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29051  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington; Story on: January 15, 2009, 11:33:27 AM
G. Washington

We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times."


"On the other hand, the duty imposed upon him to take care, that the laws be faithfully executed, follows out the strong injunctions of his oath of office, that he will 'preserve, protect, and defend the constitution.' The great object of the executive department is to accomplish this purpose; and without it, be the form of government whatever it may, it will be utterly worthless for offence, or defence; for the redress of grievances, or the protection of rights; for the happiness, or good order, or safety of the people."

--Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
29052  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: MINN on: January 15, 2009, 11:25:40 AM
You would think people would learn. The recount in the contest between Norm Coleman and Al Franken for a seat in the U.S. Senate isn't just embarrassing. It is unconstitutional.

This is Florida 2000 all over again, but with colder weather. Like that fiasco, Minnesota's muck of a process violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Indeed, the controlling Supreme Court decision is none other than Bush v. Gore.

Remember Florida? Local officials conducting recounts could not decide what counted as a legal vote. Hanging chads? Dimpled chads? Should "undervotes" count (where a machine failed to read an incompletely-punched card)? What about "overvotes" (where voters punched more than one hole)? Different counties used different standards; different precincts within counties were inconsistent.

The Florida Supreme Court intervened and made things worse, ordering a statewide recount of some types of rejected ballots but not others. It specified no standards for what should count as a valid vote, leaving the judgment to each county. And it ordered partial recounts already conducted in some counties (but not others) included in the final tabulation. The result was chaos.

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By a vote of 7-2, Bush v. Gore (2000) ruled that Florida's recount violated the principle that all votes must be treated uniformly. Applying precedents dating to the 1960s, the Court found that the Equal Protection Clause meant that ballots must be treated so as to give every vote equal weight. A state may not, by "arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another." Florida's lack of standards produced "unequal evaluation of ballots in several respects." The state's supreme court "ratified this uneven treatment" and created more of its own, and was unconstitutional.

Bush v. Gore is rightly regarded as controversial -- but not because of its holding regarding the Equal Protection Clause, which commanded broad agreement among the justices. The controversy arose because of the remedy the Court chose for Florida's violation, which was to end the recount entirely. The majority thought that time was up under Florida law requiring that its results be submitted in time to be included in the Electoral College count. That aspect of Bush v. Gore commanded only five votes. Two justices thought Florida should get more time and another chance.

The problem with the remedy was that it arguably violated the same principle that led the Court to invalidate the recount: the need to treat all votes equally. It had the practical effect of awarding the election to Bush (though subsequent media counts confirmed that Bush won anyway, under any uniform standard). This has led to enduring partisan criticism of the case, some fair and some unfair.

But no matter: Bush v. Gore is the law of the land. On the question of how the Equal Protection Clause applies to state recounts, the ruling, which reflected a 7-2 majority, controls.

Minnesota is Bush v. Gore reloaded. The details differ, but not in terms of arbitrariness, lack of uniform standards, inconsistency in how local recounts were conducted and counted, and strange state court decisions.

Consider the inconsistencies: One county "found" 100 new votes for Mr. Franken, due to an asserted clerical error. Decision? Add them. Ramsey County (St. Paul) ended up with 177 more votes than were recorded election day. Decision? Count them. Hennepin County (Minneapolis, where I voted -- once, to my knowledge) came up with 133 fewer votes than were recorded by the machines. Decision? Go with the machines' tally. All told, the recount in 25 precincts ended up producing more votes than voters who signed in that day.

Then there's Minnesota's (first, so far) state Supreme Court decision, Coleman v. Ritchie, decided by a vote of 3-2 on Dec. 18. (Two justices recused themselves because they were members of the state canvassing board.) While not as bad as Florida's interventions, the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered local boards to count some previously excluded absentee ballots but not others. Astonishingly, the court left the decision as to which votes to count to the two competing campaigns and forbade local election officials to correct errors on their own.

If Messrs. Franken and Coleman agreed, an absentee ballot could be counted. Either campaign could veto a vote. Dean Barkley of the Independence Party, who ran third, was not included in this process.

Thus, citizens' right to vote -- the right to vote! -- was made subject to political parties' gaming strategies. Insiders agree that Mr. Franken's team played a far more savvy game than Mr. Coleman's. The margin of Mr. Franken's current lead is partly the product of a successful what's-mine-is-mine-what's-yours-is-vetoed strategy, and of the Coleman team's failure to counter it.

The process is not over yet, since the state court decision in effect kicked the can down the road. The candidates can revisit these issues by contesting the legal validity of the election under state law -- which Mr. Coleman's team did last week.

But as matters stand now, the Minnesota recount is a legal train wreck. The result, a narrow Franken lead, is plainly invalid. Just as in Bush v. Gore, the recount has involved "unequal evaluation of ballots in several respect" and failed to provide "minimal procedural safeguards" of equal treatment of all ballots. Legally, it does not matter which candidate benefited from all these differences in treatment. (Mr. Franken did.) The different treatment makes the results not only unreliable (and suspicious), but unconstitutional.

What is the remedy? Unlike Bush v. Gore, there is no looming national deadline. Minnesota can take its time and do things right.

This means two things: First, the process must conform to Minnesota election law. Second, it must conform to Bush v. Gore. Whatever standards Minnesota uses must be applied uniformly, consistently, and under clear standards not admitting of local variation. Discrepancies between machine counts and hand recounts, and between numbers of recorded votes and signed-in voters, however resolved, must be resolved the same way throughout the state.

The standards for evaluating rejected absentee ballots likewise must be uniform, with decisions made according to legal standards, not by partisan campaigns. If the Minnesota Supreme Court fails to assure these things, the matter could go right up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

In Today's Opinion Journal


Leadership and PanicsA Geithner Tax AmnestyStimulus for Tax Collectors


Wonder Land: Bush and the Libby Pardon
– Daniel HenningerWelcome to the White House, Mr. Obama
– Karl Rove


Even Businessmen Deserve a Lawyer
– Arlen Specter and Edwin Meese IIIBush Destroyed a Dictator. Clinton Installed One.
– Ruth R. WisseAnd what if there is no reliable way to determine in a recount who won, consistent with Bush v. Gore's requirements?

The Constitution's answer is a do-over. The 17th Amendment provides: "When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct."

In a sense, a vacancy has already "happened." The U.S. Senate convened on Jan. 6 with only one senator from Minnesota. Still, the seat is perhaps not "vacant," just unfilled. But if the contest proceeding does not produce a clear winner that passes constitutional muster, a special election -- and a temporary appointment by Gov. Tim Pawlenty -- may be the only answer.

For now, the only thing certain is that the present "certified" result -- which is that Mr. Franken won by 225 votes out of more than 2.9 million cast -- is an obvious, embarrassing violation of the Constitution.

Mr. Paulsen is professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minn. He is formerly associate dean of the University of Minnesota Law School.
29053  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Desafio on: January 15, 2009, 11:22:56 AM
La Agendageopolítica: Desafío de México de Obama

El Secretario Interior mexicano Fernando Gomez Mont el miércoles criticó un informe reciente de Orden de Fuerzas de Coyuntura de EEUU que advierte del potencial para el estado mexicano desplomar y decir que una descentralización de control en México requeriría intervención de EEUU. La declaración de Gomez Mont, junto con preocupación creciente a través de Estados Unidos sobre la estabilidad de México, es otro recordatorio más de los desafíos frente al gobierno mexicano -— Y la administración presidencial entrante de Barack Obama.

Cuando violencia en México se eleva para registrar niveles —- más de 5.700 personas se murieron en la violencia crimen-relacionado organizada en 2008 — El gobierno de EEUU ha comenzado gradualmente a notar la severidad de la situación. Aunque Washington ciertamente ha estado esperando la transición a una nueva administración, ha habido un cambio en la manera México es discutido en círculos de política -– Cuando visto con la Coyuntura que Opera Ambiente 2008 informa. El Departamento de EEUU de la Seguridad de la Patria, el Departamento de la Justicia y el Consejo Nacional de Seguridad tiene todo, en de un solo sentido u otro, expresado semejante concierne que México quizás desplome bajo el esfuerzo de la violencia de cártel de droga, o eso podría haber derrame significativo de violencia en Estados Unidos.

Hasta cierto punto, el equipo de Obama ha señalado que hace caso de estas advertencias de la situación que hace al sur de la frontera. El Presidente mexicano Felipe Calderon es el único jefe de estado extranjero de encontrar hasta ahora con Obama, cuya inauguración es la semana próxima, y las dos esperanzas expresadas para la cooperación mutua en años venideros. Y Ministro-Designa Hillary Clinton dijo durante su audición de confirmación que la nueva administración buscará participación más grande con México y el resto de Iberoamérica.

Hacer a mano una política de Iberoamérica de la tela entera será un desafío para la administración de Obama, como la relación de la región con Estados Unidos se cayó en un estado de descuido bajo la administración de Bush. Clinton prometió que la administración de Obama utilizaría las asociaciones de energía para asegurar una relación cercana con Iberoamérica —- Un objetivo especialmente importante de política, dado que Venezuela y México están entre los primeros cinco suministradores de petróleo a Estados Unidos. La administración de Obama también planea eliminarse restricciones de viaje y remesa Bush ha recaudado contra Cuba.

Pero situación volátil de seguridad de México se queda entre el potencial más significativo desafía la nueva administración encarará, y no es claro si hay mucho más que puede ser hecho en el asunto. Con conexiones que refuerzan entre pandillas de calle de EEUU y cárteles mexicanos, el problema de violencia mexicana es de ninguna manera limitados al lado mexicano de la frontera.

Esto no quiere decir que el gobierno de EEUU no haya hecho nada; la Iniciativa de Merida asignó cientos de millones de dólares para mejorar la instrucción y el equipo para la aplicación de la ley mexicana. Pero Merida es justo el más prominente de una serie de iniciativas la administración de Bush ha estado aplicando calladamente con México sobre los últimos pocos años. También ha habido aumentos sin precedentes en extradiciones, las expansiones de Aplicación de Droga de EEUU Agencia (DEA) presencia administrativa en México y compartir aumentado de inteligencia. La financiación más grande para oficiales locales de aplicación de la ley y Patrulla de fronteras de EEUU ha facilitado operaciones por lado de EEUU de la frontera y ayudado a reducir parte del flujo de armas en México, y ha impresionado apreciablemente pautas contiguas de tráfico. Esto significa que las opciones bajo-colgantes de política disponibles a un presidente de EEUU ya han sido aplicadas. Qué se queda son las decisiones más difíciles.

Por ejemplo, uno de las quejas primeras mexicanas de gobierno concierne el flujo de armas ilegales: Estados Unidos es la No. 1 fuente de armas ilegales en México (aunque hay un flujo significativo por América Central). Muchas de esas armas son compradas legalmente e imposible de encontrar en ferias de armas Estados Unidos interior. Las fuentes dentro del gobierno mexicano consideran la financiación más grande para programas como Traficante de armas de Operación, que financia interdicto de armamentos en el lado de EEUU de la frontera, para ser uno de las principales áreas en los que la administración de Obama podría tener un impacto significativo. Sin embargo, la oportunidad que cambios substanciales al enfoque de EEUU en regulaciones de fusil y armas serán hechos en el nombre de una asociación con México parece bajo.

Pero la inflexibilidad no es limitada a Estados Unidos. La desgana de México para permitir que libertad de aplicación de la ley de EEUU en operaciones o para permitir la presencia de EEUU agencias militares de tendones de la corva de consejeros, como el DEA, que tiene probado sumamente efectivo en combatir organizó crimen en países como Colombia. Mexicanos recuerdan invasiones de EEUU de su país en 1914 y 1916, durante la Revolución mexicana. Muchas culpa Estados Unidos para romper la espalda del gobierno mexicano forzando el ejército para partir su despliegue en rebeldes luchadores de Zapatista en el sur y Casa de campo de Pancho al norte. México, en total, es por lo tanto reacio permitir a tropas de EEUU para pisar su tierra en el nuevo siglo.

La posibilidad de verdadero EEUU-cooperación mexicana a combatir la violencia que plaga México levanta más preguntas que contesta. Pero sin un cambio notable en las pautas de violencia que haría un cambio de política más urgente — por ejemplo un cambio a concentrar en civiles a ambos lados de la frontera, o del asesinato de líderes clave en México — Allí parezca ser pequeño que puede ser prescindido de gastar mucha capital política. Y con los otros desafíos, inclusive una Rusia resurgente y Pakistán caótico, frente a la presidencia de Obama, cambios significativos en la política de México no parecen probables en el futuro próximo.

29054  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's challenge on: January 15, 2009, 11:20:56 AM

Geopolitical Diary: Obama's Mexico Challenge

Mexican Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez Mont on Wednesday criticized a recent U.S. Joint Forces Command report that warns of the potential for the Mexican state to collapse and says a devolution of control in Mexico would require U.S. intervention. Gomez Mont's statement, along with growing concern throughout the United States over the stability of Mexico, is yet another reminder of the challenges facing the Mexican government -— and the incoming presidential administration of Barack Obama.

As violence in Mexico soars to record levels —- more than 5,700 people died in organized crime-related violence in 2008 — the U.S. government has gradually begun to note the severity of the situation. Though Washington certainly has been waiting for the transition to a new administration, there has been a shift in the way Mexico is being discussed in policy circles -– as seen with the Joint Operating Environment 2008 report. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Justice and National Security Council have all, in one way or another, expressed similar concerns that Mexico might collapse under the strain of the drug cartel violence, or that there could be significant spillover of violence into the United States.

To some extent, the Obama team has signaled that it is heeding these warnings of the situation brewing south of the border. Mexican President Felipe Calderon is the only foreign head of state to meet so far with Obama, whose inauguration is next week, and the two expressed hopes for mutual cooperation in coming years. And Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton said during her confirmation hearing that the new administration will seek greater involvement with Mexico and the rest of Latin America.

Crafting a Latin America policy from whole cloth will be a challenge for the Obama administration, as the region's relationship with the United States fell into a state of neglect under the Bush administration. Clinton promised that the Obama administration would use energy partnerships to secure a close relationship with Latin America —- a particularly important policy goal, given that Venezuela and Mexico are among the top five suppliers of oil to the United States. Obama's administration also plans to do away with travel and remittance restrictions Bush has levied against Cuba.

But Mexico's volatile security situation remains among the most significant potential challenges the new administration will face, and it is not clear whether there is a great deal more that can be done on the issue. With connections strengthening between U.S. street gangs and Mexican cartels, the problem of Mexican violence is by no means limited to the Mexican side of the border.

This is not to say that the U.S. government has done nothing; the Merida Initiative allocated hundreds of millions of dollars to improve training and equipment for Mexican law enforcement. But Merida is just the highest-profile of a series of initiatives the Bush administration has been quietly implementing with Mexico over the last few years. There also have been record increases in extraditions, expansions of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency's (DEA) administrative presence in Mexico and increased intelligence sharing. Greater funding for local U.S. law enforcement and Border Patrol officers has facilitated operations along the U.S. side of the border and helped to reduce some of the flow of weapons into Mexico, and has significantly impacted border traffic patterns. This means that the low-hanging policy options available to a U.S. president already have been implemented. What remain are the more difficult decisions.

For example, one of the Mexican government's top complaints concerns the flow of illegal weapons: The United States is the No. 1 source of illegal weapons in Mexico (although there is a significant flow through Central America). Many of those weapons are purchased legally and untraceably at gun shows inside the United States. Sources within the Mexican government consider greater funding for programs like Operation Gunrunner, which funds arms interdiction on the U.S. side of the border, to be one of the main areas in which the Obama administration could have a significant impact. However, the chance that substantial changes to the U.S. approach on gun and weapons regulations will be made in the name of a partnership with Mexico appear low.

But inflexibility is not limited to the United States. Mexico's reluctance to permit U.S. law enforcement freedom in operations or to allow the presence of U.S. military advisers hamstrings agencies, like the DEA, which have proven highly effective in combating organized crime in countries like Colombia. Mexicans recall the U.S. invasions of their country in 1914 and 1916, during the Mexican Revolution. Many blame the United States for breaking the back of the Mexican government by forcing the military to split its deployment into fighting Zapatista rebels in the south and Pancho Villa to the north. Mexico, as a whole, is therefore loath to allow U.S. troops to tread its soil in the new century.

The possibility of genuine U.S.-Mexican cooperation in combating the violence plaguing Mexico raises more questions than it answers. But without a notable change in the patterns of violence that would make a policy shift more urgent — for instance, a shift to targeting civilians on either side of the border, or the assassination of key leaders in Mexico — there seems to be little that can be done without expending a great deal of political capital. And with the other challenges, including a resurgent Russia and chaotic Pakistan, facing the Obama presidency, significant shifts in Mexico policy do not seem likely in the near future.

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29055  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Study: Gun and grenade fight on: January 15, 2009, 01:14:38 AM
I am in awe!
29056  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 15, 2009, 12:56:50 AM
The counter argument by Matthew Alexander of course is that his approach works better AND it does not sap the American people's sense of who we are.

You may not agree, but IMHO the man certainly has a basis for his opinion.
29057  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Murder Spree by people who refuse to ask for directions on: January 14, 2009, 08:18:29 PM
Murder Spree by People Who Refuse to Ask For Directions
by  Ann Coulter

In a front-page article on Jan. 2 of this year, The New York Times took a brief respite from its ongoing canonization of Barack Obama and returned to its series on violent crimes committed by returning GIs, or as I call it: "U.S. Military, Psycho Killers."

The Treason Times' banner series about Iraq and Afghanistan veterans accused of murder began in January last year but was quickly discontinued as readers noticed that the Times doggedly refused to provide any statistics comparing veteran murders with murders in any other group.

So they waited a year, hoping readers wouldn't notice they were still including no relevant comparisons.

What, for example, is the percentage of murderers among veterans compared to the percentage of murderers in the population at large -- or, more germane, in the general population of young males, inasmuch as violent crime is committed almost exclusively by young men?

Any group composed primarily of young men will contain a seemingly mammoth number of murderers.

Consider the harmless fantasy game, Dungeons and Dragons -- which happens to be played almost exclusively by young males. When murders were committed in the '80s by (1) young men, who were (2) Dungeons and Dragons enthusiasts, some people concluded that factor (2), rather than factor (1), led to murderous tendencies.

Similarly, for its series about how America's bravest and finest young men are really a gang of psychopathic cutthroats, the Times triumphantly produced 121 homicides committed by veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in order to pin the blame for the murders on the U.S. military.

Perhaps the Times' next major expose could be on how a huge percentage of murderers are people who won't ask for directions or share the TV remote.

Let's compare murders by veterans to murders by other 18- to 35-year-olds in the U.S. population at large. From 1976 to 2005, 18- to 24-year-olds -- both male and more gentle females -- committed homicide at a rate of 29.9 per 100,000. Twenty-five- to 35-year-olds committed homicides at a rate of 15.8 per 100,000.

Since 9/11, about 1.6 million troops have served in either Iraq or Afghanistan. That makes the homicide rate among veterans of these wars 7.6 per 100,000 -- or about one-third the homicide rate for their age group (18 to 35) in the general population of both sexes.

But fewer than 200,000 of the 1.6 million troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have been women, and the murder rate for the general population includes both males and females. Inasmuch as males commit nearly 90 percent of all murders, the rate for males in those age groups is probably nearly double the male/female combined rates, which translates to about 30 to 55 murderers per 100,000 males aged 18 to 35.

So comparing the veterans' rate of murder to only their male counterparts in the general population, we see that Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are about 10 times less likely to commit a murder than non-veterans of those wars.

But as long as the Times has such a burning interest in the root causes of murder, how about considering the one factor more likely to create a murderer than any other? That is the topic we're not allowed to discuss: single motherhood.

As I describe in my new book, "Guilty: Liberal 'Victims' and Their Assault on America," controlling for socioeconomic status, race and place of residence, the strongest predictor of whether a person will end up in prison is that he was raised by a single parent. (The second strongest factor is owning a Dennis Kucinich bumper sticker.)

By 1996, 70 percent of inmates in state juvenile detention centers serving long-term sentences were raised by single mothers. Seventy percent of teenage births, dropouts, suicides, runaways, juvenile delinquents and child murderers involve children raised by single mothers. Girls raised without fathers are more sexually promiscuous and more likely to end up divorced.

A 1990 study by the left-wing Progressive Policy Institute showed that, after controlling for single motherhood, the difference in black and white crime disappeared.

Various studies come up with slightly different numbers, but all the figures are grim. A study cited in the far left-wing Village Voice found that children brought up in single-mother homes "are five times more likely to commit suicide, nine times more likely to drop out of high school, 10 times more likely to abuse chemical substances, 14 times more likely to commit rape (for the boys), 20 times more likely to end up in prison, and 32 times more likely to run away from home."

With new children being born, running away, dropping out of high school and committing murder every year, it's not a static problem to analyze. But however the numbers are run, single motherhood is a societal nuclear bomb.

Many of these studies, for example, are from the '90s, when the percentage of teenagers raised by single parents was lower than it is today. In 1990, 28 percent of children under 18 were being raised in one-parent homes -- mother or father, divorced or never-married. By 2005, more than one-third of all babies born in the U.S. were illegitimate.

That's a lot of social problems in the pipeline.

Think I'm being cruel? Imagine an America with 60 to 70 percent fewer juvenile delinquents, teenage births, teenage suicides and runaways, and you will appreciate what the sainted "single mothers" have accomplished.

Even in liberals' fevered nightmares, predatory mortgage dealers, oil speculators and Ken Lay could never do as much harm to their fellow human beings as single mothers do to their own children, to say nothing of society at large.

But the Times won't run that series because liberals adore single motherhood and the dissolution of traditional marriage in America. They detest the military, so they cite a few anecdotal examples of veterans who have committed murder and hope that no one asks for details.
29058  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UN schools hire Hamas in Gaza on: January 14, 2009, 07:33:31 PM,2933,479940,00.html

U.N. Agency That Runs School Hit in Gaza Employed Hamas and Islamic Jihad Members
Wednesday, January 14, 2009

By Joel Mowbray

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The United Nations agency that administers a school in Gaza where dozens of civilians were killed by Israeli mortar fire last week has admitted to employing terrorists to work at its Palestinian schools in the past, has no system in place to keep members of Hamas or Islamic Jihad off its payroll, and provides textbooks to children that contain hate speech and other incendiary information.

A growing chorus of critics has taken aim at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in recent years, although momentum on Capitol Hill has been slow. But last week's incident, which Israel maintains was prompted by Hamas operatives firing mortars at Israelis from a location near the school, has prompted some lawmakers to scrutinize the U.N. agency.

Rep. Steve Rothman, D-N.J., introduced a resolution in the fall calling for greater transparency and accountability at UNRWA. The bill called on the agency to make its textbooks available on the Internet for public inspection and to implement "terrorist name recognition software and other screening procedures that would help to ensure that UNRWA staff, volunteers, and beneficiaries are neither terrorists themselves, nor affiliated with known terrorist organizations."

Rothman said he plans to re-introduce his UNRWA resolution in the coming weeks because, "as timely as this bill was before, it is even more timely now. It is urgent that Congress can be assured that U.S. taxpayer money is not being spent to support Hamas and its murderous activities."

A spokesman for UNRWA adamantly said that the agency is now free of terrorist connections. "We're composed of social workers and teachers," the official explained. "We take every step possible to have only civilians inside UNRWA facilities."

But the U.N. Personal History form for UNRWA employees does not ask whether someone is a member of, or affiliated with, a terrorist organization such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad. And there is no formal screening to ensure that employees are not affiliated with terrorist entities.

Asked about this, the UNRWA spokesman replied, "Palestinian staff sign an undertaking confirming that they have no political affiliations whatsoever, and have not and will not participate in any activities that would violate the neutrality of the U.N."

There is no formal enforcement, however, to monitor possible terrorist activities by employees after they sign the pledge at the time of hiring.

UNRWA official Chris Guinness told the Jerusalem Post this week that the agency screens names of new employees against the relatively small U.N. database of Taliban and Al Qaeda figures. Extremist Palestinians, however, are far more likely to belong to organizations, such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, that are not on that watch list.

In 2004, former UNRWA Commissioner-General Peter Hansen told the Canadian Broadcasting Company, "I am sure that there are Hamas members on the UNRWA payroll and I don't see that as a crime." He added, "We do not do political vetting and exclude people from one persuasion as against another."

There have been several high-profile examples of terrorists being employed by UNRWA. Former top Islamic Jihad rocket maker Awad Al-Qiq, who was killed in an Israeli air strike last May, was the headmaster and science instructor at an UNRWA school in Rafah, Gaza. Said Siyam, Hamas' interior minister and head of the Executive Force, was a teacher for over two decades in UNRWA schools.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill say they are also concerned that terrorist propaganda is being taught in UNRWA schools. A notebook captured by Israeli officials at the UNRWA school in the Kalandia refugee camp several years ago glorified homicide bombers and other terrorists. Called "The Star Team," it profiled so-called "martyrs," Palestinians who had died either in homicide bombings or during armed struggle with Israel. On the book's back cover was printed the UNRWA emblem, as well as a photo of a masked gunman taking aim while on one knee.

There is evidence that students educated in UNRWA schools are much more likely to become homicide bombers, said Jonathan Halevi, a former Israeli Defense Forces intelligence officer who specializes in Palestinian terrorist organizations. Halevi has spent several years building an extensive database for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs of terrorist attacks by Hamas and other Islamic extremist groups.

Though he cautioned that estimates are tricky because the identity of an attacker is not always made public, Halevi estimated that over 60 percent of homicide bombers were educated in UNRWA schools. By comparison, roughly 25-30 percent of Palestinian students in the West Bank, the origin of almost all homicide bombers since the start of the intifada in 2000, attend UNRWA schools, according to the agency's figures.

A UNRWA spokesman strongly disputed any connection between the agency's schools and a greater likelihood of terrorist activity later in life. As proof, he pointed to UNRWA's "special efforts in our schools to teach tolerance, human rights and peaceful conflict resolution."

UNRWA sent an eight-page brochure to that speaks about the group's tolerance, human rights and peaceful conflict resolution curriculum. But it makes no mention of tolerance toward Jews or Christians or of peaceful coexistence with Israel. Rather, it is geared toward student interaction, the rights students should expect in society, and learning to express emotions through acting, painting, and storytelling.

29059  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 14, 2009, 07:32:01 PM
On this one we disagree.
29060  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: January 14, 2009, 02:57:56 PM
By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

Related Links
Militant Attacks In Mumbai and Their Consequences

On Jan. 8, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs heard testimony from a number of experts about the lessons learned from the Nov. 26 Mumbai attack. According to Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the Mumbai attack deserves attention because it raises important questions about the plans of U.S. authorities to prevent, prepare for and respond to similar attacks directed against targets in the United States.

As we’ve previously pointed out, the tactics employed in the Mumbai attack were not new or remarkable, although the attackers did incorporate some tactical innovations due to their use of modern technology. As shown by a long string of historic terror attacks, armed assaults can be quite effective. There are a number of factors, however, that would reduce the effectiveness of a similar attack inside the United States or many Western European countries.

Armed Assaults

Armed assaults employing small arms and grenades have long been a staple of modern terrorism. Such assaults have been employed in many famous terrorist attacks conducted by a wide array of actors, such as the Black September operation against the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics; the December 1975 seizure of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries headquarters in Vienna, Austria, led by Carlos the Jackal; the December 1985 simultaneous attacks against the airports in Rome and Vienna by the Abu Nidal Organization; and even the December 2001 attack against the Indian Parliament building in New Delhi led by Kashmiri militants.

In a particularly brutal armed assault, a large group of Chechen militants stormed a school in Beslan, North Ossetia in September 2004, taking more than 1,000 hostages and booby-trapping the school with scores of anti-personnel mines and improvised explosive devices. The attack, standoff and eventual storming of the school by Russian authorities after a three-day siege resulted in the deaths of more than 320 people, half of them children.

In some instances — such as the December 1996 seizure of the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima, Peru, by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement — the objective of the armed assault was to take and intentionally hold hostages for a long period of time. In other instances, such as the May 1972 assault on Lod Airport by members of the Japanese Red Army, the armed assault was a suicide attack designed simply to kill as many victims as possible before the assailants themselves were killed or incapacitated. Even though Mumbai became a protracted operation, its planning and execution indicate it was intended as the second sort of attack — the attackers were ordered to inflict maximum damage and to not be taken alive.

When viewed as a part of this historic trend, perhaps the most revolutionary aspect of the Mumbai attacks was the assailants’ use of modern technology to assist them with planning the attack and with their command, control and communications during the execution of their operation. Technology not only assisted the Mumbai attackers in conducting their preoperational surveillance, it also enabled them to use satellite imagery of Mumbai and GPS receivers to reach their assigned landing spots by water and move to their assigned attack sites. (Mumbai was not the first instance of militants using boats to reach their targets; several Palestinian groups have used boats in attacks against Israeli coastal towns, while other groups — such as the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka — have long used watercraft to transport teams for armed assault missions.)

Modern technology also allowed the tactical commanders and even individual team members to use satellite and cell phones to place calls to their strategic commanders in Pakistan, as demonstrated by some of the chilling audio captured by the Indian government. In transcripts of some of the conversations released by the Indian government, an unidentified commander reportedly exhorted the exhausted militants at the Nariman House to continue fighting. In another conversation, an off-site commander allegedly ordered the militants holed up in the Oberoi Hotel to kill their non-Muslim captives. From the transcripts, it is also apparent that the commanders were watching news coverage of the siege and then passing information to the attackers on the ground.

In the past, when a facility was seized, police tactics often called for the power and phone lines to be cut off to limit attackers’ ability to communicate with the outside world. Such measures have proven ineffective in the era of cell phones and portable satellite communications.

Mitigating Armed Assaults

Stratfor has long held that the United States and Europe are vulnerable to armed attacks against soft targets. In an open society, it is impossible to protect everything. Moreover, conducting attacks against soft targets such as hotels or malls can be done with ease, and can prove quite effective at creating carnage.

In fact, as we’ve previously pointed out, Cho Seung Hui killed more people with handguns in his attack at Virginia Tech than Jemaah Islamiyah was able to kill in Jakarta, Indonesia, in the August 2003 bombing of the Marriott Hotel and the September 2004 bombing of the Australian Embassy combined. Clearly, armed assaults pose a threat.

That said, while militants can use this same modus operandi and technology to attack targets in the United States or Europe, several factors would help mitigate the impact of such armed assaults.

First, reviewing the long history of armed assaults in modern terrorism shows that the tactic has forced many countries to develop specialized and highly trained forces to combat it. For example, it was the failed rescue attempt of the Israeli athletes in Munich that motivated the German government to create the elite Grenzschutzgruppe 9 (GSG 9), which would become one of the best counterterrorism forces in the world. The activities of the Provisional Irish Republican Army likewise helped shape the British Special Air Service into its role as an elite counterterrorism force.

While some developing countries, such as Singapore, have managed to develop highly trained and extremely competent counterterrorism units and effectively use such units, India is not one of them. In spite of the long history of terrorist activity directed against India, Indian security and counterterrorism assets are simply too poorly funded and organized to comprehensively address the militant threats the country faces. Even the elite National Security Guards (NSG), also known as the Black Cats, provided a sluggish response to the Mumbai attack.

When we view the entire spectrum of counterterrorism capabilities, however, the greatest gap in capability between Indian and European or Indian and American forces is not the gap between elite counterterrorism forces, but the gap at the individual street cop level. This is significant because street cops are a critical line of defense against terrorists. The importance of street cops pertains not only to preventing attacks by collecting critical intelligence, noticing surveillance or other preoperational planning activity and questioning or arresting suspects, it also applies to the tactical response to armed attackers.

Among the most troubling aspects of the Mumbai attack were accounts by journalists of Indian police shooting at the attackers and missing them. Some journalists have said this failure can be explained by the fact that many Indian police officers are armed with antiquated revolvers and Lee-Enfield rifles. But the Lee-Enfield is an accurate and reliable battle rifle that shoots a powerful cartridge, the .303 British. Like the .30-06 Springfield and the .308 Winchester, the .303 British is a man stopper and is deadly out to long ranges. The kinetic energy produced by such cartridges will penetrate body armor up to the heavy Type III level, and the amount of kinetic energy they impart will often even cause considerable shock trauma damage to people wearing heavy body armor.

The .303 British is a formidable round that has killed a lot of people and big game over the past century. Afghan sharpshooters used the Lee-Enfield with great success against the Soviets, and Taliban are still using it against coalition forces in Afghanistan. There is also nothing wrong with a .38 revolver in capable hands. The problem, then, lies in the hands — more specifically, in the training — of the officers so armed. If a police officer does not have the marksmanship to kill (or even hit) a suspect at 20 or 30 meters with aimed fire from a battle rifle, there is little chance he can control the automatic fire from an assault rifle or submachine gun effectively. In the end, the attackers outclassed the Indian police with their marksmanship far more than they outclassed them with their armaments.

By and large, U.S. and European police officers are better-trained marksmen than their Indian counterparts. U.S. and European officers also must regularly go to the shooting range for marksmanship requalification to maintain those skills. This means that in a Mumbai-type scenario in the United States or Europe, the gunmen would not have been allowed the freedom of movement they were in Mumbai, where they were able to walk past police officers firing at them without being hit.

The overall tactical ability of the average street cop is important. While most large police departments in the United States have very skilled tactical units, such as the New York Police Department’s Emergency Services Unit, these units may take time to respond to an incident in progress. In the case of a Mumbai-style attack, where there are multiple teams with multiple attackers operating in different areas of the city, such units might not be able to tackle multiple sites simultaneously. This means that like in Mumbai, street cops probably not only will have the first contact with the attackers, but also might be called on to be the primary force to stop them.

In the United States, local police would be aided during such a confrontation by the widespread adoption of “active shooter” training programs. Following a series of attacks including the highly publicized 1999 Columbine school shooting, it became apparent that the standard police tactic of surrounding an attacker and waiting for the SWAT team to go in and engage the shooter was not effective when the attacker was actively shooting people. As police officers waited outside for backup, additional victims were being killed. To remedy this, many police departments have instituted active shooter programs.

While the details of active shooter tactical programs may vary somewhat from department to department, the main idea behind them is that the active shooter must be engaged and neutralized as quickly as possible, not allowed to continue on a killing spree unopposed. Depending on the location and situation, this engagement sometimes is accomplished by a single officer or pair of officers with shoulder weapons. Other times, it is accomplished by a group of four or more officers trained to quickly organize and rapidly react as a team to locations where the assailant is firing.

Active shooter programs have proven effective in limiting the damage done by shooters in several cases, including the March 2005 shooting at a high school in Red Lake, Minn. Today, many police departments not only have a policy of confronting active shooters, they also have provided their officers with training courses teaching them how to do so effectively. Such training could make a world of difference in a Mumbai-type attack, where there may not be sufficient time or resources for a specialized tactical team to respond.

In the United States, armed off-duty cops and civilians also can make a difference in armed attacks. In February 2007, for example, a heavily armed gunman who had killed five victims in the Trolley Square Mall in Salt Lake City was confronted by an off-duty police officer, who cornered the shooter and kept him pinned down until other officers could arrive and kill the shooter. This off-duty officer’s actions plainly saved many lives that evening.

One other factor where European and American law enforcement officers have an edge over their Indian counterparts is in command, control and communications. Certainly, an armed assault is very chaotic no matter where it happens, but law enforcement agencies in the United States have a lot of experience in dealing with communications during complex situations. One such example is the February 1997 shootout in North Hollywood, where two heavily armed suspects wearing body armor engaged officers from the Los Angeles Police Department in a lengthy shootout. Following that incident, in which the responding officers’ handguns and shotguns proved incapable of penetrating the suspects’ heavy body armor, many police departments began to arm at least some of their units with AR-15s and other high-powered rifles. Ironically, the LAPD officers almost certainly would have welcomed a couple of old battle rifles like the Lee-Enfield in the gunfight that day.

Hindsight is another huge advantage European and American law enforcement officers now enjoy. Police and security agencies commonly examine serious terrorist attacks for tactical details that can then be used to plan and conduct training exercises designed to counteract the tactics employed. As evidenced by the Jan. 8 testimony of NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Mumbai has gotten the attention of police agencies around the world. The NYPD and others already are studying ways to rapidly deny attackers the communications ability they enjoyed in Mumbai during future attacks. The preoperational surveillance conducted by the Mumbai attackers is also being closely scrutinized to assist in countersurveillance operations elsewhere.

A seen by the Fort Dix plot and actual armed attacks against targets, such as the July 2002 assault on the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport and the July 2006 attack against the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, the threat of armed terrorist assaults against soft targets in the United States is quite real. However, the U.S. law enforcement environment is quite different from that in India — and that difference will help mitigate the effects of a Mumbai-like attack.
29061  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tribunal Overseer says on: January 14, 2009, 12:53:19 PM
U.S. military tortured Guantanamo detainee, tribunal overseer says

It is the first time a senior Bush administration official with oversight of practices at the prison has publicly stated that an inmate was tortured.
By Bob Woodward
January 14, 2009

Reporting from Washington -- The top Bush administration official in charge of deciding whether to bring Guantanamo Bay detainees to trial has concluded that the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."

"We tortured [Mohammed] Qahtani," said Susan J. Crawford in her first interview since being named convening authority of military commissions by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates in February 2007. "His treatment met the legal definition of torture. And that's why I did not refer the case" for prosecution.

Crawford, a retired judge who served as general counsel for the Army during the Reagan administration and as Pentagon inspector general when Dick Cheney was secretary of Defense, is the first senior Bush administration official responsible for reviewing practices at Guantanamo to publicly state that a detainee was tortured.

Crawford, 61, said the combination of the interrogation techniques, their duration and the impact on Qahtani's health led to her conclusion. "The techniques they used were all authorized, but the manner in which they applied them was overly aggressive and too persistent. . . . You think of torture, you think of some horrendous physical act done to an individual. This was not any one particular act; this was just a combination of things that . . . hurt his health. It was abusive and uncalled for. And coercive. Clearly coercive. It was that medical impact that pushed me over the edge" to call it torture, she said.

Military prosecutors said in November that they would seek to refile charges against Qahtani, 30, based on subsequent interrogations that did not employ harsh techniques. But Crawford, who dismissed war-crimes charges against him in May, said in the interview that she would not allow the prosecution to go forward.

Qahtani was denied entry into the United States a month before the Sept. 11 attacks and was allegedly planning to be the plot's 20th hijacker. He was later captured in Afghanistan and transported to Guantanamo in January 2002. His interrogation took place over 50 days from November 2002 to January 2003, though he was held in isolation until April 2003.

"For 160 days his only contact was with the interrogators," said Crawford, who personally reviewed Qahtani's interrogation records and other military documents. "Forty-eight of 54 consecutive days of 18- to 20-hour interrogations. Standing naked in front of a female agent. Subject to strip searches. And insults to his mother and sister."

The interrogation, portions of which have been previously described in news reports, was so intense that Qahtani had to be hospitalized twice at Guantanamo with bradycardia, a condition in which the heart rate falls below 60 beats a minute and which in extreme cases can lead to heart failure and death. At one point Qahtani's heart rate dropped to 35 beats per minute, the record shows.

The Qahtani case underscores the challenges facing the incoming Obama administration as it seeks to close the controversial detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, including the dilemmas posed by individuals considered too dangerous to release but whose legal status is uncertain.

FBI "clean teams," which gather evidence without using information gained during controversial interrogations, have established that Qahtani intended to join the 2001 hijackers. Mohamed Atta, the plot's leader, who died steering American Airlines Flight 11 into the World Trade Center, went to the airport in Orlando, Fla., to meet Qahtani on Aug. 4, 2001, but the young Saudi was denied entry by a suspicious immigration inspector.

"There's no doubt in my mind he would've been on one of those planes had he gained access to the country in August 2001," Crawford said of Qahtani, who remains detained at Guantanamo. "He's a muscle hijacker. . . . He's a very dangerous man. What do you do with him now if you don't charge him and try him? I would be hesitant to say, 'Let him go.' "

That, she said, is a decision that President-elect Barack Obama will have to make. Obama repeated Sunday that he intends to close the Guantanamo facility but acknowledged the challenges involved.

"It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize," Obama said on ABC's "This Week," "and we are going to get it done, but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom may be very dangerous, who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication. And some of the evidence against them may be tainted, even though it's true."

President Bush and Vice President Cheney have said that interrogations never involved torture.

Crawford, a lifelong Republican, ordered the war-crimes charges against Qahtani dropped in May. But she did not state publicly that the harsh interrogations were the reason.

"It did shock me," she said. "I was upset by it. I was embarrassed by it. If we tolerate this and allow it, then how can we object when our servicemen and women, or others in foreign service, are captured and subjected to the same techniques? How can we complain? Where is our moral authority to complain? Well, we may have lost it."

Crawford said Bush was right to create a system to try unlawful enemy combatants captured in the war on terrorism, but the implementation was fatally flawed. "I think someone should acknowledge that mistakes were made, and that they hurt the effort, and take responsibility for it," she said. "We learn as children it's easier to ask for forgiveness than it is for permission. I think the buck stops in the Oval Office."

Woodward writes for the Washington Post.
29062  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: ¿7 metros? on: January 14, 2009, 10:43:30 AM
Cecilio ha abierto una platica aqui sobre un tema sumamente importante.  ?Donde esta'n las respuestas?  !Para que este foro viva, hay que haber participacion!
29063  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: January 14, 2009, 10:41:29 AM
EEUU informe militar advierte "desplome repentino" de México es posible
By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Anunciado: El 03:49:34 del 01/13/2009 P.M. MST
El presidente electo Barack Obama escucha como el Presidente de México Felipe Calderon hace una declaración a periodistas en Washington, el lunes, enero. 12, 2009. México es uno de dos países eso "consideración de oso para un desplome rápido y repentino," según un informe por EEUU Fuerzas que Conjuntas Ordenan en amenazas mundiales de seguridad. (Foto de AP)

El PASO de EL - México es uno de dos países eso "consideración de oso para un desplome rápido y repentino," según un informe por EEUU Fuerzas que Conjuntas Ordenan en amenazas mundiales de seguridad.

La orden "Coyuntura que Opera Ambiente (JOE 2008)" informe, que contiene proyecciones de amenazas y potencial globales próximas guerras, ponen Pakistán en el mismo nivel como México. "En función de guiones de peor-caso para la Fuerza Conjunta y verdaderamente el mundo, dos estados grandes e importantes soportan consideración para un desplome rápido y repentino: Pakistán y México.

"La posibilidad mexicana puede parecer menos probable, pero el gobierno, sus políticos, la policía e infraestructura judicial son todo bajo asalto y prensa sostenidos por pandillas criminales y endrogan cárteles. Cómo

Esta imagen proporcionada por Aplicación de Droga de EEUU Administración muestra un cartel de 10 personas identificadas como traficantes de drogas que rivales encerraron una batalla violenta para el control de Tijuana, México. Ellos incluyen Fernando Sanchez Arellano, descrito por el DEA como líder del cártel de Arellano Felix, y de su competidor, Eduardo Teodoro Garcia Simental. México es uno de dos países eso "consideración de oso para un desplome rápido y repentino," según un informe por EEUU Fuerzas que Conjuntas Ordenan en amenazas mundiales de seguridad. El informe es uno en un grave centrándose en problemas internos de seguridad de México, proviniendo de en su mayor parte violencia de droga y corrupción de droga. (Foto/DEA de AP)

Esas vueltas internas del conflicto fuera en los próximos varios años tendrán un impacto mayor en la estabilidad del estado mexicano. Cualquier bajada por México en el caos demandaría una respuesta norteamericana basada en las implicaciones graves para la seguridad de la patria sola".

Las Fuerzas de la Coyuntura de EEUU Ordenan, basado en Norfolk, Va., es uno de los Ministerios de Defensa combate órdenes que incluye a miembros de las ramas militares diferentes de servicio, activo y las reservas, así como empleados de civil y contrato. Uno de sus papeles clave es de ayudar a transformarse las capacidades del ejército de EEUU.

En el prefacio, Gen Marino. J.N. Mattis, el comandante de USJFC, dijo "Predicciones acerca del futuro son siempre arriesgado ... a pesar de todo, si nosotros no tratamos de pronosticar el futuro, no quepa duda que seremos agarrados de protege como nosotros nos esforzamos por proteger este experimento en la democracia que llamamos América".

El informe es uno en un grave centrándose en problemas internos de seguridad de México, proviniendo de en su mayor parte violencia de droga y corrupción de droga. En semanas recientes, el Departamento de la Seguridad de la Patria y zar anterior de droga de EEUU Barry McCaffrey publicó alarmas semejantes acerca de México.

A pesar de tales informes, El Pasoan Veronica Callaghan, un dirigente empresarial contiguo, dijo que ella mantiene chocando con personas en la región que "están en la negación acerca de lo que sucede en México".
La semana pasada, Presidente mexicano Felipe Calderon instruyó su embajada y a funcionarios consulares para promover una imagen positiva de México.

EEUU informe militar, que también analizó situaciones económicas en otros países, también notó que China ha aumentado su influencia en lugares donde campos petrolíferos son presentes.

Diana Washington Valdez puede ser alcanzado en; 546-6140.   

29064  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: January 14, 2009, 10:32:18 AM
U.S. military report warns 'sudden collapse' of Mexico is possible
By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Posted: 01/13/2009 03:49:34 PM MST

President-elect Barack Obama listens as Mexico's President Felipe Calderon makes a statement to reporters in Washington, Monday, Jan. 12, 2009. Mexico is one of two countries that "bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse," according to a report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command on worldwide security threats. (AP photo)EL PASO - Mexico is one of two countries that "bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse," according to a report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command on worldwide security threats.
The command's "Joint Operating Environment (JOE 2008)" report, which contains projections of global threats and potential next wars, puts Pakistan on the same level as Mexico. "In terms of worse-case scenarios for the Joint Force and indeed the world, two large and important states bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse: Pakistan and Mexico.

"The Mexican possibility may seem less likely, but the government, its politicians, police and judicial infrastructure are all under sustained assault and press by criminal gangs and drug cartels. How

This image provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration shows a poster of 10 people identified as rival drug traffickers locked in a violent battle for control of Tijuana, Mexico. They include Fernando Sanchez Arellano, described by the DEA as leader of the Arellano Felix cartel, and his archrival, Eduardo Teodoro Garcia Simental. Mexico is one of two countries that "bear consideration for a rapid and sudden collapse," according to a report by the U.S. Joint Forces Command on worldwide security threats. The report is one in a serious focusing on Mexico's internal security problems, mostly stemming from drug violence and drug corruption. (AP Photo/DEA)that internal conflict turns out over the next several years will have a major impact on the stability of the Mexican state. Any descent by Mexico into chaos would demand an American response based on the serious implications for homeland security alone."
The U.S. Joint Forces Command, based in Norfolk, Va., is one of the Defense Departments combat commands that includes members of the different military service branches, active and reserves, as well as civilian and contract employees. One of its key roles is to help transform the U.S. military's capabilities.

In the foreword, Marine Gen. J.N. Mattis, the USJFC commander, said "Predictions about the future are always risky ... Regardless, if we do not try to forecast the future, there is no doubt that we will be caught off guard as we strive to protect this experiment in democracy that we call America."

The report is one in a serious focusing on Mexico's internal security problems, mostly stemming from drug violence and drug corruption. In recent weeks, the Department of Homeland Security and former U.S. drug czar Barry McCaffrey issued similar alerts about Mexico.

Despite such reports, El Pasoan Veronica Callaghan, a border business leader, said she keeps running into people in the region who "are in denial about what is happening in Mexico."

Last week, Mexican President Felipe Calderon instructed his embassy and consular officials to promote a positive image of Mexico.

The U.S. military report, which also analyzed economic situations in other countries, also noted that China has increased its influence in places where oil fields are present.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at; 546-6140.

29065  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: January 14, 2009, 10:27:31 AM
3rd post of the AM

Geopolitical Diary: The Pakistan Problem
January 14, 2009 | 0256 GMT
U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) chief Gen. David Petraeus traveled Tuesday to Astana, Kazakhstan, where he was set to meet with President Nursultan Nazarbayev. That visit was to be followed by a one-day trip to Kyrgyzstan on Jan. 17, according to unconfirmed media reports.

Petraeus’ tour through Central Asia is centered around the problem of Afghanistan, which in turn centers on Pakistan. The CENTCOM commander and his closest advisers are in the process of revising campaign strategies in Afghanistan, where the Taliban- and al Qaeda-led insurgency is intensifying and spreading deeper into neighboring Pakistan. The U.S. military presence in Afghanistan will be strengthened by up to 32,000 troops in 2009 – bringing the total force of uniformed U.S. and NATO forces above 90,000, supposedly by this summer. However, this is no more sufficient to establish a military reality on the ground any more than was the surge in Iraq (the Soviets, after all, sustained some 118,000 troops in Afghanistan during the height of their invasion). If the United States is really to turn the tide against the insurgency, it must do something about Pakistan.

But what, exactly, is the problem of Pakistan? There are numerous issues. First, al Qaeda and Taliban forces operate on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. While Afghanistan provides fertile ground for an insurgency, Pakistan — a nuclear-armed state with a strong radical Islamist current — presents an even more tantalizing opportunity for jihadists committed to reviving the Caliphate.
Pakistan’s military establishment is the dominant force and guarantor of stability in the country. As long as the military holds together, Pakistan will not devolve into a failed state that can be overrun by jihadists. The Pakistani military still has a fairly solid grip on Pakistan’s core, in the Punjabi heartland, but is losing control of its periphery in the northwestern tribal areas. And that is where things get exceedingly complicated for the United States.

The United States needs Pakistan – despite its complicity in the jihadist insurgency — in order to fight the war in Afghanistan. Geographically, Pakistan provides the shortest and least complex connection to the open ocean, from which all U.S. supplies not flown directly into Afghanistan are delivered. Those supplies include fuel, much of which is refined in Pakistan itself. As of late, however, Pakistan has become an increasingly unreliable supply route for the Americans and NATO. Not only has the Taliban targeted NATO convoys within Pakistani territory (perhaps with the aid of some elements of the Pakistani intelligence apparatus), but the United States is losing patience with the way Islamabad manages its insurgency.

The Pakistanis are dealing with the fact that segments of the military establishment itself are the fuel for the insurgent fire. In order to retain control, the military has adopted a complex strategy that distinguishes between “good Taliban” and “bad Taliban” — using the good guys to box in the bad guys and attempting to keep the insurgents’ focus across the border, in Afghanistan. After all, without an insurgency for the United States to contend with, Pakistan’s utility to the United States as a tactical ally diminishes. And with the United States set on developing a long-term, strategic partnership with India, the Pakistani regime must do whatever it takes to maintain its ties with Washington.

Islamabad’s method of managing the jihadist insurgency obviously does not align with U.S. interests. So rather than contending with the same Pakistani headache, Petraeus and his team are now trying to expand their options and essentially deprive Pakistan of much of its leverage in the jihadist quagmire.

That involves developing alternative supply routes to support the war effort in Afghanistan. The alternatives at this point involve Russia in one way or another. The Caspian Sea cannot easily or quickly accommodate a meaningful expansion of sea transport. Therefore, any logistics traffic will have to be pushed north, into Russia’s sphere of influence — where the supply route will have to connect through Kazakhstan with roads in either Turkmenistan or Uzbekistan. In Kyrgyzstan, the United States needs to ensure it can continue to rely on the government for permission to use an air base it already has at Manas. While the technical details are manageable, the “Russian” supply route is still in many ways a logistical nightmare for the United States.

There are more than logistics for the United States to worry about. Russia is on a resurgent path and is taking full advantage of the fact that the United States has been bogged down for years in a jihadist war. Russia needs to ensure its long-term survival. To do that, it must re-establish its influence in the former Soviet sphere, beginning with Georgia (with which Russia recently fought a brief war; it is now building more military bases in the disputed South Ossetia region) and then Ukraine (which is now at the center of a natural gas crisis, designed to reshape the government into a pro-Russian regime). Next, Russia likely will turn its attention to the Baltic states and Poland. Russia wants the United States to stay out of its way, and will use any leverage it has over the war in Afghanistan to clear its path.

So far, it appears that CENTCOM is willing to incur these risks. The Pentagon is working on the alternate logistics plan, with deliberate leaks that are making Pakistan more nervous by the day. Petraeus and his team are on a mission to fix a broken war in Afghanistan, even if that involves bringing Moscow into the loop. Whether this plan bears fruit, however, will depend on how far the White House intends to go with the Russians.
29066  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: January 14, 2009, 10:19:01 AM
Wednesday Chronicle — Vol. 09 No. 02
14 January 2009

"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys." --Thomas Jefferson

"There are more fundamental reasons to doubt whether throwing more money at a problem largely if not entirely caused by loose money and government incentives and mandates to overspend and over lend will yield the kind of recovery that President-elect Barack Obama and most Americans would dearly love to see. In his speech on the economy and his stimulus package Thursday -- a speech still notably short on details -- the president-elect declared that 'only government can provide the short-term boost necessary to lift us from a recession this deep and severe.' The unspoken assumption behind such a statement is that government has a virtually inexhaustible supply of money that can be deployed without having deleterious side effects, only beneficial ones. The problem, of course, is that government has no money of its own, only the money it takes by force from the productive sector of society or it borrows and must pay back with taxes extracted from our children and grandchildren. In the private marketplace economic transactions take place only if both (or all) parties believe they benefit. Such private, profit-making activity, as most of American history demonstrates, involves not simply the redistribution of existing wealth but creation of new wealth. Increased government spending, however financed, takes money from the private wealth-generating sector of society and allocates it to projects not on the basis of their capacity to be economically self-sustaining, but on the basis of their political attractiveness. ...[A] government 'stimulus' can only be accomplished by taking money away from genuinely economically productive activity. Pumping dollars that will eventually be worth less than they are today into various projects may provide some short-term relief or appearance of relief. But only the private sector can actually create wealth and thereby stimulate genuine economic growth. This seems pretty elementary, but most people in Washington have powerful incentives to ignore elementary truths." --Orange County Register

"[T]his is no time to throw good (borrowed) money after bad. If all this spending was going to get the economy growing, it would be working. Yet nobody expects things to improve soon. ... In times of uncertainty, it's natural that people will look to government for answers. Yet the long-term solutions to our current economic problems don't lie in more government spending, controls or regulations." --Heritage Foundation president Edwin Feulner

"I didn't expect Obama to know what to do about the economy; Obama's knee-jerk Keynesianism and allegiance to the disproved New Deal mythology ensure that he will try the Big Government solution, even when Big Government is the problem." --columnist Ben Shapiro

"In fairness to Obama, there is a huge consensus around the notion that government must do, well, something -- something big. ... It's the consensus that scares me. ... Obviously, consensus can be good. But it also can lead to dangerous groupthink. ... Everyone knows everything is right, until everything goes wrong. If that's not one of the great lessons of the financial collapse of 2008, I don't know what is." --National Review editor Jonah Goldberg

"President Elect Obama and his congressional henchmen are in the midst of swiping another $1 trillion-plus from American taxpayers. And Republicans -- who once upon a time professed concern for taxpayers -- could apparently care less. Either they believe stealing from our grandkids makes for sound policy, or they're too afraid to second-guess the second coming of Jimmy Carter." --radio talk show host Laura Ingraham

"No phrase represents more of a triumph of hope over experience than the phrase 'Middle East peace process.' A close second might be the once-fashionable notion that Israel should 'trade land for peace.' Since everybody seems to be criticizing Israel for its military response to the rockets being fired into their country from the Gaza strip, let me add my criticisms as well. The Israelis traded land for peace, but they have never gotten the peace, so they should take back the land." --Hoover Institution economist Thomas Sowell

"Failure is the opportunity to begin again more intelligently." --American Industrialist Henry Ford (1863-1947)

"In the final analysis there is no solution to man's progress but the day's honest work, the day's honest decisions, the day's generous utterances and the day's good deed." --American playwright and journalist Clare Booth Luce (1903-1987)

"Not the owner of many possessions will you be right to call happy: he more rightly deserves the name of happy who knows how to use the Gods' gifts wisely and to put up with rough poverty, and who fears dishonor more than death." --Roman poet Horace (65-8 BC)

"No Man's life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session." --American lawyer, editor, politician, Judge Gideon Tucker (1826-1899)

You wouldn't understand: "We also acknowledge that a tax increase on the rich, though feasible, could backfire in these tense times. Because it is hard to explain and easy to demagogue, it could foster a confusing debate that might impair confidence just when confidence needs to be revived." --New York Times editorial **"The Times editorialists find their own position 'hard to explain'? Couldn't it be that it's just wrong, or that the editorialists aren't very good at their jobs?" --James Taranto

Clueless: "Do you really believe those business tax cuts are going to work to create jobs?" --ABC's George Stephanopoulos to Barack Obama

Loving Obama: "[D]o you feel a sense of giving [Obama] the benefit of the doubt, or at least a period of a kind of honeymoon, which is a bad word, but an opportunity to show his best and see what he can do and a willingness to sort of hold your fire for a while?" --PBS's Charlie Rose to NBC's Andrea Mitchell

Hating Bush: "I think this has been a profoundly un-American administration." --Time's Joe Klein **Change it to "will be un-American" and he may have it right.

So sorry: "Many of us in the media owe a mea culpa to [President] Bush -- and to [the public] -- for failing to properly inform of the possible consequences of [his] major misdeeds." --USA Today founder Al Neuharth

Arrested development: "In the past week, I've twice been close enough to Dick Cheney to kick him in the shins. I didn't. It's probably a federal crime of some sort. But a girl can fantasize. I did, however, assume the Stay-away-from-me-you've-got-cooties stance that Jimmy Carter used when posing with Bill Clinton at the presidents' powwow in the Oval." --New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd

Newspulper Headlines:

Bad News for John McCain: "Grizzlies Maul Mavericks in Memphis" --Associated Press

'F--- This Impeachment S---': "Blagojevich to Swear in Senate, Then Members Start His Trial" --Chicago Tribune

We Blame Global Warming: "Deutsche Bahn ICE Train Brakes Freeze" --Local (Germany)

Everything Seemingly Is Spinning Out of Control: "Bat, Maggot Invasion Ruins Australian Couple's $30,000 Wedding"

News You Can Use: "Financial Crisis: Boring Jobs Are Still Jobs -- So Be Thankful" --Daily Telegraph (London)

Bottom Stories of the Day: "New Jersey UFO Likely a Hoax"

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


Learning all the wrong lessons: "Well, a lot of economists tell us that what [Franklin] Roosevelt failed to do was to spend as much money as was needed to get people back to work and get the economy moving again. It wasn't until World War II when we had major expenditures that the Depression was finally resolved. We're going to be looking at that experience." --incoming House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA)

And the shirt off your back: "Everybody is going to have to give. Everybody is going to have to have some skin in the game." --Barack Obama

Making Congress respectable is another story: "
  • ne of the things that we're trying to set a tone of is that, you know, Congress is a co-equal branch of government." --Barack Obama

National insecurity strategy: "We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our Constitution. That is not only the right thing to do but it actually has to be part of our broader national security strategy because we will send a message to the world that we are serious about our values." --Barack Obama **Or more likely, the message that we are weak.

Getting it completely wrong: "I want a repeal of the tax cuts for the highest-income people in America. I don't think we can wait until they expire. I think they need to be repealed. ...[T]hat is the biggest contributor to the national debt than any other subject..." --House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) So why has tax revenue gone UP since the tax cuts took effect?

Just keep spending: "We should not allow our disappointment at the Bush administration's poor handling of the TARP program to prevent the Obama administration from using the funds in more appropriate ways." --Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA)

A bailout for smut: "Congress seems willing to help shore up our nation's most important businesses, we feel we deserve the same consideration. In difficult economic times, Americans turn to entertainment for relief. More and more, the kind of entertainment they turn to is adult entertainment." --Hustler magazine publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis in a joint letter to Congress asking for $5 billion "just to see us through the hard times" ++ "Sex toys and novelties are gathering dust on the shelves, and so I think the government has responsibility to get out there and rejuvenate the libido and let us start enjoying the one thing left that's free." --Larry Flynt

This week's "Quid Pro Homo" Award: "I think it's anti-American. In any given election in the state of California, you can put some commercials on the air and convince [the voters] of anything. But it won't last. Fear not; this is America. We are going to be OK, and we are going to do the right thing." --actor Tom Hanks on his disappointment of the passage of California's Prop 8

Obama saves the day: "The Bush nightmare is over. How well Obama succeeds, or does not succeed, in the coming term, we can rest assured that on a spiritual level, the worst is over for this country, at least for now." --delusional actor and spiritualist Alec Baldwin

World ends, blacks hardest hit: "The economic downturn has been double trouble for black Americans. They already were at the bottom of every category, such as access to capital and life expectancy. The consequences of the economy are serious for most Americans but disastrous for African Americans." --Rev. Je$$e Jack$on, founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, touting the upcoming 12th Annual Rainbow PUSH Wall Street Project Economic Summit themed "Fallout from the Bailout: A New Day in Washington"

"We are in the midst of a crisis caused by so many financial institutions borrowing too much money. Somehow, a critical mass of policy makers now believes that the correct response is for the U.S. government to borrow too much money." --American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Kevin Hassett

"According to the Treasury website you, too, can qualify for TARP funds. All you have to do is convince them you are like: 'Bank holding companies, financial holding companies, insured depository institutions and savings and loan holding companies that engage solely or predominately in activities that are permissible for financial holding companies under relevant law.' Pretty much anyone with a kid in college qualifies, seems to me." --Rich Galen

"Whatever the benefits of peace for the Palestinian population, what are the terrorists going to do in peacetime? Become librarians and furniture salesmen?" --Hoover Institution economist Thomas Sowell

"Years ago, the French philosopher Rene Descartes said, 'I think, therefore I am.' Today, I'm afraid an American would be likelier to remark 'I text, there4 I be.'" --columnist Burt Prelutsky

"Barack Obama's presidential limo was reported to be an armored Cadillac hybrid made in Detroit. It's a new first. History will record that Barack Obama is the first black man to ride in an armored Cadillac limousine without his own record label." --comedian Argus Hamilton

Jay Leno:

Hey, did you all see Barack Obama's speech about the economy [Thursday]? Very sobering. He told Washington, "We've arrived at this point due to an era of profound irresponsibility." Of course, there's only one way out of it. Spend more money we don't have.

The chief of staff for embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich spoke to Illinois state workers on issues of ethics in the workplace. How ironic is that? Was Bernard Madoff not available?

Lawmakers in Illinois voted 114-1 to impeach the governor. So apparently, Blagojevich was only able to bribe one person.

And, you know, I don't think he gets it. When he found out he was impeached, Blagojevich said he has a replacement governor already picked out. He's got somebody ready to move in.

I think President-elect Barack Obama is starting to get an idea of just how hard this job is going to be. [Tuesday] he said he wanted to bring a "sense of accountability to Washington." I think they realize actual accountability is never going to happen. So if you just bring a "sense" of it, that would be fantastic.
29067  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jefferson on: January 14, 2009, 10:12:06 AM
"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys." --Thomas Jefferson
29068  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 14, 2009, 08:30:40 AM
U.S. Marines Find Iraq Tactics Don't Work In Afghanistan

By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

DELARAM, Afghanistan — On a sunset patrol here in late December, U.S. Marines spotted a Taliban unit trying to steal Afghan police vehicles at a checkpoint. In a flash, the Marines turned to pursue, driving off the main road and toward the gunfire coming from the mountain a half mile away.

But their six-ton vehicles were no match for the Taliban pickups. The mine-resistant vehicles and heavily armored Humvees bucked and swerved as drivers tried to maneuver them across fields that the Taliban vehicles raced across. The Afghan police trailed behind in unarmored pick-up trucks, impatient about their allies' weighty pace.

The Marines, weighted down with 60 pounds of body armor each, struggled to climb up Saradaka Mountain. Once at the top, it was clear to everyone that the Taliban would get away. Second Lt. Phil Gilreath, 23, of Kingwood, La., called off the mission.

"It would be a ghost chase, and we would run the risk of the vehicles breaking down again," Gilreath said. The Marines spent the next hour trying to find their way back to the paved road.

The men of the 3rd Batallion, 8th Marine Regiment, based at Camp Lejeune, are discovering in their first two months in Afghanistan that the tactics they learned in nearly six years of combat in Iraq are of little value here — and may even inhibit their ability to fight their Taliban foes.

Their MRAP mine-resistant vehicles, which cost $1 million each, were specially developed to combat the terrible effects of roadside bombs, the single biggest killer of Americans in Iraq. But Iraq is a country of highways and paved roads, and the heavily armored vehicles are cumbersome on Afghanistan's unpaved roads and rough terrain where roadside bombs are much less of a threat.

Body armor is critical to warding off snipers in Iraq, where Sunni Muslim insurgents once made video of American soldiers falling to well-placed sniper shots a staple of recruiting efforts. But the added weight makes Marines awkward and slow when they have to dismount to chase after Taliban gunmen in Afghanistan's rough terrain.

Even the Humvees, finally carrying heavy armor after years of complaints that they did little to mitigate the impact of roadside explosives in Iraq, are proving a liability. Marines say the heavy armor added for protection in Iraq is too rough on the vehicles' transmissions in Afghanistan's much hillier terrain, and the vehicles frequently break down — so often in fact that before every patrol Marine units here designate one Humvee as the tow vehicle.

The Marines have found other differences:

*In Iraq, American forces could win over remote farmlands by swaying urban centers. In Afghanistan, there's little connection between the farmlands and the mudhut villages that pass for towns.

*In Iraq, armored vehicles could travel on both the roads and the desert. Here, the paved roads are mostly for outsiders - travelers, truckers and foreign troops; to reach the populace, American forces must find unmapped caravan routes that run through treacherous terrain, routes not designed for their modern military vehicles.

*In Iraq, a half-hour firefight was considered a long engagement; here, Marines have fought battles that have lasted as long as eight hours against an enemy whose attacking forces have grown from platoon-size to company-size.

U.S. military leaders recognize that they need to make adjustments. During a Christmas Eve visit here, Marine Commandant Gen. James T. Conway told the troops that the Defense Department is studying how to reconfigure the bottom of its MRAPs to handle Afghanistan's rougher terrain. And Col. Duffy White, the commander of the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, said he anticipates that Marines will be wearing less armor by spring, when fighting season begins again.

The next Marine battalion arriving here will need more troops and more helicopters. And because of terrain, patrols will change.

"Hopefully we have not become wedded to the vehicles," White said, a reference to the MRAPs, which currently are required for every patrol. "We have to set the standard operation procedure for how to do this. This not Iraq."

Just how quickly the U.S. military can shift its weapons, tactics and mindset to Afghanistan after nearly seven years of training almost exclusively for Iraq is a major question as President-elect Barack Obama takes office promising to transfer combat units out of Iraq and into Afghanistan.

Students of the Iraq war know that change came slowly and only after years of casualties made worse by inadequate equipment.

As in Iraq, where the U.S. didn't increase the number of troops, despite the growing insurgency and violence until 2007, U.S. forces Afghanistan fear they are undermanned, despite the Pentagon's plan to double the U.S. troops in Afghanistan to 60,000.

The 3,000 troops here are in charge of an area with few city centers that is roughly the size of Vermont. In Washir, the neighboring district, the Taliban operates freely because there are not enough troops.

"They tell me that Afghanistan is Iraq on steroids," said Gilreath, who is on his first deployment and hasn't served in Iraq.

But 40 percent of the 3-8 has served previously in Iraq's Anbar province. Indeed, the 3-8 was originally scheduled to deploy to the Iraqi/Syrian border and learned just two months before it shipped out that it was headed to Afghanistan instead. By then they had finished most of their training, all of it geared toward Iraq.

So they are learning on the ground.

At times, Afghanistan can feel deceptively like Iraq, they say. During a patrol that found the Marines surrounded by poppy fields, they spotted two men on a motorcycle trailing them. It was the only other vehicle on an otherwise unused paved road.

"You see that. They're watching us," Gilreath radioed to his fellow Marines.

In Iraq, such trailing often meant an attack was imminent. But not here. Marines said it could be months before the Taliban turns that information into an attack.

"The lack of attacks has me asking: Are we doing something right or wrong?" asked company commander Capt. Sven Gosnell, 36, of Torrance, Calif., an Iraqi veteran.

When the Taliban does take on the Marines, it's a different kind of fight, Marines said. For one, the Taliban'll wait until they're ready, not just when an opportunity appears. They'll clear the area of women and children, not use them as shields. And when the attack comes, it's often a full-scale attack, with flanks, trenches and a plan, said one Marine captain and Iraq veteran who asked not to be identified because he wasn't sure he was allowed to discuss tactics.

Afghans "are willing to fight to the death. They recover their wounded, just like we do," said the captain. "When I am fighting here, I am fighting a professional army. If direct fighting does not work, they will go to an IED. They plan their ammunition around poppy season. To fight them, you are pulling every play out of the playbook."

U.S. troops also are frustrated by the different rules of engagement they must operate under in Afghanistan. Until Jan. 1, U.S. forces in Iraq operated under their own rules of engagement. If they saw something suspicious, they could kick down a door, search a home or detain a suspicious person.

But in Afghanistan, they operate under the rules of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, of which U.S. troops are part. Under those regulations, only Afghans can search buildings and detain people.

Gilreath felt that frustration shortly after he spotted the trailing motorcycle. Radio chatter mentioned a local bomb-making factory, though it didn't say where. Gilreath decided to investigate two nearby homes. Trailing behind was one Afghan police truck, the only one available that day.

The Marines secured the perimeter and the handful of Afghan police officers searched one clay structure, then the other. But they moved slowly. Some Marines started peeking the windows, doing their best to honor ISAF rules and still satisfy their urge to search.

As the burka-clad women huddled with their children outside, and the men tried to assure the Marines they were law abiding, a single Afghan man began walking off through a nearby field. There weren't enough Afghan police to both search the homes and stop the man.

"We just need more everything," Gilreath said afterward.
29069  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russian Gas Trap on: January 14, 2009, 08:26:04 AM

By Peter Zeihan

At the time of this writing, the natural gas crisis in Europe is entering its 13th day.

While the topic has only penetrated the Western mind as an issue in recent years, Russia and Ukraine have been spatting about the details of natural gas deliveries, volumes, prices and transit terms since the Soviet breakup in 1992. In the end, a deal is always struck, because Russia needs the hard currency that exports to Europe (via Ukraine) bring, and Ukraine needs natural gas to fuel its economy. But in recent years, two things have changed.

First, Ukraine’s Orange Revolution of 2004 brought to power a government hostile to Russian goals. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko would like to see his country integrated into the European Union and NATO; for Russia, such an evolution would be the kiss of death.

Ukraine is home to most of the infrastructure that links Russia to Europe, including everything from pipelines to roads and railways to power lines. The Ukrainian and Russian heartlands are deeply intertwined; the two states’ industrial and agricultural belts fold into each other almost seamlessly. Eastern Ukraine is home to the largest concentration of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers anywhere in the world outside Russia. The home port of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is at Sevastopol on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, a reminder that the Soviet Union’s port options were awful — and that Russia’s remaining port options are even more so.

Ukraine hems in the south of European Russia so thoroughly that any hostile power controlling Kiev could easily threaten a variety of core Russian interests, including Moscow itself. Ukraine also pushes far enough east that a hostile Kiev would sever most existing infrastructure connections to the Caucasus. Simply put, a Ukraine outside the Russian sphere of influence transforms Russia into a purely defensive power, one with little hope of resisting pressure from anywhere. But a Russified Ukraine makes it possible for Russia to project power outward, and to become a major regional — and potentially global — player.

Related Links
Part 1: Instability in a Crucial Country
Part 2: Domestic Forces and Capabilities
Part 3: Outside Intervention
The Russo-Georgian War and the Balance of Power
Russia and Rotating the U.S. Focus
Europe: Feeling the Cold Blast of Another Russo-Ukrainian Dispute
Global Market Brief: Europe’s Long-Term Energy Proposal
Related Special Topic Page
Russian Energy and Foreign Policy
The second change in recent years is that Russia now has an economic buffer, meaning it can tolerate a temporary loss in natural gas income. Since Vladimir Putin first came to power as prime minister in 1999, every government under his command has run a hefty surplus. By mid-2008, Russian officials were regularly boasting of their $750 billion in excess funds, and of how Moscow inevitably would soon become a global financial hub. Not surprisingly, the 2008-2009 recession has deflated this optimism to some extent. The contents of Moscow’s piggy bank already have dropped by approximately $200 billion. Efforts to insulate Russian firms and protect the ruble have taken their financial toll, Russia’s 2009 budget is firmly in deficit, and all talk of a Russian New York is on ice.

But Russia’s financial troubles pale in comparison to its neighbors’ problems — not in severity, but in impact. Russia is not a developed country, or even one that, like the states of Central Europe, is seriously trying to develop. A capital shortage simply does not damage Russia as it does, say, Slovakia. And while Russia has not yet returned to central planning, rising government control over all sources of capital means the Russia of today has far more in common economically with the Soviet Union than with even the Russia of the 1990s, much less the free-market West. In relative terms, the recession actually has increased relative Russian economic power — and that says nothing about other tools of Russian power. Moscow’s energy, political and military levers are as powerful now as they were during the August 2008 war with Georgia.

This is a very long-winded way of saying that before 2004, the Russian-Ukrainian natural gas spat was simply part of business as usual. But now, Russia feels that its life is on the line, and that it has the financial room to maneuver to push hard — and so, the annual ritual of natural gas renegotiations has become a key Russian tool in bringing Kiev to heel.

And a powerful tool it is. Fully two-thirds of Ukraine’s natural gas demand is sourced from Russia, and the income from Russian natural gas transiting to Europe forms the backbone of the Ukrainian budget. Ukraine is a bit of an economic basket case in the best of times, but the global recession has essentially shut down the country’s steel industry, Ukraine’s largest sector. Russian allies in Ukraine, which for the time being include Yushchenko’s one-time Orange ally Yulia Timoshenko, have done a thorough job of ensuring that the blame for the mass power cuts falls to Yushchenko. Facing enervated income, an economy in the doldrums and a hostile Russia, along with all blame being directed at him, Yushchenko’s days appear to be numbered. The most recent poll taken to gauge public sentiment ahead of presidential elections, which are anticipated later this year, put Yushchenko’s support level below the survey’s margin of error.

Even if Yushchenko’s future were bright, Russia has no problem maintaining or even upping the pressure. The Kremlin would much rather see Ukraine destroyed than see it as a member of the Western clubs, and Moscow is willing to inflict a great deal of collateral damage on a variety of players to preserve what it sees as an interest central to Russian survival.

Europe has been prominent among these casualties. As a whole, Europe imports one-quarter of the natural gas it uses from Russia, and approximately 80 percent of that transits Ukraine. All of those deliveries now have been suspended, resulting in cutoffs of various degrees to France, Turkey, Poland, Germany, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria — in rough order of increasing severity. Reports of both mass power outages and mass heating failures have been noted in the countries at the bottom half of this list.

A variety of diversification programs have put Europe well on its way to removing its need for Russian natural gas entirely, but these programs are still years from completion. Until then, not much can be done for states that use natural gas for a substantial portion of their energy needs.

Unlike coal, nuclear energy or oil, natural gas can be easily shipped only via pipeline to previously designated points of use. This means the decision to link to a supplier lasts for decades and is not easily adjusted should something go wrong. Importing natural gas in liquid form requires significant skill in cryogenics as well as specialized facilities that take a couple of years to build (not to mention a solid port). Alternate pipe supply networks, much less power facilities that use different fuels, are still more expensive and require even more time. All European countries can do in the immediate term is literally rely upon the kindness of strangers until the imbroglio is past or a particularly creative solution comes to mind. (Poland has offered several states some of its share of Russian natural gas that comes to it via a Belarusian line.) Some Central European states are taking the unorthodox step of recommissioning mothballed nuclear power plants.

Because Russia’s goal in all this is to crack Kiev, there is not much any European country can do. But one nation, Germany, is certainly trying. Of the major European states, Germany is the most dependent upon Russian resources in general, and energy in particular.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Putin spent three nights this past week on the phone with each other discussing the topic, and the pair has a two-day summit set for later this week. The Germans have three primary reasons for cozying up to the Russians at a time when it seems they should be as angry as anyone else in Europe.

First, because most of the natural gas Germany gets from Russia passes not through Ukraine, but through Belarus — and because the Russians have not interrupted these secondary flows — the Germans desperately want to avoid rocking the boat and politicizing the dispute any more than necessary. The Germans need to engage the Russians in discussion, but unlike most other players, they can afford not to be accusatory, because they have not been too deeply affected so far. (Like all the other Europeans, the Germans are working feverishly to diversify their energy supplies away from Russia, but while Berlin can keep the lights on, it doesn’t want to ruffle any more feathers than it needs to.)

Second, as any leader of Germany would, Merkel recognizes that if current Russian-Western tensions devolve into a more direct confrontation, the struggle would be fought disproportionately with German resources — and perhaps even on German soil. Germany is the closest major power to Russia and would therefore be the focus of any major action, Russian or Western, offensive or defensive. France, the United Kingdom and the United States enjoy the buffer of distance — and in the case of the last two, a water buffer to boot.

German national interest, therefore, is not to find a way to fight the Russians, but to find a way to live with them. Germany traditionally has been Russia’s largest trading partner. Every time the two have clashed, it has been ugly, to say the least. In the German mind, if Ukraine (or perhaps even adjusting the attitude of Poland) is what is necessary to make the Russians feel secure, so be it.

Third, Germany has a European angle to think about. To put it bluntly, Merkel is always on the lookout for any means of easing Germany back into the international community with a foreign policy somewhat more sophisticated than the “I’m sorry” that has reigned since the end of World War II. After the war, France successfully hijacked German submission and used German economic strength to achieve French political desires. Since the Cold War’s end, Germany has slowly wormed its way out of that policy straitjacket, and the natural gas crisis raises an interesting possibility. If Merkel’s discussions with Putin result in restored natural gas flows, then not only will Russia see Germany as a partner, but Germany might win goodwill from European states that no longer have to endure a winter without heat.

Still, it will be a tough sell: the European states between Germany and Russia have always lived in dread that one power or the other — or, God forbid, both — will take them over. But Germany is clearly at the center of Europe, and all of the states affected by the natural gas crisis count Germany as their largest trading partner. If Merkel can muster sufficient political muscle to complement Germany’s economic muscle, the resulting image of strength and capability would go a long way toward cementing Berlin’s re-emergence.
29070  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Marrying ten year olds on: January 14, 2009, 08:22:48 AM,2933,479878,00.html

I suppose its progress of a sort that someone disagrees , , ,
29071  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson; Jefferson; on: January 14, 2009, 08:11:39 AM
"[The President] is the dignified, but accountable magistrate of a free and great people. The tenure of his office, it is true, is not hereditary; nor is it for life: but still it is a tenure of the noblest kind: by being the man of the people, he is invested; by continuing to be the man of the people, his investiture will be voluntarily, and cheerfully, and honourably renewed."

--James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791

"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys." --Thomas Jefferson
29072  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What does Kali Tudo 2 have in store for us?? on: January 14, 2009, 07:53:57 AM
Did the fine edit yesterday with Night Owl of

"Kali Tudo 2:  The Running Dog game vs. the Guard"

I should receive several copies later today which I will then pass around my kitchen cabinet crew for commentary.
29073  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Force Science News on: January 14, 2009, 07:50:55 AM
One of the most dangerous positions a suspect can assume on the ground is prone with his hands tucked under his body, either at chest or waist level. What's hidden in those hands? And if it's a gun, how fast can he twist and shoot if you're approaching him?
This month [1/09], the Force Science Research Center, in cooperation with Indiana University and the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, will launch the first study of its kind in an effort to clearly define your risk and, hopefully, identify your best approach tactics in dealing with this common street problem.

The results may also help explain to civilians why officers sometimes react with what may seem like exceptional violence when trying to control a downed offender whose hands are concealed beneath him.

"When a prone suspect resists showing his hands when an officer orders him to or attempts to pry them out, officers become very suspicious and fearful about what his motive is. And justifiably so," says FSRC's executive director, Dr. Bill Lewinski. "FBI research has shown that suspects with concealed weapons most often carry them to the front of their bodies. So, when prone, they may have easy access to a weapon or already be holding one.

"Until the hands are controlled, officers are very vulnerable in this circumstance, and they often use a fairly high level of force to gain control of the hands because of their concern. They may deliver strikes with batons or flashlights that to naive civilians watching a video clip on TV may look like malicious outbreaks of rage and vindictiveness."

Since its beginning more than 4 years ago, FSRC has conducted a series of ground-breaking time-and-motion studies, documenting the amazing speed with which suspects can attack from a variety of positions--turning and shooting while running, drawing and shooting while seated in a vehicle, and so on.

"The prone study is an important extension of this sequence," Lewinski explains, "and is expected to further pinpoint the formidable reactionary curve that officers are behind when attempting to prevent or respond to potentially lethal assaults."
Several months ago Lewinski conducted some rough preliminary testing on prone action times at the FSRC lab at Minnesota State University-Mankato. Role-playing a prone, armed offender with hands tucked under his body, he repeatedly turned to present and fire a gun as if shooting at a contact officer approaching him from the feet or side. A time-coded video camera recorded his movements. (Click here to view a brief video from the pilot study.)

The average time it took him to make his threatening moves was "about one-third of a second," Lewinski says. "This speed would likely be faster than an average cover officer could react and shoot to stop the threat, even if the officer had his gun pointed, his finger on the trigger, and had already made the decision to shoot. In other words, the officer would stand little chance of being able to shoot first."

This convinced Lewinski that the subject was worth a much more in-depth investigation.

The core research will begin Jan. 5 at Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay, with the assistance there of Erik Walters, public safety training technician.

Four cameras positioned at different angles will film 7 volunteer role-players with different body types moving in a variety of ways to present a gun from under their body and shoot at an approaching officer. "The subjects will be young--reflecting the age demographics of offenders most likely to assault police officers--and agile," Lewinski says. "Agility may play more of a role with suspects who are prone than with those in other shooting postures."

Three of the cameras will be high-speed video units purchased by NWTC with a State of Wisconsin grant to assist with FSRC research. Walters used one of these to record the preliminary tests at Mankato.
The fourth camera is a sophisticated SportsCam, used by high-level athletics coaches and researchers in biomechanics, recently purchased by the Ergonomics Laboratory at Indiana University in Bloomington. This unit can film in color at speeds up to 500 frames per second.

FSRC learned of this equipment through a graduate student, Madeleine Gonin, originally from South Africa, who works in the IU Ergonomics Lab and is pursuing a PhD in human performance and ergonomics. Her master's, however, is in safety management, with a focus on workplace violence. "There's a high level of crime in South Africa, and I want to help find strategies for reducing it," she told Force Science News.

An accomplished martial artist, she became an instructor in the Rape Aggression Defense system after arriving on campus, and through that involvement developed friendships with IU campus police and officers with Bloomington P.D.
As a subject for her PhD dissertation, "I was looking for a program that fitted in with violence prevention," she says. "Some of the officers I knew suggested I get in touch with the Force Science Research Center." She hopes to base her dissertation on the prone action-time research.

Gonin will be in Green Bay, along with Charles Pearce, project director at the IU Ergonomics Lab. To supplement what's filmed there, they will photograph more subjects making more threatening movements on the Indiana campus, using student volunteers, including participants in a cadet program run by the university police department.

Using the Lab's advanced technology, under supervision of director Dr. John Shea, a professor in IU's Department of Kinesiology and Gonin's academic advisor, the researchers intend to convert the photographic images into animated figures.

With cutting-edge software and a link to an immense databank of human forms, they can adjust the figures to as many different height, weight, and strength specifications as they like, and measure the movement times of each in the various action patterns.
"Without a doubt," says Lewinski, "this will be the most thorough and complex analysis of human movement ever performed for law enforcement research."

The initial goal is to nail down action times precisely--just how fast can a prone suspect present a deadly threat. "People tend to underestimate how quickly a human being can actually move," says Gonin. "They also tend to underestimate how slowly officers react when they are under stress and narrowly focused."

Beyond those measurements, the researchers will also be searching for early indicators that could telegraph that a suspect is initiating a dangerous movement. Ideally, this analysis will identify certain cues officers could watch for in prone-suspect situations. "We don't know if we'll be able to find these cues, but we're going to look for them," Lewinski says.

And finally, there may be findings that could affect training and tactics. Does approaching straight-on from a prone suspect's feet, for example, offer the best protective edge against sudden threatening movement, as Lewinski suspects may be the case?

Lewinski estimates it will be a year or more before a final analysis is available, but IU's involvement in the project represents an important breakthrough beyond the critical street knowledge that may result.

"One of our major goals at Force Science is to stimulate interest at universities and other influential institutions in doing research that is of value to line officers," he says. "There has been a huge hole in research into issues that can help street officers perform with improved skill and safety. This is a step toward filling that gap. What a great way to start the New Year!"
29074  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Girls return to school on: January 14, 2009, 07:39:41 AM
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — One morning two months ago, Shamsia Husseini and her sister were walking through the muddy streets to the local girls school when a man pulled alongside them on a motorcycle and posed what seemed like an ordinary question.

As War Enters Classrooms, Fear Grips Afghans (July 10, 2007)
“Are you going to school?”

Then the man pulled Shamsia’s burqa from her head and sprayed her face with burning acid. Scars, jagged and discolored, now spread across Shamsia’s eyelids and most of her left cheek. These days, her vision goes blurry, making it hard for her to read.

But if the acid attack against Shamsia and 14 others — students and teachers — was meant to terrorize the girls into staying home, it appears to have completely failed.

Today, nearly all of the wounded girls are back at the Mirwais School for Girls, including even Shamsia, whose face was so badly burned that she had to be sent abroad for treatment. Perhaps even more remarkable, nearly every other female student in this deeply conservative community has returned as well — about 1,300 in all.

“My parents told me to keep coming to school even if I am killed,” said Shamsia, 17, in a moment after class. Shamsia’s mother, like nearly all of the adult women in the area, is unable to read or write. “The people who did this to me don’t want women to be educated. They want us to be stupid things.”

In the five years since the Mirwais School for Girls was built here by the Japanese government, it appears to have set off something of a social revolution. Even as the Taliban tighten their noose around Kandahar, the girls flock to the school each morning. Many of them walk more than two miles from their mud-brick houses up in the hills.

The girls burst through the school’s walled compound, many of them flinging off head-to-toe garments, bounding, cheering and laughing in ways that are inconceivable outside — for girls and women of any age. Mirwais has no regular electricity, no running water, no paved streets. Women are rarely seen, and only then while clad in burqas that make their bodies shapeless and their faces invisible.

And so it was especially chilling on Nov. 12, when three pairs of men on motorcycles began circling the school. One of the teams used a spray bottle, another a squirt gun, another a jar. They hit 11 girls and 4 teachers in all; 6 went to the hospital. Shamsia fared the worst.

The attacks appeared to be the work of the Taliban, the fundamentalist movement that is battling the government and the American-led coalition. Banning girls from school was one of the most notorious symbols of the Taliban’s rule before they were ousted from power in November 2001.

Building new schools and ensuring that children — and especially girls — attend has been one of the main objectives of the government and the nations that have contributed to Afghanistan’s reconstruction. Some of the students at the Mirwais school are in their late teens and early 20s, attending school for the first time. Yet at the same time, in the guerrilla war that has unfolded across southern and eastern Afghanistan, the Taliban have made schools one of their special targets.

But exactly who was behind the acid attack is a mystery. The Taliban denied any part in it. The police arrested eight men and, shortly after that, the Ministry of Interior released a video showing two men confessing. One of them said he had been paid by an officer with the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence agency, to carry out the attack.

But at a news conference last week, Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, said there was no such Pakistani involvement.

One thing is certain: in the months before the attack, the Taliban had moved into the Mirwais area and the rest of Kandahar’s outskirts. As they did, posters began appearing in local mosques.

“Don’t Let Your Daughters Go to School,” one of them said.

In the days after the attack, the Mirwais School for Girls stood empty; none of the parents would let their daughters venture outside. That is when the headmaster, Mahmood Qadari, got to work.

After four days of staring at empty classrooms, Mr. Qadari called a meeting of the parents. Hundreds came to the school — fathers and mothers — and Mr. Qadari implored them to let their daughters return. After two weeks, a few returned.

So, Mr. Qadari, whose three daughters live abroad, including one in Virginia, enlisted the support of the local government. The governor promised more police officers, a footbridge across a busy nearby road and, most important, a bus. Mr. Qadari called another meeting and told the parents that there was no longer any reason to hold their daughters back.

“I told them, if you don’t send your daughters to school, then the enemy wins,” Mr. Qadari said. “I told them not to give in to darkness. Education is the way to improve our society.”

The adults of Mirwais did not need much persuading. Neither the bus nor the police nor the bridge has materialized, but the girls started showing up anyway. Only a couple of dozen girls regularly miss school now; three of them are girls who had been injured in the attack.

“I don’t want the girls sitting around and wasting their lives,” said Ghulam Sekhi, an uncle of Shamsia and her sister, Atifa, age 14, who was also burned.

For all the uncertainty outside its walls, the Mirwais school brims with life. Its 40 classrooms are so full that classes are held in four tents, donated by Unicef, in the courtyard. The Afghan Ministry of Education is building a permanent building as well.

The past several days at the school have been given over to examinations. In one classroom, a geography class, a teacher posed a series of questions while her students listened and wrote their answers on paper.

“What is the capital of Brazil?” the teacher, named Arja, asked, walking back and forth.

“Now, what are its major cities?”

“By how many times is America larger than Afghanistan?”

At a desk in the front row, Shamsia, the girl with the burned face, pondered the questions while cupping a hand over her largest scar. She squinted down at the paper, rubbed her eyes, wrote something down.

Doctors have told Shamsia that her face may need plastic surgery if there is to be any chance of the scars disappearing. It is a distant dream: Shamsia’s village does not even have regular electricity, and her father is disabled.

After class, Shamsia blended in with the other girls, standing around, laughing and joking. She seemed un-self-conscious about her disfigurement, until she began to recount her ordeal.

“The people who did this,” she said, “do not feel the pain of others.”
29075  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Tunnels on: January 14, 2009, 12:19:31 AM
When Israelis look back on what caused the current conflict in Gaza, they point to their government's decision in September 2005 to leave the narrow "Philadelphi Route" that runs along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. More than Israel's disengagement from the Strip as a whole, the abandonment of this strategic area made full-scale war inevitable.

The 1994 Gaza-Jericho Agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization placed this 100-meter wide corridor, which separated the Egyptian side of the town of Rafah from the Palestinian side in Gaza, under Israeli military control. (The Israeli army gave it the code name "Philadelphi.") By 2000, local Palestinians, many of whom worked with Hamas, dug underground tunnels between the two halves of Rafah. The tunnels allowed for a lucrative smuggling trade that included weapons.

Admittedly, there were rocket attacks on Israel before the Gaza pullout (the first Qassam rocket was fired in 2001). However, the scale of the attacks totally changed after the withdrawal. Rocket attacks increased by 500% (from 179 in 2005 to 946 in 2006).

The range of Hamas's rockets also increased following the withdrawal. Locally manufactured Qassams, which could reach targets seven kilometers away, gave way to Grad/Katyusha rockets supplied by Iran that can hit as far as 20 kilometers. These were first used in 2006. During 2008, rockets with a 40-kilometer range came through the Gaza tunnels and into Hamas's weapons cache.

At the same time that the tunnels facilitated weapons smuggling, they also allowed hundreds of Hamas operatives to leave Gaza for Egypt, where they caught planes to Iran and underwent military training with the Revolutionary Guards at a base outside of Tehran. When Israel controlled the Philadelphi Route, its special forces waged a constant battle and kept the number of tunnels low. But by 2008, with Israeli access to the Philadelphi route cut off and measures against the tunnels halted, the number of tunnels proliferated into the hundreds.

Today, Israelis are concerned that even if Hamas is defeated militarily, its stocks of rockets will be fully replenished by Iran in a matter of months unless the tunnels under the Philadelphi Route are addressed. That is precisely what happened with Hezbollah after the 2006 Lebanon War. The United Nations Security Council cease-fire, Resolution 1701, failed to deal adequately with the rearming of the Lebanese Shiite group. Today, Hezbollah has more rockets threatening Israel than it had prior to the 2006 war.

In the case of Hamas, there is an added concern that Iran will supply rockets that reach well beyond the 40-kilometer range. In the next war, Hamas could strike Tel Aviv from inside the Gaza Strip.

How can Israel cut off the smuggling routes? In 2005, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice proposed border controls for the Rafah area. This completely failed because the European Union monitors deployed in Rafah ran away the moment there was an escalation of violence.

Today the idea of a new EU monitoring force -- a proposal Western diplomats are discussing -- does not engender much confidence on the Israeli side. Others are hoping that Egypt will take seriously its obligations to close off the smuggling routes from its side. Egypt has failed to do so since 2005. Why should we expect a change now?

If these options fail, Israel may be left with no choice but to enter the Philadelphi Route and continue to destroy these tunnels in the future.

Anticipating the end of the Gaza war, there is already talk about the next stage of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Some hope that the peace process can simply be picked up where it was left off and pursued with new determination.

But the crisis over the Philadelphi Route has taught Israel a bitter lesson about relinquishing critical territory: It was a cardinal error to leave this strategic zone at the perimeter of Gaza, even if Israel wanted to get out of the Strip in its entirety. Israeli leaders including Yitzhak Rabin have warned that Israel must never leave the Jordan Valley, the equivalent perimeter zone in the West Bank.

Ariel Sharon saw the Jordan Valley as an integral part of Israel's claim to "defensible borders," a term used by President Bush in an April 2004 letter to Israel, that was overwhelmingly backed in special legislation by bipartisan majorities in both houses of U.S. Congress during June 2004. President-elect Barack Obama publicly recognized Israel's right to "defensible borders" at the annual American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) policy conference last year.

The strategic stakes involved in this issue are enormous. Were Israel to be stripped of the Jordan Valley, it would undoubtedly face a massive escalation of weapons smuggling into the West Bank. Should the scale of the smuggling reach the same proportions as in Gaza, it is doubtful that even the Jordanians, motivated by the best of intentions, could bring it to a halt. Moreover, a steady stream of weapons smugglers and Islamist volunteers crossing the kingdom would undermine Jordanian security.

Diplomats are working feverishly to seal off the Philadelphi Route and bring an end to the current Gaza conflict. Let's hope they remember the critical importance of securing Israel's other borders -- for the sake of Israel's security, and for the stability of its neighbors.

Mr. Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in 1997-1999.
29076  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: January 14, 2009, 12:17:42 AM
In presenting herself to Congress to become Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Clinton at the least showed she will have little trouble conversing in the soft talk of the striped-pants set.

On the Middle East: "We cannot give up on peace." On China: "Much of what we will do depends on the choices China makes."

By default, then, the pro-forma hearing's hardest moments became the nominee's colloquies with Senator Richard Lugar over the status of Bill Clinton's foundation.

We discussed in this space yesterday the complications Mr. Clinton's donor list could create for the conduct of an Obama foreign policy. Senator Lugar pressed the disclosure point at the hearing, even proposing a detailed plan for handling future donations to the foundation. "The core of the problem," said Senator Lugar, "is that foreign governments and entities may perceive the Clinton Foundation as a means to gain favor with the Secretary of State."

Pointedly, Senator John Kerry, the committee chair, leaned in to let Senator Clinton know that Mr. Lugar was "expressing the view of the committee as a whole."

Senator Clinton replied that the agreement worked out between the foundation and the Obama transition was adequate.

No doubt Senator Clinton is sailing toward confirmation and then on to what she promises will be a new world of "smart power." But both Senators Lugar and Kerry have been around Washington long enough to be able to see political difficulty over the horizon.

While the troubled Clinton Presidency by now has been reduced to Monica, veteran Senators will recall that much of the problems had to do with money flowing into the Clinton campaign from mysterious donors and middle men. Then came the Republicans' turn, as the party broke apart on the Abramoff scandal. These senior Senators were trying to ensure that a promising new President doesn't founder on the practices of Washington past. Let's hope the two of them remain vigilant.
29077  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia-Ukraine on: January 13, 2009, 11:53:14 PM

Geopolitical Diary: Ukrainian Politics and the Natural Gas Crisis
January 13, 2009

On Monday, the 12th day of a natural gas crisis, Russia, Ukraine and the European Union signed an agreement -— for the second time —- for Russian natural gas supplies to Europe to resume. The deal resolved the cutoff prompted by a pricing and debt dispute between Moscow and Kiev and Ukraine’s subsequent siphoning of supplies transiting its territory. The deal also included a plan to deploy European monitors to Ukraine, to check Russian natural gas flows to Europe.

Russian and EU officials initially signed the deal Friday and then sent it to Ukraine, where it was signed it early Sunday. However, Kiev attached an addendum saying that Ukraine had never siphoned natural gas headed to Europe, that Russia owed Ukraine natural gas to make up for a loss in supplies, and that Ukraine no longer owes Russia any debt. These three points are items Moscow could not agree to, and the agreement was broken late Sunday night.

Negotiators reconvened Monday in Brussels and signed the original deal (without the addendum), and the deputy head of Russia’s natural gas monopoly, Alexander Medvedev (no relation to the Russian president), pledged to restart supplies Tuesday morning “if there are no more obstacles.” It is this last caveat which is keeping everyone on edge in Europe, especially as many countries are rationing natural gas supplies and power has been shut off in many Central European states.

The obstacle that Gazprom’s Medvedev was referring to was Ukraine. Though a deal has been struck and natural gas supplies were to resume early Tuesday, Moscow and Kiev have not resolved the debt issue or the price to be paid for natural gas in the coming year —- the issues that gave rise to the most recent crisis and similar crises in years past. This means that at any time, Russia can close the valves again.

Russia will continue using energy to mold the internal political situation in Ukraine, in hopes of shaping the pro-Western government into a more Kremlin-friendly regime. There was evidence Monday of two large steps toward this goal.

First, the pro-Russian Party of Regions in Ukraine began calling for the pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko to resign, and there are rumors that when parliament resumes on Wednesday the impeachment process could begin. Second, the first official poll since the latest natural gas crisis erupted was released in Ukraine. According to the National Academy of Sciences, if presidential elections were held today, Yushchenko would win only 2.9 percent of the vote, while Regions’ leader Viktor Yanukovich would take 30.3 percent and the (currently) pro-Russian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko would take 16.7 percent.

In short, Russia’s moves on Ukraine have pushed voters toward pro-Russian candidates and furthered Yushchenko’s decline -— exactly what Moscow wanted. This does not mean things cannot and will not shift before Ukraine’s next elections, which could take place anytime from the end of 2009 through early 2010 unless Yushchenko is removed from office early. In the meantime, Russia’s use of energy as leverage seems to be creating the effects Moscow wants in Ukraine.
29078  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: January 13, 2009, 11:35:57 PM

Duh.  embarassed
29079  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: January 13, 2009, 08:07:20 PM
URL please?
29080  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Matthew Alexander on: January 13, 2009, 10:57:27 AM
A good article that has nothing to do with the subject matter of this thread  cheesy

Returning to the subject matter of this thread, here's this extended interview with interrogator "Mattthew Alexander."
29081  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Policy on: January 13, 2009, 09:39:06 AM

Mark it down as the first tax increase of the new Democratic era. The Journal reported yesterday that President-elect Obama and Congressional leaders intend to maintain the estate tax rather than let it expire on schedule in 2010.

They will do so even though their economic stimulus plan is supposed to be about creating millions of new jobs in a hurry. The death tax strikes most heavily at small- and medium-sized family-owned businesses that generate the majority of new American jobs. So hitting these family businesses with a multimillion dollar tax bill when the owner dies won't help job creation.

Republicans are partly to blame here for making this easy for Democrats, thanks to their mistakes in the 2001 tax bill. Rather than repeal the tax immediately, Republicans got bamboozled into agreeing to a 10-year phase-out that eliminates the tax only for a single year. Then the rate goes all the way back in 2011 to the confiscatory 55% rate of the Clinton era, with a mere $1 million exclusion. Republicans never did fix the tax revenue estimating process on Capitol Hill, and this is one price for that failure.

Mr. Obama wants to make the current death tax rate of 45% permanent, along with an exclusion of $3.5 million ($7 million for couples). One issue to watch is whether this exclusion is indexed for inflation, or else over time it will hit more and more average earners who build up a small nest egg over a lifetime. Think Alternative Minimum Tax.

The death tax is supposed to be an easy way to extract revenue from the likes of Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, who support the tax. It won't. The super wealthy have foundations and other tax dodges to shield themselves from much of the tax. A 2006 Joint Economic Committee (JEC) study found that death tax "liabilities depend on the skill of the estate planner, rather than on capacity to pay." So much for tax fairness.

By contrast, "family-run firms and farms particularly feel the pinch of the estate tax, because they are less likely to have the liquid resources needed to meet their estate tax liabilities." The latest JEC estimate is that the death tax has reduced the stock of capital in the economy by about $847 billion. So let's get this straight: We are said to need an economic stimulus plan that will borrow and spend roughly the same amount of money to replace the capital stock that the estate tax has wiped out. Go figure.

This lost capital reinvestment translates into fewer workers on business payrolls. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former Congressional Budget Office director, estimates in a new study that the economy would create roughly 1.3 million more small business jobs with no death tax rather than with a 45% rate. Foreign governments understand this relationship, which is why they have been slashing their estate taxes in recent years. According to the American Council for Capital Formation, the U.S. has the third highest estate tax in the developed world -- 49% if you add the federal rate and average state rate, just below 50% in Japan and South Korea.

Republicans alone won't have much chance to stop this Obama estate-tax plan, so its fate will hang on Senate Democrats. For years many of those Democrats -- especially in swing states like Arkansas and Montana -- campaigned on the promise to lower or eliminate the estate tax. We'll now find out if they meant it.

29082  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: January 13, 2009, 09:29:30 AM
These columns have long believed that a President deserves the cabinet members he wants, barring some major dereliction. So if Barack Obama wants to make Hillary and Bill Clinton part of his governing team, that's his business. We can only hope he understands the Clinton family business he's taking on.

APTake Mr. Clinton's post-Presidential fund-raising, the scope of which he finally disclosed in late December after years of refusing and under pressure from the Obama transition. Amid the holidays and economic news, this window on the Clinton political method has received less attention than it deserves. Here is the spectacle of a former President circling the globe to raise at least $492 million over 10 years for his foundation -- much of it from assorted rogues, dictators and favor-seekers. We are supposed to believe that none of this -- and none of his future fund-raising -- will have any influence on Mrs. Clinton's conduct as Secretary of State.

The silence over this is itself remarkable. When Henry Kissinger was invited merely to co-chair the 9/11 Commission, the political left went bonkers about his foreign clients. In this case we have a Secretary of State nominee whose husband may have raised more than $60 million from various Middle East grandees, and Washington reacts with a yawn. Maybe someone will even ask about it at her nomination hearing today.

A Senator should ask, because this has the potential to complicate life for the new President. All the more so because under terms of his agreement with Mr. Obama, Mr. Clinton will be able to keep raising foreign cash as long as the donors send the checks to a Clinton entity other than the "Clinton Global Initiative." Instead of being immediately disclosed, future donations will only be made public once a year and the exact amounts and dates of previous donations will never be made public.

While Mr. Clinton will submit some donations from foreign governments to Administration scrutiny, he need only do so if the donations are new or are of a significantly larger magnitude from a previous donation. In other words, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman can keep giving millions without U.S. government review even while Mrs. Clinton is America's chief diplomat. These disclosure limitations suggest that the Clintons seriously out-negotiated Team Obama. We hope the President-elect does better with Iran.

As for potential embarrassment, consider the "up to $5 million" in donations to the Clinton foundation from Gilbert Chagoury, known for his ties to Nigeria's former military dictator, General Sani Abacha. The Journal's John Emshwiller recently noted that unfortunately for Mr. Chagoury, after Abacha died in 1998, "Swiss and other European authorities froze a number of bank accounts, including some related to Mr. Chagoury, as part of an investigation by the Nigerian government and others about whether billions of dollars had been improperly taken out of the country during the Abacha regime, according to news reports and a 2001 British court decision in Abacha-related litigation. Mr. Chagoury later agreed to return funds, estimated to be as much as $300 million, to the Nigerian government in exchange for indemnity from possible charges and to unfreeze his accounts, according to the British court decision."

Another notable donor -- also up to $5 million -- is Viktor Pinchuk, son-in-law of former Ukraine president Leonid Kuchma. Mr. Pinchuk was mentioned in a 2005 Journal story headlined, "Haunted By Suspect Deals Of Old Regime." Suspect indeed. The "privatization" of the country's largest steel plant in a sale to a group including Mr. Pinchuk was later overturned after the country held a democratic election.

And only this month, the New York Times reported that New York developer Robert Congel gave $100,000 to the Clinton foundation in November, 2004, one month after the enactment of a law that gave Mr. Congel access to tax-exempt "green bonds" to build a shopping mall in Syracuse. Mrs. Clinton had supported the law, and within a year of the donation she secured $5 million in taxpayer funds for the complex.

It'd be nice to think Mr. Clinton would forswear this money-hustle while his wife is Secretary of State, but that self-sacrifice would belie his entire career. As for Mrs. Clinton, note the scrutiny that Eric Holder, Mr. Obama's Attorney General nominee, is coming under for his role in aiding pardons for 16 unrepentant Puerto Rican terrorists in 1999. But keep in mind the timing of those pardons was intended to help Mrs. Clinton win Puerto Rican support in her 2000 Senate campaign. Someone should ask her at today's hearing about the role she played in that pardon.

In signing up the Clintons -- always two for the price of one -- Mr. Obama is no doubt hoping to unite his party and mute Democratic criticism when mistakes happen. He is also hiring someone whose prominence and allies make her impossible to fire, even as she and her husband have a history of cutting ethical corners. Good luck.

29083  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The United Nations on: January 13, 2009, 09:03:09 AM

Please forgive me, but I have taken the liberty of renaming the thread.  Of course I have no problem with the point you are making, but my intuitive sense is that the conversation here will be better this way.

29084  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A friend reports on: January 13, 2009, 08:55:48 AM
A friend in Iraq training Iraqi police reports:

 I leave my hootch at about 0515 to walk down the very dark road to the compound gym.  As I turn onto "Edinburgh Blvd." I can hear a  dog barking.  Very agitated like.  And getting louder.  Within a few seconds I see a white dog somewhat running towards me.  That by itself is enough around here to be  concerned about.  They carry 2 step rabies here.  You get bit, you get to take 2 more steps before you drop dead to the ground.  Of course I am exaggerating but you get the drift.
Well a moment after I see the dog I notice a light coming down the street.  It looks like a flashlight.  Only it's like head high.  As the  light and I get nearer I realize it's a head lamp.  Like bicyclists and orienteers wear.  By this time the dog sees me and darts bbehind some parked cars and essentially goes out of sight.  A couple of seconds later I realiize the guy comiing towards me wearing a head lamp is carrying a  freakin' rifle.  Well around here, while rifles are not uncommon, guys walking down the street at 0515 in the morning with one and wearing a head lamp is still odd.    I admit to instant ppucker factor thinkking holy mierda.  Who's gonna believe I got whacked like this?  I have never been so happy in my life (when he was just meters away) to hear a voice, a German voice at that say, "good morning sir."  And he just kept going.  Looking for the dog.  But I think the dog took deep cover when he saw me, on top of seeing some guy with a flashlight and a rifle looking for him.  And I nnever heard a  gunshot.
I checked my underwear when I got to the gym....
29085  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington on: January 13, 2009, 08:24:07 AM
"For myself the delay [in assuming the office of the President] may be compared with a reprieve; for in confidence I assure you, with the world it would obtain little credit that my movements to the chair of Government will be accompanied by feelings not unlike those of a culprit who is going to the place of his execution: so unwilling am I, in the evening of a life nearly consumed in public cares, to quit a peaceful abode for an Ocean of difficulties, without that competency of political skill, abilities and inclination which is necessary to manage the helm."

--George Washington, comment to General Henry Knox, March 1789
29086  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: January 12, 2009, 10:25:26 PM
CNN's Staged Video Update: Norwegian Doctor Works with Hezbollah

Media | Sun, Jan 11, 2009 at 7:46:52 am PST

At Erik Svansbo’s Sweidsh blog, more information about the pro-terrorist agenda of Mads Gilbert, the doctor seen in that staged video from a Gaza hospital.

The doctor’s colleague actually told the Aftonbladet newspaper that spreading pro-Hamas propaganda is more important to them than their medical work—and the Norwegian organization for which they work is a partner with Hezbollah’s “Martyr Foundation.”
In Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, Mads Gilbert’s norwegian colleague Erik Fosse reported about his work in Gaza:
Two Norwegian doctors have worked hard for seven days to save lives in Gaza. But to report to the outside world about what is happening in the war assessing the more important. - “Our witness function and to convey what is actually happening have been more important,” says the doctor Erik Fosse to VG Nett.

In Sweden’s biggest morning newspaper, columnist Lisa Bjurwald stated that NORWAC cooperates with Hezbollah’s Martyr Foundation:
GILBERT AND HIS medical colleague Erik Fosse seconded by the Norwegian aid organization NORWAC, for which Fosse is boss. NORWAC’s partners include Hezbollah’s Martyr Foundation, which collects and distributes money to suicide bomber’s families.

Not a single mainstream media source has reported the outrageous pro-terrorist views and actions of these doctors, but all have broadcast interviews with them.
29087  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 12, 2009, 08:35:00 PM
Does he make any points worthy of your consideration?
29088  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 12, 2009, 07:46:07 PM
Sent to me by a former Army man (Nuke, Bio, Chem stuff) who has followed this issue closely. 

I might add that this is the interrogator that the US selected to aid in finding Zarqawi in Iraq, so not just any run of the mill interrogator I would imagine.


I'm Still Tortured by What I Saw in Iraq
By Matthew Alexander
Sunday, November 30, 2008; Page B01

I should have felt triumphant when I returned from Iraq in August 2006. Instead, I was worried and exhausted. My team of interrogators had successfully hunted down one of the most notorious mass murderers of our generation, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the mastermind of the campaign of suicide bombings that had helped plunge Iraq into civil war. But instead of celebrating our success, my mind was consumed with the unfinished business of our mission: fixing the deeply flawed, ineffective and un-American way the U.S. military conducts interrogations in Iraq. I'm still alarmed about that today.

I'm not some ivory-tower type; I served for 14 years in the U.S. Air Force, began my career as a Special Operations pilot flying helicopters, saw combat in Bosnia and Kosovo, became an Air Force counterintelligence agent, then volunteered to go to Iraq to work as a senior interrogator. What I saw in Iraq still rattles me -- both because it betrays our traditions and because it just doesn't work.

Violence was at its peak during my five-month tour in Iraq. In February 2006, the month before I arrived, Zarqawi's forces (members of Iraq's Sunni minority) blew up the golden-domed Askariya mosque in Samarra, a shrine revered by Iraq's majority Shiites, and unleashed a wave of sectarian bloodshed. Reprisal killings became a daily occurrence, and suicide bombings were as common as car accidents. It felt as if the whole country was being blown to bits.

Amid the chaos, four other Air Force criminal investigators and I joined an elite team of interrogators attempting to locate Zarqawi. What I soon discovered about our methods astonished me. The Army was still conducting interrogations according to the Guantanamo Bay model: Interrogators were nominally using the methods outlined in the U.S. Army Field Manual, the interrogators' bible, but they were pushing in every way possible to bend the rules -- and often break them. I don't have to belabor the point; dozens of newspaper articles and books have been written about the misconduct that resulted. These interrogations were based on fear and control; they often resulted in torture and abuse.

I refused to participate in such practices, and a month later, I extended that prohibition to the team of interrogators I was assigned to lead. I taught the members of my unit a new methodology -- one based on building rapport with suspects, showing cultural understanding and using good old-fashioned brainpower to tease out information. I personally conducted more than 300 interrogations, and I supervised more than 1,000. The methods my team used are not classified (they're listed in the unclassified Field Manual), but the way we used them was, I like to think, unique. We got to know our enemies, we learned to negotiate with them, and we adapted criminal investigative techniques to our work (something that the Field Manual permits, under the concept of "ruses and trickery"). It worked. Our efforts started a chain of successes that ultimately led to Zarqawi.

Over the course of this renaissance in interrogation tactics, our attitudes changed. We no longer saw our prisoners as the stereotypical al-Qaeda evildoers we had been repeatedly briefed to expect; we saw them as Sunni Iraqis, often family men protecting themselves from Shiite militias and trying to ensure that their fellow Sunnis would still have some access to wealth and power in the new Iraq. Most surprisingly, they turned out to despise al-Qaeda in Iraq as much as they despised us, but Zarqawi and his thugs were willing to provide them with arms and money. I pointed this out to Gen. George Casey, the former top U.S. commander in Iraq, when he visited my prison in the summer of 2006. He did not respond.

Perhaps he should have. It turns out that my team was right to think that many disgruntled Sunnis could be peeled away from Zarqawi. A year later, Gen. David Petraeus helped boost the so-called Anbar Awakening, in which tens of thousands of Sunnis turned against al-Qaeda in Iraq and signed up with U.S. forces, cutting violence in the country dramatically.

Our new interrogation methods led to one of the war's biggest breakthroughs: We convinced one of Zarqawi's associates to give up the al-Qaeda in Iraq leader's location. On June 8, 2006, U.S. warplanes dropped two 500-pound bombs on a house where Zarqawi was meeting with other insurgent leaders.

But Zarqawi's death wasn't enough to convince the joint Special Operations task force for which I worked to change its attitude toward interrogations. The old methods continued. I came home from Iraq feeling as if my mission was far from accomplished. Soon after my return, the public learned that another part of our government, the CIA, had repeatedly used waterboarding to try to get information out of detainees.

I know the counter-argument well -- that we need the rough stuff for the truly hard cases, such as battle-hardened core leaders of al-Qaeda, not just run-of-the-mill Iraqi insurgents. But that's not always true: We turned several hard cases, including some foreign fighters, by using our new techniques. A few of them never abandoned the jihadist cause but still gave up critical information. One actually told me, "I thought you would torture me, and when you didn't, I decided that everything I was told about Americans was wrong. That's why I decided to cooperate."

Torture and abuse are against my moral fabric. The cliche still bears repeating: Such outrages are inconsistent with American principles. And then there's the pragmatic side: Torture and abuse cost American lives.

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. The number of U.S. soldiers who have died because of our torture policy will never be definitively known, but it is fair to say that it is close to the number of lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001. How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me -- unless you don't count American soldiers as Americans.

After my return from Iraq, I began to write about my experiences because I felt obliged, as a military officer, not only to point out the broken wheel but to try to fix it. When I submitted the manuscript of my book about my Iraq experiences to the Defense Department for a standard review to ensure that it did not contain classified information, I got a nasty shock. Pentagon officials delayed the review past the first printing date and then redacted an extraordinary amount of unclassified material -- including passages copied verbatim from the Army's unclassified Field Manual on interrogations and material vibrantly displayed on the Army's own Web site. I sued, first to get the review completed and later to appeal the redactions. Apparently, some members of the military command are not only unconvinced by the arguments against torture; they don't even want the public to hear them.

My experiences have landed me in the middle of another war -- one even more important than the Iraq conflict. The war after the war is a fight about who we are as Americans. Murderers like Zarqawi can kill us, but they can't force us to change who we are. We can only do that to ourselves. One day, when my grandkids sit on my knee and ask me about the war, I'll say to them, "Which one?"

Americans, including officers like myself, must fight to protect our values not only from al-Qaeda but also from those within our own country who would erode them. Other interrogators are also speaking out, including some former members of the military, the FBI and the CIA who met last summer to condemn torture and have spoken before Congress -- at considerable personal risk.

We're told that our only options are to persist in carrying out torture or to face another terrorist attack. But there truly is a better way to carry out interrogations -- and a way to get out of this false choice between torture and terror.

I'm actually quite optimistic these days, in no small measure because President-elect Barack Obama has promised to outlaw the practice of torture throughout our government. But until we renounce the sorts of abuses that have stained our national honor, al-Qaeda will be winning. Zarqawi is dead, but he has still forced us to show the world that we do not adhere to the principles we say we cherish. We're better than that. We're smarter, too.
29089  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SEAL hell week on: January 12, 2009, 07:02:11 PM
29090  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The War on Drugs in Afg reconsidered on: January 12, 2009, 06:49:03 PM
Afghanistan's Drug Problem
by Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of eight books on international affairs, including Smart Power: Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy for America (2008). He is also a contributing editor to The National Interest.

Added to on December 5, 2008

This article appeared in the National Interest (Online) on December 5, 2008

General James Jones, President-elect Obama's choice as national-security adviser, said earlier this week that a more "comprehensive" strategy was needed to defeat the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Part of his comprehensive approach would be to intensify the campaign against the illegal drug trade. That would be a disastrous mistake. The opium trade is such a huge part of Afghanistan's economy, that efforts to eradicate it would alienate millions of Afghans and play into the hands of the terrorists.

Under pressure from Washington, President Hamid Karzai has already called on the Afghan people to wage war against narcotics with the same determination and ferocity that they resisted the Soviet occupation in the 1980s. Given the economic and social realities in Afghanistan, that is an unrealistic and potentially very dangerous objective.

Ted Galen Carpenter, vice president for defense and foreign-policy studies at the Cato Institute, is the author of eight books on international affairs, including Smart Power: Toward a Prudent Foreign Policy for America (2008). He is also a contributing editor to The National Interest.

Despite the comments of General Jones, there has long been skepticism in U.S. and NATO military circles about the wisdom of pursuing a vigorous war on drugs in Afghanistan. Commanders correctly believe that such an effort complicates their primary mission: eradicating al-Qaeda and Taliban forces.

There is little doubt that al-Qaeda and other anti-government elements profit from the drug trade. What drug warriors refuse to acknowledge is that the connection between drug trafficking and terrorism is a direct result of making drugs illegal, thereby creating an enormous black-market premium. Not surprisingly, terrorist groups in Afghanistan and other countries are quick to exploit such a vast source of potential funding. Absent a worldwide prohibitionist policy, the profit margins in drug trafficking would be a tiny fraction of their current levels, and terrorist groups would have to seek other sources of revenue.

In any case, the United States faces a dilemma if it conducts a vigorous drug-eradication campaign in Afghanistan in an effort to dry up the funds flowing to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Those are not the only factions involved in drug trafficking. Evidence has emerged that officials in Karzai's government, perhaps even the president's brother, are also recipients of largesse from the narcotics trade. Even more important, many of Karzai's political allies are warlords who control the drug commerce in their respective regions. They use the resulting revenues to pay the militias that keep them in power in their fiefdoms and give them national political clout. Some of these individuals backed the Taliban when that faction was in power, switching sides only when the United States launched its military offensive in Afghanistan in October 2001. Antidrug campaigns might cause them to change their allegiance yet again.

In addition to the need to placate cooperative warlords, the U.S.-led coalition relies on poppy growers as spies for information on movements of Taliban and al-Qaeda units. Disrupting the opium crop alienates those vital sources of information.

Washington’s pressure on Karzai is myopic.

The drug trade is a crucial part of Afghanistan's economy. Afghanistan accounts for more than 90 percent of the world's opium supply, and opium poppies are now grown in most provinces. The trade is roughly one-third of the country's entire gross domestic product. According to the United Nations, some five hundred nine thousand Afghan families are involved in opium poppy cultivation. Even measured on a nuclear-family basis, that translates into about 14 percent of Afghanistan's population. Given the role of extended families and clans in Afghan society, the number of people affected is much greater than that. Indeed, it is likely that at least 35 percent of the population is involved directly or indirectly in the drug trade. For many of those people, opium poppy crops and other aspects of drug commerce are the difference between modest prosperity (by Afghan standards) and destitution. They do not look kindly on efforts to destroy their livelihood.

Despite those daunting economic factors, the Bush administration has put increased pressure on the Karzai government to crack down on the drug trade, and the incoming Obama administration apparently intends to continue that strategy. The Afghan regime is responding cautiously, trying to convince Washington that it is serious about dealing with the problem without launching a full-blown antidrug crusade that will alienate large segments of the population. It has tried to achieve that balance by focusing on high-profile raids against drug-processing labs—mostly those that are not controlled by warlords friendly to the Kabul government. Afghan officials have been especially adamant in opposing the aerial spraying of poppy fields—a strategy that Washington has successfully pushed allied governments in Colombia and other South American drug-source countries to do.

Washington's pressure on Karzai is myopic. The Taliban and their al-Qaeda allies are rapidly regaining strength, especially in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, perhaps not coincidentally the areas of the most vigorous antidrug campaigns. If zealous American drug warriors alienate hundreds of thousands of Afghan farmers, the Karzai government's hold on power could become even more precarious. Washington would then face the unpalatable choice of risking the reemergence of chaos in Afghanistan, including the prospect that radical Islamists might regain power, or sending more U.S. troops to stabilize the situation beyond the reinforcements already contemplated for 2009.

U.S. officials need to keep their priorities straight. Our mortal enemy is al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime that made Afghanistan into a sanctuary for that terrorist organization. The drug war is a dangerous distraction in the campaign to destroy those forces. Recognizing that security considerations sometimes trump other objectives would hardly be an unprecedented move by Washington. U.S. agencies quietly ignored drug-trafficking activities of anticommunist factions in Central America during the 1980s when the primary goal was to keep those countries out of the Soviet orbit. In the early 1990s, the United States also eased its pressure on Peru's government regarding the drug-eradication issue when President Alberto Fujimori concluded that a higher priority had to be given to winning coca farmers away from the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement.

The Obama administration should adopt a similar pragmatic policy in Afghanistan and look the other way regarding the drug-trafficking activities of friendly warlords. And above all, the U.S. military must not become the enemy of Afghan farmers whose livelihood depends on opium-poppy cultivation. True, some of the funds from the drug trade will find their way into the coffers of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. That is an inevitable side effect of a global prohibitionist policy that creates such an enormous profit from illegal drugs. But alienating pro-Western Afghan factions in an effort to disrupt the flow of revenue to the Islamic radicals is too high a price to pay. General Jones should reconsider his views.
29091  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hamas' children on: January 12, 2009, 04:51:36 PM

Hamas' children
29092  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kristol on: January 12, 2009, 12:26:36 PM
Continuity We Can Believe In
Published: January 11, 2009

Barack Obama made news Sunday on ABC’s “This Week”: The White House dog will likely be a Labradoodle or a Portuguese water dog.

I’ve got to say I’m a little disappointed. These are nice, friendly, generally obedient breeds (or in the case of the Labradoodle, a crossbreed). But what a missed opportunity! Obama could have made a bolder, edgier choice, like a mini-Australian shepherd. I happen to know one well. He’s very smart, a bit neurotic, devoted to his master (if sometimes confused about whether he or the master is the master), and always looking for people to herd. A mini-Aussie would have fit right into a White House populated by Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers, Joe Biden et al. Instead, Obama’s going with a no-drama canine alternative.

And he seems to be going for the no-dramatic-change-in-policy-in-the-White-House alternative as well. Consider Obama’s reaction when George Stephanopoulos played a clip of Dick Cheney counseling Obama not to implement his campaign rhetoric until he’s fully briefed on the details of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policy.

“I think that was pretty good advice, which is I should know what’s going on before we make judgments and that we shouldn’t be making judgments on the basis of incomplete information or campaign rhetoric. So I’ve got no quibble with that particular quote,” said Obama. Usually, presidents pretend their campaign positions are more than “campaign rhetoric.” Not Obama.

Obama did note that he differs with Cheney on “some things that we know happened,” including waterboarding. And he did reiterate his pledge to close Guantánamo. But he warned that it was “more difficult than I think a lot of people realize,” explaining that while he was committed to the rule of law, he wasn’t interested “in releasing people who are intent on blowing us up.”

And at one point he returned, unbidden, to the much-maligned vice president, commenting, “I thought that Dick Cheney’s advice was good.”

Perhaps the president-elect was just being polite. Or perhaps he just enjoys torturing (metaphorically!) some of his previously most ardent supporters who want Dick Cheney tried as a war criminal.

In fact, Stephanopoulos asked about that. He pointed to a popular question on Obama’s Web site about whether he’ll appoint a special prosecutor to investigate “the greatest crimes of the Bush administration, including torture and warrantless wiretapping.” Obama stipulated that no one should be above the law. But he praised C.I.A. employees, and said he didn’t want them “looking over their shoulders and lawyering.” He took the general view “that when it comes to national security, what we have to focus on is getting things right in the future, as opposed to looking at what we got wrong in the past.”

With respect to the Middle East, Obama didn’t even say we’d gotten much wrong in the past. Asked by Stephanopoulos whether his policy would build on Bush’s or would be a clean break, Obama answered, “if you look not just at the Bush administration, but also what happened under the Clinton administration, you are seeing the general outlines of an approach.” So: No break.

Meanwhile, the Obama transition team’s chief national security spokeswoman, Brooke Anderson, was denying a press report that Obama’s advisers were urging him to initiate low-level or clandestine contacts with Hamas as a prelude to change in policy. Anderson told The Jerusalem Post that the story wasn’t accurate, and reminded one and all that Obama “has repeatedly stated that he believes that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to Israel’s destruction, and that we should not deal with them until they recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by past agreements.”

On Iran, Obama did say he’d be taking “a new approach,” that “engagement is the place to start” with “a new emphasis on being willing to talk.” But he also reminded Stephanopoulos that the Iranian regime is exporting terrorism through Hamas and Hezbollah and is “pursuing a nuclear weapon that could potentially trigger a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.” He said his willingness to talk would be combined with “clarity about what our bottom lines are” — one of them presumably being, as he’s said before, no Iranian nuclear weapons. And he demonstrated a sense of urgency — “we anticipate that we’re going to have to move swiftly in that area.”

So: After talks with Iran (if they happen) fail to curb Iran’s nuclear program, but (perhaps) impress other nations with our good faith, we’ll presumably get greater international support for sanctions. That will also (unfortunately) fail to deter Iran. “Engagement is the place to start,” Obama said, but it’s not likely to be the place Obama ends. He’ll end up where Bush is — with the choice of using force or acquiescing to the idea of a nuclear Iran.

And he’ll probably be calling Dick Cheney for advice.
29093  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 12, 2009, 12:02:47 PM
Ummm, , , because any of them can choose to leave?
29094  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: January 12, 2009, 11:58:12 AM
29095  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 12, 2009, 09:33:52 AM
As usual, GM makes many powerful points and I agree with most of them.  As usual JDN is often , , , imprecise, specious and excessive in making his points (said with love JDN).  That said, I find myself at odds with some of our practices.  Leaving somebody naked and wet in 50 degrees?  What is the point?  Is there a ticking bomb scenario?  My understanding is no there is not, so I find no justification for this sort of practice.  Likewise the extended standing and sleep deprivation leaves me wondering.

The readings I have done (e.g. The Interrogator's War by someone who interrogated in the early days of Afg) persuade me that this sort of methodology simply is not very effective.  Nor does it leave me proud as an American.
29096  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYTimes: Read between the lines: Dems prepare for open borders on: January 12, 2009, 09:00:49 AM
Wonder why there's no talk of putting the Trillion Dollar Stimulus to work here?  angry angry angry


LAREDO, Tex. — Inside a courthouse just north of the Rio Grande, federal judges mete out prison sentences to throngs of 40 to 60 illegal immigrants at a time. The accused, mostly from Central America, Brazil and Mexico, wear rough travel clothes that speak of arduous journeys: flannel shirts, sweat suits, jeans and running shoes or work boots.

Barbara LaWall, a county prosecutor in Arizona, said she did know how much longer she would be able to take on federal cases.
The prosecutors make quick work of the immigrants. Under a Justice Department program that relies on plea deals, most are charged with misdemeanors like improper entry.

Federal prosecutions of immigration crimes nearly doubled in the last fiscal year, reaching more than 70,000 immigration cases in the 2008 fiscal year, according to federal data compiled by a Syracuse University research group. The emphasis, many federal judges and prosecutors say, has siphoned resources from other crimes, eroded morale among federal lawyers and overloaded the federal court system. Many of those other crimes, including gun trafficking, organized crime and the increasingly violent drug trade, are now routinely referred to state and county officials, who say they often lack the finances or authority to prosecute them effectively.

Bush administration officials say the government’s focus on immigration crimes is an outgrowth of its counterterrorism strategy and vigorous pursuit of immigrants with criminal records.

Immigration prosecutions have steeply risen over the last five years, while white-collar prosecutions have fallen by 18 percent, weapons prosecutions have dropped by 19 percent, organized crime prosecutions are down by 20 percent and public corruption prosecutions have dropped by 14 percent, according to the Syracuse group’s statistics. Drug prosecutions — the enforcement priority of the Reagan, first Bush and Clinton administrations — have declined by 20 percent since 2003.

“I have seen a national abdication by the Justice Department,” said Attorney General Terry Goddard of Arizona.

United States attorneys on the Southwest border, who handle the bulk of immigration prosecutions, usually decline to prosecute drug suspects with 500 pounds of marijuana or less — about $500,000 to $800,000 worth. As a result of Washington’s decision to forgo many of those cases, Mr. Goddard said, local agencies are handling many of them and becoming overwhelmed.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said that felony prosecutions of immigration crimes had increased 40 percent from 2000 through 2007 but that most other prosecutions had remained steady. But Justice Department statistics Mr. Carr provided to The New York Times did not include tens of thousands of misdemeanor charges and prosecutions conducted before magistrate judges. Data from the Syracuse group, known as the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, included those cases, which are driving the sharp growth in immigration cases.

Prosecutorial priorities are expected to change after President-elect Barack Obama takes office, said Mark Agrast, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a liberal research and policy institute that is closely associated with the transition team. “There will be a reassessment of whether aggressive targeting of criminal aliens through the use of federal criminal statues is an effective use of scarce law enforcement resources,” Mr. Agrast said.

The Bush administration bolstered its enforcement of immigration crimes by increasing the number of Border Patrol agents from 9,500 in 2004 to 15,000 in 2008 and adding several hundred federal prosecutors assigned to immigration crimes.

On heavy days, single courtrooms along the border process illegal immigrants on an industrial scale, sometimes more than 200 in a day. Misdemeanors usually carry a sentence of a few weeks to six months.

At the federal courthouse in Laredo, George P. Kazen, the senior judge, estimated that under Operation Streamline, the Justice Department program relying on plea deals for efficiency, he had sentenced more people to prison than any other active federal judge. But Judge Kazen said he was concerned about recent reports of the smuggling of firearms from Texas into Mexico by violent drug cartels.

“The U.S. attorney isn’t bringing me those cases,” he said. “They’re just catching foot soldiers coming across the border. They bust some stooge truck driver carrying a load of drugs, and you know there’s more behind it. But they will tell you that they don’t have the resources to drive it and develop a conspiracy case.”

“Every time the government puts a lot of resources on one thing, they’re going to take away from another,” he added.
Page 2 of 2)

Mr. Carr of the Justice Department disagreed, saying that other prosecutions had remained steady, and he defended the emphasis on immigration. “The Department has answered the call of Congress and the states along the Southwest border to pursue immigration enforcement aggressively.”

Skip to next paragraph
Graphic The debate over Justice Department priorities is loudest in this region, as local authorities facing dwindling resources are picking up cases federal prosecutors decline, especially the marijuana cases.

“We do reach a saturation point, so we set thresholds as to what type of cases we will work,” said Tim Johnson, acting United States attorney for the Southern District of Texas. “To the extent that we don’t have resources, we will refer them to local agencies.”

Drug traffickers now routinely break up their loads into smaller quantities to avoid stiffer federal penalties, law enforcement authorities say.

Thomas O’Sullivan, the chief criminal deputy county attorney in Santa Cruz County, Ariz., said that county prosecutors had begun to decline federal agents’ case referrals out of necessity.

In neighboring Pima County, which includes Tucson, Barbara LaWall, the county attorney, said she continued to take on federal cases but did know how much longer she would be able to do so.

“We’re prosecuting Border Patrol cases, national park cases, customs cases, D.E.A. cases — any cases in which they have 499 pounds of marijuana or less, because I don’t want the drug dealers to have no consequences whatsoever,” Ms. LaWall said. “But the rock and the hard place is that my jurisdiction, as most others are, is experiencing some real financial downturns.”

Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who is a frequent critic of Justice Department priorities, said that federal agents also complained often to her about delays in wiretap requests, a hallmark of the kind of complex investigations that used to be a mainstay of federal cases.

“They’ve pulled so many U.S. attorneys off drug crimes and organized crime caseloads that federal agents are trying to get help from local district attorneys because they can’t wait six weeks for a wiretap order,” Ms. Lofgren said. “By then it’s too late to catch the bad guys.”

Federal agents requested 457 wiretaps in 2007, a 14-year low. Meanwhile, state and local prosecutors requested 1,751 wiretaps, more than triple the number in 1993.

Some local prosecutors say they are glad to take on the kinds of challenging cases that federal prosecutors used to handle. Ms. LaWall boasted about a racketeering conspiracy she recently prosecuted involving millions of dollars in illegal methamphetamine sales in Arizona. But Damon Mosler, the San Diego district attorney’s narcotic division chief, said financial constraints often limited his office’s ability to do things, like assisting federal agents monitoring drug trafficking organizations.

“That sometimes means I can’t keep supporting those other jurisdictions,” Mr. Mosler said.

Mr. Goddard, the Arizona attorney general, said the impact of the Justice Department’s focus on immigration crime extended beyond the drug war.

“Where they used to be big players in environmental law, antitrust law, and consumer fraud — now the states are the ones taking on these kinds of cases,” Mr. Goddard said. “These used to be uniquely federal in nature because they are going after multistate institutions conducting cross-border schemes.”

Carol C. Lam, a former United States attorney for the Southern California District and now a deputy general counsel for Qualcomm, was ousted in 2007 after Justice Department officials said she did not prosecute enough illegal immigrants. Ms. Lam, who was involved in the corruption case of Randy Cunningham, a former California Republican congressman now serving federal prison time, said her philosophy led her to choose high-impact cases instead of cases that simply “drove the statistics.”

“If two-thirds of a U.S. attorney’s office is handling low-level narcotics and immigration crimes,” she said, “young prosecutors may not have the opportunity to learn how to do a wiretap case, or learn how to deal with the grand jury, or how to use money laundering statutes or flip witnesses or deal with informants and undercover investigations.”

“That’s not good law enforcement,” she said.

A senior federal prosecutor who has worked on a wide variety of cases along the border said that the focus on relatively simple immigration prosecutions was eroding morale at United States attorney offices.

“A lot of the guys I work with did nothing but the most complex cases — taking down multigenerational crime families, international crime, drug trafficking syndicates — you know, big fish,” said the prosecutor, who did not want to be identified as criticizing the department he works for. “Now these folks are dealing with these improper entry and illegal reentry cases.” He added, “It’s demoralizing for them, and us.”

29097  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton; Madison; Reagan on: January 12, 2009, 08:54:29 AM
"This process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of President will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications."

--Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 68, 14 March 1788

"A universal peace, it is to be feared, is in the catalogue of events, which will never exist but in the imaginations of visionary philosophers, or in the breasts of benevolent enthusiasts." --James Madison

"Is there anyone that isn't concerned with the energy problem? Government caused that problem while we all stood by unaware that we were involved. Unnecessary regulations and prices imposed -- price limits -- back in the '50's are the direct cause of today's crisis. Our crisis isn't because of a shortage of fuel; it's a surplus of government. ...[W]hen they tell us about the conservation -- of course we should save. No one should waste a natural resource. But they act as if we've found all the oil and gas there is to be found in this continent, if not the world. Do you know that 57 years ago our government told us we only had enough for 15 years? And 19 years went by and they told us we only had enough left for 13 more years. Now, we've done a lot of driving since then and we'll do a lot more if government would do one simple thing: get out of the way and let the incentives of the marketplace urge the industry out to find the sources of energy this country needs." --Ronald Reagan
29098  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bank of the United States on: January 12, 2009, 02:34:19 AM
At first glance, Citigroup's endorsement last week of a Senate plan to allow bankruptcy judges to break mortgage contracts looks like a scene from "Goodfellas."

APSince October, the government has invested $52 billion in Citi, while agreeing to eat up to $249 billion in losses on the bank's toxic real estate portfolio. And so it's really hard to say no when those Washington "investors" call for a favor. In the 1990 Martin Scorsese movie, a restaurant owner realizes too late that a partner big enough to protect him is big enough to take everything he has. As Ray Liotta narrates, "Now he's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with a bill, to Paulie . . . But now he has to pay Paulie."

The problem with Citi's capitulation is that it means that not just Citi will have to pay the Beltway outfit if the bill passes. Other banks, borrowers and taxpayers will also suffer. In fact, this deal is looking more and more like a case of Citi colluding with its new political owners in order to force competing banks to break contracts and take more losses. This kind of politicized banking is precisely why the Bank of the United States was shut down in the 19th century.

After years of resisting, Citi has suddenly signed off on Senator Dick Durbin's plan to allow judges to rewrite mortgage contracts for borrowers in Chapter 13 bankruptcy. Under the Illinois Democrat's plan, which is earmarked for inclusion in the pending stimulus bill, judges could reduce the amount of principal, lower the interest rate, and change the length of the mortgage term.

Until Washington embraced the politics of housing panic, even sensible Democrats recognized that allowing such mortgage "cramdowns" was a terrible idea, sure to punish future borrowers with higher rates as lenders calculate the increased risk. The Congressional Budget Office warned in January 2008 that such a change could result in higher interest rates for homeowners and bigger caseloads in bankruptcy courts. In 2007, 16 House Democrats signed a letter opposing similar legislation.

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They realized that the consequences would fall hardest on those hoping to buy a home, if markets logically respond by setting mortgage interest rates closer to those on, for example, auto loans or credit cards. A bankruptcy judge is now free to reduce amounts owed on many types of consumer debt. For mortgages, the iron-clad requirement to pay off the loan or lose the house is precisely to encourage lower rates on a less risky investment.

Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens described the importance of this principle in 1993 in Nobelman v. American Savings Bank: "At first blush it seems somewhat strange that the Bankruptcy Code should provide less protection to an individual's interest in retaining possession of his or her home than of other assets. The anomaly is, however, explained by the legislative history indicating that favorable treatment of residential mortgages was intended to encourage the flow of capital into the home lending market."

Mr. Durbin argues that borrowers won't be able to enjoy the benefits of a cramdown until they first make an effort to negotiate new terms with their lenders before declaring bankruptcy. Also, to counter the perception that they are harming the mortgage market, Mr. Durbin and Senate colleagues Chris Dodd and Chuck Schumer are proposing that cramdowns only be available for mortgage contracts signed before their bill becomes law. But of course lenders will have every reason to assume that, whenever the going gets tough, Washington will let future borrowers break contracts too.

Mr. Durbin and his allies have tried and failed several times to break the cramdown opposition, and they believe Citi finally gives them the club to prevail. As Mr. Schumer noted in a press release, "Citigroup's support means that the dam has broken across the banking industry. We now have a real chance to pass this legislation quickly." Talking point number one for Democrats is that if giant Citigroup is for this plan, why would anyone oppose it?

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– John R. BoltonIn fact, Citigroup may support this plan precisely because it isn't a big player in the mortgage market. Sure, it has some dodgy mortgage-backed securities on its books, but they've been written down and the feds cover 90% of losses beyond $29 billion in any case. When it comes to making loans, however, Citi originates less than 10% of American mortgages.

Citi is falling further behind J.P. Morgan Chase, which acquired Washington Mutual; Wells Fargo, which acquired Wachovia; and Bank of America, which bought Countrywide. J.P. Morgan's mortgage business is now twice the size of Citi's, while Wells and BofA each originate almost three times as much dollar volume as Citi. So in agreeing to Mr. Durbin's offer, Citi is also volunteering its competitors to write down more mortgages, giving Citi a comparative advantage.

But the unintended consequences could make even Citi rue the day it got in bed with the goodfellas on Capitol Hill. If the possibility of this refinancing-via-bankruptcy encourages more people to declare bankruptcy, that would mean additional losses on Citi's credit cards and auto loans.

Having spent the past year committing taxpayer trillions to support American banks, Washington now seems not to mind at all if its latest bailout drives up bank losses on mortgages, credit cards and other loans. The Senate could soon make Paulie look like a reasonable business partner.
29099  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Kasparov on: January 12, 2009, 02:27:37 AM
Those looking for a bright side in the global economic meltdown are fond of invoking the old line about finding opportunity in a crisis. But also keep in mind that there are those who will incite a new crisis to escape or distract from the current one. This is the scenario looming in Russia as the Kremlin faces increasing pressure on multiple fronts.

APRussia and its fellow petrodictatorships are in dire need of a way to ratchet up global tensions to inflate the sagging price of oil. Petrodictators, after all, need petrodollars to stay in power. The war in Gaza and the otherwise inexplicable skirmish with Ukraine over natural gas have helped the Kremlin in this regard, but $50 a barrel isn't going to be nearly enough. It will have to reach at least $100 and it will have to happen soon.

The effects of the financial crisis are rapidly reaching every level of Russian society. With no avenue for political expression left open to us, Russians are ready to take to the streets. Vladimir Putin has reacted true to form, ramming through new "anti-extremism" laws, building up the interior ministry's paramilitary police forces, and increasing the volume of the xenophobic propaganda in state-controlled media.

The natural place for the Kremlin to find its new crisis is the Middle East. Open hostilities between Iran and Israel would lift the price of oil back to a level that would allow Mr. Putin and his gang to keep funding the crackdown. Israel's anxiety over Iran's nuclear-weapon ambitions is the most vulnerable link in a very weak chain.

There persists a very damaging myth in the West, spouted by politicians and the press, that says Russia's assistance is needed with Iran and other rogue states. In fact, the Kremlin has been stirring this pot for years and has a vested interest in further increasing turmoil in the region. The Hamas/Hezbollah rockets, based on the Russian Katyusha and Grad, are not delivered via DHL from Allah. It doesn't require the guile of a KGB man like Mr. Putin to imagine a way to accelerate Iran's nuclear program, which has been aided by Russian technology and protected by the Kremlin from meaningful international action.

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So the question for Western leaders is whether they doubt Mr. Putin would hesitate to provoke a war in the Middle East. If his regime falls, he and his cronies will face the loss of their immense fortunes and criminal prosecution when their looting is exposed. What are thousands of lives in the Middle East to a Kremlin mob that is openly preparing for the day when they will have to open fire on their own citizens to stay in power?

This "mad bear" theory is even more plausible when you consider how tolerant the current cohort of Western leaders has been regarding the destruction of democratic rights around the world. There appears to be no line the world's despots -- and would-be despots -- cannot cross with impunity.

It is time to bury the failed model of dealing with the world's antidemocratic and bloodthirsty regimes. The real change we must effect in 2009 is toward a new global emphasis on the value of human life. Anything less confirms to the enemies of democratic civilization that everything is negotiable. For Mr. Putin that means democracy; for Hamas it means Israel's existence. The Free World must take those chips off the table.

Israel has the capability to annihilate Gaza to secure the safety of its people, but it chooses not to do so because the Israelis value human life. Does anyone doubt for a moment what Hamas would do if it had the power to wipe out every one of the five-and-a-half million Jews in Israel? Hamas should not be considered less a villain simply because it does not as yet possess the means to fulfill its genocidal agenda.

Terror suspects such as the United Kingdom's "liquid-bomb" plotters and the recently convicted group plotting to kill U.S. soldiers at the Fort Dix military base were arrested before they were able to carry out their lethal plans. Those who call Israel's assault on Gaza disproportionate should write down on a piece of paper exactly how many Israelis should die before the Israeli Defense Forces respond.

The leaders of Europe and the U.S. are hoping that the tyrants and autocrats of the world will just disappear. But dinosaurs like Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chávez and Iran's ayatollahs are not going to fade away by natural causes. They survive because the leaders of the Free World are afraid to take a stand.

Years from now, when Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is either dead or deposed, his legacy will lead to another genocide trial in The Hague. Why don't Western powers, many of whom are condemning Israel's action in Gaza, take action now to stop the extermination in Zimbabwe instead of waiting a decade for a trial? Criticizing Israel is easy while rescuing Zimbabwe is hard. Choosing the path of least resistance is moral cowardice. It does not avoid difficult decisions, it only postpones them.

Mr. Putin's Russia has invaded one neighbor and is threatening to freeze much of Europe by shutting down natural gas pipelines that flow through Ukraine. But since confronting Mr. Putin would take courage, Western leaders pretend his help is needed. This policy of self-deception will have disastrous consequences.

The futile pursuit of balance and neutrality by Western leaders and the media has become nothing more than a cover-up for the gravest of crimes. No doubt they would have judiciously considered the "legitimate grievances" of Stalin, Hitler and bin Laden. The time to stand up to such monsters is before they have achieved their horrific goals, not after.

Mr. Kasparov, leader of The Other Russia coalition, is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal.
29100  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Teheran's Strip Club on: January 12, 2009, 02:23:56 AM
The announcement late Friday that Lloyds bank has admitted to illegally transferring Iranian money into the U.S. deserves more public attention. The deferred prosecution agreement is a victory for the Manhattan District Attorney's office despite backroom foot-dragging from the U.S. Treasury. And it's further evidence of how deadly serious Iran is in seeking to buy parts for its missile and nuclear programs.

APUnder Lloyds TSB Group's deferred prosecution agreement with District Attorney Robert Morgenthau and the Justice Department, the British bank will pay a $350 million fine and, most important, share all its records on the Iranian transfers. If Lloyds continues to cooperate, neither the bank nor its executives will be criminally prosecuted for violating the 1977 International Emergency Economic Powers Act, under which the U.S. has imposed sanctions on Iran.

State-owned Iranian banks Saderat and Melli have been barred from the U.S. financial system for their ties to terrorism and nuclear proliferation, respectively, and were specifically cited in the U.N. Security Council's most recent sanctions order against Iran. But for years, Lloyds and other financial firms helped Iran's rogue banks infiltrate the U.S. Why did Iran's banks need American dollars? In some cases they appear to have purchased items within U.S. borders. In others, law enforcement sources believe the banks were channeling billions in cash through U.S. banks to third countries to parties demanding payment in dollars.

Our sources say the money trail often began at the Iranian Central Bank, which sent funds to banks Melli and Saderat, as well as to Bank Sepah, which a U.S. Treasury official has called "the financial linchpin of Iran's missile procurement network." The U.K. branches or subsidiaries of the Iranian banks would send electronic messages via the Swift banking payments system to Lloyds and possibly other financial houses. Employees at Lloyds would then re-key the data into a new Swift message, carefully removing any reference to Iran or its banks. Employees at the British bank called this "stripping." The sophisticated screening software at American banks would have raised red flags if the true source of the funds had been revealed, but coming from a respected British financial institution, they weren't questioned.

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Lloyds admits to stripping for Iran from 2001-2004, though it may have begun in the 1990s and wasn't detected by law enforcement until early 2007. But one reason for deferring prosecution is that Lloyds's employees began to raise questions and convinced the bank's leadership to end the illegal Iranian transfers via London by April of 2004. Lloyds's offices in Dubai and Tokyo continued to facilitate Iranian money transfers into the U.S. until October of that year. Illegal transfers from Sudan, similarly disguised to evade sanctions but at much lower dollar amounts, occurred through 2007.

We're told that records of transfers back to London suggest that the Iranians sometimes used overnight deposits in the U.S. to take advantage of favorable interest rates. But American officials are also now in a race to track down all of the ultimate destinations. Mr. Morgenthau's office, which has led this effort, suspects that some funds may have been used to purchase raw materials for long-range missiles.

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– John R. BoltonWe're also told that nine other banks are being investigated, including another British bank, a Swiss bank and a German bank. But since any illegal activity does not appear to have involved the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign firms, there is a question of how cooperative the foreign banks will be. The biggest potential payoff from Lloyds's cooperation should be when the bank identifies for U.S. law enforcers all of the wire transfers that originated in Iran, thus helping the CIA and FBI track them to their final destinations.

The size of this financial cover-up shows the lengths Iran has been going to evade sanctions and expand its military arsenal. Mr. Morgenthau has done a service in releasing the details, all the more so given the strange reticence of the U.S. Treasury. Treasury has long pushed for tough financial sanctions on Iran. Yet in this case it fought against criminal sanction, preferring only a civil judgment, and it argued for a lower fine. One possible explanation is that Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson didn't want to offend British regulators by coming down too hard on one of their banks. However, it strikes us that helping Iran cover up its weapons-buying is serious enough to deserve the criminal sanction. Treasury officials declined our repeated invitations to comment.

Iran continues to make progress on its nuclear program, and yesterday the New York Times reported that President Bush refused a recent Israeli request for weapons that could help in any military strike against Tehran's nuclear sites. Whether or not that proves to be an historic mistake, it increases the importance of financial pressure on Iran. President-elect Obama has said he wants to toughen sanctions against Iran, and his new Treasury team can help by cooperating more with Mr. Morgenthau's investigation.

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