowledge, and not merely with her approval but with her expressed desire.”
Years later, a Japanese emissary to Roosevelt paraphrased the president’s comments to him: “All the Asiatic nations are now faced with the urgent necessity of adjusting themselves to the present age. Japan should be their natural leader in that process, and their protector during the transition stage, much as the United States assumed the leadership of the American continent many years ago, and by means of the Monroe Doctrine, preserved the Latin American nations from European interference. The future policy of Japan towards Asiatic countries should be similar to that of the United States towards their neighbors on the American continent.”
In a secret presidential cable to Tokyo, in July 1905, Roosevelt approved the Japanese annexation of Korea and agreed to an “understanding or alliance” among Japan, the United States and Britain “as if the United States were under treaty obligations.” The “as if” was key: Congress was much less interested in North Asia than Roosevelt was, so he came to his agreement with Japan in secret, an unconstitutional act.
To signal his commitment to Tokyo, Roosevelt cut off relations with Korea, turned the American legation in Seoul over to the Japanese military and deleted the word “Korea” from the State Department’s Record of Foreign Relations and placed it under the heading of “Japan.”
(Page 2 of 2)
Roosevelt had assumed that the Japanese would stop at Korea and leave the rest of North Asia to the Americans and the British. But such a wish clashed with his notion that the Japanese should base their foreign policy on the American model of expansion across North America and, with the taking of Hawaii and the Philippines, into the Pacific. It did not take long for the Japanese to tire of the territorial restrictions placed upon them by their Anglo-American partners.
Skip to next paragraph
Times Topics: Pearl Harbor
Japan’s declaration of war, in December 1941, explained its position quite clearly: “It is a fact of history that the countries of East Asia for the past hundred years or more have been compelled to observe the status quo under the Anglo-American policy of imperialistic exploitation and to sacrifice themselves to the prosperity of the two nations. The Japanese government cannot tolerate the perpetuation of such a situation.”
In planning the attack on Pearl Harbor, Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto was specifically thinking of how, 37 years earlier, the Japanese had surprised the Russian Navy at Port Arthur in Manchuria and, as he wrote, “favorable opportunities were gained by opening the war with a sudden attack on the main enemy fleet.” At the time, the indignant Russians called it a violation of international law. But Theodore Roosevelt, confident that he could influence events in North Asia from afar, wrote to his son, “I was thoroughly well pleased with the Japanese victory, for Japan is playing our game.”
It was for his efforts to broker the peace deal between Russia and Japan that a year and a half later Roosevelt became the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize — and one of only three presidents to do so while in office (the other two are Woodrow Wilson and President Obama, who will accept his prize this week). No one in Oslo, or in the United States Congress, knew the truth then.
But the Japanese did. And the American president’s support emboldened them to increase their military might — and their imperial ambitions. In December 1941, the consequence of Theodore Roosevelt’s recklessness would become clear to those few who knew of the secret dealings. No one else — including my dad on Iwo Jima — realized just how well Japan had indeed played “our game.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / T. Friedman: May it all come true
on: December 06, 2009, 10:11:03 AM
Another post by someone I rarely post. I think TF makes some very good points here.
May It All Come True
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: December 5, 2009
President Obama certainly showed leadership mettle in going against his own party’s base and ordering a troop surge into Afghanistan. He is going to have to be even more tough-minded, though, to make sure his policy is properly executed.
I’ve already explained why I oppose this escalation. But since the decision has been made — and I do not want my country to fail or the Obama presidency to sink in Afghanistan — here are some thoughts on how to reduce the chances that this ends badly. Let’s start by recalling an insight that President John F. Kennedy shared in a Sept. 2, 1963, interview with Walter Cronkite:
Cronkite: “Mr. President, the only hot war we’ve got running at the moment is, of course, the one in Vietnam, and we have our difficulties there.”
Kennedy: “I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the [Vietnamese] government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them; we can give them equipment; we can send our men out there as advisers. But they have to win it, the people of Vietnam, against the Communists. We are prepared to continue to assist them, but I don’t think that the war can be won unless the people support the effort and, in my opinion, in the last two months, the [Vietnamese] government has gotten out of touch with the people. ...”
Cronkite: “Do you think this government still has time to regain the support of the people?”
Kennedy: “I do. With changes in policy and perhaps with personnel I think it can. If it doesn’t make those changes, the chances of winning it would not be very good.”
What J.F.K. understood, what L.B.J. lost sight of, and what B.H.O. can’t afford to forget, is that in the end it’s not about how many troops we send or deadlines we set. It is all about our Afghan partners. Afghanistan has gone into a tailspin largely because President Hamid Karzai’s government became dysfunctional and massively corrupt — focused more on extracting revenues for private gain than on governing. That is why too many Afghans who cheered Karzai’s arrival in 2001 have now actually welcomed Taliban security and justice.
“In 2001, most Afghan people looked to the United States not only as a potential mentor but as a model for successful democracy,” Pashtoon Atif, a former aid worker from Kandahar, recently wrote in The Los Angeles Times. “What we got instead was a free-for-all in which our leaders profited outrageously and unapologetically from a wealth of foreign aid coupled with a dearth of regulations.”
Therefore, our primary goal has to be to build — with Karzai — an Afghan government that is “decent enough” to earn the loyalty of the Afghan people, so a critical mass of them will feel “ownership” of it and therefore be ready to fight to protect it. Because only then will there be a “self-sustaining” Afghan Army and state so we can begin to get out by the president’s July 2011 deadline — without leaving behind a bloodbath.
Focus on those key words: “decent enough,” “ownership” and “self-sustaining.” Without minimally decent government, Afghans will not take ownership. If they don’t take ownership, they won’t fight for it. And if they won’t fight for it on their own, whatever progress we make will not be self-sustaining. It will just collapse when we leave.
But here is what worries me: The president’s spokesman, Robert Gibbs, said flatly: “This can’t be nation-building.” And the president told a columnists’ lunch on Tuesday that he wants to avoid “mission creep” that takes on “nation-building in Afghanistan.”
I am sorry: This is only nation-building. You can’t train an Afghan Army and police force to replace our troops if you have no basic state they feel is worth fighting for. But that will require a transformation by Karzai, starting with the dismissal of his most corrupt aides and installing officials Afghans can trust.
This surge also depends, the president indicated, on Pakistan ending its obsession with India. That obsession has led Pakistan to support the Taliban to control Afghanistan as part of its “strategic depth” vis-à-vis India. Pakistan fights the Taliban who attack it, but nurtures the Taliban who want to control Afghanistan. So we now need this fragile Pakistan to stop looking for strategic depth against India in Afghanistan and to start building strategic depth at home, by reviving its economy and school system and preventing jihadists from taking over there.
That is why Mr. Obama is going to have to make sure, every day, that Karzai doesn’t weasel out of reform or Pakistan wiggle out of shutting down Taliban sanctuaries or the allies wimp out on helping us. To put it succinctly: This only has a chance to work if Karzai becomes a new man, if Pakistan becomes a new country and if we actually succeed at something the president says we won’t be doing at all: nation-building in Afghanistan. Yikes!
For America’s sake, may it all come true.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan
on: December 06, 2009, 10:06:54 AM
Tis passing odd that I would post something by POTH blathering idiot Frank Rich, but I do so precisely because of where he sits on the political spectrum and what he says.
ColumnistObama’s Logic Is No Match for Afghanistan Recommend
By FRANK RICH
Published: December 5, 2009
AFTER the dramatic three-month buildup, you’d think that Barack Obama’s speech announcing his policy for Afghanistan would be the most significant news story of the moment. History may take a different view. When we look back at this turning point in America’s longest war, we may discover that a relatively trivial White House incident, the gate-crashing by a couple of fame-seeking bozos, was the more telling omen of what was to come.
Obama’s speech, for all its thoughtfulness and sporadic eloquence, was a failure at its central mission. On its own terms, as both policy and rhetoric, it didn’t make the case for escalating our involvement in Afghanistan. It’s doubtful that the president’s words moved the needle of public opinion wildly in any direction for a country that has tuned out Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq alike while panicking about where the next job is coming from.
You can think the speech failed without questioning Obama’s motives. I don’t buy the criticism that he contrived a cynical political potpourri to pander to every side in the debate over the war. Nor was his decision to escalate mandated by his campaign stand positing Afghanistan as a just war in contrast to the folly of Iraq. Nor was he intimidated by received Beltway opinion, which, echoing Dick Cheney, accused him of dithering. (“The urgent necessity is to make a decision — whether or not it is right,” wrote the Dean of D.C. punditry, David Broder.)
Obama’s speech struck me as the sincere product of serious deliberations, an earnest attempt to apply his formidable intelligence to one of the most daunting Rubik’s Cubes of foreign policy America has ever known. But some circles of hell can’t be squared. What he’s ended up with is a too-clever-by-half pushmi-pullyu holding action that lacks both a credible exit strategy and the commitment of its two most essential partners, a legitimate Afghan government and the American people. Obama’s failure illuminated the limits of even his great powers of reason.
The state dinner crashers delineated those limits too. This was the second time in a month — after the infinitely more alarming bloodbath at Fort Hood — that a supposedly impregnable bastion of post-9/11 American security was easily breached. Yes, the crashers are laughable celebrity wannabes, but there was nothing funny about what they accomplished on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Their ruse wasn’t “reality” television — it was reality, period, with no quotation marks. It was a symbolic indication (and, luckily, only symbolic) of how unbridled irrationality harnessed to sheer will, whether ludicrous in the crashers’ case or homicidal in the instance of the Fort Hood gunman, can penetrate even our most secure fortifications. Both incidents stand as a haunting reproach to the elegant powers of logic with which Obama tried to sell his exquisitely calibrated plan to vanquish Al Qaeda and its mad brethren.
For all the overheated debate about what Obama meant in proposing July 2011 as a date to begin gradual troop withdrawals, the more significant short circuit in the speech’s internal logic lies elsewhere. The crucial passage came when Obama systematically tried to dismantle the Vietnam analogies that have stalked every American foreign adventure for four decades. “Most importantly,” the president said, “unlike Vietnam, the American people were viciously attacked from Afghanistan and remain a target for those same extremists who are plotting along its border.” This is correct as far as it goes, but it begs a number of questions.
“Along its border,” of course, means across the border — a k a Pakistan. Obama never satisfactorily argued why more troops in Afghanistan, where his own administration puts the number of Qaeda operatives at roughly 100, will help vanquish the far more substantial terrorist strongholds in Pakistan. But even if he had made that case and made it strongly, a larger issue remains: If the enemy in Afghanistan, whether Taliban or Qaeda, poses the same existential threat to America today that it did on 9/11, why is the president settling for half-measures?
It’s not just that Obama is fielding somewhat fewer troops than the maximum Gen. Stanley McChrystal requested. McChrystal himself didn’t ask for enough troops to fight a proper counterinsurgency in Afghanistan in the first place. Using the metrics outlined in the sacred text on the subject, Gen. David Petraeus’s field manual, we’d need a minimal force of 568,000 for Afghanistan’s population of 28.4 million. After the escalation, allied forces will reach barely a quarter of that number.
If the enemy in Afghanistan today threatens the American homeland as the Viet Cong never did, we should be all in, according to Obama’s logic. So why aren’t we? The answer is not merely that Afghans don’t want us as occupiers. It’s that such a mission would require a commensurate national sacrifice. One big difference between the war in Vietnam and the war in Afghanistan that the president conspicuously left unmentioned on Tuesday is the draft. Given that conscription is not about to be revived, we’d have to spend money, lots more money, to recruit the troops needed for the full effort Obama’s own argument calls for.
Which again leads us back to the ghosts of Vietnam. As L.B.J. learned the hard way, we can’t have both guns and the butter of big domestic projects, from health care to desperately needed jobs programs. We have to make choices. Obama paid lip service to that point, but the only sacrifice he cited in the entire speech was addressed to his audience at West Point, not the general public — the burden borne by the military and military families. While the president didn’t tell American civilians to revel in tax cuts and go shopping, as his predecessor did after 9/11, that may be a distinction without a difference. Obama’s promises to accomplish his ambitious plans for nation building at home while pursuing an expanded war sounded just as empty.
In this, he’s like most of the war’s supporters, regardless of party. On Fox News last Sunday, two senators, the Republican Jon Kyl and the Democrat Evan Bayh, found rare common ground in agreeing that an expanded Afghanistan effort should never require new taxes. It’s this bipartisan mantra that more war must be fought without more sacrifice — rather than Obama’s tentative withdrawal timeline — that most loudly signals to the world the shallowness of the American public’s support for any Afghanistan escalation. This helps explain why, as Fred Kaplan pointed out in Slate, the American share of allied troops in Afghanistan is rising (to 70 percent from under 50 percent at the time George Bush left office) despite Obama’s boast of an enthusiastic new coalition of the willing.
To his credit, Obama’s speech did eschew Bush-Cheneyism at its worst. He conceded some counterarguments to his policy: that the Afghanistan government is corrupt, mired in drugs and in “no imminent threat” of being overthrown. He framed his goals in modest and realistic terms, rather than trying to whip up the audience with fear-mongering, triumphalist sloganeering and jingoistic bravado. He talked of “success,” not “victory.”
But the president’s own method for rallying public support — a plea to “summon that unity” of 9/11 again — fell flat. There are several reasons why. First, 9/11 has been cheapened by the countless politicians who have exploited it, culminating with Rudy Giuliani. The sole achievement of America’s Former Mayor’s farcical presidential campaign was to render the evil of 9/11 banal. Second, 9/11 is eight years in the past. Looking at the youthful faces of the cadets in Obama’s audience on Tuesday, you realized that they were literally children on that horrific day, and that the connection between 9/11/01 and the newest iteration of the war they must fight in a new decade is something of an abstraction.
Finally, the notion that we are still fighting in Afghanistan because the 9/11 attacks originated there is based on the fallacy that our terrorist enemies are so stupid they have remained frozen in place since 2001. Most Americans know that they are no more static than we are. Obama acknowledged as much in citing such other Qaeda havens as Somalia (the site of a devastating insurgent suicide bombing on Thursday) and Yemen.
Americans want our country to be secure. Most want Obama to succeed. And so we hope that we won’t get bogged down in Afghanistan while our adversaries regroup elsewhere, that the casualties and costs can be contained, that the small, primitive Afghan Army (ravaged by opium, illiteracy, incompetence and a 25 percent attrition rate) will miraculously stand up so we can stand down. We want to believe that Obama’s marvelous powers of reason can check a ruthless enemy and reverse decades of tragic history in one of the world’s most treacherous backwaters.
That’s the bet Obama made. As long as our wars remain sacrifice-free, safely buried in the back pages behind Tiger Woods and reality television stunts, he’ll be able to pursue it. But I keep returning to the crashers at the gates, who have no respect for our president’s orderliness of mind and action. All it takes is a few of them at the wrong time and wrong place, whether in Afghanistan or Pakistan or America or sites unknown, and all bets will be off.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 06, 2009, 08:48:22 AM
I think I heard Joe Rogan say something about how some commisioner saw an ice break with that elbow strike and decided that if it could shatter a big block of ice like that then it was too much for MMA.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 05, 2009, 11:36:43 PM
Well, I'm not as serious a student of the show as you, perhaps I was being a bit glib, , , and certainly I have to back up now , , ,
Hat tip to Frankfurter for spotting Nelson from the beginning. I did not.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: December 05, 2009, 11:33:37 PM
Actually, I remember in favorable contrast an incident in Cuernavaca, Morelos, Mexico where a lady friend and I drove off road in search of privacy. As we were getting to leave a VW bug full of federales (Thompson submachine gun, some large revolvers) came rolling up and searched us and our vehicle , , , thoroughly. When all was done and we were found to be clean, they APOLOGIZED and SHOOK OUR HANDS. This took quite a bit of the sting of the indignity of it all away. I have NEVER had an American LEO do that.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues
on: December 05, 2009, 10:36:52 PM
Well, the couple of times I was thrown up against the wall were less than fun , , ,
Was that when you were going to or coming from Woodstock?
In the early 70s when I was the only white guy in a 9 man band in North Philadelphia
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread
on: December 05, 2009, 07:42:11 PM
I admit to having been sucked into the soap opera-- from the coaches on down (contender status for all time worst TUF coach to Rampage; worst ever levels of conditioning; possible worst fighter ever in the finals (Nelson) strange denouements (both Kimbo and Big Baby) and more-- what a fascinating study in human behavior.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Blue Cross Premiums
on: December 04, 2009, 08:50:13 PM
Blue Cross Blue Patients
Another study predicts higher insurance prices..ArticleComments (5)more in Opinion ».EmailPrinter
facebook ↓ More.
.StumbleUponDiggTwitterYahoo! BuzzFarkRedditLinkedIndel.icio.usMySpaceSave This ↓ More.
. Text .Another day, another study confirming that ObamaCare will increase the price of health insurance. The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association has found that premiums in the individual market will rise on average by 54% over the status quo, which translates into an extra $3,341 a year for families and $1,576 for singles. The White House denounced the report as a "sham" before it was even released, which shows how seriously it takes such concerns.
The Congressional Budget Office also found this week that ObamaCare will boost premiums in the individual market by as much as 13%. But the White House called that a triumph because the higher costs will be offset by taxpayer subsidies that will be transferred to the federal balance sheet.
The Blue Cross study is in fact more precise than CBO's because it is based on real market data, rather than modeling assumptions. The association mined the actuarial data from its six million individual or small-business policies, nearly one-eighth of those sold in the U.S.
OpinionJournal Related Stories:
ObamaCare at Any Cost
The $1.9 Trillion Gimmick
The WellPoint Revelation
.Lo and behold, Blue Cross found costs will rise if Democrats force insurers to cover anyone who applies and then limit how much insurers are allowed to charge based on age or health condition. Economists call this adverse selection; people will wait until they're sick to buy coverage, and the Democratic rules make it perfectly rational for them to do so.
"And you can bet as we continue to make progress," communications director Dan Pfeiffer wrote on the White House blog, "the insurance industry will continue to try and distract and misinform because they know their very profitable status quo is in grave danger." He must be referring to the industry's overall profit margin of 2.2% in 2008.
The reality is that all health-care costs are ultimately borne by consumers, whether through more expensive premiums, lower wages or higher taxes. The regulatory schemes favored by Democrats can't change that law of economics but they will ensure that insurance is even more costly than it is today.
When that day comes, the political class will of course blame the insurance companies, and all of the current White House denials will fall down the memory hole.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Student Loans
on: December 04, 2009, 08:48:16 PM
There's encouraging news on that other Washington effort to force Americans into a government-run system. The White House plan to drive private lenders out of the market for student loans is igniting a backlash on campus and Capitol Hill.
The typical tale of a free-speech controversy on campus involves administrators landing on some poor undergrad who violates political correctness. But in this story the administrators have been afraid to speak as the Department of Education pressured them to drop private lenders and embrace the department's own Direct Lending (DL) program. The pending bill, which has passed the House but is stalled in the Senate, would ban private lenders from making federally guaranteed loans after July 1, 2010.
Congress has already enacted regulations in recent years to discourage making loans without a federal guarantee. And many lenders have quit the business. Now the White House and Democrats like California Rep. George Miller want to go further and convert students from private loans largely backed by the taxpayer into government loans made and serviced by government and backed by the taxpayer. Think of this as a prelude to how Congress will rig the rules for any public option in health care.
The private lenders have been the most popular choice, while—big surprise—the government's program has a history of shoddy customer service. But before the bill has even come to the Senate floor, federal officials have been making unsolicited contacts to schools urging them to accept this "public option." In October, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan sent a letter to schools nationwide offering to help them "in taking the necessary steps to ensure uninterrupted access to federal student loans by ensuring your institution is Direct Loan-ready for the 2010-2011 academic year."
OpinionJournal Related Stories:
The Quietest Trillion
Single Payer for Kids
.Schools got the message. The leader of a large university recently refused to discuss the issue with us on the record, fearful that the feds are taking names. Rep. John Kline (R., Minn.) has asked the Department of Education's inspector general to investigate efforts by officials to encourage outside groups to advocate for the ban on private lenders. He wants to know if department staff violated a federal law against lobbying with appropriated funds, among other possible offenses.
Several House Democrats wrote to Mr. Duncan this week questioning the "aggressive outreach" to schools on behalf of one option while Congress is still considering others. We seem to remember from our student days that the executive branch is supposed to enforce laws only after the legislature has written them. Over in the Senate, more than a dozen Democrats have criticized the Administration's plan, and Senator Bob Casey has offered an alternative that would allow private lenders to stay in business.
Meanwhile, faced with the prospect of a monopoly government-run loan provider, the tweed-jacket crowd is finding its voice. Mr. Duncan spoke this week at a conference for financial aid officers in Nashville, and he may be sorry that he agreed to take questions from the audience. To vigorous applause, several attendees questioned whether financing that's good enough for government work will be good enough for their students.
Ted Malone of the University of Alaska said that the department had already "created an impossible-to-administer program" for Pell Grants and therefore said it's "hard to trust that you're going to be looking out for our best interests" when forcing all colleges into the government-run lending system.
Another speaker talked about how hard the private firms work to serve students and said, "My partnership with my lenders is being taken away from me."
Sheila Nelson Hensley of Virginia's Bluefield College said, "I'm concerned that there's going to be a delay in us receiving our funds, which will ultimately affect our students and the cash flow of our institution."
When even such natural allies as college administrators are warning that Team Obama is moving too quickly and too far left, perhaps it's time to go back to school on this issue. Focusing on the needs of students and taxpayers—rather than an ideological conviction that government always knows and does best—would be a good place to start.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iranian Crackdown goes global
on: December 04, 2009, 08:45:41 PM
By FARNAZ FASSIHI
NEW YORK -- His first impulse was to dismiss the ominous email as a prank, says a young Iranian-American named Koosha. It warned the 29-year-old engineering student that his relatives in Tehran would be harmed if he didn't stop criticizing Iran on Facebook.
Green in Berlin
Rapper Jay-Z and U2 brightened Berlin's Brandenburg Gate with green lighting during a performance of "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," a U2 song inspired by a 1972 altercation between British troops and protesters in Northern Ireland. During the performance, Jay-Z rapped in support of the Iranian protesters. Watch the video on YouTube.
.Two days later, his mom called. Security agents had arrested his father in his home in Tehran and threatened him by saying his son could no longer safely return to Iran.
"When they arrested my father, I realized the email was no joke," said Koosha, who asked that his full name not be used.
Tehran's leadership faces its biggest crisis since it first came to power in 1979, as Iranians at home and abroad attack its legitimacy in the wake of June's allegedly rigged presidential vote. An opposition effort, the "Green Movement," is gaining a global following of regular Iranians who say they never previously considered themselves activists.
The regime has been cracking down hard at home. And now, a Wall Street Journal investigation shows, it is extending that crackdown to Iranians abroad as well.
In recent months, Iran has been conducting a campaign of harassing and intimidating members of its diaspora world-wide -- not just prominent dissidents -- who criticize the regime, according to former Iranian lawmakers and former members of Iran's elite security force, the Revolutionary Guard, with knowledge of the program.
Part of the effort involves tracking the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube activity of Iranians around the world, and identifying them at opposition protests abroad, these people say.
Interviews with roughly 90 ordinary Iranians abroad -- college students, housewives, doctors, lawyers, businesspeople -- in New York, London, Dubai, Sweden, Los Angeles and other places indicate that people who criticize Iran's regime online or in public demonstrations are facing threats intended to silence them.
Vote: Will Iran quell opposition from Iranians living outside the country?
.View Full Image
Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, third from right, leads actors in expressing support for Iran's opposition movement at the Venice film festival in September.
.Although it wasn't possible to independently verify their claims, interviewees provided consistently similar descriptions of harassment techniques world-wide. Most asked that their full names not be published.
Today's crisis echoes the events of three decades ago, when Iran's Islamic revolution first bloomed. Back then, Iranians around the world pooled their energy and money to help oust Iran's monarch, the shah. This time, the global community is backing a similar effort, using new tools including Facebook and Twitter. YouTube videos providing step-by-step instructions for staging civil disobedience rack up thousands of views.
But now, unlike 30 years ago, Iran's leadership is striking back across national borders.
Dozens of individuals in the U.S. and Europe who criticized Iran on Facebook or Twitter said their relatives back in Iran were questioned or temporarily detained because of their postings. About three dozen individuals interviewed said that, when traveling this summer back to Iran, they were questioned about whether they hold a foreign passport, whether they possess Facebook accounts and why they were visiting Iran. The questioning, they said, took place at passport control upon their arrival at Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport.
Five interviewees who traveled to Iran in recent months said they were forced by police at Tehran's airport to log in to their Facebook accounts. Several reported having their passports confiscated because of harsh criticism they had posted online about the way the Iranian government had handled its controversial elections earlier this year.
Before this past summer, "If anyone asked me, 'Does the government threaten Iranians abroad or their families at home,' I would say, 'Not at all,'" says Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent lawyer inside Iran. "But now the cases are too many to count. Every day I get phone calls and visits from people who are being harassed and threatened" because of relatives' activities abroad.
More on Iran
Fighting a Regime He Helped Create
WSJ.com/Mideast: News, video, graphics
.In November, the deputy commander of Iran's armed forces, Gen. Massoud Jazayeri, wrote an editorial in the conservative newspaper Kayhan that "protesters inside and outside Iran have been identified and will be dealt with at the right time."
In Germany, a national intelligence report indicates that Iranian intelligence operatives are monitoring about 900 critics of the Iranian regime within Germany. One German intelligence official, Manfred Murch, said last month that his staff has identified "Iranian intelligence agents" trying to intimidate protesters in Germany by videotaping them. A German foreign-ministry official said Germany rejected requests from Iran to restrict anti-Iranian protests there.
Mohammad Reza Bak Sahraei, a diplomat at Iran's mission to the United Nations in New York, didn't respond to written questions about Iran's intelligence activities abroad. "The allegation that the Islamic Republic of Iran has created limitations and problems for Iranians who are visiting Iran from abroad is false," Mr. Sahraei said.
In recent months, he said, "Many Iranians have returned to Iran and visited their family members. Until now we have no reports of any limitations being imposed on them. Representatives of Iran abroad are doing their utmost to facilitate traveling for Iranians to Iran."
The crisis in Iran started with June's controversial re-election of Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Claims of vote fraud spawned massive street protests, and a bloody crackdown.
The post-election violence has turned Iran's relationship with overseas Iranians on its head. Previously, Iran generally enjoyed good relations with its diaspora. Most opposition movements were on the fringe -- for instance, royalists calling for the shah's return. But the violent suppression of street protests "showed people the true nature of Iran's regime," says Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran analyst for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
There are approximately four million Iranians abroad. The U.S. is home to the largest number, totaling at least several hundred thousand. They rank among the nation's best educated and most affluent immigrant groups.
At first, many protesters inside Iran and abroad simply wanted a vote recount. But after the violence, they began calling for a complete overhaul of Iran's Islamic system, up to and including change that would remove Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei from power. Around the world, Iranians took to the streets to march in protest against the events in Iran.
Iranian police in June chase protesters after the controversial election.
.An Iranian engineer in his 30s who lives in a German-speaking area of Europe, and who attended protests there this year, described having his passport, cellphone and laptop confiscated when he later traveled to Tehran. He said he was called in for questioning several times, blindfolded, kicked and physically abused, and asked to hand over his email and Facebook passwords.
Interrogators showed him images of himself participating in protests in Europe, he said, and pressed him to identify other people in the images.
"I was very scared. My knees were trembling the whole time and I kept thinking, 'How did this happen to me?'" he said recently. "I only went to a few demonstrations, and I don't even live in Iran."
He said he was told he was guilty of charges including attending antiregime protests abroad, participating in online activities on Facebook and Twitter that harmed Iran's national security and leaving comments on opposition Web sites. He said he was given a choice: Face trial in Iran, or sign a document promising to act as an informant in Europe.
He says he signed the paper, took his passport and left Iran after a month. He says he has received follow-up emails and phone calls but hasn't responded to them.
Other Iranians abroad report receiving email threats tied to their online activities. In Los Angeles in June, an Iranian-American graduate student named Hamid said he received an email that read in part: "Stop spreading lies about Iran on Facebook." He said he received it after he changed his Facebook profile picture to a "V" symbol, for victory, dripping with blood to protest the Iran violence, along with a message about wanting to travel to Iran to support the opposition.
The email, written in Farsi, read in part, "We know your home address in Los Angeles. Watch out, we will come after you," according to Hamid.
There is no way to identify the email's anonymous sender, who signed it "Spider." Other Iranians interviewed in the U.S. and Europe reported receiving similar emails in recent months. Some emails were signed "Spider," they said, while others were signed "Revolutionary Hossein," a possible reference to one of the most revered saints in Shiite Islam.
No matter how widespread, the worries are sowing panic in the overseas community. Concerns about the safety of friends and family are so prevalent among younger Iranians that a number have changed their surnames on Facebook to "Irani" (which means simply "from Iran") to be harder to single out.
Omid Habibinia, a dissident Iranian who left Iran seven years ago for Europe, says he has always been harassed, but the pressure has grown this year. He claims Iranian security services early this year created a fake Facebook account for him and tried to "friend" people on his behalf and ask them questions. Other Iranian dissidents, along with some journalists, described similar experiences.
Officials at Facebook said the company often gets reports of fake profiles and will remove them after a review. A spokeswoman declined to comment on specific profiles that have been removed, including the one Mr. Habibinia described. She said deleted profiles no longer reside on Facebook's servers, making it impossible to trace their origins. She said she wasn't aware of complaints of harassment on Facebook at the hands of Iranian security services.
One 28-year-old physician who lives in Dubai said that in July he was asked to log on to his Facebook account by a security guard upon arrival in Tehran's airport. At first, he says, he lied and said he didn't have one. So the guard took him to a small room with a laptop and did a Google search for his name. His Facebook account turned up, he says, and his passport was confiscated.
After a month and several rounds of interrogations, he says, he was allowed to exit the country.
During Iran's historic 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranians abroad played an instrumental role in transforming the movement from a fringe idea led by a frail cleric, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, into a global force that eventually toppled the monarchy of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. Iranians abroad flocked to Mr. Khomeini's side, lending his movement language skills, money and, ultimately, global legitimacy.
In the current crisis, Iran is eager to prevent a similar scenario.
To cut communication between Iranians inside and outside the country, Iran slowed Internet speeds so that accessing an online email account could take close to a half-hour. It blocked access to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. For a while, an automated message warned people making international phone calls not to give information to outsiders.
Tracking Internet crimes -- from political dissent to pornography -- has long been a priority of the regime. Iran's local media openly report on Internet-monitoring centers inside the country's judiciary and armed forces that are staffed with English-speaking, tech-savvy young people.
Late last month, at a military parade in Tehran, intelligence minister Heydar Moslehi announced the training of "senior Internet lieutenants" to confront Iran's "virtual enemies online." This month Iran announced a 12-member unit within the armed forces called the Internet Crime Unit to track individuals "spreading lies and insults" about the regime.
Iran's elite security force, the Revolutionary Guard Corps, along with the intelligence ministry each have their own, separate Internet-monitoring units that track prominent political figures and activists, according to dissidents including Mohsen Sazegara, one of the original founders of the Revolutionary Guard who is now in exile in the U.S. After the June election crisis, these Internet-monitoring units expanded their work to include the online activity of Iranians abroad, these people say.
In the U.S., Koosha, the young engineering student whose father was briefly arrested in Tehran, says he was never politically active before. But this past summer, he said, he watched the turmoil in Iran and "I couldn't just sit and do nothing, I felt too guilty." He watched "people my age getting beaten and killed in the streets for expressing their opinion," he said. "The least I could do was to show my solidarity."
That's when he took steps that attracted the unwelcome attention. He attended a few rallies organized by opposition supporters near where he lives in the U.S. And then, when a prominent human-rights lawyer was jailed in Iran, Koosha created an online petition.
After his father was detained, Koosha took down his petition. "I was terrified and furious," he said. And he doesn't talk politics anymore when he calls his parents in Tehran.
But he's still finding ways to express his views. In September, he biked from Toronto to New York with his brother as part of the group Bicycling for Human Rights in Iran. "They want to control even Iranians who don't live under their rule," he says.
—Jeanne Whalen in London, David Crawford in Berlin and Christopher Rhoads in New York contributed to this article.
Write to Farnaz Fassihi at email@example.com