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29051  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Mid-West FMA training/seminars on: July 31, 2007, 11:36:34 PM
Woof Sgt Mac:

See this nearby thread:  http://dogbrothers.com/phpBB2/index.php?topic=1220.0 and feel free to email me at Craftydog@dogbrothers.com

Yip!
CD
29052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / In games, an insight into the Rules of Evolution: NYT on: July 31, 2007, 03:35:47 PM
In Games, an Insight Into the Rules of Evolution

By CARL ZIMMER
Published: July 31, 2007
When Martin Nowak was in high school, his parents thought he would be a nice boy and become a doctor. But when he left for the University of Vienna, he abandoned medicine for something called biochemistry. As far as his parents could tell, it had something to do with yeast and fermenting. They became a little worried. When their son entered graduate school, they became even more worried. He announced that he was now studying games.

In the end, Dr. Nowak turned out all right. He is now the director of the Program for Evolutionary Dynamics at Harvard. The games were actually versatile mathematical models that Dr. Nowak could use to make important discoveries in fields as varied as economics and cancer biology.

“Martin has a passion for taking informal ideas that people like me find theoretically important and framing them as mathematical models,” said Steven Pinker, a Harvard linguist who is collaborating with Dr. Nowak to study the evolution of language. “He allows our intuitions about what leads to what to be put to a test.”

On the surface, Dr. Nowak’s many projects may seem randomly scattered across the sciences. But there is an underlying theme to his work. He wants to understand one of the most puzzling yet fundamental features of life: cooperation.

When biologists speak of cooperation, they speak more broadly than the rest of us. Cooperation is what happens when someone or something gets a benefit because someone or something else pays a cost. The benefit can take many forms, like money or reproductive success. A friend takes off work to pick you up from the hospital. A sterile worker bee tends to eggs in a hive. Even the cells in the human body cooperate. Rather than reproducing as fast as it can, each cell respects the needs of the body, helping to form the heart, the lungs or other vital organs. Even the genes in a genome cooperate, to bring an organism to life.

In recent papers, Dr. Nowak has argued that cooperation is one of the three basic principles of evolution. The other two are mutation and selection. On their own, mutation and selection can transform a species, giving rise to new traits like limbs and eyes. But cooperation is essential for life to evolve to a new level of organization. Single-celled protozoa had to cooperate to give rise to the first multicellular animals. Humans had to cooperate for complex societies to emerge.

“We see this principle everywhere in evolution where interesting things are happening,” Dr. Nowak said.

While cooperation may be central to evolution, however, it poses questions that are not easy to answer. How can competing individuals start to cooperate for the greater good? And how do they continue to cooperate in the face of exploitation? To answer these questions, Dr. Nowak plays games.

His games are the intellectual descendants of a puzzle known as the Prisoner’s Dilemma. Imagine two prisoners are separately offered the same deal: if one of them testifies and the other doesn’t talk, the talker will go free and the holdout will go to jail for 10 years. If both refuse to talk, the prosecutor will only be able to put them in jail for six months. If each prisoner rats out the other, they will both get five-year sentences. Not knowing what the other prisoner will do, how should each one act?

The way the Prisoner’s Dilemma pits cooperation against defection distills an important feature of evolution. In any encounter between two members of the same species, each one may cooperate or defect. Certain species of bacteria, for example, spray out enzymes that break down food, which all the bacteria can then suck up. It costs energy to make these enzymes. If one of the microbes stops cooperating and does not make the enzymes, it can still enjoy the meal. It can gain a potential reproductive edge over bacteria that cooperate.

The Prisoner’s Dilemma may be abstract, but that’s why Dr. Nowak likes it. It helps him understand fundamental rules of evolution, just as Isaac Newton discovered that objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

“If you were obsessed with friction, you would have never discovered this law,” Dr. Nowak said. “In the same sense, I try to get rid of what is inessential to find the essential. Truth is simple.”

Dr. Nowak found his first clues to the origin of cooperation in graduate school, collaborating with his Ph.D. adviser, Karl Sigmund. They built a version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma that captured more of the essence of how organisms behave and evolve.

In their game, an entire population of players enters a round-robin competition. The players are paired up randomly, and each one chooses whether to cooperate or defect. To make a choice, they can recall their past experiences with other individual players. Some players might use a strategy in which they had a 90-percent chance of cooperating with a player with whom they have cooperated in the past.
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The players get rewarded based on their choices. The most successful players get to reproduce. Each new player had a small chance of randomly mutating its strategy. If that strategy turned out to be more successful, it could dominate the population, wiping out its ancestors.

Dr. Nowak and Dr. Sigmund observed this tournament through millions of rounds. Often the winners used a strategy that Dr. Nowak called, “win-stay, lose-shift.” If they did well in the previous round, they did the same thing again. If they did not do so well, they shifted. Under some conditions, this strategy caused cooperation to become common among the players, despite the short-term payoff of defecting.

In order to study this new version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma, Dr. Nowak had to develop new mathematical tools. It turned out that these tools also proved useful for studying cancer. Cancer and the Prisoner’s Dilemma may seem like apples and oranges, but Dr. Nowak sees an intimate connection between the two. “Cancer is a breakdown of cooperation,” he said.

Mutations sometimes arise in cells that cause them to replicate quickly, ignoring signals to stop. Some of their descendants acquire new mutations, allowing them to become even more successful as cancer cells. They evolve, in other words, into more successful defectors. “Cancer is an evolution you don’t want,” Dr. Nowak said.

To study cancer, however, Dr. Nowak had to give his models some structure. In the Prisoner’s Dilemma, the players usually just bump into each other randomly. In the human body, on the other hand, cells only interact with cells in their neighborhood.

A striking example of these neighborhoods can be found in the intestines, where the lining is organized into millions of tiny pockets. A single stem cell at the bottom of a pocket divides, and its daughter cells are pushed up the pocket walls. The cells that reach the top get stripped away.

Dr. Nowak adapted a branch of mathematics known as graph theory, which makes it possible to study networks, to analyze how cancer arises in these local neighborhoods. “Our tissue is actually organized to delay the onset of cancer,” he said.

Pockets of intestinal cells, for example, can only hold a few cell generations. That lowers the chances that any one will turn cancerous. All the cells in each pocket are descended from a single stem cell, so that there’s no competition between lineages to take over the pocket.

As Dr. Nowak developed this neighborhood model, he realized it would help him study human cooperation. “The reality is that I’m much more likely to interact with my friends, and they’re much more likely to interact with their friends,” Dr. Nowak said. “So it’s more like a network.”

Dr. Nowak and his colleagues found that when they put players into a network, the Prisoner’s Dilemma played out differently. Tight clusters of cooperators emerge, and defectors elsewhere in the network are not able to undermine their altruism. “Even if outside our network there are cheaters, we still help each other a lot,” Dr. Nowak said. That is not to say that cooperation always emerges. Dr. Nowak identified the conditions when it can arise with a simple equation: B/C>K. That is, cooperation will emerge if the benefit-to-cost (B/C) ratio of cooperation is greater than the average number of neighbors (K).

“It’s the simplest possible thing you could have expected, and it’s completely amazing,” he said.

Another boost for cooperation comes from reputations. When we decide whether to cooperate, we don’t just rely on our past experiences with that particular person. People can gain reputations that precede them. Dr. Nowak and his colleagues pioneered a version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma in which players acquire reputations. They found that if reputations spread quickly enough, they could increase the chances of cooperation taking hold. Players were less likely to be fooled by defectors and more likely to benefit from cooperation.

In experiments conducted by other scientists with people and animals, Dr. Nowak’s mathematical models seem to fit. Reputation has a powerful effect on how people play games. People who gain a reputation for not cooperating tend to be shunned or punished by other players. Cooperative players get rewarded.

“You help because you know it gives you a reputation of a helpful person, who will be helped,” Dr. Nowak said. “You also look at others and help them according to whether they have helped.”

The subject of human cooperation is important not just to mathematical biologists like Dr. Nowak, but to many people involved in the current debate over religion and science. Some claim that it is unlikely that evolution could have produced humans’ sense of morality, the altruism of heroes and saints. “Selfless altruism presents a major challenge for the evolutionist,” Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, wrote in his 2006 book, “The Language of God.”

Dr. Nowak believes evolutionary biologists should study average behavior rather than a few extreme cases of altruism. “Saintly behavior is unfortunately not the norm,” Dr. Nowak said. “The current theory can certainly explain a population where some people act extremely altruistically.” That does not make Dr. Nowak an atheist, however. “Evolution describes the fundamental laws of nature according to which God chose to unfold life,” he declared in March in a lecture titled “Evolution and Christianity” at the Harvard Divinity School. Dr. Nowak is collaborating with theologians there on a project called “The Evolution and Theology of Cooperation,” to help theologians address evolutionary biology in their own work.

Dr. Nowak sometimes finds his scientific colleagues astonished when he defends religion. But he believes the astonishment comes from a misunderstanding of the roles of science and religion. “Like mathematics, many theological statements do not need scientific confirmation. Once you have the proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, it’s not like we have to wait for the scientists to tell us if it’s right. This is it.”

29053  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Turkey on: July 31, 2007, 03:05:38 PM
Woof All:

With this analysis of the geopolitics of Turkey by the ever impressive Stratfor.com , we open this thread.

TAC,
Marc
=========================

The Geopolitics of Turkey
By George Friedman

Rumors are floating in Washington and elsewhere that Turkey is preparing to move against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an anti-Turkish group seeking an independent Kurdistan in Turkey. One report, by Robert Novak in the Washington Post, says the United States is planning to collaborate with Turkey in suppressing the PKK in northern Iraq, an area the PKK has used as a safe-haven and launch pad to carry out attacks in Turkey.

The broader issue is not the PKK, but Kurdish independence. The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group divided among Turkey, Iran, Iraq and, to a small extent, Syria. The one thing all of these countries have agreed on historically is they have no desire to see an independent Kurdistan. Even though each has, on occasion, used Kurdish dissidents in other countries as levers against those countries, there always has been a regional consensus against a Kurdish state.

Therefore, the news that Turkey is considering targeting the PKK is part of the broader issue. The evolution of events in Iraq has created an area that is now under the effective governance of the Iraqi Kurds. Under most scenarios, the Iraqi Kurds will retain a high degree of autonomy. Under some scenarios, the Kurds in Iraq could become formally independent, creating a Kurdish state. Besides facing serious opposition from Iraq's Sunni and Shiite factions, that state would be a direct threat to Turkey and Iran, since it would become, by definition, the nucleus of a Kurdish state that would lay claim to other lands the Kurds regard as theirs.

This is one of the reasons Turkey was unwilling to participate in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Americans grew close to the Kurds in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, helping augment the power of an independent militia, the peshmerga, that allowed the Iraqi Kurds to carve out a surprising degree of independence within Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Turks were never comfortable with this policy and sent troops into Iraq in the 1990s to strike against the PKK and pre-empt any moves toward more extensive autonomy. Before the war started in 2003, however, the Turks turned down a U.S. offer to send troops into northern Iraq in exchange for allowing the United States to use Turkish territory to launch into Iraq. This refusal caused Turkey to lose a great deal of its mobility in the region.

The Turks, therefore, are tremendously concerned by the evolution of events in Iraq. Whether northern Iraq simply evolves into an autonomous region in a federal Iraq or becomes an independent state as Iraq disintegrates is almost immaterial. It will become a Kurdish homeland and it will exist on the Turkish border. And that, from the Turkish point of view, represents a strategic threat to Turkey.

Turkey, then, is flexing its muscles along the Iraqi border. Given that Turkey did not participate in the 2003 invasion, the American attitude toward Ankara has been complex, to say the least. On one hand, there was a sense of being let down by an old ally. On the other hand, given events in Iraq and U.S. relations with Iran and Syria, the United States was not in a position to completely alienate a Muslim neighbor of Iraq.

As time passed and the situation in Iraq worsened, the Americans became even less able to isolate Turkey. That is partly because its neutrality was important and partly because the United States was extremely concerned about Turkish reactions to growing Kurdish autonomy. For the Turks, this was a fundamental national security issue. If they felt the situation were getting out of hand in the Kurdish regions, they might well intervene militarily. At a time when the Kurds comprised the only group in Iraq that was generally pro-American, the United States could hardly let the Turks mangle them.

On the other hand, the United States was hardly in a position to stop the Turks. The last thing the United States wanted was a confrontation with the Turks in the North, for military as well as political reasons. Yet, the other last thing it wanted was for other Iraqis to see that the United States would not protect them.

Stated differently, the United States had no solution to the Turkish-Kurdish equation. So what the United States did was a tap dance -- by negotiating a series of very temporary solutions that kept the Turks from crossing the line and kept the Kurds intact. The current crisis is over the status of the PKK in northern Iraq and, to a great degree, over Turkish concerns that Iraqi Kurds will gain too much autonomy, not to mention over concerns about the future status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk. The United States may well be ready to support the Turks in rooting out PKK separatists, but it is not prepared to force the Iraqi Kurds to give them up. So it will try to persuade them to give them up voluntarily. This negotiating process will buy time, though at this point the American strategy in Iraq generally has been reduced to buying time.

All of this goes beyond the question of Iraq or an independent Kurdistan. The real question concerns the position of Turkey as a regional power in the wake of the Iraq war. This is a vital question because of Iran. The assumption we have consistently made is that, absent the United States, Iran would become the dominant regional power and would be in a position, in the long term, to dominate the Arabian Peninsula, shifting not only the regional balance of power but also potentially the global balance as well.

That analysis assumes that Turkey will play the role it has played since World War I -- an insular, defensive power that is cautious about making alliances and then cautious within alliances. In that role, Turkey is capable of limited assertiveness, as against the Greeks in Cyprus, but is not inclined to become too deeply entangled in the chaos of the Middle Eastern equation -- and when it does become involved, it is in the context of its alliance with the United States.

That is not Turkey's traditional role. Until the fall of the Ottomans at the end of World War I, and for centuries before then, Turkey was both the dominant Muslim power and a major power in North Africa, Southeastern Europe and the Middle East. Turkey was the hub of a multinational empire that as far back as the 15th century dominated the Mediterranean and Black seas. It was the economic pivot of three continents, facilitating and controlling the trading system of much of the Eastern Hemisphere.

Turkey's contraction over the past 90 years or so is not the normal pattern in the region, and had to do with the internal crisis in Turkey since the fall of the Ottomans, the emergence of French and British power in the Middle East, followed by American power and the Cold War, which locked Turkey into place. During the Cold War, Turkey was trapped between the Americans and Soviets, and expansion of its power was unthinkable. Since then, Turkey has been slowly emerging as a key power.

One of the main drivers in this has been the significant growth of the Turkish economy. In 2006, Turkey had the 18th highest gross domestic product (GDP) in the world, and it has been growing at between 5 percent and 8 percent a year for more than five years. It ranks just behind Belgium and ahead of Sweden in GDP. It has the largest economy of any Muslim country -- including Saudi Arabia. And it has done this in spite of, or perhaps because of, not having been admitted to the European Union. While per capita GDP lags, it is total GDP that measures weight in the international system. China, for example, is 109th in per capita GDP. Its international power rests on it being fourth in total GDP.

Turkey is not China, but in becoming the largest Muslim economy, as well as the largest economy in the eastern Mediterranean, Southeastern Europe, the Middle East, the Caucasus and east to the Hindu Kush, Turkey is moving to regain its traditional position of primacy in the region. Its growth is still fragile and can be disrupted, but there is no question that it has become the leading regional economy, as well as one of the most dynamic. Additionally, Turkey's geographic position greatly enables it to become Europe's primary transit hub for energy supplies, especially at a time when Europe is trying to reduce its dependence on Russia.

This obviously has increased its regional influence. In the Balkans, for example, where Turkey historically has been a dominant power, the Turks have again emerged as a major influence over the region's two Muslim states -- and have managed to carve out for themselves a prominent position as regards other countries in the region as well. The country's economic dynamism has helped reorient some of the region away from Europe, toward Turkey. Similarly, Turkish economic influence can be felt elsewhere in the region, particularly as a supplement to its strategic relationship with Israel.

Turkey's problem is that in every direction it faces, its economic expansion is blocked by politico-military friction. So, for example, its influence in the Balkans is blocked by its long-standing friction with Greece. In the Caucasus, its friction with Armenia limits its ability to influence events. Tensions with Syria and Iraq block Syrian influence to the south. To the east, a wary Iran that is ideologically opposed to Turkey blocks Ankara's influence.

As Turkey grows, an interesting imbalance has to develop. The ability of Greece, Armenia, Syria, Iraq and Iran to remain hostile to Turkey decreases as the Turkish economy grows. Ideology and history are very real things, but so is the economic power of a dynamic economy. As important, Turkey's willingness to accept its highly constrained role indefinitely, while its economic -- and therefore political -- influence grows, is limited. Turkey's economic power, coupled with its substantial regional military power, will over time change the balance of power in each of the regions Turkey faces.

Not only does Turkey interface with an extraordinary number of regions, but its economy also is the major one in each of those regions, while Turkish military power usually is pre-eminent as well. When Turkey develops economically, it develops militarily. It then becomes the leading power -- in many regions. That is what it means to be a pivotal power.

In 2003, the United States was cautious with Turkey, though in the final analysis it was indifferent. It no longer can be indifferent. The United States is now in the process of planning the post-Iraq war era, and even if it does retain permanent bases in Iraq -- dubious for a number of reasons -- it will have to have a regional power to counterbalance Iran. Iran has always been aware of and cautious with Turkey, but never as much as now -- while Turkey is growing economically and doing the heavy lifting on the Kurds. Iran does not want to antagonize the Turks.

The United States and Iran have been talking -- just recently engaging in seven hours of formal discussions. But Iran, betting that the United States will withdraw from Iraq, is not taking the talks as seriously as it might. The United States has few levers to use against Iran. It is therefore not surprising that it has reached out to the biggest lever.

In the short run, Turkey, if it works with the United States, represents a counterweight to Iran, not only in general, but also specifically in Iraq. From the American point of view, a Turkish invasion of northern Iraq would introduce a major force native to the region that certainly would give Iran pause in its behavior in Iraq. This would mean the destruction of Kurdish hopes for independence, though the United States has on several past occasions raised and then dashed Kurdish hopes. In this sense, Novak's article makes a great deal of sense. The PKK would provide a reasonable excuse for a Turkish intervention in Iraq, both in the region and in Turkey. Anything that blocks the Kurds will be acceptable to the Turkish public, and even to Iran.

It is the longer run that is becoming interesting, however. If the United States is not going to continue counterbalancing Iran in the region, then it is in Turkey's interest to do so. It also is increasingly within Turkey's reach. But it must be understood that, given geography, the growth of Turkish power will not be confined to one direction. A powerful and self-confident Turkey has a geographical position that inevitably reflects all the regions that pivot around it.

For the past 90 years, Turkey has not played its historic role. Now, however, economic and politico-military indicators point to Turkey's slow reclamation of that role. The rumors about Turkish action against the PKK have much broader significance. They point to a changing role for Turkey -- and that will mean massive regional changes over time.
29054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: July 31, 2007, 10:51:39 AM
President Bush's Broken Promises
By MICHAEL RUBIN
July 31, 2007; Page A14

During his last 18 months in office, President Bush confronts a broader set of international crises than in his first 18 months. While pundits blame unilateralism and the Iraq war, the deterioration of Washington's relations with once-staunch allies has less to do with a lack of diplomacy and more to do with its kind.

Too often, the administration has sacrificed long-term credibility for short-term calm. Take Turkey. At the June 2004 NATO summit in Istanbul, President Bush promised Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that the U.S. military would shut down Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorists in Iraq. He did not. Three years later, the Turks no longer trust U.S. promises and may send their army into Iraqi Kurdistan.

Already the damage to U.S. prestige is severe. Once among America's closest allies, Turkey, according to a Pew Global Attitudes Project poll last month, is the most anti-American country in the world. Only 9% of Turks have a favorable impression of the U.S.; 83% hold the opposite view. Most blame U.S. inaction against the PKK.

On June 24, 2002, Mr. Bush declared, "The United States will not support the establishment of a Palestinian state until its leaders engage in a sustained fight against the terrorists and dismantle their infrastructure." Less than a year later the State Department reversed course, eliminating the cessation of terror as a precondition for engagement. Palestinian terrorism grew.

While the White House condemns Hamas terrorism, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah movement, to which Mr. Bush promised a half billion dollars in July, is equally culpable. A year ago Fatah's military wing threatened to "strike at the economic and civilian interests of these countries [the U.S. and Israel], here and abroad," and it claimed responsibility for a rocket attack on the Israeli town of Sderot in June.

Empty promises of accountability encourage terror by diminishing the costs of its embrace.

While terrorists benefit, Arab liberals pay the price for the president's rhetorical reversals. His promise in the second inaugural speech to "support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture" rings hollow as Egyptian police beat, arrest and sodomize protestors rallying to demand the rule of law.

Mr. Bush has yet to act on his promise to resolve the case of Palestinian banker Issam Abu Issa, whose visa the State Department revoked in February 2004 as he prepared to testify before the House Financial Services Committee on Palestinian Authority corruption. Nor has the president fulfilled a promise to demand the release of Libyan dissident Fathi Eljahmi, imprisoned by Moammar Ghadafi since March 2004. State Department officials say Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will visit the Libyan dictator this autumn, regardless of Mr. Jahmi's fate.

On June 5, 2007, Mr. Bush endorsed the Prague Declaration, which calls upon governments to instruct diplomats "to actively and openly seek out meetings with political prisoners and dissidents committed to building free societies through non-violence," and announced that he'd tasked Secretary Rice to implement it. U.S. embassies in the Middle East have yet to reach out to any dissident or political prisoner.

Increasingly, friends view Washington as an unreliable ally; foes conclude the U.S. is a paper tiger. This latter conclusion may transform broken promises into a national security nightmare.

Way back in April 2001, the president established a moral redline when he declared that the U.S. would do "whatever it took to help Taiwan defend herself" in the face of Chinese aggression. But amid Beijing's steady military build-up, Mr. Bush stood in the Oval Office beside Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and condemned Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian for holding a referendum on missile defense. Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Bush has yet to send a single cabinet-level official to demonstrate commitment to the island nation. Such contradictions may raise doubt in Beijing and encourage Chinese officials to test U.S. resolve.

After promising Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in May 2003 that Washington would "not settle for anything less than the complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantlement of nuclear weapons program," Mr. Bush directed his administration to do just that. Despite the administration's self-congratulations over its ephemeral deal with North Korea in February of this year, the fact remains that, against its allies' wishes, Washington acquiesced to Pyongyang's continued custody of its reactor and nuclear weapons. This broken promise is guaranteed to haunt the next U.S. administration.

Kicking diplomatic problems down the road is not a strategy. Addressing crises with insincere promises is as counterproductive as treating a hemorrhagic fever with a band-aid. Empty promises exacerbate crises. They do not solve them. While farsighted in his vision, it is the president's failure to abide by his word that will most shape his foreign policy legacy. It would be ironic if he justifies the "Bush lied, people died" rhetoric of protestors across the White House lawn in Lafayette Park, though not for the reasons they believe.

Mr. Rubin, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of the Middle East Quarterly.
WSJ
29055  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 31, 2007, 10:44:26 AM
MUSHARRAF & BENAZIR: A THREE-LEGGED RACE TO SAVE PAKISTAN
 

By B. Raman

Pakistan's President Gen.Pervez Musharraf and Mrs. Benazir Bhutto, twice Pakistan's Prime Minister in the past, have met in Abu Dhabi to discuss their plans for a three-legged race to refurbish their dented image and save  Pakistan from a fate  similar to what happened to Afghanistan post-1994, when the two acting in tandem----she as the Prime Minister and he as the Director-General of Military Operations--- brought the Taliban into existence and allowed Osama bin Laden to shift from Khartoum in the Sudan to Jalalabad in Afghanistan.

2. Nobody can question their patriotism. Both wish well of Pakistan and want it to play an important role not only in South Asia, but also in the Islamic world and the international community as a whole. Unfortunately, both have a strongly dented image.

3. Benazir's image got dented during her two spells as the Prime Minister (1988-90 and 1993-96).  Her most important contribution to Pakistan during this period was in persuading North Korea, through the intermediary of Beijing, to sell medium and long-range missiles and related technologies to Pakistan in return for Pakistan's help  to North Korea in getting over its food crisis and developing a military-related nuclear technology. The proliferation activities of Dr. A. Q. Khan reached their zenith when she was the Prime Minster and continued thereafter under Mr. Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf.

4. She had no other contribution to make to the well-being of Pakistan and its people. Karachi was up in flames. The Sindhis and the Mohajirs hated her despite the fact that she was from Sindh. Pakistan's economy went into the intensive care unit (ICU) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Fears that Pakistan might become a failed state surfaced for the first time when she was the Prime Minister. She let her husband Mr.Asif Zirdari handle the governance of the country for all practical purposes and draw financial benefit from it.

5. When Musharraf seized power in October,1999, and jailed his democratically-elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his action was greeted with some public applause. Not because he was popular with the people, but because Benazir and Nawaz through their misgovernance had become so unpopular that anybody after them was seen as a possible source of salvation. Musharraf's brief honeymoon with his people was not the outcome of any positive qualities which he had, but because of the people's disenchantment with the political class in general and with Benazir and Nawaz in particular.

6. Musharraf, a zig-zagger and a tactician par excellence, exploited the newly-realised importance of Pakistan for the US post-9/11, not only to improve his image in the eyes of the West, but also to take Pakistan out of the IMF's ICU. Pakistan has benefitted in some ways under Musharraf. Its economy has done well. Its strategic importance to the West is once again admitted. Its Armed Forces have once again been the recipients of military equipment from the US. Musharraf too has been a beneficiary of these changes. He is no longer seen as an unadulterated military dictator in the mould of Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan and Zia-ul-Haq. He has managed to have himself perceived as an enlightened authoritarian ruler----- just the medicine the jihadi-ridden Pakistani society supposedly needs.

7. But, unfortunately for him, his honeymoon with his people ended after the ham-handed manner in which he tried to intimidate Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury of Pakistan. His honeymoon with the US shows signs of ending after his repeated failures to implement his promises to modernise the madrasas, bring them under effective state control and put a stop to the use of Pakistani territory by Al Qaeda, the Neo Taliban and other terrorist organisations.

8. After Musharraf, the jihadi deluge. That was the impression he had managed to create in the US State Department. That impression now shows signs of changing. The present belief in the State Department is: Musharraf is good for the US so long as he lasts, but the jihadi deluge is already there.

9. The exercise to explore the possibility of  power-sharing by Musharraf and Benazir, which has been undertaken, is an attempt by two leaders----one military and the other political--- whose image has been dented by their sins of commission and omission, to prop up each other and help each other in retrieving some of their lost image. Domestically in the case of Benazir and domestically and internationally in the case of Musharraf.

10.If the two reach a final understanding and rule Pakistan jointly---he as the President with or without the uniform and she as the Prime Minister--- will Pakistan and its people benefit, will it be the beginning of the end of jihadi terrorism,will moderate forces ultimately prevail in Pakistani society?

11. Unlikely. Benazir and Musharraf let loose the jihadi Frankenstein's monsters during her second tenure as the Prime Minister. It will be unwise to believe that these two joint creators of the monsters will be able to vanquish them. Both are manipulators and opportunists to the core. Look at the way Musharraf is prepared to ditch the Pakistan Muslim League (Qaide Azam), which he brought into existence in 2002, in order to ensure his continuance in power. Look at the way Benazir is prepared to ditch the Pakistan Muslim League of Nawaz Sharif and other political leaders, who had suffered under Musharraf, in order to get back into the political orbit with the help of Musharraf.

12. What Pakistan needs today is a sincere ruler genuinely committed to the task of ridding  Pakistan of the evil of religious extremism and jihadi terrorism.  Neither Musharraf nor Benazir is such a figure. There is no such candidate for power visible on the horizon. Pakistan will continue to bleed till such a leader emerges.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com)

29056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / India-Iran on: July 31, 2007, 10:41:09 AM
Bad Company
Before the U.S. makes a nuclear deal with India, it should insist on an end to ties with Iran.

BY BRET STEPHENS
Tuesday, July 31, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

American and Indian diplomats have now completed negotiations for the U.S.-India Civil Nuclear Accord, also known as a 123 Agreement (after a section of the 1954 U.S. Atomic Energy Act that governs such deals). The agreement, which bridges the gap between what Congress approved late last year and the conditions demanded by India's government, would allow India to purchase U.S. nuclear technology and fuel, ostensibly for civilian purposes only. Whether New Delhi abides by that commitment is another matter: India first tested a nuclear device in 1974 using plutonium it had illicitly diverted from a Canadian-built reactor--a point apparently forgotten by Undersecretary of State Nick Burns, who noted in a press conference Friday that "unlike Iran. . . . India has not violated its nuclear obligations."

But never mind. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is not the noxious Indira Gandhi, 2007 is not 1974, and there are defensible reasons to support a deal--cementing a strategic relationship between two great democracies foremost among them. But that doesn't mean any deal, under any circumstances. Nor does it mean that Mr. Burns is entitled to shade what some of those circumstances entail, especially as they relate to India's curiously solid ties to Iran.

Take the following statement by Mr. Burns: "I would disagree . . . that somehow there's a burgeoning military relationship [between India and Iran]."

Now take an item from the March 19 issue of DefenseNews, under the headline: "India, Iran Form Joint Group to Deepen Defense Ties." According to the report, the agreement, "which follows the broader strategic partnership accord the two countries signed in 2003, emerged from high-level talks held here during the March 4-9 visit of Rear Adm. Sajjad Kouchaki Badlani, commander of Iran's Navy."

Or consider this Burnsian nugget: "We've made the argument that India has not proliferated its nuclear technology, that India, in effect, outside the [Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty] system, has played by the rules. . . ."

Yet in September 2004 the U.S. imposed sanctions on Chaudhary Surendar and Y.S.R. Prasad, both former chairmen of India's state-run Nuclear Power Corporation, "for allegedly passing nuclear secrets to Tehran," according to a March 2005 report in this newspaper. Though State later dropped the sanctions on Dr. Surendar, they remain in force against Dr. Prasad, who is believed to have passed on "the technology needed to extract tritium from heavy-water nuclear reactors." Iran is currently building such a reactor in Arak; tritium can be used to boost the yields of atomic bombs. Dr. Prasad denies the charges.

That is not all. Last year, State slapped sanctions on two Indian companies for selling Iran precursor chemicals for rocket fuel and chemical weapons. In April, the Department of Justice released a 15-count indictment against two Indian individuals "on charges of supplying the Indian government with controlled technology," including "electrical components that could have applications in missile guidance and firing systems."
In an eye-opening article in the current issue of the Washington Quarterly, Christine Fair notes that "India has developed intelligence outposts in Iran, including the Indian consulate in Zahedan and a relatively new consulate in Bandar Abbas, which. . . . provides India significant power-projection advantages in any future conflict with Pakistan."

Ms. Fair, a research associate at the United States Institute of Peace, also notes that "in the past, India helped Iran develop submarine batteries that were more effective in the warm-weather Persian Gulf waters than its Russian-manufactured batteries and is planning to sell Iran the Konkurs antitank missile."

Advocates of the U.S. nuclear deal with India recognize these facts. But they argue that they are largely driven by India's need for energy, which explains the 700-mile gas pipeline being built between India and Iran. Thus, says Mr. Burns, "the agreement also gives India greater control and security over its energy supplies, making it less reliant on imports from countries . . . like Iran."

Would that this were even half-true. India's relationship with Iran is driven as much by the desire to encircle Pakistan and gain access to Afghanistan as it is by energy concerns. Then, too, nuclear power, which can only provide base load electrical demand, cannot by itself supplant the need for hydrocarbons. "Any time you increase the base load generating capacity of a country, you generally must increase the amount of peak load capacity to match it," says nonproliferation expert Henry Sokolski. "And the most efficient peak load generators are natural-gas fired." Put simply, it's hard to see how building nuclear power will reduce India's interest in Iranian natural gas.


None of this has gone unnoticed in Congress. In May, seven members of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs sent a letter to Prime Minister Singh raising concerns about the Indo-Iranian relationship. Mr. Singh received a similar letter from eight U.S. Senators, including Republican Jon Kyl and Democrat Barbara Boxer. The letters were never answered. "You can take a sledgehammer to the heads of the Indians about this issue and they still won't get it," complains a Congressional staffer.
Actually, the Indians are starting to get it. "We are aware of our responsibilities and we know the danger of an Iran with nuclear weapons," says Raminder Singh Jassal, India's deputy chief of mission in Washington. He dismisses the naval visits as "ceremonial" and insists "we know how to calibrate our relationship [with Iran] without compromising on essentials."

Maybe that's true. Or maybe the U.S. and India have different notions of what a "calibrated" relationship means. But if Congress is going to punch a hole in the NPT to accommodate India--with all the moral hazard that entails for the nonproliferation regime--it should get something in return. Getting India to drop, and drop completely, its presumptively ceremonial military ties to Iran isn't asking a lot.

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

29057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 31, 2007, 10:17:22 AM
An interesting interview with the NY Times man in Iraq

http://hughhewitt.townhall.com/Transcript_Page.aspx?ContentGuid=5bdb3520-d829-4fdb-a2bc-6611d80faba4
29058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: July 31, 2007, 12:53:31 AM
Some fascinating details about the arresting officer

http://littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/?entry=26463_The_Koran_Complaint&only
29059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: July 30, 2007, 10:51:18 PM

http://www.fumento.com/military/ramadireturn.html

The tactics and learnings observed by Fumento last NOVEMBER where the product of many months of experience before THAT.

Belmont Club notes the same: http://fallbackbelmont.blogspot.com/...e-on-iraq.html

"Of course these Iraqi units did not spring into existence over night. They are the cumulative result of years of sustained effort. Even the removal of Iraqi deadwood grew from a process of weeding out the failures. Without diminishing the achievements of the current group of commanders the situation in Iraq must reflect both the mistakes and the solid accomplishments of those who came before."
and
"
Interestingly, al-Qaeda chose to make Iraq its decisive arena of confrontation with the United States. The US came to Iraq primarily to topple Saddam Hussein and remove one "state sponsor of terrorism" but it was Al-Qaeda that rushed in to stake its reputation there. A networked insurgency with followers in many Muslim countries could have chosen to attack America elsewhere. But instead it decided to focus its efforts on driving the US from Iraq. For that purpose its leadership established al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and funneled recruits into it from all over the world. This force was tasked with the explicit political goal of creating a Islamic Caliphate that would provide a prototype for a future Islamic state after the hated Americans had been driven out. Therefore much of the post-Saddam violence was probably the consequence of al-Qaeda's decision to flood all the resources of world terrorism into Iraq. Clearly Zarqawi's clear intention from the Samarra mosque bombing onward was to incite as much violence as he could. Given that al-Qaeda made Iraq the center of its global efforts, O’Hanlon and Pollack's admiration of MNF-I's decision to focus against it seems perplexing. Surely Petraeus had no alternative? Surely he was simply picking up the gauntlet? But that would not quite be true. Through much of 2005 and 2006 a variety of lines were suggested. Some argued that the US should lash out against Syria or Iran for allowing "militants" to transit their borders. Some believed Shi'a militias should be the primary target operations. Until recently many argued -- and still argue -- that al-Qaeda didn't exist in Iraq at all; so how could MNF-I focus against what was not there? So while taking on al-Qaeda now seems the obvious choice, in retrospect there were many other candidates vying for the title of Center of Gravity. Those bad guys still remain, but MNF-I saw al-Qaeda in Iraq as the key to the position and that choice, according to O’Hanlon and Pollack, appears to be the right one.

Time will tell. But if focusing on al-Qaeda in Iraq is the right choice the most interesting question is why. My own guess is that by attacking al-Qaeda, the US took engaged not only the most fanatical force in Iraq but the one with the most powerful narrative. And by shrewdly matching kinetic warfare with political warfare, organizing the victims of al-Qaeda's depredations, it brought the myth down to earth. As long as al-Qaeda remained an "idea" it might be regarded as invincible, a mystical will o' the wisp. But once this mystical force was forced to materialize in Iraq, it became embodied in the likes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his henchmen, who, viewed up close, turned out to be nothing more than brutal gangsters of the lowest and most sadistic type instead of latter day Companions of the Prophet. Even Zawahiri, despite his pretensions to refinement, could not avoid discrediting himself as he proved unable to resist threatening to gouge people's eyes out if they did not follow his bidding. It is said that no man is a hero to his own valet. Familiarity with the genuine article brought disillusionment, contempt and finally hatred for al-Qaeda.

And without the romantic mantle of apocalyptic Islamism to puff them up, both Syria and Iran would shrink to the third-rate powers that they truly are. In choosing al-Qaeda as its focus, MNF-I indirectly weakened both Teheran and Damascus in ways that both were powerless to counter. None of this has been completely achieved yet. But as O’Hanlon and Pollack state, Iraq while not yet won is getting better. And if the process continues much will be accomplished if al-Qaeda can be defeated in Iraq; their image tarnished beyond repair and their narrative shown to be a pack of lies. The New York Times article concludes "there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008." Yes, but to some degree it misses the point. What is happening on the battlefield is changing perceptions in Iraq and perhaps throughout the region. Ironically, the US Armed Forces may now know much better than the press that operations go beyond body counts. But whenever US forces are withdrawn the information war must go on. Because the one great probability in the Middle East is that each failed creed gives rise to a new one. The same Six Day War which discredited Nasserism simultaneously launched its successor movement. Radical Islamism harnessed the tide of disillusionment and redirected it to its purposes. And as Al-Qaeda falls in esteem in the Muslim world from its post-September 11 halcyon days, other ideologues will probably attempt to fashion a new movement based on its carcass. That's why the information war should go on until politics in the Middle East is transformed from a sequence of messianic movements to practical endeavor. Until then the victories on Iraq's battlefields will be temporary.
__________________
29060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 30, 2007, 08:49:19 PM
Second post of the day:
====================

Pakistan: Mooting the Bhutto-Musharraf Alliance
Summary

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the South Asian country's largest opposition party, could be on the verge of the much-awaited deal catapulting Bhutto out of exile and into the prime minister's chair. Contrary to expectations, the deal could end up damaging both. It also is unlikely that a power-sharing agreement between the military and Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party will help the struggle against extremism in the country -- and even could exacerbate it.

Analysis

Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the country's main opposition Pakistan People's Party (PPP), met July 27 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Pakistani presidential spokesman retired Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi officially confirmed July 30. Meanwhile, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Sher Afgan Niazi, himself a former PPP leader, said Musharraf can step down as military chief in order to facilitate the power-sharing agreement being worked out with Bhutto. Reports also surfaced that a number of Bhutto's bank accounts were unfrozen ahead of the meeting.

It appears back-channel negotiations between the Musharraf regime and the PPP, which have been going on for several years now, finally are headed toward the much-anticipated Musharraf-Bhutto power-sharing arrangement. Both Musharraf and Bhutto face intense opposition from within their respective camps regarding any deal. Musharraf's allies in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League are worried about their party's future in any power-sharing arrangement with the PPP, while Bhutto's party is very concerned about the fallout of doing business with a military ruler, an unthinkable deal not too long ago.

We have predicted that Musharraf is unlikely to emerge unscathed -- to say the least -- from the multiple crises brewing in Pakistan, especially his attempts to deal with the situation. But Musharraf might not be the only casualty from the political wheeling and dealing: Bhutto and her party also could end up being damaged. The expectations in various quarters -- such as the Pakistani government, Washington, etc. -- that Bhutto's entry into the Pakistani political system will stabilize it and will be good for democracy ignore certain ground realities.

First, Bhutto's party does not enjoy a monopoly over the Pakistani electorate. Though in a relatively free and fair parliamentary election the PPP probably will emerge as the single-largest party in parliament, a fresh legislative vote will produce a parliament divided among five major political forces and a number of smaller parties. This means the PPP probably will head an unstable coalition government, one far more volatile than during two previous PPP governments in the 1990s.

Second, the PPP is not what is used to be in 1986, when Bhutto made her first dramatic return to her country. The PPP's reputation has been tainted by allegations of corruption during her two terms. Moreover, in the last five years, the party has been weakened significantly because of the defection of some two-dozen members of parliament who joined the Musharraf government. Thus, going into the negotiations the PPP already is a weak force.

Deal-making between Bhutto and Musharraf, which has become a very public affair, is bound to cost the PPP some more votes no matter how carefully its leadership pursues the negotiations. Bhutto knows this well, and has acknowledged as much. She faces an uphill task involving doing business with a military government to stage a political comeback and avoid the cost of abandoning her party's historic image as the anti-establishment party.

PPP re-entry into the halls of power in Islamabad is thus unlikely to put Pakistan on the path of democracy, or for that matter even political stability. More disconcertingly, for a number of reasons a PPP government will be unable to deal effectively with increasing extremism and militant activity in the country.

Pakistan's problems run much deeper than a simple question of democracy versus authoritarianism, and extremism and militant activity are not simply byproducts of chronic political instability. The issue goes to the historical debate over the nature of the Pakistani state, which has raged since before the country's birth. The debate is over whether Pakistan should be secular or "Islamic;" and over who would define the latter using what criteria.

Further complicating matters, the historic mullah-military relationship has empowered radical and militant Islamist forces. Extremism and militancy are problems that cannot be cured alone by a democratically elected government working with the country's military establishment. As a secular party, the PPP cannot contain extremism and radicalism without working with moderate and pragmatic Islamist forces. Even the United States, with all its resources, is forced to work with political Islamists to contain the violent ones.

Historically, the PPP has faced the religious right's ire. In the current polarized atmosphere, particularly in the wake of the Red Mosque operation and Bhutto's open support for the facility's storming, such anti-PPP sentiment is likely to have grown. The PPP has gone out of its way to shun the country's main Islamist alliance, the Mutahiddah Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), fearing that by cooperating with the MMA against Musharraf could strengthen the MMA.

Even assuming the PPP would work with the MMA or its relatively moderate component, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the incoherent nature of the MMA and/or the JUI would present a serious obstacle. Pakistani Islamists not only are divided, they also have a murky relationship with the jihadists, further complicating matters from an anti-extremism and counterterrorism perspective. Overall, political Islamists in Pakistan are far more radical in their agenda than their Muslim Brotherhood counterparts in the Arab World.

Regardless of whether a deal between Musharraf and Bhutto emerges and how political events unfold as elections approach, the PPP is unlikely to create a stable democratic setup by partnering with the Musharraf government's civil-military hybrid. And the PPP not only would fail to curb extremism and militancy, the situation could get worse.

stratfor.com
29061  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: July 30, 2007, 08:41:13 PM
Iraq: The United States and Turkey Put Iraq's Kurds Under Pressure
July 30, 2007 21 44  GMT



Summary

U.S. syndicated columnist Robert Novak published an op-ed article July 30 saying the United States and Turkey are planning to launch a joint operation against Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq. This appears to be an intentional leak from the U.S. administration to appease Ankara and pressure Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government to act against the PKK to fend off a Turkish incursion. But just the talk of a U.S.-Turkish military operation in Iraq will end up further complicating U.S. efforts to effect a political resolution in Baghdad and could even give Iran an opportunity to outshine the United States.

Analysis

The United States is planning a covert operation with the Turkish army to "help neutralize" Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) rebels in northern Iraq, according to a July 30 Washington Post op-ed article by syndicated columnist Robert Novak. In the article, Novak says that secret briefings were held on Capitol Hill during the previous week by Eric S. Edelman who, before taking his current job as undersecretary of defense policy, was the U.S. ambassador to Turkey and an aide to U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney. When Edelman proposed the plan to unspecified lawmakers on the Hill, he reportedly assured them the operation would succeed, "adding that the U.S. role could be concealed and always would be denied."

Evidently, this plan is not so secret anymore, and it would be nearly impossible for the United States to conceal its role in any operation in northern Iraq now that the plan has been made public. It comes as no surprise that this leak came through the Washington Post and through Novak, who is well-known for his 2003 expose that identified Valerie Plame as a CIA operative. Washington evidently wanted to leak this story -- but why?

First, it assures Turkey that the United States is not turning a blind eye to PKK activity in northern Iraq, where the group has set up at least seven camps consisting of some 3,000 fighters. Anti-U.S. sentiment is soaring in Turkey to the point where senior officials in the political and security apparatus are seriously questioning whether Washington is intentionally using the PKK to harm Turkish interests. Turkish newspapers now regularly carry headlines accusing the United States of directly providing weapons support to the PKK, which only further enflame the Turkish public, whose feelings toward the PKK mirror those the Americans have about their soldiers getting killed in Iraq every day. News of a planned joint operation in northern Iraq is music to many Turkish ears, though the Turks will remain skeptical of the U.S. relationship with the PKK until they see action on the ground.

Second, Novak's article sends a clear message to Iraq's Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) that Washington's patience has worn thin, and that the only way to stave off a major Turkish incursion is for the KRG to do the dirty work itself and take action against the PKK. Though the PKK has sympathizers in northern Iraq for its fight against Turkey, and PKK rebels have found a safe-haven in the mountains, Massoud Barzani's Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and Jalal Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) do not exactly get along with their Kurdish PKK brothers. More than once, the KDP and PUK have fought against the PKK. In past internal struggles, the KDP has pitted the PKK against the PUK and vice versa. In fact, Barzani, who is largely in control of the areas bordering Turkey in northwestern Iraq, offered Turkey the KDP's assistance against the PKK in May 1997 in exchange for Turkish help in fighting the PUK. To make a long story short, the PKK is essentially a bargaining chip for the now-united Iraqi Kurdish leadership, which is fully expecting political concessions from Washington in exchange for a crackdown on PKK guerrillas.

But Washington is not exactly in a position to make significant political concessions to the Kurds -- namely anything involving the status of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk -- while it is desperately attempting to forge a political consensus in Baghdad among Iraq's warring factions. Any talk of the United States launching a joint operation with the Turks in northern Iraq is only going to harden the Kurds' stance on contentious issues holding up the political process (such as the pending oil legislation), making it all the more difficult for Washington to move the negotiations along.

With Novak's story making the headlines, the United States is betting that the Iraqi Kurdish leadership will succumb to pressure to act against the PKK itself, and thus preclude the need for a major Turkish incursion -- which would be an extremely messy situation considering the bloody result of having two NATO allies, PKK rebels and battle-hardened peshmerga forces fighting it out in mountainous terrain. U.S. forces in Iraq also are deeply engaged in the ongoing surge strategy to bring everything below Iraqi Kurdistan under some semblance of control, and they simply cannot afford to divert a significant number of forces up north to a new battlefront.

It is now up to the Iraqi Kurdish leadership to decide its next steps. Barzani is the more boisterous and nationalistic of the Iraqi Kurdish leaders in his statements, but has (not coincidentally) put a lid on his remarks to avoid riling the Turks further when the country is already itching to take action against the PKK. The PKK also has scaled back its attacks, and -- with some nudging by the KRG -- even called for a cease-fire July 17 to make it harder for Turkey to justify a major military operation. But insincere cease-fire calls will not suffice for Turkey, and the KRG is beginning to realize it will need to take a step further in pressuring the PKK if it wants to ensure that northern Iraq maintains its stable security and investment climate.

Moreover, Turkey has had a tumultuous election season and still has to hold what will likely be a very contentious presidential election some time in the next month. In order to maintain stability, the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party is very unlikely to approve a military operation into northern Iraq until after the presidential election passes. That election will probably involve the AK Party, with the backing of the Nationalist Movement Party, choosing as its presidential candidate Abdullah Gul, whose earlier nomination sparked a countrywide legislative crisis. If Gul gets the job, then the AK Party will have an even stronger incentive to go after the PKK to neutralize any potential backlash to Gul.

Before deciding on a course of action, the KRG has another important thing to consider: weather. Turkey historically has invaded northern Iraq in the spring, when the weather is optimal for military operations and the foliage in the region is not fully grown. After the Turkish presidential election, it will be fall, and snow sometimes falls in northern Iraq as early as November. That leaves a very short time frame for Turkey to act, or it would likely have to wait until the following spring. The weather does not completely rule out a Turkish military operation in the fall or early winter, but it will play a major role in the Turkish military chief's decision based on past incursions. If U.S. and Iraqi diplomacy could buy the KRG some time during Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's upcoming visits to Iraq in August and to Washington in the fall, Iraq's Kurdish leadership might be able to get by with taking limited action against the PKK. After all, the PKK traditionally calls for a cease-fire once the cold weather starts to kick in and heads for its hideout in the Qandil mountain range along the Iranian border to hibernate until the snow melts and the insurgency can start anew.

Iran, meanwhile, is watching Washington's diplomatic games closely and has been looking for opportunities to get closer to Ankara while anti-U.S. sentiment over the PKK is flaring in Turkey. The Iranians have strategically carried out cross-border military strikes against PKK hideouts in northern Iraq in recent months to win the hearts and minds of the Turkish public and highlight the common threat Turkey and Iran face from PKK activity in northern Iraq and the growing autonomy of Iraqi Kurdistan. As U.S.-Turkish tensions intensify in the coming weeks and months over military action against the PKK, Iran could see this as an opportunity to take action on its own against PKK guerrilla fighters and outshine the United States, thus bringing Tehran a step closer to its vision of a more robust, albeit flawed, anti-U.S. alliance in the region.

With so many variables in play in northern Iraq, Washington will have to move carefully to avoid getting caught in a bigger mess than it can handle while the bulk of its attention remains on finding a political resolution in Baghdad. The PKK might be a nuisance for the United States at this stage of the negotiations, but Turkey is set to convince Washington that this so-called nuisance is the crux of the U.S.-Turkish partnership

Stratfor.com
29062  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for Teachers, Schools, and Training Partners on: July 30, 2007, 08:40:10 PM
Yes, I had inferred that from the SD. My question however was and is what is there? cheesy
29063  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: July 30, 2007, 08:34:06 PM
Mexico Security Memo: July 30, 2007
July 30, 2007 21 26  GMT



Renewed Violence in Cartel Territory

Violent flare-ups occurred across much of northern Mexico this week, as Stratfor suggested it would in the previous Mexico Security Memo. The most noteworthy examples include a firefight in the border town of Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas state; a cartel shooting death in Ciudad Camargo, Chihuahua state; and three similar shooting deaths in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, where one body showed signs of torture and was wrapped in a sheet with a message pinned to it. In addition, a police official assigned to counternarcotics was found dead July 24 in Navolato, Sinaloa state, with a message from the Zetas pinned to his body, which showed signs of torture. He had been kidnapped a day before with another police officer. Sonora state police reported July 25 that a member of a drug gang was killed July 25 in the city of El Sasabe after being shot twice in the head. It is important to note that these states and most of northern Mexico, in addition to housing several large industrial cities with international companies, are considered cartel territory, and attacks in the region are becoming increasingly frequent.

One southeastern state that recently has become a hot spot for cartel violence is Veracruz. The state has long been important territory for the Gulf cartel, which brings drugs in from the Yucatan Peninsula to the Northeast and ships them on into the United States. However, only in the last few weeks has cartel-related violence increased in the area, including a rise in kidnappings and attacks against government officials. Some of the most recent incidents include the July 26 killing of a municipal official in the town of Zongolica and two firefights in the city of Veracruz on July 25. One possible explanation for the increase in reported violence in Veracruz is that previous incidents went unreported. This is plausible, especially considering claims made by police in Veracruz in June that they had been ordered not to report drug-related violence. However, the brazen nature of these more recent attacks -- firefights in large cities and attacks against government officials -- indicates this is a shift worth monitoring.

Corruption on the U.S. Side

Our reports have consistently documented instances of corruption among Mexico's police and government officials at all levels. However, it is important to note that the cartels' control of the border, and their ability to effectively smuggle drugs and people into the United States, suggests an ability to control officials on the U.S. side of the border as well. Cases in recent years have revealed corruption among U.S. Border Patrol agents, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers, city police officers, a Texas sheriff and Texas National Guard members assigned to patrol the border. These cases demonstrate that bribing immigration officials can be done for a relatively small amount of money, and that the officials are often unaware of the contents of the shipments they are allowing to pass through the border. Local law enforcement officers might participate in two ways: either by actively taking part in smuggling activities or by more passively agreeing to look the other way at a certain time and place while smugglers transport illegal shipments. The corruption problem is difficult to combat due to the enormous amount of money associated with the drug trade.






July 23

Authorities in Aguascalientes, Aguascalientes state, discovered the body of a man wrapped in a blanket. The man reportedly had been kidnapped several hours before, and his body showed signs of torture.

July 24

Police in Guerrero state reported finding the body of an unidentified individual near the town of Atoyac de Alvarez. The victim had been shot twice in the head.

State police in Mexico state reportedly detained an agent of the Federal Investigative Agency for extortion.

July 25

Workers in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco state, found the body of a woman stuffed in a plastic bag in a rural area.

Two separate firefights between suspected cartel gunmen and security forces were reported in the city of Veracruz, Veracruz state. The engagements resulted in a high-speed chase through the city and the detention of one suspect.

A Catholic priest in Hidalgo state was abducted from church property and later killed by his kidnapper, state officials said. Violence against clergy is rare in Mexico, and the preliminary results of the investigation do not suggest organized crime links.

Mexican army soldiers stopped a tractor-trailer with nearly 12 tons of marijuana on board in Ensenada, Baja California state, and arrested the driver.

July 26

A city official in Zongolica, Veracruz state, was found dead inside her home, bound at the hands and feet. Her brother is a candidate for city office in a nearby town.

Authorities in Michoacan state reported the shooting death of a man in Apatzingan, the wounding of a man in a shooting in Morelia and a kidnapping in Morelos.

A well-known businessman in Veracruz, Veracruz state, was abducted by a group of armed men while he was driving his vehicle. This was the eighth reported kidnapping in the state in July.

A group of about 20 heavily armed men attacked a prison in Juchitan, Oaxaca state, wounding one security guard. An official confirmed that the men were attempting to extract a prisoner, though government officials said no cartel-linked prisoners were being held there.

July 27

Mexican army soldiers exchanged gunfire with armed men in Ciudad Camargo, Tamaulipas state, detaining several suspects. Ciudad Camargo is on the U.S. border.

July 28

A small number of armed men claiming to belong to the Popular Revolutionary Army fired shots at a jail being built in Chiapas state, locked up three guards and painted messages on the building. No one was injured during the attack.

Authorities in Navolato, Sinaloa state, discovered the charred bodies of two men in a vehicle. One of the men appeared to be a federal police commander.

July 29

A Catholic priest in the San Rafael neighborhood of Mexico City was found dead on church property, bound at the hands and feet.

stratfor.com
29064  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Looking for Teachers, Schools, and Training Partners on: July 30, 2007, 05:03:07 PM
I gotta ask, what is in Rapid City SD?
29065  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 30, 2007, 04:50:03 PM
Haven't had a chance to review these yet, but it seems like a interesting list
of sources.

Marc
===========================

UNDERSTANDING PAKISTAN:
Jinnah's Pakistan: An Interview with MA Jinnah, and how the Pakistan of
Yesterday is the Pakistan of Today
http://iref.homestead.com/Messiah.html

Know Your Pakistan
http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE6-1/Shiv.html

The Monkey Trap: A synopsis of Indo-Pak relations
http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE5-2/khayyam.html

A landmark article that demolishes myths built up about Pakistan
http://www.saag.org/papers8/paper710.html

Pakistani Role in Terrorism Against the U.S.A
http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE5-2/narayanan.html

Pakistani Education, or how pakistan became what it is: Curricula and
textbooks in Pakistan
http://www.sdpi.org/archive/nayyar_report.htm

Making Enemies, Creating Conflict: Pakistan's Crises of State and Society. A
book written by Pakistanis on Pakistan.
http://members.tripod.com/~no_nukes_sa/Contents.html

Should Pakistan Be Broken Up? by Gul Agha
http://pakistan70.tripod.com/gul.html

PAKISTAN & TERRORISM:
Pakistani sponsoring of Terrorism
http://www.geocities.com/charcha_2000/
http://pak-terror.freeservers.com/Terror_as_a_Policy_Tool.htm

Ethnic cleansing in Pakistan - a statistical analysis
http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/MONITOR/ISSUE6-2/sridhar.html

A chronicle of genocide by the Pakistan army
http://www.gendercide.org/case_bangladesh.html

Inside Jihad - How Pakistan sponsors terrorists in India
http://www.time.com/time/asia/magazine/2001/0205/kashmir_sb1.html

Pakistan's Role in the Kashmir Insurgency - Op-ed by Rand's Peter Chalk
http://www.rand.org/hot/op-eds/090101JIR.html

http://www.boycott-pakistan.com/
This is a list of Pakistani businesses that may be aiding and funding terror
against India and other countries.

PAKISTAN TODAY:
On the Frontier of Apocalypse: Christopher Hitchens seminal article on
Pakistan today
http://newsstuff.0catch.com/article5.htm

Nuclear Enabler - Pakistan today is the most dangerous place on Earth by Jim
Hoagland
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8422-2002Oct24.html
http://meaindia.nic.in/bestoftheweb/2002/10/14bow2.htm

A Slender Reed in Pakistan - Editorial in the Christian Science Monitor
http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/1229/p08s03-comv.html

Seymour Hersh Interview
http://www.pbs.org/now/transcript/transcript_hersh.html

Pakistan's Nuclear Crimes (Wash. Post editorial)
http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A14272-2004Feb4

Commentary: The real culprit of 9/11?
http://www.washingtontimes.com/upi-breaking/20040722-051231-9906r.htm
http://www.indiadefence.com/LOA07Aug04.htm

BOOK REVIEW Fulcrum of Evil: ISI-CIA-Al Qaeda Nexus
http://www.saag.org/papers19/paper1844.html

PAKISTAN-FAILED STATE: an ebook that owes its origin and existence to BRF.
http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/EBOOKS/pfs.pdf

Article from Vinni Capelli - Foreign Policy Research Institute:
Containing Pakistan: Engaging the Raja-Mandala in South-Central Asia
http://www.fpri.org/orbis/5101/cappelli.containingpakistan.pdf

Essential videos on Pakistan actively supports the Taliban - Files are WMV
http://hosted.filefront.com/C0pyLeft/1870150

The videos are from this documentary:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/taliban/
29066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: July 30, 2007, 03:21:51 PM
Second post of the day:

Stratfor.com

U.S./TURKEY: The United States and Turkey are preparing to conduct a covert military strike against Kurdish militants in northern Iraq, The Washington Post reported in a column by Robert Novak. The report says the operation is aimed at preventing a Turkish invasion of Iraq and has been presented to members of Congress.
---------------
One wonders about the patriotism of Novak here--  angry unless this is a deliberate plant  huh but even that undercuts the ethos that one should not report these things , , , tongue
29067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Health Care Economics on: July 30, 2007, 10:12:02 AM
"There’s absolutely no mystery why our greatest complaints are in the arena of government-delivered services and the fewest in market-delivered services. In the market, there are the ruthless forces of profit, loss and bankruptcy that make producers accountable to us. In the arena of government-delivered services, there’s no such accountability... Our health care system is hampered by government intervention, and the solution is not more government intervention but less... Before we buy into single-payer health care systems like Canada’s and the United Kingdom’s, we might want to do a bit of research. The Vancouver, British Columbia-based Fraser Institute annually publishes ‘Waiting Your Turn.’ Its 2006 edition gives waiting times, by treatments, from a person’s referral by a general practitioner to treatment by a specialist. The shortest waiting time was for oncology (4.9 weeks). The longest waiting time was for orthopedic surgery (40.3 weeks), followed by plastic surgery (35.4 weeks) and neurosurgery (31.7 weeks). As reported in the June 28 National Center for Policy Analysis’ ‘Daily Policy Digest,’ Britain’s Department of Health recently acknowledged that one in eight patients waits more than a year for surgery. France’s failed health care system resulted in the deaths of 13,000 people, mostly of dehydration, during the heat spell of 2003. Hospitals stopped answering the phones, and ambulance attendants told people to fend for themselves. I don’t think most Americans would like more socialized medicine in our country.” —Walter Williams, Economist
------------------------------------------
“Despite what our Democratic Party leadership would have us believe, the increasing costs and inaccessibility of health care is the result of excessive government interference in this market as opposed to not enough. You’d think that our representatives in Washington would want to fix these distortions so that health care could be delivered more freely and hence more cheaply, imaginatively and abundantly. But this doesn’t sit well with the political-power-loving class in Washington. It would rather do what the Senate Finance Committee has just done: Ignore the real problems and then expand government even more to try and cover those who fall through the cracks. As a result, we get Medicaid for middle-class America and children getting health care from different suppliers than their parents. Brilliant! [President] Bush offered a creative proposal in his State of the Union address this year that would start addressing the problem at its root. It puts a $15,000 ceiling on the deductibility of employer health coverage, and offers a $15,000 tax deduction to every American family to purchase health care. This would change current economics that favor plans delivered through employers rather than purchased individually. Yet, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., who chairs the health subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee, declared the president’s proposal dead on arrival and said no hearings would be held. The proposal alone might not deliver gold-plated plans to working-class Americans. But it certainly would increase the accessibility of basic coverage.” —Star Parker
29068  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Cuba on: July 30, 2007, 10:06:16 AM
Cuban Tremors
By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY
July 30, 2007; Page A12

Cuba is not an island known for earthquakes, but "temporary" dictator Raúl Castro's speech to the nation last Thursday provides the clearest evidence yet that the tectonic plates underpinning the political status quo are shifting and perhaps even colliding.

Even the best Cuba experts who follow its politics closely caution against making predictions. But what seems evident from Raúl's language is that the government can no longer ignore the enormous suffering caused by a deteriorating economy. This crisis, together with the loss of Fidel Castro's charismatic political leadership, has left the regime in uncharted waters and perhaps even fearful.

Thursday's event was the annual celebration of the July 26 Movement, which commemorates the first armed assault on the Batista dictatorship by rebels in 1953. Normally Fidel gives this speech, but he hasn't been seen in public in about a year -- though he has been videotaped -- and there is speculation that the absences are due largely to a decline in his mental capacity. Whatever the truth, Raúl, who hasn't a shred of his older brother's charisma, has had to pick up the slack in public appearances before an increasingly dissatisfied population. At the same time he has had to run the secretive totalitarian machine, which may be beginning to experience its own internal strife.

In many ways the speech, delivered in the east-central city of Camagüey, was standard-fare Castrista rambling about the glories of the Revolution and the need to defend it forever, the ugliness and injustices of the "empire" (the U.S.) and its embargo, and the wonders of El Maximo Lider and socialism. But on matters of the economy Raúl seemed to break ranks and signal that he knows things cannot go on the way they are. A less sympathetic view is that the speech was crafted to calm down a population at the breaking point due to privation.

As he has done before, Raúl complained about the low productivity of the Cuban worker and tried hard to stir national pride toward improving the record. Yet there were moments when he seemed to be acknowledging that the system doesn't work. "We are duty-bound," he proclaimed, "to question everything we do as we strive to materialize our will more and more perfectly, to change concepts and methods which were appropriate at one point but have been surpassed by life itself." In other words, which were surpassed by reality.

He also recognized the problem of low wages, linking them to low productivity. He noted that the average Cuban salary, less than $20 a month, is "clearly insufficient to meet all the needs, so that it practically ceased to fulfill the socialist principle that each contribute according to his abilities and receive according to his work." Whether intentional or not, that reference to Marx is not quite right. The father of communism called for each to receive according to his "need" while Raúl suggests it should be according to his input. He also contemplated "incentives" for producers. Somebody is wandering off the reservation.

It is not insignificant that he said that Cuba has "not yet come out of the Special Period." That term was supposed to apply to "temporary" adjustments in policy designed in 1992 to help the country overcome the hardship caused by the end of Soviet financing. This included inviting foreign investment, allowing the operation of farmers' markets and some small businesses and the legalization of the U.S. dollar. It is widely agreed that Raúl and his friends in the military championed these changes while Fidel went along grudgingly. Fidel Castro subsequently withdrew many of those privileges, and more than 16 years later the dire economic circumstances continue. Even Venezuelan financing to the tune of $1 billion-$2 billion a year has not reversed the decline.

This is why Raúl's references to foreign investment on Thursday are intriguing. "We are currently studying the possibility of securing more foreign investment, of the kind that can provide us with capital, technology or markets," he told the nation. This is a clear reference to the China model of economic liberalization, which Raúl has long advocated for Cuba.

None of this is to suggest that Fidel's little brother, known for his ruthlessness, dreams of a freer Cuba. As the regime's most bloodthirsty enforcer, he has been at the forefront of a renewed wave of repression -- some say orchestrated in anticipation of Fidel's passing -- that began in March-April 2003 with a nationwide crackdown on dissidents. Seventy-five of those arrested were handed sentences averaging more than 20 years; state security attacks on government critics have since escalated, according to the Cuban Directorio in Miami, which tracks such incidents.

But the man is desperate. He cannot put the whole island in jail, and with food and milk shortages growing, it may become increasingly difficult to keep the lid on things. As Armando Valladares, a former political prisoner who spent 22 years in Castro gulags told me in an interview last month, terror as a way to control people has its limits. In Mr. Valladares's view, the Cuban people are very near if not over that limit, suggesting that even a small spark could ignite a massive rebellion -- not unlike what happened in Romania. Directorio says that the number and size of public acts of dissent have been rising every year despite the brutality of Raúl's goons. Last month 70 people marched in Camagüey in an unprecedented display of support for a political prisoner.

Raúl is also facing his legacy within the military. Having carried out Fidel's dirty work, such as the execution of popular Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa, he's garnered a lot of enemies over the years. If rumors of rumblings in the barracks are true, he could be the counterrevolution's first victim. To avoid that fate, he has to get the economy going, and he now seems to be pinning his hopes on a new U.S. administration that might end the embargo. On Thursday he repeated Cuba's "willingness to discuss on equal footing" its "dispute with the U.S."

Lifting the embargo might give Raúl some breathing room, but he can't do much until big brother passes. "The problem for Raúl is that Fidel won't die," says Ernesto Betancourt who represented the July 26 Movement in Washington in 1957 and 1958 and probably understands the regime as well or better than any Cuban exile. "He might want to make changes but Fidel won't allow them." Ironically, once Fidel is no longer around to hold together the depraved and nihilistic regime, Raúl's chances of survival may be even grimmer.
WSJ
29069  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: July 30, 2007, 10:01:59 AM
Whose Ox Is Gored
After Bush's victory, liberals shouted "Voter fraud!" Why have they changed their tune?
WSJ
Monday, July 30, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

When Republicans win elections, liberals are quick to cry fraud. But when actual fraud is found, they are just as quick to deny it, if Democrats are the ones who benefit.

Just before the 2004 election, the influential blog DailyKos.com warned of a "nationwide" wave of voter fraud against John Kerry. After the election, liberal blogger Josh Marshall urged Mr. Kerry not to concede because the election had been "too marred with voter suppression, dirty tricks and other unspeakable antics not to press every last possibility" of changing the outcome. When Congress met in January 2005 to certify the election results, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) and Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D., Ohio) challenged Mr. Bush's victory and forced Congress to debate the issue. Months later, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean maintained that blacks had been the victims of "massive voter suppression" in Ohio.

But now liberals are accusing the Bush Justice Department of cooking up spurious claims of voter fraud in the 2006 elections and creating what the New York Times calls a "fantasy" that voter fraud is a problem. Last week Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Judiciary Committee chairman, claimed that the administration fired eight U.S. attorneys last year in order to pressure prosecutors "to bring cases of voter fraud to try to influence elections." He said one replacement U.S. attorney in Kansas City, Mo., was a "partisan operative" sent "to file charges on the eve of an election in violation of Justice Department guidelines." But the Kansas City prosecution was approved by career Justice lawyers, and the guidelines in question have since been rewritten by career lawyers in the Public Integrity section of Justice.

But last week also brought fresh evidence that voter fraud is a real problem and could even branch out into cyberspace:

• California's Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat, reported that state-approved hackers had been "able to bypass physical and software security in every [voting] machine they tested," although she admitted that the hackers had access to internal security information and source codes that vote thieves wouldn't normally have.

• The Florida secretary of state's office reported it had found "legally sufficient" evidence that some 60 people in Palm Beach County had committed voter fraud by voting both there and in New York state. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has launched a formal probe. In 2004, New York's Daily News found that 46,000 people were illegally registered to vote in both New York and Florida.

• Prosecutors in Hoboken, N.J., last week announced they are investigating a vagrant who was part of a group of voters observed to be acting suspiciously outside a polling place in an election last month. After he signed a voting register in the name of another man, he was confronted by a campaign worker and fled the scene. He later admitted to cops that he had been paid $10 to vote.

• Last week the U.S. Department of Justice recommended that an outside party be appointed to oversee Democratic primary elections in Noxubee County, Miss. In June, federal district judge Tom Lee found that Ike Brown, the Democratic political boss of Noxubee, had paid notaries public to visit voters and illegally mark their absentee ballots, imported illegal candidates to run for county office and manipulated the registration rolls.





But the most interesting news came out of Seattle, where on Thursday local prosecutors indicted seven workers for Acorn, a union-backed activist group that last year registered more than 540,000 low-income and minority voters nationwide and deployed more than 4,000 get-out-the-vote workers. The Acorn defendants stand accused of submitting phony forms in what Secretary of State Sam Reed says is the "worst case of voter-registration fraud in the history" of the state.
The list of "voters" registered in Washington state included former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, New York Times columnists Frank Rich and Tom Friedman, actress Katie Holmes and nonexistent people with nonsensical names such as Stormi Bays and Fruto Boy. The addresses used for the fake names were local homeless shelters. Given that the state doesn't require the showing of any identification before voting, it is entirely possible people could have illegally voted using those names.

Local officials refused to accept the registrations because they had been delivered after last year's Oct. 7 registration deadline. Initially, Acorn officials demanded the registrations be accepted and threatened to sue King County (Seattle) officials if they were tossed out. But just after four Acorn registration workers were indicted in Kansas City, Mo., on similar charges of fraud, the group reversed its position and said the registrations should be rejected. But by then, local election workers had had a reason to carefully scrutinize the forms and uncovered the fraud. Of the 1,805 names submitted by Acorn, only nine have been confirmed as valid, and another 34 are still being investigated. The rest--over 97%--were fake.

In Kansas City, where two Acorn workers have pleaded guilty to committing registration fraud last year while two others await trial, only 40% of the 35,000 registrations submitted by the group turned out to be bogus. But Melody Powell, chairman of the Kansas City Board of Elections, says Acorn's claim that it brought the fraud in her city to light is "seriously misleading." She says her staff first took the evidence to the FBI, and only then Acorn helped identify the perpetrators. "It's a potential recipe for fraud," she says, noting that "anyone can find a voter card mailed to a false apartment building address lying around a lobby and use it to vote." Ms. Powell also worries that legitimate voters who were registered a second time by someone else under a false address might find it difficult to vote.

In Washington state, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg said that in lieu of charging Acorn itself as part of the registration fraud case, he had worked out an agreement by which the group will pay $25,000 to reimburse the costs of the investigation and formally agree to tighten supervision of its activities, which Mr. Satterberg said were rife with "lax oversight."

Last year several Acorn employees told me that the Acorn scandals that have cropped up around the country are no accident. "There's no quality control on purpose, no checks and balances," says Nate Toler, who was head of an Acorn campaign against Wal-Mart in California until late last year, when Acorn fired him for speaking to me.

Loretta Barton, another former community organizer for Acorn, told me that "all Acorn wanted from registration drives was results." Ironically, given Acorn's strong backing from unions, Ms. Barton alleges that when she and her co-workers asked about forming a union, they were slapped down: "We were told if you get a union, you won't have a job." There is some history here: In 2003, the National Labor Relations Board ordered Acorn to rehire and pay restitution to three employees it had illegally fired for trying to organize a union.

Acorn president John James told reporters last week that his group will cooperate with election officials to make sure "no one is trying to pull a fast one on us." "We are looking to the future," he said in a statement. "Voter participation is a vital part of our work to increase civic participation."





But the Acorn case points up just how difficult it is to convince prosecutors to bring voter fraud cases. Donald Washington, a former U.S. attorney for northern Louisiana, admits that "most of the time, we can't do much of anything [about fraud] until the election is over. And the closer we get to the election, the less willing we are to get involved because of just the appearance of impropriety, just the appearance of the federal government somehow shading how this election ought to occur." Several prosecutors told me they feared charges of racism or of a return to Jim Crow voter suppression tactics if they pursued touchy voter fraud cases--as indeed is now happening as part of the reaction to the U.S. attorney firings.
Take Washington state, where former U.S. attorney John McKay declined to pursue allegations of voter fraud after that state's hotly contested 2004 governor's race was decided in favor of Democrat Christine Gregoire by 133 votes on a third recount. As the Seattle media widely reported, some "voters" were deceased, others were registered in storage lockers, and still others were ineligible felons. Extra ballots were "found" and declared valid 10 times during the vote count and recount. In some precincts, more votes were cast than voters showed up at the polls.

Mr. McKay insists he left "no stone unturned" in investigating allegations of fraud in the governor's race but found no evidence of a crime. But in an interview with Stefan Sharkansky of SoundPolitics.com in May, Mr. McKay admitted that he "didn't like the way the election was handled" and that it had "smelled really, really bad." His decision not to prosecute was apparently based on the threshold of evidence he insisted be met before he would even deploy FBI agents to investigate: a firsthand account of a conspiracy to alter the outcome of the election.

But Mr. McKay is incorrect in saying that he had to find a conspiracy in order to reach the federal threshold for election crimes. In Milwaukee, after the 2004 election U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic investigated many of the same problems that were found in Seattle: felons voting, double-voting and more votes cast than voters who signed poll books. In 2005 Mr. Biskupic concluded that he had found nothing that "has shown a plot to try to tip an election," but he nonetheless prosecuted and won six convictions for felon voting and double-voting.

Tom McCabe, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association in Washington state, says he is pleased that the evidence his group compiled was helpful in securing the indictments of the seven Acorn workers last week. But he can't help but wonder if the Acorn workers who forged registrations last year were part of the cadre of election workers who were allowed by a local judge after the 2004 governor's election to seek out voters who had given problematic signatures on their voter-registration cards and helped them "revise" their registrations in order to make their votes valid. "We may never know whether Acorn workers forged signatures in 2004, but we know they did in 2006," he says. "Those who think voter fraud isn't an ongoing problem should come to Washington state."

Instead, Sen. Leahy and other liberals are busy dismissing concerns about voter fraud, no doubt in an effort to make certain the Justice Department drops the issue as a priority before the 2008 election. But the blunders and politicization of parts of the Bush Justice Department notwithstanding, voter fraud deserves to be investigated and prosecuted. The Justice Department may be dysfunctional and poorly led, but the Democratic Congress seems more interested in paralyzing its activities than helping to fix the problem.


29070  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: July 30, 2007, 09:56:19 AM
WSJ

AL QAEDA WATCH

The Real Wiretapping Scandal
Our Terrorist Surveillance Program isn't as effective it was a few months ago. Where's the outrage?

BY DAVID B. RIVKIN, JR. AND LEE A. CASEY
Monday, July 30, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

Last Tuesday's Senate Judiciary Committee hearing--at which Attorney General Alberto Gonzales was insulted by senators and ridiculed by spectators--was Washington political theater at its lowest. But some significant information did manage to get through the senatorial venom directed at Mr. Gonzales. It now appears certain that the terrorist surveillance program (TSP) authorized by President Bush after 9/11 was even broader than the TSP that the New York Times first revealed in December 2005.

It is also clear that Mr. Gonzales, along with former White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card, tried to preserve that original program with the knowledge and approval of both Republican and Democratic members of key congressional committees. Unfortunately, they failed and the program was narrowed. Today, the continuing viability of even the slimmed-down TSP--an indispensable weapon in the war on terror--remains in serious doubt.

The administration's most immediate concern since 9/11 has understandably been whether al Qaeda sleeper agents, already inside the U.S., would carry out additional catastrophic strikes. To counter this real and continuing threat, President Bush authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept a full range of al Qaeda communications, presumably on a global basis.

The TSP was not implemented pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which permits a special federal court to issue surveillance orders when Americans and others are targeted for intelligence gathering inside the U.S. Rather than utilizing FISA's cumbersome and restrictive procedures, the administration relied on the president's inherent constitutional authority as commander in chief to monitor enemy communications in wartime, as presidents have done since Lincoln's day.

In addition, the administration correctly relied on Congress's Sept. 18, 2001, authorization for the use of military force against al Qaeda. In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that this statute authorized the president to employ all the "fundamental incident\[s\] of waging war." This, by any reasonable standard, would include secretly listening in on the enemy's phone calls, and reading their faxes, emails and text messages.





At least, that is what one would have thought. In December 2005, however, a firestorm of controversy erupted when The New York Times published a story describing the TSP. Although it was clear from the beginning that the program targeted al Qaeda--a particular communication was intercepted based on the presence of a suspected al Qaeda operative on at least one end--and not directed at ordinary Americans going about their daily routines, the administration's critics quickly wove the TSP into their favorite overarching anti-Bush narrative. They cited it as just one more example of a supposedly power-hungry president, the new "king George," chewing up our civil liberties.
Administration officials, including Attorney General Gonzales, repeatedly explained the TSP to Congress and the public, presumably to an extent consistent with continuing national security imperatives. In particular, they said that only communications where at least one party to the conversation was outside of the U.S. were intercepted; purely domestic calls were not in play. But after months of congressional pressure, and having failed to secure new legislation that would have fundamentally revised FISA, the administration announced in January this year that it had reached an agreement with the special FISA court to bring the TSP under judicial auspices.

The administration also claimed that the program remained as encompassing as before, so that no national security interest had been compromised by the new arrangement. The TSP's defenders were skeptical. Given how FISA orders are normally sought and granted, it is difficult to believe that they could be used to surveil all conversations of legitimate security interest--such as those involving people who are not full-fledged al Qaeda members, but who are its witting or unwitting supporters. Intercepting the full spectrum of al Qaeda communications is indispensable to obtaining a full picture of its activities, and protecting the American people from attack.

And while the FISA concession put new restrictions on a program that had successfully protected America from attack since 9/11, it did not dampen the TSP controversy. In May, former Deputy Attorney General James Comey described--before a far more congenial Senate Judiciary Committee--a dramatic late night confrontation in March, 2004. It involved Mr. Comey, FBI Director Robert Mueller, Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card, all gathered in the hospital room of then Attorney General John Ashcroft. Mr. Ashcroft, who must have signed off on, or at least have known about, the TSP years before, had transferred his authority to Mr. Comey for the duration of his gallbladder surgery. Mr. Comey refused to re-approve the program (which was expiring the next day) because of legal concerns, and the White House wanted Mr. Ashcroft to overrule him.

Mr. Ashcroft, however, now sided with Mr. Comey. Reportedly, he and others even threatened to resign if Mr. Comey did not get his way. The matter quickly reached the president, who authorized Mr. Comey to revise the TSP. The result, it should be emphasized, was the restructured TSP, which was subsequently revealed and vociferously attacked by the administration's critics in December 2005. Those critics, in and out of Congress, immediately seized upon Mr. Comey's May 15 testimony as proof that Mr. Gonzales had lied to Congress when he stated earlier that there was no disagreement at Justice regarding the TSP's legality.

Last Tuesday, however, the circumstances of this midnight drama and the nature of the issues at stake got a lot clearer. Mr. Gonzales, who obviously is still trying to explain things without revealing TSP details that remain classified, noted that the emergency visit to Mr. Ashcroft came after a meeting with White House personnel and the so-called "gang of eight"--the heads of various congressional intelligence committees--who agreed that the TSP had to continue. (Predictably, a number of "gang of eight" Democrats dispute this consensus, but they were clearly aware of the program and presumably White House logs can verify their meeting attendance.)

What now seems equally indisputable is that Mr. Gonzales did not lie to Congress--top Justice Department officials had all approved the 2005 TSP to which he was referring. The disagreement described by Mr. Comey involved the original TSP, in place from 2001-2004. This also explains Mr. Gonzales's statement Tuesday, which prompted calls for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate him for perjury, that the White House meeting with congressional leaders was devoted to discussion of "other intelligence activities." In the language of congressional intelligence oversight, even minimal differences between one program and another can constitute "other" distinct intelligence activities. In this context, Mr. Gonzales was clearly referring to the original TSP, the details of which remain classified, and not the 2005 TSP. Although it is impossible to know for sure, it is a good bet that the original TSP--to which Mr. Comey objected--was broader than the 2005 program and that it permitted interception of al Qaeda communications entirely within the United States (and may also be connected in some manner to datamining efforts, as suggested in Sunday's New York Times).

Such interceptions, unlike the monitoring of international wire traffic, could not be plausibly claimed to fall outside of FISA's language, although they could certainly be justified based on the president's wartime authority to spy on the enemy. Evidently, Mr. Comey didn't think so--or at least was unprepared to issue a compliance certification on the point. Reasonable minds can disagree here, but there was nothing inappropriate about White House officials trying to have Mr. Comey overruled by his boss. John Ashcroft certainly could have reassumed his authority as attorney general, even in his hospital bed.

What has gotten lost in all of this increasingly sordid game of political gotcha is the viability of a critical program in the war on terror. The TSP was brought under the FISA court's jurisdiction this January, allegedly without impairing its effectiveness. But FISA orders are not permanent. They must be periodically reissued, and FISA judges rotate. As an editorial on the facing page of the Journal first reported Friday, well-placed sources say that today's FISA-compliant TSP is only about "one-third" as effective as the 2005 version--which, in turn, was less comprehensive than the original program. This is shocking during a summer of heightened threat warnings, and should be unacceptable to Congress and the American people.

The problem is particularly acute because FISA's 1978 framework has been rendered dysfunctional by the evolution of technology. FISA was enacted in a world where intercepts of purely foreign communications were conducted overseas, and were entirely exempt from the statutory strictures. Only true U.S. domestic communications were intercepted on U.S. soil and these intercepts were subjected to FISA's prescriptive procedures. Yet, with today's fiber optic networks functioning as the sinews of the global communications system, entirely foreign calls--say between al Qaeda operatives overseas--often flow through U.S. facilities and can be most reliably intercepted on American soil. Subjecting these intercepts to FISA strictures is absurd.

Moreover, the very fact that the intelligence community operates in a state of continued uncertainty about what precise surveillance parameters would be allowed in the future--instead of having the collection efforts driven entirely by the unfolding operational imperatives--is both unprecedented in wartime and highly detrimental. In past wars, as fighting continued, valuable battlefield experience was gathered, causing weapons systems, military organization and combat techniques to improve consistently. In this difficult war with al Qaeda, by contrast, the key battlefield intelligence-gathering program has been repeatedly emasculated.





Congress' obsession with the TSP's legal pedigree has become the major threat to its continued viability, rivaling in its deleterious impact the infamous "wall," much criticized by the 9/11 Commission, which prevented information sharing between the Justice Department's intelligence and law-enforcement divisions. It is hypocritical for those in Congress who preach fidelity to the 9/11 Commission recommendations to behave so dramatically at odds with their spirit. The question Judiciary Committee members should have been asking Mr. Gonzales was not whether he had misled them--he clearly did not--but whether the TSP is still functioning well. The question the public should be asking those senators--and with not much more civility than the senators showed Mr. Gonzales--is what are they going to do about it if the answer is no.
Messrs. Rivkin and Casey served in the Justice Department under Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

29071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: We the Unorganized Militia on: July 30, 2007, 09:44:01 AM
Argyll:

I particularly liked the one on Mohammed Azfeh.
29072  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Middle East War on: July 30, 2007, 08:41:47 AM
Geopolitical Diary: On Iraq, All Things Definitely are Not Equal

The United States accused Saudi Arabia on Sunday of undercutting security and stability in Iraq. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Zalmay Khalilzad told CNN that the kingdom and other regional Arab states not only are not doing enough to help Washington with regards to Iraq, they actually are undermining U.S. efforts there. The remarks follow Khalilzad's July 27 op-ed in The New York Times in which he said several of Iraq's neighbors -- not just Iran and Syria -- are pursuing destabilizing policies.

U.S. problems with Saudi Arabia and Iraq's Sunnis have been widely expected, given the outcome of the second round of U.S.-Iranian talks. The agreement between Washington and Tehran on the formation of a security subcommittee to oversee efforts to contain Sunni and Shiite militants was bound to upset the Saudis. Riyadh is not an active participant in the formal process, which already has the Saudis miffed. More important, however, any U.S.-Iranian understanding is bound to empower the Iranians and their Arab Shiite allies in Iraq in unprecedented ways -- threatening the interests of the region's premier Sunni power: Riyadh.

Riyadh thus far has issued no official reaction to either the outcome of the second round of U.S.-Iranian talks or to Sunday's public tongue-lashing by the Bush administration. This is not surprising, though, as the Saudis prefer to act indirectly, if not outright covertly. Their primary means of influencing events in Iraq is to control the flow of men and resources to Iraq's jihadist movement. As longtime Stratfor readers remember, Saudi support for Islamist militancy was a critical feature in the operation of the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet-Afghan war, and later in the creation of al Qaeda. Using such tactics to affect a war on its very doorstep is certainly not a lost art as far as the Saudis are concerned.

Yet, in the years since 9/11 these are not tactics that engender warm, fuzzy feelings in Washington. The Saudis, however, would not be risking tensions with the United States over Iraq unless they were convinced that U.S.-Iranian dealings on Iraq had reached the point of putting Saudi interests at stake. U.S.-Saudi tensions, then, are a sign that Washington and Tehran have made significant progress toward stabilizing Iraq. Stratfor has noted in the past that U.S. efforts to placate the Shia upset the Sunnis -- and vice versa. So, ironically, Washington's public criticism of the Saudis indicates that the proverbial snowball has moved into a slightly less fiery part of the nether world.

Now that there is forward movement with the Iranians, the question is whether Saudi efforts can torpedo the progress. That is unlikely in any meaningful way, given that the Saudis have few options at their disposal. Sure, they can try to support jihadists, but that is a double-edged sword for them. Consider for a moment that the Saudis actually succeed in derailing the Iran-U.S. effort. With a wrecked Iraq on the Saudi border, hyped-up jihadists would be looking to hurl themselves at something else.

Put differently, the Saudi attitude toward Iraq is a problem, but not one that threatens to destroy the negotiating process altogether -- unlike the critical position of Iran. Yet, although the Saudis lack the ability to spoil the Iraq process, the United States cannot afford to completely ignore them. So, when in doubt, bribe. This weekend, the United States announced plans to shovel some $20 billion in weapons to the Saudis and the other Persian Gulf states. After all, the primary concern of the Arab states with regards to Iraq is the security threat posed by an emergent Iran.

The Saudis want the weapons, of course, but more important they want an Iraqi Sunni community that is politically strong enough to block the geopolitical advances of Iran and the Shia so that the Iranians can be contained within Iraq. All things being equal, this is a goal the Arabs and the Americans share. But all things are not equal. The United States needs to stabilize Iraq and begin pulling out -- and for that it needs to deal with Iran. Thus, the concerns of the Arab states have become secondary.
stratfor.com
29073  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The March to Dhimmitude continues , , , on: July 28, 2007, 10:59:47 PM


http://hotair.com/archives/2007/07/28/sharia-watch-man-arrested-for-koran-abuse/
29074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 28, 2007, 10:46:39 PM
The WMD thing has been hashed and rehashed endlessly.  I think Doug does a very good job but would like to add one point to the mix.  I am currently reading "Cobra ll" (its in the truck, so I don't have authors' names in front of me, but one is a general) I am about 3/5 of the way through it.  It is an outstanding history of how we got into the Iraq War and how we waged it.  The heavy emphasis is on the military side of things.   Concerning WMD, the book helped me understand just how much SH was trying to play it both ways viz WMD-- "proving"/claiming he didn't have them while at the same time leaving enough doubt to cause his mortal enemies the Iranians to hesitate.

In other words, SH gave good reason to Bush and everyone else to doubt the veracity of his assertion that he had coughed up the WMD.

Tom, I encourage you to read the various relevant threads on this forum closely for many of them will flesh out the ignorant, distorted, often dishonest and sometimes disloyal campaign waged by President Bush's opposition via the media.  If you read MSM only, you will be persuaded that the sky is falling.  It may be, and it may not-- but what certainly seriously undercuts our efforts is when Gen. Petraeus's surge is declared "Defeat" by the Senate Majority Leader Harry Byrd, House Leader Nancy Pelosi and the rest of their ilk even before the troops for the surge are in place.  Despicable!  If you were an Iraqi would this not give you pause before betting your life on the Americans having what it takes to see the job through?!?

Democracy in Iraq, apart from its merits on its own, I believe also was intended to be part of the struggle with the Iranian Islamic fascist leadership and I offer for your consideration that you remember that this struggle continues.  Do you want these people to have nukes?!?

As for fixing Iraq, things are not a lost cause-- e.g. have you read any of the Michael Yon posts cited in the Milblog thread?

From my place so very low on the food chain, it looks to me like we are positioning ourselves to balance the Sunni world against the Shia world-- see d.g. this morning report that Bush wants to sell $20 billion in arms to SA-- and note that this follows the Arab League's visit to Israel (!!!) just a few days ago.

SecDef Rumbo made many mistakes which were affirmed by President Bush, who added some of his own-- but I think if you go back to the history of WW2 you will see many terrible mistakes made there too-- e.g. did you know that the legendary Gen Douglas MacArthur let the the US airforce in the Philippines get caught on the ground nearly 24 hours after Pearl Harbor?  But what matters now is that we not panic or caught off our national nose to spite President Bush's face.

29075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 28, 2007, 10:33:42 AM
General Pleads for Time to Secure Iraq
Associated Press  |  July 20, 2007
BAGHDAD - If the U.S. troop buildup in Iraq is reversed before the summer of 2008, the military will risk giving up the security gains it has achieved at a cost of hundreds of American lives over the past six months, the commander of U.S. forces south of Baghdad said Friday.

Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, mentioned none of the proposals in Congress for beginning to withdraw U.S. troops as soon as this fall. But he made clear in an interview that in his area of responsibility south of Baghdad, it will take many more months to consolidate recent gains.

"It's going to take through (this) summer, into the fall, to defeat the extremists in my battle space, and it's going to take me into next spring and summer to generate this sustained security presence," he said, referring to an Iraqi capability to hold gains made by U.S. forces.

Lynch said he had projected in March, when he arrived as part of the troop buildup, that it would take him about 15 months to accomplish his mission, which would be summer 2008.

He expressed concern at the growing pressure in Washington to decide by September whether the troop buildup is working and to plan for an early start to withdrawing all combat troops.

Under Lynch's command are two of the five Army brigades that President Bush ordered to the Baghdad area in January as part of a revised counterinsurgency strategy. As part of that "surge" of forces, Lynch's command was created in order to put added focus on stopping the flow of weaponry and insurgents into the capital from contentious areas to the south.

The three other brigades are in Baghdad and a volatile province northeast of the capital with the purpose of securing the civilian population in hopes that reduced levels of sectarian violence will give Sunni and Shiite leaders an opportunity to create a government of true national unity and to pass legislation designed to promote reconciliation.

Lynch said that Iraqi security forces are not close to being ready to take over for the American troops. So if the extra troops that were brought in this year are to be sent home in coming months, the insurgents - both Sunni and Shiite extremist groups - will regain control, he said.

"To me, it would be wrong to take ground from the enemy at a cost - I've lost 80 soldiers under my command - 56 of those since the fourth of April - it would be wrong to have fought and won that terrain, only to turn around and give it back," he said in an interview with two reporters who traveled with him by helicopter to visit troops south and west of Baghdad.

He said there is a substantial risk that al-Qaida in Iraq, a mostly Iraqi Sunni extremist group, will try to launch a mass-casualty attack on one of the 29 small U.S. patrol bases south of Baghdad in hopes of influencing the political debate in Washington on ending the war.

Lynch visited one of those outposts Friday, near the village of Jurfassakhar along the Euphrates River. He was told by the officer in charge, Lt. Col. Robert Balcavage, that the camp was in "the deepest bad-guy country around," with threats from multiple insurgent groups.

Near Jurfassakhar, just west of the larger town of Iskandariyah, al-Qaida elements have recently been fighting another Sunni extremist group but could be preparing to resume attacks on U.S. and Iraqi forces.

"And that's why we've got to continue offensive operations," he said. "I worry about this talk about reducing or terminating the surge," using the military's term of deploying the five extra combat brigades to the Baghdad area, as well as extra Marines to Anbar province west of the capital.

"We've got him on the run," Lynch said, referring to the insurgents. "Some people say we've got him on the ropes. I don't believe that. But I believe we've got him on the run."

Lynch said he thinks too much focus is being placed on the military part of the solution to Iraq's problems and too little on the need to promote progress toward a functional central government.

Lynch said he thinks too much focus in being placed on the military part of the solution to Iraq's problems and too little on the need to promote progress toward a functional central government.

"We can continue to secure the population here and secure terrain, but until you get a government (that) is of the people, for the people and by the people, and you have an economy where people actually have employment, this place is going to continue to struggle," he said.

Lynch also said the Iraqi government needs to put about seven more Iraqi army battalions and about five more Iraqi police battalions in his area in order to provide the security now provided by U.S. forces.

In a reference to the sectarian tensions that have stalled progress toward stability in Iraq, the general said he has submitted to the Shiite-dominated national government a list of about 3,000 names of Sunnis who have volunteered to join the government security forces south of Baghdad. None of the 3,000 has been approved for addition to the government payroll.

"If they (the central government) just say `No, we ain't gonna do it,' then we've got a problem because (then) we've got nothing but locals who want to secure their area," he said, adding later that this would amount to a "Band-aid" fix rather than a lasting solution.

Ultimately, Lynch said, success or failure will be determined by the Iraqis themselves, and the outcome will not come quickly.

"This is Iraq. Everything takes time," he said.
29076  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: July 28, 2007, 10:31:09 AM

Citizen Marine Awarded Silver Star
Military.com  |  By Beth Zimmerman Still  |  July 20, 2007
Crouched and flattened against a waist-high wall, Marine Sgt. Jeff Hunter could see the muzzle flashes of the enemy AK-47 as it took out chunks of the wall by his head. In the middle of a shoot-out with a fortified insurgent in western Iraq, Hunter never could have known he'd later be hailed a hero.

But two years after that May 2005 firefight - and a year after he finished his Reserve contract - Hunter, 28, received the Silver Star on June 18 at City Hall in Albuquerque, N.M., for "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity" in Iraq during the summer of 2005 - including two fire fights in which he pulled a fellow Marine out of enemy fire.

Originally an administrative clerk at Albuquerque-based Delta Company, 4th Reconnaissance Battalion, Hunter deployed to Iraq as an infantry fire team leader with Columbus, Ohio-based Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, in March 2005.

In the early hours of May 25, then-Cpl. Hunter set out on foot with Lima Company toward Haditha's market district in the opening days of Operation New Market.

According to Hunter, the company planned to arrive at the market by sunrise in order to catch insurgents by surprise. He said the trip seemed like any other, until a Marine shot a stray dog that had charged him. About ten seconds later, "all hell broke loose," Hunter said.

The award citation released by the Corps and interviews with Hunter and his fellow Marines reveal the platoon was ambushed by small arms fire that seriously wounded an officer on the patrol. Sgt. David Wimberg, Hunter's squad leader, ordered the squad to take a house to their left, where they were receiving fire.

Wimberg hopped the fence and opened the gate for Hunter's fire team, then kicked in the door and ran inside with Hunter on his heels.

"Sgt. Wimberg barely took a second step into the room before a muzzle to an AK-47 was presented [at his chest] and fired several times," Hunter said in a recap of the events he wrote after the firefight.

When Wimberg fell to the ground, "I instinctively reached down and grabbed him, pulling him back out of the house," Hunter wrote. "I dragged him to the right of the door under a window and lay on top of him while I heard him wheeze for us to frag the room."

Hunter called for two of his squad mates to take Wimberg to their corpsman while he pushed forward with the attack on the house.

"In the back of my mind, I knew that I was now in charge of the squad and I had to get control of the situation," he wrote.

"Acting as squad leader, [Hunter] reorganized his Marines and led them into the insurgent position…ultimately securing the house with close-range small arms fire and hand grenades," according to the Corps release. Wimberg later died as a result of his wounds, but Hunter's actions during the firefight "enabled his company to regain its momentum," the release said.

Two months later, Hunter's platoon was tasked with sweeping a couple small towns west of Baghdad the morning of July 28. According to Hunter, the patrol had been uneventful until Cpl. Andre Williams started to knock on the door of a house in Cykla.

"Right as he went to knock, a heavy-machine gun shot him through the door," Hunter said. That kicked off a four-hour firefight between nine insurgents bottled inside the house and Hunter's platoon.

When some of the insurgents fled to another nearby house, Hunter maneuvered his squad closer, using their own cover fire to move to a rooftop overlooking the second house.

A couple hours into the firefight, the other two squads were still engaged in the at the first house, but rounds were no longer coming from the second house. When Hunter's squad cleared the house, they found an empty rocket-propelled grenade launcher, but no shooter.

They moved to the back yard where livestock were frantically running around following the hours of shooting going on around them. In the midst of the chaos, two of Hunter's Marines broke off to search two small cinder block buildings for enemy fighters.

As Lance Cpl. Christopher Lyons - Hunter's closest friend in the platoon - crossed the threshold of one of the buildings, he was shot by an insurgent fortified inside.

Hunter and his Marines took cover in a room of the building, which was still under construction. The wall was about three feet high, with huge portions missing for windows, Hunter said.

Crouched against his portion of the wall, about 15 feet from the insurgent's position, "I could see the muzzle flashes from the doorway [from] the guy shooting…while the AK-47 was just taking chunks out of the wall," Hunter said. 

"It got pretty scary there for a minute."

During that fight, Hunter "shot two enemies and made two unsuccessful attempts in the face of enemy fire to retrieve a wounded Marine," the Corps release said.

Hunter "then ran across a fire-swept street to link up with a M1A1 tank, guided it's fire and directed it to breach the building," the release added. "This action neutralized one insurgent and allowed the extraction" of Lyons, who had been mortally wounded.

According to Shawn Bryan, who deployed as a sergeant with Lima Company in 2005, Hunter promised Lyons he'd take care of his family if anything happened to Lyons. After Lyons' death, Hunter established an email friendship with Bethany, Lyons' widow - a relationship that eventually blossomed into a romantic one.

"Because [Hunter] knew Christopher and loved him…I think that's what brought us together in the beginning," said Bethany. "We've both helped each other in that grieving process we both went through."

They were married last May, and Hunter, who has a year left in the Individual Ready Reserve, is in the process of adopting Lyons' daughter. The two also had a son in February.

"He's my hero…not just for what he did there, but what he did when he came home," said Bryan.

Meanwhile, Hunter said he has "mixed feelings" about his Silver Star.

"I honestly don't believe I did anything all that heroic," Hunter said. "I feel like I was just doing my job," he said. He'd "gladly trade" the medal if it would bring back Wimberg or Lyons.

"I know he says he didn't do anything too heroic…but in our eyes - the Wimbergs and mine - it was," Bethany countered.

Hunter currently has six classes left at the University of New Mexico, and he's working for Bryan in Albuquerque. A soft-spoken Marine who prefers to stay out of the spotlight, Hunter said his classmates have no idea he received the medal.

"He got the Silver Star for what he did," said Bryan. "But he did what he did because that's who he is."

Learn about Marine Corps service opportunities

 
http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,142829,00.html?ESRC=dod.nl
29077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fred T's campaign manager on: July 27, 2007, 10:08:44 PM
Is this true?

http://www.debbieschlussel.com/archives/2007/07/jihad_fred_fred.html
29078  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 27, 2007, 10:07:57 PM
CCP: 

The tone of voice coming through there is rather snarky and IMO undeservedly so.  Nevertheless, I'll flesh out why I have no problem with it.  Its called freedom.  Fox is free to do as it sees fit, and others are free to do as they see fit in response.

There is no legal remedy, nor should there be.

TAC
M.

29079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Phony War on: July 27, 2007, 09:58:34 PM
Just wait until Newt busts his move in early October.  He will surprise A LOT of people!
29080  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: staff fighting on: July 27, 2007, 09:19:09 PM
Woof Robert:

I've seen the Jogo de Pau before.  To my eye it looks rather close to the Sicilian staff.    As far as I can tell these clips are of basic drills and as such tend towards universal motions.

CD
29081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: July 27, 2007, 07:48:24 PM
I have no problem with that.
29082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Phony War on: July 27, 2007, 05:09:06 PM
Woof All:

I suppose I break the Rules of the Road a bit by giving this its own thread, but , , , well , , , its my house  smiley

As best as I can tell, this man is the best choice for next President of the United States:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN9cqtJTvF4

The Adventure continues,
Marc
29083  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: July 27, 2007, 12:04:56 PM
Law Enforcement can have a lot of overlap with martial arts issues and that is why this thread is on this forum.  The following piece doesn't really meet that criterion, but here it is anyway:
==============

Justice served: The Joe Arpaio Model
(This is the second in a two-part essay about frontier justice along our southern border. Part one, “Justice denied”, addressed a mockery of justice perpetuated against law-enforcement officers attempting to secure that all-too-porous border. Please join the nearly 52,000 Patriots who have already signed our petition, Free the Texas Three.)

As a former uniformed law-enforcement officer, I know that frontier outlaws are sometimes best deterred with frontier justice. Even the most leftward of the Lefties are willing to concede this point.

Just last week, in fact, San Francisco’s own Sen. Dianne Feinstein got a bit testy when hearing the testimony of Luis Barker, former chief Border Patrol agent for the El Paso region. Feinstein asked Barker what measures a Border Patrol agent should take when attempting to stop a fleeing Mexican drug smuggler.

“Measures other than deadly force,” Barker replied. Feinstein fired back, “No wonder we have so many drugs coming over the border.”

There is a region near our southwest border, however, that the wisest traficantes de la droga tend to avoid.

Why?

Because Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is there—and he’s bound and determined by oath to uphold the law.

Maricopa County is the fourth most populated county in the nation (3,768,123 U.S. citizens), with Phoenix as its county seat. In 1992, the good citizens of Maricopa County saw fit to elect an Army veteran and career federal drug-enforcement agent as their sheriff, on the promise that he would treat those convicted of crimes like criminals, rather than a social-welfare constituency. Since then, Sheriff Arpaio has been re-elected every time he faced the voters, because he and his 3,000 employees are keeping that promise.

Here is a sample of justice served at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)—a good model for the rest of the nation.

Criminals in Maricopa County Jail can no longer smoke or drink coffee. “This isn’t the Ritz-Carlton,” Sheriff Joe informed his indignant inmates. “If you don’t like it, don’t come back.” The Sheriff also discontinued inmate subscriptions for pornography. He revised the jail menu offerings, reducing the cost of meals to 40 cents per serving—and requires that the inmates pay for them. When they complained that he feeds his police dogs better, Sheriff Arpaio responded with characteristic compassion: “The dogs never committed a crime and they are working for a living.”

The jailhouse weight rooms are gone, too, but there’s plenty of exercise to be had on one of Sheriff Joe’s chain gangs. These include chain gangs for women, so Arpaio can’t be called a chauvinist or sued for discrimination. “Crime knows no gender,” he says, “and neither should punishment.” MCSO chain gangs clean streets, remove graffiti and bury the indigent.

He also started juvenile chain gangs for youthful gang bangers and launched rehab programs like “Hard Knocks High,” the only accredited high school run by a Sheriff in an American jail, and “ALPHA,” an anti-substance-abuse program that has greatly reduced recidivism—the rate of reconvictions.

The Sheriff disconnected the MCSO jail’s cable TVs until criminal lawyers pointed out that he might be in violation of a federal-court order. So he hooked the cable up again, but piped in only the Disney and Weather channels. Asked by a reporter why he chose the Weather Channel, he replied, “So they will know how hot it’s gonna be while they are working on my chain gangs.”

Sheriff Arpaio also used canteen funds to purchase former Republican Speaker Newt Gingrich’s history lecture series on DVD, which he shows in the jail. Asked by a reporter if he provided equal time to Democrats, Sheriff Arpaio said, “Some might say these guys already got enough of those ideas.”

Additionally, on Friday nights, inmates are treated to classic “G”-rated movies, and recently, the Sheriff launched KJOE radio, an in-house broadcast station, which plays classical and patriotic music, as well as educational programs.

Sheriff Joe has even posted a “Hall of Shame” Web page dedicated to deadbeat parents, which lists photos and descriptions of parents who owe back child support, etc.

But Arpaio is probably best known by convicts, and most loathed by them, for establishing a “tent-city jail.” When he first took office, non-violent offenders were routinely released in order to alleviate prison overcrowding, but the new Sheriff put a stop to that, which swelled the ranks of inmates. On behalf of taxpayers, Arpaio opened a tent-city jail in order to avoid building an expensive jail annex.

The tent city, surrounded by razor wire, houses thousands of inmates, most of whom get a bit uncomfortable in the 115-degree summer heat. Arpaio gave the inmates permission to dress down to their boxer shorts—shorts which, like socks and towels, are dyed pink so as not to be stolen. Of course, some of the longer-term inmates complained, but Sheriff Arpaio responded, “It’s 120 degrees in Iraq and our soldiers are living in tents, too, and they have to wear full battle gear, but they didn’t commit any crimes, so shut your mouths!”

In 2005, responding to limited federal enforcement resources to secure our borders, Arizona passed a law making it a felony (punishable by up to two years in prison) to smuggle anyone across the border. In addition, the Maricopa County Attorney issued a legal opinion that anyone being smuggled can be charged under the same law as a co-conspirator. (At last count, 14 other states are revising state legislation and stepping up their prosecution of illegal aliens.)

Consequently, Sheriff Arpaio issued instructions to his deputies and civilian posse to round up illegal aliens. “My message is clear: If you come here and I catch you, you’re going straight to jail... I’m not going to turn these people over to federal authorities so they can have a free ride back to Mexico. I’ll give them a free ride to my jail. I’m going to put them on chain gangs, in tents and feed them bologna sandwiches.”

The Sheriff also gives his inmates, who do not speak English, a two-week basic language course built around American history. He explains, “These inmates happen to be incarcerated in the United States of America. In Maricopa County where I run the jails, we speak English.” At the end of the course, they are required to sing “God Bless America” and “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Lately, Sheriff Arpaio’s detractors have been turning up the heat on him.

Last week, Arpaio set up a hotline that allows citizens to report suspected illegal aliens to the sheriff’s office. Predictably, Latino leaders voiced their displeasure: “What right does he have,” inquired Phoenix attorney Antonio Bustamante, “to investigate people based on the color of their skin, or their accent or the way they look?” Added Mary Rose Wilcox, a Maricopa County supervisor, “We feel the chances of being racially profiled just went up dramatically.”

Of course, Arpaio is opening investigations only on the basis of a suspected felony violation, not race or ethnicity. “There’s nothing unconstitutional about putting up a hotline,” Arpaio said, pointing out that U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, have similar hotlines.

There are other legal challenges to the Sheriff’s “unorthodox” methods for dealing with criminals—challenges that emanate from the Left’s preference to view criminals as victims. Not one to shy away from a fight, Arpaio has said he will go “all the way to the Supreme Court” to fight those challenges. “I’m going to keep locking them up,” he says.

“Justice,” in the words of James Madison, “is the end of government. It is the end of civil society.” Thank God that there are still men among us like Joe Arpaio—those still willing to dispense justice and defend civil society.

(Sheriff Arpaio and his wife of 48 years, Ava, have two children and four grandchildren—all residents of Phoenix. Earlier this year, he accepted an appointment as honorary state chairman of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. Through it all, Sheriff Arpaio has retained his sense of humor. In May, after Hollywonk Paris Hilton’s conviction, he contacted Los Angeles authorities and asked if they would like to transfer her to Maricopa County jail to serve out her sentence. They “respectfully declined,” he notes.)

29084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mil-blogs: Michael Yon and others (support our troops) on: July 27, 2007, 11:46:28 AM
http://www.youtube.com/michaelyon

http://www.michaelyon-online.com/wp/birds-eye-view.htm
29085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Shouting Murder on a Crowded Street on: July 27, 2007, 09:37:38 AM
A legal follow up to the Danish cartoons affair from the WSJ:
=========

Shouting Murder on a Crowded Street
By DANIEL SCHWAMMENTHAL
July 27, 2007

A British court last week sentenced four men to up to six years in prison for inciting murder and racial hatred. The men were among the hundreds of Muslims who in February of last year met after Friday prayers at London's Regent's Park mosque and marched to Denmark's embassy to protest the Muhammad cartoons that had been published in Danish newspapers. Like other such rallies, this protest descended into calls for terror and the beheadings of those who "insult Islam."

 
The convicted men did nothing more destructive than shout, and in the view of some Britons, the judge went too far and dangerously curtailed the freedom of speech. But consider another view: By locking away the protestors for the words they chanted that day, the judge actually struck a victory for the freedom of speech.

Even in the Anglo-Saxon tradition, where freedom of expression has always known fewer limitations than in Continental Europe, it is not an absolute right. Laws regulating obscenity and hate speech have long set boundaries for what can be considered legitimate speech.

In this case, the slogans the men were chanting and had written on their placards were more than offensive; they were calls to mass murder. They were not vague threats that a society could afford to tolerate. Instead, by referring to actual acts of terror, the men's words took on a concrete, menacing character. Among the threats they shouted were: "U.K. you will pay, 7/7 on its way," "Oh Allah, we want to see another 9/11," "Bomb, bomb Denmark, bomb, bomb U.S.A." and "Bomb, bomb the U.K."

The court's judgment contrasts with the attitude of the police on hand that day. The protest took place just seven months after the July 7 London bombings, in which 52 people died. Yet the officers turned a blind eye -- literally -- to the protestors' calls for more terror. They stood with their backs to the demonstrators, apparently ready to defend them against angry passers-by. British TV would later show an English bobby reprimanding a man who called for the protestors' arrest. "You say one more thing like that, mate, and you'll get yourself nicked (arrested)," the officer could be heard telling the onlooker. Public outrage about the police's failure to stop this pro-terror rally prompted the later arrests of some of the protestors.

In his verdict, Judge Brian Barker said that "Freedom of speech and assembly have long been jealously guarded by our laws…With freedom comes respect and responsibility, none of which was demonstrated by you." He continued: "What you were part of was the complete opposite of peaceful protest. Your words were meant to foment hatred and encourage killing."

Recall, this case started with a Danish newspaper's decision to publish cartoons that satirized the Prophet Muhammad. The protestors' goals were to impose their own standards of acceptable speech and silence dissenting voices. By striking down the demonstrators' "freedom" to intimidate and threaten, the court protected free speech for everybody else.

This is also what the Director of Public Prosecutions, Sir Ken MacDonald, suggested when he argued during the trial that glorifying the London subway bombings and calling for more terror "undermines everyone else's freedom by stirring up bigotry, racial hatred and violence. Terror attacks our way of life and incitement can make a very real contribution to it."

In fighting the war on terror, the challenge for Western societies is usually defined as finding the right balance between security and preserving the freedoms that make our democratic societies worth defending. But that's not the whole story. Terrorists and their supporters threaten not just our lives; they also threaten our freedom -- including our freedom of speech.

Some critics of radical Islam already live under constant police protection in fear of their lives. How many journalists or writers may mince their words out of fear of repercussions? The state has a duty not only to guarantee security, arguably its foremost task, but also to protect the open society against its Islamist enemies.

Civil libertarians' almost reflexive objection to any type of tougher security measures stems from a noble tradition. History teaches members of democratic societies to see the state not so much as the guardian but as the natural enemy of civil liberties. That's because liberty had to be gradually wrested from the hands of absolutist rulers. In Western political philosophy, freedom is defined as freedom from the state.

But there's another danger too, one that we forget at our peril: If the the state is not allowed to stop Islamists' incitement to murder and terror, their speech may eventually be the only one that remains "free."

Mr. Schwammenthal is an editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe
29086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Immigration issues on: July 27, 2007, 09:29:56 AM
Ever wonder how Wall Street sees this issue?

===========================

WSJ
Immigration Paralysis
By GEORGE MELLOAN
July 27, 2007; Page A13

On a hot Arizona day along Interstate 19 just north of the Mexican border, we see a sight all too familiar in these parts. Border Patrol officers in an olive-colored SUV have detained a group of young Mexicans who were motoring north. The Mexicans are squatting on the grassy highway embankment, waiting for the officers to ascertain whether they have entered the U.S. legally or illegally.

A few days later, when our journey has taken us to Twin Falls, Idaho, we read in a local newspaper that potato farmers are being forced to obtain convict labor because there's a shortage of the migrants they have traditionally used to work their fields. In fact, the farm worker dearth is national, particularly for growers of labor-intensive fresh produce. Crops are rotting in the fields and prices going up.

Observations recorded during a month-long motoring sweep around the Western U.S. by my wife Jody and me reveal a disconnect between law and reality. A legislative paralysis on immigration reform perhaps helps explain why a new AP-Ipsos opinion poll shows that the performance rating for Congress has slumped 11 percentage points since May, with only 24% of respondents voicing satisfaction with that body's work. After years of quarreling over reform of the dysfunctional 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli Act, which made it a crime to knowingly hire illegal immigrants, lawmakers are still batting a big, fat zero. Hence, willing workers are being turned back at the border at a time when growers are desperate for hired help.

The federally mandated severance of labor supply from demand is inopportune. Our Western tour, and an earlier swing through the South, dramatized to us that over the last quarter-century the U.S. has become an incredibly wealthy country. Millions of late-model cars zoom the freeways. Lake and harbor marinas are choked with pleasure boats. Fitness centers and pet grooming parlors are now commonplace as an affluent middle class spends freely on non-essential services. In Seattle, which gets rain 154 days a year, people buy bottled water from France. As a street entertainer puts it, "Evian spelled backwards is naïve."

A fascinating Web site called "strange maps" compares the Gross Domestic Product of each U.S. state with a foreign country. Texas produces more than Canada, California matches France, Illinois is on a par with Mexico and little New Jersey equals the output of huge Russia. Economist John Rutledge estimates the worth of all privately owned assets in the U.S. at $165 trillion.

Still, the $13 trillion American economy demands labor. Mexico has had a high birth rate (although it is rapidly slowing) and can supply the needed workers, with benefits on both sides of the border. But the U.S. political class can only talk of new barriers. Why is this such a hard equation for politicians? The longer this problem festers, the more likely it will push the Mexican polity to turn away from being an uneasy friend of the U.S. to becoming a troublesome enemy.

The fundamental mistake, one that American politicians have made over and over again, is the belief that the government's police powers can overwhelm powerful market forces. Richard Nixon and the Congress attempted this feat in 1971 with wage and price controls, stalling American growth for a decade. Simpson-Mazzoli was a similar effort to strong-arm a key market -- for labor -- by threatening something that proved to be unenforceable, jail sentences for employers of illegal aliens. Luckily, that didn't shut off the labor supply from Mexico, it just drove it underground. Estimates are that there at least 12 million illegals in the U.S. and that may be far lower than the actual number.

Hotels and restaurants in places like Chicago, Miami and just about every other city would have to shut down without waiters, maids and others with dubious credentials. The well-manicured lawns in my home town would soon become weed gardens in the absence of the Mexicans who man landscape services. Americans genuinely worry about maintaining the rule of law, but the biggest threat to that is the disrespect for law created when legislative grandstanders pass draconian measures that the authorities are incapable of enforcing.

Arizona's legislature, which apparently has learned nothing from the federal law's failure, has just compounded the crime by passing a measure that is even more draconian than Simpson-Mazzoli. It has caused an uprising among Arizona businessmen and farmers, who shout that a law making them felons for trying to keep their enterprises afloat is just bonkers.

Washington efforts to reform Simpson-Mazzoli are plagued by the death struggle the two parties are conducting over control of the government. Republicans, who perhaps have noticed that they are losing that struggle, are frozen in the headlights of the anti-immigrant campaigns being conducted by nativists and vigilantes in their home states. Hate and emotion do not produce good laws.

My friend Robert Halbrook, a retired lawyer living in Tucson, Ariz., is aware that politics are not always logical or even rational, but offers a logical solution nonetheless: Legislators must do away with all the threats and penalties that drive labor and its employers underground. It must be made possible for illegal workers to achieve legal status without fear. That way Mexicans can come to the U.S. to fill jobs and go home safe in the knowledge that when their work is demanded they will be able to come back again. Many will go back with skills learned in the U.S., enabling them to earn a living at home. Most, he believes, do not crave U.S. citizenship. Why should they want to cope with a new language and culture, if they can return home without penalty? They just want to feed their families and try to move up the economic ladder.

Is it too much to ask of Congress that it employ some of this clear logic? Apparently so, judging from the paralysis in Washington.

Mr. Melloan is a former deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page.
29087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wiretap Debacle on: July 27, 2007, 09:23:21 AM
WSJ
Wiretap Debacle
How politics has gutted the terrorist surveillance program.

Friday, July 27, 2007 12:01 a.m. EDT

The U.S. homeland hasn't been struck by terrorists since September 11, and one reason may be more aggressive intelligence policies. So Americans should be alarmed that one of the best intelligence tools--warrantless wiretapping of al Qaeda suspects--has recently become far less effective and is in danger of being neutered by Congressional Democrats.

President Bush approved this terrorist surveillance not long after 9/11, allowing intelligence officials to track terrorist calls overseas, as well as overseas communications with al Qaeda sympathizers operating in the U.S. The New York Times exposed the program in late 2005, and Democrats and antiwar activists immediately denounced it as an "illegal" attempt to spy on Americans, à la J. Edgar Hoover.

Democratic leaders were briefed on the program from the first and never once tried to shut it down. But once it was exposed, these same Democrats accused Mr. Bush of breaking the law by not getting warrants from the special court created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978. Mr. Bush has rightly defended the program's legality, but as a gesture of compromise in January he agreed to seek warrants under the FISA process.

This has turned out to be an enormous mistake that has unilaterally disarmed one of our best intelligence weapons in the war on terror. To understand why, keep in mind that we live in a world of fiber optics and packet-switching. A wiretap today doesn't mean the FBI must install a bug on Abdul Terrorist's phone in Peshawar. Information now follows the path of least resistance, wherever that may lead. And because the U.S. has among the world's most efficient networks, hundreds of millions of foreign calls are routed through the U.S.
That's right: If an al Qaeda operative in Quetta calls a fellow jihadi in Peshawar, that call may well travel through a U.S. network. This ought to be a big U.S. advantage in our "asymmetrical" conflict with terrorists. But it also means that, for the purposes of FISA, a foreign call that is routed through U.S. networks becomes a domestic call. So thanks to the obligation to abide by an outdated FISA statute, U.S. intelligence is now struggling even to tap the communications of foreign-based terrorists. If this makes you furious, it gets worse.

Our understanding is that some FISA judges have been open to expediting warrants, as well as granting retroactive approval. But there are 11 judges in the FISA rotation, and some of them have been demanding that intelligence officials get permission in advance for wiretaps. This means missed opportunities and less effective intelligence. And it shows once again why the decisions of unaccountable judges shouldn't be allowed to supplant those of an elected Commander in Chief.

When the program began, certain U.S. telecom companies also cooperated with the National Security Agency. But they were sued once the program was exposed, and so some have ceased cooperating for fear of damaging liability claims. We found all of this hard to believe when we first heard it, but we've since confirmed the details with other high-level sources.

Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell more or less admitted the problem last week, albeit obliquely, when he told the Senate that "we're actually missing a significant portion of what we should be getting." That's understating things. Our sources say the surveillance program is now at most one-third as effective as it once was.

The Bush Administration bears much of the blame for this debacle. White House officials hoped that by agreeing to put the wiretaps under FISA authority, they could lower the political temperature and reach an accommodation with Congress. But no Administration has ever conceded that FISA trumps a President's Constitutional power to place wiretaps in the name of national security. The courts have also explicitly upheld this Presidential power. Mr. Bush was making a needless concession that Democrats have used against him as they refuse to compromise.

The Administration wants Congress to modernize FISA in two crucial ways: First, by allowing NSA to track on a real-time basis these foreign calls that may be routed through the U.S., and in some cases allowing warrants to be sought after the fact. Our spooks would still be accountable, but they'd also be able to act quickly to defend the country. Second, the White House is requesting liability protection for telecom companies that cooperate with the wiretap program. Neither of these changes should be at all controversial--and we're confident they'd have overwhelming public support if the issues were understood.

Yet for six months Senate Democrats have resisted these legal changes to make Americans safer. Incredibly, they are fronting for their trial lawyer campaign donors in blocking liability protection. Their counteroffer is to have the federal government supplant the companies as the defendants in any wiretapping lawsuits, as if any such lawsuits were justified. Why are Democrats letting trial lawyers interfere with a vital intelligence operation?

Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy is holding any wiretap legislation hostage to his demand for Administration documents related to the program. This is part of the Democrats' political exercise to claim that Mr. Bush has somehow broken the law by allowing the wiretaps. Backed by grandstanding Republican Arlen Specter, in short, Mr. Leahy is more interested in fighting over how the program began than in allowing it to continue today.

At least a few Democrats realize they may be setting themselves up for trouble if there's another terrorist attack. House Intelligence Chairman Silvestre Reyes wrote to Mr. Bush last week saying he was "very concerned" about the program and urging the Administration to "devote all the resources necessary to ensure that we are conducting maximum surveillance of the terrorist target abroad."

Mr. Reyes went on to note that "FISA does not require a warrant for communications between two individuals outside the United States. If clarifications to the law are necessary, we are prepared to deal with this." That'll serve Mr. Reyes well as political cover if the next 9/11 Commission asks who ruined the terrorist surveillance program. But if he's serious about national security, he should send his next letter to Senate Democrats.

Six months is too long for Mr. Bush to cater to Pat Leahy while Americans are put at risk. The President should announce immediately that he is rescinding his concession to put these foreign wiretaps under the FISA court. He should say he is doing so as an urgent matter of national security as Commander in Chief because Congress has refused to respond in good faith by modernizing the law to let the U.S. eavesdrop on terrorists who wish us deadly harm. Then let Democrats explain why they're willing to put partisanship above the safety of America.
29088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pipelines bombed on: July 26, 2007, 10:45:46 PM
Bombing of Mexican Pipelines Puzzles Security Experts
By Greg Flakus
Mexico CIty
26 July 2007
 
Flakus report - Download 990k
Listen to Flakus report 


The July 5 and July 10 bomb attacks on natural gas pipelines in central Mexico led to the temporary shutdown of factories in several industrial cities and raised fears about the country becoming a target for terrorists. A small leftist insurgent group took responsibility for the attacks, but security experts are still puzzled over the incident and worry about possible future acts of sabotage. VOA's Greg Flakus has more from Mexico City.

 
Smoke and flames from an explosion at a gas pipeline are seen in the background as a Mexican army truck drives by near Queretaro, Mexico, 10 July 2007
At first, some thought the explosions may have been caused by accidents, but investigators at the bombing sites in north-central Mexico found evidence of sophisticated explosives, and a leftist insurgent group from southern Mexico, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) claimed responsibility. President Felipe Calderon pledged to protect the infrastructure of the state-owned energy company, Petroleos Mexicanos, called Pemex for short, and he dispatched military units to patrol various pipeline routes.

But the attacks remain a mystery, and speculation continues as to who was really responsible. The EPR had never ventured that far north before and never appeared to have access to the explosives and bomb-making skills that were employed in these attacks.

Political analyst Ana Maria Salazar says she remains baffled by the bombings.

"I do not know what to make of it," she said.  "That is part of the problem when you have these acts that are claimed to have been done by armed groups in Mexico, you always have a question in the back of your mind - who did it?"

She says it is possible the EPR might have carried out the attacks in conjunction with other leftist groups currently protesting in the southern state of Oaxaca over various issues. But she says she cannot rule out the possibility that a foreign terrorist group might have had a hand in it.

"There was a threat posted on a Web site a couple of months ago, supposedly by al-Qaida, that was threatening all the countries providing petroleum to the United States, which included Mexico and Venezuela, which made Hugo Chavez very upset, by the way," she added.  "So there is that possibility."

Mexico City-based independent energy analyst David Shields is among those who see another possible culprit behind the bomb attacks, the powerful and violent drug trafficking cartels, against which President Calderon launched an offensive shortly after taking office last December.

"Once it was confirmed that these were terrorist attacks, first of all we thought of the drug cartels as the likely authors of these attacks," he explained.  "I think we cannot rule out altogether that they were involved."

Shields says government efforts to protect the state-owned energy company's pipes and facilities are necessary, but he says posting soldiers along the pipeline routes will not provide complete protection.

"We know that Pemex has infrastructure of all kinds of pipelines, something like 60,000 kilometers of pipelines all over the country, as well as other kinds of facilities," he added.  "I think it would even be out of the question to post a soldier every kilometer. It would be a massive waste of human resources to have people all over the country wherever there are pipelines, wherever there is infrastructure."

Shields says the Mexican government has provided adequate protection to its oil production and export infrastructure, even employing missile-equipped naval vessels to patrol waters near offshore oil platforms. But he says pipelines serving Mexico's own population are much more vulnerable.

"Certainly, none of us are ruling out the likelihood of more attacks, but also what we have to realize is that these attacks on domestic pipelines are affecting the domestic market, they are not affecting exports," he noted.  "It would have to be a very different kind of attack and a more sophisticated attack on oil export facilities for oil exports to be interrupted. That seems to be an unlikely scenario."

While Mexico's oil export system may be safe, a continued threat to its domestic energy supply network could cripple important industries and discourage foreign investors who are considering placing plants here. Security experts who have examined evidence from the bombings say the perpetrators knew the attacks would disrupt important industries and that they probably had information from someone inside Pemex as to which pipes to bomb for the most effect.


http://www.voanews.com/english/2007-07-26-voa51.cfm
29089  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: KALI TUDO (tm) Article on: July 26, 2007, 03:56:12 PM
Woof All:

Night Owl and I were assembling some footage earlier today of the early days for the National Geographic documentary and we stumbled across the future Top Dog sparring Kali empty hand against the future Shark Dog in 1984.  Very interesting!  We will probably have this as an extra in KT 2  grin

Yip!
CD
29090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: July 26, 2007, 02:18:07 PM
Second post

The Washington Times : July 20 , 2007 -- by Stephen Dinan and Jerry Seper 
   
"'Unless we correct the fundamental challenge of the violation of human rights of Latin American or Central American migrants crossing the border into Mexico, it's very hard for me to come up and wag a finger and say you guys should protect the rights of my citizens in this country,' he said, adding that changes to the Mexican law are now pending."      Mexico's ambassador to the United States yesterday said previous Mexican officials made a "dumb mistake" by issuing comic books to aid illegal aliens crossing the border, and said his government cannot criticize U.S. treatment of illegal aliens as long as Mexico has harsh laws on its books. 
 
"It's very hard for Mexico to preach to the north what it does not do to the south," Ambassador Arturo Sarukhan said in a meeting with editors and reporters at The Washington Times, referring to Mexico's felony penalties for, and sometimes cruel treatment of, those caught crossing its southern border. 
 
"Unless we correct the fundamental challenge of the violation of human rights of Latin American or Central American migrants crossing the border into Mexico, it's very hard for me to come up and wag a finger and say you guys should protect the rights of my citizens in this country," he said, adding that changes to the Mexican law are now pending. 
 
Mr. Sarukhan, who presented his credentials as ambassador to President Bush in February, said his government is taking a new tack since the December inauguration of President Felipe Calderon, who has toned down the public relations push for an immigration bill in the United States and is instead trying to build infrastructure, combat corruption and create jobs to keep workers at home. 
 
"The debate over immigration is an internal debate of the United States, and as such, I hope, this house noted a dramatic shift in the positioning of the Mexican government as of Dec. 1," Mr. Sarukhan said. "I think the previous Mexican government did itself and those that believe in comprehensive immigration reform a lot of damage by the way it tried to position itself publicly in an internal debate in the United States." 
 
In particular, the ambassador criticized past moves to distribute materials aimed at helping illegal aliens safely cross the U.S.-Mexico border. 
 
In 2005, the Mexican government's foreign ministry distributed 1.5 million comic books giving tips to would-be migrants, and last year Mexico's National Human Rights Commission planned to distribute maps to migrants showing water sites they could use during their crossing. The commission scrapped the plans after a U.S. protest. 
 
"That was not my government, and I would say that in hindsight, or even without hindsight -- I was consul general of Mexico in New York at the time these guidelines were delivered -- and I saw this and I said, 'What a dumb mistake,' " the ambassador said, adding that the human rights commission was a nongovernmental body. 
 
"I don't think that's the way that you work synergistically with the United States to co-manage a very complex border." 
 
The new approach was apparent when Mr. Bush and Mr. Calderon met in Mexico in March, and the Mexican leader stressed trying to build new economic opportunities in Mexico as well as working with the U.S. to secure the border. 
 
That's not to say Mr. Calderon didn't want Congress to pass Mr. Bush's immigration bill, which would have created a new guest-worker program and given citizenship rights to the estimated 12 million to 20 million illegal aliens already here, a majority of whom are Mexicans. Mr. Calderon called the bill's failure a "grave mistake." 
 
But Mr. Sarukhan said Mexican officials understand Americans' trepidation and desire for a secure border, and he said they are well aware of the consequences if a breach of the U.S.-Mexican border were to be involved in a future attack on U.S. security. 
 
"The day that happens, this relationship as we have known it, is over," he said. "I would say Mexico and the United States are working extremely well in trying to ensure that border is not used to underpin or challenge the national security of the United States." 
 
He said leaders in both nations must work to convince their citizens of the importance and value of a good U.S.-Mexico relationship, and said the countries should search for a uniting factor similar to the way that ethanol is serving as the basis for closer ties to Brazil. 
 
"There is a deep-seated fear in America today that their well-being, the well-being of Americans and their identity as a nation, and the impact of some of the effects of globalization, are making people scared," he said. 
 
Mr. Calderon serves one six-year term as Mexican president, and Mr. Sarukhan said he hopes to be able to show the U.S. Congress at the end of that time that immigration patterns have changed and workers are returning on their own to Mexico to start businesses and rejoin communities. 
 
The ambassador said Mexico's eventual goal is the same as that of the U.S.: "The end game for us, the Mexican government, is to ensure every single Mexican who crosses this border does so legally." 
 
Mr. Sarukhan, a former director of counternarcotics and law-enforcement issues, also said Mexico and the United States need to work together if they hope to better control the flow of drugs into the U.S. and cash and weapons into Mexico. 
 
He described the fight against drug smugglers and organized crime gangs who have brought rampant violence to the U.S.-Mexico border as important to both countries, and said the United States must do its part to "roll back" drug consumption. 
 
He defended remittances, the $23 billion sent back home by Mexicans working legally or illegally in the United States, saying they play "a key role in this stage of Mexican economic development." He pointed to the role of remittances in other nations such as Ireland and Spain when those countries were trying to extend their links to the European Community. 
 
But he said remittances are not the long-term solution for sustained growth in Mexico, particularly because it's an indicator that many of Mexico's best workers have fled the country to find jobs. 
 
"No country can grow if it is not able to hold onto its women and men. Some of them, I don't know if they're talented or not, but they're certainly bold," he said. 
 
29091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: July 26, 2007, 02:01:38 PM
ISRAEL: Israel should end its occupation of the West Bank, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during an interview with the U.S.-sponsored Arabic radio station Radio Sawa. Citing a recent speech by U.S. President George W. Bush, Rice added that, in the long term, Israel should focus on developing the Galilee and Negev regions rather than developing the occupied West Bank.
stratfor.com
29092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mex oil running out? on: July 26, 2007, 01:58:43 PM
stratfor.com

MEXICO: Proven reserves of crude oil in Mexico are declining and will be exhausted within seven years if the current rate of extraction continues, Mexican state-run oil company Petroleos Mexicanos said in a 2006 annual report released today. U.S.-based consulting firm PFC Energy said that though there are numerous investments for oil exploration, new deposits will take six to eight years to mature, and it is possible Mexico might have to import crude oil.
29093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Resistance against the Nazis on: July 26, 2007, 01:44:42 PM


Jewish resistance against the Nazis:
http://www.davekopel.com/2A/Foreign/Armed-resistance-to-the-holocaust.pdf'
29094  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kasparov in the WSJ on: July 26, 2007, 09:24:11 AM
Second post of the morning- another long one:

Don Putin
By GARRY KASPAROV
July 26, 2007; Page A13

When Vladimir Putin took power in Russia in 2000, the burning question was: "Who is Putin?" It has now changed to: "What is the nature of Putin's Russia?" This regime has been remarkably consistent in its behavior, yet foreign leaders and the Western press still act surprised at Mr. Putin's total disregard for their opinions.

 
Again and again we hear cries of: "Doesn't Putin know how bad this looks?" When another prominent Russian journalist is murdered, when a businessman not friendly to the Kremlin is jailed, when a foreign company is pushed out of its Russian investment, when pro-democracy marchers are beaten by police, when gas and oil supplies are used as weapons, or when Russian weapons and missile technology are sold to terrorist sponsor states like Iran and Syria, what needs to be asked is what sort of government would continue such behavior. This Kremlin regime operates within a value system entirely different from that of the Western nations struggling to understand what is happening behind the medieval red walls.

Mr. Putin's government is unique in history. This Kremlin is part oligarchy, with a small, tightly connected gang of wealthy rulers. It is partly a feudal system, broken down into semi-autonomous fiefdoms in which payments are collected from the serfs, who have no rights. Over this there is a democratic coat of paint, just thick enough to gain entry into the G-8 and keep the oligarchy's money safe in Western banks.

But if you really wish to understand the Putin regime in depth, I can recommend some reading. No Karl Marx or Adam Smith. Nothing by Montesquieu or Machiavelli, although the author you are looking for is of Italian descent. But skip Mussolini's "The Doctrine of Fascism," for now, and the entire political science section. Instead, go directly to the fiction department and take home everything you can find by Mario Puzo. If you are in a real hurry to become an expert on the Russian government, you may prefer the DVD section, where you can find Mr. Puzo's works on film. "The Godfather" trilogy is a good place to start, but do not leave out "The Last Don," "Omerta" and "The Sicilian."

The web of betrayals, the secrecy, the blurred lines between what is business, what is government, and what is criminal -- it's all there in Mr. Puzo's books. A historian looks at the Kremlin today and sees elements of Mussolini's "corporate state," Latin American juntas and Mexico's pseudo-democratic PRI machine. A Puzo fan sees the Putin government more accurately: the strict hierarchy, the extortion, the intimidation, the code of secrecy and, above all, the mandate to keep the revenue flowing. In other words, a mafia.

If a member of the inner circle goes against the Capo, his life is forfeit. Once Russia's richest man, Mikhail Khodorkovsky wanted to go straight and run his Yukos oil company as a legitimate corporation and not as another cog in Mr. Putin's KGB, Inc. He quickly found himself in a Siberian prison, his company dismantled and looted, and its pieces absorbed by the state mafia apparatus of Rosneft and Gazprom.

The Yukos case has become a model. Private companies are absorbed into the state while at the same time the assets of the state companies move into private accounts.

Alexander Litvinenko was a KGB agent who broke the loyalty code by fleeing to Britain. Worse, he violated the law of omertà by going to the press and even publishing books about the dirty deeds of Mr. Putin and his foot soldiers. Instead of being taken fishing in the old-fashioned Godfather style, he was killed in London in the first recorded case of nuclear terrorism. Now the Kremlin is refusing to hand over the main suspect in the murder.

Mr. Putin can't understand Britain doing potential harm to its business interests over one human life. That's an alien concept. In his world, everything is negotiable. Morals and principles are just chips on the table in the Kremlin's game. There is no mere misunderstanding in the Litvinenko case; there are two different languages being spoken.

In the civilized world, certain things are sacrosanct. Human life is not traded at the same table where business and diplomacy are discussed. But for Mr. Putin, it's a true no-limits game. Kosovo, the missile shield, pipeline deals, the Iranian nuclear program and democratic rights are all just cards to be played.

After years of showing no respect for the law in Russia, with no resulting consequences from abroad, it should not come as a surprise that Mr. Putin's attitude extends to international relations as well. The man accused of the Litvinenko murder, Andrei Lugovoi, signs autographs and enjoys the support of the Russian media, which says and does nothing without Kremlin approval. For seven years the West has tried to change the Kremlin with kind words and compliance. It apparently believed that it would be able to integrate Mr. Putin and his gang into the Western system of trade and diplomacy.

Instead, the opposite has happened -- the mafia corrupts everything it touches. Bartering in human rights begins to appear acceptable. The Kremlin is not changing its standards: It is imposing them on the outside world. It receives the stamp of legitimacy from Western leaders and businesses but makes those same leaders and businesses complicit in its crimes.

With energy prices so high, the temptation to sell out to the Kremlin is an offer you almost can't refuse. Gerhard Schröder could not resist doing business with Mr. Putin on his terms and, after pushing through a Baltic Sea pipeline deal while in office, he had a nice Gazprom job waiting for him when he left the chancellorship. Silvio Berlusconi also became a Putin business partner. He even answered for Mr. Putin at an EU meeting, vigorously defending Russian abuses in Chechnya and the jailing of Mr. Khodorkovsky and then joking to Mr. Putin, "I should be your lawyer!" Now we see Nicolas Sarkozy boosting the interests of French energy company Total in the Shtokman gas field.

Can Mr. Sarkozy possibly speak out strongly in support of Britain after making big deals on the phone with Mr. Putin? He should know that if Gordon Brown gets Mr. Putin on the line and offers to drop the case against Mr. Lugovoi, perhaps Total will find itself pushed out to make room for BP.

We in the Russian opposition have been saying for a long time that our problem would soon be the world's problem. The mafia knows no borders. Nuclear terror is not out of the question if it fits in with the Kremlin business agenda. Expelling diplomats and limiting official visits is not going to have an impact.

How about limiting the Russian ruling elite's visits to their properties in the West? Ironically, they like to keep their money where they can trust in the rule of law, and so far Mr. Putin and his wealthy supporters have every reason to believe their money is safe. They've been spending so much on ski trips to the Alps that they recently decided to bring the skiing to Russia by snapping up the Olympic Winter Games.

There is no reason to cease doing business with Russia. The delusion is that it can ever be more than that. The mafia takes, it does not give. Mr. Putin has discovered that when dealing with Europe and America he can always exchange worthless promises of reform for cold, hard cash. Mr. Lugovoi may yet find himself up for sale.

Mr. Kasparov, former world chess champion, is a contributing editor to The Wall Street Journal and chairman of the United Civil Front of Russia, a pro-democracy opposition organization.
29095  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Help our troops/our cause: on: July 26, 2007, 08:41:49 AM
The NYTimes takes the tone that one would expect.  Still, the issue is important and so I post the article.
==================

WASHINGTON, July 25 — A presidential panel on military and veterans health care released a report Wednesday concluding that the system was insufficient for the demands of two modern wars and called for improvements, including far-reaching changes in the way the government determines the disability status and benefits of injured soldiers and veterans.

Commission’s Web SiteThe bipartisan commission made 35 recommendations that included expanded and improved treatment of traumatic brain injuries and the type of post-traumatic stress disorders that overwhelmed public mental health facilities during the Vietnam era but remain stigmatized to this day.

President Bush told reporters at the White House late Wednesday that he had directed Robert M. Gates, the defense secretary, and Jim Nicholson, secretary of veterans affairs, “to take them seriously, and to implement them, so that we can say with certainty that any soldier who has been hurt will get the best possible care and treatment that this government can offer.”

The commission said fully carrying out its recommendations would cost $500 million a year for the time being, and $1 billion annually years from now as the current crop of fresh veterans and active military members ages and new personnel is in place.

The report was spurred by a series of embarrassing news reports about the substandard treatment returning soldiers received at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, which for years had been held up by politicians, including the president, as providing unparalleled care to American troops.

Mr. Bush named the nine-member President’s Commission on Care for America’s Returning Wounded Warriors in March, with Bob Dole, the former Republican Senate leader, and Donna E. Shalala, the former Clinton administration health and human services secretary, as its leaders.

The commission’s report went beyond just the problems at Walter Reed. It proposed fixes for longstanding concerns about disparities in treatment and benefits at Department of Defense facilities, for active-duty military personnel and the Department of Veterans Affairs facilities, which treat the retired. It also recommended cutting the red tape that frustrates military families.

“This is a major overhaul and a simplification and a rationalization of the disability system in this country for our veterans,” Ms. Shalala told reporters Wednesday.

The report also focused on treatment, calling for more aggressive attention to potential brain trauma caused by roadside bombs.

Even as it called for change, the report avoided harsh assessment of the administration’s handling of the military and veterans health care systems. Rather, it portrayed many of the problems it was seeking to fix as resulting from advances in modern medicine that have allowed soldiers to survive injuries that would have killed them in previous wars.

“While numerous aspects of U.S. medical care are excellent, problems in coordination and continuity of care are common,” the report said. “Our overall health system is oriented to acute care, not long-term rehabilitation.”

And, it acknowledged, “Many of the concerns already are being addressed by Congress and in the two departments.”

Indeed, the panel’s recommendations came on the same day the Senate approved several related measures. The chamber approved a 3.5 percent pay raise for military personnel and the creation of programs to improve the oversight of injured service members as they move through the system, and to improve the treatment of brain injuries and stress disorders.

The most far-reaching of the commission’s recommendations involve restructuring the Defense Department’s disability and compensation system, which has provoked complaints from many military personnel. Currently, injured service members go through an elaborate process to assess whether their conditions are serious enough to prevent them from returning to duty.

If they are unfit, Defense Department doctors assign patients a rating that determines what level of benefits they receive.

After retiring, a service member can choose whether to receive benefits from Veterans Affairs or the Defense Department, evaluating which package is better — a choice that would be eliminated under the new recommendations.

When the commission met in April, Col. Allan Glass of the Army talked about the case of a sergeant with 18 years of active duty to illustrate the disparity in disability ratings.

Colonel Glass said the sergeant was found to have stomach cancer that had spread to his lymph nodes and underwent surgery at Walter Reed. The colonel said the Army’s physical evaluation board said the soldier was unfit for service but gave him a disability rating of zero percent. The Army reopened the case at the behest of the soldier’s senator and changed his rating to 4o percent. Yet when Colonel Glass spoke in April, he said the soldier had still not received a final disability rating from Veterans Affairs.

The commission report on Wednesday called for a change in the system that would leave the Defense Department responsible for determining if a service member is fit for duty, but transfer the responsibility for determining disability ratings and compensation to the V.A.

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Ms. Shalala said the shift could provide savings by reducing the bureaucracy, though she said the savings had not been calculated, and were not accounted for in the plan’s overall price. And carrying out that recommendation, the report acknowledged, would require Congress to pass legislation.

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Text: The Commission’s Report (Microsoft Word)
Commission’s Web SiteThe commission also recommended creating a “recovery plan” for seriously injured military personnel and assigning one coordinator for each patient and their family to help them navigate the process of recovering and returning to duty or retiring from active service.

Patients are now assigned case managers, but the commission said it found that patients “typically have several case managers, each concerned with a different component of their care.”

In addition, the report said, patients complained that some managers “did not understand” how to treat people with traumatic brain injuries, a condition that can affect soldiers injured in roadside bomb attacks.

When 35,000 apparently healthy returnees from Iraq and Afghanistan were screened, 10 to 20 percent “had apparently experienced a mild T.B.I. during deployment,” the report noted, using the military abbreviation for traumatic brain injury.

Soldiers and their families complained in the wake of the Walter Reed revelations — first disclosed in The Washington Post — about delays in receiving benefits and treatment because of delays in sharing data between the Defense Department and the V.A.

Democrats noted that the administration had not embraced previous reports and their recommendations, including the recent Iraq Study Group report and those of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

But Mr. Bush has spent his presidency pledging support for the troops, and reports of problems in their care has exposed political and policy vulnerabilities that the Democrats have seized upon.

After a brief run Wednesday on the White House South Lawn with two veterans who were using prostheses, Mr. Bush said: “The spirit of that report is, any time we have somebody hurt, they deserve the best possible care, and their family needs strong support. We’ve provided that in many cases, but to the extent we haven’t, we’re going to adjust.”

(Aides said the jog, with one veteran who lost both legs in Afghanistan and one who lost a leg in Iraq, had been scheduled earlier, independent of the report’s release.)

Asked if she thought Mr. Bush would follow through on his pledge, Ms. Shalala said, “Senator Dole and I are going to keep an eye on him.”

29096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: July 26, 2007, 08:29:01 AM
Geopolitical Diary: The Return of Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin broke out an old supply of bile on Wednesday when he called for permanent increases in the capabilities of both the military and the FSB -- the Russian successor to the Soviet KGB.

Stratfor never takes such statements from people who possess nuclear capabilities lightly. But, in this case, the apparent militancy behind the comment is sadly funny. Russia has had a hard run since the end of the Cold War, facing military, social, economic, medical and political declines. But all of these pale in comparison to -- and feed into -- the worst disaster of all: Russia's demographic collapse.

Low birth rates, combined with soaring death rates -- particularly among men between the ages of 30 and 55 -- have saddled the country with the worst demographic picture in centuries of any nation that is not at war. Even Russian government demographers admit the population is dropping by about 750,000 people per year, just as the average Russian grows older and, therefore, less productive. Most independent demographers estimate that by 2050 Russia's population will have decreased by one-third of its current total, approximately 140 million. The only reason Russia lacks a pension crisis like those many other developed states are experiencing is that, a few years back, Moscow moved the retirement age past the (falling) average age of death. As a country, Russia is -- quite literally -- dying.

So why the chest beating and saber rattling? What does Russia have to worry about? Is the Cold War not over? Well, yes and no.

While it is certainly true that NATO lacks the military force even to contemplate an invasion of Russia, this does not mean NATO is not perceived as aggressive. In the Russian mind, NATO and the European Union have willfully expanded to absorb all of the former Soviet satellites, as well as the Baltic countries and Slovenia. Now the West is perceived by the Russians to be in the process of tossing away or creatively reinterpreting agreements such as the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe Treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, slowly but irrevocably reshaping the European landscape to suit its needs.

For the Europeans, it is about reknitting the European fabric after two generations of separation. For the Americans, it is about leaving the Cold War behind and preparing for the conflicts of tomorrow. The ever-expanding U.S. nuclear missile defense network -- which made headlines Wednesday when the British offered up the Royal Air Force base at Menwith Hill -- is only one part of the U.S. effort to fashion a world in which Russia is an afterthought.

For the Russians, it is about being told in a rather absentminded and oblique way that they and their interests no longer matter.

But matter they do, and while the Russians are indeed dying, they are not dead yet. Acting as if they were is tantamount to discussing a grandmother's past marital infidelities before she finalizes her will, and expecting her to be oblivious to it.

On the same day Putin demanded better military and FSB capabilities, the military made it clear that the president's call is not just talk, installing in Moscow one of the few new pieces of military hardware the Russians have perfected since the end of the Cold War: the S-400 air defense missile battery. Russia's other new technologies include the Topol and Bulava intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs); the former is land-launched and already entering service, while the latter is sub-launched and in the final stages of development. Between them, these ICBM designs will make up the backbone of Russia's nuclear deterrent in a decade's time.

While it has not exactly turned a corner, the Russian defense industry is undergoing a massive overhaul that can only make things better. On Wednesday, Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov -- a bean counter who the army hates -- was named to the seemingly obvious position of board chairman of Russia's military shipbuilding operations. And much of the rest of the military-industrial complex is being taken over by Sergei Chemezov, Putin's point man for defense reforms and the one in charge of Rosoboronexport, the government's weapons export arm.

Beyond defense, high energy prices have allowed the country to claw its way back from the destitution of the 1998 ruble collapse and helped it accrue one of the world's largest foreign reserves accounts. Russia is actually so cash-rich that has a budget surplus, despite having increased defense spending by double-digit percentages for seven years in a row. Moscow's energy and resources exports give it direct influence throughout Europe and Turkey. Its people feel more secure than they have in a generation, and they have a leader who most are willing to follow, despite his merely passing fancy with democratic institutions.

No state with Russia's capabilities has ever gone down easily. (Honestly, the real surprise is that Moscow has been so quiescent for so long.) Why should anyone expect that the Russians -- in spite of all their problems -- will "go gentle into that good night?"

While it might not last, Russia is coming back. It has a mark yet to make on this world.

stratfor.com
29097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 25, 2007, 11:44:31 PM
Statement of Faith By Rep. Ron Paul, MD.

The Covenant News ~ July 21, 2007
We live in times of great uncertainty when men of faith must stand up for our values and our traditions lest they be washed away in a sea of fear and relativism. As you likely know, I am running for President of the United States, and I am asking for your support.

I have never been one who is comfortable talking about my faith in the political arena. In fact, the pandering that typically occurs in the election season I find to be distasteful. But for those who have asked, I freely confess that Jesus Christ is my personal Savior, and that I seek His guidance in all that I do. I know, as you do, that our freedoms come not from man, but from God. My record of public service reflects my reverence for the Natural Rights with which we have been endowed by a loving Creator.

I have worked tirelessly to defend and restore those rights for all Americans, born and unborn alike. The right of an innocent, unborn child to life is at the heart of the American ideal of liberty. My professional and legislative record demonstrates my strong commitment to this pro-life principle.

In 40 years of medical practice, I never once considered performing an abortion, nor did I ever find abortion necessary to save the life of a pregnant woman. In Congress, I have authored legislation that seeks to define life as beginning at conception, H.R. 1094. I am also the prime sponsor of H.R. 300, which would negate the effect of Roe v Wade by removing the ability of federal courts to interfere with state legislation to protect life. This is a practical, direct approach to ending federal court tyranny which threatens our constitutional republic and has caused the deaths of 45 million of the unborn. I have also authored H.R. 1095, which prevents federal funds to be used for so-called “population control.” Many talk about being pro-life. I have taken and will continue to advocate direct action to restore protection for the unborn.

I have also acted to protect the lives of Americans by my adherence to the doctrine of “just war.” This doctrine, as articulated by Augustine, suggested that war must only be waged as a last resort--- for a discernible moral and public good, with the right intentions, vetted through established legal authorities (a constitutionally required declaration of the Congress), and with a likely probability of success.

It has been and remains my firm belief that the current United Nations-mandated, no-win police action in Iraq fails to meet the high moral threshold required to wage just war. That is why I have offered moral and practical opposition to the invasion, occupation and social engineering police exercise now underway in Iraq. It is my belief, borne out by five years of abject failure and tens of thousands of lost lives, that the Iraq operation has been a dangerous diversion from the rightful and appropriate focus of our efforts to bring to justice to the jihadists that have attacked us and seek still to undermine our nation, our values, and our way of life.

I opposed giving the president power to wage unlimited and unchecked aggression, However, I did vote to support the use of force in Afghanistan. I also authored H.R. 3076, the September 11 Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001. A letter of marque and reprisal is a constitutional tool specifically designed to give the president the authority to respond with appropriate force to those non-state actors who wage aggression against the United States while limiting his authority to only those responsible for the atrocities of that day. Such a limited authorization is consistent with the doctrine of just war and the practical aim of keeping Americans safe while minimizing the costs in blood and treasure of waging such an operation.

On September 17, 2001, I stated on the house floor that “…striking out at six or eight or even ten different countries could well expand this war of which we wanted no part. Without defining the enemy there is no way to know our precise goal or to know when the war is over. Inadvertently more casual acceptance of civilian deaths as part of this war I'm certain will prolong the agony and increase the chances of even more American casualties. We must guard against this if at all possible.” I’m sorry to say that history has proven this to be true.

I am running for president to restore the rule of law and to stand up for our divinely inspired Constitution. I have never voted for legislation that is not specifically authorized by the Constitution. As president, I will never sign a piece of legislation, nor use the power of the executive, in a manner inconsistent with the limitations that the founders envisioned.

Many have given up on America as an exemplar for the world, as a model of freedom, self-government, and self-control. I have not. There is hope for America. I ask you to join me, and to be a part of it.

Sincerely,

Ron Paul


For More Information Contact:
Paul Dorr
Iowa Field Director
RonPaul2008@iowatelecom.net
Phone: 712-758-3660

Ron Paul 2008
Presidential Campaign Committee
www.RonPaul2008.com
Phone: 703-248-9115
FAX: 703-248-9119
29098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 25, 2007, 07:07:54 PM
"You are alright with Iran getting nukes?"

NO!!!  PLEASE READ MY POST AGAIN!!!

As best as I can tell, the first plan to stop Iranian nukes is via true economic pressure.  THIS HAS NOT BEEN TRIED YET due in part to Euro weenyhood, but maybe they are starting to come round.    Best military option I can see is via naval based action.  As best as I can tell, Bush has been pre-positioning for this.  We may need to give the Russians something they want in East Europe to get them to stop sabotaging things via their enablement of Iranian nukes, providing AA misslies and the like.  Fundamental is that Iran sees that we are not going to be run out of Iraq without a deal.  If we continue are growing alliance of convenience with Sunni Iraq, and they see Sunni countries planning to go nuke to counter Iranian nukes, then maybe, just maybe some sort of deal can be made.
29099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 25, 2007, 05:16:40 PM
I suspect the trade will be that they trade up getting nukes in return for some accomodation on Iraq that puts them at rest that they will not be have to war again with Iraq.

This is not an irrational concern.  Remember that we backed SH against them in a war where Iran lost something like 900,000 people IIRC.  Wasn't it , , , hmmmm, , , lets see if I remember now , , ,Donald Rumsfeld who was foto op'ed with SH in the mid 80s?  Didn't we give advanced intel to him to ensure that he wouldn't lose?

As for areas on mutual interest, remember that Iran was very helpful in our overthrow of the Taliban.  They gave us overflight, (the right to pick up downed pilots too IIRC) and other things.  It was fresh after that that Bush called them part of the "Axis of Evil"-- no doubt a bit of a WTF moment for them-- but the point is this: they helped us against Sunni Al Aqaeda when we went after AQ/the Taliban.

From a geopolitical POV is it a terrible thing if they get influence over southern Iraq?  For regional balance of power reasons, does this not serve our purpose against AQ?  Would not the House of Saud be reminded whose protection they need , , , again?  In exchange for hardening against AQ in SA-- this hardening aleady under way of its own accord because AQ undermines the House of Saud?

What about the Arab League being in Israel today?  What is THAT about?  Very interesting!  Why would this happen after the division of "Palestine" into Gaza and the West Bank?  What is going on with Turkey and the Kurds?  If Turkey does an incursion, where does that leave us-- and Iran?

IF IF IF in return we get them to not go nukes (not their Word, but IN FACT) then , , ,Did you notice that today the Russians said that they were discontinuing work on Iran's nuke program for arrears in payments?  Didn't we hear this before?  Hmmmm-- maybe that is a diplomatic cover for Iran, who is now offering renewed inspection access, to dance with the US towards a deal? 

This also suggests that the Russians are going to want something too-- perhaps less support from us for the Ukraine?  Backing off on Star Wars against Iran positioned in East Europe?  Watch for hints of this.

Look, I'm not advocating this, I am trying to assess.  Iran is led by religious fascists who are a serious danger who cannot be permitted to go nuke!  What are our options?!?

These whackos are also fcuking the Iranian economy something fierce.  Iran cannot even keep its people in gasoline!  If we can get the Euros mind right to where we can genuinely bring eco pressure to bear, then collapse from within might be in play.  My readings tell us that the majority of real people in Iran like the US/the west.

The weakest link in President Bush's hand is that we the American people have persuaded the enemy that our will is used up.
Yes, yes, Bush/Rumbo have made huge mistakes and did bring to bear all that should have been brought for such a primally important play.  This has created a situation where for American political reasons as well as the failure to upgrade the military for what the President has been, is, and will be asking for it to do that our military threat to Iran is doubted.

This I suspect is why the recent leaked balloon from American military figures about continuing The Surge further.

The Adventure continues!

29100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: July 25, 2007, 03:16:33 PM
Of course we're negotiating with Iran on Iraq!!! --AND their nuke/death wish as well.  The two are quite interwoven and there are many other areas of mutual interest.

In fact there are many ways in which a "grand compromise" could serve the purposes of both sides.
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