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28701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Geopolitics of Iran on: July 16, 2008, 12:51:09 AM
The Geopolitics of Iran: Holding the Center of a Mountain Fortress
Stratfor Today » July 14, 2008 | 1007 GMT

Editor’s Note: This is the third in a series of monographs by Stratfor founder George Friedman on the geopolitics of countries that are currently critical in world affairs. Click here for a printable PDF of the monograph in its entirety.

By George Friedman

To understand Iran, you must begin by understanding how large it is. Iran is the 17th largest country in world. It measures 1,684,000 square kilometers. That means that its territory is larger than the combined territories of France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Portugal — Western Europe. Iran is the 16th most populous country in the world, with about 70 million people. Its population is larger than the populations of either France or the United Kingdom.

Under the current circumstances, it might be useful to benchmark Iran against Iraq or Afghanistan. Iraq is 433,000 square kilometers, with about 25 million people, so Iran is roughly four times as large and three times as populous. Afghanistan is about 652,000 square kilometers, with a population of about 30 million. One way to look at it is that Iran is 68 percent larger than Iraq and Afghanistan combined, with 40 percent more population.

More important are its topographical barriers. Iran is defined, above all, by its mountains, which form its frontiers, enfold its cities and describe its historical heartland. To understand Iran, you must understand not only how large it is but also how mountainous it is.

Iran’s most important mountains are the Zagros. They are a southern extension of the Caucasus, running about 900 miles from the northwestern border of Iran, which adjoins Turkey and Armenia, southeast toward Bandar Abbas on the Strait of Hormuz. The first 150 miles of Iran’s western border is shared with Turkey. It is intensely mountainous on both sides. South of Turkey, the mountains on the western side of the border begin to diminish until they disappear altogether on the Iraqi side. From this point onward, south of the Kurdish regions, the land on the Iraqi side is increasingly flat, part of the Tigris-Euphrates basin. The Iranian side of the border is mountainous, beginning just a few miles east of the border. Iran has a mountainous border with Turkey, but mountains face a flat plain along the Iraq border. This is the historical frontier between Persia — the name of Iran until the early 20th century — and Mesopotamia (“land between two rivers”), as southern Iraq is called.

The one region of the western border that does not adhere to this model is in the extreme south, in the swamps where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers join to form the Shatt al-Arab waterway. There the Zagros swing southeast, and the southern border between Iran and Iraq zigzags south to the Shatt al-Arab, which flows south 125 miles through flat terrain to the Persian Gulf. To the east is the Iranian province of Khuzestan, populated by ethnic Arabs, not Persians. Given the swampy nature of the ground, it can be easily defended and gives Iran a buffer against any force from the west seeking to move along the coastal plain of Iran on the Persian Gulf.

Running east along the Caspian Sea are the Elburz Mountains, which serve as a mountain bridge between the Caucasus-Zagros range and Afghan mountains that eventually culminate in the Hindu Kush. The Elburz run along the southern coast of the Caspian to the Afghan border, buffering the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan. Mountains of lesser elevations then swing down along the Afghan and Pakistani borders, almost to the Arabian Sea.

Iran has about 800 miles of coastline, roughly half along the eastern shore of the Persian Gulf, the rest along the Gulf of Oman. Its most important port, Bandar Abbas, is located on the Strait of Hormuz. There are no equivalent ports along the Gulf of Oman, and the Strait of Hormuz is extremely vulnerable to interdiction. Therefore, Iran is not a major maritime or naval power. It is and always has been a land power.

The center of Iran consists of two desert plateaus that are virtually uninhabited and uninhabitable. These are the Dasht-e Kavir, which stretches from Qom in the northwest nearly to the Afghan border, and the Dasht-e Lut, which extends south to Balochistan. The Dasht-e Kavir consists of a layer of salt covering thick mud, and it is easy to break through the salt layer and drown in the mud. It is one of the most miserable places on earth.

Iran’s population is concentrated in its mountains, not in its lowlands, as with other countries. That’s because its lowlands, with the exception of the southwest and the southeast (regions populated by non-Persians), are uninhabitable. Iran is a nation of 70 million mountain dwellers. Even its biggest city, Tehran, is in the foothills of towering mountains. Its population is in a belt stretching through the Zagros and Elbroz mountains on a line running from the eastern shore of the Caspian to the Strait of Hormuz. There is a secondary concentration of people to the northeast, centered on Mashhad. The rest of the country is lightly inhabited and almost impassable because of the salt-mud flats.

If you look carefully at a map of Iran, you can see that the western part of the
country — the Zagros Mountains — is actually a land bridge for southern Asia. It is the only path between the Persian Gulf in the south and the Caspian Sea in the north. Iran is the route connecting the Indian subcontinent to the Mediterranean Sea. But because of its size and geography, Iran is not a country that can be easily traversed, much less conquered.

The location of Iran’s oil fields is critical here, since oil remains its most important and most strategic export. Oil is to be found in three locations: The southwest is the major region, with lesser deposits along the Iraqi border in the north and one near Qom. The southwestern oil fields are an extension of the geological formation that created the oil fields in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq. Hence, the region east of the Shatt al-Arab is of critical importance to Iran. Iran has the third largest oil reserves in the world and is the world’s fourth largest producer. Therefore, one would expect it to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It isn’t.

Iran has the 28th largest economy in the world but ranks only 71st in per capita gross domestic product (as expressed in purchasing power). It ranks with countries like Belarus or Panama. Part of the reason is inefficiencies in the Iranian oil industry, the result of government policies. But there is a deeper geographic problem. Iran has a huge population mostly located in rugged mountains. Mountainous regions are rarely prosperous. The cost of transportation makes the development of industry difficult. Sparsely populated mountain regions are generally poor. Heavily populated mountain regions, when they exist, are much poorer.

Iran’s geography and large population make substantial improvements in its economic life difficult. Unlike underpopulated and less geographically challenged countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, Iran cannot enjoy any shift in the underlying weakness of its economy brought on by higher oil prices and more production. The absence of inhabitable plains means that any industrial plant must develop in regions where the cost of infrastructure tends to undermine the benefits. Oil keeps Iran from sinking even deeper, but it alone cannot catapult Iran out of its condition.

The Broad Outline
Iran is a fortress. Surrounded on three sides by mountains and on the fourth by the ocean, with a wasteland at its center, Iran is extremely difficult to conquer. This was achieved once by the Mongols, who entered the country from the northeast. The Ottomans penetrated the Zagros Mountains and went northeast as far as the Caspian but made no attempt to move into the Persian heartland.

Iran is a mountainous country looking for inhabitable plains. There are none to the north, only more mountains and desert, or to the east, where Afghanistan’s infrastructure is no more inviting. To the south there is only ocean. What plains there are in the region lie to the west, in modern-day Iraq and historical Mesopotamia and Babylon. If Iran could dominate these plains, and combine them with its own population, they would be the foundation of Iranian power.

Indeed, these plains were the foundation of the Persian Empire. The Persians originated in the Zagros Mountains as a warrior people. They built an empire by conquering the plains in the Tigris and Euphrates basin. They did this slowly, over an extended period at a time when there were no demarcated borders and they faced little resistance to the west. While it was difficult for a lowland people to attack through mountains, it was easier for a mountain-based people to descend to the plains. This combination of population and fertile plains allowed the Persians to expand.

Iran’s attacking north or northwest into the Caucasus is impossible in force. The Russians, Turks and Iranians all ground to a halt along the current line in the 19th century; the country is so rugged that movement could be measured in yards rather than miles. Iran could attack northeast into Turkmenistan, but the land there is flat and brutal desert. The Iranians could move east into Afghanistan, but this would involve more mountain fighting for land of equally questionable value. Attacking west, into the Tigris and Euphrates river basin, and then moving to the Mediterranean, would seem doable. This was the path the Persians took when they created their empire and pushed all the way to Greece and Egypt.

In terms of expansion, the problem for Iran is its mountains. They are as effective a container as they are a defensive bulwark. Supporting an attacking force requires logistics, and pushing supplies through the Zagros in any great numbers is impossible. Unless the Persians can occupy and exploit Iraq, further expansion is impossible. In order to exploit Iraq, Iran needs a high degree of active cooperation from Iraqis. Otherwise, rather than converting Iraq’s wealth into political and military power, the Iranians would succeed only in being bogged down in pacifying the Iraqis.

In order to move west, Iran would require the active cooperation of conquered nations. Any offensive will break down because of the challenges posed by the mountains in moving supplies. This is why the Persians created the type of empire they did. They allowed conquered nations a great deal of autonomy, respected their culture and made certain that these nations benefited from the Persian imperial system. Once they left the Zagros, the Persians could not afford to pacify an empire. They needed the wealth at minimal cost. And this has been the limit on Persian/Iranian power ever since. Recreating a relationship with the inhabitants of the Tigris and Euphrates basin — today’s Iraq — is enormously difficult. Indeed, throughout most of history, the domination of the plains by Iran has been impossible. Other imperial powers — Alexandrian Greece, Rome, the Byzantines, Ottomans, British and Americans — have either seized the plains themselves or used them as a neutral buffer against the Persians.

Underlying the external problems of Iran is a severe internal problem. Mountains allow nations to protect themselves. Completely eradicating a culture is difficult. Therefore, most mountain regions of the world contain large numbers of national and ethnic groups that retain their own characteristics. This is commonplace in all mountainous regions. These groups resist absorption and annihilation. Although a Muslim state with a population that is 55 to 60 percent ethnically Persian, Iran is divided into a large number of ethnic groups. It is also divided between the vastly dominant Shia and the minority Sunnis, who are clustered in three areas of the country — the northeast, the northwest and the southeast. Any foreign power interested in Iran will use these ethnoreligious groups to create allies in Iran to undermine the power of the central government.

Thus, any Persian or Iranian government has as its first and primary strategic interest maintaining the internal integrity of the country against separatist groups. It is inevitable, therefore, for Iran to have a highly centralized government with an extremely strong security apparatus. For many countries, holding together its ethnic groups is important. For Iran it is essential because it has no room to retreat from its current lines and instability could undermine its entire security structure. Therefore, the Iranian central government will always face the problem of internal cohesion and will use its army and security forces for that purpose before any other.

Geopolitical Imperatives
For most countries, the first geographical imperative is to maintain internal cohesion. For Iran, it is to maintain secure borders, then secure the country internally. Without secure borders, Iran would be vulnerable to foreign powers that would continually try to manipulate its internal dynamics, destabilize its ruling regime and then exploit the resulting openings. Iran must first define the container and then control what it contains. Therefore, Iran’s geopolitical imperatives:

1. Control the Zagros and Elburz mountains. These constitute the Iranian heartland and the buffers against attacks from the west and north.

2. Control the mountains to the east of the Dasht-e Kavir and Dasht-e Lut, from Mashhad to Zahedan to the Makran coast, protecting Iran’s eastern frontiers with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Maintain a line as deep and as far north and west as possible in the Caucasus to limit Turkish and Russian threats. These are the secondary lines.

3. Secure a line on the Shatt al-Arab in order to protect the western coast of Iran on the Persian Gulf.

4. Control the divergent ethnic and religious elements in this box.

5. Protect the frontiers against potential threats, particularly major powers from outside the region.

28702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Appearance vs. Reality on: July 16, 2008, 12:39:01 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Appearance vs. Reality and Israeli-Syrian Progress
July 14, 2008
On the surface, the July 14 Mediterranean Union summit appears to have been somewhat of a bust with respect to Israeli-Syrian peace talks. Despite sitting at the same round table, Syrian President Bashar al Assad and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert did not give the cameras the pleasure of shaking hands, much less make eye contact with one another. Al Assad even made a big display of leaving the room 20 minutes prior to Olmert’s speech during the summit. In fact, the Syrian delegation was so particular about the details of the protocol measures that according to a CBS report citing Paris-based diplomats, the Syrians even made sure both leaders would enter the room from different doors to ensure the two didn’t have an “accidental encounter.”

Underneath al Assad’s hard exterior, however, a complex strategy is in motion for Israel and Syria to bury the hatchet diplomatically after 60 years of hostile relations.

It must be remembered that al Assad is in a unique position. He is an Alawite leader of an overwhelmingly Sunni country long viewed by its neighbors as a geopolitical runt that can be flattened by Israeli F-16s at a moment’s notice. It is now up to him to navigate Syria toward international esteem, relying primarily on his government’s links with militant proxies to get him there. To maintain control over the state while he pursues these peace talks, al Assad must show he is negotiating from a position of strength. He can do so by driving a hard bargain publicly with the Israelis and the Americans while delivering on key concessions behind the scenes.

This strategy has already made itself apparent. Al Assad has made a point of telling reporters he is no rush for a peace deal with the Israelis, saying that direct negotiations would simply have to wait for the inauguration of a new U.S. president in January. His actions at the Mediterranean Union summit underlined how Syria does not feel it is under pressure to negotiate or make any grand diplomatic gestures while Olmert remains on shaky political ground at home. At the same time, The Jerusalem Post published a report citing diplomatic sources as saying Olmert had delivered a message to al Assad through Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The message reportedly said it would be a mistake for al Assad to wait for a new U.S. president to engage in direct talks, and urged him to commit to direct talks in the near future.

Syria quite shrewdly has turned the tables on Israel, at least in the public arena. While in the past it was always the Syrians begging for talks with the Jewish state, al Assad has now created the perception of an Israel pushing Syria to negotiate — something that scores him major points at home.

More important, the Syrians appear to be making some big moves behind the scenes to push the talks forward. According to a Stratfor source in Lebanon, a Syrian security officer has recently provided U.S. intelligence officers in Istanbul with key information on Hezbollah activities and military capabilities. The Syrian officer also provided his U.S. counterpart with information on al Qaeda and al-Sadrite forces in Iraq. Washington has made clear to the Syrians that before the United States can publicly jump on board with the Syrian-Israeli peace process it will have to see some serious intelligence cooperation regarding Hezbollah and Iraq. If the source’s information is accurate, it appears the Syrians are providing that intelligence.

The Lebanese also formed a government July 14, something that would have been impossible without Syrian cooperation. Syria has a close relationship with Michel Suleiman, the former commander of the Lebanese army and the newly elected president of Lebanon. According to another Stratfor source in Lebanon, al Assad and Suleiman worked out a strategy to clamp down on some of the Islamist militant camps in Lebanon, which have always been an expendable resource for the Syrians. To this end, the Syrian state-run National News Agency reported July 8 that the group Fatah al-Intifada evacuated a military base in al Balayit village in Rashaya province along the Lebanese-Syrian border, allowing Lebanese troops to reoccupy the base. The source also claimed that Syria has agreed to help Lebanese troops close down two major bases operated by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine -General Command, namely the Qusaya and Nama bases. Qusaya is the larger of the two bases, and enjoys a commanding position overlooking the Lebanese airbase in Riyaq and Ablah army base. Nama controls traffic along the Beirut-southern Lebanon highway, as well as the Beirut airport. It also controls Lebanese army movement to and from southern Lebanon, which is key to its defense against Hezbollah.

Stratfor is wary of falling in love with its forecast of a Syrian-Israeli peace deal, and we are making an honest effort to disprove our assumptions. But the trajectory of events — from the September 2007 Israeli airstrike in Syria to the February assassination of Hezbollah’s top commander in Damascus, from the public launch of peace talks to the developments on the ground Monday — all point toward a comprehensive deal in the making. National security interests are pushing both sides toward a political accommodation that neither side can deny will grant them overwhelming benefits as long as each delivers on its end of the agreement. We can’t help but notice that sources from across the spectrum are reporting information that all points in the same direction — namely, toward progress. As in all complex diplomatic negotiations, what you see in the headlines is not necessarily what you get.
28703  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: July 16, 2008, 12:21:05 AM
In that the justification for the pedophilia is that Mohammed did it, I'm thinking that article about the brave little Yemeni girl belongs on one of the threads about Islam.

Concerning the gay marriage issue:

Marriage has always been defined as between a man and a woman.  The laws that banned interracial marriage violated the equal protection clause of the US Constitution-- a black man could not marry a woman that a white man could and vice versa-- and as such were properly struck down.   

Marriage has never been between two men or two women by definition.  Furthermore the people of Califormia specifically voted to that effect.  The CA Supreme Court simply imposed the personal political beliefs of a majority of its members.  The initiative that presumably that will be on the ballot this fall will be to repeal this piece of judicial imperialism.
28704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Down the memory hole on: July 15, 2008, 11:41:44 PM

Barack Obama purges Web site critique of surge in Iraq

Monday, July 14th 2008, 8:10 PM
WASHINGTON - Barack Obama's campaign scrubbed his presidential Web site over the weekend to remove criticism of the U.S. troop "surge" in Iraq, the Daily News has learned.
The presumed Democratic nominee replaced his Iraq issue Web page, which had described the surge as a "problem" that had barely reduced violence.
"The surge is not working," Obama's old plan stated, citing a lack of Iraqi political cooperation but crediting Sunni sheiks - not U.S. military muscle - for quelling violence in Anbar Province.
The News reported Sunday that insurgent attacks have fallen to the fewest since March 2004.
Obama's campaign posted a new Iraq plan Sunday night, which cites an "improved security situation" paid for with the blood of U.S. troops since the surge began in February 2007.
It praises G.I.s' "hard work, improved counterinsurgency tactics and enormous sacrifice."
Campaign aide Wendy Morigi said Obama is "not softening his criticism of the surge. We regularly update the Web site to reflect changes in current events."
GOP rival John McCain zinged Obama as a flip-flopper. "The major point here is that Sen. Obama refuses to acknowledge that he was wrong," said McCain, adding that Obama "refuses to acknowledge that it [the surge] is succeeding."
28705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: July 15, 2008, 09:21:07 AM

The New York Times and other media are reporting that the United States is
considering withdrawing troops from Iraq this year. The Bush administration is
thinking about withdrawing as few as one and as many as three of 15 combat brigades
now operating in Iraq by inauguration day in January 2009. That would not be a
stunning reduction, but it would be a substantial one. The leak to the Times is
obviously designed to prepare public opinion and see how various constituencies
respond. The administration leaks these things after it has decided to do something
but wants to retain options. So we take the report seriously.

There are three audiences for this report. The first, obviously, is the U.S. public.
This is an election year, and there is little doubt that George W. Bush would like
to see John McCain succeed him, as partial vindication of his presidency. This was
the week in which Barack Obama shifted his public posture on Iraq, indicating
greater flexibility than he had signaled during the primaries. In fact, as we have
said, Obama's position does not differ much from McCain's, save in rhetoric. Obama
knew that he had to run to the center during the general election and had prepared
for the shift in various position papers no one read during the primaries. When
Obama went to the center, backing away from his automatic withdrawal plan to a more
nuanced one, the administration responded by indicating that withdrawals were indeed
possible. They tried to catch Obama off-balance. It was a clever move, but it's not
clear that it will have any impact.

The second audience is Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. There are negotiations
under way over the status of U.S. troops in Iraq. Al-Maliki is demanding a timetable
for withdrawal, shifting away from his prior position that U.S. troops will be
needed in Iraq to stabilize the regime to a new view that U.S. withdrawal is needed.
The United States has, in a way, been the victim of its own success. Having created
a much stronger Iraqi government than most thought possible, it now sees that
government becoming demanding. If the United States ignores al-Maliki, it will
undermine its own credibility. So, whatever is actually negotiated, the United
States has little choice but to follow al-Maliki's wishes.

The third audience is Iran. The weird combination of apocalyptic threat coupled with
diplomacy continues. While the obsession has been nuclear weapons, the real issue
has always been Iraq. The United States is trying to give Iran every reason to stop
enriching uranium. One recent offer was to begin talks without requiring a halt in
enrichment ("pre-negotiations," it was called, as opposed to negotiations). Leaving
diplomatic hair-splitting aside, the demonstration of a U.S. willingness to withdraw
from Iraq is a critical issue to the Iranians. They have more than 140,000 U.S.
troops on their border. Progress on nukes in Iran is much more likely with a
reduction of U.S. forces in Iraq.

Audiences aside, of course, there is another looming issue: Afghanistan. That war
continues to rage, with nine American soldiers killed over the weekend. Gen. David
Petraeus, confirmed by the U.S. Senate as CENTCOM commander July 11, now is
responsible for Afghanistan as well as Iraq. In looking at his board, he clearly
sees the need for more troops in Afghanistan and feels he can cut troop levels in
Iraq. Indeed, Iraq is the only place where he can find more troops. The Afghanistan
issue is coupled with a clear deterioration of the situation in Pakistan and a
looming crisis between Pakistan and India over the bombing of the Indian Embassy in
Kabul. Iraq is stable and happy compared to the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater.

But three U.S. brigades, added to the 52,000 NATO troops currently operating in
Afghanistan, are not going to make a difference in a country where nearly 120,000
Russians with much looser rules of engagement couldn't make a difference. So the
most important aspect of the troop reduction in Iraq will be the unfolding of
Petraeus' Afghanistan strategy. It is not clear to us what he has in mind, but it
would appear that the beginning of U.S. troop withdrawals from Iraq is something not
only Obama, al-Maliki and Tehran want to see. Petraeus might want to see it, too.

Copyright 2008 Strategic Forecasting, Inc.
28706  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 15, 2008, 08:39:26 AM
Which is why the Founding Fathers founded us as a REPUBLIC, NOT a DEMOCRACY.
28707  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 15, 2008, 08:38:21 AM
We seem to be circling the vortex of genocidal logic here  cry cry cry
28708  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 15, 2008, 08:29:26 AM
I am grateful for a fine day of training yesterday, a good night's sleep, and that I will be home with my family this evening.
28709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Times at it again on: July 14, 2008, 10:05:30 PM
Terrorist Telephone
July 14, 2008

An article in Friday's New York Times drew lots of attention from those who like to wring their hands about U.S. "torture" of terrorists, but to our mind it's awfully thin:

Red Cross investigators concluded last year in a secret report that the Central Intelligence Agency's interrogation methods for high-level Qaeda prisoners constituted torture and could make the Bush administration officials who approved them guilty of war crimes, according to a new book. . . .
The book, "The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned Into a War on American Ideals," by Jane Mayer, who writes about counterterrorism for The New Yorker, offers new details of the agency's secret detention program. . . .
Citing unnamed "sources familiar with the report," Ms. Mayer wrote that the Red Cross document "warned that the abuse constituted war crimes, placing the highest officials in the U.S. government in jeopardy of being prosecuted." Red Cross representatives were not permitted access to the secret prisons where the C.I.A. conducted interrogations, but were permitted to interview Abu Zubaydah and other high-level detainees in late 2006, after they were moved to the military detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. . . .
The book says Abu Zubaydah told the Red Cross that he had been waterboarded at least 10 times in a single week and as many as three times in a day.
The book also reports that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, told the Red Cross that he had been kept naked for more than a month and claimed that he had been "kept alternately in suffocating heat and in a painfully cold room."
To sum up: The New York Times reports that a new book reports that unnamed sources reported to the author that a report exists that says terrorists reported being tortured.

That is, not only are we being asked to take the word of terrorists--whose training material instructs them to claim they have been tortured--but we are being asked to trust terrorists' claims that are reaching us fifth-hand (or fourth-hand if you spend $27.50 for the book). It's a big game of telephone.

And we thought the New York Times was against listening to terrorists' phone conversations.
28710  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tony Snow on: July 14, 2008, 10:00:16 PM
Notable & Quotable
July 15, 2008
Tony Snow in The Jewish World Review, 2005:

The art of being sick is not the same as the art of getting well. Some cancer patients recover; some don't. But the ordeal of facing your mortality and feeling your frailty sharpens your perspective about life. You appreciate little things more ferociously. You grasp the mystical power of love. You feel the gravitational pull of faith. And you realize you have received a unique gift – a field of vision others don't have about the power of hope and the limits of fear; a firm set of convictions about what really matters and what does not. You also feel obliged to share these insights – the most important of which is this: There are things far worse than illness – for instance, soullessness.
28711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton on: July 14, 2008, 09:54:44 PM
Good logic there SB.

Here's this from John Bolton in the WSJ:

Israel, Iran and the Bomb
July 15, 2008

Iran's test salvo of ballistic missiles last week together with recent threatening rhetoric by commanders of the Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guards emphasizes how close the Middle East is to a fundamental, in fact an irreversible, turning point.

Tehran's efforts to intimidate the United States and Israel from using military force against its nuclear program, combined with yet another diplomatic charm offensive with the Europeans, are two sides of the same policy coin. The regime is buying the short additional period of time it needs to produce deliverable nuclear weapons, the strategic objective it has been pursuing clandestinely for 20 years.

Between Iran and its long-sought objective, however, a shadow may fall: targeted military action, either Israeli or American. Yes, Iran cannot deliver a nuclear weapon on target today, and perhaps not for several years. Estimates vary widely, and no one knows for sure when it will have a deliverable weapon except the mullahs, and they're not telling. But that is not the key date. Rather, the crucial turning point is when Iran masters all the capabilities to weaponize without further external possibility of stopping it. Then the decision to weaponize, and its timing, is Tehran's alone. We do not know if Iran is at this point, or very near to it. All we do know is that, after five years of failed diplomacy by the EU-3 (Britain, France and Germany), Iran is simply five years closer to nuclear weapons.

And yet, true to form, State Department comments to Congress last week – even as Iran's missiles were ascending – downplayed Iran's nuclear progress, ignoring the cost of failed diplomacy. But the confident assumption that we have years to deal with the problem is high-stakes gambling on a policy that cannot be reversed if it fails. If Iran reaches weaponization before State's jaunty prediction, the Middle East, and indeed global, balance of power changes in potentially catastrophic ways.

And consider what comes next for the U.S.: the Bush administration's last six months pursuing its limp diplomatic efforts, plus six months of a new president getting his national security team and policies together. In other words, one more year for Tehran to proceed unhindered to "the point of no return."

We have almost certainly lost the race between giving "strong incentives" for Iran to abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and its scientific and technological efforts to do just that. Swift, sweeping, effectively enforced sanctions might have made a difference five years ago. No longer. Existing sanctions have doubtless caused some pain, but Iran's real economic woes stem from nearly 30 years of mismanagement by the Islamic Revolution.

More sanctions today (even assuming, heroically, support from Russia and China) will simply be too little, too late. While regime change in Tehran would be the preferable solution, there is almost no possibility of dislodging the mullahs in time. Had we done more in the past five years to support the discontented – the young, the non-Persian minorities and the economically disaffected – things might be different. Regime change, however, cannot be turned on and off like a light switch, although the difficulty of effecting it is no excuse not to do more now.

That is why Israel is now at an urgent decision point: whether to use targeted military force to break Iran's indigenous control over the nuclear fuel cycle at one or more critical points. If successful, such highly risky and deeply unattractive air strikes or sabotage will not resolve the Iranian nuclear crisis. But they have the potential to buy considerable time, thereby putting that critical asset back on our side of the ledger rather than on Iran's.

With whatever time is bought, we may be able to effect regime change in Tehran, or at least get the process underway. The alternative is Iran with nuclear weapons, the most deeply unattractive alternative of all.

But the urgency of the situation has not impressed Barack Obama or the EU-3. Remarkably, on July 9, Sen. Obama, as if stumbling on a new idea, said Iran "must suffer threats of economic sanctions" and that we needed "direct diplomacy . . . so we avoid provocation" and "give strong incentives . . . to change their behavior." Javier Solana, chief EU negotiator, was at the time busy fixing a meeting with the Iranians to continue five years of doing exactly what Mr. Obama was proclaiming, without results.

John McCain responded to Iran's missile salvo by stressing again the need for a workable missile defense system to defend the U.S. against attacks by rogue states like Iran and North Korea. He is undoubtedly correct, highlighting yet another reason why November's election is so critical, given the unceasing complaints about missile defense from most Democrats.

Important as missile defense is, however, it is only a component of a postfailure policy on Iran's nuclear-weapons capacity. In whatever limited amount of time before then, we must face a very hard issue: What will the U.S. do if Israel decides to initiate military action? There was a time when the Bush administration might itself have seriously considered using force, but all public signs are that such a moment has passed.

Israel sees clearly what the next 12 months will bring, which is why ongoing U.S.-Israeli consultations could be dispositive. Israel told the Bush administration it would destroy North Korea's reactor in Syria in spring, 2007, and said it would not wait past summer's end to take action. And take action it did, seeing a Syrian nuclear capability, for all practical purposes Iran's agent on its northern border, as an existential threat. When the real source of the threat, not just a surrogate, nears the capacity for nuclear Holocaust, can anyone seriously doubt Israel's propensities, whatever the impact on gasoline prices?

Thus, instead of debating how much longer to continue five years of failed diplomacy, we should be intensively considering what cooperation the U.S. will extend to Israel before, during and after a strike on Iran. We will be blamed for the strike anyway, and certainly feel whatever negative consequences result, so there is compelling logic to make it as successful as possible. At a minimum, we should place no obstacles in Israel's path, and facilitate its efforts where we can.

These subjects are decidedly unpleasant. A nuclear Iran is more so.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).
28712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 14, 2008, 07:03:26 AM
I find myself noticing a tremendous disparity in media attention given to BO and McC., even on FOX.   Even Sean Hannity, whose show I only watch when Newt Gingrich is on, can only talk about BO and how he's shifting positions. 

28713  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Canton OH 7/12-13 on: July 14, 2008, 06:28:50 AM
Woof Dog Ryan and the DBMAA members who came:

Ryanb, thanks for making the long drive to be there, and sorry we didn't have time to do any drumming.  Terry, I'm honored you made all the way from Illinois for just the one day that you could come.  Good to see you Tiffany and Gary!


Thanks to my host Officer Dave Clouse for bringing me in.  It was a fine group, and the FOF training on Sunday afternoon was very good.  Profound condolences for the two officers who were murdered (one retired, one on duty) while I was there.

Teaching is always a learning experience and working with LEOs particularly so.  Thanks to all.

The Adventure continues,
Guro Crafty
28714  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 14, 2008, 06:22:37 AM
I just finished a seminar this weekend at the Canton OH Police Department training facility.  During my three days there, the PD had a well-loved retired officer with a courageous career murdered and another officer murdered during a traffice stop.  I am grateful for the men and those women who put on the badge and go forth every day.
28715  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Super Cop hero on: July 14, 2008, 06:19:30 AM
Off-duty Ohio 'supercop' kills robber

By Sarena McRae and Patrick O'Donnell
The Plain Dealer
CLEVELAND, Ohio — A 35-year veteran Cleveland police officer known by neighbors as Supercop shot and killed a man suspected of robbing a KeyBank on Wednesday afternoon on the city's near West Side.
The officer, James Simone, 60, was off-duty when he happened upon the robbery, chased the suspect and shot him as he attempted to escape.

This image, supplied by the Cleveland Poilice Department, shows a Dec. 12, 2001, mugshot of Robert Hackworth, 35, who was shot and killed Wednesday, July 9 in Cleveland by a 35-year police veteran James Simone, 60, known as "Supercop."
(AP Photo/Cleveland Police)
The 35-year-old suspect, Robert Hackworth, who lived on a nearby street, died at the scene.
"I don't know what the officer saw, what the officer was confronted with," police spokesman Thomas Stacho said. "Certainly, he felt the need to use deadly force. He acted heroically. This was an officer off-duty by himself who confronted a male who had just robbed a bank."
Simone has been involved in at least 10 shootings in his years on the force, has been shot himself and has been injured when his cruiser was hit during a stop.
He has been named patrolman of the year and awarded a medal of valor, in addition to being honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving for issuing dozens of citations.
Simone, who is known around the neighborhood, had walked into the bank in a strip mall on Fulton Road at Memphis Avenue about 3:30 p.m. to cash his paycheck when bank staff informed him they had just been robbed.
After seeing a man running from the bank, Simone chased him on foot as he headed south on West 52nd Street.
A woman driving by volunteered to drive Simone as he chased after Hackworth. Steve Loomis, head of Cleveland Police Patrolmen's Association, said a dye pack in the $2,000 Hackworth stole had exploded, making it clear he was fleeing a robbery.
According to Stacho, Hackworth ran a few houses up the block when the car with Simone in it pulled up. Stacho said Simone got out of the car, confronted Hackworth and shot him in his side. Hackworth then drove away in a truck he had waiting. Simone stayed in close pursuit.
Mary Jean Zenda was in her driveway just a few doors down from the shooting. She said Simone pulled up in the car and yelled at the fleeing man.
"He said, 'This is an officer, freeze,' " she said. "He shot while the guy was trying to get in his truck."
Hackworth drove the truck south on West 52nd Street and attempted to turn at the Woburn Avenue intersection, but crashed into a telephone pole. Simone, who was following in the car, stopped and removed him from the truck. Hackworth died at the scene.
The suspect had taken the truck from a local car dealership for a test drive and parked it on West 52nd Street before he went into the bank. It was not severely damaged in the crash.
Police have not recovered a weapon from Hackworth nor the truck, Stacho said. Loomis said the suspect did not show a gun in the bank but threatened that he had one.
Stacho said police believe the suspect was acting alone.
After walking through the chase scene with investigators, Simone left with Loomis and declined to comment.
Loomis said Simone was upset about the shooting, but called it justified because Hackworth was reaching inside the truck. Though a gun was not visible, he said, Simone had no idea what he was reaching for.
28716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 13, 2008, 06:56:50 PM
Welcome home Rachel.

Where is Nazareth?  In my ignorance, your final sentence leaves me confused.  embarassed
28717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: July 13, 2008, 06:54:40 PM

Concerning BO and personal responsibility for kids in his 2004 speech, what about this passage?

"Go in -- Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can’t teach our kids to learn; they know that parents have to teach, that children can’t achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things."

28718  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Self-Defense Law in the UK on: July 13, 2008, 06:49:02 PM
The mind boggles at the situation in the UK:

 cry cry angry
28719  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UK Pensioner on: July 13, 2008, 06:30:36 PM

A pensioner who used a piece of wood to chase away a gang of teenagers who had been throwing stones at his home is facing a jail term after being arrested and charged with possessing an offensive weapon.

Sydney Davis, 65, a father-of-two, dialled 999 when his home in the Pinehurst area of Swindon, Wilts, came under attack.

But when police failed to turn up over the next two hours he decided to take action himself.

He grabbed a section of wood from a broken-up sofa lying in his front garden and chased the youths down the street - just as police officers finally arrived.

Mr Davis, a retired builder, was astonished when police arrested him while allowing the gang to run to safety.

The householder now faces a court appearance and a potential prison term of six months if convicted.

Mr Davis, whose windows have been smashed five times in the last eight months, branded the law "a colossal ass".

He went on: "This is Britain gone mad. Just what in the world is this country coming to when the police arrest people like me for protecting their own property?

"The police say they want to reduce crime, yet they let evil little toe-rags like this off. Then they prosecute hard-working, upstanding residents like me.

"There is simply no way we can shake off this problem of 'Yob Britain' if the legal system fails to protect the everyday person".

Mr Davis' difficulties began on July 2 when a gang started throwing stones, stick, mud and eggs at a number of homes.

His wife, Pauline, 42, and their sons, Peter, seven, and James, five, cowered behind the sofa as the windows were hit by a flurry of missiles.

"My wife called the police at 6pm, but they just kept on throwing stones through my back gate.

"I left the back door open to stop them smashing it. Suddenly a really big rock came crashing into the kitchen. I just grabbed the wood, which was the nearest thing I could find, and chased them off.

"The police turned up just as I was chasing them. As a result I was arrested, but they didn't arrest any of them."

Mr Davis was handcuffed, taken to a local police station and later charged.

Wiltshire Police confirmed both the charge against him and the fact that no one else had been arrested in connection with the incident.

The householder is expected to appear before local magistrates later in the month.
28720  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Combat Barbie on: July 13, 2008, 05:54:15 AM
I don't know how to post the fotos, but she definitely is an attractive woman. smiley

Katrina Hodge is a part-time model and a soldier in the British Army
A female soldier who once fought off a suspected Iraqi insurgent has won a place in the final of Miss England.
Katrina Hodge, 21, will participate in the contest in July, having already won the Miss Tunbridge Wells crown.
L/Cpl Hodge was nicknamed Combat Barbie in 2005 after being given a bravery commendation for saving the lives of members of her regiment in Iraq.
They were held at gunpoint when their vehicle overturned but L/Cpl Hodge punched the gunman and took his rifles.
She said: "I was in complete shock at first. The force of the accident caused our vehicle to roll over three times and threw us off guard.
"As I came round, the Iraqi suspect was standing over us with the rifles. I knew if I didn't act fast then our lives would be in danger.
"I punched him and the force startled him enough for me to retrieve the rifles from him."
Miss Hodge, a military clerk with The Adjutant General's Corps, will go on to appear at Miss World 2008 if she wins the English title.
"I was delighted to have been selected for the Miss England final and it is a great honour," she added.
"Being a part-time model and a serving soldier is certainly a world apart. I want to use this competition to highlight the work that the Army are doing and what they have done for this country."
She is currently serving at Frimley Park Hospital in Camberley and will take part in the Miss England national finals on Friday.
Here is the original article describing what happened:

Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 December 2005, 15:52 GMT 
Female soldier's bravery honour

 Pte Hodge's battalion is now back in the UK after serving in Iraq

A female soldier has been honoured after risking her life to disarm an Iraqi prisoner.
Pte Katrina Hodge, 18, from Tunbridge Wells in Kent, carried out her act of bravery while serving with the 1st Battalion, Royal Anglian Regiment.

She managed to restrain and disarm an Iraqi man who had got hold of two weapons after being detained in Basra.

Ms Hodge's instinctive actions have led to a commendation from the commanding officer of her unit.
Her bravery is even more remarkable because she had just been involved in a road crash.

'Adrenaline rush'
"We detained an Iraqi suspect and on the way back to our base our vehicle was in a road traffic accident and it rolled over three times," she said.

"When it came to a halt I suddenly realised that the suspect had my weapon and the other soldier's weapon.
"I just looked at him and in that split second I thought 'oh my God, he's going to kill me'.

"But my instinct came in and I thought 'I'll just whack him'. "It was just a big adrenaline rush and I had to do something."

Ms Hodge has been dubbed Combat Barbie by her colleagues ever since turning up for her army basic training with "two pink suitcases, a pair of pink kitten heels, a pink coat and blonde hair".

28721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Opportunity in America on: July 12, 2008, 09:12:26 PM
Elaine L. Chao
'I See Opportunities in This Country a Little Differently'
July 12, 2008; Page A9


Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao immigrated to the United States on a cargo ship in 1961, when she was 8 years old. The trip from Taiwan took a month. It was no easy passage.

"My sister fell ill during the ocean journey," she told me on a recent afternoon in her spacious office, a short walk from the U.S. Capitol. "Seventeen hundred nautical miles, there were no doctors on board and my mother sat up for three nights and three days, just continuously soaking my sister's body, little body, with cold water" to break her fever.

Zina Saunders 
"So I see opportunities in this country, perhaps, in a slightly different way. . . . America really is unique," she says. "It's really a land of meritocracy, where it doesn't matter where you were born, who you know. If a person works hard, most of the time . . ."

On this last point, Ms. Chao's words trail off, as the current state of the economy seems to be weighing on her mind. There is widespread speculation that the economy could soon slip into recession as the country sheds jobs and faces a slumping housing market. Still, Ms. Chao points out that the national unemployment rate remains below where it averaged in the 1990s (5.5% today versus 5.7% last decade). "People forget that," she says.

Yet Ms. Chao seems most concerned with the long-term trends that affect the workforce. The old economy that relied heavily on domestic manufacturing and production is giving way to a modern economy based on technology and instant communications. This change is empowering workers, allowing them to work more flexible schedules and boost their productivity. At the same time, it is also changing the criteria required to get ahead -- and forcing a decline in union membership.

In 1979, 24.1% of American workers belonged to a union. Today only 12.1% do, and the number falls to 7.5% for those who do not work for the government. Whether a worker has a college or even a high-school diploma is now much more important for lifetime earnings and employment than whether they have a union card.

Numbers tell the story. Workers with a bachelor's degree earn, on average, more than $1,400 a week and have an unemployment rate of just 2.2%. High-school dropouts, by contrast, average just $528 a week for full-time work and their unemployment rate is 8.3%. "We have a skills gap in this country," Ms. Chao said.

Ms. Chao seems to be concerned that the country could cease to be the land of opportunity that drew her parents decades ago. Congress appears eager to impose restrictive regulations that could hurt the economy in the name of helping those who don't have the skills to compete. If these regulations are enacted, Ms. Chao fears the "Europeanization" of the American economy.

"I have a whole list here," she says, of what Congress could do to hobble economic growth, and it includes legislation that is gaining traction on Capitol Hill. Every measure would make it more expensive to employ people in America, or would make it easier for unions to capture a larger slice of the workforce.

On the list is "card check" -- legislation that would allow union leaders to dispense with secret ballot elections in unionizing a company's workforce. Instead, union officials would be allowed to get the union certified once a majority of employees in a workplace merely signed a union card. This measure -- the most radical change in labor relations since the New Deal -- passed the House last year, but was stopped in the Senate. Ms. Chao is happy it was. "The right to a private ballot election is a fundamental right in our American democracy and it should not be legislated away at the behest of special interest groups," she says.

Other items on her list include bills that would expand the Family Medical Leave Act, force some employers to give 90 days' notice before laying off workers (up from 60 days now), and mandate minimum paid sick leave. There's also "comparable worth," a bill being pushed by Sen. Hillary Clinton and others that would force employers to pay the same wages for different occupations. Employers would have to pay nursing aides (mostly female), for example, the same wages they offer janitors (mostly male), if the bureaucracy deemed these occupations were of comparable value.

If these regulations become law next year, she believes it would make it more difficult for employers to adapt their workforce to a changing economy. "The flexibility of our workforce is one of the reasons for our great economic success," she says. "Only with our flexibility will there be continued dynamism, vibrancy and opportunities. We had young people in France rioting at the age of 24 because they fear that if they do not find a job by the age of 24 that they will never find a job for the rest of their lives. That is so foreign to what the American experience is all about."

"The Eurozone countries and Japan have not created as many jobs as America has in the last seven years," she adds. "And their unemployment rate is double, if not sometimes triple, that of the United States. So the best way to help a worker get a job . . . is to help them get reconnected to the workforce as quickly as possible because the longer they stay out, the more things will change at the workplace and the harder it will be for them to re-enter the workforce."

"Some in Washington want to increase benefits, regulations and mandates and that's the European model. That is not the path we want to follow long term."

Ms. Chao says that when she attends meetings with other labor ministers from around the world, "they may not agree totally with our point of view, but they all want to learn about how America creates opportunities and jobs and how the dynamism of our economy, the flexibility of our economy creates opportunities."

What does she tell them?

"That freedom works. It is universally accepted that there needs to be open markets, transparency, low tax rates, less regulation and the rule of law . . . in a world-wide economy if there is not transparency, if there is greater taxation, if there is greater regulation, capital and labor will move."

Ms. Chao is in charge of one of the most powerful regulatory agencies in the federal government. She's also amassed a record conservatives applaud -- for example in year seven of her tenure, her department's budget is slightly smaller than it was on year one, even as workplace injuries have fallen to all time lows.

When I ask her what role a labor secretary should play now, her answer can be summed up in two words: job training.

"We should really be called the department of job training," she says. After all, the labor department spends more than 90% of its $50 billion entitlement budget on it. The problem is that much of this never reaches workers. Instead, it's wasted on overhead or spent on courses workers don't want to take.

So in her last months in office Ms. Chao is pushing for more flexibility in how job training funds can be used. "Would it not make more sense if we allowed . . . the worker to take that money and register at a community college . . . choose a course of their own liking, preference?"

An even more important issue is transparency. One of Ms. Chao's early initiatives was to clean up decades-old regulations that mired even good employers in costly litigation because the rules were written for occupations that no longer exist. "Straw boss" and "key punch" are two that Ms. Chao rattled off. "We in government have a responsibility for ensuring that the regulations that we issue are clear and understandable."

Another of Ms. Chao's transparency initiatives involved union financial disclosure. Federal union disclosure rules have been on the books since at least 1959. But when Ms. Chao came into office in 2001, many unions gave such vague descriptions of their expenses that it was impossible to track where they spent their money. One, for example, listed more than $3.9 million of expenditures as "sundry expenses."

Ms. Chao tightened the disclosure rules and then spent years fighting union objections in court. In the end she won. Today unions have to itemize expenses greater than $5,000. This has made it easier for rank-and-file members to keep tabs on their own union officials. It has also led to more than a little embarrassment, such as when a disclosure form filed by the New York City Ironworkers Local 40 in 2006 drew media attention because it revealed that the union spent $52,879 at a Cadillac dealer for a "retirement gift."

But when I ask what she thinks about being called a foe of unionized labor, she stops me before I can finish the question. "I just enforce the law." There are approximately 180 laws that the labor department is charged with administering. Her success has come by quietly enforcing all of them.

This no-nonsense approach to her job and her faith in the flexibility of America's labor markets stems from Ms. Chao's immigrants roots.

Her parents fled the communist revolution in China in 1949 and settled in Taiwan. As a sea captain nearly a decade later, her father had few economic opportunities. So he took the National Maritime Master's Special Qualification Examination and scored so well that the Taiwanese government sponsored him to study in the U.S. But there was a catch: The offer was for him alone. He would have to leave his two children and wife behind.

"They never hesitated," she said, adding that "my mother didn't try to persuade my father not to go. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

"He came and landed the day after Christmas. He was alone for three years . . . before he was finally able to bring us over."

"How they knew what America stood for, or where America was, is pretty impressive to me -- that this young couple with no connections, no financial resources to speak of, would dare to audaciously dream that they could come to America."

Mr. Miniter is an assistant features editor at The Wall Street Journal.
28722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Obama's Shock Troops on: July 12, 2008, 09:07:53 PM
Obama's Liberal Shock Troops
July 12, 2008; Page A11


While he is a skilled candidate, Barack Obama's ability to surprise, stun and sweep over the vaunted Clinton Machine to capture the Democratic nomination was rooted in his background as a community organizer. He's now turning those skills to the general election.

But liberals aren't just on the march on the presidential level. This year, liberal activists are spending parts of the fortunes of their wealthy donors to transform politics at the state and local level.

AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato 
Marchers organized by Acorn rally for a higher minimum wage in Columbus, Ohio, July 10, 2006.
In 2005, billionaire investor George Soros convened a group of 70 super-rich liberal donors in Phoenix to evaluate why their efforts to defeat President Bush had failed. One conclusion was that they needed to step up their long-term efforts to dominate key battleground states. The donors formed a group called Democracy Alliance to make grants in four areas: media, ideas, leadership and civic engagement. Since then, Democracy Alliance partners have donated over $100 million to key progressive organizations.

Take Colorado, which has voted Republican for president in nine of the last 10 presidential elections. But in 2006, Colorado elected a Democratic governor and legislature for the first time in over 30 years. Denver will be the site for the party's 2008 presidential convention. Polls show Barack Obama would carry the state today. This hasn't happened by chance. The Democracy Alliance poured money into Colorado to make it a proving ground for how progressives can take over a state.

Offshoots of leading liberal national groups were set up including Colorado Media Matters in 2006, to correct "conservative misinformation" in the media. Ethics Watch, a group modeled after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, was started and proceeded to file a flurry of complaints over alleged campaign finance violations -- while refusing to name its own donors.

Western Progress, a think tank to advance "progressive solutions," opened its doors as did the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, one of 29 such groups around the country. Then there's Colorado Confidential, a project of The Center for Independent Media, which subsidized liberal bloggers. CIM has set up similar ventures in Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan, with funding from groups such as the Service Employees International Union, and George Soros's Open Society Institute.

On the electoral front, Progressive Majority Colorado has set up seven offices with the goal of "recruiting progressive leaders" as candidates. America Votes-Colorado promises to coordinate the largest voter mobilization effort in the state's history. "All of this activity has flown under the radar," says Ed Morrissey of the conservative blog Captain's Quarters. "But efforts to change the political ground game may have real long-term consequences."

More audaciously, in Michigan, signatures have been filed to put a sweeping reorganization of state government on this November's ballot. The measure, pushed by a group called "Reform Michigan Government Now," contains at least 36 distinct provisions that take up a dozen pages of fine type. "It's a Trojan Horse dressed up as My Friend Flicka," says Lawrence Reed, president of the conservative Mackinac Center.

In a recession-wracked state seething with public anger at elected officials, the measure hits populist notes by cutting the size of the legislature and reducing the salaries of top officeholders. But on voting, it would mandate no-excuse-needed absentee voting -- despite a long history of vote-fraud scandals involving absentee votes in Detroit and other cities. A redistricting commission would be set up to reshape political boundaries, but state courts would be barred from reviewing any plans it draws up. (Only federal courts could review the boundaries.) Voters would also be barred from rejecting or amending the commission's work by initiative.

There is also a direct attack on the judiciary. The initiative reduces the state's Supreme Court to five members, down from seven, and the state's Court of Appeals to 20 judges, down from 28. Saving money appears not to be the motive: Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm could appoint 10 newly created circuit court judges. The net result would be that conservatives would lose control of the state Supreme Court, because the two justices who would be removed would be the last two appointed by GOP Gov. John Engler. Of the eight appeals court judgeships that would be eliminated, six are now held by people with GOP backgrounds.

"It's a strange reform that benefits one political party exclusively at all three levels of the judiciary," observes Mr. Reed. "Is the intent that the judiciary become just another arm of one of the political parties?"

The financing for the initiative is mysterious and will not be publicly revealed until campaign finance reports are due in late September or early October. But the measure appears to be a Democratic effort. The campaign is being quarterbacked by a former Democratic state legislative leader, and Mark Brewer, the state's Democratic Party chair, says his party supports the measure.

Should Mr. Obama be elected, he would become not just the head of the Democratic Party but also the inspiration for a large number of liberal groups. Some of them would no doubt lobby him to hand out taxpayer grants and contracts for their nonpolitical "community" efforts.

Indeed, Mr. Obama has extensive connections with the granddaddy of activist groups, Acorn (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), which has gotten millions in government grants for its low-income housing programs. In 1992, Acorn hired Mr. Obama to run a voter registration effort. He later became a trainer for the group, as well as its lawyer in election law cases.

Acorn's political arm has endorsed Mr. Obama while its "voter education" arm has pledged to spend $35 million to register people this fall -- despite a history of vote fraud scandals that have led to guilty pleas by many Acorn employees.

The housing bill now before Congress would set up a slush fund for community organizations such as Acorn. But Acorn has gone quiet in its lobbying for the bill this week with the news that one of its employees -- the brother of Acorn founder Wade Rathke -- had stolen nearly $1 million from the group. Mr. Rathke decided not to alert law enforcement or the organization's board, and kept his brother employed at Acorn until last month. "Is this the kind of group we want getting taxpayer money?" asks Rep. Ed Royce (R., Calif.)

But Acorn may play, along with other liberal groups, a leading role in electing Mr. Obama. Such groups deserve a closer look now, before their influence and possibly their clout grow dramatically after the November election.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for
28723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Electoral College on: July 12, 2008, 08:54:33 PM

Don't Mess With the Electoral College
July 12, 2008; Page A9

With their appeal to independents, Barack Obama and John McCain may scramble the electoral map in November. Others want to go further and throw out the Electoral College completely, replacing this "complicated" and "undemocratic" system with a direct, nationwide popular vote for the presidency. Despite its democratic allure, it's a bad idea.

Backers of the popular vote do not seek to amend the Constitution; they know this is a nonstarter. Instead, a growing "National Popular Vote" (NPV) movement wants state legislatures to instruct their electors to vote for the winner of the greatest number of popular votes in the national election -- regardless of the ballots cast by voters in their own states.

Massachusetts (12 electoral votes) may enact an NPV law as early as next week. Illinois, Maryland, New Jersey and Hawaii (with a total of 50 electoral votes) have already signed on. It's being considered in North Carolina, Rhode Island and California. To succeed, the plan needs to enlist just enough states to command 270 electoral votes, or a majority of the Electoral College.

But NPV advocates fail to understand how the Electoral College system contributes to effective presidential leadership and representative government -- or to appreciate the problems that could arise if it is changed.

Counting electoral votes by state, in conjunction with the "winner-take-all" procedure followed by all states except Maine and Nebraska, favors the two-party system. It also ensures that the winner will have geographically broad (rather than merely sectional) support, and will be at least acceptable to the vast majority of the electorate.

Today voters have little incentive to vote for candidates nominated by minor parties such as the Libertarians, the Greens or Ross Perot's 1992 Reform Party. Since winning even 30% of the vote nationwide is likely to yield very few (if any) electoral votes, most voters wind up choosing one of the two major-party candidates.

Those who think that fact a vice should consider the alternative. Under NPV, states commit their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of how small a percentage of the overall vote that candidate wins. Thus a candidate whom a large majority of Americans finds highly unacceptable might become the next president. That's because the NPV would encourage more minor-party or "insurgent" candidates who'd been denied the nomination of one of the major parties.

Another problem: If vote totals are close, the losing candidate has a strong incentive to demand recounts or challenge voting procedures in every state, regardless of how badly he lost. After all, "every vote counts." Imagine the Florida debacle of 2000 spread across dozens of states, every four years.

Is there really any need to abolish the existing system, just because candidates who "lose" the popular vote by a small margin sometimes come out on top in the electoral vote? The true purpose of an electoral system is not to ensure that the presidential candidate preferred by 51% of the electorate is chosen. Rather, it is to choose an effective leader whom even most supporters of the losing major-party candidate will regard as tolerable -- so that the government is perceived as representing the people as a whole, not just victorious partisans.

That's why leading-party candidates typically "run toward the middle" during the general election campaign. In a two-party race, you can't win an election without demonstrating your acceptability to a large swath of the public.

Mr. Schaefer is professor of political science at College of the Holy Cross.
28724  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Guro Crafty in Canton OH 7/12-13 on: July 12, 2008, 08:47:37 PM
Woof All:

A fine today today at the seminar today.  A good group with a nice blend of LEOs and civilians.  Tomorrow will probably conclude with some FOF training with the BG in a Red Man suit  cool

The Adventure continues!
Guro Crafty
28725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Isreali Psy Ops on: July 11, 2008, 11:22:23 AM
An Iraqi news agency has reported that Israeli fighter jets have overflown Jordanian airspace and landed in Iraq to practice for a raid on Iranian nuclear sites. The report, which represents a bid to create the impression that the United States is on board with an impending Israeli attack on Iran, is likely part of an ongoing psywar campaign against Iran.

Israeli fighter jets have been flying over Jordanian airspace and landing in Iraq over the past month to practice for a raid on Iranian nuclear sites, Iraqi news agency Nahrainnet reported July 11, citing sources in the Iraqi Defense Ministry. The Iraqi news agency reported that the Israeli warplanes mostly flew at night and landed at U.S. air bases near Haditha, in western Anbar province, and in Nasiriyah in southern Iraq.

The Iraqi news report is intended to give the impression that the United States is already actively cooperating in an Israeli attack against Iran — and that such an attack could be imminent.

Iran’s Press TV picked up the Iraqi news report, as did major Israeli media outlets later. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev denied the Iraqi report, saying it was “erroneous” and adding that Israel has no hostile intentions toward Iran. A statement from Iraq’s Defense Ministry followed, denying knowledge of any Israeli air force drills in its airspace.

The mysterious report in the Iraqi press appears to be yet another link in an ongoing and intensifying psywar campaign against Iran. While Israel does possess the weaponry to launch a debilitating strike against Iran, it would not be able to enter Iranian airspace on its own. Israeli fighter jets would need cooperation from Turkey, Saudi Arabia or U.S. forces in Iraq to access Iranian airspace. Out of the three, the third is the most viable option. But U.S. forces have shown little inclination to assist in an Israeli air attack against Iran given the fragile negotiations Washington is pursuing with Tehran.

Most significantly, if this were a real preparation for an attack, its operational security was just blown sky high. The attack could only be carried out now if the Israelis and Americans were incredibly confident the attack would take place without resistance and without Iranian material and personnel being relocated. Under normal circumstances, a breach of security like this would provide ample justification to abort such an attack (meaning that in the unlikely event that this was the real deal, a large bevy of Israeli fighter-bombers would soon be seen flying west).

Moreover, there appears to be only one U.S. carrier in Iran’s vicinity at the present time, the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG). The CSC was relocated from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Oman, and is now currently providing air support for security operations in Afghanistan, along with the USS Peleliu Expeditionary Strike Group in the Persian Gulf. An effective U.S. strike on Iran would likely involve a great deal more fighting power in the Persian Gulf were an attack imminent.

A psywar campaign targeting Iran has been steadily building up in recent weeks with Israeli war games in the Mediterranean, threats of Western energy firms pulling out of Iran, sanctions being tightened and war threats from all sides making their way into the press through anonymous leaks. At the same time, negotiations between Iran and the United States have shown progress, with Iran currently in talks with the West over its nuclear program. If Washington and Tehran are close to clinching a deal on Iraq, now is the time for the United States to convince the Iranians that imminent military action is still on the table if Iran does not follow through with its end of the bargain. And even though the Iraqi report on Israeli practice raids has more than enough punch to make oil prices jump, the probability of war in the Persian Gulf is still low
28726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 11, 2008, 10:47:07 AM

I've taken the liberty of renaming the thread "China vs. Islam"

Or if you have another preference, please go ahead and change it again.


28727  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: The Art in its Homeland on: July 10, 2008, 06:40:30 PM

Make policemen use the batuta
By Ramon Tulfo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

With so many policemen being disarmed by New People's Army guerrillas,
policemen in remote towns should no longer be allowed to carry guns.
Instead, they should be made to tote batuta or nightsticks, which have
no use for the NPAs.

Police stations in remote towns are the source of guns of the NPAs.
Policemen in remote towns or barangays run away or don't put up a
fight when rebels raid their places.  The few cops who fight the
marauding guerrillas get killed easily as they are surprised and outnumbered.

One reason why NPAs raid a town is to collect pistols and M-16 rifles
from individual policemen and from the station armory.

The NPA now has more guns and ammunition than there are members,
thanks to the successful raids.

* * *

Making policemen use nightsticks will force them to learn the
rudiments of arnis or Filipino stickfighting in handling troublemakers.
Most cops always use their guns even on unarmed criminals or

By the way, why have our cops discarded the nightstick when policemen
in other countries still carry it together with a pistol?

* * *

When NPAs raided the provincial jail in Mati, Davao Oriental recently,
they took the guns in the jail armory, as well as the guns of the

As they were leaving, some detainees shouted, "Uban mi n'yo (We want
to join you)."

The raiders' reply: "Ah, diha lang mo kay duna mo'y mga sala inyong
kinahanglan baydan (Just stay put as you have crimes you should pay to

The NPAs are better than some people in the Arroyo administration who
condone corruption, a crime against the people.
28728  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 10, 2008, 06:27:18 PM
The plan is for judo/jiu-jitsu type tatami mats.
28729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: July 10, 2008, 01:19:37 PM
Jesse Ventura, who parlayed his fame as a professional wrestler into a single term as governor of Minnesota, looks as if he's stepping back into the political arena. The man known as "The Body," who left office almost six years ago, is apparently spoiling to return and represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate.

Mr. Ventura's motivation seems to be antipathy towards the two major-party candidates: GOP incumbent Senator Norm Coleman and former satirist Al Franken, a Democrat. Mr. Ventura told National Public Radio: "I run because it angers me. All you Minnesotans take a good hard look at all three of us. And you decide: If you were in a dark alley which one of the three of us would you want with you?"

Mr. Ventura starts the race with almost universal name ID in the state and the support of some 24% of voters if he runs as an independent. "The press doesn't love him, but the people do," says campaign media strategist Bill Hillsman, who handled Mr. Ventura's 1998 ads.

While most experts don't think Mr. Ventura can win, he certainly would shake up the race. Jennifer Duffy, Senate analyst for the Cook Political Report in Washington, believes the contest was already slipping away from Mr. Franken following revelations that he had not paid taxes in several states where he had performed. Ms. Duffy told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that she's close to moving the Minnesota Senate contest into the "leans Republican" category. A Ventura bid, she added, "would seal the deal" for Mr. Coleman because Mr. Ventura would likely capture those voters most eager for dramatic change in Washington. Absent his entry into the race, many of those same voters would likely opt for the upstart Mr. Franken.

-- John Fund

Webb Is Gone - And Virginia Too?

Losing Jim Webb as a VP option means Barack Obama might have lost his best, and perhaps only, chance of turning Virginia blue this November.

Of all the possible running mates, Sen. Webb was the most intriguing. Here was a Vietnam combat veteran and former Secretary of the Navy under Ronald Reagan who had unseated a Republican incumbent in a state Democrats hope to win this year. An economic populist, Mr. Webb has proven appeal with the blue-collar voters in Virginia whom Mr. Obama failed to win in his contest against Sen. Hillary Clinton. Impeccable national-security credentials and working-class appeal -- the two very qualities Mr. Obama lacks.

In June, a SurveyUSA poll of Virginia voters found that when various tickets were matched against each other, an Obama/Webb ticket performed the best. So when Mr. Webb removed his name from the shortlist earlier this week, Mr. Obama lost one of his strongest potential running mates.

Naturally, lots of names are being thrown around as alternatives, but none would balance the Democratic ticket as nicely as Mr. Webb. In Virginia, two remaining possible selections are former Gov. Mark Warner and current Gov. Tim Kaine. Mr. Warner, however, has signaled that he's focused on his Senate campaign to fill the seat left by the retiring John Warner. Mr. Kaine, although a highly popular governor with a moderate record, is relatively unknown outside the Old Dominion. Perhaps more importantly, neither Mr. Warner nor Mr. Kaine has any national-security experience. Either ticket would be vulnerable to Republicans attacks as a duo dangerously naïve in foreign affairs.

-- Blake Dvorak,

Live Free (to Drill) Or Die

New Hampshire is famous for spawning Comeback Kids, which perhaps is one of the few sprigs of hope for GOP Sen. John Sununu. He faces an uphill re-election battle against former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen, who lost the same seat six years ago by fewer than 20,000 votes. This year, National Journal calls the New Hampshire race the No. 1 Senate pick-up opportunity for Democrats. Ms. Shaheen enjoys a double-digit lead in the polls and has been outraising Mr. Sununu in the money battle by two-to-one.

But all may not be totally lost for Mr. Sununu. John Kerry barely won the state in 2004 and President Bush won it in 2000, even after Al Gore pulled out those natty flannel shirts. Polls show Barack Obama leading John McCain by 11 points, but Mr. McCain's historic popularity in the state could still come through and provide Mr. Sununu with coattails.

More importantly, God's gift to hapless GOPers this year has been high gas prices and Mr. Sununu's race is one more test of whether Republicans can exploit this lifesaver. New Hampshire voters tend in a green direction and Mr. Sununu loudly touts his conservation votes. Nonetheless, he took a chance by voting two months ago to allow oil drilling offshore and in a small corner of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Ms. Shaheen promptly attacked, saying taxes should be raised on oil companies instead and the money used to subsidize windmills. She even tried to change the subject to stem cells this week, suggesting Mr. Sununu's presumed backwardness on medical science disqualified him to talk about energy technology. Mr. Sununu retorted: "With oil at $140 a barrel, Jeanne Shaheen continues to toe the extreme liberal line, ignoring technological improvements that allow us to produce new energy deep offshore while providing better protection of the environment than ever before."

On Wednesday, Ms. Shaheen snagged the endorsement of the largest firefighters union in the state, the same union that stacked all of its chips with Chris Dodd before the state's presidential primary. Mr. Sununu probably was never going to win over the union bosses, but he may yet win the rank-and-file on the issue of fighting high gas prices.

-- Robert Costa

Quote of the Day

"Of course, McCain himself could take control of the [chaotic state of his campaign] by calling all of his competing advisors together and ordering them to work together. But that would be a dramatic break with past practice. As the former McCain advisor puts it, 'McCain's style is, call everyone into a room, say you guys work it out, and then turn off the lights. And then throw in a knife'" -- New Republic senior editor Jason Zengerle.

Detroit Pol: Aliens Abducted My Blackberry

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has come up with a unique legal defense against charges that he committed perjury when he denied in a legal proceeding a romantic affair with Christine Beatty, his then chief-of-staff.

It turns out, according to Mayor Kilpatrick's lawyers, that the government prosecutors have no way of proving that the hundreds of text messages sent on city Blackberrys between the mayor and his aide are legitimate. Kilpatrick attorneys argue that the "allegedly incriminating messages could be the work of a hacker" accessing the system through the Internet. "Any number of persons would know his style of correspondence and might effectively imitate it," a document filed by Kilpatrick lawyers stated.

Ms. Beatty, who has also been indicted, is on the same page as her former boss. "There's nothing to prevent some people just sitting there sending messages and responding to themselves," her attorney argued.

A jury will have to sort all this out, but mark me down as skeptical that the "somebody else did it" defense will fly very far in court.

-- John Fund

28730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why is NEST in China? on: July 10, 2008, 10:24:21 AM
So, would "China vs. its Jihadis" be a good title for this thread?

What I am trying to get at is that I wonder if the present title of the thread would lead someone interested in its actual contents to it?
28731  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: July 10, 2008, 09:36:54 AM
In fairness to BO, I am under the impression that he touched on these themes in his speech at the 2004 Dem convention.

JJ is a demogogic race baiting extortionist.  That said, I agree-- no big deal here.   Indeed its fun to see someone being caught being themself.  cheesy
28732  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Why is NEST in China? on: July 10, 2008, 09:32:22 AM
Woof GM:

Fascinating thread you have started here.  What do you see as its central theme?
28733  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Rehabbing the DC Snipers on: July 10, 2008, 09:20:17 AM
Rehabbing The D.C. Snipers
By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Wednesday, October 17, 2007 4:30 PM PT

Media Bias: Why would two Muslim men travel 3,000 miles to kill random people in the nation's capital a year after 9/11? CNN investigated and found Islamic terror had nothing to do with it.


Related Topics: Media & Culture


In its special marking the fifth anniversary of the sniper attacks, the network downplays the religious angle to the story in a reprise of its original shameless coverage.

When news of the snipers' identity first broke, CNN anchors were so determined to avoid making the obvious connection to radical Islam that they called the lead sniper, a Muslim convert, by his old name. Police were looking for John Allen Muhammad, but CNN insisted on referring to him as John Allen Williams.

Jailhouse sketches, including this one containing references to 'jihad,' 'holy war' and 'infidels' were entered into evidence in the 2003 trial of convicted D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo. His attorneys said they were evidence of indoctrination by Malvo's accomplice, John Allen Muhammad. But the only drawing shown in a new one-hour special on CNN shows Malvo shedding tears.
Now the network has completely scrubbed Islam from the picture, offering child abuse (boo-hoo) and spousal revenge as alternative motives for the snipers' bloody rampage.

Nowhere in its one-hour special — promoted as "The Minds of the D.C. Snipers" — is Islamist brainwashing even hinted as a motivating factor behind their serial assassinations. Yet the evidence is overwhelming that they were on a jihad.

In their own words, Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo traveled across the country to terrorize Washingtonians on the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks — first by picking off random people and then by blowing up school buses using plastic explosives loaded with ball bearings.

Their plan was to ramp up their shootings to 25 a day before moving on to explosives, killing scores of children. Thankfully, they were caught before they could put phase two into effect.

Muhammad and Malvo, now in prison in Virginia, still managed to kill 10 and wound three — including an elementary school kid shot in the back — while paralyzing the nation's capital for three full weeks.

The jailhouse drawings of the younger sniper, Malvo, tell it all:

• One sketch of Osama bin Laden exalts him as a "Servant of Allah."

• A self-portrait of him and Muhammad is captioned: "We will kill them all. Jihad . . . Allah Akbar!"

• A sketch of the burning Twin Towers has as its caption: "America did this. You were warned."

• A poem scribbled alongside an American flag and star of David drawn in cross hairs reads: "Our minarets are our bayonets, Our mosques are our baracks, Our believers are our soldiers."

• The Quran (Surah 2:190) is quoted as follows: "Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you and slay them wherever ye catch them." Also: "Islam the only true guidance."

• The White House is drawn in cross hairs, surrounded by missiles, with the warning: "Sep. 11 we will ensure will look like a picnic to you," and "you will bleed to death little by little."

• Another warning reads: "Islam. We will Resist. We will conquer. We will win."

Somehow CNN's "special investigations unit" managed to overlook this pile of courtroom evidence. It showed only one drawing — a self portrait of Malvo shedding tears.

CNN maintains that Malvo, an alleged victim of negligent parents, now has remorse for his victims — even though he wrote in one notebook: "They all died and they all deserved it. We will not stop. This war will not end until you are all destroyed utterly."

CNN also omitted the fact that while Muhammad and Malvo were in county jail awaiting trial, their lawyers insisted they be fed Islamic "halal" meals, such as veggie burgers, instead of ham sandwiches. They also got copies of the Quran.

According to Knight Ridder and others reporting at the time, the director of a shelter where the two men stayed for a spell in Washington state tipped off the FBI that Muhammad "might be a terrorist."

That incident mysteriously disappeared from an interview that CNN host Soledad O'Brien conducted with the same source for the special.

The revisionism and sanitization of Islam continued with O'Brien's interview with Muhammad's ex-wife, who insisted that jihad and hatred of America had nothing to do with her husband's cold-blooded killings.

Her head covered with a hijab, Mildred Muhammad claimed that she and she alone was the target of his attacks, and that the dozen-plus victims were an attempt to cover up the real target. CNN bought her story, even packaging it as an exclusive.

But a simple check of local news stories at the time would have revealed that neighbors reported seeing Muhammad visit with his former wife and children at their Maryland town house before and during the shootings. One neighbor said he even jogged with him.

Police even staked out her house in the hope he would visit again.

By leaving out all these facts — never even mentioning that the subjects of its investigation had converted to Islam — CNN committed professional malpractice.

Its "special investigation" is nothing more than a politically correct whitewashing of the truth aimed at pleasing Muslim groups like CAIR, which has argued that "there is no indication that this case is related to Islam or Muslims."

28734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia takes a double hit on: July 10, 2008, 09:06:46 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Russia Takes A Double Hit
July 9, 2008
Tuesday was not the best of days for the Russians. Not only did the Serbian parliament usher in a new government — the most stable and pro-Western alignment the country has had since World War I — but also the United States and the Czech Republic signed a deal to install an X-band radar on Czech soil as part of an American ballistic missile defense (BMD) system.

Serbia, as a Slavic state surrounded by foes, has been a bastion of Russian influence for years. All of Serbia’s neighbors are now EU members, applicants or protectorates. And the change in Belgrade makes it likely that Serbia will firmly fall into the West and Russia will lose its last willing ally in Europe.

Serbia is surrounded by Europe, so the only means Moscow can use to seriously draw the country back into the Russian fold is to use lots of cold hard cash. The Russians may not even be too concerned about Serbia’s new government. In fact, the political shift could translate into good business for Russian investors if, through a western-oriented Serbia, they have access to the European Union. But business is hardly a substitute for the geopolitical influence that Russia previously enjoyed.

The BMD issue is a double hit. While the immediate reason for the project is to deter against a potential Iranian nuclear missile, it also sets up a scenario in which a BMD could be expanded, deepened and reconfigured to hold off a Russian deterrent 20 years from now. The Czech Republic is also now included in a lineup of European countries that stretches from Iceland to Turkey that host American military facilities. Poland will also join that lineup once its domestic politics facilitates the signing of a deal to house a U.S. BMD installation.

While the Russians have (loudly) promised reprisals for the U.S. expansion into Central Europe — specifically Poland and Czech Republic — they have little influence over this development. There is nothing that Russia can do to deter the distrust of Central Europeans. Steps such as, for example, returning offensive ballistic missiles to Kaliningrad or retargeting portions of its nuclear arsenal at BMD sites, would only solidify the Europeans’ willingness to collaborate with the Americans on security issues.

While Russia does not really have any options that constitute an obvious retaliatory step, what it will do can be broken into two categories.

First, Russia is making the Europeans — and especially Central Europeans — pay a price for their geopolitical alignment. Since 2000, Russia has steadily jacked up the price of natural gas sold to Europe fourfold, with another 25 percent hike slated for the next 12 months. In addition, alternate energy shipment routes starting to come online (specifically for oil) have been expressly intended to bypass Central European transit states. In the case of Poland this will leave several Cold War-era refineries without a source of crude.

Second, Russia is hardening its outer shell. Russia has no clear geographic barriers separating it from most of its neighbors. This is one of the reasons why Russians tend to be so distrustful of outsiders. From Napoleon to Wilhelm II to Hitler, outsiders tend to invade Russia. Therefore, the Kremlin is using its energy income, energy supply routes, weapons sales and intelligence services to subtly (and not so subtly) reshape the Russian near abroad rather than merely rage against things it cannot change in Belgrade, Prague and Warsaw.

Ultimately, Russia’s vital interest lies is in its borderlands. In recent months the Russians have adjusted the expectations of Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan Azerbaijan and Georgia, forcing them to see the world from a slightly more Russian point of view. This strategy is hardly foolproof. For every two steps it takes forward, Russia takes another step back. But what Russia really needs to feel secure are buffers. From the Russian point of view, it is better to tussle in the borderlands than on the home front. And while the U.S./Czech deal announced Tuesday and the move by Serbia to adopt a more pro-Western government do not advance Russia’s influence, the geopolitical giant is not without options.

28735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Aerial Wolf Shooting. on: July 10, 2008, 08:46:31 AM
Woof John:

Interesting issue.

That said, each forum has its way of being and in that spirit I would like to draw your attention to Rule of the Road #5.   As a general but not absolute rule we look to open threads that have onging relevance.  Certainly your post could fit in the Science, Culture etc forum thread "Wolves, Dogs and Canines" but lurking in your post is such an issue of ongoing relevance, but the title of the thread I think of the sort to lilkely to lead to thread clutter.  Is there a different name you could put to the thread that would express the larger issue?  Or maybe just repost it in the Wolves etc thread on the Science Culture etc forum and delete it here?

28736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iran's Missile Threat on: July 10, 2008, 08:36:15 AM
Iran's Missile Threat
July 10, 2008; Page A14
Talk about timing, perhaps fortuitous. On Tuesday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Prague signing an agreement that's a first step toward protecting Europe from ballistic missile attack. As if on cue, Tehran yesterday tested nine missiles, including several capable of reaching southern Europe, as well as Israel and U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East. Remind us. Who says Iran isn't a threat?

The chief naysayer is Moscow, which continues to insist that the planned U.S.-led missile defense for Europe is aimed at defeating Russian missiles, not Iranian ones. This was Vladimir Putin's line, and the new Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, picked it up yesterday, saying that the antimissile system "deeply distresses" Russia and is a threat to its national security. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement warning that if the system is deployed, "we will be forced to react not with diplomatic, but with military-technical methods." Good to see the Russians haven't lost their subtle touch.

No one in that neighborhood – least of all the Russians – actually believes Iran's missile program is anything but dangerous. Russians talk privately about the Iranian threat, and it's not hard to imagine a scenario whereby Tehran shares a missile – and perhaps a nuclear warhead – with its brother Muslims in Chechnya.

In any case, Washington's proposed antimissile system for Europe is designed to defend against one or two missiles launched from Iran, not against the thousands of missiles in the Russian arsenal. It would include a tracking radar in the Czech Republic and 10 interceptors in Poland (or perhaps Lithuania, if the Poles can't get their act together). Russia's claim that this highly limited defense poses a threat to its nuclear deterrence is absurd.

Yesterday's tests offered no big surprises about Iran's missile technology, but they are a useful reminder of just how real the Iranian threat is – and how rapidly it is growing. One of the missiles tested was the latest update of the Shahab-3, which has a range of about 1,250 miles.

Replace the payload with a lighter one – say, a nuclear warhead – and the range gains 1,000 miles. Add a booster and the range can be extended even farther. North Korea did just that with its Taepodong missile – technology that it passed along to Iran. U.S. intelligence estimates that Iran will have a ballistic missile capable of reaching New York or Washington by about 2015.

Iran may already have the capability to target the U.S. with a short-range missile by launching it from a freighter off the East Coast. A few years ago it was observed practicing the launch of Scuds from a barge in the Caspian Sea.

This would be especially troubling if Tehran is developing EMP – electromagnetic pulse – technology. A nuclear weapon detonated a hundred miles over U.S. territory would create an electromagnetic pulse that would virtually shut down the U.S. economy by destroying electronic circuits on the ground. William Graham, head of a Congressional commission to assess the EMP threat, testifies before the House Armed Services Committee this morning. We hope someone asks him about Iran.

The proposed "third site" in Europe is part of a rudimentary missile-defense system that the U.S. already has in place for the homeland. It's one of the unsung successes of the Bush Presidency, and the U.S. and its allies are safer for it. Yet few Democrats are willing to acknowledge it. That apparently includes Barack Obama, whose response to Iran's missile tests yesterday was to call for more direct diplomacy with Tehran, tougher threats of economic sanctions and bigger incentives to behave – all of which Tehran has sneered at numerous times.

Some 30 nations, including North Korea and Syria, have ballistic missiles and their proliferation is sure to continue. The European site is part of the Bush Administration's vision of missile defense with a global reach. Iran's latest missile tests show that Europe needs an antimissile system more than ever.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus
28737  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: July 10, 2008, 07:28:33 AM
"People generally have more feeling for canals and roads than
education.  However, I hope we can advance them with equal pace."

-- Thomas Jefferson (letter to Joel Barlow, 10 December 1807)

Reference: The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, ed.,
vol. 5 (521)
28738  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 09, 2008, 09:37:04 PM

Your fighter registration came in today, but of course its not official until Cindy gets it posted  cheesy


It now looks like the insurance matter has been solved (actual paperwork must still be done) but things look solid enough for me to post the name of the presumptive site for the Gathering:

10950 Sherman Way
Suite 160
Burbank CA 91505

The Adventure continues!!!
Crafty Dog

28739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Chess Boxing on: July 09, 2008, 07:25:59 PM

Chess boxers slug it out
By Arnaud Bouvier in Berlin
July 07, 2008 08:29am

Article from: Agence France-PresseFont size: + -

A RUSSIAN man has been crowned world champion in the novelty sport of chess boxing, a game that requires equal skill at moving pawns and throwing punches.

Mathematics student Nikolai Sazhin, 19, competing under the name "The President'' knocked out a 37-year-old German policeman Frank Stoldt, who served as a peacekeeper in Kosovo until recently.

The loser said he was simply too punch-drunk to fend off checkmate.

"I took a lot of body-blows in the fourth round and that affected my concentration. That's why I made a big mistake in the fifth round: I did not see him coming for my king,'' he said.

Berlin is home to the world's biggest chess boxing club with some 40 members and it is in an old freight station here that the two men settled the matter early yesterday.

The match began over a chess board set up on a low table in the middle of a boxing ring.

Stripped to the waist, wearing towels around their shoulders and headphones playing the lulling sound of a moving train to drown out the baying crowd, the men played for four minutes.
Then off came their reading glasses and on went the gloves and the mouthguards.

For three minutes they beat each other and then, when the bell went, the chess board was back in the ring and they picked up the gentlemanly game where they had left off.

"This is the hard part, you are out of breath but you have to keep your wits about you,'' said David Steppeler, a 33-year-old instructor at the local chess boxing club.

"It is especially hard for the one who has to play first. He can easily make a false move, and in chess this is fatal. So in training we toughen people by making them do push-ups between every two chess moves.''

A chess boxing match consists of six rounds of chess and five in the ring but it can also end suddenly in knockout or checkmate.

Alternatively one of the players can be disqualified for taking too long to make his move in the chess rounds or breaking the boxing rules.

The weekend saw two matches apart from the world title bout and some of the competitors might have felt equally at home in a MENSA club meeting. One had a doctorate in biochemistry, another held a degree in political science and two were teachers.

The best in the world of chess boxing score somewhere between 1700 and 2000 points on the ELO chess rating system - putting them on a par with those who perform well in the sport at club level.

Perhaps fittingly, the sport had its beginnings in a comic strip by the French author Enki Bilal, titled Equator Cold that hit shelves in 1992.

The last work in Bilal's The Nikipol Trilogy features a blood-stained chess boxing battle set in an apocalyptic city in 2034.

In 2003, the young Dutch artist Iepe Rubingh decided to bring it all to life, but with less brutality, and organised the first match.

"But the way we do it is not as dark as it was in the comic strip. For me the thing is to channel your violence, to control it. Hence the marriage between boxing and chess,'' said Rubingh, who is the president of the international federation of chess boxing.,23599,23979955-23109,00.html
28740  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Financial Times' timeline of Iran's nuke program on: July 09, 2008, 02:05:04 PM
Good to have the big picture timeline:
28741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Boone Pickens's plan to escape foreign oil on: July 09, 2008, 12:13:40 PM
My Plan to Escape the Grip of Foreign Oil
July 9, 2008; Page A15

One of the benefits of being around a long time is that you get to know a lot about certain things. I'm 80 years old and I've been an oilman for almost 60 years. I've drilled more dry holes and also found more oil than just about anyone in the industry. With all my experience, I've never been as worried about our energy security as I am now. Like many of us, I ignored what was happening. Now our country faces what I believe is the most serious situation since World War II.

The problem, of course, is our growing dependence on foreign oil – it's extreme, it's dangerous, and it threatens the future of our nation.

Martin Kozlowski 
Let me share a few facts: Each year we import more and more oil. In 1973, the year of the infamous oil embargo, the United States imported about 24% of our oil. In 1990, at the start of the first Gulf War, this had climbed to 42%. Today, we import almost 70% of our oil.

This is a staggering number, particularly for a country that consumes oil the way we do. The U.S. uses nearly a quarter of the world's oil, with just 4% of the population and 3% of the world's reserves. This year, we will spend almost $700 billion on imported oil, which is more than four times the annual cost of our current war in Iraq.

In fact, if we don't do anything about this problem, over the next 10 years we will spend around $10 trillion importing foreign oil. That is $10 trillion leaving the U.S. and going to foreign nations, making it what I certainly believe will be the single largest transfer of wealth in human history.

Why do I believe that our dependence on foreign oil is such a danger to our country? Put simply, our economic engine is now 70% dependent on the energy resources of other countries, their good judgment, and most importantly, their good will toward us. Foreign oil is at the intersection of America's three most important issues: the economy, the environment and our national security. We need an energy plan that maps out how we're going to work our way out of this mess. I think I have such a plan.

Consider this: The world produces about 85 million barrels of oil a day, but global demand now tops 86 million barrels a day. And despite three years of record price increases, world oil production has declined every year since 2005. Meanwhile, the demand for oil will only increase as growing economies in countries like India and China gear up for enhanced oil consumption.

Add to this the fact that in many countries, including China, the government has a great deal of influence over its energy industry, allowing these countries to set strategic direction easily and pay whatever price is needed to secure oil. The U.S. has no similar policy, because we thankfully don't have state-controlled energy companies. But that doesn't mean we can't set goals and develop an energy policy that will overcome our addiction to foreign oil. I have a clear goal in mind with my plan. I want to reduce America's foreign oil imports by more than one-third in the next five to 10 years.

How will we do it? We'll start with wind power. Wind is 100% domestic, it is 100% renewable and it is 100% clean. Did you know that the midsection of this country, that stretch of land that starts in West Texas and reaches all the way up to the border with Canada, is called the "Saudi Arabia of the Wind"? It gets that name because we have the greatest wind reserves in the world. In 2008, the Department of Energy issued a study that stated that the U.S. has the capacity to generate 20% of its electricity supply from wind by 2030. I think we can do this or even more, but we must do it quicker.

My plan calls for taking the energy generated by wind and using it to replace a significant percentage of the natural gas that is now being used to fuel our power plants. Today, natural gas accounts for about 22% of our electricity generation in the U.S. We can use new wind capacity to free up the natural gas for use as a transportation fuel. That would displace more than one-third of our foreign oil imports. Natural gas is the only domestic energy of size that can be used to replace oil used for transportation, and it is abundant in the U.S. It is cheap and it is clean. With eight million natural-gas-powered vehicles on the road world-wide, the technology already exists to rapidly build out fleets of trucks, buses and even cars using natural gas as a fuel. Of these eight million vehicles, the U.S. has a paltry 150,000 right now. We can and should do so much more to build our fleet of natural-gas-powered vehicles.

I believe this plan will be the perfect bridge to the future, affording us the time to develop new technologies and a new perspective on our energy use. In addition to the plan I have proposed, I also want to see us explore all avenues and every energy alternative, from more R&D into batteries and fuel cells to development of solar, ethanol and biomass to more conservation. Drilling in the outer continental shelf should be considered as well, as we need to look at all options, recognizing that there is no silver bullet.

I believe my plan can be accomplished within 10 years if this country takes decisive and bold steps immediately. This plan dramatically reduces our dependence on foreign oil and lowers the cost of transportation. It invests in the heartland, creating thousands of new jobs. It substantially reduces America's carbon footprint and uses existing, proven technology. It will be accomplished solely through private investment with no new consumer or corporate taxes or government regulation. It will build a bridge to the future, giving us the time to develop new technologies.

The future begins as soon as Congress and the president act. The government must mandate the formation of wind and solar transmission corridors, and renew the subsidies for economic and alternative energy development in areas where the wind and sun are abundant. I am also calling for a monthly progress report on the reduction in foreign oil imports, as well as a monthly progress report on the state of development of natural gas vehicles in this country.

We have a golden opportunity in this election year to form bipartisan support for this plan. We have the grit and fortitude to shoulder the responsibility of change when our country's future is at stake, as Americans have proven repeatedly throughout this nation's history.

We need action. Now.

Mr. Pickens is CEO of BP Capital.
28742  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: July 09, 2008, 12:11:59 PM
Barack Obama is a slight favorite to win the presidential election, but John McCain can win if he gets his campaign focused and mounts a targeted attack on his opponent. That was the conclusion of Democratic pollster Doug Schoen, who has worked for both President Bill Clinton and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, when he presented the findings of a new survey he conducted for the Aspen Institute's Ideas Festival.

His overall survey put Mr. Obama ahead by 47% to 42%, but the head-to-head margin shrinks to dead even after voters are given both positive and negative information about the two men. Overall, both candidates have nearly identical favorability ratings (54% and 53%, respectively). That explains why Mr. McCain is making the race competitive, even though voters clearly show a general desire for change in control of the White House: 51% of voters want a Democrat to win the general election, while only 35% want a Republican.

"What's most surprising is how much potential there is for John McCain, but that potential has not yet been realized," Mr. Schoen told the Aspen attendees. "The Obama campaign has done a better job getting its message out." Thus, if Mr. Schoen had to bet on the result, he would plump for Mr. Obama, unless Mr. McCain's recent staff shakeup signals a new campaign approach. He says the old strategy wasn't working: "You can't have an attack du jour. You need to have an attack you stick to."

If he were designing campaign slogans for both candidates, Mr. Schoen says he would advise the Obama campaign to use: "Don't Vote For a Third Bush Term. Reject the Politics of the Past." For Mr. McCain he suggests: "Inexperience America Can't Afford."

"I think there is a desire for change, but there is some doubt about Barack Obama," Mr. Schoen concluded. "I think what swing voters are saying [is that] he's an attractive guy, a good guy, but we don't really know what he's about."

-- John Fund

Harry Reid's Position Paper on Drilling

Congressional Democrats are eager to turn the gas-price debate away from calls for more oil drilling, since the very idea sends its environmental lobby around the bend. Senate Democrats have tried everything from excoriating oil companies for allegedly sitting on federal leases to attacking "speculators" as the real reason for high gas prices. But none of these imaginative decoys has ranked anywhere near Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's convincing explanation for Democratic inaction on the energy crisis, now playing on endless loop on YouTube.

In an interview with Fox News Business Channel last week, Mr. Reid, who was evidently fed up with questions about drilling, suddenly exclaimed: "Coal makes us sick, oil makes us sick; it's global warming. It's ruining our country, it's ruining the world. We've got to stop using fossil fuel."

Mr. Reid's rant quickly became the No. 1 video on the Internet, approaching a half-million views. The pollster Rasmussen even took the unusual step of conducting a survey to see how many Americans agreed with the Nevadan's view. Let's just say he didn't win a majority.

But give Mr. Reid marks for honesty. To many liberal Democrats, cheap fossil fuels are the root cause of excessive materialism, suburban sprawl, a despoiled environment -- and they've been demanding for decades that government raise the price of energy to discourage Americans from driving big cars and living in large, well-heated homes. Democrats may never have had the political courage to impose such towering European-style gasoline taxes directly, but Mr. Reid's policy diatribe at least explains why Democrats have found it so easy to sit on their hands rather than take steps to increase domestic supply and bring down $4 gasoline.

-- Kim Strassel

Profiles in Name Recognition

John Kennedy for Senate? No, it's not Massachusetts in 1952, but Louisiana in 2008, where the state treasurer with a famous name -- middle name "Neely" -- is running against incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu. Mr. Kennedy, a Democrat himself until he switched parties last year, is no relation to the famous political Kennedys but he represents the GOP's best shot to pick up a Senate seat in a year when the GOP is looking down the barrel of major setbacks on Congress.

Recent polls show Ms. Landrieu, despite considerable support from the national party, leading by a mere four points. Financially, Mr. Kennedy's fund-raising is beginning to catch fire. Yesterday, he announced he raised nearly $1.5 million in the second quarter and now has $2.7 million in cash on hand. Asked by PD about the Republican troubles nationally, Mr. Kennedy laments, "I don't know what's going on," but says his own strong bid just proves that "politics really is local." "We're experiencing a wave of reform in Louisiana," he adds, noting the success of reformist GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal, who's now being touted as a John McCain veep possibility.

"Reform" could be Mr. Kennedy's middle name, since how he has reformed himself is unavoidably an issue in the campaign. In 2004, Mr. Kennedy was an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for Senate, coming in a distant third to Republican David Vitter. He ran on a distinctly liberal platform and endorsed John Kerry, who promptly lost the state by 15 points.

Apparently having gotten the message, Mr. Kennedy last August left the Democratic Party, ostensibly to run as a Republican for his third term as State Treasurer -- but mainly, it was rumored, so he could challenge Ms. Landrieu this fall. So how does he expect to beat her now? "By speaking bluntly about the out-of-control spending in Washington," says Mr. Kennedy. "The spending is outrageous. . . we need tax cuts."

And he expects to be on the right side of this year's presidential split: "Senator McCain will do very well in Louisiana because he is a fiscal conservative." Mr. McCain currently holds a 52%-36% percent lead over the Democratic nominee Barack Obama, whom Mr. Kennedy has described as "the embodiment of old Europe liberalism." Perhaps speaking from experience, he even tells this morning's New Orleans Times-Picayune that Ms. Landrieu made a "huge mistake" embracing Mr. Obama.

-- Robert Costa

The Prisoner Returns

No TV series -- not even "Star Trek" -- has quite achieved the quirky cult status of "The Prisoner," which first ran 40 years ago. Now the show is being revived by a joint partnership between Britain's ITV and America's AMC networks.

Jim Caviezel, who played Jesus in "Passion of the Christ," will play Prisoner No. 6, a former secret agent who is kidnapped and dumped in a strange seaside village where everyone is known only by a number. He is told that "by hook or by crook" the reasons for his mysterious resignation as an agent will be extracted from him. Sir Ian McKellen, who played Gandalf in "Lord of the Rings," will play the sinister Number Two, who runs the Village on behalf of unseen parties.

In the original 1960's Cold War version, series creator and star Patrick McGoohan explored issues of privacy, individualism and mind control. I always viewed the original series as Mr. McGoohan's take on George Orwell's novel "1984," but with a sense of humor. An AMC executive says the new series will pay homage in "winks and nods" to the original but will be "reinterpreted" to reflect "21st century concerns and anxieties, such as liberty, security and surveillance."

Sadly, the new "Prisoner" will be shot in Namibia, where the seaside resort of Swakopmund has preserved a quirky collection of colonial German buildings. The original was shot in the Welsh village of Portmeirion, a strange, planned community with eclectic Mediterranean architecture. Known simply as "The Village" in the original series, Portmeirion still attracts thousands of "Prisoner" fans a year who tour the grounds with the help of a guidebook. But in a clear sign of today's times, visitors are under constant surveillance. The resort recently installed CCTV security cameras throughout the complex. As the original Number Two in the "The Prisoner" used to say: "Be Seeing You."

28743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: New Era of Geopolitics? on: July 09, 2008, 11:52:23 AM
By Peter Zeihan

As students of geopolitics, we at Stratfor tend not to get overexcited when this or that plan for regional peace is tabled. Many of the world’s conflicts are geographic in nature, and changes in government or policy only rarely supersede the hard topography that we see as the dominant sculptor of the international system. Island states tend to exist in tension with their continental neighbors. Two countries linked by flat arable land will struggle until one emerges dominant. Land-based empires will clash with maritime cultures, and so on.

Petit vs. Grand Geopolitic
But the grand geopolitic — the framework which rules the interactions of regions with one another — is not the only rule in play. There is also the petit geopolitic that occurs among minor players within a region. Think of the grand geopolitic as the rise and fall of massive powers — the onslaught of the Golden Horde, the imperial clash between England and France, the U.S.-Soviet Cold War. By contrast, think of the petit geopolitic as the smaller powers that swim alongside or within the larger trends — Serbia versus Croatia, Vietnam versus Cambodia, Nicaragua versus Honduras. The same geographic rules apply, just on a smaller scale, with the added complexity of the grand geopolitic as backdrop.

The Middle East is a region rife with petit geopolitics. Since the failure of the Ottoman Empire, the region has not hosted an indigenous grand player. Instead, the region serves as a battleground for extra-regional grand powers, all attempting to grind down the local (petit) players to better achieve their own aims. Normally, Stratfor looks at the region in that light: an endless parade of small players and local noise in an environment where most trends worth watching are those implanted and shaped by outside forces. No peace deals are easy, but in the Middle East they require agreement not just from local powers, but also from those grand players beyond the region. The result is, well, the Middle East we all know.

All the more notable, then, that a peace deal — and a locally crafted one at that — has moved from the realm of the improbable to not merely the possible, but perhaps even the imminent.

Israel and Syria are looking to bury the hatchet, somewhere in the Golan Heights most likely, and they are doing so for their own reasons. Israel has secured deals with Egypt and Jordan already, and the Palestinians — by splitting internally — have defeated themselves as a strategic threat. A deal with Syria would make Israel the most secure it has been in millennia.

Syria, poor and ruled by its insecure Alawite minority, needs a basis of legitimacy that resonates with the dominant Sunni population better than its current game plan: issuing a shrill shriek whenever the name “Israel” is mentioned. The Alawites believe there is no guarantee of support better than cash, and their largest and most reliable source of cash is in Lebanon. Getting Lebanon requires an end to Damascus’ regional isolation, and the agreement of Israel.

The outline of the deal, then, is surprisingly simple: Israel gains military security from a peace deal in exchange for supporting Syrian primacy in Lebanon. The only local loser would be the entity that poses an economic challenge (in Lebanon) to Syria, and a military challenge (in Lebanon) to Israel — to wit, Hezbollah.

Hezbollah, understandably, is more than a little perturbed by the prospect of this tightening noose. Syria is redirecting the flow of Sunni militants from Iraq to Lebanon, likely for use against Hezbollah. Damascus also is working with the exiled leadership of the Palestinian group Hamas as a gesture of goodwill to Israel. The French — looking for a post-de Gaulle diplomatic victory — are re-engaging the Syrians and, to get Damascus on board, are dangling everything from aid and trade deals with Europe to that long-sought stamp of international approval. Oil-rich Sunni Arab states, sensing an opportunity to weaken Shiite Hezbollah, are flooding petrodollars in bribes — that is, investments — into Syria to underwrite a deal with Israel.

While the deal is not yet a fait accompli, the pieces are falling into place quite rapidly. Normally we would not be so optimistic, but the hard decisions — on Israel surrendering the Golan Heights and Syria laying preparations for cutting Hezbollah down to size — have already been made. On July 11 the leaders of Israel and Syria will be attending the same event in Paris, and if the French know anything about flair, a handshake may well be on the agenda.

It isn’t exactly pretty — and certainly isn’t tidy — but peace really does appear to be breaking out in the Middle East.

A Spoiler-Free Environment
Remember, the deal must please not just the petit players, but the grand ones as well. At this point, those with any interest in disrupting the flow of events normally would step in and do what they could to rock the boat. That, however, is not happening this time around. All of the normal cast members in the Middle Eastern drama are either unwilling to play that game at present, or are otherwise occupied.

The country with the most to lose is Iran. A Syria at formal peace with Israel is a Syria that has minimal need for an alliance with Iran, as well as a Syria that has every interest in destroying Hezbollah’s military capabilities. (Never forget that while Hezbollah is Syrian-operated, it is Iranian-founded and -funded.) But using Hezbollah to scupper the Israeli-Syrian talks would come with a cost, and we are not simply highlighting a possible military confrontation between Israel and Iran.

Iran is involved in negotiations far more complex and profound than anything that currently occupies Israel and Syria. Tehran and Washington are attempting to forge an understanding about the future of Iraq. The United States wants an Iraq sufficiently strong to restore the balance of power in the Persian Gulf and thus prevent any Iranian military incursion into the oil fields of the Arabian Peninsula. Iran wants an Iraq that is sufficiently weak that it will never again be able to launch an attack on Persia. Such unflinching national interests are proving difficult to reconcile, but do not confuse “difficult” with “impossible” — the positions are not mutually exclusive. After all, while both want influence, neither demands domination.

Remarkable progress has been made during the past six months. The two sides have cooperated in bringing down violence in Iraq, now at its lowest level since the aftermath of the 2003 invasion itself. Washington and Tehran also have attacked the problems of rogue Shiite militias from both ends, most notably with the neutering of Muqtada al-Sadr and his militia, the Medhi Army. Meanwhile, that ever-enlarging pot of Sunni Arab oil money has been just as active in Baghdad in drawing various groups to the table as it has been in Damascus. Thus, while the U.S.-Iranian understanding is not final, formal or imminent, it is taking shape with remarkable speed. There are many ways it still could be derailed, but none would be so effective as Iran using Hezbollah to launch another war with Israel.

China and Russia both would like to see the Middle East off balance — if not on fire in the case of Russia — although it is hardly because they enjoy the bloodshed. Currently, the United States has the bulk of its ground forces loaded down with Afghan and Iraqi operations. So long as that remains the case — so long as Iran and the United States do not have a meeting of the minds — the United States lacks the military capability to deploy any large-scale ground forces anywhere else in the world. In the past, Moscow and Beijing have used weapons sales or energy deals to bolster Iran’s position, thus delaying any embryonic deal with Washington.

But such impediments are not being seeded now.

Rising inflation in China has turned the traditional question of the country’s shaky financial system on its head. Mass employment in China is made possible not by a sound economic structure, but by de facto subsidization via ultra-cheap loans. But such massive availability of credit has artificially spiked demand, for 1.3 billion people no less, creating an inflation nightmare that is difficult to solve. Cut the loans to rein in demand and inflation, and you cut business and with it employment. Chinese governments have been toppled by less. Beijing is desperate to keep one step ahead of either an inflationary spiral or a credit meltdown — and wants nothing more than for the Olympics to go off as hitch-free as possible. Tinkering with the Middle East is the furthest thing from Beijing’s preoccupied mind.

Meanwhile, Russia is still growing through its leadership “transition,” with the Kremlin power clans still going for each other’s throats. Their war for control of the defense and energy industries still rages, their war for control of the justice and legal systems is only now beginning to rage, and their efforts to curtail the powers of some of Russia’s more independent-minded republics such as Tatarstan has not yet begun to rage. Between a much-needed resettling, and some smacking of out-of-control egos, Russia still needs weeks (or months?) to get its own house in order. The Kremlin can still make small gestures — Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin chatted briefly by phone July 7 with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the topic of the nuclear power plant that Russia is building for Iran at Bushehr — but for the most part, the Middle East will have to wait for another day.

But by the time Beijing or Moscow have the freedom of movement to do anything, the Middle East may well be as “solved” as it can be.

The New Era
For those of us at Stratfor who have become rather inured to the agonies of the Middle East, such a sustained stream of constructive, positive news is somewhat unnerving. One gets the feeling that if the progress could hold up for just a touch longer, not only would there be an Israeli-Syrian deal and a U.S.-Iranian understanding, the world itself would change. Those of us here who are old enough to remember haven’t sensed such a fateful moment since the weeks before the tearing down of the Berlin Wall in 1989. And — odd though it may sound — we have been waiting for just such a moment for some time. Certainly since before 9/11.

Stratfor views the world as working in cycles. Powers or coalitions of powers form and do battle across the world. Their struggles define the eras through which humanity evolves, and those struggles tend to end in a military conflict that lays the groundwork for the next era. The Germans defeated Imperial France in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871, giving rise to the German era. That era lasted until a coalition of powers crushed Germany in World Wars I and II. That victorious coalition split into the two sides of the Cold War until the West triumphed in 1989.

New eras do not form spontaneously. There is a brief — historically speaking — period between the sweeping away of the rules of the old era and the installation of the rules of the new. These interregnums tend to be very dangerous affairs, as the victorious powers attempt to entrench their victory as new powers rise to the fore — and as many petit powers, suddenly out from under the thumb of any grand power, try to carve out a niche for themselves.

The post-World War I interregnum witnessed the complete upending of Asian and European security structures. The post-World War II interregnum brought about the Korean War as China’s rise slammed into America’s efforts to entrench its power. The post-Cold War interregnum produced Yugoslav wars, a variety of conflicts in the former Soviet Union (most notably in Chechnya), the rise of al Qaeda, the jihadist conflict and the Iraq war.

All these conflicts are now well past their critical phases, and in most cases are already sewn up. All of the pieces of Yugoslavia are on the road to EU membership. Russia’s borderlands — while hardly bastions of glee — have settled. Terrorism may be very much alive, but al Qaeda as a strategic threat is very much not. Even the Iraq war is winding to a conclusion. Put simply, the Cold War interregnum is coming to a close and a new era is dawning.

28744  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Maliki's Withdrawal Card on: July 09, 2008, 11:49:48 AM
Maliki's Withdrawal Card
July 9, 2008; Page A14
A year ago, the conventional Beltway wisdom had it that Iraq was a failed state. Today, the same wisdom holds that it is less chaotic but still fragile, dependent entirely on a U.S. presence to survive. But judging by recent comments from Nouri al-Maliki, even this view may be out of date.

Addressing Arab ambassadors in Abu Dhabi on Monday, the Iraqi prime minister made headlines by saying his government was "looking at the necessity of terminating the foreign presence on Iraqi lands and restoring full sovereignty." Mr. Maliki has also been playing hardball with the Bush Administration in concluding a status-of-forces agreement by the end of the year, when the current U.N. mandate authorizing the U.S. presence in Iraq expires.

Mr. Maliki's comments are an assertion of confidence in his country's stability – and not without cause. Fully nine of Iraq's 18 provinces are now under domestic security control. Al Qaeda is being smoked out of its last urban refuge in Mosul. The Iraqi army has performed with increasing skill and confidence against Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, which has also been ousted from its urban strongholds. Iraq will take in some $70 billion in oil revenue this year. T. Boone Pickens, the Texas oil magnate, told us yesterday that Iraq could double its current production, to five million barrels a day, in coming years.

More important, Iraq seems to have been able to consolidate the security gains achieved by the surge, even as the last of the surge brigades deployed in 2007 are now returning to the U.S. That makes further reductions in U.S. force levels look increasingly plausible, a further validation of President Bush's "return on success" strategy.

Mr. Maliki's comments were also designed for domestic Iraqi political consumption – another sign of that country's robust democratic debate. With elections scheduled for the autumn, Mr. Maliki wants to show he's nobody's pawn, especially not America's. The Sadrists continue to play the nationalist card, even as they are themselves pawns of Iran. The rise of Iraqi nationalism is inevitable and largely welcome as a unifying national force. Remember all of those who said an Iraqi Shiite government would merely be a tool of Iran?

The Prime Minister is also making it clear to his Arab neighbors that his government is not about to collapse. Apparently, they believe him: Jordan, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have announced plans to break the Arab diplomatic embargo of Iraq and return their ambassadors to Baghdad; the UAE has also forgiven $7 billion of Iraqi debt. Perhaps Saudi Arabia and Egypt will follow.

The significant question now is the pace and extent of any U.S. withdrawal, and the nature of any long-term U.S. military presence. Despite Mr. Maliki's comments, Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffak al-Rubaie was quick to add that the call for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal was "conditioned on the ability of Iraqi forces to provide security," according to the Associated Press. In other words, Mr. Maliki is not endorsing the Barack Obama agenda of immediate U.S. withdrawal starting on January 20.

Our view is that Iraq and Mr. Maliki would benefit from striking a security agreement this year while Mr. Bush is still in office. Despite Iraq's impressive security gains, Iran can still do plenty of mischief through its "special group" surrogates. The U.S. can help deter Iranian trouble, especially with Iraq elections scheduled for this year and next.

Inside Iraq, a significant long-term U.S. presence would also increase the confidence of Iraq's various factions to make political compromises. And outside, it would improve regional stability by giving the U.S. a presence in the heart of the Middle East that would deter foreign adventurism. This is the kind of strategic benefit that the next Administration should try to consolidate in Iraq after the hard-earned progress of the last year.

Our sense is that, with the exception of the Sadrists, all of Iraq's main political factions want the U.S. to remain in some significant force. Iraq is now a democracy, however, and perhaps as their confidence grows the Maliki government and Iraq public opinion will think differently. But that kind of withdrawal timetable should be mutual – and not imposed by a new U.S. President acting as if the Iraq he'll inherit in 2009 is the same as the Iraq of 2006. That would mean U.S. forces could be withdrawn with honor, and in victory.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.
28745  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran says it will hit Tel Aviv and US ships if attacked. on: July 09, 2008, 05:25:01 AM
Its Reuters, so caveat lector:

July 8, 2008

Iran Says Will Hit Tel Aviv And U.S. Ships if Attacked

Filed at 1:43 p.m. ET

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran will hit Tel Aviv, U.S. shipping in the Gulf and American interests around the world if it is attacked over its disputed nuclear activities, an aide to Iran's Supreme Leader was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

"The first bullet fired by America at Iran will be followed by Iran burning down its vital interests around the globe," the students news agency ISNA quoted Ali Shirazi as saying in a speech to Revolutionary Guards.

The United States and its allies suspect Iran is trying to build nuclear bombs. Tehran says its program is peaceful.

Leaders of the Group of Eight rich countries expressed serious concern at the proliferation risks posed by Iran's nuclear program.

In a statement issued after G8 leaders met in Hokkaido, northern Japan, the grouping urged Tehran to suspend all enrichment-related activities.

"We also urge Iran to fully cooperate with the IAEA," the G8 said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said earlier that major world powers had decided to send European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana to Iran for talks on an incentives package they offered last month to induce Tehran to change its nuclear policy.

Sarkozy did not say when Solana would travel to Tehran. Iran formally replied on Friday to the offer by the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia and Germany.

France said Iran's response had ignored the world powers' demand for a suspension of uranium enrichment before talks on implementing the package -- a condition rejected on Monday as "illegitimate" by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


In Prague, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said there were ways that Iran might wish to talk with Solana or others in order to get that suspension to take place.

"I did speak with Javier Solana yesterday. He is in contact with his Iranian counterpart and it's our great hope that the Iranians will avail themselves of this opportunity to get on the right side of the international community."

Shirazi's comments intensified a war of words that has raised fears of military confrontation and helped boost world oil prices to record highs in recent weeks.

"The Zionist regime is pressuring White House officials to attack Iran. If they commit such a stupidity, Tel Aviv and U.S. shipping in the Persian Gulf will be Iran's first targets and they will be burned," Shirazi was quoted as saying.

Shirazi, a mid-level cleric, is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's representative to the Revolutionary Guards.

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's spokesman, Mark Regev, declined to comment on the threat to hit Tel Aviv, saying only: "Shirazi's words speak for themselves."

Israel, believed to be the Middle East's only nuclear-armed power, has vowed to prevent Iran from acquiring an atomic bomb. The United States says it wants to resolve the dispute by diplomacy but has not ruled out military action.

In April, Israel's Infrastructure Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, who is a former army general and defense minister, told Israeli media: "An Iranian attack will prompt a severe reaction from Israel, which will destroy the Iranian nation."


Tel Aviv is an Israeli coastal metropolis hit in 1991 by Scud missiles launched by former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein during a U.S.-led war with Baghdad.

"I think it is very scary what they are saying," said Roy Katalan, holding his infant daughter in his arms on a Tel Aviv beach. "I think we should take him (Shirazi) seriously."

The latest Iranian threats had little impact on financial markets in Israel. "This has no relevance on dollar-shekel trade. I assume if we see a strike, there will be a reaction," said Neil Corney, treasurer for Citigroup's office in Tel Aviv.

Oil tumbled to below $136 on Tuesday, dropping by about $10 this week on a stronger dollar and eased concern over an Atlantic hurricane. Oil had hit a record $145.85 last week on tensions over Tehran's nuclear ambitions and worries a brewing storm could hit oil fields in the Gulf of Mexico.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if it comes under attack. About 40 percent of globally traded oil moves through the Gulf waterway.

In Washington, the U.S. Treasury designated four Iranian firms and four individuals on Tuesday for their ties to Iran's nuclear and missile programs, a move that bans U.S. companies from dealing with them and freezes any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

The Revolutionary Guards' commander of artillery and missile units, Mahmoud Chaharbaghi, said 50 brigades of his forces had been equipped with what he called smart cluster munitions.

"All our arms, bullets and rockets are on alert" to defend Iranian territory, Hemayet daily quoted him as saying.

U.S. and British naval forces wrapped up military exercises in the Gulf and said they were unrelated to tensions with Iran. The Bahrain-based U.S. Fifth Fleet said "Exercise Stake Net" took place in the central and southern Gulf and was part of training aimed at protecting the region's oil infrastructure.
28746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Obama's anger on: July 08, 2008, 01:22:40 PM
The essay below was written by a Vietnamese immigrant, a fellow with a most unusual name. Kaitz currently teaches philosophy at the University of San Francisco.

Obama's Anger

By Ed Kaitz
"The anger is real. It is powerful, and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races."- Barack Obama

Back in the late 1980's I was on a plane flying out of New Orleans and sitting next to me was a rather interesting and, according to Barack Obama, unusual black man. Friendly, gregarious, and wise beyond his years, we immediately hit it off.  I had been working on Vietnamese commercial fishing boats for a few years based in southern Louisiana   the boats were owned by the recent wave of Vietnamese refugees who flooded into the familiar tropical environment after the war.  Floating in calm seas out in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico, I would hear tearful songs and tales from ex-paratroopers about losing brothers, sisters, parents, children, lovers, and beautiful Vietnam itself to the communists.

In Bayou country I lived on boats and in doublewide trailers, and like the rest of the Vietnamese refugees, I shopped at Wal-Mart and ate a lot of rice. When they arrived in Louisiana the refugees had no money (the money that they had was used to bribe their way out of Vietnam and into refugee camps in Thailand), few friends, and a mostly unfriendly and suspicious local population.

They did however have strong families, a strong work ethic, and the "Audacity of Hope. "Within a generation, with little or no knowledge of English, the Vietnamese had achieved dominance in the fishing industry there and their children were already achieving the top SAT scores in the state.

While I had been fishing my new black friend had been working as a prison psychologist in Missouri , and he was pursuing a higher degree in psychology. He was interested in my story, and after about an hour getting to know each other I asked him point blank why these Vietnamese refugees, with no money, friends, or knowledge of the language could be, within a generation, so successful. I also asked him why it was so difficult to convince young black men to abandon the streets and take advantage of the same kinds of opportunities that the Vietnamese had recently embraced.

His answer, only a few words, not only floored me but became sort of a razor that has allowed me ever since to slice through all of the rhetoric regarding race relations that Democrats shovel our way during election season: "We're owed and they aren't." In short, he concluded, "they're hungry and we think we're owed. It's crushing us, and as long as we think we're owed we're going nowhere."

A good test case for this theory is Katrina. Obama, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and assorted white apologists continue to express anger and outrage over the federal response to the Katrina disaster. But where were the Vietnamese "leaders" expressing their "anger?" The Vietnamese comprise a substantial part of the New Orleans population, and yet is absent any report claiming that the Vietnamese were "owed" anything. This is not to say that the federal response was an adequate one, but we need to take this as a sign that maybe the problem has very little to do with racism and a lot to with a mindset.
The mindset that one is "owed" something in life has not only affected black mobility in business but black mobility in education as well.  Remember Ward Churchill? About fifteen years ago he was my boss. After leaving the fishing boats, I attended graduate school at the University of Colorado at Boulder I managed to get a job on campus teaching expository writing to minority students who had been accepted provisionally into the university on an affirmative action program.  And although I never met him, Ward Churchill, in addition to teaching in the ethnic studies department, helped to develop and organize the minority writing program.

The job paid most of my bills, but what I witnessed there was absolutely horrifying. The students were encouraged to write essays attacking the white establishment from every conceivable angle and in addition to defend affirmative action and other government programs. Of the hundreds of papers that I read, there was not one original contribution to the problem of black mobility that strayed from the party line.

The irony of it all however is that the "white establishment" managed to get them into the college and pay their entire tuition. Instead of being encouraged to study international affairs, classical or modern languages, philosophy or art, most of these students became ethnic studies or sociology majors because it allowed them to remain in disciplines whose orientation justified their existence at the university. In short, it became a vicious cycle.

There was a student there I'll never forget. He was plucked out of the projects in Denver and given a free ride to the university. One day in my office he told me that his mother had said the following to him: "M. J., they owe you this. White people at that university owe you this." M. J's experience at the university was a glorious fulfillment of his mother's angst.

There were black student organizations and other clubs that "facilitated" the minority student's experience on the majority white and "racist" campus, in addition to a plethora of faculty members, both white and black, who encouraged the same animus toward the white establishment. While adding to their own bona fides as part of the trendy Left, these "facilitators" supplied M. J. with everything he needed to quench his and his mother's anger, but nothing in the way of advice about how to succeed in college. No one, in short, had told M. J. that he needed to study. But since he was "owed" everything, why put out any effort on his own?

In a fit of despair after failing most of his classes, M. J. wandered into my office one Friday afternoon in the middle of the semester and asked if I could help him out. I asked M. J. about his plans that evening, and he told me that he usually attended parties on Friday and Saturday nights. I told him that if he agreed to meet me in front of the university library at 6:00 PM I would buy him dinner. At 6PM M. J. showed up, and for the next twenty minutes we wandered silently through the stacks, lounges, and study areas of the library. When we arrived back at the entrance I asked M. J. if he noticed anything interesting. As we headed up the hill to a popular burger joint, M. J. turned to me and said:
"They were all Asian. Everyone in there was Asian, and it was Friday night."

Nothing I could do, say, or show him, however, could match the fire power of his support system favoring anger. I was sad to hear of M. J. dropping out of school the following semester.

During my time teaching in the writing program, I watched Asians get transformed via leftist doublespeak from "minorities" to "model minorities" to "they're not minorities" in precise rhythm to their fortunes in business and education. Asians were "minorities" when they were struggling in this country, but they became "model minorities" when they achieved success. Keep in mind "model minority" did not mean what most of us think it means, i.e., something to emulate. "Model minority" meant that Asians had certain cultural advantages, such as a strong family tradition and a culture of scholarship that the black community lacked.

To suggest that intact families and a philosophy of self-reliance could be the ticket to success would have undermined the entire angst establishment. Because of this, it was improper to use Asian success as a model. The contortions the left exercised in order to defend this ridiculous thesis helped to pave the way for the elimination of Asians altogether from the status of "minority."
This whole process took only a few years.

Eric Hoffer said:
" do not win the weak by sharing your wealth with them; it will but infect them with greed and resentment. You can win the weak only by sharing your pride, hope or hatred with them."

We now know that Barack Obama really has no interest in the "audacity of hope." With his race speech, Obama became a peddler of angst, resentment and despair. Too bad he doesn't direct that angst at the liberal establishment that has sold black people a bill of goods since the 1960's. What Obama seems angry about is America itself and what it stands for; the same America that has provided fabulous opportunities for what my black friend called "hungry" minorities. Strong families, self-reliance, and a spirit of entrepreneurship should be held up as ideals for all races to emulate.

In the end, we should be very suspicious about Obama's anger and the recent frothing's of his close friend Reverend Wright. Says Eric Hoffer:  "The fact seems to be that we are least open to precise knowledge concerning the things we are most vehement about. Vehemence is the expression of a blind effort to support and uphold something that can never stand on its own."

28747  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Estudio: Muchos vs. muchos con palos y un cuchillo on: July 08, 2008, 09:51:48 AM
Parece tener lugar un Rusia.

28748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: $600 million baby on: July 08, 2008, 09:14:51 AM
$600 Million Baby
July 8, 2008; Page A20
As the Senate prepares to vote on its mortgage bailout this week, one part of Banking Chairman Chris Dodd's bill deserves more scrutiny. It's a section called "affordable housing allocations," and while it sounds innocuous, in practice it amounts to a new tax to create a permanent subsidy for state governments and political activists.

Like the bailout that has already passed the House, the Senate bill features a special new tax on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. We have long urged reform of the two mortgage giants, which operate with an implicit government guarantee and therefore a license to endanger the taxpayer if they take on too much risk. The shares of both plunged yesterday to new lows based on their credit risks. But as a price for allowing more oversight of the two companies, Mr. Dodd and House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank want to cut their allies in on even more of the action.

Mr. Dodd creates an annual tax of 4.2 basis points on the mortgages that Fan and Fred purchase each year. Initially this money will go to finance losses resulting from the bill's bailout of refinanced mortgages. But by 2012 most of the cash from this tax will be directed to the new "affordable housing" funds. Mr. Frank applies a 1.2 basis-point tax on the value of all the loans Fan and Fred hold or have guaranteed, to collect roughly the same amount of money. The annual windfall here could amount to more than $600 million at the start, growing to perhaps $1 billion or more, depending on how fast the companies grow.

Even better for the pols, this money won't end up in the Treasury's general fund. Instead, they've written the bill to steer the cash toward some of their favorite political allies. In the Senate bill, the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development gets the largest pot to distribute, a full 65% of the "affordable housing" funds. Within guidelines established by the bill, the HUD chief has discretion to favor particular states while punishing others in creating a formula for doling out block grants.

Much of the political clout will be enjoyed by state politicians once they receive the checks from HUD. The state pols will be free to share the wealth with favored organizations, which will include both nonprofit and for-profit groups with an agenda.

Back at the federal level, the Treasury Secretary receives 35% of the affordable housing funds to distribute, but he doesn't have to ship it off to the states in the form of block grants. Treasury can make grants directly to nonprofits, and the one certainty is that most of this cash will be directed to the most powerful allies of the politicians in power. While Mr. Frank's version only authorizes this river of cash until 2012, the Senate would make it permanent and don't expect the House to object in conference.

Democrats claim the bill has ample protection against money going for electioneering and lobbying, but it will surely go to activists who promote ever-more taxes and spending. We see nothing in either the House or Senate bills to prevent money from flowing to Acorn, the left-wing activist outfit that was infamous for its bare-knuckle politics even before eight of its employees pleaded guilty in April to election fraud in St. Louis.

Acorn operates an "affordable housing" arm, so it is structured to immediately board the new federal gravy train. The Center for Responsible Lending, which lobbies and litigates against market rates in consumer banking, also should be able to tap these funds via its affiliated Center for Community Self-Help. If later investigations prove that taxpayer funds were misused, the bills provide that recipients can simply return the amount of the grant, with no further financial penalty.

The affordable housing funds also give Members of Congress an even larger stake in the growth of Fannie and Freddie. Heretofore, the companies have had to influence Congress through lobbying and campaign donations. But now Congress will get a direct percentage in how much new business the companies do.

This, in turn, will give the companies more incentive to take even greater financial risks. While the bill gives Fan and Fred's regulator more power to limit their business, good luck to the human regulator who tries to do so. The companies will go to Messrs. Dodd and Frank, who will quickly let the regulator know he's not supposed to cut into their share of the loot. A bill that allegedly reins in the companies after their multibillion-dollar accounting frauds will thus make Fannie and Freddie even more politically invulnerable.

With rare exceptions, Republicans seem happy to go along with all this in the name of "doing something" about housing before the election. We doubt it will stem their electoral losses this year, and in return they'll be funding their political opponents for decades to come. Genius.
28749  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Fox: Porn Dogs will not be killed on: July 08, 2008, 08:52:38 AM
TULSA, Okla. —  The sheriff's office has backed off its recommendation that three dogs that are part of a bestiality case should be destroyed.

Donald Roy Seigfried, 55, and Diane Whalen, 54, face felony charges of committing crimes against nature, the statute that deals with bestiality.

Sheriff's officials at first said the animals appeared aggressive and should be put down. Animal rights groups argued that the dogs should be spared.

"The undersheriff has rethought his position on the dogs involved in the pornography," said sheriff's Capt. John Bowman. "Because of their status as being victims in this whole thing, he decided they will not be euthanized.

"His intent is to maintain them until they can be rehabilitated and then to get them adopted by people or organizations who are aware of their background and get a good home for all of them."

The sheriff's office received evidence the dogs had been filmed dozens of times performing sex acts with a woman.

28750  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Watching the UFC on: July 08, 2008, 08:12:40 AM
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