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28401  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The English Language on: February 16, 2007, 06:30:57 PM
Time to Put English First
by Newt Gingrich

Posted: 02/12/2007
One of the most frequent complaints I hear when I'm out traveling and speaking to groups is the lack of importance given to English as the language of success in the United States today. Whether it's the government's printing election ballots in other languages or bilingual education, Americans are concerned about the future of English as a unifying bond in our country.

Of course, don't expect to hear a lot of discussion of this topic in Washington. When was the last time you heard a politician talking about the fact that the Rasmussen poll reported that support for English as the official language was 85 percent? Or that the Zogby poll had it at 84 percent? With overwhelming public support like this, you would expect that promotion of English to be on the agenda of every elected official. But it's not. Instead, talking about English as a unifying bond -- and about learning English as the essential precondition for success in America -- is taboo. Why? Because the left labels anyone who talks about the importance of learning English as bigoted against immigrants.

Not 'English Only.' English First.

When the left and the elite media are done with it, any expression of support for emphasizing the importance of English is turned into a lack of support for welcoming new Americans. Those who support "English first" -- that is, those who believe that English should be the language of government, but other languages are perfectly fine in communities and commerce -- are portrayed routinely as supporters of "English only" -- that is, advocates of outlawing all languages other than English.

But historically, nothing could be further from the truth. English is not and never has been the only language in America. My wife's grandmother came to the United States as a young woman speaking only Polish. She learned English quickly, but her children grew up speaking both Polish and English.

For much of our history, the U.S. has absorbed waves of immigrants by helping newcomers assimilate into our culture. After all, there's no such thing as a genetic U.S. citizen. To become an American means becoming an American in values, culture and historic understanding.

Our one nation under God grows and prospers by embracing and welcoming the newly arrived and helping them to adjust properly.

Most Americans support continuing this welcoming tradition. But to do so successfully, we have to ensure that English remains our language of government and public discourse. In fact, to be pro-English and pro-assimilation into American culture is to be pro-legal immigration. If we fail to properly assimilate newcomers into the United States, the American people won't long support continuing immigration.

Australia Switches From Multiculturalism to Citizenship

You don't have to look far to see other countries who have experimented with failing to assimilate their immigrants and lived to regret it.

The Canadian government is currently taking another look at its policy of allowing dual citizenship for immigrants.

In Australia, they recently renamed their Ministry for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs to the Ministry for Immigration and Citizenship. What's in a name change? Plenty. The change marks a shift by the Australians from a policy of government enforced multiculturalism -- encouraging immigrants to cluster in the same communities and schools and retain the culture of their old countries -- to a policy of assimilation. The reason for the change wasn't politics, it was profoundly practical. Their policy of multiculturalism had led to the creation of a closed and violent ghetto of Lebanese Muslims.

Instead of making Australia a more culturally rich and vibrant place, failing to assimilate new immigrants had the opposite effect and made the country a more violent place. Congratulations to the Howard government for having the courage to believe in their Australian cultural values and national identity.

English is the Language of American Success and Cultural Identity

We need a similar kind of courage here in America.

English is the language of American success and provides the basis for American cultural unity.

As a part of any comprehensive immigration reform, we should renew our commitment to our cultural values by teaching legal immigrants to speak and read the English language, educating them about U.S. citizenship based upon U.S. history and giving them an understanding of the Founding Fathers and the core values of American civilization. We should continue to encourage those who want to become U.S. citizens, but it is important that we grant citizenship to only those individuals who also want to embrace and assimilate into the culture of the United States.

Action Agenda to Promote the English Language

What can we do to make English the language of government and civic discourse? Three action items top the list:

President Bush should end multilingualism in federal documents. The requirement that federal documents be printed in different languages was created by executive order. President Bush should repeal this executive order.

Make English the language of U.S. citizenship. Return to English language ballots, to a focus on English language literacy as a prerequisite of citizenship, and to an insistence that U.S. dual citizens vote only in the United States and give up voting in their birth nations. These were principles widely understood and accepted for most of American history, and they enabled us to absorb millions of immigrants and assimilate them and their children into an American civilization.

Replace bilingual education with intensive English instruction. We should have a National Program for Intensive English Instruction that would provide highly intensive English and U.S. history and civics training for new immigrants so that they can have the practical skills to become successful U.S. citizens.
It's the Right Thing to Do.

We can be dramatically more successful in helping those who want to embrace American values and culture, and become citizens, to assimilate far more effectively. As we work to reform our immigration policies, especially citizenship reform measures, we must never lose sight of the self-evident truths affirmed at our founding. That we are all created equal -- citizen and non-citizen alike -- because we recognize that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

If we are to live out these truths, then we must recognize that every person has an inherent human dignity that must be respected. And that these truths morally bind us to create a workable immigration solution -- founded upon English as the official language of government and patriotic integration as the fundamental model of citizenship for new Americans.

Your friend,

Newt Gingrich
28402  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: February 16, 2007, 05:56:07 PM
Woof Dean:

In DBMA we take from Bando "The Three Hs: Hurting, Healing, Harmonizing".   Thank you for for sharing with us your knowledge of healing.  Scratch that itch to your heart's content.


28403  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: February 16, 2007, 01:38:15 PM
Mexico: The Looming Fight for Control of Matamoros?
Hundreds of Mexican soldiers briefly patrolled the streets of Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas state, Feb. 15 as part of the federal government's response to the seizure on the U.S.-Mexican border of a large weapons shipment that passed through the capital. The contents of the cache suggest an effort is under way to equip or reinforce a heavily armed unit of enforcers for one of Mexico's two main drug cartels. The cartels, in other words, appear to be gearing up to fight for ultimate control of Matamoros.

The Mexican attorney general's office announced Feb. 11 that a tractor-trailer containing weapons and an armored pickup was seized by the Mexican army in Matamoros, just south of the U.S. border at Brownsville, Texas. Among the weapons seized were 18 M-16 assault rifles, including at least one equipped with an M-203 40mm grenade launcher, and several M-4 carbines. Also recovered were 17 handguns of various calibers, more than 200 magazines for different weapons, more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, assault vests and other military accessories. A Nissan Titan pickup truck outfitted with armor and bullet-proof glass also was inside the trailer.

The semi, which was registered in the United States, entered Matamoros from the south after having passed through both Ciudad Victoria and Valle Hermoso. It is unclear where the shipment originated, though it could have come from Central America, or even the United States along a circuitous route designed to avoid police roadblocks and other anti-smuggling measures. Putting soldiers on the streets of Ciudad Victoria, even for a few hours, might have been President Felipe Calderon's way of telling the cartels that authorities know what is going on there.

Matamoros, however, is where the real battle appears to be gearing up. Matamoros is in territory controlled by the Gulf cartel, the main rival of the powerful Sinaloa federation of cartels -- and it is possible the Gulf cartel's enforcers were attempting to prepare for an expected fight with the Sinaloa federation over control of the city's drug-smuggling operations.

One indication of this is the type of weapons and equipment seized. The identical assault vests, load-bearing equipment and other accessories, along with the standardized nature of the rifles -- exclusively variants of the M-16 -- indicate the shipment probably was meant to equip or reinforce a single heavily armed unit rather than an unorganized gang. Therefore, the Zetas -- former Mexican elite soldiers who work for the Gulf cartel as enforcers -- stand out as the mostly likely intended recipient of these weapons. Given their military background, the Zetas would want to have a high degree of standardization in the weapons and equipment they use, and they also would be more comfortable with M-16s, which are standard issue in the Mexican army.

Matamoros is a vital transshipment point, or "plaza," for the movement of drugs and other contraband into the United States from Mexico. From border towns like Matamoros that sit astride highways, high-ranking cartel members known as gatekeepers control the traffic of contraband across the border, collect payments from smugglers and oversee money-laundering operations for the cartels.

Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas, who had run his operation from a Mexican prison since his 2003 arrest, was extradited to the United States in January, which could hinder his efforts to maintain control of the Matamoros region. The Sinaloa federation, then, might have decided to take advantage of the disruption in the Gulf cartel's command structure to make a play for the plaza at Matamoros.

Although Matamoros has not seen much cartel-related violence recently, that could change as the Zetas move to repel attempts by the Sinaloa federation to assert its influence in the city.
28404  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: February 16, 2007, 01:37:33 PM
Mexico: The Looming Fight for Control of Matamoros?
Hundreds of Mexican soldiers briefly patrolled the streets of Ciudad Victoria, the capital of Tamaulipas state, Feb. 15 as part of the federal government's response to the seizure on the U.S.-Mexican border of a large weapons shipment that passed through the capital. The contents of the cache suggest an effort is under way to equip or reinforce a heavily armed unit of enforcers for one of Mexico's two main drug cartels. The cartels, in other words, appear to be gearing up to fight for ultimate control of Matamoros.

The Mexican attorney general's office announced Feb. 11 that a tractor-trailer containing weapons and an armored pickup was seized by the Mexican army in Matamoros, just south of the U.S. border at Brownsville, Texas. Among the weapons seized were 18 M-16 assault rifles, including at least one equipped with an M-203 40mm grenade launcher, and several M-4 carbines. Also recovered were 17 handguns of various calibers, more than 200 magazines for different weapons, more than 8,000 rounds of ammunition, assault vests and other military accessories. A Nissan Titan pickup truck outfitted with armor and bullet-proof glass also was inside the trailer.

The semi, which was registered in the United States, entered Matamoros from the south after having passed through both Ciudad Victoria and Valle Hermoso. It is unclear where the shipment originated, though it could have come from Central America, or even the United States along a circuitous route designed to avoid police roadblocks and other anti-smuggling measures. Putting soldiers on the streets of Ciudad Victoria, even for a few hours, might have been President Felipe Calderon's way of telling the cartels that authorities know what is going on there.

Matamoros, however, is where the real battle appears to be gearing up. Matamoros is in territory controlled by the Gulf cartel, the main rival of the powerful Sinaloa federation of cartels -- and it is possible the Gulf cartel's enforcers were attempting to prepare for an expected fight with the Sinaloa federation over control of the city's drug-smuggling operations.

One indication of this is the type of weapons and equipment seized. The identical assault vests, load-bearing equipment and other accessories, along with the standardized nature of the rifles -- exclusively variants of the M-16 -- indicate the shipment probably was meant to equip or reinforce a single heavily armed unit rather than an unorganized gang. Therefore, the Zetas -- former Mexican elite soldiers who work for the Gulf cartel as enforcers -- stand out as the mostly likely intended recipient of these weapons. Given their military background, the Zetas would want to have a high degree of standardization in the weapons and equipment they use, and they also would be more comfortable with M-16s, which are standard issue in the Mexican army.

Matamoros is a vital transshipment point, or "plaza," for the movement of drugs and other contraband into the United States from Mexico. From border towns like Matamoros that sit astride highways, high-ranking cartel members known as gatekeepers control the traffic of contraband across the border, collect payments from smugglers and oversee money-laundering operations for the cartels.

Gulf cartel leader Osiel Cardenas, who had run his operation from a Mexican prison since his 2003 arrest, was extradited to the United States in January, which could hinder his efforts to maintain control of the Matamoros region. The Sinaloa federation, then, might have decided to take advantage of the disruption in the Gulf cartel's command structure to make a play for the plaza at Matamoros.

Although Matamoros has not seen much cartel-related violence recently, that could change as the Zetas move to repel attempts by the Sinaloa federation to assert its influence in the city.
28405  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The War on Drugs on: February 16, 2007, 12:27:51 PM
It always worries me when you and I agree  grin

I have no problem with reasonable regulation, indeed I would even consider not extending the legal protection of the corporate form to those who engage in commerce in these items-- but the larger point about live and let live needs to be the guiding principle.
28406  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Inger part two on: February 16, 2007, 12:25:05 PM


(intraday audio-email) remarks were inclined to anticipate revival efforts in-front and after Chairman Bernanke's testimony, but are concerned about this fling that's inclined to reverse virtually anytime. That the market hasn't been 'parabolic' like in 1999-2000 is definitely helpful; but since we're not looking for a secular peak, that's not the structure we're anticipating anyway. Hence; a milder sloping rally can still shift into (described mode). That certain foreign markets dipped -from parabolic- might be a concern transmitted across the sea. That's entirely ignored by panting optimists at current extended levels. Guideline short efforts weren't expected to work until a post-Fedhead time. Our view holds rallies occur, but unsustainable (per
Bits & Bytes . . .

provide investors ideas in a few stocks, often special-situations, but also covers an assortment of technology issues (needed for assessment of general factors in tech overall, or as compelling developments call for) that are key movers in the NDX, SOX or S&P, plus ideas thinks might merit further reflection.
Apple (AAPL); Level 3 (LVLT); Intel (INTC); Texas Instruments (TXN), Microsoft (MSFT); Motorola (MOT); QPC Lasers (QPCI); Whole Foods (WFMI); LightPath (LPTH); Intel (INTC); PURE Bioscience (PURE); InkSure (INKS); Ionatron (IOTN); and Northrop (NOC); a small group commented upon via accompanying audio.

We can't answer detailed questions for you (how could we; companies release what they will when they do; ditto for the Departments of Defense or Homeland Security); but these are topics previously explored as part of our assessment of advanced tech stocks; notably for key reasons: we view Directed Energy Weapons and all related or sector products, of any 'pure play' or high-power solid-state laser-related companies, as new potentially important 'disruptive technologies' to benefit the U.S. defense; they're important as anything else able to shift the world into 21st Century technology.

If you do quote excerpts of our remarks anywhere on the internet, please respect our work; as we request mentioning it came from . At the same time, please realize sending or posting our entire Daily to another investor isn't fair to us or members, unless done rarely only, so as to help enlighten an investor as to our work (that courtesy graciously appreciated). No web site is permitted to repost any Daily Briefing in it's entirety, in any routine way. A financial web site may request to receive a once-weekly partial excerpt of a Daily; frequently available on most Wednesdays.

Members please note:

we have no association with publicly traded firms (never have had; never will) other than as shareholders while trading from time-to-time if deemed necessary for personal reasons; especially once initial targets are reached. We may be right or wrong on a stock, but are not financial PR or IR, and have never, and will never, be compensated by a company, or their representatives, directly or indirectly, for coverage. Our opinions may be valid or invalid, but reflect solely our own views.
Comments are interpretative speculative postulations, provided 'as is with all faults', and all risks, with no assurance about future performance of anything (markets or for stocks) in any way whatsoever. Personal necessity, irrespective of opinion on stocks, may periodically require buys or sells deemed appropriate or required, without notice.

In summary . .

events continue reminding us of risks Allied fighting forces face, given continued attacks on free peoples, by elements including organized terrorist forces in various countries. A world addressing terror threats continues, as domestic issues absorb us less as we focus on the Middle East crisis and World War III avoidance.
Though few generally concurred for three years, our consistent view has been slow but persistent American growth isn't negative, allowing the protracted gradual growth without ancillary significantly high interest rate pressures. There's no truly-restrictive monetary policy; nor is there likely to be one, irrespective of (pressures as reviewed). That is a potential feature developing ahead, maybe late 2007-2009, barring disaster.

McClellan Oscillator

finds NYSE 'Mac' shuffling with intervening rebounds recently at +40 for the NYSE; and +7 on the NASDAQ, with complacency pervading ideas of sustainable extensions. It's also the case markets ignored 'negative divergences' in big-caps once again; preparatory to this key (and probably failing) upside flailing run.
It isn't fair to suggest we dispute bullish fundamentals; in fact we argued this thrust of a friendly monetary policy by the Fed when few others did during the crucial 2001-'02 timeframe. It hasn't changed; but an excess of those joining the chorus of celebrants 'now realizing' this five-year-plus old fiscal philosophy has developed, is what needs correcting. So that's the point here; we're not secular bearish; just desire a correction.

Issues continue including oil, terror; the whole Middle East, Korea, and economics. As assessed for a couple weeks, extended rebounds were showing just exhaustion syndromes , and now without interpretation or forecast, increasingly negative action.

Overall continue to think major Senior Indexes ideally reverse anytime; considerably so maybe; especially if we rebound only to reverse in the wake of Fed 'Hill' testimony. Wednesday bounced immediately because the Chairman's testimony allowed it to by validating the 'Goldilocks' prospects (in theory); but if the argument holds or not, this activity may merely set-the-stage for renewed downside (as outlines). Again it is not that we disagree about the longer-term (we concur); it's the shorter-run that is so extended that historically not having correction is inherently dangerous. It's preferable that the adjustment occur sooner rather than later, for a bullish longer-term healthy condition to prevail. All the 'terrific' discussion about Fed policy or inflationary moderations are irrelevant if the international situation collapses, or the market does; for which there is precedent, irrespective of the prevalence of an optimistic unanimity. As a matter of historical note it's only when everyone's 'already in', because optimism reigns supreme, that matters can be 'rocked' by events other than a market valentine.

Enjoy the evening,
28407  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: February 16, 2007, 12:24:10 PM
In a nearby thread I posted yesterday Col. Ralph Peters' piece about Mookie Sadr's apparent flight to Iran to avoid our surge in Baghdad.  The following piece from an investment letter (which I post in its entirety so as to maintain context) has a very different interpretation and one well worth considering IMHO.


Gene Inger's Daily Briefing. . . . for Thursday, February 15, 2007:

Good weekend!

The market's 'Valentine' . . .

based on the Fed Chairman's testimony was no huge surprise, and simply allowed robust relief rallying based on the continued 'perception' of moderating growth amidst mild inflationary pressures, as now being Fed-verified. It was probably assisted by the inability of the 'Valentine's Day' massacre at Chrysler to ruffle feathers much; though there are concerns clearly other than sweetheart issues.
In this regard that combination of factors contributing to rally extensions (Oil inventory reports didn't hurt..more). Nobody reported Switzerland's proposals to Iran essentially resulting in 'nuclear control' that could foster optimism or a sense of relief. However, it was reported that the Shiite leader (Sadr) had departed for Teheran, presumably fear of a JDAM (big precision bomb) falling on his head being a part of that determination.

We suspect there's more to it. While we can't verify that the extreme Shiite zealots of his ilk are fleeing in fear of U.S. retribution (as warranted as that surely is), neither do we dismiss another possibility; that the Western media hasn't considered. What's that one asks? Well, how about extremists being in Iran to assist coordination with Tehran as to how they might expand their mischief in Iraq or alternatively (even concurrently) address any American efforts to interdict their attempts to broaden regional influence.

And does the recent enemy effectiveness against our helicopters mitigate air-cover to our Forces, in a similarity to what happened to Russia against the Taliban after they'd acquired the capability to either knock-down choppers or compel evasive maneuvers. Yes, we say we aren't planning to attack Iran. But what if Iran continues attacking us?

Let's at least explore what might occur should push-come-to-shove, instead of simply accepting the idea of a U.S. disengagement or conversely engagement to protect the region (which the Battle Groups and Patriot Missile battery dispositions suggest likely as this goes forward). Let's presuppose that the road to conflict is underway, though I am not suggesting it's unavoidable. If it goes thusly (and keep in mind though maybe the media highlights General Pace saying that the evidence of Iranian weapons may be mostly circumstantial, that's not to say they're not involved or this won't escalate), it might be of interest to speculate how such a conflict could actually ramp-into-action, and what the implications are for commodities; not least in Oil, and thus to financials.

Yesterday a story surfaced about 'Austrian' sniper rifles in the hands of 'insurgents' at the margin, or in the hands of Iranian agents at the maximum, taking-out Americans, and at considerable distance. If you saw 'Future Weapons' on the Discovery Channel a few days ago, you likely saw this weapon, which is more accurate than the Barrett semi-automatic weapon our forces use, and which was also displayed on that show's comparison. Because the accuracy is unbelievable up to a half-mile distant (think as to how far that is for a sniper's round), the U.S. and UK had protested Vienna's sale a couple years back to Iran for 'policing'. Clearly I see the evidence of where they are. I also find it unconscionable to imagine that the Pentagon will sit-back and sustain this.

Assume America is heading toward war with Iran, inadvertent or otherwise. A picture of how the conflict might emerge, is becoming clearer. In all-out war, basic American military tactics will be air attacks, naval blockades, offshore bombardments, and the destruction of oil and power infrastructure, plus Iran's Persian Gulf naval presence.

Iran presumably will respond with deployment of ground forces on its borders, attacks more likely by their proxy-armies in Iraq against American troops inside Iraq, and also the likely activation of hundreds of trained, well-armed, dormant terror cells peppered from one end of the Persian Gulf to the other; plus possibly proxies in Lebanon etc.

America's visible response would derive from the two Naval carrier groups deployed in the Persian Gulf, supplemented by USAF fighters and bombers from neighboring quasi allies (but infiltrated heavily by Shiites and Islamist sympathizers), like Kuwait, Oman, Qatar -where U.S. Central Command bases operations for that region- plus of course the United Arab Emirates, and possibly Saudi Arabia and Egypt, should all the stops be pulled-out, and the tentative efforts of Sunni terrorists to bring a harmonious theme to both Sunni and Shiite 'jihad' efforts against the West, actually not succeed.

Bases in Europe possibly wouldn't be utilized, excepting Great Britain probably, if it's determined that B2 bombers need to be utilized operating out of bases there (we're in a sense nearly at a point where concerns about 'domestic' Islamic terror must take at best a secondary concern in England, even if there's a likelihood of renewed enemy terror actions in England, which they might anyway; and which this would tend to sort of smoke 'em out, though it will be controversial or surely dangerous). There's no way (in our thinking) to at this point mollify or pacify Islamic threats in England (or France) particularly, short of just doing what's in the 'real' national interests of these societies, come what may; as well as dealing with whatever comes (I suspect if unassimilated groups such as the Moslems in Europe fail to put their adopted homes ahead of old-country views of the world that theoretically they wanted to get away from when they moved to new residence, Europeans will stop putting up with 'victimization' nonsense, and get on with their lives, even if it means upsetting 'political correctness' or certainly perpetrator's lives; something European tradition experienced before if challenged). It thus strikes us that there won't be a risk of 'Eurabia' because Europe will reverse this.

As to an American land invasion of Iran; nonsense. It's out of the question, given Iran has a 1 million-strong army, neighbors won't allow it, and the lack of American troops to carry it out is obvious to everyone. That's dangerous however, because 'perception of impotency' to engage the Iranians may compel things going beyond 'expectations'. To wit; the Iranians could get quite cocky about their ability, thus underestimating us.

Also generally unreported, there have been some increases in opposition to fanatical 'mullah governance' in Tehran. Just today a number of 'Revolutionary Guard' extreme shock troops were killed or injured in an attack on a bus carrying them inside Iran. It's a 'sign of the times', in that at least some younger (that's key) Iranians aren't steeped, to the extent their elders think, in the ways of 'revolution', and/or admire al Qaeda, or even the West, to which they'd like to see a great Persian people re-embrace in time.

We doubt that the CIA is behind these efforts inside Iran. But we see this as welcome and a reason to be very careful how we tread, lest we (in typical Washington fashion) disrupt that which may undermine the enemy without our having to do Herculean type tasks. We suspect that the radical Shiite Sadr is actually in Iran to help Iran figure-out how to suppress and discipline their own 'sects' and population, plus plot adventurism against the forces of stability in Iraq. They may in fact be coordinating an effort not so much to 'ensure his safety' as reported in the news here, but to deny safety to civilian groups and the U.S. military in Iraq. In essence Sadr is the Quisling of this era, so if it is presumed that he is not there simply 'fleeing' (U.S. media oversimplification) then it is conceivable that he's there to help the demagogues plot their takeover of Baghdad.

Should it be shown Iran is plotting a takeover of Iraq (reserved for we could find a point where U.S. Special Operations may be pushed into Iran to carry out attacks on the country's prized nuclear research facilities or designated 'hot' or Quds (shock troop) targets. The objective: dismantling mullah command and control of Iran.

We dispute the conventional notion that Teheran's most lethal weapon is manpower, alone. We dispute the simplicity of the argument that destruction of their Air Force or Navy, accomplished in a day or two, would negate the risk from their terrorist forces, very much as they do threaten, numerous parts of the world. But right there, in their neighborhood, we believe the evidentiary use of sophisticated sniper rifles and AEP's (that's my acronym; Advanced Explosive Devices, which are the infrared-triggered as well as totally devastating 'shape charges', so I'm not going to minimize these, calling them simply IED's, because they're not improvised, but advanced munitions) provide ample evidence of surreptitious involvement of the Iranians with the terrorists, and we again believe all these discussions minimizing their capabilities underestimate enemy capabilities, just as was done in the past, and just as was/is done in the Lebanon too.

These jihadist and Shiite guys are professional killers, and they are being supported by a terrorist state: Iran. No ifs ands or doubts here. This is not political correctness; it is simply realistic political assessment. We aren't championing war; but war is coming to us; we have a choice: retreat or respond. Simply: face the music, as it is facing us. While there's valid argument as to whether or not the United States should be or not be involved between roving marauding or dangerous groups of Arabs and Persians, there is no underestimating the dangers as inherent in this situation. We even think that the (wishful thinking whether he's in Iran or still in Iraq) basic idea of Sadr fleeing to Iran misses the point: we believe he's working with the Iranian fanatics, not simply seeking refuge. There's a great difference; asylum versus conspiracy for making war. Or worse, for planning overthrowing the Baghdad regime. Again it's all a reflection of 'desire' (or naiveté) that reports tend to oversimplify all of this. hence believes that facing the reality of this before it faces us in devastating ways is the key.

From its army alone, we should point out that Iran can marshal oh, a several hundred thousand troop force along its border with Iraq and Afghanistan to pressure American forces in those countries, and it can call on Syria to inflame its border region with Iraq as well. Or pretend that attacks on the IRG today was not from al Qaeda.. (reserved).

Iraqi Shiite militias (partial remarks reserved for members). Together, these radicals command some 80,000 to 100,000 men; armed, funded, trained, and possibly planning coordination by Iran right now, via the personage of Sadr's 'visit' to Iran for the purpose of fomenting war, not fleeing. Iran's air defense is modernized; thanks to Russia. Should it prove adequate, it risks downing American pilots, sapping morale and raising more political questions here. Iranian dogma dictates that war will translate into regional upheaval; but it may not if it spooks Sunni's into realizing their perceived enemy (even al Qaeda's) isn't what they thought (the U.S.), but their closer neighbor; Iran. It may actually be demonstrated if Iran targets U.S. Central Command in Qatar and the U.S. Navy's 6th Fleet in Bahrain, which has a majority who are Shiite so possibly pro-Iranian. Or in Lebanon, pro-Iranian Hezbollah might fire-up the place, as conceivably would Hamas in Gaza. Only myopic views see these not intertwined.

One way or another, such a war will involve oil production and prices, and not drop oil into the 20's or 30's that so many bulls are expecting to embolden the stock market in the near-term (that's increasingly absurd, even without such a dangerous conflict; just because the 'war threat matrix' quotient keeps prices from dropping like that). A U.S. strategy will need to maximize Iranian pain without setting world oil prices ablaze with fear of supply disruptions. To do this, possibly as a 'blockade' or threat prior to attack, U.S. assaults must freeze Iran's offshore oil platforms while preventing Iran's shutting down everyone else by blocking the Straits of Hormuz to oil export shipping. Perilous.

If other oil producers, especially Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, maintain production and/or exports up, any rise in prices can be contained below a tolerable $85 a barrel in such a scenario. Now we're not advocating such a scenario; but with today's stock market, and the Goldilocks scenario, being bantered about as if there is no alternative to glee (in wartime?), it seems logical to contemplate the other side of the coin just in case.

Daily action . . .

is viewed by certain pundits as being the best of times to now make money; actually the move is the reward for those who already owned. One most risky approach might be the funds that invest in (reserved specifics) that have run-up most lately, while we do not dispute anything Chairman Bernanke said, absent disruptions.
For now, upside momentum continues, and generally sidestepped worrying about a couple other issues that surfaced during the day publicly, but weren't focused on (the Austrian arms showing up in the hands of those shooting at our boys is an example).

Increduously nobody is (yet) focusing on war or Trade Gap issues. Neither are they yet noticing how it's increasingly 'testy' in a military environment (maybe they notice, but they don't think it has meaning for stocks), or are they contemplating implications of what may be a frustration by (of all people) the terrorists and insurgents perceived leading the Jihad adventures, versus Tehran-backed Shiites, who have used certain weakness among the Sunnis to sow discord, and also to usurp leadership roles. This of course relates less to wanting expanded restored Islamic caliphates, we think, but more towards a quest to assert non-Arab-led Persian hegemony in the region. We'll offer the argument that risk is not low, but extremely high, and that this is not a lower risk investment environment because the market went up so much. Au contraire; it's higher and that increases the threat scenario; whether credit default concerns, war(s) or other areas. If the world doesn't fall apart, then the correction (nearly inevitable) is going to be constructive; if the world does fall apart; well then dangers are (reserved).

28408  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Internet and related technology on: February 16, 2007, 12:23:13 PM
Broadband Breakout
February 16, 2007; Page A14
"I love the free market, but the fact is more concentration means less competition, and these markets are less free than they should be. And this Commission is about regulation -- regulators. I always worry a little when I hear regulators shy away from regulation talk."

-- Senator Byron Dorgan (D., North Dakota) addressing members
of the Federal Communications Commission at a recent hearing.

If you're wondering where the new Democratic majority in Congress is inclined to steer telecom policy, look no further than Mr. Dorgan's comment above. Note how he pays lip service to free markets while ultimately favoring more regulation for its own sake.

But more regulation is the last thing today's telecom industry needs, at least if empirical evidence is any indication. As FCC Chairman Kevin Martin reported at a Senate hearing earlier this month, the industry is now taking risks in a way it hasn't since the tech bubble burst six years ago.

"In 2006, the S&P 500 telecommunications sector was the strongest performing sector, up 32% over the previous year," said Mr. Martin. "Markets and companies are investing again, job creation in the industry is high, and in almost all cases, vigorous competition -- resulting from free-market deregulatory policies -- has provided the consumer with more, better and cheaper services to choose from."

Much of this growth has been fueled by increased broadband deployment, which makes high-speed Internet services possible. The latest government data show that broadband connections increased by 26% in the first six months of 2006 and by 52% for the full year ending in June 2006.

Also noteworthy, notes telecom analyst Scott Cleland of the Precursor Group, is that of the 11 million broadband additions in the first half of last year, 15% were cable modems, 23% were digital-subscriber lines (DSL) and 58% were of the wireless variety. Between June 2005 and June 2006, wireless broadband subscriptions grew to 11 million from 380,000.

This gives the lie to claims that some sort of cable/DSL duopoly has hampered competition among broadband providers and limited consumer options. That's the charge of those who want "network neutrality" rules that would allow the government to dictate what companies like Verizon and AT&T can charge users of their networks. But the reality is that the telecom industry has taken advantage of this deregulatory environment to provide consumers with more choices at lower prices. Verizon's capital investments since 2000 exceed $100 billion, and such competitors as Cingular, T-Mobile and Sprint are following suit. So are the cable companies.

It's also worth noting that the deregulatory telecom policies pushed by Mr. Martin and his immediate predecessor, Michael Powell, have accompanied a wave of mergers -- SBC/AT&T, Sprint/Nextel, Verizon/MCI, AT&T/BellSouth. Most of these marriages were opposed by consumer groups and other fans of regulation on the grounds that they would lead to fewer choices and higher costs. In fact, these combinations have created economies of scale, and customers are clearly better off.

The result has been more high-speed connections, along with greater economic productivity, but also an array of new services. The popular video-sharing Web site YouTube is barely two years old. And it wouldn't exist today but for the fact that there's enough broadband capacity to allow millions of people to view videos over the Web.

Increased broadband demand has also been good news for Internet hardware companies like Cisco and Juniper, where annual sales are up by nearly 50%. A Journal report this week notes that "North American telecom companies are projected to spend $70 billion on new infrastructure this year," which is up 67% from 2003.

And prices are falling, by the way. Between February 2004 and December 2005, the average monthly cost for home broadband fell nearly 8%. For DSL subscribers, it fell nearly 20%. Which means that consumers are benefiting from new services and different pricing packages, as well as getting better deals.

The one sure way to stop these trends is by bogging down industry players with regulations or price controls that raise the risk that these mammoth investments will never pay off. Yet that seems to be the goal of Senator Dorgan and other Democrats such as Representative Ed Markey, another "Net neutrality" cheerleader, who is planning his own hearings. Consumers will end up paying for such policies in fewer choices and higher prices.
28409  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 16, 2007, 11:13:25 AM
Iran's Smoking Guns
Now Austrian sniper rifles show up in Iraq.

Friday, February 16, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Following the weekend intelligence disclosures about Iranian-supplied weapons killing GIs in Iraq, we predicted Tuesday. that "a large part of Washington will pretend the evidence doesn't exist, or suggest the intelligence isn't proven, or claim that it's all the Bush Administration's fault for 'bullying' Iran." Sure enough, President Bush faced a barrage of questions Wednesday wondering whether senior Iranian leaders were really aware of the weapons transfers, whether he was using "faulty intelligence," and whether the disclosures were part of a strategy designed to "provoke Iran."

So here is the state of our public discourse: American military officials present prima facie evidence of Iranian weapons implicated in killing 170 U.S. soldiers and wounding 600 more, and Washington's main concern is not for the GIs but in refighting the last intelligence war.

Well, here's an item that doesn't seem to have been manufactured by Dick Cheney. According to a report in Britain's Daily Telegraph, U.S. forces in Baghdad have recently discovered 100 high-powered sniper rifles made by Austrian gun-maker Steyr-Mannlicher. The .50-caliber Steyr can accurately fire an armor-piercing round at a range of 1,500 meters. The weapon is good against Humvees, helicopters and body armor.


In 2004, Iran purchased some 800 Steyrs, allegedly for use against drug traffickers. At the time, both U.S. and British officials urged the Austrian government to bar the $15 million sale, fearing the weapons would fall into enemy hands. Former Austrian Chancellor Wolfang Schüssel thought otherwise, and let the deal go forward. To better grease the skids, then-Steyr-Mannlicher CEO Wolfgang Fürlinger made the case that the weapons were basically harmless and that Tehran had signed "end-user certificates" guaranteeing they would not be re-sold, according to the German newsweekly Der Spiegel.
Today, the Austrian government pleads that the sale had been "checked very thoroughly," and that "what happened to the weapons . .  . is the responsibility of the Iranians"--which prompts the question of why the Austrians would have bothered with the end-user certificates. The Bush Administration took a less cavalier view and in 2005 banned Steyr-Mannlicher from bidding for U.S. government contracts.

It remains to be confirmed whether the serial numbers on the Steyrs found in Iraq match those from the 2004 sale--if they do, it ought to prompt a top-to-bottom review of all Austrian military contracts. Meantime, is it too much to expect American journalists and Members of Congress to devote as much skepticism to Iran's motives and behavior as they do to Mr. Bush's?

28410  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 16, 2007, 10:57:55 AM
As best as I can tell, there is merit to the analysis that says that President Bush really took his eye off the ball in Afghanistan.  Although I supported the decision to go into Iraq, I cannot say that those who said we needed to finish in Afghanistan first did not have a valid point.

Afg in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Taliban seemed to have plenty of warm fuzzies for what we might bring, but now 5 years later much more has happened and the terrain is different. 

Do we have a coherent strategy at this point?


WASHINGTON, Feb. 15 — President Bush warned on Thursday that he expected “fierce fighting” to flare in Afghanistan this spring, and he pressed NATO allies to provide a bigger and more aggressive force to guard against a resurgence by the Taliban and Al Qaeda that could threaten the fragile Afghan state.

Skip to next paragraph
 Back Story With The Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg (mp3)With American and NATO commanders pressing for more troops and experts predicting that further gains by the Taliban could put the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai in danger, Mr. Bush used his presidential platform to lay out what he said was substantial progress in Afghanistan since 2001, but also a continuing threat.

The remarks, to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization here, amounted to an unusually high-profile acknowledgment from Mr. Bush of the precarious state of the effort to stabilize Afghanistan, a country the administration long held up as a foreign policy success story.

The speech renewed criticism from Democrats that had the United States not been tied down in Iraq, the situation in Afghanistan would not have turned dire. At the same time, some Republican lawmakers said Mr. Bush’s new strategy would not do enough to tamp down the Afghan drug trade. Outside experts criticized the president for painting too rosy a picture.

The speech was also a striking effort by the White House to focus attention back on Afghanistan at a time when Congress is debating resolutions criticizing Mr. Bush’s strategy in Iraq and the administration is making a case that Iranian forces are supplying Shiite militants in Iraq with roadside bombs.

“Across Afghanistan last year, the number of roadside bomb attacks almost doubled, direct fire attacks on international forces almost tripled, and suicide bombings grew nearly fivefold,” Mr. Bush said. “These escalating attacks were part of a Taliban offensive that made 2006 the most violent year in Afghanistan since the liberation of the country.”

Mr. Bush said the question now was whether to “just kind of let this young democracy wither and fade away” or to step up the fight.

“The snow is going to melt in the Hindu Kush mountains, and when it does we can expect fierce fighting to continue,” Mr. Bush said. “The Taliban and Al Qaeda are preparing to launch new attacks. Our strategy is not to be on the defense, but to go on the offense.”

Mr. Bush noted that he has already extended the tour of a 3,200-soldier American brigade and called on Congress to provide $11.8 billion more to pay for operations in Afghanistan over the next two years.

The president said his administration had completed a review of its Afghan strategy, and would work to increase the size of the Afghan army from 32,000 troops to 70,000 by the end of next year, and to bring in additional allied troops to support the fledgling army.

“When there is a need, when the commanders on the ground say to our respective countries, ‘We need additional help,’ our NATO countries must provide it in order to be successful in the mission,” Mr. Bush said.

He promised to build new roads that would help spur economic development, to battle an increase in the opium trade and to try to forge better ties between Afghanistan and its neighbor, Pakistan.

At the same time, Mr. Bush pledged to work with President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to root out Taliban and Qaeda fighters who hide in that country’s remote mountainous regions — a situation he described as “wilder than the Wild West.” And, echoing his lament that 2006 was a difficult and disappointing year for Iraq, the president said the same had been true in Afghanistan.

Some critics of the administration’s handling of Afghanistan said Mr. Bush was still understating the difficulties there.

“We underfinanced, undermanned and under-resourced the war in Afghanistan for the last four years, and now we face a serious threat that the Taliban will succeed in destabilizing the country enough in 2007 to make the Karzai government collapse at some point,” said Bruce Riedel, a scholar at the Saban Center for Middle East Studies at the Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning research organization in Washington. He called the speech “a long overdue recognition that we need to do a lot more.”

Both Mr. Riedel and Rick Barton, an expert in Afghanistan reconstruction at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said Mr. Bush’s new strategy did not do enough to promote security and economic development. Mr. Barton, who published a report in 2005 measuring progress in Afghanistan in that year, is about to publish another, and said the situation has turned measurably worse since his first study.

“We’ve gotten into a situation where things have really turned negative and the average Afghan has lost confidence in both the safety of his country and the ability of the leadership to turn things around,” Mr. Barton said. He said the president “is definitely acknowledging that, but his reality therapy is not as thorough or as complete as I think it needs to be.”

On Capitol Hill, the senior Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, released a statement criticizing the speech. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen and several other Republicans have been pressing the Bush administration to do more to crack down on Afghanistan’s opium trade; she said the new strategy lacked “practical initiatives to target major drug kingpins and warlords whose trade in opium finances the Taliban’s campaign.”

As Iraq has dominated the American psyche, some lawmakers, most recently the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi of California, have called Afghanistan “the forgotten war.” The Democratic National Committee, responding to Mr. Bush’s speech on Thursday, issued a statement saying, “The Bush administration took its eye off the ball in Afghanistan.”

But Mr. Bush pointed to what he called “remarkable progress” since the American invasion in 2001: A democratically elected government with a parliament that includes 91 women; more than five million children in school as opposed to 900,000 under the Taliban; and the return of more than 4.6 million refugees.

The president’s speech came after his new defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, attended his first conference of NATO defense ministers last week in Seville, Spain. At the meeting, Mr. Gates pressed his allied counterparts to fulfill their commitments of troops in time for a spring offensive against the Taliban.

Currently, NATO has about 35,000 troops in Afghanistan, about 13,000 of them American. The United States has 9,000 more troops in Afghanistan operating outside the NATO mission, handling tasks like specialized counterterrorism work and helping to train Afghan forces. Gen. David J. Richards of Britain, the outgoing NATO commander in Afghanistan, said last month that NATO was 4,000 to 5,000 troops short.

But NATO commanders have been constrained by so-called caveats — restrictions imposed by member nations on how their troops may be used and where they may be sent. The Bush administration has been pressing the allies to lift those restrictions, and the president renewed that call on Thursday, saying NATO commanders “must have the flexibility they need to defeat the enemy wherever the enemy may make a stand.”
28411  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ya can't make this up on: February 16, 2007, 10:18:27 AM
Clinton fundraiser Daphna Ziman:

"Hillary Clinton is the right candidate.  The nation is in deep need of a mother figure who will lead the people out of a violent world and back into caring for the poor and the disabled, mostly caring for our children, our future."
28412  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: February 16, 2007, 12:52:46 AM
One wishes it might have occured to President Bush to begin expanding the size of the military (thus overruling Secy Rumbo) 3-4 years ago.  Even candidate Kerry was calling for an increase of 50,000 so it would have been easy for Bush to make the call.  Now that he has thrashed our troops and led , , , as he has, now the President sacks Rumbo and asks for 90,000.  It is going to be a lot harder now to build up the numbers than if he had not listened to Rumbo's huibris.
28413  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Euro-Russian Cold War on: February 15, 2007, 08:31:53 PM
Europe, Russia and a New Kind of 'Cold' War

A Russian oligarch is predicting natural gas shortages in Russia. Europe has good reason to be worried.


Anatoly Chubais, CEO of Russian electricity megafirm Unified Energy System (UES), said at a Feb. 15 news conference that planned changes to the country's electricity sector will result in increased demand for natural gas -- which in turn will lead to shortages of the fuel. Those most likely to suffer from the evolution will be European consumers as Russia discovers it has insufficient supplies for export.

After a decade of false starts, the Russian electricity sector is finally beginning its long-awaited reform, which for UES means getting broken up into a large number of regional and local power generating companies -- in theory at least.

One of the many consequences of this will be increased electricity production. Russia's oligarchs currently have to cut deals (and often plead) with UES to make sure they have enough electricity to supply their corporate empires. Now they can simply pay -- through the nose if need be -- to acquire power generation assets for themselves, and add on or modify them as necessary to meet their needs. Particularly in the case of power-intensive industries such as aluminum production, such assets will be constantly run to the red line to ensure full profitability.

As Chubais went on to note, such increased power generation will invariably lead to greater consumption of the natural gas used to produce electricity -- and that is a problem.

Although Russia remains the world's largest producer and exporter of natural gas, state energy firm Gazprom has not excelled at exploring for and developing new natural gas sources. Add in higher electricity demand and an ugly word crops up: shortage. Chubais -- one of the few people in Russia with access to all the data -- projects that in 2007 national demand plus export contracts will edge out supply by 4 billion cubic meters (bcm), ramping up to 40 bcm by 2010.

The results of such a shortfall are fairly easy to predict. Russian electricity and natural gas demand is highest in the winter, when the Russians huddle around their heaters in a desperate effort to avoid freezing solid. Their collective demand for power means that not enough natural gas is left over to meet Gazprom's export contracts. Flows to Europe consequently slacken, as happened for the first time in the early weeks of 2006. Chubais, intentionally or not, is putting Europe on notice that supply interruptions will become an annual affair in the future.

It is probably beyond Gazprom's technical capabilities to turn this situation around without a major change in worldview -- which is not in the cards at the moment. The mammoth firm can do a couple of things, however, to mitigate the coming shortages. First, it can use its political heft -- Gazprom is far and away the most politically powerful firm in the country -- to increase domestic Russian prices. Higher natural gas prices on the subsidized Russian market translate into lower Russian consumption, freeing up more natural gas for export.

Second, Gazprom is working to reduce natural gas' share of the market as an electricity feedstock. On Feb. 8 Gazprom swallowed up (that is: "initialed a deal to form a joint venture with") Siberian Coal Energy Co., which produced about 90 million metric tons of coal in 2006, supplying 30 percent of Russian demand and 20 percent of Russia's coal exports. The deal also brings under Gazprom's control most of the country's electricity generation that is not currently under UES. Gazprom's plan is simple: replace natural gas with coal in as many power plants' fuel mixes as possible.

Both of these strategies are smart and will work, but bridging a 40 bcm gap -- for reference, France uses about 45 bcm a year -- in three years is simply not feasible. Europe will need to learn to get by with less, and even that assumes the Kremlin's political goals do not further limit supplies.

Europe's takeaway should be simple. Regardless of whether European leaders believe Russia's energy policies are politicized (and they are), Russia will soon lack the capability to supply Europe with all the natural gas it wants -- even if the Russians are able to maintain their output levels in the long term (which is in doubt). So, unless Europe wants to feel the cold of winter more keenly, it will need either to find replacement supplies, move its economies away from natural gas, or both.

Other Analysis
Geopolitical Diary: Al-Sadr Lies Low
Russia: Putin's Cabinet Reshuffle
Global Market Brief: The Politics of South African Land Reform
Canada: The Changing Shape of Energy Politics
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28414  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Euro Martial Arts on: February 15, 2007, 02:33:31 PM
Woof Karsk:


This deserves its own thread.  Would you please repost what you have posted here as a new thread?

28415  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 15, 2007, 07:29:00 AM
Second post of the morning:

Geopolitical Diary: Al-Sadr Lies Low

Nasser al-Rubaie, the head of Iraq's Sadrite parliamentary bloc, and other supporters of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr said on Wednesday that statements by U.S. military officials in Iraq alleging that al-Sadr has fled the country for Iran are untrue. An adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki later said al-Sadr is on a brief routine visit to Iran and would be back shortly. There also are reports that first- and second-tier commanders of the Mehdi Army in Baghdad are in Iran as well in order to evade a security crackdown.

While al-Sadr has visited Iran in the past, and doing so again at this juncture would be reasonable, the leader likely remains based in Iraq -- where he is growing ever more distrustful of his fellow Shia and trying hard to maintain a low profile.

Al-Sadr has lain low, likely somewhere in the holy city of An Najaf, since remarking in January that he feared for his personal safety in the wake of U.S.-Iraqi plans to secure Baghdad and crack down on militias. Since then, he has seen the arrest and kidnappings of Iranian diplomatic officials in Iraq, which surely made him even less willing to risk travel or public appearances.

The Sadrite bloc controls the largest number of parliamentary seats in the ruling Shiite coalition -- the United Iraqi Alliance -- and has several ministers in the Cabinet. Al-Sadr is not about to abandon his movement and flee, especially as his Mehdi Army prepares to face a major government offensive. And if he did, he certainly would not go to Iran.

Contrary to popular perception, Iraq's Sadrite bloc is the Shiite group that is least friendly toward Iran. Al-Sadr cannot completely trust the Iranians, who have strong ties to his main rival, Abdel Aziz al-Hakim -- the leader of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), Iraq's most pro-Iranian Shiite party. Iran could use al-Sadr and his militia as leverage in its negotiations with the United States over Iraq; when the need arises, Iran might pull the plug on the Shiite leader as a gesture of good will toward the United States.

While al-Sadr has long been wary of the threat from SCIRI, he also does not trust Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Hizb al-Dawah party. Until now, al-Sadr has maintained a decent working relationship with al-Maliki; however, the prime minister recently abandoned his opposition to a U.S. crackdown on Sadrite militia activities. Al-Sadr knows the Shiite-dominated government is working closely with the U.S. military, and does not want to risk further support for more U.S. operations against him. Even so, al-Sadr reportedly is on the U.S. military's "no-touch list," meaning U.S. forces will not detain him out of fear that his arrest could inflame his supporters and cause them to escalate the overall level of violence in the country.

U.S. statements regarding the Shiite leader's alleged flight to Iran likely are part of psyops designed to weaken him by convincing those within his political movement and its armed wing that he has abandoned them ahead of the impending U.S.-Iraqi crackdown. There already are some indications that al-Sadr does not have complete control over his militia. By playing up the idea that al-Sadr has fled to Tehran, the United States can sow doubts among members of the Mehdi Army before U.S. and Iraqi forces pounce. And confusion about al-Sadr's whereabouts will prove especially damaging to the Sadrite bloc, given its heavy focus on its leader and his family.

Stratfor mentioned in its annual forecast that the coming U.S. surge will focus on containing al-Sadr. For now, Iraq's political and military situation has rendered the Shiite leader quite vulnerable. Whether al-Sadr makes an appearance in order to counter U.S. attempts to paint him as a cowardly captain abandoning his ship remains to be seen.

28416  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: February 15, 2007, 05:10:10 AM

Awaiting the Dishonor Roll
February 15, 2007; Page A18
Congress has rarely been distinguished by its moral courage. But even grading on a curve, we can only describe this week's House debate on a vote of no-confidence in the mission in Iraq as one of the most shameful moments in the institution's history.

On present course, the Members will vote on Friday to approve a resolution that does nothing to remove American troops from harm's way in Iraq but that will do substantial damage to their morale and that of their Iraqi allies while emboldening the enemy. The only real question is how many Republicans will also participate in this disgrace in the mistaken belief that their votes will put some distance between themselves and the war most of them voted to authorize in 2002.

The motion at issue is plainly dishonest, in that exquisitely Congressional way of trying to have it both ways. (We reprint the text nearby.) The resolution purports to "support" the troops even as it disapproves of their mission. It praises their "bravery," while opposing the additional forces that both President Bush and General David Petreaus, the new commanding general in Iraq, say are vital to accomplishing that mission. And it claims to want to "protect" the troops even as its practical impact will be to encourage Iraqi insurgents to believe that every roadside bomb brings them closer to their goal.

As for how "the troops" themselves feel, we refer readers to Richard Engel's recent story on NBC News quoting Specialist Tyler Johnson in Iraq: "People are dying here. You know what I'm saying . . . You may [say] 'oh we support the troops.' So you're not supporting what they do. What they's (sic) here to sweat for, what we bleed for and we die for." Added another soldier: "If they don't think we're doing a good job, everything we've done here is all in vain." In other words, the troops themselves realize that the first part of the resolution is empty posturing, while the second is deeply immoral.

All the more so because if Congress feels so strongly about the troops, it arguably has the power to start removing them from harm's way by voting to cut off the funds they need to operate in Iraq. But that would make Congress responsible for what followed -- whether those consequences are Americans killed in retreat, or ethnic cleansing in Baghdad, or the toppling of the elected Maliki government by radical Shiite or military forces. The one result Congress fears above all is being accountable.

We aren't prone to quoting the young John Kerry, but this week's vote reminds us of the comment the antiwar veteran told another cut-and-run Congress in the early 1970s: "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?" The difference this time is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi and John Murtha expect men and women to keep dying for something they say is a mistake but also don't have the political courage to help end.

Instead, they'll pass this "non-binding resolution," to be followed soon by attempts at micromanagement that would make the war all but impossible to prosecute -- and once again without taking responsibility. Mr. Murtha is already broadcasting his strategy, which the new Politico Web site described yesterday as "a slow-bleed strategy designed to gradually limit the administration's options."

In concert with antiwar groups, the story reported, Mr. Murtha's "goal is crafted to circumvent the biggest political vulnerability of the antiwar movement -- the accusation that it is willing to abandon troops in the field." So instead of cutting off funds, Mr. Murtha will "slow-bleed" the troops with "readiness" restrictions or limits on National Guard forces that will make them all but impossible to deploy. These will be attached to appropriations bills that will also purport to "support the troops."

"There's a D-Day coming in here, and it's going to start with the supplemental and finish with the '08 [defense] budget,'' Congressman Neil Abercrombie (D., Hawaii) told the Web site. He must mean D-Day as in Dunkirk.

All of this is something that House Republicans should keep in mind as they consider whether to follow this retreat. The GOP leadership has been stalwart, even eloquent, this week in opposing the resolution. But some Republicans figure they can use this vote to distance themselves from Mr. Bush and the war while not doing any real harm. They should understand that the Democratic willingness to follow the Murtha "slow-bleed" strategy will depend in part on how many Republicans follow them in this vote. The Democrats are themselves divided on how to proceed, and they want a big GOP vote to give them political cover. However "non-binding," this is a vote that Republican partisans will long remember.

History is likely to remember the roll as well. A newly confirmed commander is about to lead 20,000 American soldiers on a dangerous and difficult mission to secure Baghdad, risking their lives for their country. And the message their elected Representatives will send them off to battle with is a vote declaring their inevitable defeat.

28417  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Books on: February 15, 2007, 04:17:19 AM
Libertarians in America
Free to choose, and a good thing too.

Thursday, February 15, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Scores of books have been written on the role of communists and socialists in the U.S., dour chronicles of welcome failure. But very few writers have devoted much attention to the role of libertarians, a more appealing and optimistic group of thinkers, political activists and ordinary citizens who believe that respect for the individual and the spontaneous order of market forces are the key to progress and social well-being.

The neglect is strange, given how much libertarians and their limited-government logic have shaped the culture and economy of the U.S. The ideas of John Locke and David Hume animated the writings of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine. Libertarian principles kept what we think of as "big government" in check for much of the 19th century and well into the 20th, despite tariffs and war. The federal income tax officially arrived, in permanent form, as late as 1913. Coolidge and his Treasury secretary, Andrew Mellon, took a famously minimalist approach to governing. Of course, we now live in a post-FDR age, with government programs everywhere. Still, the libertarian impulse is part of our political culture. "I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism," Ronald Reagan declared.

Today, pollsters find only 2% of people refer to themselves as libertarians, but some 15% of voters hold broadly libertarian views and can be a swing factor. In the photo-finish presidential race of 2000, some 72% of libertarian-minded voters supported George W. Bush. Last November, many of them abandoned the GOP, disillusioned by its profligate ways, and helped hand control of Congress to Democrats.

With "Radicals for Capitalism," Brian Doherty finally gives libertarianism its due. He tracks the movement's progress over the past century by focusing on five of its key leaders--Ludwig von Mises, F.A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard and Milton Friedman. The emphasis is on their ideas, but Mr. Doherty also takes into account their personal struggles--not least their feuds with other thinkers and their relation to an intellectual establishment that for most of their lives thought they were either crazy or irrelevant or both.

Libertarian ideas have enjoyed a surge of respect lately, helped by the collapse of Soviet central planning, the success of lower tax rates and the appeals of various figures in popular culture (e.g., Drew Carey, John Stossel and Clint Eastwood) who want government out of both their bedroom and wallet. Even so, libertarianism is often not the people's choice. Part of the problem is the inertia of the status quo. "In a world where government has its hand in almost everything," Mr. Doherty writes, "it requires a certain leap of imagination to see how things might work if it didn't." Many people couldn't make that leap when, for example, economists proposed channeling some Social Security payroll taxes into private accounts.
Mr. Doherty introduces us to an entertaining cast of minor characters who kept individualist ideas alive from the New Deal through the Great Society. There was Rose Wilder Lane, the editor of her mother's "Little House on the Prairie" frontier books, and Robert Heinlein, the science-fiction writer who coined the acronym "Tanstaafl" (for "there ain't no such thing as a free lunch"). Howard Buffett, the father of financier Warren Buffett, was a fiery Old Right congressman from Nebraska who compared the military draft to a form of slavery. During World War II, Henry Hazlitt put economic analysis from his friend von Mises into unsigned editorials he wrote for the New York Times, then a far more free-market paper than today.

Mr. Doherty is candid enough to note that not every individualist he sketches consistently respected the rights of individuals. Textile baron Roger Milliken, for instance, required his executives to attend a libertarian "college" in the Rockies but also lobbied for tariffs to protect his products. And other libertarians showed a certain want of personal character. LSD guru Timothy Leary raised money for Libertarian Party candidates but didn't exercise the integrity or personal responsibility he himself said must accompany freedom. Ayn Rand sold millions of copies of her novels but treated her acolytes abominably and "ended up kicking out of her life pretty much everybody."

Inevitably--as with any constellation of like-minded people--there is squabbling and the petty search for heretics. But there is also, Mr. Doherty shows, the great work of fertile, unorthodox minds. Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick abandoned the New Left when he realized capitalism worked best but acknowledged feeling for a while that "only bad people would think so." Hayek, a supreme rationalist, ended his life believing that "a successful free society will always be in a large measure a tradition-bound society." He even praised religion for encouraging restraint and long-term thinking "under circumstances where everyone believes that God will punish all for the sins of some."

Today the Internet has become, Mr. Doherty notes, an efficient way to transmit libertarian ideas and show their practical application. (With its decentralized, free-wheeling ethos, the Internet is itself libertarian without even trying to be.) Jimmy Wales, the man who started the interactive online encyclopedia Wikipedia, believes that "facts can help set the world free." The largest retail market in the world is eBay, which allows anyone to buy and sell without a government license.
Louis Rosetto, the "radical capitalist" who founded Wired magazine, notes that, even if libertarian ideas must now push against a statist status quo, "contrarians end up being the drivers of change." Among the most ornery contrarians, he says, are the libertarians "laboring in obscurity, if not in derision." They have managed "to keep a pretty pure idea going, adapting it to circumstances and watching it be validated by the march of history." Mr. Doherty has rescued libertarianism from its own obscurity, eloquently capturing the appeal of the "pure idea," its origins in great minds and the feistiness of its many current champions.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for You can buy "Radicals for Capitalism" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.

28418  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Grandfathers Speak Vol. 2: Sonny Umpad on: February 15, 2007, 04:12:09 AM
I know, I know, we've been very bad. embarassed  We have finished the box cover and the Umpad people have approved it.  Cindy is scheduled to put it into the format for the duplication house and send it in tomorrow (i.e. Friday the 16th).  We are hoping to have it ready by March 1.
28419  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The War on Drugs on: February 15, 2007, 04:02:30 AM

IMHO the WOD is a tremendous foolishness that is both counter-productive and counter to basic American values of live and let live. 

We begin this thread with a piece whose title captures a certain something , , ,


DEA: More marijuana needed for studies
Judge rules federal supply is inadequate
By Michael Doyle - McClatchy Newspapers
WASHINGTON -- Medical researchers need more marijuana sources because government supplies aren't meeting scientific demand, a federal judge has ruled.

In an emphatic but nonbinding opinion, the Drug Enforcement Administration's own judge is recommending that a University of Massachusetts professor be allowed to grow a legal pot crop.  The real winners could be those suffering from painful and wasting diseases, proponents say.

"The existing supply of marijuana is not adequate," Administrative Law Judge Mary Ellen Bittner ruled.

The federal government's 12-acre marijuana plot at the University of Mississippi provides neither the quantity nor quality scientists need, researchers contend.  While Bittner didn't embrace those criticisms, she agreed that the system for producing and distributing research marijuana is flawed.

"Competition in the manufacture of marijuana for research purposes is inadequate," Bittner determined.  Bittner further concluded that there is "minimal risk of diversion" from a new marijuana source.  Making additional supplies available, she stated, "would be in the public interest."

The DEA isn't required to follow Bittner's 88-page opinion, and the Bush administration's anti-drug stance may make it unlikely that the grass-growing rules will loosen.  Both sides can now file further information before DEA administrators make their ruling.

"We could still be months away from a final decision," DEA spokesman Garrison Courtney said Tuesday, adding that "obviously, we're going to take the judge's opinion into consideration."

Still, the ruling is resonating in labs and with civil libertarians.

"(The) ruling is an important step toward allowing medical marijuana patients to get their medicine from a pharmacy just like everyone else," said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Based in the California seaside town of Santa Cruz, the ACLU's Drug Law Reform Project has been representing University of Massachusetts scientist Lyle Craker.  Since 2001, Craker has been confronting numerous bureaucratic and legal obstacles in his request for permission to grow research-grade marijuana.  An agronomist who received a doctorate from the University of Minnesota, Craker was asked to grow bulk marijuana by a five-member group called the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. The psychedelic studies group wants to research such areas as developing vaporizers that can efficiently deliver pot smoke.

"This ruling is a victory for science, medicine and the public good," Craker said.

"I hope that the DEA abides by the decision and grants me the opportunity to do my job unimpeded by drug war politics."


The latest research made public this week indicated that marijuana provided more pain relief for AIDS patients than prescription drugs did. The Bush administration quickly dismissed those findings as a "smokescreen," and it has remained hostile to Craker's research efforts.  During the trial, for instance, DEA attorneys secured an admission from Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies head Richard Doblin that he has smoked marijuana regularly since 1971.

"Can you tell us the source of this marijuana?" DEA attorney Brian Bayly asked Doblin, before withdrawing the question under objections.

The DEA originally claimed that it lost Craker's research application. Then the agency said that his photocopied follow-up lacked a necessary original signature. After a year, Craker tried again. He then had to wait another year before the DEA started processing the application, in which he proposed to grow about 25 pounds of marijuana in the first year.

Craker sued after the agency rejected his application. That brought his case before Bittner.


She oversaw the trial, which featured witnesses such as former California legislator John Vasconcellos.

"People have a right to know more about what might help them in their suffering and pain or illness, whatever it might be," Vasconcellos testified, in words repeated by Bittner. "The more research, the better."


The University of Mississippi has monopolized government-grade marijuana since 1968. The university also contracts with North Carolina's Research Triangle Institute, which runs a machine that can roll up to 1,000 finished marijuana cigarettes in an hour.


The government-grown pot is too "harsh" and filled with stems and seeds, researchers testified.

"The material was of such poor quality, we did not deem it to be representative of medical cannabis," researcher Dr. Ethan Russo said.



28420  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: February 15, 2007, 03:42:09 AM
The Covert War and Elevated Risks
By Fred Burton

Amid a general atmosphere of saber rattling by the United States and Israel, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned Feb. 8 that any aggression against his country would be met with reciprocal strikes by Iranian forces inside and outside the country. Khamenei's remarks were merely the latest installment in a drama of rhetoric, arms acquisitions, military exercises and missile launches designed to demonstrate to the United States and Israel that any potential strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities would come at a very high price.

The United States and Israel also have used overt pressure tactics in the hopes of forcing Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions and to help end the chaos in Iraq. Khamenei referred to these efforts as the "enemies' psychological operations" and said they are "an indication of weakness and a state of paralysis." Speaking to an audience of Iranian air force members in Tehran, the ayatollah railed against international sanctions and threats, saying, "Fear and surrender to enemies is a method used by those nations and officials who have not comprehended the power of national resolve, but the Iranian nation, relying on its successful experiences of the last 27 years, will stand up to any enemy and threat."

Clearly, there is a lot of rhetoric flying around. But despite the threats and bluster, it is not at all clear that the United States has either the capacity or the will to launch an actual attack against Iran -- nor is it clear that Israel has the ability to attack Iran's nuclear infrastructure on its own. For its part, Iran -- in spite of its recent weapons purchases and highly publicized missile tests -- clearly is in no position to go toe-to-toe with the U.S. military.

With neither side willing or able to confront the other in the conventional military sense, both will be looking for alternative means of achieving its goals. For any nation-state, its intelligence services are an important weapon in the arsenal -- and it now appears that a covert intelligence war between the United States and Iran, first raised by Stratfor as a possibility in March 2006, is well under way. So far, the action in this intelligence war has been confined mainly to Iraq and Lebanon. However, recent events -- including the mysterious death in January of a top Iranian nuclear scientist, who was believed to have been a target of Mossad -- indicate that this quiet war is escalating, and soon could move to fronts beyond the Middle East.

Intelligence Wars

The covert intelligence war between the United States and Iran now appears to be well under way. As it has evolved against the backdrop of the war in Iraq and Tehran's nuclear ambitions, it has exhibited many characteristics that were notable in the U.S.-Soviet Cold War. For example, irreconcilable geopolitical interests and conflicting ideologies prompted the present conflict. The United States appears to be following its tried-and-true Cold War doctrine of containment, and Iran has pursued the Cold War practice of equipping and training proxies to inflict pain on an adversary that is locked in a war -- following the examples set by the Soviet Union in Vietnam and the United States in the Afghan-Soviet conflict. Other similarities include the heavy use of disinformation, propaganda, agents of influence and covert action by both sides.

With its missile purchases, tests and nuclear program, Iran also has started an arms race of sorts in the region. This arms race, along with Iran's support for Hezbollah and controversial and provocative statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, inevitably has pulled Israel into the fray. Iran clearly regards Israel as a pressure point to be used against the Americans. The regime in Tehran also views rhetorical attacks against the Jewish state -- not to mention actual attacks waged by Iran's surrogate, Hezbollah -- as a way to curry favor or gain influence with the Muslim masses. This is, in effect, the same reason the Iraqis launched Scud missiles against Israel during the first Gulf War.

Israel is far from a passive victim of Iranian skullduggery, of course. It has been involved in these types of intelligence wars since the founding of the state -- and, if one counts the Jewish insurgent and terrorist attacks against British forces and Muslims in the 1930s and 1940s, even before. Out of geopolitical necessity, the Israelis cannot take the Iranian threats lightly; they are fully engaged in this current clandestine war.

Of course, Iran is not the first country in the region to have threatened Israel with harsh rhetoric while attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Iraq was in a similar position more than 20 years ago. Thus, beginning in 1980, Israel developed a program of assassinating and threatening scientists who were associated with Iraq's nuclear weapons program. This was followed by the bombing of Iraq's Osirak reactor in June 1981. As recently as the 1990 assassination of Canadian scientist and "supergun" creator Gerald Bull, Israel's clandestine hand appears to have been working to thwart Iraqi weapons programs.

A New Salvo?

There is reason to believe that Israel -- whose reputation for conventional military strength was dealt a considerable blow during last summer's conflict with Hezbollah -- now might be dusting off the strategy it successfully employed against Iraq. Specifically, Iranian news sources on Jan. 25 reported the death (a week previously) of Ardeshir Hassanpour, a high-level scientist who is believed to have played a key role in Iran's nuclear program. His death has not been officially explained, but Stratfor sources have indicated that Hassanpour was a target of Mossad. If he was indeed assassinated by agents of Israel, it would mean the Jewish state has raised the stakes in the covert war -- and reprisals could be coming down the pike.

However, the capabilities of Iran's intelligence services today are very different from those of 1980s Iraq. Though the Iraqi service was quite adept at operating domestically -- in torturing, murdering and instilling fear in its own population -- its efforts to strike U.S. targets in Asia and Africa in January 1991 (following the launch of Operation Desert Storm) demonstrated a much lower degree of tactical sophistication and aptitude in operations abroad. The Iraqi operatives blew themselves up, planted IEDs that did not detonate and made naive mistakes, such as dispatching operatives using consecutively numbered Iraqi passports. They were simply too clumsy to wage a nuanced and complex intelligence war.

Iran is a different story. Between the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), the special operations elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (also called the "Pasdaran" in Farsi) and Hezbollah, the Iranians have a well-developed clandestine infrastructure that has a history of effectively conducting assassinations and terrorist attacks abroad.

The Islamic Republic's covert capabilities were honed during the revolutionary struggle and became evident soon after the shah was toppled. The revolutionaries' first targets were Iranian monarchists in exile, who were trying to foment a counterrevolution in Iran. Later, after many of these opponents had been eliminated and the threat brought under control, MOIS shifted its focus to exiled dissidents and other opponents of the regime. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, influential leaders of these groups were targeted and killed in a sophisticated campaign that stretched from the Middle East to Europe to the suburbs of Washington.

Iranian agents and surrogates also engaged in overt attacks -- kidnappings, automatic weapons and grenade attacks in public places and bombings. Hezbollah in particular was quite active on this front; notable incidents included the abductions of CIA station chief William F. Buckley in 1984 and U.S. Marine Lt. Col. William R. Higgins in 1988 (both men died in captivity), as well as numerous hijackings and bombings.

Because Iran's conventional military forces -- though among the best in the region -- are clearly no match for those of the Americans or others, the sophisticated and highly disciplined intelligence service, and its ability to carry out covert campaigns, is a key component of national security. In the past, kidnappings and assassinations -- carried out with sufficient deniability -- have proved an effective way of eliminating enemies and leveraging the country's geopolitical position without incurring unacceptable risk.

Therefore, when Khamenei warned that attacking Iran would result in the attacker's interests around the world being targeted by Iranians, he was referring not only to Iran's conventional military strength but also to its well-developed clandestine capabilities.


Reciprocity is one of the defining characteristics of an intelligence operation. For example, if a U.S. case officer were to be discovered by the Russians and PNG'd (declared "persona non grata"), it would be quite normal to see the Americans quickly detain and expel a Russian intelligence officer, known as a "Rezident." Similarly, if the FBI perceived that a Rezident was getting too provocative in his countersurveillance routine and decided to break the Rezident's car tail light or slash his tires, the bureau's Russian counterpart, the FSB, usually would respond in kind with an American case officer in Moscow. This principle extends to assassinations: If you kill one of ours, we will kill one of yours.

The concepts of reciprocity and vengeance are also deeply ingrained in the cultures and religions of the Middle East. In a conflict between the Iranians and Israelis, these concepts would figure prominently in any covert strikes -- as they frequently did in the past. To illustrate:

February 1992: Israeli agents assassinated Hezbollah leader Abbas Musawi. A month later, immediately after the 30-day mourning period for Musawi ended, the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, was bombed.

July 1994: Israel Defense Forces killed dozens of Hezbollah members in a strike at the group's Ein Dardara training camp. Hezbollah's response: the vehicle bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires and attacks, eight days later, against the Israeli Embassy and a Jewish charity in London.

March 1995: MOIS carried out a well-planned strike against U.S. consulate employees in Karachi, Pakistan, killing two and wounding a third. It is believed that MOIS staged the attack in response to the killing of an Iranian intelligence officer, for which Tehran blamed the United States.

In short, Khamenei's recent threats of reciprocal attacks, in light of history, should not be taken lightly.

Emerging Risks

With this in mind, it is to be expected that the Iranians would retaliate against the party they believe to be responsible for the assassination of Hassanpour. Precisely which assets would be used in retaliation is an important question. If Hezbollah were activated, for example, one might expect a strike along the lines of the Buenos Aires or London attacks. But if MOIS operatives carried out the strike, it would have a completely different feel. MOIS frequently has employed stealth and deception to get the assassins within close range of their targets -- close enough to kill them with pistols or knives, often in the targets' homes.

If past cycles are any indication, the Iranians would take somewhere between four and six weeks to launch a reprisal -- or, in other words, a strike could come as early as the last week of February. According to source reports, MOIS and Hezbollah have been conducting pre-operational surveillance over the past year or so to collect targeting data in many different locations, so it is likely that a target already has been identified. This activity -- which began before the summer Israel/Hezbollah conflict and continued after its conclusion -- is a strong indication that the Iranians have been thinking about "off-the-shelf plans" that could be executed later as needed to protect their interests. Once plans were prepared, however, it still would be necessary to move operatives into place, acquire weapons and fine-tune details before an actual strike was carried out. This last step would require additional surveillance, so countersurveillance efforts will be crucial, especially for Israeli and Jewish targets, over the next few weeks.

(click to enlarge)

As a rule, the activities of Iranian diplomats in Western countries are watched closely in an effort to determine who among them are likely to be MOIS officers. With international tensions with Iran at their current levels, the activities of these officers will be scrutinized closely in coming weeks. American and Israeli intelligence officers also will be watching the Iranians closely in developing countries -- working with intelligence and security services of friendly countries and on a unilateral basis in locations where the host government is less cooperative -- or less competent. Meanwhile, counterintelligence agents will be taking a keen interest in anyone who meets with suspected MOIS officers -- especially Lebanese or Iranian visitors from out of town. That is because the Iranians have shown a tendency to use "out-of-town talent" to carry out attacks in the past, such as the strikes in Buenos Aires. Monitoring such activity could help to pre-empt any plans for a retaliatory strike by Iran. The Iranians know this well -- it is not a new concept -- and therefore likely would plan any retaliatory actions to take place in a country where, from their perspective, there is less risk of being detected or caught after the fact.

History and Khamenei's statement last week support the possibility that a reprisal attack very well could take place far beyond the Middle East. Countries in Asia, the Americas or Europe -- where MOIS and Hezbollah have conducted operations in the past -- are possibilities to consider. The risks to Israeli or Jewish targets are highest in areas where the Iranians have a diplomatic presence to support the mission, and where the host country's intelligence service and law enforcement officials are corrupt or otherwise ineffective.

If a strike against an Israeli or Jewish target in such a location should transpire, it would differ from a jihadist attack in that there would be no claims of credit by Iran. The attack itself would send all the message required.
28421  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 15, 2007, 02:48:31 AM

Iraq: Ominous Signs of a Looming Sniper Threat

In a series of raids across Baghdad, U.S. and Iraqi forces seized more than 100 Austrian-manufactured sniper rifles in a 24-hour period Feb. 12-13. The .50-caliber weapons, which were legally exported to Iran in 2006, represent a grave danger to coalition troops.


Over the course of the last six months, handfuls of heavy .50-caliber sniper rifles manufactured by the Austrian company Steyr-Mannlicher have been turning up in Iraq. But a series of joint U.S.-Iraqi raids Feb. 12-13 in Baghdad uncovered more than 100 Steyr "HS.50" rifles -- an unprecedented development that bodes ill for U.S. troops surging into the Iraqi capital.

In 2005, the National Iranian Police Organization placed an order for 800 Steyr HS.50s worth more than $15.5 million (nearly $20,000 per rifle). Ostensibly, the rifles were intended for use in interdicting drug smugglers. The U.S. and U.K. governments both protested the shipment in 2006, fearing the rifles would fall into the hands of Iraqi militias. A month and a half after the initial shipment, the first U.S. soldier was killed with one of these Steyr rifles.

A standard practice among Western weapons manufactures is to mark a rifle with its serial number in several locations -- not only the frame but also the bolt and barrel -- and this is the practice at Steyr-Mannlicher. Such marking is especially important for sniper rifles, which are machined to precise tolerances -- a professional would want to keep the bolt and the barrel with the original rifle. Grinding the serial numbers off would negatively affect the accuracy of the rifle.

The Steyr HS.50s found in Baghdad have been traced through Iran back to the 2005 Austrian deal with the National Iranian Police Organization, presumably by using discernable serial numbers on the weapons.

The .50-caliber round is powerful enough to punch through not only the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts (E-SAPI) -- the armored plates worn by U.S. troops -- but also much of the light armor of U.S. vehicles. Iran also appears to have supplied armor-piercing incendiary rounds, which are even more destructive once they get inside the cramped compartments of vehicles. The armor-piercing incendiary rounds would also wreak havoc with a low-flying helicopter if it could actually be struck in-flight.

The Steyr HS.50 and other rifles of its kind are designed to engage targets at thousands of yards. Of course, a rifle is only as good as the marksmanship training of the person holding it. World-class snipers are the product of intensive training, something Iraqi insurgents noticeably lack (there are running jokes within U.S. military units about how terrible Iraqi marksmanship is). That said, a weapon like the Steyr HS.50 used to engage targets at 100 to 300 yards in a dense urban environment has a much larger margin of error and is devastating at such close ranges. Moreover, it is a single-shot, bolt-action rifle more accurate than the semi-automatic M82A3 Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle used by U.S. forces. In the right hands, the HS.50 is capable of a minute of angle beyond 1,600 yards (a measurement amounting to phenomenal accuracy).

Insurgent snipers have been increasingly dangerous in the last two years. In 2003 and 2004, Iraqi sniper fire was inaccurate and sporadic. Since then, however, casualties from sniper fire have been creeping up, and turret gunners are now being taken down with head shots.

That more than 100 Steyr HS.50s were confiscated in a single 24-hour period in Baghdad suggests two things: First, that such a concentration was put in place in preparation for the building U.S. surge into the Iraqi capital and that the cache could represent the bulk of the rifles supplied to Iraqi Shia by supporters inside Iran. But if substantially larger portions of the original 800 rifles have slipped into the capital, it will be costly for both U.S. and Iraqi forces. The only question is: How many did Iran keep for itself?
The second point to consider is this: U.S. troops almost certainly acted on excellent intelligence, suggesting that if there are more large caches, they very well could be found.

Such a powerful weapon in the hands of a single, well-trained professional is trouble enough. But hundreds of these rifles supplied to a large swath of Shiite militias could exact a considerable toll on coalition forces moving into Shiite neighborhoods -- a toll the current level of force protection cannot prevent.
28422  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA Seminar in Manassas VA on March 17 and 18 on: February 15, 2007, 02:30:29 AM
Woof All:

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty Dog

Location: Team Ruthless, LLC, 7049 Gateway Court, Manassas, VA 20109     (703) 330-1113
Price: $300.00 For Both Days **To Pre-Pay Click On Registration Link At Bottom Of Page**
Schedule: Saturday: & Sunday: 10:00am - 4:00pm (With 1 Hour Lunch Break)

Contact: Team Ruthless, LLC        Phone: (703) 330-1113     Fax: (703) 935-3070


28423  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: February 15, 2007, 01:47:09 AM
Woof LoyalOneHK:

Great contributions!

This is an area wherein I feel myself to be sorely lacking and I have resolved to lessen my ignorance.

Please feel free to continue sharing as much as you wish.

28424  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Euro Martial Arts on: February 15, 2007, 01:44:49 AM
Woof Karsk:

It sounds like there is a very interesting question lurking in your post, but the meaning of the actual question is not clear to me.  Would you mind taking another stab at it?

28425  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: February 14, 2007, 04:18:46 PM
SB Mig: That post, while interesting, does not belong in this thread.  Please put it in Military Science and then delete it here.  If you can't delete it, then I will once you've posted it there.  TIA-CD
28426  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Romney on gun rights on: February 14, 2007, 04:15:42 PM

Romney retreats on gun control

Ex-governor woos Republican votes

By Scott Helman, Globe Staff | January 14, 2007
ORLANDO , Fla. -- Former governor Mitt Romney, who once described himself as a supporter of strong gun laws, is distancing himself from that rhetoric now as he attempts to court the gun owners who make up a significant force in Republican primary politics.
In his 1994 US Senate run, Romney backed two gun-control measures strongly opposed by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups: the Brady Bill, which imposed a five-day waiting period on gun sales, and a ban on certain assault weapons.
"That's not going to make me the hero of the NRA," Romney told the Boston Herald in 1994.
At another campaign stop that year, he told reporters: "I don't line up with the NRA."
And as the GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2002, Romney lauded the state's strong laws during a debate against Democrat Shannon O'Brien. "We do have tough gun laws in Massachusetts; I support them," he said. "I won't chip away at them; I believe they protect us and provide for our safety."
Today, as he explores a presidential bid, Romney is sending a very different message on gun issues, which are far more prominent in Republican national politics than in Massachusetts.
He now touts his work as governor to ease restrictions on gun owners. He proudly describes himself as a member of the NRA -- though his campaign won't say when he joined. And Friday, at his campaign's request, top officials of the NRA and the National Shooting Sports Foundation led him around one of the country's biggest gun shows.
Romney says he still backs the ban on assault weapons, but he won't say whether he stands by the Brady Bill. And after the gun show tour, his campaign declined to say whether he would still describe himself as a supporter of tough gun laws.
"He believes Americans have the right to own and possess firearms as guaranteed under the US Constitution," spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom wrote in an e-mail. "He's proud to be among the many decent, law-abiding men and women who safely use firearms. Like President Bush, he supports restrictions on assault weapons, but Mitt Romney has also worked with gun owners and sportsmen to ease the gun-licensing laws in Massachusetts."
Romney appears to be stepping up his efforts to portray himself as a gun-friendly candidate, though some gun-rights activists in important primary states say his past positions will hurt him politically.
On Wednesday, Romney said on an Internet podcast, "The Glenn and Helen Show," that he hopes states would continue to ease regulations on gun owners, and he expressed enthusiasm for guns and hunting. "I have a gun of my own. I go hunting myself. I'm a member of the NRA and believe firmly in the right to bear arms," Romney said.
Asked by reporters at the gun show Friday whether he personally owned the gun, Romney said he did not. He said one of his sons, Josh, keeps two guns at the family vacation home in Utah, and he uses them "from time to time." The guns are a Winchester hunting rifle and a Glock 9mm handgun, which Romney uses for target shooting . Romney also described himself as a sportsman who learned to shoot as a boy rabbit hunting in Idaho with a .22 rifle. He fondly recalled shooting quail last year at a Republican Governors Association event in Georgia.
"I . . . had a good time and actually knocked down a couple of birds," he said.
Fehrnstrom said Romney had taken steps to support gun rights as governor, including his signing of an NRA-backed bill last year that reduced a testing requirement on certain pistol-makers before they could sell guns in Massachusetts.
In 2002, even as he was pledging to uphold the state's strong gun laws, Romney still garnered a "B" grade from the NRA.
Also, in 2005, Romney designated May 7 as "The Right to Bear Arms Day" in Massachusetts to honor "the right of decent, law-abiding citizens to own and use firearms in defense of their families, persons, and property and for all lawful purposes, including the common defense."
But perhaps the most significant gun legislation Romney signed as governor was a 2004 measure instituting a permanent ban on assault weapons. The Legislature mirrored the law after the federal assault weapons ban, which was set to expire. According to activists at the time, the bill made Massachusetts the first state to enact its own such ban, and Romney hailed the move.
"These guns are not made for recreation or self-defense," he was quoted as saying. "They are instruments of destruction with the sole purpose of hunting down and killing people."
The bill enjoyed the support of Massachusetts gun owners because it also encompassed several measures they favored -- including a lengthening of the terms of firearm identification cards and licenses to carry. (Asked about the bill Friday, Romney described it as a "consensus measure" and a "positive step.")
But the NRA and many local affiliates do not support assault weapons bans, arguing that the arms are rarely used in crimes and have a legitimate purpose in hunting, target shooting, and self-protection. Romney's signing of that bill, despite its progun provisions, will be problematic politically, activists say.
"Why don't you just not take away [rights] from us?" Michael Thiede, president of the group Michigan Gun Owners, said last week. He said Romney's support for the assault-weapons ban and the Brady Bill will "absolutely" give him friction.
Gerald W. Stoudemire, president of Gun Owners of South Carolina, agreed, saying Romney has been "basically antigun on some issues."
"They're going to be a big scratch on his record," Stoudemire said. "He's going to have to not just get over them, but show a different direction if he's going to pick up voters."
The NRA officials who led Romney around the trade show declined to discuss his positions. "We meet with candidates all over the country at every level," said Chris W. Cox, who heads the NRA's political and legislative work.
Romney's past positions on gun control have also drawn some attention in the blogosphere, though not nearly as much as his statements in support of abortion rights and gay rights. (He's now antiabortion and takes a harder line on gay rights.) "Wait until the 2d amendment crowd gets a hold of Mitt's views on gun control," one blogger wrote on .
Romney was clearly trying to allay such concerns by attending the massive Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show and Conference at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center. Romney, joined by his wife, Ann, and trailed by local television stations and a few reporters, chatted enthusiastically with vendors displaying a wide variety of weapons.
"Let's see your shotguns here," Romney said to Michael F. Golden, CEO of the Springfield-based gunmaker Smith & Wesson. Romney's dark suit stood out in a sea of camouflage, but he gamely introduced himself to anyone in his path.
At one booth, he met exhibition shooter Tom Knapp , who gave Romney some hunting advice: When you miss an animal, pretend you did it on purpose, because you want the animal to breed lots of offspring (read: targets).
"That's a great hunting tip!" Romney said with a laugh.
The trade show illustrated the work that lies ahead for Romney in broadening his name recognition. Though many people knew who he was -- "I was just pitching you last night!" one man said enthusiastically -- many others did not.
"Who is that?" a woman at the Crossman gunmaker booth asked quietly after Romney walked away.
"A governor," someone said.
"Where?" she asked.
"Massachusetts -- may be running for president."
Moments later, a different woman gestured in his direction: "Is that Jeb Bush?"
"No, it's Mitt Romney," Fehrnstrom corrected.
28427  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shame on the NFL on: February 14, 2007, 02:56:06 PM
The National Football League refused to run a recruitment ad for the U.S. Border Patrol in last week's Super Bowl program, saying it was "controversial" because it mentioned duties such as fighting terrorism and stopping drugs and illegal aliens at the border.
    "The ad that the department submitted was specific to Border Patrol, and it mentioned terrorism. We were not comfortable with that," said Greg Aiello, a spokesman for the NFL. "The borders, the immigration debate is a very controversial issue, and we were sensitive to any perception we were injecting ourselves into that."
    The NFL's rejection didn't sit well with Border Patrol agents, who called it a snub of their role in homeland security and said it was "more than a little puzzling."
    "The NFL missed a golden opportunity to reach countless patriotic citizens who want to answer the call to help prevent another terrorist attack on American soil," said T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, the union that represents the agency's nonsupervisory personnel.
    Border Patrol agents are assigned to protect the country's borders with Mexico and Canada between the ports of entry. The agency is trying to boost its force to 18,000, a goal President Bush outlined last year in a prime-time Oval Office address to the nation.
    Other major leagues have had no problems running the ad, a Border Patrol spokesman said. It has been accepted to run in programs for the upcoming NBA All Star Game and the NCAA Final Four, as well as in Pro BullRider magazine, the spokesman said.
    The NFL's snub came to light last week during Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff's testimony before a congressional panel. Mr. Chertoff said the ad was rejected, "much to my chagrin."
    Mr. Aiello said that the NFL offered the department a chance to run a generic recruiting ad, similar to ads the U.S. military runs, but that the league never heard back from it.
    "We proposed a more generic recruiting ad for the department that didn't highlight the borders, which brings up the immigration issue and the immigration debate. That's controversial," he said.
    That position stands in stark contrast to the ongoing debate in Congress, where among all the thorny issues related to immigration, the one that wins near-unanimous agreement is the need for more boots on the ground.
    "Since almost every American favors securing our borders and the overwhelming majority of legislators on both sides of the immigration debate support significant increases in the number of Border Patrol agents, it is extremely difficult to imagine how those issues could be perceived as controversial," Mr. Bonner said.
    He said the NFL's decision appeared to be an attempt to try to avoid upsetting the emerging market of football fans in Latin America.


 The Super Bowl program is produced by the NFL, which printed about 200,000 copies this year, Mr. Aiello said.
    The Border Patrol ad asks for "the right men and women to help protect America's southwest borders." It lists duties as preventing "the entry of terrorists and their weapons," blocking "unlawful entry of undocumented aliens" and "stopping drug smuggling."
    The ad does not mention the ongoing immigration debate in Washington or touch on contentious subjects such as amnesty, a guest-worker program or legalization.
    Mr. Bush has promised to double the size of the Border Patrol, which stood at 9,000 when he took office. His budget proposal calls for funding for 3,000 new agents in fiscal 2008 alone.
    Customs and Border Protection Commissioner W. Ralph Basham, who oversees the Border Patrol, told The Washington Times last year that an aggressive recruiting effort by the agency had resulted in "no want for applicants."
    Mr. Basham said the ongoing attrition rate for the Border Patrol of about 4 percent was significantly down from previous years and meant that 6,800 new agents would have to be hired and trained to fill the 6,000 slots sought to boost the agency's numbers to 18,000 and to make up for losses from attrition.
    To meet the president's goal, Mr. Basham -- who once led the federal law-enforcement training center -- said the agency had reduced the total number of days trainees attend the academy, "but not the training they receive." He said the overall training schedule was reduced in October from 92 to 81 days.
28428  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: February 14, 2007, 12:11:12 PM
A Portrait of the Economy
February 14, 2007; Page A21

It's the best of times. It's the scariest of times. Last year, U.S. exports, industrial production, real hourly compensation, corporate profits, federal tax revenues, retail sales, GDP, productivity, the number of people with jobs, the number of students in college, airline passenger traffic and the Dow Jones Industrial Average all hit record levels. For the third consecutive year, global growth was strong, continuing to lift (and hold) millions of people out of poverty. From 30,000 feet, heck from 1,000 feet, it sure looks like the best of times.

In relative terms, the first five years of the current recovery have been much better than the first five years of the 1990s recovery. But all this has not softened the pessimism of many pundits and politicians who are either unimpressed or expect the whole thing to come crashing down any minute. That is, unless the government firmly grabs the reins of the global economy and steers it clear of disaster.

Many believe that the debate is over on global warming, nationalized health care, tax hikes, rich-versus-poor, the trade deficit and "obscene" oil company profits. Forgotten in this rush to pass judgment on capitalism is the fact that the last two times government seriously tried to control the U.S. economy -- in the 1930s and in the 1970s -- they made a terrible mess of it.

In the 1930s, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act caused a collapse in global trade, while the Fed allowed the money supply to shrink by one-third. Government regulation in the 1920s prevented banks from branching, which caused more than 10,000 to fail in the 1930s, deepening and prolonging the Great Depression. Herbert Hoover's tax hikes were icing on the cake, capping off a perfect storm of D.C. policy mistakes.

It took another 35 years, and a nice run of prosperity, but Washington finally gathered the courage to try this again. Between 1965 and 1981, Great Society welfare and health-care programs, wage and price controls, inflationary Fed policy, 70% marginal tax rates, 50% capital-gains tax rates, and highly regulated energy, airline, banking and trucking industries created severe problems. The Misery Index (calculated by adding inflation and unemployment) rose to 21.9% in 1980 (today it is 7.2%).

One of the worst mistakes of the 1970s was a National Energy Plan. On April 18, 1977, in a nationally televised speech, President Carter said, "World oil production can probably keep going up for another six or eight years. But some time in the 1980s it can't go up much more. Demand will overtake production."

President Carter's White House economists worried about "environmental damage and the risks to national security and to future economic activity posed by energy imports." To fix these problems, the Department of Energy (DOE) was created while the Congress and president pushed forward windfall profits taxes, price caps, subsidies for solar energy, tax breaks for using coal, and direct spending on synthetic fuels.

Not only did all of this fail to stop imports or the use of fossil fuels, it was also the source of economic pain. Part of the problem was faulty forecasts. Rather than peaking in the mid-1980s, the latest DOE estimates predict peak oil production no earlier than 2021, but possibly as late as 2037, 2067 or 2112, depending on assumptions.

The cost of government intervention is always underestimated in the midst of political battles, while the benefits are always overestimated. Impeding the free market alters the course of economic activity in ways that cannot fully be understood in advance. For example, tax subsidies for using existing solar technology diminish incentives for research and development, just like welfare payments undermine the willingness of many recipients to work or go to school. Why give up a sure thing for a future that is uncertain?

The U.S. is subsidizing ethanol, which pulls billions of dollars of investment capital away from other areas of the economy. When government picks what it thinks should be the winner, it saps resources from other ideas and potential advancements. In the 1960s, the U.K. picked coal and steel, while Japan picked consumer electronics, motor vehicles and exports. The U.K. was wrong. The Japanese got it right. But the odds of any government picking the right strategy, industry or technology are no greater than that of a single company or individual.

The power of a free market is that the odds of success are increased. With tens, or hundreds, of thousands of different entities researching, inventing, producing and distributing, successes not only multiply, but their profits generate resources that allow the economy to absorb the cost of mistakes and failure. It's called diversification. When one company fails, those closely involved are hurt, but not the entire economy. When government is wrong, millions suffer.

Unfortunately, the government reacts to market failure by creating more regulation. Think Sarbanes-Oxley. But the costs of this regulation are almost always greater than the benefits; and Congress tends toward denial when it comes to government failure.

One would think that the unbelievably dramatic turnaround in the economy from the malaise of the 1970s to the boom of the past 24 years would prevent the return of big government. But it appears that a growing number of American politicians, journalists and their constituents have forgotten the awful reality of the 1970s economy. Part of the problem is that people younger than 45 don't have even the slightest idea of how bad it was, or what caused it. They also have no idea that when Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan turned away from socialism in the late 1970s and early 1980s, continental Europe (Germany, France and Italy) kept going. Then while the U.S and U.K. boomed, continental Europe fell behind.

Moreover, many of the more acute economic problems supposedly facing the U.S. are evaporating quickly. My models of the federal budget forecast a $115 billion dollar deficit this year, just 0.8% of GDP, less than half the size expected by the White House, and $57 billion less than the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Next year, I expect a deficit of $35 billion. A budget surplus in 2009 is likely.

With tax rates low, profits and incomes rising, and strong non-withheld income tax revenues (from IRA withdrawals and capital gains), forecasts of a significant slowdown in revenue growth appear too pessimistic. Many argue that the cost of fixing the Alternative Minimum Tax will reduce revenue growth, but the AMT has been "fixed" in each of the past three years and revenue growth has consistently exceeded expectations. The wild card is spending. My forecast expects $40 billion more in spending than CBO estimates this year, mostly for the Iraq war. But gridlock in Congress should help spending growth to remain in check for the next few years.

Surpluses will change the calculus on tax hikes in dramatic fashion. Any argument to repeal the Bush tax cuts will face a strong headwind. This is great news for investors and the economy. In addition, with unemployment down to 4.6%, and real GDP excluding housing up 4.3% in the past year, many industries face labor shortages. Wages are being bid higher and much like the second half of the 1990s recovery, wage growth should continue to accelerate sharply in the months and years ahead. Data show that this process has already begun.

The economy is still riding a wave of productivity growth, built on the winds of technological change. Computer chips are still getting faster, cheaper and more efficient. Software is becoming more powerful and telecommunication advances are moving at warp speed.

Free-market capitalism is not perfect. But it remains the single most efficient and powerful system for creating wealth, reducing poverty and developing less wasteful ways of organizing output and consuming resources.

With the U.S. seemingly at a political turning point, the next few years are very important. At a similar juncture in 1929, and again in 1965, the U.S. moved toward bigger government. After World War II, and again in the early 1980s, Washington chose less intrusive government. The results speak for themselves. Good times or scary times: It's our choice.

Mr. Wesbury is the chief economist at First Trust Advisors L.P. in Lisle, Ill.
28429  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 14, 2007, 12:02:45 PM
C-Stray Dog:

Interesting how "off the radar screen" OBL has become , , , 

I must say that it looks to me like the Bush Administration really took its eye off the ball here and has allowed what was a promising situation turn into , , , a mess.

Anyway, here's this from today's WSJ. 


Taliban Spring
February 14, 2007; Page A20
American and NATO military planners in Afghanistan are bracing for what they anticipate will be a major Taliban offensive this spring. Expect more terrorism in Kabul, attacks on positions in and around the key Pashtun city of Kandahar, ambushes on vehicles and attacks on European and Canadian forces, which the Taliban consider, with good reason, to be the weak link in the NATO chain. Expect, too, for the Taliban to be decisively defeated.

The year 2006 was a bad one for Afghanistan. The rate of suicide bombings throughout the country soared. The Taliban found sanctuary in Pakistan's Waziristan province and, thanks to their "truce" with Islamabad, more than doubled the number of raids into Afghanistan. Entire provinces in the country had almost no military or police presence to speak of. And NATO was unable to secure further troop commitments from its non-U.S. members.

Now the picture is brightening. A year ago there were no Afghan troops and no more than 150 U.S. special forces in the southern province of Helmand. Today, there is an Afghan infantry battalion and a British air-assault brigade. The U.S. is deploying thousands of soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division while extending the deployment of the Tenth Mountain Infantry brigade in anticipation of the spring offensive. That brings total U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan to 24,000, roughly 6,000 more than this time last year. So much for the idea that the surge in Iraq is starving our efforts in Afghanistan.

The situation with the Afghan military is also improving, though a senior U.S. military official describes the process as a "steep uphill climb." In 2005, the desertion rate was 25%. Today it is 10%. It helps that the Afghan soldier has now had a raise, to about $100 a month. It helps, too, that the U.S. is now investing $8.6 billion over two years to better equip and train the army, and to double its size to 70,000.

Where the U.S. still has significant problems is with its partners in the region. The fighting capabilities of European, Canadian and even British forces continue to lag far behind America's, as does their willingness to fight. Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi has been under intense political pressure to withdraw Italy's 1,800-man contingent in Afghanistan. This week, a Canadian senate committee recommended withdrawing their forces if other NATO countries don't increase theirs.

More problematic is Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf's recent proposal to mine the border with Afghanistan along the so-called "Durand line" is probably not serious, but if it were it would not be helpful. And while it's true that the Pakistan army lost some 400 soldiers in fighting against the Taliban, it's also true that their September truce represents an abdication of their sovereign responsibility to control their borders.

Still, the combination of more troops and a keen appreciation of last year's mistakes puts the U.S. and Afghanistan in a better position than a year ago to repulse the Taliban's expected spring offensive. We hope our wavering NATO allies feel the same way. After all, isn't Afghanistan supposed to be the "good war" in the broader war on terror?

28430  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 14, 2007, 11:54:31 AM

The Ever-'Present' Obama
Barack has a along track record of not taking a stand.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

Finally and officially, Barack Obama is running for president. His symbolic announcement, in the Land of Lincoln, called for a new era in politics. Obama downplayed his thin federal experience while championing his record on the state and local level, and he talked about the need to change Washington, set priorities, and "make hard choices."

"What's stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics--the ease with which we're distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions," Obama said in his announcement speech. But a closer look at the presidential candidate's record in the Illinois Legislature reveals something seemingly contradictory: a number of occasions when Obama avoided making hard choices.

While some conservatives and Republicans surely will harp on what they call his "liberal record," highlighting applicable votes to support their case, it's Obama's history of voting "present" in Springfield--even on some of the most controversial and politically explosive issues of the day--that raises questions that he will need to answer. Voting "present" is one of three options in the Illinois Legislature (along with "yes" and "no"), but it's almost never an option for the occupant of the Oval Office.

We aren't talking about a "present" vote on whether to name a state office building after a deceased state official, but rather about votes that reflect an officeholder's core values.
For example, in 1997, Obama voted "present" on two bills (HB 382 and SB 230) that would have prohibited a procedure often referred to as partial birth abortion. He also voted "present" on SB 71, which lowered the first offense of carrying a concealed weapon from a felony to a misdemeanor and raised the penalty of subsequent offenses.

In 1999, Obama voted "present" on SB 759, a bill that required mandatory adult prosecution for firing a gun on or near school grounds. The bill passed the state Senate 52-1. Also in 1999, Obama voted "present" on HB 854 that protected the privacy of sex-abuse victims by allowing petitions to have the trial records sealed. He was the only member to not support the bill.

In 2001, Obama voted "present" on two parental notification abortion bills (HB 1900 and SB 562), and he voted "present" on a series of bills (SB 1093, 1094, 1095) that sought to protect a child if it survived a failed abortion. In his book, the "Audacity of Hope," on page 132, Obama explained his problems with the "born alive" bills, specifically arguing that they would overturn Roe v. Wade. But he failed to mention that he only felt strongly enough to vote "present" on the bills instead of "no."

And finally in 2001, Obama voted "present" on SB 609, a bill prohibiting strip clubs and other adult establishments from being within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, and daycares.

If Obama had taken a position for or against these bills, he would have pleased some constituents and alienated others. Instead, the Illinois legislator-turned-U.S. senator and, now, Democratic presidential hopeful essentially took a pass.

Some of these bills may have been "bad." They may have included poison pills or been poorly written, making it impossible for Obama to support them. They may have even been unconstitutional. When I asked the Obama campaign about those votes, they explained that in some cases, the Senator was uncomfortable with only certain parts of the bill, while in other cases, the bills were attempts by Republicans simply to score points.

But even if that were the case, it doesn't explain his votes. The state legislator had an easy solution if the bills were unacceptable to him: he could have voted against them and explained his reasoning.

Because it takes affirmative votes to pass legislation in the Illinois Senate, a "present" vote is tantamount to a "no" vote. A "present" vote is generally used to provide political cover for legislators who don't want to be on the record against a bill that they oppose. Of course, Obama isn't the first or only Illinois state senator to vote "present," but he is the only one running for President of the United States.

While these votes occurred while Obama and the Democrats were in the minority in the Illinois Senate, in the "Audacity of Hope" (page 130), Obama explained that even as a legislator in the minority, "You must vote yes or no on whatever bill comes up, with the knowledge that it's unlikely to be a compromise that either you or your supporters consider fair and or just."

Obama's "present" record could hurt him in two very different ways in his bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination and, ultimately, the White House. On one hand, those votes could anger some Democrats, even liberals, because he did not take a strong enough stand on their issues. On the other hand, his votes could simply be portrayed by adversaries as a failure of leadership for not being willing to make a tough decision and stick by it.
Obama is one of the most dynamic and captivating figures in American politics at this time, and he has put together an excellent campaign team. He clearly is a factor in the race for the Democratic nomination in 2008.

But as Democrats--and Americans--are searching for their next leader, the Illinois senator's record, and not just his rhetoric, will be examined under a microscope. As president, Obama will be faced with countless difficult decisions on numerous gray issues, and voting "present" will not be an option. He will need to explain those "present" votes as a member of the Illinois Legislature if he hopes to become America's commander-in-chief.

Mr. Gonzales is political editor of the Rothenberg Political Report.

28431  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Faith based non-proliferation on: February 14, 2007, 11:49:17 AM

Faith-Based Nonproliferation
We'll believe it when Kim Jong Il hands over his plutonium.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

So after a couple of decades of broken promises, missile launches and nuclear tests, North Korea's Kim Jong Il has finally decided to give up his nuclear ambitions in return for diplomatic recognition and foreign aid. The Bush Administration will no doubt be praised with scorn for finally being "reasonable" and recognizing "reality," but the exercise strikes us as something close to faith-based nonproliferation.

Perhaps the best thing we can say about the deal is that it is marginally better than the "Agreed Framework," the 1994 accord in which the Clinton Administration agreed to hand over two light-water reactors and 500,000 tons of fuel oil a year in exchange for North Korea's promise to freeze its plutonium program. Pyongyang pocketed the oil, only to demand more compensation within a few years while secretly enriching uranium in a separate nuclear program that it only acknowledged in 2002.

This time there are no nuclear reactors on offer, and North Korea will get only 5% of the promised one million tons of fuel oil and humanitarian assistance up front. The remaining 95% is contingent upon North Korea providing a full accounting of all of its nuclear programs within 60 days, and ultimately agreeing to dismantle the works. That includes nuclear bombs, spent fuel and the clandestine uranium program--which it now denies having but that the Bush Administration insists does exist.

The other difference from 1994 is that China is a party to this accord. Beijing has by far the most leverage of any country on Pyongyang, as its political patron and supplier of most of its energy needs. China was instrumental in getting Pyongyang back to the negotiating table after a three-year absence, and the U.S. is counting on it to help ensure the North's cooperation.
A senior Administration official tells us that there has been a "sea change" in the Chinese attitude toward North Korea since last summer's missile launch--read: Beijing is furious--and that Beijing is now "heavily invested" in making sure that the deal succeeds. We can only hope this is so.

However, Kim has proven he can stand up to China before, and the dictator's habit is to strike an agreement and then try to renegotiate it along the way for better terms. He will have many chances to do so under yesterday's accord, because the commitments and timetables are vague to say the least. His one important specific promise is to shut down his plutonium facility, at Yongbyon, within 60 days.

The accord makes no mention of the plutonium his regime has produced, nor of the eight or more nuclear bombs he is thought to possess. Nor does it refer to his uranium enrichment program, much less specify that international inspectors will be able to roam the country's vast network of underground installations for evidence of where that program might be. Bush Administration officials say that they believe that all of Kim's nuclear activities are covered under the agreement, and that Kim will be expected to come clean in his 60-day declaration.

But if he doesn't? One danger of this accord is that it will start a traditional "arms control" process in which Kim can stall and protest, and the U.S. will be pressured to make even further concessions. We can already see the lineup of South Koreans, Chinese, American media and State Department officials all suggesting that the Bush Administration is being obstinate and "unrealistic" if it insists on intrusive inspections, or on recovering all of Kim's plutonium.

Meanwhile, the immediate effect of the fuel assistance and promises of diplomatic recognition will sustain Kim's regime, allowing him to sell the deal at home as a victory for his missile and nuclear blackmail. The timing is especially ironic given that Kim's position arguably has never been more precarious thanks to U.S.-imposed financial measures against the North's international banking activities.

Treasury's blacklisting of Banco Delta Asia in Macau in September 2005--and the demonstration effect on other banks that did business with the North--essentially shut down Pyongyang's access to the global banking system. The U.S. is now promising to review its Banco Delta Asia action within 30 days. If that results in the government of Macau releasing some portion of the $24 million in BNA's North Korean accounts, it's yet another prop for the regime.

All of which is to say that this is far from the nonproliferation model set by Libya's Moammar Gadhafi in the wake of Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003. Gadhafi relinquished his entire nuclear program up front, and only later--once compliance was verified and the nuclear materials removed from the country--did the U.S. take Libya off the terror list and provide other rewards.
Perhaps Mr. Bush feels this is the best he can do in the waning days of his Administration. Or perhaps, in the most favorable interpretation, he wants to clear the decks of this issue in order to have more political capital to control Iran's nuclear ambitions. Iran may look at this deal, however, and conclude it has little to lose by raising the nuclear stakes. We'd like to believe this will turn out better, but history doesn't support such faith.
28432  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Euro Martial Arts on: February 14, 2007, 10:47:37 AM
DBMA Association member Marlon wrote this:
28433  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: February 14, 2007, 01:39:47 AM

Once again, Stratfor/Geroge Friedman lay down some deep thinking.  Comments?


PS:  I am a lifetime subscriber to Stratfor.  What you see here is only a fraction of what they produce.


Russia's Great-Power Strategy
By George Friedman

Most speeches at diplomatic gatherings aren't worth the time it takes to listen to them. On rare occasion, a speech is delivered that needs to be listened to carefully. Russian President Vladimir Putin gave such a speech over the weekend in Munich, at a meeting on international security. The speech did not break new ground; it repeated things that the Russians have been saying for quite a while. But the venue in which it was given and the confidence with which it was asserted signify a new point in Russian history. The Cold War has not returned, but Russia is now officially asserting itself as a great power, and behaving accordingly.

At Munich, Putin launched a systematic attack on the role the United States is playing in the world. He said: "One state, the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way ... This is nourishing an arms race with the desire of countries to get nuclear weapons." In other words, the United States has gone beyond its legitimate reach and is therefore responsible for attempts by other countries -- an obvious reference to Iran -- to acquire nuclear weapons.

Russia for some time has been in confrontation with the United States over U.S. actions in the former Soviet Union (FSU). What the Russians perceive as an American attempt to create a pro-U.S. regime in Ukraine triggered the confrontation. But now, the issue goes beyond U.S. actions in the FSU. The Russians are arguing that the unipolar world -- meaning that the United States is the only global power and is surrounded by lesser, regional powers -- is itself unacceptable. In other words, the United States sees itself as the solution when it is, actually, the problem.

In his speech, Putin reached out to European states -- particularly Germany, pointing out that it has close, but blunt, relations with Russia. The Central Europeans showed themselves to be extremely wary about Putin's speech, recognizing it for what it was -- a new level of assertiveness from an historical enemy. Some German leaders appeared more understanding, however: Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made no mention of Putin's speech in his own presentation to the conference, while Ruprecht Polenz, chairman of the Bundestag Foreign Affairs Committee, praised Putin's stance on Iran. He also noted that the U.S. plans to deploy an anti-missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic was cause for concern -- and not only to Russia.

Putin now clearly wants to escalate the confrontations with the United States and likely wants to build a coalition to limit American power. The gross imbalance of global power in the current system makes such coalition-building inevitable -- and it makes sense that the Russians should be taking the lead. The Europeans are risk-averse, and the Chinese do not have much at risk in their dealings with the United States at the moment. The Russians, however, have everything at risk. The United States is intruding in the FSU, and an ideological success for the Americans in Ukraine would leave the Russians permanently on the defensive.

The Russians need allies but are not likely to find them among other great-power states. Fortunately for Moscow, the U.S. obsession with Iraq creates alternative opportunities. First, the focus on Iraq prevents the Americans from countering Russia elsewhere. Second, it gives the Russians serious leverage against the United States -- for example, by shipping weapons to key players in the region. Finally, there are Middle Eastern states that seek great-power patronage. It is therefore no accident that Putin's next stop, following the Munich conference, was in Saudi Arabia. Having stabilized the situation in the former Soviet region, the Russians now are constructing their follow-on strategy, and that concerns the Middle East.

The Russian Interests

The Middle East is the pressure point to which the United States is most sensitive. Its military commitment in Iraq, the confrontation with Iran, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and oil in the Arabian Peninsula create a situation such that pain in the region affects the United States intensely. Therefore, it makes sense for the Russians to use all available means of pressure in the Middle East in efforts to control U.S. behavior elsewhere, particularly in the former Soviet Union.

Like the Americans, the Russians also have direct interests in the Middle East. Energy is a primary one: Russia is not only a major exporter of energy supplies, it is currently the world's top oil producer. The Russians have a need to maintain robust energy prices, and working with the Iranians and Saudis in some way to achieve this is directly in line with Moscow's interest. To be more specific, the Russians do not want the Saudis increasing oil production.

There are strategic interests in the Middle East as well. For example, the Russians are still bogged down in Chechnya. It is Moscow's belief that if Chechnya were to secede from the Russian Federation, a precedent would be set that could lead to the dissolution of the Federation. Moscow will not allow this. The Russians consistently have claimed that the Chechen rebellion has been funded by "Wahhabis," by which they mean Saudis. Reaching an accommodation with the Saudis, therefore, would have not only economic, but also strategic, implications for the Russians.

On a broader level, the Russians retain important interests in the Caucasus and in Central Asia. In both cases, their needs intersect with forces originating in the Muslim world and trace, to some extent, back to the Middle East. If the Russian strategy is to reassert a sphere of influence in the former Soviet region, it follows that these regions must be secured. That, in turn, inevitably involves the Russians in the Middle East.

Therefore, even if Russia is not in a position to pursue some of the strategic goals that date back to the Soviet era and before -- such as control of the Bosporus and projection of naval power into the Mediterranean -- it nevertheless has a basic, ongoing interest in the region. Russia has a need both to limit American power and to achieve direct goals of its own. So it makes perfect sense for Putin to leave Munich and embark on a tour of Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries.

The Complexities

But the Russians also have a problem. The strategic interests of Middle Eastern states diverge, to say the least. The two main Islamic powers between the Levant and the Hindu Kush are Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Russians have things they want from each, but the Saudis and Iranians have dramatically different interests. Saudi Arabia -- an Arab and primarily Sunni kingdom -- is rich but militarily weak. The government's reliance on outside help for national defense generates intense opposition within the kingdom. Desert Storm, which established a basing arrangement for Western troops within Saudi Arabia, was one of the driving forces behind the creation of al Qaeda. Iran -- a predominantly Persian and Shiite power -- is not nearly as rich as Saudi Arabia but militarily much more powerful. Iran seeks to become the dominant power in the Persian Gulf -- out of both its need to defend itself against aggression, and for controlling and exploiting the oil wealth of the region.

Putting the split between Sunni and Shiite aside for the moment, there is tremendous geopolitical asymmetry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Saudi Arabia wants to limit Iranian power, while keeping its own dependence on foreign powers at a minimum. That means that, though keeping energy prices high might make financial sense for the kingdom, the fact that high energy prices also strengthen the Iranians actually can be a more important consideration, depending on circumstances. There is some evidence that recent declines in oil prices are linked to decisions in Riyadh that are aimed at increasing production, reducing prices and hurting the Iranians.

This creates a problem for Russia. While Moscow has substantial room for maneuver, the fact is that lowered oil prices impact energy prices overall, and therefore hurt the Russians. The Saudis, moreover, need the Iranians blocked -- but without going so far as to permit foreign troops to be based in Saudi Arabia itself. In other words, they want to see the United States remain in Iraq, since the Americans serve as the perfect shield against the Iranians so long as they remain there. Putin's criticisms of the United States, as delivered in Munich, would have been applauded by Saudi Arabia prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But in 2007, the results of that invasion are exactly what the Saudis feared -- a collapsed Iraq and a relatively powerful Iran. The Saudis now need the Americans to stay put in the region.

The interests of Russia and Iran align more closely, but there are points of divergence there as well. Both benefit from having the United States tied up, militarily and politically, in wars, but Tehran would be delighted to see a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq that leaves a power vacuum for Iran to fill. The Russians would rather not see this outcome. First, they are quite happy to have the United States bogged down in Iraq and would prefer that to having the U.S. military freed for operations elsewhere. Second, they are interested in a relationship with Iran but are not eager to drive the United States and Saudi Arabia into closer relations. Third, the Russians do not want to see Iran become the dominant power in the region. They want to use Iran, but within certain manageable limits.

Russia has been supplying Iran with weapons. Of particular significance is the supply of surface-to-air missiles that would raise the cost of U.S. air operations against Iran. It is not clear whether the advanced S300PMU surface-to-air missile has yet been delivered, although there has been some discussion of this lately. If it were delivered, this would present significant challenges for U.S. air operation over Iran. The Russians would find this particularly advantageous, as the Iranians would absorb U.S. attentions and, as in Vietnam, the Russians would benefit from extended, fruitless commitments of U.S. military forces in regions not vital to Russia.

Meanwhile, there are energy matters: The Russians, as we have said, are interested in working with Iran to manage world oil prices. But at the same time, they would not be averse to a U.S. attack that takes Iran's oil off the market, spikes prices and enriches Russia.

Finally, it must be remembered that behind this complex relationship with Iran, there historically has been animosity and rivalry between the two countries. The Caucasus has been their battleground. For the moment, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is a buffer there, but it is a buffer in which Russians and Iranians are already dueling. So long as both states are relatively weak, the buffer will maintain itself. But as they get stronger, the Caucasus will become a battleground again. When Russian and Iranian territories border each other, the two powers are rarely at peace. Indeed, Iran frequently needs outside help to contain the Russians.

A Complicated Strategy

In sum, the Russian position in the Middle East is at least as complex as the American one. Or perhaps even more so, since the Americans can leave and the Russians always will live on the doorstep of the Middle East. Historically, once the Russians start fishing in Middle Eastern waters, they find themselves in a greater trap than the Americans. The opening moves are easy. The duel between Saudi Arabia and Iran seems manageable. But as time goes on, Putin's Soviet predecessors learned, the Middle East is a graveyard of ambitions -- and not just American ambitions.

Russia wants to contain U.S. power, and manipulating the situation in the Middle East certainly will cause the Americans substantial pain. But whatever short-term advantages the Russians may be able to find and exploit in the region, there is an order of complexity in Putin's maneuver that might transcend any advantage they gain from boxing the Americans in.

In returning to "great power" status, Russia is using an obvious opening gambit. But being obvious does not make it optimal.
Contact Us
28434  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: February 14, 2007, 01:17:02 AM

Medievil tech support
28435  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nature on: February 13, 2007, 06:09:57 PM
It is not my intention that this thread be a series of posts about misadventures with nature, but, , , , well , , , here's another one:

Cheetahs Maul Woman to Death at Zoo in Belgium

Tuesday , February 13, 2007

BRUSSELS, Belgium —

An animal lover was mauled to death by cheetahs after entering their cage at a zoo in northern Belgium, authorities and zoo officials said Monday.  Karen Aerts, 37, of Antwerp, was found dead in the cage, Olmense Zoo spokesman Jan Libot said. Police said they ruled out any foul play.

Authorities believe Aerts, a regular visitor to the zoo, hid in the park late Sunday until it closed and managed to find the keys to the cheetah cage.
"Karen loved animals. Unfortunately the cheetahs betrayed her trust,"  rolleyes cheesy Libot said.
One of the cats that killed Aerts was named Bongo, whom the woman had adopted under a special program. She paid for Bongo's food, Libot said.  Animal rights group GAIA called for the immediate closure of the zoo, located 55 miles northeast of Brussels, saying it was unsafe for both visitors and the cats.  rolleyes cheesy

Rudy Demotte, the Belgian minister responsible for animal welfare, sent a team to investigate.
28436  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Emergency Tips, Emergency Medicine, Trauma Care, and First Aid on: February 13, 2007, 11:17:58 AM
Woof All:

In DBMA we use "The Three Hs" of Bando:  Hurting, Healing, Harmonizing.

Healing may refer to keeping our selves healthy, to healing training injuries and the like.  It can also refer to emergency injuries such as knife or gun wounds.  Given DBMA's mission statement of "Walk as a Warrior for all our days", it makes sense that we should seek to grow in our knowledge of how to keep ourselves and others alive while getting proper medical attention.  This thread is for such things.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog

Quick response to bleeding wounds  Submit a Tip
Submitted by:
Officer Jeremy Phillips, Trumann (AR) PD
Trumann Police, Arkansas


A tip learned in the military a few years back to help stop serious bleeding:

Feminine napkins and tampons, which are super absorbent, are great for helping to control bleeding wounds. Tampons fit bullet wounds (some better than others) pretty well and swell to help stop bleeding. Pads are pretty much, if not exactly the same thing as battle bandages.

Sucking wounds can also sometimes be helped by the plastic wrapper of a cigarette pack or a latex glove. Even a pat down glove or anything you can fit over the sucking wound to stop it from sucking.

Of course, nothing is better than formal training for first aid, but we don't always have those luxuries. Use what you have with you.

Fight to live so you can live to fight. Your wife/husband wants you home, and your partner's wife/husband wants them home.

Breaking car windows easily  Submit a Tip
Submitted by:
Officer Clifton Chang (ret.), NYPD


As a former glazier, I'm aware that all side windows of automobiles are made of tempered glass (baked in an oven) and are weakest on the edges. To break one, simply insert a screwdriver or knife between the window frame and glass and pry! The glass will shatter quietly.

If you're breaking the window to get to a baby in a car seat accidentally locked inside, go to the opposite side to minimize any danger to the child.

28437  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Bison on: February 13, 2007, 09:08:56 AM
NY Times

MOIESE, Mont. — An effort to have two Indian tribes assist government officials in operating a federal wildlife refuge that is surrounded by their reservation has collapsed amid accusations of racism, harassment, intimidation and poor performance. But top federal officials say they are determined to resurrect it.

The plan for the tribes and the government to jointly run the National Bison Range in western Montana, just north of Missoula, had long been viewed as unworkable by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Interior branch that manages wildlife refuges.

But top Interior Department officials say that despite the objections, they are committed to transferring some responsibility for the range from the wildlife service to a tribal government.

“There’s a shared sense of mission between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the tribes,” said Shane Wolf, a department spokesman.

Representative Denny Rehberg, Republican of Montana, asked the Government Accountability Office and the House Resources Committee in late January to investigate the disagreement and the problems plaguing the range. Among them is whether political appointees at the Interior Department pressured the wildlife service into the pact. The department’s inspector general and its Office of Equal Opportunity are also investigating.

The Indian Self-Determination Act of 1975 allows tribal involvement in the management of federal lands, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, which have strong cultural links to bison, wanted the authority to manage the refuge.

The Fish and Wildlife Service opposed ceding control over the bison range, and the Interior Department and tribal officials decided to split the mission. The federal government maintained management authority but hired members of the tribes to feed and care for the bison. Federal managers, who did not have authority over the tribal workers, had to ask a tribal manager to relay orders.

The project leader at the range, Steve Kallin of the wildlife service, said tribal employees failed to do their assigned tasks and that this led to the cancellation of the agreement.

For example, Mr. Kallin said, tribe members failed to feed the bison properly in preparation for their transfer to another refuge, at which point, he said, the wildlife service resumed responsibility for feeding.

Tribal employees also did not maintain fences, Mr. Kallin said, allowing bison to wander into pastures that were being rested from grazing.

Wildlife agency employees also said that relations grew strained and that tribal employees started to threaten them. They also said they felt excluded because tribal employees prayed together during work hours. The wildlife agency hired a retired special agent-in-charge of the National Park Service for the Rocky Mountain region, Jim Reilly, to look into the situation.

Mr. Reilly’s findings, which were not made public but appeared on a Web site run by a group opposed to tribal management, supported many of the federal employees’ accusations. Mr. Reilly wrote that work conditions at the range “were as bad as he had ever seen in his career,” according to a letter from the service’s deputy regional director, Jay Slack, to the regional director that cited the investigation.

Tribal officials denied many of the accusations and said they were surprised by the list of complaints. Cancellation of the agreement “came completely out of the blue,” said the chairman of the tribal confederation, James Steele Jr. “We didn’t know until the day that they did it.”

While he was aware of some problems, Mr. Steele said, he thought they were being dealt with.

A lawyer for the tribe, Brian Upton, said tribal officials did not allow Mr. Reilly to interview members who worked at the range “because they never told us why they were investigating us.”

“We do not have any corroborating details for any of the complaints,” Mr. Upton said.

Tribal officials said that the Fish and Wildlife Service never liked the arrangement because it meant that the agency had to cede some control over the range, so the agency always wanted it to fail.

“It was a decision looking for an excuse,” said Clayton Matt, head of the tribal confederation’s natural resources department.

“We work with almost every federal agency you can think of and we have a great relationship with all of them,” he said. State and federal officials have also publicly praised the tribe’s management of natural resources, including the grizzly bears and other wildlife on the reservation.

Regarding praying at work, the tribe’s bison range coordinator, Sheila Matt (no relation to Mr. Matt) said, “When we rode through the bison, I asked the volunteers to pray for our safety and the safety of the bison.”

Critics say the decision to allow tribal management was a political one made by Interior Department appointees who favor reducing the federal role in management of parks and other properties. Such an agreement, they say, leaves no one accountable because authority for the workers lies with a tribe, which is a sovereign nation.

“The evidence of incompetency is overwhelming,” said Susan Reneau, a member of the Blue Goose Alliance, which advocates for wildlife refuges. “They did not perform their duties; they did not do their work. Yet they are not accountable.”

The federal government took control of much of the reservation land from some tribes around the turn of the century and allocated each tribal member 160 acres. The rest was open to settlement, and white settlers moved in. As a result, 30 percent of the reservation is owned by people who are not tribal members and there is longstanding enmity between the tribe and some nontribal residents.

“There’s a deep-rooted fear of tribal control,” a tribal spokesman, Rob McDonald, said.

But Mr. Kallin said he saw the matter from the opposite perspective.

“At what point,” he said, “does the Fish and Wildlife Service retain the ability to manage, according to Congressional mandate?”
28438  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Surprise! Sun Rises in the East this morning on: February 13, 2007, 09:03:33 AM
From today's NY Slimes:

Skeptics Doubt U.S. Evidence on Iran Action in Iraq

Published: February 13, 2007
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12 — Three weeks after promising it would show proof of Iranian meddling in Iraq, the Bush administration has laid out its evidence — and received in return a healthy dose of skepticism.

Skip to next paragraph
Suspected Iranian Activity
 Back Story With The Times’s Mark Mazzetti and Helene Cooper (mp3)
Iran’s Leader Disputes U.S. Charges on Militias (February 13, 2007)
European Officials Agree to Widen Economic Sanctions Against Iran Over Nuclear Program (February 13, 2007)
U.S. Says Arms Link Iranians to Iraqi Shiites (February 12, 2007)
Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says (February 10, 2007) The response from Congressional and other critics speaks volumes about the current state of American credibility, four years after the intelligence controversy leading up to the Iraq war. To pre-empt accusations that the charges against Iran were politically motivated, the administration rejected the idea of a high-level presentation, relying instead on military and intelligence officers to make its case in a background briefing in Baghdad.

Even so, critics have been quick to voice doubts. Representative Silvestre Reyes of Texas, the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that the White House was more interested in sending a message to Tehran than in backing up serious allegations with proof. And David Kay, who once led the hunt for illicit weapons in Iraq, said the grave situation in Iraq should have taught the Bush administration to put more of a premium on transparency when it comes to intelligence.

“If you want to avoid the perception that you’ve cooked the books, you come out and make the charges publicly,” Mr. Kay said.

Administration officials say their approach was carefully calibrated to focus on concerns that Iran is providing potent weapons used against American troops in Iraq, not to ignite a wider war. “We’re trying to strike the right tone here,” a senior administration official said Monday. “It would have raised the rhetoric to major decibel levels if we had had a briefing in Washington.”

At the State Department, the Pentagon and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, officials had anticipated resistance to their claims. They settled on an approach that sidelined senior officials including Zalmay Khalilzad, the American ambassador to Iraq, and John D. Negroponte, who until last week was the director of national intelligence. By doing so, they avoided the inevitable comparisons to the since-discredited presentation that Secretary of State Colin L. Powell made to the United Nations Security Council in 2003 asserting that Iraq had illicit weapons.

The White House and the State Department both made clear on Monday that they endorsed the findings presented in Baghdad. Asked for direct evidence linking Iran’s leadership to the weapons, Tony Snow, the White House spokesman, said: “Let me put it this way. There’s not a whole lot of freelancing in the Iranian government, especially when its comes to something like that.”

Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said: “While they presented a circumstantial case, I would put to you that it was a very strong circumstantial case. The Iranians are up to their eyeballs in this activity, I think, very clearly based on the information that was provided over the weekend in Baghdad.”

In Australia, however, Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that he “would not say” that Iran’s leadership was aware of or condoned the attacks. “It is clear that Iranians are involved, and it’s clear that materials from Iran are involved, but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit,” according to an account posted on the Voice of America Web site.

An Iranian government spokesman, Mohammad Ali Hosseini, has sought in denying the charges to exploit the lingering doubts about American credibility. “The United States has a long history of fabricating evidence,” Mr. Hosseini, a Foreign Ministry official, told reporters in Tehran.

The administration’s scramble over how to present its evidence started in January, after President Bush accused Iran of meddling in Iraq. Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qumi, demanded that the United States present its evidence, and Mr. Khalilzad, the American ambassador in Baghdad, responded that America would “oblige him by having something done in the coming days.”

That set Bush administration officials racing to produce a briefing that would hold up to scrutiny. Military officials in Baghdad developed the first briefing, a wide-ranging dossier that contained dozens of slides about Iranian activities inside Iraq, which was then sent to Washington for review, administration officials said.

But after a careful vetting by intelligence officials, senior administration officials, including National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, concluded that there were aspects of the briefing that could not be supported by solid intelligence. They sent the briefing back to Baghdad to be shored up, a senior official said.

The evidence that military officials presented Sunday was a stripped-down version of the original presentation, focusing almost entirely on the weapons, known as explosively formed penetrators, and the evidence that Iran is supplying the weapons to Shiite groups.

Both Democratic and Republican officials on Capitol Hill said that while they do not doubt that the weapons are being used to attack American troops, and that some of those weapons are being shipped into Iraq from Iran, they are still uncertain whether the weapons were being shipped into Iraq on the orders of Iran’s leaders.

Several experts agreed. “I’m not doubting the provenance of the weapons, but rather, the issue of what it says about Iranian policy and whether Iran’s leaders are aware of it,” said George Perkovich, a nonproliferation specialist at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

Philip D. Zelikow, who until December was the top aide to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, said American politics and the increased unpopularity of the war in Iraq is obscuring the larger issue of the Iran evidence, which he described as “abundant and so multifaceted.”

“People have lost their moorings,” Mr. Zelikow said. He said the administration was trying to overcome public distrust by asking, in essence, “Don’t you trust our soldiers?”

Nazila Fathi contributed reporting from Tehran.
28439  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: February 13, 2007, 08:31:15 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia's Ambitions in the Middle East

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday during a visit to Saudi Arabia that Moscow is willing to help Riyadh develop a nuclear program. Though Russian-Saudi nuclear cooperation is unlikely to happen any time soon, Putin's visit to the kingdom is significant. Putin's remarks at a major international security conference in Germany on Sunday serve to clarify Moscow's motives.

In his speech at the Munich conference, Putin said the United States is responsible for growing instability and insecurity in the international system. By lashing out at the United States, Russia hoped to appeal to a latent perception among the United States' Arab allies that Washington is playing with fire in their region.

Moscow hopes to exploit these concerns to infiltrate the region, which has been firmly in the U.S. sphere of influence. The Russians hope to counter U.S. moves in its own neighborhood and contain U.S. power overall; the Kremlin has already started this process with Iran. But the Kremlin knows it must position itself among the Arabs to really use the Middle East as a lever in its struggle with the United States. This explains Putin's recent visits to Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan, all major U.S. allies.

Russia has correctly realized the potential for an opening in the Middle East. The Russians know that the Arabs, despite their continued close relations with Washington, are unhappy with U.S. policies in the region and are looking for leverage in dealing with the United States.

Jordan, since it relies financially on Washington, might not be willing to warm up to Russia. That said, Putin's trip to Amman includes a meeting with Palestinian National Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Russia wants to use its membership in the Middle East Quartet to create problems for the U.S. calculus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Putin's meeting with Abbas could therefore prove instrumental. As for Qatar, good relations with Russia are in keeping with its goal to enhance its role as a regional player. Moscow hopes to capitalize on this in order to get close to Doha, where U.S. Central Command is headquartered.

But the most significant relationship that the Russians are looking to develop in the Middle East is that with the Saudis, especially given Riyadh's close relations with the United States. The Russians are aware the Saudis think the U.S. position in the region is weakening, and that Riyadh has grown wary of U.S. policies there, which have empowered rival Iran. In fact, Putin's visit to Saudi Arabia is in part the result of Riyadh's assistance to Moscow to help quell the jihadist insurgency in the Caucasus.

Under King Abdullah, the Saudis are trying to diversify their foreign policy options. They see the decline of the U.S. position in the region and want to have other choices for security. Moreover, Riyadh is concerned about U.S.-Israeli ties upsetting its calculus regarding the Palestinian situation, especially since the Saudis have assumed a more direct role in mediating the conflict. The Saudis also want to counter Iran and Syria, which they hope will be possible by engaging the Russians, who have backed both Tehran and Damascus.

Though the Russians and Saudis hope to benefit from their relationship, energy and the sale of military hardware limit the extent to which they can cooperate. Russia and Saudi Arabia do not see eye to eye on oil production -- Saudi moves to increase production lead to a drop in oil prices, financially hurting Russia. And though Moscow wants to sell Riyadh military hardware, it is unlikely since Riyadh can purchase superior U.S. weapons.

Despite Moscow's ambitions in Saudi Arabia, Putin's visit there has not gone quite as well as it might seem. Mintimer Shaimiev, president of the constituent republic of Tatarstan, is a member of Putin's delegation. Shaimiev is the leader of the only republic in which Putin has not been able to install his choice of governor; Shaimiev's influence does not end in Tatarstan -- he is the most influential of Russia's 30 million Muslims. On Monday Putin had to sit through a ceremony in which the Saudis awarded Shaimiev a cash award for his service to Islam -- a religion and ideology that is seen in Russia as weakening Moscow's hold. Furthermore, ethnic Tatars and Russia's other Muslim minorities have among the world's highest birth rate, and Russians among the lowest, making the end of Putin's visit perhaps not as pleasant as the media suggest.
28440  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: February 13, 2007, 12:42:51 AM

Senator Ahab
February 12, 2007; Page A14
In a reasonable world, Douglas Feith would have received an apology late last week from Senator Carl Levin. But the obsessive Democrat won't let go of his story that the Bush Administration "politicized" pre-war Iraq intelligence no matter how many times the facts disprove it. Senator Ahab is now going even further and suggesting behavior standards that would make the U.S. intelligence bureaucracy less accountable to elected officials; this could get Americans killed.

The familiar accusation against Mr. Feith is that the former Undersecretary of Defense was responsible for all the government's intelligence failures on Iraq because his office had the temerity to review and critique intelligence on the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. His alleged pressure to find a strong link is said to have so influenced apparently weak-kneed CIA analysts that they made a false case for war. Senate Intelligence Chairman Jay Rockefeller went so far as to accuse Mr. Feith of "running a private intelligence failure [sic], which is not lawful."

This preposterous narrative has already been debunked many times -- notably in a bipartisan report from the Senate Intelligence Committee itself. That 2004 report found that not only had CIA analysts not been pressured to change their views but that Mr. Feith's review had sometimes "actually improved the Central Intelligence Agency's products." A year later the Robb-Silberman commission also found no evidence that prewar intelligence had been politicized. And last week the Defense Department's Inspector General delivered to Congress a report that likewise exonerates Mr. Feith of doing anything unlawful and acknowledges that his actions were authorized by the Secretary or Deputy Secretary of Defense.

But instead of moving on to more important things, Mr. Levin is still chasing his great white whale. He's grabbed on to an odd bit of editorializing by the Inspector General that Mr. Feith "was inappropriately performing Intelligence Activities . . . that should be performed by the Intelligence Community."

"Inappropriately"? What on Earth does that mean? The charge is so vague that it has the air of a political sop that Acting Inspector General Thomas Gimble tossed to Mr. Levin to avoid being hauled in front of the Senate and accused of a cover-up. The myth persists that Inspectors General are King Solomons who are above politics, but in this case Mr. Gimble split the baby, and in a way that could harm U.S. security.

He and Mr. Levin are essentially saying that officials appointed by an elected President aren't allowed to question the "consensus" of the "intelligence community." Yet the work of Mr. Feith's office on al Qaeda had nothing to do with what everyone now concedes was the main intelligence failure on Iraq, which was the lack of WMD stockpiles. Former CIA Director George Tenet said it was a "slam dunk" that Saddam Hussein had such stockpiles, and it was this intelligence "consensus" that the Bush Administration relied on in making its main case for war. Any links between al Qaeda and Iraq is a separate issue that was barely mentioned in the run-up to war.

Make no mistake, the people "politicizing" intelligence here are Senators Levin and Rockefeller, whose smears against Mr. Feith will have a chilling effect on anyone who wants to question "consensus" judgments in the future. This is dangerous, because if recent experience has taught us anything it is that we need far more such questioning.

It was the intelligence community that underestimated Saddam's nuclear capabilities before the first Gulf War, only to overestimate them later. It was the CIA "consensus" that also vastly overestimated the strength of the Soviet economy even as Moscow was about to sue for peace. Before 9/11 it was also the intelligence consensus -- led by former CIA Near East chief analyst Paul Pillar -- that terrorism was a minor and manageable problem. Too bad Mr. Feith and his team weren't around to scrub those judgments.

We learned much of what we know about intelligence from the late, great Cold War strategists, Albert and Roberta Wohlstetter. And what they taught was that in the intelligence business almost nothing is certain. Albert Wohlstetter especially disliked "national intelligence estimates," which were always the product of lowest-common-denominator judgments -- or group-think. These judgments, in turn, often lead to public pronouncements that claim a degree of certainty that simply doesn't exist -- and then to charges of "politicizing" intelligence when those judgments turn out not to be true.

Messrs. Levin and Rockefeller may enjoy scoring partisan points. But their nasty obsession with Mr. Feith will have the effect of endorsing more group-think as the last, best word in intelligence -- and will lead to more Iraqs and more 9/11s.
28441  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 13, 2007, 12:37:30 AM

Iran's Provocations
Helping to kill GIs with impunity.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

U.S. military officials finally laid out detailed evidence on Sunday that Iranian-supplied weapons are killing American soldiers in Iraq. The issue now is the lesson the Bush Administration and the American political establishment draw about dealing with Iran.

Our guess is that a large part of Washington will pretend the evidence doesn't exist, or suggest the intelligence isn't proven, or claim that it's all the Bush Administration's fault for "bullying" Iran. This was the impulse behind the Baker-Hamilton Commission's recommendation late last year that the U.S. "engage" Tehran to help us find some honorable diplomatic or political solution in Iraq.

But the evidence about Iranian-style munitions shows how wishful such thinking is. The Iranians don't want a political solution that would allow a U.S.-backed moderate Shiite government to rule in Baghdad. Their goal is to make us bleed in order to drive us home and so allow their radical Shiite allies to hold sway and Iran to become the dominant regional power. They also figure that the bloodier the defeat they can impose, the less likely the U.S. will be to ever consider promoting regime change in Tehran or Damascus.

Pentagon sources have been saying for several years that Iranian-style munitions have been appearing in Iraq, and arms smugglers have been caught coming across the Iranian border. What's new is that the Iranian-marked weapons have actually been put on display and an estimate of their toll made public: more than 170 Americans killed in action and more than 600 wounded.

The main culprit is a specially made roadside bomb the Army calls an EFP, or "explosively formed penetrator." Unlike the jerry-rigged Iraqi shells that Sunni extremists have used to inflict the vast majority of casualties against U.S. forces, the EFP is shaped to penetrate armor and hence effective against harder targets than Humvees. The U.S. Stryker brigade now in Baghdad has been finding them in the city with increasing regularity. In the past this type of roadside bomb has been used against Israeli tanks by Iranian-backed Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.
According to the Defense Department, Iranian officials detained recently by U.S. forces in Iraq possessed documents suggesting they might have been involved in this arms trade. One of them was Moshin Chizari, a very senior Revolutionary Guards commander arrested but later released because of his "diplomatic" status in December. "Iran is a significant contributor to attacks on coalition forces, and also supports violence against the Iraqi security forces and the Iraqi people," said a Defense official in Baghdad.

"Significant" is an important word here. Sunni extremists affiliated with al Qaeda and Saddam's Baath Party remain by far the largest threat to American forces in Iraq. And we don't believe that the news about Iran should cause anyone to lose sight of the primary U.S. mission in the coming months: securing Baghdad against Sunni terror, so that Iraqi Shiites won't turn to militias for protection.

Still, it would be nice if the Bush Administration and Members of Congress would send Tehran the message that it will not be allowed to kill Americans with impunity. President Bush has been speaking out about this of late, but the main concern on Capitol Hill seems to be deterring Mr. Bush rather than telling Iran to stop killing GIs. Won't any of the Democratic Presidential candidates speak out and say that, no matter what they think of Iraq, Iranian help for killing Americans is a hostile act?

Hitting Revolutionary Guards targets, or Iranian weapons factories if they can be located, also shouldn't be out of the question when the lives of American soldiers are at stake. If General David Petraeus, the new and hardly reckless Iraq theater commander, thinks such pressure on Iran is crucial to securing his Baghdad mission, he deserves to get the go-ahead.

The larger lesson here concerns the nature of the Iranian regime and its nuclear ambitions. Iran's provocations in Iraq have been deadly enough, but they might be far more aggressive if the mullahs no longer fear the ability of the U.S. to hit back. As a nuclear power, they may well become even more reckless in attacking the interests of the U.S. and its regional allies. Then we'll see what a real bully looks like.


IRAN/EU: An internal EU document says Iran has the ability to create material for nuclear weapons, and there is little that can be done to stop it. The document says the nuclear program has been delayed by technical limitations, not diplomatic pressure, and that economic sanctions alone will not resolve the situation.
28442  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: February 13, 2007, 12:32:54 AM

Culture Warrior
Don't write off Giuliani's appeal to social conservatives.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 12:01 a.m. EST

The book on Rudy Giuliani is that he is too liberal on social issues to win the Republican presidential nomination. Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, put it succinctly: "I don't see anyone getting the Republican nomination who is not pro-life and a staunch defender of traditional marriage."

But Mr. Giuliani is running strong in Iowa and New Hampshire polls and leading most national surveys of Republicans. He's charming crowds of conservatives everywhere he goes. So it's worth wondering if Mr. Perkins is missing an undercurrent coursing through conservative politics.

Republicans have just experienced a bruising midterm election defeat. The president is suffering dismal approval ratings, and its erstwhile front-runner for the presidential nomination, Sen. John McCain, made his national reputation as a "maverick." The Giuliani rise evident now may be more than name recognition and residual support from his stalwart leadership following the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Giuliani's support may also arise from his having successfully moved an entrenched political culture in New York City, something national Republicans have not been able to do in Washington.
Mr. Perkins has publicly predicted that Mr. Giuliani's support will evaporate once voters learn more about him. And Mr. Giuliani's track record, both political and personal, may hurt him in the primaries. He's been divorced twice, opposes banning abortion, supports gun control, and for a time as mayor lived with two gay men and (as Time magazine noted recently) their frou-frou dog, Bonnie. None of this will endear him to the party's values voters. But it also may not be what tips the scales in the primaries.

Take South Carolina. The state's influence in presidential politics has only grown since it derailed Mr. McCain's Straight Talk Express in 2000. Two weeks ago, Mr. Giuliani made a trip to the state and struck a chord by speaking to a burning issue in South Carolina--a fight over school choice. This probably won't make the national evening news, but today some 5,000 people--many of whom are black and live in poorly performing rural school districts--are expected to descend on the state capitol in Columbia to rally for school choice. After lobbying their elected leaders, they plan to leave behind chocolates for Valentine's Day embossed with the words "another voice for school choice."

Mr. Giuliani delivered his South Carolina speech to several dozen conservatives. One woman who attended told me she wonders whether electing a president who successfully took on the mob in New York is what it will take to finally break through the entrenched education political culture. Christian conservatives make up the core of the school-choice movement in the state. If they come to the conclusion that Mr. Giuliani is on their side and has the leadership qualities to achieve lasting and meaningful change, he may prove a surprisingly strong contender.

Sen. McCain will have his own problems winning over Christian conservatives. A man who won media accolades by cutting against the base of his party will be ill-equipped to win the nomination. He's recently taken lashes in the media from Focus on the Family founder James Dobson and is reviled among some in the right-to-life movement for pushing through campaign finance restrictions that have made it more difficult for them to get their message out.

Christian conservative leaders will continue to be unhappy with Mr. Giuliani. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently laid into the former mayor for a shifting stance on abortion, saying that a politician who personally believes the practice is wrong but who refuses to ban it is more repugnant than someone who isn't morally troubled by the termination of a pregnancy.
He's right. But there is little the president can do directly about abortion. In weighing contenders for the party's nomination, will right-to-life Republicans be more worried about Mr. Giuliani's personal beliefs, or will they find comfort in his promises to appoint judges in the mold of John Roberts and Samuel Alito, who may actually overturn Roe v. Wade? If Mr. Giuliani makes a convincing case that he'll also lend his efforts to school choice and other endeavors that will help win the other culture war under way in American politics--the one against an intransient political culture that is unresponsive to the demands of the public--Mr. Perkins could turn out to be mistaken.

Mr. Miniter is assistant editor of His column appears Tuesdays.

28443  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 13, 2007, 12:12:53 AM
Iraqi insurgents using Austrian rifles from Iran
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:58am GMT 13/02/2007

Austrian sniper rifles that were exported to Iran have been discovered in the hands of Iraqi terrorists, The Daily Telegraph has learned.

More than 100 of the.50 calibre weapons, capable of penetrating body armour, have been discovered by American troops during raids.

The Steyr HS50 is a long range, high precision rifle
The guns were part of a shipment of 800 rifles that the Austrian company, Steyr-Mannlicher, exported legally to Iran last year.

The sale was condemned in Washington and London because officials were worried that the weapons would be used by insurgents against British and American troops.

Within 45 days of the first HS50 Steyr Mannlicher rifles arriving in Iran, an American officer in an armoured vehicle was shot dead by an Iraqi insurgent using the weapon.

Over the last six months American forces have found small caches of the £10,000 rifles but in the last 24 hours a raid in Baghdad brought the total to more than 100, US defence sources reported.

advertisementThe find is the latest in a series of discoveries that indicate that Teheran is providing support to Iraq's Shia insurgents.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, yesterday denied that Iran had supplied weapons to Iraqi insurgents. But on Sunday US officials in Baghdad displayed a range of weapons they claimed had originated in Iran.

They said 170 American and British soldiers had been killed by such weapons.

The discovery of the sniper rifles will further encourage those in Washington who want to see Iran's uranium-enriching facilities destroyed before a nuclear weapon is produced.

The Foreign Office expressed "serious concerns" over the sale of the rifles last year and Britain protested to the Austrian government.

A Foreign Office spokesman said last night: "Although we did make our worries known the sale unfortunately went ahead and now the potential that these weapons could fall into the wrong hands appears to have happened."

The rifle can pierce all body armour from up to a mile and penetrate armoured Humvee troop carriers.

It is highly accurate and fires a round called an armour piercing incendiary, a bullet that the Iranians manufacture.

The National Iranian Police Organisation bought the rifles allegedly to use them against drug smugglers in an £8 million order placed with Steyr in 2005.

The company was given permission to export them by the Austrian government, which is not a Nato member.

U.S./IRAQ: The withdrawal of U.S. troops in Iraq at the present time would only lead to more bloodshed, Organization of the Islamic Conference Secretary General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu told Reuters. Ihsanoglu added that a full-blown civil war in Iraq would "open the doors of hell" and threaten international stability. He said cooperation between the international community and all groups in Iraq and neighboring countries is the way to find a solution to the problems in Iraq.
28444  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: TNR part two on: February 12, 2007, 11:47:51 PM

But sanctions advocates do believe that, by formally placing Iran in the category of "threat to international peace," the United Nations has tacitly empowered the United States and its allies to pursue more aggressive sanctions that could trigger Iranian instability--such as the Bush administration's quiet efforts over the last year to force foreign banks out of Tehran. Combined with Iran's preexisting social and economic problems--massive hidden unemployment, widespread corruption, and growing drug addiction and prostitution--and hatred for the regime among students and the middle class, aggressive sanctions could, some Israelis believe, hasten regime change in Tehran by forcing the Iranian people to pay the price for their leaders' provocations. And, with regime change, of course, the threat posed by an Iranian bomb would ease: After all, the problem isn't the nuclearization of Iran but the nuclearization of this Iran. The very threat of additional sanctions has already led to drastic increases in food and housing prices in Tehran--and may have emboldened those parliamentarians who signed the recent protest letter to Ahmadinejad. "The Iranians are a very proud people," says one Israeli official with years of experience inside Iran. "They won't be able to bear being turned into pariahs, and that will increase their resentment toward the regime."

Along with sanctions, some Israeli officials call for a robust but nonviolent U.S. intervention in internal Iranian politics--funding the Iranian opposition, transforming U.S. broadcasts in Farsi into "Radio Free Iran," reaching Farsi audiences through the Internet, and more aggressively challenging the Iranian government on its human rights abuses. Israeli advocates of regime change have been pressing Washington to adopt these policies for years and can't understand why even the Bush administration has demurred. "No one is saying not to plan for military action," says the official with experience in Iran. "But, given the devastating consequences of a military strike, why aren't we giving this a chance?"

Skeptics of sanctions note that the time frame is too narrow and the stakes too high for Israel to place its hopes on long-term regime change. They insist that the international community is incapable of mounting effective sanctions, which would almost certainly be violated by Russia and China. Yes, they acknowledge, the ayatollahs' regime is in trouble and will eventually fall--but not soon enough. Indeed, optimists have been predicting imminent regime change for over a decade; and, when failed reformer Mohammed Khatami became president in 1997, some in the West declared that regime change had already begun. But Iran's leaders know how to defend themselves against opponents: When bus drivers organized a wildcat strike last year, the leader was arrested and his tongue was cut off.

For those Israelis who are skeptical of sanctions, there is the option of last resort: a military strike. Experts readily acknowledge the complexity of an attack against Iran's nuclear facilities, since they are scattered over dozens of sites, many heavily fortified and deep underground. But an attack on three key sites--especially the uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz--would set back Iranian plans by several years. It would not be necessary, the former top-ranking defense official says, to destroy Iran's nuclear facilities: By repeatedly hitting their entrances, the sites could be rendered inaccessible. At the same time, Israel would probably bomb key government installations, like Revolutionary Guard bases, to weaken the regime's ability to recover. While the Iranian people are likely to initially rally around the government, the combined effect of a military attack and economic sanctions could trigger an eventual uprising, suggests the former defense official. Periodic air strikes, he adds, would impede attempts to rebuild the nuclear sites.

Defense experts downplay the possibility of secret facilities unknown to Western intelligence agencies. "If we can locate a suicide bomber as he moves from place to place, then we know how to locate static targets, even deep underground," says the former defense official. Nor are those facilities as impenetrable as some foreign news reports suggest. Noted Yuval Steinitz, former chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee: "The Iranians are signaling us that the nuclear project is vulnerable. Whoever spends several billion dollars just for anti-aircraft systems around nuclear sites is saying that those sites are vulnerable. There would be no need to invest those sums if their bunkers were deep enough [to avoid an air strike]."

The Israeli air force has been actively preparing for an attack since 1993, enhancing the range of its bombers and acquiring the requisite bunker-busting ordnance. "Technically, we have the ability" to strike key facilities, a former commander of the air force told us. While the army's reputation was battered during the Lebanon war, the air force, by contrast, performed well, routinely destroying Hezbollah's long-range missile sites within less than five minutes following a launch.

Despite a recent report in the London Sunday Times that Israel is planning a tactical nuclear attack on Iran's nuclear sites, Israel will almost certainly not introduce nuclear weapons into the Middle East battlefield. The story, likely planted and then promptly denied, was probably part of an ongoing Israeli attempt to accomplish two objectives: to warn the international community that, if it fails to stop Iran through sanctions, then "crazy Israel" will be unleashed; and to prevent the Iranian crisis from turning into an Israeli issue alone.

An Israeli assault could only delay Iran's nuclear program, not eliminate it. That's because Israel cannot sustain an air campaign against such remote targets for days on end. This can only be accomplished by the United States, perhaps together with nato allies, by mounting an ongoing series of air strikes similar to the "shock and awe" campaign conducted against Iraq at the beginning of the war. Israelis, though, are divided over the likelihood of U.S. military action. Some experts believe President Bush will attack, if only to prevent being recorded by history as a leader who fought the wrong war while failing to fight the right one. Others speculate that a politically devastated Bush will leave the resolution of the Iranian crisis to his successor.

If Israel is forced, by default, to strike, it is likely to happen within the next 18 months. An attack needs to take place before the nuclear facilities become radioactive; waiting too long could result in massive civilian casualties. Still, Israel will almost certainly wait until it becomes clear that sanctions have failed and that the United States or nato won't strike. The toughest decision, then, will be timing: determining that delicate moment when it becomes clear that the international community has failed but before the facilities turn lethal.

Israel will alert Washington before a strike: "We won't surprise the Americans, given the likelihood of Iranian reprisals against American troops in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East," says an analyst close to the intelligence community. U.S. permission will be needed if Israel chooses to send its planes over Iraqi air space--and the expectation here is that permission would be granted. (Israel has two other possible attack routes, both problematic: over Turkish air space and along the Saudi-Iraqi border to the Persian Gulf.) Still, according to the former air force commander, if Israel decides to act, "We will act alone, not as emissaries of anyone else."

Regardless of whether Israeli or other Western forces carry out the strike, Iran will almost certainly retaliate against the Jewish state. Experts disagree, though, about the extent of the Iranian onslaught and Israel's ability to withstand it. Some say that, though Iranian missiles will strike Israeli cities and Hezbollah Katyushas and Hamas Qassams will fall in massive numbers, Israel's anti-ballistic and civil defense systems, combined with its retaliatory capability, will suffice to contain the threat. Optimists also downplay Iran's ability to mount terrorist attacks in the West: September 11 has produced an unprecedented level of cooperation among Western intelligence services, and they are monitoring sleeper cells as well as Iranian diplomats, who are believed to have used their privileged access to smuggle explosives.

The pessimists' scenario, though, is daunting. Not only could Iranian missiles--perhaps carrying chemical warheads--devastate Israeli cities, but, if the Syrians join in, then thousands of additional long-range missiles will fall, too. And, if Israel retaliates by bombing Damascus, that could trigger public demands in other Arab countries to join the war against Israel. The result could be a conventional threat to Israel's existence.

That scenario leads some in the security establishment to call for renewed peace talks with Syria, aimed at removing it from the pro-Iranian front. The growing debate over Syria positions the Mossad--which says it's no longer possible to separate Damascus from Tehran--against military intelligence, which believes that President Bashar Assad wants negotiations with Israel, if only to divert the threat of sanctions against Damascus for its alleged role in murdering Lebanese leaders.

There is no debate among Israelis, however, about the wisdom of negotiations between the West and Iran. That, defense officials agree, would be the worst of all options. Negotiations that took place now would be happening at a time when Iran feels ascendant: The time to have negotiated with Iran, some say, was immediately after the initial U.S. triumph in Iraq, not now, when the United States is losing the war. Under these circumstances, negotiations would only buy the regime time to continue its nuclear program. Talks would create baseless hope, undermining the urgency of sanctions. And resuming negotiations with the Iranian regime--despite its repeated bad faith in previous talks over its nuclear program--would send the wrong message to the Iranian people: that the regime has international legitimacy and that resisting it is futile.

Hovering over Israeli discourse about a nuclear Iran is the recent Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran--and what Israelis regard as the scandalously inadequate international response. While the conference was condemned in the West, Israelis expected the international community to treat it as something more than a bizarre sideshow. Indeed, for Israelis, the conference offered the clearest warning yet on the true nature of the Iranian threat to the Jewish state.

In denying the Holocaust, Ahmadinejad aims to undermine what he believes to be the sole justification for Israel's existence. In the years before World War II, Nazi propagandists prepared Europe for the Final Solution by dehumanizing the Jews; now, Ahmadinejad is preparing the Muslim world for the destruction of the Jewish state by delegitimizing its history. And not just the Muslim world: Holocaust denial is also aimed at the West, which many Muslims believe supports Israel only because of Holocaust guilt. Strip away that guilt, and Israel is defenseless. "The resolution of the Holocaust issue will end in the destruction of Israel," commented Mohammad Ali Ramin, head of a new Iranian government institute devoted to Holocaust denial.

The French philosopher Andr Glucksmann has noted that, by threatening to destroy Israel and by attaining the means to do so, Iran violates the twin taboos on which the post-World War II order was built: never again Auschwitz; never again Hiroshima. The international community now has an opportunity to uphold that order. If it fails, then Israel will have no choice but to uphold its role as refuge of the Jewish people. A Jewish state that allows itself to be threatened with nuclear weapons--by a country that denies the genocide against Europe's six million Jews while threatening Israel's six million Jews--will forfeit its right to speak in the name of Jewish history. Fortunately, even the government of Ehud Olmert, widely criticized as incompetent and corrupt, seems to understand that, on this issue at least, it cannot fail.

To read what else TNR has published about Iran and its military weaponry, click here.

Yossi Klein Halevi is a contributing editor to The New Republic and a senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. Michael B. Oren is a contributing editor to The New Republic and a senior fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He is the author most recently of Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present.

ISRAEL: Knesset member Yuval Steinitz said Israel's successful Feb. 11 test of its Arrow anti-missile system proves Israel has the advantage over Iran and Syria. Steinitz also said the test proves that Israel "can bring down any kind of ballistic missile, a capability no power in the world possesses." During the test, which was conducted at 9:18 p.m. local time, the Arrow anti-missile system successfully intercepted a simulated warhead of an Iranian Shihab 3 missile.
28445  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: February 12, 2007, 11:46:46 PM
Published in: The New Republic January 30, 2007

The first reports from military intelligence about an Iranian nuclear program reached the desk of Yitzhak Rabin shortly after he became prime minister in May 1992. Rabin's conclusion was unequivocal: Only a nuclear Iran, he told aides, could pose an existential threat to which Israel would have no credible response. But, when he tried to warn the Clinton administration, he met with incredulity. The CIA's assessment--which wouldn't change until 1998--was that Iran's nuclear program was civilian, not military. Israeli security officials felt that the CIA's judgment was influenced by internal U.S. politics and privately referred to the agency as the "cpia"--"P" for "politicized."

The indifference in Washington helped persuade Rabin that Israel needed to begin preparing for an eventual preemptive strike, so he ordered the purchase of long-range bombers capable of reaching Iran. And he made a fateful political decision: He reversed his ambivalence toward negotiating with the PLO and endorsed unofficial talks being conducted between Israeli left-wingers and PLO officials. Rabin's justification for this about-face was that Israel needed to neutralize what he defined as its "inner circle of threat"--the enemies along its borders--in order to focus on the coming confrontation with Iran, the far more dangerous "outer circle of threat." Rabin's strategy, then, was the exact opposite of the approach recently recommended by the Iraq Study Group: Where James Baker and Lee Hamilton want to engage Iran--even at the cost of downplaying its nuclear ambitions--in order to solve crises in the Arab world, Rabin wanted to make peace with the Arab world in order to prevent, at all costs, a nuclear Iran.

Now, more than a decade later, the worst-case scenario envisioned by Rabin is rapidly approaching. According to Israeli intelligence, Iran will be able to produce a nuclear bomb as soon as 2009. In Washington, fear is growing that either Israel or the Bush administration plans to order strikes against Iran. In Israel, however, there is fear of a different kind. Israelis worry not that the West will act rashly, but that it will fail to act at all. And, while strategists here differ over the relative efficacy of sanctions or a military strike, nearly everyone agrees on this point: Israel cannot live with a nuclear Iran.

For over two decades, since the era of former Prime Minister Menachem Begin, the Holocaust was rarely invoked, except on the extremes, in Israeli politics. In recent months, though, the Iranian threat has returned the Final Solution to the heart of Israeli discourse. Senior army commanders, who likely once regarded Holocaust analogies with the Middle East conflict as an affront to Zionist empowerment, now routinely speak of a "second Holocaust." Op-eds, written by left-wing as well as right-wing commentators, compare these times to the 1930s. Israelis recall how the international community reacted with indifference as a massively armed nation declared war against the Jewish people--and they sense a similar pattern today. Even though the United States and Europe have finally awakened to the Iranian nuclear threat, Iran's calls for the destruction of Israel tend to be dismissed as mere rhetoric by the Western news media. Yet, here in Israel, those pronouncements have reinforced Rabin's urgency in placing the Iran situation at the top of the strategic agenda.

One of the men most responsible for doing precisely that is Labor Party parliamentarian and current Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh, whom Rabin entrusted with his government's "Iran file." Like most in the defense establishment, Sneh doesn't believe Iran would immediately launch a nuclear attack against Israel. But, he adds, it won't have to actually use the bomb to cripple Israel. "They would be able to destroy the Zionist dream without pressing the button," he says.

In clipped tones that reveal his long military background, he outlines three repercussions of an Iranian bomb. To begin with, he notes, the era of peace negotiations will come to an end: "No Arab partner will be able to make concessions with a nuclear Iran standing over them." What's more, Israel will find its military options severely limited. An emboldened Iran could provide Hezbollah and Hamas with longer-range and deadlier rockets than their current stock of Katyushas and Qassams; yet, threatened with a nuclear response, Israel would have little defense against intensifying rocket fire on its northern and southern periphery, whose residents would have to be evacuated to the center. Israel already experienced a foretaste of mass uprooting in the Lebanon war last summer, when hundreds of thousands of Galilee residents were turned into temporary refugees. Finally, says Sneh, foreign investors will flee the country, and many Israelis will, too. In one recent poll, 27 percent of Israelis said they would consider leaving if Iran went nuclear. "Who will leave? Those with opportunities abroad--the elite," Sneh notes. The promise of Zionism to create a Jewish refuge will have failed, and, instead, Jews will see the diaspora as a more trustworthy option for both personal and collective survival. During the Lebanon war, Israeli television's preeminent satirical comedy, "O What a Wonderful Land," interviewed an Israeli claiming that "this" is the safest place for Jews--as the camera pulled back to reveal that "this" was London.

Even without the bomb, Iran's threat to Israel is growing. Working through Shia Hezbollah, Alawite Damascus, and Sunni Hamas, Tehran has extended its influence into Lebanon, Syria, and the Palestinian territories. As a result of Hezbollah's perceived victory in the Lebanon war and Hamas's ability to continue firing rockets at Israeli towns despite repeated army incursions into Gaza, Iran has proved it can attack Israel with near-impunity. Iranian newspapers are replete with stories gloating over the supposed erosion of Israel's will to fight and the imminent collapse of its "postmodern" army, as one recent article put it. Iran's self-confidence has been bolstered by Israel's failure to extract a price from Tehran for instigating the Lebanon war and for funding terrorist operations as far back as the early '90s, when Iran masterminded the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires and, two years later, that city's Jewish community headquarters. Nor has Israel--to say nothing of the U.N. peacekeeping forces--managed to prevent Hezbollah from rearming. And, if Iran manages to overcome U.S. threats and U.N. sanctions and achieve nuclear capability, it will be seen throughout the Muslim world as unstoppable.

A nuclear Iran will have devastating consequences for Sunni Arab states, too. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and, most recently, Jordan have declared their interest in acquiring nuclear power; Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has stated explicitly that Egypt may feel the need to protect itself against Iran's nuclear threat. Other Sunni nations could follow--including Libya, whose enmity toward the Saudis may draw it back into the nuclear race if Riyadh tries to acquire a bomb. A nuclear free-for-all, then, is likely to seize the Middle East. In this crisis-ridden region, any flashpoint will become a potential nuclear flashpoint.

The reverberations of a nuclear Iran will reach far beyond the Middle East. Tehran could dictate the price of oil and even control much of its supply through the Straits of Hermuz. And Iran will be able to conduct terrorist operations through its proxies with greater immunity. Even without the nuclear threat, Iran succeeded in intimidating the Saudis into releasing Iranian suspects in the 1997 Khobar Towers bombing. Moreover, if Tehran goes nuclear, the pretense of an international community capable of enforcing world order would quickly unravel: After all, if a regime that has perpetrated terrorist attacks from Argentina to the Persian Gulf can flout sanctions and acquire nuclear weapons, how can the United Nations credibly stop anyone else from doing the same?

And these terrifying scenarios exclude the most terrifying scenario of all: Iran uses its bomb. In a poll, 66 percent of Israelis said they believed Iran would drop a nuclear weapon on the Jewish state. Though defense experts are divided over the likelihood of an Iranian nuclear attack, every strategist we spoke with for this article considered the scenario plausible. "No one knows if Iran would use the bomb or not," says Sneh. "But I can't take the chance."

The threat of a theologically motivated nuclear assault against Israel tends to be downplayed in the West; not so here. The former head of Israel's National Security Council, Giora Eiland, has warned that an apocalyptically driven Mahmoud Ahmadinejad would be willing to sacrifice half his country's population to obliterate the Jewish state. Military men suddenly sound like theologians when explaining the Iranian threat. Ahmadinejad, they argue, represents a new "activist" strain of Shiism, which holds that the faithful can hasten the return of the Hidden Imam, the Shia messiah, by destroying evil. Hebrew University Iranian scholar Eldad Pardo goes further, arguing that the ideology founded by Ayatollah Khomeini represents nothing less than a "new religion," combining Shia, Sunni, and Marxist beliefs and resembling Western messianic cults that have advocated mass suicide. And so Ahmadinejad's pronouncements about the imminent return of the Hidden Imam and the imminent destruction of Israel aren't regarded as merely calculated for domestic consumption; they are seen as glimpses into an apocalyptic game plan. Ahmadinejad has reportedly told his Cabinet that the Hidden Imam will reappear in 2009--precisely the date when Israel estimates Iran will go nuclear. In a recent meeting with outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the Iranian president predicted that, while the United States and Great Britain won the last world war, Iran will win the next one. And, two weeks ago, an Iranian government website declared that the Hidden Imam would defeat his archenemy in a final battle in Jerusalem. Notes one former top-ranking Israeli defense official: "We may not yet have located a clear theological line connecting the dots, but there are a great many dots." At least one ayatollah, though, has made that theology explicit: In 2005, Hussein Nuri Hamdani declared that "the Jews should be fought against and forced to surrender to prepare the way for the coming of the Hidden Imam."

Defense experts readily acknowledge that Ahmadinejad is hardly all-powerful and must yield to the Council of Guardians. In recent elections, almost all the clerics allied with Ahmadinejad lost; and, in an unprecedented move, 150 Iranian parliamentarians signed a letter blaming the president for growing inflation and unemployment. But none of this reassures Israelis. That's because Ahmadinejad is hardly alone in conjuring doomsday scenarios. In February 2006, clerics in Qom issued a fatwa permitting nuclear war. And former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, speaking at a 2001 "Jerusalem Day" rally, declared: "If, one day, the Islamic world is also equipped with weapons like those that Israel possesses now, then the imperialists' strategy will reach a standstill, because the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything. However, it will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality."

Given these nightmarish scenarios, one would expect to find a mood of near-despair within the Israeli defense establishment. Yet senior officials believe that events are actually working in Israel's favor and that, one way or another, Iran's nuclear program can still be stopped. Partly, that is because Israel's assessments of Iran's intention to acquire nuclear weapons have finally been accepted not only by Washington but even by the Europeans. After years of isolation on the Iranian issue, Israelis are basking in a rare moment of international credibility.

As a result, some in the defense establishment are convinced that the military option can still be forestalled, even at this late date, by aggressive economic sanctions, forcing the Iranian regime to choose between its nuclear program and domestic stability. To be sure, even the most optimistic Israelis believe that the recent U.N. decision to impose minimal sanctions on Iran will prove ineffective. Indeed, those sanctions--intended to prevent nuclear materials and know-how from reaching Iran and to stop its nuclear program from becoming self-sufficient--are uniformly dismissed as coming at least two years too late, since Iran is rapidly approaching nuclear self-sufficiency and, some here believe, may have already reached that point.
28446  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 12, 2007, 11:29:12 PM

Pakistan, U.S.: Gates, Musharraf and Political Ammunition

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates briefly met with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Feb. 12 in Pakistan, where Gates praised the Pakistani leader for his strong efforts in containing jihadist activity in the region. With a counterterrorism operation in Pakistan's northwestern Pashtun areas in the works, Musharraf needs political ammunition from the United States in order to win support from his allies in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League. Part of containing the political fallout from these operations also will include giving the Pakistani military more authority to carry out attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda militants on Pakistani soil.


U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates held a one-hour meeting with Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf on Feb. 12 at the Pakistani president's home in Rawalpindi, where the two discussed how the Pakistani and U.S. militaries would work together to combat the Taliban's renewed spring offensive in neighboring Afghanistan. After traveling to Munich, Germany, for an international security conference, Gates added 30 hours of travel time to his original itinerary for the meeting with the Pakistani president.

Gates was particularly generous in his praise for Musharraf, saying, "Pakistan is clearly a very strong ally of the United States" and "is playing a very constructive role" in containing the Taliban and al Qaeda insurgency in the region. Pakistan, he added, is "incurring a significant cost in lives and, I might add, in treasure, in fighting this battle on the border."

Gates' comments were most welcome by Musharraf as he has spent the last month fending off strong criticism from the United States that Islamabad is providing refuge for Taliban and al Qaeda leaders along Pakistan's frontier. The apparent shift in U.S. attitude toward Pakistan can be attributed to an anticipated uptick in counterterrorism operations and Pakistan's willingness to engage in a more comprehensive military strategy in its northwestern areas along the border with Afghanistan. Thus far, Pakistan has agreed to limited operations on a case-by-case basis. Musharraf probably has sorted out his domestic political situation, managing to balance it with U.S. demands and allowing Pakistan to make a more concerted effort against jihadists.

The Taliban and its allies in al Qaeda are prepping for a renewed spring offensive. As soon as the ice melts in the mountain passes between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Taliban and al Qaeda fighters will be able to ramp up their campaign against NATO forces in the region with increased suicide attacks. The United States and its NATO allies are in the process of diminishing Taliban and al Qaeda capabilities as much as possible prior to the spring offensive, which inevitably will involve counterterrorism operations against militant strongholds on Pakistani soil. U.S. forces already have increased their presence along the Afghan side of the border in preparation for this counteroffensive.

For Musharraf to completely sign on to these operations, he must receive assurances from the United States that Washington has no plans to compromise his political career or that seriously would risk destabilizing the country, particularly since Pakistan is in the middle of a heated election season. Musharraf and his allies want assurances that there will not be a decline in U.S.-Pakistani relations once U.S. counterterrorism goals are accomplished. Such a guarantee is critical for Musharraf's ability to mitigate the domestic risk of cooperating with the United States. Gates assured Musharraf and his political allies that the United States has a long-term investment in Pakistan, saying, "After the Soviets left, the United States made a mistake. We neglected Afghanistan, and extremism took control of that country. The United States paid a price for that on Sept. 11, 2001. We won't make that mistake again. We are here for the long haul."

Musharraf's principal allies in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML) fear that U.S. operations on Pakistani soil will prove costly for them in the coming elections, and Musharraf shares these concerns. A recent incident, in which U.S. soldiers fired artillery rounds from Afghanistan into Pakistan at Taliban targets, allegedly in self-defense, has exacerbated these political sensitivities. With parliamentary elections approaching in early 2008, the PML worries it will be the main party to suffer from another major U.S. operation in the country, such as the October 2006 madrassa strike in the northwestern tribal belt that resulted in a high number of civilian casualties. Whereas Musharraf has the means to split his political opponents and ensure his own victory, PML party members face a more difficult challenge in holding onto their supporters, and cannot risk the political fallout of supporting these U.S. operations.

The PML probably has received a guarantee from Musharraf that the United States will allow Pakistan to take more control over these operations and demonstrate that it has not become a U.S. lackey in fighting jihadists at the expense of Pakistan's sovereignty. As a result, the coming airstrikes and operations in Pakistan's tribal areas primarily will be conducted by Pakistani forces. The ongoing suicide attack campaign in Pakistan also has provided Musharraf with the political justification to crack down on jihadist targets in the South Asian country. Though Musharraf and his allies are sure to face considerable constraints in the coming months in containing the domestic backlash from these counterinsurgency operations, Gates' assurances have provided Musharraf with a bit more room for maneuver in the political arena.
28447  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road/Fire Hydrant on: February 12, 2007, 10:02:37 AM

We get hit several HUNDRED times a day with spambots trying to register so they can spam up the forums.  As part of deleting all this, sometimes real humans get deleted too.  So if you are having trouble getting registered, please email Cindy at

Marc/Crafty Dog
28448  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: February 12, 2007, 09:16:44 AM
The Cost of Defeat in Iraq and the Cost of Victory in Iraq - 18 Points
Testimony to Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Gingrich Communications  January 23 2007
Newt Gingrich
Click on the documents to the left to view the other materials provided for the Congressional Record.

Chairman Biden, Ranking Member Lugar, and members of the committee:

Thank you for allowing me to testify.

This is an extraordinarily important series of hearings on a topic of enormous national importance.

The United States finds itself in a global struggle with the forces of Islamic fascism and their dictatorial allies.

From a fanatic American near Chicago who attempted to buy hand grenades to launch a personal Jihad in a Christmas mall, to 18 Canadians arrested for terrorist plots, to the Scotland Yard disruption of a plot in Britain to destroy ten civilian airliners in one day that if successful would have shattered worldwide confidence in commercial aviation and potentially thrown  the world into a deep economic contraction.

We are confronted again and again with a worldwide effort to undermine and defeat the system of law and order which has created more prosperity and more freedom for more people than any previous system.

The threats seem to come in four different forms:
First, from individuals who are often self recruited and randomly inspired through the internet, television and charismatic social and religious friendships.

Second, from organized non state systems of terror of which Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and Hamas are the most famous. Additional groups have sprung up and provide continuity, training, and support for terrorism. 

Third, from dictatorships in the Middle East most notably Iran and Syria who have been consistently singled out by the State Department (including in 2006) as the largest funders of state supported terrorism in the world.  These dictatorships are investing in more advanced conventional weapons and in chemical and nuclear weapons.

Fourth, from a strange assortment of anti-American dictatorships including North Korea, Venezuela and Cuba.

This coalition of the enemies of freedom has growing power around the world.  Its leaders are increasingly bold in their explicit hostility to the United States.

To take just two recent examples: Ahmadinejad of Iran has said “[t]o those who doubt, to those who ask is it possible, or those who do not believe, I say accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible.”  He has also said that Israel should be “wiped off the map.”  Chavez of Venezuela, just last week in a joint appearance with the Iranian leader in Latin America, announced a multi billion dollar fund to help countries willing to fight to end “American imperialism.”

Both of these statements were on television and are not subject to misinterpretation.

Similarly there are many web pages and other public statements in which various terrorists have described in great detail their commitment to killing millions of Americans.  I described these publicly delivered threats in a speech on the fifth anniversary of 9/11 which I gave at the American Enterprise Institute.  The text of this speech is attached as an appendix to this testimony.

These threats might be ignored if it were not for the consistent efforts to acquire nuclear and biological weapons by these enemies of freedom

I first wrote about the extraordinary increase in the threat to our civilization from nuclear weapons in the hands of terrorists in Window of Opportunity in 1984. Attached to this testimony is a copy of the relevant pages from this book.

It is not accurate to suggest today that people were not aware of terrorism or were not warning about the threat to America’s very survival prior to 9/11.

Many sophisticated observers and professional military and intelligence officers have been issuing these warnings for two decades.

What has been amazing to watch has been the absolute inability of our system of government to analyze the problem and react effectively.

It is this collapse of capacity for effectiveness which is at the heart of our current dilemma.

The United States is now in a decaying mess in Afghanistan and an obviously unacceptable mess in Iraq.

While this language may seem harsh to defenders of the current policy, it is sadly an accurate statement of where we are.

Efforts to think through and solve the problems of Afghanistan and Iraq have to be undertaken in a context of looking at a wider range of challenges to American leadership around the world and potentially to our very survival as a country.  These larger challenges are described in my attached presentation entitled “The Real World and The Real War”.

With these caveats I want to focus on the challenge of Iraq.

Two Very Hard Paths Forward in Iraq

America is faced with two very hard paths forward in Iraq.

We can accept defeat and try to rebuild our position in the region while accommodating the painful possibility that these enemies of freedom in Iraq -- evil men, vicious murderers, and sadistic inflictors of atrocities will have defeated both the millions of Iraqis who voted for legal self government and the American people and their government.

Alternatively we can insist on defeating the enemies of America and the enemies of the Iraqi people and can develop the strategies and the implementation mechanisms necessary to force victory despite the incompetence of the Iraqi government, the unreliability of Iraqi leaders, and the interference of Syria and Iran on behalf of our enemies.

Both these paths are hard. Both involve great risk.  Both have unknowable difficulties and will produce surprise events.

Both will be complicated.

Yet either is preferable to continuing to accept an ineffective American implementation system while relying on the hope that the Iraqi system can be made to work in the next six months.

The Inherent Confusion in the Current Strategy

There are three fundamental weaknesses in the current strategy.

First, the strategy relies on the Iraqis somehow magically improving their performance in a very short time period.  Yet the argument for staying in Iraq is that it is a vital AMERICAN interest.  If we are seeking victory in Iraq because it is vital to America then we need a strategy which will win even if our Iraqi allies are inadequate. We did not rely on the Free French to defeat Nazi Germany.  We did not rely on the South Koreans to stop North Korea and China during the Korean War.  When it mattered to American vital interests we accepted all the help we could get but we made sure we had enough strength to win on our own if need be.

President Bush has asserted that Iraq is a vital American interest. In January 2007 alone he has said the following things:

But if we do not succeed in Iraq, we will leave behind a Middle East which will endanger America in the future.

[F]ailure in one part of the world could lead to disaster here at home. It's important for our citizens to understand that as tempting as it might be, to understand the consequences of leaving before the job is done, radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength. They would be emboldened. It would make it easier to recruit for their cause. They would be in a position to do that which they have said they want to do, which is to topple moderate governments, to spread their radical vision across an important region of the world.

If we were to leave before the job is done, if we were to fail in Iraq, Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have safe havens from which to launch attacks. People would look back at this moment in history and say, what happened to them in America? How come they couldn't see the threats to a future generation?

The consequences of failure are clear: Radical Islamic extremists would grow in strength and gain new recruits. They would be in a better position to topple moderate governments, create chaos in the region, and use oil revenues to fund their ambitions. Iran would be emboldened in its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Our enemies would have a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks on the American people. On September the 11th, 2001, we saw what a refuge for extremists on the other side of the world could bring to the streets of our own cities. For the safety of our people, America must succeed in Iraq.

Iraq is a central component of defeating the extremists who want to establish safe haven in the Middle East, extremists who would use their safe haven from which to attack the United States, extremists and radicals who have stated that they want to topple moderate governments in order to be able to achieve assets necessary to effect their dream of spreading their totalitarian ideology as far and wide as possible.

This is really the calling of our time, that is, to defeat these extremists and radicals, and Iraq is a component part, an important part of laying the foundation for peace.

The inherent contradiction in the administration strategy is simple. If Iraq matters as much as the President says it does (and here I agree with the President on the supreme importance of victory) then the United States must not design and rely on a strategy which relies on the Iraqis to win.

On the other hand if the war is so unimportant that the fate of Iraq can be allowed to rest with the efforts of a new, weak, untested and inexperienced government then why are we risking American lives.

Both propositions cannot be true.

I accept the President’s analysis of the importance of winning in Iraq and therefore I am compelled to propose that his recently announced strategy is inadequate.

The second weakness is that the current strategy debate once again focuses too much on the military and too little on everything that has not been working.  The one instrument that has been reasonably competent is the combat element of American military power. That is a very narrow definition and should not be expanded to include the non combat elements of the Department of Defense which also have a lot of difficulties in performing adequately.

The great failures in the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns have been in non-combat power. Intelligence, diplomacy, economic aid, information operations, support from the civilian elements of national power.  These have been the great centers of failure in America’s recent conflicts.  They are a major reason we have done so badly in Iraq.
The gap between the President’s recent proposals and the required rethinking and transforming of our non-combat instruments of power is simply breathtaking.

No military leader I have talked with believes military force is adequate to win in Iraq. Every one of them insists that the civilian instruments of power are more important than the combat elements. They all assert that they can hold the line for a while with force but that holding the line will ultimately fail if we are not using that time to achieve progress in non-military areas.

This failure of the non-combat bureaucracies cannot be solved in Iraq.  The heart of the problem is in Washington and that brings us to the third weakness in the current strategy.

The third weakness in the current strategy is its inability to impose war time decision making and accountability in Washington.

The interagency process is hopelessly broken.

This is not a new phenomenon. I first wrote about it in 1984 in Window of Opportunity when I asserted:

[W]e must decide what sort of executive-branch planning and implementation system are desirable.

At a minimum, we will need closer relationships between the intelligence agencies, the diplomatic agencies, the economic agencies, the military agencies, the news media and the political structure.  There has to be a synergism in which our assessment of what is happening relates to our policies as they are developed and implemented.  Both analyses and implementation must be related to the new media and political system because all basic policies must have public support if they are to succeed.

Finally, once the professionals have mastered their professions and have begun to work in systems that are effective and coordinated, those professionals must teach both the news media and the elected politicians.  No free society can for long accept the level of ignorance about war, history, and the nature of power which has become the norm for our news media and our elected politicians.  An ignorant society is on its way to becoming an extinct society.

In 1991 my concern for replacing the broken interagency system with an integrated system of effective coordination was heightened when General Max Thurmond who had planned and led the liberation of Panama told me unequivocally that the interagency process was broken.

In 1995 that process was reinforced when General Hartzog described the failures of the interagency in trying to deal with Haiti.

As early as 2002 it was clear that the interagency had broken down in Afghanistan and I gave a very strong speech in May 2003 at the American Enterprise Institute criticizing the process.

By the summer of 2003 it was clear the interagency was failing in Iraq and by September and October 2003 we were getting consistent reports from the field of the gap between the capability of the combat forces and the failure of the civilian systems.     

No senior officer in the Defense Department doubts that the current interagency cannot work at the speed of modern war. They will not engage in a fight with the National Security Council or the State Department or the various civilian agencies which fail to do their job. But in private they will assert over and over again that the interagency system is hopelessly broken.

It was very disappointing to have the President focus so much on 21, 500 more military personnel and so little on the reforms needed in all the other elements of the executive branch.

The proposals for winning in Iraq outlined below follow from this analysis.
Key Steps to Victory in Iraq

1. Place General Petraeus in charge of the Iraq campaign and establish that the Ambassador is operating in support of the military commander.

2. Since General Petraeus will now have responsibility for victory in Iraq all elements of achieving victory are within his purview and he should report daily to the White House on anything significant which is not working or is needed

3. Create a deputy chief of staff to the President and appoint a retired four star general or admiral to manage Iraq implementation for the Commander in Chief on a daily basis.

4. Establish that the second briefing (after the daily intelligence brief) the President will get every day is from his deputy chief of staff for Iraq implementation.

5. Establish a War Cabinet which will meet once a week to review metrics of implementation and resolve failures and enforce decisions. The President should chair the War Cabinet personally and his deputy chief of staff for Iraq implementation should prepare the agenda for the weekly review and meeting.

6. Establish three plans: one for achieving victory with the help of the Iraqi government, one for achieving victory with the passive acquiescence of the Iraqi government, one for achieving victory even if the current Iraqi government is unhappy.  The third plan may involve very significant shifts in troops and resources away from Baghdad and a process of allowing the Iraqi central government to fend for itself if it refuses to cooperate.

7. Communicate clearly to Syria and Iran that the United States is determined to win in Iraq and that any further interference (such as the recent reports of sophisticated Iranian explosives being sent to Iraq to target Americans) will lead to direct and aggressive countermeasures.

8. Pour as many intelligence assets into the fight as needed to develop an overwhelming advantage in intelligence preparation of the battlefield.

9. Develop a commander’s capacity to spend money on local activities sufficient to enable every local American commander to have substantial leverage in dealing with local communities.

10. Establish a jobs corps or civil conservation corps of sufficient scale to bring unemployment for males under 30 below 10% (see the attached op-ed by Mayor Giuliani and myself on this topic).

11. Expand dramatically the integration of American purchasing power in buying from Iraqi firms pioneered by Assistant Secretary Paul Brinkley to maximize the rate of recovery of the Iraqi economy.

12. Expand the American Army and Marine Corps as much as needed to sustain the fights in Iraq and Afghanistan while also being prepared for other contingencies and maintaining a sustainable rhythm for the families and the force.

13. Demand a war budget for recapitalization of the military to continue modernization while defeating our enemies. The current national security budget is lower as a percentage of the economy than at any time from Pearl Harbor through the end of the Cold War.  It is less than half the level Truman sustained before the Korean War.

14. The State Department is too small, too undercapitalized and too untrained for the demands of the 21st century. There should be a 50% increase in the State Department budget and a profound rethinking of the culture and systems of the State Department so it can be an operationally effective system.

15. The Agency for International Development is hopelessly unsuited to the new requirements of economic assistance and development and should be rethought from the ground up. The Marshall Plan and Point Four were as important as NATO in containing the Soviet Empire. We do not have that capability today.

16. The President should issue executive orders where possible to reform the implementation system so it works with the speed and effectiveness required by the 21st century.

17. Where legislation is needed the President should collaborate with Congress in honestly reviewing the systems that are failing and developing new metrics, new structures and new strategies.

18. Under our Constitution it is impossible to have this scale of rethinking and reform without deep support from the legislative branch. Without Republican Senator Arthur Vandenburg, Democratic President Harry Truman could never have developed the containment policies that saved freedom and ultimately defeated the Soviet Empire.  The President should ask the bipartisan leaders of Congress to cooperate in establishing a joint Legislative-Executive working group on winning the war and should openly brief the legislative branch on the problems which are weakening the American system abroad. Only by educating and informing the Congress can we achieve the level of mutual understanding and mutual commitment that this long hard task will require.

Thank you for this opportunity to share these proposals.
28449  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: February 12, 2007, 07:27:39 AM
Un amigo Venezolano me escribe:


I'm back from the market. There was plenty of meat on the shelves! I 
did not find the cut I wanted (falda, brisket?) so I bought chicken 
breasts instead.

It seems the cattle decided they didn't like Colombia and they walked 
right back to Venezuela. Being in a gracious mood, they decided to 
save the ranchers some trouble and they walked straight to the 
slaughter houses instead of to their haciendas. FedEx was standing by 
and the meat was flown overnight express to the butcher shops 

To get the process rolling most likely the distribution chain gave a 
few well placed government officials and military commanders a proper 
sized mordida.

The day after the shortage was announced the powers that be came to 
some kind of accord and the meat appeared automagically in the shops. 
Since this is not a newsworthy event, it does not get many headlines, 
just back to business as usual. This is nothing new in Venezuela. 
Under Chavez it might be more strident. A government official uses 
his discretionary power to disrupt some supply chain. The papers 
raise up the hue and cry. Business pays of the bribe and it's back to 
business as usual. So, what else is new?

Here is the real deal: rich people have the funds to stock up a 
larder for a month or three. Some people actually have industrial 
sized freezers at home. When you go shopping you stock up on whatever 
happens to be available. When a shortage develops, you use the stuff 
in the larder. In a normal country this would be considered an 
expensive luxury but not in Venezuela. With inflation running at 34% 
since 1984 the faster you can get rid of cash, the better off you 
are. The larder helps fight inflation!

Of course, this is considered hoarding by the government and only the 
nasty oligarchy does it. The poor people in the barrios don't hoard. 
Of course not, they are living day to day and can't afford to do 
anything that is economically useful, they have to bear the slings 
and arrows of outrageous government policies.

So, what else is new?

He aqui un articulo:

Middle classes escape from Chavez socialism

By Jose Orozco in Caracas, Sunday Telegraph
Last Updated: 1:31am GMT 11/02/2007

Middle-class Venezuelans are queuing to leave the country amid fears that
its president, Hugo Chavez, is laying the ground for a dictatorship.

Opponents of his "20th century socialism" are so desperate to escape that
they have resorted to learning new languages and tracking down long lost
European relatives in the hope of securing a visa.

At the US Embassy, visa enquiries have almost doubled in recent weeks, from
400 to about 800 a day. "There are normal spikes toward Christmas or another
major holiday, but this increase doesn't fall into that category," said
embassy spokesman Brian Penn.

The British embassy has seen a similar rise in numbers. "It has been
increasing for some time, but what's different now is the tone of
desperation," said a British spokesman.

A website for would-be emigrants - (I want to -
reports that since Mr Chavez's December 3 election victory, and his
announcement last month that he would nationalise the telecommunications and
electricity industries, the number of daily visits it receives has soared
from 20,000 to 60,000.

"You're getting more families, who are worried about their children's
futures," said Esther Bermudez, who runs the site.

At the Italian Culture Institute, registration for Italian language classes
is up 20 per cent year on year. Hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans have
Spanish, Italian or Portuguese relatives who emigrated there after the
Second World War.

Ernestina Hidalgo, 40, whose husband is a Spanish citizen, said that she was
hoping that their two teenage children would also be granted Spanish
citizenship. She said an "enabling law", passed by the National Assembly 10
days ago, granting Mr Chavez 18 months of rule by decree, was the final

"Chavez doesn't accept political dissidence," said Mrs Hidalgo. "Why do they
need an enabling law if they already have an absolute majority in the
National Assembly?"

The enabling law gives Mr Chavez free rein over 11 strategic policy areas,
including defence and energy. In January, Mr Chavez said that he intended to
nationalise the telecommunications and electricity industries, as well as
take a larger share of oil operations in the Orinoco River belt, which
produces 600 billion barrels per day.

He has also said he will not renew the broadcasting license of RCTV, an
opposition TV channel.

Outside the Spanish consulate last week, Dayana Ramirez, 20, whose paternal
grandmother is Spanish, queued with her boyfriend Jose Antonio Barreiro, 24,
as he waited to pick up his passport. She wants to acquire Spanish
citizenship and the couple hopes to emigrate to Galicia in northwestern

"Older people leave because they are concerned about the future of their
families," said Mr Barreiro, a graphic designer, "and younger people like us
leave because there is no future."

As the world's fifth largest oil exporter, Venezuela has benefited from
record oil prices, boosting the scope for Mr Chavez's social spending. Among
his poor supporters, he is seen as a politician who acts on his rhetoric.

The National Assembly ceded its legislative function to Mr Chavez in a
special session in the Plaza Bolivar in Caracas. In a show of the political
participation that Chavez champions, government supporters gathered and
raised their hands along with legislators when the law was voted on.
"Approved unanimously, including the vote of the people," declared Assembly
president, Cilia Flores.

But critics argue that Chavez is only interested in keeping power, not in
sharing it.
28450  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 12, 2007, 07:22:22 AM
1248 GMT -- EUROPEAN UNION, IRAN -- EU foreign ministers approved Feb. 12 the implementation of U.N. sanctions against Iran for its refusal to halt uranium enrichment. In accordance with the agreement, all 27 EU member states will ban the sales of materials and technology that could be used in Iran's nuclear and missile program. In addition, the European Union will freeze the assets of 10 Iranian companies and individuals. The U.N. Security Council agreed in December to impose the sanctions and gave Iran two months to return to the negotiating table.
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