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28701  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / USMC Capt. Brent Morel on: January 09, 2009, 11:03:22 AM
Profiles of valor: U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Brent Morel
United States Marine Corps Capt. Brent Morel of Martin, Tennessee, was a platoon commander with 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division during the first offensive in Fallujah as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On 7 April 2004, Morel's platoon encountered enemy fire from more than 50 insurgents. A rocket-propelled grenade crippled the lead vehicle in the convoy, and the platoon was besieged with mortar and machine gun fire. After ordering the last two vehicles to establish flanking positions for the convoy, Morel left his vehicle to lead an assault across an open field to maneuver into firing positions. His assault eliminated several enemy fighters. But seeing his fellow Marines pinned by enemy fire, he again left the safety of his position in order to counterattack. It was then that he issued his final order: "Cover me. We're assaulting through." Though he took out more enemy fighters, he fell mortally wounded. The Marines rallied and defeated the ambush, killing more than 30 terrorists.

When informed of his son's death, Mike Morel could only ask, "Was he in the front?" Yes, he was. He replied, "I always knew that's where he would be." For his bravery, Capt. Morel was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross. A second Navy Cross went to Sgt. Willie L. Copeland III, who fought alongside Morel that day.
28702  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Adams on: January 09, 2009, 09:36:11 AM
"Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute his share to the expense of this protection; and to give his personal service, or an equivalent, when necessary. But no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. In fine, the people of this commonwealth are not controllable by any other laws than those to which their constitutional representative body have given their consent."

--John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776
28703  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: January 09, 2009, 12:00:28 AM
Agradezco tener un buen y capaz amigo quien me va a ayudar con un problema de negocio.
28704  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Update on the cutoff on: January 08, 2009, 11:25:05 PM
Geopolitical Diary: From a Chill to a Freeze in Europe
January 8, 2009
Related Links
Russia, Ukraine: Update on the Natural Gas Cutoff

Russia raised the stakes in the natural gas crisis with Ukraine even higher on Wednesday by shutting off the last of the supplies piping into the country. The standoff has now lasted seven days, with a dozen states in Central, Southern and Eastern Europe seeing their imports shut down 100 percent, and a handful of other countries — like Germany and Italy — seeing the bulk of their supplies disappear.

Russia has changed the game from a simple threat to a possible real crisis. During Russia’s 2006 cutoff of natural gas to Ukraine (and subsequently to Europe), Moscow never cut supplies fully, and it only reduced the flow for two days, so the move had no real impact. It was meant to get Europe’s attention, not to concretely harm the Continent. Russia was letting the West know that it was time for Moscow to get Ukraine back under its umbrella, something that has been shaking out over the past few years.

The current crisis looked as if it were following the same path — until Wednesday, when Russia did not just prolong the cutoff, but expanded it into a full shutdown of supplies through Ukraine. Some European states — Serbia, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Bosnia — are shutting down industrial complexes and decreasing access to centralized heating, all while an arctic front moves across the Continent.

So far, the cutoff’s real effects are being felt only in the less-influential European states. Russia’s next step would be to prolong the cutoff, causing industries to close and heating supplies to dwindle in the more influential countries, like Germany. Russia might be just testing out its energy lever on the smaller states to see how long it takes to break them, before threatening (or actually inflicting) the same treatment on the more critical states.

The Russians have the Europeans at break point. Europe can’t bear a Russian natural gas cutoff for much longer. Even with all its energy diversification plans on the table, the fact is that Europe is still heavily dependent on Russian supplies for the next few years. The Europeans have issued ultimatums, held meetings and sent warnings to the Russians, but there is nothing concrete that they can do right now.

Europe’s next practical step would be accommodation. And the main target the Russians want the West to back off on is still Ukraine. A deal on scaling down Western influence in Ukraine won’t be struck within a day, but a more solid and prolonged reversal within Ukraine will be seen — most likely with the end result of a pro-Russian government being installed.

It seems that discussions on this topic already are under way; Stratfor has heard rumors that German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin held a phone conference during the night. Merkel is struggling to make sure that the trap Russia has laid by freezing the Europeans isn’t sprung on Germany, and, at the moment, the price for such assurance is Ukraine.

But this does not mean Russia won’t ask for more than just Ukraine in the near future. Russia has a long laundry list of things it wants to accomplish before it is countered by a freed-up United States, including locking Germany into a neutral stance, restoring its hegemony in the Caucasus, starting up a crisis in the Baltic states and intimidating Poland. But for now (and only now), Russia will settle for Ukraine.
28705  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 08, 2009, 09:50:16 PM
Excellent discussion Doug.

I might add that the nature of the spending matters too.  Maintaining and developing infrastructure (our electrical system is BADLY out of date for example, deep problems loom with water supplies as well) is very different than handing out money to people who pay no income taxes as President BO intends to do with his "tax cuts".
28706  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 08, 2009, 05:13:43 PM
My understanding is that the true point is not deficit or not, but governmental burden on the economy.  Taxes might be paying for all spending, but if the overall % of GDP is too high, that is the problem.
28707  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movie Fights on: January 08, 2009, 03:41:27 PM
28708  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: January 08, 2009, 12:44:04 PM
He Can Outsmart Harry Reid, But Can He Outsmart Voters?

Yesterday, Senator-in-waiting Roland Burris made clear to reporters that he hasn't cut any deal with Senate Democrats to refrain from running for election in his own right in exchange for being seated as an appointive Senator. The Illinois Democrat indicates he doesn't intend to be a placeholder and will run for a full six-year term in 2010, when he turns 73.

What kind of a candidate would Mr. Burris be? On the one hand, he has exhibited both craftiness and chutzpah this week that would serve him well in politics. Given the power of incumbency, it would be tough to lose a March 2010 Democratic primary unless a marquee name took him on one-on-one.

The general election may be a different story. Mr. Burris has a weak political team led by Fred Lebed, his partner in a lobbying firm, who managed Mr. Burris's recent failed races for governor. Don Rose, a noted Democratic political consultant, told that Mr. Burris is often hurt by his "clownish ways" and is a weak campaigner. He would also still retain the stain of having been appointed by Governor Rod Blagojevich, who will likely be out of office and disgraced by the time of the 2010 election.

For that reason, Republicans are preparing for a rare competitive race in normally Democratic Illinois. Their leading candidate for the Senate is Mark Kirk, a five-term congressman from the northern suburbs of Chicago who has a history of winning Democratic and moderate voters in a swing seat.

Mr. Kirk, who has $5 million in campaign funds in the bank, won't be hurt by his high-profile return last week after serving with the U.S. military in Afghanistan, the first time a U.S. House Member has been deployed to a combat zone since World War II.

Although he has a strong interest in foreign affairs, Mr. Kirk says he knows the real challenge in Illinois is cleaning up the state's corruption problem. "Over the next two years, we are going to take on the State of Illinois, the most corrupt state of the union and clean up the Blagojevich excesses," he told reporters last year. It wasn't said, but he may well view one of those excesses to be Mr. Burris and his likely occupancy of a U.S. Senate seat.

-- John Fund

Harry Reid Is Losing

The good news for Majority Leader Harry Reid is that he has more Democrats than ever in the Senate. The bad news is that some of his Democratic colleagues are wondering about his political skills. Mr. Reid found himself completely outmaneuvered this week by Roland Burris, the man appointed to the Senate by scandal-tarred Governor Rod Blagojevich. Left-wing bloggers openly made fun of him, with Jane Hamsher declaring she would love nothing more than to play poker with Mr. Reid.

Other Democrats are openly acknowledging Mr. Reid was outflanked. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told MSNBC's "Hardball" that he could not help but admire the brilliance of the Blagojevich ploy.

"You gotta hand it to Blagojevich," said Mr. Dean said. "What a maneuver! What a maneuver! When his back was against the wall, he outsmarted a lot of people." Mr. Dean also acknowledged the obvious, that the governor will "probably end up in really bad trouble," but in a final burst of enthusiasm Mr. Dean added, "But he'll have something to tell his grandchildren."

Mr. Reid now finds himself preparing to defend his Senate seat in Nevada. While voters in his state trended Democratic last fall, Mr. Reid isn't popular back home and will be vulnerable to a GOP challenge. Like former Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who lost a re-election bid in 2004, Mr. Reid may be further challenged by having to push through high-visibility liberal legislation that will further erode his standing at home.

-- John Fund

Blago Is Winning

With President-elect Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid now climbing down from their opposition to seating Roland Burris in the U.S. Senate, one thing is becoming clear: Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is winning.

On Dec. 9, when Mr. Blagojevich was led from his home in handcuffs and U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald unveiled a criminal complaint detailing allegations that the governor conspired to sell Mr. Obama's Senate seat, it was hard to imagine the Democrat would be able to withstand the intense pressure to resign for long. But Mr. Blagojevich has proven to be an adept political infighter.

He's done three things to turn the tide. The first was to reshape the battleground by asking the people of Illinois to give him the same presumption of innocence provided anyone else accused of wrongdoing. His quoting of Rudyard Kipling at a press conference has been roundly pilloried on late-night TV, but the governor's remarks have appealed to voters' basic sense of fairness. The second was to hire a crack legal team headed up by uberlawyer Ed Genson, who quickly demanded that the state cover the governor's legal bills. This at first seemed a shameless move, but reinforced the argument that the governor was wrongly targeted because of the office he holds (helped by whispers that Prosecutor Fitzgerald himself may have political ambitions).

The third thing the governor did was decide to fight for every inch of ground. The state legislature is moving to impeach him, but the governor is forcing the House first to conduct a mini trial. His lawyers also have criticized House leaders for bowing to Mr. Fitzgerald's wishes in not making some information and witnesses available for public inspection. "We're fighting shadows," Mr. Genson complained to reporters. Likewise, the governor's decision to appoint Mr. Burris was shocking to Washington leaders who might have hoped that Blago would simply pack his bags and disappear. But it forced a public admission at the highest levels of government that Mr. Blagojevich remains the governor of Illinois with full powers of the office.

Meanwhile, Mr. Fitzgerald has yet to indict the governor on a single charge, leading to accusations that he was too quick to unveil his evidence consisting mostly of conversational bluster. If Mr. Fitzgerald fails to bring an indictment, the governor will almost certainly survive in office. And if he fails to win a conviction, the legislature will likely be unable to remove Blago.

-- Brendan Miniter

Quote of the Day

"[F]or the various 'green' politicians who see a nationalized U.S. auto industry as the path toward ubiquitous hybrids, their stridency may well be environmentalism's Vietnam. Whatever the truth about 'global warming,' one sure way to turn voters off when it comes to the theory of climate change will be for our nationalized carmakers to produce green cars that constantly need repairs" -- economist John Tamny, on the poor record of government-owned auto makers, writing at

Bair's Reward

"There are some people in the Republican Party who resent the idea of helping others," FDIC Chairwoman Sheila Bair sniffed recently to the New York Times. Ms. Bair, who has become a discordant Bush administration voice in favor of a taxpayer bailout of underwater homeowners, sounds like nothing so much as a community organizer, which may explain her appeal to President Obama, who reportedly will ask her to stay on in the new administration.

But the President-elect should keep in mind Ms. Bair actually has a serious job to do. According to the FDIC, the mission of her agency is "insuring deposits, examining and supervising financial institutions, and managing receiverships." This job description says nothing about using taxpayer money to subsidize homeowners in an attempt to prevent foreclosures, potentially at a high cost in future default losses judging from the appalling experience so far of modified mortgages.

But the FDIC now directs visitors to a study by Credit Suisse finding that default rates would likely be only 15% under modifications featuring only interest-rate reductions. Not so fast. Even Rod Dubitsky, lead author of the Credit Suisse report, says the 15% rate is "not a really good benchmark" for analyzing the Bair plan, since it applies to borrowers who were current when their loans were modified, not the already delinquent borrowers Ms. Bair would target. Mr. Dubitsky also foresees high failure rates if lenders don't do loan-by-loan analysis when modifying mortgages. Yet Ms. Bair's plan offers a "streamlined" process which skips rigorous evaluation of a borrower's assets and non-mortgage debt.

By keeping on Ms. Bair, Mr. Obama would be all but committing himself to a mortgage bailout. He'll likely find it's not just Republicans who resent having their tax dollars shoveled at a no-win attempt to "help" the mortgage market. The Bush Administration has been unstinting in throwing hundreds of billions at the financial crisis, but recognizes (as do most analysts) that a housing bailout is nearly impossible to design that wouldn't just encourage more homeowners to default.
28709  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Like a virgin on: January 08, 2009, 10:44:07 AM
Like a Virgin: The Press Take On Teenage Sex Yes, attitudes do make a difference in behavior.

The chain reaction was something out of central casting. A medical journal starts it off by announcing a study comparing teens who take a pledge of virginity until marriage with those who don't. Lo and behold, when they crunch the numbers, they find not much difference between pledgers and nonpledgers: most do not make it to the marriage bed as virgins.

Like a pack of randy 15-year-old boys, the press dives right in.

"Virginity Pledges Don't Stop Teen Sex," screams CBS News. "Virginity pledges don't mean much," adds CNN. "Study questions virginity pledges," says the Chicago Tribune. "Premarital Abstinence Pledges Ineffective, Study Finds," heralds the Washington Post. "Virginity Pledges Fail to Trump Teen Lust in Look at Older Data," reports Bloomberg. And on it goes.

In other words, teens will be teens, and moms or dads who believe that concepts such as restraint or morality have any application today are living in a dream world. Typical was the lead for the CBS News story: "Teenagers who take virginity pledges are no less sexually active than other teens, according to a new study."

Here's the rub: It just isn't true.

In fact, the only way the study's author, Janet Elise Rosenbaum of Johns Hopkins University, could reach such results was by comparing teens who take a virginity pledge with a very small subset of other teens: those who are just as religious and conservative as the pledge-takers. The study is called "Patient Teenagers? A Comparison of the Sexual Behavior of Virginity Pledgers and Matched Nonpledgers," and it was published in the Jan. 1 edition of Pediatrics.

The first to notice something lost in the translation was Dr. Bernadine Healy, the former head of both the Red Cross and the National Institutes of Health. Today she serves as health editor for U.S. News & World Report. And in her dispatch on this study, Dr. Healy pointed out that "virginity pledging teens were considerably more conservative in their overall sexual behaviors than teens in general -- a fact that many media reports have missed cold."

What Dr. Healy was getting at is that the pledge itself is not what distinguishes these kids from most other teenagers. The real difference is their more conservative and religious home and social environment. As she notes, when you compare both groups in this study with teens at large, the behavioral differences are striking. Here are just a few:

- These teens generally have less risky sex, i.e., fewer sexual partners.

- These teens are less likely to have a teenage pregnancy, or to have friends who use drugs.

- These teens have less premarital vaginal sex.

- When these teens lose their virginity they tend to do so at age 21 -- compared to 17 for the typical American teen.

- And very much overlooked, one out of four of these teens do in fact keep the pledge to remain chaste -- amid much cheap ridicule and just about zero support outside their homes or churches.

Let's put this another way. The real headline from this study is this: "Religious Teens Differ Little in Sexual Behavior Whether or Not They Take a Pledge."

Now, whatever the shock that might occasion at CBS or the Washington Post, it comes as no surprise to parents. Most parents appreciate that a pledge of virginity -- a one-time event that might be made at an emotional moment in a teen's life -- is not some talisman that will magically shield their sons and daughters from the strong and normal desires that grow as they discover their sexuality. What these parents hope to do is direct these desires in a way that recognizes sex as a great gift, which in the right circumstances fosters genuine intimacy between a man and a woman and at its freest offers the possibility of new life.

This is not the prevailing view, of course. And these parents know it. Far from conformists living in a comfortable world where their beliefs are never challenged, these families live in an environment where most everything that is popular -- television, the movies, the Internet -- encourages children to grow up as quickly as possible while adults remain locked in perpetual adolescence.

Nor do these families believe their children are better than other kids. Unlike the majority of health experts and their supporters in the press, however, they don't believe that the proper use of the condom is the be all and end all. For these parents, the good news here is that the striking behavioral differences between the average American teen and the two teen groups in this study show that homes and families still exert a powerful influence.

That, alas, is not something you're likely to read in the headlines. For when it comes to challenging the conventional wisdom on issues of sexuality, the American media suddenly become as coy as a cloistered virgin.

Write to
28710  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: We are fcuked on: January 08, 2009, 10:18:00 AM
Remember when Dick Cheney was pilloried for reportedly saying, earlier this decade, that "deficits don't matter"? We recall reading any number of press releases denouncing the Vice President for supporting tax cuts that contributed to short-term deficits but also helped the economy grow until the deficits shrank nearly away. Yet somehow none of those same voices are objecting now that the government is spending its way into deficits that are so large they dwarf any during peacetime in U.S. history.

The Congressional Budget Office released its latest budget forecast yesterday, and we now really do have red ink as far as the eye can see. Thanks to a 6.6% decline in revenues due to recession, a spending increase of some $500 billion or 19%, and assorted federal bailouts, the U.S. deficit for fiscal 2009 (ending September 30) will nearly triple to $1.19 trillion. That's 8.3% of GDP, which CBO says "will most likely shatter the previous post-World War II record high of 6.0 percent posted in 1983." It certainly blows away any deficit this decade, not to mention the Reagan years when smaller deficits were the media cause celebre.

But there's more. None of that includes the new fiscal "stimulus" that President-elect Obama has promised to introduce upon taking office in two weeks. The details aren't known, but Mr. Obama and Democrats have been talking about at least $800 billion, and probably $1 trillion, in new spending or various tax credits and reductions over two years. Toss that in and add more expected bailout cash, and if the economy stays slow the deficit could reach $1.8 trillion, or a gargantuan 12.5% of GDP. That 2006 Democratic vow to pass "pay as you go" budgets seems like a lifetime ago, which in political terms it was.

We've long argued that deficits per se are not worth losing sleep over, though we do recall when Robert Rubin and Larry Summers claimed that reducing them was itself an economic virtue because it reduced interest rates. With their acquiescence in the magnitude of these deficits, we trust they will now admit to burying Rubinomics as a serious economic philosophy. Democrats are once again all Keynesians now -- at least until they want to use the deficits as an argument to raise taxes in a year or two.

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As an economic matter, it does make sense to run deficits in a recession rather than to raise taxes in a way that would delay any recovery. Borrowing money to finance a war (Reagan's aircraft carriers in the 1980s) or to pay for tax cuts that promote growth (Reagan and Bush's tax cuts) is often money well spent. Had bipartisan Washington passed a big pro-growth tax cut a year ago, rather than settle in February for $165 billion in no-growth rebates and spending, the economy would be stronger and the deficit lower today.

The economically crucial issue for the long term is how much the government spends, because that is what becomes a claim on current or future taxpayers. This is where the CBO forecast gets scary. Including the Obama stimulus spending and assuming the full $700 billion of bailout money for the banks, insurance companies, auto firms and so forth gets fully spent, federal outlays could approach $4 trillion in 2009. That's double the $2 trillion Congress spent only seven years ago.

Federal expenditures are now rapidly outpacing the growth of the economy, which is expected to be negative this year. CBO estimates that even before the stimulus federal spending will climb to an all-time high 24.9% of GDP, up from the previous post-World War II high of 23.5% in 1985. Add the stimulus and bailout cash and we estimate the federal spending share of GDP will climb to 27.5%. All of this is fast pushing the U.S. to European spending levels, and that's before Mr. Obama's new health-care entitlements.

The problem with most of this spending is that it will be hard to stop once it becomes part of the annual CBO baseline. Congress never reduces spending year over year. While much of the $700 billion in Troubled Asset Relief Program money will probably be returned to the Treasury as banks redeem the government's preferred shares, Congress will want to turn around and spend that cash on other things unless the Obama Administration says no.

CBO also reports that some $240 billion of the new spending is for the bailout of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which Congress will also want to keep in business as part of its nationalization of the mortgage market. So that $240 billion may never be repaid, though only last year our Solons and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson were assuring us that Fan and Fred were no threat to taxpayers. Think of this as Congress having stolen from taxpayers as a result of its Fannie scam nearly five times what Bernard Madoff may have stolen from his clients.

Whether or not you think new spending will stimulate the economy, the one undeniable truth is that this money has to come from somewhere, which means that it is borrowed or taxed from the private economy. This spending blowout is all but guaranteeing huge future tax increases, and anyone who thinks only the rich will pay is living an illusion. Taxpayers need some new champions in Washington -- and fast.
28711  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton on: January 08, 2009, 10:12:40 AM
"To cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying the objects of enterprise, is not among the least considerable of the expedients, by which the wealth of a nation may be promoted."

--Alexander Hamilton, Report on Manufactures, December 1791
28712  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 08, 2009, 09:50:27 AM

Just when I think there's hope for you, you go and post something stupid and vapid like that. rolleyes

Our Founding Fathers taught their children to be suicide killers of women and children? 

"Few want to ask what made Hamas engage in that suicidal rocketing in the first place, namely the the Israeli determination to hobble the Gaza economy, destroy the popularly elected Hamas regime and, as in the West Bank, humiliate its people."

What drivel!  Israel's policies are a response to Hamas actively trying to destroy it!  What is so hard to understand here!?!?


The world-wide protests against Israel's ground incursion into Gaza are so full of hatred that they leave me with the terrible feeling that these protests have little to do with the so-called disproportionality of the Israeli response to Hamas rockets, or the resulting civilian casualties.

My fear is that the rage we see in the protesters marching in the streets is far more profound and dangerous than we would like to believe. There are a great many people in the world who, even after Auschwitz, just can't bear the Jewish state having the same rights they so readily grant to other nations. These voices insist Israel must take risks they would never dare ask of any other nation-state -- risks that threaten its very survival -- because they don't believe Israel should exist in the first place.

Just look at the spate of attacks this week on Jews and Jewish institutions around the world: a car ramming into a synagogue in France; a Chabad menorah and Jewish-owned shops sprayed with swastikas in Belgium; a banner at an Australian rally demanding "clean the earth from dirty Zionists!"; demonstrators in the Netherlands chanting "Gas the Jews"; and in Florida, protestors demanding Jews "Go back to the ovens!"

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How else can we explain the double-standard that is applied to the Gaza conflict, if not for a more insidious bias against the Jewish state?

At the U.N., no surprise, this double-standard is in full force. In response to Israel's attack on Hamas, the Security Council immediately pulled an all-night emergency meeting to consider yet another resolution condemning Israel. Have there been any all-night Security Council sessions held during the seven months when Hamas fired 3,000 rockets at half a million innocent civilians in southern Israel? You can be certain that during those seven months, no midnight oil was burning at the U.N. headquarters over resolutions condemning terrorist organizations like Hamas. But put condemnation of Israel on the agenda and, rain or shine, it's sure to be a full house.

Red Cross officials are all over the Gaza crisis, describing it as a full-blown humanitarian nightmare. Where were they during the seven months when tens of thousands of Israeli families could not sleep for fear of a rocket attack? Where were their trauma experts to decry that humanitarian crisis?

There have been hundreds of articles and reports written from the Erez border crossing falsely accusing Israel of blocking humanitarian supplies from reaching beleaguered Palestinians in Gaza. (In fact, over 520 truck loads of humanitarian aid have been delivered through Israeli crossings since the beginning of the Israeli counterattack.) But how many news articles, NGO reports and special U.N. commissions have investigated Hamas's policy of deliberately placing rocket launchers near schools, mosques and homes in order to use innocent Palestinians as human shields?

Many people ask why there are so few Israeli casualties in comparison with the Palestinian death toll. It's because Israel's first priority is the safety of its citizens, which is why there are shelters and warning systems in Israeli towns. If Hamas can dig tunnels, it can certainly build shelters. Instead, it prefers to use women and children as human shields while its leaders rush into hiding.

And then there are the clarion calls for a cease-fire. These words, which come so easily, have proven to be a recipe for disaster. Hamas uses the cease-fire as a time-out to rearm and smuggle even more deadly weapons so the next time, instead of hitting Sderot and Ashkelon, they can target Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

The pattern is always the same. Following a cease-fire brought on by international pressure, there will be a call for a massive infusion of funds to help Palestinians recover from the devastation of the Israeli attack. The world will respond eagerly, handing over hundreds of millions of dollars. To whom does this money go? To Hamas, the same terrorist group that brought disaster to the Palestinians in the first place.

The world seems to have forgotten that at the end of World War II, President Harry Truman initiated the Marshall Plan, investing vast sums to rebuild Germany. But he did so only with the clear understanding that the money would build a new kind of Germany -- not a Fourth Reich that would continue the policies of Adolf Hitler. Yet that is precisely what the world will be doing if we once again entrust funds to Hamas terrorists and their Iranian puppet masters.

In less than two weeks, Barack Obama will be sworn in as president of the United States. But there is no "change we can believe in" in the Middle East -- not where Israel is concerned. The double-standard continuously applied to the Jewish state proves that, for much of the world, the real lessons of World War II have yet to be learned.

Mr. Hier, a rabbi, is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance.

28713  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Bush Presidency; GW Bush; the Bush Family on: January 08, 2009, 09:44:22 AM
Virtually no one likes President Bush very much these days.  This thread is for saying why, defending him, informative articles on his record, and the like:



Mythmaking is in full swing as the Bush administration prepares to leave town. Among the more prominent is the assertion that the housing meltdown resulted from unbridled capitalism under a president opposed to all regulation.

APLike most myths, this is entertaining but fictional. In reality, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were among the principal culprits of the housing crisis, and Mr. Bush wanted to rein them in before things got out of hand.

Rather than a failure of capitalism, the housing meltdown shows what's likely to happen when government grants special privileges to favored private entities that facilitate bad actors and lousy practices.

Fannie and Freddie are "government-sponsored enterprises" (GSEs), chartered by Congress. As such, they had an implicit promise of taxpayer backing and could borrow money at rates well below competitors.

Because of this, the Bush administration warned in the budget it issued in April 2001 that Fannie and Freddie were too large and overleveraged. Their failure "could cause strong repercussions in financial markets, affecting federally insured entities and economic activity" well beyond housing.

Mr. Bush wanted to limit systemic risk by raising the GSEs' capital requirements, compelling preapproval of new activities, and limiting the size of their portfolios. Why should government regulate banks, credit unions and savings and loans, but not GSEs? Mr. Bush wanted the GSEs to be treated just like their private-sector competitors.

But the GSEs fought back. They didn't want to see the Bush reforms enacted, because that would level the playing field for their competitors. Congress finally did pass the Bush reforms, but in 2008, after Fannie and Freddie collapsed.

The largely unreported story is that to fend off regulation, the GSEs engaged in a lobbying frenzy. They hired high-profile Democrats and Republicans and spent $170 million on lobbying over the past decade. They also constructed an elaborate network of state and local lobbyists to pressure members of Congress.

When Republican Richard Shelby of Alabama, then chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, pushed for comprehensive GSE reform in 2005, Democrat Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut successfully threatened a filibuster. Later, after Fannie and Freddie collapsed, Mr. Dodd asked, "Why weren't we doing more?" He then voted for the Bush reforms that he once called "ill-advised."

But Mr. Dodd wasn't the only Democrat to heap abuse on the Bush reforms. Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts defended Fannie and Freddie as "fundamentally sound" and labeled the president's proposals as "inane." He later voted for the reforms. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York dismissed Mr. Bush's "safety and soundness concerns" as "a straw man." "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," was the helpful advice of both Sen. Thomas Carper of Delaware and Rep. Maxine Waters of California. Rep. Kendrick Meeks of Florida berated a Bush official at a hearing, saying, "I am just pissed off" at the administration for raising the issue.

Democrats had ready allies among lenders accustomed to GSEs buying their risky mortgages. For example, Angelo Mozilo, CEO of Countrywide Financial, complained that "an overly cumbersome regulatory process" would "reduce, or even eliminate, the incentives for the GSEs and their primary market partners."

It took Fannie and Freddie over three decades to acquire $2 trillion in mortgages and mortgage-backed securities. Together, they held $2.1 trillion in 2000. By 2005, the two GSEs held $4 trillion, up 92% in just five years. By 2008, they'd grown another 24%, to nearly $5 trillion. They held almost half of all American mortgages.

The more the president pushed for reform, the more they bought. Peter Wallison of the American Enterprise Institute and Charles Calomiris of the Columbia Business School suggest $1 trillion of this debt was subprime and "liar loans," almost all bought between 2005 and 2007. This bulk-up in risky paper made it possible for banks to lend imprudently on a massive scale.

Some critics blame Mr. Bush because he supported broadening homeownership. But Mr. Bush's goal was for people to own homes they could afford, not ones made accessible by reckless lenders who off-loaded their risk to GSEs.

The housing meltdown is largely a story of greed and irresponsibility made possible by government privilege. If Democrats had granted the Bush administration the regulatory powers it sought, the housing crisis wouldn't be nearly as severe and the economy as a whole would be better off.

That's why some mythmakers are so intent on denying that Mr. Bush worked to rein in the GSEs. But facts are stubborn things, as Ronald Reagan used to say, and in this instance, the facts support Mr. Bush and offer a harsh judgment on key Democrats. Perhaps that explains why so many in the media haven't told the real story.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

28714  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 08, 2009, 01:33:01 AM
Judge orders 17 Guantanamo detainees released to U.S.


Marisa Taylor
- McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — In a dramatic setback for the Bush administration, a federal judge ordered the U.S. government Tuesday to immediately release and transfer to the United States 17 Chinese-born Muslims detained for almost seven years at Guantanamo.

The decision marked the first time a court has ordered the transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. and could prompt the release of dozens of other Guantanamo detainees who have been cleared for release by the military but who can’t leave because the government hasn’t found a country to send them to.

Judge Ricardo Urbina declared the continued detention of the group from the ethnic Uighur minority to be “unlawful” and ordered the government to bring the detainees to the U.S. by Friday.

Reading his decision from the bench, Urbina said the government could no longer detain the Uighurs after conceding they weren’t enemy combatants. The judge also agreed with the Uighurs’ lawyers, who’ve argued the group can’t be returned to China because they could be tortured.

Urbina warned the government not to attempt to circumvent the group’s release by detaining them on immigration holds once they reach the U.S., saying “no one is to bother these people until I see them.”

Administration officials said they intend to file an "emergency motion" Tuesday night with the federal appeals court in Washington to block the ruling.

"This decision, we believe, is contrary to our laws, including federal immigration statutes passed by Congress," said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino. "The district court’s ruling, if allowed to stand, could be used as precedent for other detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, including sworn enemies of the United States suspected of planning the attacks of 9/11, who may also seek release into our country."

Urbina, who at times during the hearing appeared to scold Justice Department lawyers, noted the government hadn’t charged the detainees with any crime, revealed any evidence justifying their detention and then “stymied” their release by continuing to assert erroneously that they were enemy combatants.

When government lawyers started to raise security concerns, the judge challenged them to specify what they were, chiding them that “you’ve had seven years to study this.”

He described the government’s use of certain legal jargon as “Kafkaesque,” saying it “begs the question of whether they ever were enemy combatants.”

Supporters from the Uighur-American community who attended the hearing reacted to his ruling with loud applause and cheers.

“The American system has given us justice,” said Rebia Kadeer, president of the World Uighur Congress.

Citing “serious separation-of-power issues,” Justice Department lawyers immediately requested a delay to allow the government time to consider whether to appeal. The judge, however, refused and instead set a hearing to determine the conditions of release.

Despite the prospect of the government’s appeal, Kadeer said: “I believe they will be released.” Kadeer, a leader of the expatriate Uighur community, was once detained for several years in a Chinese prison as a political dissident, but released and sent to the U.S. after the State Department pressured the Chinese government.

Urbina, a Clinton appointee, said the men will be permitted to stay with Uighur families in the Washington area, but will be expected to check in with the court on a regular basis. Next week, the court will consider whether to impose other conditions of their release.

The Uighurs were first shipped to Guantanamo from Afghanistan after their capture by U.S. troops at a weapons training camp. The military accused the group of being members of the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and said the camp in Afghanistan's Tora Bora mountains was run by the Taliban. But the Uighurs denied being members of the group and receiving support from the Taliban.

The Uighurs also have insisted that they consider the U.S. to be an ally in their fight for more political freedom in China. Declassified documents turned over to their lawyers showed that as early as 2003 government officials had concluded they were not enemy combatants and had recommended releasing them.

Attorneys representing the group hailed the ruling as landmark and predicted it could lead to other releases.

“The decision is extraordinary,” said Neil McGaraghan, one of the attorneys. “This is finally a step toward justice.”

The decision comes after a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned as “invalid” a military tribunal's conclusion that one of the prisoners, Huzaifa Parhat, is an enemy combatant. The court, the same one that could hear the department's appeal, directed the Pentagon either to release or transfer Parhat or to hold a new tribunal hearing “consistent with the court's opinion.”

After the appellate ruling, the government conceded that it no longer considered any of the Uighurs enemy combatants.

However, Justice Department lawyers continued to argue Tuesday that the release of the group into the U.S. could pose a security risk and warned that the decision could harm international relations with China. The judge dismissed both arguments. Justice Department lawyer John O’Quinn said he did not mean to suggest that the government would immediately move to detain the group once they were in the U.S.
28715  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 08, 2009, 01:32:04 AM
Marginal tax rates IMHO are a matter of the deepest import.
28716  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Evolutionary biology/psychology on: January 07, 2009, 09:01:26 PM
I've read Ridley's book "The Red Queen" and recommend it highly and have another of his books in my ever growing "to read" pile.  Thanks for the nice find.
28717  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Netanyahu on: January 07, 2009, 07:43:49 PM
Militant Islam Threatens Us All
Hamas rockets have the same terror goal as Hitler's blitz.Article
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Imagine a siren that gives you 30 seconds to find shelter before a Kassam rocket falls from the sky and explodes, spraying its lethal shrapnel in all directions. Now imagine this happens day after day, month after month, year after year.

If you can imagine that, you can begin to understand the terror to which hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been subjected. Three years ago Israel withdrew from every square inch of Gaza. And since that withdrawal, our civilians have been targeted by more than 6,000 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza. In the face of this relentless bombardment, Israel has acted with a restraint that other countries, faced with a similar threat, would find hard to fathom. Israel's government has finally decided to respond.

For this action to succeed, we must first have moral clarity. There is no moral equivalence between Israel, a democracy which seeks peace and targets the terrorists, and Hamas, an Iranian-backed terror organization that seeks Israel's destruction and targets the innocent.

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In launching precision strikes against Hamas rocket launchers, headquarters, weapons depots, smuggling tunnels and training camps, Israel is trying to minimize civilian casualties. But Hamas deliberately attacks Israeli civilians and deliberately hides behind Palestinian civilians -- a double war crime. Responsible governments do their utmost to minimize civilian casualties, but they do not grant immunity to terrorists who use civilians as human shields.

The international community may occasionally condemn Hamas for putting Palestinian civilians in harm's way, but if it ultimately holds Israel responsible for the casualties that ensue, then Hamas and other terror organizations will employ this abominable tactic again and again.

The charge that Israel is using disproportionate force is equally baseless. Does proportionality demand that Israel fire 6,000 rockets indiscriminately back at Gaza? Does it demand an equal number of casualties on both sides? Using that logic, one would conclude that the United States employed disproportionate force against the Germans because 20 times as many Germans as Americans died in World War II.

In Today's Opinion Journal


The Winter Gas WarWaiting for DoddA Charter Setback in Florida


Business World: Mad Men
– Holman W. Jenkins Jr.The Tilting Yard: An Unrepentant New Dealer Runs for Congress
– Thomas Frank


Iran's Hamas Strategy
– Reuel Marc GerechtBoost Private Investment to Boost the Economy
– Hal VarianThe GOP Should Fight Health-Care Rationing
– Tom PriceIn that same war, Britain responded to the firing of thousands of rockets on its population with the wholesale bombing of German cities. Israel's measured response to rocket fire on its cities has come in the form of surgical strikes. To further root out Hamas terrorists in a way that minimizes Palestinian civilian casualties, Israel's army is now engaged in a ground operation that places its soldiers in great peril. Carpet-bombing of Palestinian cities is not an option that any Israeli leader will entertain.

The goal of this mission should be clear: To end the current round of missile attacks and to remove the threat of such attacks in the future. The only cease-fire or diplomatic initiative that should be accepted is one that achieves this dual objective.

If our enemies assumed that the Israeli public would be divided on the eve of an election, they were wrong. When it comes to exercising our most basic right of self-defense, there is no opposition and no coalition. We stand united against Hamas because we know that only by defeating Hamas can we provide security for our people and hope for a future peace.

We fight to defend ourselves, but in so doing we are also fighting a fanatical ideology that seeks to reverse the course of history and throw the civilized world back into a new dark age. The struggle between militant Islam and modernity -- whether fought in Afghanistan, Iraq, India or Gaza -- will decide our common future. It is a battle we cannot afford to lose.

Mr. Netanyahu, Israel's ninth prime minister, is the chairman of the Likud Party and its candidate for prime minister.

28718  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Seminario con Guro Marc Denny en Argentina on: January 07, 2009, 01:15:49 PM
28719  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: January 07, 2009, 01:11:44 PM
Second post of the day

Dianne Speaks Her Mind

Depending on which Democrat you talk with, California Senator Dianne Feinstein is either becoming the conscience of the Senate or Majority Leader Harry Reid's biggest headache.

Ms. Feinstein is 76 years old and rumored to be considering leaving Capitol Hill to run for governor in 2010, a job she almost won two decades ago before quickly switching gears and winning a special election for Senate. Her possibly short time horizon when it comes to Washington may explain some of her recent feistiness.

This week, she bristled when Barack Obama picked fellow Californian Leon Panetta to be CIA director. She bluntly noted he lacked any intelligence experience and that she had not been consulted even though she chairs the Intelligence Committee. An irritated Senator Reid told yesterday: "I think you need better reasons for coming out against somebody than somebody didn't call you."

Mr. Reid was also not happy that Ms. Feinstein, a key member of the Rules Committee, openly bucked the party line on whether Illinois Democrat Roland Burris should be seated despite the fact he was appointed by scandal-implicated Governor Rod Blagojevich. Ms. Feinstein challenged the position of Democratic leaders who rejected Mr. Burris, saying their move called into question the validity of "gubernatorial appointments all over the country."

Mr. Reid is clearly of another view. "It's not valid, her statement," he told Politico. "I told her that. OK?" Nonetheless, many observers expect Mr. Burris to be quietly seated in coming days.

Ms. Feinstein has proven time and time again that she exercises independent judgment on many issues. She gave a moving speech on the Senate floor in 2004 explaining why she was breaking with teacher unions to support a school voucher program in Washington D.C. In 2007, she angered liberals by backing some key Bush judicial nominations along with the appointment of Michael Mukasey to be attorney general.

"She'll take political heat to find common ground," says GOP Senator Lindsey Graham, who has often been criticized by members of his own party for apostasy. "I think she'll be one of the key players in this Congress, quite frankly."

The bottom line is that while Majority Leader Reid is tantalizingly close to having the 60 Democrats he needs to break GOP filibusters, he clearly will have to spend some time to keep the ornery Ms. Feinstein in the party corral.

-- John Fund

Holder's Baggage

The confirmation hearing on Eric Holder's nomination to be Attorney General will be a spirited affair. Arlen Specter, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, let colleagues know yesterday he will scrutinize very closely Mr. Holder's record during his time as the No. 2 man in the Clinton Justice Department.

In a 25-minute floor speech, Mr. Specter said he was worried that Mr. Holder's willingness to follow the lead of President Clinton rather than that of career professionals at Justice invited comparisons to past attorneys general such as Homer Cummings (who backed FDR's court-packing plan) and Alberto Gonzalez (who allowed Bush-era underlings excessive authority). Mr. Specter said both men were unfortunate examples of Justice chiefs who proved to be more loyal to the presidents who appointed them than to the rule of law. "Sometimes it is more important for the attorney general to have the stature and the courage to say 'no' instead of to say 'yes,'" the Pennsylvania Senator told his colleagues.

Mr. Specter listed three decisions during the Clinton presidency that he said demonstrated Mr. Holder's insufficient independence from his political patron: the controversial pardon of fugitive Marc Rich in 2001, the unusual 1999 granting of clemency to 16 members of a Puerto Rican terrorist group despite their lack of remorse for their crimes, and the 1997 rejection of an independent counsel to look into then-Vice President Al Gore's fundraising calls from the White House.

Mr. Holder will no doubt strenuously assert counter examples in which he clearly pursued an independent course, especially in his prosecution of former House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski when Mr. Holder served as U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia in 1993. But the battle lines are clearly drawn. Mr. Holder will almost certainly be confirmed by an overwhelmingly Democratic Senate, but he has been put on notice it will be a bumpy ride.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"[Leon Panetta] is an excellent choice [for CIA director] because he will be loyal to the president first, not to the CIA. Mr. Obama needs someone who can be trusted, a person who will support him when the going gets tough. A 'safe' choice, viewed as inoffensive by the CIA's top bureaucrats, would have been dangerous. . . . The superbly run Obama campaign showed that the Obama people know how to manage an effective organization. Reform of the CIA can begin simply by requiring the CIA to obey existing laws and directives: 1) The CIA must get its clandestine-service officers out of the United States and spying in and on foreign countries. The great majority of CIA employees now live and work within the U.S. 2) Its clandestine operations should move away from embassies because, unlike the old Soviet targets, terrorists and nuclear proliferators do not attend diplomatic cocktail parties. Congress has already funded this move, but the CIA has not complied. 3) Ruthlessly streamline the bloat. Terrorists have flat chains of command and no bureaucratic turfs" -- "Ishmael Jones," a former deep-cover officer with the Central Intelligence Agency and author of a book critical of agency failures, in an interview with National Review.

Quote of the Day II

"If Democrats begin this new Congress with the arbitrary and capricious attitude of 'our way or the highway,' Republicans will not only have no incentive to cooperate, but it virtually guarantees an obstinate minority and that the cycle of partisanship and dysfunctionality will continue. . . . The seating of Rep. Frank McCloskey by House Democrats after the contested election in Indiana's 8th District in 1984 was one of the major contributing factors to creating the current vicious cycle and led to the rise of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga. Republicans who had been institutionalists became militants. With what it ultimately cost Democrats, it wasn't worth a single seat" -- political handicapper Charlie Cook, writing in Congress Daily, on why the Obama honeymoon will be short if Congressional Democrats resort to "steamrolling" Republicans to place Al Franken in the Senate.

Buckeye Bailout

It wasn't exactly a recording of "an actual Onstar conversation" call for emergency help, but it sounded like one. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland recently left the following message on the answering machine of his former congressional colleague and incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel: "Rahm, it's Ted. You've never failed me and I need $5 billion."

What's $5 billion of taxpayer money between old chums anyway? Even in the new Obama era of ending business as usual inside the beltway, it's still not what you know, it's who you know. Expect a lot more politicians and high-priced K Street influence peddlers to be cashing in on their relationships as the Obama team prepares to dole out $800 billion in free money. This is a very good time to be a friend, or a friend of a friend, of Mr. Obama.

Mr. Strickland's plea for money symbolizes all that is wrong with this "economic stimulus" jackpot scheme. The Buckeye State has a $7.4 billion budget deficit, or almost 25% of its 2010 operating budget. "We're not crying wolf," Mr. Strickland whined last week. What he didn't say is that pols in Columbus have mostly themselves to blame. During the boom years of 2003-2007, Ohio went on a hog-wild government spending binge. The latest Census Bureau data finds that total Buckeye spending rose by a fat $10 billion, even as family incomes in the state were falling. A lot of that largesse was ladled out under Republican Gov. Bob Taft, but Mr. Strickland has been no skinflint either. Ohio University economist Richard Laffer, an expert on the state's finances, moans that Ohio is a "shining model of what a state should not do to fix its economy. We have one of the worst tax systems with high tax rates and a runaway budget culture."

Mr. Strickland wants taxpayers in other states to bail out Ohio, so it won't have to tighten its belt after its wild shopping spree. The bailout of the states creates the same classic moral hazard problem that has arisen from bailing out irresponsible banks and subprime home buyers and investment houses. Those who acted the most recklessly are first in line for a federal check to reward their financial malfeasance.

In this era of bailout fever, no one is responsible for their own bad decisions, least of all governors. Even while Mr. Strickland is begging his old friends for dollars and the state is up to its eyebrows in red ink, he recently told the Cleveland Plain Dealer: "I think we've acted very reasonably and managed the people's money in a very conservative way." Of course, that all depends on "reasonable" and "conservative" meaning the opposite of what they usually do.

-- Stephen Moore and Robert Costa

28720  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What does Kali Tudo 2 have in store for us?? on: January 07, 2009, 11:20:42 AM
No worries; I did not intend to communicate that I felt bothered.

I too am chomping at the bit to get this out.
28721  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Big Picture WW3: Who, when, where, why on: January 07, 2009, 11:16:41 AM
Whoops!  embarassed

Not sure what happened there-- what I meant to post was this:

Israel, Lebanon: Tehran Reins in Hezbollah
Stratfor Today » January 6, 2009 | 2143 GMT

Lebanese students in Beirut affiliated with Hezbollah protest Israeli operations in the Gaza Strip on Jan. 6Summary
While Israel has warned its people that a northern front with Lebanon could open up at the same time as the Israeli military is involved in the Gaza Strip, it appears Iran may be working to keep Hezbollah from opening a northern front.

Related Special Topic Page
Israel, Syria and Lebanon: A Tangled Web
As the Israel Defense Forces continued pounding Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, six Israeli warplanes flew over Lebanon from the night of Jan. 5 through the morning of Jan. 6, reaching as far north as Sidon, according to the Lebanese army. The Israeli overflights occurred amid several warnings by the Israeli political and military leadership that another front could open up on Israel’s northern frontier with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

As Stratfor previously wrote, neither Hezbollah nor Israel is looking for a fight right now. Israel, focused on paralyzing Hamas, does not want to spread its forces thin by confronting Hezbollah. Meanwhile, Hezbollah is content with limiting its support to Hamas to helping maintain the Palestinian group’s supply lines and commanding several Hamas units in Gaza City. A debate has been taking place inside Hezbollah, however, regarding how much more Hezbollah should be doing in this Gaza crisis. More radical elements are arguing that another confrontation with Israel is inevitable, and that the group would be better off battling Israel in a two-front war.

It now appears that Hezbollah’s patrons in Iran are making sure such a scenario does not occur. To this end, Said Jalili, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, visited Damascus and Beirut on Jan. 2-3. During his visit, he met with Hamas’ exiled leadership in Damascus, Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah and Ahmad Jibril, chief of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). According to a Stratfor source whose information has not been verified, Jalili made it abundantly clear in his meetings that Iran would not authorize Hezbollah to get any more involved in Israel’s war with Hamas.

Iran’s apparent need to restrain Hezbollah from provoking Israel represents a very different picture from 2006, when Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers in Lebanon were believed to have played a direct role in escalating the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah into an all-out war. At that time, Iran was looking to flex its muscles and demonstrate to the United States, Israel and its Sunni Arab rivals that it had Shiite militant proxies under its control that could unleash chaos at Tehran’s will unless certain Iranian demands were met on key issues, like Iraq.

Tehran has proved its point, and in the current scenario Iran does not have much to gain from an Israeli-Hezbollah war. Not only would Hezbollah run the risk of becoming crippled this time around by a better prepared Israel Defense Forces, but Iran is also at a delicate negotiating stage with the incoming U.S. administration. Iran’s main focus is on consolidating the gains it has made thus far in expanding Shiite power in Iraq; having its primary militant proxy in the Levant come under fire would thus do little to further Iranian interests at this time.

But Iran is not only worried about Hezbollah popping a shot across the border. Jalili, according to the source, also sought to ensure that Hezbollah and the PFLP-GC prevent radical Sunni militants milling about in Lebanon from launching a rocket attack on northern Israel. The Iranians apparently are concerned that these Sunni militants, the bulk of whom are either on the payroll of Syrian or Saudi intelligence, could attempt to drag Hezbollah into an all-out war with Israel. There are reportedly hundreds of Sunni sleeper cells in southern Lebanon, most of which are in the Palestinian refugee camps of Rashidiyye and Burj al-Shimali, with others sprinkled throughout several Sunni villages in the deep south.

While the probability of hostilities breaking out on Israel’s northern frontier remains low, there is still a chance for militants outside Iran’s and Hezbollah’s command to open up a new front. Iran does not appear to be taking any chances, but neither is Israel. If an attack is launched from the north, the Israelis will not hesitate to respond
28722  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: January 07, 2009, 11:14:28 AM
Gresham's Law

Gresham’s Law Updated
By Paul Eidelberg

Some four centuries ago, English financier Sir Thomas Gresham formulated what has come to be known as “Gresham’s Law,” according to which coins having the least intrinsic value supplant coins having a higher intrinsic value.

Gresham’s Law is the dominant law in the domain of politics, where falsehoods and half-truths or “spin” drive out plain-spoken truths. The ideal of democratic politics is compromise and expedience as opposed to principles, and this seems to exclude truth.

Stated another way: politics is a struggle for power, and to gain power in a democratic society one must go with the mainstream, the center of the political spectrum, where vagueness trumps moral clarity.

Democracy’s political elites insist on your being a “moderate,” a “centrist,” a “pragmatist,” a “pluralist.” Why? Well, to put it plainly, there is no truth. In this democratic age, everything is “relative.”

To refute an opponent nowadays you don’t have to examine his opinions on logical and empirical grounds; it’s enough to call him a “right-winger” or a “hawk.” I say “right-winger” and “hawk” rather than “left-winger” and “dove” because left-wingers and doves dominate the media, including the media of education. Thus, if you are a critic of indiscriminate freedom or of a leveling egalitarianism, the democracy’s ruling elites label you a “reactionary” or a “fascist.” And if you are a critic of the Middle East “peace process,” they label you a “war-monger.”

This dishonest way of dealing with matters of life and death is typical of academics tainted by moral relativism. I have especially in mind morally neutral or “value-free” political scientists. Thus, in an op-ed piece appearing in The Jerusalem Post, one Hebrew University political scientist said that to require more than 51% in a referendum on whether Israel should withdraw from the Golan Heights is to succumb to “Kahanism.” The “reason”? It would render nugatory the votes of Israel’s Arab citizens! No direct comment on this example of intellectual dishonesty or of Gresham’s Law is necessary.

That falsehoods and half-truths are a commonplace in political science is indicated by the fact that political scientists never refer to any politician as “mendacious.” To do so is to make a “value-judgment” which “value-free” (or “worth-less”) political scientists must avoid if they are to be “objective” or “scientific.” A “value-free” political science must therefore be a “truth-free” political science, hence unscientific.

But since “value-free” or morally neutral political science will be found only in democracies, it follows that democratic political scientists are lackeys of democracy—understandably, for democracy endows them with academic freedom. You will never hear them criticizing democracy. This suggests that morally neutral political scientists identify with the Power Elite or Establishment. Indeed, they are part of the Establishment. There is dilemma here.
Morally neutral political scientists are by definition opposed to tradition, especially a religious-based tradition, which proclaims eternal truths and condemns falsehoods and half-truths.

Religion is therefore the main competitor of “value-free” or “truth-free” political science. This is why the political scientist alluded to above opposes an extraordinary majority on the Golan referendum issue—opposes it because it would be a manifestation of what he calls “Jewish exclusivity.” Which means he opposes Jewish peoplehood or nationhood. That’s the objective of those (including nominal or assimilated Jews) who advocate the establishment of an Arab state in Judea and Samaria, the heartland of the Jewish people.

Evident here is the operation of Gresham’s Law: the bad driving out the good. Notice, however, that insofar as political science is “value-free” or “truth-less,” it cheapens and undermines the values and truths of the society in which this political science holds sway. It renders all values equal, and it reduces truths to myths or are merely personal narratives. This is postmodern political science, and it is subversive.

But inasmuch as this political science will be found only in democracies, it follows that “value-free” or morally neutral political science is subversive of democracy. The same may be said of the news media insofar as their mandarins are the products of morally neutral political science. But wait!

Since the media are dominated by the Left; they are not at all morally neutral. Consider the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. A perusal of CNN or BBC reveals they are biased against Israel, which is to say they favor Hamas, a terrorist organization that uses women and children as human shields, an organization, moreover, whose Covenant calls for Israel’s eradication. Dominating these media, therefore, is not moral neutrality but moral reversal. Or to put it terms of Greshem’s Law, those who support Hamas would have the bad supplant the good.
28723  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: January 07, 2009, 11:09:39 AM
Wednesday Chronicle
Vol. 09 No. 01
7 January 2009

"All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree." --James Madison

Hope 'n' change: "The number one goal of my plan ... is to create three million new jobs, more than 80 percent of them in the private sector." --Barack Obama on creating 600,000 new government jobs

"Potentially we've got trillion-dollar deficits for years to come, even with the economic recovery that we are working on at this point. We're going to have to stop talking about budget reform. We're going to have to totally embrace it. It's an absolute necessity." --Barack Obama on "budget reform," by which he means slashing national defense spending

The Democrats finally have the country where they want it: "The economy is in much worse shape than we thought it was in. There is no short run other than keeping the economy from absolutely tanking. That's the only short run." --Joe Biden

Life's rough: "I can't go to my own barbershop now. I've got to have my barber come to some undisclosed location to cut my hair." --Barack Obama

Everybody's innocent: "I'm here to tell you right off the bat that I am not guilty of any criminal wrongdoing, that I intend to stay on the job, and I will fight this thing every step of the way. ... As governor I am required to make this appointment." --Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on appointing professional narcissist Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat

Power play: "[T]here's clearly legal authority for us to do whatever we want to. This goes back for generations. ...[There is] a cloud over anyone that comes from the state of Illinois being appointed by [Gov.] Blagojevich." --Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid

Hurt feelings: "[Rick] Warren compared same-sex couples to incest. I found that deeply offensive and unfair. If [Barack Obama] was inviting the Rev. Warren to participate in a forum and to make a speech, that would be a good thing, but being singled out to give the prayer at the inauguration is a high honor. It has traditionally given as a mark of great respect. And, yes, I think it was wrong to single him out for this mark of respect." --Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)

"According to a just published report (from the Pew Research Center), more Americans today call themselves conservative than liberal, and the relative percentages in each category has hardly changed since George W. Bush was elected to his first term in 2000. Thirty-eight percent of Americans self-identify as conservative, 21 percent as liberal, and 36 percent as moderate." --columnist Star Parker

"From the dawn of the Progressive Era, politicians have sought to minimize the Constitution whenever it got in the way. When the Supreme Court rejected President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal programs, he threatened to expand and pack the court with more progressive minds. Suddenly, what was previously unconstitutional became constitutional. After seventy years of emasculating the Constitution, it is time for politicians to respect it rather than roll it out as a media prop." --columnist Matt Mayer

"Republicans can be successful by having better ideas than Pelosi, Reid and the Democrats in the House and Senate, not by just being opposed to what the majority is proposing." --Rich Galen

"Bernard Madoff, who stands accused of bilking sophisticated investors out of $50 billion, is reported to have told two of his executives that his business was 'a giant Ponzi scheme.' Politicians go on and on about Wall Street 'greed' and 'irresponsibility.' But Madoff's scam was small compared to Ponzi schemes the government itself runs: Social Security and Medicare. In reality, our money, rather than being invested and kept in an actual 'trust fund,' is immediately given to current retirees in Social Security benefits or to their healthcare providers in Medicare benefits. The government's promise to pay for your retirement pension and medical care is just a promise. And a lie." --John Stossel

"It's often pointed out that Hamas does not recognize Israel's right to exist. It's more than that. Hamas, with Iran's backing, is committed to Israel's violent destruction." --columnist Mona Charen

"A lie would have no sense unless the truth were felt dangerous." --Austrian psychologist Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

"Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favor." --American Poet Robert Frost (1874-1963)

"Life is not holding a good hand; Life is playing a poor hand well." --Danish proverb

"Many of those who voted for [Barack Obama] either dismiss the terrorist threat, or believe none exists. Still worse, some think we should placate our enemies, not vanquish them. That's why a new report from Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff is more than a little disquieting. It suggests that the U.S. faces a real prospect of a serious terror attack sometime in the next five years, particularly from a biological weapon of some sort. 'The threat of terrorism and the threat of extremism has not abated,' Chertoff recently said. And that's not just rhetoric. The Homeland Security Threat Assessment for 2008-2013, leaked to the Associated Press late last week, predicts that terrorists will try some sort of biological weapon on the U.S. in the next five years -- an attack that could overwhelm our health care system, leading to devastating consequences for our economy. The report goes on to warn of outside terror groups such as al-Qaida using our porous borders and poor controls to place terrorist cells inside the United States. Sound unlikely? Recall that just two days before Christmas, five Muslim immigrants were convicted for plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J. It's already here. ... The worst thing that could happen, we fear, is that Obama comes in with a mandate to spend upward of $1 trillion on a stimulus package and then decides to at least partly finance it by cutting defense and anti-terror measures to the bone. There are already warning signs in Obama considering abandoning missile defense and other advanced defense systems, while our potential foes plunge full speed ahead. And his aides suggested the Pentagon's request for 30,000 more troops might be rejected. With Russia boosting its defense outlays by 40% while it builds its nuclear arsenal, China intent on having a blue-water navy to challenge the U.S., and the terrorist threat unabated, it wouldn't be wise to cut back on defense or anti-terrorist efforts right now." --Investor's Business Daily


Gag reflex kicking in: "The sun glinted off chiseled pectorals sculpted during four weightlifting sessions each week, and a body toned by regular treadmill runs and basketball games." --Washington Post reporter Eli Zaslow on Barack Obama's workout habits

Like, dude, he's so awesome: "We're actually talking about how a lot of people think that President-elect Barack Obama is the epitome of cool. Look at that guy. Everything, I mean, even in a baseball cap. Don't you think?" --CBS's "Early Show" co-host Tracy Smith

You asked for it, you got it: "Obama has spent most of his vacation secluded in his oceanfront rental home, some days emerging only to get in that daily workout, where he always draws crowds. In an interview with 60 Minutes just after his election, Obama was already lamenting the loss of the simple things." --NBC correspondent Savannah Guthrie

Wouldn't want to "distract": "Obama's coming into office with a very ambitious agenda, and if you add together what's going on with [Bill] Richardson right now with the [Rod] Blagojevich scandal, is that going to be a distraction in the key early days?" --ABC anchor Dan Harris

Sad commentary: "Quietly, as the United States presidential election and its aftermath have dominated the news, America's three broadcast network news divisions have stopped sending full-time correspondents to Iraq." --The New York Times

Newspulper Headlines:

Our New Year's Resolution: Watch More Television: "Reading Raises Property Taxes 5 Percent" --Reading (PA) Eagle

We Blame Global Warming: "Twin Cities Streets an Icy Mess; Who's to Blame?" --Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

Not to Mention Guns and Religion: "In Tough Times, Americans Cling to Christmas Trees" --Reuters

Wow, That Is Turbulent!: "Oil Rises on Quiet Trading to Cap Turbulent Year" --Associated Press, Dec. 31 ++ "Oil Falls on Quiet Trading to Cap Turbulent Year" --Associated Press, Dec. 31

News You Can Use: "Forget the Economy: Killer Asteroids Could Pose Real Danger" --McClatchy Newspapers

Bottom Stories of the Day: "Obama-Inspired Hope Goes Only So Far in Kenya" --Los Angeles Times

(Thanks to The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto)

Days of Our Lives -- Minnesota: "After 62 days of careful and painstaking hand-inspection of nearly 3 million ballots, after hours and hours of hard work by election officials and volunteers around the state, I am proud to stand before you as the next senator from Minnesota." --wannabe comedian Al Franken

As the World Turns -- Illinois: "I am a United States senator. They can't stop me from doing my senatorial duties." --Illinois Senator-appointee Roland Burris with reference to the Senate Democrat leadership unwilling to allow him to be seated ++ "We are hoping and praying that they will not be able to deny what the Lord has ordained. I am not hesitating. I am now the junior Senator from the state of Illinois. Some people may want to question that and that is their prerogative." --Roland Burris

Young and the Restless -- New York: "I'm really coming into this as somebody who isn't, you know, part of the system, who obviously, you know, stands for the values of, you know, the Democratic Party. ... I know how important it is to, you know, to be my own person. ... It's really, you know, it's not about just the Kennedy name. It's about my own work and what I've done with those values." --Caroline Kennedy, who is almost as eloquent as Barack Obama, on seeking Hillary Clinton's Senate seat **Kennedy used the words "you know" an astounding 168 times in this interview.

Strange comparisons: "I don't think it's appropriate. It's like putting, you know, [Dick] Cheney in charge of gun control. It's wrong ... it's just wrong." --co-host of "The View" Joy Behar on Barack Obama's choice of pastor Rick Warren for the invocation at his inauguration

"The destruction of the Jews in Israel has been assured with this inhuman attack on civilians in Gaza. Exactly as its Nazi mentors did to the Jews of Warsaw, Israel now bombs innocent civilians who have been imprisoned in concentration camps in Gaza! ... The Zionists look German! The Palestinians look like the Jews of Poland!" --"comedienne" Roseanne Barr

"Observes a perceptive author of a letter to the editor of the New York Times: 'It's amusing that Andrew M. Cuomo, who owes his whole career to his dad, may not get the Senate seat of Hillary Rodham Clinton (who owes her whole career to her husband) because David A. Paterson (who owes his whole career to his dad) may give it to Caroline Kennedy (who owes her whole career to her dad). You would think a state as large as New York could find someone who deserves something on his or her own." --Washington Times editor Wesley Pruden

"n the past few years, we have seen any number of rather obnoxious individuals called to our nation's capitol so that members of the House and Senate could grill them in front of the TV cameras. And while I would normally enjoy watching tobacco, oil and car company CEOs, along with steroid-using baseball cheats, publicly embarrassed, that's not how it's worked out. Instead, because the politicians are so disgustingly arrogant and self-righteous, it's hard not to view their victims in a sympathetic light. All I know is if I were ever guilty or even suspected of a crime, I would certainly want to be attacked by the likes of Christopher Dodd, Charles Schumer and Barney Frank." --columnist Burt Prelutsky

"A question for you in the Drive-By Media. Why do you think Israel would attack Gaza? Is it for their national treasure? Is it because they want all of the scientific discoveries that are being made by Hamas intellectuals?" --radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh

"Barack Obama's Hawaii vacation compound was ringed Monday by Palestinians who are angry about his support for Israel. You can imagine their disappointment. Not only is he the first black president, he's the first guy named Hussein to back Israel." --comedian Argus Hamilton

Jay Leno:

For the next two weeks, President-elect Barack Obama will be living full-time at a hotel right across the street from the White House. This is historic because this is the first time a Democrat has checked into a Washington hotel room under his own name.

Bernie Madoff has been charged with swindling people out of $50 billion. I don't want to say he's unpopular, but [over Christmas] as he was walking in New York, he passed a manger scene and Joseph threw a sandal at him.

Congress says they're looking into the Bernie Madoff scandal. So the guy who made $50 billion disappear, is being investigated by the people who made $750 billion disappear.

In an interview with The Washington Times, Vice President Dick Cheney said he is not a big fan of rap music. I was stunned by that. He gets driven around in a limo; he's surrounded by bodyguards; he shot a guy in the face -- he is a rap star!

28724  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Coming soon to a border near you-- MexiGaza on: January 07, 2009, 11:03:15 AM
Wednesday, 07 January 2009


The most likely existential security threat to the United States isn't likely to originate from southwest Asian terrorists or a conventional war with China. Instead, it will originate from Mexico's open source insurgency as:
The Mexican state becomes hollow and unable to maintain any semblance of control over its territory. Fiscal bankruptcy, driven by declining oil revenues and a global economic depression, will eliminate any remaining legitimacy it has with the countryside (already tenuous due to extreme income stratification).

The narco-insurgency in the northern provinces morphs into a national open source insurgency with thousands of small groups all willing to fight/corrupt/intimidate the government. Many, if not most, of these groups will be able to power themselves forward financially due to massive flows of money from black globalization. The result will be a diaspora north to the US to avoid the violence.
Economic failure, a loss of legitimacy and economic deprivation in the US creates an environment for the rapid proliferation of domestic groups willing to fight the government in order to advance their economic interests. Catalyzed by connections to Mexico's functional and lucrative bazaar of violence (read "Iraq's Bazaar of Violence" for more on how this works), these groups carve out their own territory in the US. Experience shows that once these groups gain a foothold, they become nearly impossible to defeat (although they can be co-opted).

Sam Dillon, writing for the NYTs, provides us with a good waypoint check on this scenario. Here is a good example of how quickly the infection can spread:

Jerez, a town of 60,000 a few miles northwest of Felipe Angeles in Zacatecas, was until recently a calm place, largely untouched by organized crime, said Abel Márquez Haro, a grocery wholesaler. But recently, scores of men driving Chevrolet Suburbans and carrying automatic rifles established a menacing presence, threatening residents on the street and extorting businesspeople. The identities of the men remain a mystery, but many people in the town say they assume they are traffickers who have abandoned another Mexican state, perhaps to avoid an army crackdown.

The article goes on to explain how these groups are targeting family members of immigrant workers in the US via kidnapping/extortion. The result has been that workers that would have normally returned during an economic downturn, aren't returning due to safety concerns (and many are trying to bring the rest of their families north to safety). NOTE: IF your are wondering how a global depression might impact national security, this is it (I suspect that the biggest hew and cry will be over how the fiscal crisis has led to the rapid defunding of hideously expensive conventional weapons systems, of no use to this threat). If you want spice, think about the implications of an economic collapse of Pakistan (needs to borrow), Russia (needs $70+ oil), and China (needs growth in US consumer spending).

Posted by John Robb on Wednesday, 07 January 2009 at 07:45 AM
28725  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran's Hamas strategy on: January 07, 2009, 10:56:48 AM

JANUARY 7, 2009
Iran's Hamas Strategy
Radical Shiites back radical Sunnis with the aim of destabilizing the Middle East.


Anyone who knows anything about the Middle East knows that Sunni and Shiite radicals don't work together -- er, except when they do. Proof that the conventional wisdom is badly wrong is on offer in Gaza, where the manifest destiny of the Islamic Republic of Iran is now unfolding. Tehran has been aiding Hamas for years with the aim of radicalizing politics across the entire Arab Middle East. Now Israel's response to thousands of Hamas rocket provocations appears to be doing just that.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends an anti-Israeli demonstration in Tehran, Dec. 12, 2008. A poster at rear shows the late spiritual leader and founder of the Hamas movement, Sheik Ahmed Yassin.

Born in the 1980s from the ruins of the Palestine Liberation Organization's corrupt and decaying secular nationalism, Hamas is a grass-roots, Sunni Islamist movement that has made Shiite Iran a front-line player in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Before Hamas, the mullahs had financed the Palestine Islamic Jihad, whose holy warriors became renowned suicide bombers. But Islamic Jihad has always been a fringe group within Palestinian society. As national elections revealed in 2006, Hamas is mainstream.

Although often little appreciated in the West, revolutionary Iran's ecumenical quest has remained a constant in its approach to Sunni Muslims. The anti-Shiite rhetoric of many Sunni fundamentalist groups has rarely been reciprocated by Iran's ruling elite. Since the death in 1989 of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the charismatic, quintessentially Shiite leader of the Islamic revolution, Iran's ruling mullahs have tried assiduously to downplay the sectarian content in their militant message.

Khomeini's successor, Ali Khamenei, has consistently married his virulent anti-American rhetoric (Khomeini's "Great Satan" has become Khamenei's "Satan Incarnate") with a global appeal to faithful Muslims to join the battle against the U.S. and its allies. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the most politically adept of the revolution's founding clerics, loved to sponsor militant Sunni-Shiite gatherings when he was speaker of parliament and later as president (1989-1997). He and Mr. Khamenei, who have worked hand-in-hand on national-security issues and have unquestionably authorized every major terrorist operation since the death of Khomeini in 1989, have always been the ultimate pragmatists, even reaching out to Arab Sunni radicals with a strong anti-Shiite bent.

The most radical branch of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad Organization and its most famous member, Ayman al-Zawahiri, became favored Arab poster boys for the clerical regime in the 1980s and 1990s even though Islamic Jihad, like other extremist takfiri Sunni groups, damns Shiites with almost the same gusto as it damns Western infidels. The laissez-passers that Iran gave members of al Qaeda before Sept. 11, 2001 (see the 9/11 Commission Report), the training offered to al Qaeda in the 1990s by the Lebanese Shiite Hezbollah (again, see the report), and the "detention" of senior members of al Qaeda fleeing Afghanistan after the American invasion are best seen against the backdrop of clerical Iran's three-decade long outreach to radical Sunnis who loathe Americans more than they hate Shiites.

In 2003, Iran launched two Arabic satellite TV channels both under the guidance of the former Revolutionary Guards commander Ali Larijani, a well-dressed, well-trimmed puritan with a Ph.D. in philosophy who crushed a brief period of intellectual openness in Iran's media in the early 1990s. A favorite of Mr. Khamenei, Mr. Larijani pushed TV content extolling Hamas, anti-Israeli suicide bombers, anti-Semitism and an all-Muslim insurgency in Iraq. Iran's remarkably subdued rhetoric against Arabs who gave loud support to insurgents and holy warriors slaughtering Iraqi Shiites between 2004 and 2007 is inextricably tied to Tehran's determination to keep Muslim eyes focused on the most important issue -- the battle against America and Israel. Iran's full-bore backing of Hezbollah in the July 2006 war with the Jewish State, a conflict that Tehran and its Syrian ally precipitated by their aggressive military support of Hezbollah, drew Sunni eyes further away from Iraq's internecine strife.

The 2006 Lebanon war, which lasted 34 days and saw Hezbollah's Iranian-trained forces embarrass the Israeli army, made Tehran's favorite Arab son, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, one of the most admired men in the Sunni Arab world. This was a remarkable achievement given that Hezbollah had helped Iran train some of the Iraqi Shiite militants who were wreaking a horrific vengeance against Baghdad's Sunni Arabs in 2006 -- a bloodbath that was constantly on Arab satellite television.

Prominent Sunni rulers -- Egypt's Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Abdullah -- have railed against a "Shiite arc" of power forming in the Near East, only to see few echoes develop outside of the region's officially controlled media. Although the Sunni Arab rulers have sometimes shown considerable anxiety about the prospect of an Iranian nuclear weapon, Sunni fundamentalist organizations affiliated with Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the mother ship for Sunni Islamists, have been much more restrained in expressing their trepidation.

With strong ties to its fundamentalist brethren along the Nile, Hamas has given Iran (really for the first time, and so far at little cost) an important ally within the fundamentalist circles of the Muslim Brotherhood. One of the Islamic revolution's great disappointments was that it failed to produce more allies within the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and its many offshoots.

The revolution certainly inspired many within the movement in Egypt and in Syria. But Iran's ties to the ruling Syrian Allawite elite -- a heretical Shiite sect that Sunni fundamentalists detest -- complicated its outreach to Sunni militants. When Syria's dictator Hafez Assad slaughtered thousands of Sunni fundamentalists in the town of Hama in 1982, and revolutionary Iran remained largely silent, Tehran's standing within the Muslim Brotherhood collapsed.

With Hamas, Iran has the opportunity to make amends. The mullahs have a chance of supplanting Saudi Arabia, the font of the most vicious anti-Shiite Sunni creed, as the most reliable backer of Palestinian fundamentalists. Even more than the Lebanese Hezbollah, which remains tied to and constrained by the complex matrix of Lebanese politics, Hamas seems willing to absorb enormous losses to continue its jihad against Israel. Where Saudi Arabia has been uneasy about the internecine strife among Palestinians -- it has bankrolled both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas -- Iran has put its money on the former.

Although Fatah, the ruling party within the Palestinian Authority, may get a second wind thanks to the excesses of Hamas and the Israelis' killing much of Hamas's brain power and muscle, it is difficult to envision Fatah reviving itself into an appealing political alternative for faithful Palestinians. Fatah is hopelessly corrupt, often brutal, and without an inspiring raison d'être: a Palestine of the West Bank and Gaza is, as Hamas correctly points out, boring, historically unappealing, and a noncontiguous geographic mess. Fatah only sounds impassioned when it gives vent to its anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic, profoundly Muslim roots. It's no accident that the religious allusions and suicide bombers of Fatah and Hamas after 2000 were hard to tell apart. If Hamas can withstand the current Israeli attack on its leadership and infrastructure, then the movement's aura will likely be impossible to match. Iran's influence among religious Palestinians could skyrocket.

Through Hamas, Tehran can possibly reach the ultimate prize, the Egyptian faithful. For reasons both ancient and modern, Egypt has perhaps the most Shiite-sympathetic religious identity in the Sunni Arab world. As long as Hamas remains the center of the Palestinian imagination -- and unless Hamas loses its military grip on Gaza, it will continue to command the attention of both the Arab and Western media -- Egypt's politics remain fluid and potentially volatile. Tehran is certainly under no illusions about the strength of Egypt's military dictatorship, but the uncertainties in Egypt are greater now than they have been since the assassination of Anwar Sadat in 1981.

President Hosni Mubarak, Sadat's successor, is old and in questionable health. His jet-setting son or a general may succeed him. Neither choice will resuscitate the regime's legitimacy, which has plummeted even among the highly Westernized elite. The popularity and mosque-power of the Muslim Brotherhood, which would likely win a free election, continues to rise. A turbulent Gaza where devout Muslims are in a protracted, televised fight with the cursed Jews could add sufficient heat to make Egyptian politics really interesting. The odds of Egypt cracking could be very small -- the police powers of the Egyptian state are, when provoked, ferocious -- but they are now certainly enough to keep the Iranians playing.

Where once Ayatollah Khomeini believed in the revolutionary potential of soft power (Iran's example was supposed to topple the pro-American autocrats throughout the Middle East), Khomeini's children are firm believers in hard power, covert action, duplicity and persistence. With Gaza and Egypt conceivably within Tehran's grasp, the clerical regime will be patient and try to keep Gaza boiling.

It is entirely possible that Tehran could overplay its hand among the Palestinians as it overplayed its hand among Iraqi Shiites, turning sympathetic Muslims into deeply suspicious, nationalistic patriots. The Israeli army could deconstruct Hamas's leadership sufficiently that Gaza will remain a fundamentalist mess that inspires more pity than the white-hot heat that comes when jihadists beat infidels in battle. But with a nuclear-armed Iran just around the corner, the mullahs will do their best to inspire.

Ultimately, it's doubtful that Tehran will find President-elect Barack Obama's offer of more diplomacy, or the threat of more European sanctions, to be compelling. The price of oil may be low, but the mullahs have seen worse economic times. In 30 years, they have not seen a better constellation of forces. And as the Shiite prayer goes, perhaps this time round the Sunnis, too, inshallah (God willing), will see the light.

Mr. Gerecht, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
28726  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 07, 2009, 10:43:38 AM

You ain't seen nothing yet!
28727  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stability and oil production on: January 07, 2009, 10:40:13 AM
Iraq: Stability and Boosting Oil Production
Stratfor Today » January 7, 2009 | 0017 GMT

Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-ShahristaniSummary
Iraq’s oil minister has announced a new tender for the development of 11 major energy fields. The tender is part of a plan to restore — and expand upon — Iraq’s status as a major energy exporter. Whether the plan succeeds, however, depends upon Baghdad’s ability to maintain domestic stability.
Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein al-Shahristani on Dec. 31 announced a new international tender for the development of 11 major energy (mostly oil) fields as part of an effort to increase oil production. This second bid round comes six months after the first round of bidding was opened; six oil and two natural gas fields were offered for development in the first round. Al-Shahristani said developing the two sets of fields should allow Baghdad to increase production from its current 2.5 million barrels per day (bpd) to some 6 million bpd in the next four to five years. The Iraqi government plans to sign the contracts of the first round in mid-2009, while the second round is to be concluded by the end of the same year.

(click image to enlarge)

The 11 fields are Majnoon, West Qurna Phase 2, Halfaya, Gharraf, Badrah, East Baghdad, Kifl/West Kifl/Merjan, Qamarim/Gullabat/Naudman, Najmah/Al-Qayara, Khashm al-Ahmar, and Siba (the last two are natural gas fields). Each field is in a politically sensitive area. Majnoon, West Qurna Phase 2, Halfaya, Gharraf, Kifl/West Kifl/Merjan, Khashm al-Ahmar, and Siba are located in southern provinces where rival Shiite factions are pitted against one another. The East Baghdad field in the capital is in a stronghold of the al-Sadrite movement. The Najmah/Al-Qayara field is in Ninawa province contested between the Kurds and the Sunnis. Khashm al-Ahmar and the Qamarim/Gullabat/Naudman field is in the communally mixed Diyala province.

In addition to the domestic issues, three of the fields are jointly owned with neighboring Iran and Kuwait. Majnoon and Badrah are located on the Iran-Iraq border, while Siba is on the Iraq-Kuwait border. Developing them will require agreements between Iraq and its two neighbors, something that will be complicated by a row over oil fields that led to the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and by Iranian interests in Iraq.

Political and security conditions allowing, the development of these fields could allow Iraq to re-emerge as a major oil-exporting state. Despite the global economic downturn, Iraq is the one place that could attract investment from global energy majors given the low cost of development and the potential for success.

As much as 80 percent of Iraq’s energy resources have long remained untapped. Whatever development took place occurred before the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein became president in 1979. From there onward, Iraq’s links to the wider world became constrained. The process began with the 1980-88 war with Iran and exacerbated in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Perhaps the worst period began with the 1991 Persian Gulf War and continued through twelve years of sanctions. The country then experienced nearly five years of insurgency in post-Baathist Iraq.

Together, this sequence of events took the country out of the select club of major oil exporters. This meant there is huge potential for increasing oil production, especially in the light of the technological developments that have taken place in the last three decades and the fact that Iraq has not barely been exposed to them.

The introduction of technology into the country will work well with the nature of Iraq’s oil fields - highly shallow and horizontal pool - and thus immensely facilitate development work. Unlike other oil fields around the world, which are deep below the surface and are in the vertical shafts, Iraq’s oil fields are in many ways large lakes that don’t require a whole lot of drilling. This aspect is extremely important from the point of view of the cost of enhancing production, which is why Iraq is the one place where the world’s energy majors are drawn to.

Having oil fields that require little work to begin production constitutes half the undertaking; being able to ship it is an equally important part of developing the energy sector. The world has many places — like Russia — where there is plenty of oil but where the fields are nowhere near any means of transport, which renders the project cost prohibitive. In Iraq, however, most of the fields are located near existing export points and other transit infrastructure. This means it does not require much effort to transport Iraqi crude.

Najmah/Al-Qayara and East Baghdad are not far from a pipeline running from Baghdad through Baiji to the tri-border area with Syria and Turkey. The Khashim al-Ahmar and Qamarim/Gullabat/Naudman are a little west of the same line. Meanwhile, the pipeline from Basra to Hadith runs through the Kifl/West Kifl/Merjan field near Najaf and runs close to Gharraf. And the Halfaya, Majnoon, West Qurna Phase 2, and Siba are located very close to the pipeline network hubbed at Basra. This leaves Badrah as the only field that is far from any existing pipeline. But since it is close to East Baghdad, it can be linked to the pipeline running north from the capital.

Despite these logistical positives, two key factors have prevented energy majors from leaping at the opportunity since the U.S. move to effect regime-change. The first has been the lack of an internationally recognized government, and the second has been a multifaceted security problem.

The Petraeus strategy allowed the United States to collapse the Sunni insurgency from within in 2007, while U.S.-Iranian dealings took care of the Shiite militia problem. The prospect of violence remains, however, given ongoing Sunni-Shiite and Arab-Kurdish tensions. On the political front, the Shiite-dominated central government has considerably extended its writ in the country. Even so, numerous faultlines at both the intra- and inter-communal levels continue to threaten the gains made over the last two years.

The issue of autonomy, which pits the central government against the Kurdistan Regional Government — especially over energy — continues to prevent the enactment of a national hydrocarbon law. Furthermore, 2009 is an election year, with provincial elections scheduled for Jan. 31 and parliamentary polls slated for later in the year. These votes are the next step in the process toward stabilizing the Iraqi state. If Iraq’s various stakeholders can move past these tensions, they will enhance the chances for success of the Oil Ministry’s plans to expand production.

Given the number of moving parts in the new Iraqi republic, any number of things could go wrong. But so long as Baghdad can maintain status quo in terms of Iraq’s relative security and stability, it stands a good chance to greatly exceed its past status as a major oil-exporting nation.
28728  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: January 07, 2009, 09:34:55 AM
"I think we have more machinery of government than is necessary, too many parasites living on the labor of the industrious."

--Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Cooper, 29 November 1802
28729  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics on: January 07, 2009, 09:33:31 AM
The depth and diversity of your knowledge continue to impress  cheesy  Very interesting.
28730  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy on: January 07, 2009, 09:08:37 AM
Oh, I dunno, a country where the people have the right to defend themselves, including with guns; have the right to speak plainly about religious fascism; and have the right to not have the police hack in their personal correspondence and records without a warrant , , , little stuff like that.
28731  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What does Kali Tudo 2 have in store for us?? on: January 07, 2009, 09:04:57 AM
And like that corny ad of years ago about "No wine before its time", I am unable to hurry my editor.  Genius has its privileges  cheesy
28732  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Buzz Builder on: January 07, 2009, 01:20:36 AM
"I have been working in some of the most dangerous night clubs and bars  in boston for the last 8 years. In that time I have seen with devastating consequence what happens when people are caught off guard when knives are involved in street violence. I have seen friends get stabbed, and friends die because of the ambush nature of knives on the street. And I can say that the mindset and skillsets that are cultivated with the DLO material have made the difference on those dark nights where I was truly scared for my life. I have put my life behind this material and I am still here typing this now so it gives you an understanding of how effective this material is. If you are going to put your life behind any training this is the place to start"

Greg "Cyborg Dog" Brown
28733  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Buzz Builder on: January 07, 2009, 01:17:10 AM

"I have been training with Kru Mark Dellogrotte for the past 9 years. I have helped train/sparred with some of the best names in the UFC. I have also had professional fight experience myself. I originally became aware of the Kali-Tudo block of material in 2002 and I have used both the techniques and theorys with success in my training/ sparring/ fighting. I believe that Guro Crafty has an amazing amount of material that will truly open eyes of the MMA community."

Greg "Cyborg Dog" Brown
28734  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Food Chain and Food Politics on: January 07, 2009, 12:51:52 AM
I am quite sympathetic to the point about the unmeasured costs of industro-agriculture AND completely unpersuaded that putting the government in charge is a good idea.  Have you ever read PJ O'Rourke's "Parliament of Whores"?  The chapter on the Dept of Ag in particular is quite devastating.

PJO'R wrote in the early Clinton years IIRC, and then the Gingrich Revolution nearly finished off the Dept of Ag, which would have been a tremendous blow for freedom, but in one of his worst of many bad moves, President Bush resurrected the Dept of Ag in order to buy mid-west farm votes.  It wasn't necessary politically, it was simply Republican corporate welfare.

Anyway, it is against this sense of things that I measure the idea of a 50 year plan.  Even Lenin and Stalin were humble enough to limit themselves to 5 years tongue     Right now it appears that we are about to see the human global warming hysteria of the eco-liberal fascist-MSM-academic matrix blown up.  The people who said in 1973 that we would be out of oil by 1993, and said the world was cooling, then that the world was warming and that we had to DO SOMETHING!  PUT GOVERNMENT IN CHARGE OF MANAGING THE CLIMATE OF THE PLANET!!! are now about to be wrong once again.

But BO is about to pass out trillions of dollars and I am shocked! absolutely shocked! that articles like this written by two guys who hope to get their fingers in the pie just like Halliburton did  evil would appear in the NYT. cheesy

Somehow the idea of a 50 year government plan for the management of dirt does not appeal , , ,

So what IS to be done?   One thing is to get out the word about the superior nutritional value of organic food.  Bring out the points about minerals and trace minerals missing from humans whose diet is industro-ag.  Look at how the organic food products are developing and deepening into the food chain.  People increasingly want this! 

Look for market driven analysis and solutions.
28735  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: January 07, 2009, 12:29:56 AM
There's hope for you yet JDN  cheesy grin
28736  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 06, 2009, 06:58:22 PM
Although it gets several of the big points right, on several levels what a nasty little piece that is.
28737  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Legal Issues in fighting crime on: January 06, 2009, 01:16:59 PM
New Jersey High Court Hears Witness Intimidation Case

Posted: Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Updated: January 6th, 2009 10:02 AM EDT

Most Read Most E-mailed E-mail Article Print Article
Associated Press Writer


New Jersey's highest court is grappling with one of the thorniest issues facing criminal justice today: what to do in cases where witnesses to a crime have been threatened or intimidated by defendants to the point where they refuse to testify in court.

The issue is a pressing one in areas where intimidation by gang members, drug dealers and other defendants is making potential witnesses afraid they or their loved ones will be harmed or killed if they take the stand.

The state Supreme Court in Trenton heard nearly two hours of arguments Monday on a case that deals with what the state Attorney General's Office calls "the greatest threat" to prosecution in gang, organized crime and domestic violence cases.

The state wants to be allowed let jurors hear the out-of-court statements of witnesses who have been threatened without presenting the witnesses themselves.

But defense lawyers argue that would not be fair to defendants, who have the Constitutional right to confront their accusers in court.

Deputy Attorney General Daniel Bornstein told the court he has read numerous media accounts of witnesses being intimidated or threatened around the state.

"It's gotten so bad that often entire communities are cowed into silence," he said.

Some prosecutor's offices now refuse to prosecute murder cases where there is only one witness, Bornstein said.

The remedy to that is for prosecutors to be allowed to introduce evidence of conversations a witness had with police or investigators outside of court, the state claims.

The case at issue involves a 2001 murder in Trenton.

Dionte Byrd and Freddie Dean Jr. were convicted in 2004 of murdering Charles "Minnesota Fats" Simmons in Simmons' apartment, and sentenced to life in prison with no parole for 30 years.

Helping to convict them was the statement of Kenneth Bush, who told police he rode in a van to Simmons' apartment with Byrd and Dean - both of whom he said were armed - and was smoking crack in the back while they went inside.

Bush said he saw the duo run back to the van and later saw that Byrd had suffered a gunshot wound to the leg. He also said he heard both men discuss the shooting.

Bush refused to testify at trial, claiming he'd been threatened by Byrd and Dean, but the trial court permitted the state to elicit testimony about Bush's statement to police.

An appeals court overturned the convictions in 2007 on the grounds that Bush's statement was improperly admitted into evidence.

Byrd's attorney, Andrew Schneider, told the justices that in their attempt to get the rules changed, prosecutors are using "appeals to fear, anger and revenge - coincidentally the same emotions that get people into trouble."

Many of the justices worried about how to evaluate the reliability of any out-of-court statements that might be sought to be introduced at trials, even as they acknowledged that witness intimidation is a serious problem.

"There are countless cases where a witness gives a statement implicating a person in a crime, and when they get to court, they don't remember anything," said Justice Barry Albin. "There seems to be a climate of fear in certain areas where the witnesses are afraid for their lives to testify in court."

The U.S. Supreme Court allows out-of-court statements to be heard at trial under what is known as the "forfeiture-by-wrongdoing" rule - essentially, that defendants forfeit their Sixth Amendment right to confront a prosecution witness if they wrongfully cause the absence of that witness.

New Jersey's rules of evidence don't include a similar provision, though the state's brief in the Byrd case notes that "at least 31 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the forfeiture rule."

The New Jersey court gave no indication when it might issue a decision.
28738  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: January 06, 2009, 12:51:29 PM

GOP: Bailouts R Not Us
New and Improved at the DNC
Harry Reid Climbs Down
Towards a Self-Selected Senate (Quote of the Day)
Vegetarians v. Madoff

Bush Mutiny

President Bush's handling of the economic crisis came in for sharp criticism during Monday's debate between candidates vying to become the next chairman of the Republican National Committee. Five of the six contenders said they would support a pending RNC resolution criticizing both the auto bailout and the bailout of the financial industry passed by Congress in September.

"The bailout was a bust. It should never have happened," former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele told the audience at the debate sponsored by Americans for Tax Reform. "Republicans should have had a little bit more you-know-what to withstand the pressure. They didn't and we're paying for it. I absolutely support the resolution because it reflects the frustration of our base." Mr. Steele's position was seconded by four of the five other candidates vying for the RNC chairman's post.

The lone dissenter was Mike Duncan, the current RNC chairman who has worked closely with the Bush administration. He said that "as a banker" he understood the problem better than the other candidates and it couldn't be summarized with "a simple yes or no answer." He did admit the bailouts have clearly created "a lot of problems."

Grover Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, told ABC News that the anti-bailout resolution was vital to get Republicans "back into the swing of having an opinion as a party" on an issue that involved "giving $750 billion of other people's money to people whose claim to fame is that they lost their money."

The election for RNC chairman, along with a vote on the anti-bailout resolution, will be held in Washington on January 29.

-- John Fund

Kaine League

President-elect Barack Obama will tap Virginia Governor Tim Kaine to become chairman of the Democratic National Committee this week. Any Republican who was hoping for a kinder, gentler opponent than outgoing DNC Chief Howard Dean had better think again.

Mr. Kaine will tackle the role on a part-time basis until January 2010, when he'll be out of a job as Virginia's governor and can assume the party chairmanship full-time. The post is a reward for an early Obama supporter who helped deliver the Old Dominion to a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in nearly 50 years. Mr. Kaine is viewed as an up-and-comer and emblematic of a new breed of Democratic politicians who have succeeded by appealing to suburban voters -- often by stressing more middle-of-the-road social positions.

That occasional moderation should not, however, be confused with partisan meekness. If Mr. Kaine has become known for anything, it's his relish for an old-fashioned partisan brawl. He proved himself an able attack dog for Mr. Obama during the presidential campaign, jabbing at Senator John McCain and the Bush Administration. In Virginia, if anything, he's been criticized for engaging in too many political fights, which some voters see as a reason why he's failed to enact most of his campaign promises -- such as universal preschool, or more roads.

His aggressive style, in some ways, is similar to that of the gregarious Mr. Dean -- save one important way. Whereas Mr. Dean routinely got into scraps with his own party, Mr. Kaine is personally close to Mr. Obama and can be counted on to serve as a supporter of the new administration's agenda. As the GOP mulls its own choice to head the Republican National Committee, Mr. Kaine's appointment means Republicans had better prepare themselves for a feisty opponent with a track record of winning races in a state Republicans badly need if they hope to return to power.

-- Kim Strassel

Burris in the Saddle

Senate Democrats are working to tone down the threat of a spectacle over two disputed Senate seats. Apparently, no one wants the Senate's first day to become known for bitter and acrimonious argument.

Dispute aplenty is present in the fight over whether Roland Burris, who was appointed by scandal-tarred Illinois Rod Blagojevich, and Al Franken, the former comedian who narrowly won a recount in Minnesota, should be seated. Apparently Majority Leader Harry Reid has decided to avoid having his preferred solution imposed on the Senate. He would like Mr. Burris blocked because he lacks a certificate of appointment from Illinois' Secretary of State, but wants Mr. Franken seated even though he lacks a certificate of election from Minnesota's Secretary of State. Lawyers for Republican Norm Coleman are mounting a court challenge against Mr. Franken's alleged recount victory that will block the issuance of an election certificate for weeks.

As for Mr. Burris, it has been amusing to watch Majority Leader Reid climb slowly down from his position that Mr. Burris's appointment by a politically tainted governor was illegitimate. Mr. Reid now says he is willing to "negotiate" over the matter of his eventual seating.

The reason is clear: Mr. Reid has been under intense pressure from members of the Congressional Black Caucus to seat Mr. Burris, who was not a player in Mr. Blagojevich's alleged pay-to-be-appointed scheme. Rep. Donald Payne, a New Jersey Democrat and former CBC chairman, put in blunt terms how much trouble Mr. Reid will be in if he ultimately denies Mr. Burris a seat. "I think race comes into it because the Senate lacks diversity," Mr. Payne told reporters. "It doesn't reflect America."

Mr. Reid has clearly realized that rejecting the Burris appointment outright might involve a high political price. The dispute, along with the issue of Al Franken's eligibility, will be referred to the Senate Rules Committee. That body will simply stall for time and hope events in Illinois and Minnesota play out in a way that reconciles conflicting Democratic priorities.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"Like it or not, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has the legal authority to appoint Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate, and Burris, the state's former attorney general, should be allowed to take the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. . . . Allowing the Senate to exclude Burris on any except the narrowest of grounds would create a dangerous precedent. It could open the door to the Senate or the House overturning the will of the people and excluding representatives under one or another pretext. If Burris -- whose appointment meets the legal test, no matter what you think of Blagojevich -- is not seated, other properly elected (or appointed) representatives also are at risk" -- Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, writing in the Los Angeles Times.

Bernie Madoff, Tofu King

HONG KONG -- It didn't take long for Hongkongers to come up with a nickname for Bernard Madoff in their eminently punnable native Cantonese. "Mai dou fu" they call him, in a phrase that approximates the sound of his name in English. It means "sells tofu," and is even more biting since it includes an implied "instead of real meat" at the end.

Mr. Madoff's alleged scam seems to have hit Americans, and particularly Jewish investors and charities, the hardest. But it hasn't left Asia untouched. Among other victims, Nomura and Aozora, both Japanese financial institutions, have announced exposures in the hundreds of millions of dollars. And Mr. Madoff or his promoters reportedly took emergency jaunts through Asia trying to drum up fresh suckers as the fund was beginning to collapse.

Fortunately for those investors, they appear mostly to have ignored the pitch. Still, the scandal is rippling here in other ways. China's government has floated plans to crack down on domestic pyramid schemes by tightening enforcement of a 2005 law banning Ponzi-style rackets. They mean business: In November, China executed one man convicted of promising 60% returns to 10,000 investors who bought ant-breeding kits.

28739  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Border webcams on: January 06, 2009, 12:49:42 PM
Border webcams
28740  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Citizens defend themselves/others. on: January 06, 2009, 12:40:32 PM
28741  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Is the UK still a free country? on: January 06, 2009, 12:36:55 PM
UK - Police set to step up hacking of home PCs


THE Home Office has quietly adopted a new plan to allow police across Britain routinely to hack into people’s personal computers without a warrant.

The move, which follows a decision by the European Union’s council of ministers in Brussels, has angered civil liberties groups and opposition MPs.

They described it as a sinister extension of the surveillance state which drives “a coach and horses” through privacy laws.

The hacking is known as “remote searching”. It allows police or MI5 officers who may be hundreds of miles away to examine covertly the hard drive of someone’s PC at his home, office or hotel room.

Material gathered in this way includes the content of all e-mails, web-browsing habits and instant messaging.

Under the Brussels edict, police across the EU have been given the green light to expand the implementation of a rarely used power involving warrantless intrusive surveillance of private property. The strategy will allow French, German and other EU forces to ask British officers to hack into someone’s UK computer and pass over any material gleaned.

A remote search can be granted if a senior officer says he “believes” that it is “proportionate” and necessary to prevent or detect serious crime — defined as any offence attracting a jail sentence of more than three years.

However, opposition MPs and civil liberties groups say that the broadening of such intrusive surveillance powers should be regulated by a new act of parliament and court warrants.

They point out that in contrast to the legal safeguards for searching a suspect’s home, police undertaking a remote search do not need to apply to a magistrates’ court for a warrant.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, the human rights group, said she would challenge the legal basis of the move. “These are very intrusive powers – as intrusive as someone busting down your door and coming into your home,” she said.

“The public will want this to be controlled by new legislation and judicial authorisation. Without those safeguards it’s a devastating blow to any notion of personal privacy.”

She said the move had parallels with the warrantless police search of the House of Commons office of Damian Green, the Tory MP: “It’s like giving police the power to do a Damian Green every day but to do it without anyone even knowing you were doing it.”

Richard Clayton, a researcher at Cambridge University’s computer laboratory, said that remote searches had been possible since 1994, although they were very rare. An amendment to the Computer Misuse Act 1990 made hacking legal if it was authorised and carried out by the state.

He said the authorities could break into a suspect’s home or office and insert a “key-logging” device into an individual’s computer. This would collect and, if necessary, transmit details of all the suspect’s keystrokes.

“It’s just like putting a secret camera in someone’s living room,” he said.
Police might also send an e-mail to a suspect’s computer. The message would include an attachment that contained a virus or “malware”. If the attachment was opened, the remote search facility would be covertly activated. Alternatively, police could park outside a suspect’s home and hack into his or her hard drive using the wireless network.

Police say that such methods are necessary to investigate suspects who use cyberspace to carry out crimes. These include paedophiles, internet fraudsters, identity thieves and terrorists.

The Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) said such intrusive surveillance was closely regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. A spokesman said police were already carrying out a small number of these operations which were among 194 clandestine searches last year of people’s homes, offices and hotel bedrooms.

“To be a valid authorisation, the officer giving it must believe that when it is given it is necessary to prevent or detect serious crime and [the] action is proportionate to what it seeks to achieve,” Acpo said.

Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, agreed that the development may benefit law enforcement. But he added: “The exercise of such intrusive powers raises serious privacy issues. The government must explain how they would work in practice and what safeguards will be in place to prevent abuse.”

The Home Office said it was working with other EU states to develop details of the proposals.
28742  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor on: January 06, 2009, 12:33:46 PM
Gracias por eso Omar.

He aqui el nuevo de Stratfor:
El Memorándum de la Seguridadde México: Enero. 5, 2008
 STRATFOR TODAY » El 5 de enero de 2009 | 2344 GMT

Fin del año de cierre

El año 2008 acabaron por ser un año sin precedentes en el combate de México contra cárteles de droga. Desafortunadamente para el gobierno, la mayor parte de estos registros son relacionados a la situación de la seguridad del país que empeora, no a ganancias de gobierno contra organizaciones criminales. La mayoría del en particular, 2008 fijo un nuevo registro para homicidios organizados de crimen-relacionó con unos 5.700 matanzas, más que doble el registro anterior de 2.700 alcanzado en 2007. El hecho que 2008 muertes cuenta sola para casi mitad el número total matado sobre los últimos cuatro años es un testamento a la violencia justo cuánta en México ha aumentado sobre el por delante de 12 meses.

Cambiar pautas geográficas de violencia en el último año también parte de punto culminante de los desafíos del gobierno mexicanos. En 2007, por ejemplo, mucha de la violencia ocurrida en los estados de Michoacan, Guerrero y Sinaloa, estados del sudoeste con poblaciones escasas, áreas y montañas rurales vastas que demostraron el territorio ideal almacenar y negociar embarques de droga recibidos en puertos costeros. Durante 2008, sin embargo, mucha de la violencia cambiada al norte: El unos 48 por ciento de todas matanzas durante los últimos 12 meses sucedió en chihuahua y estados de Baja California. Además, mucho de este el norte de violencia fue concentrado en ciudades urbanas grandes como Ciudad Juarez y Tijuana, que presenta operar extraordinariamente diferente ambientes para el ejército mexicano.

Mientras parte del fracaso del ejército mexicano controlar violencia en estas ciudades es relacionada para ser estirada delgado, también es relacionado a una falta relativa de operar de experiencia en ambientes urbanos, que requiere habilidades como asuntos civiles y cooperando más de cerca con aplicación de la ley local. Las tensiones crecientes entre el ejército y los gobiernos civiles han mostrado que el ejército todavía tiene mejoras para hacer — Las mejoras que son difíciles aún para el más profesional y fuerzas de mejor-financió EEUU en Iraq y Afganistán quite.

La perspectiva de estas tendencias que continúan en 2009 hace no esperó el momento oportuno bien para el gobierno mexicano. Mientras no hay indicación que la violencia pronto se estrechará lejos, será también clara que la violencia no puede continuar aumentar indefinidamente. Verdaderamente, el punta en la violencia en noviembre que dejó casi 1.000 muertos no se repitieron en diciembre, que registró 650 matanzas relacionadas al crimen organizado, un nivel más normal comparó a meses anteriores. No obstante, debido a la inestabilidad continua de la situación, está casi inevitable que el problema de crimen continuará representar una seguridad nacional primera concierne para el gobierno a través del año venidero, especialmente como el gobierno encara presiones de ciudadanos y negocios que son afectados.

Una Infracción Presidencial de Seguridad y el Ejército

Pocos detalles adicionales han surgido en las últimas dos semanas con respecto al diciembre. 26 revelación de un cartel penetration of Mexican President Felipe Calderon’s security team. La revelación vino como autoridades anunciaron el arresto de un mayor de ejército asignado al Cuerpo Presidencial del Guardia, uno de varias unidades militares responsables de la seguridad presidencial. La corrupción desenfrenada dada de México y el mucho personal que contribuyen a la seguridad presidencial, no son sorpresa que por lo menos uno de ellos quizás sea manchado. Una fuente mexicana del gobierno dijo Stratfor que el mayor no tuvo acceso a la información más de alto nivel con respecto a Calderon, aunque horario del viaje del presidente ha sido modificado como una precaución.

El arresto del mayor es un recordatorio de los muchos papeles de la seguridad que el ejército mexicano realiza hoy. Stratfor ha observado con frecuencia las limitaciones de las fuerzas armadas mexicanas, que fueron destacadas por la respuesta del ejército al December beheading of eight soldiers in Chilpancingo, Guerrero state. Mientras el incidente ha chispeado atrocidad entre muchos soldados, hay relativamente poco el ejército es capaz de hacer o dispuesto a hacer.

Inmediatamente después del incidente, los soldados en el estado de Guerrero sellaron carreteras y vehículos inspeccionados como ellos buscaron para esos responsable. Las tropas en Michoacan y estados de Morelos realizaron operaciones semejantes. A pesar del perfil alto del incidente, la respuesta del ejército ha sido limitada hasta ahora a desplegar a tropas de guarniciones locales, en comparación con algún cambio de frente a gran escala de fuerzas de en otra parte en el país. Una fuente de Stratfor aconsejó que la Defensa mexicana Secretariado está en el mirador para represalias no autorizadas por soldados contrariados. Mientras hace sentido estratégico para no cambiar de frente muchos a soldados a Guerrero simplemente a causa de soldados de ocho muertos, una respuesta percibida como débil por riesgos de la gente común del ejército que bajan la moral aun más. También demuestra parte de los muchos desafíos asociados con dependiendo del ejército a largo plazo.

Diciembre. 22
•   Un grupo de hombres armados abrió fuego en un partido en Turicato, estado de Michoacan, matando a un hombre y herir a dos mujeres.
•   The El cuerpo de un hombre no identificado con varios escopetazos fue encontrado con los ojos vendados y atado en las muñecas en Acolman, estado de México.
•   The El ejército mexicano anunció el arresto de Javier “El Java” Diaz Ramon en Cancun, estado de Quintana Roo. Diaz es un miembro pretendido del cártel de Golfo que está supuestamente encargado de operaciones de cártel en Quintana Roo y estados de Veracruz.
Diciembre. 23
•   Las fuerzas mexicanas del ejército retuvieron siete hombres y a una mujer en la posesión de rifles de asalto, las pistolas, la munición y más de $50.000 Guadalajara en efectivo cercano, estado de Jalisco. La mujer había ganado recientemente un desfile de la belleza de estado de Sinaloa.
•   A El grupo de personas en un camión despidió más de 100 series en Chalco, estado de México, matando a una persona e hiriendo otro.
Diciembre. 24
•   El subdirector de la seguridad pública en Zihuatanejo, estado de Guerrero, fue detenido junto con siete policías para proporcionar supuestamente la protección para un miembro de un grupo de pistoleros implicados en un tiroteo con el ejército mexicano fuerza el día antes.
•   The Los cuerpos de ocho personas no identificadas fueron encontrados en bolsas plásticas por una carretera rural Tuxtla Gutierrez cercano, estado de Chiapas. Por lo menos uno de los cuerpos mostró signos de tormento.
Diciembre. 25
•   La cabeza y el cuerpo carbonizada atado y con los ojos vendados de un hombre fueron encontrados fuera de una escuela en Acapulco, Guerrero.
•   Authorities En el estado de Guerrero encontró el cuerpo del coordinador público de la seguridad y el transporte de del de Coatlan Rio, estado de Morelos, que es pensado haber sido raptado diciembre. 17.
Diciembre. 26
•   Arturo Gonzalez Rodriguez, un mayor en el ejército mexicano y un miembro del Cuerpo Presidencial de Guardia, fue informado detenido para vender la inteligencia en los movimientos y la ubicación de Presidente mexicano Felipe Calderon a la organización del droga-trafico de drogas de Beltran Leyva.
Diciembre. 27
•   Un policía en Acapulco, estado de Guerrero, se murió después de que por lo menos un disparo armado de hombre él como él pasara por la calle.
•   Several Los hombres armados utilizaron camiones para bloquear una Ciudad de Kansas el sur de viajes de tren del puerto de Lazaro Cardenas México D.F. Los hombres continuaron para forzar su manera en varios de los coches de contenedor y quitar los bienes antes de huir la escena.
Diciembre. 28
•   Dos policías del estado en Aguascalientes, estado de Aguascalientes, se murió cuando un grupo de hombres armados en varios vehículos los disparó muchas veces. Un tercer agente fue disparo a la muerte en un ataque semejante en otra parte de la ciudad.
Diciembre. 30
•   Los residentes en Ixmiquilpan, estado de Hidalgo, retuvo a dos agentes federales por 17 horas para arrancar supuestamente dinero de emigrantes.
Diciembre. 31
•   Las fuerzas mexicanas del ejército informaron la captura de Alberto “La Fresa” Espinoza Barron, pensó ser un teniente de alto rango en la organización de crimen de La Familia.
•   More Que 40 miembros y los socios sospechados del cártel de Golfo fueron detenidos como parte de Considerar “del Proyecto de EEUU Administración Droga Aplicación, la Fase II.”
•   Authorities En el Ideal de Nuevo, estado de Durango, encontró los cuerpos de dos hombres que fueron secuestrados supuestamente por varios hombres armados.
Enero. 1
•   Los agentes federales que sirven una orden de registro en Torreon, estado de Coahuila, llegó a ser entró en un tiroteo de cuatro-hora con holed de pistoleros arriba en un piso franco. Cuatro agentes fueron heridos durante el incidente.
Enero. 2
•   Un convoy militar fue atacado en un área rural de estado de chihuahua, dejando a tres soldados heridos. Tres pistoleros se murieron cuando los soldados volvieron fuego.

28743  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: January 06, 2009, 10:19:20 AM
With the choice of Clinton retread Panetta for CIA, one wonders what other retreads are in the pipeline. 

Anyone know what Monica Lewinsky is up to these days? cheesy
28744  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: East Coast Day of Hard Sparring on: January 06, 2009, 10:15:21 AM
I'm thinking you may find that choice of date has more undesirable consequences than you may realize , , , cheesy
28745  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Priceless logic on: January 06, 2009, 10:06:25 AM
This guy gets the Big Chutzpah award. angry angry angry

srael has legitimised the killing of its children
The Times

January 6, 2009

Hamas: Israel has legitimised the killing of its children

Fighting intensified on the northern outskirts of Gaza City yesterday as a Hamas leader warned that the Islamists would kill Jewish children anywhere in the world in revenge for Israel’s devastating assault.

“They have legitimised the murder of their own children by killing the children of Palestine,” Mahmoud Zahar said in a televised broadcast recorded at a secret location. “They have legitimised the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people.”

Mr Zahar made his first appearance since Israel launched its offensive. Dressed in a dark suit, he declared: “Victory is coming, God willing.”

As night fell on the territory, most of which is without electricity, the sky above Gaza was illuminated by explosions and flares from the pitched battle on Gaza City’s northern fringes, where Israeli tanks, helicopters and artillery fought to dislodge Hamas guerrillas. Witnesses said that the battle had, for the first time, spilled into Gaza City itself, where the head of Hamas’s armed wing warned that thousands of his fighters were waiting.

The Israeli military said last night that three of its soldiers were killed and 24 wounded by a shell from one of its own tanks in a battle near Gaza City.

Abu Obeida, the leader of Hamas’s military wing, made his first appearance on Gaza television, his face masked in a red and white scarf, to goad Israeli forces massed outside the teeming city of 400,000 people. “We have prepared thousands of brave fighters who are waiting for you in each corner of the street and will welcome you with fire and iron,” he said.

Despite growing international calls for a ceasefire, neither side has shown the slightest intention of backing down. Israel, supported by the outgoing Bush Administration in the United States, rejected European calls for an immediate ceasefire reiterated during a peace mission by President Sarkozy of France. Israel argues that it needs to break Hamas’s military capacity if a durable ceasefire is to be negotiated. “We cannot accept a compromise that will allow Hamas to fire \ against Israeli towns in two months’ time,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Mr Sarkozy last night.

Hamas, meanwhile, kept firing rockets into southern Israel, launching about 40 of its home-made Qassam rockets and more sophisticated Grad missiles. They again hit Beersheba, about 25 miles from Gaza. While Israeli forces have stormed into the northeastern area of the Strip, from where Hamas usually launches its projectiles, the Islamists have maintained their fire from within Gaza City.

Many analysts believe that Hamas wants to goad Israel into its stronghold, a hellish landscape for urban combat, which the Islamists have had 18 months to prime with booby traps, ambushes and tunnels.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Israeli soldiers raided the house of a Hamas militant only to find three tunnels underneath through which their quarry escaped. It added that Hamas’s reports of kidnapping an Israeli soldier stemmed from an incident in which the soldier became separated from his unit and the militants tried to drag him down a tunnel. He escaped after a scuffle, it said.

Mr Sarkozy, part of a high-level EU effort in the region to negotiate a truce, told Israel that “the violence must halt”. Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President and Fatah leader, whom he met in Ramallah yesterday, also called for an unconditional truce.

Mr Sarkozy ran foul of Hamas when he said that it must bear most of the blame for the increasingly miserable plight of the 1.5 million Gazans it rules over. “Hamas acted in an irresponsible and unforgiveable manner . . . Hamas is to blame for the suffering of the Palestinians,” he said. A Hamas spokesman accused Mr Sarkozy of “total bias” towards Israel.

Casualty figures

550 Palestinians have been killed in Operation Cast Lead

100 of the dead are children

2,500 Palestinians have been wounded

4 Israeli civilians have been killed since the operation began, and four Israeli soldiers. Seventy-seven soldiers have been injured

Source: Gaza medical services, Israel Defence Forces
28746  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Too many laws on: January 06, 2009, 08:45:29 AM
"It will be of little avail to the people that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today can guess what it will be to-morrow."

--James Madison (likely), Federalist No. 62, 1788
28747  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Venezuela Pol?tica on: January 05, 2009, 02:45:13 PM
Ademas tengo entendido que el manejo de la industria petrolera venzolana por el ha sido pesimo y por eso que la produccion va a disminuir bastante.
28748  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reality bites Bay Area in *ss on: January 05, 2009, 01:22:04 PM
Influx of black renters raises tension in Bay Area
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Dec 30, 3:24 PM (ET)


ANTIOCH, Calif. (AP) - As more and more black renters began moving into this mostly white San Francisco Bay Area suburb a few years ago, neighbors started complaining about loud parties, mean pit bulls, blaring car radios, prostitution, drug dealing and muggings of schoolchildren.

In 2006, as the influx reached its peak, the police department formed a special crime-fighting unit to deal with the complaints, and authorities began cracking down on tenants in federally subsidized housing.

Now that police unit is the focus of lawsuits by black families who allege the city of 100,000 is orchestrating a campaign to drive them out.

"A lot of people are moving out here looking for a better place to live," said Karen Coleman, a mother of three who came here five years ago from a blighted neighborhood in nearby Pittsburg. "We are trying to raise our kids like everyone else. But they don't want us here."

City officials deny the allegations in the lawsuits, which were filed last spring and seek unspecified damages.

Across the country, similar tensions have simmered when federally subsidized renters escaped run-down housing projects and violent neighborhoods by moving to nicer communities in suburban Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles.

But the friction in Antioch is "hotter than elsewhere," said U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development spokesman Larry Bush.

An increasing number of poor families receiving federal rental assistance have been moving here in recent years, partly because of the housing crisis.

A growing number of landlords were seeking a guaranteed source of revenue in a city hard-hit by foreclosures. They began offering their Antioch homes to low-income tenants in the HUD Section 8 housing program, which pays about two-thirds of every tenant's rent.

Between 2000 and 2007, Antioch's black population nearly doubled from 8,824 to 16,316. And the number of Antioch renters receiving federal subsidies climbed almost 50 percent between 2003 and 2007 to 1,582, the majority of them black.

Longtime homeowners complained that the new arrivals brought crime and other troubles. In 2006, violent crime in Antioch shot up about 19 percent from the year before, while property crime went down slightly.

"In some neighborhoods, it was complete madness," said longtime resident David Gilbert, a black retiree who organized the United Citizens of Better Neighborhoods watch group. "They were under siege."

So the Antioch police in mid-2006 created the Community Action Team, which focused on complaints of trouble at low-income renters' homes.

Police sent 315 complaints about subsidized tenants to the Contra Costa Housing Authority, which manages the federal program in the city, and urged the agency to evict many of them for lease violations such as drug use or gun possession. Lawyers for the tenants said 70 percent of the eviction recommendations were aimed at black renters. The housing authority turned down most of the requests.

Coleman said the police, after a complaint from a neighbor, showed up at her house one morning in 2007 to check on her husband, who was on parole for drunken driving. She said they searched the house and returned twice more that summer to try to find out whether the couple had violated any terms of their lease that could lead to eviction.

The Colemans were also slapped with a restraining order after a neighbor accused them of "continually harassing and threatening their family," according to court papers. The Colemans said a judge later rescinded the order.

Coleman and four other families are suing Antioch, accusing police of engaging in racial discrimination and conducting illegal searches without warrants. They have asked a federal judge to make their suit a class-action on behalf of hundreds of other black renters. Another family has filed a lawsuit accusing the city's leaders of waging a campaign of harassment to drive them out.

Police referred questions to the city attorney's office.

City Attorney Lynn Tracy Nerland denied any discrimination on the part of police and said officers were responding to crime reports in troubled neighborhoods when they discovered that a large number of the troublemakers were receiving federal subsidies.

"They are responding to real problems," Nerland said.

Joseph Villarreal, the housing authority chief, said the problems in Antioch mirror tensions seen nationally when poor renters move into neighborhoods they can afford only with government help.

"One of the goals of the programs is to de-concentrate poverty," Villarreal said. "There are just some people who don't want to spend public money that way."

Tensions like those afflicting Antioch have drawn scholars and law enforcement officials to debate whether crime follows subsidized renters out of the tenements to the suburbs.

Susan Popkin, a researcher at the nonprofit Urban Institute, said she does not believe that is the case. But the tensions, she said, are real.

"That can be a recipe for anxiety," she said. "It can really change the demographics of a neighborhood."
28749  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon is PO'd at DHS on: January 05, 2009, 01:13:16 PM
The Department of Homeland Security in Action
04 January 2009

A Thai friend with whom I have traveled in Europe and Asia took time off from her job to meet me in Florida over the holidays.  This was a good time for me, as it was between reporting stints in the war. My friend, Aew, had volunteered to work with me in Afghanistan or Iraq, but I declined because many people around me get shot or blown up.  So we were looking forward to spending some vacation time together.  She comes from a good family; and one that is wealthier than most American families.  She didn’t come here for a job.  Well-educated, she has a master's degree and works as a bank officer in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Aew was excited about the prospect of visiting America for the first time, though she had traveled to many other countries and had the passport stamps to prove it.  She had no problem getting a U.S. visa, and she was paying her own way to fly.

Problems began when she entered the airport in Bangkok.  Aew had a one-way ticket to America, because we would travel back in the direction of the war before she would go home, but we did not know our exact itinerary, so she hadn't bought a round-trip ticket back to Thailand.  Before boarding the flight from Thailand to America, Northwest Airlines required Aew to buy a return ticket for 53,905 Thai bhat, or about $1,200 for a return ticket, else they would not let her board the flight.  Aew paid by her credit card and pushed on.  Understandably, it raises suspicions when a foreign national doesn't have a round-trip ticket in an age of massive illegal immigration -- even if that person is an educated professional with a home and career, and even though Aew has a ten-year visa to the United States.  Nevertheless, Aew paid approximately $1,200 for the return ticket, and so now had a return ticket. 

That is how it began.  She boarded the jet, eventually landed in Japan and then Minneapolis, before the final leg to Orlando.  While thousands of people have canceled trips to Orlando due to the failing economy, Aew was coming with cash to spend in Florida.  We would go to Disney, Kennedy Space Center and many other places; she'd be seeing the sights while I was meeting with military and other people in preparation for my upcoming return to Afghanistan for the long year ahead. 

I first met Aew in Indonesia during a break from the Iraq war.  I had gone to visit the site of the murder of my friend Beata Pawlak, who, along with about two hundred other people, was killed in a terrorist attack on the island of Bali.

After meeting in Indonesia, Aew and I stayed in touch.  We traveled at different times to Singapore, Great Britain, Thailand and Nepal.  Yet when Aew landed in Minneapolis, she was hustled away by an immigration officer.  After approximately 24 hours of exhausting travel, Aew was detained for about 90 minutes without cause, and as a result, she missed her connecting flight to Orlando.  She was brought into a small room where she saw a camera peering down.  The officer conducting the shakedown wore a name tag: "Knapp."  Five times she had traveled to China with zero problems, but Knapp grilled Aew with a long series of questions, rifling through her wallet, handling her credit cards and reading them carefully, questioning her piece by piece.  Her passport, thick with extra pages, showed stamps from countries around the world.  It contained the valid U.S. visa, and stamps and visas from countries she had traveled to, such as Great Britain, Japan, China, Nepal, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, South Korea, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Brunei, New Zealand and Cambodia.  She had traveled to some of these countries on multiple occasions, always paying her own way.  She never had problems.  Not even in China.  We had toured Parliament together in London, on a private expedition led by Member of Parliament Adam Holloway.  Aew was very interested to see the Royal Family, and was beside herself when I met Lady Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, who at that time read this website.  The British, including military officers, had treated her very well and she left with positive memories of Great Britian.

But that was Great Britain.  The American shakedown was just starting.  Her sister, Puk, was sending me SMS messages from Thailand, worried that Aew seemed to have disappeared.  I had bought Puk's daughters, North and Nurse, who are 8 and 9, a "talking globe" so they could track the travels of their Aunt Aew.  The last time I saw North and Nurse, we had taken them to the Chiang Mai zoo, and also to an elephant camp where the elephants paint.  Puk's husband, Bey, is a high-ranking Thai police officer who, as part of his duties, helps organize security for the Thai Royal Family. 

While the U.S. Immigration officer named Knapp rifled through all her belongings, Aew sat quietly.  She was afraid of this man, who eventually pushed a keyboard to Aew and coerced her into giving up the password to her e-mail address.  Officer Knapp read through Aew's e-mails that were addressed to me, and mine to her.  Aew would tell me later that she sat quietly, but “Inside I was crying.”  She had been so excited to finally visit America.  America, the only country ever to coerce her at the border.  This is against everything I know about winning and losing the subtle wars.   This is against everything I love about the United States.  We are not supposed to behave like this.  Aew would tell me later that she thought she would be arrested if she did not give the password.

The Government of the United States was reading the private e-mails of a U.S. citizen (me).  The Department of “Homeland Security” was at work, intimidating visitors with legitimate visas.  They had at least 24 hours to check her out before she landed in the United States.  What kind of security is this?  The Department of Homeland Security was at this moment more like the Department of Intimidation.

Officer Knapp called my phone as I was driving to the Orlando airport.  I was going to be there two hours early to make sure I would be on time, so that she had a warm welcome to my country.  But instead, Knapp was busy detaining Aew in Minneapolis and was on my cell phone asking all types of personal questions that he had no business asking.  Sensing that Aew was in trouble, I answered his questions.  Mr. Knapp was a rude smart aleck.  The call is likely recorded and that recording would bear out my claims.  This officer of the United States government, a grown man, had coerced personal information from a Thai woman who weighs 90 pounds.  I asked Aew later why she gave him the e-mail password, and she answered simply, "I was afraid," and “I thought I would be arrested.”

What could I say to alleviate any of this?  Could I say, "This is the U.S., nothing to be afraid of."?  The world already sees us as senseless bullies.  Aew might have been detained indefinitely; even I was concerned that the Department of Homeland Security might detain Aew for no reason.  Essentially, she had no rights.  They had already coerced her e-mail password out of her head through intimidation.

This does not make me feel safe: Our Homeland Security was focusing on a 40-year-old Thai bank officer while there are real bad guys out there. Thailand and the United States have had good relations for 175 years, and Thailand is one of the few countries in the world that is proud to say they are friends of the United States.  There are no threats to Americans from Thai people -- who, among other relevant things, are mostly not Muslims.  The King of Thailand was born in Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard.  I have never seen the King with a gun; only a camera.  His 2009 New Year’s speech was also a call for peace.  The King and his family helped bring widespread education to Thailand, which created a special problem.  Today there are large numbers of highly educated, successful women looking for highly educated men.  I remember General (ret.) McCaffrey, our former drug Czar, telling me a couple of years ago that the King of Thailand was incredibly important in wiping out opium poppies in Thailand.  The King of Thailand is highly respected by the government of the United States.  He is a very good man. 

During World War II, when the Japanese encouraged the Thai people to fight us, the Thai government actually declared war on the United States and Great Britain.  But the Thai Ambassador in Washington refused to deliver the declaration of war.  The upshot was that the United States refused to declare war on Thailand, and the Thai people formed a resistance against the Japanese.

Thai people refused to fight Americans.  Instead, they attacked the Japanese.  Has our government had problems recently with 90-pound, 40-year-old Thai women?  Do they blow things up?  Aew doesn’t even know how to light a match.  She doesn’t smoke or drink, and is more upright than your average southern Baptist.  She can’t even curse and gets upset if she hears me say a bad word about someone.  “Michael!” she says, “Don’t say that!” 

When I discovered that she had missed her flight, after about 24 hours of travel thus far, I called immigration at Minneapolis and asked to speak with Officer Knapp.  Knapp got on the phone, but this time it was me questioning him.  Knapp told me it was legal to read e-mails.  I asked for his first name, but he was afraid to give his first name, which was rather strange for someone working within the confines of an airport where everyone has been searched for weapons.  Where I work, in a war zone, soldiers give their first and last names and face Taliban and al Qaeda heads up, man to man.  I write about al Qaeda, Taliban and other terrorist groups who kill thousands of people.  My name is Michael Yon.  My first name is Michael.  Mr. Knapp hides behind a badge bullying a woman whose only activities are Yoga, reading, travel, and telling me what is healthy and unhealthy to eat.  Knapp is a face of Homeland Security.  How many other officers at Homeland Security bully 90-pound women, but are afraid to give their own names? 

Knowing that Homeland Security officers are creating animosity and anxiety at our borders does not make me feel safer.  How many truly bad guys slip by while U.S. officers stand in small rooms and pick on little women?

I have just returned from Afghanistan and Iraq on a trip with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and I can assure you that we can do better.  We do not have to violate human rights and insult our closest allies to maintain our security. 

Meanwhile, Aew had missed two flights; standby seats were full on the second flight, and I was considering flying from Florida to Minneapolis to get her myself.  I did not want Aew to have to sleep in the airport overnight.

I had intended to show Aew a bit of my country.  But it's taking a little while for her to get over her discomfort at being in America.  She was treated better in China.  So was I.
28750  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Burris and Franken on: January 05, 2009, 11:43:47 AM

How Burris and Franken Became a Matched Set

There was a reason that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told NBC News yesterday he is willing to "negotiate" a solution to the seating of Roland Burris, the Illinois Democrat appointed to take the vacant Senate seat held by Barack Obama until November.

"I'm an old trial lawyer," Mr. Reid said. "There's always room to negotiate." That's curious, given Mr. Reid's formerly adamant stance that Mr. Burris's appointment is fatally tainted because it was made by disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

One explanation for Mr. Reid's flexibility may be the political heat Senate Democrats would take for failing to seat an African-American in a body that currently has no blacks as members. But another is that Democrats might face charges of hypocrisy if on the same day they refuse to seat Mr. Burris, they move to seat Democrat Al Franken as the senator from Minnesota. A key argument Democrats are using to justify not seating Mr. Burris is that the Illinois Secretary of State is refusing to issue a certificate of appointment. But Mr. Franken, who currently leads Republican Norm Coleman by 225 votes, will lack a certificate of election from his state's Secretary of State when the Senate convenes tomorrow. While the state's canvassing board will likely declare Mr. Franken the winner today, Minnesota law holds that the Secretary of State can't certify Mr. Franken as the official winner until Mr. Coleman's expected legal challenge of the result is resolved.

But that hasn't stopped leading Democrats from moving to have Mr. Franken seated anyway. "With the Minnesota recount complete, it is now clear that Al Franken won the election. The Canvassing Board will meet tomorrow to wrap up its work and certify him the winner, and while there are still possible legal issues that will run their course, there is no longer any doubt who will be the next Senator from Minnesota," New York Senator Chuck Schumer said yesterday, echoing comments made last week by Minnesota's own Senator Amy Klobuchar.

If Democrats want to seat Mr. Franken despite the cloud hanging over the disputed recount that gave him a narrow lead only last week, they will have trouble explaining why they are denying Mr. Burris his seat, even though he had no role in Governor Blagojevich's alleged attempts to sell a Senate appointment. That's why Senator Reid now says the Senate could accept Mr. Burris if the appointment were made by a new Illinois governor or by Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, who is expected to become governor after Mr. Blagojevich is removed from office.

That says to me Mr. Quinn is being leaned on by Mr. Reid to signal that he would choose Mr. Burris if he becomes governor, thereby giving Democrats an out. But Mr. Quinn would simply be rubber-stamping the same choice that Senate Democrats thought unacceptable just last week. Senate Democrats should not be allowed to wiggle free of their previous position so easily, especially if they simultaneously try to seat Mr. Franken over the objections of Senate Republicans.
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