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28551  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The true meaning and measure of GDP on: March 01, 2010, 07:32:05 PM
28552  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: March 01, 2010, 07:29:18 PM
Second post of the day-- the post is by BBG, but I think it better belongs in this thread:

The real Arab stuff-What are realistic, moderate Arabic-speaking rulers thinking? [about Obama]
Jerusalem Post ^ | 3-1-10 | BARRY RUBIN

Hussain Abdul Hussain gets it. He’s one of the most interesting Arab journalists who also write in English. In his latest article “Lonely Obama vs. popular Iran”, published in the Huffington Post, he points out what the most realistic people and more moderate rulers in the Arabic-speaking world are thinking.

Theme one: Popularity isn’t so important in the Middle East. “A common perception is that under President Barack Obama, America’s image has improved, and perhaps its friends have increased. But such claims are unfounded, as the opposite proves to be true. International relations, however, are about interests, not sweet talk. As [George W.] Bush went out recruiting allies, and making enemies, Obama lost America’s friends while failing to win over enemies.”

Theme two: What is important is that allies believe you will support and protect them. Obama isn’t doing that. Example A, Iraq. “After losing more than 4,300 troops in battle and spending [a huge amount of money] since 2003, America today cannot find a single politician or group that would express gratitude to Americans for ridding Iraq of its ruthless tyrant Saddam Hussein, and allowing these politicians to speak out freely. On the contrary, shy of making their excellent backdoor ties with Washington known since they fear Obama will depart Iraq and never look back, Iraqi politicians started expressing dissatisfaction with the United States in public.”

Example B, Lebanon. Before Obama took office, more than one-third of the entire population – most of them Sunni Muslims – demonstrated against Hizbullah and Syrian occupation. And the Druse leader Walid Jumblatt said on televisionthat he was proud to be part of America’s plan to spread democracy in the Middle East. But “by the time Obama had made it to the White House, support of America’s allies in Lebanon waned since Obama was determined to appease their foes in Syria and Iran. [Said] Hariri [leader of the moderate forces] and Jumblatt [his former close ally] were forced to abandon their fight for Lebanon’s democracy and freedom” and seek to make a deal with Syria and Hizbullah instead.

Example C, Iran. The people revolted against the autocratic regime and staged mass demonstrations, “but Obama’s Washington was busy sending one letter of appeasement after another to Iran’s tyrants, and accordingly failed to side with the Green Revolution for democracy and freedom. When Obama did show support for the Green movement, it was too little and too late.”

AMONG THOSE worried about a similar lack of US support are Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the small Gulf states, the three North African states, most of Lebanon and those Turks who don’t want to live under an Islamist regime.

Theme three: Iran helps its allies. Hence, Iran has more allies, while the US has fewer. Iran is going up; the US is going down. “Now compare America’s friends around the Middle East to Iran’s cronies, and you can immediately understand why Washington is in trouble, both diplomatically and on a popular level, while Iran is confident as it marches toward producing a nuclear weapon and expanding its influence across the Middle East.”

Iranian ally A, Hizbullah: “Since 1981, Iran has been funding its Lebanese ally Hizbullah, never defaulting on any of its pledged payments. Hizbullah went from an embryonic group into a state within a state, boasting a membership of several thousands and maintaining a private army, schools, hospitals, orphanages, satellite TV and a number of other facilities that have won it the hearts of Lebanon’s Shi’ites, and have given Hizbullah an absolute command over them.”

Iranian ally B, Syria: “Iran has maintained a flow of cash and political support toward Syria for a similar amount of time. Obama has been begging Syria to switch sides and abandon Iran. Judging by the mishaps that always seem to befall America’s friends with time, Syria does not seem likely to change, but is rather playing an Obama administration desperate for whatever it can claim as success in its foreign policy.”

As if to prove the point, immediately after a big American delegation visited Damascus to restore full relations and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Congress that US policy is seeking to detach Syria from its alliance with Iran, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Syria and the two leaders made strong anti-American statements while pledging eternal partnership.

Here’s the headline in the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat: “Syria and Iran defy Clinton in show of unity.”

And in the Syrian government’s newspaper Tishrin a column explained that if the US wanted a deal with Iran and Syria to achieve peace in the region that would have to include Israel’s elimination.

Iranian ally C, Iraqi insurgents: “In Iraq, Iran does not only fund and train militias and violent groups, but it also funds electoral campaigns of Iraqi politicians, loyal media groups and political parties, thus expanding its influence over Iraq exponentially. Spending billions more than Iran in Iraq, America has seen its money spent to no or little effect.”

And here’s the bottom line: “The comparison between Iran and Obama’s America is simple. While Teheran never let down an ally, offering them consistent financial and political support, Washington’s support of its allies around the world has always been intermittent, due to changes with administrations and an ever swinging mood among American voters, pundits and analysts.

“So while Iran has created a mini-Islamic republic in Lebanon, and is on its way to doing the same in Iraq, America has failed in keeping friends or maintaining influence both in Lebanon and in Iraq.

“And while Teheran brutally suppressed a growing peaceful revolution for change inside Iran, Washington’s pacifism did not win any favors with the Iranian regime, or with its opponents in the Green Revolution.

“While Iran knows how to make friends, Obama’s America has become an expert in losing them.”

Yes! That’s what it’s all about. You know, it’s an interesting point. Obama and company says we should listen to Muslim and Arab voices.

Okay, but which ones? Not, as they are doing, to the apologists for radicalism and the purveyors of conventional nonsense (all that matters is the Arab-Israeli conflict, America should just make concessions, you need to understand how Islamism isn’t a threat, etc.). If you want to know what a dozen Arab governments think and fear – and Israelis, too – this is the real stuff.

The writer is Director at the Global Research in International Affairs Center (GLORIA) ( and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs Journal (MERIA). He blogs at The Rubin Report (
28553  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Thinking the unthinkable on: March 01, 2010, 03:16:06 PM
Thinking About the Unthinkable: A U.S.-Iranian Deal
March 1, 2010

By George Friedman

The United States apparently has reached the point where it must either accept that Iran will develop nuclear weapons at some point if it wishes, or take military action to prevent this. There is a third strategy, however: Washington can seek to redefine the Iranian question.

As we have no idea what leaders on either side are thinking, exploring this represents an exercise in geopolitical theory. Let’s begin with the two apparent stark choices.

Diplomacy vs. the Military Option
The diplomatic approach consists of creating a broad coalition prepared to impose what have been called crippling sanctions on Iran. Effective sanctions must be so painful that they compel the target to change its behavior. In Tehran’s case, this could only consist of blocking Iran’s imports of gasoline. Iran imports 35 percent of the gasoline it consumes. It is not clear that a gasoline embargo would be crippling, but it is the only embargo that might work. All other forms of sanctions against Iran would be mere gestures designed to give the impression that something is being done.

The Chinese will not participate in any gasoline embargo. Beijing gets 11 percent of its oil from Iran, and it has made it clear it will continue to deliver gasoline to Iran. Moscow’s position is that Russia might consider sanctions down the road, but it hasn’t specified when, and it hasn’t specified what. The Russians are more than content seeing the U.S. bogged down in the Middle East and so are not inclined to solve American problems in the region. With the Chinese and Russians unlikely to embargo gasoline, these sanctions won’t create significant pain for Iran. Since all other sanctions are gestures, the diplomatic approach is therefore unlikely to work.

The military option has its own risks. First, its success depends on the quality of intelligence on Iran’s nuclear facilities and on the degree of hardening of those targets. Second, it requires successful air attacks. Third, it requires battle damage assessments that tell the attacker whether the strike succeeded. Fourth, it requires follow-on raids to destroy facilities that remain functional. And fifth, attacks must do more than simply set back Iran’s program a few months or even years: If the risk of a nuclear Iran is great enough to justify the risks of war, the outcome must be decisive.

Each point in this process is a potential failure point. Given the multiplicity of these points — which includes others not mentioned — failure may not be an option, but it is certainly possible.

But even if the attacks succeed, the question of what would happen the day after the attacks remains. Iran has its own counters. It has a superbly effective terrorist organization, Hezbollah, at its disposal. It has sufficient influence in Iraq to destabilize that country and force the United States to keep forces in Iraq badly needed elsewhere. And it has the ability to use mines and missiles to attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz and the Persian Gulf shipping lanes for some period — driving global oil prices through the roof while the global economy is struggling to stabilize itself. Iran’s position on its nuclear program is rooted in the awareness that while it might not have assured options in the event of a military strike, it has counters that create complex and unacceptable risks. Iran therefore does not believe the United States will strike or permit Israel to strike, as the consequences would be unacceptable.

To recap, the United States either can accept a nuclear Iran or risk an attack that might fail outright, impose only a minor delay on Iran’s nuclear program or trigger extremely painful responses even if it succeeds. When neither choice is acceptable, it is necessary to find a third choice.

Redefining the Iranian Problem
As long as the problem of Iran is defined in terms of its nuclear program, the United States is in an impossible place. Therefore, the Iranian problem must be redefined. One attempt at redefinition involves hope for an uprising against the current regime. We will not repeat our views on this in depth, but in short, we do not regard these demonstrations to be a serious threat to the regime. Tehran has handily crushed them, and even if they did succeed, we do not believe they would produce a regime any more accommodating toward the United States. The idea of waiting for a revolution is more useful as a justification for inaction — and accepting a nuclear Iran — than it is as a strategic alternative.

At this moment, Iran is the most powerful regional military force in the Persian Gulf. Unless the United States permanently stations substantial military forces in the region, there is no military force able to block Iran. Turkey is more powerful than Iran, but it is far from the Persian Gulf and focused on other matters at the moment, and it doesn’t want to take on Iran militarily — at least not for a very long time. At the very least, this means the United States cannot withdraw from Iraq. Baghdad is too weak to block Iran from the Arabian Peninsula, and the Iraqi government has elements friendly toward Iran.

Historically, regional stability depended on the Iraqi-Iranian balance of power. When it tottered in 1990, the result was the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. The United States did not push into Iraq in 1991 because it did not want to upset the regional balance of power by creating a vacuum in Iraq. Rather, U.S. strategy was to re-establish the Iranian-Iraqi balance of power to the greatest extent possible, as the alternative was basing large numbers of U.S. troops in the region.

The decision to invade Iraq in 2003 assumed that once the Baathist regime was destroyed the United States would rapidly create a strong Iraqi government that would balance Iran. The core mistake in this thinking lay in failing to recognize that the new Iraqi government would be filled with Shiites, many of whom regarded Iran as a friendly power. Rather than balancing Iran, Iraq could well become an Iranian satellite. The Iranians strongly encouraged the American invasion precisely because they wanted to create a situation where Iraq moved toward Iran’s orbit. When this in fact began happening, the Americans had no choice but an extended occupation of Iraq, a trap both the Bush and Obama administrations have sought to escape.

It is difficult to define Iran’s influence in Iraq at this point. But at a minimum, while Iran may not be able to impose a pro-Iranian state on Iraq, it has sufficient influence to block the creation of any strong Iraqi government either through direct influence in the government or by creating destabilizing violence in Iraq. In other words, Iran can prevent Iraq from emerging as a counterweight to Iran, and Iran has every reason to do this. Indeed, it is doing just this.

The Fundamental U.S.-Iranian Issue
Iraq, not nuclear weapons, is the fundamental issue between Iran and the United States. Iran wants to see a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq so Iran can assume its place as the dominant military power in the Persian Gulf. The United States wants to withdraw from Iraq because it faces challenges in Afghanistan — where it will also need Iranian cooperation — and elsewhere. Committing forces to Iraq for an extended period of time while fighting in Afghanistan leaves the United States exposed globally. Events involving China or Russia — such as the 2008 war in Georgia — would see the United States without a counter. The alternative would be a withdrawal from Afghanistan or a massive increase in U.S. armed forces. The former is not going to happen any time soon, and the latter is an economic impossibility.

Therefore, the United States must find a way to counterbalance Iran without an open-ended deployment in Iraq and without expecting the re-emergence of Iraqi power, because Iran is not going to allow the latter to happen. The nuclear issue is simply an element of this broader geopolitical problem, as it adds another element to the Iranian tool kit. It is not a stand-alone issue.

The United States has an interesting strategy in redefining problems that involves creating extraordinarily alliances with mortal ideological and geopolitical enemies to achieve strategic U.S. goals. First consider Franklin Roosevelt’s alliance with Stalinist Russia to block Nazi Germany. He pursued this alliance despite massive political outrage not only from isolationists but also from institutions like the Roman Catholic Church that regarded the Soviets as the epitome of evil.

Now consider Richard Nixon’s decision to align with China at a time when the Chinese were supplying weapons to North Vietnam that were killing American troops. Moreover, Mao — who had said he did not fear nuclear war as China could absorb a few hundred million deaths — was considered, with reason, quite mad. Nevertheless, Nixon, as anti-Communist and anti-Chinese a figure as existed in American politics, understood that an alliance (and despite the lack of a formal treaty, alliance it was) with China was essential to counterbalance the Soviet Union at a time when American power was still being sapped in Vietnam.

Roosevelt and Nixon both faced impossible strategic situations unless they were prepared to redefine the strategic equation dramatically and accept the need for alliance with countries that had previously been regarded as strategic and moral threats. American history is filled with opportunistic alliances designed to solve impossible strategic dilemmas. The Stalin and Mao cases represent stunning alliances with prior enemies designed to block a third power seen as more dangerous.

It is said that Ahmadinejad is crazy. It was also said that Mao and Stalin were crazy, in both cases with much justification. Ahmadinejad has said many strange things and issued numerous threats. But when Roosevelt ignored what Stalin said and Nixon ignored what Mao said, they each discovered that Stalin’s and Mao’s actions were far more rational and predictable than their rhetoric. Similarly, what the Iranians say and what they do are quite different.

U.S. vs. Iranian Interests
Consider the American interest. First, it must maintain the flow of oil through the Strait of Hormuz. The United States cannot tolerate interruptions, and that limits the risks it can take. Second, it must try to keep any one power from controlling all of the oil in the Persian Gulf, as that would give such a country too much long-term power within the global system. Third, while the United States is involved in a war with elements of the Sunni Muslim world, it must reduce the forces devoted to that war. Fourth, it must deal with the Iranian problem directly. Europe will go as far as sanctions but no further, while the Russians and Chinese won’t even go that far yet. Fifth, it must prevent an Israeli strike on Iran for the same reasons it must avoid a strike itself, as the day after any Israeli strike will be left to the United States to manage.

Now consider the Iranian interest. First, it must guarantee regime survival. It sees the United States as dangerous and unpredictable. In less than 10 years, it has found itself with American troops on both its eastern and western borders. Second, it must guarantee that Iraq will never again be a threat to Iran. Third, it must increase its authority within the Muslim world against Sunni Muslims, whom it regards as rivals and sometimes as threats.

Now consider the overlaps. The United States is in a war against some (not all) Sunnis. These are Iran’s enemies, too. Iran does not want U.S. troops along its eastern and western borders. In point of fact, the United States does not want this either. The United States does not want any interruption of oil flow through Hormuz. Iran much prefers profiting from those flows to interrupting them. Finally, the Iranians understand that it is the United States alone that is Iran’s existential threat. If Iran can solve the American problem its regime survival is assured. The United States understands, or should, that resurrecting the Iraqi counterweight to Iran is not an option: It is either U.S. forces in Iraq or accepting Iran’s unconstrained role.

Therefore, as an exercise in geopolitical theory, consider the following. Washington’s current options are unacceptable. By redefining the issue in terms of dealing with the consequences of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, there are three areas of mutual interest. First, both powers have serious quarrels with Sunni Islam. Second, both powers want to see a reduction in U.S. forces in the region. Third, both countries have an interest in assuring the flow of oil, one to use the oil, the other to profit from it to increase its regional power.

The strategic problem is, of course, Iranian power in the Persian Gulf. The Chinese model is worth considering here. China issued bellicose rhetoric before and after Nixon’s and Kissinger’s visits. But whatever it did internally, it was not a major risk-taker in its foreign policy. China’s relationship with the United States was of critical importance to China. Beijing fully understood the value of this relationship, and while it might continue to rail about imperialism, it was exceedingly careful not to undermine this core interest.

The major risk of the third strategy is that Iran will overstep its bounds and seek to occupy the oil-producing countries of the Persian Gulf. Certainly, this would be tempting, but it would bring a rapid American intervention. The United States would not block indirect Iranian influence, however, from financial participation in regional projects to more significant roles for the Shia in Arabian states. Washington’s limits for Iranian power are readily defined and enforced when exceeded.

The great losers in the third strategy, of course, would be the Sunnis in the Arabian Peninsula. But Iraq aside, they are incapable of defending themselves, and the United States has no long-term interest in their economic and political relations. So long as the oil flows, and no single power directly controls the entire region, the United States does not have a stake in this issue.

Israel would also be enraged. It sees ongoing American-Iranian hostility as a given. And it wants the United States to eliminate the Iranian nuclear threat. But eliminating this threat is not an option given the risks, so the choice is a nuclear Iran outside some structured relationship with the United States or within it. The choice that Israel might want, a U.S.-Iranian conflict, is unlikely. Israel can no more drive American strategy than can Saudi Arabia.

From the American standpoint, an understanding with Iran would have the advantage of solving an increasingly knotty problem. In the long run, it would also have the advantage of being a self-containing relationship. Turkey is much more powerful than Iran and is emerging from its century-long shell. Its relations with the United States are delicate. The United States would infuriate the Turks by doing this deal, forcing them to become more active faster. They would thus emerge in Iraq as a counterbalance to Iran. But Turkey’s anger at the United States would serve U.S. interests. The Iranian position in Iraq would be temporary, and the United States would not have to break its word as Turkey eventually would eliminate Iranian influence in Iraq.

Ultimately, the greatest shock of such a maneuver on both sides would be political. The U.S.-Soviet agreement shocked Americans deeply, the Soviets less so because Stalin’s pact with Hitler had already stunned them. The Nixon-Mao entente shocked all sides. It was utterly unthinkable at the time, but once people on both sides thought about it, it was manageable.

Such a maneuver would be particularly difficult for U.S. President Barack Obama, as it would be widely interpreted as another example of weakness rather than as a ruthless and cunning move. A military strike would enhance his political standing, while an apparently cynical deal would undermine it. Ahmadinejad could sell such a deal domestically much more easily. In any event, the choices now are a nuclear Iran, extended airstrikes with all their attendant consequences, or something else. This is what something else might look like and how it would fit in with American strategic tradition.

28554  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: March 01, 2010, 11:15:33 AM
The Foundation
"There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism." --Alexander Hamilton

Opinion in Brief
"Americans cherish their independence. One interesting aspect of the spontaneous tea party movement is the constant invocation of the Founders and the prominence of the 'Don't Tread on Me' flag. ... Americans tend to see themselves as independent doers, not dependent victims. They don't like to be told, especially by those with fancy academic pedigrees, that they are helpless and in need of government aid. That's why the politically popular American big government programs -- Social Security, Medicare, veterans' benefits, student loans -- all make a connection between effort and reward. You get a benefit because you've worked for it. In contrast, Americans have loathed and rejected big government programs with no nexus between effort and reward. Welfare was begun in the 1930s to help widows with children, whose plight, as Russell Baker's memoir 'Growing Up' showed, was often dismal. But when welfare became a mass program to subsidize mothers who didn't work and to excuse fathers from responsibility for their actions, it became wildly unpopular. Bill Clinton recognized this when he signed welfare reform in 1996. ... Barack Obama, who has chosen to live his adult life in university precincts, sees ... Americans generally as victims who need his help, people who would be better off dependent on government than on their own. Most American voters don't want to see themselves that way and resent this condescension." --political analyst Michael Barone

Political Futures
"When Republicans regain a majority in the House and Senate -- either this fall, as seems increasingly likely, or in the election following -- they must learn from their previous mistakes when they last held power. In addition to focusing on overturning whatever health insurance 'reform' proposal this Congress eventually passes (by a veto override, or a lawsuit challenging the measure's constitutionality), a Republican congressional majority must help large numbers of the public unlearn the factual errors they have been taught to accept. From 'climate change,' to the notion that government is a guarantor through 'entitlement' programs of a minimal outcome in life, to the forgotten idea given to us by the Founders that Liberty is the most precious gift there is, the country needs a history lesson based on truth, experience and provable facts. ... A Republican majority should turn the nation's attention away from Washington. A Republican majority must teach us again that 'you can do it,' like so many of our fathers did when the training wheels came off and we learned we could fly down the sidewalk without assistance. America doesn't need restructuring. It needs revival; revival of the principles that made us strong and great; revival of the moral foundation that proved to be our real strength and allowed us to conquer our demons and become independent, not dependent on government. This is the message most Americans want to hear and need to hear. Will the Republicans deliver it?" --columnist Cal Thomas

The Gipper
"Perhaps you and I have lived with this miracle too long to be properly appreciative. Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction. It is not ours by inheritance; it must be fought for and defended constantly by each generation, for it comes only once to a people. Those who have known freedom and then lost it have never known it again. Knowing this, it is hard to explain those who even today would question the people's capacity for self-rule. Will they answer this: if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?" --Ronald Reagan

Re: The Left
"The reason massive Democratic majorities in Congress aren't enough to pass socialist health care is AMERICANS DON'T WANT SOCIALIZED MEDICINE! In fact, you might say that the nation is in a boiling cauldron of rage against it. Consequently, a lot of Democrats are suddenly having second thoughts about vast new government commissions regulating every aspect of Americans' medical care. Obama isn't stupid -- he's not seriously trying to get a health care bill passed. The whole purpose of this public 'summit' with the minority party is to muddy up the Republicans before the November elections. You know, the elections Democrats are going to lose because of this whole health care thing. Right now, Americans are hopping mad, swinging a stick and hoping to hit anyone who so much as thinks about nationalizing health care. If they could, Americans would cut the power to the Capitol, throw everyone out and try to deport them. ... But the Democrats think it's a good strategy to call the Republicans 'The Party of No.' When it comes to Obamacare, Americans don't want a party of 'No,' they want a party of 'Hell, No!' or, as Rahm Emanuel might say, '*&^%$#@ No!' ... Complaining that Republicans are 'obstructionists' is not a damaging charge when most Americans are dying to obstruct the Democrats with a 2-by-4. While you're at it, Democrats, why not call the GOP the 'Party of Brave Patriots'?" --columnist Ann Coulter

"Filibusters are devices for registering intensity rather than mere numbers. Besides, has a filibuster ever prevented eventual enactment of anything significant that an American majority has desired, strongly and protractedly? Liberals say filibusters confuse and frustrate the public. But most ideas incubated in the political cauldron of grasping factions are deplorable. Therefore, serving the public involves -- mostly involves -- saying 'No.' The Bill of Rights effectively pronounces the lovely word 'no' regarding many possible government undertakings -- establishment of religion, unreasonable searches and seizures, etc. The fiction that government is 'paralyzed' by partisanship is regularly refuted. ... Liberals are deeply disappointed with the public, which fails to fathom the excellence of their agenda. But their real complaint is with the government's structure. And with the nature of the politics this structure presupposes in a continental nation wary of government and replete with rival factions." --columnist George Will

For the Record
"For those not versed in the arcane rules of the U.S. Senate, reconciliation is not what a divorced couple attempts when they visit Dr. Phil. It is a mechanism for avoiding filibusters on certain budgetary issues. If Democrats can find a way to apply it to health care reform, they could pass a bill with just 51 votes, negating the election of Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and the loss of the 60-seat supermajority. Reconciliation was established in 1974 to make it easier for Congress to adjust taxes and spending in order to 'reconcile' actual revenues and expenditures with a previously approved budget resolution. Thus, at the end of the year, if Congress found that it was running a budget deficit higher than previously projected, it could quickly raise taxes or cut spending to bring the budget back into line. Debate on such measures was abbreviated to just 20 hours (an eyeblink in Senate terms), and there could be no filibuster. As Robert Byrd, (D-W.V.), one of the original authors of the reconciliation rule, explained, 'Reconciliation was intended to adjust revenue and spending levels in order to reduce deficits ... t was not designed to ... restructure the entire health care system.' He warns that using reconciliation for health care would 'violate the intent and spirit of the budget process, and do serious injury to the Constitutional role of the Senate.' In fact, in 1985, the Senate adopted the 'Byrd rule,' which prohibits the use of reconciliation for any 'extraneous issue' that does not directly change revenues or expenditures. Clearly, large portions of the health care bill, ranging from mandates to insurance regulation to establishing 'exchanges,' do not meet that requirement." --Cato Institute senior fellow Michael D. Tanner

Faith & Family
"One of the major differences between the right and the left concerns the question of authority: To whom do we owe obedience and who is the ultimate moral authority? For the right, the primary moral authority is God (or, for secular conservatives, Judeo-Christian values), followed by parents. Of course, government must also play a role, but it is ultimately accountable to God and it should do nothing to undermine parental authority. For the left, the state and its government are the supreme authorities, while parental and divine authority are seen as impediments to state authority. ... In a nutshell, the left wants to have ever-expanding authority over people's lives through ever-expanding governmental powers. It does so because it regards itself as more enlightened than others. Others are either enemies (the right) or unenlightened masses. It is elected by demonizing its enemies and doling out money and jobs to the masses." --radio talk-show host Dennis Prager

"Personal responsibility is a real problem for those who want to collectivize society and take away our power to make our own decisions, transferring that power to third parties like themselves, who imagine themselves to be so much wiser and nobler than the rest of us. Aimless apologies are just one of the incidental symptoms of an increasing loss of a sense of personal responsibility -- without which a whole society is in jeopardy. The police cannot possibly maintain law and order by themselves. Millions of people can monitor their own behavior better than any third parties can. Cops can cope with that segment of society who have no sense of personal responsibility, but not if that segment becomes a large part of the whole population. Yet increasing numbers of educators and the intelligentsia seem to have devoted themselves to undermining or destroying a sense of personal responsibility and making 'society' responsible instead." --economist Thomas Sowell
28555  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PDVSA in Curacao on: March 01, 2010, 11:11:01 AM
Venezuela: PDVSA Hints at Withdrawal from Curacao Refinery
Stratfor Today » February 27, 2010 | 2318 GMT

View of a state-owned PDVSA gas station in Caracas Venezuelan state oil firm PDVSA may withdraw from the 320,000 barrel-per-day Isla refinery it operates in Curacao in protest of U.S. military “provocations” on the Dutch Caribbean island, Ultimas Noticias newspaper reported Feb. 27, citing an interview with Venezuela’s oil minister Rafael Ramirez. The Isla refinery, which processes sulfur-heavy crude from Venezuela’s Lake Maracaibo, is operated by PDVSA under a lease the firm has with the government of Curacao. PDVSA has long been trying to negotiate the purchase of the refinery from the Curacao government, but PDVSA is also in a severe financial crunch. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s heavy reliance on the state oil firm’s revenues to support his government programs and maintain popular support have stressed PDVSA operations, resulting in a decline in production and strain on Venezuelan refining operations. The Isla refinery in particular has developed into a financial liability for PDVSA since a Curacao court ruling in June 2009 decreed that PDVSA would have to pay roughly $3 million for violations in sulphur dioxide emissions, and $300,000 per day for further violations.

Venezuela is already facing serious refining problems due to mismanagement and a significant drop in foreign investment. Exacerbating matters is a growing electricity crisis that has had a significant impact on crude oil processing. The problems have turned critical enough that Venezuela, despite being a major oil producer and refiner, had to increase fuel purchases from abroad in Sept. 2009 to keep up with domestic demand. The Venezuelan government heavily subsidizes gasoline to maintain political support among the population, a policy that cuts further into PDVSA’s bottom line. Chavez has spoken frequently about the threat of U.S. military invasion of Venezuela, and his oil minister now appears to be using this pretext as a way to alleviate PDVSA’s financial obligations by withdrawing from its contract. The development does not speak well for PDVSA’s financial solvency and thus Venezuela’s overall political stability.
28556  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: ABC, CBS contracting on: March 01, 2010, 07:15:50 AM

ABC News is making no secret about what is behind the sweeping staff cuts it now faces: raw survival instinct. 

“I just looked out at the next five years and was concerned that we could not sustain doing what we were doing,” said David Westin, the president of ABC News, as he explained the decision last week to jettison up to 400 staff members, a quarter of the news staff, in the coming months.

The same compelling motive already instigated strategic retrenchment at ABC’s broadcast competitors. NBC, the one network with a cable news channel, MSNBC — and, not coincidentally, the only network in a sound position of profitability — has drastically pared down its operations over the last few years. So has CBS, which is losing money already and has cut about 70 jobs this year.

But with news available more places than ever, on cable channels and Internet sites, and with revenue challenged by heavy dependence on shrinking advertising dollars, the future for the news divisions at ABC and CBS remains deeply insecure.

“Long term, it’s going to get harder for these guys to exist as they are currently constructed, with the exception of NBC because it can offload the costs on MSNBC,” Michael Nathanson, an industry analyst for Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, said.

The economic problems facing ABC News and CBS News in many ways mirror those faced by newspapers, which have been similarly afflicted by a drop in advertising revenue. The reaction — severe cuts in personnel and other costs — also looks to be the same.

But can you shrink your way to prosperity? Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS News who is now a news media consultant (NBC News is one client), said of the ABC cuts: “The real issue after this is what is going to drive growth? How do you generate more profit? And this doesn’t address that.”

The easy answer would seem to lie in NBC’s structure, because in contrast to its competitors, that news organization is flush, making an estimated $400 million in profit a year.

“We actually think we have a completely different model,” Steve Capus, the president of NBC News, said. That model: win every significant ratings competition on the broadcast side and rely on MSNBC’s revenue stream of advertising plus cable subscriber fees to subsidize the high costs of news gathering.

The effectiveness of that formula inevitably resurrects predictions that a marriage with a cable news organization is imperative for CBS and ABC. The obvious partner is CNN, and both those networks have been in courtships with it before. To date, the cultural challenges have been insurmountable. CNN, which says last year was its most profitable since its founding in 1980, would seem to have little incentive to rush to the aid of a network. And neither network wants to cede editorial control to CNN.

“If it were easy or obvious, it would have happened by now,” Mr. Heyward said.

But a longtime network news executive, who asked not to be identified because of connections to previous private negotiations involving CNN, said that ABC or CBS was likely to enter into an alliance with a partner like CNN “within the next few years.”

Even Mr. Westin, who said he did not see how a match with CNN “makes sense for us,” conceded: “In general, in business, when there is real decline, consolidation inevitably happens.”

Already, outlines of consolidation are discernible. Several CNN stars contribute to “60 Minutes” on CBS. And CBS executives, mindful that Katie Couric’s contract expires in a little over a year, have talked to Anderson Cooper of CNN about an anchor job, according to two TV veterans informed of the meeting.

In recent months, a handful of ABC News reporters has appeared on the business channel Bloomberg, and the two organizations have tried to jointly hire at least one person, according to two staff members who asked not to be named because they were not authorized by their employers to speak. Those two, and two others, labeled the sharing by ABC and Bloomberg — what one person called flirting — a possible prelude to a broader news-gathering pact.

A Bloomberg spokeswoman said that the company was a client of ABC’s affiliate service and declined to comment on any talks about a broader relationship between the organizations. An ABC spokesman said the current level of cooperation with Bloomberg was “hardly unusual.”

Network news divisions have historically been family jewels for their parent corporations, lending prestige and an aura of public service — as well as a shield against government intrusion. Mr. Heyward called the network evening newscasts a “bastion of serious news coverage at a time when so much of television has become tabloid and trivial.”

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While they have steadily shed viewers, to a cumulative 22 million in 2009, from about 50 million in 1980, the newscasts still amass an audience that dwarfs any show on a cable news channel. In the last five years, the more lucrative network morning shows have also shown declines, Tom Rosenstiel, director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, said. “What’s occurring in broadcast news is not some sudden crisis. This has been a glacial erosion,” he said.

A survey by the Pew Research Center last year reported that three-quarters of respondents thought the cancellation of the evening newscasts would be an “important loss” to the country. Mr. Rosenstiel said, “None of these news division presidents wants to be the first guy to kill an evening newscast.”
Not that it would be their call. That decision would fall to the networks’ corporate parents. Executives from CBS News and ABC News said the top corporate executives for both networks remained outspoken supporters of the news divisions.

ABC employees were reviewing buyout packages last weekend. Eligible staff members have until March 26 to decide whether to leave. If ABC cannot meet its goal, layoffs will follow.

Mr. Westin said ABC News could no longer afford to support a worldwide staff of about 1,500, with bureaus in cities foreign and domestic, most with traditional TV news work forces: camera operators, sound engineers, tape editors, assignment editors and, of course, correspondents, many with substantial salaries.

More journalists will become jacks-of-all-trades, wielding cameras, microphones and lights, as well as lists of interview questions. More production work will be conducted out of New York. “The ones who fear the most from the cuts are the ones that have a single function,” one ABC staff member said.

Mr. Westin said high-priced and purely cosmetic talent would become an increasingly endangered species. “There have been people in television news — very successful people — who do not write,” he said. “We are going to definitely require more of our journalists.”

Mr. Westin said he did not think the cuts would compromise ABC’s journalism, but not everyone shares his confidence. One veteran ABC News executive said, “Clearly the signal is: It’s not important to create anything new. We simply have to figure out a way to manage it cheaply.”

CBS, similarly, is trying to do the same with less. In an interview after its layoffs in early February, the CBS News president, Sean McManus, said the organization was figuring out how to “utilize our resources in a more efficient way.”

NBC News, meanwhile, remains the envy of the business, largely because of its decision in 1996 to start up a separate cable news channel.

The total work force at NBC News — which includes MSNBC — is 1,100, the size ABC now aspires to be. CBS is believed to have fewer than 1,400 on staff.

So far, Web revenue is a rather small part of the broadcast networks’ bottom lines, although Mr. Westin said ABC’s digital income was “up substantially.”

But if digital revenue cannot offset ad losses, Mr. Heyward suggested there was high ground from the flood if the networks could find a way to make their news stand out.

“The notion of investing more in distinctiveness and less in sameness is critical,” he said. That means more enterprise reporting and less overlapping coverage of news that cable handles, like reporters standing in snow drifts with yardsticks.

But the networks will surely stick it out, he predicted, if only because they do not want to see their competitors win.

“I sometimes compare it to three people in a leaky boat,” Mr. Heyward said. “Each one sees an island shimmering in the distance and starts thinking: I could jump out and swim for the island and maybe I could make it.

“On the other hand, I could drown and make the boat lighter so the other two make it. I think you are going to see everybody staying in the game because everybody knows leaving guarantees a longer lease on life for their competitors.”
28557  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Political Asylum on: March 01, 2010, 07:08:35 AM

MORRISTOWN, Tenn. — On a quiet street in this little town in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains lives a family of refugees who were granted asylum in the United States because they feared persecution in their home country.

The family came to the United States in 2008 from Germany, where children are required to attend an officially recognized school, be it public, private or religious.

The reason for that fear has rarely, if ever, been the basis of an asylum case. The parents, Uwe and Hannelore Romeike, want to home-school their five children, ranging in age from 2 to 12, a practice illegal in their native land, Germany.

Among European countries, Germany is nearly alone in requiring, and enforcing, attendance of children at an officially recognized school. The school can be private or religious, but it must be a school. Exceptions can be made for health reasons but not for principled objections.

But the Romeikes, who are devout Christians, said they wanted their children to learn in a different environment. Mr. Romeike (pronounced ro-MY-kuh), 38, a soft-spoken piano teacher whose young children greet strangers at the front door with a startlingly grown-up politeness, said the unruly behavior of students that was allowed by many teachers had kept his children from learning. The stories in German readers, in which devils, witches and disobedient children are often portrayed as heroes, set bad examples, he said.

“I don’t expect the school to teach about the Bible,” he said, but “part of education should be character-building.”

In Germany, he said, home-schoolers are seen as “fundamentalist religious nuts who don’t want their children to get to know what is going on in the world, who want to protect them from everything.”

“In fact,” he said, sitting on his sofa as his three older children wrote in workbooks at the dining table, “I want my children to learn the truth and to learn about what’s going on in the world so that they can deal with it.”

The reasoning behind the German law, cited by officials and in court cases, is to foster social integration, ensure exposure to people from different backgrounds and prevent what some call “parallel societies.”

“We have had this legal basis ever since the state was founded,” said Thomas Hilsenbeck, a spokesman for the Ministry for Culture, Youth and Sport in the Romeikes’ state, Baden-Württemberg. “This is broadly accepted among the general public.”

The family has been here for some time, having left Germany in 2008. But it was not until Jan. 26 that a federal immigration judge in Memphis granted them political asylum, ruling that they had a reasonable fear of persecution for their beliefs if they returned.

In a harshly worded decision, the judge, Lawrence O. Burman, denounced the German policy, calling it “utterly repellent to everything we believe as Americans,” and expressed shock at the heavy fines and other penalties the government has levied on home-schooling parents, including taking custody of their children.

Describing home-schoolers as a distinct group of people who have a “principled opposition to government policy,” he ruled that the Romeikes would face persecution both because of their religious beliefs and because they were “members of a particular social group,” two standards for granting asylum.

“It is definitely new,” said Prof. Philip G. Schrag, the director of Georgetown Law School’s asylum law program, who added that he had never heard of such a case. “What’s novel about the argument is the nature of the social group.”

But, he said, given the severity of the penalties that German home-schoolers potentially face, the judge’s decision “does not seem far outside the margin.”

Immigration and Customs Enforcement has appealed the decision, Mr. Romeike’s lawyer said Friday. A spokesman for the agency declined to comment, citing the litigation.

The Romeikes had never heard of home schooling when they set out to find an alternative to the local public school in Germany, where their two oldest children — now 11 and 12 — were having trouble with rowdy classmates. The nearby private and religious schools, Mr. Romeike said, were just as bad or even worse.

Then a woman in their church mentioned that some families, though none in the church itself, had taken their children out of school altogether.

“She knew a family, but she didn’t want to mention their name because it wasn’t legal,” Mr. Romeike said.

Months of research followed: the Romeikes read articles, sat in on court cases and talked to other home-schoolers in Germany. Eventually they decided to give it a try. Working with a curriculum from a private Christian correspondence school — one not recognized by the German government — they expected to be punished with moderate fines and otherwise left alone.


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But they soon discovered differently, he said, facing fines eventually totaling over $11,000, threats that they would lose custody of their children and, one morning, a visit by the police, who took the children to school in a police van. Those were among the fines and potential penalties that Judge Burman said rose to the level of persecution.

Mr. Romeike began looking to other countries, but his inability to speak anything other than German or English limited his options. Then, at a conference for home-schoolers in 2007, he saw Mike Donnelly, a lawyer for the Home School Legal Defense Association, a Virginia-based advocacy organization

Long before the Romeikes had begun their fight, lawyers at the association had been discussing the situation in Germany. They had tried litigating cases one by one, usually unsuccessfully.

In 2006, after the European Court of Human Rights declined to hear a petition by home-schooling parents that had failed in German courts, lawyers at the association decided to add a political line of attack to the legal one, both to raise awareness of the German policies and to find some broader solution to the issue.

At a brainstorming session, one of the lawyers, Jim Mason, came up with the idea of petitioning for political asylum.

“I don’t know German law or German courts,” Mr. Mason said, “but I do know American courts.”

Another German home-schooling family had already moved to Morristown, so the Romeikes sold many of their belongings, including their grand piano, and came here too. The court battle lasted over a year, and while the Romeikes’ lawyers said they had expected to succeed, they were surprised by the vigor of the judge’s opinion. So was the German government.

“We’re all surprised because we consider the German educational system as very excellent,” said Lutz Hermann Görgens, the German consul general in Atlanta. He defended Germany’s policy on the grounds of fostering the ability “to peacefully interact with different values and different religions.”

Mr. Romeike said he would like to return to Germany if the laws became more amenable to home schooling. There is still hope, he said, though the political landscape does not look too promising right now.

In the meantime, he added, “it’s a good learning experience.”
28558  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: BO/WH "rethinking" US policy on: March 01, 2010, 07:03:02 AM
WASHINGTON — As President Obama begins making final decisions on a broad new nuclear strategy for the United States, senior aides say he will permanently reduce America’s arsenal by thousands of weapons. But the administration has rejected proposals that the United States declare it would never be the first to use nuclear weapons, aides said.

Mr. Obama’s new strategy — which would annul or reverse several initiatives by the Bush administration — will be contained in a nearly completed document called the Nuclear Posture Review, which all presidents undertake. Aides said Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates will present Mr. Obama with several options on Monday to address unresolved issues in that document, which have been hotly debated within the administration.

First among them is the question of whether, and how, to narrow the circumstances under which the United States will declare it might use nuclear weapons — a key element of nuclear deterrence since the cold war.

Mr. Obama’s decisions on nuclear weapons come as conflicting pressures in his defense policy are intensifying. His critics argue that his embrace of a new movement to eliminate nuclear weapons around the world is naïve and dangerous, especially at a time of new nuclear threats, particularly from Iran and North Korea. But many of his supporters fear that over the past year he has moved too cautiously, and worry that he will retain the existing American policy by leaving open the possibility that the United States might use nuclear weapons in response to a biological or chemical attack, perhaps against a nation that does not possess a nuclear arsenal.

That is one of the central debates Mr. Obama must resolve in the next few weeks, his aides say.

Many elements of the new strategy have already been completed, according to senior administration and military officials who have been involved in more than a half-dozen Situation Room debates about it, and outside strategists consulted by the White House.

As described by those officials, the new strategy commits the United States to developing no new nuclear weapons, including the nuclear bunker-busters advocated by the Bush administration. But Mr. Obama has already announced that he will spend billions of dollars more on updating America’s weapons laboratories to assure the reliability of what he intends to be a much smaller arsenal. Increased confidence in the reliability of American weapons, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said in a speech in February, would make elimination of “redundant” nuclear weapons possible.

“It will be clear in the document that there will be very dramatic reductions — in the thousands — as relates to the stockpile,” according to one senior administration official whom the White House authorized to discuss the issue this weekend. Much of that would come from the retirement of large numbers of weapons now kept in storage.

Other officials, not officially allowed to speak on the issue, say that in back-channel discussions with allies, the administration has also been quietly broaching the question of whether to withdraw American tactical nuclear weapons from Europe, where they provide more political reassurance than actual defense. Those weapons are now believed to be in Germany, Italy, Belgium, Turkey and the Netherlands.

At the same time, the new document will steer the United States toward more non-nuclear defenses. It relies more heavily on missile defense, much of it arrayed within striking distance of the Persian Gulf, focused on the emerging threat from Iran. Mr. Obama’s recently published Quadrennial Defense Review also includes support for a new class of non-nuclear weapons, called “Prompt Global Strike,” that could be fired from the United States and hit a target anywhere in less than an hour.

The idea, officials say, would be to give the president a non-nuclear option for, say, a large strike on the leadership of Al Qaeda in the mountains of Pakistan, or a pre-emptive attack on an impending missile launch from North Korea. But under Mr. Obama’s strategy, the missiles would be based at new sites around the United States that might even be open to inspection, so that Russia and China would know that a missile launched from those sites was not nuclear — to avoid having them place their own nuclear forces on high alert.

But the big question confronting Mr. Obama is how he will describe the purpose of America’s nuclear arsenal. It is far more than just an academic debate.

Some leading Democrats, led by Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have asked Mr. Obama to declare that the “sole purpose” of the country’s nuclear arsenal is to deter nuclear attack. “We’re under considerable pressure on this one within our own party,” one of Mr. Obama’s national security advisers said recently.

But inside the Pentagon and among many officials in the White House, Mr. Obama has been urged to retain more ambiguous wording — declaring that deterring nuclear attack is the primary purpose of the American arsenal, not the only one. That would leave open the option of using nuclear weapons against foes that might threaten the United States with biological or chemical weapons or transfer nuclear material to terrorists.


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Any compromise wording that leaves in place elements of the Bush-era pre-emption policy, or suggests the United States could use nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear adversary, would disappoint many on the left wing of his party, and some arms control advocates.

“Any declaration that deterring a nuclear attack is a ‘primary purpose’ of our arsenal leaves open the possibility that there are other purposes, and it would not reflect any reduced reliance on nuclear weapons,” said Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association. “It wouldn’t be consistent with what the president said in his speech in Prague” a year ago, when he laid out an ambitious vision for moving toward the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Mr. Obama’s base has already complained in recent months that he has failed to break from Bush era national security policy in some fundamental ways. They cite, for example, his stepped-up use of drones to strike suspected terrorists in Pakistan and his failure to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility by January as Mr. Obama had promised.

While Mr. Obama ended financing last year for a new nuclear warhead sought by the Bush administration, the new strategy goes further. It commits Mr. Obama to developing no new nuclear weapons, including a low-yield, deeply-burrowing nuclear warhead that the Pentagon sought to strike buried targets, like the nuclear facilities in North Korea and Iran. Mr. Obama, officials said, has determined he could not stop other countries from seeking new weapons if the United States was doing the same.

Still, some of Mr. Obama’s critics in his own party say the change is symbolic because he is spending more to improve old weapons.

At the center of the new strategy is a renewed focus on arms control and nonproliferation agreements, which were largely dismissed by the Bush administration. That includes an effort to win passage of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which was defeated during the Clinton administration and faces huge hurdles in the Senate, and revisions of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty to close loopholes that critics say have been exploited by Iran and North Korea.

Mr. Obama’s reliance on new, non-nuclear Prompt Global Strike weapons is bound to be contentious. As described by advocates within the Pentagon and in the military, the new weapons could achieve the effects of a nuclear weapon, without turning a conventional war into a nuclear one. As a result, the administration believes it could create a new form of deterrence — a way to contain countries that possess or hope to develop nuclear, biological or chemical weapons, without resorting to a nuclear option.
28559  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / POTH: Jurisdiction of Water Act on: March 01, 2010, 06:55:26 AM
This POTH (NYT) article is written in a highly biased way, but the question remains about the environmental contamination and pollution.

Thousands of the nation’s largest water polluters are outside the Clean Water Act’s reach because the Supreme Court has left uncertain which waterways are protected by that law, according to interviews with regulators.

Toxic Waters
Outside the Law

Articles in this series are examining the worsening pollution in America’s waters and regulators’ responses.

As a result, some businesses are declaring that the law no longer applies to them. And pollution rates are rising.
Companies that have spilled oil, carcinogens and dangerous bacteria into lakes, rivers and other waters are not being prosecuted, according to Environmental Protection Agency regulators working on those cases, who estimate that more than 1,500 major pollution investigations have been discontinued or shelved in the last four years.

The Clean Water Act was intended to end dangerous water pollution by regulating every major polluter. But today, regulators may be unable to prosecute as many as half of the nation’s largest known polluters because officials lack jurisdiction or because proving jurisdiction would be overwhelmingly difficult or time consuming, according to midlevel officials.

“We are, in essence, shutting down our Clean Water programs in some states,” said Douglas F. Mundrick, an E.P.A. lawyer in Atlanta. “This is a huge step backward. When companies figure out the cops can’t operate, they start remembering how much cheaper it is to just dump stuff in a nearby creek.”

“This is a huge deal,” James M. Tierney, the New York State assistant commissioner for water resources, said of the new constraints. “There are whole watersheds that feed into New York’s drinking water supply that are, as of now, unprotected.”

The court rulings causing these problems focused on language in the Clean Water Act that limited it to “the discharge of pollutants into the navigable waters” of the United States. For decades, “navigable waters” was broadly interpreted by regulators to include many large wetlands and streams that connected to major rivers.

But the two decisions suggested that waterways that are entirely within one state, creeks that sometimes go dry, and lakes unconnected to larger water systems may not be “navigable waters” and are therefore not covered by the act — even though pollution from such waterways can make its way into sources of drinking water.

Some argue that such decisions help limit overreaching regulatory efforts.

“There is no doubt in my mind that when Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 they intended it to have broad regulatory reach, but they did not intend it to be unlimited,” said Don Parrish, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s senior director of regulatory relations, who has lobbied on Clean Water issues.

But for E.P.A. and state regulators, the decisions have created widespread uncertainty. The court did not define which waterways are regulated, and judicial districts have interpreted the court’s decisions differently. As regulators have struggled to guess how various courts will rule, some E.P.A. lawyers have established unwritten internal guidelines to avoid cases in which proving jurisdiction is too difficult, according to interviews with more than two dozen current and former E.P.A. officials.

The decisions “reduce E.P.A.’s ability to do what the law intends — to protect water quality, the environment and public health,” wrote Peter S. Silva, the E.P.A.’s assistant administrator for the Office of Water, in response to questions.

About 117 million Americans get their drinking water from sources fed by waters that are vulnerable to exclusion from the Clean Water Act, according to E.P.A. reports.

The E.P.A. said in a statement that it did not automatically concede that any significant water body was outside the authority of the Clean Water Act. “Jurisdictional determinations must be made on a case-by-case basis,” the agency wrote. Officials added that they believed that even many streams that go dry for long periods were within the act’s jurisdiction.

But midlevel E.P.A. officials said that internal studies indicated that as many as 45 percent of major polluters might be either outside regulatory reach or in areas where proving jurisdiction is overwhelmingly difficult.


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And even in situations in which regulators believe they still have jurisdiction, companies have delayed cases for years by arguing that the ambiguity precludes prosecution. In some instances, regulators have simply dropped enforcement actions.

Outside the Law

In the last two years, some members of Congress have tried to limit the impact of the court decisions by introducing legislation known as the Clean Water Restoration Act. It has been approved by a Senate committee but not yet introduced this session in the House. The legislation tries to resolve these problems by, in part, removing the word “navigable” from the law and restoring regulators’ authority over all waters that were regulated before the Supreme Court decisions.

But a broad coalition of industries has often successfully lobbied to prevent the full Congress from voting on such proposals by telling farmers and small-business owners that the new legislation would permit the government to regulate rain puddles and small ponds and layer new regulations on how they dispose of waste.

“The game plan is to emphasize the scary possibilities,” said one member of the Waters Advocacy Coalition, which has fought the legislation and is supported by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Association of Home Builders and other groups representing industries affected by the Clean Water Act.

“If you can get Glenn Beck to say that government storm troopers are going to invade your property, farmers in the Midwest will light up their congressmen’s switchboards,” said the coalition member, who asked not to be identified because he thought his descriptions would anger other coalition participants. Mr. Beck, a conservative commentator on Fox News, spoke at length against the Clean Water Restoration Act in December.

The American Land Rights Association, another organization opposed to legislation, wrote last June that people should “Deluge your senators with calls, faxes and e-mails.” A news release the same month from the American Farm Bureau Federation warned that “even rainwater would be regulated.”

“If you erase the word ‘navigable’ from the law, it erases any limitation on the federal government’s reach,” said Mr. Parrish of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “It could be a gutter, a roadside ditch or a rain puddle. But under the new law, the government gets control over it.”

Legislators say these statements are misleading and intended to create panic.

“These claims just aren’t true,” said Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland. He helped push the bill through the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. “This bill,” he said, “is solely aimed at restoring the law to what it covered before the Supreme Court decisions.”

The consequences of the Supreme Court decisions are stark. In drier states, some polluters say the act no longer applies to them and are therefore refusing to renew or apply for permits, making it impossible to monitor what they are dumping, say officials.

Cannon Air Force Base near Clovis, N.M., for instance, recently informed E.P.A. officials that it no longer considered itself subject to the act. It dumps wastewater — containing bacteria and human sewage — into a lake on the base.

More than 200 oil spill cases were delayed as of 2008, according to a memorandum written by an E.P.A. official and collected by Congressional investigators. And even as the number of facilities violating the Clean Water Act has steadily increased each year, E.P.A. judicial actions against major polluters have fallen by almost half since the Supreme Court rulings, according to an analysis of E.P.A. data by The New York Times.

The Clean Water Act does not directly deal with drinking water. Rather, it was meant to regulate the polluters that contaminated the waterways that supplied many towns and cities with tap water.

The two Supreme Court decisions at issue — Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States Army Corps of Engineers in 2001 and Rapanos v. United States in 2006 — focused on the federal government’s jurisdiction over various wetlands. In both cases, dissenting justices warned that limiting the power of the federal government would weaken its ability to combat water pollution.

“Cases now are lost because the company is discharging into a stream that flows into a river, rather than the river itself,” said David M. Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan who led the environmental crimes section of the Justice Department during the last administration.

In 2007, for instance, after a pipe manufacturer in Alabama, a division of McWane Inc., was convicted and fined millions of dollars for dumping oil, lead, zinc and other chemicals into a large creek, an appellate court overturned that conviction and fine, ruling that the Supreme Court precedent exempted the waterway from the Clean Water Act. The company eventually settled by agreeing to pay a smaller amount and submit to probation.

Some E.P.A. officials say solutions beyond the Clean Water Restoration Act are available. They argue that the agency’s chief, Lisa P. Jackson, could issue regulations that seek to clarify jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act.

Mrs. Jackson has urged Congress to resolve these issues. But she has not issued new regulations.

“E.P.A., with our federal partners, emphasized to Congress in a May 2009 letter that legislation is the best way to restore the Clean Water Act’s effectiveness,” wrote Mr. Silva in a statement to The Times. “E.P.A. and the Army Corps of Engineers will continue to implement our water programs to protect the nation’s waters and the environment as effectively as possible, including consideration of administrative actions to restore the scope of waters protected under the Clean Water Act.”

In the meantime, both state and federal regulators say they are prevented from protecting important waterways.

“We need something to fix these gaps,” said Mr. Tierney, the New York official. “The Clean Water Act worked for over 30 years, and we’re at risk of losing that if we can’t get a new law.”
28560  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton, Federalist 12 on: March 01, 2010, 06:48:01 AM
"The prosperity of commerce is now perceived and acknowledged by all enlightened statesmen to be the most useful as well as the most productive source of national wealth, and has accordingly become a primary object of its political cares." --Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 12
28561  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Spengler on: February 28, 2010, 03:49:14 PM
The trouble is that Israel's strategic problem is usually presented in reductive terms: Iran (in the standard view) represents an existential threat to Israel in that it might get nuclear weapons; this would give it the capacity to destroy Israel, and therefore Israel must nip the existential threat in the bud. In this narrow framework, pushing back Iran's nuclear development by six to 18 months hardly seems worth the cost.

Iran's perceived attempt to acquire nuclear weapons, though, is not Israel's problem as such; the problem is that Israel is the ally of a superpower that does not want to be a superpower, headed by a president with a profound emotional attachment to a nostalgic image of the Third World. If America were in fact acting like a superpower, the problem would not have arisen in the first place, for the United States would use its considerably greater resources to destroy Iran's nuclear program.

Rather than focus on the second-order effect - the consequences of Iran's possible acquisition of nuclear weapons - Israeli analysts should consider the primary issue, namely the strategic zimzum [2] of the United States. The correct questions are: 1) can Israel act as a regional superpower independently of the United States, and 2) what would Israel do to establish its regional superpower status?

The answer to the first question obviously depends on the second. To act as a regional superpower, Israel would have to take actions that shift the configuration of forces in its favor. No outside analyst has sufficient information to judge the issue - with the best of information a great deal of uncertainty is inevitable - but there are several reasons to believe that an Israeli attack on Iran would establish the Jewish state as an independent superpower and compel the United States to adjust its policy to Israel's strategic requirements.

First, the Sunni Arab states have a stronger interest than Israel's to stop Iran from possibly going nuclear. Israel, after all, possesses perhaps two hundred deliverable nuclear devices, including some very big thermonuclear ones, and is in position to wipe Iran off the map. But none of Iran's Arab rivals is in such a position. The Saudis have done everything but take out a full-page ad in the Washington Post to encourage the Obama administration to attack Iran. Prince Saud al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, warned on February 15 that sanctions were a long-term measure while the world faces a short-term threat from Iran. Egypt reportedly has allowed Israeli missile ships to pass through the Suez Canal en route to the Persian Gulf.

Secondly, Russia well might prefer to deal with Israel as an independent regional power than as an ally of the United States. A stronger Israeli presence in the region also might contribute to Russia's market share in missiles and eventually fighter aircraft. Russian-Israeli cooperation in a number of military fields has improved markedly during the past year, including the first-ever sale of Israeli weapons to Russia (drones) and Israeli help for the Russian-Indian "fifth generation" fighter project.

Third, the United States would have to respond to a new strategic situation in the Middle East were Israel to inflict even moderate damage on Iran's nuclear program. The consequences would include, among other things:

Aggressive retaliation by Iran against American targets in Iraq. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have opposed bombing of Iran for years in part because they fear that Iran could inflict significant casualties on American forces.

Stronger Iranian support for the Taliban. Washington's plan for Afghanistan depends in part on the fanciful notion that Iran will be persuaded to support the Shi'ite Hazara minority against the Pashtun Taliban. Iran has always played both sides and in the event of an Israeli strike would shift resources towards whatever America liked the least.

Greater tensions between Pakistan and Iran. Iran's credibility in the region depends on its perception of being the protector of Pakistan's 35 million Shi'ites, the second-largest concentration outside of the 70 million people of Iran.

To the extent Washington has a Middle East policy, it seems to involve playing balance-of-power games on the scale of the Mad Hatter's tea party, as I wrote at year-end (The life and premature death of the Pax Obamicana Asia Times Online, December 24, 2009). Whatever Washington thought it was doing would come unstuck in the wake of an Israeli strike against Iran. Rather than attempt to lead events - in no particular direction - Washington would have no choice except to follow until it arrived at its own foreign policy at some unspecified future date. Although Washington would scream like a scalded pig, Israel's influence is more likely to rise than to fall in the aftermath.

There are numerous variables I cannot possibly estimate, of which the most important have to do with the technical feasibility of a long-distance strike. The political variables are too fuzzy to pin down. The strategic framework in which a unilateral Israel strike on Tehran makes sense is one in which all depends on Israel's capacity to improvise and dominate the situation through a combination of force and unpredictability.

Once again, the words of my favorite character in American literature - Dashiell Hammett's Continental Op - come to mind: "Plans are all right sometimes ... And sometimes just stirring things up is all right - if you're tough enough to survive, and keep your eyes open so you'll see what you want when it comes to the top."
Full text:
28562  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: February 27, 2010, 04:47:41 PM
That is CERTAINLY to be kept in mind!

As are the facts that
a) the people weilding those knives have been training cutting skills for many years- with the same knife most of us could not do the same thing,;
b) those that knife cannot legally be carried in many jurisdictions due to blade length and that most attack knives (speaking only SWAG here) are not as big, as sharp, etc
28563  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / NYT: superbug on: February 27, 2010, 12:34:25 PM
A minor-league pitcher in his younger days, Richard Armbruster kept playing
baseball recreationally into his 70s, until his right hip started bothering
him. Last February he went to a St. Louis hospital for what was to be a
routine hip replacement.   By late March, Mr. Armbruster, then 78, was dead.
After a series of postsurgical complications, the final blow was a
bloodstream infection that sent him into shock and resisted treatment with

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think my dad would walk in for a hip
replacement and be dead two months later,” said Amy Fix, one of his

Not until the day Mr. Armbruster died did a laboratory culture identify the
organism that had infected him: Acinetobacter baumannii. The germ is one of
a category of bacteria that by some estimates are already killing tens of
thousands of hospital patients each year. While the organisms do not receive
as much attention as the one known as MRSA — for methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus — some infectious-disease specialists say they could
emerge as a bigger threat.  That is because there are several drugs,
including some approved in the last few years, that can treat MRSA. But for
a combination of business reasons and scientific challenges, the
pharmaceuticals industry is pursuing very few drugs for Acinetobacter and
other organisms of its type, known as Gram-negative bacteria. Meanwhile, the
germs are evolving and becoming ever more immune to existing antibiotics.

“In many respects it’s far worse than MRSA,” said Dr. Louis B. Rice, an
infectious-disease specialist at the Louis Stokes Cleveland V.A. Medical
Center and at Case Western Reserve University. “There are strains out there,
and they are becoming more and more common, that are resistant to virtually
every antibiotic we have.”

The bacteria, classified as Gram-negative because of their reaction to the
so-called Gram stain test, can cause severe pneumonia and infections of the
urinary tract, bloodstream and other parts of the body. Their cell structure
makes them more difficult to attack with antibiotics than Gram-positive
organisms like MRSA.  Acinetobacter, which killed Mr. Armbruster, came to
wide attention a few years ago in infections of soldiers wounded in Iraq.
Meanwhile, New York City hospitals, perhaps because of the large numbers of
patients they treat, have become the global breeding ground for another
drug-resistant Gram-negative germ, Klebsiella pneumoniae. According to
researchers at SUNY Downstate Medical Center, more than 20 percent of the
Klebsiella infections in Brooklyn hospitals are now resistant to virtually
all modern antibiotics. And those supergerms are now spreading worldwide.

Health authorities do not have good figures on how many infections and
deaths in the United States are caused by Gram-negative bacteria. The
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that roughly 1.7
million hospital-associated infections, from all types of bacteria combined,
cause or contribute to 99,000 deaths each year.   But in Europe, where
hospital surveys have been conducted, Gram-negative infections are estimated
to account for two-thirds of the 25,000 deaths each year caused by some of
the most troublesome hospital-acquired infections, according to a report
released in September by health authorities there.   To be sure, MRSA
remains the single most common source of hospital infections. And it is
especially feared because it can also infect people outside the hospital.
There have been serious, even deadly, infections of otherwise healthy
athletes and school children. !!!! By comparison, the drug-resistant
Gram-negative germs for the most part threaten only hospitalized patients
whose immune systems are weak. The germs can survive for a long time on
surfaces in the hospital and enter the body through wounds, catheters and

What is most worrisome about the Gram-negatives is not their frequency but
their drug resistance.

“For Gram-positives we need better drugs; for Gram-negatives we need any
drugs,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, an infectious-disease specialist at
Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., and the author of
“Rising Plague,” a book about drug-resistant pathogens. Dr. Spellberg is a
consultant to some antibiotics companies and has co-founded two companies
working on other anti-infective approaches. Dr. Rice of Cleveland has also
been a consultant to some pharmaceutical companies.

Doctors treating resistant strains of Gram-negative bacteria are often
forced to rely on two similar antibiotics developed in the 1940s — colistin
and polymyxin B. These drugs were largely abandoned decades ago because they
can cause kidney and nerve damage, but because they have not been used much,
bacteria have not had much chance to evolve resistance to them yet.

“You don’t really have much choice,” said Dr. Azza Elemam, an
infectious-disease specialist in Louisville, Ky. “If a person has a
life-threatening infection, you have to take a risk of causing damage to the

Such a tradeoff confronted Kimberly Dozier, a CBS News correspondent who
developed an Acinetobacter infection after being injured by a car bomb in
2006 while on assignment in Iraq. After two weeks on colistin, Ms. Dozier’s
kidneys began to fail, she recounted in her book, “Breathing the Fire.”
Rejecting one doctor’s advice to go on dialysis and seek a kidney
transplant, Ms. Dozier stopped taking the antibiotic to save her kidneys.
She eventually recovered from the infection.

Even that dire tradeoff might not be available to some patients. Last year
doctors at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan published a paper describing
two cases of “pan-resistant” Klebsiella, untreatable by even the
kidney-damaging older antibiotics. One of the patients died and the other
eventually recovered on her own, after the antibiotics were stopped.

“It is a rarity for a physician in the developed world to have a patient die
of an overwhelming infection for which there are no therapeutic options,”
the authors wrote in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

In some cases, antibiotic resistance is spreading to Gram-negative bacteria
that can infect people outside the hospital.  Sabiha Khan, 66, went to the
emergency room of a Chicago hospital on New Year’s Day suffering from a
urinary tract and kidney infection caused by E. coli resistant to the usual
oral antibiotics. Instead of being sent home to take pills, Ms. Khan had to
stay in the hospital 11 days to receive powerful intravenous antibiotics.
This month, the infection returned, sending her back to the hospital for an
additional two weeks.

Some patient advocacy groups say hospitals need to take better steps to
prevent such infections, like making sure that health care workers
frequently wash their hands and that surfaces and instruments are
disinfected. And antibiotics should not be overused, they say, because that
contributes to the evolution of resistance.

To encourage prevention, an Atlanta couple, Armando and Victoria Nahum,
started the Safe Care Campaign after their 27-year-old son, Joshua, died
from a hospital-acquired infection in October 2006. Joshua, a skydiving
instructor in Colorado, had fractured his skull and thigh bone on a hard
landing. During his treatment, he twice acquired MRSA and then was infected
by Enterobacter aerogenes, a Gram-negative bacterium.

“The MRSA they got rid of with antibiotics,” Mr. Nahum said. “But this one
they just couldn’t do anything about.”
28564  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Iranian Saga Continues on: February 26, 2010, 11:27:05 PM
Friday, February 26, 2010   STRATFOR.COM  Diary Archives 

The Iranian Saga Continues
THURSDAY WITNESSED A SERIES OF NEW WRINKLES in the ongoing Iran saga. For those readers who have been in a coma for the last three months, here is the abbreviated background.

Israel is a state so small that it could not likely survive a nuclear strike. It feels that Iran’s civilian nuclear power program is simply a mask for a more nefarious weapons project and wants it stopped by severe sanctions if possible, and military force if necessary. As Israel lacks the muscle to achieve this itself, it is attempting to pressure the Americans to handle the issue. Israel is reasonably confident it can so pressure Washington, simply because while Israel lacks the punch to certifiably end the Iranian program, it most certainly has the ability to start a war. Since Iran’s best means of retaliating would be to interrupt oil shipments in the Persian Gulf, the United States would have no choice but to get involved, regardless of its independent desires.

Ergo it was with significant interest that we watched the State Department’s daily press briefing, where State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters the following: “It is not our intent to have crippling sanctions that have a significant impact on the Iranian people. Our actual intent is actually to find ways to pressure the government while protecting the people.” The same day, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was in Washington reiterating Israeli policy in support of the very same so-called “crippling sanctions.” While it may seem little more than semantics, the terminology here matters, especially to Israel — reports from Israel indicate that the Israeli Prime Minister’s office intends to follow up on the issue to ensure that the rejection of crippling sanctions does not constitute a policy shift.

Our first thought was not far from the Israelis’ — that the Americans were taking a step back from sanctions. But when we re-evaluated, we noted that in recent weeks many of the other players that would be required to make sanctions work — Germany, Russia and China most notably — have been acting a bit peculiar. We are hardly to the point where we think that the various players are getting down to the brass tacks of sanctions details, but there is little doubt that the Americans have been making incremental progress in that direction. Still, they are far from achieving sanctions that would meet Israel’s definition of “crippling.”

“If there is a single state that must be on board for sanctions to work, it is Russia.”
Which made us even more interested to see sanctions-busting rhetoric out of none other than Brazil. Brazil and Iran are literally about as far as two states can be from each other on this planet, but Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is on a bit of an Iran kick. Iran is hoping that when Lula travels to Iran for a formal state visit in May he will go beyond the rhetoric and invite Iranian banks to operate in Brazil, an action that allows them to partially circumvent whatever financial sanctions are already in place.

STRATFOR is admittedly puzzled by this preoccupation with Iran, as it does not seem to grant Brazil (or Lula) any benefit. Lula is not a rabid leftist, but instead a relatively moderate statesman. Brazil and Iran hold minimal bilateral trade or investment interests. Brazilian energy powerhouse Petroleos Brasilieros (Petrobras) recently left projects in Iran, ostensibly because of lack of opportunity (though the threat of U.S. retaliation hovered in the air). And any possible political gains are questionable at least. While we acknowledge that twisting the American tail can earn major kudos in international fora, getting in the way of what is becoming a core American foreign policy initiative can be a dangerous place to be. Additionally, Lula is on his way out of the presidency and does not need to curry favor with an already enthusiastic Brazilian public. In fact, some groups in Brazil have openly challenged his Iranian policy. U.S. State Department senior personnel, including Under Secretary of State William J. Burns as well as his boss, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have already blocked out time to convince Lula to walk away from this fight.

Yet even if the United States can convince states such as Brazil — not to mention China — that tough words on Iran must give way to tough action, it is not as if Iran lacks its own means of reshaping the equation. Most notably, Iranian influence would be felt in Iraq.

On Thursday, Washington leaked that the man in charge of implementing military strategy in Iraq, Gen. Raymond Odierno, had asked for additional American forces to remain in Iraq beyond U.S. President Barack Obama’s August withdrawal deadline. Specifically, Odierno fears — with a substantial number of reasons — that the northern city of Kirkuk could explode into violence if U.S. forces leave too soon.

The Kurds have been the sectarian group in Iraq that has proven most helpful to the Americans, and they hope that in time Kirkuk will serve not only as Iraq’s northern oil capital, but as the Kurdish regional capital as well. If the U.S. commander in charge of the withdrawal has already petitioned the president for more troops in the part of the country that is most secure, one can only imagine what the situation is like in the south where Iran’s influence is palpable.

Finally, let us end with a point on those as yet unrealized sanctions. If there is a single state that must be on board for them to work, it is Russia. Russia has sufficient financial access to the Western world to sink any banking sanctions, plus sufficient spare refining capacity and access to transport infrastructure to make any gasoline sanctions a politically expensive exercise in futility.

But Russia does not work for free, and Thursday Moscow clarified just how important it thinks it has become. Thursday Russia explicitly extended its nuclear umbrella to Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia, the five other states in its Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). While CSTO is a pale, pale shadow of its NATO counterpart, the Kremlin’s announcement was a not-so-subtle reminder that Russia not only has nuclear weapons — as opposed to any, at present, purely theoretical Iranian nuclear weapons — but that (at least on paper) it is willing to use such weapons to protect what the Kremlin sees as its turf.

Ultimately the Russians are willing to toss the Iranians aside, but only if the price is right. Thursday they gave a pretty clear idea of just what that price is: full American acquiescence to their desired sphere of influence. And with Russian influence continuing to rise in the former Soviet Union — earlier this week Ukrainian authorities certified the election of a pro-Moscow president, fully overturning the Orange Revolution of five years ago — it is a price that is likely to only increase in the months ahead.

28565  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: BBC: Last Woman Standing : stick fight on: February 26, 2010, 08:38:17 PM
You cynical dog you  wink
28566  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America on: February 26, 2010, 04:13:10 PM
28567  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Infiltration on: February 26, 2010, 02:53:38 PM

Infiltration: What a tangled web Islamist appointees weave. When his pro-terrorist quotes surfaced, a new White House envoy dismissed them as someone else's. A recording says otherwise.

Now Rashad Hussain, President Obama's pick as special envoy to the Organization of the Islamic Conference, has changed his story. He admits he did indeed call the indictment of a now-convicted terrorist a "travesty of justice." has provided the quotes from a recording of the 2004 event attended by Hussain to the White House for review. In it, Hussain defended confessed terrorist Sami Al-Arian, suggesting the government had railroaded him. A Florida professor, Al-Arian was running a U.S. beachhead for Palestinian terrorists. In a plea deal, he copped to a reduced charge of conspiracy to provide material support to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a federally designated terror group. In a speech at a Cleveland mosque, Al-Arian once thundered: "Let's damn America, let's damn Israel, let's damn their allies until death."

When the controversy first broke, the White House deferred to the spin of Hussain and the Mideast outfit that scrubbed the offending statements from its Web site. Turns out the Washington Report for Middle East Affairs, a Saudi-tied, anti-Israel journal that sells Intifada trinkets, deleted his remarks after receiving a phone call from Hussain. WRMEA once employed Al-Arian's daughter as a staffer. Thanks to the recording, there's now no denying what Hussain said. After this deception, Obama should change his pick for envoy, who would join the OIC, a 57-government Islamic bloc, the largest voting bloc in the U.N.

The OIC is waging an international campaign against "Islamophobia," calling it the real "terrorism." The bloc's assault on free speech includes pressuring the West into passing laws criminalizing criticism of Islam, including motives of jihadists like Al-Arian.

It's plain that Hussain, who also has bashed the Patriot Act and other key anti-terror tools, cannot be trusted to represent U.S. interests vis-a-vis the OIC.

What's more, there are reports linking him to the radical Muslim Brotherhood, of which Al-Arian is a senior member. The Brotherhood has hatched a secret plot to infiltrate the U.S. government and "destroy" it "from within," and has erected an impressive infrastructure supporting terrorism inside America.

In a raid of Al-Arian's home, federal agents seized a document in Arabic revealing a Brotherhood plan for "spying" on U.S. agencies.

"Members of the group should be able to infiltrate the sensitive intelligence agencies or the embassies in order to collect information and build close relationships with the people in charge in these establishments," the paper advises Brotherhood leaders in America.

So far with this White House, the bad guys are finding it shockingly easy to put their agents in place.
28568  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 26, 2010, 11:26:38 AM

Reports have come out in recent days that more than half of the Afghan Taliban’s leadership has been arrested. However, most of these reports have come from unverifiable sources in the Pakistani government, making these claims dubious. Islamabad has every reason to want to appear supportive of the United States’ goals in Afghanistan while simultaneously positioning itself for control over the country when U.S. forces withdraw.


Seven of the 15 members of the so-called Quetta Shura, the Afghan Taliban’s shadowy apex leadership council based in the Pashtun corridor of Pakistan’s Balochistan province, have been arrested according to a Feb. 24 report in the Christian Science Monitor, a U.S. newspaper, citing unnamed Pakistani intelligence officials. According to this report, in addition to the previously reported arrests of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Maulavi Abdul Kabir and Mullah Muhammad Younis, Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir, who oversees the movement’s military affairs, Mullah Muhammad Hassan, Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada and Mullah Abdul Raouf were also arrested.

Only about half of these arrests have thus far been confirmed in any way. But more importantly, the composition of the Quetta Shura is itself a closely guarded secret. Only Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has the sophisticated and nuanced understanding of the Afghan Taliban to even have a good grasp of the council’s members, so reports from unnamed officials are extremely difficult to verify. No one has a master list of the Afghan Taliban leadership with which to check off individuals.

Even if all these men have indeed been arrested, it is difficult to say whether the Quetta Shura has really been reduced significantly, or — in many cases — if the individuals arrested are actually those they are thought to be. Almost all reports on the details of the arrests cite Pakistani security officials, and there is no way to independently verify them. Islamabad has incentive to show that it is cooperating with the United States, while at the same time reshaping the Afghan Taliban leadership landscape to suit its own long-term purposes.

This most recent leak comes as Pakistan has publicized a string of intelligence coups ranging from the arrest of shadow Taliban governors from northern Afghanistan, to the death of the leader of Lashkar e Jhangvi (LeJ), Qari Zafar and a supporting role in the Iranian arrest of Abdolmalek Rigi, the leader of Jundallah. Many aspects of these reports cannot be verified at this time, and given the lack of corroboration and Pakistan’s interests in manipulating perceptions, there is much to suggest that at least some element of Islamabad is feeding the media for its own purposes.

There is little doubt that there are at least partial truths to this series of reports, and that there have been some significant achievements. Baradar, for example, absolutely appears to be in Pakistani custody and may soon be transferred to a detention facility at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.

But there are a number of moving parts in the attempts to negotiate with the Taliban — or degrade its capabilities. Pakistan is playing a complex game, and one important question is the extent to which Pakistan is indeed cooperating and coordinating with the United States in a meaningful way, rather than simply making temporary or symbolic gestures. The Pakistanis are deeply skeptical of U.S. support in the long run, and they already are thinking about managing Afghanistan when the United States begins to draw down there in coming years.

However, there is an entire chapter of history to be written before that happens, and Pakistan has every intention of being at the center of any negotiations with the Afghan Taliban, including the talks, the reconciliation process and the implementation of a settlement. A spate of arrests like those of the Quetta Shura members — regardless of whether they actually have been taken out of commission — may indicate that some sort of power play is taking place. But such a development cannot be confirmed presently, and Islamabad has no shortage of reasons to manipulate perceptions.
28569  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / American corporatist state expanding its tentacles on: February 26, 2010, 10:11:28 AM
Plan to Seek Use of U.S. Contracts as a Wage Lever
Published: February 25, 2010
The Obama administration is planning to use the government’s enormous buying power to prod private companies to improve wages and benefits for millions of workers, according to White House officials and several interest groups briefed on the plan.

By altering how it awards $500 billion in contracts each year, the government would disqualify more companies with labor, environmental or other violations and give an edge to companies that offer better levels of pay, health coverage, pensions and other benefits, the officials said.

Because nearly one in four workers is employed by companies that have contracts with the federal government, administration officials see the plan as a way to shape social policy and lift more families into the middle class. It would affect contracts like those awarded to make Army uniforms, clean federal buildings and mow lawns at military bases.

Although the details are still being worked out, the outline of the plan is drawing fierce opposition from business groups and Republican lawmakers. They see it as a gift to organized labor and say it would drive up costs for the government in the face of a $1.3 trillion budget deficit.

“I’m suspicious of what the end goals are,” said Ben Brubeck, director of labor and federal procurement for Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents 25,000 construction-related companies. “It’s pretty clear the agenda is to give big labor an advantage in federal contracts.”

Critics also said the policy would put small businesses, many of which do not provide rich benefits, at a disadvantage. Furthermore, government officials would find it difficult to evaluate bidders using the new criteria and to determine whether one company’s compensation package should give it an edge, said Alan L. Chvotkin, executive vice president of the Professional Services Council, a coalition of 340 government contractors.

From his earliest days in office, President Obama has called for an overhaul of government procurement policy, citing the contracting scandals of the previous decade involving cost overruns and no-bid contracts.

“The president made it clear that he is committed to reforming government contracts to save taxpayers money while protecting workers and the environment,” a White House spokesman, Bill Burton, said. “The administration is currently gathering data and examining the best ways to do this.”

Two of Mr. Obama’s allies — John Podesta, the Clinton administration chief of staff who headed the president’s transition team, and Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union — have repeatedly pressed the president to use procurement policy to push up wages and benefits.

In testimony last year to the Office of Management and Budget, Mr. Podesta said that 400,000 workers employed under federal contracts — like cafeteria workers, security guards and landscaping workers at federal buildings — earn less than $22,000 a year, the federal poverty line for a family of four, assuming just one paycheck in a household.

“We have a president who is talking about bringing more people into the middle class,” Mr. Stern said. “The government should expect contractors to obey the law, and at the same time contractors should not be building a poverty economy, but should be trying to build a high-road economy.”

The officials briefed on the plan said it was being developed by officials in the Office of Management and Budget, the White House Office of Legal Counsel, the Treasury, Justice and Labor Departments and the vice president’s Middle Class Task Force.

Even as business groups press the administration for more details, they are denouncing the plan, tentatively named the High Road Procurement Policy.

The Daily Caller, a conservative Web site, reported Feb. 4 that the plan would “heavily favor government contractors that implement policies designed by organized labor.”

Randel K. Johnson, senior vice president for labor at the United States Chamber of Commerce, called the plan a “warmed-over version” of President Bill Clinton’s regulations that sought to bar federal agencies from awarding contracts to companies with a record of breaking labor, environmental or consumer laws. President George W. Bush vacated those regulations soon after taking office.

“We strongly opposed the Clinton blacklist regulations,” Mr. Johnson said, “and this appears worse than that.”

On Feb. 2, Senator Susan Collins of Maine and four other Republican senators sent a letter to Peter R. Orszag, director of the White House budget office, saying, “We are concerned that the imposition of these requirements, during a time of significant economic turmoil in the private sector and tight federal budgets, could have serious, negative consequences, especially for our nation’s small businesses.”


Page 2 of 2)

One signer was Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, who was one of the two main sponsors — the other was Senator Barack Obama — of a bill that sought to increase the transparency and accountability of federal contracting by requiring the government to create a data base of all federal contracts. President Bush signed it into law in 2007.

David Madland, director of the American Workers Project at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research group founded by Mr. Podesta, argues the new policy could lower government costs, instead of raising them.

Many low-wage employees of federal contractors receive Medicaid and food stamps, he said. Citing studies conducted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and by academic researchers, he said that contractors that pay their employees well have greater productivity and reliability, while contractors with a record of labor law violations do shoddier construction work.

“This policy is good for workers, it’s good for taxpayers and it’s good for high-road businesses,” Mr. Madland said.

He said that one study done by the state of Maryland found that after the state began requiring bidders to pay a living wage, the number of bidders per contract rose by a third on average. Some higher-wage companies said they began seeking government bids because the new policy leveled the playing field.

One federal official said the proposed policy would encourage procurement officers to favor companies with better compensation packages only if choosing them did not add substantially to contract costs. As an example, he said, if two companies each bid $10 million for a contract, and one had considerably better wages and pensions than the other, that company would be favored.

Some supporters of the new procurement policy — and even some opponents — say Mr. Obama could impose it through executive order. They assert that the president has broad powers to issue procurement regulations, just as President John Kennedy did in requiring federal contractors to have companywide equal employment opportunity plans.

But some opponents argue that legislation would be needed because an executive order may collide with laws that require federal contractors to pay the prevailing regional wage for the type of work being done. The executive order, they fear, would call for higher wages.
28570  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: February 26, 2010, 07:33:48 AM
The Foundation
"Enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm." --James Madison

Editorial Exegesis

The health care summit is an "evil" trap"A mere three days before President Obama's supposedly bipartisan health-care summit, the White House [Monday] released a new blueprint that Democrats say they will ram through Congress with or without Republican support. So after election defeats in Virginia, New Jersey and even Massachusetts, and amid overwhelming public opposition, Democrats have decided to give the voters what they don't want anyway. Ah, the glory of 'progressive' governance and democratic consent. 'The President's Proposal,' as the 11-page White House document is headlined, is in one sense a notable achievement: It manages to take the worst of both the House and Senate bills and combine them into something more destructive. It includes more taxes, more subsidies and even less cost control than the Senate bill. And it purports to fix the special-interest favors in the Senate bill not by eliminating them -- but by expanding them to everyone. ... The larger political message of this new proposal is that Mr. Obama and Democrats have no intention of compromising on an incremental reform, or of listening to Republican, or any other, ideas on health care. They want what they want, and they're going to play by Chicago Rules and try to dragoon it into law on a narrow partisan vote via Congressional rules that have never been used for such a major change in national policy. If you want to know why Democratic Washington is 'ungovernable,' this is it." --The Wall Street Journal

"The state tends to expand in proportion to its means of existence and to live beyond its means, and these are, in the last analysis, nothing but the substance of the people. Woe to the people that cannot limit the sphere of action of the state! Freedom, private enterprise, wealth, happiness, independence, personal dignity, all vanish." --French economist Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850)

"People unfit for freedom -- who cannot do much with it -- are hungry for power. The desire for freedom is an attribute of a 'have' type of self. It says: leave me alone and I shall grow, learn, and realize my capacities. The desire for power is basically an attribute of a 'have not' type of self." --writer and philosopher Eric Hoffer (1902-1983)

"The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians." --British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

"Offering 'comprehensive' reform usually means years of arguing and horse-trading among pressure groups to get anything done. By the time all the special interests are appeased or bought off, the resulting elephantine legislation typically looks nothing like what was intended. In short, big-government medicine usually doesn't work on big-government sickness. If President Obama wants 'comprehensive' change, it would be better simply not to spend any more money we don't have." --historian Victor Davis Hanson

"[Barack Obama failed to sell a health care reform plan to American voters] because the utter implausibility of its central promise -- expanded coverage at lower cost -- led voters to conclude that it would lead ultimately to more government, more taxes and more debt." --columnist Charles Krauthammer

"Don't ever let anyone tell you that history doesn't repeat. For 70 years, liberals have been spinning the yarn that FDR's New Deal, despite all the evidence that it exacerbated and prolonged the Great Depression, quickened our economic recovery. Indeed, I remember scratching my head when one of my college history professors in the 1970s tried to convince us of that theory and its corollary -- an even better howler -- that FDR was actually a conservative, because if he hadn't implemented his socialist programs, the republic would have died right there." --columnist David Limbaugh

"This is a perfect snapshot of the West at twilight. On the one hand, governments of developed nations microregulate every aspect of your life in the interests of 'keeping you safe.' ... On the other hand, when it comes to 'keeping you safe' from real threats, such as a millenarian theocracy that claims universal jurisdiction, America and its allies do nothing. ... It is now certain that Tehran will get its nukes, and very soon. This is the biggest abdication of responsibility by the Western powers since the 1930s." --columnist Mark Steyn

"In the early aftermath of the suicidal pilot's attack [in Austin], there was no evidence that Stack belonged to a Tea Party organization. In any case, no law-abiding Tea Party group would ever condone what he did. But it didn't stop the haters from immediately smearing advocates of limited government. And it's just the latest in a long line of calculated attempts to paint the vast majority of peaceful Tea Party activists as terrorist threats to civil society. ... The smear merchants, of course, are simply following Rahm Emanuel's advice to exploit every crisis." --columnist Michelle Malkin

"Why should we capitalists go green? To do so is simply to exchange our technological, industrial, and energy superiority for a lie. ... Capitalism is about progressing via the ingenuity and excellence of minds unfettered by government regulations and interference. But environmentalism based on the man-made global warming theory is about regressing from the advances that unfettered minds have made. It's also about pushing the government to regulate and interfere at every step along the way." --columnist AWR Hawkins

The Demo-gogues
The definition of chutzpah: "After a decade of profligacy, the American people are tired of politicians who talk the talk but don't walk the walk when it comes to fiscal responsibility. It's easy to get up in front of the cameras and rant against exploding deficits. What's hard is actually getting deficits under control. But that's what we must do. Like families across the country, we have to take responsibility for every dollar we spend." --Barack Obama

Taxes are going up: "Everything's on the table. That's how this thing is going to work." --Barack Obama after creating a deficit commission on whether he would raise taxes on families earning less than $250,000 a year

Shut up, he explained: "They should stop crying about reconciliation as if it's never been done before." --Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) (It's never been done on a bill of this magnitude before.)

"So I do believe that there is more fertile soil today than when we first took this up." --House Democrat Whip James Clyburn, of South Carolina, weighing in not on all those "shovel ready" supposed job-starting projects of the "stimulus" but on the Demo plan for the government takeover of U.S. medical care.

You don't say: "Health care has been knocking me around pretty good." --Barack Obama, who still hasn't learned his lesson

Speaking of being knocked around: "Men, when they're out of work, tend to become abusive." --Harry Reid ("Many observers have speculated that Reid is likely to lose his job at the end of the current term. ... Is something going to happen to Mrs. Reid if Nevadans don't re-elect this senator?")

Non sequitur: "We have countries like China, which don't have to go through the democratic processes that we do, that order factories to move to deal with their air pollution." --Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM), urging his fellow senators to pass cap-n-tax
28571  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 26, 2010, 06:48:51 AM

Greatful to have challenges in my Life , , ,
28572  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: February 26, 2010, 06:47:59 AM
Fortune cookie says:

"The longest journey begins with the first step." 

So come fight at the Open Gathering in the Fall , , ,
28573  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: February 26, 2010, 06:35:25 AM
I am enjoying this discussion.

I find I am wishing that this thread were part of the "Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters)" thread on our SC&H forum , , ,
28574  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 26, 2010, 06:33:05 AM

Very glad to have you with us on this discussion and very interesting points about the militarization of the of humanitarian work.

The challenges here are daunting and it seems to me that our mission and the strategy to realize it are often unclear, inconsistent, and often inchoate.

As I understand it (and I am not sure that I have this correctly) our current strategy under CiC Obama is to win this war of essential national self-defense by enabling the ANP and the ANA in the next 16 months to be sufficiently far on a path to a self-sustaining winning trajectory towards establishing an Afg from which the Taliban will not enable attacks to be launched against the United States that we can begin reducing our troops there.

Do I have this right?

If so, IMHO we are delusional , , ,or we are simply going through a pretense by our CiC so he can say that he kept his campaign promise to fight in Afpakia.  Then after our 18 month efforts do not succeed he gets to say "Well, we tried with our best but the central government is too weak, incoherent, and corrupt, and so, just like Iraq, we are going to leave.  Anyway, Iran will soon have the nuclear bomb, so our position in the region is incoherent and untenable anyway."

I am in a mood. 

Certainly we are led by fine, outstanding generals in Patraeus and McCrystal, and it appears that the Pak govt/ISI may be waking up to the fact that a Taliban Pashtunistan is an existential threat to their regime.  Too bad that our Cic gave McC only 50% of the 40-60,000 troops he asked for and too bad he let everyone, including our enemies now, that we would begin leaving in 18 months.

28575  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: States Rights on: February 25, 2010, 10:39:47 PM

28576  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The electoral process, vote fraud (ACORN et al), corruption etc. on: February 25, 2010, 06:28:19 PM
As predicted by Glenn Beck, ACORN has changed its names so that we cannot track it without considerable effort.
28577  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NJ leads the way? on: February 25, 2010, 06:27:08 PM
STEVE FORBES, "Fact and Comment" (02/25/10): Debt-plagued
Greece dominates the headlines, along with such other troubled countries
as Portugal, Italy and Spain. Here at home several states--led by
profligate California--and numerous municipalities are also teetering on
the edge of insolvency. In all of these cases the problem is excessive
spending. True, revenues are down because of the recession, and markets
are skittish about financing suspect debtors, in part because of the lack
of transparency concerning these borrowers' using possibly explosive
derivatives to paper over budget shortfalls. But ever more obese budgets
have put many governments on the brink of bankruptcy.

Disaster, however, is not inevitable: A bracing and, indeed, inspiring
example of what must be done is rising in New Jersey. Newly minted
Republican Governor Chris Christie, facing a fiscal disaster, is doing the
unthinkable: slashing spending and pushing for tax cuts as a way to revive
New Jersey's moribund economy.

Last month Christie told the Democrat-dominated legislature that he was
impounding more than $2 billion of this year's budget. The scythe is
wide-sweeping. "I am cutting spending in 375 different state programs,
from every corner of state government. I will use my executive authority
to implement [these cuts] now. [They] will eliminate our $2 billion budget
gap," Christie asserted to stunned lawmakers. His cuts are even bigger
than they sound. "Upon arrival my administration had $6 billion of
balances from which to find $2 billion of savings. We had to cut one-third
of our available funds with only four and a half months to go in the
fiscal year."

While the reductions are huge, Christie was careful to use the scalpel,
not the meat axe. In education, for example, he does not take "one penny
from an approved school instructional budget. Not one dime out of the
classroom. Not one textbook left unbought. Not one teacher laid off. Not
one child's education compromised for one minute. Not one dollar of new
property taxes will be needed."

But the governor made it clear that ever more drastic surgery is needed in
next year's budget, which he will submit this month. The howls will then
be truly deafening.

School budgets will be hit hard as state aid is cut. But this dire
situation will finally force school districts--under the ever more
watchful eyes of tax-strapped parents--to cut bureaucratic bloat.
New Jersey's 566 cities and municipalities will also urgently do what they
should have done years ago--consolidate services across municipal lines.

The biggest push will be on pensions. "Pensions and benefits are the major
drivers of our spending increases at all levels of government--state,
county, municipal and school board," the governor declared. "The special
interests have already begun to scream their favorite word--which,
coincidentally, is my 9-year-old son's favorite word when we are making
him do something he knows is right but does not want to do--'unfair.' One
state retiree, 49 years old, paid, over the course of his entire career, a
total of $124,000 toward his retirement pension and health benefits. What
will we pay him? $3.3 million in pension payments over his life and nearly
$500,000 for health care benefits--a total of $3.8 million on a $120,000
investment. Is that fair?

"A retired teacher paid $62,000 toward her pension and nothing, yes
nothing, for full family medical, dental and vision coverage over her
entire career. What will we pay her? $1.4 million in pension benefits and
another $215,000 in health care benefit premiums over her lifetime. Is it
'fair' for all of us and our children to have to pay for this excess...?

Read on or post a comment:
28578  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Dog Brothers Euro Gathering 2009 clip on: February 25, 2010, 10:48:15 AM
28579  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 1797 on: February 25, 2010, 06:43:02 AM
"War is not the best engine for us to resort to; nature has given us one in our commerce, which if properly managed, will be a better instrument for obliging the interested nations of Europe to treat us with justice." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Pickney, 1797
28580  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Toronto: March 27-28, 2010 on: February 24, 2010, 08:35:14 PM
I received what you sent me and will forward it to our webmaster
28581  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Quiero entrenar eficazmente. ¿Cómo lo hago? on: February 24, 2010, 12:29:34 PM
Guau Gente:

Si no quieren que este foro muera, hay que participar!

He aqui aun mas una buena contribucion por Cecilio , , , y nadie contesta.  ?Que onda?!?

La Aventura continua,
Crafty Dog
28582  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Combate defensivo con cuchillo. ¿Es factible? on: February 24, 2010, 12:26:48 PM

Que buendo verte aqui' de nuevo. Has comenzado muy bien una tema de gran importancia y la verdad es que me sorprende que nadie aqui haya respondido todavia.  Tengo que salir en un ratito, por lo cual solo tengo unos minutos y lo unico que puedo ofrecer a l platica en este momento es un cuentito.

Yo estaba parte de un seminario dado por un gran maestro de cuchillo.  Otro maestro de cuchillo se sento' a mi lado.  "?Que opinas?" me pregunto'.

"Pues, que opina Ud.?"
"Que no sea muy bueno."
Su franqueza me sorprendia. 
"?Por que?"
"Pues, siempre esta' atacando de frente."

28583  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Palo Venezolano on: February 24, 2010, 12:02:44 PM
28584  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Robert Howard on: February 24, 2010, 11:42:39 AM
28585  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Robert Howard on: February 24, 2010, 11:42:05 AM
28586  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / We need this fellow here in the US! on: February 24, 2010, 10:45:19 AM
28587  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Toronto: March 27-28, 2010 on: February 24, 2010, 08:27:42 AM
For those not a part of the FB group, care to share that info here?
28588  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Son of Hamas founder worked for Israelis for more than a decade on: February 24, 2010, 08:24:14 AM
Son of Hamas founder spied for Israel for more than a decade
James Hider in Jerusalem

Mosab Hassan Yousef, a 32-year-old convert to Christianity, now lives in California

The son of one of Hamas’s founding members was a spy in the service of Israel for more than a decade, helping prevent dozens of Islamist suicide bombers from finding their targets, it emerged today.

Codenamed the Green Prince by Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security service, Mosab Hassan Yousef, the son of Hamas co-founder Sheikh Hassan Yousef, supplied key intelligence on an almost daily basis from 1996 onwards and tracked down suicide bombers and their handlers from his father’s organization, the daily Haaretz said.

Information he supplied led to the arrests of some of the most wanted men by Israeli forces, including Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader often tipped as a potential president who was convicted of masterminding terrorist attacks, and one of Hamas’ top bomb-makers Abdullah Barghouti, who is no relation of the jailed Fatah chief.

Mr Yousef, a 32-year-old convert to Christianity who now lives in California, has revealed the intrigues of his years as a spy in a new book called Son of Hamas, much to the concern of Shin Bet, whose operations will be revealed in detail. While the revelations may give a boost to Israel’s intelligence service, whose external counterpart Mossad is still grappling with the diplomatic fall-out of last month’s Hamas assassination in Dubai, there will be concern that the account may give too many insights into the murky world of espionage.

However, Mr Yousef’s work will be far more damaging to Hamas, whose brutality he denounced. Dubai police have suggested that Mahmoud al-Mabhuh, the top Hamas militant found dead in a hotel room in the emirate on January 20, may have been betrayed by an insider from the Islamist movement itself.

And Mr Yousef had harsh words for the movement that his father helped form, and which now rules the Gaza Strip after a bloody takeover in summer 2007. “Hamas cannot make peace with the Israelis,” he told the daily. “That is against what their God tells them. It is impossible to make peace with infidels, only a cease-fire, and no one knows that better than I. The Hamas leadership is responsible for the killing of Palestinians, not Israelis."

Mr Yousef’s former Israeli handler, identified only as Captain Loai, praised the resolve of his agent, whose codename derived from the colour of Islam – and Hamas’ – banner and from his exalted position within an organization that regularly kills those suspected of collaborating with the Jewish state.

"So many people owe him their life and don't even know it," he said. "The amazing thing is that none of his actions were done for money. He did things he believed in. He wanted to save lives. His grasp of intelligence matters was just as good as ours — the ideas, the insights. One insight of his was worth 1,000 hours of thought by top experts."

Mr Yousef, whose father is still in an Israeli jail cell, from where he was elected as an MP in 2006, went as far as tracking down would-be kamikazes himself in the streets of the West bank during the Second Intifada which erupted a decade ago and left thousands of Palestinians and Israelis dead. On one occasion he followed a bomber from Manara Square in the centre of Ramallah, just north of Jerusalem.

“We didn't know his name or what he looked like — only that he was in his 20s and would be wearing a red shirt," said the former handler. "We sent the Green Prince to the square and with his acute sense, he located the target within minutes. He saw who picked him up, followed the car and made it possible for us to arrest the suicide bomber and the man who was supposed to give him the belt. So another attack was thwarted, though no one knows about it. No one opens Champagne bottles or bursts into song and dance. This was an almost daily thing for the Prince. He displayed courage, had sharp antennae and an ability to cope with danger."

Mr Yousef, who converted from Islam to Christianity a decade ago – in itself, a dangerous act – was arrested by the Israelis in 1996 and within a year had been recruited by Shin Bet, then released to begin working as an informant.

Speaking by telephone from California, Mr Yousef told Haaretz he worried that the Israeli Government might release some of the prisoners he helped put behind bars in exchange for Gilad Schalit, a young Israeli soldier abducted by Hamas from the Gaza border more than three years ago.

“I wish I were in Gaza now," he said. "I would put on an army uniform and join Israel's special forces in order to liberate Gilad Schalit. If I were there, I could help. We wasted so many years with investigations and arrests to capture the very terrorists that they now want to release in return for Schalit. That must not be done."
28589  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / How long does it take various knife wounds to incapacitate? on: February 24, 2010, 08:15:19 AM
Woof All:

I kick this thread off with a flashy example of a particular point, but the larger question remains:  Just how long does it take various knife wounds to incapacitate?

Man Unaware of Knife in His Neck Following Fight

Man Unaware of Knife in His Neck Following Fight

Tuesday , February 23, 2010

A knife blade has been found lodged in the neck of a man who didn't even realize he had been stabbed.

Ambulance Victoria said the Australian man's wife saw blood trickling out of his neck when he went to bed after apparently being in a fight.
After calling for an ambulance, paramedics discovered the blade had snapped off in his neck.

Slideshow: Outrageous Injuries

Intensive care flight paramedic Matthew Shepherd said the 40-year-old claimed he had been in a fight and felt a thump to his neck - but was unaware he had been stabbed.  Remarkably, he escaped serious injury when the blade came within millimeters of his spine.  He was flown by air ambulance from Albury to Melbourne this morning and is in a stable condition.

"The 40-year-old said he went home and got into bed, not realizing he had been stabbed,'' Shepherd said."The man's wife then apparently found blood coming from his neck and called for an ambulance

"On closer examination it was found that a blade had snapped off in his neck.

"It came within millimeters of his spine, but thankfully it hasn't made contact.

"Our biggest priority during the flight was to make sure the man stayed as still as possible, to prevent the blade from moving and potentially causing further damage.''

Earlier this month Russian woman Julia Popova, 22, made global headlines after she was stabbed during a mugging in Moscow - but did not realize and walked calmly home with a knife in her neck.

When she got home her horrified parents rushed her to the hospital, where surgeons managed to remove the blade without damaging her spine.

"Shock had kicked in and her body prevented her from feeling any pain," one medic said.

"She simply walked home without feeling the knife in her back."
28590  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: February 24, 2010, 08:01:03 AM
28591  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: February 24, 2010, 07:50:36 AM
I suspect we will just go in circles in this one and leave it simply by noting that Europe's Euro population is declining and that in order to try to maintain the euro-socialist economic model they need immigration.  In their case this means Turks and Arabs-- which of course are both overwhelmingly Muslim.  Not only does the widespread and deep anti-semitism of these two groups find easy reasonance with the still existing anti-semitism centuries-old and continent-wide anti-semitism of Europe, but the simple fact is that just like Mussolini's brown shirts in the streets intimidated people in Italy here too the good people of Europe are being intimidated.  Cowardice is being exhibited by more than a few.  Once again Jews are being driven from their homes.

Last word yours.
28592  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: February 24, 2010, 07:37:50 AM
Dog and up.
28593  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: February 24, 2010, 07:36:23 AM
"Industry is increased, commodities are multiplied, agriculture and manufacturers flourish: and herein consists the true wealth and prosperity of a state." --Alexander Hamilton, Report on a National Bank, 1790
28594  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: February 23, 2010, 04:13:32 PM
Not a particularly reliable source, but an apparently important event is flagged:

February 22, 2010

Turkey Detains Top Military Brass In Conspiracy Probe

Filed at 1:39 p.m. ET

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police detained former heads of the air force and navy on Monday among 40 people held in an investigation into an alleged plot to undermine the Islamist-rooted government and trigger a military coup.

The swoop, one of the largest against the secularist armed forces, added to a growing sense of foreboding in the Muslim nation, where a clash between the government and the judiciary had already raised fears of a political crisis.

A NATO member with hopes of EU membership, Turkey is locked in a long power struggle between the AK Party, which has its roots in political Islam, and conservative, nationalist secularists, whose bastions remain the military and judiciary.

Armed forces chief General Ilker Basbug postponed a trip to Egypt as a result of the detentions, state-run Anatolian news agency said.

Among those held, according to broadcasters, were former Air Force Commander Ibrahim Firtina, former Naval Commander Ozden Ornek and ex-Deputy Chief of the General Staff General Ergin Saygun.

Speaking in Madrid at the start of an official visit, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said more than 40 people were detained in the raids.

News channel CNN-Turk put the number at 49, including 17 retired generals, four serving admirals, 27 officers and one enlisted man.


The detentions would have been unthinkable in the past for a military that has ousted four governments since 1960.

But its powers have waned in recent years because of democratic reforms aimed at securing EU membership and most analysts doubt that the armed forces would mount a coup.

The suspects held in Ankara were flown to Istanbul for questioning over the "Sledgehammer" plot after police raids in the cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

According to media reports the plot, denied by the military, dated from 2003 and involved provoking a crisis with old foe Greece and planting bombs in mosques and museums in Istanbul to stir chaos and justify a military takeover.

"I don't know what the result of this is, but after the security forces have finished this process the judiciary will make its assessment," Erdogan told a news conference.

Turkish markets were rattled by the prospects. The lira weakened to 1.5265 lira in Tuesday-dated trade from an intrabank close of 1.5180 on Monday, the level at which it ended last week, and the main share index ended 1.36 percent lower, having begun the day nearly 1 percent higher.

"The government is now embroiled in an open and bitter power struggle with the judiciary and the military, raising the risk of a head-on confrontation that would badly damage political stability," Wolfango Piccoli from the Eurasia political risk consultancy said.


Erdogan also said he would call a referendum on constitutional reform to overhaul the judicial system, if he fails to get parliament's backing for change to curb the power of judges and prosecutors.

The AK Party, which first swept to power in 2002 ending the secularists' decades-old grip, has enough votes in the 550-seat parliament to pass a bill calling for a referendum.

"The judicial system should be objective and independent at the same time," Erdogan said.

He did not give any timeframe for a possible referendum.

Turkey is due to hold its next general elections in 2011 and Erdogan has repeatedly denied he plans to call an early vote.

The clash with the judiciary followed the arrest of a prosecutor who had investigated Islamic groups.

That prosecutor has been accused of links to an alleged far-right militant network, "Ergenekon." More than 200 people, including military officers, lawyers and politicians, have been arrested in the case since it came to light 2-1/2 years ago.

Critics of the government say the Ergenekon investigation has also been used to hound political opponents.
28595  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / America's first debt bomb and how the Founding Fathers solved it on: February 23, 2010, 03:43:36 PM
From the Glen Beck website:

The Revolutionary Debt Bomb - And How the Founders Fixed It!
February 22, 2010 - 13:01 ET

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t think our fiscal house is about to slide into the ocean?

Whether one accepts the government’s estimates of a national debt that nears $10 trillion, or whether one thinks the numbers provided by Richard Fisher of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, which includes all the “unfunded” parts of Medicare (A, B, and D) at another $85.6 trillion, for a total of $95.6 trillion, the United States faces a staggering level of debt. And Fisher’s numbers do not include Social Security, which now, for the first time, has seen its out-flows exceed its income, and which adds another $10 trillion (at least) to the totals. The Medicare debt alone would stick each American family of four with a bill of $1.3 million, or about 25 times the average household’s income. Taken together, these levels of debt exceed the Gross National Product of probably half the nations in the world put together.

But history offers some hope. The young republic of the United States of America faced an equally daunting debt bomb in 1788, and, perhaps given the new nation’s utter lack of credit history, an even greater challenge than we face today. But the Founders dug their way out to the point of fiscal solvency fairly quickly, and within a decade the nation was viewed as a sterling credit risk. How was this possible?

It began with Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton—often a punching bag for some conservatives because of his big-government proclivities. But Hamilton knew that the only way to establish credit was to pay your bills. The situation confronting the United States, coming out of the Revolutionary War and the Articles of Confederation, was this: states had issued their own debt—some more, some less than others—and the United States, through the Continental Congress had also accumulated debts. Hamilton insisted the nation had to pay them all, and that a policy of “assumption” was the only sure way to convince foreign investors that we were an honorable Republic and not a banana republic! Despite fierce battles, he carried the day in Congress: the U.S. would pay all debts accumulated by the national and state governments. But how? Hamilton’s genius showed in his next maneuver, as he knew he needed to attract the “monied men,” as he called them. He structured a “menu” of new bond/debt options, in which longer-term debts received higher returns. Thus, if an investor had little confidence in the United States, he took short-term bonds which paid off less; and if an investor thought the nation would survive and prosper, he bought long-term bonds with their higher payoff. Throughout it all, Hamilton, contrary to popular opinion, did not wish to see the country saddled with debt. He said debt “is perhaps the NATURAL DISEASE of all governments,” and his first actions as Treasury Secretary were designed to reduce the nation’s indebtedness.[ii]

Hamilton’s restructuring of the debt on the surface may have resembled what Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of “Koli-for-nya” did in 2004, but only on the surface. Hamilton ensured that payments on the debt went to the oldest debt first, and through a “sinking fund,” no new debt could be contracted until the old debt had been settled—in essence setting the United States up with an “American Express” version of credit instead of a Mastercard/Visa “revolving” credit line. So while the U.S. indebtedness remained at about $83 million when Thomas Jefferson became president, the payments on interest remained at a minimum.

In part, Hamilton also knew that he could count on those whom he knew well—President George Washington, plus John Adams, James Madison, and Thomas Jefferson (two men quite likely to hold the office in the future)—to limit spending and to practice federal frugality. Indeed they did. They ran the government with a handful of secretaries and a few hundred public officials; they carefully watched expenditures, with the largest being the construction of four large frigates under Adams and Thomas Jefferson’s purchase of Louisiana for $15 million. Yet despite the Louisiana Purchase, Jefferson still managed to slice more than one-quarter off the national debt.

All the Founders recognized that for the “monied men” to ally with the new nation, it had to honor its contracts (which it did through assumption); it had to establish a sound currency (which it did by adopting a gold standard and coining money along the Spanish system of tens and fives); and by paying its debts, which it did. By the presidency of Andrew Jackson, the nation had a surplus, but more important, it had a sterling credit record, and investment money flowed into the new nation. Hamilton, Washington, Adams, Madison, and Jefferson had all adroitly kept the “Revolutionary Debt Bomb” from exploding, and instead leveraged it for the growth of future generations. The key was confidence—confidence in the fiscal frugality and restraint of the leaders, confidence by the business sector in the government. Do either of those exist today?

While the numbers are staggering, like all numbers they matter little compared to the “animal spirits” of entrepreneurship, investment, and business growth. A sunny Ronald Reagan dug the U.S. out of deep straits just 30 years ago. The Founders, operating with even less, founded a nation on confidence and freedom, and the lessons of history tell us that such turnarounds can occur if the nation is determined to once again defuse its debt bomb.

Larry Schweikart

University of Dayton

co-author, A Patriot’s History of the United States


. Richard W. Fisher, “Storms on the Horizon,” Remarks before the Commonwealth Club of California, May 28, 2008.

[ii]. One of the best analyses of Hamilton’s program is in Charles Calomiris, “Alexander Hamilton,” in Larry Schweikart, ed., The Encyclopedia of American Business History and Biography: Banking and Finance to 1913 (New York: Facts on File, 1990
28596  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Invisible God on: February 23, 2010, 03:30:27 PM
By Bracha Goetz
How can I explain to my young child that it makes sense to believe in an invisible G‑d?

You can explain this concept to your child the same way you explain it to anybody (including yourself)… only children can probably grasp it quicker and better!

In one of my picture books for young children, The Invisible Book, this perplexing question, one of life's deepest puzzles, is explored in a very simple manner. The boy in the book looks around his world and realizes that there are many invisible forces in his life, like air, electricity, and gravity.

Continuing his exploration, he finds that thoughts and feelings are invisible, too, and so are sounds and smells. Even the strong force of magnetism is invisible. Through recognizing the invisible nature of so many indisputably real things we experience, we can believe that we have been blessed with invisible souls by an invisible G‑d.

The joy we experience in our souls from doing a mitzvah is invisible, and yet we are strongly aware of how intensely wonderful it can be. Amazingly, the joy becomes almost palpable when we engage in learning about the most basic, yet deepest, questions of life with our children. This holds true even when they are teens or already adults. In countless ways, if we are open to it, our children become our spiritual guides.

Why can children more readily understand, when first exposed to these deep concepts, what is much harder for us to grasp as adults? Children seem to "see" that they are, in essence, invisible souls made in the image of our invisible G‑d with a similar infinite spiritual energy. They are more "in touch" with their pure souls, which have not been covered over with years of confusing messages that deny our spiritual essence.

Children may come up with questions like: "Where is G‑d? Why can't we see G‑d? What is a soul? What does G‑d want us to do?" We can let our children know that these kinds of questions are actually coming from a place within them that is connected to G‑d. And the questions themselves are proof that they are much more than just bodies. We can't see spirituality, but like many other invisible things, we can feel its effects and awesome power.

We can ask our young children to blow on the palms of their hands and feel the gentle invisible wind. In Hebrew, the word for wind is ruach, and, interestingly, it's the same word for "spirit." With the invisible spirit within us, our souls, we can act in the world as the wind does, and bring about much wonderment and goodness.

We can let children know that G‑d wants us to increase goodness in the world. And we can explain to our children that the Torah explains exactly how to be good. We can also ask our children what answers they have for their questions because we honestly want to know what they are thinking about this important subject.

What we don't need is to be afraid of exploring these essential questions with our children, even if we feel we don't have all the answers. This is an exploration with no end. If we can humbly return to these questions again and again throughout our lives, we can find richer meaning. Then we can help each other with the unique insights garnered through one's personal trials.

As invisible time goes by, the spiritual searching and discovering that we share with our families – even, or especially, about G‑d – can create invisible bonds of love that last forever.
28597  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Spring 2010 DB Tribal Gathering on: February 23, 2010, 03:27:08 PM
Member of the DB Tribe.
28598  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 23, 2010, 03:26:30 PM
Grateful for a highly motivating mission!
28599  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Plan B on: February 23, 2010, 10:56:42 AM
Iraq, U.S: A 'Plan B' for Withdrawal Emerges
Stratfor Today » February 23, 2010 | 1549 GMT

WIN MCNAMEE/Getty Images
U.S. Gen. Ray Odierno at a Pentagon press briefing on Feb. 22 The commanding general of United States Forces-Iraq (USF-I), U.S. Gen. Ray Odierno, spent the past week briefing Washington on a “Plan B” for withdrawal from Iraq should conditions require it. With concerns about the durability of the fragile balance of power in Baghdad in the buildup to and the aftermath of the parliamentary elections slated for March 7, there are mounting concerns over whether the already-delayed rapid drawdown of U.S. troops now slated to begin in mid-May is realistic. Between mid-May and the end of August, 46,000 U.S. troops — including all remaining “combat” troops — are scheduled to be pulled out of the country, leaving 50,000 troops engaged in training, advising and supporting Iraqi security forces.

A contingency plan for deteriorating political and security conditions is prudent military planning, and the USF-I would be negligent if it did not have such plans. The Iraq withdrawal is about more than just extricating itself from Iraq. It is also about lightening the burden on U.S. ground combat forces at a time when some 30,000 additional troops are being sent to Afghanistan. Modest delays are not necessarily problematic and the September deadline for the drawdown in Iraq is a political date. But the Pentagon is also counting on not sustaining troop levels as they stand in Iraq through the end of the year. Disengagement is necessary.

Despite the prudence of forming a Plan B, the past week is, to our knowledge, the first time such a plan has been presented publicly. While Washington may well have requested the briefings from Odierno, the heart of the issue is that it is being publicized now. Odierno insisted that there were no signs that implementation of the contingency plan would be necessary, but there are clearly concerns about the fate of Iraq with regard to the looming elections and this may also be an attempt to moderate expectations for the promised rapid drawdown of forces. Whatever the case, he came to Washington to publicize the plan: He did not do this without direction, authorization and coordination with the White House.

Until fairly recently, despite looming concerns about the deterioration of the security situation and ethno-sectarian tensions, there was no reason to publicize contingency plans. The issue is not just the elections. Having a smooth election — one that would be acceptable across the board — is only the first issue of concern. Forming a coalition government (which took six months to finalize after the last parliamentary elections) is another major issue. And this election is expected to have even more participation and factionalism. Furthermore, as the confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program appears to be reaching a decision point, Iran may decide to use its assets in Iraq to retaliate against the United States. Though Odierno insisted that Iranian pressures would not influence the drawdown, Tehran has the ability to affect both Iraq’s security situation and the government in Baghdad through Shiite proxies, a cause of concern for the Sunnis and their allies in the Arab states, especially Saudi Arabia.

Events in Iraq have yet to play out. But the Iraq drawdown and the timetable it follows cuts across a broad spectrum of issues — not just Iraq, but Iran, Afghanistan and domestic U.S. politics. Any shift has potentially wide-reaching strategic significance.
28600  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Visa Security basics on: February 23, 2010, 10:44:11 AM
Visa Security: Getting Back to the Basics
February 18, 2010 | 1602 GMT

By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

Usually in the STRATFOR Global Security and Intelligence Report, we focus on the tactical details of terrorism and security issues in an effort to explain those issues and place them in perspective for our readers. Occasionally, though, we turn our focus away from the tactical realm in order to examine the bureaucratic processes that shape the way things run in the counterterrorism, counterintelligence and security arena. This look into the struggle by the U.S. government to ensure visa security is one of those analyses.

As STRATFOR has noted for many years now, document-fraud investigations are a very useful weapon in the counterterrorism arsenal. Foreigners who wish to travel to the United States to conduct a terrorist attack must either have a valid passport from their country of citizenship and a valid U.S. visa, or just a valid passport from their home country if they are a citizen of a country that does not require a visa for short-term trips (called visa-waiver countries).

In some early jihadist attacks against the United States, such as the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the operatives dispatched to conduct the attacks made very clumsy attempts at document fraud. In that case, the two operational commanders dispatched from Afghanistan to conduct the attack arrived at New York’s Kennedy Airport after having used photo-substituted passports (passports where the photographs are literally switched) of militants from visa-waiver countries who died while fighting in Afghanistan. Ahmed Ajaj (a Palestinian) used a Swedish passport in the name of Khurram Khan, and Abdul Basit (a Pakistani also known as Ramzi Yousef) used a British passport in the name of Mohamed Azan. Ajaj attempted to enter through U.S. Immigration at Kennedy Airport using the obviously photo-substituted passport and was arrested on the spot. Basit used the altered British passport to board the aircraft in Karachi, Pakistan, but upon arrival in New York he used a fraudulently obtained but genuine Iraqi passport in the name of Ramzi Yousef to claim political asylum and was released pending his asylum hearing.

But the jihadist planners learned from amateurish cases like Ajaj’s and that of Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, a Palestinian who attempted to conduct a suicide attack against the New York subway system. U.S. immigration officials arrested him on three occasions in the Pacific Northwest as he attempted to cross into the United States illegally from Canada. By the Millennium Bomb Plot in late 1999, Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian who initially entered Canada using a photo-substituted French passport, had obtained a genuine Canadian passport using a fraudulent baptismal certificate. He then used that genuine passport to attempt to enter the United States in order to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. Ressam was caught not because of his documentation but because of his demeanor — and an alert customs inspector prevented him from entering the country.

So by the time the 9/11 attacks occurred, we were seeing groups like al Qaeda preferring to use genuine travel documents rather than altered or counterfeit documents. Indeed, some operatives, such as Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a Yemeni, were unable to obtain U.S. visas and were therefore not permitted to participate in the 9/11 plot. Instead, bin al-Shibh took on a support role, serving as the communications cutout between al Qaeda’s operational planner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and al Qaeda’s tactical commander for the operation, Mohamed Atta. It is important to note, however, that the 19 9/11 operatives had obtained a large assortment of driver’s licenses and state identification cards, many of them fraudulent. Such documents are far easier to obtain than passports.

After the Sept. 11 attacks and the 9/11 Commission report, which shed a great deal of light on the terrorist use of document fraud, the U.S. government increased the attention devoted to immigration fraud and the use of fraudulent travel documents by terrorist suspects. This emphasis on detecting document fraud, along with the widespread adoption of more difficult to counterfeit passports and visas (no document is impossible to counterfeit), has influenced jihadists, who have continued their shift away from the use of fraudulent documents (especially poor quality documents). Indeed, in many post-9/11 attacks directed against the United States we have seen jihadist groups use U.S. citizens (Jose Padilla and Najibullah Zazi), citizens of visa-waiver countries (Richard Reid and Abdulla Ahmed Ali), and other operatives who possess or can obtain valid U.S. visas such as Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab. These operatives are, for the most part, using authentic documents issued in their true identities.

Concerns expressed by the 9/11 Commission over the vulnerability created by the visa-waiver program also prompted the U.S. government to establish the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is a mandatory program that prescreens visa-waiver travelers, including those transiting through the United States. The ESTA, which became functional in January 2009, requires travelers from visa-waiver countries to apply for travel authorization at least 72 hours prior to travel. This time period permits the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to conduct background checks on pending travelers.

Growing Complexity

Counterfeit visas are not as large a problem as they were 20 years ago. Advances in technology have made it very difficult for all but the most high-end document vendors to counterfeit them, and it is often cheaper and easier to obtain an authentic visa by malfeasance — bribing a consular officer — than it is to acquire a machine-readable counterfeit visa that will work. Obtaining a genuine U.S. passport or one from a visa-waiver country by using fraudulent breeder documents (driver’s licenses and birth certificates, as Ahmed Ressam did) is also cheaper and easier. But in the case of non-visa waiver countries, this shift to the use of genuine identities and identity documents now highlights the need to secure the visa issuance process from fraud and malfeasance.

This shift to genuine-identity documents also means that most visa fraud cases involving potential terrorist operatives are going to be very complex. Rather than relying on obvious flags like false identities, the visa team consisting of clerks, consular officers, visa-fraud coordinators and Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agents needs to examine carefully not just the applicant’s identity but also his or her story in an attempt to determine if it is legitimate, and if there are any subtle indicators that the applicant has ties to radical groups (like people who lose their passports to disguise travel to places like Pakistan and Yemen). As in many other security programs, however, demeanor is also critically important, and a good investigator can often spot signs of deception during a visa interview (if one is conducted).

If the applicant’s documents and story check out, and there are no indicators of radical connections, it is very difficult to determine that an applicant is up to no good unless the U.S. government possesses some sort of intelligence indicating that the person may be involved in such activity. In terms of intelligence, there are a number of different databases, such as the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS), the main State Department database and the terrorism-specific Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) system. The databases are checked in order to determine if there is any derogatory information that would preclude a suspect from receiving a visa. These databases allow a number of U.S. government agencies to provide input — CLASS is tied into the Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS) — and they allow these other agencies to have a stake in the visa issuance process. (It must be noted that, like any database, foreign language issues — such as the many ways to transliterate the name Mohammed into English — can often complicate the accuracy of visa lookout database entries and checks.)

Today the lookout databases are a far cry from what they were even 15 years ago, when many of the lists were contained on microfiche and checking them was laborious. During the microfiche era, mistakes were easily made, and some officers skipped the step of running the time-consuming name checks on people who did not appear to be potential terrorists. This is what happened in the case of a poor old blind imam who showed up at the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum in 1990 — and who turned out to be terrorist leader Sheikh Omar Ali Ahmed Abdul-Rahman. As an aside, although Rahman, known as the Blind Sheikh, did receive a U.S. visa, DSS special agents who investigated his case were able to document that he made material false statements on his visa application (such as claiming he had never been arrested) and were therefore able to build a visa fraud case against the Sheikh. The case never proceeded to trial, since the Sheikh was convicted on seditious conspiracy charges and sentenced to life in prison.

The U.S. government’s visa fraud investigation specialists are the special agents assigned to the U.S. Department of State’s DSS. In much the same way that U.S. Secret Service special agents work to ensure the integrity of the U.S. currency system through investigations of counterfeiting, DSS agents work to ensure the inviolability of U.S. passports and visas by investigating passport and visa fraud. The DSS has long assigned special agents to high fraud-threat countries like Nigeria to investigate passport and visa fraud in conjunction with the post’s consular affairs officers. In the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, Congress ordered the State Department to establish a visa and passport security program. In response to this legislation, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the Bureau of Consular Affairs and the DSS to establish the Overseas Criminal Investigations Branch (OCI). The purpose of the OCI was to conduct investigations related to illegal passport and visa issuances or use and other investigations at U.S. embassies overseas. A special agent assigned to these duties at an overseas post is referred to as an investigative Assistant Regional Security Officer (or ARSO-I).

While the OCI and the ARSO-I program seemed promising at first, circumstance and bureaucratic hurdles have prevented the program from running to the best of its ability and meeting the expectations of the U.S. Congress.

Bureaucratic Shenanigans

As we’ve previously noted, there is a powerful element within the State Department that is averse to security and does its best to thwart security programs. DSS special agents refer to these people as Black Dragons. Even when Congress provides clear guidance to the State Department regarding issues of security (e.g., the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986), the Black Dragons do their best to strangle the programs, and this constant struggle produces discernable boom-and-bust cycles, as Congress provides money for new security programs and the Black Dragons, who consider security counterproductive for diplomacy and armed State Department special agents undiplomatic, use their bureaucratic power to cut off those programs.

Compounding this perennial battle over security funding has been the incredible increase in protective responsibilities that the DSS has had to shoulder since 9/11. The bureau has had to provide a large number of agents to protect U.S. diplomats in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan and even staffed and supervised the protective detail for Afghan President Hamid Karzai for a few years. Two DSS special agents were also killed while protecting the huge number of U.S diplomats assigned to reconstruction efforts in Iraq. One agent was killed in a rocket attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the other by a suicide car-bomb attack in Mosul.

The demands of protection and bureaucratic strangulation by the Black Dragons, who have not embraced the concept of the ARSO-I program, has resulted in the OCI program being deployed very slowly. This means that of the 200 positions envisioned and internally programmed by Bureau of Consular Affairs and DSS in 2004, only 50 ARSO-I agents have been assigned to posts abroad as of this writing, and a total of 123 ARSO-I agents are supposed to be deployed by the end of 2011. The other 77 ARSO-I positions were taken away from the OCI program by the department and used to provide more secretarial positions.

In the wake of State Department heel-dragging, other agencies are now seeking to fill the void.

The Vultures Are Circling

In a Feb. 9, 2010, editorial on, former DHS Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson made a pitch for the DHS to become more involved in the visa-security process overseas, and he is pushing for funding more DHS positions at U.S. embassies abroad. To support his case that more DHS officers are needed for visa security, Hutchinson used the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as an example of why DHS needed a larger presence overseas.

Unfortunately, the Abdulmutallab case had nothing to do with visa fraud, and the presence of a DHS officer at post would certainly not have prevented him from receiving his initial visa. Abdulmutallab was first issued a U.S. visa in 2004, before he was radicalized during his university studies in the United Kingdom from 2005 to 2008, and he qualified for that visa according to the guidelines established by the U.S. government without fraud or deception. Of course, the fact that he came from a prominent Nigerian family certainly helped.

The problem in the Abdulmutallab case was not in the issuance of his visa in 2004. His identity and story checked out. There was no negative information about him in the databases checked for visa applicants. He also traveled to the United States in 2004 and left the country without overstaying his visa, and was not yet listed in any of the lookout databases, so his visa renewal in June 2008 in London was also not surprising.

The real problem in the Abdulmutallab case began when the CIA handled the interview of Abdulmutallab’s father when he walked into the embassy in November 2009 to report that his son had become radicalized and that he feared his son was preparing for a suicide mission. The CIA did not share the information gleaned from that interview in a terrorism report cable (TERREP), or with the regional security officer at post or the ARSO-I. (The fact that the CIA, FBI and other agencies have assumed control over the walk-in program in recent years is also a serious problem, but that is a matter to be addressed separately.) Due to that lack of information-sharing, Abdulmutallab’s visa was not canceled as it could have and should have been. His name was also not added to the U.S. government’s no-fly list.

Again, had there been a DHS officer assigned to the embassy, he would not have been able to do any more than the ARSO-I already assigned to post, since he also would not have received the information from the CIA that would have indicated that Abdulmutallab’s visa needed to be revoked.

Once again, information was not shared in a counterterrorism case — a recurring theme in recent years. And once again the lack of information would have proved deadly had Abdulmutallab’s device not malfunctioned. Unfortunately, information-sharing is never facilitated by the addition of layers of bureaucracy. This is the reason why the addition of the huge new bureaucracy called the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has not solved the issue of information-sharing among intelligence agencies.

Hutchinson is correct when he notes that the DHS must go back to basics, but DHS has numerous other domestic programs that it must master the basics of — things like securing the border, overseeing port and cargo security, interior immigration and customs enforcement and ensuring airline security — before it should even consider expanding its presence overseas.

Adding another layer of DHS involvement in overseeing visa issuance and investigating visa fraud at diplomatic posts abroad is simply not going to assist in the flow of information in visa cases, whether criminal or terrorist in nature. Having another U.S. law enforcement agency interfacing with the host country police and security agencies regarding visa matters will also serve to cause confusion and hamper efficient information flow. The problem illustrated by the Abdulmutallab case is not that the U.S. government lacks enough agencies operating in overseas posts; the problem is that the myriad agencies already there simply need to return to doing basic things like talking to each other. Getting the ARSO-I program funded and back on track is a basic step necessary to help in securing the visa process, but even that will not be totally effective unless the agencies at post do a better job of basic tasks like coordination and communication.
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