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29801  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / IP, Patents, etc on: January 17, 2009, 10:20:54 AM
A lot of compliments for the book from the author of this piece, but I would like to see more discussison of the actual issues.  If the author of this piece blogs the book chapter by chapter and actually enters into discussion on the merits, that I would be curious to see.
29802  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: VIDEO CLIPS OF INTEREST on: January 17, 2009, 10:12:33 AM
Subing Subing is AWESOME!!!
29803  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Should officers see vids of their encounters? on: January 17, 2009, 10:01:36 AM
I. Should officers see video of their encounters? Force Science states its case

Some months ago, officers responded to a single-car accident on a freeway in a major midwestern city. As they tried to tend to and question the driver, he became unruly and earned himself a Tasering. Later, he died. As customary in that jurisdiction, a state investigative agency took over the death investigation.

And that surfaced a nettlesome conflict.

As part of the report-writing process, the officers' department traditionally permits its personnel to view video from arrest scenes, and it saw no reason that the officers involved shouldn't see recordings of the Tasering before they were interviewed, to stimulate their memories of what occurred. The investigating agency, however, felt strongly that the videos from dash-cams and the Taser should not be seen prior to the officers giving their official statements, lest the viewing color their recollections.

Reports of the controversy motivated a consortium of agencies in Minnesota to probe more deeply into the question that departments large and small throughout the country potentially face: In a major use-of-force situation, which position best contributes to a fair, impartial, and comprehensive investigation?

To see what science might say, the group turned to Dr. Bill Lewinski, director of the Force Science Institute, parent entity of the Force Science Research Center at Minnesota State University-Mankato.

In a first-of-its-kind presentation earlier this month [1/09] in St. Paul, Lewinski spent more than 2 hours exploring the pros and cons of the subject, culminating in recommendations that agencies confronting the dilemma may find useful. In the audience were representatives of 9 of Minnesota's largest law enforcement organizations.


In St. Paul, Lewinski first reviewed some realities of human memory, as determined by scientific research, including experiments conducted with LEOs by FSRC.

"After a high-stress experience, such as a major force confrontation, an officer's memory of what happened is likely to be fragmentary at best," he explained. "An incident is never completely recorded in memory."

At various times during an incident, the focus of an officer's attention may shift between internal thoughts and concerns to external stimuli, and where his focus is at any given moment will unavoidably influence what he remembers.

"A person's attention is an extremely significant factor in determining what that person perceives and then remembers," Lewinski said. "It would be extremely rare, if not impossible, for an officer involved in a fluid, complex, dynamic, and life-threatening encounter to remember peripheral details beyond that on which he or she was focused.

"The average person will actually miss a large amount of what happened in a stressful event and, of course, will be completely unaware of what they did not pay attention to and commit to memory."

Compounding the problem, a participant or witness "may unintentionally add information in their report that was not actually part of the original incident," Lewinski explained--not in a plot to deceive, necessarily, but in a humanly instinctive effort to fill in frustrating memory gaps.

"Memory is not neatly stored in a single compact file in our brain but is stored in chunks in a variety of neural networks," Lewinski said. "Given this, a variety of stimuli may be necessary to mine the fragments thoroughly."

Cognitive interviewing, which encourages an officer to relive an event with all his senses, can be a highly effective tool. So can a walk-through at the scene and/or review of a video of the action, because these "place the officer back within the context of the incident and thus stimulate his 'recognition recall.'

"An officer's version of an incident will vary, depending on whether his statement is taken before, after, or without a walk-through or a viewing of a videotape of the incident."

Even with the help of stimulation strategies, Lewinski cautioned, there will still be inevitable memory errors, particularly when an officer attempts to recall "information that was on the periphery of his attention during the incident, even if that information later turns out to be very important."


Seeing on-scene video, while usually helpful in stimulating an officer's memory, is no panacea, Lewinski stressed.

"A video recording is often considered a thorough and accurate record of the incident because it is rich with information, objective, and unbiased. However, video recordings, regardless of how good the lighting and quality of filming, are never a completely accurate reproduction of any incident."

Among the limitations Lewinski cited:

• "Video cameras generally record only a portion of an incident and are bereft of the context of the event";
• "Video is a 2-dimensional representation of an incident from a particular perspective and tends to distort distance and other associated with depth of field";

• "Generally video does not faithfully record light levels and does not represent what a human being in the incident would perceive";

• "A video does not present the incident as viewed through the officer's eyes";

• "Video cameras recording at less than 10 frames per second can leave out significant aspects of an incident that occur at speeds faster than that."

Despite these limitations, in Lewinski's view, an officer seeing any available video recordings is vital in many cases, if a comprehensive mining of the officer's memory is the goal.


A debatable factor is timing.

A "raw" statement taken from an officer without his viewing any video of the incident or experiencing other memory enhancers (like a walk-through) "may be a good record of his 'state of mind' before, during, and after the confrontation," Lewinski said, "but it may not be a thorough, factual representation of what happened."

Indeed, it could be "viewed more as a memory test with potential disciplinary and criminal consequences than a pursuit of the facts of the incident," he said. "Internal Affairs investigators, criminal prosecutors, and plaintiffs' attorneys exploit discrepancies in reports between participants and witnesses, and they can do the same when there is a discrepancy between the officer's report and a videotape.

"The most enriched, complete, and factually accurate version of a high-stress encounter is most likely to occur after a walk-through and/or after the officer has had at least one opportunity to view an available video of the incident."

Ideally, Lewinski believes, a video review should be permitted before an involved officer gives his official statement.

Currently, however, some departments and prosecutors are insistent on obtaining a "pure" statement to document an officer's state of mind regarding the encounter as it evolved, before other stimuli, particularly a video review, are introduced.

Consequently, Lewinski proposed a compromise "middle-of-the-road" position, which at least assures that a video review becomes part of any force investigation early in the game.


If an agency is adamant about not showing an officer video prior to a statement being taken, Lewinski suggested that a video review be allowed soon after the interview and that the officer then be re-interviewed or given a chance to write an additional report at that time.

"This offers the officer a chance to comment on what he now understands about the incident compared to what he may have said in his original statement," Lewinski told Force Science News. "This is not perfect, but it does offer a chance for additional mining of the officer's memory and it is far better than having the officer 'ambushed' with the video much later, not having seen it at all.

"Where discrepancies exist, investigators need to be knowledgeable and sensitive enough, in the absence of other incriminating evidence, to explain to the officer, the administration, and the public how an officer's perception of an incident can be vastly different from what's seen on a video recording and still be legitimate."

Whether the video is shown before or after the statement, it is important to "caution the officer on the limited accuracy of video recordings," Lewinski told the group. "An officer who is unaware of the limitations and uncertain about the accuracy of his own memory may be influenced to change an otherwise accurate report."

Lewinski also warned that "officers who have been through an extremely emotionally distressing incident may find a walk-through, a viewing of the video, and the giving of a statement to be too difficult to handle unless they have had some time to decompress." (In previous transmissions, experts quoted in Force Science News have recommended that officers be allowed to rest for up to 48 hours after a critical incident before submitting to extensive interviewing.)

Lewinski told FSN that the representatives at the St. Paul meeting do not intend to formulate a joint policy on the video issue. Rather, they planned to individually evaluate their department's position in light of his information and to help in spreading the word to other agencies.

As a part of his presentation, Lewinski included film clips and other materials from the Institute's popular certification course on Force Science Analysis. During this unique 5-day training program, investigators learn how to assess controversial force encounters with scientific principles of biology, physiology, and psychology in mind, to gain a more accurate picture of the dynamics involved.
29804  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Demography on: January 17, 2009, 09:55:08 AM
From an email letter/site which I recently have started receiving:

January 17, 2009

Hi there,

One overlooked feature the current conflict in Gaza is demography. Of the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip, about half are under 15. In most Western countries, the birth rate is between 1.3 and 1.9, while there it is about 5.2. Israel is losing the battle of the birth rates, for its overall birth rate is about 2.9, although this includes a 4.0 birth rate for its Muslim citizens. The Israeli group with the highest birth rates, however, is the ultra-Orthodox Ashkenazi, with about 9.0.

What does this mean for the future? It's hard to tell. History is not made by numbers alone. However, it suggests that militants in Gaza will have an unending supply of recruits and that more and more Israelis will be Muslim. There will also be more ultra-Orthodox in years to come. At the moment, most ultra-Orthodox men are excused from military service, but they tend to take a hard line in politics, so Israel may become even less inclined to favour compromise. Who knows?

But whatever the future holds, population will be an important element. And not only in the Middle East, but everywhere else as well. That's why MercatorNet will be launching a blog, "Demography is Destiny", later in the year. At the moment we are designing it and contacting writers (volunteers welcome). Stay tuned.

Michael Cook
29805  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Free Speech in China?!? on: January 17, 2009, 12:21:49 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Freedom of Speech and Beijing's 'Test'
January 16, 2009
An article promoting freedom of speech in China — published on Wednesday in the Beijing Daily News, a periodical affiliated with the Beijing committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) — was being circulated and discussed in China on Thursday. The piece, titled “Truth Cannot Be Pursued Without Freedom of Speech; ‘Authoritative Determination of Nature’ Should Be Avoided By All Means” and published in the paper’s “Theory Weekly” column, criticizes authorities who try to act as a “judge of truth” and stifle dissenting opinions. Written by Shen Minte, a professor at the Communication University of China, the article delivers a subtle warning to officials not to quiet alternative voices hastily; it also suggests, however, that tolerance for alternative voices does not justify alternative actions — only ideas.

The article notes that freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Chinese constitution, and cautions that one cannot determine whether speech is absurd, progressive or reactionary if it is never allowed to be vocalized. Shen links his call for freedom of speech to Mao Zedong’s support for “a hundred schools of thought contending” — though in this, Chen appears to be subtly criticizing the ultimate outcome of the ensuing “hundred flowers blooming” movement, in which open debate was finally crushed once it became too critical of the CPC.

Shen says it is only in the open, and through the lens of history, that alternative ideas can be judged. He warns that the biggest threat comes when some “authority” declares itself the “judge of truth” and the masses follow blindly, endorsing or condemning the ideas based solely on the judgment of vocal authorities rather than judging the truth themselves. He raises as examples Ma Yinchu and Zhang Zhixin, two early Party members who raised ideas fundamentally contrary to conventional wisdom or the actions of the Party. Ma warned of the dangers of excessive population growth, and Zhang criticized the Cultural Revolution. Both were criticized, quieted and punished — in Zhang’s case, executed — but years later were proven correct in their assessments and were rehabilitated.

In essence, Shen, in a Party-sanctioned paper, is calling for freedom of speech and debate inside the Party, along with a greater responsibility for the citizens of China to test what their officials say, and for those officials to listen more to the people. Shen makes it clear that he is not advocating freedom of action, but only of speech and debate. But his article is a strong criticism of the way some Chinese officials have acted in the past.

It is also a critique of China’s culture of official corruption. The article was published the same day the CPC Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI) called for greater efforts to crack down on corruption in 2009 and reported that nearly 5,000 officials above the county-head level had been investigated and penalized in the year ending in November 2008. Then on Thursday, Prim Minister Wen Jiabao, speaking to a conference of central and state agencies of the CPC, warned that China and the Party face a “test” in 2009 amid the global economic crisis. He called on Party members and government officials to be models of proper behavior and not to abuse their power or positions for personal gain, and to work together for economic growth.

For China’s central leadership, Shen’s message is both welcome and dangerous. Encouraging greater citizen oversight and more input is seen as a necessary tool to help rein in corruption and rebuild trust in the Party and government. In addition, the central government has been seeking a wider variety of inputs in policy-making from academia, research institutes and government think-tanks. At the same time, one of the government’s biggest fears is losing control of its citizens: of social unrest and organized opposition rising up and bringing down the Party.

As with the Beijing Daily News’ October 2006 publication of Yu Keping’s influential and controversial article, “Democracy Is A Good Thing,” Shen’s article is designed to stimulate debate, but keep things within manageable parameters. Both Shen and Yu made it a point in their articles to avoid overstating the case. Neither promotes the end of the Party or even radical reform — just gradual change within limits — and both caution that their ideas should not be taken too far. Yu praises democracy but also explains its shortfalls, while Shen warns that freedom of speech goes both ways, arguing that both sides need space to express themselves and that neither side should take action based solely on its own ideas.

The publication of articles such as these sheds light on the way the CPC is trying to cope with its role in a changing China. The CPC, to some extent, has outlived itself. Economic reforms and the social and political changes that go along with them are outpacing the Party. The CPC is no longer at the forefront of the ideology as it once was; it is no longer able simply to promise people economic improvement, as it did through the 1980s and into the 1990s. Instead, the Party is struggling for relevance at the center of a changed China. It has recognized the need to change, but many Party functionaries have devolved from the leaders of the people into a group of individuals who are stuck in a bureaucracy or living in a system of collusion, self-aggrandizement and personal power relationships.

This has left the CPC weak and unable to function as a unit. It also has reduced the stature of the Party as a whole in the eyes of the populace. The people may not be actively trying to overthrow the government, but neither do they have respect for it. When they are not allowed to express their opinions, their frustrations and tensions may explode into protest and violence. Yet when they are allowed to express themselves, that too can become a threat to the Party itself.

This is Beijing’s dilemma. The Party cannot allow open opposition — but neither can it retain the loyalty of the people, and its own authority, if it does not allow the people to keep the officials honest.

Articles like Shen’s are exposing the failures and weaknesses of the Party, and are calling for gradual change (at least in mindset). However, they also are being used to try to revive the Party, and to try to help it adapt to a changed China. Beijing’s hope is to build some sense of public oversight to hold the Party officials accountable, but without actually allowing the people to challenge the authority of the CPC.

It is not an easy balance to strike, and in the end it may not work. But there are those in the CPC who know that if the Party does not change and adapt, it will die.

Tell Stratfor What You Think
29806  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / No class tomorrow on: January 16, 2009, 10:40:12 PM
No class tomorrow due to the Francis Fong seminar
29807  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 16, 2009, 09:04:01 PM
Actually this is a real opportunity for a teaching moment.

If our liberal and Democratic friends start from the proposition that BO is an honorable man, then what lesson are they to draw from the fact that BO has spoken respectfully about VP Cheney's advice in this regard?  What lesson are they to draw from this decision of his?

I might also note that it reflects favorably on His Glibness that he could man up and speak well of Cheney on precisely this point and take the action that he is.
29808  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: January 16, 2009, 03:39:39 PM

?O eso?

El Paso Times
Jan 15, 2009
Daniel Borunda

A group calling itself the Comando Ciudadano por Juárez, or the Juárez Citizens Command, is claiming it will kill a criminal every 24 hours to bring order to the violent crime-plagued city.  The announcement of the supposed group was the first known case of possible organized vigilantism in Juárez as police and the military have been apparently unable to stop a plague of killings and other crimes.

"Better the death of a bad person than that they continue to contaminating our region," the news release stated in Spanish.

The supposed group issued a news release via e-mail stating it is nonpartisan and funded by businessmen fed up with crime.  The group, also calling itself the CCJ, said it would issue a manifesto in the coming days and would set up a system where residents can electronically send information about criminals.

"Our mission is to terminate the life of a criminal every 24 hours ... The hour has come to stop this disorder in Juárez," the CCJ stated.

The announcement comes as Juárez struggles with a wave of homicides, extortions, carjackings, robberies and other crimes that began last year. Business people, teachers, medical professionals and others were targeted by extortionists in the last year as crime surged due in a part to a war between drug cartels. There were more than 1,600 homicides in Juárez last year. There have been more than 40 homicides already this year, including 10 on Wednesday.
29809  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Charles Bronson comes to Mexico on: January 16, 2009, 03:17:46 PM
El Paso Times
Jan 15, 2009
Daniel Borunda

A group calling itself the Comando Ciudadano por Juárez, or the Juárez Citizens Command, is claiming it will kill a criminal every 24 hours to bring order to the violent crime-plagued city.

The announcement of the supposed group was the first known case of possible organized vigilantism in Juárez as police and the military have been apparently unable to stop a plague of killings and other crimes.

"Better the death of a bad person than that they continue to contaminating our region," the news release stated in Spanish.

The supposed group issued a news release via e-mail stating it is nonpartisan and funded by businessmen fed up with crime. The group, also calling itself the CCJ, said it would issue a manifesto in the coming days and would set up a system where residents can electronically send information about criminals.

"Our mission is to terminate the life of a criminal every 24 hours ... The hour has come to stop this disorder in Juárez," the CCJ stated.

The announcement comes as Juárez struggles with a wave of homicides, extortions, carjackings, robberies and other crimes that began last year. Business people, teachers, medical professionals and others were targeted by extortionists in the last year as crime surged due in a part to a war between drug cartels. There were more than 1,600 homicides in Juárez last year.  There have been more than 40 homicides already this year, including 10 on Wednesday.
29810  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Emergency Tips and Emergency Medicine on: January 16, 2009, 02:59:56 PM

Anything you ever would like to share with us is greatly appreciated!
29811  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: April 2009 US Gathering on: January 16, 2009, 02:58:39 PM
The date is April 4-5.

I have tentative approval from my brother for use of his place, but he needs to confirm it with his partner in the property.

Acu Canyon does not work on Sat-Sun because there is a soccer league that uses the field on those days.
29812  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 16, 2009, 02:24:26 PM
"Intelligence is the amount of time it takes to forget a lesson" (me, I think)

We are so fcuked! Take a look at what the Committee on Appropriations envisions for the United States:
Looks like a Soviet Ten Year Plan, quickly cobbled together.
29813  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / September 20, 2009 Gathering on: January 16, 2009, 10:58:23 AM
A Howl of Greeting to All:

Subject to confirmation from Powerhouse Gym of its availability, we are looking for our next Open Gathering to be held September 20, 2009.

"Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact (c)"
Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
29814  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Support our troops on: January 16, 2009, 10:37:09 AM - Make your donation here (Spike and UFC)
29815  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: FISA court speaks on: January 16, 2009, 08:55:27 AM
Ever since the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretapping program was exposed in 2005, critics have denounced it as illegal and unconstitutional. Those allegations rested solely on the fact that the Administration did not first get permission from the special court created by the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Well, as it happens, the same FISA court would beg to differ.

In a major August 2008 decision released yesterday in redacted form, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review, the FISA appellate panel, affirmed the government's Constitutional authority to collect national-security intelligence without judicial approval. The case was not made public before yesterday, and its details remain classified. An unnamed telecom company refused to comply with the National Security Agency's monitoring requests and claimed the program violated the Fourth Amendment's restrictions on search and seizure.

But the Constitution bans only "unreasonable" search and seizure, not all searches and seizures, and the Fourth Amendment allows for exceptions such as those under a President's Article II war powers. The courts have been explicit on this point. In 1980, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals held in Truong that "the Executive need not always obtain a warrant for foreign intelligence surveillance." The FISA appeals court said in its 2002 opinion In re Sealed Case that the President has "inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information" and took "for granted" that "FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."

FISA established a process by which certain domestic wiretaps in the context of the Cold War could be approved, not a limit on what wiretaps were ever allowed. Though the decision applies only to the stopgap FISA measure in place between 2007 and 2008, it sets a precedent.

For all the political hysteria and media dishonesty about George W. Bush "spying on Americans," this fight was never about anything other than staging an ideological raid on the President's war powers. Barack Obama ought to be thankful that the FISA court has knocked the bottom out of this gambit, just in time for him to take office.
29816  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 16, 2009, 08:53:23 AM
For most of our nation's history, our approach to economics has favored enterprise, self-reliance and the free market. While the American economy has never been entirely laissez-faire, we have historically cared more about equality of opportunity than equality of results. And while Americans have embraced elements of the New Deal, the Great Society and progressive taxation, we have traditionally viewed welfare as a way to help those in dire need, not as a way of life for the middle class. We have grasped, perhaps more than any other nation, that there is a long-run cost to dependency on the state, including an aversion to risk that eventually enervates the entrepreneurial spirit necessary for innovation and prosperity.

Chad CroweThis outlook, once assumed, is now under attack due to a recent series of political and economic events.

The first is the unprecedented intervention by the federal government, in the form of a $700 billion relief package intended for our financial institutions after the credit crisis last September. This was followed by extending billions of dollars of federal assistance to America's auto makers in order to prevent their imminent bankruptcy -- the first emergency bailout that went to companies outside the financial sector. We understand why the federal government did this, and even supported legislation that, while hardly perfect, prevented an economic meltdown.

Nonetheless, the consequences of this undertaking are enormous. Not only has the size of the expenditures been staggering -- there is talk of another stimulus package worth an estimated $825 billion -- but we are witnessing a fundamental transformation of government's relationship with the polity and the economy.

The last several months are a foreshadowing of a new era of government activism, rather than an unfortunate but necessary (and anomalous) emergency action. We will soon shift from a market-based economy to a political one in which the government picks winners and losers and extends its reach and power in unprecedented ways.

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This shift is exemplified by the desire of President-elect Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress to push us toward government-run health care.

For all his talk of allowing consumers to select their own health-care coverage, Mr. Obama's proposal, as he laid it out in his campaign, will provide strong financial incentives for employers and individuals to sign up with a new, Medicare-style government plan for working-age people and their families. This plan will almost certainly use a price-control system similar to the one in place for Medicare, allowing it to charge artificially low premiums by paying fees well below private rates. These low premiums will serve as a magnet for enrollment and will devastate the private companies trying to compete in the health-insurance market. The result will be the nationalization of the health-care sector, which today accounts for 16% of U.S. gross domestic product.

Nationalizing health care will be profoundly detrimental to the quality of American medicine. In the name of cost control, the government would make private investment in medical innovation far riskier, and thus delay the development of potentially lifesaving treatments.

It will also put America on a glide path toward European-style socialism. We need only look to Great Britain and elsewhere to see the effects of socialized health care on the broader economy. Once a large number of citizens get their health care from the state, it dramatically alters their attachment to government. Every time a tax cut is proposed, the guardians of the new medical-welfare state will argue that tax cuts would come at the expense of health care -- an argument that would resonate with middle-class families entirely dependent on the government for access to doctors and hospitals.

Of course, this health-care plan is occurring against our particular fiscal backdrop: Without major reform, our federal entitlement programs will soon double the size of government. The result will be a crushing burden of debt and taxes.

In short, we may be approaching a tipping point for democratic capitalism.

While the scope of the challenge should not be underestimated, those of us worried about this fundamental reorientation of politics and economics have several things working in our favor. Among them is that a public accustomed to iTunes, Facebook, Google, eBay, Amazon and WebMD is not clamoring for centralized, bureaucratic government. The strong American instinct for individual initiative and entrepreneurship remains intact.

In addition, confidence in government -- from Congress to those responsible for oversight of the financial system -- is quite low.

Our sense is that at the moment, the public is not thinking in terms of "big government" or "small government." Instead, Americans want efficient government -- one that is modern, responsive and adaptive. People want government to act as a fair referee, providing guardrails that allow individuals to rise without intrusively dictating individual decisions.

If conservatives hope to win converts to our cause, we need to understand this new moment and put forward an agenda that reforms key institutions in a way that advances individual freedom, without creating an unacceptable level of insecurity.

This is no easy task, and it must begin with providing a compelling alternative to what contemporary liberalism and Mr. Obama are about to offer. This especially includes health care, where we must start by recalling that our current health-insurance system was designed to meet the needs of a 20th century economy and World War II-era employment laws. It is hopelessly outdated, yet the Obama plan would make the system even more sclerotic.

The core of our message needs to be a commitment to creating a health-care plan that meets the demands of the modern economy. We need to convince concerned citizens that we can help the uninsured find coverage in the private sector and use market incentives to contain costs. The result will be a system that makes it possible for everyone to afford health insurance, including those with pre-existing conditions.

Tax credits, high-risk pools, insurance choice and regulatory reform can form the basis of a transformation from today's enormously costly and inefficient third-party system into one driven by ownership, choice and competition. And at the nucleus of this redesigned system will be the patient-doctor relationship.

If we hope to succeed in making our case, it will require a concerted education campaign that relies on hard data and facts, rigorous and accessible public arguments, and persuasive public advocates.

This is quite a tall order. But if we do not succeed in resisting greater state involvement in the economy -- and health care is meant to be the beachhead of this effort -- we will move from a limited welfare state into a full-blown one. This will reshape, in deep and enduring ways, our nation's historic sensibilities. It will lead here, as it has elsewhere, to passivity and dependence on the state. Such habits, once acquired, are hard to shake.

Between now and the end of this decade may be one of those rare moments in which among other things will turn decisively one way or the other. The stakes could hardly be higher for our way of life.

Mr. Wehner, a former deputy assistant to President George W. Bush, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. Mr. Ryan, a Republican congressman from Wisconsin, is a member of the Budget Committee and the Ways and Means Committee.

29817  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Story on: January 16, 2009, 08:36:31 AM
"No man can well doubt the propriety of placing a president of the United States under the most solemn obligations to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution. It is a suitable pledge of his fidelity and responsibility to his country; and creates upon his conscience a deep sense of duty, by an appeal, at once in the presence of God and man, to the most sacred and solemn sanctions, which can operate upon the human mind."

--Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
29818  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Rants on: January 16, 2009, 08:30:33 AM

January 10, 2009 --
Israel hasn't killed a single civilian in the Gaza Strip. Over a hundred civilians have died, and Israeli bombs or shells may have ended their lives. But Israel didn't kill them.

Hamas did.

It's time to smash the lies. The lies of Hamas. The UN lies. And the save-the-terrorists lies of the global media.  There is no moral equivalence between Hamas terrorists and Israeli soldiers. There is no gray area. There is no point in negotiations.  Hamas is a Jew-killing machine. It exists to destroy Israel. What is there to negotiate? 

When Hamas can't kill Jews, it's perfectly willing to drive Palestinian civilians into the line of fire - old men, women and children. Hamas herds the innocent into "shelters," then draws Israeli fire on them. And the headline-greedy media cheer them on.

Hamas isn't fighting for political goals. "Brokered agreements" are purely means to an end. And the envisioned end is the complete destruction of Israel in the name of a terrorist god. Safe in hidden bunkers or in Damascus, the Hamas leadership is willing to watch an unlimited number of civilians and even street-level terrorists die.

Lives, too, are nothing but means to an end. And dead kids are the coins that keep the propaganda meter ticking.

All Hamas had to do to prevent Israel's act of self-defense was to leave Israel unmolested by terror rockets. All Hamas needs to do now to stop this conflict and spare the Palestinian people it pretends to champion is to stop trying to kill Israelis and agree to let Israel exist in peace.

Hamas didn't, and Hamas won't.

Now Israel has to continue its attack, to wreak all the havoc it can on Hamas before a new American president starts meddling. If Israel stops now, Hamas can declare victory just for surviving - despite its crippling losses. While it's impossible to fully eliminate extremism, killing every terrorist leader hiding in a Gaza bunker is the only hope of achieving even a temporary, imperfect peace. The chance may not come again.

And don't worry about "creating a power vacuum." Let the Palestinians pick up their own pieces. Even anarchy in Gaza is better for Israel than Hamas.

Israelis, Americans and Westerners overall share a tragic intellectual blind spot: We're caught in yesterday's model of terrorism, that of Arafat's PLO, of the IRA, the Red Brigades or the Weather Underground. But, as brutal as those organizations could be, they never believed they were on a mission from God.

Yesteryear's terrorists wanted to change the world. They were willing to shed blood and, in extreme cases, to give their own blood to their causes. But they didn't seek death. They preferred to live to see their "better world."  Now our civilization faces terrorists who regard death as a promotion. They believe that any action can be excused because they're serving their god. And their core belief is that you and I, as stubborn unbelievers, deserve death.

Their grisly god knows no compromise. To give an inch is to betray their god's trust entirely. Yet we - and even some Israelis - believe it's possible to cut deals with them.

In search of peace, Israel handed Gaza to the Palestinians, a people who had never had a state of their own. As thanks, Israel received terror rockets. And the Palestinian people got a gang war.

Peace is the last thing Hamas terrorists and gangsters want. Peace means the game is up. Peace means they've disappointed their god. Peace means no more excuses. They couldn't bear peace for six months.

This is a war to the bitter end. And we're afraid to admit what it's about.

It's not about American sins or Israeli intransigence. It's about a sickness in the soul of a civilization - of Middle-Eastern Islam - that can only be cured from within. Until Arabs or Iranians decide to cure themselves, we'll have to fight.

Instead, we want to talk. We convince ourselves, against all evidence, that our enemies really want to talk, too, that they just need "incentives" (the diplomat's term for bribes). The apparent belief of our president-elect that it's possible to negotiate with faith-fueled fanatics is so naive it's terrifying.

Yet, it's understandable. Barack Obama's entire career has been built on words, not deeds, on his power to persuade, not his power to deliver. But all the caucuses, debates, neighborhood meetings and backroom deal-making sessions in his past haven't prepared him to "negotiate" with men whose single-minded goal is Israel's destruction - and ours.

If Obama repeats the same "peace-process" folly as his predecessors, from Jimmy have-you-hugged-your-terrorist-today? Carter through Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, he'll be devoured before he knows he's been bitten.

How many administrations have to repeat the identical error of believing that, deep down inside, terrorists, gunmen and warlords really want peace every bit as much as we do? Israel's enemies aren't just looking to cut a sharp deal. They want to destroy Israel.

Which part of what they shout in our faces is so hard to understand? Israel's foes have been preaching Jew-hatred for so long that even the "moderates" can't turn back now.

And why does the global left hate Israel so? Why would they pull out the stops to rescue Hamas?

Because Israel exposed the lie that a suffering people can't lift itself up through hard work, education and discipline. Israel didn't need the help of a hundred condescending NGOs and their misery junkies.

Because the Holocaust is a permanent embarrassment to Europeans. They need to believe that Israelis are kosher Nazis.

Because, from the safety of cafes and campuses, it's cool to call terrorists "freedom fighters." It makes you feel less guilty when you hit up daddy (or the state) for money. I mean, dude, it's not like you have to, like, live with them or anything, you know?

Because, above all, the most-destructive racists in the world today are mainstream leftists. Want the truth? The Left codes Israel as white and, therefore, inherently an oppressor. Israel is held to the highest standard of our civilization and our legal codes - and denied the right to self-defense.

But the Left tacitly believes that people with darker skins are inferior and can't be expected to behave at a civilized level. Leftists expect terrorist movements or African dictators to behave horribly. It's the post-modern, latte-sucking version of the "little brown brother" mentality.

The worst enemies of developing societies have been leftists who refuse to hold them to fundamental standards of governance and decency. But, then, the Left needs developing societies to fail to prove that the system's hopelessly stacked against them.

A battered, impoverished, butchered people built a thriving Western democracy in an Eastern wasteland. Israel can never be forgiven for its success.

In this six-decade-old conflict that Israel's intractable neighbors continue to force upon it, there not only are no good solutions, but, thanks to the zero-sum mentality of Islamist terrorists, there aren't even any bad solutions - short of nuclear genocide - that would bring an enduring peace to the Middle East.

And even the elimination of Israel wouldn't be enough. The terrorists would fight among themselves, while warring upon less-devout fellow Muslims.

All Israel can do is to fight for time and buy intervals of relative calm with the blood of its sons and daughters. By demanding premature cease-fires and insisting that we can find a diplomatic solution, we strengthen monsters and undercut our defenders.

And don't believe the propaganda about this conflict rallying Gaza's Palestinians behind Hamas. That's more little-brown-brother condescension, assuming all Arabs are so stupid they don't know who started this and who's dragging it out at their expense.

Gaza's people may not care much for Israelis, but they rue the day they cast their votes for Hamas. Hamas is killing them.

Ralph Peters is a retired U.S. Army officer and the author of "Looking For Trouble."
29819  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / United Nations: Don' on: January 16, 2009, 08:16:20 AM

GENEVA: Islamic countries pushed through a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday urging a global prohibition on the public defamation of religion — a response largely to the furor last year over caricatures published in a Danish newspaper of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad.

The statement proposed by the Organization of Islamic Conference addressed what it called a "campaign" against Muslim minorities and the Islamic religion around the world since the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.

The resolution, which was opposed by European and a number of other non-Muslim countries, "expresses deep concern at attempts to identify Islam with terrorism, violence and human rights violations."

It makes no mention of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism or any other religion besides Islam, but urges countries "to take resolute action to prohibit the dissemination of racist and xenophobic ideas and material aimed at any religion or its followers that constitute incitement and religious hatred, hostility, or violence."

Iran, whose President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," belongs to the 57-member Islamic conference.

The resolution was adopted by a 24-14 vote with nine abstentions. Canada, Japan and South Korea joined European countries in opposition, primarily citing its excessive focus on Islam and incompatibility with fundamental rights such as the freedoms of speech and thought.
"The problem of religious intolerance is worldwide and not limited to certain religions," said Brigitta Maria Siefker-Eberle of Germany," speaking on behalf of the 27-nation European Union. Ghana, India, Nigeria, Zambia and some of the council's Latin American countries abstained.

There are 17 Muslim countries in the 47-nation human rights council. Their alliance with China, Cuba, Russia and most of the African members means they can almost always achieve a majority.

Human Rights Watch said the resolution could endanger the basic rights of individuals. The document "focuses on protection of religions themselves, particularly Islam, rather than the rights of individuals, including members of religious minorities," the New York-based rights group said in a statement. The resolution says freedom of expression "may ... be subject to limitations as provided by law and necessary for respect of the rights or reputations of others ... or morals and respect for religions and beliefs."
The council, which last year replaced the discredited U.N. Human Rights Commission, has no power beyond drawing international attention to rights issues and scrutiny of abuses in certain countries.

The move at the council was initiated last year after protests across the Islamic world drew attention to caricatures of Muhammad first printed in Danish paper Jyllands-Posten in September 2005. One of the drawings showed Muhammad with a bomb-shaped turban. Islamic law is often interpreted to forbid any depiction of the prophet for fear it could lead to idolatry.
29820  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Ataque a Televisa on: January 16, 2009, 12:10:52 AM
?Alguien puede compartir noticias sobre el ataque al Televisa?
29821  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Televisa attacked! on: January 15, 2009, 11:16:02 PM
Mexico Media on High Alert After Drug-Gang Attack on Televisa
AP – Officials examine a car related to an attack on the offices of the television company Televisa in Monterrey, …
Editors at Televisa, the world's most popular Spanish-language network, were having a lively news meeting in the northern Mexico city of Monterrey when they heard a series of pops followed by a thunderous explosion. Running outside, the editors realized the top breaking news item had come straight to them. The pops were bullets sprayed from Kalashnikov automatic rifles directly into the faÇade of their offices. The blast was from a fragmentation grenade. Next to the debris was a message scrawled on cardboard: "Stop just broadcasting us. Also broadcast the narco politicians," it said.

The Jan. 6 assault on Televisa's offices was the latest in a series of attacks on Mexico's media as the nation writhes in an orgy of drug-related bloodshed. Out of a record 5,300 deaths from beheadings, assassinations and massacres last year, eight of them were murdered Mexican journalists, making Mexico the most dangerous country for their trade in the hemisphere. Furthermore, many reporters in cities on the front lines of the drug war say they are systematically threatened, beaten and offered bribes because of their coverage of organized crime. (See pictures of the war on crime in Mexico City.)

But even by such appalling standards, the Televisa attack stood out in the way the assailants so blatantly tried to dictate the coverage of Mexico's television giant, which is probably the most powerful media organization south of the Rio Grande. Earning about 75% of Mexico's broadcast advertising, Televisa has long had an overwhelming influence on the nation's political life. Presidents, lobbyists and rising politicians all fight hard for space on its nightly noticiero, which regularly breaks leading stories. "Televisa has the equivalent political clout of ABC, NBC and CBS combined," says Mexican media investigator Raul Trejo. "When the narcos threaten this organization, they are showing they see no limits in their power."

Counting revenues of some $3.5 billion a year, Televisa is headed by Emilio Azcarraga Jean, 40, who inherited the empire from his father Emilio Azcarraga Milmo, who was known as "El Tigre" because of his white-streaked hair and fierce character. The network catapulted onto the world stage by exporting its steamy telenovelas, which have been translated into more than 50 languages from Korean to Romanian. Critics lambasted the network for giving uncritical support to the government during decades of one-party rule. However, since the advent of multiparty democracy in 2000, Televisa has given fairly equal airtime to competing candidates.

In the past year, Televisa has broadcast daily coverage of the drug war, filming scenes of corpses, firefights and arrests amid the battles between trafficking warlords and government forces. However, it has not led any groundbreaking exposÉs on the cartel empires or their networks of political corruption. "We do not hold back from reporting anything. But at the same time, we do not do detective work because we are not policemen," says Francisco Cobos, news editor at Televisa Monterrey, who witnessed the Jan. 6 blasts.

Televisa has also resisted showing the messages that the cartels write or print on blankets, which are strewn over bridges and hung on public walls as part of their campaign of terrorism. Known as narco mantas (capes), many messages in recent months have accused the administration of President Felipe CalderÓn of working with the Sinaloa cartel based on Mexico's Pacific Coast. Monterrey is home to the rival Gulf cartel, which is believed to be behind many of these messages.

Soldiers and federal police guarded the Televisa offices in the days following the attack, while Mexican and international media organizations poured out condemnations and demanded the apprehension of the assailants. "Solving this attack will be a new test for the government, which wants to make it a federal crime to use violence against the press," said Paris-based Reporters Without Borders in a news release.

Cobos said there are no plans for Televisa to change its coverage. However, in a statement on television, he said staff will take more safety measures. "I think we will continue doing our job in the most efficient way possible but with the precautions that these types of messages [require us to take]," he said. "Men of organized crime, I want to tell you that we don't have anything against you. We are communicators. We are journalists. We are dedicated to informing, and as such, my colleagues don't want to be in the middle of these bullets."

29822  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / An act of dhimmitude on: January 15, 2009, 07:34:49 PM
It is heartening to see some outrage at this shameful and cowardly act of dhimmitude.


Police Remove Israeli Flag during Islamist Protest March
By Yassin Musharbash

Police in the western German city of Duisburg have admitted they removed flags a student had hung in his apartment in support of Israel during a pro-Palestinian protest march in the city. Officers broke down his door and removed the flags. The city's police chief has issued an apology, but outrage is spreading.

It's certainly not a new phenomenon in Germany for feathers to be ruffled every time bombs fall or rockets fly in the Middle East. It is unusual, though, for German police officials to use force to enter into an apartment and remove an Israeli flag from a bedroom because people protesting the Gaza Strip invasion on the street below are bothered by it.

But that's what happened this weekend in Duisburg in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. Around 10,000 people had gathered on Saturday morning at the central station in the city, located in the Ruhr region, to protest against Israel's course of action in the Gaza Strip. The protest, organized by the Islamist group Milli Görüs, which, although legal, has been monitored for years by German domestic intelligence agencies in charge of observing potentially radical or fundamentalist groups.

After a short time, the protest passed along one of the city's main thoroughfares. At a house on the corner, protesters spotted two Israeli flags -- one hanging from a balcony and the second from the window of a bedroom inside the apartment. Twenty-five-year-old student Peter P.* and his 26-year-old girlfriend had mounted them there.

'Suddenly I Saw a Police Officer in my Bedroom'

It wasn't the first time, either. At the beginning of the year, P. flew the Israeli flag on the day commemorating the Holocaust. And in May, he flew the flag for several weeks because the state of Israel was celebrating its 60th birthday. For years, Hamas fired rockets at Israel, and few people took notice, P. told SPIEGEL ONLINE, explaining his reasons for flying the flag. This time around, he said, he did it to express "solidarity with the sole democracy in the region."

P. also knew that on that day people participating in the protest march against the Israeli offensive would go past his house. But he said he was also concerned about what he saw as the "greatest onslaught of anti-Semitism in Europe since 1945," namely marches against Israel's actions that included anti-Semitic hate campaigns that he claims are being tolerated in cities like Paris and London.

 Find out how you can reprint this SPIEGEL ONLINE article in your publication. As the first protesters recognized the flag, P. and his girlfriend were standing on the street nearby. He said he followed the march because he wanted to document any incidents of anti-Semitism or hate campaigns. He described the sentiment that developed within the crowd as it viewed the Israeli flag as tantamount to that of a "lynch mob." "Death to Israel," some of the protestors shouted. He said the police appeared to be overburdened.

"Suddenly," the student explained, "I saw a police officer on the balcony on the second floor" in the apartment located directly beneath his. The officer ripped down the Israeli flag that had been affixed to P.'s balcony. A short time later he witnessed an officer inside his own apartment taking down the flag that had been hung in the bedroom.

A Hail of Icicles, Nail Clippers and a Pocket Knife

The police's moves caused loud cheering amongst the protesters -- a fact not only reported by the student, but also confirmed in videos of the event that have been widely circulated on YouTube. The incident first came to the attention of the media after journalists at the local blog "Die Ruhrbarone" reported on it. The objects reportedly thrown at the apartment included what appeared to be small chunks of ice, a folded up pocket knife, nail clippers and also what looked like a stone.

P. said he was "shocked" by the incident. Afraid to return to his apartment, he first went to a friend's place nearby. Around two hours later he returned with his girlfriend and an acquaintance -- but he claims youths were still throwing things at the house.

He said he didn't return to the apartment until they had left. A police car passed by and P. asked the officers to come to his apartment. The officers warned that P. and his girlfriend should stay away from the window and that police would watch the house for a few hours.

"I was beside myself," P. said, "I was afraid." Two hours passed without any incident. Then P.'s acquaintance, also in the apartment, went out to the balcony for a smoke and claims he was immediately cursed as a "shit jew".

Two minutes later, the police returned to P.'s door -- and for the second time they did something unexpected. They ordered the acquaintance to leave the apartment.

A Police Apology

The actions of Duisburg officials have since caused outrage -- sparking criticism from the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Rainer Wendt, the head of the German Police Union for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, said: "It is intolerable that German Islamists be able to determine police actions." At the same time, he expressed understanding for what he described as a "difficult deployment situation" police officials in Duisburg had run up against. He said it appeared too few officers had been dispatched to the protest. Frank Richter of the Union of Police, another organization representing officers in the state, said the police mission should be explored and clarity brought to the incident.

Initially, Duisburg police defended their actions. In its Monday issue, the Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper quoted a police spokesperson stating that the flags had been removed in order to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation. German news agency DDP quoted the spokesperson on Tuesday saying "the right thing had been done here."

But by Tuesday afternoon, the city's chief of police, Rolf Cebin, expressed his apologies for the incident. "I deeply regret the fact that, especially, the feelings of Jewish people were hurt. From the standpoint of the present, it was the wrong decision."

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 Despite the apology, the row may not be over yet. The state chapter of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) wants a discussion about the police actions to take place in the state parliament in Düsseldorf. "We are going to raise the issue during a meeting of the state domestic affairs committee on Thursday," the party's deputy parliamentary chief, Ralf Jäger, told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "The central question is this: Why was the potential for danger during the protest so underestimated that police were forced into a situation in which they had to concede to the demands of violent (protesters) rather than (protect) the right to the freedom of speech of others?"

The politician claims that Duisburg police believed 1,000 people would attend the rally, far fewer than the 10,000 who eventually turned up. He claims they should have better predicted the situation and the fact that they didn't raises the question of whether the state's Office of Criminal Investigation had done enough "preparation."

As of Tuesday, Milli Görüs has not yet provided any statement about the incident. The acting spokesperson for the organization's secretary general could not be reached for comment, and the group's office said its chairman was currently outside the country.

On Tuesday, Peter P. said he had obtained the services of a lawyer. He still hasn't been told who will be held responsible for paying for the door broken down by police.

* The name of the main source of this story has been changed at his request by the editorial staff.
29823  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 15, 2009, 02:28:21 PM
Oy f'g vey  rolleyes
29824  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington; Story on: January 15, 2009, 11:33:27 AM
G. Washington

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


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

--Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
29825  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: MINN on: January 15, 2009, 11:25:40 AM
You would think people would learn. The recount in the contest between Norm Coleman and Al Franken for a seat in the U.S. Senate isn't just embarrassing. It is unconstitutional.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In Today's Opinion Journal


Leadership and PanicsA Geithner Tax AmnestyStimulus for Tax Collectors


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


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

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

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

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

Mr. Paulsen is professor of law at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis, Minn. He is formerly associate dean of the University of Minnesota Law School.
29826  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Stratfor: Desafio on: January 15, 2009, 11:22:56 AM
La Agendageopolítica: Desafío de México de Obama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29827  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO's challenge on: January 15, 2009, 11:20:56 AM

Geopolitical Diary: Obama's Mexico Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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29828  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Study: Gun and grenade fight on: January 15, 2009, 01:14:38 AM
I am in awe!
29829  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 15, 2009, 12:56:50 AM
The counter argument by Matthew Alexander of course is that his approach works better AND it does not sap the American people's sense of who we are.

You may not agree, but IMHO the man certainly has a basis for his opinion.
29830  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Murder Spree by people who refuse to ask for directions on: January 14, 2009, 08:18:29 PM
Murder Spree by People Who Refuse to Ask For Directions
by  Ann Coulter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the Times won't run that series because liberals adore single motherhood and the dissolution of traditional marriage in America. They detest the military, so they cite a few anecdotal examples of veterans who have committed murder and hope that no one asks for details.
29831  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UN schools hire Hamas in Gaza on: January 14, 2009, 07:33:31 PM,2933,479940,00.html

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

By Joel Mowbray

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29832  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Legal Issues created by the War with Islamic Fascism on: January 14, 2009, 07:32:01 PM
On this one we disagree.
29833  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: January 14, 2009, 02:57:56 PM
By Fred Burton and Scott Stewart

Related Links
Militant Attacks In Mumbai and Their Consequences

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

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

Armed Assaults

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mitigating Armed Assaults

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A seen by the Fort Dix plot and actual armed attacks against targets, such as the July 2002 assault on the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport and the July 2006 attack against the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, the threat of armed terrorist assaults against soft targets in the United States is quite real. However, the U.S. law enforcement environment is quite different from that in India — and that difference will help mitigate the effects of a Mumbai-like attack.
29834  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tribunal Overseer says on: January 14, 2009, 12:53:19 PM
U.S. military tortured Guantanamo detainee, tribunal overseer says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woodward writes for the Washington Post.
29835  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: ¿7 metros? on: January 14, 2009, 10:43:30 AM
Cecilio ha abierto una platica aqui sobre un tema sumamente importante.  ?Donde esta'n las respuestas?  !Para que este foro viva, hay que haber participacion!
29836  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: January 14, 2009, 10:41:29 AM
EEUU informe militar advierte "desplome repentino" de México es posible
By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Anunciado: El 03:49:34 del 01/13/2009 P.M. MST
El presidente electo Barack Obama escucha como el Presidente de México Felipe Calderon hace una declaración a periodistas en Washington, el lunes, enero. 12, 2009. México es uno de dos países eso "consideración de oso para un desplome rápido y repentino," según un informe por EEUU Fuerzas que Conjuntas Ordenan en amenazas mundiales de seguridad. (Foto de AP)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29837  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: January 14, 2009, 10:32:18 AM
U.S. military report warns 'sudden collapse' of Mexico is possible
By Diana Washington Valdez / El Paso Times
Posted: 01/13/2009 03:49:34 PM MST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

29838  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: January 14, 2009, 10:27:31 AM
3rd post of the AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So far, it appears that CENTCOM is willing to incur these risks. The Pentagon is working on the alternate logistics plan, with deliberate leaks that are making Pakistan more nervous by the day. Petraeus and his team are on a mission to fix a broken war in Afghanistan, even if that involves bringing Moscow into the loop. Whether this plan bears fruit, however, will depend on how far the White House intends to go with the Russians.
29839  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Patriot Post on: January 14, 2009, 10:19:01 AM
Wednesday Chronicle — Vol. 09 No. 02
14 January 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newspulper Headlines:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jay Leno:

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

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

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

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

I think President-elect Barack Obama is starting to get an idea of just how hard this job is going to be. [Tuesday] he said he wanted to bring a "sense of accountability to Washington." I think they realize actual accountability is never going to happen. So if you just bring a "sense" of it, that would be fantastic.
29840  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jefferson on: January 14, 2009, 10:12:06 AM
"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys." --Thomas Jefferson
29841  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: January 14, 2009, 08:30:40 AM
U.S. Marines Find Iraq Tactics Don't Work In Afghanistan

By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Marines have found other differences:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So they are learning on the ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We just need more everything," Gilreath said afterward.
29842  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russian Gas Trap on: January 14, 2009, 08:26:04 AM

By Peter Zeihan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still, it will be a tough sell: the European states between Germany and Russia have always lived in dread that one power or the other — or, God forbid, both — will take them over. But Germany is clearly at the center of Europe, and all of the states affected by the natural gas crisis count Germany as their largest trading partner. If Merkel can muster sufficient political muscle to complement Germany’s economic muscle, the resulting image of strength and capability would go a long way toward cementing Berlin’s re-emergence.
29843  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Marrying ten year olds on: January 14, 2009, 08:22:48 AM,2933,479878,00.html

I suppose its progress of a sort that someone disagrees , , ,
29844  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Wilson; Jefferson; on: January 14, 2009, 08:11:39 AM
"[The President] is the dignified, but accountable magistrate of a free and great people. The tenure of his office, it is true, is not hereditary; nor is it for life: but still it is a tenure of the noblest kind: by being the man of the people, he is invested; by continuing to be the man of the people, his investiture will be voluntarily, and cheerfully, and honourably renewed."

--James Wilson, Lectures on Law, 1791

"The same prudence which in private life would forbid our paying our own money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the dispensation of the public moneys." --Thomas Jefferson
29845  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: What does Kali Tudo 2 have in store for us?? on: January 14, 2009, 07:53:57 AM
Did the fine edit yesterday with Night Owl of

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

I should receive several copies later today which I will then pass around my kitchen cabinet crew for commentary.
29846  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Force Science News on: January 14, 2009, 07:50:55 AM
One of the most dangerous positions a suspect can assume on the ground is prone with his hands tucked under his body, either at chest or waist level. What's hidden in those hands? And if it's a gun, how fast can he twist and shoot if you're approaching him?
This month [1/09], the Force Science Research Center, in cooperation with Indiana University and the Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, will launch the first study of its kind in an effort to clearly define your risk and, hopefully, identify your best approach tactics in dealing with this common street problem.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"One of our major goals at Force Science is to stimulate interest at universities and other influential institutions in doing research that is of value to line officers," he says. "There has been a huge hole in research into issues that can help street officers perform with improved skill and safety. This is a step toward filling that gap. What a great way to start the New Year!"
29847  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Girls return to school on: January 14, 2009, 07:39:41 AM
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — One morning two months ago, Shamsia Husseini and her sister were walking through the muddy streets to the local girls school when a man pulled alongside them on a motorcycle and posed what seemed like an ordinary question.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Now, what are its major cities?”

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

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

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

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

“The people who did this,” she said, “do not feel the pain of others.”
29848  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Tunnels on: January 14, 2009, 12:19:31 AM
When Israelis look back on what caused the current conflict in Gaza, they point to their government's decision in September 2005 to leave the narrow "Philadelphi Route" that runs along the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. More than Israel's disengagement from the Strip as a whole, the abandonment of this strategic area made full-scale war inevitable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mr. Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, served as Israel's ambassador to the United Nations in 1997-1999.
29849  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: January 14, 2009, 12:17:42 AM
In presenting herself to Congress to become Secretary of State, Senator Hillary Clinton at the least showed she will have little trouble conversing in the soft talk of the striped-pants set.

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

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

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

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

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

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

While the troubled Clinton Presidency by now has been reduced to Monica, veteran Senators will recall that much of the problems had to do with money flowing into the Clinton campaign from mysterious donors and middle men. Then came the Republicans' turn, as the party broke apart on the Abramoff scandal. These senior Senators were trying to ensure that a promising new President doesn't founder on the practices of Washington past. Let's hope the two of them remain vigilant.
29850  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia-Ukraine on: January 13, 2009, 11:53:14 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In short, Russia’s moves on Ukraine have pushed voters toward pro-Russian candidates and furthered Yushchenko’s decline -— exactly what Moscow wanted. This does not mean things cannot and will not shift before Ukraine’s next elections, which could take place anytime from the end of 2009 through early 2010 unless Yushchenko is removed from office early. In the meantime, Russia’s use of energy as leverage seems to be creating the effects Moscow wants in Ukraine.
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