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28601  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan on: April 27, 2009, 12:44:53 PM
"We maintain our strength in order to deter and defend against aggression -- to preserve freedom and peace. Since the dawn of the atomic age, we've sought to reduce the risk of war by maintaining a strong deterrent and by seeking genuine arms control. 'Deterrence' means simply this: making sure any adversary who thinks about attacking the United States, or our allies, or our vital interests, concludes that the risks to him outweigh any potential gains. Once he understands that, he won't attack. We maintain the peace through our strength; weakness only invites aggression." --Ronald Reagan
28602  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: April 27, 2009, 12:42:00 PM
"In response to an unprecedented expansion of federal power, citizens have held hundreds of 'tea party' rallies around the country, and various states are considering 'sovereignty resolutions' invoking the Constitution's Ninth and Tenth Amendments. For example, Michigan's proposal urges 'the federal government to halt its practice of imposing mandates upon the states for purposes not enumerated by the Constitution of the United States.' While well-intentioned, such symbolic resolutions are not likely to have the slightest impact on the federal courts, which long ago adopted a virtually unlimited construction of Congressional power. But state legislatures have a real power under the Constitution by which to resist the growth of federal power: They can petition Congress for a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution. An amendments convention is feared because its scope cannot be limited in advance. The convention convened by Congress to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation produced instead the entirely different Constitution under which we now live. Yet it is precisely the fear of a runaway convention that states can exploit to bring Congress to heel. ...[A] Federalism Amendment would provide tea-party enthusiasts and other concerned Americans with a concrete and practical proposal by which we can restore our lost Constitution."

--Georgetown University professor of constitutional law Randy Barnett

"It really is difficult to imagine how people who have entirely given up managing their own affairs could make a wise choice of those who are to do that for them. One should never expect a liberal, energetic, and wise government to originate in the votes of a people of servants." --French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)


"One of the most important events of our lifetimes may have just transpired. A federal agency has decided that it has the power to regulate everything, including the air you breathe. Nominally, the Environmental Protection Agency's announcement ... only applies to new-car emissions. But pretty much everyone agrees that the ruling opens the door to regulating, well, everything. According to the EPA, greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide -- the gas you exhale -- as well as methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. It is literally impossible to imagine a significant economic or human activity that does not involve the production of one of these gases. Don't think just of the gas and electricity bills. Cow flatulence is a serious concern of the EPA's already. What next? ... Whether or not global warming is a crisis that warrants immediate, drastic action (I don't think it does), and whether or not such wholesale measures would be an economic calamity (they would be), the EPA's decision should be disturbing to people who believe in democratic, constitutional government. ...[T]he EPA has launched its power grab over all that burns, breathes, burps, flies, drives and passes gas."

--National Review editor Jonah Goldberg

28603  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / VDH on: April 27, 2009, 12:05:37 PM
Obama’s Foreign Policy Disasters

By Jamie Glazov | 4/27/2009

Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Victor Davis Hanson, a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

FP: Victor Davis Hanson, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
What report card would you give the Obama administration in terms of foreign policy right now? Why?

Hanson: An Incomplete that at the present rate will turn into a D/F if he is not careful.

Obama has confused a number of issues: intractable problems like North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia, Islamic terrorism, etc. both pre- and post-dated George Bush; they present only bad and worse choices, and are predicated on different agendas of authoritarians that hinge on whether the United States can or cannot deter their regional megalomaniac dreams.

In the long-term, Obama's nontraditional heritage and charisma make little difference; on the other hand, serial apologies, "Bush did it", the "reset button" ad nauseam, trumpeting the "I was only (fill in the blank) when that happened" etc. have a brief shelf life, and achieve only a transitory buzz, similar to a Bono-celebrity tour.

He needs to cut out the messianic style, and realize that millions of brave souls, who invest at great danger in democracy, freedom, open markets, etc. around the world, count on an American President for moral support and guidance against a bullying Russia, Iranian-backed Hezbollah, Chavez's thugs, Castro jailers, et al.

When they see Obama's moral equivalence, they realize they are on their own and must cut their own deals to survive--understanding that multicultural trendiness is now a cynical cover for moral laxity and 'can't we all get along?' appeasement. So by all means smile and shake hands, but don't confuse that for tough diplomacy or protecting American global interests. Increasing the Bush billion-dollar deficit to $1.7, with another $9 trillion in additional aggregate debt will very soon curtail American options abroad, and our enemies are now waiting for opportune moments for exploitation.

FP: What danger does Putin’s regime pose to the West? What is your recommendation in terms of U.S. policy toward Putin? What mistakes has the new administration made so far in that department? For instance, in terms of the reset button fiasco, it means that the Obama team doesn’t even have a sound translator on hand. This is real grounds for worry, yes?

Hanson: We have three or four broad aims at this juncture: one, to ensure that former Soviet republics, which on their free accord sought integration with the West -- the Baltic Republics, Ukraine, Georgia, etc. -- are not forced back into a Russian Empire against their will; that Eastern European states remain autonomous and free to protect themselves from Iranian nuclear blackmail should they wish anti-ballistic missile protection; that Russia understands that there will be consequences if its technology ensures an Iranian bomb; and that Europe has assurances of support should Russia engage in energy blackmail—or worse.

Putin et al. know that their brinksmanship agendas were not predicated on Bush's smoke 'em out lingo; so to suggest Bush's tough talk, even if gratuitous in the first team, created crises where they otherwise did not exist, is absurd. Ms. Clinton—completely marginalized so far by Obama's obsessive need to bask in the pop-star limelight abroad—should know that. She has competent advisors; I cannot believe they really fall for the campaign mode nonsense that their sensitivity and diplomatic adroitness ipsis factis will translate into either friendship or better Russian behavior.

FP: The Obama administration apparently is set to give 900 million to Hamas. In other words, they want to give money to the Palestinian Nazi Party. What do you make of this? What must Obama do toward Hamas, the Iranian-backed Hezbollah, etc? Do you think he will do it and/or is he even capable or cognizant of what is actually going on and what is at stake?

Hanson: I am very worried. Israel I think is alone now. The failed Freeman appointment, the historically puerile al-Arabiya interview (cf. e.g., Obama's praise of the good ole days, some thirty years ago, when Sadat was murdered, Khomeini took over, Saddam was flexing his muscles, Americans were routinely murdered, etc.) the Samantha Power appointment, the 'outreach' to Syria, the video for Iran, the Gaza/Hamas rebuilding, the tough behind-the-scenes lectures to Israel—all this bodes ill.

Does Team Obama really believe that a murderous autocratic cabal like Hamas is merely different from a democratic constitutional republic like Israel? At best we have naiveté at the helm (Obama thinks he can mesmerize misunderstood killers), at worst, a genuine feeling that Israel is an aggressive, Western imperialist power exploiting indigenous people of color who simply wish to be free--in other words, the Rev. Wright-Bill Ayers-Rashid Khalidi view of the Middle East.

FP: What did you make of Obama’s Chavez meeting and his new disposition toward Latin America? Perhaps it is time to try something new?

Hanson: Not really. We stand for open markets, free trade, personal freedom, human rights, and consensual government. Others like Castro, Morales, Chavez, and Ortega simply don't. Why would anyone any more believe these thugs, who justify their lust for power by the age-old mantra of "we suffer for the people", as they try to engineer an equality of result--through any means necessary, with all power and prestige going to themselves?

They will say anything to blame a successful U.S., to rationalize the self-inflicted misery and failure of Latin America. Shaking Chavez's hand is a minor lapse if that; but in aggregate, the continuance of the glad-handing, trashing the US, showcasing his racial solidarity, listening to Ortega's rant, photo-oping with thugs--all that does two things abroad: first, it undercuts brave democrats in places like Columbia and elsewhere in Central America; two, it sends a message to fence-sitters in more important states like Peru, Brazil, Chile, etc. that authoritarian socialism, not free-market democracy, is now the wave of the future, and so they better get with the new neighborhood–or else!

FP: What do you think is the greatest threat right now facing the U.S. , Israel and the West?

Hanson: We have three: one, we have mortgaged our options to the Chinese and other debt holders. By going into $20 trillion in aggregate debt we will cut our military, pull back, dress it up with utopian rhetoric, and cede huge areas of the globe over to regional autocracies.

Second, some are already prepping for the Iranian catastrophe to come, by talking of "containing" Iran, as if we have given up on embargoing, blockading, and other more severe 11th hour measures to stop a Khomeinist nuke. Once that happens the Arab Sunni states will rush to get a bomb, Israel will be periodically blackmailed as Hamas, Hezbollah, etc will be given Iranian nuclear assurance (acting deranged with your finger on the trigger is smart in nuclear poker). Add in al Qaeda that thinks there are now new rules in Washington that can be tested--and you have a recipe for a dangerous world. We seem to think that not being attacked since 9/11 was some sort of natural occurrence, or perhaps yet another government ensured entitlement.

FP: Victor Hanson, thank you for joining us in these tough times.

Jamie Glazov is Frontpage Magazine's editor. He holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Russian, U.S. and Canadian foreign policy. He is the author of Canadian Policy Toward Khrushchev’s Soviet Union and is the co-editor (with David Horowitz) of The Hate America Left. He edited and wrote the introduction to David Horowitz’s Left Illusions. His new book is United in Hate: The Left's Romance with Tyranny and Terror. To see his previous symposiums, interviews and articles Click Here. Email him at
28604  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / part three on: April 27, 2009, 11:56:31 AM
part three

Not all the Khyber agency militants are ideologically driven jihadists like Baitullah Mehsud of the TTP and Mullah Fazlullah of the TNSM. Some are organized-crime elements who lack religious training and have long been engaged in smuggling operations. When the Pakistani military entered the region to crack down on the insurgency, these criminal groups saw their illegal activities disrupted. To continue to earn a livelihood, many of these criminal elements were reborn as militants under the veil of jihad.

Trucks remain at a standstill on a road after Islamic militants destroyed a bridge in Khyber district on Feb. 3, 2009LI commander Bagh (the alleged former convoy driver) is uneducated overall, and never received any kind of formal religious education. He became the leader of LI two years ago when he succeeded Deobandi cleric Mufti Munir Shakir. Bagh stays clear of targeting Pakistani military forces and says his objective is to clean up the area’s criminal elements and, like his counterparts in other parts of the Pashtun region, impose a Talibanesque interpretation of religious law. This tendency on the part of organized-crime elements in Pakistan to jump on the jihad bandwagon actually runs the risk of weakening the insurgency. Because criminal groups are not ideologically driven, it is easier for Pakistani forces and U.S. intelligence operatives to bribe them away from the insurgency.

The Southern Route
The southern route into Afghanistan is the shorter of the two U.S.-NATO supply routes. The entire route traverses the 813-kilometer-long national highway N-25, running north from the port of Karachi through Sindh and northwest into Balochistan before crossing into southern Afghanistan at the Chaman border crossing.

About 25 to 30 percent of the supplies going to U.S.-NATO forces operating in southern Afghanistan travel along this route. Though most of the southern route through Pakistan is relatively secure, the security risks rise dramatically once the trucks cross into Afghanistan on highway A-75, which runs through the heart of Taliban country in Kandahar province and surrounding areas.

Once out of Karachi, the route through Sindh is secure. Problems arise once the trucks hit Balochistan province, a resource-rich region where ethnic Baloch separatists have waged an insurgency for decades against Punjabi rule. The Baloch insurgency is directed against the Pakistani state and is led by three main groups: the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), the Balochistan Liberation Front (BLF) and the People’s Liberation Army. The BLA is the most active of the three and focuses its attacks on Pakistani police and military personnel, natural gas pipelines and civil servants. The Pakistani military deals with the Baloch rebels with an iron fist, but the Baloch insurgency has been a long and insoluble one. (Balochistan enjoyed autonomy under the British, and when Pakistan was created it forcibly took over the province; successive Pakistani regimes have mishandled the issue.)

Once inside Balochistan, the supply route runs first into the major industrial town of Hub (also known as Hub Chowki) and then into the Baloch capital of Quetta. These are areas that have witnessed a number of Baloch separatist attacks in recent years, including the December 2004 bombing of a Pakistani military truck in Quetta (claimed by the BLA), the killing of three Chinese engineers working at Gwadar Port in May of the same year and, more recently, the abduction of the head of the U.N. refugee agency (an American citizen) in February 2009 from Quetta. Although the Baloch insurgency has been relatively calm over the past year, unrest reignited in the province in early April after the bodies of three top Baloch rebel leaders were discovered in the Turbat area near the Iranian border. The Baloch separatist groups claim that the rebel leaders died at the hands of Pakistani security forces.

The Baloch rebels have no direct quarrel with the United States or NATO member states and are far more interested in attacking Pakistani targets. But they have struck foreign interests before in Balochistan to pressure Islamabad in negotiations. Baloch rebels also demonstrated the ability to strike Western targets in Karachi when they bombed a KFC fast-food restaurant in November 2005. Although the separatists have yet to show any interest in attacking U.S.-NATO convoys running through the region, future attacks cannot be ruled out.

The main threat along this route comes from Islamist militants who are active in the final 150-kilometer stretch of the road between the Quetta region and the Chaman border crossing. This section of highway N-25 runs through what is known as the Pashtun corridor in northwest Balochistan, bordering South Waziristan agency on the southern tip of the FATA.

Although the supply route traversing this region has seen very few attacks, the situation could easily change. A number of jihadists who have sought sanctuary from the firefights farther north as well as Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar and his Quetta Shura (or leadership council) are believed to be hiding in the Quetta area. The Pashtun corridor also is the stronghold of Pakistan’s largest Islamist party, the pro-Taliban Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam. In addition, the al Qaeda-linked anti-Shiite group LeJ has been engaged in sectarian and other attacks in the region. Northwestern Balochistan also is a key launchpad for Taliban operations in southern Afghanistan and is the natural extension of Pakistani Taliban activity in the tribal belt. Although the Baloch separatists are firmly secular in their views, they have been energized by the rise of Islamist groups fighting the same enemy: the Pakistani state.

A Worrisome Outlook
The developing U.S. military strategy for Afghanistan suffers from a number of strategic flaws. Chief among them is the fact — and there is no getting around it — that Pakistan serves as the primary supply line for both the Western forces and the jihadist forces fighting each other in Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s balancing act between the United States and its former Islamist militant proxies is becoming untenable as many of those proxies turn against the Pakistani state. And as stability deteriorates in Pakistan, the less reliable the landscape is for facilitating the overland shipment of military supplies into Afghanistan. The Russians, meanwhile, are not exactly eager to make life easier for the United States in Afghanistan by cooperating in any meaningful way on alternate supply routes through Central Asia.

Jihadist forces in Pakistan’s northwest have already picked up on the idea that the long U.S.-NATO supply route through northern Pakistan makes a strategic and vulnerable target in their campaign against the West. Attacks on supply convoys have thus far been concentrated in the volatile tribal badlands along the northwest frontier with Afghanistan. But the Pakistani Taliban are growing bolder by the day and are publicly announcing their intent to spread beyond the Pashtun areas and into the Pakistani core of Punjab. The Pakistani government and military, meanwhile, are strategically stymied. They cannot follow U.S. orders and turn every Pashtun into an enemy, and they cannot afford to see their country crushed under the weight of the jihadists. As a result, the jihadists gain strength while the writ of the Pakistani state erodes.

But the jihadists are not the only ones that CENTCOM should be worrying about as it analyzes its logistical challenges in Pakistan. Islamist sympathizers in Pakistan’s security apparatus and organized crime elements can take — and have taken — advantage of the shoddy security infrastructure in place to transport U.S.-NATO supplies through the country. In addition, there are secular political forces in play — from the MQM in Karachi to the Baloch rebels in Quetta — that could tip the balance in areas now considered relatively safe for transporting supplies to Afghanistan.

The United States is becoming increasing reliant on Pakistan, just as Pakistan is becoming increasingly unreliable. There are no quick fixes to the problem, but the first step in addressing it is to understand the wide array of threats currently engulfing the Pakistani state.
28605  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 27, 2009, 11:55:26 AM

The Northern Route
The northern route through Pakistan, used for transporting the bulk of U.S.-NATO overland supplies to Afghanistan, travels through four provinces — Sindh, Punjab, the NWFP and the tribal badlands of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) — before it snakes its way through the Khyber Pass to reach the Torkham border crossing with Afghanistan.

Route Variations
Convoys generally travel on main north-south national highway N-5 or a combination of N-5 and N-55 from Karachi to Torkham, a distance that can range from approximately 1,325 kilometers to 1,820 kilometers. Most transporters say they prefer the combination of N-5 and N-55, which allows them to cut across Sindh by switching from N-5 to N-65 near Sukkur and then jumping onto N-55 at Shikarpur before heading into Punjab. A small percentage of trucks (some 5 percent) use a combination of national highways and what are called “motorways,” essentially expressways that allow for better security, have no traffic lights and avoid urban centers. These motorways also have fewer chokepoints and thus fewer opportunities for militant ambushes, but they also lack rest stops, which is why most convoys travel on the national highways.

Pakistani transporters tell STRATFOR that they typically decide on a day-to-day basis whether to go the longer N-5 route or the shorter N-55 route. If they feel the security situation is bad enough, they are far more likely to take the longer N-5 route to Peshawar, which reduces their risk because it goes through less volatile areas — essentially, less of the NWFP. With the Taliban rapidly taking over territory in the NWFP, trucks are likely to rely more heavily on N-5.

Once the trucks leave Karachi, the stretch of road through Sindh province is the safest along the entire northern route. Most of Sindh, especially the rural areas, form the core support base of the secular Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which controls both the federal and the provincial governments. Outside of Karachi, there is virtually no serious militant Islamist presence in the province. However, small pockets of jihadists do pop up from time to time. In 2004, a top Pakistani militant leader, Amjad Farooqi of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), who worked closely with al Qaeda Prime operational commander Abu Faraj al-Libi and was responsible for assassination attempts on Musharraf, was killed in a shootout with police in the town of Nawabshah in central Sindh.

Once out of Sindh and into Punjab province, the northern supply route enters the core of Pakistan, the political, industrial and agricultural heartland of the country where some 60 percent of the population is concentrated. The province is also the mainstay of the country’s powerful military establishment, with six of the army’s nine corps are headquartered in the key urban areas of Rawalpindi, Mangla, Lahore, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur and Multan.

This province has not yet witnessed jihadist attacks targeting the U.S.-NATO supply chain, but the jihadist threat in Punjab is slowly rising. Major jihadist figures have found a save haven in the province, evidenced by the fact that several top al Qaeda leaders, including the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, were captured in various parts of Punjab, including Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Gujarat. Punjab also has witnessed a number of high-profile jihadist attacks in major cities, including suicide bombings in the capital, Islamabad, and its twin city Rawalpindi (where the military is headquartered) as well as manpower-heavy armed assaults in the provincial capital, Lahore, where teams of gunmen have assaulted both moving and stationary targets. The attacks have mostly targeted Pakistani security installations and have been conducted mainly by Pashtun jihadists in conjunction with Punjabi jihadist allies. The bulk of jihadist activity in the province takes place in the northern part of Punjab, closer to the NWFP border, where suicide bombings have been concentrated.

Pakistani soldiers guard trucks carrying NATO supplies on a street in the Khyber tribal region near the Afghan border on Jan. 1The Punjabi jihadist phenomenon was born in the 1980s, when the military regime of Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq aggressively pursued a policy of Islamization to secure power and weaken his principal opponent, the PPP, whose government he had overthrown to come to power. It was during the Zia years that Pakistan, along with Saudi Arabia and the United States, was heavily involved in backing Islamist militias to fight the Marxist government and its allied Soviet troops Afghanistan, where many of the Punjab-based groups joined the Pashtun groups and had their first taste of battle. Later in the 1990s, many of these Punjabi groups, who followed an extremist Deobandi interpretation of Sunni Islam, were used by the security establishment to support the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan and to aid the insurgency in Indian-administered Kashmir. Sectarian groups like Sipah Sahaba Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) were also developed to help the regime keep the Shiite minority in Pakistan contained.

Pakistan’s Afghan and Kashmiri jihadist project suffered a major setback with the 9/11 attacks against the United States and the American response. Caught between contradictory objectives — the need to align itself with the United States and to preserve its Islamist militant assets — Pakistan eventually lost control of many of its former Islamist militant assets, who then started teaming up with al Qaeda-led transnational jihadists in the region.

Most alarming for Islamabad is the fact that these groups are now striking at the core of Pakistan in places like Lahore, where brazen assaults were launched on March 3 against a bus carrying the Sri Lankan national cricket team and on March 30 against a police academy. These attacks illustrated this trend of Pakistan’s militant proxies turning against their erstwhile patron — first in the Pashtun areas and now in Punjab. The Lahore attacks also both involved multi-man assault teams, a sign that the jihadists are able to use a large number of Islamist recruits from the province itself.

Though Pakistan came under massive pressure to crack down on these groups in the wake of the November 2008 Mumbai attacks in India, groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) have considerable influence in the Lahore region. Similarly, LeJ and JeM have growing pockets of support in various parts of Punjab, particularly in southern Seraiki-speaking districts such as Bahawalpur, Rahim Yar Khan and Dera Ghazi Khan. One of the major causes of rising support for such jihadist groups in Punjab stems from a incident in 2007, when a clerical family hailing from the border region between Punjab and Balochistan led an uprising at Islamabad’s Red Mosque. The subsequent security operation to regain control of the mosque from the militants turned many locals against the military and into the arms of the Islamists.

While the major urban areas of Punjab have not been spared by jihadists, most jihadist activity in the province is concentrated closer to the provincial border with the NWFP. The route that travels along N-5 must pass through Wah, Kamra and Attock, the three main towns of northwestern Punjab. Each of these towns has been rocked by suicide attacks. Attock was the scene of a July 2004 assassination attempt against former Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Kamra, home of the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, an aircraft servicing and manufacturing facility, was the scene of a December 2007 suicide attack targeting a school bus carrying children of air force personnel. In August 2008 in Wah, a pair of suicide bombers struck Pakistan’s main ordnance factory.

There are indications that such jihadist activity could creep further south into the heart of Punjab and potentially target the U.S.-NATO supply chain. The Taliban are growing bolder by the day now that they have made significant territorial gains in the greater Swat region in the NWFP further north. As the security situation in the NWFP and FATA deteriorates, U.S.-NATO supply depots and terminals are being moved further south to Punjab where they will be safer, or so it is thought. However, locals in the area are already protesting the relocation of these terminals because they know that they will run a greater chance of becoming Taliban targets the more closely attached they are to the U.S.-NATO supply chain. These people have good reason to be nervous. The jihadists are now openly declaring grander intentions of spreading beyond the Pashtun-dominated periphery into Punjab, Pakistan’s core. Though it would take some time to achieve this, these jihadist groups would have a strategic interest in carrying out attacks against Western supply lines in Punjab that could demonstrate the jihadist reach, aggravate already intense anti-U.S. sentiment and hamper U.S.-NATO logistics for the war in Afghanistan.

The last leg of the northern supply line runs through the NWFP and the tribal badlands of the FATA. This is by far the most dangerous portion along the route and where Taliban activity is already reaching a crescendo.

Once in the NWFP the route goes through the district of Nowshehra before it reaches the provincial capital Peshawar and begins to hug Taliban territory. A variety of Taliban groups based in the FATA, many of whom are part of the TTP umbrella organization and/or the Mujahideen Shura Council, have taken over several districts in western NWFP and are now on Peshawar’s doorstep. There have been several attacks in Peshawar and further north in Charsaddah, where former Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao twice escaped assassination at the hands of suicide bombers, and east in Nowshehra, where an army base was targeted.

Pakistani paramilitary soldiers inspect seized ammunition on Jan. 2Though suicide attacks have occurred in these areas, the Pashtun jihadists are not in control of the territory in the NWFP that lies east of Peshawar. All attacks on the northern route have taken place to the west of Peshawar, on the stretch of N-5 between Peshawar and the Torkham border crossing, a distance of nearly 60 kilometers where jihadist activity is intensifying.

Once the transporters reach Peshawar, they hit what is called the “ring road” area, where 15 to 20 bus terminals are located for containers coming from Karachi to stop and then head toward Afghanistan through the Khyber Pass. The area where the bus terminals are situated is under the jurisdiction of Peshawar district, a settled and relatively calm area. But when the trucks travel east on the Peshawar-Torkham road toward Afghanistan, they enter a critical danger zone. Some Pakistani truckers have refused to drive this stretch between Peshawar and the Khyber Pass for fear of being attacked. Militants destroyed a key bridge in February on the Peshawar-Torkham road, where there are a dozen of other bridges that can be targeted in future attacks. The most recent and daring attack on highway N-5 between Peshawar and Torkham was the March 27 suicide bombing of a mosque during Friday prayers that killed dozens of local political and security officials.

For those convoys that make it out of the Peshawar terminal-depot hub, the next major stop is the Khyber Pass leading into Khyber agency, where the route travels along N-5 through Jamrud, Landikotal and Michni Post and then reaches the border with Afghanistan. The border area between Peshawar district and Khyber agency is called the Karkhano Market, which is essentially a massive black market for stolen goods run by smugglers, drug dealers and other organized-crime elements. Here one can find high quality merchandise at cheap prices, including stolen goods that were meant for U.S. and NATO forces. STRATFOR sources claim they have seen U.S.-NATO military uniforms and laptops going for $100 in the market.

Khyber agency (the most developed agency in the tribal belt) has been the scene of high-profile abductions, destroyed bridges and attacks against local political and security officials. Considering the frequency of the attacks, it appears that the militants can strike at the supply chain with impunity, and with likely encouragement from Pakistani security forces. This area is inhabited by four tribes — the Afridi, Shinwari, Mullagori and Shimani. But as is the case in other agencies of the FATA, the mullahs and militia commanders have usurped the tribal elders in Khyber agency. As many as three different Taliban groups in this area are battling Pakistani forces as well as each other.

Militiamen of the most active Taliban faction in Khyber agency, Mangal Bagh’s LI, heavily patrol the Bara area and have blown up several shrines, abducted local Christians and fought gunbattles with police. LI is not part of Baitullah Mehsud’s TTP umbrella group but maintains significant influence among the tribal maliks. Mehsud is allied with another faction called the Hakimullah Group, which rivals a third faction called Amr bil Maarouf wa Nahi Anil Munkar (“Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice”), whose leader, Haji Namdaar, was killed by Hakimullah militiamen.
28606  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Long Strat piece on: April 27, 2009, 11:54:46 AM
U.S.-NATO: Facing the Reality of Risk in Pakistan
Stratfor Today » April 27, 2009 | 1119 GMT
Pakistan is the primary channel through which U.S. and NATO supplies travel to support the war effort in Afghanistan. The reason for this is quite simple: Pakistan offers the shortest and most logistically viable overland supply routes for Western forces operating in landlocked Afghanistan. Once Pakistan found itself in the throes of an intensifying insurgency mid-2007, however, U.S. military strategists had to seriously consider whether the United States would be able to rely on Pakistan to keep these supply lines open, especially when military plans called for increasing the number of troops in theater.

Print Version
To download a PDF of this piece click here.
In late 2008, as Pakistan continued its downward spiral, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Gen. David Petraeus began touring Central Asian capitals in an attempt to stitch together supplemental supply lines into northern Afghanistan. Soon enough, Washington learned that it was fighting an uphill battle in trying to negotiate in Russian-dominated Central Asia without first reaching a broader understanding with Moscow. With U.S.-Russian negotiations now in flux and the so-called “northern distribution network” frozen, the United States has little choice but to face the reality in Pakistan.

This reality is rooted in the Pakistani Taliban’s desire to spread south beyond the Pashtun-dominated northwest tribal badlands (where attacks against the U.S.-NATO supply lines are already intensifying) into the Pakistani core in Punjab province. Punjab is Pakistan’s industrial heartland and home to more than half of the entire Pakistani population. If the Taliban manage to establish a foothold in Punjab, then the idea of a collapsing Pakistani state would actually become a realistic scenario. The key to preventing such a scenario is keeping the Pakistani military, the country’s most powerful institution, intact. However, splits within the military over how to handle the insurgency while preserving ties with militant proxies are threatening the military’s cohesion. Moreover, the threats to the supply lines go even further south than Punjab. The port of Karachi in Sindh province, where U.S.-NATO supplies are offloaded from ships, could be destabilized if the Taliban provoke local political forces.

In league with their jihadist brethren across the border in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Taliban and their local affiliates are just as busy planning their next steps in the insurgency as the United States is in planning its counterinsurgency strategy. Afghanistan is a country that is not kind to outsiders, and the overwhelming opinion of the jihadist forces battling Western, Pakistani and Afghan troops in the region is that this is a war that can be won through the power of exhaustion. Key to this strategy will be an attempt to make the position of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan untenable by increasing risk to their supply lines in Pakistan.

(click image to enlarge)

A Dearth of Security Options
As the pre-eminent global maritime power, the United States is able to sustain military operations far beyond its coastlines. Afghanistan, however, is a landlocked country whose inaccessibility prevents the U.S. military from utilizing its naval prowess. Instead, the United States and NATO must bring in troops, munitions and militarily sensitive materiel directly by air and rely on long, overland supply routes through Pakistan for non-lethal supplies such as food, building materials and fuel (most of which is refined in Pakistan). This logistical challenge is compounded by the fact that the overland supply routes run through a country that is trying to battle its own jihadist insurgency.

The deteriorating security situation in Pakistan now requires an effective force to protect the supply convoys. Though sending a couple of U.S.-NATO brigades into Pakistan would provide first-rate security for these convoys, such an option would be political dynamite in U.S.-Pakistani relations. Pakistan already has an extremely low tolerance for CIA activity and U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle attacks on its soil. The sight of Western forces operating openly in the country would be a red line that Islamabad simply could not cross. Even if this were an option, U.S.-NATO forces are already stretched to the limit in Afghanistan and there are no troops to spare to send into Pakistan — nor is there the desire on the part of the United States or NATO to insert their troops into such a dicey security situation.

Alex Wong/Getty Images
U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David PetraeusEnlisting the Pakistani military would be another option, but the Pentagon has thus far resisted allowing the Pakistani military to take direct charge of protecting and transporting U.S.-NATO supplies through Pakistan into Afghanistan. The reasons for this are unclear, but they likely can be attributed (at least in part) to U.S. distrust for the Pakistani military-intelligence apparatus, which is heavily infiltrated by Islamist sympathizers who retain links to their militant Islamist proxies.

Instead, CENTCOM’s logistics team has given the security responsibility to private Pakistani security contractors. This is not unusual in recent U.S. military campaigns, which have come to rely on private contractors for many logistical and security functions, including local firms in countries linked to the military supply chain. In Pakistan, such contractors provide security escorts to Pakistani truck drivers who transport supplies from the port of Karachi through Pakistan via a northern route and a southern route into Afghanistan, where the supplies are then delivered to key logistical hubs. While this approach provided sufficient security in the early years of the Afghan campaign, it has recently become an issue because of increasingly aggressive attacks by Taliban and other militants in Pakistan.

STRATFOR is told that many within the Pakistani military have long resented the fact that Washington has not entrusted them with the responsibility to secure the routes. The reasons behind the Pakistani military’s complaints are twofold. First, the military feels that its authority is being undermined by the dealings between the U.S. military and local contractors. Even beyond these deals, the Pakistani military consistently expresses its frustration when it is not the chief interlocutor with the United States in Pakistan, and has done so as much when U.S. officials have met with local leaders in the country and with the civilian government in Islamabad.

Second, there is a deep financial interest on the part of the military, which does not want to miss out on the large profits reaped by private security contractors in protecting the supply routes. As a result, Pakistani security forces are believed to turn a blind eye and occasionally even facilitate attacks on U.S. and NATO convoys in Pakistan in order to pressure Washington into giving the contracts to the better-equipped Pakistani military. That said, it is unclear whether the Pakistani military could fulfill such a commitment since the military itself is already stretched thin between its operations along the Afghan-Pakistani border and its massive military focus on the eastern border with India.

Many of the private Pakistani security companies guarding the routes are owned by wealthy Pakistani civilians who have strong links to government and to retired military officials. The private Pakistani security firms currently guarding the routes include Ghazi Security, Ready Guard, Phoenix Security Agency and SE Security Agency. Most of the main offices of these companies are located in Islamabad, but these contractors have also hired smaller security agencies in Peshawar. The private companies that own terminals used for the northern and southern supply routes include al Faisal Terminal (whose owner has been kidnapped by militants and whose whereabouts are unknown), Bilal Terminal (owned by Shahid Ansari from Punjab), World Port Logistics (owned by Major Fakhar, a nephew of former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf), Raziq International, Peace Line, Pak-Afghan and Waqar Terminal.

While the owners of these security firms make a handsome profit from the U.S.-NATO military contracts, the guards who actually drive and protect the trucks ferrying supplies make a meager salary, somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 rupees (under $65) per month. Not surprisingly, the security is shoddy, with three to five poorly trained and equipped guards usually spread throughout a convoy who are easily overrun by Taliban forces that frequently attack the convoys in hordes. Given their poor compensation, these security guards feel little compulsion to hold their positions and resist concerted assaults.

A Pakistani soldier stands guards on top of an armored personnel carrier on a street in Quetta on April 12The motivations for attacks against the supply infrastructure can vary. The Taliban and their jihadist affiliates are ideologically driven to target Western forces and increase the cost for them to remain in the region. There are also a number of criminally motivated fighters who adopt the Taliban label as a convenient cover but who are far more interested in making a profit. Both groups can benefit from racketeering enterprises that allow them to extort hefty protection fees from private security firms in return for the contractors’ physical safety.

One Pakistani truck driver relayed a story in which he was told by a suspected Taliban operative to leave his truck and come back in the morning to drive to Afghanistan. When the driver returned he found the truck on fire. Inadequate security allows for easy infiltration and manipulation by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which is already heavily penetrated by Islamist sympathizers. Drivers will often strike a deal with the militants allowing raids on the convoys in return for a cut of the proceeds once the goods are sold on the black market. One indication of just how porous U.S.-NATO security arrangements are in Pakistan is that the commander of the most active Taliban faction in Khyber agency, Mangal Bagh of Lashkar-e-Islam (LI), is allegedly a former transporter himself now using jihad as a cover for his criminal activities.

STRATFOR is not aware of any plans by the Pentagon to turn these security contracts over to the Pakistani military. It is even more unclear whether doing so would do much to improve the situation. If the U.S. military continues to rely on these contractors to guard the supply routes in the face of a growing Taliban threat, certain changes could be made to enhance the contractors’ capabilities. Already, U.S. logistics teams are revising the northern route by moving some of the supply depots farther south in Punjab where the security threat is lower (though the Taliban are attempting to expand their presence there). More funding could also be directed toward these security contractors to ensure that the guards protecting the convoys are properly trained and paid sufficiently to give them more of an incentive to resist Taliban attacks. Nonetheless, the current outsourcing to private Pakistani security firms is evidently fraught with complications that are unlikely to be resolved in the near term.

Karachi: The Starting Point
Both supply routes originate in Pakistan’s largest city and primary seaport, Karachi. The city is Pakistan’s financial hub and provides critical ocean access for U.S.-NATO logistics support in Afghanistan. If Karachi — a city already known to have a high incidence of violence — were to destabilize, the Western military supply chain could be threatened even before supplies embarked on the lengthy and volatile journey through the rest of Pakistan.

There are two inter-linking security risks in Karachi: the local ruling party — the Mutahiddah Qaumi Movement (MQM) — and the Islamist militancy. The MQM is a political movement representing the Muhajir ethnic community of Muslims who migrated to Pakistan from India. Since its rise in the 1980s, the party has demonstrated a proclivity for ethnic-driven violence through its armed cadres. While the MQM does not have a formal militia and is part of the Sindh provincial legislature as well as the national parliament, the party is very sensitive about any challenges to its power base in the metropolitan Karachi area and controls powerful organized crime groups in the city. On many occasions, clashes between MQM and other rival political forces have paralyzed the city.

STR/AFP/Getty Images
Armed Pakistani militantsIdeologically speaking, the MQM is secular and has been firmly opposed to Islamist groups since its inception. The party has been watching nervously as the Taliban have crept southward from their stronghold in the country’s northwest. In recent weeks, the MQM also has been the loudest political voice in the country sounding the alarm against the growing jihadist threat. The party is well aware that any jihadist strategy that aims to strike at Pakistan’s economic nerve center and the most critical node of the U.S.-NATO supply lines makes Karachi a prime target.

The MQM is particularly concerned that Baitullah Mehsud’s Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) will try to encroach on its turf in Karachi. While the Waziristan-based TTP itself has very little presence in Karachi, it does have a jihadist network in the city that could be utilized. Many Taliban members come from Pashtun tribes and derive much of their political support from Pashtun populations. Karachi has a Pashtun population of 3.5 million, making up some 30 percent of the city’s population. Moreover, Karachi police have reported that Taliban members are among the “several hundred thousand” tribesmen fleeing violence in the frontier regions who have settled on the outskirts of Karachi.

Jihadists have thus far demonstrated a limited ability to operate in the city. In 2002, jihadists kidnapped and killed U.S. journalist Daniel Pearl and attacked the U.S. Consulate. In a 2007 suicide attack on a vehicle belonging to the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, jihadists killed a U.S. diplomat and injured 52 others on the eve of one of then-President George W. Bush’s rare trips to Pakistan. A host of Pakistani jihadist groups as well as “al Qaeda Prime” (its core leadership) have been active in the area, evidenced by the capture of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, deputy coordinator of the 9/11 attacks, in Karachi in 2002.

Until now the MQM did not perceive the Taliban to be a direct threat to its hold over the city, but the MQM is now feeling vulnerable given the Taliban’s spread in the north. There has been a historic tension between the MQM and the significant Pashtun minority in Karachi. The MQM regards this minority with deep suspicion because it believes the Pashtuns could provide a safe haven for Pashtun jihadists seeking to extend their influence to the south.

In the wake of the “shariah for peace” agreement in the Swat district of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), tensions have risen between the MQM and the country’s largest Pashtun political group, the Awami National Party (ANP), which rules the NWFP and is the party chiefly responsible for negotiating the peace agreement with the Tehrik-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM), the jihadist group in the greater Swat region. MQM’s 19 members of parliament were the only ones who did not vote in favor of the Swat peace deal, which has amplified its concerns over the threat of Talibanization in Pakistan. In response, TNSM leader Maulana Sufi Muhammad has declared parliamentarians who oppose the Nizam-i-Adl Regulation non-Muslims. The MQM is also trying to mobilize religious groups that oppose the Sunni Islamic Deobandi movement, particularly Barelvis, against the Taliban.

With rising Muhajir-Pashtun ethnic tensions, the MQM-ANP spat and the MQM’s fear of a jihadist threat to its authority, conditions in Karachi are slowly building toward a confrontation. Should jihadists demonstrate a capability to step up operations in the city, the MQM will show little to no restraint in cracking down on the city’s Pashtun minority through its armed cadres, which would lead to wider-scale clashes between the MQM and the Pashtun community. There is a precedent for urban conflict in Karachi, and it could cause authorities to impose a citywide curfew that would disrupt operations at the port and impede supplies from making their way out of the city.

The situation described above is still a worst-case scenario. Since Karachi is the financial center of the country, the MQM-controlled local government, the federal government in Islamabad and the Rawalpindi-based military establishment all share an interest in preserving stability in this key city. It will also likely take some time before Pakistani jihadists are able to project power that far south. Even a few days or weeks of turmoil in Karachi, however, will threaten the country’s economy — which is already on the verge of bankruptcy — and further undercut the weakened state’s ability to address the growing insecurity. So far, the MQM has kept its hold over Karachi, but the Taliban already have their eyes on the city, and it would not take much to provoke the MQM into a confrontation that could threaten a crucial link in the U.S.-NATO supply chain.

28607  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stratfor on Pig Flu on: April 27, 2009, 11:06:55 AM
Intelligence Guidance (Special Edition): April 27, 2009 - Swine Flu Outbreak
April 27, 2009 | 1500 GMT

A member of the Mexican Navy stands guard at Pantitlan subway station in Mexico City on April 26Editor’s Note: The following is an internal STRATFOR document produced to provide high-level guidance to our analysts. This document is not a forecast, but rather a series of guidelines for understanding and evaluating events, as well as suggestions on areas for focus.

Related Special Topic Page
Weekly Updates
We need to ramp up on a number of issues related to the H1N1 swine flu outbreaks. So far there are 1,663 suspected infections and 103 reported deaths. Nearly all of the infections and all of the deaths are in Mexico (98 percent of both have been in Mexico City itself). The high population density of Mexico City has allowed the new strain to spread very quickly and provided ample opportunities for it to be carried abroad. There are now suspected cases in Canada, New Zealand, Spain, France, Israel, Brazil and the United States.

But before we delve deeper into this topic, we must clarify what this is not. It is obvious that we’re not dealing with a 1918 style pandemic. The current H1N1 strain � “H1” and “N1” indicate certain proteins on the surface of the flu virus � was first detected in March. While there obviously have been deaths, we are not seeing numbers that indicate this is particularly horrible disease. Something like the 1918 avian virus would already be killing people in significant numbers in places as scattered as Singapore, Buenos Aires and Moscow. It appears that this H1N1 strain is simply a new strain of the common flu that is somewhat more virulent. All evidence thus far indicates that a simple paper mask is effective at limiting transmission, and that common anti-viral medications such as Tamiflu and Relenza work well against the new strain.

That does not mean there will not be disruptions. Several governments already are banning the import of North American pork products. Considering that the human-communicable strain has already traveled to every continent, this is a touch silly, but governments must appear to do something — and there is nothing seriously that can be done to quarantine a continent from something as communicable as a flu bug. We expect limited travel restrictions to pop up sooner rather than later. EU Health Commissioner Andorra Vassiliou has already recommended that Europeans rethink any plans to travel to North America. This is not yet a ban or even a travel warning, but those are logical next steps for spooked governments. Several states have been using thermal scanners at airports to check passengers for fevers, and so isolate potential carriers (this measure is of limited use — once a carrier is in the airport, he has probably already spread the virus).

The busy folks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) need to become our new best friends. The CDC is not like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) — it is not tasked to provide any hands-on, local support. Instead, they are a sort of brain trust of researchers that decode the virus, and based on their findings, produce recommendations as to how to limit the virus’ spread and mitigate the virus’ effects. At present the CDC has not yet decoded the virus.

We also need to touch base with various national health authorities the world over who were stressed about a possible H5N1 outbreak in 2007. Many of the procedures that were put into place to deal with a potential H5N1 catastrophe (information dissemination, vaccine dissemination, antiviral stockpiles, etc) remain applicable for combating this new H1N1 strain. We need to familiarize ourselves with what the thresholds are for the major health authorities. Some question to ask: At what point would you consider quarantines? At what point would you release antiviral stockpiles? How big are those stockpiles? What steps are you taking to detect new cases? Are there any travel or trade restrictions that you are considering or implementing?

Are there any places in the world where H1 flu strains are not prevalent? Once you have the flu, you develop a natural resistance to not just that specific strain, but any strain that is somewhat similar. H1 has been present in the United States for years and H1 strains regularly make it into American flu vaccines. Since it is believed that it is the H1 portion of this new virus that has been tweaked, in theory this will provide Americans with some limited protection. Are there any national populations that lack this protection?

We need to look at trade as well. Already Russia, China and the Philippines have barred pork imports of North American origin. (Incidentally, you are never at risk of contracting flu viruses from meat products unless you fail to cook it thoroughly.) We need to look at the trade question from two points of view. First, what trade flows (primarily pork) could be directly affected. Second, the global economy really does not need a major confidence hit right now. We need to be extremely vigilant of any indirect impacts this will have on capital availability, travel and consumer spending in the current fragile economic climate. Asian and European stock markets had a bad day today, but not inordinately so (Japan’s Nikkei — one of the world’s largest exchanges by value — actually rose a bit).

But the biggest question is why have there been deaths in Mexico City and not anywhere else? The idea that the Mexican health system is subpar does not hold: most people do not seek medical treatment for flu symptoms, so medical quality does not yet seriously enter into the picture. The explanation could be nothing more complicated than the fact that the strain first broke out in Mexico City and has not yet advanced far enough elsewhere to produce deaths (and if that is the case we should be seeing some terminal cases in the United States in the next few days).

So far the CDC does not have an opinion on this topic, but we need to discover if there is something fundamentally different about the situation — or the virus — in Mexico vis-a-vis the rest of the world.
28608  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The NY congressional loss on: April 27, 2009, 10:42:18 AM
Republicans lost another Congressional race on Friday, as Democratic newcomer Scott Murphy was declared the victor by some 400 votes in the March 31 special House election in New York state. But you wouldn't know it from the response of House Minority Leader John Boehner, who declared that GOP candidate Jim Tedisco "forced the Democratic Party to invest heavily and defend a seat they should have had in the bag."


New York's 20th Congressional district is precisely the kind the GOP will have to win if it wants to regain a majority. It is one of the few Northeast districts where Republicans retain a party registration advantage, and Republican John Sweeney had held it for four terms before Democrat (and recently appointed Senator) Kirsten Gillibrand won in 2006. George W. Bush carried it twice.

Republicans lost because they fielded a poor candidate who ran a lousy campaign. While Mr. Murphy was a fresh face who could plausibly argue he'd assist President Obama's call for change, Republicans picked an Albany careerist who personified more of the same. GOP power broker (and Al D'Amato pal) Joe Mondello rigged the nomination to deny a real contest, thus cutting out the likes of former state Assembly minority leader John Faso.

At one point, Mr. Tedisco had a 20-point lead but squandered it by waffling on the Obama stimulus plan, running anti-Wall Street ads that confused the Republican base, and waiting until the last few days to criticize pro-union "card check" legislation. In other words, Mr. Tedisco betrayed that he wasn't all that different than the other politicians who have made Albany the tax and spend center of America.

The fact that the race was so close shows that, had Republicans run a credible candidate, they had a chance to send a message to Blue Dog Democrats in Congress that Mr. Obama's agenda is less popular than he is. Mr. Boehner would do better to stop spinning defeat and start looking for candidates who believe in something beyond their own careers.
28609  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Liberal fascism at work on: April 27, 2009, 10:37:41 AM

The cavalier use of brute government force has become routine, but the emerging story of how Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke forced CEO Ken Lewis to blow up Bank of America is still shocking. It's a case study in the ways that panicky regulators have so often botched the bailout and made the financial crisis worse.

In the name of containing "systemic risk," our regulators spread it. In order to keep Mr. Lewis quiet, they all but ordered him to deceive his own shareholders. And in the name of restoring financial confidence, they have so mistreated Bank of America that bank executives everywhere have concluded that neither Treasury nor the Federal Reserve can be trusted.

Mr. Lewis has told investigators for New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo that in December Mr. Paulson threatened him not to cancel a deal to buy Merrill Lynch. BofA had discovered billions of dollars in undisclosed Merrill losses, and Mr. Lewis was considering invoking his rights under a material adverse condition clause to kill the merger. But Washington decided that America's financial system couldn't withstand a Merrill failure, and that BofA had to risk its own solvency to save it. So then-Treasury Secretary Paulson, who says he was acting at the direction of Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke, told Mr. Lewis that the feds would fire him and his board if they didn't complete the deal.

Mr. Paulson told Mr. Lewis that the government would provide cash from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) to help BofA swallow Merrill. But since the government didn't want to reveal this new federal investment until after the merger closed, Messrs. Paulson and Bernanke rejected Mr. Lewis's request to get their commitment in writing.

"We do not want a disclosable event," Mr. Lewis says Mr. Paulson told him. "We do not want a public disclosure." Imagine what would happen to a CEO who said that.

After getting the approval of his board, Mr. Lewis executed the Paulson-Bernanke order without informing his shareholders of the material events taking place at Merrill. The merger closed on January 1. But investors and taxpayers had to wait weeks to learn that the government had invested another $20 billion plus loan portfolio insurance in BofA, and that Merrill had lost a staggering $15 billion in the last three months of 2008.

This was the second time in three months that Washington had forced Bank of America to take federal money. In his testimony to the New York AG's office, Mr. Lewis noted that an earlier TARP investment in his bank had a "dilutive effect" on existing shareholders and was not requested by BofA. "We had not sought any funds. We were taking 15 [billion dollars] at the request of Hank [Paulson] and others," Mr. Lewis testified.

But it is the Merrill deal that raises the most troubling questions. Evaluating the policy of Messrs. Bernanke and Paulson on their own terms, this transaction fundamentally increased systemic risk. In order to save a Wall Street brokerage, the feds spread the risk to one of the country's largest deposit-taking banks. If they were convinced that Merrill had to be saved, then they should have made the public case for it. And the first obligation of due diligence is to make sure that their Merrill "rescuer" of choice -- BofA -- had the capacity to bear the losses. Instead they transplanted the Merrill risk to BofA shareholders, the bank's depositors and the taxpayers who ensure those deposits. And then they had to bail out BofA too.

Messrs. Bernanke and Paulson also undermined the transparency that is a vital source of investor confidence. Disclosure is not a luxury to be enjoyed only when markets are rising. It is the foundation of the American regulatory system and a reason investors have long sought to keep their money within U.S. borders. Could either man have believed that their actions wouldn't eventually come to light, with all of the repercussions for their bank rescue plans?

Mr. Paulson told Mr. Cuomo's investigators that he also kept former SEC Chairman Christopher Cox out of the loop while forcing BofA to rescue Merrill. Mr. Cox wasn't the only one. Mr. Paulson and Mr. Bernanke both sit on the Financial Stability Oversight Board, comprised of federal regulators who oversee TARP. Two days after Mr. Lewis told the dynamic duo that Merrill's losses were exploding and that he was looking for a way out, Mr. Bernanke chaired and Mr. Paulson attended a meeting of this board. Minutes of the meeting show no mention of BofA or Merrill.

At the next meeting on January 8, a week after the merger had closed, the minutes again make no mention of either regulator telling their colleagues that they had committed tens of billions of dollars. Yet the minutes helpfully note that among the topics discussed were "coordination, transparency and oversight."

Meeting minutes suggest Messrs. Bernanke and Paulson finally informed fellow board members at 4:30 p.m. on January 15, after news outlets had already reported a pending new taxpayer investment in BofA. What exactly did Mr. Bernanke and Mr. Paulson tell their colleagues about their plans for TARP prior to January 15?

Let's hope they treated their government colleagues better than they've treated Ken Lewis, whom they hung out to dry. After making him an offer he could hardly refuse, they've let him endure a public flogging from shareholders and the press, lengthy discussions with prosecutors, plus new hiring and compensation rules that limit his bank's ability to compete.

No wonder no banker in his right mind trusts the Fed or Treasury, and no wonder nobody but Pimco and other Treasury favorites is eager to invest in the TALF, the PPIP, or any of the other programs that require trusting the government as a business partner.

The political class has spent the last few months blaming bankers for everything that has gone wrong in the financial system, and no doubt many banks have earned public scorn. But Washington has been complicit every step of the way, from the Fed's easy money to the nurturing of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and since last autumn with regulatory and Congressional panic that is making financial repair that much harder. The men who nearly ruined Bank of America have some explaining to do.

28610  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Politics of Health Care on: April 27, 2009, 10:27:01 AM
The folks who ran Katrina now look to takeover the people's remaining medical freedoms.  A giant clusterfcuk comes , , ,  cry
28611  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Eagles hunting wolves!!! on: April 26, 2009, 08:27:51 PM
28612  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Eagles hunting wolves!!! on: April 26, 2009, 08:26:06 PM
28613  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Demographics on: April 26, 2009, 12:17:32 PM
Are these numbers accurate?  No sources are given.  If they are, what are the implications?
28614  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: April 26, 2009, 09:36:49 AM

28615  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT Guile helps Taliban on: April 26, 2009, 08:47:29 AM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Initially, Buner was a hard place for the Taliban to crack. When they attacked a police station in the valley district last year, the resistance was fearless. Local people picked up rifles, pistols and daggers, hunted down the militants and killed six of them.

But it was not to last. In short order this past week the Taliban captured Buner, a strategically vital district just 60 miles northwest of the capital, Islamabad. The militants flooded in by the hundreds, startling Pakistani and American officials with the speed of their advance.

The lesson of Buner, local politicians and residents say, is that the dynamic of the Taliban insurgency, as methodical and slow-building as it has been, can change suddenly, and the tactics used by the Taliban can be replicated elsewhere.

The Taliban took over Buner through both force and guile — awakening sleeping sympathizers, leveraging political allies, pretending at peace talks and then crushing what was left of their opponents, according to the politicians and the residents interviewed.

Though some of the militants have since pulled back, they still command the high points of Buner and have fanned out to districts even closer to the capital.

That Buner fell should be no surprise, local people say. Last fall, the inspector general of police in North-West Frontier Province, Malik Naveed Khan, complained that his officers were being attacked and killed by the hundreds.

Mr. Khan was so desperate — and had been so thoroughly abandoned by the military and the government — that he was relying on citizen posses like the one that stood up to the Taliban last August.

Today, the hopes that those civilian militias inspired are gone, brushed away by the realization that Pakistanis can do little to stem the Taliban advance if their government and military will not help them.

The people of Buner got nothing for their bravery. In December, the Taliban retaliated for the brazenness of the resistance in the district, sending a suicide bomber to disrupt voting during a by-election. More than 30 people were killed and scores were wounded.

Severe disenchantment toward the government rippled out of the suicide bombing for a very basic reason, said Amir Zeb Bacha, the director of the Pakistan International Human Rights Organization in Buner. “When we took the injured to the hospital there was no medicine,” he said.

The election was rescheduled but turned out to be a farce. Voters were too scared to show up, said Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, a former interior minister, who lives in the area and has twice escaped Taliban suicide bombers.

The peace deal the military struck with the Taliban in February in neighboring Swat further demoralized people in Buner. Residents and local officials said they asked themselves how they could continue to resist the Taliban when the military had abandoned the effort. The Taliban were emboldened by the deal: it called for the institution of Shariah, the strict legal code of Islam based on the Koran, throughout Malakand Agency, which includes Swat and Buner. It allowed the Taliban amnesty for their killings, floggings and destruction of girls schools in Swat.

Still, when the Taliban rolled into Buner from Swat through the town of Gokan on April 5, a well-to-do businessman, Fateh Mohammed, organized another posse of civilian fighters to take on the militants in the town of Sultanwas.

Five civilians and three policemen were killed, he said. Some newspaper reports said 17 Taliban were killed.

At that point, the chief government official in charge of Malakand, Mohammed Javed, proposed what he called peace talks. Mr. Javed, an experienced bureaucrat in the Pakistani civil service, was appointed in late February as the main government power broker in Malakand even though he was known to be sympathetic to the Taliban, a senior government official in North-West Frontier Province said. The government had been under pressure to bring calm to Swat and essentially capitulated to Taliban demands for Mr. Javed’s appointment, the official said.

In an apparent acknowledgment that Mr. Javed had been too sympathetic to the Taliban, the government announced Saturday that he had been replaced by Fazal Karim Khattack.

In what some residents in Swat and now in Buner say had been a pattern of favorable decisions led by Mr. Javed on behalf of the Taliban, the talks in Buner turned out to be a “betrayal,” said a former police officer from the area, who was afraid to be identified.


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The talks gave the militants time to gather reinforcements from neighboring Swat, he said. And at the same time, the Taliban put such pressure on the members of Mr. Mohammed’s posse, or lashkar, that they disappeared or fled, Mr. Mohammed said.

Taliban militants in the main town of Daggar in the Buner District of Pakistan.
“The police part of our lashkar left, and I was all alone,” he said. On the night of April 11, he fled, too, he said in a telephone conversation from Karachi, where he has gone to hide.

The militants at that point occupied his three gas stations, his flour mill and his 20-room house, he said. They had also commandeered more than 20 other houses in Sultanwas belonging to his relatives, he said.   In a show of who was in charge in Mr. Mohammed’s absence, the Taliban established a training camp in Sultanwas, said Mr. Bacha, the human rights officer.

To bolster their strength, and insinuate themselves in Buner, the Taliban also relied heavily on the adherents of a hard-line militant group, the Movement for the Implementation of the Shariah of Muhammad, which has agitated for Islamic law in Pakistan.  Their leader, Sufi Mohammed, comes from the region around Swat and Buner and has whipped up local support and intimidated Taliban opponents.

The group has called on graduates of a huge madrasa near the main town of Daggar in Buner to run local district governments, beckoning one from as far as the southern port of Karachi to run a municipality, said Khadim Hussain, a professor of linguistics and communication at Bahria University in Islamabad.

Whatever the number, early last week the Taliban showed their power by ordering the state courts shut. They announced that they would open Islamic courts, practicing Shariah, by the end of the month.

The militants have also placed a tax payable to the Taliban on all marble quarried at mines, said a senior police officer who worked in Buner.

At gas stations belonging to Mr. Mohammed, they pumped gas and drove off without paying, the officer said.

“No one dare ask them for payment,” he said.

The police were so intimidated they mostly stayed inside station houses, he said. “They are setting up a parallel government.”

With their success in Buner, the Taliban felt flush with success and increasingly confident that they could repeat the template, residents and analysts said. In the main prize, the richest and most populous province, Punjab, in eastern Pakistan, the Taliban are relying on the sleeper cells of other militant groups, including the many fighters who had been trained by the Pakistani military for combat in Kashmir, and now felt abandoned by the state, they said.

It would not be difficult for the Taliban to seize Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, by shutting down the airport and blocking the two main thoroughfares from Islamabad, a Western official with long experience in the province said.

At midweek, a convoy of heavily armed Taliban vehicles was seen barreling along the four-lane motorway between Islamabad and Peshawar, according to Mr. Sherpao, the former minister of the interior.   Across North-West Frontier Province, the Taliban are rapidly consolidating power by activating cells that consisted of a potent mix of jihadist groups, he said. In some places, the Taliban have entered mosques saying they had come only to preach, but in fact the strategy is to spread fear that pushes people into submission and demoralizes the police, he said.   

Everywhere, they have preyed on the miseries of the poor, saying that Islamic courts would settle their complaints against the rich. “Every district is falling into their lap,” Mr. Sherpao said.
28616  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Today's NYT on: April 26, 2009, 08:37:24 AM
XICO CITY — This sprawling capital was on edge Saturday as jittery residents ventured out wearing surgical masks and President Felipe Calderón published an order that would give his government emergency powers to address a deadly flu outbreak, including isolating those who have contracted the virus, inspecting the homes of affected people and ordering the cancellation of public events.

Skip to next paragraph
Students Fall Ill in New York, and Swine Flu Is Likely Cause (April 26, 2009)
Worrying About Every Cough at a Queens School (April 26, 2009)
Dot Earth: Contagion on a Small Planet (April 26, 2009) White-coated health care workers fanned out across the international airport here to look for ailing passengers, and thousands of callers fearful they might have contracted the rare swine flu flooded government health hot lines. Health officials also began notifying restaurants, bars and nightclubs throughout the city that they should close.

Of those Mexicans who did go out in public, many took the advice of the authorities and donned the masks, which are known here as tapabocas, or cover-your-mouths, and were being handed out by soldiers and health workers at subway stops and on street corners.

“My government will not delay one minute to take all the necessary measures to deal with this epidemic,” Mr. Calderón said in Oaxaca State during the opening of a new hospital, which he said would set aside an area for anyone who might be affected by the new swine flu strain that has already killed as many as 81 people in Mexico and sickened more than 1,300 others.

Mr. Calderón pointed out that he and the other officials who attended the ceremony intentionally did not greet each other with handshakes or kisses on the cheek, which health officials have urged Mexicans to avoid.

At a news conference Saturday night to address the crisis, Mexico’s health minister, José Ángel Córdova, said 20 of the 81 reported deaths were confirmed to have been caused by swine flu, while the rest are being studied. Most of the cases of illness were reported in the center of the country, but there were other cases in pockets to the north and south.

The government also announced at the news conference that schools in and around the capital that serve millions of students would remain closed until May 6.

With 20 million people packed together tight, Mexico City typically bursts forth on the weekends into parks, playgrounds, cultural centers and sidewalk cafes. But things were quieter than usual on Saturday.

The government encouraged people to stay home by canceling concerts, closing museums and banning spectators from two big soccer matches on Sunday that will be played in front of television cameras, but no live crowd.

At street corners on Saturday, even many of the jugglers, dancers and musicians who eke out a living collecting spare change when the traffic lights turn red were wearing bright blue surgical masks.

The newspaper Reforma reported that President Obama, who recently visited Mexico, was escorted around Mexico City’s national anthropology museum on April 16 by Felipe Solis, an archaeologist who died the next day from flu-like symptoms. But Dr. Córdova said that it does not appear that Mr. Solis died of influenza.

White House officials said Saturday that they were aware of the news reports in Mexico but that there was no reason to be concerned about Mr. Obama’s health, that he had no symptoms and that his medical staff had recommended he not be tested.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said Saturday that it had sent a team of experts to Mexico to assist with the investigation of the outbreak, which has already been reported in Texas and California and possibly in New York, raising fears that it could spread into a global pandemic.

The possible New York cases were reported at a Queens high school, where eight students tested positive for a type of influenza that health officials suspect could be the new swine flu. Some of the school’s students had traveled to Mexico recently.

Still, the World Health Organization, which held a meeting on Saturday to discuss the outbreak, chose not to raise the level of global pandemic flu alert, which has been at a Level 3 because of the avian flu.

Epidemiologists want to know exactly when the first cases occurred in Mexico. Mexican health officials said they first noticed a huge spike in flu cases in late March. In mid-April, they began noticing that otherwise healthy people were dying from the virus. But it was only on Thursday night that officials first sounded an alarm to the population by closing schools, after United States health officials announced a possible swine flu outbreak.

By issuing the emergency decree Saturday, Mr. Calderón may have been trying to head off criticism that his government had been too slow to act. He had earlier called in the army to distribute four million masks throughout the capital and its suburbs.

Lt. Raymundo Morales Merla, who stood outside a military transport truck parked outside a downtown subway station on Saturday, led a group of 27 soldiers who had arrived at 7 a.m. to hand out as many masks as they could.

The scene at the airport was alarming, with doctors stationed at the entrances to answer questions and to keep an eye out for obviously sick people. Regular public address announcements in English and Spanish warned travelers that anyone exhibiting any symptoms should cancel their flight and immediately seek medical attention.

Even Sunday Mass will probably be affected. The Roman Catholic Church gave worshipers the option to listen to Masses on the radio and told priests who decided to hold services to be brief and put Communion wafers in worshipers’ hands instead of their mouths.

Axel de la Macorra, 46, a physics professor at National Autonomous University of Mexico, said he became worried when he learned recently that a 31-year-man who played at a tennis club he once belonged to had suddenly died. “He got sick at the beginning of April and two weeks later, he was dead,” said Mr. de la Macorra, who was weighing whether to attend a First Communion with 200 guests on Saturday.

“My mother told me to wear it so I did,” said Noel Ledezma, 29, who had his mask pulled down so he could sip a coffee and eat a muffin as he walked to work. “Who knows who will be next.”

Sarahe Gomez, who was selling jewelry at a mall in the upscale Polanco neighborhood, spoke through a mask to the few customers who visited her kiosk. “I’m in the middle of all these people and one of them could have it,” she said. “The virus could be anywhere. It could be right here.”

She then took a half step back.

“This is no joke,” said Servando Peneda, 42, a lawyer who ventured out to pay a bill, but left his two sons home. “There’s 20 million of us in this city and I’d say half of us have these masks on today. I know all of us will die one day, but I want to last out the week.”

Antonio Betancourt contributed reporting from Mexico City, and Sheryl Gay Stolberg from Washington.
28617  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: April 26, 2009, 08:21:51 AM
And a rockin' good time it was.

Started with a Dos Triques stick combination and was pleased at the understanding every one was showing of the angles of the footwork.

Then we applied it in Kali Tudo with a combination that everyone seemed to really like.  I don't have a name for it yet, but as I was driving home I realized it and the Flying Bong Sao variations are part of the same matrix.  I need to make this clear next week.
28618  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Bat vs. knife on: April 26, 2009, 07:57:20 AM
Bat takes out knife wielding criminal
28619  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / two women kill with 3" knife/knives on: April 26, 2009, 07:33:30 AM

"pocket knife" stabbing death in my town


LONGMONT, Colo. — As a Longmont teenager lay bleeding on the porch of a stranger’s home late Monday night, his good friend who stood by his side and called 911 never noticed the mortal wound. According to 911 tapes released Thursday, the friend of Logan Cameron Steele Sisson, 19, thought his friend was bleeding from a rough fight with two women and two men, but told dispatchers the worst wound was likely a broken arm. But police say the violent attack was far worse, and while the victim’s friend didn’t know the full extent of the injuries, the women accused of inflicting them should have. Mariena Amber Harris, 19, of Longmont, and Lakesha Marie Crutcher, 20, a transient, continued to be held Thursday at the Boulder County Jail on suspicion of second-degree murder in the teen’s death. They’re expected to be charged today. Harris told several people after the stabbing that she was responsible for the fatal blow, Longmont police Cmdr. Tim Lewis said. Both women knew — or should have known — that bringing a knife with them to the city’s Lanyon Park after a confrontation at a nearby “4/20” pot party could end with someone dead, he said. “The investigation shows us they were aware of the magnitude of the incident,” Lewis said of the women. He said the nature of Sisson’s wounds would have made it “apparent what occurred,” although he declined to elaborate. An autopsy Tuesday concluded Sisson died from a stab wound to the chest. Lewis said detectives believe they’ve recovered the murder weapon, which is described as a pocketknife with a blade about 3-inches long. A knife with a blade longer than 3½ inches is generally not legal to carry, according to state law. Boulder County Coroner Tom Faure declined to release information about the number of stab wounds that Sisson suffered, and it could be weeks before an official autopsy is released. Sisson was stabbed shortly after being told to leave the 4/20 party when the woman hosting the celebration became the “object of his unwanted affection,” police said. According to the Longmont Times-Call, the 43-year-old hostess denied police accounts that it was a pro-pot party and said that she asked Sisson to leave because he brought alcohol and she knew he was underage. The paper agreed to withhold the woman's name at her request. Sisson’s friend, who was walking with him Monday night after police say Sisson was kicked out of a nearby party, told 911 dispatchers there was a “big ol’ fight” happening at Lanyon Park about 11 p.m. “There’s a bunch of people fighting,” the teenage caller said. Asked whether he could see what was happening, the man replied, “No, I started walking away because they started picking (expletive) with me.”
The caller identified his 19-year-old friend’s attackers as two women. He told the dispatcher he couldn’t see any weapons involved. “It was physical, they were down on the ground beating him,” the man said. “The girls were?” the dispatcher asked. “Yeah,” he replied. About five minutes later, the same man called 911 again. This time, the fight was over and he’d gone to meet up with Sisson, who had staggered across the street and was bleeding on the front porch of a nearby house.
“I was walking down the street and um, like, two more guys showed up and they just kept beating up this one guy,” the caller said while standing beside a dying Sisson. “He’s my friend and he’s laying on the steps right now and he’s bleeding pretty bad.” Police have said two men, Robert Glenn Wittmer, 35, of Longmont, — who was arrested Tuesday and is being held on possible charges of being an accessory to murder — and another man whose name has not been released, arrived at the scene and joined in the fight. The caller told dispatchers the men, “beat him (Sisson) up, they picked up the girls and they left.” When the dispatcher asked if Sisson was hurt, the man said his friend was bleeding, but apparently never noticed the mortal stab wound. “I think his right arm is broken,” the caller said. The caller, whom police described as a transient, could not be reached for comment Thursday. Lewis, the Longmont commander, said the man was among Sisson’s inner circle of friends. He also said the caller’s actions Monday night — leaving the fight to phone police — was “prudent” given the circumstances. Lewis said the investigation continued Thursday into the hours before and after the stabbing. He said detectives have interviewed the second man who showed up at the fight, but there are “no imminent arrests planned” in the case. On Thursday afternoon, a memorial grew at the corner of Lanyon Park. Sisson’s adoptive father, mother, grandmother and other relatives gathered near a pile of photos, cards, candles and a poem dedicated to Sisson. The family declined comment, but a note left behind read, “Logan Sisson is our angel.”
28620  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy on: April 26, 2009, 07:27:09 AM
Italian Cruise Ship Fires on Somali Pirates


Italian Cruise Ship Fires on Somali Pirates

Sunday , April 26, 2009

An Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people on board fended off a pirate attack far off the coast of Somalia when its Israeli private security forces exchanged fire with the bandits and drove them away, the commander said Sunday.

Cmdr. Ciro Pinto told Italian state radio that six men in a small white boat approached the Msc Melody and opened fire Saturday night, but retreated after the Israeli security officers aboard the cruise ship returned fire.

"It felt like we were in war," Pinto told state radio.

None of the roughly 1,000 passengers and 500 crew members were hurt, Melody owner Msc Cruises said in a statement issued by its German branch.

Domenico Pellegrino, head of the Italian cruise line, said Msc hired the Israelis because they were the best trained security agents, the ANSA news agency reported.

Civilian shipping and passenger ships have generally avoided arming crewmen or hiring armed security for reasons of safety, liability and compliance with the rules of the different countries where they dock. Saturday's exchange of fire was one of the first reported between pirates and a nonmilitary ship. International military forces have battled pirates, with U.S. Navy snipers killing three holding an American captain hostage in one of the highest-profile incidents.

The attack occurred about 200 miles north of the Seychelles, and about 500 miles east of Somalia, according to the anti-piracy flotilla headquarters of the Maritime Security Centre Horn of Africa.

Pinto said the pirates fired with automatic weapons, slightly damaging the liner, and tried to put a ladder on board. But he said they were unable to climb aboard.

The commander said his security forces opened fire with pistols and the ANSA news agency said the pistols had been kept in a safe under the joint control of the commander and security chief.

The Spanish warship SPS Marques de Ensenada was meeting up with the liner to escort her through the pirate-infested northern Gulf of Aden, the Maritime Security Center said.

The cruise ship was headed as scheduled to the Jordanian port of Aqaba. The Melody was on a 22-day cruise from Durban, South Africa, to Genoa, Italy.

Pirates have attacked more than 100 ships off the Somali coast over the last year, reaping an estimated $1 million in ransom for each successful hijacking, according to analysts and country experts.

Another Italian-owned vessel remains in the hands of pirates. The Italian-flagged tugboat Buccaneer was seized off Somalia on April 11 with 16 crew members aboard.
28621  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tracking school in Borneo on: April 25, 2009, 10:50:39 PM
Next > 

25 April 2009
Brunei, Borneo Island

This quick email from Borneo is an update about the combat tracking course conducted by the British military.

Tracking is a lost art in the British and U.S. militaries.  Even among the most highly trained forces, you’ll seldom come across anyone who can honestly track a man or interpret signs.  Many times in Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve seen combat forces come up on signs of the enemy – and our folks do set to work analyzing ever smidgen they can find – but only in a single case did I see soldiers who started tracking on a very subtle trail that was less than obvious.  Not surprisingly, those soldiers were “good old boys” from the 278th Tennessee National Guard.  Where those soldiers learned tracking I do not know.  Presumably they got it from growing up in the boondocks, and they probably got it from their granddaddies.  We didn’t get any enemies that day, but the 278th soldiers definitely were able get on what I thought was the right trail, and they tracked quite a distance (after a bomb exploded).  They weren’t playing around.  More recently, I was with American some soldiers in Afghanistan and there was a very minor shootout wherein nobody got hurt.  At least two Taliban were seen going over a hill after the bullets were swapped.  Our boys closed the gap as fast as they could and tried to get them, but we never picked up their trail and the enemy escaped.  I believe that the British and Gurkha trackers I am seeing in this school in Borneo might well have picked up that trail, and nailed the Taliban that day.

The tracking school only started on Monday, and we just finished Saturday’s training which began with classroom work and ended with about five hours of tracking in the jungle.  We started with 21 students but are down to 17 after something between the Netherlands and Brunei governments caused four Dutch students to drop out today.  The Dutch soldiers are upset.  The Brits also are upset because the Dutch were good tracking students, and also the Dutch have Afghan combat experience under their belts, as do most of the British.  And so it’s good to hear about their experiences, and how tracking might apply back in Afghanistan, because most of these Soldiers and Marines are heading back over.  All seven instructors are combat veterans from some place or another.  Some of the students have three combat tours behind them, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan.  None of these Marines and Soldiers had any experience in tracking, yet after having started only on Monday, by late this afternoon in that steaming jungle, they were successfully tracking Gurkhas.  (The Gurkhas had gone before us to leave track.)  I can say with absolute certainty that very few British or American soldiers would have been able to follow those tracks.  Maybe some of those soldiers from the 278th Tennessee National Guard could have pulled it off, but I doubt that 99% of the others could have even found the first subtle signs.

Toward the end of the day, my section of five soldiers lost the Gurkha tracks, and so the soldiers “probed” and “casted” to regain the trail, but we just lost it fair and square.  We didn’t get them this time.

The jungle was losing light, so we started to head out of the jungle to catch some trucks back to base.  There were a few interesting “jungle things” to photograph, and so while the five British students and an instructor headed out, I stayed back with an instructor named Taff Jones, a British Marine, to get the last photos.

There was no trail in or out, and we honestly didn’t know which way the others had gone because we had hardly paid attention.  (Though we knew the exact azimuth to get out, so we knew where their signs should be).  Instead of going on compass, the Taff picked up their trail, which was difficult to see, and we walked at a brisk pace.  Taff seldom even stopped, but would just point out sign as we bounded through.  Taff would say things like, “See that transfer?”  “Flattening here.”  “Look at that beautiful print.”  A few signs were obvious, but mostly they were subtle.  Again, I think 99% of the American or British soldiers would have almost zero chance of following that trail.  At one point I thought Taff lost the trail, because he just stopped and started looking around.  Then he said something like, “They stopped here and turned around.”  In fact they had zigzagged a lot, and later told us they did turn around there.  We found the others waiting for us.  If they had been the Taliban, we could have nailed them.  Or we could have radioed and had them cutoff or ambushed.

All the combat veterans in the course are of the same opinion.  We can put a lot more whipping on al Qaeda and other enemies in Afghanistan if more of our people learn how to track.  Nobody has to be Tonto to do this.  You just need good instructors, good eyes, and the willingness to practice.  This training is cheap.  No ammo, no airplanes, no high tech, and just about anyone can get a lot better very quickly.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll try to email each day about the progress.

Your Writer,


28622  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 25, 2009, 10:48:15 PM
Jkrenz may be busy with more pressing matters.  Until he has time to join us once again and perhaps comment on my preceding post, here's this:

April 26, 2009

In Taliban’s Surge in Pakistan, a Pattern of Guile and Force


Initially, Buner was a hard place for the Taliban to crack. When they attacked a police station in the valley district last year, the resistance was fearless. Local people picked up rifles, pistols and daggers, hunted down the militants and killed six of them.

But it was not to last. In short order this past week the Taliban captured Buner, a strategically vital district just 60 miles northwest of the capital, Islamabad. The militants flooded in by the hundreds, startling Pakistani and American officials with the speed of their advance.

The lesson of Buner, local politicians and residents say, is that the dynamic of the Taliban insurgency, as methodical and slow-building as it has been, can change suddenly, and the tactics used by the Taliban can be replicated elsewhere.

The Taliban took over Buner through both force and guile — awakening sleeping sympathizers, leveraging political allies, pretending at peace talks and then crushing what was left of their opponents, according to the politicians and the residents interviewed.

Though some of the militants have since pulled back, they still command the high points of Buner and have fanned out to districts even closer to the capital.

That Buner fell should be no surprise, local people say. Last fall, the inspector general of police in North-West Frontier Province, Malik Naveed Khan, complained that his officers were being attacked and killed by the hundreds.

Mr. Khan was so desperate — and had been so thoroughly abandoned by the military and the government — that he was relying on citizen posses like the one that stood up to the Taliban last August.

Today, the hopes that those civilian militias inspired are gone, brushed away by the realization that Pakistanis can do little to stem the Taliban advance if their government and military will not help them.

The people of Buner got nothing for their bravery. In December, the Taliban retaliated for the brazenness of the resistance in the district, sending a suicide bomber to disrupt voting during a by-election. More than 30 people were killed and scores were wounded.

Severe disenchantment toward the government rippled out of the suicide bombing for a very basic reason, said Amir Zeb Bacha, the director of the Pakistan International Human Rights Organization in Buner. “When we took the injured to the hospital there was no medicine,” he said.

The election was rescheduled but turned out to be a farce. Voters were too scared to show up, said Aftab Ahmad Sherpao, a former interior minister, who lives in the area and has twice escaped Taliban suicide bombers.

The peace deal the military struck with the Taliban in February in neighboring Swat further demoralized people in Buner. Residents and local officials said they asked themselves how they could continue to resist the Taliban when the military itself had abandoned the effort. The Taliban were emboldened by the deal: it called for the institution of Shariah, the strict legal code of Islam based on the Koran, throughout Malakand Agency, which includes Swat and Buner. It allowed the Taliban amnesty for their killings, floggings and destruction of girls schools in Swat.

Still, when the Taliban rolled into Buner from Swat through the town of Gokan on April 5, a well-to-do businessman, Fateh Mohammed, organized another posse of civilian fighters to take on the militants in the town of Sultanwas.

Five civilians and three policemen were killed, he said. Some newspaper reports said 17 Taliban were killed.

At that point, the chief government official in charge of Malakand, Mohammed Javed, proposed what he called peace talks. Mr. Javed, an experienced bureaucrat in the Pakistani civil service, was appointed in late February as the main government power broker in Malakand even though he was known to be sympathetic to the Taliban, a senior government official in North-West Frontier Province said. The government had been under pressure to bring calm to Swat and essentially capitulated to Taliban demands for Mr. Javed’s appointment, the official said.

In an apparent acknowledgment that Mr. Javed had been too sympathetic to the Taliban, the government announced Saturday that he had been replaced by Fazal Karim Khattack.

In what some residents in Swat and now in Buner say had been a pattern of favorable decisions led by Mr. Javed on behalf of the Taliban, the talks in Buner turned out to be a “betrayal,” said a former police officer from the area, who was afraid to be identified.

The talks gave the militants time to gather reinforcements from neighboring Swat, he said. And at the same time, the Taliban put such pressure on the members of Mr. Mohammed’s posse, or lashkar, that they disappeared or fled, Mr. Mohammed said.

“The police part of our lashkar left, and I was all alone,” he said. On the night of April 11, he fled, too, he said in a telephone conversation from Karachi, where he has gone to hide.

The militants at that point occupied his three gas stations, his flour mill and his 20-room house, he said. They had also commandeered more than 20 other houses in Sultanwas belonging to his relatives, he said.

In a show of who was in charge in Mr. Mohammed’s absence, the Taliban established a training camp in Sultanwas, said Mr. Bacha, the human rights officer.

To bolster their strength, and insinuate themselves in Buner, the Taliban also relied heavily on the adherents of a hard-line militant group, the Movement for the Implementation of the Shariah of Muhammad, which has agitated for Islamic law in Pakistan.

Their leader, Sufi Mohammed, comes from the region around Swat and Buner and has done the job of whipping up local support and intimidating Taliban opponents.

The group has called on graduates of a huge madrasa near the main town of Daggar in Buner to run local district governments, beckoning one from as far as the southern port of Karachi to run a municipality, said Khadim Hussain, a professor of linguistics and communication at Bahria University in Islamabad.

Estimates of the number of militants in Buner vary. Some local residents said they believed that there were about 3,000, including fighters trained for combat in Kashmir. District Police Officer Abdul Rashid, the chief of police in Buner, said in a telephone interview that there were only 200.

Whatever the number, early last week the Taliban showed their power by ordering the state courts shut. They announced that they would open Islamic courts, practicing Shariah, by the end of the month.

The militants have also placed a tax payable to the Taliban on all marble quarried at mines, said a senior police officer who worked in Buner.

At gas stations belonging to Mr. Mohammed, they pumped gas and drove off without paying, the officer said.

“No one dare ask them for payment,” he said.

The police were so intimidated they mostly stayed inside station houses, he said. “They are setting up a parallel government.”

With their success in Buner, the Taliban felt flush with success and increasingly confident that they could repeat the template, residents and analysts said. In the main prize, the richest and most populous province, Punjab, in eastern Pakistan, the Taliban are relying on the sleeper cells of other militant groups, including the many fighters who had been trained by the Pakistani military for combat in Kashmir, and now felt abandoned by the state, they said.

“We see coordination all over the country,” Mr. Hussain, the university professor, said. “The situation is very dangerous.”

It would not be difficult for the Taliban to seize Peshawar, the capital of North-West Frontier Province, by shutting down the airport and blocking the two main thoroughfares from Islamabad, a Western official with long experience in the province said.

At midweek, a convoy of heavily armed Taliban vehicles was seen barreling along the four-lane motorway between Islamabad and Peshawar, according to Mr. Sherpao, the former minister of the interior.

Across North-West Frontier Province, the Taliban are rapidly consolidating power by activating cells that consisted of a potent mix of jihadist groups, he said.

In some places, the Taliban have entered mosques saying they had come only to preach, but in fact the strategy is to spread fear that pushes people into submission and demoralizes the police, he said.

Everywhere, they have preyed on the miseries of the poor, saying that Islamic courts would settle their complaints against the rich. “Every district is falling into their lap,” Mr. Sherpao said.
28623  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Tamiflu on: April 25, 2009, 08:41:14 AM
Pasting this from the Health thread here too:

WHO ready with antivirals to combat swine flu
Fri Apr 24, 2009 5:11pm EDT  Email | Print | Share| Reprints | Single Page[-] Text

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) - The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that it was prepared with rapid containment measures including antivirals if needed to combat the swine flu outbreaks in Mexico and the United States.

The Geneva-based agency has been stockpiling doses of Roche Holding's Tamiflu, known generically as oseltamivir, a pill that can both treat flu and prevent infection.

The new virus, not previously detected in pigs or humans, has proved sensitive to the drug, the WHO said in a statement.

The WHO and its regional office in Washington, D.C., are also sending experts to Mexico to help health authorities with disease surveillance, laboratory diagnosis and clinical management of cases.

Mexican health officials have reported more than 850 cases of pneumonia in the capital, Mexico City, including 59 who died. In San Luis Potosi, in central Mexico, 24 cases including 3 deaths have been detected.

They have also informed the WHO about a third suspected outbreak of swine flu in Mexicali, near the U.S. border, with four suspect cases and no deaths so far.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control have said there were 8 cases of swine influenza in California and Texas and no deaths.

Health authorities in the two North American countries have the resources required already in place, including Tamiflu, and are "well equipped," according to the WHO.

"WHO is prepared with rapid containment measures should it be necessary to be deployed," WHO spokeswoman Aphaluck Bhatiasevi told Reuters.

The United Nations agency saw no need at this point to issue travel advisories warning travelers not to go to parts of Mexico or the United States. "However, the situation may change depending on what the situation in the field is," she said.

The WHO will convene a meeting of its Emergency Committee on international health regulations, probably on Saturday afternoon, she added.

WHO director-general Margaret Chan was flying back to Geneva overnight from Washington, D.C., for the emergency discussions which would link public health authorities and experts in various parts of world in a virtual meeting, she said.

The emergency committee could make recommendations including whether to change the pandemic alert level, she added.

"Because there are human cases associated with an animal influenza virus, and because of the geographical spread of multiple community outbreaks, plus the somewhat unusual age groups affected, these events are of high concern," the WHO said in a statement.
28624  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Election results in Indonesia on: April 25, 2009, 08:24:40 AM
JAKARTA, Indonesia — From Pakistan to Gaza and Lebanon, militant Islamic movements have gained ground rapidly in recent years, fanning Western fears of a consolidation of radical Muslim governments. But here in the world’s most populous Muslim nation just the opposite is happening, with Islamic parties suffering a steep drop in popular support.

In parliamentary elections this month, voters punished Islamic parties that focused narrowly on religious issues, and even the parties’ best efforts to appeal to the country’s mainstream failed to sway the public.

The largest Islamic party, the Prosperous Justice Party, ran television commercials of young women without head scarves and distributed pamphlets in the colors of the country’s major secular parties. But the party fell far short of its goal of garnering 15 percent of the vote, squeezing out a gain of less than one percentage point over its 7.2 percent showing in 2004.

That was a big letdown for a party and a movement that had grown phenomenally in recent years, even as more radical elements directed terrorist attacks against Western tourists and targets. The party had projected that it would double its share of seats in Parliament even as it stuck to its founding goal of bringing Shariah, or Islamic law, to Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, with 240 million people.

Altogether, the major Islamic parties suffered a drop in support from 38 percent in 2004 to less than 26 percent this year, according to the Indonesian Survey Institute, an independent polling firm whose figures are in keeping with partial official results.

Political experts and politicians attribute the decline to voters’ disillusionment with Islamic parties that once called for idealism, but became embroiled in the messy, often corrupt world of Indonesian politics. They also say that the popular president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is expected to be re-elected in July, appropriated the largest Islamic party’s signature theme of clean government through a far-reaching anticorruption drive.

On a deeper level, some of the parties’ fundamentalist measures seem to have alienated moderate Indonesians. While Indonesia has a long tradition of moderation, it was badly destabilized with the end of military rule in 1998, which gave rise to Islamist politicians who preached righteousness and to some hard-core elements, who practiced violence. The country has only recently achieved a measure of stability.

Although final results from the election on April 9 will not be announced until next month, partial official results and exit polls by several independent companies indicate that Indonesians overwhelmingly backed the country’s major secular parties, even though more of them are continuing to turn to Islam in their private lives.

“People in general do not feel that there should be an integration of faith and politics,” said Azyumardi Azra, director of the graduate school at Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University. “Even though more and more Muslims, in particular women, have become more Islamic and have a growing attachment to Islam, that does not translate into voting behavior.”

The Islamic parties’ 2004 surge occurred around the time that Indonesian terrorists were attacking hotels and nightclubs popular among Westerners, as well as the Australian Embassy here. A growing number of communities were adopting Shariah as some of the smaller, more hard-line Islamic parties also pushed to insert Islamic law in the Constitution.

The hard-line stance, though, was at odds with the attitudes of Indonesians; most of them practice a moderate version of Islam and were attracted to the Islamic parties for nonreligious reasons.

In 2004, just two years after its founding, the Prosperous Justice Party came out of nowhere, then joined the coalition government of President Yudhoyono and won several governors’ races. Although one of its founding principles is to bring Islamic law to Indonesia, the party attracted middle-class urban voters by emphasizing clean government, anticorruption policies and humanitarian activities.

Once the Islamic parties were in office, their pristine image was tarnished after several of their lawmakers were prosecuted in corruption cases. One member of the Prosperous Justice Party is under investigation in a bribery case.

The parties angered many Indonesians by pressing hard on several symbolic religious issues, like a vague “antipornography” law that could be used to ban everything from displays of partial nudity to yoga. The governor of West Java, a member of the Prosperous Justice Party, tried to ban a dance called jaipong, deeming it too erotic, but many people view it as part of their cultural heritage.

“There are now problems in hotels because they can’t serve alcohol,” said Jusuf Wanandi, a political analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy research group based here. “That’s why people started to recognize what they are up to and why the middle class that supported them now have second thoughts.”


Page 2 of 2)

Ahmad Zainuddin, a lawmaker with the Prosperous Justice Party and one of its founders, acknowledged that support for his party had fallen considerably in the election. Mr. Zainuddin, 42, who had predicted that the party would double its share of the votes, now says that it would be hard pressed to expand its appeal.

“If we emphasize Shariah or religious matters, our supporters will decline, so we should emphasize mostly clean government and anticorruption,” he said in an interview at the party’s headquarters, whose facade mostly bears images of the party’s humanitarian activities and has no references to its religious goals.

But Mr. Zainuddin — who graduated from Lipia, a Saudi-financed university here that promotes Wahhabism, a rigid interpretation of Islam — also believes in the party’s founding goal of carrying out Shariah in Indonesia.

The party is now split between those committed to pursuing the party’s Islamist goals and those who want to stress good government.

Zulkieflimansyah, 36, a lawmaker with the Prosperous Justice Party, said many younger party members were trying to steer the party away from its Islamist origins and away from older members who were inspired by radical Islamic organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or Jamaat-e-Islami in Pakistan.

Mr. Zulkieflimansyah, who, like many Indonesians, uses only one name, added: “If we are too critical, they will kick us harder than we thought. Or, borrowing an expression from our friends in the United States, don’t force a pig to sing. It will not work, and it annoys the pig as well.”

Despite the Islamic parties’ decline, they remain influential, analysts say. The country’s major secular parties, including President Yudhoyono’s Democratic Party, have courted them and their supporters. And the Prosperous Justice Party, despite its minor gain of less than one percentage point, is pressing to increase the number of ministers it has in the coalition government to four from three.

“It’s still not clear where they stand on many issues like freedom of expression, morality, the place of women,” said Ahmad Suaedy, director of the Wahid Institute, a research organization based here. “The agenda of many people inside the party is still to Islamize Indonesia, and that’s a constraint on democracy.”
28625  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Teach for America on: April 25, 2009, 08:17:42 AM
Here's a quiz: Which of the following rejected more than 30,000 of the nation's top college seniors this month and put hundreds more on a waitlist? a) Harvard Law School; b) Goldman Sachs; or c) Teach for America.

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Teach for America CEO Wendy Kopp.
If you've spent time on university campuses lately, you probably know the answer. Teach for America -- the privately funded program that sends college grads into America's poorest school districts for two years -- received 35,000 applications this year, up 42% from 2008. More than 11% of Ivy League seniors applied, including 35% of African-American seniors at Harvard. Teach for America has been gaining applicants since it was founded in 1990, but its popularity has exploded this year amid a tight job market.

So poor urban and rural school districts must be rejoicing, right? Hardly. Union and bureaucratic opposition is so strong that Teach for America is allotted a mere 3,800 teaching slots nationwide, or a little more than one in 10 of this year's applicants. Districts place a cap on the number of Teach for America teachers they will accept, typically between 10% and 30% of new hires. In the Washington area, that number is about 25% to 30%, but in Chicago, former home of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, it is an embarrassing 10%.

This is a tragic lost opportunity. Teach for America picks up the $20,000 tab for the recruitment and training of each teacher, which saves public money. More important, the program feeds high-energy, high-IQ talent into a teaching profession that desperately needs it. Unions claim the recent grads lack the proper experience and commitment to a teaching career. But the Urban Institute has studied the program and found that "TFA status more than offsets any experience effects. Disadvantaged secondary students would be better off with TFA teachers, especially in math and science, than with fully licensed in-field teachers with three or more years of experience."

It's true that only 10% of Teach for America applicants say they would have gone into education through another route, but two-thirds stay in the field after their two years. One program benefit is that its participants don't have to pass the dreadful "education" courses that have nothing to do with what they'll be teaching. Those courses are loved by unions as a credentialing barrier that makes it harder to get into teaching.

Some districts may be wising up. Mississippi's education superintendent has asked Teach for America to double the size of its 250-member corps in the poor Delta region and is encouraging local superintendents to raise hiring caps. Since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has also sharply increased the percentage of corps members among its new teachers, to 250.

But why have any caps? Teach for America young people should be able to compete on equal terms with any other new teaching applicant. The fact that they can't is another example of how unions and the education establishment put tenure and power above student achievement.
28626  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT on: April 25, 2009, 08:15:26 AM
ama Tactic Shields Health Care Bill From a Filibuster
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Published: April 24, 2009
WASHINGTON — At the prodding of the White House, Democratic Congressional leaders have agreed to pursue a plan that would protect major health care legislation from Republican opposition by shielding it from last-minute Senate filibusters.

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The aggressive approach reflects the big political claim that President Obama is staking on health care, and with it his willingness to face Republican wrath in order to guarantee that the Democrats, with their substantial majority in the Senate, could not be thwarted by minority tactics.

While some Democratic senators were reluctant to embrace the arrangement, Mr. Obama made clear at a White House session on Thursday afternoon that he favored it, people with knowledge of the session said.

Mr. Obama has given way in some battles with Congress, but the new stance suggests he may be much less willing to compromise when it comes to health care, his top legislative priority, even if it means a bitter partisan fight.

The no-filibuster arrangement is fiercely opposed by Republican leaders, who say health care is too important to be exempted from the Senate rules that usually mean major bills must win support from 60 senators.

At the White House meeting this week, Mr. Obama told senators from both parties that he did not want a health care overhaul to fail if it came up a vote shy of the 60 needed to break filibusters, the people with knowledge of the session said. Republicans have used the procedure themselves in the past, but Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, told Mr. Obama in the meeting that that approach was likely to heighten partisan tensions in Congress.

The arrangement is spelled out in a tentative budget agreement reached Thursday night between Congressional leaders and the White House, allowing health legislation that meets budget targets to be approved by a simple Senate majority, under a process known as reconciliation.

Democrats say they intend to use the process as a last resort, and will include a provision in the budget that would not trigger the Senate shortcut until Oct. 15. That would leave the door open for months of negotiations over health care legislation, which the Democrats hope to deliver by the end of the year.

“Virtually everyone who has been part of these discussions recognizes that reconciliation is not the preferred way to write this legislation,” said Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat of North Dakota and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “But the administration wants to have a reconciliation instruction as an insurance policy.”

Mr. Conrad said the decision not to invoke the no-filibuster rule until mid-October was intended “as a signal that people are very serious and want this to work through the normal give-and-take.”

But that might not mollify Republicans, who say that once Democrats have the ability to fast-track the measure they will have no incentive to negotiate seriously with Republicans.

Republicans have threatened to use their own procedural weapons to bog down the Senate if Democrats adopt a budget that restricts filibusters on an issue as important as health care.

“The floor of the Senate will become a very untidy place if they start using reconciliation for major policy,” warned Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, senior Republican on the budget panel.

Mr. Conrad and Representative John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina, the House Budget Committee chairman, were hammering out final details of the $3.5 trillion budget in talks with the administration that were expected to head into the weekend.

“Most issues have been resolved,” Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, said Friday, “but there are some that have not.”

The Democrats can rely on 58 votes in the Senate, and expected to add a 59th once the courts finish their review of the disputed election in Minnesota. But Mr. McConnell said that using the no-filibuster approach on health care “without the benefit of a full and transparent debate, does a disservice to the American people.”

“It would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis,” he said.

Mr. Conrad had advised against using reconciliation, saying it did not lend itself to such a complex issue as health care.

But Mr. Conrad came under intense pressure from the White House, his own Senate leadership and the House to include it, to guard against Republicans’ using the filibuster to kill a health care bill. Proponents of reconciliation note that House and Senate Republicans have so far stood almost united against the new administration’s major initiatives.

Besides the agreement to use reconciliation, negotiators were coming to terms on lingering tax issues and the overall level of domestic spending, with the amount originally requested by Mr. Obama expected to be reduced by about $10 billion for 2010. The White House was pushing for final approval of a budget by Wednesday to put a successful coda on the Obama administration’s first 100 days.

The tentative agreement would also apply reconciliation rules to a less-partisan fight over student lending, but does not include filibuster protection for energy or climate-change legislation.

Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, said Friday that he would prefer not to pursue health legislation through the reconciliation process.

“I think it gets in the way,” Mr. Baucus said, explaining that his goal was to produce a health care bill that could “get significantly more than 60 votes.”

“If we jam something down somebody’s throat, it’s not sustainable,” he said.

But other leading Democrats say they need the ability to circumvent filibusters if Republicans refuse to negotiate. They noted that Republicans often relied on reconciliation when they held power, notably using it to enact President George W. Bush’s tax cuts in 2001 and 2003.

Senate rules give the minority party, in this case the Republicans, ample ability to snarl the legislative process in a chamber where much activity is conducted under agreements between majority and minority leadership.

Republicans could force multiple votes on mundane matters, slow walk administration nominations, force Democrats to spend days teeing up bills for debate and require lengthy bills to be read in full. In 2005, Democrats threatened to bring the Senate to a halt using similar tactics when Republicans said they would strip them of the ability to filibuster judicial nominations. That showdown was averted.

Now, Republicans would run some political risk of being portrayed as obstructing health care and other initiatives sought by a popular new president if they were seen as shutting down the Senate out of pique.

Robert Pear contributed reporting.
28627  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Nattering nabob of negativism" on: April 25, 2009, 08:10:54 AM
Woof JKrenz:

Following up on your previous post concerning the matter of "plans":

First, I hope I do not grate on your nerves as a "nattering nabob of negatavism" (my fellow seniors may recognize an effort at humor here-- the quote is from disgraced VP under Richard Nixon Spiro Agnew).  There you are, fighting to protect us and I keep whining "Where's the plan?  WTF is the plan?"

You wrote:

"As far as a plan?  I don't mean to sound too cynical but everyday I spend over here (not sure about India), the less I think that the concept of a "plan" is something easily comprehended by folks in this part of the world unless they are directly benefited by it immediately and tangibly."

No doubt this is true, but my concern is US.  As events in Iraq showed us, having the right plan/strategy is essential.  As events in Iraq showed, and show us right now, having a Commander in Chief with commitment to the cause is essential-- and lack of commitment is catastropic.  I could be wrong, but IMHO right now we may be beginning to see the unraveling of everything we have fought for in Iraq because of the President's determination to bug out regardless of the consequences.  In a larger sense I worry about his innate ability to commit to anything requiring force of arms when the going gets tough-- and General Petraeus has just said that Afpakia could easily be a worse situation than Iraq was.    Do we the American people have what it takes to stay the course?  Does our President?

But I am getting ahead of myself-- so allow me to return to the matter of "WTF is "The Plan"?"

One example of a plan would be what retired Col Ralph Peters has suggested-- working from memory it was something like this:  Go in and kick ass, then leave while saying "Do something stupid again" and we'll be back even harder to kick your asses again.

Another example of a plan would be to seek to establish democracy and women's rights and defund the enemy by taking out the opium crops.

Another example would be to maintain a low grade war of indefinite duration keeping the AQ-Taliban distracted by by lobbing in Predators and the life.

Another example would be to take out Pakistan's nukes and come home.

These are all plans.  WTF is the plan under President Obama?

As best as I can tell it is to:

1) Give less troops than required and lob predators until , , , what?
2) Not address the role of the opium trade in financing the enemy
3) Continue to maintain the fantasy of the Durand Line (i.e. that there is a border between Afg and Pak and not simply Pashtunstan)
4) Wonder WTF to do as Pak collapses.
5) Lack the will to go after Pak's nukes-- and certainly Secretary Clinton and his recent responses to North Korea's missile test bodes quite poorly here.

28628  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Dog Brothers en Rosario, Argentina on: April 25, 2009, 07:32:16 AM
Nicolas participa frequentemente en nuestro foro para instructores dando buenos informes sobre sus clases y haciendome preguntas.  Estoy muy contento con su tarea en Argentina.
28629  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: April 25, 2009, 07:21:37 AM
Por favor comparta articulos aqui sobre la situacion.
28630  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: BO's bug out produces the predicted on: April 25, 2009, 07:17:59 AM
As our man in Iraq has been warning for some time now , , ,

BAGHDAD — A deadly outburst of violence appears to be overwhelming Iraq’s police and military forces as American troops hand over greater control of cities across the country to them. On Friday, twin suicide bombings killed at least 60 people outside Baghdad’s most revered Shiite shrine, pushing the death toll in one 24-hour period to nearly 150.

Iraqis at the site of one of two suicide attacks outside a shrine on Friday in Baghdad burned incense and placed candles. Nearly half of those killed were Iranians making a pilgrimage.

Like many recent attacks, the bombings appeared intended to inflame sectarian tensions, to weaken Iraq’s security forces and to discredit its government.

The bombings on Friday ominously echoed attacks like the one at a Shiite shrine in Samarra in February 2006 that unleashed a wave of sectarian bloodshed and pushed the country toward civil war.

The latest bombings — there have been at least 18 major attacks so far this month — so far have not prompted retaliatory attacks, but they have strained what remains a fragile society deeply divided between Sunnis and Shiites.

Two suicide bombers struck within five minutes of each other on streets leading to the shrine of Imam Musa al-Kadhim and his grandson. One of the attacks, and perhaps both, were carried out by women, witnesses said.

Nearly half of those killed were Iranians making a pilgrimage to the shrine, a golden-domed landmark in the predominantly Shiite Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad that is devoted to 2 of the 12 imams of Shiite Islam. At least 125 people were wounded, many of them also Iranians.

A loose coalition of Sunni militant forces, the Islamic State of Iraq, has claimed responsibility for carrying out many of the recent attacks.

Seemingly attentive to the public wrath, Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki took the unusual step of ordering the creation of a special committee to investigate the attack on Friday and the lapses in security that apparently allowed it to happen. The state television network, Al Iraqiya, reported on Friday evening that Mr. Maliki also ordered the detention of two national police commanders responsible for security in the area.

The killing of so many Iranians prompted Iraq to close its border crossing to Iran at Muntheriya in Diyala Province, through which thousands of Iranians a week pass on pilgrimages to Iraq’s holy Shiite sites.

The deadliest of the three bombings on Thursday struck a restaurant filled with Iranian travelers in Muqdadiya, a town in Diyala not far from the border. The toll in that attack rose to 56, with Iranians making up the majority of the dead. Over all, at least 89 people were killed in the bombings on Thursday, and more than 100 were wounded.

After the attacks on Friday, angry Iraqis who gathered amid the bloody debris blamed lax security and corruption of the police and government officials for what had happened. Some of their anger had a strongly sectarian cast.

“They have been ruling us for 1,400 years,” said a Shiite army soldier who identified himself only as Abu Haidar, referring to the Sunni domination of Shiites in Iraq. “We took it over for four years, and they are slaughtering us.”

The Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella insurgent group that includes Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, describes the recent attacks as part of a campaign called Harvest of the Good, which it announced in March.

In a statement distributed on extremist Web sites at the time, the group’s leader, Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, ridiculed President Obama as “Washington’s black man” and called his plan to withdraw American forces by 2011 an “implied avowal of defeat.”

On Thursday, Iraq’s military claimed to have arrested Mr. Baghdadi, but what was touted as a major success appeared to be in question.

Extremist Web sites denied his arrest, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors claims and other statements by terrorist and extremist groups. The American military command also said in a statement that it could not confirm “the arrest or capture” of the leader, who the American military believes to be a fictitious Iraqi figurehead of a movement that includes many foreign fighters.

American and Iraqi officials have expressed growing concern that the Islamic State of Iraq, Al Qaeda and other extremists have been able to regroup and exploit gaps in security that are forming as American commanders have closed scores of combat outposts across the country, leaving day-to-day security in the hands of the Iraqis. “All the killing of Shiites is done by Al Qaeda,” a man who identified himself only as Abu Mohammed said after Friday’s bombings. “America was not able to finish them off. How can our forces do it?”

A senior national police official on Friday bluntly cited the limitations of Iraq’s security forces and their equipment for detecting explosives, typically hand-held wands used at checkpoints that the official described as fakes.


(Page 2 of 2)

“We need to redeploy our security units to fill gaps because the American withdrawal gave the terrorists motives to reactivate their sleeper cells,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he said he would be punished for speaking frankly about such shortcomings. “We need more cars, modern equipment to detect explosives.”

A relative of a victim of a suicide bombing outside the Kazimiyah hospital in Baghdad on Friday.
Maj. Gen. Abdul-Aziz Mohammed Jasim, a senior commander at the Ministry of Defense, cited other factors behind the recent violence. They included what he called “reactions to political issues” that had divided Iraq since provincial elections in January and the release of thousands of detainees held by American forces into a feeble economy.

As part of a new security agreement with Iraq that took effect this year, the Americans are required to release all Iraqis in their custody or to transfer them to Iraqi jails. “They are releasing detainees randomly, and some of the detainees who have been released might still have contact with Al Qaeda,” General Jasim said in a telephone interview. “And when they return back to their normal life and do not find work, they return back to Al Qaeda.”

General Jasim also lamented the inability of Iraqi forces to stop attacks against what he described as soft targets, like markets and mosques. “The security procedures are continuing,” he said, “but the security forces cannot exist in every inch.”

It was not clear whether the attacks on Friday were specifically aimed at Iranians or the Shiite site they were visiting. The chief administrator at the shrine, Sheik Fadhil al-Anbari, blamed the police for failing to stop the bombings, which he said were intended to disrupt an economy that the visiting pilgrims had bolstered.

“The crowds of the Iranian visitors have brought a boom to the economy in Kadhimiya, and Al Qaeda does not want this,” he said in a telephone interview. “These attacks are clearly meant to sabotage the country.”

28631  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: April 25, 2009, 07:02:50 AM
Ready to start shipping any day now!!!  Waiting to get our shipment from the dupe house!
28632  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Gregg on: April 25, 2009, 07:01:25 AM
Sen. Judd Gregg is perhaps best known for something he didn't do. Two weeks into the Obama administration, he announced that he was leaving the Senate to become commerce secretary. Two weeks later, he withdrew his name, drawing a testy jab from the administration for denying it a bipartisan feather in its cap.

Zina SaundersIt's hard to reconcile the man who nearly boarded the Obama express with the tough-minded Republican senator who sat across from The Wall Street Journal's editorial board at our offices earlier this week. As for the lessons he learned from his dalliance with the administration, he reserves his criticism for himself: "I should have been smart enough to see the daylight before I walked in the door. . . . I don't think there's any big lesson here for anybody but myself, which is the obvious: It would have been impossible for me to be with the president 100% of the time, which is what a cabinet secretary has to be."

Just how obvious that should have been became clear in the course of our interview. Also obvious, Mr. Gregg said, was that the Obama administration is filled with "really capable, dedicated, smart, sharp people with an agenda that they intend to pursue aggressively."

The kind words mostly stop there. From health care to global warming, financial regulation, spending and tax policy, Mr. Gregg doesn't pull any punches in his criticism of the new president. He may be "a charismatic person" with "a very strong understanding of who he is and what he wants to do," but when it comes to the substance of what Mr. Obama seeks to accomplish, Mr. Gregg is less charitable. "They have a goal," the senator says, "and he's very open about it. They are going to grow this government."

Mr. Gregg believes the stakes are high. "This is the first time a budget's had real meaning in a long time," he says. In recent years, presidential budgets have been formulaic exercises. Even if Congress went on to adopt them, they would only serve, at best, as rough guidelines for the real work of crafting the appropriations bills that actually set discretionary funding levels. But this budget "is real, and he [Mr. Obama] intends to push it."

That's bad news, in Mr. Gregg's view, because "We're headed on an unsustainable path. The simple fact is these [budget] numbers don't work and the practical implications of them are staggering for the nation and the next generation."

His "main concern," he says, "is that if you look at the Obama budget, it projects on average about a $1 trillion deficit [every year] over the next 10 years." And as a result of all that spending, "You see the size of government growing from 21% [of gross domestic product] to 22%, to 23%, 24%, 25% . . . toward 30%."

Set against this spending growth, Mr. Gregg points out, "the revenue base is only so big. Granted, right now it's way down because of the economic situation. But even if you took it back to an economy that's performing extremely well, say [revenues of] even 19% [of GDP], you can't close that gap under the present projected situation. And so we're in trouble. And the policies of this administration are driving that to an even more acute situation." Spending and deficits are both heading skyward, and government debt held by the public is heading toward 80% of GDP.

For Mr. Gregg, this is like living a nightmare. He has been a hard-nosed advocate for government spending restraint since his days as a Congressman (1981-87) and governor of New Hampshire (1987-93). At times, his commitment to fiscal responsibility led him to oppose tax cuts when they weren't matched by spending restraint. Those stances incurred the ire of his Republican colleagues, but he always stuck to his fiscal-responsibility guns. Now he's staring down a spending explosion that makes those battles look picayune.

One of the big drivers of government spending in the Obama budget is universal health insurance. And on this point, Mr. Gregg says, "At least Obama was half-way honest about how much he was going to spend on health care. He had it at $600 billion. And the real number . . . is $1.2 trillion." But that's better than Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad. "What Conrad did was take the entire amount off-budget and not account for any of it." Mr. Obama's budget, therefore, "was honest to a higher degree. It held itself to a higher degree of integrity than the Senate budget or the House budget."

Well, except for one point: "the huge savings that they claimed on defense spending, which was a total fraud." Mr. Gregg refers to the fact that the administration's budget builds the full cost of the surge in Iraq into the budget baseline. Under that assumption, we would continue to appropriate money for the surge every year for the next 10 years. That allows the administration to "find" $1.6 trillion in savings, "all of which is spending we would never do," according to Mr. Gregg.

Health-care reform is not just about the price tag. How it gets done matters too. And in Mr. Gregg's view, the Obama administration's goal is crystal-clear. "This is a single-payer government. . . . It doesn't want to say that publicly and it rejects it publicly. But the goal is to push that substantively. Because that's what they believe." In other words, what Mr. Obama bills as a "public option" for those who need health insurance but can't get it through their employer or in the private market would soon become the only option -- even for those happy with their current insurance.

Before you cry "conspiracy," Mr. Gregg argues that he has history on his side. The Democrats, he says, pulled the same public-private switcheroo before with student loans for college. Back in the late 1990s, "there was a huge debate in the committee . . . between myself and [Senator Ted] Kennedy over a private plan versus a public plan." In the end, they compromised -- the government would offer loans directly to students, but that program would have to compete with private-sector lenders. "And the agreement was very formal, and the record shows this very clearly. We agreed to level the playing field, put both plans on the playing field at an equal status and see who won. Well, private plans won. Big time."

Given the choice, most borrowers went to the private sector for their loans. But the Democrats who wanted to nationalize the student-loan market did not take defeat in the marketplace gracefully. "They didn't like that," Mr. Gregg says. "So ever since then they've tilted the playing field back and now they're going to wipe out the private plans in their budget."

When it comes to health insurance, Mr. Gregg expects more of the same. "That's the scenario that you're going to see if you have a public plan for insurance that competes with the private plans. That's the game plan" -- call it competition at first, but tighten the screws until the private insurers leave the market or get forced out. But with health-care spending representing 17% of GDP and climbing, the stakes are much, much larger. "Everyone in this country is affected by these policies."

And while the aspiration for universal coverage may be noble, the practical realities of getting there may prove harder for the American public to swallow. "There's no question," the senator says, "that this is a debate about rationing to a large degree. All your single-payer systems are rationing systems. It's also a debate about technology and innovation. Because you will not have capital pursuing technology, innovation and science if it's health-care related, because the return on capital won't be there. And these things are so expensive, especially on the pharmaceutical side and the biologic side, that you'll dramatically slow improvements in the quality of health care through science with a single-payer plan." Mr. Gregg thinks that critique will resonate with the public.

Even so, given the balance of power in Washington, Mr. Gregg gives the Democrats good chances of success in nationalizing our health-insurance market. "I think the odds are pretty good that it's going to happen -- that you'll have a major health-care reform bill pass." As he says, "Elections have consequences."

That said, Mr. Gregg doesn't necessarily think the American people will be happy with those consequences if the Democrats succeed in pushing through a "stalking horse" for a single-payer health-care system. "If they produce a partisan bill and pass it on a party-line vote, it's their baby," he warns. "They're going to have to defend it in the next election cycle and it's likely that it's not going to be perceived as fair by the American people."

Moreover, he says, "I don't think the American people want unilateral government control over the entire health-care system. I think most people understand that we've got a pretty good health-care system. It doesn't reach as many people as it should, and that has to be corrected. But it's innovative, it gives you decent health care for most Americans, and it's a lot better than any of the other countries that have these massive national plans."

That, together with the runaway spending and growing pile of debt, could yet set the stage for a Republican comeback, and sooner than most pundits would predict. Mr. Gregg will not run for re-election when his current term ends next year. Republicans, he says, "became very clouded as to what we stood for under the Bush presidency." But now they're getting their "definition" back.

"We're beginning to speak in a much more definitional voice on issues that were historically Republican issues: fiscal responsibility, giving individuals the opportunity to go out and create a better life for themselves, American exceptionalism, viewing America as a special place, not apologizing for our nation. These are things that we've always, as a party, resonated around. And I think we're starting to do it again." He corrects himself: "I know we are."

The Republican excesses during the Bush administration "haven't been forgiven and they haven't been forgotten" by voters. But if the president and his majorities in Congress get their way, voters will, Mr. Gregg believes, be ready for an alternative. "And we're the only show in town."

Mr. Carney is a member of the Journal's editorial board and the coauthor of "Freedom, Inc.," forthcoming from Crown Business in the fall.

28633  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizen-Police interactions on: April 25, 2009, 06:57:18 AM
1. Supreme Court decision on search incident to arrest in vehicles:

In a 5-to-4 decision, the majority overturned the rule in New York v. Belton, 453 U. S. 454 (1981). Police may search the passenger compartment of a vehicle incident to arrest of an occupant or recent occupant only if it is reasonable to believe that the arrestee might access the vehicle at the time of the search or that the vehicle contains evidence of the offense of arrest.

The case is Arizona v. Gant, #07-542, 2009 WL 1045962, 2009 U.S. Lexis 3120, viewable at
28634  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: April 25, 2009, 06:56:38 AM

It is my hope that this thread will see lots of contributions and discussions, for example in this moment are there any suggestions for the Swine Flu now threatening to break out quite nastily?  Many are dead in Mexico already, where schools and Museums are already closed.  See the last several entries at
28635  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / "Swine Flu"-- cuantos muertos en Mexico? on: April 25, 2009, 12:54:09 AM
?Que honda con el "swine flu"?!? the mexican counts are
different than what we are seeing in the news but it has other good info.

28636  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / More on Swine Flu on: April 25, 2009, 12:50:57 AM
28637  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: April 25, 2009, 12:45:46 AM
Looking forward to a rocking good time tomorrow!
28638  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Epidemics: Bird Flu, TB, etc on: April 24, 2009, 10:46:06 PM the mexican counts are
 different than what we are seeing in the news but it has other good info.
28639  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rubin advocates for BO on: April 24, 2009, 10:44:52 PM
Beneath the attacks on President Barack Obama's performance at recent meetings abroad lie two fundamental questions about American foreign policy. The first is the extent to which Washington should make changing despised leaders of other countries a primary goal. The second is how to use the power of the presidency.

APWhat the chorus of Mr. Obama's critics is ignoring is that the 2008 election was, in part, a referendum on President Bush's policy of regime change and his approach to diplomacy.

Candidate Barack Obama could not have been clearer. He was going to talk to foreign leaders directly whether the United States agreed with their policies or not. And the purpose of this new diplomacy, Mr. Obama emphasized, was not to change regimes around the world but to advance American interests. His opponent, Sen. John McCain, took the opposite view. He wouldn't be seen in the company of Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. And as far as Iran was concerned, Mr. McCain would demand that Tehran capitulate on a series of issues as the price for a meeting with the president.

Despite the results of November's election, Mr. Obama's critics are judging him on the basis of the old Bush calculus. Whether it is Venezuela or Cuba, they assess Mr. Obama's actions based on whether or not they immediately contribute to the downfall of a regime. If not, then they go off in high dudgeon.

Worse yet, Mr. Obama's critics are using the same logic that contributed to early failures in Iraq. They say the president's politeness to Hugo Chávez, for example, should be judged by the standards of the Cold War. They point to the fact that dissidents in Eastern Europe were heartened when President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an "evil empire." But that truth doesn't always translate to other parts of the world. If Iraq has taught us anything, it is that not all countries respond the same way when a dictator falls. Unfortunately, many heirs to the Reagan tradition haven't learned that policy by analogy is a risky business.

Whether the challenge is Afghanistan, Pakistan or nuclear proliferation, the new administration seems determined not to be distracted by the advocates of regime change or the likes of Hugo Chávez. Instead, the Obama administration has used recent summits in London, Prague and Trinidad as a way to restore respect for the U.S. abroad, and to build the base of support that is necessary to achieve larger goals.

Mr. Obama not only has a different view than Mr. Bush about the ends of U.S. foreign policy, but he has also promised to use different means than his predecessor. Mr. Bush believed that he could extract concessions from recalcitrant governments as the price of admission for dialogue with the U.S. When it came to preventing North Korea from building nuclear weapons, or Iran from developing nuclear technology, the Bush policy failed. Denying direct access to U.S. officials did not compel the governments in Pyongyang or Tehran to reverse course.

Soon enough Mr. Obama's critics will be howling that he is meeting with the leaders of problematic countries with no dramatic concessions to show for it. But again, they will be missing the point. As he made clear during the campaign, the president believes direct diplomacy is a tool in America's arsenal. It is not a prize to be won.

Mr. Obama's new diplomacy is well-suited to an era of democratic government and instant communication. By refusing to snub Hugo Chávez, Mr. Obama makes it harder for dictators and anti-American activists to demonize the U.S. Of course, national security is not a popularity contest. But since governments around the world are increasingly democratic, they must respond to the attitudes of their people. A popular America has more leverage at the negotiating table on issues from trade to terrorism. While Republican operatives may dismiss the significance of having a president the world admires, the fact is that Mr. Obama's popularity brings tangible benefits we have lost over the last eight years.

If the president's critics continue to judge him by Bush-era standards of diplomacy and regime change, they are going to have a lot to shout about over the next four years. But the majority of Americans who supported Barack Obama will withhold judgment and give the administration the opportunity to implement its initiatives on climate change, nuclear proliferation, Afghanistan and Iran. They may even give the new policies time to work.

Mr. Rubin, an adjunct professor at Columbia's School of International Affairs, was an assistant secretary of state under President Bill Clinton.
28640  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Say when , , , on: April 24, 2009, 10:35:09 PM
Forwarded to me by a MD friend in India:

Some incisive comments about why the puki army wont fight the telebunnies.. from
0230 GMT April 25, 2009

With Pakistan, there's the news...

Pakistan Army chief delivers stern warning to the militants that they will be severely dealt with unless they stop taking over more territory...Chief says Army rank and file have decided to do their duty...Taliban withdrawing from Buner...Army operation in Swat imminent in 48 hours...Chief says US pronouncements warning of collapse of Pakistan are to be condemned...a democratic nation of 170-million cannot be intimidated by a few insurgents...Army will be gloves off in dealing with rebels in Swat...Government says Buner is being dealt with, 250 troops have been sent to restore law and order...etc etc etc


Then there's the news


Non-resident Taliban are withdrawing from Buner; local Taliban will stay, and will not carry arms as Taliban has come to Buner "only to preach true Islam" and wish to harm no-one...non-resident Taliban have been responsible for looting some local houses...250 lightly armed police did try and enter Buner, but after one convoy was ambushed the police are withdrawing...locals says Taliban controls entire district, including government/administration builds, government officials have fled, women nowhere to be seen in the bazaars except a few fully covered...withdrawing Taliban are moving into Swabi District...etc etc etc


You've guessed it...


The first version is the Pakistan Government's official version, the second is the reality. How can the Pakistan Army, which has been sitting licking its wounds, and which did absolutely nothing as the Pakistan overran Buner, and taunted the army by staging a victory past right outside the Punjab Regimental Center in Mardan, now suddenly launch a major operation to clear Swat in 48 hours? Doesn't it take a couple of weeks at least to plan things in detail, make sure officers and men know what they're doing, arrange the logistics, etc etc.?

Could it be a co-inky-dinky that the army began issuing these stern warnings right after Massa Sam threatened the direst consequences if Pakistan did not move against the insurgents? PS: you didn't hear about the US threats to Pakistan because that's all "diplomacy" behind the scenes.

And having had its sorry rear whupped three times by the Taliban in Swat by the Taliban, how come the Army will eliminate the insurgents? And 'scuse us, are you going to drop nukes on the Taliban when you say you will be gloves off? Because, dear Army, you already have many times thrown everything you have against the Taliban to no avail: tank, artillery, helicopter gunships, and unrestricted air bombardment.


Now let's analyze the real news a bit...

So suppose its World War II, and the Allies are advancing up Italy, and several divisions are withdrawn. Do the Germans think the Allies are defeated and so they are withdrawing. No, dear boys and girls, those withdrawing divisions are going to a new invasion of Southern France, opening a new front against Germany. The Allies are so confident they're going to take Italy they decide to redeploy several divisions (was it seven divisions? memory is a bit foggy). As far as GHQ Berlin is concerned, this is Not Good News.

So look at this folks: just week before last, Taliban had not overrun Swabi District. It was contested territory. So if they are now "withdrawing" from Buner into Swabi, is it for the spring time blossoms and fresh air? Hardly. They're preparing to overrun Swabi District. This is Not Good News. as Bill Roggio has explained, once they take control of Swabi, Mardan, and Haripur  Districts, it's the beginning of the end for Islamabad.

The situation is so serious, Pakistan Government is deploying Rangers to the hills outside Islamabad, and the Rangers HQ is issuing heroic statements such as: "To get to Islamabad they will have to get past us."

Problemo, dudes. Agreed the Rangers are not the Frontier Corps, but they are also lightly-armed paramilitary. They havent seen action for 37 years. They are also locally recruited, and where do people think the insurgents fighting India in Kashmir for the last 22 years come from? Surprise: they come from the Punjab. So if we say the Frontier Corps would not fight the insurgents in the NWFP because they were kin, why should Pakistan Rangers fight to defend Islamabad when they will also be fighting kin?

Not so fast, McGee you say, there's no such thing as the Punjab Taliban. Quite right, Meinherr. Punjab fundamentalist insurgent groups go by different names, and they've joined up with the Taliban. They want now to overthrow the Government of Pakistan as much as the Taliban do because they believe the GOP, under pressure from US, has abandoned the jihad against India; even though the Kashmir insurgency has restarted, these lads have bigger ambitions than just getting killed in Kashmir for the next 22 years.

And - surprise: the bulk of the Pakistan Army is Punjabi. a lot of hot air has been passed about the Pakistan Army not wanting to fight the Taliban because they are brothers. Hello, peeps. There's unlikely to be any village in Pakistan Punjab that doesn't have a significant number of men in the Army. Pakistan Army Punjabi, Sindhi, and Baluchi troops refused to fight the NWFP Taliban just as much as the NWFP troops. Why when upward of 70% of the Army is Punjabi, are these men now going to suddenly start fighting, particularly when their own brothers (literally) join in the attack on Islamabad?


Now to the nub of the matter


Every time we try and explain why Pakistan won't fight the Taliban regardless of what the US does, we get diverted by events. These darn insurgents don't have the decency to wait till Editor finishes his exposition before making their next advance. Bally unsporting. So we're going to summarize our argument in a few  quick paras, and expound away another time.

First, Pakistan is not going to sacrifice its national security for the US, and its national security requires control of Afghanistan.

Second, every last person in Pakistan aside from a few bootlickers have had it to here with the Americans. Americans have beaten and cursed and spat on the Pakistani dog for so long, the dog is ready to fight back even if its knows it will be killed. There is a point beyond you cannot push a human being: he will not do your will, even if you shoot him. The Pakistanis are there.

Editor and others who know what's going in Pakistan can assure Washington: if the Army is required by its senior officers to take anything more than symbolic action against the Taliban, the senior officers will be killed. The senior officer have no intention of being killed, if only because they above all have had to smile and bow and scrape to the Americans.

But you are wrong, Editor, will say a dozen people who have just returned from their tenth trip to Pakistan. The government, bureaucracy, army, are all against the Taliban. They will fight.

Really? So when is it they will fight? They haven't so far, and pretty soon - months, likely, all of Pakistan west of the Indus will be Indian country. We can go only by Pakistan's deeds, not words, and its deeds show it has not fought. So where's the evidence they will fight?

Oh right, they SAY they will fight. So in eight years the Americans have not learned the Pakistanis are past masters of saying one thing and doing another? Every American who deals with the Pakistanis know this. If Head Office doesn't know it, then good luck America, you deserve to lose Pakistan.

The rank and file Pakistani soldier doesn't want to fight Taliban. He wants to kick American butt, all the way to Kabul and points west. Rank and file cannot go up against the Americans: the Americans will destroy the Pakistan military inside of two weeks. But they can kick away by continuing to back the Taliban.

Last, and perhaps most important, we're going to say something that is so obvious to anyone familiar with Pakistan, but that's so not obvious to the great majority of Americans: the army and the people of Pakistan no longer want to fight for Pakistan under the command of the current military and civil leadership.

For decades Pakistanis have chafed under the rule of the Brown Imperialists. They hate them, but saw no alternative, and saw no way of overthrowing their brown oppressors. All this business about Benazir the Great Democrat was just so much twaddle. Benazir was no different from anyone else who have ruled Pakistan in six decades. They have ALL been oppressors.

The Taliban, for the first time in Pakistan's history, are offering an alternative to the Brown Imperialists. They are offering Pakistanis a reason and a means to fight - not the Taliban, but the BI's. And guess who the Americans are allied and identified with?

Hint 1: Its not the people of Pakistan. Hint 2: Restudy Russia 1917, particularly the army. Hint 3: after that, study Iran 1979.

Is the Pakistan revolution going to happen tomorrow? Cant say. Will it happen day after? Still cant say. Is it never going to happen? Can say: it is going to happen.

As for Head Office, aka Toon Town, aka Washington, here's our solution to the problem: Pray, and pray hard. We got nothing to lose. Because its all lost already.

28641  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / After the fight on: April 24, 2009, 10:06:28 PM
Kicking this thread off with a nice post from Gabe Suarez on the WT forum:

 After The Fight - What To Say?


At GOTX, they are discussing the after-event-discourse. In other words, what do you say...or not, after you have whacked an attacker. As expected, the variety of advice is as different as people's choices in guns and ammo. A prevailing attitude is to simply shut up and say nothing under any circumstances. I disagree and here is why -

I have been in a few of these and also investigated quite a few of these. I noted some trends, as well tried to use those trends to my benefits when it was my turn at the plate.

The bad guys will not be "keeping quiet". They will be telling the cops you pulled on them, perhaps create some appearance of racism if they can exploit it, and generally make it look like you are the bad guy. What happened may not be obvious to the cops who come out to investigate.

So picture this scene. Two guys have been, as we used to say, "eye f*cking you", and followed you for some time, maybe yelling stuff at you. Finally, while you did your best to avoid the issue, they pressed the confrontation and attacked with sufficient force to justify a gun solution.

You shoot one of them, wounding him, and the other runs off. You saw the first man drop his pistol in a clump of ivy and the other man throw his knife on a rooftop as he ran away.

You immediately call 911 and give a very cryptic account of what happened..."there has been a shooting...I'm the victim...send help".

In the meantime, one of the assailants...the one who got away, is also calling. His story is a little different. According to him you called them "dirty Norwegians", and pulled your gun on them and shot his buddy. As far as the police know...they got two calls. One a cryptic call, from someone who seemed to be concealing somet6hing, and another reporting what amounts to a racial hate crime.

They arrive on scene and after controlling the event, ask you what happened. What you do now will have a bearing on the rest of your life.

The guys who advocate saying nothing will not be able to point to the two weapons which were discarded...and which will disappear as soon as the scene is cleared. The police may not even look for them since no one told them they were in existence. No one will tell them you are a good guy who was a victim of an attempted robbery, as the ONLY info paints you as some KKK wannabe.'ll have a lawyer...but all of the evidence the police may have collected will no longer be available, and the investigation will not have been an even and equal one, but rather one where you alone are the suspect.

See the point??

Is it hard to control your mouth? Yes it is. But no harder than to control your trigger finger, your desire to drink to excess, or to control the vertical displacement of your zipper. As the Nike commercial said....Just Do It.

It, like many other things, can be trained and developed. If you ignore it, it will never be developed.

Think in these train gun handling and shooting skills to make them reflexive in the most stressful event someone is ever likely to face....and we tend to do fine. The guys who never train...thinking they will "rise to the occasion" usually fail. To say, "I will simply say nothing", is in that same line of thinking is it not?

I agree that saying nothing is a good default, but the default is not always a good idea.

What I have done with success is this. I give a limited statement and them excuse myself from any further questions until my mouthpiece arrives.

Anything I say focuses on what the bad guy(s) have done and not on what I may have done. Something like this -

"Officer. I am glad you are here. Thank God.

I am a good guy. I was minding my own business on my way home when those two guys attacked me.

The one in the blue shirt had a knife. He threw it up there on the roof as he ran away. there should be some blood on it from my arm when I blocked his attempt to stab me.

The guy on the gurney was armed with a pistol. He dropped it right there in that pile of ivy when he fell.

I was terrified. Boy am I glad you guys are here.

Listen...I am still a little shaken up. I want to cooperate with you guys. This has never happened to me (or this hasn't happened in a while). I have heard stories of good guys getting sued for saying too much. My attorney is on his way and as soon as he arrives I will be happy to give a statement with him there. Until then, I think I need to sit down and calm my blood pressure."

At that point things are no longer in your control but you have set the investigation on the proper course, and the truth will be determined instead of being overlooked.
28642  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Yemen: Reality bites BO in butt again on: April 24, 2009, 08:32:12 AM
Yemen Dispute Slows Closing of Guantánamo
Send To Phone
LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy WILLIAM GLABERSON and ROBERT F. WORTH
Published: April 23, 2009
The Obama administration’s effort to return the largest group of Guantánamo Bay detainees to Yemen, their home country, has stalled, creating a major new hurdle for the president’s plan to close the prison camp in Cuba by next January, American and Yemeni officials say.

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Canada Told to Request the Return of a Citizen at Guantánamo (April 24, 2009) “We’re at a complete impasse,” said one American official who is involved in the issue but was speaking without authorization and so requested anonymity. “I don’t know that there’s a viable Plan B.”

The Yemeni government has asked Washington to return its detainees and has said that it would need substantial aid to rehabilitate the men. But the Obama administration is increasingly skeptical of Yemen’s ability to provide adequate rehabilitation and security to supervise returned prisoners. In addition, American officials are wary of sending detainees to Yemen because of growing indications of activity by Al Qaeda there.

The developments are significant for the Obama administration because the 97 Yemeni detainees make up more than 40 percent of the remaining 241 prisoners at Guantánamo Bay. The question of what to do with them “is integral to the process of closing Guantánamo,” said Ken Gude, an associate director at the Center for American Progress who has written about closing the prison camp.

The standoff over the Yemeni detainees comes on top of other difficulties that have emerged since President Obama announced his intention to close the prison that has drawn international criticism for years.

Some Republicans in Congress have mounted stiff resistance to closing Guantánamo, and officials in some American communities, fearing that terrorism suspects could be tried or held in their courts or prisons, said they would fight any such plans. Also, while some European governments have promised to resettle detainees, specific agreements have been slow in coming.

The Yemenis not only are the biggest group of detainees, but also are widely seen as the most difficult to transfer out of Guantánamo. Other countries are wary of many of the Yemeni detainees because jihadist groups have long had deep roots in Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world and the homeland of Osama bin Laden’s father. If the Yemenis are not sent home, there may be few other options for many of the 97 men, detainees’ lawyers and human rights groups say.

Still, Muhi al-Deen al-Dhabi, Yemen’s deputy foreign affairs minister, said in an interview that the United States was now trying to persuade other countries to accept Yemeni detainees and appeared to have rejected Yemen’s request to have its citizens at Guantánamo returned.

“If the United States is going to transfer the Yemeni detainees to a third party, we cannot stop that,” Mr. Dhabi said.

Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, met last month with Mr. Obama’s deputy national security adviser, John O. Brennan. The State Department said Mr. Brennan raised “the U.S. government’s concerns about the direct return of detainees to Yemen.”

The Bush administration also failed to reach a deal with President Saleh, but the Obama administration had hoped to get increased cooperation from Yemen, which critics say has a history of coddling Islamic extremists and releasing convicted terrorists. Complicating the task is the fact that security in Yemen has been deteriorating for more than a year, with several terrorist attacks, including a suicide bombing outside the American Embassy compound in September that killed 13 people.

Among the 97 Yemeni detainees are some men who appear to be candidates for transfer to other countries, including about a dozen with ties to Saudi Arabia. American officials have described some of the Yemenis as jihadist foot soldiers and have suggested that a few, like a student captured while visiting other Yemenis in Pakistan, may simply have been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Perhaps a dozen or more Yemeni detainees could face prosecution in the United States, including Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who was charged in the Bush administration’s military commission system with being a coordinator of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But with just nine months remaining before Mr. Obama’s January 2010 deadline for closing the prison, some lawyers for the men say they are becoming convinced that there may be no viable strategy to relocate them.

David H. Remes, a lawyer for 16 Yemeni detainees, said it appeared that many of the men might remain in American custody. “Unless President Obama reconsiders his decision to close Guantánamo,” Mr. Remes said, “the Yemeni detainees would have to be brought to the U.S. and put in some sort of prison.”

Although administration officials would not comment on the talks with Yemen, a senior administration official said the government was “working to ensure that any detainee who is transferred abroad will be appropriately monitored, rehabilitated, and assimilated back into their society.”

The complexities of the issues surrounding the detainees are a reflection of Yemen’s tangled domestic and international problems. It is a state that often appears on the verge of chaos. A weak central government is fighting a persistent insurgency in the north, restive separatists in the south and a growing Qaeda presence.

Some Yemeni officials say President Saleh, a wily former army officer, has used the internal threats — and perhaps even nurtured them — to press the United States and Yemen’s neighbor Saudi Arabia for more aid.

As a result, people who have discussed the detainee issues with Yemeni officials say the Obama administration’s frustration with the Yemeni government may be well founded.

Mr. Saleh has publicly demanded the return of the detainees. But Joanne Mariner, director of Human Rights Watch’s terrorism and counterterrorism program, said that after meeting top Yemeni officials, it appeared that the Saleh government seemed to see the detainees as a potential source of security and financial problems.

“Politically, they need to give the impression that they’re fighting to get their people back,” Ms. Mariner said, but she added that it was not clear whether the Yemeni officials were working to meet any American requirements.

One senior Yemeni official, she said, seemed to suggest that Yemen would require a huge payment from the American government to resettle the detainees. A proper rehabilitation program, the official claimed, could cost as much as $1 million for each detainee, totaling nearly $100 million.

In the recent interview, Mr. Dhabi, the deputy foreign affairs minister, did not mention a price tag. But he said that creating a rehabilitation program would be “long, costly and would require cooperation.” He said the Americans were “disappointed” to hear that.

Every option for the Yemenis at Guantánamo seems to have its roadblocks. There have long been reports that many Yemeni detainees may go to Saudi Arabia’s rehabilitation program for former jihadists. That program has been widely praised in the Middle East, despite recent disclosures that some graduates who are former Guantánamo detainees have returned to terrorism.

But the Saudis have noted that Yemen demands that its citizens be sent home, and a high-level Saudi official said his country would not take any of the detainees unless Yemen asked it to.

William Glaberson reported from New York, and Robert F. Worth from Beirut, Lebanon. Margot Williams contributed reporting from New York.
28643  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Farmer, anti-federalist letter on: April 24, 2009, 08:17:32 AM
"Besides, to lay and collect internal taxes in this extensive country must require a great number of congressional ordinances, immediately operation upon the body of the people; these must continually interfere with the state laws and thereby produce disorder and general dissatisfaction till the one system of laws or the other, operating upon the same subjects, shall be abolished."

--Federal Farmer, Antifederalist Letter, 10 October 1787
28644  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Using the courts of Kenya on: April 24, 2009, 08:15:07 AM
Published: April 23, 2009
MOMBASA, Kenya — In the shadow of Fort Jesus, a 16th-century Portuguese stronghold that truly belongs to the era of slave raiders and pirate ships, is the office of Kenya’s premier pirate lawyer.

More than three dozen Somali pirates are behind bars in Shimo la Tewa, the notoriously decrepit prison in Mombasa.
And these days, the lawyer, Francis Kadima, is very busy.

On Thursday morning, his newest batch of clients suddenly arrived: 11 thin-faced, bewildered suspects who were marched into a Mombasa courtroom to face charges of piracy on the high seas. This month, French commandos captured them — and a small arsenal — after they were suspected of trying to commandeer a cargo ship.

“When I first started handling pirate cases, I thought these guys would be like kidnappers, strong, you know, and really crafty and sophisticated,” Mr. Kadima said. “But not these guys. They’re just ordinary. If anything, they’re expressionless.”

Kenya is emerging as the venue of choice for piracy cases and an important piece of the worldwide crackdown on piracy. The spate of recent hijackings off Somalia’s coast has stiffened international resolve. Just a few months ago, foreign warships would catch suspected pirates cruising around in speedy skiffs with guns and ladders and then dump them back on the Somali beach because of sticky legal questions. Those days are just about gone.

Now, the piracy suspects are getting a one-way ticket to Mombasa, a historic port town where Kenyan officials are all too eager to punish the seafaring thugs imperiling their vital shipping industry. Under recent, innovative agreements with the United States, Britain and the European Union, Kenya has promised to try piracy suspects apprehended by foreign navies. In return, the other countries have agreed to improve Kenya’s antiquated courts. Many Kenyan judges still wear wigs and take everything down by hand, making trials agonizingly slow.

In a few cases, countries that have caught piracy suspects accused of attacking their own citizens have chosen to prosecute them back home. That was demonstrated this week, when a wide-eyed young Somali man landed in New York to face charges that he had kidnapped an American sea captain. But according to maritime law experts, that is not necessary.

“The law on piracy is 100 percent clear,” said Kenneth Randall, dean of the University of Alabama School of Law and an international law expert. “Any country can arrest these guys and prosecute them at home.”

When it comes to putting pirates on trial, there are some practical complications, like serving papers to witnesses who may be Filipino or Kenyan sailors with no mailing addresses who spend all year at sea. Or finding a Somali translator in Mumbai, India, or Copenhagen.

In light of those problems, most nations have been hesitant to undertake piracy trials. As a result, there is growing support for the Kenyan solution. Today, more than three dozen Somali pirates sit behind bars in Shimo la Tewa, Mombasa’s notoriously decrepit prison, which just so happens to be a few miles up the beach from some of this country’s most magnificent palm-fringed resorts.

Western diplomats are hoping that this courtroom effort, coupled with a reinvigorated military response involving warships from more than a dozen nations, will put a dent in Somalia’s stubborn piracy problem. At a meeting in Brussels on Thursday, donor nations pledged more than $200 million for Somalia, much of it for security, on land and at sea.

Last year, Somali pirates hijacked more than 40 ships, netting tens of millions of dollars in ransom. Many major shipping companies are now opting to sail all the way around Africa instead of risking the Somali seas.

Antti Lehmusjarvi, a legal adviser for the European Union who came to the Mombasa courthouse on Thursday to observe the arraignment of the 11 piracy suspects, said Kenya was the best solution — for now.

“Obviously, Kenya needs assistance,” Mr. Lehmusjarvi said. He rattled off all the help the European Union was providing, including computers and money to bring more qualified Kenyan judges to Mombasa. “But the law here is very clear,” he said. “And in Somalia, a stable legal framework doesn’t exist.”

Section 69 (1) of the Kenyan penal code reads, “Any person who, in territorial waters or upon the high seas, commits any act of piracy jure gentium is guilty of the offence of piracy.” The punishment can be life in prison.

But Mr. Kadima, a former magistrate himself, takes issue with this. Kenya has not ratified international maritime conventions, he said, and the recent agreements signed with other countries were not approved by Kenya’s Parliament and therefore are not enforceable.

“You can’t just go around making up laws, you know,” he said. “There is a process.”

Mr. Kadima, 50, who took on his first piracy case in March, said he had yet to see a shilling from any of his piracy cases, though he conceded that the publicity was good for business.

He said all of his clients had uttered the same excuse for why they had been caught on the high seas with serious firepower.

“They said they were just fishermen,” he said. “Fishermen who needed to protect themselves.”

Does he really believe that?

“A lawyer doesn’t need to believe,” Mr. Kadima explained. “He goes by what he is told.”

28645  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: April 23, 2009, 08:37:14 PM
A post from WT:

Some argue that since several of the Founding Fathers were Masons, and Masons only require belief in a supreme being, that they were simple deists.

Webster defines deism as: a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe

While two of the more well known members of our group were influenced by deism, I would not count that as a view held by a large number and surly not a majority.

And while Masons set a minimum, there is nothing that says you cannot hold Christian or Jewish beliefs.

It is a rather long list, but this may help:

For example:

It is generally agreed upon that Washington's beliefs could be described as "deist" during at least part of his life. Deism
for Washington, as with most historical figueres classified as deists, was never an actual religious affiliation, but was a classification of theological belief. As nearly all major political figures from Washington's era can be described as "deists" if a sufficiently broad definition is used an if the correct quotations are selected, classifying Washington as a Deist may not by particularly useful or distinctive.
28646  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / A worrying new blend in swine flu on: April 23, 2009, 05:17:49 PM

Seven people in U.S. hit by strange new swine flu 23 Apr 2009 20:54:48 GMT
Source: Reuters
 *Five new cases found in addition to two people on Tuesday

*CDC says no reason for concern yet

*Flu is unusual mixture but no deaths seen

(Updates throughout with quotes, details)

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON, April 23 (Reuters) - Seven people have been diagnosed with a strange and unusual new kind of swine flu in California and Texas, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Thursday.

All seven people have recovered but the virus itself is a never-before-seen mixture of viruses typical among pigs, birds and humans, the CDC said.

"We are likely to find more cases," the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat told a telephone briefing. "We don't think this is time for major concern around the country."

The CDC reported the new strain of swine flu on Tuesday in two boys from California's two southernmost counties.

Now, five more cases have been seen -- all found via normal surveillance for seasonal influenza. None of the patients, whose symptoms closely resembled seasonal flu, had any direct contact with pigs.

"We believe at this point that human-to-human spread is occurring," Schuchat said. "That's unusual. We don't know yet how widely it is spreading ... We are also working with international partners to understand what is occurring in other parts of the world."

Two of the new cases were among 16-year-olds at the same school in San Antonio "and there's a father-daughter pair in California," Schuchat said. One of the boys whose cases was reported on Tuesday had flown to Dallas but the CDC has found no links to the other Texas cases.


Unusually, said the CDC's Nancy Cox, the viruses all appear to carry genes from swine flu, avian flu and human flu viruses from North America, Europe and Asia.

"We haven't seen this strain before, but we hadn't been looking as intensively as we have," Schuchat said. "It's very possible that this is something new that hasn't been happening before."

Surveillance for and scrutiny of influenza has been stepped up since 2003, when highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza reappeared in Asia. Experts fear this strain, or another strain, could spark a pandemic that could kill millions.

H5N1 currently only rarely infects people but has killed 257 out of 421 infected in 15 countries since 2003, according to the World Health Organization.

The influenza strain is an H1N1, the same family as one of the seasonal flu viruses now circulating. Now that the normal influenza season is waning, it may be easier to spot cases of the new swine flu, Schuchat said.

Only one of the seven cases was sick enough to be hospitalized and all have recovered, Schuchat said.

"This isn't something that a person could detect at home," she said. The new cases appear to have somewhat more vomiting and diarrhea than is usually seen in flu, which mostly causes coughing, fever, sore throat and muscle aches.

The CDC is asking doctors to think about the possibility of swine flu when patients appear with these symptoms, to take a sample and send it to state health officials or the CDC for testing.

Cox said the CDC is already preparing a vaccine against the new strain, just in case. "This is standard operating procedure," Cox said. The agency will issue daily updates at

Seasonal flu kills between 250,000 and 500,000 people globally in an average year. And every few decades, a completely new strain pops up and it can cause a pandemic, a global epidemic that kills many more than usual. (Editing by Eric Walsh)
28647  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: April 23, 2009, 12:21:12 PM

The possible reactions of the Indians to all this is a very interesting point.

Would it be to neutralize Pak nukes?  How clear are they/we on where the nukes and nuke material is?  How well protected is it?  Or would the plan be to simply kick ass, take names, and then , , , what?

28648  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government Programs on: April 23, 2009, 11:32:18 AM
second post of morning:

The following hints of further excrement storms about to hit the fan.  Combine with bad news in the Euro banking pipeline, and I find myself wondering if we have not yet seen the bottom in the market.

U.S.: A Death at Freddie Mac
Stratfor Today » April 22, 2009 | 2102 GMT

Alex Wong/Getty Images
A man walks on the grounds of Freddie Mac headquarters in McLean, Va., on April 22Summary
The acting chief financial officer of the U.S. government-backed Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (also known as “Freddie Mac”), David Kellermann, was found dead in his home April 22. Kellermann’s death — which police are calling an apparent suicide — raises many questions about what Kellermann knew and how his death will affect the future of Freddie Mac.

Related Link
The Financial Crisis in the United States
David Kellermann, the acting chief financial officer of the U.S. government-backed Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation (also called “Freddie Mac”) was found dead on April 22. Police in Vienna, Va., have said the death may be a suicide. According to reports from media quoting unnamed police sources, Kellermann was found hanged in the basement of his home. The details on Kellermann’s death are still forthcoming and until an official autopsy is conducted the exact cause of death, and circumstances surrounding it, will remain unknown.

Kellermann was named a senior vice president and acting chief financial officer at Freddie Mac in the September 2008 government-initiated shake up. Prior to holding those posts he was the principal accounting officer and corporate controller — essentially the main accountant — for the mortgage giant. He was one of the longest-tenured members of the current, and government-revamped, Freddie Mac executive board and had worked for the institution for 16 years.

Freddie Mac is a government-created and state-sponsored institution designed to supplement the secondary market for U.S. mortgages. It buys mortgages from banks that issued them to consumers, often packaging them into blocks and then chopping those blocks into securities that investors buy and resell. The idea behind government-sponsored enterprises like Freddie Mac is to generate demand in a secondary market, and thus to increase the overall pool of money available for U.S. mortgage lending.

However, many of the mortgage tranches that were packaged into securities were precisely the sort of assets at the root of the financial meltdown that became the subprime mortgage crisis. Freddie Mac and its sister institution the Federal National Mortgage Association (also known as “Fannie Mae”) own almost half of the approximately $12.1 trillion U.S. market for residential mortgages and securities. Because of their unwieldy size and growing instability, the government stepped in and took the two institutions under conservatorship in September 2008 to prevent a complete meltdown of the financial system.

Part of the government’s plan for Freddie Mac was to take over the institution, replace the leadership and start sifting through the incomprehensible maze of packaged mortgages that were sold to investors as mortgage backed securities. With Kellermann’s death, however, this task — which was already approaching Sisyphean proportions — becomes most likely impossible.

Kellermann was not an outside appointee; he was promoted from within and represents the core institutional memory of Freddie Mac. Most importantly, he represents the accounting institutional memory, which means that he not only most likely knew about all of the bad decisions that were made regarding securitization, but also knew of them as they were being made. Under any circumstances, in any organization, the loss of a person of Kellermann’s stature would be crippling; under the circumstances at Freddie Mac, it is catastrophic.

The death of Freddie Mac’s most important accounting and financial employee now puts the government’s plans for Freddie Mac’s continued existence into question. Assets held by Freddie Mac are still very valuable; only a small percentage of the entire mortgage market is actually non-performing (although defaults are rising due to the effects of the recession) and far from all of that is in foreclosure, so there is a lot of value left in the institution. Without possession of first-hand knowledge to trace back and unwind the process through which securities were created, there would be little point in maintaining Freddie Mac as a single institution. It could get broken up by the government and sold in pieces, letting private investors sift though much smaller chunks of the mess on their own time.

What this would mean for the mortgage market is at present unclear. With total assets of $2.2 trillion, Freddie Mac would be the biggest institution the U.S. government has ever dismantled. But the real kicker is that this would be just the prelude to an even bigger unwinding. Everything that has beset Freddie Mac has also plagued its sister company, Fannie Mae — which has $3.11 trillion in total assets and is also in conservatorship.

28649  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: States' rights, limits on federal power on: April 23, 2009, 11:14:58 AM
"The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite."

--James Madison, Federalist No. 45
28650  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The case for a federalism amendment on: April 23, 2009, 11:03:13 AM
In response to an unprecedented expansion of federal power, citizens have held hundreds of "tea party" rallies around the country, and various states are considering "sovereignty resolutions" invoking the Constitution's Ninth and Tenth Amendments. For example, Michigan's proposal urges "the federal government to halt its practice of imposing mandates upon the states for purposes not enumerated by the Constitution of the United States."

Suffragettes celebrate the 19th Amendment, 1920.
While well-intentioned, such symbolic resolutions are not likely to have the slightest impact on the federal courts, which long ago adopted a virtually unlimited construction of Congressional power. But state legislatures have a real power under the Constitution by which to resist the growth of federal power: They can petition Congress for a convention to propose amendments to the Constitution.

Article V provides that, "on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states," Congress "shall call a convention for proposing amendments." Before becoming law, any amendments produced by such a convention would then need to be ratified by three-quarters of the states.

An amendments convention is feared because its scope cannot be limited in advance. The convention convened by Congress to propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation produced instead the entirely different Constitution under which we now live. Yet it is precisely the fear of a runaway convention that states can exploit to bring Congress to heel.

Here's how: State legislatures can petition Congress for a convention to propose a specific amendment. Congress can then avert a convention by proposing this amendment to the states, before the number of petitions reaches two-thirds. It was the looming threat of state petitions calling for a convention to provide for the direct election of U.S. senators that induced a reluctant Congress to propose the 17th Amendment, which did just that.

What sort of language would restore a healthy balance between federal and state power while protecting the liberties of the people?

One simple proposal would be to repeal the 16th Amendment enacted in 1913 that authorized a federal income tax. This single change would strike at the heart of unlimited federal power and end the costly and intrusive tax code. Congress could then replace the income tax with a "uniform" national sales or "excise" tax (as stated in Article I, section Cool that would be paid by everyone residing in the country as they consumed, and would automatically render savings and capital appreciation free of tax. There is precedent for repealing an amendment. In 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed the 18th Amendment that had empowered Congress to prohibit the sale of alcohol.

Alternatively, to restore balance between federal and state power and better protect individual liberty, the repeal of the income tax amendment could be folded into a new "Federalism Amendment" like this:

Section 1: Congress shall have power to regulate or prohibit any activity between one state and another, or with foreign nations, provided that no regulation or prohibition shall infringe any enumerated or unenumerated right, privilege or immunity recognized by this Constitution.

Section 2: Nothing in this article, or the eighth section of article I, shall be construed to authorize Congress to regulate or prohibit any activity that takes place wholly within a single state, regardless of its effects outside the state or whether it employs instrumentalities therefrom; but Congress may define and punish offenses constituting acts of war or violent insurrection against the United States.

Section 3: The power of Congress to appropriate any funds shall be limited to carrying into execution the powers enumerated by this Constitution and vested in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof; or to satisfy any current obligation of the United States to any person living at the time of the ratification of this article.

Section 4: The 16th article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed, effective five years from the date of the ratification of this article.

Section 5: The judicial power of the United States to enforce this article includes but is not limited to the power to nullify any prohibition or unreasonable regulation of a rightful exercise of liberty. The words of this article, and any other provision of this Constitution, shall be interpreted according to their public meaning at the time of their enactment.

Except for its expansion of Congressional power in Section 1, this proposed amendment is entirely consistent with the original meaning of the Constitution. It merely clarifies the boundary between federal and state powers, and reaffirms the power of courts to police this boundary and protect individual liberty.

Section 1 of the Federalism Amendment expands the power of Congress to include any interstate activity not contained in the original meaning of the Commerce Clause. Interstate pollution, for example, is not "commerce . . . among the several states," but is exactly the type of interstate problem that the Framers sought to specify in their list of delegated powers. This section also makes explicit that any restriction of an enumerated or unenumerated liberty of the people must be justified.

Section 2 then allows state policy experimentation by prohibiting Congress from regulating any activity that takes place wholly within a state. States, of course, retain their police power to regulate or prohibit such activity subject to the constraints imposed on them, for example, by Article I or the 14th Amendment. And a state is free to enter into compacts with other states to coordinate regulation and enforcement, subject to approval by Congress as required by Article I.

Section 3 adopts James Madison's reading of the taxing and borrowing powers of Article I to limit federal spending to that which is incident to an enumerated power. It explicitly allows Congress to honor its outstanding financial commitments to living persons, such its promise to make Social Security payments. Section 4 eliminates the federal income tax, after five years, in favor of a national sales or excise tax.

Finally, Section 5 authorizes judges to keep Congress within its limits by examining laws restricting the rightful exercise of liberty to ensure that they are a necessary and proper means to implement an enumerated power. This section also requires that the Constitution be interpreted according to its original meaning at the time of its enactment. But by expanding the powers of Congress to include regulating all interstate activity, the Amendment greatly relieves the political pressure on courts to adopt a strained reading of Congress's enumerated powers.

Could such a Federalism Amendment actually be adopted? Stranger things have happened -- including the adoption of each of the existing amendments. States have nothing to lose and everything to gain by making this Federalism Amendment the focus of their resistance to the shrinking of their reserved powers and infringements upon the rights retained by the people. And this Federalism Amendment would provide tea-party enthusiasts and other concerned Americans with a concrete and practical proposal by which we can restore our lost Constitution.

Mr. Barnett is a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University and the author of "Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty" (Princeton, 2005).
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