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28651  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November 18, 2007 Dog Bros Gathering of the Pack on: October 16, 2007, 02:39:40 PM
Woof All:

Good news!  I just spoke with Ernie Avila and we did the verbal handshake thing over the phone (with writing to be accomplished later in the day) and we will be using OP's warehouse again cool cool cool

Crafty Dog
28652  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Intervención armada desde otro punto... on: October 16, 2007, 01:59:45 PM

Muy, muy interesante.  Acabo de regresar de 4 dias de ensenanza en Mexico y salgo Viernes por Virginia.  Entonces posiblemente no tendre' tiempo para comentar, pero por el momento yo quisiera pedir que me ayude entender que quier decir ese:

"explícaselo al de la toga”.

28653  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 16, 2007, 11:11:21 AM

PNA, ISRAEL: Palestinian faction Hamas does not object in principle to negotiations with Israel or to a political solution to the Palestinian issue, Palestinian-owned Al-Quds al-Arabi daily reported, citing an exclusive interview with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Haniyeh added, however, that Hamas will only negotiate if it believes a political breakthrough is possible.

28654  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 16, 2007, 11:10:22 AM

IRAQ: Shiite Islamist parties are forcing Iraqis in the country's South to adhere to strict Islamic rules and are using armed militias to spread fear, Reuters reported, citing four unnamed tribal Shiite leaders.


Could this lay the foundation a dynamic similar to what happened to AQ in Anbar?

28655  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Geo Political matters on: October 16, 2007, 01:37:46 AM
Worth reading again, I think it captures well a certain mindset-- Qassami:

"Things went pear-shape thanks to one keynote speakers, Hajj Saeed Qassemi, whose title is "coordinator of the Association of Volunteers for Suicide-Martyrdom." Praising the late "Che" as "a true revolutionary who made the American Great Satan tremble," he "revealed" that Guevara had been "a truly religious man who believed in God and hated communism and the Soviet Union."

"Today, communism has been consigned to the garbage can of history as foreseen by Imam Khomeini," Qassemi said. "Thus progressists everywhere must accept the leadership of our religious, pro-justice movement."

Demanding the right to respond, Aleida Guevara told the conference that Qassemi's claim might be based on a bad translation: "My father never mentioned God," she said as the hall sighed in chagrined disbelief. "He never met God."

The remarks caused a commotion amid which Aleida and her brother were whisked away, led into a car and driven to their hotel under escort.
Qassemi returned to the podium to unleash an unscripted attack on "godless communists." He called on "the left in Latin America and elsewhere" to clarify its position. He claimed that Guevara and his "Supreme Guide Fidel Castro" had decided to hide their religious beliefs in order to secure Soviet support."

"Both were men of God and never believed in socialism or communism," he asserted. "The Soviet Union is gone," he emphasized. "The leadership of the downtrodden has passed to our Islamic Republic. Those who wish to destroy America must understand the reality and not be clever with words.""
28656  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: October 11, 2007, 10:46:09 AM
A HUGE run by LNOP the last several days.  I want to thank you Rick for putting me on to this.  Because of your credibility with me I went in pretty big on this and am feeling quite good.
28657  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 11, 2007, 07:24:26 AM
Second post of the morning:


Geopolitical Diary: Turkey's Designs on Northern Iraq

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan might ask parliament to authorize a move by Turkey's military into northern Iraq. Erdogan said on Wednesday that, "A request for approval of a cross-border operation could be sent to parliament tomorrow. After the holiday, we plan to gain authorization for one year." Erdogan should have no difficulty gaining parliament's approval after attacks by Kurdish rebels belonging to the Kurdistan Workers' Party killed 15 Turkish soldiers.

How far the Turks plan to move in Iraq is the important question. During the 1990s, the Turks moved into Iraq to create buffer zones against Kurdish attack, so there is a precedent for a move of that nature. The Turkish government is under public pressure to do something about these attacks, and the re-creation of a buffer zone is one thing it could do that would be effective and satisfy public opinion.

A Turkish incursion into northern Iraq at this time would be opposed by the European Union and the United States. However, the European Union has lost a great deal of leverage with the Turks by not admitting them to the union and making it fairly clear that they will never be admitted. As for the United States, the Turkish view is that they opposed the invasion of Iraq and refused to participate in it. Their expectation is that the United States, having created the situation, should take steps to stop attacks inside Turkey. Since the United States clearly can't do that, the Turks will act by themselves. Put simply, the United States and the European Union do not have leverage with Turkey, and Turkey will pursue its own interests.

The resolution does not mean that the Turks will immediately move into northern Iraq, but we are not as sure as others are that the Turks aren't quite serious. First, there is the security issue. It is not a trivial matter for the Turks. It is difficult for the government not to take some steps, and the fact that the United States and the European Union oppose such a move will simply make it that much more popular.

There also is a more important geopolitical issue: The Turks oppose the creation of an independent Kurdish state in Iraq because they feel it will encourage Kurdish separatism in Turkey. The future of Iraq is up in the air, to say the least, and the most important issue for the country is whether an independent or highly autonomous Kurdish region will emerge. This uncertainty is something the United States can live with; it is not something the Turks will live with. Therefore, the Turks view American policy in Iraq with extreme concern on this issue. Moving into Iraqi Kurdistan, however limited the incursion, would serve as a signal to both Kurds and Americans that there are limits beyond which Turkey is not prepared to go. It also would put Turkish troops into position to exercise control in the region in the event that the situation in Iraq gets completely out of hand.

There is another factor. As we have said previously, there is increasing activity by Western oil companies in the Kurdish region. That oil revenue is an attractive prize. Whatever Turkish intentions are now, the process of preventing the emergence of an independent Kurdistan would put Ankara in the position of being able to at least participate in -- if not control -- the development of this oil. The Turks are not talking about this, and they might not be thinking about it, but the solution to the security problem could lead there.

The United States must be very careful. Turkey is an ally, but at this moment the Americans need the Turks more than the Turks need the Americans. Apart from logistical support in Iraq, the United States sees Turkey as a counterweight to Iran in the region. However, Turkish and Iranian interests converge on the question of an independent Kurdistan. Turkey has little in common with Iran ideologically, but should the United States adamantly oppose Turkey on this, it would bring Ankara and Tehran closer, and this is the last thing Washington wants right now.

U.S.-Turkish tensions are exacerbated by Congress' consideration of a resolution accusing Turkey of carrying out genocide in Armenia early in the 20th century. This is an incredibly sore point with the Turks right now, increasing domestic political pressure on Turkey to refuse to bend to the United States. Therefore, we take Turkey's resolution seriously and think that a move into Iraqi Kurdistan, at least to create a buffer zone, is a very real possibility -- and one that could lead to more far-reaching consequences.
28658  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: October 11, 2007, 06:56:25 AM
Musharraf in the Middle
October 11, 2007; Page A20

Lahore, Pakistan

When Gen. Pervez Musharraf won 99% of the votes cast in Pakistan's presidential election on Saturday -- an election that was boycotted by the opposition, no less -- one national newspaper headline aptly screamed: "Musharraf steals the show." Not quite yet, that is: The Supreme Court will decide later this month whether or not to validate the election results. If it does, Mr. Musharraf has promised to doff his uniform and hold elections. If it doesn't, he may impose martial law.

This acute uncertainty has created a flurry of debate here and, more importantly, in Washington, where the Bush administration is belatedly working out how to proceed. Is Mr. Musharraf a failing military dictator or a burgeoning democrat? And more importantly, should the U.S. back him or ditch him? The answer isn't as clear cut as the White House might like.

The radical view, outlined by Sandy Berger and Bruce Riedel in yesterday's International Herald Tribune, proposes to ditch Mr. Musharraf altogether and push for "free and fair elections." In this perfect world, a secular civilian government with legitimacy to tackle religious extremism would emerge, saving America's face.

But this kind of proposal grossly misrepresents the on-the-ground reality. Free and fair elections would likely produce a deeply divided polity, one in which the religious forces would likely hold the balance of power between Benazir Bhutto's secular People's Power Party (PPP) and Mr. Musharraf's conservative ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML). In the absence of Mr. Musharraf, the PML would most certainly ally with the Muttahida Majlis Amal (MMA), an alliance of five bitterly anti-American religious parties.

If that happened, the first casualty of a rightwing coalition government would be Washington's war on terror. In the political paralysis that would inevitably follow, the Pakistani army would welcome the opportunity to retreat to the barracks rather than fight "its own people" in the border provinces. Then America wouldn't have Mr. Musharraf to lean on to "do more" to fight terror; it would have to go it alone.

Other analysts contend that the U.S. should not back an emerging alliance between Ms. Bhutto and Mr. Musharraf because the former is corrupt and the latter is unpopular. That leaves ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif in contention. Ousted by Mr. Musharraf in 1999 and exiled to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Sharif gained in popularity recently when he tried, unsuccessfully, to defy the president and return to Pakistan last month.

A Sharif government probably wouldn't be much to America's liking, either. Mr. Sharif is a deeply conservative politician who has always ruled in alliance with the mullahs, going so far as to pass various Islamic laws to appease them. Recently, he set up the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) to oppose Mr. Musharraf. This grouping comprises all the religious and anti-American parties in the country. Like Ms. Bhutto, Mr. Sharif has dodged corruption charges. When he was in power, he suppressed the free press with a vengeance. Under the circumstances, he is hardly likely to prove Pakistan's long lost democratic savior and champion of the war on religious extremism.

That leaves Mr. Musharraf, who is quickly consolidating his power base. On Monday, he named Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, the former head of the Interservices Intelligence, vice chief of the army. That puts Mr. Kayani, a Musharraf loyalist, in line to become the next army chief. Another trusted aide, Gen. Tariq Majeed, became chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee. Mr. Musharraf is also strengthening his position by rupturing the MMA's grip on the volatile North West Frontier Province bordering Afghanistan and his influence is growing in the Taliban-al-Qaeda infested tribal badlands of Waziristan.

Mr. Musharraf's alliance with Ms. Bhutto isn't perfect, by any means. The twice-sacked former prime minister Ms. Bhutto, a pro-West liberal in self-exile since 1997, struck a deal to have her corruption charges dropped in exchange for supporting Mr. Musharraf's bid for the presidency. Mr. Musharraf, who's survived three assassination attempts, remains deeply unpopular with middle-class Pakistanis because he is perceived as a U.S. puppet and an anti-Islamic secularist. Ms. Bhutto, by contrast, is still quite popular. But that may not matter: Baitullah Mehsud, the Taliban-al Qaeda commander in Waziristan, says he is planning to welcome her back home with suicide bombers "because she is an American agent."

The Bush administration can't ask Mr. Musharraf to "do more" in the war against radical Islam at a time when he is so unpopular at home, nor can they ask him to hold free and fair elections immediately and quit the scene. The best bet for Pakistan and its friends abroad would be a liberal-secular civil-military alliance that leads to a stable and moderate government. Sometimes, that takes more patience than Washington is willing to extend.

Mr. Sethi is editor of the Friday Times and Daily Times in Lahore, Pakistan.
28659  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: October 11, 2007, 06:50:54 AM

Hillary Talks About 'It'
October 11, 2007; Page A20
In an interview in yesterday's Washington Post, Hillary Clinton said she had contributed to the country's mood of bitter partisanship and wants to "put an end to it." The senator hedged her words for future revision by referring to the problem throughout the interview only as "it."

Thus, she spoke of "having gone through it, having been on the receiving end of it and in campaigns that were hard fought maybe on the giving end of it . . ." When the reporters pressed her to explain her views on polarization, she said: "I've talked about it a lot, and I think I will continue to talk about it in a lot of different ways."

It's a start. I would like to put a question to the senator: Would you defend Rush Limbaugh's speech rights against the pressure that was brought upon him on the floor of the Senate by your colleagues Harry Reid and Ken Salazar? Colorado's Sen. Salazar went so far last week as to say he'd support a Senate vote to "censure" Mr. Limbaugh. Rhymes with censor.

When Sen. Reid attacked Mr. Limbaugh on the floor of the Senate, some felt that Mr. Limbaugh was a big boy and perfectly capable of defending himself. I'm not so sure. If Mr. Limbaugh and his critics at Media Matters want to have a street fight, that's their business. But Sens. Reid and Salazar aren't just a couple of opinionated guys; they are agents of state authority, and they were leaning hard on Mr. Limbaugh. If you are Media Matters, if you are a man or woman of the Left, does state pressure on someone's political speech discomfort you? Or is it a welcome, even defensible, repression of harmful right-wing speech?

This controversy over talk-show hosts is usually fought around Democratic efforts of late to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine. The purpose of this effort -- the reason Sen. Reid has attached himself to it -- is to suppress voter turnout on the right and lift it on the left.

Political talk-radio since its inception has energized voters on the right. In the 2000 presidential election, the left found its own voter-turnout instrument in Howard Dean's Web-based "netroots," now led by and other leftwing or "progressive" sites such as Daily Kos and Media Matters.

Some of the left-wing sites, however, also do fund raising and political organizing, as in the netroots campaigns against Democratic politicians who didn't hear that dissent is dead. Talk radio does neither. Its hosts mainly excite people. Reimposing the Fairness Doctrine, essentially a toxic cocktail of boredom, would cause a narcotized right-wing base to sit on its hands, handing an advantage in the turnout wars to the (properly) unregulated political organizers of the left-wing Web.

While Mr. Limbaugh fought off the Democratic Senate in one corner, the commentator Juan Williams also found his speech and job status under pressure from Media Matters. In the same week that Mr. Williams, a Fox commentator, appeared on Bill O'Reilly's show to speak critically of black culture, his bosses at NPR rejected a White House request to have Mr. Williams interview President Bush on race.

In a Media Matters posting on all this, Eric Boehlert wrote that "real damage is being done to NPR by having its name, via Williams, associated with Fox News' most opinionated talker." Noting that Mr. Williams supported Clarence Thomas's nomination, Mr. Boehlert said there are "better advocates for genuinely liberal positions," and suggested "now is the time for [NPR] to address the growing problem."

In a now-famous remark this summer at the Kos convention of progressive bloggers, Sen. Clinton described "a real imbalance in the political world" and praised the growth of "progressive infrastructure -- institutions that I helped to start and support like Media Matters."

Who threw the first stone in these media-driven bloodlettings? Good question. But to my knowledge the right has no equivalent to "repressive tolerance," the aggressive theory of scorched-earth political argument laid out in the hothouse years of the 1960s by the late left-wing political philosopher Herbert Marcuse. Just last November, in an admiring essay for the Chronicle of Higher Education, the left polemicist Stanley Fish aptly summed up Marcuse's assertion that "liberal" notions of tolerance for political speech should be overturned.

The rationale for this notion is that standard tolerance is rigged against the left. In practice, tolerance extends only to the ideas and beliefs of the powerful, while it shuts out ideas on behalf of the weak or "marginalized" -- the poor, minorities, women and the rest. Mr. Fish says liberals fail to see "the dark side of their favorite virtue."

Prof. Fish has an alternative to traditions of tolerance, and to anyone awash in American politics today it will sound familiar: "That is to say, and Marcuse says it, anything the right does is bad and should not be tolerated; anything the left does is good and should be welcomed." This would explain the emotional intensity and animosity in politics now: The other side no longer deserves minimal respect.

It's not enough to disagree with conservative viewpoints; one has to undermine and delegitimize them. Mock them. Put them beyond the pale. Incidentally, Marcuse, Fish and others on the left who want to "withdraw" tolerance from the speech and ideas of their opponents count centrist Democrats among them. That is what happened to Joe Lieberman.

Digital technology now fixes someone's random remark forever in the ozone amber of the Web or YouTube. It's easy to make anything anyone may say, such as "macaca," a weeks-long campaign to diminish or even destroy the sayer. Wherever the nonbeliever Marcuse is now, this tool would have put him in heaven. I find it putting us closer than I'd like to be to an American "Lives of Others," media monitors always listening for the vulnerable spoken word.

Sen. Clinton this week told the Post, "I intend to build a centrist coalition." That may depend on how one defines centrist. For her progressive bloggers at Media Matters the center on tolerating speech likely falls closer to Prof. Marcuse than John Locke. So which is it? This summer Sen. Clinton said she was a founder of Media Matters, and this week she said she was a centrist. That doesn't compute. Perhaps in a year we'll know which side she's on.
28660  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: October 11, 2007, 06:28:16 AM
I just read that moth balls are good for keeping skunks away.
28661  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 11, 2007, 06:25:18 AM
Woof All:

We search for Truth.

On War #236
October 9, 2007

Not so fast, John

William S. Lind

[The views expressed in this article are those of Mr. Lind, writing in his personal capacity. They do not reflect the opinions or policy positions of the Free Congress Foundation, its officers, board or employees, or those of Kettle Creek Corporation.]

Major General John Kelly is one of the Marine Corps' most thoughtful and most able leaders. Many who hope to see the Marine Corps' doctrine of Maneuver Warfare someday become real instead of just words on paper pray he has a bright future. When, as a major, he was commander of Infantry Officers’ Course at Quantico, he did what every Marine school director should do: he hauled all the old, Second Generation lesson plans out into the courtyard, poured gasoline on them and burned them. I have known him since that time, and I regard him as a personal friend.

In late September, speaking to the San Diego Military Advisory Council, General Kelly said:

I left Iraq three years ago last month. I returned a week ago after a two week visit of getting the lay of the land for my upcoming deployment. It is still a dangerous and foreboding land, but what I experienced personally was amazing and remarkable -- we are winning, we are really winning. No one told me to say that, I saw it for myself.

I have to reply, not so fast, John. I have no doubt the situation General Kelly found in Anbar Province is much quieter than it was just a short time ago. That means fewer casualties, for which we are all thankful. But in the inherent complexity of a Fourth Generation situation, it does not mean we are winning. If we put the improved situation in Anbar in context, we quickly see there is less to it than first meets the eye.

That context begins with the fact that Anbar is quieter primarily because of what al Qaeda did, namely alienating its base, not what we did. We enabled the local Sunnis to turn on al Qaeda by ceasing or at least diminishing our attacks on the local population. But if al Qaeda had not blundered, the situation would be about what it had been since the real war started. We have not found a silver bullet for 4GW.

Nor is the war in Iraq a binary conflict, America vs. al Qaeda, although, that is how Washington now portrays it. Al Qaeda is only one of a vast array of non-state actors, fighting for many different kinds of goals. If al Qaeda in Iraq disappeared tomorrow, Iraq would remain chaotic.

The fact that some Sunni tribes have turned on al Qaeda does not mean they like us. It just means we have for the moment become the #2 enemy instead of #1, or perhaps #3, with the Shiites ranking ahead of us. Some think the Sunnis are just getting whatever they can from us as they prepare for another, more bitter round of the Sunni vs. Shiite civil war.

But the biggest reason for saying "not so fast" is that the reduction of violence in Anbar does not necessary point toward the rise of a state in the now-stateless region of Mesopotamia. As I have argued repeatedly in this column and elsewhere, we can only win in Iraq if a new state emerges there. Far from pointing toward that, our new working relationship with some Sunni sheiks points away from it.

The sheiks represent local, feudal power, not a state. We are working with them precisely because there is no Iraqi state to work with (the Maliki government is a polite fiction). From a practical standpoint, there is nothing else we can do to get any results. But our alliances with Sunni sheiks in effect represents our acceptance, de facto if not de jure, of the reality that there is no state.

The sheiks, we must recognize, do not accept the Shiite puppet government in Baghdad (nothing illustrates its puppet nature better than its inability to expel Blackwater) or its armed forces, which are mostly Shiite militias who get government paychecks. The Baghdad government recognizes this fact. A story in the October 1 Cleveland Plain Dealer quotes Prime Minister al-Maliki's United Iraqi Alliance (Shiite) as condemning

"authorizing the (Sunni tribal) groups to conduct security acts away from the jurisdiction of the government and without its knowledge."

The statement went on: "We demand that the American administration stop this adventure, which is rejected by all the sons of the people and its national political powers."

Rightly, the ruling Shiites fear that what we are actually creating is new Sunni militias, which will fight the Shiite militias.

Finally, as if all this did not throw enough cold water on any notion that we are winning, just as the Marines are ramping down our war with the Iraqi Sunnis, in Anbar, the U.S. Army is ramping up a war with the Shiite population. Almost every day we read about another raid on the Shiite, all too often one where we have called in airstrikes on populated Shiite neighborhoods. A story in the October 6 Plain Dealer, U.S. raid north of Baghdad kills 25," was typical:

An Iraqi army official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said U.S. aircraft bombed the neighborhood repeatedly and he claimed civilians, including seven children, were among those killed.

He said the civilians had rushed out to help those hurt in the initial bombing…

…the town's top official said U. S. forces targeted areas built up by the locals to protect their Shiite neighborhoods against attacks by al-Qaida gunmen.

If we have not enjoyed fighting the 20% of the Iraqi population that is Sunni, how much pleasure will we find in fighting the 60% that is Shiite? Of course, an American attack on Iran will only intensify our war with Iraq's Shiites.

So no, we are not winning in Iraq. The only meaningful definition of "winning" is seeing the re-emergence of a real Iraqi state, and by that standard we are no closer to victory than we ever were. Nor can I see anything on the horizon that could move us closer to such a victory, other than a complete American withdrawal, which begins to look as unlikely under Hillary as under George. All we see on the horizon of Anbar province, sadly, is another mirage.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.
28662  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 11, 2007, 06:04:36 AM
Syria Tells Journalists Israeli Raid Did Not Occur             
NY Times
Published: October 11, 2007
DEIR EZ ZOR, Syria, Oct. 9 — Foreign journalists perused the rows of corn and the groves of date palms pregnant with low-hanging fruit here this week, while agents of Syria’s ever present security services stood in the background, watching closely, almost nervously.

An Israeli Strike on Syria Kindles Debate in the U.S. (October 10, 2007) “You see — around us are farmers, corn, produce, nothing else,” said Ahmed Mehdi, the Deir ez Zor director of the Arab Center for the Studies of Arid Zones and Dry Lands, a government agricultural research center, as he led two of the journalists around the facilities.

It was here at this research center in this sleepy Bedouin city in eastern Syria that an Israeli journalist reported that Israel had conducted an air raid in early September.

Ron Ben-Yishai, a writer for the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, grabbed headlines when he suggested that the government facility here was attacked during the raid, snapping photos of himself for his article in front of a sign for the agricultural center.

He said he was denied access to the research center, which sits on the outskirts of the city, and he did not show any photos of the aftermath of the raid, though he said he saw some pits that looked like part of a mine or quarry, implying that they could also be sites where bombs fell.

His claims have compelled the Syrian government, already anxious over the rising tensions with Israel and the United States, to try to vindicate itself after a recent flurry of news reports that it may have ambitions to acquire nuclear weapons.

President Bashar al-Assad, in a BBC interview, played down the Israeli raid, saying that Israeli jets took aim at empty military buildings, but he did not give a specific location. His statement differed from the initial Syrian claim that it had repulsed the air raid before an attack occurred.

Israel has been unusually quiet about the attack on Sept. 6 and has effectively imposed a news blackout about it. Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli opposition leader, on Sept. 19 became the first public figure in Israel to acknowledge that an attack had even taken place. Some Israeli officials have said, though not publicly, that the raid hit a nuclear-related facility that North Korea was helping to equip, but they have not specified where.

On Monday, journalists toured the agricultural center at the government’s invitation to prove, Mr. Mehdi said, that no nuclear weapons program or Israeli attacks occurred there. “The allegations are completely groundless, and I don’t really understand where all this W.M.D. talk came from,” Mr. Mehdi said, referring to weapons of mass destruction.

“There was no raid here — we heard nothing,“ he added.

An entourage of the center’s employees lined up with him to greet the journalists. In a seemingly choreographed display, they nodded in agreement and offered their guests recently picked dates as tokens of hospitality.

They showed off a drab-colored laboratory that they said was used to conduct experiments on drought-resistant crops and recently plowed fields where vegetables and fruits are grown.

Mr. Ben-Yishai’s news report rattled Syrians for another reason: he apparently was able to slip into Syria, which bars Israelis from entering, and travel throughout the country.

“I think he came in on a European passport,” said Ghazi Bilto, who said he was a graphic designer for the agricultural center.

Burhan Okko, who also said he was a graphic designer for the center, interrupted, saying, “It was definitely on a German passport.” The international news media have speculated that the Israeli attack was aimed at a Syrian effort to acquire nuclear weapons materials, possibly with the aid of North Korea. Syria rejects these claims.
28663  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 11, 2007, 06:01:48 AM
NY Times
Published: October 11, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — A House committee voted on Wednesday to condemn the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey in World War I as an act of genocide, rebuffing an intense campaign by the White House and warnings from Turkey’s government that the vote would gravely strain its relations with the United States.

President Bush Wednesday urged the House not to take up a resolution on the Armenian genocide.

Opponents of the House resolution on the Armenian genocide wore stickers expressing their position at the session on Wednesday.
The vote by the House Foreign Relations Committee was nonbinding and so largely symbolic, but its consequences could reach far beyond bilateral relations and spill into the war in Iraq.

Turkish officials and lawmakers warned that if the resolution was approved by the full House, they would reconsider supporting the American war effort, which includes permission to ship essential supplies through Turkey and northern Iraq.

President Bush appeared on the South Lawn of the White House before the vote and implored the House not to take up the issue, only to have a majority of the committee disregard his warning at the end of the day, by a vote of 27 to 21.

“We all deeply regret the tragic suffering of the Armenian people that began in 1915,” Mr. Bush said in remarks that, reflecting official American policy, carefully avoided the use of the word genocide. “This resolution is not the right response to these historic mass killings, and its passage would do great harm to our relations with a key ally in NATO and in the global war on terror.”

The resolution was introduced early in the current session of Congress and has quietly moved forward over the last few weeks. But it provoked a fierce lobbying fight that pitted the politically influential Armenian-American population against the Turkish government, which hired equally influential former lawmakers like Robert L. Livingston, Republican of Louisiana, and Richard A. Gephardt, the former Democratic House majority leader, who backed a similar resolution when he was in Congress.

Backers of the resolution said Congressional action was overdue.

“Despite President George Bush twisting arms and making deals, justice prevailed,” said Representative Brad Sherman, a Democrat of California and a sponsor of the resolution. “For if we hope to stop future genocides we need to admit to those horrific acts of the past.”

The issue of the Armenian genocide, beginning in 1915, has perennially transfixed Congress and bedeviled presidents of both parties. Ronald Reagan was the only president publicly to call the killings genocide, but his successors have avoided the term.

When the issue last arose, in 2000, a similar resolution also won approval by a House committee, but President Clinton then succeeded in persuading a Republican speaker, J. Dennis Hastert, to withdraw the measure before the full House could vote. That time, too, Turkey had warned of canceling arms deals and withdrawing support for American air forces then patrolling northern Iraq under the auspices of the United Nations.

The new speaker, Nancy Pelosi, faced pressure from Democrats — especially colleagues in California, New Jersey and Michigan, with their large Armenian populations — to revive the resolution again after her party gained control of the House and Senate this year.

There is Democratic support for the resolution in the Senate, but it is unlikely to move in the months ahead because of Republican opposition and a shortage of time. Still, the Turkish government has made it clear that it would regard House passage alone as a harsh American indictment.

The sharply worded Turkish warnings against the resolution, especially the threats to cut off support for the American war in Iraq, seemed to embolden some of the resolution’s supporters. “If they use this to destabilize our solders in Iraq, well, then shame on them,” said Representative Joseph Crowley, a Democrat from New York who voted for it.

The Democratic leadership, however, appeared divided. Representative Rahm Emanuel, the fourth-ranking Democrat in the House, who worked in the Clinton White House when the issue came up in 2000, opposes the resolution.

In what appeared to be an effort to temper the anger caused by the issue, Democrats said they were considering a parallel resolution that would praise Turkey’s close relations with the United States even as the full House prepares to consider a resolution that blames the forerunner of modern Turkey for one of the worst crimes in history.

“Neither of these resolutions is necessary,” a White House spokesman, Gordon D. Johndroe, said Wednesday evening. He said that Mr. Bush was “very disappointed” with the vote.

A total of 1.5 million Armenians were killed beginning in 1915 in a systematic campaign by the fraying Ottoman Empire to drive Armenians out of eastern Turkey. Turks acknowledge that hundreds of thousands of Armenians died but contend that the deaths, along with thousands of others, resulted from the war that ended with the creation of modern Turkey in 1923.

Mr. Bush discussed the issue in the White House on Wednesday with his senior national security aides. Speaking by secure video from Baghdad, the senior American officials in Iraq, Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, raised the resolution and warned that its passage could harm the war effort in Iraq, senior Bush aides said.

Appearing outside the West Wing after that meeting, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates noted that about 70 percent of all air cargo sent to Iraq passed through or came from Turkey, as did 30 percent of fuel and virtually all the new armored vehicles designed to withstand mines and bombs.

“They believe clearly that access to airfields and to the roads and so on in Turkey would be very much put at risk if this resolution passes and the Turks react as strongly as we believe they will,” Mr. Gates said, referring to the remarks of General Petraeus and Mr. Crocker.

Turkey severed military ties with France after its Parliament voted in 2006 to make the denial of the Armenian genocide a crime.

As the committee prepared to vote Wednesday, Mr. Bush, the American ambassador to Turkey, Ross Wilson, and other officials cajoled lawmakers by phone.

Representative Mike Pence, a conservative Republican from Indiana who has backed the resolution in the past, said Mr. Bush persuaded him to change his position and vote no. He described the decision as gut-wrenching, underscoring the emotions stirred in American politics by a 92-year-old question.

“While this is still the right position,” Mr. Pence said, referring to the use of the term genocide, “it is not the right time.”

The House Democratic leadership met Wednesday morning with Turkey’s ambassador to Washington, Nabi Sensoy, and other Turkish officials, who argued against moving ahead with a vote. But Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, who now holds Mr. Gephardt’s old job as majority leader, said he and Ms. Pelosi would bring the resolution to the floor before Congress adjourned this year.

In Turkey, a fresh wave of violence raised the specter of a Turkish raid into northern Iraq, something the United States is strongly urging against. A policeman was killed and six others were wounded in a bomb attack in the Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey on Wednesday, the state-run Anatolian News Agency reported.

The Associated Press reported from the town of Sirnak that Turkish warplanes and helicopters were attacking positions along the southern border with Iraq that are suspected of belonging to Kurdish rebels who have been fighting Turkish forces for years.

The Turkish government continued to prepare to request Parliament’s permission for an offensive into Iraq, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggesting that a vote could be held after the end of Ramadan. Parliamentary approval would bring Turkey the closest it has been since 2003 to a full-scale military offensive into Iraq.

Sedat Laciner, from the International Strategic Research Institution, said that the Turkish public felt betrayed by what was perceived as a lack of American support for Turkey in its battle against the Kurds.

“American officials could think that Turkish people would ultimately forget about the lack of U.S. support in this struggle,” Mr. Laciner said, using words that could apply equally to views about the Armenian genocide. “Memories of Turks, however, are not that easy to erase once it hits sensitive spots.”

Sebnem Arsu contributed reporting from Istanbul, and Sabrina Tavernise from Baghdad.

28664  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: WW3 on: October 11, 2007, 05:57:38 AM
Caveat lector-- its the NY Times

Marines Press to Remove Their Forces From Iraq
Published: October 11, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 10 — The Marine Corps is pressing to remove its forces from Iraq and to send marines instead to Afghanistan, to take over the leading role in combat there, according to senior military and Pentagon officials.

The idea by the Marine Corps commandant would effectively leave the Iraq war in the hands of the Army while giving the Marines a prominent new role in Afghanistan, under overall NATO command.

The suggestion was raised in a session last week convened by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates for the Joint Chiefs of Staff and regional war-fighting commanders. While still under review, its supporters, including some in the Army, argue that a realignment could allow the Army and Marines each to operate more efficiently in sustaining troop levels for two wars that have put a strain on their forces.

As described by officials who had been briefed on the closed-door discussion, the idea represents the first tangible new thinking to emerge since the White House last month endorsed a plan to begin gradual troop withdrawals from Iraq, but also signals that American forces likely will be in Iraq for years to come.

At the moment, there are no major Marine units among the 26,000 or so American forces in Afghanistan. In Iraq there are about 25,000 marines among the 160,000 American troops there.

It is not clear exactly how many of the marines in Iraq would be moved over. But the plan would require a major reshuffling, and it would make marines the dominant American force in Afghanistan, in a war that has broader public support than the one in Iraq.

Mr. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have not spoken publicly about the Marine concept, and aides to both officials said no formal proposal had been presented by the Marines. But the idea has been the focus of intense discussions between senior Marine Corps officers and other officials within the Defense Department.

It is not clear whether the Army would support the idea. But some officials sympathetic to the Army said that such a realignment would help ease some pressure on the Army, by allowing it to shift forces from Afghanistan into Iraq, and by simplifying planning for future troop rotations.

The Marine proposal could also face resistance from the Air Force, whose current role in providing combat aircraft for Afghanistan could be squeezed if the overall mission was handed to the Marines. Unlike the Army, the Marines would bring a significant force of combat aircraft to that conflict.

Whether the Marine proposal takes hold, the most delicate counterterrorism missions in Afghanistan, including the hunt for forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, would remain the job of a military task force that draws on Army, Navy and Air Force Special Operations units.

Military officials say the Marine proposal is also an early indication of jockeying among the four armed services for a place in combat missions in years to come. “At the end of the day, this could be decided by parochialism, and making sure each service does not lose equity, as much as on how best to manage the risk of force levels for Iraq and Afghanistan,” said one Pentagon planner.

Tensions over how to divide future budgets have begun to resurface across the military because of apprehension that Congressional support for large increases in defense spending seen since the Sept. 11 attacks will diminish, leaving the services to compete for money.

Those traditional turf battles have subsided somewhat given the overwhelming demands of waging two simultaneous wars — and because Pentagon budgets reached new heights.

Last week, the Senate approved a $459 billion Pentagon spending bill, an increase of $43 billion, or more than 10 percent over the last budget. That bill did not include, as part of a separate bill, President Bush’s request for almost $190 billion for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senior officials briefed on the Marine Corps concept said the new idea went beyond simply drawing clearer lines about who was in charge of providing combat personnel, war-fighting equipment and supplies to the two war zones.

They said it would allow the Marines to carry out the Afghan mission in a way the Army cannot, by deploying as an integrated Marine Corps task force that included combat aircraft as well as infantry and armored vehicles, while the Army must rely on the Air Force.

The Marine Corps concept was raised last week during a Defense Senior Leadership Conference convened by Mr. Gates just hours after Admiral Mullen was sworn in as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

During that session, the idea of assigning the Afghan mission to the Marines was described by Gen. James T. Conway, the Marine Corps commandant. Details of the discussion were provided by military officers and Pentagon civilian officials briefed on the session and who requested anonymity to summarize portions of the private talks.

The Marine Corps has recently played the leading combat role in Anbar Province, the restive Sunni area west of Baghdad.


Page 2 of 2)

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the senior Army officer in Iraq, and his No. 2 commander, Lt. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, also of the Army, have described Anbar Province as a significant success story, with local tribal leaders joining the fight against terrorists.

Both generals strongly hint that if the security situation in Anbar holds steady, then reductions of American forces can be expected in the province, which could free up Marine units to move elsewhere.

In recent years, the emphasis by the Pentagon has been on joint operations that blur the lines between the military services, but there is also considerable precedent for geographic divisions in their duties. For much of the Vietnam War, responsibility was divided region by region between the Army and the Marines. As described by military planners, the Marine proposal would allow Marine units moved to Afghanistan to take over the tasks now performed by an Army headquarters unit and two brigade combat teams operating in eastern Afghanistan.

That would ease the strain on the Army and allow it to focus on managing overall troop numbers for Iraq, as well as movements of forces inside the country as required by commanders to meet emerging threats.

The American military prides itself on the ability to go to war as a “joint force,” with all of the armed services intermixed on the battlefield — vastly different from past wars when more primitive communications required separate ground units to fight within narrowly defined lanes to make sure they did not cross into the fire of friendly forces.

The Marine Corps is designed to fight with other services — it is based overseas aboard Navy ships and is intertwined with the Army in Iraq. At the same time, the Marines also are designed to be an agile, “expeditionary” force on call for quick deployment, and thus can go to war with everything needed to carry out the mission — troops, armor, attack jets and supplies.

General Petraeus is due to report back to Congress by March on his troop requirements beyond the summer. His request for forces will be analyzed by the military’s Central Command, which oversees combat missions across the Middle East and Southwest Asia, and by the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. All troop deployment orders must be approved by Mr. Gates, with the separate armed services then assigned to supply specific numbers of troops and equipment.

Marines train to fight in what is called a Marine Air-Ground Task Force. That term refers to a Marine deployment that arrives in a combat zone complete with its own headquarters, infantry combat troops, armored and transport vehicles and attack jets for close-air support, as well as logistics and support personnel.

“This is not about trading one ground war for another,” said one Pentagon official briefed on the Marine concept. “It is about the nature of the fight in Afghanistan, and figuring out whether the Afghan mission lends itself more readily to the integrated MAGTF deployment than even Iraq.”
28665  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson on slavery on: October 11, 2007, 05:52:17 AM
"Slavery, or an absolute and unlimited power in the master over
the life and fortune of the slave, is unauthorized by the common
law....  The reasons which we sometimes see assigned for the origin
and the continuance of slavery appear, when examined to the bottom,
to be built upon a false foundation.  In the enjoyment of their
persons and of their property, the common law protects all."

-- James Wilson (The Natural Rights of Individuals, 1804)

Reference: Original Intent, Barton (293); original The Works of
the Honorable James Wilson, B. Wilson, ed., vol. 2 (488)
28666  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: October 10, 2007, 11:19:56 PM
In addition to exercise, there is the matter of having a feel for how the dog sees the world.  An Akita for example sees things very strongly in terms of respect, territory, and the bond of the pack.  The hunting drive can be quite undiluted from that of the wolf.  Thus, if the dog is given to understand the boundaries of the territory that belongs to the pack e.g. the house and the yard and he sees you noticing the subtle little things he does to protect then he feels who he is meant to be.

For example, when the children are upstairs and the wife is downstairs and he is positioned just so at the top of the stairs to monitor both levels and his ears are doing the radar thing even as his head is down and then there is a noise out of order with the flow of things and he coils up, ready to activate should it be necessary, let him see you do the same, have a moment of eye contact and then decide together wheth the noise is OK or not.  He knows in this warrior moment that he is not alone, that you and he are pack across the frontiers of man meets dog.  Of course usually it is nothing and together you and he decide to deactivate.  He releases his coil up and settles in again, fully juiced in the importance of what he does and who he is.

This too is aggression.  To each his own.  For me, this.

28667  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: October 10, 2007, 09:13:09 PM
If I may indulge in some semantics here, I would suggest that because all dogs descend from the wolf, it is not that dogs are bred for aggression, it is that most dogs are bred to delete aggression.
28668  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Wolves, Dogs and other canines on: October 10, 2007, 06:22:09 PM
Over the years, my second Akita killed three skunks, getting zapped every time.  The tomato juice remedy helped, but with an Akita's undercoat, the process was long and difficult.

Today I ran across this remedy:

Skunk antidote from Popular Mechanics, Aug 95:

Makes 1 quart
1/4 cup baking soda, mix with
1 teaspoon liquid soap -preferably Dawn, then mix with
1 quart 3% hydrogen peroxide

wash pet with mixture immediately and rinse with warm water.

mix does not store well and could rupture a sealed container.

Alternative is to scrub pet with baking soda and liquid soap mixture and then pour the hydrogen peroxide over the pet.

for a gallon, increase as follows: 1 cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon liquid soap and 1 gallon (4 quarts) of 3% hydrogen peroxide.

28669  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: October 10, 2007, 06:07:26 PM
Political Journal WSJ

Paul for the Long Haul

Could Ron Paul be considering a third-party run for the White House after the GOP primaries are over? After all, in 1988 he left the GOP to run as the Libertarian Party candidate. He is just ornery enough to do it again.

A hint of his dissatisfaction came last night during the CNBC debate when Chris Matthews asked him if he would promise "to support the nominee of the Republican Party next year." Mr. Paul's answer was a flat no. "Not unless they're willing to end the war and bring our troops home. And not unless they are willing to look at the excess in spending. No, I'm not going to support them if they continue down the path that has taken our party down the tubes."

When I saw Mr. Paul last Friday after a speech he gave to Americans for Prosperity in Washington, he was clearly feeling his oats on the public reaction to his stand opposing the Iraq war. He rejected my comment that his anti-war emphasis was crowding out his free-market message "Everything is tied to the war. It threatens our financial security as well," he told me. I left our brief encounter with the clear impression he wanted to continue to talk about his message well into the future beyond the GOP primary race.

Despite his libertarian views, a Paul third-party run might hurt the Democrats more than Republicans. If he emphasized his support for pulling U.S. troops out of Iraq immediately, he would trump Hillary Clinton on the left. If he talked about his support for drug decriminalization, he would clearly appeal to a constituency ignored by both major parties.

The logistics of a Paul run are also there. The Libertarian Party national convention doesn't meet until late May in Denver, and becoming its nominee guarantees a spot on 26 state ballots immediately. Another 20 state ballot lines are fairly easy to obtain.

Mr. Paul could, of course, retire from the House if he ran for president. But Texas law also allows him to both run for president and seek re-election to the House, thanks to a statute rammed through by Lyndon Johnson. The GOP primary in which Mr. Paul is being challenged for his seat is held in early March, well before he would have to publicly announce any third-party intentions. Nothing prevents him from running as, say, a Libertarian for president and a Republican for the House at the same time.

It's also likely that Mr. Paul might be the rare third-party candidate who could actually raise his own money. He took in over $5 million in the last quarter, exceeding the fundraising totals of candidates such as John McCain and Mike Huckabee. A chunk of his money comes from liberals such as singer Barry Manilow, and he might find himself the recipient of some support in a general election from anti-Hillary Democrats who deplore the grip of the Clinton clan on their party.

-- John Fund
A Slimmed Down Huey Long

 The clear bookends of yesterday's CNBC/Wall Street Journal GOP debate on the economy were Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee. For conservative Republicans, they could hardly have been more apart in their view of the country's economic future.

Mr. Thompson painted a blue-sky vision of the current economy, while making passing reference to the unemployment in Michigan, the site of yesterday's debate. He said voters should understand just how well the economy was doing: "It is the greatest story never told." His prescription for the future? "We should acknowledge what got us there and continue those same policies on into the future," he concluded, as he made a call for extension of the Bush tax cuts and a further decrease in internationally uncompetitive corporate tax rates. He also made a call for an adjustment in how Social Security benefits are calculated that would lead to a direct reduction in the amount of money recipients would receive.

Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor who hails from a neighboring state to Mr. Thompson's Tennessee base, took a completely different tack. He practically cozied up to America's unions, which he said "are going to take a more prominent role in the future for one simple reason: A lot of American workers are finding that their wages continue to get strapped lower and lower while CEO salaries are higher and higher."

Mr. Huckabee believes that economic inequality is creating "a level of discontent that's going to create a huge appetite for unions." He also sounded cautionary notes about free trade and entitlement reform that are relatively rare for a Republican. Asked if he would support President Bush's veto of the budget-busting increase in the children's health care program SCHIP, Mr. Huckabee declined to say he would have issued a similar veto "because there are going to be so many issues we've got to fight. And the political loss of that is going to be enormous."

Translation: When it comes to tough political fights on spending, don't look for a President Huckabee to be there.

-- John Fund
Quote of the Day I

"First impressions are supposed to be 90 percent of politics. If that's the case, Fred Thompson should have a decent shot at the Republican presidential nomination. The impression he created in Tuesday's Republican debate in Detroit wasn't that of a dominant figure or a replica of Ronald Reagan. But he came across as likable, knowledgeable on issues but not wonky, and unexcitable. So Thompson passed the test of whether he could run with the big boys -- Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, and John McCain -- in the Republican race" -- political analyst Fred Barnes, writing at

Quote of the Day II

"This debate will be known for two things: 1) an uneven debut for Thompson; the opening answer he gave was that of a VERY nervous first-time candidate and there was a noticeable pause that was striking in a bad way; every evening newscast grabbed that moment and because of that some may believe Thompson's performance was worse than it actually was" -- political analyst Chuck Todd, writing at

Quote of the Day III

"Her very candidacy elicits memories of all the Clinton scandals, from Whitewater and Marc Rich to the gifts to the Rose Law Firm, the Chinese campaign contributions, the New Square Hasidic pardons, the Lincoln Bedroom and Monica. Why do Democrats willingly take on that baggage when two relative virgins [Barack Obama and John Edwards] beckon as alternatives? Democrats today are seeking a warrior, a gladiator, not a president when they cast their ballots in their primaries and caucuses. Angered by the so-called defeat of 2000 and scarred by the upset of 2004, there is an intensity to their desire to win that dwarfs all other emotions and considerations.... Hillary's demonstrated ability to overcome adversity and triumph is the quality that most appeals to Democrats. Her battle scars are her accolades" -- former Bill Clinton adviser Dick Morris, writing in The Hill newspaper.

The Reagan Party

 The big winner in last night's Republican debate on the economy was... Ronald Reagan. How so? Because virtually all of the candidates sounded a pro-growth Reaganite message on tax cuts, regulation and free trade. Perhaps they are in tune with polls that find that more than 70% of Republican voters describe themselves as "Reagan Republicans."

Rudy Giuliani called himself a "supply-sider." Fred Thompson said government is too big and costs too much and promised big spending cuts. Both Mr. Giuliani and Mitt Romney borrowed a page out of the Gipper's playbook by touting economic optimism and by refusing to buy into the despair underlying many of the loaded questions from the media panel. Rudy even scolded CNBC's Maria Bartiromo for suggesting that New York City was surrendering its financial capital status to London. "Hold your head up, Maria," the former New York Mayor responded.

The fireworks came early when Messrs. Romney and Giuliani counterpunched over which has the better fiscal record. Both claimed to cut taxes more than the other. Mr. Romney scored points by attacking Mr. Giuliani for opposing a federal line item veto and even bringing a lawsuit against it in the late 1990s.

Still Mr. Giuliani had the best moment of the evening after Texas Congressman Ron Paul suggested that America has never been in "imminent" danger of attack. Mr. Giuliani responded: "Where were you on 9/11?"

Jay Leno cracked last night that the debate was between old white men and really old white men -- an attack that could hurt the GOP as it reaches out to independent voters, particularly the up-for-grabs "security moms." A more serious substantive problem for Republicans is whether their sunny-eyed optimism on the economy matches the mood of economically "stressed out" voters. As former Clinton cabinet secretary Robert Reich told me last night: "Most voters don't believe the Republican message that things are wonderful. There's a disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street."

He may be right. But the Republican message of cutting taxes for the middle class is likely to resonate better than the Democratic promise of raising them. As pollster Scott Rasmussen notes: "When Democrats talk about raising taxes on the rich, the middle class doesn't believe them. Voters are convinced their own taxes will go up." That will be a central issue in the general election. It's a shame that whoever is left standing after the GOP primary brawls are over can't choose the Gipper as his running mate.

28670  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 10, 2007, 04:12:04 PM

To my sense of the meaning of words, there is a helluva big difference betweeen "there's no point in continuing the war there" and "I oppose our victory."  I am quite glad to see the change in your position.

I disagree with you about how things are going there, and point you to the Michael Yon blog as one source of many to understand why.

Do you have citation for any of your numbers?  Max has provided citation (thank you Max) and I note the 1,000,000 figure comes from Lancet, which as you and I have discussed previously, IMHO has substantial problems and thus I appreciate your apparent acknowledgement of the softness of the number.  In that vein I note that on the Wiki page cited by Max it says

"Los Angeles Times: "At least 50,000 Iraqis have died violently"—as of June 2006. "Many more Iraqis are believed to have been killed but not counted because of serious lapses in recording deaths."

There is a helluva difference between "well over 50,000" and "1,000,00".  I also place a lot less credence in the numbers thrown out by Iraqi ministries.  Is the ministry under the control of the Sadr brigades or some other , , , "interested" party?

Also, your numbers about the percentages who want us to leave right away (as vs. eventually) want us killed etc are at variance with what I read.


28671  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: October 10, 2007, 10:57:50 AM

A drunken man, stinking of beer, sat down on a subway next to a priest.
The man's tie was stained and loose, his collar was plastered with lipstick, and a half empty gin bottle was sticking out of his torn coat pocket.
He opened his newspaper and began reading.

After a few minutes the man turned to the priest and slurred, "Say Father, what causes arthritis?"
The priest replies, "My son, it's caused by loose living, being with cheap, wicked women, too much alcohol, contempt for your fellow man, sleeping around with prostitutes and lack of a bath."
The drunk muttered in response, "Well, I'll be damned!" Then returned to his paper.

The priest, thinking about what he had said, nudged the man and apologized. "I'm very sorry, my son. I didn't mean to come on so strong. How long have you had arthritis?"

The drunk answered, "Oh, God, no! I don't have it, Father! But, I was just reading here that the Pope does."
28672  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Debunking Diet Myths on: October 10, 2007, 09:00:21 AM
NY Times

In 1988, the surgeon general, C. Everett Koop, proclaimed ice cream to a be public-health menace right up there with cigarettes. Alluding to his office’s famous 1964 report on the perils of smoking, Dr. Koop announced that the American diet was a problem of “comparable” magnitude, chiefly because of the high-fat foods that were causing coronary heart disease and other deadly ailments. He introduced his report with these words: “The depth of the science base underlying its findings is even more impressive than that for tobacco and health in 1964.”

That was a ludicrous statement, as Gary Taubes demonstrates in his new book meticulously debunking diet myths, “Good Calories, Bad Calories” (Knopf, 2007). The notion that fatty foods shorten your life began as a hypothesis based on dubious assumptions and data; when scientists tried to confirm it they failed repeatedly. The evidence against Häagen-Dazs was nothing like the evidence against Marlboros.

It may seem bizarre that a surgeon general could go so wrong. After all, wasn’t it his job to express the scientific consensus? But that was the problem. Dr. Koop was expressing the consensus. He, like the architects of the federal “food pyramid” telling Americans what to eat, went wrong by listening to everyone else. He was caught in what social scientists call a cascade.

We like to think that people improve their judgment by putting their minds together, and sometimes they do. The studio audience at “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” usually votes for the right answer. But suppose, instead of the audience members voting silently in unison, they voted out loud one after another. And suppose the first person gets it wrong.

If the second person isn’t sure of the answer, he’s liable to go along with the first person’s guess. By then, even if the third person suspects another answer is right, she’s more liable to go along just because she assumes the first two together know more than she does. Thus begins an “informational cascade” as one person after another assumes that the rest can’t all be wrong.

Because of this effect, groups are surprisingly prone to reach mistaken conclusions even when most of the people started out knowing better, according to the economists Sushil Bikhchandani, David Hirshleifer and Ivo Welch. If, say, 60 percent of a group’s members have been given information pointing them to the right answer (while the rest have information pointing to the wrong answer), there is still about a one-in-three chance that the group will cascade to a mistaken consensus.

Cascades are especially common in medicine as doctors take their cues from others, leading them to overdiagnose some faddish ailments (called bandwagon diseases) and overprescribe certain treatments (like the tonsillectomies once popular for children). Unable to keep up with the volume of research, doctors look for guidance from an expert — or at least someone who sounds confident.

In the case of fatty foods, that confident voice belonged to Ancel Keys, a prominent diet researcher a half-century ago (the K-rations in World War II were said to be named after him). He became convinced in the 1950s that Americans were suffering from a new epidemic of heart disease because they were eating more fat than their ancestors.

There were two glaring problems with this theory, as Mr. Taubes, a correspondent for Science magazine, explains in his book. First, it wasn’t clear that traditional diets were especially lean. Nineteenth-century Americans consumed huge amounts of meat; the percentage of fat in the diet of ancient hunter-gatherers, according to the best estimate today, was as high or higher than the ratio in the modern Western diet.

Second, there wasn’t really a new epidemic of heart disease. Yes, more cases were being reported, but not because people were in worse health. It was mainly because they were living longer and were more likely to see a doctor who diagnosed the symptoms.

To bolster his theory, Dr. Keys in 1953 compared diets and heart disease rates in the United States, Japan and four other countries. Sure enough, more fat correlated with more disease (America topped the list). But critics at the time noted that if Dr. Keys had analyzed all 22 countries for which data were available, he would not have found a correlation. (And, as Mr. Taubes notes, no one would have puzzled over the so-called French Paradox of foie-gras connoisseurs with healthy hearts.)

Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus
Single Page

Published: October 9, 2007
(Page 2 of 2)

The evidence that dietary fat correlates with heart disease “does not stand up to critical examination,” the American Heart Association concluded in 1957. But three years later the association changed position — not because of new data, Mr. Taubes writes, but because Dr. Keys and an ally were on the committee issuing the new report. It asserted that “the best scientific evidence of the time” warranted a lower-fat diet for people at high risk of heart disease.

The association’s report was big news and put Dr. Keys, who died in 2004, on the cover of Time magazine. The magazine devoted four pages to the topic — and just one paragraph noting that Dr. Keys’s diet advice was “still questioned by some researchers.” That set the tone for decades of news media coverage. Journalists and their audiences were looking for clear guidance, not scientific ambiguity.

After the fat-is-bad theory became popular wisdom, the cascade accelerated in the 1970s when a committee led by Senator George McGovern issued a report advising Americans to lower their risk of heart disease by eating less fat. “McGovern’s staff were virtually unaware of the existence of any scientific controversy,” Mr. Taubes writes, and the committee’s report was written by a nonscientist “relying almost exclusively on a single Harvard nutritionist, Mark Hegsted.”

That report impressed another nonscientist, Carol Tucker Foreman, an assistant agriculture secretary, who hired Dr. Hegsted to draw up a set of national dietary guidelines. The Department of Agriculture’s advice against eating too much fat was issued in 1980 and would later be incorporated in its “food pyramid.”

Meanwhile, there still wasn’t good evidence to warrant recommending a low-fat diet for all Americans, as the National Academy of Sciences noted in a report shortly after the U.S.D.A. guidelines were issued. But the report’s authors were promptly excoriated on Capitol Hill and in the news media for denying a danger that had already been proclaimed by the American Heart Association, the McGovern committee and the U.S.D.A.

The scientists, despite their impressive credentials, were accused of bias because some of them had done research financed by the food industry. And so the informational cascade morphed into what the economist Timur Kuran calls a reputational cascade, in which it becomes a career risk for dissidents to question the popular wisdom.

With skeptical scientists ostracized, the public debate and research agenda became dominated by the fat-is-bad school. Later the National Institutes of Health would hold a “consensus conference” that concluded there was “no doubt” that low-fat diets “will afford significant protection against coronary heart disease” for every American over the age of 2. The American Cancer Society and the surgeon general recommended a low-fat diet to prevent cancer.

But when the theories were tested in clinical trials, the evidence kept turning up negative. As Mr. Taubes notes, the most rigorous meta-analysis of the clinical trials of low-fat diets, published in 2001 by the Cochrane Collaboration, concluded that they had no significant effect on mortality.

Mr. Taubes argues that the low-fat recommendations, besides being unjustified, may well have harmed Americans by encouraging them to switch to carbohydrates, which he believes cause obesity and disease. He acknowledges that that hypothesis is unproved, and that the low-carb diet fad could turn out to be another mistaken cascade. The problem, he says, is that the low-carb hypothesis hasn’t been seriously studied because it couldn’t be reconciled with the low-fat dogma.

Mr. Taubes told me he especially admired the iconoclasm of Dr. Edward H. Ahrens Jr., a lipids researcher who spoke out against the McGovern committee’s report. Mr. McGovern subsequently asked him at a hearing to reconcile his skepticism with a survey showing that the low-fat recommendations were endorsed by 92 percent of “the world’s leading doctors.”

“Senator McGovern, I recognize the disadvantage of being in the minority,” Dr. Ahrens replied. Then he pointed out that most of the doctors in the survey were relying on secondhand knowledge because they didn’t work in this field themselves.

“This is a matter,” he continued, “of such enormous social, economic and medical importance that it must be evaluated with our eyes completely open. Thus I would hate to see this issue settled by anything that smacks of a Gallup poll.” Or a cascade.

28673  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: October 10, 2007, 08:52:05 AM
Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Torture Appeal
NY Times- caveat lector         
Published: October 10, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 — The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to hear an appeal filed on behalf of a German citizen of Lebanese descent who claims he was abducted by United States agents and then tortured by them while imprisoned in Afghanistan.

Text: 4th Circuit Opinion (El-Masri v. U.S.) (pdf)Without comment, the justices let stand an appeals court ruling that the state secrets privilege, a judicially created doctrine that the Bush administration has invoked to win dismissal of lawsuits that touch on issues of national security, protected the government’s actions from court review. In refusing to take up the case, the justices declined a chance to elaborate on the privilege for the first time in more than 50 years.

The case involved Khaled el-Masri, who says he was detained while on vacation in Macedonia in late 2003, transported by the United States to Afghanistan and held there for five months in a secret prison before being taken to Albania and set free, evidently having been mistaken for a terrorism suspect with a similar name.

Mr. Masri says he was tortured while in the prison. After prosecutors in Germany investigated the case, a court there issued arrest warrants in January for 13 agents of the Central Intelligence Agency. The German Parliament is continuing to investigate the episode, which has become a very public example of the United States government’s program of “extraordinary rendition.”

Mr. Masri, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, brought a lawsuit in federal court against George J. Tenet, director of central intelligence from 1997 to 2004; three private airline companies; and 20 people identified only as John Doe. He sought damages for treatment that he said violated both the Constitution and international law.

Shortly after he filed the lawsuit in December 2005, the government intervened to seek its dismissal under the state secrets privilege, asserting that to have to provide evidence in the case would compromise national security. That argument succeeded in the Federal District Court in Alexandria, Va., which dismissed the case without permitting Mr. Masri’s lawyers to take discovery. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va., upheld the dismissal in March.

In their Supreme Court appeal, El-Masri v. United States, No. 06-1613, Mr. Masri’s lawyers argued that these rulings allowed the state secrets doctrine to become “unmoored” from its origins as a rule to be invoked to shield specific evidence in a lawsuit against the government, rather than to dismiss an entire case before any evidence was produced.

The Supreme Court created the doctrine in a 1953 decision, United States v. Reynolds, which began as a lawsuit by survivors of three civilians who had died in the crash of a military aircraft. In pretrial discovery, the plaintiffs sought the official accident report.

But the government, asserting that the report included information about the plane’s secret mission and the equipment that it was testing, refused to reveal it. The Supreme Court upheld the government, ruling that evidence should not be disclosed when “there is a reasonable danger that compulsion of the evidence will expose military matters which, in the interest of national security, should not be divulged.”

Mr. Masri’s lawyers argued that this decision, which the court has occasionally invoked but has not revisited, did not justify dismissing a case before any evidence was requested. Ben Wizner, Mr. Masri’s lawyer at the civil liberties union, said in an interview that the courts had permitted the doctrine to evolve from an evidentiary privilege to a broad grant of immunity, a way for the executive branch to shield itself from judicial scrutiny.

In this case, Solicitor General Paul D. Clement offered to let the justices see, “under appropriate security measures,” the classified declaration that the government filed in the lower courts to support its claim of privilege. The court evidently did not think that step was necessary.

The court will soon have other opportunities to revisit the state secrets issue. Last week the A.C.L.U. filed an appeal that raises the issue as part of a challenge to the National Security Agency’s program of wiretapping without court warrants.
28674  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 10, 2007, 08:48:03 AM
second post of the morning:

NY Times so caveat lector

An Israeli Strike on Syria Kindles Debate in the U.S.

Published: October 10, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 9 — A sharp debate is under way in the Bush administration about the significance of the Israeli intelligence that led to last month’s Israeli strike inside Syria, according to current and former American government officials.

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A familiar administration divide: Vice President Dick Cheney says Israeli intelligence was credible, while Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice questions whether there was a real threat.
At issue is whether intelligence that Israel presented months ago to the White House — to support claims that Syria had begun early work on what could become a nuclear weapons program with help from North Korea — was conclusive enough to justify military action by Israel and a possible rethinking of American policy toward the two nations.

The debate has fractured along now-familiar fault lines, with Vice President Dick Cheney and conservative hawks in the administration portraying the Israeli intelligence as credible and arguing that it should cause the United States to reconsider its diplomatic overtures to Syria and North Korea.

By contrast, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her allies within the administration have said they do not believe that the intelligence presented so far merits any change in the American diplomatic approach.

“Some people think that it means that the sky is falling,” a senior administration official said. “Others say that they’re not convinced that the real intelligence poses a threat.”

Several current and former officials, as well as outside experts, spoke on the condition of anonymity because the intelligence surrounding the Israeli strike remains highly classified.

Besides Ms. Rice, officials said that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was cautious about fully endorsing Israeli warnings that Syria was on a path that could lead to a nuclear weapon. Others in the Bush administration remain unconvinced that a nascent Syrian nuclear program could pose an immediate threat.

It has long been known that North Korean scientists have aided Damascus in developing sophisticated ballistic missile technology, and there appears to be little debate that North Koreans frequently visited a site in the Syrian desert that Israeli jets attacked Sept. 6. Where officials disagree is whether the accumulated evidence points to a Syrian nuclear program that poses a significant threat to the Middle East.

Mr. Cheney and his allies have expressed unease at the decision last week by President Bush and Ms. Rice to proceed with an agreement to supply North Korea with economic aid in return for the North’s disabling its nuclear reactor. Those officials argued that the Israeli intelligence demonstrates that North Korea cannot be trusted. They also argue that the United States should be prepared to scuttle the agreement unless North Korea admits to its dealing with the Syrians.

During a breakfast meeting on Oct. 2 at the White House, Ms. Rice and her chief North Korea negotiator, Christopher R. Hill, made the case to President Bush that the United States faced a choice: to continue with the nuclear pact with North Korea as a way to bring the secretive country back into the diplomatic fold and give it the incentive to stop proliferating nuclear material; or to return to the administration’s previous strategy of isolation, which detractors say left North Korea to its own devices and led it to test a nuclear device last October.

Mr. Cheney and Stephen J. Hadley, the national security adviser, also attended the meeting, administration officials said.

The Israeli strike occurred at a particularly delicate time for American diplomatic efforts. In addition to the North Korean nuclear negotiations, the White House is also trying to engineer a regional Middle East peace conference that would work toward a comprehensive peace accord between Arabs and Israelis.

The current and former American officials said Israel presented the United States with intelligence over the summer about what it described as nuclear activity in Syria. Officials have said Israel told the White House shortly in advance of the September raid that it was prepared to carry it out, but it is not clear whether the White House took a position then about whether the attack was justified.

One former top Bush administration official said Israeli officials were so concerned about the threat posed by a potential Syrian nuclear program that they told the White House they could not wait past the end of the summer to strike the facility.

Last week, Turkish officials traveled to Damascus to present the Syrian government with the Israeli dossier on what was believed to be a Syrian nuclear program, according to a Middle East security analyst in Washington. The analyst said that Syrian officials vigorously denied the intelligence and said that what the Israelis hit was a storage depot for strategic missiles.

That denial followed a similar denial from North Korea. Mr. Hill, the State Department’s assistant secretary for East Asia and Pacific affairs, raised the Syria issue with his North Korean counterparts in talks in Beijing in late September. The North Koreans denied providing any nuclear material to Syria.

Publicly, Syrian officials have said Israeli jets hit an empty warehouse.

Bruce Riedel, a veteran of the C.I.A. and the National Security Council and now a Middle East expert at the Brookings Institution, said that American intelligence agencies remained cautious in drawing hard conclusions about the significance of the suspicious activity at the Syrian site.

Still, Mr. Riedel said Israel would not have launched the strike in Syria if it believed Damascus was merely developing more sophisticated ballistic missiles or chemical weapons.

“Those red lines were crossed 20 years ago,” he said. “You don’t risk general war in the Middle East over an extra 100 kilometers’ range on a missile system.”

Another former intelligence official said Syria was attempting to develop so-called airburst capability for its ballistic missiles. Such technology would allow Syria to detonate warheads in the air to disperse the warhead’s material more widely.

Since North Korea detonated its nuclear device, Ms. Rice has prodded Mr. Bush toward a more diplomatic approach with North Korea, through talks that also include Japan, Russia, South Korea and China. Those talks led to the initial agreement last February for North Korea to shut down its nuclear reactor in exchange for fuel and food aid.

That deal angered conservatives who believed that the Bush administration had made diplomacy toward North Korea too high a priority, at the expense of efforts to combat the spread of illicit weapons in the Middle East.

“Opposing the Israeli strike to protect the six-party talks would be a breathtaking repudiation of the administration’s own national security strategy,” said John R. Bolton, former United States ambassador to the United Nations.

But other current and former officials argue that the diplomatic approach is America’s best option for dealing with the question of North Korean proliferation.

“You can’t just make these decisions using the top of your spinal cord, you have to use the whole brain,” said Philip D. Zelikow, the former counselor at the State Department. “What other policy are we going to pursue that we think would be better?”
28675  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Water drying up in China on: October 10, 2007, 08:42:53 AM
Thank you for that.  Certainly sounds good, but I wonder why it has declined from 45 to 32 (roughly a 30% drop) in the last 6-12 months?  The chart is terrible and the downtrend line is unbroken, though there are indications of support around 29.  Through painful experience I have learn to avoid catching falling knives.  I'm thinking to put in a buy order for 29.50-- about 10% below current levels.
28676  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Benjamin Franklin on: October 10, 2007, 08:36:38 AM

"But they have two other Rights; those of sitting when they
please, and as long as they please, in which methinks they have the
advantage of your Parliament; for they cannot be dissolved by the
Breath of a Minister, or sent packing as you were the other day,
when it was your earnest desire to have remained longer together."

-- Benjamin Franklin (letter to William Strahan, 19 August 1784)

Reference: Franklin Collected Works, Lemay, ed., 1099.
28677  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 10, 2007, 08:34:38 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A New Shield for Israel

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Tuesday that Israel will soon be able to intercept 90 percent of the missiles launched at it, from Iran's Shahab-3 missiles to Palestinian Qassam rockets.

The difference between intercepting a medium-range ballistic missile and a Qassam rocket is immense, and the technical challenges of defending against such a broad spectrum of threats will require not just one, but a series of systems.

Israel's geographic location inherently leaves it vulnerable to this entire spectrum of ballistic threats, and Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has worked to confront them for more than two decades. Israel cannot do this alone; it needs the financial and technical support of the United States. In 1986, joint U.S.-Israeli work began on the first generation of Arrow ballistic missile interceptors. (Now deployed, they remain operationally unproven.) Meanwhile, other work continued at a rapid pace.

Ultimately, Barak envisions a layered system comprised of the Israeli Iron Dome, the U.S. Patriot PAC-3 and two generations of the Arrow system. However, due to the challenges of fielding breaking technology, not to mention the financial costs, the minister's plan will present significant difficulties.

During the summer 2006 conflict between Israel and Hezbollah, the militants launched artillery rockets, designed to be fired by batteries in large salvos, against IDF forces either individually or in relatively small batches. While this tactic made Hezbollah fighters more difficult to pinpoint and strike, it also transformed what would normally have been a devastating military weapon (i.e., massed artillery rocket fire) into a comparatively ineffectual weapon of terror.

Palestinian Qassams are even more ineffectual. (As was the Grad artillery rocket used in the Oct. 7 incident near Netivot.) Qassams are notoriously hard to aim and wildly inaccurate; their construction is, by design, extremely crude. Though they also are weapons of terror, Qassams have even less effect, especially individually and in small numbers.

These are precisely the scenarios that any nascent system is best suited to defend against -- ones with limited and manageable targets. Of course, the standard counter to such defenses has always been to overwhelm the technology with numbers. And it is far cheaper and simpler to come up with an overwhelming number of artillery rockets than to defend against them.

This is especially true of the larger, more expensive ballistic missiles. As it stands, Iran probably has more missiles capable of reaching Israel than Israel has Arrow interceptors. Nevertheless, the Iranian ballistic missile program is a significant national investment that has produced only a modest number of missiles capable of reaching Israel. Similarly, neither Hezbollah nor Palestinian fighters are particularly well-equipped to manage the logistics and launch the barrage of rockets necessary to create overwhelming fire.

Israel will continue to build toward this defensive shield and, much like Japan, the Jewish state will become a proving ground for these technologies. While its ultimate success remains to be seen (and that success will never be absolute), Israel's new shield will -- at the very least -- alter the calculus for all future ballistic threats against the country.

28678  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: October 09, 2007, 11:31:14 PM
The Geopolitical Foundations of Blackwater
By George Friedman

For the past three weeks, Blackwater, a private security firm under contract to the U.S. State Department, has been under intense scrutiny over its operations in Iraq. The Blackwater controversy has highlighted the use of civilians for what appears to be combat or near-combat missions in Iraq. Moreover, it has raised two important questions: Who controls these private forces and to whom are they accountable?

The issue is neither unique to Blackwater nor to matters of combat. There have long been questions about the role of Halliburton and its former subsidiary, KBR, in providing support services to the military. The Iraq war has been fought with fewer active-duty troops than might have been expected, and a larger number of contractors relative to the number of troops. But how was the decision made in the first place to use U.S. nongovernmental personnel in a war zone? More important, how has that decision been implemented?

The United States has a long tradition of using private contractors in times of war. For example, it augmented its naval power in the early 19th century by contracting with privateers -- nongovernmental ships -- to carry out missions at sea. During the battle for Wake Island in 1941, U.S. contractors building an airstrip there were trapped by the Japanese fleet, and many fought alongside Marines and naval personnel. During the Civil War, civilians who accompanied the Union and Confederate armies carried out many of the supply functions. So, on one level, there is absolutely nothing new here. This has always been how the United States fights war.

Nevertheless, since before the fall of the Soviet Union, a systematic shift has been taking place in the way the U.S. force structure is designed. This shift, which is rooted both in military policy and in the geopolitical perception that future wars will be fought on a number of levels, made private security contractors such as KBR and Blackwater inevitable. The current situation is the result of three unique processes: the introduction of the professional volunteer military, the change in force structure after the Cold War, and finally the rethinking and redefinition of the term "noncombatant" following the decision to include women in the military, but bar them from direct combat roles.

The introduction of the professional volunteer military caused a rethinking of the role of the soldier, sailor, airman or Marine in the armed forces. Volunteers were part of the military because they chose to be. Unlike draftees, they had other options. During World War II and the first half of the Cold War, the military was built around draftees who were going to serve their required hitch and return to civilian life. Although many were not highly trained, they were quite suited for support roles, from KP to policing the grounds. After all, they already were on the payroll, and new hires were always possible.

In a volunteer army, the troops are expected to remain in the military much longer. Their training is more expensive -- thus their value is higher. Taking trained specialists who are serving at their own pleasure and forcing them to do menial labor over an extended period of time makes little sense either from a utilization or morale point of view. The concept emerged that the military's maintenance work should shift to civilians, and that in many cases the work should be outsourced to contractors. This tendency was reinforced during the Reagan administration, which, given its ideology, supported privatization as a way to make the volunteer army work. The result was a growth in the number of contractors taking over many of the duties that had been performed by soldiers during the years of conscription.

The second impetus was the end of the Cold War and a review carried out by then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin under then-President Bill Clinton. The core argument was that it was irrational to maintain a standing military as large as had existed during the Cold War. Aspin argued for a more intensely technological military, one that would be less dependent on ground troops. The Air Force was key to this, while the Navy was downsized. The main consideration, however, was the structure of the standing Army -- especially when large-scale, high-intensity, long-term warfare no longer seemed a likely scenario.

The U.S. Army's active-duty component, in particular, was reduced. It was assumed that in time of war, components of the Reserves and National Guard would be mobilized, not so much to augment the standing military, but to carry out a range of specialized roles. For example, Civil Affairs, which has proven to be a critical specialization in Iraq and Afghanistan, was made a primary responsibility of the Reserves and National Guard, as were many engineering, military-intelligence and other specializations.

This plan was built around certain geopolitical assumptions. The first was that the United States would not be fighting peer powers. The second was that it had learned from Vietnam not to get involved in open-ended counterinsurgency operations, but to focus, as it did in Kuwait, on missions that were clearly defined and executable with a main force. The last was that wars would be short, use relatively few troops and be carried out in conjunction with allies. From this it followed that regular forces, augmented by Reserve/National Guard specialists called up for short terms, could carry out national strategic requirements.

The third impetus was the struggle to define military combat and noncombat roles. Given the nature of the volunteer force, women were badly needed, yet they were included in the armed forces under the assumption that they could carry out any function apart from direct combat assignments. This caused a forced -- and strained -- redefinition of these two roles. Intelligence officers called to interrogate a prisoner on the battlefield were thought not to be in a combat position. The same bomb, mortar or rocket fire that killed a soldier might hit them too, but since they technically were not charged with shooting back, they were not combat arms. Ironically, in Iraq, one of the most dangerous tasks is traveling on the roads, though moving supplies is not considered a combat mission.

Under the privatization concept, civilians could be hired to carry out noncombat functions. Under the redefinition of noncombat, the area open to contractors covered a lot of territory. Moreover, under the redefinition of the military in the 1990s, the size and structure of the Army in particular was changed so dramatically that it could not carry out most of its functions without the Reserve/Guard component -- and even with that component, the Army was not large enough. Contractors were needed.

Let us now add a fourth push: the CIA. During Vietnam, and again in Afghanistan and Iraq, a good part of the war was prosecuted by CIA personnel not in uniform and not answerable to the military chain of command. There are arguments on both sides for this, but the fact is that U.S. wars -- particularly highly politicized wars such as counterinsurgencies -- are fought with parallel armies, some reporting to the Defense Department, others to the CIA and other intelligence agencies. The battlefield is, if not flooded, at least full of civilians operating outside of the chain of command, and these civilian government employees are encouraged to hire Iraqi or other nationals, as well as to augment their own capabilities with private U.S. contractors.

Blackwater works for the State Department in a capacity defined as noncombat, protecting diplomats and other high-value personnel from assassination. The Army, bogged down in its own operations, lacks the manpower to perform this obviously valuable work. That means that Blackwater and other contract workers are charged with carrying weapons and moving around the battlefield, which is everywhere. They are heavily armed private soldiers carrying out missions that are combat in all but name -- and they are completely outside of the chain of command.

Moreover, in order to be effective, they have to engage in protective intelligence, looking for surveillance by enemy combatants and trying to foresee potential threats. We suspect the CIA could be helpful in this regard, but it would want information in return. In order to perform its job, then, Blackwater entered the economy of intelligence -- information as a commodity to be exchanged. It had to gather some intelligence in order to trade some. As a result, the distinction between combat and support completely broke down.

The important point is that the U.S. military went to war with the Army the country gave it. We recall no great objections to the downsizing of the military in the 1990s, and no criticisms of the concepts that lay behind the new force structure. The volunteer force, downsized because long-term conflicts were not going to occur, supported by the Reserve/Guard and backfilled by civilian contractors, was not a controversial issue. Only tiresome cranks made waves, challenging the idea that wars would be sparse and short. They objected to the redefinition of noncombat roles and said the downsized force would be insufficient for the 21st century.

Blackwater, KBR and all the rest are the direct result of the faulty geopolitical assumptions and the force structure decisions that followed. The primary responsibility rests with the American public, which made best-case assumptions in a worst-case world. Even without Iraq, civilian contractors would have proliferated on the battlefield. With Iraq, they became an enormous force. Perhaps the single greatest strategic error of the Bush administration was not fundamentally re-examining the assumptions about the U.S. Army on Sept. 12, 2001. Clearly Donald Rumsfeld was of the view that the Army was the problem, not the solution. He was not going to push for a larger force and, therefore, as the war expanded, for fewer civilian contractors.

The central problem regarding private security contractors on the battlefield is that their place in the chain of command is not defined. They report to the State Department, not to the Army and Marines that own the battlefield. But who do they take orders from and who defines their mission? Do they operate under the Uniform Code of Military Justice or under some other rule? They are warriors -- it is foolish to think otherwise -- but they do not wear the uniform. The problem with Blackwater stems from having multiple forces fighting for the same side on the same battlefield, with completely different chains of command. Indeed, it is not clear the extent to which the State Department has created a command structure for its contractors, whether it is capable of doing so, or whether the contractors have created their own chain of command.

Blackwater is the logical outcome of a set of erroneous geopolitical conclusions that predate these wars by more than a decade. The United States will be fighting multidivisional, open-ended wars in multiple theaters, and there will be counterinsurgencies. The force created in the 1990s is insufficient, and thus the definition of noncombat specialty has become meaningless. The Reserve/Guard component cannot fill the gap created by strategic errors. The hiring of contractors makes sense and has precedence. But the use of CIA personnel outside the military chain of command creates enough stress. To have private contractors reporting outside the chain of command to government entities not able to command them is the real problem.

A failure that is rooted in the national consensus of the 1990s was compounded by the Bush administration's failure to reshape the military for the realities of the wars it wished to fight. But the final failure was to follow the logic of the civilian contractors through to its end, but not include them in the unified chain of command. In war, the key question must be this: Who gives orders and who takes them? The battlefield is dangerous enough without that question left hanging.

28679  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Turkey on: October 09, 2007, 11:22:58 PM
Turkey: Pressure to Send Forces into Northern Iraq

Turkey said Oct. 9 that it might send forces into northern Iraq. The announcement came two days after Kurdish rebels, in their largest attack against Turkish security forces in more than a decade, killed 13 soldiers. Pressure arising from domestic political situations and regional geopolitics has driven Ankara to the point where it can no longer avoid military action inside northern Iraq. Any such undertaking will not be major, however, because of the limited strategic objective and tactical options.


A day after chairing a meeting of top civilian and military officials, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a statement saying his government has authorized all necessary action against the Kurdish rebel group the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), including a possible military operation across the border in northern Iraq. The move comes two days after PKK guerrillas killed 13 Turkish troops in the largest such attack in more than a decade. All of these developments follow the signing of a counterterrorism agreement between Ankara and Baghdad.

The security agreement does not do much to counter the threat from the PKK. On the contrary, it seems to have only emboldened the militants, because it appears that Turkey is unwilling to follow through on its threats of cross-border unilateral military action. The Turks also are watching how the PKK's patrons -- the Iraqi Kurds who enjoy far-reaching autonomy in northern Iraq -- are growing bolder in their moves to forge energy deals with international firms independent of the Iraqi central government in Baghdad, and to gain control over the oil-rich region of Kirkuk. Additionally, Ankara knows that neither the PKK nor the Iraqis -- nor even Washington -- take its threats of action seriously anymore.

But more important, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, which recently won control of both parliament and the presidency, is under increasing pressure from the military, which accuses it of being soft on Kurdish separatism. Therefore, the AK Party government can no longer afford to avoid military action.

That said, Turkey's military options are limited. The Turkish military already has a special forces presence in northern Iraq, and Turkish artillery has fallen on Iraqi soil plenty of times before. However, northern Iraq is a large area with an inhospitable terrain, and winter is coming. PKK rebel hideouts are concentrated in the Qandil Mountains along the Iranian border. Furthermore, to effectively root out the PKK, Turkey would have to commit to a long-term military incursion -- and in a country currently occupied by a fellow NATO member (though the United States has few troops in far northern Iraq).

Because of the magnitude of the undertaking, and because Turkey lacks the necessary intelligence for such a mission, any cross-border military operation will not be geared toward rooting out the PKK from its sanctuaries in northern Iraq. The purpose of such action will be to force Baghdad to pressure Arbil and try to instigate internal divisions among the Kurds -- likely between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani's hawkish Kurdistan Democratic Party and the more moderate Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. The Turks also want to get the attention of the United States, which thus far has had no incentive to do anything regarding the PKK because it could upset its Iraqi calculus, and because Washington does not expect the Turks to do much beyond rhetoric and small-scale action. However, Turkey itself has substantial room to escalate the situation.

Helicopter gunships already are reportedly operating on the Turkish side of the border. Both helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft can deliver ordnance across the border quickly. Turkey's modest unmanned aerial vehicle fleet also might find use in targeting and reconnaissance. But even though Turkish aircraft can dash quickly in and out of northern Iraq, the U.S. Air Force closely monitors Iraqi airspace. Turkish artillery and multiple rocket launchers are an attractive alternative. Ankara is well-equipped to deliver punishing artillery strikes as far as 20 miles inside Iraq. (And it has a limited ability, depending on the ammunition available, to strike perhaps as far as 30 miles). Turkey's special forces presence in northern Iraq could be expanded or more aggressively employed. However, any expansion would probably come from Ankara's five commando brigades, rather than from the heavily conscripted regular units of the Turkish army that might not be particularly well-suited to the kind of subtlety and operations necessary in a situation other than war across the border.

Meanwhile, Iran would be more than eager to jump into the fray and warm up to Ankara by taking action against the PKK. Tehran has an interest in helping the Turks keep the Kurds boxed in and making the United States look bad in Turkey's eyes.

With the KRG facing pressure from Turkey on one side and most likely Iran on the other, it will be forced to order the peshmerga to crack down on the PKK. (Peshmerga-PKK clashes have occurred in recent months whenever Ankara has increased the rhetorical pressure.) Turkey also can use the PKK issue to sustain pressure on the Iraqi Kurds on other issues -- especially oil deals and Kirkuk autonomy. The Iraqi Kurds' current priority is to protect the flow of foreign investment, which involves keeping the Turks at bay. The KRG will be willing to rein in the PKK for this purpose.

28680  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 09, 2007, 11:07:40 PM
"Crafty, are you saying that a US withdrawal from Iraq will somehow result in the "death" of the US?"

Although I do think that being driven out of Iraq, as vs. leaving upon enabling a stable situation, would hasten and increase attacks upon the American homeland, that is not my point here.  My point here is that IMHO you analogy is inapt, because here our soldiers die when they get the comeuppance you seem to think the US deserves.

"The "bullying" I see is us telling Iraqis to run their country the way we want or continue to live under the effective rule of the US military."

No, the bullying is AQ, the Sadr hit squads, the other Shiite hit squads, etc killing the millions of Iraqis who, enabled by American blood, sweat and tears, voted three times in election to choose their government.  AQ has specifically stated that democracy is anti-Islamic and are determined to stop it by any means necessary-- THAT is the bullying.

"And please, can we all just agree that none of us wants to see more troops killed?"

Actually, NO.  In war more people on one side die when that one side loses than when it wins.  You have plainly stated that you "oppose" (your repeated choice of word) our succcess.  To me the syllogism adds up to more American deaths.

"Nor does any of us think "the troops" are stupid or incompetent.  This elevation of the US military command to the status of virtual god-kings (a la that VDH article) and the assumption that the interests of the generals and the foot soldiers are synonymous are both fairly new phenomena that the typical WW2 soldier would likely find laughable."

The WW2 Army was a draft military.  This is a professional military and frankly there really are some really impressive people in it.

28681  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 09, 2007, 10:58:14 PM

We've been discussing these matters on the Assn forum and here for several years now.  I'm sorry, but I'm not really sure why I should think that breaking down my POV one more time would make any more likely to register with you than the other times.


28682  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 09, 2007, 10:55:24 PM
Its been 30 years since I studied Mexico in the University (including a semester in a Mexican law school and a summer in a Mexican law firm) and I have been going there with some regularity for 33 years.  That said, off the top of my head no names of particular books come to mind.  I want to say Alan Riding, but he may have been a NY Times reporter specializing in Mexico- my memory is not clear on this.  Anyway, go to Amazon or wherever and start looking.  If you come up with a specific list of books you are considering I will be glad to scan their pages in Amazon and offer my suggestion as to which are most likely to be useful.
28683  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: October 09, 2007, 04:39:37 PM
Ulitmately, no.

IMO there is a profound disconnect in the Arab thinking about all this.  They put themselves in a frenzy to wipe out Israel, and then are surprised that this has consequences in how the Israelis treat them.  Either that or they are consciously manipulating the gaps in the mental maps of western Liberalism and its running dogs  wink in the media  evil

28684  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: October 09, 2007, 04:35:35 PM
Woof Roger:

My I suggest a reread?  The question presented was not "Why are they coming here?".  The question presented was "Why do the conditions that push them here exist?". 

This seems to me an excellent question.

Most Americans know nearly zilch about Mexico (quick example:  Ask 10 Americans to name its president and see how many you get on even the most superficial question like this) explains why no one is discussing CCP's question-- to answer the question requires knowing about Mexico to the point of having a sense of its gestalt.

Until we get to CCP's question, we will continue to furiously go in the circle that presently consumes our attention and our energies.

28685  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Clarence Thomas on: October 09, 2007, 08:15:24 AM
The Real Clarence Thomas
His fidelity to the Constitution often leads to results liberals like.
Tuesday, October 9, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas again finds himself in the crosshairs of liberals. After 16 years of diligently avoiding the press, he has written a memoir, "My Grandfather's Son," that describes his life story--from birth into poverty and an upbringing by a grandfather descended from slaves to the tough confirmation battle that brought him to the Supreme Court.

The book honestly and openly denies his former employee Anita Hill's accusations of sexual harassment, which almost derailed his appointment to the nation's highest bench. Liberals now are girding to insinuate that Justice Thomas is so angry about the personal attacks on him during his confirmation hearings that he must be unfit to sit on the bench.

But if Justices Stephen Breyer or Ruth Bader Ginsburg are the apple of liberal groups' eye, does that mean that they are unfit because they must be biased? Liberal attacks on Justice Thomas echo segregation-era hate speech that would be called racist if leveled at any other black.

For years, critics whispered that Justice Thomas was a mere clone of Justice Antonin Scalia, and that he could not think for himself. When speculation ran high that Justice Thomas might rise to chief justice, Sen. Harry Reid called him "an embarrassment" whose "opinions are poorly written." Mr. Reid apparently had not read a Thomas opinion, and his own Senate Web site ended up providing a nice contrast on grammar and writing style with Justice Thomas's fine work. Now, they say, Justice Thomas is so bitter over his ugly treatment at the hands of liberals, he must be unable to impartially judge cases argued by groups like the ACLU, Sen. Joseph Biden or the Yale Law School.

Critics ignore the unique, powerful intellect that Justice Thomas brings to the court. He is the justice most committed to the principle that the Constitution today means what the Framers thought it meant.

At times, this can cause him to lean liberal. He agrees, for example, that the use of thermal imaging technology by police in the street to scan for marijuana in homes violates the Constitution's ban on unreasonable searches. He opposes the court's effort to place caps on punitive damages. He has voted to strike down literally thousands of harsher criminal sentences because they were based on facts found by judges rather than juries, as required by the Bill of Rights. He supports the right of anonymous political speech, and wants advertising and other commercial speech to receive the same rights as political speech.

So was it Justice Thomas's anger, or lack of intellect, that made him rule in favor of the rights of criminals, the press and the plaintiffs bar--one of the Democratic Party's largest financial supporters?

No one, of course, would deny that Justice Thomas has strong conservative views on constitutional law. He would reject much of affirmative action, end constitutional protection for abortion, recognize broad executive powers in wartime and allow religious groups more participation in public life. What he brings to the court as no other justice does is a characteristically American skepticism of social engineering plans promoted by elites--whether in the media, academia or well-heeled lobbies in Washington--and a respect for individual self-reliance and individual choice. He writes not to be praised by professors or pundits, but for the American people.
As his memoir shows, Justice Thomas's views were forged in the crucible of a truly authentic American story. This is a black man with a much greater range of personal experience than most of the upper-class liberals who take potshots at him. A man like this on the court is the very definition of the healthy diversity his detractors pretend to support.

In his dissent from the court's approval of the use of race in law-school admissions, he quoted Frederick Douglass: "If the negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!" Justice Thomas observed: "Like Douglass, I believe blacks can achieve in every avenue of American life without the meddling of university administrators."

In a 1995 race case, Justice Thomas explained without cavil why he thought the government's use of race was wrong. Racial quotas and preferences run directly against the promise of the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal. Affirmative action is "racial paternalism" whose "unintended consequences can be as poisonous and pernicious as any other form of discrimination."

Justice Thomas speaks from personal knowledge when he says: "So-called 'benign' discrimination teaches many that because of chronic and apparently immutable handicaps, minorities cannot compete with them without their patronizing indulgence." He argued that "these programs stamp minorities with a badge of inferiority and may cause them to develop dependencies or to adopt an attitude that they are 'entitled' to preferences."

By forswearing the role of coalition builder or swing voter--a position happily occupied by Justice Anthony Kennedy--Justice Thomas has used his opinions to highlight how the latest social theories sometimes hurt those they are said to help. Because he both respects grass-roots democracy and knows more about poverty than most people do, he dissented vigorously from the court's 1999 decision to strike down a local law prohibiting loitering in an effort to reduce inner-city gang activity. "Gangs fill the daily lives of many of our poorest and most vulnerable citizens with a terror that the court does not give sufficient consideration, often relegating them to the status of prisoners in their own homes."

Justice Thomas is an admirer of the work of Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, both classical liberals. His firsthand experience of poverty, bad schools and crime has led him to favor bottom-up, decentralized solutions for such problems.

He rejects, for example, the massive, judicially run desegregation decrees that have produced school busing and judicially imposed tax hikes. A student of a segregated school himself, Justice Thomas declares that "it never ceases to amaze me that the courts are so willing to assume that anything that is predominantly black must be inferior."

To Justice Thomas, the national government's command-and-control policies have failed to make the poorest any better off. Rather, they have simply suppressed innovation in solving the nation's problems. He believes that the Constitution allows not just states and cities, but religious groups, to experiment to provide better education. In a 2002 concurrence supporting the use of school vouchers, Justice Thomas again quoted Frederick Douglass: Education "means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of man into the glorious light of truth, the light by which men can only be made free." Justice Thomas followed with the sad truth: "Today many of our inner-city public schools deny emancipation to urban minority students."
"While the romanticized ideal of universal public education resonates with the cognoscenti who oppose vouchers," Justice Thomas wrote, "poor urban families just want the best education for their children, who will certainly need it to function in our high-tech and advanced society."

These are not the words of an angry justice, or a political justice, but of a human justice. Justice Thomas's personal story shows him to be all too aware of the imperfections in our society and mindful of the limits of the government's ability to solve them. That kind of understanding and humility, and personal courage in the face of incessant unjustified attack, is what most Americans would want on their Supreme Court.

Mr. Yoo is a professor at the Law School of the University of California at Berkeley, and a former Supreme Court clerk for Justice Thomas
28686  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / So be it? on: October 09, 2007, 08:07:38 AM
So Be It?
The dangers of defining "torture" down.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

It all but goes without saying that torture, properly defined and in nearly every circumstance, is wrong. But what do you make of the following statement, from a recent editorial in the Economist: "Dozens of plots may have been foiled and thousands of lives saved as a result of some of the unsavory practices now being employed in the name of fighting terrorism. Dropping such practices in order to preserve freedom may cost many lives. So be it"?

The subject of torture is again in the news thanks to a front-page story last week in the New York Times. It claims that in 2005 the Justice Department issued secret legal memorandums authorizing what the paper calls "severe interrogations," even after the administration had apparently renounced such methods. President Bush responded to the Times's story, as he has previously, by insisting "this government does not torture people." But the editorial writers at the Times were not impressed: "Is this a nation," they asked, "that tortures human beings and then concocts legal sophistries to confuse the world and avoid accountability before American voters?"

Two significant questions arise from this debate. First, what do we really mean by the word "torture"? And second, is the "So be it" standard put forward by the Economist a persuasive one?

The first question is not just a hairsplitting one, although a lot of hair gets split when government lawyers are asked for their opinion. Torture is a word that preserves its moral force only when used precisely and consistently to denote uniquely barbarous acts. "The needle under the fingernail" is one example. Simply to mention it causes most people instinctively to shudder.
By contrast, "slaps to the head," among the examples cited by the Times of the administration's "brutal" methods, doesn't come close to meeting any plausible definition of torture. The other examples--"hours held naked in a frigid [50 degree Fahrenheit] cell; days and nights without sleep while battered by thundering rock music; long periods manacled in stress positions; or the ultimate, waterboarding"--come progressively closer to the line, and perhaps they cross it. But how do we tell?

A useful benchmark was offered by a landmark 1978 decision laid down by the European Court of Human Rights. In Ireland v. the United Kingdom, which dealt with Britain's (extrajudicial) treatment of members of the Irish Republican Army, the court concluded that the following methods did not amount to torture:

"(a) Wall-standing: Forcing the detainees to remain for periods of some hours in a 'stress position,' described by those who underwent it as being 'spreadeagled against the wall, with their fingers put high above the head against the wall, the legs spread apart and the feet back, causing them to stand on their toes with the weight of the body mainly on the fingers.'

"(b) Hooding: Putting a black or navy colored bag over the detainees' heads and, at least initially, keeping it there all the time except during interrogation.

"(c) Subjection to noise: Pending their interrogations, holding the detainees in a room where there was a continuous loud and hissing noise.

"(d) Deprivation of sleep: pending their interrogations, depriving the detainees of sleep.

"(e) Deprivation of food and drink: subjecting the detainees to a reduced diet during their stay at the center and pending interrogations."

Remarkably, the European Court reached this careful judgment despite the fact that the "five techniques were applied in combination, with premeditation and for hours at a stretch" and that some of the detainees sustained "massive" injuries. The court's reasoning wasn't meant to excuse the behavior of British authorities, which it rightly described as "inhuman and degrading." But by maintaining the "distinction between 'torture' and 'inhuman or degrading treatment,' " the court sought to preserve the "special stigma [attached] to deliberate inhuman treatment causing very serious and cruel suffering."

These distinctions are not "legal sophistries," as the Times would have it. They are a juridical necessity to ensure that our definition of torture does not become so diluted as to render its prohibition unenforceable. But the abuse of the word does have its rhetorical uses: As with the militant anti-abortion movement, which believes that every abortion is murder and thus that every abortionist is a "murderer," the Times editorialists and their fellow travelers would characterize anyone who favors so much as touching a hair on 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's head as "pro-torture." This isn't argument. It's moral bullying.

For the record, count me as one who does not object to the interrogation to which KSM was reportedly subjected, including waterboarding. This is not because I take the use of waterboarding lightly (although I have a hard time concluding that a technique, however terrifying, to which CIA officers are willing to subject themselves experimentally can properly be counted as torture). It's because I take the threat posed by KSM seriously.
That makes it difficult for me to subscribe to the "So be it" line of reasoning. Taken seriously, it says that the civilized world would be better off sustaining a nuclear 9/11 than tarnishing its good name, that righteous victimhood is a finer thing than an innocent life saved through morally compromised methods, and that self-preservation is not the most fundamental requirement of democratic life.

In nearly all conflicts, even existential ones, limits should be observed, and it's worth thinking through where exactly the limits lie. But when the moral trade-off comes down to KSM waterboarded in order to extract actionable intelligence, or some mother's child murdered, it's not a tough call. And no amount of inflated, imprecise and tendentious allegations of torture should change that.

Mr. Stephens is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board. His column appears in the Journal Tuesdays.

28687  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tortured Arguments on: October 09, 2007, 08:05:06 AM
The Walls Street Journal weighs in:

Tortured Arguments
Giving al Qaeda an interrogation-resistance manual.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

On current course, U.S. warfighting doctrine will be as tame as a church social. Over the weekend, Condi Rice announced that Iraq convoys protected by military contractors will also have State Department minders onboard vehicles equipped with video cameras. Now comes the latest flap over "torture" techniques during terrorist interrogations, well on their way to becoming little more than a friendly chat.

Post-Abu Ghraib, opponents of terrorist interrogations got the Bush Administration to repudiate a 2003 Justice Department memo said to be overbroad. Now critics are up in arms over newly leaked 2005 memos that responded to that earlier criticism by attempting to be more specific.

Given the anti-antiterror mood in Congress, the CIA wanted to know with precision what it can and cannot do with al Qaeda captives, lest its officials find themselves without defense in front of some Congressional committee. So, according to newspaper reports, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel responded by detailing that slapping, hypothermia, sleep deprivation and so-called stress positions are allowed. Are these torture? If so, then we really are at the point where al Qaeda agents will be treated like common felons.

What's really at issue here is whether U.S. officials are going to have even the most basic tools to interrogate America's enemies. Newspaper accounts of the 2005 memos say "waterboarding," or simulated drowning, is also allowed in the memos, which reflects the CIA's view that this is especially effective in breaking hard cases rapidly. Reportedly, this technique was used against al Qaeda masterminds Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zebaydah. Waterboarding, by the way, is also part of interrogation-resistance training for some Americans, to prepare them to face the enemy if captured. If Congress wants to outlaw this technique, it can do so. But it then has an obligation to say what is allowed.
As it stands now, the scolds in Congress and the Beltway press have decided to impose their view that no pressure tactics are ever necessary or justified. But if Congress and the press are going to take over the design of the war on terror, how can they justify walking away from any responsibility to make clear what is permissible?

The notion that the U.S. goes around unnecessarily "torturing" people without any rationale whatsoever is so absurd that it is almost never stated explicitly. But it is equally awkward for the Administration's critics to admit that the "coercive" methods listed in these memos to induce cooperation from al Qaeda operatives may actually work. Former CIA Director George Tenet has said explicitly that they do work and have saved American lives. But rather than face these hard issues directly, the scolds fall back on generalities about our "values."

If Congress doesn't want to wade into the difficult business of approving this pressure technique while forbidding that one, or making clear which methods can and can't be used in combination, then it should understand that the course it is on now will help al Qaeda operatives resist interrogation.

Congress wants the OLC memos made public, but the reason to keep them secret is so enemy combatants can't use them as a resistance manual. If they know what's coming, they can psychologically prepare for it. We know al Qaeda training often involves its own forms of resistance training, and publicly describing the rules offers our enemies a road map for resistance.

Perhaps the worst canard is the assumption that the Administration went looking for some yes-man to issue the OLC memos. The premise of this narrative is that issuing these memos would somehow help the career of acting OLC head Steve Bradbury. This is preposterous. The amply documented way to get ahead in today's Washington is to loudly object to some Bush policy, and then advertise your disagreement in Congressional testimony or in a tell-all book.
Former Deputy Attorney General James Comey has made himself the toast of the town that way. Meanwhile, Mr. Bradbury's predecessor at OLC, Jack Goldsmith, is now at Harvard, basking in applause for attacking his former Administration colleagues in a book. Mr. Bradbury no doubt knew he was dooming his chances of Senate confirmation any time soon. It's just possible he signed the memos because he thought they were the right thing to do under the law and as policy.

The critics of Bush policy want to have it both ways: They want to smear Administration officials with the generalization of "torture" while washing their hands of any responsibility to say what kind of interrogation, if any, they favor. If a Democrat wins the White House in 2008, she may discover that no one in her government will dare sign a memo allowing any kind of aggressive interrogation beyond "Have a nice day."

28688  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ goes dark on: October 09, 2007, 07:58:12 AM
Enemy Vanishes From Its Web Sites

Staff Reporter of the Sun

WASHINGTON — Al Qaeda's Internet communications system has suddenly gone dark to American intelligence after the leak of Osama bin Laden's September 11 speech inadvertently disclosed the fact that we had penetrated the enemy's system.

The intelligence blunder started with what appeared at the time as an American intelligence victory, namely that the federal government had intercepted, a full four days before it was to be aired, a video of Osama bin Laden's first appearance in three years in a video address marking the sixth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. On the morning of September 7, the Web site of ABC News posted excerpts from the speech.

But the disclosure from ABC and later other news organizations tipped off Qaeda's internal security division that the organization's Internet communications system, known among American intelligence analysts as Obelisk, was compromised. This network of Web sites serves not only as the distribution system for the videos produced by Al Qaeda's production company, As-Sahab, but also as the equivalent of a corporate intranet, dealing with such mundane matters as expense reporting and clerical memos to mid- and lower-level Qaeda operatives throughout the world.

While intranets are usually based on servers in a discrete physical location, Obelisk is a series of sites all over the Web, often with fake names, in some cases sites that are not even known by their proprietors to have been hacked by Al Qaeda.

One intelligence officer who requested anonymity said in an interview last week that the intelligence community watched in real time the shutdown of the Obelisk system. America's Obelisk watchers even saw the order to shut down the system delivered from Qaeda's internal security to a team of technical workers in Malaysia. That was the last internal message America's intelligence community saw. "We saw the whole thing shut down because of this leak," the official said. "We lost an important keyhole into the enemy."

By Friday evening, one of the key sets of sites in the Obelisk network, the Ekhlaas forum, was back on line. The Ekhlaas forum is a password-protected message board used by Qaeda for recruitment, propaganda dissemination, and as one of the entrance ways into Obelisk for those operatives whose user names are granted permission. Many of the other Obelisk sites are now offline and presumably moved to new secret locations on the World Wide Web.

The founder of a Web site known as, Nick Grace, tracked the shutdown of Qaeda's Obelisk system in real time. "It was both unprecedented and chilling from the perspective of a Web techie. The discipline and coordination to take the entire system down involving multiple Web servers, hundreds of user names and passwords, is an astounding feat, especially that it was done within minutes," Mr. Grace said yesterday.

The head of the SITE Intelligence Group, an organization that monitors Jihadi Web sites and provides information to subscribers, Rita Katz, said she personally provided the video on September 7 to the deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter.

Ms. Katz yesterday said, "We shared a copy of the transcript and the video with the U.S. government, to Michael Leiter, with the request specifically that it was important to keep the subject secret. Then the video was leaked out. An investigation into who downloaded the video from our server indicated that several computers with IP addresses were registered to government agencies."

Yesterday a spokesman for the National Counterterrorism Center, Carl Kropf, denied the accusation that it was responsible for the leak. "That's just absolutely wrong. The allegation and the accusation that we did that is unfounded," he said. The spokesman for the director of national intelligence, Ross Feinstein, yesterday also denied the leak allegation. "The intelligence community and the ODNI senior leadership did not leak this video to the media," he said.

Ms. Katz said, "The government leak damaged our investigation into Al Qaeda's network. Techniques and sources that took years to develop became ineffective. As a result of the leak Al Qaeda changed their methods." Ms. Katz said she also lost potential revenue.

A former counterterrorism official, Roger Cressey, said, "If any of this was leaked for any reasons, especially political, that is just unconscionable." Mr. Cressey added that the work that was lost by burrowing into Qaeda's Internet system was far more valuable than any benefit that was gained by short-circuiting Osama bin Laden's video to the public.

While Al Qaeda still uses human couriers to move its most important messages between senior leaders and what is known as a Hawala network of lenders throughout the world to move interest-free money, more and more of the organization's communication happens in cyber space.

"While the traditional courier based networks can offer security and anonymity, the same can be had on the Internet. It is clear in recent years if you look at their information operations and explosion of Al Qaeda related Web sites and Web activities, the Internet has taken a primary role in their communications both externally and internally," Mr. Grace said.

Source Drudge
Firm Says Administration's Handling of Video Ruined Its Spying Efforts

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 9, 2007; A01

A small private intelligence company that monitors Islamic terrorist groups obtained a new Osama bin Laden video ahead of its official release last month, and around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, it notified the Bush administration of its secret acquisition. It gave two senior officials access on the condition that the officials not reveal they had it until the al-Qaeda release.

Within 20 minutes, a range of intelligence agencies had begun downloading it from the company's Web site. By midafternoon that day, the video and a transcript of its audio track had been leaked from within the Bush administration to cable television news and broadcast worldwide.

The founder of the company, the SITE Intelligence Group, says this premature disclosure tipped al-Qaeda to a security breach and destroyed a years-long surveillance operation that the company has used to intercept and pass along secret messages, videos and advance warnings of suicide bombings from the terrorist group's communications network.

"Techniques that took years to develop are now ineffective and worthless," said Rita Katz, the firm's 44-year-old founder, who has garnered wide attention by publicizing statements and videos from extremist chat rooms and Web sites, while attracting controversy over the secrecy of SITE's methodology. Her firm provides intelligence about terrorist groups to a wide range of paying clients, including private firms and military and intelligence agencies from the United States and several other countries.

The precise source of the leak remains unknown. Government officials declined to be interviewed about the circumstances on the record, but they did not challenge Katz's version of events. They also said the incident had no effect on U.S. intelligence-gathering efforts and did not diminish the government's ability to anticipate attacks.

While acknowledging that SITE had achieved success, the officials said U.S. agencies have their own sophisticated means of watching al-Qaeda on the Web. "We have individuals in the right places dealing with all these issues, across all 16 intelligence agencies," said Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

But privately, some intelligence officials called the incident regrettable, and one official said SITE had been "tremendously helpful" in ferreting out al-Qaeda secrets over time.

The al-Qaeda video aired on Sept. 7 attracted international attention as the first new video message from the group's leader in three years. In it, a dark-bearded bin Laden urges Americans to convert to Islam and predicts failure for the Bush administration in Iraq and Afghanistan. The video was aired on hundreds of Western news Web sites nearly a full day before its release by a distribution company linked to al-Qaeda.

Computer logs and records reviewed by The Washington Post support SITE's claim that it snatched the video from al-Qaeda days beforehand. Katz requested that the precise date and details of the acquisition not be made public, saying such disclosures could reveal sensitive details about the company's methods.

SITE -- an acronym for the Search for International Terrorist Entities -- was established in 2002 with the stated goal of tracking and exposing terrorist groups, according to the company's Web site. Katz, an Iraqi-born Israeli citizen whose father was executed by Saddam Hussein in the 1960s, has made the investigation of terrorist groups a passionate quest.

"We were able to establish sources that provided us with unique and important information into al-Qaeda's hidden world," Katz said. Her company's income is drawn from subscriber fees and contracts.

Katz said she decided to offer an advance copy of the bin Laden video to the White House without charge so officials there could prepare for its eventual release.

She spoke first with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, whom she had previously met, and then with Joel Bagnal, deputy assistant to the president for homeland security. Both expressed interest in obtaining a copy, and Bagnal suggested that she send a copy to Michael Leiter, who holds the No. 2 job at the National Counterterrorism Center.

Administration and intelligence officials would not comment on whether they had obtained the video separately. Katz said Fielding and Bagnal made it clear to her that the White House did not possess a copy at the time she offered hers.

Around 10 a.m. on Sept. 7, Katz sent both Leiter and Fielding an e-mail with a link to a private SITE Web page containing the video and an English transcript. "Please understand the necessity for secrecy," Katz wrote in her e-mail. "We ask you not to distribute . . . [as] it could harm our investigations."

Fielding replied with an e-mail expressing gratitude to Katz. "It is you who deserves the thanks," he wrote, according to a copy of the message. There was no record of a response from Leiter or the national intelligence director's office.

Exactly what happened next is unclear. But within minutes of Katz's e-mail to the White House, government-registered computers began downloading the video from SITE's server, according to a log of file transfers. The records show dozens of downloads over the next three hours from computers with addresses registered to defense and intelligence agencies.

By midafternoon, several television news networks reported obtaining copies of the transcript. A copy posted around 3 p.m. on Fox News's Web site referred to SITE and included page markers identical to those used by the group. "This confirms that the U.S. government was responsible for the leak of this document," Katz wrote in an e-mail to Leiter at 5 p.m.

Al-Qaeda supporters, now alerted to the intrusion into their secret network, put up new obstacles that prevented SITE from gaining the kind of access it had obtained in the past, according to Katz.

A small number of private intelligence companies compete with SITE in scouring terrorists' networks for information and messages, and some have questioned the company's motives and methods, including the claim that its access to al-Qaeda's network was unique. One competitor, Ben Venzke, founder of IntelCenter, said he questions SITE's decision -- as described by Katz -- to offer the video to White House policymakers rather than quietly share it with intelligence analysts.

"It is not just about getting the video first," Venzke said. "It is about having the proper methods and procedures in place to make sure that the appropriate intelligence gets to where it needs to go in the intelligence community and elsewhere in order to support ongoing counterterrorism operations."

Source Drudge
28689  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Baboons on: October 09, 2007, 07:33:28 AM
NY Times
Published: October 9, 2007
Royal is a cantankerous old male baboon whose troop of some 80 members lives in the Moremi Game Reserve in Botswana. A perplexing event is about to disturb his day.

From the bushes to his right, he hears a staccato whoop, the distinctive call that female baboons always make after mating. He recognizes the voice as that of Jackalberry, the current consort of Cassius, a male who outranks Royal in the strict hierarchy of male baboons. No hope of sex today.

But then, surprisingly, he hears Cassius’s signature greeting grunt to his left. His puzzlement is plain on the video made of his reaction. You can almost see the wheels turn slowly in his head:

“Jackalberry here, but Cassius over there. Hmm, Jackalberry must be hooking up with some one else. But that means Cassius has left her unguarded. Say what — this is my big chance!”

The video shows him loping off in the direction of Jackalberry’s whoop. But all that he will find is the loudspeaker from which researchers have played Jackalberry’s recorded call.

The purpose of the experiment is not to ruin Royal’s day but to understand what goes on in a baboon’s mind, in this case how carefully the animals keep track of transient relationships.

Dorothy Cheney and Robert Seyfarth, a husband-and-wife team of biologists at the University of Pennsylvania, have spent 14 years observing the Moremi baboons. Through ingenious playback experiments performed by themselves and colleagues, the researchers say they have worked out many aspects of what baboons use their minds for, along with their limitations.

Reading a baboon’s mind affords an excellent grasp of the dynamics of baboon society. But more than that, it bears on the evolution of the human mind and the nature of human existence. As Darwin jotted down in a notebook of 1838, “He who understands baboon would do more towards metaphysics than Locke.”

Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth are well known for a 1990 book on vervet monkeys, “How Monkeys See the World,” in which they showed how much about the animals’ mental processes could be deduced from careful experiments.

When a baby vervet’s call is played to three females, for instance, the mother looks to the source of the sound. The two others look to the mother, evidence that vervets know whose baby is whose.

An experiment like this — recording the sounds, waiting until the animals are in the right place and performing numerous controls — can take months to complete, but the results are widely admired by other biologists. “Any work of Dorothy and Robert’s is going to be as good as you get in the field,” said Robert M. Sapolsky, a Stanford biologist and an author who has studied baboons in the wild for many years.

“There is no one else in the area of animal behavior who does such incredibly interesting experiments in the field,” said Marc Hauser, a biologist at Harvard who was their first student.

Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth have summed up their new cycle of research in a book titled, after Darwin’s comment, “Baboon Metaphysics.” Their conclusion, based on many painstaking experiments, is that baboons’ minds are specialized for social interaction, for understanding the structure of their complex society and for navigating their way within it.

The shaper of a baboon’s mind is natural selection. Those with the best social skills leave the most offspring.

“Monkey society is governed by the same two general rules that governed the behavior of women in so many 19th-century novels,” Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth write. “Stay loyal to your relatives (though perhaps at a distance, if they are an impediment), but also try to ingratiate yourself with the members of high-ranking families.”

Baboon society revolves around mother-daughter lines of descent. Eight or nine matrilines are in a troop, each with a rank order. This hierarchy can remain stable for generations.

By contrast, the male hierarchy, which consists mostly of baboons born in other troops, is always changing as males fight among themselves and with new arrivals.

Rank among female baboons is hereditary, with a daughter assuming her mother’s rank.

News of that fact gave great satisfaction to a member of the British royal family, Princess Michael of Kent. She visited Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth in Botswana, remarking to them, they report: “I always knew that when people who aren’t like us claim that hereditary rank is not part of human nature, they must be wrong. Now you’ve given me evolutionary proof!”


Baboons live with danger on every side. Many fall prey to lions, leopards, pythons and the crocodiles that in the wet season stalk the fords where baboons cross from one island to another. Baboon watchers are subject to the same hazards. Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth say their rules are not to work alone or to wade into water deeper than knee high. They often find themselves sitting in a tree with baboons waiting out a lion below. But going into New York is more petrifying, they contend, than dodging Botswana’s predators.

The baboons will bark to warn of lions and leopards, but pay no attention to some other species dangerous to humans like buffalo and elephant. On two occasions, baboons have attacked animals, a leopard and a honey badger, that threatened their human companions. “We haven’t lost any post-docs,” Dr. Seyfarth said.

For female baboons, another constant worry besides predation is infanticide. Their babies are put in peril at each of the frequent upheavals in the male hierarchy. The reason is that new alpha males enjoy brief reigns, seven to eight months on average, and find at first that the droits de seigneur they had anticipated are distinctly unpromising. Most of the females are not sexually receptive because they are pregnant or nurturing unweaned children.

An unpleasant fact of baboon life is that the alpha male can make mothers re-enter their reproductive cycles, and boost his prospects of fatherhood, by killing their infants. The mothers can secure some protection for their babies by forming close bonds with other females and with male friends, particularly those who were alpha when their children were conceived and who may be the father. Still, more than half of all deaths among baby baboons are from infanticide.

So important are these social skills that it is females with the best social networks, not those most senior in the hierarchy, who leave the most offspring.

Although the baboon and human lines of descent split apart some 30 million years ago, the species have much in common. Both are primates whose ancestors came down from the trees and learned to survive on the ground in large social groups. The baboon mind may therefore shed considerable light on the early stages of the evolution of the human mind.

In some of their playback experiments, Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth have tested baboons’ knowledge of where everyone stands in the hierarchy. In a typical interaction, a dominant baboon gives a threat grunt, and its inferior screams. From their library of recorded baboon sounds, the researchers can fabricate a sequence in which an inferior baboon’s threat grunt is followed by a superior’s scream.

Baboons pay little attention when a normal interaction is played to them but show surprise when they hear the fabricated sequence implying their social world has been turned upside down.

This simple reaction says a lot about what is going in the baboon’s mind. That the animal can construe “A dominates B,” and distinguish it from “B dominates A,” means it must be able to break a stream of sounds down into separate elements, recognize the meaning of each, and combine the meanings into a sentence-like thought.

“That’s what we do when we parse a sentence,” Dr. Seyfarth said. Human language seems unique because no other species is capable of anything like speech. But when it comes to perceiving and deconstructing sounds, as opposed to making them, baboons’ ability seems much more language-like.

Assuming that early humans inherited the same ability from their joint ancestor with baboons, then when humans first started to combine sounds in the beginning of spoken language, “their listeners were all ready to perceive them,” Dr. Seyfarth said.

Baboons may be good at perceiving and thinking in a combinative way, but their vocal output consists of single sounds that are never combined, like greeting grunts, the females’ sexual whoop and the males’ competitive “wahoo!” cry. Why did language, expressed in combinations of sounds, evolve in humans but not in baboons?

A possible key to the puzzle lies in what animal psychologists call theory of mind, the ability to infer what another animal does or does not know. Baboons seem to have a very feeble theory of mind. When they cross from one island to another, ever fearful of crocodiles, the adults will often go first, leaving the juveniles fretting at the water’s edge. However much the young baboons call, their mothers never come back to help, as if unable to divine their children’s predicament.

But people have a very strong ability to recognize the mental states of others, and this could have prompted a desire to communicate that drove the evolution of language. “If I know you don’t know something, I am highly motivated to communicate it,” Dr. Seyfarth said.

It is far from clear why humans acquired a strong theory of mind faculty and baboons did not. Another difference between the two species is brain size. Some biologists have suggested that the demands of social living were the evolutionary pressure that enhanced the size of the brain. But the largest brains occur in chimpanzees and humans, who live in smaller groups than baboons.

But both chimps and humans use tools. Possibly social life drove the evolution of the primate brain to a certain point, and the stimulus of tool use then took over. Use of tools would have spurred communication, as the owner of a tool explained to others how to use it. But that requires a theory of mind, and Dr. Cheney and Dr. Seyfarth are skeptical of claims that chimpanzees have a theory of mind, in part because the experiments supporting that position have been conducted on captive chimps. “It’s bewildering to us that none of the people who study ape cognition have been motivated to study wild chimpanzees,” Dr. Cheney said.

“Baboons provide you with an example of what sort of social and cognitive complexity is possible in the absence of language and a theory of mind,” she said. “The selective forces that gave rise to our large brains and our full-blown theory of mind remain mysterious, at least to us.”
28690  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 08, 2007, 08:18:00 PM
More on point for me wojuld be be to explain how a bullying friend getting his comeuppance and getting killed are indistinguishable, , ,
28691  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Division of Jerusalem? on: October 08, 2007, 11:11:04 AM
ISRAEL, PNA: The Israeli government will support a division of Jerusalem, which allegedly is a major component of an Israeli-Palestinian deal to be announced during a Middle East peace conference in November, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said. Even the hawkish factions of Olmert's coalition back this Israeli concession, Vice Premier Haim Ramon said.

28692  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: October 08, 2007, 09:06:52 AM
Tis a rare event, but I re-entered the minor stopped out sub-position in LNOP in profitable fashion and today am quite happy.  As I type LNOP is up 5.8%-- and ISIS is having yet another fine day.
28693  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Knives for good on: October 08, 2007, 08:50:20 AM
Woof All:

I would like to mention that on page 66 of the Jan.'08 issue of "Tactical Knives" there is an article titled "Syderco's P'kal- Fist Full of Fight" which is about my friend Southnarc's reverse grip reverse edge Shivworks folder.    Those of you familiiar with Southnarc's Clinch Pick and Disciple designs know that a lot of serious combative IQ goes into the design of these knives and when we were talking last week he expressed a lot of pride to me that this, his first folder, has been done right.   We (DBIMA) are in conversation about carrying this knife.

Crafty Dog
28694  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA DVD: "DLO 2: Bringing a Gun to a Knife Attack" on: October 08, 2007, 08:26:17 AM
The use of mosaics is to hide the technique  wink grin cheesy  The mosaic will not be used in the actual DVD of course.
28695  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal issues on: October 08, 2007, 08:24:30 AM
Second post of the morning:


Another U.N. Power Grab
What would Reagan do? On the Law of the Sea Treaty, we know the answer.

Monday, October 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

It is an impressive testament to the abiding affection and political influence of former President Ronald Reagan that the fate of a controversial treaty now before the U.S. Senate may ultimately turn on a single question: What would Reagan do?

As we had the privilege of working closely with President Reagan in connection with the foreign policy, national security and domestic implications of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (better known as the Law of the Sea Treaty or LOST), there is no question about how our 40th president felt about this accord. He so strongly opposed it that he formally refused to sign the treaty. He even sent Donald Rumsfeld as a personal emissary to our key allies around the world to explain his opposition and encourage them to follow suit. All of them did so at the time.

Proponents of LOST, however, have lately taken--on these pages and elsewhere--to portray President Reagan's concerns as relatively circumscribed. They contend that those objections were subsequently and satisfactorily addressed in a multilateral accord known as the Agreement of 1994. To the extent that such assertions may induce senators who would otherwise oppose the Law of the Sea Treaty to vote for it, perhaps within a matter of weeks and after only the most cursory of reviews, we feel compelled to set the record straight.

Ronald Reagan actually opposed LOST even before he came to office. He was troubled by a treaty that had, in the course of its protracted negotiations, mutated beyond recognition from an effort to codify certain navigation rights strongly supported by our Navy into a dramatic step toward world government. This supranational agenda was most closely identified with, but not limited to, the Treaty's Part XI, which created a variety of executive, legislative and judicial mechanisms to control the resources of the world's oceans.

In a radio address titled "Ocean Mining" on Oct. 10, 1978, Mr. Reagan applauded the idea that "no nat[ional] interest of ours could justify handing sovereign control of two-thirds of the earth's surface over to the Third World." He added, "No one has ruled out the idea of a [Law of the Sea] treaty--one which makes sense--but after long years of fruitless negotiating, it became apparent that the underdeveloped nations who now control the General Assembly were looking for a free ride at our expense--again."

The so-called seabed mining provisions were simply one manifestation of the problems Ronald Reagan had with LOST. That was made clear by an entry in his diary dated June 29, 1982, after months of efforts to negotiate extensive changes in the draft treaty text came to naught. On that evening, President Reagan wrote: "Decided in [National Security Council] meeting--will not sign 'Law of the Sea' treaty even without seabed mining provisions."
The man selected by President Reagan to undertake those renegotiations was the remarkable James Malone. In 1984, Ambassador Malone explained why the Law of the Sea Treaty was unacceptable: "The Treaty's provisions were intentionally designed to promote a new world order--a form of global collectivism known as the New International Economic Order (NIEO)--that seeks ultimately the redistribution of the world's wealth through a complex system of manipulative central economic planning and bureaucratic coercion. The Treaty's provisions are predicated on a distorted interpretation of the noble concept of the Earth's vast oceans as the 'common heritage of mankind.'"

Interestingly, Ambassador Malone declared in 1995, "This remains the case today." That statement is particularly relevant insofar as LOST's supporters, including some of our colleagues from the Reagan administration, insist that the 1994 Agreement "fixed" the previously unacceptable Part XI provisions. As James Malone explained to a conference on the Law of the Sea Treaty before his untimely death more than a decade ago:

"All the provisions from the past that make such a [new world order] outcome possible, indeed likely, still stand. It is not true, as argued by some, and frequently mentioned, that the U.S. rejected the Convention in 1982 solely because of technical difficulties with Part XI. The collectivist and redistributionist provisions of the treaty were at the core of the U.S. refusal to sign."

He added, "The regime's structural arrangements place central planning ahead of free market interests in determining influence over world resources; and yet, the collapse of socialist central planning throughout the world makes this a step in the wrong direction."

In a comment that is, if anything, even more true at present, Ambassador Malone observed that: "Today, not only are the seabed mining provisions inadequately corrected, and the collectivist ideologies of a now repudiated system of global central planning still imbedded in the treaty, new and potentially serious concerns have arisen."

Currently, these include: the increasingly brazen hostility of the United Nations and other multilateral institutions to the United States and its interests; the organization's ambition to impose international taxes, which would allow it to become still less transparent and accountable to member nations; the determination of European and other environmentalists to impose the "precautionary principle" (a Luddite, "better safe than sorry" approach that requires proof no harm can come from any initiative before it can be undertaken); the increasing practice of U.S. courts to allow "universal jurisprudence" to trump American constitutional rights and laws; and the use of "lawfare" (multilateral treaties, tribunal rulings and convention declarations) by adversaries of the U.S. military as asymmetric weapons to curtail or impede American power and operations.

Such developments only serve to reinforce the concerns President Reagan rightly had about the central, and abiding, defect of the Law of the Sea Treaty: its effort to promote global government at the expense of sovereign nation states--and most especially the United States. One of the prime movers behind LOST, the late Elisabeth Mann Borgese of the World Federalist Association (which now calls itself Citizens for Global Solutions), captured what is at stake when she cited an ancient aphorism: "He who rules the sea, rules the land." A U.N. publication lauding her work noted that Borgese saw LOST as a "possible test-bed for ideas she had developed concerning a common global constitution."
While we would not presume to speak for President Reagan, his own words and those of the man who worked most closely with him and us on Law of the Sea matters, Jim Malone, make one thing clear: Even if the 1994 Agreement actually amended LOST (and there are multiple reasons why it did not actually alter so much as a single word of the treaty), Ronald Reagan's belief in the U.S. as an exceptional "shining city on a hill" and his enmity towards threats to our sovereignty in general, and global governance schemes in particular, were such that he would likely encourage the Senate to do today what he did in 1982: Reject LOST.

Judge Clark and Mr. Meese served in several capacities in President Reagan's administration including, respectively, as national security adviser and attorney general.
28696  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / No room for Entrepeneurs on: October 08, 2007, 08:23:38 AM
No Room for Entrepreneurs
October 8, 2007; Page A18

Economist Joseph Schumpeter (1883-1950) may be best known for his innovative work showing the link between entrepreneurial discovery and economic progress.

But as Carl Schramm, president of the Kauffman Foundation of Entrepreneurship has pointed out, Schumpeter's insights about risk-takers didn't make him an optimist.

In a speech last year to European finance ministers in Vienna, Mr. Schramm explained Schumpeter's fears: He "worried that entrepreneurial capitalism would not flourish because the bureaucracies of modern government and big corporations would dampen innovation -- the process of 'creative destruction' would be too ungovernable for a modern, Keynesian-regulated economy to tolerate." As a result, Mr. Schramm said, Schumpeter thought that "the importance of entrepreneurs would fade over time as capitalism sought predictability from governments who would plan economic activity as well as order social benefits."

Mr. Schramm's comments caught my attention because they so accurately describe Latin America. There the entrepreneur has been all but run out of town by the bureaucracies that Schumpeter feared. Growth has suffered accordingly.

The World Bank's annual "Doing Business" survey, released last week, demonstrates the point. The 2008 survey, which evaluates the regulatory climate for entrepreneurs in 178 countries, finds that Latin America and the Caribbean was the slowest reforming region this year and that it "is falling further behind other regions in the pace" of reform.

The average time it takes to start a business -- one of 10 factors measured -- in Latin America and the Caribbean is 68 days, longer than anywhere else. Compare that with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, where business start-ups take less than 15 days. Other common problems in the region are weak minority-shareholder rights, slow legal regimes and punishing tax systems.

Yet as bad as the regional averages are, entrepreneurs in Venezuela probably view them with envy. When it comes to the ease of doing business Venezuela now ranks six places from the bottom world-wide, between Eritrea and Chad. It also finishes dead last among the region's 31 countries -- and that includes Haiti. In the category of "employing workers" Venezuela ties with Bolivia at No. 177. The authors note that it is "not possible" to fire a Venezuelan employee. "Starting a business" takes 141 days and in ease of "paying taxes" it ranks No. 174.

Keeping Venezuela company in the cellar are Ecuador, which finishes 27th in the region, and Bolivia, which comes in 28th. Only Suriname, Haiti and Mr. Chávez's oil paradise have more hostile business climates.

To understand how Argentina went from being one of the world's top-performing economies during Schumpeter's lifetime to the basket case it is today, this report is instructive. The resurgence of Peronist economics helped it slide 16 places lower than its 2006 ranking. Not only has it failed to carry out any meaningful reforms but in the past year it complicated the insolvency process. And its tax system remains punitive: A company that pays all its taxes coughs up the equivalent of 113% of its profit. Argentina finishes 22nd in the region but ahead of Costa Rica, which comes in 24th. Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua are all better places to be an entrepreneur than Costa Rica.

Brazil earned about the same ranking as last year. It made improvements to its legal regime but lost ground to more aggressive reformers in the category of "trading across borders." It also takes last place world-wide for the time it takes to comply with the tax code (2,600 hours) and ranks 137th in the "paying taxes" category.

Sluggish reform in the region has led some analysts to conclude that democracies in the developing world cannot overcome the obstacles to modernization presented by the political economy. Yet there are regional successes that prove that where there is political will, there is a way.

Take Mexico. In last year's report it jumped almost 20 places world-wide thanks to a reform-minded treasury ministry under former President Vicente Fox, which lowered tax rates and made property registration easier. It now has the fifth-most pro-business climate in the region. If the government of Felipe Calderón keeps its reform promises, more improvements should be on the way, though its price controls on bread and tortillas are not a good sign.

This year's superstar is Colombia. It is among the top 10 reformers world-wide and ranks 12th in the region. It made enormous progress in "trading across borders" by reducing the time goods spend in terminals, extending port operating hours and making more selective customs inspections. It also strengthened investor protections, adopted an electronic tax filing system and progressively lowered the corporate tax rate to 33% in 2008 from 35% in 2006. Much more work is needed but the moral of the story is that with leadership, such as that which President Álvaro Uribe has provided, reform is possible.

But the opposite is also true. Chile has fallen nine places since its No. 24 ranking in the 2006 report, suggesting that the center-left coalition running the country is not attuned to the importance of entrepreneurial freedom.

The most important lesson for Latin America from the World Bank's report is that its competitors around the world are working to unleash entrepreneurial spirits, and doing nothing is not an option. As Mr. Schramm told his Vienna audience, "Schumpeter saw what a century of evidence would prove: Socialism has not sustained economic growth." Now, if only more Latin American policy makers would catch on.

Write to O'

28697  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: October 08, 2007, 08:11:43 AM
Goose Creek Terror Trial - Egypt to Hire Lawyer for Accused USF Student

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Egypt's government is paying for the legal representation of a college student who authorities say was found with pipe bombs near a Navy base, an attorney said Wednesday.

Attorney John Fitzgibbons told a judge he was in talks with the Egyptian embassy in Washington and likely will be hired to represent suspended University of South Florida student Ahmed Abdellatif Sherif Mohamed.

Ahmed el-Qawassni, an official in Egypt's foreign ministry, said the government is closely monitoring the case and confirmed that an attorney is being hired for Mohamed, who was born in Kuwait to Egyptian parents.

"We are responsible for the sons of Egypt abroad with no exception," el-Qawassni said.

Mohamed, 24, and another USF student, Youssef Samir Megahed, 21, are charged with carrying explosive materials across state lines.


28698  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: October 08, 2007, 08:06:42 AM
Al Qaeda's War of Villages
Signs that the terrorists are losing in Iraq.

Monday, October 8, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

BAGHDAD--The latest chapter in al Qaeda's war manual in their war against the Iraqi people and the Coalition is this: raiding remote peaceful villages, burning down homes and slaughtering both man and beast. It's a campaign of self destruction.

For about a year al Qaeda has been trying to build a so called Islamic State in Iraq. On several occasions al Qaeda has even declared parts of Baghdad or other places in other provinces the capital of this Islamic State.

But now that they are losing one base after another, their objective seems to have changed from adding more towns and villages to the "state" to destroying the very same towns and villages. Obviously, it's all about making headlines regardless of the means to do that.

This change in plans began to take shape with the battle between al Qaeda and the joint forces on Sept. 6 and 7 in Hor Rijab and then the massacre that followed in the same spot a week later and finally the attacks on other villages north, south and east of Baghdad in the last week or so.

Actually first I'd like to recommend reading a good post by Jules Crittenden about the flawed timing of this "Little Tet.

Anyway, our interest today is more about the field situation and strategy than about timing since the latter seems to be not so friendly to al Qaeda. Well, actually timing is very important here too but at a rather different level. In my opinion al Qaeda found itself forced to start this villages war. It wasn't a choice as much as a last resort because villages are among the few fighting spaces that al Qaeda can still utilize as large cities become increasingly difficult for them to operate in. They know that without engaging the enemy--that's us by the way--their existence and influence would end and I'm almost positive that they feel bitter about having to fight this way.

In order to fight a "good" guerilla war one has to stay in fluid state, have no permanent bases or barracks, no distinguishable uniform and above all one should be able to always have civilians around so as to deter the enemy--that's again us--from attacking out of concern about collateral damages and casualties among innocent civilians. No one questions the fact that no army in the Middle East, and I doubt there are any elsewhere, that can engage and defeat the U.S. military power in open terrain, in other words in a case of two traditional armies fighting on traditional battlefield.
The last factor is exactly what al Qaeda is sacrificing by waging this war on villages. But how can we make advantage of this situation? The greatest challenge I guess would be to have an alarm and information system through which the nearest available troops could be notified when an attack begins so they could interfere and repel the attack. This might be logistically difficult to establish in a short time since villages are usually far from the cities. In fact I worked in some such villages and I know that most of them are outside the administrative divisions or "civil planning" of provinces therefore they lack their own government offices and departments which means the nearest hospital, fire department, even phone and above all police station could be many miles away.

But even then if the troops fail to arrive in time to intercept the attack, which would be truly sad, the long distance that al Qaeda fighters would have to travel to go back to their base would require them to lose precious time since they have to rely only on ground transport on mostly exposed terrain while the troops very often have the advantage of the much faster air transport.

In the worst case scenario what's left of a village if the attack is not intercepted would be only al Qaeda fighters and the remains of what used to be a village. Now isn't that the perfect target for the countless aggressive fire units of the U.S. military?

Now please let's put emotions aside for a while because this is war we're talking about and if sacrifices cannot be avoided we should make sure the enemy pays the heaviest price possible. If reaction is quick enough--and timing here is of crucial importance--the hunt would be great and the results would be spectacular.

Again, of course it would be much more pleasant if the attacks can be prevented or repelled but since I doubt there's such an alarm system we could at least make benefit of the gap in time that immediately follows the action of the attackers taking advantage of faster transportation means and the old principle in combat that says the enemy can be best attacked immediately after he makes his move.
For the duration of the war on al Qaeda in Iraq so far, the most frustrating fact for soldiers and military commanders has been that they were asked to identify terrorists who move like ghosts, separate them from civilians and kill or capture them and that's a truly difficult mission. That's partly because a soldier would have to be careful when and where each bullet he fires would hit. But when the ghosts are identified, isolated and far from any friendly objects/personnel a pilot could attack with assurance of not hurting a friend.

That's why I think the troops should seize each and every such opportunity (which are technically moments during which the crippling rule of engagement become much more flexible) and strike as hard as they can once they are sure the battlefield falls in the category we just described.

Mr. Fadhil and his brother Mohammed write a blog, Iraq the Model, from Baghdad.

28699  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: October 08, 2007, 07:42:47 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Talk of More U.S.-Iranian Talks

U.S. President George W. Bush told a group of businesspeople Oct. 3 that he would be prepared to negotiate with Iran if it suspended its nuclear weapons program. He repeated the call for negotiations in an Oct. 5 interview on the Al Arabiya television network. Iran responded Sunday by saying that it welcomes Bush's call for negotiations, but that it will not suspend its nuclear program as a precondition for such talks.

A spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry said, "Iran is ready for talks in a just, unconditional manner with mutual respect." He added, however, "Suspension of enrichment is an old debate. We have many times said that new issues should be discussed in negotiations." Most interestingly, the spokesman said that while Bush's remarks weren't new, they were "clearer than previous times."

That might well be true. Bush has not heretofore been this open about his willingness and desire to deal with the Iranians. However, the nuclear issue is still on the table. Bush wants to discuss Iraq with the Iranians, but only after their nuclear weapons program is shut down. The Iranians have no intention of abandoning their program prior to the negotiations. While we do think they would be prepared to shut it down in the long run, they will want to use it as a bargaining tool to extract maximum concessions from the United States before letting go of it. There is no way they would consider shutting down the program prior to talks.

The United States knows that. It does not expect the Iranians to concede this point. Therefore, one of two things is going on. The first possibility is that Washington wants to create a clear, public record that it has gone the extra mile in trying to work with Tehran, in order to convince allies and the general public that it has exhausted all of its reasonable nonmilitary options. It also is possible that the United States has in fact decided to upgrade its talks with the Iranians and will, in due course, negotiate over the negotiations, ultimately conceding that there will be talks prior to an end to the program.

Our prior view, after the surge began, was that the United States expected to engage Iran in serious negotiations over Iraq because neither side felt in control of the situation. Our view shifted as the Petraeus report came in -- we expected it to be modeled after the National Intelligence Estimate, increasing the likelihood of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. Instead, the opposite happened.

A general consensus, including most congressional Democrats, has emerged that recognizes that a unilateral and rapid withdrawal of U.S. forces is not going to happen. Moreover, Bush highlighted his improved relations with the Sunnis on his last visit to Iraq. A U.S.-Sunni alliance is a worst-case outcome for the Iranians, so it is possible that they might want to go back to the table. For the Americans, on the other hand, a relationship with the Sunnis is a thin reed on which to hang the U.S. strategy in Iraq. They do need to talk to the Iranians.

That makes the case that this offer of talks from the Americans could be real. And two such offers in the same week is more than just building the public record in preparation for an attack. Our gut tells us that Bush might be serious about talking right now.

The answer, if any, will come in backchannel discussions over the status of Iran's nuclear weapons program. The United States can't engage in talks if the program is going forward full-bore -- the politics would be impossible. On the other hand, Iran can't talk if doing so means abandoning the program. That would weaken Tehran's entire negotiating position. The only middle ground -- and this could be fantasy -- is the suspension of some aspect of the program without stopping it. If this is a serious opening, that is what is being discussed now. The formula should be clear to both sides and after a period of posturing, a compromise can emerge. Or, the offer is nothing more than atmospherics, and like other negotiating opportunities between the United States and Iran, it will go away.

We hate resorting to the ugly "we'll see" as an ending -- but that is exactly where we need to end this. Probably neither side really understands the position of the other. Indeed, each side might not have fully defined its own position yet. The public discussion is of enormous significance, but the unknowns are of equal importance.

So we'll see.
28700  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Gangs on: October 08, 2007, 07:26:30 AM
Woof All:

I suppose this thread could have gone on the P&R forum, or the MA forum, but I decided to put it here.  I open with a long documentary on MS-13.  The piece is quite a serious look at the serious problem of MS 13-- althoughI could have done without the occasional implications that US deportations of illegal aliens caused it all. 

I'll add one piece of background context.  El Salvador has extremely high population density rates and last I read (20 years ago) extremely high population growth rates (3.6% or so!!!  shocked ).

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