Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Posse Comitatus Act
on: March 20, 2009, 03:27:04 PM
A new thread for an issue likely to become quite important:
U.S. Army Puts Soldiers on the Street in Alabama in Response to Shootings
U.S. Army Puts Soldiers on the Street in Alabama in Response to Shootings
March 11, 2009
The U.S. Army dispatched soldiers to patrol the streets of Samson, Alabama, a small southern town where a rampaging gunman killed 10 people on Tuesday. This obvious violation of the Posse Comitatus Act prohibiting the federal uniformed services from exercising state and local law enforcement was completely ignored by the corporate media with the exception of Reuters and the London Telegraph (see photo and video).
From Reuters: “U.S. Army soldiers from Ft. Rucker patrol the downtown area of Samson, Alabama after a shooting spree March 10, 2009.”
On September 30, 2008, the Army Times reported the 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, a component of Northern Command, would be “on-call” in response to “natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.” The Army Times article reported the military would be used for “crowd and traffic control” and be issued “nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them.” According to the article, “expectations are that another, as yet unnamed, active-duty brigade will take over and that the mission will be a permanent one..” (Emphasis added.)
In early 2006, the 109th Congress passed a bill containing controversial provisions granting the president the ability to use federal troops inside the United States in emergency situations. These changes (in Section 1076) were included in the John Warner Defense Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2007.
In 2008, Congress restored many of the earlier limitations on the president’s ability to deploy troops within the United States, but Bush issued a signing statement indicating he was not bound by the changes.
“The story of how Section 1076 became law vivifies how expanding government power is almost always the correct answer in Washington,” James Bovard wrote for the American Conservative on April 23, 2007. “Some people have claimed the provision was slipped into the bill in the middle of the night. In reality, the administration clearly signaled its intent and almost no one in the media or Congress tried to stop it.”
The dispatch of troops to Alabama in response to a local law enforcement situation represents a further erosion of Posse Comitatus and the continued federalization of state and local law enforcement.
A Telegraph video on the shootings in Alabama propagandizes against the right to own
firearms in the United States and the Second Amendment.
Finally, the corporate media in Britain has exploited the situation in an effort to denigrate the Second Amendment and the Bill of Rights. In a transparent propaganda piece (see video above), the Telegraph states that “mass shootings have become a feature of life in the U.S. in recent years. Guns are widely available for purchase in a country that prides itself on the right to own weapons for self defense and hunting.” Britain has some of the most restrictive gun legislation in the world.
After Britain’s government banned guns in 1997, the rate of violent crime more than doubled. “A recent study of all the countries of western Europe has found that in 2001 Britain had the worst record for killings, violence and burglary, and its citizens had one of the highest risks in the industrialized world of becoming victims of crime,” historian Joyce Lee Malcolm wrote for the fall 2004 issue of Journal on Firearms & Public Policy.http://news.yahoo.com/nphotos/slides...719956714.jpg/http://www.bild.de/BILD/news/bild-en...-massacre.htmlhttp://www.infowars.com/us-army-puts...-to-shootings/
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran financed Syrian nuke plans
on: March 20, 2009, 03:16:14 PM
Report: Iran financed Syrian nuke plans
Tip from defector said to lead to Israeli strike on suspected reactor in '07
The Associated Press
updated 12:29 p.m. PT, Thurs., March. 19, 2009
GENEVA - A top-ranked Iranian defector told the United States that Iran was financing North Korean moves to make Syria into a nuclear weapons power, leading to the Israeli air strike that destroyed a suspected secret reactor, a report said Thursday.
The article in the daily Neue Zuercher Zeitung goes into detail about an Iranian connection and fills in gaps about Israel's Sept. 6, 2007, raid that knocked out Syria's nearly completed Al Kabir reactor in the country's eastern desert.
Ali Reza Asghari, a retired general in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards and a former deputy defense minister, "changed sides" in February 2007 and provided considerable information to the West on Iran's own nuclear program, said the article, written by Hans Ruehle, former chief of the planning staff of the German Defense Ministry.
"The biggest surprise, however, was his assertion that Iran was financing a secret nuclear project of Syria and North Korea," he said. "No one in the American intelligence scene had heard anything of it. And the Israelis who were immediately informed also were completely unaware."
Ruehle, who did not identify the sources of his information, publishes and comments on security and nuclear proliferation in different European newspapers and broadcasts and has held prominent roles in German and NATO institutions.
U.S. intelligence had detected North Korean ship deliveries of construction supplies to Syria that started in 2002, and American satellites spotted the construction as early as 2003, but regarded the work as nothing unusual, in part because the Syrians had banned radio and telephones from the site and handled communications solely by messengers — "medieval but effective," Ruehle said.
Intensive investigation followed by U.S. and Israeli intelligence services until Israel sent a 12-man commando unit in two helicopters to the site in August 2007 to take photographs and soil samples, he said.
"The analysis was conclusive that it was a North Korean-type reactor," a gas graphite model, Ruehle said.
Other sources have suggested that the reactor might have been large enough to make about one nuclear weapon's worth of plutonium a year.
Just before the Israeli commando raid, a North Korean ship was intercepted en route to Syria with nuclear fuel rods, underscoring the need for fast action, he said.
"On the morning of Sept. 6, 2007, seven Israeli F-15 fighter bombers took off to the north. They flew along the Mediterranean coast, brushed past Turkey and pressed on into Syria. Fifty kilometers from their target they fired 22 rockets at the three identified objects inside the Kibar complex.
"The Syrians were completely surprised. By the time their air defense systems were ready, the Israeli planes were well out of range. The mission was successful, the reactor destroyed," Ruehle said.
No comment from Israel
Israel estimates that Iran had paid North Korea between $1 billion and $2 billion for the project, Ruehle said.
Israel has refused from the beginning to comment on, confirm or deny the strike, but after a delay of several months Washington presented intelligence purporting to show the target was a reactor being built with North Korean help.
Iranian officials were not available for comment because of a national holiday. In general, Iran has been silent about the Syrian facility bombed by Israel. Syrian officials could not be reached for comment. But Syria has denied the facility was a nuclear plant, saying it was an unused military building. It has also denied any nuclear cooperation with North Korea or Iran.
The International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this year said U.N. inspectors had found processed uranium traces in samples taken from the site.
Syria has suggested the traces came from Israel ordnance used to hit the site, but the IAEA said the composition of the uranium made that unlikely. Israel has denied it was the source of the uranium.
Syria has told diplomats that it built a missile facility over the ruins of the site.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Curtescine Lloyd takes matters in hand
on: March 20, 2009, 01:12:45 PM
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Matters in Hand
News article by Mike Royko for the Chicago Tribune
We've had the year of the woman and it is still going on, with females being elected to high office and named to the Cabinet posts, and the power of Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But what about Curtescine Lloyd? You never heard of her? Well, she is my choice as one of the most amazing and heroic women of recent years. Ms. Lloyd is a middle-aged nurse who lives with an elderly aunt in the rural hamlet of Edwards, Miss., near Jackson This is her story, most of it taken from the court transcript.
One night, Ms. Lloyd was awakened by a sound. She thought it was her aunt going to the bathroom. Suddenly a man stepped into her bedroom. Terrified, she sat up. He shoved her back down and said: "Bitch, you better not turn on a light. You holler, you're dead. You better not breathe loud." He declared his intentions, which were to rob her and to commit sexual assault. Of course, he phrased it far more luridly. He then took off most of his clothing and jumped into bed.
Here is what happened next, according to court records: Ms. Lloyd: "I got it. I grabbed it by my right hand. And then I grabbed it, I gave it a yank. And when I yanked it, I twisted all at the same time." (Need I explain what Ms. Lloyd meant by "it"? I think not.) "He hit me with his right hand a hard blow beside the head, and when he hit me I grabbed hold of his scrotum with my left hand and I was twisting it the opposite way. He started to yell and we fell to the floor and he hit me a couple more licks, but they were light licks. He was weakening some then." With Ms. Lloyd still hanging on with both hands, squeezing and twisting the fellow's pride and joy, they somehow struggled into the hallway.
"He was trying to get out, and I'm hanging onto him; and he was throwing me from one side of the hall wall to the other. I was afraid if I let him go, he was going go kill me" "So I was determined I was not going to turn it loose. So we were going down the hallway, falling form one side to the other, and we got into the living room and we both fell. He brought me down in front of the couch and he leaned back against the couch, pleading with me." "I said, 'Do you think I'm stupid enough to turn you loose and call the police?' He said, 'Well, what am I gonna do?' I said, 'You're gonna get the hell out of my house.' He said, 'How can I get out of your house if you won't let me go? How can I get out? I can't get out.' "
Ms. Lloyd, still twisting and squeezing, dragged the lout to the front door, which had two locks, and told him to unbolt them. It was a difficult process because he kept collapsing to the floor and she kept hauling him back to his feet. Ms. Lloyd, now confident that she had the upper hand (or should I say the lower hands?) and a full grasp of the situation, said: "When I turn you loose, I'm going to get my gun and I'm going to blow your (obscenity) brains out, you nasty stinking, low-down dirty piece of (obscenity), you."
"And when I did that, I gave it a twist, and I turned him loose. And he took a couple of steps and fell off the steps and he jumped up and grabbed his private parts and made a couple of jumps across the back of my aunt's car." "And I ran into my aunt's room, got her pistol from underneath the nightstand, ran back to the screen door and I fired two shots down the hill the way I saw him go. And then I ran back into the house and dialed 911."
The police came and examined the man's clothing. Inside the trousers was written the name Dwight Coverson. They found Coversion, 29, at home, in considerable pain and wondering if he could ever be a daddy. A one-day jury trial was held. As coverson's court-appointed lawyer put it: "The jury was out 10 minutes. Long enough or two of them to go to the bathroom." And the judge gave him 25 years in prison.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain-Lieberman call for victory
on: March 20, 2009, 12:43:15 PM
Our Must-Win War
The 'Minimalist' Path Is Wrong for Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers on patrol this month outside Bagram, Afghanistan. (By Rafiq Maqbool -- Associated Press)
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By John McCain and Joseph Lieberman
Thursday, March 19, 2009; Page A15
Later this month, the Obama administration will unveil a new strategy for the war in Afghanistan. This comes as most important indicators in Afghanistan are pointing in the wrong direction. President Obama's decision last month to deploy an additional 17,000 U.S. troops was an important step in the right direction, but a comprehensive overhaul of our war plan is needed, and quickly.
Our Must-Win War
Civilians to Join Afghan Buildup
Getting It Right in Afghanistan
As the administration finalizes its policy review, we are troubled by calls in some quarters for the president to adopt a "minimalist" approach toward Afghanistan. Supporters of this course caution that the American people are tired of war and that an ambitious, long-term commitment to Afghanistan may be politically unfeasible. They warn that Afghanistan has always been a "graveyard of empires" and has never been governable. Instead, they suggest, we can protect our vital national interests in Afghanistan even while lowering our objectives and accepting more "realistic" goals there -- for instance, by scaling back our long-term commitment to helping the Afghan people build a better future in favor of a short-term focus on fighting terrorists.
The political allure of such a reductionist approach is obvious. But it is also dangerously and fundamentally wrong, and the president should unambiguously reject it. Let there be no doubt: The war in Afghanistan can be won. Success -- a stable, secure, self-governing Afghanistan that is not a terrorist sanctuary -- can be achieved. Just as in Iraq, there is no shortcut to success, no clever "middle way" that allows us to achieve more by doing less. A minimalist approach in Afghanistan is a recipe not for winning smarter but for losing slowly at tremendous cost in American lives, treasure and security.
Yes, our vital national interest in Afghanistan is to prevent it from once again becoming a haven for terrorists to plan attacks against America and U.S. allies. But achieving this narrow counterterrorism objective requires us to carry out a far broader set of tasks, the foremost of which are protecting the population, nurturing legitimate and effective governance, and fostering development. In short, we need a comprehensive civil-military counterinsurgency approach backed by greatly increased resources and an unambiguous U.S. political commitment to success in Afghanistan over the long haul.
A narrow, short-term focus on counterterrorism, by contrast, would repeat the mistakes made for years in Iraq before the troop surge, with the same catastrophic consequences. Before 2007 in Iraq, U.S. Special Forces had complete freedom of action to strike at terrorist leaders, backed by more than 120,000 conventional American forces and overwhelming air power. Although we succeeded in killing countless terrorists -- including the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- the insurgency continued to grow in strength and violence. It was not until we changed course and applied a new approach -- a counterinsurgency strategy focused on providing basic security for the people and improving their lives -- that the cycle of violence was at last broken.
Those who argue for simply conducting targeted counterterrorist strikes in Afghanistan also fail to grasp that by far the best way to generate the intelligence necessary for such strikes is from Afghan civilians, who will risk their lives to help us only if they believe we are committed to staying and protecting them from the insurgents and helping to improve their lives.
Loose rhetoric about a minimal commitment in Afghanistan is counterproductive for another reason: It exacerbates suspicions, already widespread in South Asia, that the United States will tire of this war and retreat. These doubts about our staying power deter ordinary Afghans from siding with our coalition against the insurgency. Also important is that these suspicions are a major reason some in Pakistan are reluctant to break decisively with insurgent groups, which, in a hedging strategy, they view as integral to positioning Pakistan for influence "the day after" the United States gives up and leaves Afghanistan. That is why it is so important for the president to reject the temptations of minimalism in Afghanistan and instead adopt a fully resourced, comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy, backed by an unambiguous American commitment to success over the long term. In doing so, he must invest the political capital to remind Americans why this fight is necessary for our national security, speak openly and frankly to our nation about the difficult path ahead, and -- most of all -- explain clearly to our fellow citizens why he is confident that we can prevail.
As a presidential candidate, Barack Obama called Afghanistan "the war we must win." He was absolutely right. Now it is time to win it -- and we and many other members of both political parties stand ready to give him our full support in this crucial fight.
John McCain, a Republican senator from Arizona, was the 2008 Republican nominee for president. Joe Lieberman, an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut, was the Democratic nominee for vice president in 2000.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor
on: March 20, 2009, 12:38:45 PM
Turkey, U.S.: Strengthening Ties as Ankara Rises
STRATFOR Today » March 19, 2009 | 1837 GMT
ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoganSummary
U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Turkey on April 6-7 and meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The United States and Turkey have many areas of mutual interest, including Iraq, Middle Eastern diplomatic efforts, Iran and Central Asia. Obama’s visit indicates that his administration recognizes Turkey’s growing prominence, and it gives the United States a chance to coordinate policy with a rising power.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed late March 18 that U.S. President Barack Obama will be visiting Turkey on April 6-7. In an interview with Turkish news channel Kanal 7, Erdogan said he had invited Obama to attend a meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative in Istanbul on April 7, but “did not expect” Obama to arrive a day early for an official state visit to Ankara. “Combining the two occasions is very meaningful for us,” he added. Obama’s trip to Turkey will follow a visit to London for the G-20 summit on the global financial crisis, a NATO summit in Strasbourg, France, and a trip to Prague to meet with EU leaders.
Obama’s decision to visit Turkey this early in the game highlights his administration’s recognition of Turkey’s growing prominence in the region. The Turks have woken up after 90 years of post-Ottoman hibernation and are in the process of rediscovering a sphere of influence extending far beyond the Anatolian Peninsula. The Americans, on the other hand, are in the process of drawing down their presence in the Middle East in order to free up U.S. military capabilities to address pressing needs in Afghanistan. With the Turks stepping forward and the Americans stepping back, there are a number of issues of common interest that Obama and Erdogan will need to discuss.
The first order of business is Iraq. The United States is putting its exit strategy into motion and is looking to Turkey to serve as an exit route for U.S. troops and equipment from Iraq. The Turks would not have a problem with granting the United States such access, but they also want to make sure that U.S. withdrawal plans will not interfere with Turkey’s intentions of keeping Iraqi Kurdistan in check. With key Kurdish leader and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani retiring soon and Kurdish demands over the oil-rich city of Kirkuk intensifying, the Turks want to make clear to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq that Ankara promptly will shut down any attempts to expand Kurdish autonomy. Turkey will not hesitate to use the issue of Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters hiding out in northern Iraq as a pretext for future military incursions should the need arise to pressure the KRG in a more forceful way, but such tactics could run into complications if the United States intends to withdraw the bulk of its forces through northern Iraq. Therefore, the decision on where to base U.S. troops during the withdrawal process will be a political one, and one that will have to address Turkish concerns over the Kurds. Washington likely will see this as a reasonable price to pay, as it has other problems to handle.
Related Special Topic Page
Beyond Iraq, the United States is looking to Turkey as the Muslim regional heavyweight to take the lead in handling some of the knottier issues in the Middle East. The Israeli-Syrian peace talks that went public in 2008 were a Turkish initiative. These negotiations are now in limbo, with the Israelis still working to form a new government, but the Turks are looking to revive them in the near future. Turkey, Israel, the United States and the Arab states all share an interest in bringing Syria into a Western alliance structure, with the aim of depriving Iran of its leverage in the Levant. However, the Syrians are setting an equally high price for their cooperation: Syrian domination over Lebanon. These negotiations are packed with potential deal breakers, but Turkey intends to take on the challenge in the interest of securing its southern flank.
Iran is another critical area where the United States and Turkey see eye to eye. The fall of Saddam Hussein and the rise of the Shia in Iraq have given Iran a platform for projecting influence in the Arab world. But the Turks far outpace the Iranians in a geopolitical contest and will be instrumental in keeping Iranian expansionist goals in check. Erdogan’s outburst over Israel’s Gaza offensive was just one of many ways Turkey has been working to assert its regional leadership, build up its credibility among Sunnis in the Arab world and override Iranian attempts to reach beyond its borders. At the same time, the Turks carry weight with the Iranians, who view Turkey as a fellow great empire of the past and non-Arab partner in the Middle East. Washington may not necessarily need the Turks to mediate in its rocky negotiations with Iran, but it will rely heavily on Turkish clout in the region to help put the Iranians in their place.
Some problems may arise, however, when U.S.-Turkish talks venture beyond the Middle East and enter areas where the Turkish and Russian spheres of influence overlap. Turkey’s influence extends into Central Asia and deep into the Caucasus, where the Turks have a strong foothold in Azerbaijan and ties to Georgia, and are in the process of patching things up with the Armenians. As the land bridge between Europe and Asia, Turkey is also the key non-Russian energy transit hub for the European market, and through its control of the Bosporus, it is the gatekeeper to the Black Sea. In each of these areas, the Turks bump into the Russians, another resurgent power that is on a tight timetable for extracting key concessions from the United States on a range of issues that revolve around Russia’s core imperative of protecting its former Soviet periphery from Western meddling.
The U.S. administration and the Kremlin have been involved in intense negotiations over these demands. Washington is still sorting out which concessions it can make in return for Russian cooperation in allowing the United States access to Central Asia for supply routes to Afghanistan, and in applying pressure on Iran. As part of these negotiations, Obama will be meeting with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev at the G-20 summit and later in the summer in Moscow. Though it is still unclear just how much the United States is willing to give the Russians at this juncture — and how flexible the Turks will be in challenging Russia — Washington wants to make sure its allies, like Turkey, are on the same page.
But as STRATFOR has discussed in depth, Russia and Turkey now have more reason to cooperate than collide, and recent diplomatic traffic between Moscow and Ankara certainly reflects this reality. In areas where the United States will want to apply pressure on Russia, such as on energy security for the Europeans, the Turks likely will resist rocking the boat with Moscow. The last thing Turkey wants at this point is to give Russia a reason to politicize its trade relationship with Ankara, cause trouble for the Turks in the Caucasus or meddle in Turkey’s Middle Eastern backyard. In short, there are real limits to what the United States can expect from Turkey in its strategy against Russia.
Obama and Erdogan evidently will have plenty to talk about when they meet in Ankara. Though the United States and Turkey have much to sort out regarding Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia, this visit will give Obama the stage to formally recognize Turkey’s regional prowess and demonstrate a U.S. understanding of Turkey’s growing independence. Washington can see that the Turks are already brimming with confidence in conducting their regional affairs, and can expect some bumps down the road when interests collide. But the sooner the Americans can start coordinating policy with a resurgent power like Turkey, the better equipped Washington will be for conducting negotiations in other parts of the globe.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor
on: March 20, 2009, 12:26:31 PM
Three civilians — including one Norwegian tourist — were wounded March 19 in Taxco, Mexico, as two men armed with assault rifles abducted an unidentified man near the city’s main plaza. During the kidnapping, which occurred near a Red Cross fundraising event, the gunmen fired indiscriminately into the air and in the direction of the crowd, presumably to force them to scatter so the gunmen could drive away. Two of the three wounded civilians apparently had been struck directly by bullets or ricochets, while the third appeared to have injured her leg while escaping from the kidnappers’ vehicle as it drove off. Such scenes have become commonplace in Mexico over the last few years, and collateral damage is really nothing new. This incident in Taxco, however, highlights the risks associated with foreign tourists visiting Mexico as it experiences a deteriorating security situation.
STRATFOR has warned of the violent situation in Mexico and the risk of foreign tourists getting caught in the crossfire. The perpetrators behind the March 19 incident certainly were not targeting foreigners specifically; their target appears to have been a local man outside a nearby silver retailer, possibly an employee. While there is always the chance that the man was somehow involved in drug trafficking and was targeted for failure to pay a debt or for working for a rival cartel, it is also possible that he was simply one of the thousands of victims picked up annually by Mexico’s many kidnapping gangs.
But the rampant violence carried out by gangs of all professional levels is exactly the kind of threat foreigners can fall victim to. The incident on March 19 is reminiscent of a similar one in that occurred in February 2007, when a Canadian couple was injured in Acapulco as gunmen opened fire on a man walking near the hotel where the couple was staying. Injuring foreign tourists raises the international profile of Mexico’s violent drug war and rampant kidnapping problem, as the problem rises above the level of just gang-on-gang violence or “those who had it coming to them.” The negative publicity is bad for both the government and the country’s organized crime groups. This incident, however, underscores the potential for foreigners to unintentionally get caught in the crossfire during the daily violence that occurs throughout the entire country.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sgt Malone
on: March 20, 2009, 12:20:35 PM
Profiles of Valor: U.S. Army Sgt. Malone
United States Army Sergeant First Class Ed Malone was serving with the 3rd Platoon, Grim Troop, 2nd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 2005 and was conducting a joint combat patrol with the Iraqi Army in the extremely hostile Surai district of Tal'Afar, when the unit was attacked. Without immediate direct fire support from his Bradley Fighting Vehicles, Malone ordered his men to take a defensive position and return fire. He directed his grenadier to eliminate several enemy targets firing from a rooftop. Malone also repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire -- once to retrieve important equipment, another time to evacuate women and children caught in the crossfire, and finally to drag a wounded soldier out of the line of fire. His actions sped medical treatment and evacuation, saving the soldier's life. Malone refused to give ground until reinforcements arrived, and he and his unit held their position for more than an hour. He led a three-man team to clear a courtyard of enemy fighters, relieving pressure on his unit. There, while administering aid to an enemy combatant, Malone was shot in the foot. For his brave actions that day, Malone was awarded the Bronze Star with combat "V" for valor.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / S. Adams; Hamilton
on: March 20, 2009, 11:59:38 AM
"Nothing is more essential to the establishment of manners in a State than that all persons employed in places of power and trust must be men of unexceptionable characters." --Samuel Adams
"A fondness for power is implanted, in most men, and it is natural to abuse it, when acquired."
--Alexander Hamilton, The Farmer Refuted, 23 February 1775
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Case dismissed
on: March 20, 2009, 11:58:05 AM
By JOEL MILLMAN
An Arizona court on Wednesday dismissed the case against a gun-store owner accused of looking the other way while front men purchased weapons to deliver to Mexico's drug cartels.
The trial, which began earlier this month, had been heralded as an example of U.S. authorities working to stanch the flow of weapons to Mexico, where a recent war among drug gangs is believed to have killed more than 6,000 people.
At the heart of the case was the X-Caliber gun store, where prosecutors alleged more than 700 high-powered rifles were sold to purchasers whom the owner, 47-year-old George Iknadosian, should have known were acting as so-called straw buyers for Mexican customers. Sales of most weapons to non-U.S. citizens north of the border are severely constrained, as is gun possession by civilians in Mexico.
To get around those restrictions, Arizona officials alleged, Mr. Iknadosian allowed Arizonans with clean criminal records to buy weapons they would resell in Mexico, first by falsifying forms attesting that the firearms were for the purchasers' personal use. Witnesses in the case included several of these alleged straw buyers, who have pleaded guilty to charges that bring a penalty of up to 10 years imprisonment.
Yet in dismissing the 21 counts against Mr. Iknadosian, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Robert Gottsfield ruled that the evidence prosecutors presented wasn't "material," and therefore didn't support charges against the defendant.
"The state's case is based upon testimony of individuals who [alleged]...that they were the actual purchaser of the firearms when they were not," Judge Gottsfield wrote. He then indicated that such testimony, by itself, failed to establish that any additional unlawful conduct transpired.
"There is no proof whatsoever that any prohibited possessor ended up with the firearm," the judge said.
To be considered "material," he explained, testimony about falsifying government forms must further demonstrate that the act "resulted in an unlawful person ending up with the guns, which has not been proven."
View Full Image
George Iknadosian's closed shop, X-Caliber Guns in Phoenix, was deserted in January.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, briefing reporters at the agency's Washington headquarters Wednesday, declined to comment on the ruling.
State and federal authorities, including a task force supervised by the Phoenix office of the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, worked for 11 months with local police building a case against X-Caliber. According to law-enforcement officials in Phoenix, the investigation included sending undercover agents posing as buyers to Mr. Iknadosian's shop, where agents not only purchased weapons, but boasted of plans to resell them in Mexico.
Authorities also relentlessly publicized the link between X-Caliber and Mexican drug cartels by claiming weapons purchased in Mr. Iknadosian's store had been recovered at Mexican crime scenes. One special weapon -- a handgun inlaid with $35,000 worth of diamonds -- purportedly was captured late last year after the assassination of a top Mexican policeman.
"We are all taking this pretty hard," said Anne Hilby, spokeswoman for Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard. Mr. Goddard released a statement disagreeing with Judge Gottsfield's analysis of the case, adding, "We are reviewing the ruling to determine how best to respond."
Messages left for Mr. Iknadosian's attorney and at the defendant's home weren't returned.
Write to Joel Millman at firstname.lastname@example.org
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ:
on: March 20, 2009, 11:49:36 AM
By FOUAD AJAMI
We face today the oddest and most unexpected of spectacles: On its sixth anniversary, the Iraq war has been vindicated, while the war in Afghanistan looks like a hopeless undertaking in an impossible land.
This is not what the opponents of the Iraq war had foreseen. After all, Afghanistan was the good war of necessity whereas Iraq was the war of "choice" in the wrong place.
The Afghan struggle was in truth a rod to be held up in the face of the Bush administration's quest in Iraq. Some months ago, Democratic Party strategist Robert Shrum owned up to this fact. "I was part of the 2004 Kerry campaign which elevated the idea of Afghanistan as the 'right war' to conventional Democratic wisdom. This was accurate as criticism, but also reflexive and perhaps by now even misleading as policy."
Getty ImagesThe opponents of the American project in Iraq did not know much about Afghanistan. They despaired of Iraq's sectarianism and ethnic fragmentation, but those pale in comparison with the tribalism and ethnic complications of Afghanistan. If you had your fill with the Kurds and the Sunnis and the Shiites of Iraq, welcome to the warring histories of the Pashtuns, the Uzbeks, the Tajiks, and the Hazara Shiites of Afghanistan.
In their disdain for that Iraq project, the Democrats and the liberal left had insisted that Iraq was an artificial state put together by colonial fiat, and that it was a fool's errand to try to make it whole and intact. Now in Afghanistan, we are in the quintessential world of banditry and tribalism, a political culture that has abhorred and resisted central authority.
Speak of colonial fiat: It was the Pax Britannica that drew the Durand Line of 1892 across the lands of the Pashtuns and marked out a meaningless border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It should have taken no great literacy in the theories and the history of "state-building" to foresee the favorable endowments of Iraq and the built-in disadvantages of Afghanistan.
Man battled the elements in Mesopotamia, and the desert and its ways of plunder and raiding pushed against urban life, but the land gave rise to powerful kingdoms: the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Sumerians, the Abbasids. In more modern times, oil and the central treasury knit the place together, often in terror, but kept it together nonetheless.
Contrast this with Afghanistan's impassable mountains and anarchic ways, and with the poppy cultivation and its culture of warlords and bandits. A Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad can dispense of oil largess and draw the provinces toward the capital; a Hamid Karzai in Kabul is what foreign donors and benefactors make of him and enable him to do.
The flattering cliché that Afghanistan is the "graveyard of empires" is a hollow boast. Empires that wandered there did so by default, for there never was anything in Afghanistan -- save for geography -- that outsiders coveted. It was the primitiveness of the place -- the landscape that evoked the imagined early centuries of Islam's beginnings -- and its age-old way of extracting booty from outsiders that had drawn the Arab jihadists, and their financiers and handlers, to Afghanistan.
Now the Democrats own this Afghan struggle. They have to explain and defend it in the midst of a mood of introversion in our national life. It is hard to sound the trumpet at a time of economic distress. Plainly, our country has been living on its nerves since 9/11. It had not willed an Islamic imperium, but it had gotten one. It was bequeathed this terrible duty by the upheaval in the lands of the Arab-Islamic world, and by the guile and cunning of a generation of jihadists and their enablers, who deflected the wrath of their people onto distant American power.
George W. Bush answered history's call -- as he saw fit. The country gave him its warrant and acceptance, and then withdrew it in the latter years of his presidency. Say what you will about his call to vigilance, he had a coherent worldview. He held the line when the world of Islam was truly in the wind and played upon by ruinous temptations. He took the war on terror into the heart of the Arab world. It was Arabs -- with oil money, and with the prestige that comes with their mastery of Arabic, the language of the Quran, among impressionable Pakistanis and Afghans -- who had made Afghanistan the menace it had become. Without Arab money and Arab doctrines of political Islam, the Taliban would have remained a breed of reactionary seminarians, a terror to their own people but of no concern beyond. It thus made perfect strategic sense to take the fight to the Arab heartland of Islam. Saddam Hussein had drawn the short straw.
President Barack Obama -- another "decider" with an expanded view of the presidency's power -- faces a wholly different challenge. It was the economic distress that delivered the state into his stewardship. A cerebral man, he has presented himself as a "realist" in foreign affairs. Not for him is the Bush "heat" about liberty in distant lands.
By the appearance of things, Mr. Obama is undecided about Afghanistan. He has neither embraced this war, nor ditched it. In a perfect world, that AfPak theater (Afghanistan/Pakistan) would hold still as the administration struggles with AIG, the crisis in Detroit, and the selling of the budget. But the world rarely obliges, and sooner or later the administration will have used up the luxury of indecision. It will not be easy for this president to summon this nation to a bigger endeavor in Afghanistan. Set aside his fear that his domestic agenda could be compromised by a bold undertaking far from home. The foreign world simply does not beckon this president.
In fairness to him, his hesitancy in the face of foreign challenges is a fair reflection of the country's fatigue with causes beyond its borders. He could link Afghanistan with 9/11 and with the wider war on terror, but he put forth the word that the vigilance and zeal of that struggle is best forgotten. By his admonition, we are not to speak of the global war on terror. The world is full of reconcilables and deal-makers, bazaaris one and all in Damascus and Tehran and Palestine. In the Obama worldview, it is now time for diplomatic accommodations.
The president is on the horns of a dilemma of his own making. In his determination to be the "un-Bush," he has declared his intention to repair what some have called "Brand America" and to pursue a nonideological foreign policy of multilateralism and moderation. His aloofness from what played out in Iraq is a hindrance to him when it comes to issuing any call to arms in Afghanistan.
He can't build on the Iraq victory, because he has never really embraced it. The occasional statement that we can win over the reconcilables and the tribes in Afghanistan the way we did in the Anbar is lame and unconvincing. The Anbar turned only when the Sunni insurgents had grown convinced that the Americans were there to stay, and that the alternative to accommodation with the Americans, and with the Baghdad government, is a sure and widespread Sunni defeat. The Taliban are nowhere near this reckoning. If anything, the uncertain mood in Washington counsels patience on their part, with the promise of waiting out the American presence.
Mr. Obama does not have to offer the Iraq campaign post facto vindication. But as he does battle in the same wider theatre of that Greater Middle East, he will have to draw the proper lessons of the Iraq campaign. This Afghan war can't be waged in stealth, and in silence. Half-measures will not do. This war will have to be explained -- or explained away. For it to have any chance, it will have to be claimed and owned up to even in the midst of our economic distress. It's odd that so articulate a president has not yet found the language with which to describe this war, and the American stakes in it.
Mr. Ajami is professor of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies and an adjunct senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Fed becomes Treasury's b*tch
on: March 20, 2009, 11:11:11 AM
In case there was any residual doubt, the Bernanke Fed threw itself all in this week to unlock financial markets and spur the economy. With its announced plan to make a mammoth purchase of Treasury securities, the Fed essentially said that the considerable risks of future inflation and permanent damage to the Fed's political independence are details that can be put off, or cleaned up, at a later date. Whatever else people will say about his chairmanship, Ben Bernanke does not want deflation or Depression on his resume.
It's important to understand the historic nature of what the Fed is doing. In buying $300 billion worth of long-end Treasurys, it is directly monetizing U.S. government debt. This is what the Federal Reserve did during World War II to finance U.S. government borrowing, before the Fed broke the pattern in a very public spat with the Truman Administration during the Korean War. Now the Bernanke Fed is once again making itself a debt agent of the Treasury, using its balance sheet to finance Congressional spending.
William McChesney Martin Jr.
It is also monetizing U.S. debt indirectly with the huge expansion of its direct purchase program of mortgage-backed securities (MBS). It was $500 billion, and now it will add $750 billion more "this year." Foreign governments have been getting out of Fannie and Freddie MBSs in recent months and going into Treasurys. Thus the Fed is essentially substituting as these foreign governments finance U.S. debt by buying presumably safer Treasurys.
The purpose of these actions is to keep rates low on both Treasurys and MBSs, and to keep the cost of funds low for banks and especially for home buyers. It worked on Tuesday; long bond and mortgage rates fell.
The case for doing all this is that the Fed needs to supply dollars at a time when money velocity is low and the world demand for dollars is high amid the global recession. As long as the world keeps demanding dollars, the Fed can get away with this extraordinary credit creation. That said, bear in mind that the Fed's balance sheet has more than doubled since September -- to $1.9 trillion from $900 billion. These latest commitments mean it may more than double again, close to $4 trillion. That would be about 30% of GDP, up from about 7%.
The market reaction clearly showed the implied risks, with gold leaping and the dollar taking a dive the past two days. As the economy improves, and thus as the velocity of money increases, the risk of inflation will soar. Mr. Bernanke says the Fed can remove the money fast, but central bankers always say that and rarely do. The Fed statement isn't reassuring on that point. It says, "the Committee sees some risk that inflation could persist for a time below rates that best foster economic growth and price stability in the longer term." The Fed seems to be saying it wants a little inflation, which we know from history can easily become a big inflation or another asset bubble. The last time the Fed cut rates to very low levels to fight "deflation," we ended up with the housing bubble and mortgage mania.
The other great, and less appreciated, danger is political. The Bernanke Fed has now dropped even the pretense of independence and has made itself an agent of the Treasury, which means of politicians. With its many new credit facilities -- the TALF and the others -- it is making credit allocation decisions across the economy. If a business borrower qualifies for one of these facilities, it gets cheaper money. If it doesn't, it's out of luck. Thus the scramble by so many nonbanks to become bank holding companies, so they can tap the Fed's well of cheap credit.
The question is how the Fed will withdraw from all of this unchartered territory now that it has moved into it. How will it wean companies off easy credit, especially since some companies may need it to survive? What happens when Members of Congress lobby the Fed to keep credit loose for auto loans to help Detroit, or credit cards to help Amex? House Speaker Pelosi yesterday gave a taste, saying the AIG bailout was the Fed's idea "without any prior notification to us." Mr. Bernanke, meet your new partners.
Above all, the Treasury and Congress won't be happy if the Fed decides to stop buying Treasurys and the result is a big increase in government borrowing costs. This was the source of the dispute between the Federal Reserve and the Truman Treasury. The Fed wanted to raise rates amid rising inflation, while the Truman Treasury wanted cheap financing for Korea and its domestic priorities. The Fed prevailed in the famous "Accord" of 1951, thanks to a young assistant secretary of the Treasury named William McChesney Martin. He would go on to become Fed Chairman and create the modern era of Fed independence. The U.S. and the Fed are going to need another Martin, sooner rather than later.
Please add your comments to the Opinion Journal forum.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon
on: March 20, 2009, 11:09:47 AM
20 March 2009
Before I lived in Germany and Poland for about six years, the Army taught me German and some Polish. And so there were countless conversations with older Germans and Poles, and I heard earfuls of stories. The older Germans were very respectful toward our "Greatest Generation," but pretty much hated the Russians because of their brutality. The theme nearly always drifted to the very humane treatment we afforded German prisoners, while the Russians killed them off. We even had German prisoners working on farms, and after the war, many Germans returned and married American women! But the Poles didn't like the Germans or the Russians because of the very same reasons. They had been mistreated, but the Poles have great respect for America because we treated them well. Americans are extremely welcome in Poland, but that place sure is cold.
It is extremely heartening that so many soldiers have reached out to me privately about the torture issue. Most do not seem to want to enter the fray publicly, but most also seem to share my the same aversion to maltreatment of prisoners. Not because any of us are softhearted about the enemy; I'll likely see dozens more enemy killed this year and I never feel bad for al Qaeda or Taliban. They chose to fight. They chose to attack us or help attack us on 9/11 and at other times.
Please see this article from a military professional from our Greatest Generation. He dealt with a fanatical country that sneak attacked us at Pearl Harbor, and who used suicide attackers. And we won.
Very interesting readhttp://www.michaelyon-online.com/images/pdf/maj_sherwood_moran_usmcr_suggestions_for_japanese_interpreters_based_on_work_in_the_field.doc
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The River Up
on: March 20, 2009, 09:57:25 AM
The River Up
By Tzvi Freeman
When the Divine Light began its epic descent—a journey that conceived worlds lower and lower for endless worlds, condensing its unbounded state again and again into innumerable finite packages until focused to a fine, crystallized resolution—it did so with purpose: to bring forth a world of continuous ascent. Since that beginning, not a day has passed that does not transcend its yesterday.
Like a mighty river rushing to reach its ocean, no dam can hold it back, no creature can struggle against its current. Even we, its voyageurs, cannot turn back. We must only move on with the river, on in its relentless ascent to the sea.
We may appear to take a wrong turn, to lose a day in failure—it is our delusion, for we have no map to know the river's way. We see from within, but the river knows its path from Above. And to that place Above it is drawn.
We are not masters of that river— not of our ultimate destiny, not of the stops along the way, not even of the direction of our travel. We did not create the river—its flow creates us. It is the blood and soul of our world, its pulse and its very fibers.
Yet of one thing we have been granted mastery: Not of the journey, but of our role within it. How soon will we arrive? How complete? How fulfilled? Will we be the spectators? The props? Or will we be the heroes?
That is all. And that is all that counts.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe
on: March 19, 2009, 07:38:27 PM
Headmistress accused of 'Islamophobia' wins £400,000
Head accused of 'Islamophobia' wins £400,000 after being forced out by Muslim governors
By Andy Dolan, Matt Sandy and Nick Mcdermott
Last updated at 11:20 PM on 19th March 2009
A headmistress who was hounded out of her job after being falsely accused of racism was yesterday awarded more than £400,000 in compensation.
Erica Connor had run a 'happy and successful' primary school but was driven to a breakdown by the allegations.
The Daily Mail can reveal the school's troubles started when a local mosque decided to pack the governing body with Muslims.
Paul Martin - a Muslim convert - and Mumtaz Saleem began monopolising meetings with the aim of turning New Monument in Woking into an Islamic faith school.
The Surrey town is home to the first purpose-built mosque in the country - the Shah Jahan Mosque - which dates from 1889.
Mr Martin, a businessman, yesterday confirmed there had been a 'conscious effort' to increase the number of Muslims on the board.
But when Mrs Connor resisted the new governors' plans - such as the introduction of Islamic worship into the school - she became the target of a smear campaign.
An anonymous petition was circulated among parents, stating that those signing 'no longer have confidence in Erica Connor to educate our children in a way that respects and values our faith, culture and heritage'.
An accompanying document accused the headmistress of 'racism and Islamophobia'.
The accusations drove her to suffer from depression.
She eventually retired from the 300-pupil school because of illhealth in December 2006.
She is unlikely ever to return to teaching and now does voluntary work for a cancer charity.
A judge at the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday ordered Surrey County Council to pay Mrs Connor £407,781 in compensation.
He ruled that the local education authority had failed to support her properly against the unfounded accusations.
Deputy Judge John Leighton Williams said the council disregarded the 'health and welfare' of Mrs Connor because it was more concerned about being reported to the Commission for Racial Equality.
Erica Connor was headteacher of New Monument School in Woking (pictured) where 80 per cent of pupils are Muslim. She claimed she was forced to retire through ill health after a campaign of harrassment
After the case, Mrs Connor said the allegations 'attacked the core of my being and my values'. She accused the council of cownorardice for failing to stand by her while the non-demoninational primary school - where around 80 per cent of the pupils are Muslim - was torn apart by the split in the governing body.
She had told the court earlier: 'I felt the LEA, because of the political sensitivity of the issue, were not addressing it.
'I felt - I will be honest - that this was racism towards me, because I felt that, had I been a Muslim head, things would have been conducted in a different way. I felt that they didn't have the courage to stand by me in this.'
The divorced mother of one was made headmistress in 1998 after joining the school four years earlier as the deputy head. In 2001 she was invited to a Downing Street reception after the school was named the second most improved in the country for SATs results. Her problems started in 2003 when four Muslim governors, including Mr Martin, joined the board. He was appointed as a parent-governor, despite having no children at the school.
'It was tense': Paul Martin at home in Woking, Surrey
Shortly afterwards, Mr Saleem joined as one of two LEA-appointed Muslim governors. Mr Martin also nominated another Muslim as parent-governor - Sofia Syed, who also had no prior connection to the school. Over the next two years Mrs Connor believed the governing body became 'dysfunctional' because of the conduct of Mr Martin and Mr Saleem, the court heard. In her witness statement, Mrs Connor said they 'effectively railroaded' meetings, repeatedly raising issues of religious education, content of assemblies and religious worship. They wanted more formal Islamic worship in the school and closer links with the local mosque.
From late 2003, Mr Martin, now 58, repeatedly complained about the school's policies and its stance towards Islam, as well as its links with the Muslim community and Mrs Connor's management.
His complaints resulted in an investigation. Its report acquitted the school of racism, Islamophobia and religious bias. Mr Martin was finally voted off the governing body in June 2005. He complained that he had been 'removed for blowing the whistle on institutional racism'.
The council wrote to parents saying it had no evidence that the allegations were true and reiterated the results of the investigation.
But at the start of the following school term in September, a second investigation - this time at the instigation of the council - concluded the school 'had not been responsive to the needs of the faith community'.
Mrs Connor went on sick leave suffering from stress and depression soon afterwards.
By then, the entire governing body had been disbanded. The following year the school was put in special measures by Ofsted.
Mrs Connor did not sue Mr Martin or Mr Saleem, but claimed that Mr Saleem had harassed her. Judge Williams cleared him of harassment, but ruled that he had been guilty of 'offensive verbal attacks' towards Mrs Connor.
The judge said of the two governors: 'I am satisfied that they sought to monopolise governing body meetings with a view to imposing their own agenda, and were prepared to do so regardless of the interests of the school and anyone who resisted that agenda. What was that agenda? It was at the very least to introduce an increasing role for the Muslim religion in New Monument School.'
The judge added that it was also 'not unreasonable' for Mrs Connor and the school's staff 'to consider that there was an agenda to convert New Monument to an Islamic faith school'.
The judge said the council's 'excessive tolerance' of the Muslim governors' behaviour, its 'misplaced sympathy' for Mr Martin - and its failure to provide Mrs Connor with proper support were the reasons for her depression. Last night, Mr Martin said that he and other governors had simply lobbied for an increase in the number of Islamic assemblies.
He said: 'There were many Muslims in the school and they should be properly represented. It is only fair and democratic.'
Mr Martin, who converted to Islam 28 years ago and was treasurer of the mosque, said he thought Mrs Connor 'became very defensive and it got very tense'.
Mrs Connor, who is believed to live with her partner Neil in Skenfrith, near Abergavenny in South Wales, said after the ruling she was 'thrilled that justice has prevailed'.
She added: 'I finally feel vindicated. I was subjected to dreadful pressures from a small group of individuals, unrepresentative of the local community, without the support I would have expected from Surrey County Council.'
Her damages claim covered sums for her pain and suffering and loss of income and pension.
A Surrey County Council spokesman said the authority was 'disappointed' with the decision
The council was refused permission to appeal, but could take the case to the Court of Appeal. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti...governors.html
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Nuclear Power
on: March 19, 2009, 06:36:22 PM
As a layman trying to think about a highly technical subject I look for things that seem to encapsulate a larger truth. In my case I remember that the Diablo Canyon Reactor was built on an earthquake fault here in CA.
Have you ever lived through any earthquakes? I have and that experts would build a reactor on a fault destroys my faith in them and their process.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics
on: March 19, 2009, 02:41:00 PM
And so the spiral into economic fascism continues, , , ,
BTW, how much is the $180+billion we given to AIG? Well, if I have my numbers right, total take on Capital Gains is somewhere around $225B. Imagine what would have happened to the market if we had simply abolished the cap gains tax!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Home, ranging here at home, where the Islamo fascists will play, , ,
on: March 19, 2009, 01:56:48 PM
Guantanamo Detainees May Be Released in U.S.
By EVAN PEREZ
WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Eric Holder said some detainees being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, may end up being released in the U.S. as the Obama administration works with foreign allies to resettle some of the prisoners.
Mr. Holder, in a briefing with reporters, said administration officials are still reviewing individual cases of the approximately 250 detainees to determine which will be put on trial and which may be released to comply with plans to close the detention facility by next year.
Six weeks into his tenure, Mr. Holder is still trying to assemble much of the Justice senior leadership, with several nominees awaiting Senate confirmation. He said he has reviewed the department's handling of white-collar criminal cases in response to the financial crisis and is considering ways to increase coordination on financial fraud among federal prosecutors and state officials. He said he is trying to increase the budget dedicated to white-collar crime, while maintaining funding for national security.
European justice ministers met with Mr. Holder earlier this week and pressed for details on how many Guantanamo prisoners the U.S. planned to release domestically, as part of any agreement for allies to accept detainees. Mr. Holder said U.S. officials would work to respond to the questions European officials have over U.S. Guantanamo plans.
For "people who can be released there are a variety of options that we have and among them is the possibility is that we would release them into this country," Mr. Holder said. "That process is ongoing and we've not made any determinations or made any requests of anybody at this point."
Among the detainees whose fate remains undetermined are 17 ethnic Uighurs, from the Central Asian region of China, who have been ordered released by a judge. The U.S. has refused to turn the men over to China, which considers them part of an separatist group.
Mr. Holder is planning to visit Mexico next month to meet with his counterparts and discuss efforts to fight the trafficking of guns from the U.S. into Mexico and the drug trade from Mexico into the U.S.
"The Mexican government has been courageous in the way it has confronted the problems that now challenge it," Mr. Holder said, noting the violence that has resulted from battles against the drug cartels in Mexico.
Source The Wall St. Journal
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO backs down!
on: March 19, 2009, 12:20:53 PM
Obama backs down on vets insurance billing
Marine Corps Times
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Mar 18, 2009 19:35:13 EDT
The Obama administration waved a white flag of surrender Wednesday, dropping a budget proposal that would have billed private insurance companies for treatment of service-connected medical problems at Veterans Affairs Department hospitals and clinics.
“It was total capitulation,” one participant said at a meeting Wednesday with White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel in which 11 veterans groups vowed they would fight to the end to kill the proposal.
AmVets Executive Director Jim King said he was glad the White House promised to kill the idea, which was distracting from the good news of the Obama administration’s proposed $4.9 billion increase in the VA budget, and which would have hurt disabled veterans, their families and maybe even employees at the same companies.
Billing private insurance to pay for veterans’ health care would make disabled veterans less desirable employees for companies worried about holding down health care costs, and could have led to veterans and their families paying higher premiums — even raising premiums for everyone working for the same company, King said.
Veterans groups met Monday with President Barack Obama to discuss the controversial proposal, but Obama promised only to look at the issue.
On Wednesday, Emanuel “said he was wrong” in his earlier support of the proposal, King said. “The 11 groups spoke with one voice, and he accepted that.”
The announcement of the reversal came from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., not from the White House.
“I feel something good happened for veterans,” King said, adding that the White House deserved criticism for proposing the idea in the first place but also credit for quickly dropping it.
Disabled American Veterans also commended the reversal. “The president was very open and candid when he met with veterans groups earlier this week, and we are pleased that he has heard our concerns and taken them to heart,” said David Gorman, executive director of DAV’s Washington office.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs confirmed the White House had changed its position.
“In considering the third party billing issue, the administration was seeking to maximize the resources available for veterans,” Gibbs said in a statement. However, the president “listened to concerns raised by the VSOs that this might, under certain circumstances, affect veterans and their families’ ability to access health care” and agreed with them. “The president has instructed that its consideration be dropped.”
In an effort that could be viewed as making up for some of the political damage caused by the controversy, Gibbs said that President Barack Obama “wants to continue a constructive partnership” with military and veterans groups and is “grateful” to the groups that worked with him on the proposal, even in opposition.
The White House is not talking about reversing current policy, which does bill the private insurers of some veterans for treatment not directly related to a service-connected injury, illness or disease. If anything, billing for nonservice-connected care could become even more aggressive in an effort to generate money for health care, which is what Emanuel told veterans groups was the whole reason for even considering expanding insurance billing.
The White House idea was not getting support in Congress. On Wednesday morning, before the change was announced, Rep. Bob Filner, D-Calif., the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee chairman, issued a statement saying he would not even consider such legislation.
“The Obama administration’s proposal to charge third-party insurance companies for service-connected medical treatment will not be taken up by the Veterans Affairs Committee,” Filner said. “Our budget cannot be balanced on the backs, or legs, or kidneys or hearts of our nation’s combat-wounded heroes,” he said.
The proposal gave Republicans an opening to question whether the Obama administration really wants to help veterans. Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, a decorated Air Force veteran and former prisoner of war in Vietnam, called the insurance billing idea “sad and shameful.”
“As a combat-wounded fighter pilot who served in two wars, I find the White House idea of charging wounded war heroes for care absurd, abhorrent and unconscionable,” he said in a speech on the House floor.
A forum comment: ""Seems to me it's kind of hard for him to push socialized medicine on all of us and at the same time admit that socialized medicine isn't up to the task of taking care of our troops."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World
on: March 19, 2009, 11:40:41 AM
BBG, JDN, and GM may be coming to this thread and in preparation of their arrival I would like to offer the following:
SPEAK IN POSITIVES.
For me it looks like this:
The American Creed (see our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution) declares that our inalienable rights come from The Creator. In other words, they are not subject to limitation by man or state. Amongst them are Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness-- in short, Freedom of Choice. Freedom of Choice is informed by Freedom of Speech. Freedom of Speech is made real by Separation of Church and State. Ultimately we the well-armed unorganized militia enforce our rights against all comers.
Anyone who is comfortable with this can be a good American and can be my friend.
It is up to the Muslim world to define itself.
I will accept whichever choice it makes.
If it limits itself to religion, fine. Indeed, there is much there to admire and in the absence of fascist thuggery and intimidation I would be glad of conversation.
OTOH if it seeks to blend religious belief with the coercive power of the state, it is a fascist political ideology and per se seditious to the American Creed. We need to be utterly clear on this: Freedom of Religion has nothing to do with this.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / LA Times: Yuck to Yucca Mountain
on: March 19, 2009, 11:20:39 AM
Although it is the LA Times, this makes sense to me.
Yucca Mountain on hold
The Obama administration is prudent to put the brakes on the nuclear waste repository in Nevada.
March 19, 2009
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been called many things during his 22-year Senate career, but the name that sticks when the issue of nuclear power comes up is "NIMBY." That's because Reid has fought tirelessly to block construction of a national nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain in his home state. There's a funny thing about his critics, though: Not one of them has ever suggested shipping the country's hazardous radioactive waste to his or her own state or district instead of Nevada.
The usual bleating about Reid's obstructionism and Nevadans' paranoia arose after the release of President Obama's proposed budget, which trims funding for the Yucca Mountain project to the minimum needed to keep the regulatory process involved in its construction alive -- a strong signal that there will be no further work done on the repository during Obama's term in office. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the administration is working on an alternative program that involves multiple interim and long-term waste storage facilities around the country.
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When it comes to highly radioactive nuclear waste, pretty much everybody is a NIMBY. Setting aside the factthat scientists have yet to develop the technology to safely store this waste for the thousands of years it takes to decay, there's the fact that it has to be transported to the disposal site -- mostly by train -- creating the opportunity for spills. Even if the nuclear dump isn't in your backyard, the train tracks might be, and the closer you live to the center of it all, the greater the danger. Little wonder that Nevadans aren't excited by the prospect of a glow-in-the-dark desert.
The depressing thing about Yucca Mountain is that for all its flaws, including the discovery that water flows through the mountain faster than previously thought and thus could contaminate nearby areas, it probably still represents the safest place in the country for a nuclear repository. Not only is seismic activity in the rangeminimal, but the mountain is in a remote and desolate region at the edge of a site used in the 1950s for atomic testing. If we can't dump the waste in a nuclear test zone, where can we? That, in a nutshell, is the problem with nuclear power.
Pro-nuclear activists, whose ranks are growing as the nation looks for non-carbon-emitting sources of energy, needn't fret too much about Obama's proposal, which tables but doesn't end the debate about Yucca Mountain. Yet the move probably would delay some pending applications for construction of nuclear plants, and may even stop some. That's all for the good. Nuclear power is much too risky and expensive to be seen as a reasonable solution to climate change.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / LA Times: Reckless antibiotics
on: March 19, 2009, 11:15:47 AM
Even though this is the LA Times, this is close to my thinking on this.
A healthy resistance to antibiotics
The overuse of the medications in humans and animals is believed to be responsible for the rise of dangerous superbugs. Now the time may be right for some limits in agribusiness.
March 19, 2009
Ayear and a half ago, researchers found that a deadly form of staph infection was prevalent on Canadian pig farms. This year, the superbug was found in both swine and workers at U.S. farms.
The rise of bacteria such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which kills more people in this country each year than AIDS, is believed to be a consequence of the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals. Low doses of the medications have become ubiquitous in the livestock industry, mixed into feed to enhance growth and prevent the diseases that sweep through crowded pens.
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A panel of experts found "clear evidence of adverse human health consequences due to resistant organisms resulting from nonhuman usage of antimicrobials," the World Health Organization reported in 2004. "These consequences include infections that would not have otherwise occurred, increased frequency of treatment failures (in some cases death) and increased severity of infections."
The European Union has already banned non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in farm animals, but each year lobbying by agribusiness in this country dooms legislation that would do the same. On Tuesday, Rep. Louise M. Slaughter (D-N.Y.) introduced a bill that would restrict the use of antibiotics that are important to human health in farming operations. The medications could be used to treat illness, but not as a growth promoter or as a substitute for cleaner living conditions. The bill might have a better chance of passing now, with a stronger Democratic majority in Congress.
The timing is right in other ways as well. In January, the Department of Agriculture -- responsible for promoting the meat industry as well as consumer health -- reported that, except during the nursery stage for young pigs, the costs of using preventive or growth-promoting antibiotics slightly outweighed the economic benefits for farms. That's not counting the added costs to consumers in prescription prices for more exotic antibiotics or the $4 billion a year this country spends to combat resistant infections. Some farms are successfully using better sanitation and tracking of illnesses among their herds instead of preventive antibiotics.
It would be a mistake to delay restrictions on antibiotic use until the situation has a chance to reach dire proportions; there is no guarantee that specialized antibiotics could be developed in time to thwart a new wave of drug-resistant bacteria. Humans don't need antibiotics to treat common colds, which are caused by viruses rather than bacteria, and animals don't need them to grow.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The Power of Word
on: March 19, 2009, 10:49:01 AM
What Lies Inside
By Tzvi Freeman
Within each thing we behold, the moshiach dwells, like the embryo waiting to break out of its egg. In the rhythm of a dandelion shivering in the breeze, in the eyes of the children we raise, in the goals we make in life, in the machines we use and the art we create, in the air we breathe and the blood rushing through our veins.
When the world was made, the sages say, the moshiach was the wind hovering over all that would be.
Today, those who know to listen can hear his voice beckoning, "Do no let go of me after all these ages! For the fruit of your labor and the labor of your holy mothers and fathers is about to ripen."
The listening alone is enough to crack the shell of the egg.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: BO's latest trial balloon. Aides surprised war is expensive.
on: March 19, 2009, 07:57:13 AM
THOM SHANKER and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: March 18, 2009
WASHINGTON — President Obama and his advisers have decided to significantly expand Afghanistan’s security forces in the hope that a much larger professional army and national police force could fill a void left by the central government and do more to promote stability in the country, according to senior administration and Pentagon officials.
The Afghan Army and other security forces would be greatly expanded under a plan developed by President Obama and his advisers in the hope of stabilizing the nation.
A plan awaiting final approval by the president would set a goal of about 400,000 troops and national police officers, more than twice the forces’ current size, and more than three times the size that American officials believed would be adequate for Afghanistan in 2002, when the Taliban and Al Qaeda appeared to have been routed.
The officials said Mr. Obama was expected to approve a version of the plan in coming days as part of a broader Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. But even members of Mr. Obama’s national security team appeared taken aback by the cost projections of the program, which range from $10 billion to $20 billion over the next six or seven years.
By comparison, the annual budget for the entire Afghan government, which is largely provided by the United States and other international donors, is about $1.1 billion, which means the annual price of the program would be about twice the cost of operating the government of President Hamid Karzai.
Those figures include only the cost of training and establishing the forces, and officials are still trying to determine what the cost would be to sustain the security forces over the long term.
Administration officials also express concerns that an expanded Afghan Army could rival the corruption-plagued presidency of Mr. Karzai. The American commanders who have recommended the increase argued that any risk of creating a more powerful Afghan Army was outweighed by the greater risks posed by insurgent violence that could threaten the central government if left unchecked.
At present, the army fields more than 90,000 troops, and the Afghan National Police numbers about 80,000 officers. The relatively small size of the security forces has frustrated Afghan officials and American commanders who wanted to turn security over to legitimate Afghan security forces, and not local warlords, at a faster pace.
After resisting the idea for several years, the Bush administration last summer approved an increase that authorized the army to grow to 134,000 over the next three years, in a program that would cost about $12 billion.
The resistance had been a holdover from the early months after the rout of Taliban and Qaeda fighters in 2001, when it appeared that there was little domestic or external threat that required a larger security force.
The new proposal would authorize a doubling of the army, after the increase approved last summer, to about 260,000 soldiers. In addition, it would increase the number of police officers, commandos and border guards to bring the total size of the security forces to about 400,000. The officials who described the proposal spoke on condition of anonymity because they had not been authorized to discuss it publicly in advance of final approval by Mr. Obama.
Some European countries have proposed the creation of an Afghan National Army Trust Fund, which would seek donations from oil kingdoms along the Persian Gulf and other countries to pay for Afghanistan’s security forces.
Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, which would have to approve new American spending, endorsed the goal of expanding Afghan security forces, and urged commanders to place Afghans on the front lines to block the border with Pakistan to insurgents and terrorists.
“The cost is relatively small compared to the cost of not doing it — of having Afghanistan either disintegrate, or fall into the hands of the Taliban, or look as though we are dominating it,” Mr. Levin said in an interview late on Tuesday.
Administration officials and military experts cited recent public opinion polls in Afghanistan showing that the Afghan Army had eclipsed the respect given the central government, which has had difficulty exerting legitimacy or control much beyond the capital.
“In the estimation of almost all outside observers, the Ministry of Defense and the Afghan National Army are two of the most highly functional and capable institutions in the country,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, who is retired and commanded American and coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005.
General Barno, currently the director of Near East and South Asian security studies at National Defense University, dismissed concerns that the army or the Ministry of Defense would challenge the authority of elected officials in Kabul.
“They are respectful of civil governance,” he said. “If the government of Afghanistan is going to effectively extend security and the rule of law, it has to have more army boots on the ground and police shoes on the ground.”
Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations, said the Obama administration now appeared “willing to accept risks and accept downsides it might not otherwise” have considered had the security situation not deteriorated.
Military analysts cite other models in the Islamic world, like Pakistan, Egypt and Turkey, where the United States supports democratically elected civilian governments but raises no objection to the heavy influence wielded by military forces that remain at least as powerful as those governments.
Martin Strmecki, a member of the Defense Policy Board and a former top Pentagon adviser on Afghanistan, told a Senate committee last month that the Afghan Army should increase to 250,000 soldiers and the national police force should add more than 100,000 officers. Mr. Strmecki said that only when Afghan security forces reached those numbers would they achieve “the level necessary for success in counterinsurgency.”
Military officers also see an added benefit to expanding Afghanistan’s security forces, if its growing rosters can offer jobs to unemployed young men who now take up arms for the insurgency for money, and not ideology.
“We can try and outbid the Taliban for ‘day workers’ who are laying I.E.D.’s and do not care about politics,” Mr. Biddle said, referring to improvised explosive devices. “But if we don’t control that area, the Taliban can come in and cut off the hands of anybody who is taking money from us.”
C.I.A. Chief in Overseas Trip
The director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Leon E. Panetta, is traveling to India and Pakistan this week to discuss the investigation into the Mumbai terrorist attacks, improved information-sharing to combat violent extremists and other intelligence issues, an American official said Wednesday.
Making his first overseas trip as C.I.A. director, Mr. Panetta was in India on Wednesday and was expected to travel to Pakistan and possibly another country in the following days, the official said.
David E. Sanger contributed reporting.
Correction: March 19, 2009
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NY Slimes slimes Israel
on: March 19, 2009, 07:52:50 AM
Well, the NY Slimes is at it as usual, particularly virulent form this time. Poor Israel.
JERUSALEM — Israel, whose founding idea was branded as racism by the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 and which faced an Arab boycott for decades, is no stranger to isolation. But in the weeks since its Gaza war, and as it prepares to inaugurate a hawkish right-wing government, it is facing its worst diplomatic crisis in two decades.
Examples abound. Its sports teams have met hostility and violent protests in Sweden, Spain and Turkey. Mauritania has closed Israel’s embassy.
Relations with Turkey, an important Muslim ally, have suffered severely. A group of top international judges and human rights investigators recently called for an inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza. “Israel Apartheid Week” drew participants in 54 cities around the world this month, twice the number of last year, according to its organizers. And even in the American Jewish community, albeit in its liberal wing, there is a chill.
The issue has not gone unnoticed here, but it has generated two distinct and somewhat contradictory reactions. On one hand, there is real concern. Global opinion surveys are being closely examined and the Foreign Ministry has been granted an extra $2 million to improve Israel’s image through cultural and information diplomacy.
“We will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theater companies, exhibits,” said Arye Mekel, the ministry’s deputy director general for cultural affairs. “This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.”
But there is also a growing sense that outsiders do not understand Israel’s predicament, so criticism is dismissed.
“People here feel that no matter what you do you are going to be blamed for all the problems in the Middle East,” said Eytan Gilboa, a professor of politics and international communication at Bar Ilan University. “Even suicide bombings by Palestinians are seen as our fault for not establishing a Palestinian state.”
Of course, for Israel’s critics, including those who firmly support the existence of a Jewish state, the problem is not one of image but of policy. They point to four decades of occupation, the settling of half a million Israeli Jews on land captured in 1967, the economic strangling of Gaza for the past few years and the society’s growing indifference toward the creation of a Palestinian state as reasons Israel has lost favor abroad, and they say that no amount of image buffing will change that.
Israel’s use of enormous force in the Gaza war in January crystallized much of this criticism.
The issue of a Palestinian state is central to Israel’s reputation abroad, because so many governments and international organizations favor its establishment in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. And while the departing government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert negotiated for such a state, the incoming one of Benjamin Netanyahu says that item is not on its immediate agenda.
Javier Solana, foreign policy chief for the European Union, said in Brussels on Monday that the group would reconsider its relationship with Israel if it did not remain committed to establishing a Palestinian state.
Moreover, Mr. Netanyahu is expected to appoint Avigdor Lieberman, leader of the ultranationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party, as his foreign minister. This alone has Israelis and their allies in Europe and the United States worried because of Mr. Lieberman’s views of Israeli Arabs that some have called racist.
Mr. Lieberman had campaigned on the need for a loyalty oath in Israel so that those who did not support a Jewish democratic state would lose their citizenship. One-fifth of Israeli citizens are Arabs, and many do not support defining the state as Jewish.
Mr. Lieberman also has few fans in Egypt, which has acted as an intermediary for Israel in several matters. Some months ago Mr. Lieberman complained that President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had not agreed to come to Israel. “If he doesn’t want to, he can go to hell,” he added.
“Imagine that Hossein Mousavi wins the Iranian presidency this spring and he names Mohammad Khatami as his foreign minister,” said Meir Javedanfar, an Iran analyst in Israel, referring to two Iranian leaders widely viewed as in the pragmatist camp. “With Lieberman as foreign minister here, Israel will have a much harder time demonstrating to the world that Iran is the destabilizing factor in the region.”
Of course, all of this is being seen in the context of a new, Democratic administration in the United States that has announced a desire to press for a two-state solution. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has already criticized Israeli plans to demolish Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem, and her department has criticized Israel’s banning of certain goods from Gaza.
This represents a distinct shift in tone from the Bush era. An internal Israeli Foreign Ministry report during the Gaza war noted that compared with others in the United States, “liberals and Democrats show far less enthusiasm for Israel and its leadership.”
The gap between Israelis and many liberal American Jews could be seen Tuesday in a blog by Bradley Burston, who writes on the Web site of the left-leaning newspaper Haaretz. He said that while visiting Los Angeles he faced many questions that amounted to “What is wrong with these people, your friends, the Israelis?”
He quoted an article by Anne Roiphe, an American Jewish liberal, which said that witnessing the popularity of Mr. Lieberman in Israel made her feel “as if my spouse had cheated on me with Mussolini.”
She added: “We here in America are waiting as of this writing for a government to emerge in Jerusalem, and most of us keep on hoping that its shape will not preclude the peace process, will not doom a two-state solution, will not destroy the hope that our new president brings to the table.”
Mr. Burston pointed to the thousands of rockets fired from Gaza into Sderot and other Israeli cities and towns and titled his piece “The Racist Israeli Fascist in Me.”
Some Israeli officials say they believe that what the country needs is to “rebrand” itself. They say Israel spends far too much time defending actions against its enemies. By doing so, they say, the narrative is always about conflict.
“When we show Sderot, others also see Gaza,” said Ido Aharoni, manager of a rebranding team at the Foreign Ministry. “Everything is twinned when seen through the conflict. The country needs to position itself as an attractive personality, to make outsiders see it in all its reality. Instead, we are focusing on crisis management. And that is never going to get us where we need to go over the long term.”
Mr. Gilboa, the political scientist, said branding was not enough.
“We need to do much more to educate the world about our situation,” he said. Regarding the extra $2 million budgeted for this, he said: “We need 50 million. We need 100 million.”
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stop Loss
on: March 19, 2009, 01:15:02 AM
By YOCHI J. DREAZEN
WASHINGTON -- The Army plans to phase out its deeply unpopular stop-loss program, which forces soldiers to remain in the military after their enlistments end.
The first Army units will deploy overseas without stop-loss soldiers in August. Barring a national-security emergency, the Army hopes to effectively eliminate the practice in 2011.
Pentagon officials said the move was meant to reduce the strains on soldiers and their families, and to help lower the alarmingly high rates of military suicide and divorce.
The move could also help defuse the anger in military circles over the Obama administration's aborted plan to make veterans' private health insurers reimburse the government for the cost of treating combat-related injuries. Amid a political furor, the White House dropped the proposal Wednesday.
About 13,000 soldiers are being kept in the Army against their will because of the stop-loss program. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he hopes to cut that number in half by June 2010 and bring it down to the "scores, not thousands," by March 2011.
"I felt, particularly in these numbers, that it was breaking faith," Mr. Gates told reporters. "When somebody's end date of service comes, to hold them against their will...is just not the right thing to do."
Wednesday's announcement caps a multiyear controversy over the stop-loss program, created by Congress as part of the Army's transition to an all-volunteer force after the Vietnam War.
The policy affects soldiers whose units are set to deploy within three months of the end of their service commitment to the Army. Commanders say the policy helps maintain unit cohesion at a time of war and ensures that the Army doesn't face shortages of soldiers with specific skills.
The widespread use of the policy during the Iraq War became a heated political issue. In 2004, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry likened it to a "backdoor draft."
In the 2008 movie "Stop-Loss," an Iraq veteran makes plans to flee to Mexico or Canada after he receives notice that he is being kept in the military and sent back to Iraq.
Under the Army's plan, the Army Reserve will begin mobilizing units without stop-loss soldiers in August, and the National Guard will do the same in September. The active-duty Army will follow suit in January 2010.
Mr. Gates said the Army would also give all soldiers who are affected by stop-loss a $500-a-month bonus, with the payments made retroactive to soldiers serving involuntarily as of Oct. 1, 2008.
Write to Yochi J. Dreazen at email@example.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pakistan integrates Taliban in security forces
on: March 18, 2009, 12:13:29 PM
second post of the day
My friend writes "Actually, this report is inaccurate, the Taliban are already part of the security forces, this is the first official admission to formalize the arrangement...."http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/03/pakistan_proposes_in.php
Pakistan proposes integration of Taliban into security forces
By Bill RoggioMarch 14, 2009 10:58 PM
A senior official in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province wants the Taliban to integrate into the security forces in the region where the governemnt ceded to the Taliban's demands to implement sharia, or Islamic Law, and end military operations. The official also described the Swat Taliban leader as "good human being."
Syed Muhammad Javed, the Malakand Division Commissioner, has proposed the Taliban provide recruits for the police and the paramilitary Levies force. The Malakand Division is made up of the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, and Chitral.
"I have proposed the Taliban be adjusted in police or Levies force and have suggested this at several forums," Javed told Daily Times. He claimed the police force's "confidence is shaken" due to a Taliban campaign of assassination and intimidation.
The police have been hit so hard that the force has been rendered ineffective. The governemnt claimed 70 policemen, an estimated five percent of the force, have been killed since the fighting in Swat broke out in July 2007. More than 800 policemen, more than half of the force, have deserted their posts or taken extended leaves to avoid the Taliban attacks. Another 142 troops from the paramilitary Frontier Corps have been reported killed since August 2008.
During the fighting between the Swat Taliban and government forces, the Swat Taliban targeted police officers, tribal leaders, and politicians. Family members of government officials and tribal leaders were killed, and their homes were torched.
The military ceased operations in Swat in February 2009 after it failed to dislodge the Taliban. Sufi Mohammed, the father-in-law of Swat Taliban commander Mullah Fazlullah, brokered a peace agreement between the government and the Taliban. Under the agreement, the government has committed to implement sharia, end the military campaign, and release Taliban prisoners, while the Taliban agreed to end attacks. But the Taliban have violated the agreement several times when it kidnapped the district coordinating officer and his bodyguards, murdered two soldiers, and captured a Frontier Corps officer and several of his men.
Javed and the military have refused to respond to the Taliban infractions. Javeed even went out of his way to praise Mullah Fazlullah. He described Fazlullah as a "good human being," Daily Times reported.
Javed's proposal to integrate the Taliban into the security forces comes as the US Congress is debating a $20 billion aid package to Pakistan. Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar have proposed giving Pakistan a one-time $5 billion grant plus a 10 year aid package worth $15 billion. Some of this money is slated to improve the security forces in Paksitan's Northwest Frontier Province and the Taliban-controlled tribal agencies.
But Pakistan's history of appropriately spending US aid money is appalling. More than $3.8 billion of an estimated $5 billion of military aid given to Pakistan up until December 2007 is unaccounted for, and it has been reported that millions of dollars in US aid has gone to pay reparations to the Taliban in Swat.
DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Reality Toys
on: March 18, 2009, 11:47:45 AM
One of the things we say in DBMA is "The Search for the Totality of Ritual and Reality".
In the Reality category we have, for example, our "Die Less Often" DVD series (currently two releases, should be 4 releases by year's end). And we will gradually begin offering practical reality items in our catalog too. Typically these items will not be weapons-- there will be practical things such as emergency medical kits (you survived the knife attack, but you are bleedling badly. Now what?), mini-flashlights, cool "just in case" things to carry in your car or to set up for your wife to have in her car, walking sticks, and things of that sort. Now, no doubt some of you may be thinking that some of these items can be improvised weapons too. No doubt some of you would like that we sell weapons too! But then Pay Pal would be unhappy and be unwilling to do business with us. That said
we will be kicking things off with some key fobs. Huh? Key fob? Wuzzat?
As defined on Wikipedia, "a key fob is a generally decorative and at times useful item many people often carry with their keys, on a ring or a chain, for ease of tactile identification, to provide a better grip, or to make a personal statement. Key fobs are often called "key rings" or "key chains" in colloquial usage. The word fob may be linked to the low German dialect for the word Fuppe, meaning "pocket", however, the real origin of the word is unknown."
Made for the esthetics and hands of dainty women and the men they rule, the simple fact of the matter is that most fobs simply are too dainty and delicate to meet the demands of folks like ourselves. "Ease of tactile identification" for us means something big and sturdy and these sturdy hard plastic fobs are exactly that.
When you are rooting around in your gym bag looking for your eyes amongst your training gear, you want something big and obvious.
When you are looking for your keys around the house, you want something big and obvious.
When you are wearing gym shorts or sweats, which when they have pockets at all have pockets which are rather untrustworthy for something as important as your keys, you want a practical solution and these fobs give you just that! Just tuck the fob down your shorts or sweats and let the keys dangle outside-- its just that easy.
As seen in the fotos in our catalog (any day now- when Cindy gets them up), we offer five basic models: two different lengths of tapered, one cylindrical, and one cylindrical with a loop so you can choose the one that suits you for your every day carry. The fifth model is a softer and relatively pliable version for those of you who prefer that.
In a related vein, we also offer a sturdy manly sized stylus-- no more fussing around with dainty little styluses made for soft unathletic
hands. It the size and appearance of a normal pen (pocket clip included of course) and is made of the same hard, easily gripped material as the key fobs.
The Adventure continues!
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Prager: Brilliance is overrated
on: March 18, 2009, 10:50:52 AM
Brilliance is Overrated
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
I have met very few parents or grandparents who have not characterized at least one of their offspring as “extremely bright” or even “brilliant” – usually beginning at the age of 2. The emphasis on the importance of the intellect is greater than ever.
That is why people were persuande into having their babies listen to Mozart after it was reported that listening to Mozart -- even in utero -- would make babies smarter. As an occasional orchestra conductor, I am delighted when anyone of any age is exposed to classical music. But love of music was not an issue here -- the Mozart-for-babies craze was about love of brains, not love of music. Likewise, those who can afford to do so vie with one another to have their children admitted to prestigious preschools and elementary schools.
This preoccupation with brains and intellectual attainment extends into adulthood. Most Americans upon hearing that someone has attended Harvard University assumes that this person is not only smarter than most other people but is actually a more impressive person. That is why, for example, people assume that a Nobel laureate in physics has something particularly intelligent to say about social policy. In fact, there is no reason at all to assume that a Nobel physicist has more insight into health care issues or capital punishment than a high school physics teacher, let alone more insight than a moral theologian. But people, especially the highly educated, do think so. That’s why one frequently sees ads advocating some political position signed by Nobel laureates.
Intellectuals, e.g., those with graduate degrees, have among the worst, if not the worst, records on the great moral issues of the past century. Intellectuals such as the widely adulated French intellectual Jean Paul Sartre were far more likely than hardhats to admire butchers of humanity like Stalin and Mao. But this has had no impact on most people’s adulation of the intellect and intellectuals.
So, too, the current economic decline was brought about in large measure by people in the financial sector widely regarded as “brilliant.” Of course, it turns out that many of them were either dummies, amoral, incompetent, or all three.
The adulation of the intellect is one reason President George W. Bush was so reviled by the intellectual class. He didn’t speak like an intellectual (even though he graduated from Yale) and for that reason was widely dismissed as a dummy (though he is, in fact, very bright). On the other hand, Barack Obama speaks like the college professor he was and thereby seduces the adulators of the intellect the moment he opens his mouth. Yet, it is he, not George W. Bush, who nearly always travels with teleprompters to deliver even the briefest remarks. And compared to George W. Bush on many important issues, his talks are superficial -- as reading, as opposed to hearing, them easily reveals.
Take, for example, one of the most complex and compelling moral issues of our time -- embryonic stem cell research. This is an excellent area for comparison since both presidents delivered major addresses on the exact same subject.
Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post has compared the two speeches. He has particular credibility on this score because he is a scientist (he has a medical degree from Harvard Medical School), a moralist, and has special interest in stem cell’s possibilities because he is a paraplegic from a diving accident. And, as he points out, “I am not religious. I do not believe that personhood is conferred upon conception.”
“Bush's nationally televised stem cell speech was the most morally serious address on medical ethics ever given by an American president. It was so scrupulous in presenting the best case for both his view and the contrary view that until the last few minutes, the listener had no idea where Bush would come out.”
“Obama's address was morally unserious in the extreme. It was populated, as his didactic discourses always are, with a forest of straw men.”
“Unlike Bush, who painstakingly explained the balance of ethical and scientific goods he was trying to achieve, Obama did not even pretend to make the case why some practices are morally permissible and others not.”
In a similar manner, I devoted two columns to analyzing Barack Obama’s widely hailed speech in Berlin when he was a candidate for president. I found it to be both vacuous and, to use Krauthammer’s words, “morally unserious in the extreme.”
But Obama sounds intelligent. As indeed he is.
The reason we have too few solutions to the problems that confront people -- in their personal lives as well as in the political realm -- is almost entirely due to a lack of common sense, psychological impediments to clear thinking, a perverse value system, to a lack of self-control, or all four. It is almost never due to a lack of brainpower. On the contrary, the smartest and the best educated frequently make things worse.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Afghan reporter finds reminders of home in London
on: March 18, 2009, 10:47:53 AM
Jihad Chic Comes to London
In the city's Muslim neighborhoods, an Afghan reporter finds a few too many uncomfortable reminders of home.
From the magazine issue dated Mar 23, 2009
I still don't know who wanted me dead. I was sitting in my car one day last november, not far from my house in the northwest Pakistani city of Peshawar, when a group of strangers walked up. One of them pointed a pistol through my window. I remember he wore a turban and shalwar kameez—the tunic and baggy pants common in the area—and he had a long beard, dyed red with henna. He shot me in the chest, hand and arm, and then fled with his friends. Miraculously, none of the bullets hit any arteries or vital organs, and as soon as a doctor patched me up and I was strong enough to travel, I booked a flight to London. I planned to lie low for a while, to rest and seek further medical help for a bullet that was lodged in my arm. But more than that, I just wanted to be somewhere calm and safe, far from AK-toting gunmen, suicide bombers and the daily, random violence of Pakistan's borderlands.
London was a revelation—cold, clean and orderly—but my sense of relief didn't last long. In one of the city's many South Asian neighborhoods, I saw a tall young Afghan who reminded me of my would-be assassin, striding down the street like a bad dream. He too wore a shalwar kameez, and a big turban of white silk was wrapped loosely around his head. His beard was long, and his hair was shoulder length. Anyone dressed like that in Islamabad would be immediately picked up for questioning by the police. I had flown halfway across the world to get away from killers who resembled this young Londoner. I stared after him until he was gone from view.
But as days passed I spotted him again and again. He stood out even in a neighborhood full of Asians dressed in traditional garb—shalwar kameez, saris, abayas. Locals had a nickname for him: Talib Jan. It's a friendly Afghan slang term for a Taliban member, something like GI Joe for Americans. The area's crowded, rundown row houses had become home to hundreds of Afghans who first arrived in England as fugitives from the Taliban's intolerance and brutality. Nevertheless, most of Jan's neighbors spoke of him tolerantly or even approvingly.
In fact, during my three-month stay in England I met a surprising number of Muslims who shared Jan's fascination with the Taliban. The older generation, urbane and relatively well educated, had little love for the extremists. But among some younger men, frustrated and marginalized in British society, I discovered a fury that was depressingly familiar. I met many immigrants who were blatant, vocal and unquestioning in their support for what they imagined to be "jihad." Few seemed troubled by the brutality that characterized Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar's reign, or by his banning of music or girls' education. Indeed, many looked back on Omar's rule as a kind of Islamic utopia, and they eagerly snapped up the Islamist leaflets handed out after Friday prayers at various mosques around town.
I first introduced myself to Jan at one of those mosques. I complimented his taste in clothes: that's how people dress back home in Afghanistan, I said. (I was born in northern Afghanistan; my family fled to Pakistan in 1979 to escape the Soviet invasion.) His fierce appearance to the contrary, Jan turned out to be friendly and outgoing. He listened with interest to my story, but mostly he talked about himself, his Islamist views, his fierce support for the Taliban and his contempt for the Brits and Americans fighting them.
His vehemence surprised me. Twenty-three years old, Jan had been born in eastern Afghanistan and attended a madrassa in Pakistan. The Taliban still ruled Afghanistan when his parents paid a people smuggler to sneak Jan to England at 14. There he applied for and was granted political asylum, claiming that the Taliban had persecuted him and his family. Now he's a legal resident, yet openly cheers for his supposed oppressors to defeat troops from his adopted homeland in Afghanistan. The irony seems lost on him.
Jan is a terror to his neighbors. He prowls the streets as a one-man, self-appointed morality patrol. He castigates young Muslim couples he sees holding hands in public, and he badgers acquaintances for shaping their beards into what he disapprovingly calls a "French cut" that frames the mouth. His diatribes can be frightening. Several young men told me they were afraid Jan had friends who could create problems for them or their relatives in Afghanistan or Pakistan. Some feared they might be disowned if Jan got word to their families about their "immoral" living in London.
At a neighborhood restaurant one day I noticed that my waiter looked miserable. Khalil is a clean-shaven, broad-shouldered young Afghan who wears a gold ring in one earlobe. I asked why he was so unhappy, and he told me his story as he cleaned the table and took my order. He said he had been dumped a few days earlier by his girlfriend, a beautiful young Englishwoman. They were out walking when Talib Jan marched up and began denouncing Khalil, threatening to let his family back in Afghanistan know that their son was having a forbidden affair. The girl was frightened by Jan, but more than that, she was furious at Khalil for lying to her: he had told her he was Turkish. She told him they were through.
Now Khalil worries that same routine will be repeated with every girl he meets in London. He's convinced that Jan knows how to find his family in Afghanistan and can make big trouble for him there. "I wanted to marry that girl, but now I have no hope," he told me. "My family lives in the insecure countryside. If I go back and the Taliban know I have an English girlfriend, they will behead me." I asked if he thought Jan was an actual Taliban member. "No," Khalil answered. "He is not with the militias, but he is a big headache for every Afghan who knows him."
As far as I could tell, Jan is an armchair jihadist. I saw no sign that he had direct ties to the Taliban, or that anyone was paying him to proselytize. On the contrary, he works hard to support himself with business deals like buying and selling used cars. I often found him in a little store that sells mobile phones and watches at a London shopping plaza. A crowd of young, bearded men hangs out there: more armchair jihadists. The shop's 35-year-old owner, a Pakistani from Peshawar, loves to show them the latest Taliban videos on his mobile phone, featuring beheadings of alleged anti-Taliban "spies" and ambushes of U.S. forces. When asked if he worried that British authorities might discover his collection of videos, he told me: "If our Taliban brothers can stand up to B-52 bombing and modern U.S. war technology, it would be cowardly of me to be afraid to watch and share their heroic actions."
Brave words, I thought, but still the shopkeeper disturbed me. He was relatively well educated and a former banker, but made no secret of his Islamist leanings. Giving change, he avoids touching a woman's hand. He also tells a chilling tale—maybe true, maybe not—of his days as a radical religious student in Peshawar in the mid-1990s. He claims that he and a group of friends murdered several prostitutes there in what he called a "moral cleansing drive." He warned me against speaking against the Taliban even in London: people's loved ones at home could get hurt, he said darkly.
Jan, too, is always glad to pull out his Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone and share streaming videos of Taliban training camps and Coalition convoys hitting IEDs. He even has Taliban ring tones—fire-and-brimstone sermons and Qur'anic recitals from jihadist mullahs. If you want copies, he'll transfer them to your phone or point you to the right Web site. "I'm winning converts to a holy cause every day," he says. As for the cops, Jan says he's careful to break no laws and claims he's never had problems with the police. They seem to regard him as a deeply religious man, he says, or at least as a harmless eccentric.
In fact, Jan embodies a powerful need among many young Muslims in Britain to preserve a sense of identity in a strange land. One 50-year-old engineer told me he worries constantly about his four children, especially his two sons, ages 19 and 20. He says they seem addicted to Internet porn, but what scares him even more is the amount of time they spend on jihadist Web sites. He worries as well about extremist operatives who hang out at local mosques trying to recruit young people to the Taliban cause.
Extremism's appeal is especially strong for immigrants fed up with hard times and bigotry. In economically depressed Birmingham I met an unemployed man from Kandahar. He said he had just lost his job and feared he wouldn't be able to feed his family. "If I get hit by a car or bus one day crossing the street, who will look after my family?" he asked. "It would be better for me to go and fight and die with the Taliban. Then at least I could see paradise." One 35-year-old British Muslim told me he's infuriated by widespread discrimination. An office worker, he says he hasn't had a promotion in 10 years. The reason, he believes, is that he's an ardent Muslim who wears a long beard and never joins his coworkers at the local pub. "This kind of behavior is what makes Muslims extremist," he said. Jan himself says most Britons look on him with "love and kindness," but others occasionally stare at him with "hate" and won't sit next to him on the train. Their hearts, he says, "are black and full of enmity toward Muslims."
Most of these young men, even Jan, would probably never give up their lives in Britain to join the jihad in Afghanistan. But something of that far-off fight, some tinge of blood and chaos and hatred, has certainly seeped into London's streets. Alokozai, 27, arrived in London a year ago after an arduous trip via the Afghans' underground railway. He used to be an interpreter/fixer for British troops in Kandahar. The pay was excellent by Afghan standards—some $1,600 a month—but then the death threats began. His family's life would be worthless unless he left his job, the anonymous letters warned. He quit as he was told; in Britain he applied for political asylum, thinking he had finally escaped the Taliban's wrath.
Then the phone woke him one night at 3 a.m. "Death angels will soon clutch at your throat," an Afghan voice warned. "Remember, we have Islamic brothers in the U.K. Your family should not rest easy in Kandahar either." He says he could only listen to the voice, too scared to say anything.
Alokozai worries all the time now. Too many Afghans in London sympathize with the Taliban, he says. He thinks many recent asylum seekers, especially from southern Afghanistan, have ties to the Taliban and remain under the sway of extremist ideas. "They will create trouble for Britain in the near future," he predicts. But equally disturbing to him are the thoroughly assimilated Muslims who also treat him like a traitor to his religion. When they find out he worked for British forces in Afghanistan, they ask him, "How many houses did you bomb?" and "How many innocents did you kill?" "These people are as narrow-minded and have as much hate in their eyes as the Taliban do in Afghanistan," he says. "I cannot understand how these Afghans and Pakistanis can wear Western clothes, dance and drink, and then condemn me and see the Taliban as their heroes."
Neither can I. As I was riding the train one day, Owais, a 27-year-old Pakistani from Kashmir, began praising the Taliban and talking seriously of going to live in Afghanistan after Mullah Omar returned to power. "My fervent wish is that next winter we may be able to breathe freely in the restored Islamic state of Afghanistan," he declared in Urdu. Here you can breathe freely too, I told him. "No, only in a true Islamic state can we be free," replied his friend Ishaq. A 25-year-old Afghan immigrant, Ishaq wore a long, white tunic over his blue jeans. "The West is destroying the spirit, soul and values of Islam. Muslims should avoid contact with and coming to the West." As I go home to my family, I too wonder and worry about such men. There is too much of Peshawar in them, and in London.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Without End
on: March 18, 2009, 09:50:02 AM
By Tzvi Freeman
Ask the wise men of many cultures, and they will tell you that all is temporal, all will pass, there is nothing in this world to cling to, only to transcend.
Ask a sage of the Torah and he will tell you it is not true. The vanities of time, the failures of life, they all pass as clouds on a windy day, but truth lives forever.
This is the meaning of the thirteenth of the thirteen principles of our faith, the belief that those who lived true lives will live again, in a real and corporeal way. It is a rejection of temporalism, a confirmation that there are things in the world that really matter, that have endless meaning and absolute purpose.
Whenever a G-dly act is performed, all involved are elevated beyond time. Save a life--you are Noah saving the entire world. Feed weary travelers--they are the angels coming to visit Abraham and Sarah. And Abraham and Sarah are hosting them with you.
In fact, all those who had truth in their lives are here with us today. It is only that we are so much a part of this river of time, we cannot lift our heads to see above it.
Only when the falseness of the world will be ripped away and all is elevated to a place of truth, then we shall all see each other, together once again.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / CFLs
on: March 18, 2009, 07:58:44 AM
Lights Out for Thomas Edison
December 10, 2008
Read Article as PDF | Get Adobe Reader
by H. Sterling Burnett and Amanda Berg
The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 will soon ban the most
common light bulbs in the United States. New efficiency standards will
require manufacturers to produce incandescent bulbs that use less energy per
unit of light produced, starting with 100-watt incandescent bulbs in 2012,
down to 40-watt bulbs in 2014.
Under the new standards:
100-watt light bulbs are banned entirely.
70-watt light bulbs will have to be 36 percent to 136 percent more
50-watt bulbs must be 50 percent to 112 percent more efficient.
40-watt bulbs will have to improve 50 percent to 110 percent.
Incandescent bulbs cannot meet these new standards absent a significant
technological breakthrough. Thus, the common light bulb will soon be
Illuminating Efficiency. The alternative for most household uses will be
compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) designed to fit standard incandescent bulb
bases. CFLs currently make up only 5 percent of the light bulb market.
They have been touted for years as the smart choice for consumers interested
in reducing their energy bills, due to their extended lifespan and low
energy use vis-à-vis the equivalent light output from an incandescent. For
example, a 60-watt incandescent bulb produces 850 lumens - the same light
output as a 13-watt to 18-watt CFL. Unfortunately, except under a fairly
narrow range of circumstances, CFLs are less efficient than advertised.
Manufacturers claim the average life span of a CFL bulb is 10,000 hours.
However, in many applications the life and energy savings of a CFL are
CFLs must be left on for at least 15 minutes or used for several hours per
day to achieve their full energy saving benefits, according to the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Applications in which lighting is used only briefly (such as closets,
bathrooms, motion detectors and so forth) will cause CFL bulbs to burn out
as quickly as regular incandescent bulbs.
CFLs often become dimmer over time - a study of U.S. Department of Energy
"Energy Star" products found that after 40 percent of their rated service
life, one-fourth of tested CFLs no longer produced the full amount of light.
At about $3 per bulb, CFLs are expensive, whereas incandescent bulbs cost
only 20 cents per bulb, on average. And there are other drawbacks. For
When initially switched on, CFLs may provide as little as 50 percent to 80
percent of their rated light output and can take up to three minutes to
reach full brightness.
CFLs often don't fit existing light fixtures, such as small-base lamps and
candlelabras, so these will have to be replaced.
Standard CFLs will not operate at low temperatures, making them unsuitable
for outdoor lighting.
CFLs can emit an annoying buzz.
CFLs emit infrared light that can interfere with remote-controlled devices,
such as televisions, video games and stereo equipment.
CFLs are simply unsuited for many common uses. The new law therefore
excludes whole classes of light bulbs from the standards, including
appliance light bulbs (ovens and refrigerators), flashing and colored
lights, traffic signals, shatter-resistant bulbs, three-way adjustable bulbs
and so forth.
Hidden Dangers of CFLs. CFLs contain potentially toxic mercury. Thus,
there are health and environmental concerns regarding their proper disposal.
Shattered CFLs in municipal landfills have the potential to leach mercury
into the soil. Over time this mercury could seep into the groundwater or
nearby streams. For this reason, a number of states and localities have
outlawed disposing CFLs with normal trash - instead, consumers must take
their used CFLs to authorized hazardous waste disposal sites.
The EPA recommends recycling CFLs. However, curbside recycling is not
available everywhere and often doesn't include CFLs. Recycling facilities
that accept CFLs are not common within major metropolitan areas, much less
in rural areas where on-site incineration or trenches are often used - both
of which release mercury into the atmosphere.
Perhaps even more important is the danger of broken CFLs in the home. The
EPA has provided detailed guidelines to avoid unsafe indoor mercury levels
[see the sidebar].
Cleaning up mercury from a shattered CFL can be costly. For example, when a
CFL broke in her daughter's bedroom, Brandy Bridges of Prospect, Maine,
called on the state's Department of Environmental Protection to make sure
she cleaned up the broken glass and mercury powder safely. A specialist
found unsafe levels of mercury in the air and recommended an environmental
cleanup firm, who estimated the clean up cost of at $2,000. Beause her
mother was unable to pay the exorbitant cleaning bill, the girl's room
remained sealed off in plastic for more than a month.
Conclusion. Consumers consider many factors in addition to energy
efficiency when they purchase light bulbs. The ban on incandescent bulbs
will be costly and potentially dangerous. The public has not yet embraced
CFLs, and the government should not impose on consumers its preferences
regarding the types of lights used in the home. As the deficiencies of CFLs
become more apparent with widespread use, perhaps Congress will let
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Unorganized Militia
on: March 18, 2009, 06:58:44 AM
U.S. and Texas Law on Independent Militias
Our duty as citizens
Most American citizens are aware that the U.S. Constitution guarantees
certain rights and limits the powers of government. However, it also imposes
certain duties, not only on organs of government, but on each citizen. One
of these duties is to function as members of the Militia, and the state has
the duty to organize and train citizens to so serve.
The U.S. Constitution provides for this in Article I, Section 8:
Congress shall have power ...
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union,
suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for
governing such Part of them as may be employed in the service of the United
States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the
Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the
discipline prescribed by Congress;
The Framers contemplated that the citizens who compose the Militia would
provide their own weapons, which is reflected in the Second Amendment:
A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,
the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
It is important to understand that the prevailing practice at the time the
Constitution was adopted was for people in each locality to organize as
independent local militias and to train themselves. The only change the
Framers sought to make was to make this organization and training more
systematic, along the model of Switzerland. They never imagined that future
governments might try to restrict the local organization and training of
independent militias by contending that people had the right to assemble and
the right to keep and bear arms, but not to combine the two rights. To them
that would have seemed absurd.
U.S. legislation on the Militia
In 1792 President Washington tried to get Congress to fully implement the
constitutional requirement for organizing and training the Militia, but
Congress, wanting to avoid the expense imposed on the states, only agreed to
pass a law that required every able-bodied [free] male to keep a "musket or
firelock". This was the Militia Act of 1792. By failing to require
organization and training, it laid the basis for the decline of the Militia
In 1903, the Militia Act of 1792 was superseded by the Dick Act, which
established the National Guard system, and made a distinction between the
"organized" and "unorganized" Militia, reflecting the attitude that the
Powers that Be didn't want most of the people to get organized as
independent militias, despite the support for universal military training
from most U.S. Presidents up to the administration of Harry Truman.
The Dick Act is encoded in 10 USC:
United Stated Code (USC)
TITLE 10--ARMED FORCES
Section 311. Militia: composition and classes (a) The militia of the United
States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and,
except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who
are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the
United States and of female citizens of the United States who are
commissioned officers of the National Guard. (b) The classes of the militia
are-- (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and
the Naval Militia; and (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the
members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the
Naval Militia.Section 312. Militia duty: exemptions (a) The following
persons are exempt from militia duty: (1) The Vice President. (2) The
judicial and executive officers of the United States, the several States and
Territories, Puerto Rico, and the Canal Zone. (3) Members of the armed
forces, except members who are not on active duty. (4) Customhouse clerks.
(5) Persons employed by the United States in the transmission of mail. (6)
Workers employed in armories, arsenals, and naval shipyards of the United
States. (7) Pilots on navigable waters. (
Mariners in the sea service of a
citizen of, or a merchant in, the United States.(b) A person who claims
exemption because of religious belief is exempt from militia duty in a
combatant capacity, if the conscientious holding of that belief is
established under such regulations as the President may prescribe. However,
such a person is not exempt from militia duty that the President determines
to be noncombatant.TITLE 32--NATIONAL GUARD
Section 313. Appointments and enlistments: age limitations (a) To be
eligible for original enlistment in the National Guard, a person must be at
least 17 years of age and under 45, or under 64 years of age and a former
member of the Regular Army, Regular Navy, Regular Air Force, or Regular
Marine Corps. To be eligible for reenlistment, a person must be under 64
years of age. (b) To be eligible for appointment as an officer of the
National Guard, a person must-- (1) be a citizen of the United States; and
(2) be at least 18 years of age and under 64.It should be understood that
these definitions apply only to the Militia that is subject to call-up by
the federal government, and states may require other people to perform
militia duty, with different age ranges and exemptions.
Texas law on the Militia
The Texas Constitution once had a strong provision regarding militias:
Article 16. Section 46.
The Legislature shall provide by law for organizing and disciplining
the militia of the State, in such manner as they shall deem expedient, not
incompatible with the Constitution and Laws of the United States.
This section was deleted. The effect of this is that such authority
reverts back to local communities.
Present statutes are encoded in Texas Government Code Chapter 431:
Subchapter A. General Provisions
In this chapter:
(1) "Reserve militia" means the persons liable to serve, but not
serving, in the state military forces.
(2) "State militia" means the state military forces and the reserve
(3) "State military forces" means the Texas National Guard, the
Texas State Guard, and any other active militia or military force organized
under state law.
(4) "Texas National Guard" means the Texas Army National Guard and
the Texas Air National Guard.
431.010. Organization Prohibited
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a body of persons other
than the regularly organized state military forces or the troops of the
United States may not associate as a military company or organization or
parade in public with firearms in a municipality of the state.
(b) With the consent of the governor, students in an educational
institution at which military science is a prescribed part of the course of
instruction and soldiers honorably discharged from the service of the United
States may drill and parade with firearms in public.
(c) This section does not prevent a parade by the active militia of
another state as provided by law.
Subchapter D. Texas State Guard
431.051. Supplemental Militia
To provide militia strength for use by the state as a supplement to
the Texas National Guard, the Texas State Guard exists as part of the state
militia under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution and a
defense force under 32 U.S.C. Section 109.
Subchapter F. Service and Duties
431.081. Persons Subject to Military Duty; Persons Not Eligible to
(a) A person is subject to military duty if the person is: (1)
able-bodied; (2) a citizen or a person of foreign birth who has declared an
intent to become a citizen; (3) a resident of the state; (4) at least 18 and
not more than 60 years of age; and (5) not exempt under Subsection (b) or
(c) or United States law.(b) A person is exempt from military duty, except
in case of war, insurrection, invasion, or imminent danger of war,
insurrection, or invasion if the person is: (1) the lieutenant governor; (2)
a member or officer of the legislature; (3) a judge or clerk of a court of
record; (4) a head of a state agency; (5) a sheriff, district attorney,
county attorney, county tax assessor-collector, or county commissioner; (6)
a mayor, council member, alderman, or assessor and collector of a
municipality; (7) an officer or employee of the Texas Department of
Corrections, a state hospital or special school, a public or private
hospital, or a nursing home; (
a member of a regularly organized and paid
fire or police department in a municipality, except that a person is not
relieved of military duty by joining such a department; (9) a minister of
the gospel exclusively engaged in that calling; or (10) a person who
conscientiously scruples against bearing arms.(c) A mentally disabled
person, vagabond, confirmed alcoholic, narcotics addict, or a person
convicted of an infamous crime is exempt from military duty regardless of
Now, what about that Section 431.010 prohibiting military companies or
organizations or parades within municipalities? It clearly expresses
hostility to independent local militias within municipalities, but it has no
penalties, and does not apply to rural areas. It's main intent seems to be
to discourage local officials from calling up the militia.
The only statutes which local officials might invoke against a militia
muster within a municipality would be those against exhibiting a firearm in
a way that "alarms" the public. However, centuries of common law makes it
clear that merely carrying firearms is not to be considered "alarming". The
arms must actually be brandished toward someone in a threatening manner.
This would not prevent arrests on this ground, of course, but successful
prosecution is unlikely if the courts follow the law and the Constitution.
Some of these points are more fully discussed in 29 Tex. Jur.,
Sections 4 and 5, and in 12 Tex. Jur. 3d., Sections 12-28.
The only significant case law involving this statute is a federal
case, Vietnamese Fishermen's Ass'n v. Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (D.C.
1982) 543 F.Supp. 198, in which the plaintiff invoked the state statute in a
federal suit for injunction against the defendant. The injunction was
granted, and the judge took advantage of the case to write an opinion on the
interpretation of the state statute. However, that opinion has no stare
decisis effect, because this was not an appeal, nor was the judgement
appealed. The injunction was properly granted under common law against
intimidation, but a federal judge had no real business interpreting state
law. However, it is indicative of how that judge might decide the
constitutional issues in other cases. The case does, however, underscore the
importance of distinguishing between private associations and public
militias, and of making sure that any constitutional militias that may be
organized take care not to take on the attributes of a private group. Too
many people, including authorities, have examples in mind like the KKK, and
we must always make sure to distance ourselves from such partisan
organizations, and, indeed, indicate that the suppression of such groups is
one of the things that a real militia might be called up to do.
There is another statute that arguably involves the Militia, the Texas
Disaster Act of 1975, which has among its purposes, "providing an emergency
management system embodying all aspects of predisaster preparedness and
postdisaster response. See 12 Tex. Jur. 3d. Sections 51-53. If fully
implemented, the organization of local militia units seems to be required
under this Act.
Present U.S. and Texas law clearly fail to implement the requirements
for organizing and training the Militia established by the Framers. However,
we must also recognize that this failure goes all the way back to 1792, and
that such organizing and training are, therefore, left to the people
themselves, in the form of independent local militias, which they have a
constitutional duty to maintain in a high state of preparedness, even if
they get little support from the authorities, and indeed, especially if they
get opposition from the authorities.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: US weighs strikes into Baluchistan
on: March 18, 2009, 06:52:37 AM
U.S. Weighs Taliban Strike Into Pakistan
LinkedinDiggFacebookMixxMy SpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalinkBy DAVID E. SANGER and ERIC SCHMITT
Published: March 17, 2009
WASHINGTON — President Obama and his national security advisers are considering expanding the American covert war in Pakistan far beyond the unruly tribal areas to strike at a different center of Taliban power in Baluchistan, where top Taliban leaders are orchestrating attacks into southern Afghanistan.
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The New York Times
The Taliban have found a haven in and around Quetta.
According to senior administration officials, two of the high-level reports on Pakistan and Afghanistan that have been forwarded to the White House in recent weeks have called for broadening the target area to include a major insurgent sanctuary in and around the city of Quetta.
Mullah Muhammad Omar, who led the Taliban government that was ousted in the American-led invasion in 2001, has operated with near impunity out of the region for years, along with many of his deputies.
The extensive missile strikes being carried out by Central Intelligence Agency-operated drones have until now been limited to the tribal areas, and have never been extended into Baluchistan, a sprawling province that is under the authority of the central government, and which abuts the parts of southern Afghanistan where recent fighting has been the fiercest. Fear remains within the American government that extending the raids would worsen tensions. Pakistan complains that the strikes violate its sovereignty.
But some American officials say the missile strikes in the tribal areas have forced some leaders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda to flee south toward Quetta, making them more vulnerable. In separate reports, groups led by both Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of American forces in the region, and Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, a top White House official on Afghanistan, have recommended expanding American operations outside the tribal areas if Pakistan cannot root out the strengthening insurgency.
Many of Mr. Obama’s advisers are also urging him to sustain orders issued last summer by President George W. Bush to continue Predator drone attacks against a wider range of targets in the tribal areas. They also are recommending preserving the option to conduct cross-border ground actions, using C.I.A. and Special Operations commandos, as was done in September. Mr. Bush’s orders also named as targets a wide variety of insurgents seeking to topple Pakistan’s government. Mr. Obama has said little in public about how broadly he wants to pursue those groups.
A spokesman for the National Security Council, Mike Hammer, declined to provide details, saying, “We’re still working hard to finalize the review on Afghanistan and Pakistan that the president requested.”
No other officials would talk on the record about the issue, citing the administration’s continuing internal deliberations and the politically volatile nature of strikes into Pakistani territory.
“It is fair to say that there is wide agreement to sustain and continue these covert programs,” said one senior administration official. “One of the foundations on which the recommendations to the president will be based is that we’ve got to sustain the disruption of the safe havens.”
Mr. Obama’s top national security advisers, known as the Principals Committee, met Tuesday to begin debating all aspects of Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy. Senior administration officials say Mr. Obama has made no decisions, but is expected to do so in coming days after hearing the advice of that group.
Any expansion of the war is bound to upset those in Mr. Obama’s party who worry that he is sinking further into a lengthy conflict in Afghanistan, even while reducing forces in Iraq. It is possible that the decisions about covert actions will never be publicly announced.
Several administration and military officials stressed that they continued to prod the Pakistani military to take the lead in a more aggressive campaign to root out Taliban and Qaeda fighters who are attacking American forces in Afghanistan and increasingly destabilizing nuclear-armed Pakistan.
But with Pakistan consumed by political turmoil, fear of financial collapse and a spreading insurgency, American officials say they have few illusions that the United States will be able to rely on Pakistan’s own forces. However, each strike by Predators or ground forces reverberates in Pakistan, and Mr. Obama will be weighing that cost.
Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on “The Charlie Rose Show” on PBS last week that the White House strategy review addresses the “safe haven in Pakistan — making sure that Afghanistan doesn’t provide a capability in the long run or an environment in which Al Qaeda could return or the Taliban could return.” But another senior official cautioned that “with the targets now spreading, an expanding U.S. role inside Pakistan may be more than anyone there can stomach.”
As part of the same set of decisions, according to senior civilian and military officials familiar with the internal White House debate, Mr. Obama will have to choose from among a range of options for future American commitments to Afghanistan.
His core decision may be whether to scale back American ambitions there to simply assure it does not become a sanctuary for terrorists. “We are taking this back to a fundamental question,” a senior diplomat involved in the discussions said. “Can you ever get a central government in Afghanistan to a point where it can exercise control over the country? That was the problem Bush never really confronted.”
A second option, officials say, is to significantly boost the American commitment to train Afghan troops, with Americans taking on the Taliban with increasing help from the Afghan military. President Bush pursued versions of that strategy, but the training always took longer and proved less successful than plans called for.
A third option would involve devoting full American and NATO resources to a large-scale counterinsurgency effort. But Mr. Obama would be bound to face considerable opposition within NATO, whose leaders he will meet with early next month in Strasbourg, France. At the very time the United States is seeking to expand its presence in Afghanistan, many of the allies are scheduled to leave.
As for American strikes on militant havens inside Pakistan, administration officials say the Predator and Reaper attacks in the tribal areas have been effective at killing 9 of Al Qaeda’s top 20 leaders, and the aerial campaign was recently expanded to focus on the Pakistani Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, as well as his fighters and training camps. American intelligence officials say that many top Taliban commanders remain in hiding in and around Quetta, but some Afghan officials say that other senior Taliban leaders have fled to the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
Missile strikes or American commando raids in the city of Quetta or the teeming Afghan settlements and refugee camps around the city and near the Afghan border would carry high risks of civilian casualties, American officials acknowledge.
Thom Shanker contributed reporting from Washington, and Carlotta Gall from Islamabad, Pakistan.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / J. Adams; Jefferson
on: March 18, 2009, 06:34:40 AM
"Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction that, after the most industrious and impartial researchers, the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions or systems of education more fit in general to be transmitted to your posterity than those you have received from your ancestors."
--John Adams, letter to the young men of the Philadelphia, 7 May 1798
"To take from one, because it is thought his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers, have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, the guarantee to everyone the free exercise of his industry and the fruits acquired by it." --Thomas Jefferson
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Ron Silver
on: March 18, 2009, 12:26:47 AM
Ron Silver died on Sunday of cancer, at age 62, having starred in movies, theater and politics. As an actor, he won a Tony Award in 1988 for his performance in David Mamet's "Speed-the-Plow," and more recently he was better known for his role as a hard-bitten political consultant on "The West Wing" on television.
But Silver's most notable legacy was his real-life political activism. A self-described life-long liberal, Silver rallied to the defense of his country and his hometown, New York City, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Three years later, he spoke at the Republican National Convention in New York, reminding his audience that "This is a war we did not seek. This is a war waged against us. This is a war to which we had to respond." He had held similarly hawkish views during the Cold War, and he rebutted those who see America as little different than its enemies: "History shows that we are not imperialists."
By his own account, he suffered professionally for those convictions, but he sought no sympathy for whatever price he may have paid in Hollywood for his stand on the war on terror or his vocal criticism of the United Nations, about which he made a documentary in 2005. In "Broken Promises," Silver held the U.N. to account for its failure to live up to its stated ideals, even as his acting colleagues derided President Bush for using military force against tyrants. His brother, Mitchell Silver, told the New York Times that Silver's politics "were not shared by anyone he knew." His politics, in other words, were born of conviction, not convenience, which is one way to describe an honest patriot.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WaPo: New tests in south
on: March 17, 2009, 04:43:27 PM
March 15, 2009
Troops Face New Tests In Afghanistan
Battalion's Experience Outlines Issues in South
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post Staff Writer
MAYWAND, Afghanistan -- Lt. Col. Daniel Hurlbut rolled into this dusty Taliban stronghold in September with a battalion of U.S. Army infantrymen and a detailed, year-long plan to combat the Taliban.
The first quarter was to be devoted to reconnaissance. The next three months would involve military operations to root out insurgents. By now, his unit should have been focusing on reconstruction and building up the local government.
But the battalion's efforts to pry information about the Taliban from the local population -- by conducting foot patrols, doling out money for mosques to buy new prayer rugs and offering agricultural assistance to subsistence farmers -- have been met with indifference, if not downright hostility.
"Nobody wants to tell us anything," Hurlbut said, sighing.
His initial plan, he has since concluded, was wildly optimistic.
"We're still in the first quarter," he said. "Our expectation for results is now a lot longer than we thought it would be."
U.S. commanders regard Hurlbut's battalion as a harbinger of the 17,000 additional Army and Marine troops that President Obama has ordered to southern Afghanistan this spring to augment NATO forces, which have been stretched thin by the Taliban's growing strength. As those troops flow into a series of new garrisons, they will confront a set of challenges that is very different from what the U.S. military has faced in Afghanistan thus far.
The southern part of the country is now regarded by U.S. and NATO commanders as the central front in the Afghan war. It encompasses the nation's second-largest city, Kandahar, and six provinces where the Taliban has built a significant degree of popular support, in part through intimidation but also by delivering Afghans a degree of security against criminals that the local police and international forces have been unable to provide.
While the Obama administration forges a new strategy in Washington to salvage an Afghan nation-building operation that is entering its eighth year, the perilous state of affairs in the south has already prompted commanders here to develop a new approach to fighting the insurgency. It may provide a preview of ways in which the overall international military effort in Afghanistan could be transformed over the coming months.
"If we're going to win, we have to fight this war differently," said U.S. Brig. Gen. John Nicholson, a deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. "For too long, we've had an economy of force. We've had a stovepiped approach to combat and to development, too. All that has to change."
The new strategy here involves a major -- but controversial -- push to better coordinate the efforts of NATO troops deployed in the south, a new focus for counternarcotics operations and the allocation of more troops to train Afghan security forces. It also seeks to apply a fundamental tenet of the U.S. Army's new counterinsurgency doctrine: Deploy the troops to create zones of security around population centers instead of mounting in-and-out raids against the insurgents.
Unlike in eastern Afghanistan, where the U.S. military had been concentrating its troops since 2002, American units in the south will be forced to work far more closely with other NATO forces. The new U.S. troops will find themselves in a swath of the country that is the epicenter of opium poppy cultivation and where far fewer resources have been devoted to reconstruction and development. And they will be forced to deal with a deep-rooted, indigenous insurgency -- the Taliban got its start in the south -- that has mounted increasingly potent attacks on civilians and security forces.
What the new strategy does not seek to do, however, is to borrow a page from the U.S. playbook in Iraq by creating tribal militias to fend off the Taliban. Commanders here said that approach could create even more warlords and new intratribal feuds. And the commanders see little benefit from negotiations with the Taliban right now, despite Obama's support for such an overture.
Military officials regard the Taliban, composed largely of ethnic Pashtuns, as both too strong and too fragmented in the south to pursue an effective deal, although they remain open to the possibility in the east, where some tribal leaders who have supported the insurgency could be persuaded to switch sides.
Senior officials at the NATO regional headquarters in Kandahar see the insurgency in the south as made up of a core of die-hard Taliban operatives and a much larger group of young freelance fighters who are motivated more by money than religious zealotry. NATO troops, as well as U.S. Special Forces teams in the region, have been seeking to target the operatives, hoping to stem the flow of funds and munitions to the low-level fighters. The officials also believe that new economic development projects funded by international donors could help to lure some of the fighters to lay down their weapons.
But U.S. and NATO officials in the region are not certain how the Taliban will respond to the new American forces moving into the south. Some may hide or simply move to parts of the country with fewer international forces. Or they may choose to fight with roadside bombs and the occasional ambush. The result could be a significant increase in Taliban attacks -- and U.S. casualties -- this summer.
"With the new troops arriving, it will bring more people into contact with more Americans," said Philip Hatton, an adviser to Nicholson on stabilization issues. "What will the result of that be? We don't know."
Ending the Fractured Approach
When NATO forces were deployed to the south in 2006, the Canadians were assigned the province of Kandahar, the British got Helmand, and the Dutch were sent to Uruzgan. The three nations developed their own battle plans and agendas for development. They established provincial reconstruction teams that report to their capitals, not the NATO regional command at the Kandahar airport.
People at the regional command now joke that the three provinces should be renamed Canadahar, Helmandshire and Uruzdam.
"It's a totally dysfunctional way of fighting a war," said a U.S. officer in the south. "You've got each of these guys doing their own thing in their provinces with very little coordination."
The fractured approach is a result of demands imposed by NATO members as a condition of sending troops to Afghanistan. Each nation wanted its own chunk of the action so it could show off what it had accomplished. That model has been less problematic in the far north and west, where there has been less violence, and in the east, where the U.S. military has established its own command.
"The big question for NATO now isn't whether members are going to send more troops or what caveats will be placed on those troops, but whether the nations who have decided to stand up and fight will actually fight together," a senior U.S. military official said.
The task of trying to get everyone to collaborate has fallen to Nicholson, who is pushing the British, Canadians and Dutch to embrace a more integrated approach to war-fighting and development. "We need a coherent regional plan for victory," he said, "not a bunch of national plans for victory."
Instead of demanding that Britain, Canada and the Netherlands scuttle their individual plans, he is trying to compensate for the differences among the individual approaches by forming a regionwide development agenda. It calls for spending $700 million on road, electricity and water projects, several of which cross province borders. He plans to take the wish list to international donors in the next few months.
Although some British and Canadian officials grouse in private about what they view as Nicholson's efforts to wrest control over reconstruction planning, they also recognize that with the addition of 17,000 troops, the United States will have the largest military presence in the south and a corresponding ability to influence policy.
'Progress Here Has Been Slow'
When Hurlbut's battalion arrived in Maywand last fall, its first order of business was to encircle a swath of dusty plain with razor wire and erect an outpost. It began as a makeshift effort, with tents and wooden latrines and meals in a bag, but Forward Operating Base Ramrod has since assumed the trappings of modern military life: a gymnasium, an Internet room and a chow hall run by the defense contractor KBR.
Although this district 45 miles west of Kandahar had long been regarded by the NATO-led military command in Afghanistan as a key infiltration route for insurgents, there were too few international forces to maintain a permanent presence here. The Canadian army, which has been responsible for the area since early 2006, came every few months to clear out Taliban fighters, but the insurgents would invariably crop back up as soon as the troops left.
Hurlbut's soldiers are trying a different tack and employing a counterinsurgency technique that has been used in the Iraq war. They are staying in Maywand. Some bed down near the municipal building and the police headquarters. Another contingent patrols the highway. Still others walk through villages every day, trying to convince impoverished farmers that they should cast their lot not with the Taliban but with NATO forces and Afghanistan's fledgling national government.
The soldiers had hoped their presence in the district would be welcomed by residents, who keep telling the troops that what they want more than anything is security -- and they will side with whomever can provide it. But it hasn't worked yet.
"The local people are completely sitting on the fence, and they're content to stay on the fence," said Hurlbut, who commands the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Infantry Regiment. "They don't really want to give us information."
After almost three years of seeing Canadian troops roll in and roll out, one officer said, "they don't yet believe us when we say we're here to stay."
Even the local officials are wary. The district governor, Hurlbut said, started becoming friendly with him only last month.
The Taliban, however, has taken the 2-2 Infantry's presence in the district seriously. Insurgents mined the roads with scores of improvised explosives devices, more than 150 of which have hit the battalion's patrols and convoys.
In some parts of Afghanistan, police regularly patrol roads and interdict people planting bombs. But in Maywand, the police spend more time in the district capital. Although they have been through a new U.S.-led training program and have been assigned a team of civilian and military mentors, the police officers generally cannot be bothered to walk the beat. And they have little interest in solving crimes. When a man came to police headquarters recently to complain that his motorcycle had been stolen, the police refused to act without a bribe.
"Fine," he said, according to soldiers who witnessed the encounter. "I'm going to the Taliban. At least they'll take me seriously."
Even efforts to hand out money here have not been without peril. Last month, Hurlbut said he sought to win over a local mullah by outfitting his mosque with new prayer rugs and a loudspeaker system. But after three weeks, the Taliban stole all of it.
"The progress here has been slow," Hurlbut said. "We shouldn't kid ourselves into thinking that everything will change when we get 17,000 additional troops in the south. They're going to be moving into places like this, where there haven't been any foreign forces for a long time. And they're going to discover that it's going to take a while to accomplish our goals."