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30251  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson on: January 05, 2009, 11:12:27 AM
"But of all the views of this law none is more important, none more legitimate, than that of rendering the people the safe, as they are the ultimate, guardians of their own liberty. For this purpose the reading in the first stage, where they will receive their whole education, is proposed, as has been said, to be chiefly historical. History by apprising them of the past will enable them to judge of the future; it will avail them of the experience of other times and other nations; it will qualify them as judges of the actions and designs of men; it will enable them to know ambition under every disguise it may assume; and knowing it, to defeat its views."

--Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, Query 14, 1781
30252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Tax cuts bigger % of stimulus? on: January 05, 2009, 03:30:10 AM
WASHINGTON -- President-elect Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are crafting a plan to offer about $300 billion of tax cuts to individuals and businesses, a move aimed at attracting Republican support for an economic-stimulus package and prodding companies to create jobs.

The size of the proposed tax cuts -- which would account for about 40% of a stimulus package that could reach $775 billion over two years -- is greater than many on both sides of the aisle in Congress had anticipated. It may make it easier to win over Republicans who have stressed that any initiative should rely more heavily on tax cuts rather than spending.

The Obama tax-cut proposals, if enacted, could pack more punch in two years than either of President George W. Bush's tax cuts did in their first two years. Mr. Bush's 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut of 2001, considered the largest in history, contained $174 billion of cuts during its first two full years, according to Congress's Joint Committee on Taxation. The second-largest tax cut -- the 10-year, $350 billion package engineered by Mr. Bush in 2003 -- contained $231 billion in 2004 and 2005.

Republicans and business leaders hadn't seen specifics of the proposals Sunday night, but welcomed the idea of basing a bigger proportion of the stimulus plan on tax cuts. Their response suggests the legislation could attract relatively broad support, and it highlighted the Obama team's determination to win backing from varied interests.

Some Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.), have warned against a careless stimulus plan that enables unfettered spending.

The largest piece of tax relief in the new plan would involve cuts for people who pay income taxes or who claim the earned-income credit, a refund designed to lessen the impact of payroll taxes on low- and moderate-income workers. This component would serve as a down payment on the "Making Work Pay" proposal Mr. Obama outlined during his election campaign, giving a credit of $500 per individual or $1,000 per family.

On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama said he would phase out a similar tax-credit proposal at around $200,000 per household, but aides said they haven't settled on an income cap for the latest proposal. This part of the plan is similar to a bipartisan initiative launched in early 2008, which sent out checks worth $131 billion.

Economists of all political stripes widely agree the checks sent out last spring were ineffective in stemming the economic slide, partly because many strapped consumers paid bills or saved the cash rather than spend it. But Obama aides wanted a provision that could get money into consumers' hands fast, and hope they will be persuaded to spend money this time if the credit is made a permanent feature of the tax code.

As for the business tax package, a key provision would allow companies to write off huge losses incurred last year, as well as any losses from 2009, to retroactively reduce tax bills dating back five years. Obama aides note that businesses would have been able to claim most of the tax write-offs on future tax returns, and the proposal simply accelerates those write-offs to make them available in the current tax season, when a lack of available credit is leaving many companies short of cash.

A second provision would entice firms to plow that money back into new investment. The write-offs would be retroactive to expenditures made as of Jan. 1, 2009, to ensure that companies don't sit on their money until after Congress passes the measure.

Another element would offer a one-year tax credit for companies that make new hires or forgo layoffs, which could be worth $40 billion to $50 billion. And the Obama plan also would allow small businesses to write off a broad range expenditures worth up to $250,000 in 2009 and 2010. Currently, the limit is $175,000.

William Gale, a tax-policy analyst at the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington, said the scale of the whole package is larger than expected. He called the business offerings a true surprise, since most attention has been focused on the spending side of the equation, especially the hundreds of billions of dollars being discussed for infrastructure and aid to state and local governments.

"On the other hand, it was hard to figure out how they were going to spend all that money in intelligent ways, so it makes sense to do more on the tax side," Mr. Gale said. His biggest question about the latest proposal concerns the credits for hiring new workers or refraining from layoffs. Much of that money would likely go to companies that would have hired more people anyway, he said, adding that it is impossible to know what firms would have done without such a credit.

Business lobbyists are pushing hard for Congress to allow companies that haven't paid corporate income taxes to get a break, too. Start-up companies, alternative-energy firms and large corporations that have been swallowing losses for years -- such as automotive and steel companies and some airlines -- have already begun lobbying for such "refundability."

They argue that a provision to claim losses on back taxes will have little effect on the economy if firms that need it most -- struggling companies that weren't obligated to pay any taxes -- can't benefit from a tax break.

Mr. Obama, however, doesn't back payments to companies that haven't paid taxes, aides said. Instead, businesses that haven't been paying taxes would be able to get payments from tax credits they would have taken in 2008 and 2009 for incentives offered by Congress, such as the production tax credit offered to renewable-energy firms. These amounts would likely be relatively small.

"We're working with Congress to develop a tax-cut package based on a simple principle: What will have the biggest and most immediate impact on creating private-sector jobs and strengthening the middle class?" said transition-team spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter. "We're guided by what works, not by any ideology or special interests."

As these details are being worked out, Mr. Obama and his family left Chicago during the weekend for Washington. He will be on Capitol Hill Monday, first to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.), then with the broader bipartisan leadership of Congress. The stimulus package will be front-and-center in those discussions.

Democratic leaders and Obama aides acknowledge that congressional Democrats' initial goal of passing the recovery package before Mr. Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration is unrealistic. Now, they hope for passage before the Feb. 13 congressional recess.

Republicans are already criticizing parts of the stimulus package. Sen. McConnell, speaking Sunday on ABC's "This Week," questioned one of the biggest items, which would send as much as $200 billion to states largely to expand the federal share of Medicaid, the health program for the poor. He suggested structuring that aid as a loan, saying it would encourage states to "spend it more wisely."

An array of business tax cuts could help overcome such GOP opposition, enabling the Democrats to present their plan as a balanced mix of tax cuts and spending. It also would likely encourage business interests to lobby hard for its enactment.

Mr. Obama's team has spoken of wanting to attract significant Republican support, not simply picking up votes from a Republican moderate or two.

Obama aides have already enlisted business groups to rally behind spending for public-works projects. Norman R. Augustine, a former chairman and chief executive of Lockheed Martin Corp., will testify before the House Democrats' Steering and Policy Committee Wednesday in favor of an infusion of federal infrastructure spending. But the tax cuts may hold more sway with Republicans.

—Amy Chozick contributed to this article.
30253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Funny Business in Minnesota on: January 05, 2009, 03:17:33 AM
Strange things keep happening in Minnesota, where the disputed recount in the Senate race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken may be nearing a dubious outcome. Thanks to the machinations of Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and a meek state Canvassing Board, Mr. Franken may emerge as an illegitimate victor.

APMr. Franken started the recount 215 votes behind Senator Coleman, but he now claims a 225-vote lead and suddenly the man who was insisting on "counting every vote" wants to shut the process down. He's getting help from Mr. Ritchie and his four fellow Canvassing Board members, who have delivered inconsistent rulings and are ignoring glaring problems with the tallies.

Under Minnesota law, election officials are required to make a duplicate ballot if the original is damaged during Election Night counting. Officials are supposed to mark these as "duplicate" and segregate the original ballots. But it appears some officials may have failed to mark ballots as duplicates, which are now being counted in addition to the originals. This helps explain why more than 25 precincts now have more ballots than voters who signed in to vote. By some estimates this double counting has yielded Mr. Franken an additional 80 to 100 votes.

This disenfranchises Minnesotans whose vote counted only once. And one Canvassing Board member, State Supreme Court Justice G. Barry Anderson, has acknowledged that "very likely there was a double counting." Yet the board insists that it lacks the authority to question local officials and it is merely adding the inflated numbers to the totals.

In other cases, the board has been flagrantly inconsistent. Last month, Mr. Franken's campaign charged that one Hennepin County (Minneapolis) precinct had "lost" 133 votes, since the hand recount showed fewer ballots than machine votes recorded on Election Night. Though there is no proof to this missing vote charge -- officials may have accidentally run the ballots through the machine twice on Election Night -- the Canvassing Board chose to go with the Election Night total, rather than the actual number of ballots in the recount. That decision gave Mr. Franken a gain of 46 votes.

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Meanwhile, a Ramsey County precinct ended up with 177 more ballots than there were recorded votes on Election Night. In that case, the board decided to go with the extra ballots, rather than the Election Night total, even though the county is now showing more ballots than voters in the precinct. This gave Mr. Franken a net gain of 37 votes, which means he's benefited both ways from the board's inconsistency.

And then there are the absentee ballots. The Franken campaign initially howled that some absentee votes had been erroneously rejected by local officials. Counties were supposed to review their absentees and create a list of those they believed were mistakenly rejected. Many Franken-leaning counties did so, submitting 1,350 ballots to include in the results. But many Coleman-leaning counties have yet to complete a re-examination. Despite this lack of uniformity, and though the state Supreme Court has yet to rule on a Coleman request to standardize this absentee review, Mr. Ritchie's office nonetheless plowed through the incomplete pile of 1,350 absentees this weekend, padding Mr. Franken's edge by a further 176 votes.

Both campaigns have also suggested that Mr. Ritchie's office made mistakes in tabulating votes that had been challenged by either of the campaigns. And the Canvassing Board appears to have applied inconsistent standards in how it decided some of these challenged votes -- in ways that, again on net, have favored Mr. Franken.

The question is how the board can certify a fair and accurate election result given these multiple recount problems. Yet that is precisely what the five members seem prepared to do when they meet today. Some members seem to have concluded that because one of the candidates will challenge the result in any event, why not get on with it and leave it to the courts? Mr. Coleman will certainly have grounds to contest the result in court, but he'll be at a disadvantage given that courts are understandably reluctant to overrule a certified outcome.

Meanwhile, Minnesota's other Senator, Amy Klobuchar, is already saying her fellow Democrats should seat Mr. Franken when the 111th Congress begins this week if the Canvassing Board certifies him as the winner. This contradicts Minnesota law, which says the state cannot award a certificate of election if one party contests the results. Ms. Klobuchar is trying to create the public perception of a fait accompli, all the better to make Mr. Coleman look like a sore loser and build pressure on him to drop his legal challenge despite the funny recount business.

Minnesotans like to think that their state isn't like New Jersey or Louisiana, and typically it isn't. But we can't recall a similar recount involving optical scanning machines that has changed so many votes, and in which nearly every crucial decision worked to the advantage of the same candidate. The Coleman campaign clearly misjudged the politics here, and the apparent willingness of a partisan like Mr. Ritchie to help his preferred candidate, Mr. Franken. If the Canvassing Board certifies Mr. Franken as the winner based on the current count, it will be anointing a tainted and undeserving Senator.

30254  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: January 04, 2009, 07:22:39 PM
I have a seminar or two in February (they should be listed on the seminar page) but if I am out of town, Frankfurter will cover for me.
30255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: January 04, 2009, 02:41:38 PM
Israel, Gaza: Gaza City Cut Off
January 4, 2009 | 1800 GMT

Abid Katib/Getty Images
Smoke rising from Gaza CityIsrael’s Operation Cast Lead in the Gaza Strip expanded dramatically overnight and into Jan. 4. Thousands of Israeli troops and scores of tanks and armored vehicles reportedly have poured into the territory.

From the Qarni Crossing, a second major Israel Defense Forces (IDF) thrust reportedly has pushed all the way to the Mediterranean coast, cutting off Gaza City from the rest of the territory. Airstrikes on two bridges have further cut off northern Gaza from the south. Sky News reported some 150 tanks and armored vehicles massing in the former Israeli settlement of Netzarim, southwest of Gaza City — a force potentially large enough for a limited raid into the city itself.

(Click to enlarge map)
Whether the initial thrust from the northeastern corner of the territory was meant as a feint or remains an important axis of advance is unclear. The IDF does appear to have breached the border with Gaza in multiple locations, however, and is moving to surround Gaza City. Artillery fire there continued Jan. 4.

With some 30 soldiers reported wounded, reported IDF casualties have thus far been light, though fighting has been characterized as heavy at times. And Israeli troops have yet to attempt to enter places like Gaza City, where fighting will be more intense. Hamas claims to have captured two Israeli soldiers, but Israel has denied the claims. There have not yet been any reports of Hamas using its rumored anti-armor capabilities.

On the Palestinian side, airstrikes and artillery fire continued to take a higher toll, with nearly 20 deaths reported Jan. 4 at of the time of this writing. The Gaza Strip remains without power, and communications infrastructure has reportedly taken a big hit as well.

A Jan. 3 airstrike reportedly killed Zakaria al-Jamal, a battalion-level commander of Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Deen al-Qassam Brigades. Al-Jamal reportedly was in charge of artillery rocket-launching squads in Gaza City. Other airstrikes attempted to kill Hamas commanders Husam Hamdan and Muhammad Maaruf, though Hamdan was wounded, not killed, and Maaruf’s fate has not been confirmed. Hamdan was targeted in Khan Younis along with Mohammed Hilo, who reportedly supervised the fabrication and employment of domestically made Qassam rockets there.

Rocket fire from Gaza into Israel continued Jan. 4, including strikes by 122 mm BM-21 Grad artillery rockets. There reportedly have been roughly 30 strikes thus far on Jan. 4. This is more than the number of rockets fired Jan. 3, but still lighter than the reported 40 or more strikes of Dec. 31, the day Iranian-made Fajr-3 artillery rockets reportedly were first used. The Hezbollah connection and the potential for a possible northern front remain developments to watch.
30256  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: January 04, 2009, 07:02:48 AM
My sentiments exactly.

I am grateful for everyone who comes here and helps make this forum the place that it is.  We grow stronger every day and I look forward to more of the same for 2009.

The Adventure continues!
30257  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: SEMINARIO DBMA EN MÉXICO MAYO 09 on: January 04, 2009, 06:57:30 AM
Maruicio et al:

!Estoy esperando esta de nuevo en el DF con muchas ganas!

La Aventura continua,
Marc/Crafty Dog
30258  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: January 04, 2009, 06:56:05 AM
Agradezco el ano 2008 en este foro y las fundaciones que hemos construido hacia un foro mejor.  Veo que 2009 sera' un ano de mucho crecimiento aqui'.
30259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Invitation to dialog to Muslims on: January 03, 2009, 11:03:54 PM
 smiley smiley smiley
30260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mercator: The Pope's views on homosexuality on: January 03, 2009, 10:28:25 AM
Gays angered by Pope’s stand on ecology
If we don't trash the physical environment, do we have a right to trash the moral environment?
If nominations for the best bright idea of 2008 are still open, I’m voting for Pope Benedict XVI’s  “ecology of man”. It goes without saying that this will not pass unchallenged. His intriguing suggestion surfaced in a speech to his staff a couple of days before Christmas -- and instantly the gay lobby had conniptions.

An Anglican priest in London, Giles Fraser, founder of the pro-gay Inclusive Church movement, told the London Times: “I thought the Christmas angels said, ‘Fear not’. Instead, the Pope is spreading fear that gay people somehow threaten the planet. And that’s just absurd. As always, this sort of religious homophobia will be an alibi for all those who would do gay people harm.”

What did the Pope actually say?

He was discrete, but it doesn't take much to read between the lines. He said that the Church had a duty to “protect Man from destroying himself”. The Church “ought to safeguard not only the earth, water, and air as gifts of creation, belonging to everyone. It ought also to protect man against the destruction of himself” by gender-bending. True, it was a critique of homosexuality, but it was not based on the yuck factor or even primarily on the Bible.

He did not intend to insult gays, either. Even the gay Australian writer David Marr acknowledged that. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, he scolded his over-sensitive buddies: “But poofs who love the planet more than themselves should acknowledge the pontiff was onto something here: not just saving homosexuals from their ‘own destruction’ but announcing a new role for the church defending ‘the earth, water, air, as gifts of the creation that belongs to all of us’”.

Marr’s reaction suggests that the notion that man is part of the ecological web could be fruitful and persuasive. It could, in fact, lead to a better understanding of why homosexuality is wrong and a violation of human dignity.

But to grasp why, you have to read the original text,not just scraps from jaded Vatican journos. These were not just off-the-cuff remarks. Instead, they represent a consistent theme in Benedict’s teaching: that because nature has been created by God, it is rational, orderly and ultimately comprehensible. Hence it is possible to carry on a rational dialogue with people like David Marr.

This is an idea that Benedict visits again and again, and it is very similar to his critique of Islam in his Regensburg address a couple of years ago. In that controversial speech he declared that "The West has long been endangered by this aversion to the questions which underlie its rationality, and can only suffer great harm thereby."

In his Christmas speech, Benedict plays the same tune. Human bodies, having been created by God, are evidence for an authentic sexual morality: “The fact that the earth, the cosmos, mirror the Creator Spirit, clearly means that their rational structures which, transcending the mathematical order, become almost palpable in our experience, bear within themselves an ethical orientation.” If the biology of male and female sexuality are complementary, there must be an ultimate reason for it. A rational person searches for that reason and draws ethical conclusions.

He also appeals to a principle that now seems self-evident, at least in the Western world: that we trash the environment at our peril. Why? Because “the earth is not simply our possession which we can plunder according to our interests and desires. It is rather a gift of the Creator who has designed its intrinsic laws and with this has given us the basic directions for us to adhere as stewards of his creation.”

Man, even though he has a spiritual element, is part of this ecology. He may not – he cannot – reshape himself without risking his own destruction, just as abusing the atmosphere, the earth or the sea could lead to catastrophe.

“When the Church speaks of the nature of the human being as man and woman and asks that this order of creation be respected, it is not the result of an outdated metaphysics. It is a question here of faith in the Creator and of listening to the language of creation, the devaluation of which leads to the self-destruction of man and therefore to the destruction of the same work of God. That which is often expressed and understood by the term ‘gender’, results finally in the self-emancipation of man from creation and from the Creator. Man wishes to act alone and to dispose ever and exclusively of that alone which concerns him.”

Admittedly, this will not be easy for supporters of homosexuality to accept. What they feel is that biology is less important than the longings of the heart, or the desire to conquer and manipulate nature. They are unwitting disciples of Francis Bacon, the English Renaissance philosopher who argued that the destiny of science and technology was to remake and triumph over nature. In his recent encyclical Spe Salvi, Benedict treated Bacon as an important figure, whose naïve enthusiasm for scientific progress ended up justifying the terrifying and destructive potential of modern technology. Not long ago Bacon was worshipped as a visionary thinker, but contemporary philosophers are less complimentary. They regard him as a forerunner of Western science’s continuing legacy of alienation, exploitation, and ecological oppression. Someday, the Pope hints, we will realise that the gay culture is just an extension of this.

The inescapable fact of human existence is that we are both rational and animal. As W.B. Yeats put it in one of his great poems, we live “sick with desire / And fastened to a dying animal”. Even if our reason transcends it, we are as much part of the ecology as beetles and sea gulls. We can no more defy the laws of nature than they can.

Will the Pope's brief words, just a couple of dense paragraphs actually, convince people that homosexuality is “unnatural”? Absolutely not. But they could spark a realisation that it is inconsistent to demand respect for the laws of ecology with the single exception of man himself. When that philosophy was adopted by the Industrial Revolution, it turned forests into deserts, fields into wastelands and seas into stagnant ponds. Benedict wants us to see that the Sexual Revolution could do much the same.

Michael Cook is editor of MercatorNet
30261  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Woman fights carjacking on: January 03, 2009, 10:21:39 AM
Woman fights carjacking:
30262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: January 03, 2009, 09:59:59 AM
San Antonio

When Judith Markelz took a job as program manager for the Soldier and Family Assistance Center at Fort Sam Houston, she thought she was signing up for a temporary position. The hope in 2003 was that the center here -- which coordinates care for soldiers wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan, and helps their families navigate the military's health-care system -- could close its doors within six months.

It's been five years now and Mrs. Markelz is still on the job.

In the interim, more than 4,000 wounded soldiers, Marines, sailors and airmen have received treatment at the nearby Brooke Army Medical Center. Many of them have come through her door looking to find everything from books and movies to pass the time, to a place where members of their families can stay while they recuperate.

For wounded warriors, arriving at the center coincides with the start of a sometimes months-long, painful rehabilitation. Depression and boredom are common.

"They are amazing people, with strength beyond anything I have ever seen," Mrs. Markelz tells me. "They cry at night, but they don't cry during the day."

Mrs. Markelz is a counselor, activity director and surrogate mother to all the soldiers in the center. "This is a new group of young men and women," the former schoolteacher says. "We need to be meeting their needs in any way we can."

The facility, which has been renamed the Warrior and Family Support Center, is a multipurpose community room, refuge and second home for wounded soldiers and their families. Enter it, and you can't help being overwhelmed by the bravery of the young men and women in uniform, and the outpouring of support from religious groups, businesses and individual volunteers who enrich it.

But for years you also couldn't help notice that the facility was too small for the number it cares for -- crammed into a 1,200-square-foot office in a guest house on post. This was suitable, perhaps, for a "temporary" center, but inadequate for something that had become an integral part of the military's health-care system.

Private donors are already doing a lot to help recuperating soldiers in San Antonio. In recent years, two "Fisher Houses" were built near Brooke Army Medical Center by the Fisher House Foundation to give family members of injured soldiers a place to stay. And across the street from Mrs. Markelz's facility is the gleaming new Center for the Intrepid, a state-of-the-art amputee and burn-victim rehabilitation facility built with private funds and donated to the Army.

"I'm not spiritual," Mrs. Markelz says when asked if she ever wondered whether the needs of her own facility would be met, "but there's magic in this room, and I don't know where it comes from. If I say something, if I say we're out of cookies, cookies walk in."

Les Huffman, a commercial developer, walked in one day in late 2006 and was overwhelmed -- by the spirit of the military personnel, by the devotion of the staff and volunteers, and by the obvious need for more space. Mr. Huffman and his brother Steve, sons of a career Air Force officer, decided to lead an effort to build larger quarters for the center.

In short order they created a nonprofit organization -- the Returning Heroes Home -- pulled together a board of directors, made a proffer to the Army, and started raising money. They sought input from the wounded soldiers, staff, doctors and rehabilitation specialists for the design.

The nonprofit raised $3.6 million in cash contributions and another $1.5 million worth of in-kind contributions that included 275 tons of limestone, computers, audio-visual equipment and more. More than 5,000 individuals, businesses and foundations donated in one way or another.

A little more than a year after breaking ground, the new Warrior and Family Support Center was complete. On Dec. 1, Mrs. Markelz began moving into her new 12,000-square foot home.

"The mission of this facility is to have an impact on the lives of these kids -- do something positive that's uplifting, get them out of the environment of depression in those barracks," Steve Huffman says.

A 24-foot Christmas tree stands in the lobby, decked with red, white and blue ornaments. Mrs. Markelz says, "It's not my new home. It belongs to the wounded warriors and their families. . . . It's not about me. They deserve it -- big time."

Critics ask why private efforts are needed, why the military isn't building these centers on its own. Paul Begala, for one, has said "t is an obscenity that a government that can find billions in no-bid contracts for Halliburton . . . cannot find a few million dollars to bind up the wounds of its heroes." Sen. Chris Dodd (D., Conn.) has sounded similar notes.

In Today's Opinion Journal


Harry Reid v. the ConstitutionCredit Default Swamp


Declarations: In With the New
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: The Senate Goes Wobbly on Card Check
– Kimberley A. Strassel


The Weekend Interview: London's Mayor Issues a Challenge to Gordon Brown
– Matthew KaminskiObama Will Find the White House Is a Lonely Place
– Jay WinikLet's Commit to a Nuclear-Free World
– Dianne FeinsteinCross Country: Government Alone Can't Do Right by Our Wounded Soldiers
– Jonathan GurwitzBlame Television for the Bubble
– Jim SollischSteve Huffman offers a partial answer to these critics. He says that the government recognizes the needs of the troops, as evidenced by its huge investment in military medicine, but it has to prioritize its spending and can't always fill in the gaps.

"I like to paraphrase what Arnold Fisher [the driving force behind the Center for the Intrepid] said," Steve Huffman told me. "This is not about philanthropy, this is not a gift. It's an obligation. It's a partial repayment on a debt we owe these guys."

We live in an era of earmarks and ever-expanding bailouts where there is seemingly little that the government is incapable of doing. But you cannot earmark bravery or budget patriotism. And perhaps that is the best justification for what citizens -- and not government alone -- should do to aid those who have volunteered to defend their freedoms.

Through the Returning Heroes Home Foundation the Huffmans are now raising money to create fitness trails on property adjacent to center they've just built. Steve Huffman explains the motivations for all of his efforts this way, "This is the most important thing I've ever done in my life."

Mr. Gurwitz is an editorial board member of the San Antonio Express-News.
30263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: January 02, 2009, 11:50:09 PM
Generally I agree with BBG's comments.  The best explanation I have read of the Great Depression can be found in Jude Wanniski's "The Way the World Works".


Another clusterfcuk cometh:

Mortgage 'Cram-Downs' Loom as Foreclosures Mount

Mortgage lenders who wake up Thursday with a New Year's hangover are likely to face another headache soon: The effort to give bankruptcy judges the power to rewrite mortgages is gaining steam.
The banking industry hoped the mortgage "cram-down" measure died when Congress removed it from the $700 billion bailout bill that passed in October. But it has been gathering momentum in Democrat-controlled Washington, as evidence emerges that current voluntary foreclosure-prevention programs are falling short.
In a cram-down, a judge modifies a loan, often reducing principal so a borrower can afford it. Lenders hate it because they have to absorb ...
30264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 02, 2009, 12:24:05 PM
A good question.  Please answer it at
30265  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Class at Inosanto Academy on: January 02, 2009, 12:06:23 PM
Looking forward to seeing everyone at class tomorrow  smiley
30266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT: Afg: Bribes corrode trust on: January 02, 2009, 12:00:09 PM
Bribes Corrode Afghans’ Trust in Government

Published: January 1, 2009
KABUL, Afghanistan — When it comes to governing this violent, fractious land, everything, it seems, has its price.

The mansions of Afghan officials in the Sherpur neighborhood of Kabul are a curiosity not only for their size, but also because government salaries are not very big.

Want to be a provincial police chief? It will cost you $100,000.

Want to drive a convoy of trucks loaded with fuel across the country? Be prepared to pay $6,000 per truck, so the police will not tip off the Taliban.

Need to settle a lawsuit over the ownership of your house? About $25,000, depending on the judge.

“It is very shameful, but probably I will pay the bribe,” Mohammed Naim, a young English teacher, said as he stood in front of the Secondary Courthouse in Kabul. His brother had been arrested a week before, and the police were demanding $4,000 for his release. “Everything is possible in this country now. Everything.”

Kept afloat by billions of dollars in American and other foreign aid, the government of Afghanistan is shot through with corruption and graft. From the lowliest traffic policeman to the family of President Hamid Karzai himself, the state built on the ruins of the Taliban government seven years ago now often seems to exist for little more than the enrichment of those who run it.

A raft of investigations has concluded that people at the highest levels of the Karzai administration, including President Karzai’s own brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai, are cooperating in the country’s opium trade, now the world’s largest. In the streets and government offices, hardly a public transaction seems to unfold here that does not carry with it the requirement of a bribe, a gift, or, in case you are a beggar, “harchee” — whatever you have in your pocket.

The corruption, publicly acknowledged by President Karzai, is contributing to the collapse of public confidence in his government and to the resurgence of the Taliban, whose fighters have moved to the outskirts of Kabul, the capital.

“All the politicians in this country have acquired everything — money, lots of money,” President Karzai said in a speech at a rural development conference here in November. “God knows, it is beyond the limit. The banks of the world are full of the money of our statesmen.”

The decay of the Afghan government presents President-elect Barack Obama with perhaps his most underappreciated challenge as he tries to reverse the course of the war here. Mr. Obama may be required to save the Afghan government not only from the Taliban insurgency — committing thousands of additional American soldiers to do so — but also from itself.

“This government has lost the capacity to govern because a shadow government has taken over,” said Ashraf Ghani, a former Afghan finance minister. He quit that job in 2004, he said, because the state had been taken over by drug traffickers. “The narco-mafia state is now completely consolidated,” he said.

On the streets here, tales of corruption are as easy to find as kebab stands. Everything seems to be for sale: public offices, access to government services, even a person’s freedom. The examples mentioned above — $25,000 to settle a lawsuit, $6,000 to bribe the police, $100,000 to secure a job as a provincial police chief — were offered by people who experienced them directly or witnessed the transaction.

People pay bribes for large things, and for small things, too: to get electricity for their homes, to get out of jail, even to enter the airport.

Governments in developing countries are often riddled with corruption. But Afghans say the corruption they see now has no precedent, in either its brazenness or in its scale. Transparency International, a German organization that gauges honesty in government, ranked Afghanistan 117 out of 180 countries in 2005. This year, it fell to 176.

“Every man in the government is his own king,” said Abdul Ghafar, a truck driver. Mr. Ghafar said he routinely paid bribes to the police who threatened to hinder his passage through Kabul, sometimes several in a day.

Nowhere is the scent of corruption so strong as in the Kabul neighborhood of Sherpur. Before 2001, it was a vacant patch of hillside that overlooked the stately neighborhood of Wazir Akbar Khan. Today it is the wealthiest enclave in the country, with gaudy, grandiose mansions that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Afghans refer to them as “poppy houses.” Sherpur itself is often jokingly referred to as “Char-pur,” which literally means “City of Loot.”

Yet what is perhaps most remarkable about Sherpur is that many of the homeowners are government officials, whose annual salaries would not otherwise enable them to live here for more than a few days.


One of the mansions — three stories, several bedrooms, sweeping balconies — is owned by Abdul Jabbar Sabit, a former attorney general who made a name for himself by declaring a “jihad” against corruption.

Skip to next paragraph
Danfung Dennis for The New York Times
Farooq Farani has been trying to resolve a property dispute. An Afghan judge wants $25,000, but Mr. Farani has refused.
After he was fired earlier this year by President Karzai, a video began circulating around town showing Mr. Sabit dancing giddily around a room and slurring his words, apparently drunk. Mr. Sabit now lives in Canada, but his house is available to rent for $5,000 a month.

An even grander mansion — ornate faux Greek columns, a towering fountain — is owned by Kabul’s police chief, Mohammed Ayob Salangi. It can be had for $11,000 a month. Mr. Salangi’s salary is unknown; that of Mr. Karzai, the president, is about $600 a month.

Mr. Ghani, the former finance minister, said the plots of land on which the mansions of Sherpur stand were doled out early in the Karzai administration for prices that were a tiny fraction of what they were worth. (Mr. Ghani said he was offered a plot, too, and refused to accept it.)

“The money for these houses was illegal, I think,” said Mohammed Yosin Usmani, director general of a newly created anticorruption unit.

Often, the corruption here is blatant. On any morning, you can stand on the steps of the Secondary Courthouse in downtown Kabul and listen to the Afghans as they step outside.

One of them was Farooq Farani, who has been coming to the court for seven years, trying to resolve a property dispute. His predicament is a common one here: He fled the country in 1990, as the civil war began, and returned after the fall of the Taliban, only to find a stranger occupying his home.

Yet seven years later, the title to Mr. Farani’s house is still up for grabs. Mr. Farani said he had refused to pay the bribes demanded by the judge in the case, who in turn had refused to settle his case.

“You are approached indirectly, by intermediaries — this is how it works,” said Mr. Farani, who spent his exile in Wiesbaden, Germany. “My house is worth about $50,000, and I’ve been told that I can have the title if I pay $25,000 — half the value of the home.”

Tales like Mr. Farani’s abound here, so much so that it makes one wonder if an honest man can ever make a difference.

Amin Farhang, the minister of commerce, was voted out of Mr. Karzai’s cabinet by Parliament earlier last month for failing to bring down the price of oil in Afghanistan as the price declined in international markets. In a long talk in the sitting room of his home, Mr. Farhang recounted a two-year struggle to fire the man in charge of giving out licenses for new businesses.

The man, Mr. Farhang said, would grant a license only in exchange for a hefty bribe. But Mr. Farhang found that he was unable to fire the man, who, he said, simply bribed other members of the government to reinstate him.

“In a job like this, a man can make 10 or 12 times his salary,” Mr. Farhang said. “People do anything to hang on to them.”

Many Afghans, including Mr. Ghani, the former finance minister, place responsibility for the collapse of the state on Mr. Karzai, who, they say, has failed repeatedly to confront the powerful figures who are behind much of the corruption. In his stint as finance minister, Mr. Ghani said, two moments crystallized his disgust and finally prompted him to quit.

The first, Mr. Ghani said, was his attempt to impose order on Kabul’s chaotic system of private property rights. The Afghan government had accumulated vast amounts of land during the period of Communist rule in the 1970s and 1980s. And since 2001, the government has given much of it away — often, Mr. Ghani said, to shady developers at extremely low prices.

Much of that land has been sold and developed, rendering much of Kabul’s property in the hands of unknown owners. Many of the developers who were given free land, Mr. Ghani said, were also involved in drug trafficking.

When he proposed drawing up a set of regulations to govern private property, Mr. Ghani said, he was told by President Karzai to stop.

“ ‘Just back off,” he told me,’ ” Mr. Ghani said. “He said that politically it wasn’t feasible.”

A similar effort to impose regulations at the Ministry of Aviation, which Mr. Ghani described as rife with corruption, was met with a similar response by President Karzai, he said.

“Morally the question was, am I becoming the fig leaf to legitimate a system that was deeply corrupt? Or was I there to serve the people?” Mr. Ghani said. “I resigned.”

Mr. Ghani, who then became chancellor of Kabul University, is today contemplating a run for the presidency.

Asked about Mr. Ghani’s account on Thursday, Humayun Hamidzada, a spokesman for Mr. Karzai, said he could not immediately comment.  The corruption may be endemic here, but if there is any hope in the future, it would seem to lie in the revulsion of average Afghans like Mr. Farani, who, after seven years, is still refusing to pay.

“I won’t do it,” Mr. Farani said outside the courthouse. “It’s a matter of principle. Never. But, I don’t have my house, either, and I don’t know that I ever will.”

30267  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Once agin NJ seeks to regulate martial arts on: January 02, 2009, 11:49:21 AM

New Jersey Senator PAUL A. SARLO - District 36 (Bergen, Essex and Passaic) has proposed a State regulatory bill that would INCLUDE stringent regulation of YOUR martial arts school! (If you Live in New Jersey)

On October 6th, legislation was introduced in the State Senate that would place unnecessary and burdensome licensing requirements on New Jersey personal trainers and group exercise instructors (which is written to SPECIFICALLY include EVERY martial arts school owner in the state).

School Owners in New Jersey would face unrealistic and stifling measures that will put much undue financial strain on individual school owners, including State mandated and facilitated training. This bill is now in the Commerce Committee where legislators will discuss the financial impact of this regulation.

NAPMA has always lobbied for "self regulation" of our industry, and we have had a great track record of defeating such damaging regulation attempts.

If you live in New Jersey, Please click this link, and send your state representatives a message describing your concerns!

If you do NOT live in New Jersey, pay CLOSE attention to your state. If this bill passes in NJ, it could very well pave the way for more regulation and interference from other states. NAPMA will always represent the interests of it's members and it's industry, and continue the revolution of professionalism it began more than 14 years ago!!

Yours for Success!
Toby Milroy
Chief Operating Officer
NAPMA - National Association of Professional Martial Artists

Woof All:

Here is what I wrote a few years ago.  Please feel free to use any or all of it.

Crafty Dog

Recently there has been a push in the State of New Jersey to regulate martial arts. Originally it was pushed as protection from child molesters, but when it was pointed out that if that were the case then those regulated should be all who dealt with children, not martial arts. So now they're baaack, seeking to set up 5 bureaucrats to study things and make rules. This of course shows that "the children" had nothing to do with the original impulse to regulate. These 5 bureaucrats are the proverbial camel's nose and we must stop hit this initiation of yet another attack on our lives as a free people. So I will be writing yet again and ask you to do so as well. I know that many people are not sure of what to say and this hinders them from getting started. So, if you want to use any passages from this for "write-your-congressman" efforts, then DBIMA and Marc Denny waive copyright. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. Do your part.

Crafty Dog

PS: Thanks to Jeff Finder for getting me going on this.


Concerning the proposal to regulate martial arts:
People who are not involved with the martial arts usually have no idea of the extraordinary breadth and depth of martial art world, both in its offerings and in the people who come to the arts and the reasons for which they come. My particular martial art comes from the Philippines, which has nearly 1,000 islands and 90 major dialects. The result is that not even the name of our art is agreed upon! In can be Kali, or Arnis, or Eskrima, or simply FMA (short for "the Filipino Martial Arts"). There are hundreds of styles within the FMA.

Similar diversity can be found in the Chinese Arts, even though it is all lumped together in the general public's mind as "kung fu". To a person in the martial art world, the statement "I practice kung fu." can properly be answered with the question "Which style?" Is it Wing Chun- a close quarter trapping system with mostly linear strikes? or Hung Gar a deep stance system with more emphasis on slashing strikes? or is it one of the northern Chinese systems with an emphasis on kicking? Or acrobatic Wu Shu? Or meditational Tai Chi? Similar variety can be found amongst the Malay cultures (Indonesian, Malaysian, southern Filipino) or the Japanese/Owkinowan systems. And what about the Indian systems? Or the European, e.g. France's Savate, or English quarterstaff? Martial arts is much more than a matter of the few names with which the American movie going public is familiar. Martial Arts is about the study of what to do about human aggression and the solutions are as various as the human condition.

Look at the array of reasons that people come to martial arts: Some come for fun, some come for fitness, some come for functionality as they percieve it, some come for moving meditation, some come to socialize. Some are young males looking to compete. Some are women looking for anti-rape skills, Some are big and strong, many are not. Some want to grapple, some want to strike. Some practice forms, some do not. Some are children looking to join the Ninja Mutant Turtles, some are prison guards and law enforcement officers with real and immediate practical needs.

The interaction of all these styles and the people who come to them also leads to a variety of organizational structures. Some of the very best teach in their back yards for pocket money, others have an independent school and may even support themnselves. Others have large organizations that are financially successful. Some offer belts, others do not. Some require the student to sign up for a period of time, others do not. Some require a testing of the skills (fighting/sparring) others do not. Of those who have impressive looking certifications, some are good and some are not. And ditto for those lacking certifications.

In my humble opinion, THERE IS NO WAY THIS INCREDIBLE VARIETY OF PEOPLE OR STYLES CAN BE FAIRLY OR COMPETENTLY REGULATED. The People's search of what is right for them, the "pursuit of happiness" of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution if you will, is most eminently something for the American way, the free market and its protection by the State in the area of defending against theft and fraud in their many forms. Giving the State the power to determine who may teach martial arts and how they may and may not be taught only lessens both the freedom of choice and of responsibility, but also as a practical matter is quite likely to lead well-known big organization styles to use this regulatory process to squeeze out competition and so deprive individuals who need or desire approaches outside of theirs.

Ultimately, the study of martial arts is, regardless of approach, is a study of aggression, how it is done and how to deal with it. The State is those areas of life which we as a people determine must be dealt with by force. The goal for us is to learn to deal with each other through voluntary interactions- free minds and free markets. When we or the State defend ourselves or the weak from attack, whether by foreign armies or by criminals, we lessen violence. When we make others do what we think is "a good idea" we increase it. Rather, We the People must say to the State, and to the Politicians, the IRS, the factions, the special interests, the computer generated governmental actions so seemingly beyond human control, DON'T EVEN GET STARTED, JUST LEAVE US ALONE.

Marc Denny
Co-founder: The Dog Brothers
Head Teacher
Dog Brothers Inc. Martial Arts.

30268  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 02, 2009, 10:55:50 AM
Back in the 70s I subscribed to the Economist and still occasionally buy it when flying.  Its still a good magazine, but IMHO has drifted considerably towards fashionably wooly-headed thinking.  This piece IMHO displays that tendency.

JERUSALEM -- As Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip entered its seventh day Friday, fighter jets targeted homes of Hamas political leaders across the territory and some of the mosques they have been known to pray in, while Palestinians and Israelis on both sides of the border feared that they would join the growing list of casualties suffered in the conflict.

With Hamas vowing "a day of rage" in retaliation for the bombardment that has killed more than 400 Palestinians and wounded approximately 2,000 others, Israel sealed the West Bank, prohibiting the movement of the more than 3 million Palestinians living there to prevent what the army feared would be massive protests at the bloodshed. Four Israelis have been killed by Hamas rockets, and dozens more injured in the week of fighting.

Palestinians survey destroyed houses following an Israeli air strike in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused the militant Hamas organization of holding the people of Gaza hostage Friday and said the U.S. continues to seek a "durable and sustainable" cease-fire.

Speaking to reporters in the White House driveway after a meeting with President George W. Bush, Ms. Rice also said that the U.S. remains "very concerned about the situation there and is working very hard with our partners around the world."

But she reiterated the Bush administration argument that any cease-fire must hinge on the willingness of Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel. "We are working toward a cease-fire that would not allow a re-establishment of the status quo…where Hamas could launch rockets," she said.

Elsewhere across the Middle East, anger that has been building against the Israeli onslaught was expected to be channeled in fiery Friday sermons, leading to demonstrations and heightened tensions across the region.

In airstrike after airstrike early Friday, Israeli warplanes hit some 20 houses believed to belong to Hamas militants and members of other armed groups, Palestinians said.

In what appeared to be a new Israeli tactic, the military called at least some of the houses ahead of time to warn inhabitants of an impending attack. In some cases, it also fired a sound bomb to warn away civilians before flattening the homes with powerful missiles, Palestinians and Israeli defense officials said.

Israel launched the aerial campaign last Saturday in a bid to halt weeks of intensifying Palestinian rocket fire from Gaza. The offensive has dealt a heavy blow to Hamas, but failed to halt the rocket fire. New attacks Friday struck apartment buildings in a southern Israeli city. No serious injuries were reported.

After destroying Hamas's security compounds, Israel has turned its attention to the group's leadership.

They said the Israelis either warned nearby residents by phone or fired a warning missile to reduce civilian casualties. Israeli planes also dropped leaflets east of Gaza giving a confidential phone number and e-mail address for people to report locations of rocket squads. Residents stepped over the leaflets.

Israel used similar tactics during its 2006 war in Lebanon.

Most of the targeted homes Friday belonged to activist leaders and appeared to be empty at the time, but one man was killed in a strike that flattened a building in the Jebaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.

Three Israeli civilians and one soldier have also died in the rocket attacks, which have reached deeper into Israel than ever before, bringing one-eighth of Israel's population of seven million within rocket range.

One of the mosques destroyed Friday was known as a Hamas stronghold, and the army said it was used to store weapons. It also was identified with Nizar Rayan, the Hamas militant leader killed Thursday when Israel dropped a one-ton bomb on his home.

The hit on Mr. Rayan's home obliterated the four-story apartment building and peeled off the walls of others around it, carving out a vast field of rubble.

Mr. Rayan, 49, ranked among Hamas' top five decision-makers. A professor of Islamic law, he was known for his close ties to the group's military wing and was respected in Gaza for donning combat fatigues and personally participating in clashes against Israeli forces. He sent one of his sons on an October 2001 suicide mission that killed two Israeli settlers in Gaza.

Israel's military says the homes of Hamas leaders are being used to store missiles and other weapons, and it said the hit on Mr. Rayan's house triggered secondary explosions from the stockpile there.

Israeli defense officials said the military had called Mr. Rayan's home and fired a warning missile before destroying the building. That was impossible to confirm. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss military tactics.

Israel has targeted Hamas leaders many times in the past, but halted the practice during a six-month truce that expired last month.

Most of Hamas's leaders went into hiding at the start of Israel's offensive. Mr. Rayan, however, was known for openly defying Israel and in the past had led crowds to the homes of wanted Hamas figures -- as if daring Israel to strike and risk the lives of civilians.

The offensive hasn't halted rocket fire at Israel, and a barrage landed in the city of Ashkelon early Friday. Two rockets hit apartment buildings, lightly wounding one man, police said. Sirens warning Israelis to take cover when military radar picks up an incoming rocket have helped reduce casualties in recent days. The military said aircraft destroyed the three rocket launchers used to fire at Ashkelon.

Israel has been building up artillery, armor and infantry on Gaza's border in an indication the punishing air assault could continue with a ground incursion. At the same time, international pressure is building for a cease-fire that would block more fighting.

Israel appears to be maintaining an opening for the intense diplomatic efforts by leaders in the Middle East and, saying it would consider a halt to the fighting if international monitors were brought in to track compliance with any truce with Hamas.

But political jockeying in Israel appears to be complicating efforts to end the conflict. Rival camps in the ruling government -- both contesting a February general election to lead the country -- have signaled their backing for different negotiating tracks over a possible cease-fire.

The staff of Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a former prime minister and longshot contender to lead the country, earlier in the week raised the possibility of a French-brokered, 48-hour lull in fighting with Hamas. That proposal was shot down Wednesday by Mr. Olmert and his second-in-command, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who is also running to lead the next government.

On Thursday, Ms. Livni was in Paris for talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy as part of a push for international support for what she characterizes as Israel's fight against terror. Ms. Livni said Thursday that a temporary halt to hostilities in Gaza to allow in humanitarian supplies would be harmful to Israel.

"There is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip, and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce," Ms. Livni said, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Concerned about protests, Israeli police said they would step up security and restrict access to Friday prayers at Jerusalem's al-Aqsa Mosque. Devout Muslims attend large, communal prayers on Fridays.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said thousands of police would be deployed throughout the city, and that only Palestinian men over the age of 50, along with women of all ages, would be permitted to enter. He also said that police were in contact with Muslim leaders to ensure things remain quiet.

The army also imposed a closure on the West Bank, barring nearly all of the area's more than two million Palestinians from entering Israel.

—Jay Solomon, Joshua Mitnick and the Associated Press contributed to this article.
30269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton on: January 02, 2009, 10:52:45 AM
"A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects commmitted to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people."

--Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 31, 1 January 1788
30270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: The American Creed: Our Founding Fathers: on: January 02, 2009, 12:42:54 AM
After their dismal performance in November, conservatives are taking stock. As they debate the causes that have driven them into the political wilderness and as they contemplate paths out, they should also take heart. After all, election 2008 shows that our constitutional order is working as designed.

The Constitution presupposes a responsive electorate, and respond the electorate did to the vivid memory of a spendthrift and feckless Republican Congress; to a stalwart but frequently ineffectual Republican president; and to a Republican presidential candidate who -- for all his mastery of foreign affairs, extensive Washington experience, and honorable public service -- proved incapable of crafting a coherent and compelling message.

Indeed, while sorting out their errors and considering their options, conservatives of all stripes would be well advised to concentrate their attention on the constitutional order and the principles that undergird it, because maintaining them should be their paramount political priority.

A constitutional conservatism puts liberty first and teaches the indispensableness of moderation in securing, preserving and extending its blessings. The constitution it seeks to conserve carefully defines government's proper responsibilities while providing it with the incentives and tools to perform them effectively; draws legitimacy from democratic consent while protecting individual rights from invasion by popular majorities; assumes the primacy of self-interest but also the capacity on occasion to rise above it through the exercise of virtue; reflects, and at the same time refines, popular will through a complex scheme of representation; and disperses and blends power among three distinct branches of government as well as among federal and state governments the better to check and balance it. The Constitution and the nation that has prospered under it for 220 years demonstrate that conserving and enlarging freedom and democracy depends on weaving together rival interests and competing goods.

Unfortunately, contrary to the Constitution's lesson in moderation, the two biggest blocs in the conservative coalition are tempted to conclude that what is needed now is greater purity in conservative ranks. Down that path lies disaster.

Some social conservatives point to the ballot initiatives this year in Arizona, California and Florida that rejected same-sex marriage as evidence that the country is and remains socially conservative, and that any deviation from the social conservative agenda is politically suicidal. They overlook that whereas in California's 2000 ballot initiative 61% of voters rejected same-sex marriage, in 2008 only 52% of voters in the nation's most populous state opposed the proposition. Indeed, most trend lines suggest that the public is steadily growing more accepting of same-sex marriage, with national polls indicating that opposition to it, also among conservatives, is weakest among young voters.

Meanwhile, more than a few libertarian-leaning conservatives are disgusted by Republican profligacy. They remain uncomfortable with or downright opposed to the Bush administration's support in 2004 for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, and its continuation of the Clinton administration's moratorium on government funding of embryonic stem-cell research.

In addition, many are still angry about the Republican-led intervention by the federal government in the 2005 controversy over whether Terri Schiavo's husband could lawfully remove the feeding tubes that were keeping his comatose wife alive. These libertarian conservatives entertain dreams of a coalition that jettisons social conservatives and joins forces with moderates and independents of libertarian persuasion.

But the purists in both camps ignore simple electoral math. Slice and dice citizens' opinions and voting patterns in the 50 states as you like, neither social conservatives nor libertarian conservatives can get to 50% plus one without the aid of the other.

Yet they, and the national security hawks who are also crucial to conservative electoral hopes, do not merely form a coalition of convenience. Theirs can and should be a coalition of principle, and a constitutional conservatism provides the surest ones.

The principles are familiar: individual freedom and individual responsibility, limited but energetic government, economic opportunity and strong national defense. They are embedded in the Constitution and flow out of the political ideas from which it was fashioned. They were central to Frank Meyer's celebrated fusion of traditionalist and libertarian conservatism in the 1960s. And they inspired Ronald Reagan's consolidation of conservatism in the 1980s.

Short-term clashes over priorities and policies are bound to persist. But championing these principles is the best means over the long term for conserving the political conditions hospitable to traditional morality, religious faith, and the communities that nourish them. And it is also the best means over the long term for conserving the political conditions that promote free markets, and the economic growth and expanded opportunity free markets bring.

Moreover, a constitutional conservatism provides a framework for developing a distinctive agenda for today's challenges to which social conservatives and libertarian conservatives can both, in good conscience, subscribe. Leading that agenda should be:

- An economic program, health-care reform, energy policy and protection for the environment grounded in market-based solutions.

- A foreign policy that recognizes America's vital national security interest in advancing liberty abroad but realistically calibrates undertakings to the nation's limited knowledge and restricted resources.

- A commitment to homeland security that is as passionate about security as it is about law, and which is prepared to responsibly fashion the inevitable, painful trade-offs.

- A focus on reducing the number of abortions and increasing the number of adoptions.

- Efforts to keep the question of same-sex marriage out of the federal courts and subject to consideration by each state's democratic process.

- Measures to combat illegal immigration that are emphatically pro-border security and pro-immigrant.

In Today's Opinion Journal


The Euro Decade and Its LessonsTreasury to Ford: Drop Dead


Declarations: In With the New
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: The Senate Goes Wobbly on Card Check
– Kimberley A. Strassel


Conservatives Can Unite Around the Constitution
– Peter BerkowitzLet's Be Worthy of Their Sacrific
– Karl RoveLet's Write the Rating Agencies Out of Our Law
– Robert RosenkranzObama Promises Bush III on Iran
– John R. BoltonIsrael's Policy Is Perfectly 'Proportionate'
– Alan M. Dershowitz- A case for school choice as an option that enhances individual freedom while giving low-income, inner-city parents opportunities to place their children in classrooms where they can obtain a decent education.

- A demand that public universities abolish speech codes and vigorously protect liberty of thought and discussion on campus.

- The appointment of judges who understand that their function is to interpret the Constitution and not make policy, and, therefore, where the Constitution is most vague, recognize the strongest obligation to defer to the results of the democratic process.

If they honor the imperatives of a constitutional conservatism, both social conservatives and libertarian conservatives will have to bite their fair share of bullets as they translate these goals into concrete policy. They will, though, have a big advantage: Moderation is not only a conservative virtue, but the governing virtue of a constitutional conservatism.

Mr. Berkowitz is a senior fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. An expanded version of this article is forthcoming in Policy Review.
30271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bolton: BO=Bush3 on: January 02, 2009, 12:38:52 AM
"You'd have to be an idiot to trust the North Koreans," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said recently. Apparently unaware of the irony, she then predicted eventual success for the six-party talks on the North's nuclear weapons program.

President-elect Barack Obama has promised major changes in U.S. diplomacy and repeatedly criticized the Bush administration on both substance and style. Mr. Obama has pledged more negotiation and multilateralism -- less saber-rattling and "take it or leave it" unilateralism. While Iraq was Mr. Obama's focal point in the campaign, the biggest problem ahead is countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

But on proliferation, what is striking are the similarities between Mr. Obama and President George W. Bush's second term. Given Mr. Bush's recent record, continuity between the two presidencies is hardly reassuring. And where Mr. Obama differs with Mr. Bush, he is only more accommodating to the intractable rogues running Pyongyang and Tehran. This is decidedly bad news.

The recent, embarrassing collapse of the six-party talks starkly underlines how, under Mr. Obama, everything old will be new again. The talks are classic multilateral diplomacy, pursued since 2003 with notable deference to North Korea. There's been about as much engagement with Pyongyang as consenting adults can lawfully have.

The outcome of this Obama-style diplomacy was the same as all prior negotiations with the leaders of the world's largest prison camp. North Korea charged even for the privilege of sitting at the negotiating table, extracted concession after concession, endlessly renegotiated points that had been resolved, and ultimately delivered nothing of consequence in return.

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When pressed, North Korea would bluster and threaten to rain destruction on South Korea. "Experts" on North Korea would observe that this was just its style, nothing to worry about. Thus did the Bush administration enable the North's bullying behavior by proclaiming even greater willingness to offer further carrots.

Most recently in Beijing, Pyongyang refused to put in writing what U.S. negotiators say it committed to verbally -- namely, verifying its commitment to abandon its nuclear program. But even taking U.S. negotiators at their word, this did not constitute real verification. The charade of verification was only one more ploy to squeeze out U.S. concessions, which Mr. Bush's negotiators seemed prepared to give.

On Iran, also for over five years, Mr. Bush has endorsed vigorous European diplomacy. The Europeans offered every imaginable carrot to persuade Iran to drop its nuclear program in exchange for a different relationship with Europe and America. This produced no change in Iran's strategic objective of acquiring deliverable nuclear weapons. The only real consequence is that Iran is five years closer to achieving that objective. It now has indigenous mastery over the entire nuclear fuel cycle.

The Obama alternative? "Present the Iranian regime with a clear choice" by using carrots and sticks to induce Iran to give up its nuclear aspirations. What does Mr. Obama think Mr. Bush and the Europeans have been doing? Does he really think his smooth talking will achieve more than Europe's smoothest talkers, who were in fact talking for us the whole time?

In Today's Opinion Journal


The Euro Decade and Its LessonsTreasury to Ford: Drop Dead


Declarations: In With the New
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: The Senate Goes Wobbly on Card Check
– Kimberley A. Strassel


Conservatives Can Unite Around the Constitution
– Peter BerkowitzLet's Be Worthy of Their Sacrific
– Karl RoveLet's Write the Rating Agencies Out of Our Law
– Robert RosenkranzObama Promises Bush III on Iran
– John R. BoltonIsrael's Policy Is Perfectly 'Proportionate'
– Alan M. DershowitzWhile Mr. Obama has uttered only generalities on North Korea, his Iran policy will be worse than Mr. Bush's. He acts as though the years of failed efforts to dissuade Iran from going nuclear simply didn't happen. That is blindness, not continuity. And that's without Mr. Obama's pledge to meet personally with Iran's leaders, an incredible act of legitimization he seems willing to give away for nothing.

Neither North Korea nor Iran is prepared to voluntarily give up nuclear or ballistic missile programs. The Bush policy was flawed not because its diplomacy was ineffective or disengaged, not because it was too intimidating to its adversaries, and not because it lacked persistence. Mr. Bush's flaw was believing that negotiation and mutual concession could accomplish the U.S. objective -- the end of proliferation threats from Pyongyang and Tehran -- when the objectives of our adversaries were precisely the opposite. They sought to buy valuable time to improve and expand their nuclear programs, extract as many carrots as possible, and play for legitimacy on the world stage.

Iran and North Korea achieved their objectives through diplomacy. Mr. Bush failed to achieve his. How can Mr. Obama do better? For starters, he could increase the pressure on China, which has real leverage over North Korea, to press Kim Jong Il's regime in ways that the six-party talks never approached. Options on Iran are more limited, but meaningful efforts at regime change and assisting Israel should it decide to strike Iran's nuclear facilities would be good first steps.

Sadly, the chances Mr. Obama will adopt these policies are far less than the steadily dwindling possibility that the Bush administration might yet come back to reality. Mr. Obama's handling of the rogue states will -- at best -- continue the Bush policies, which failed to stop nuclear proliferation. Get ready for a dangerous ride.

Mr. Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of "Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations" (Simon & Schuster, 2007).

30272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: January 02, 2009, 12:36:09 AM
If Iran unleashes Hezbollah in the north if/when Israel goes into Gaza, we could see a real excrement storm.

Israel's actions in Gaza are justified under international law, and Israel should be commended for its self-defense against terrorism. Article 51 of the United Nations Charter reserves to every nation the right to engage in self-defense against armed attacks. The only limitation international law places on a democracy is that its actions must satisfy the principle of proportionality.

Since Israel ended its occupation of Gaza, Hamas has fired thousands of rockets designed to kill civilians into southern Israel. The residents of Sderot -- which have borne the brunt of the attacks -- have approximately 15 seconds from launch time to run into a shelter. Although deliberately targeting civilians is a war crime, terrorists firing at Sderot are so proud of their actions that they sign their weapons.

When Barack Obama visited Sderot this summer and saw the remnants of these rockets, he reacted by saying that if his two daughters were exposed to rocket attacks in their home, he would do everything in his power to stop such attacks. He understands how the terrorists exploit the morality of democracies.

In a recent incident related to me by the former head of the Israeli air force, Israeli intelligence learned that a family's house in Gaza was being used to manufacture rockets. The Israeli military gave the residents 30 minutes to leave. Instead, the owner called Hamas, which sent mothers carrying babies to the house.

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Hamas knew that Israel would never fire at a home with civilians in it. They also knew that if Israeli authorities did not learn there were civilians in the house and fired on it, Hamas would win a public relations victory by displaying the dead. Israel held its fire. The Hamas rockets that were protected by the human shields were then used against Israeli civilians.

These despicable tactics -- targeting Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians -- can only work against moral democracies that care deeply about minimizing civilian casualties. They never work against amoral nations such as Russia, whose military has few inhibitions against killing civilians among whom enemy combatants are hiding.

The claim that Israel has violated the principle of proportionality -- by killing more Hamas terrorists than the number of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas rockets -- is absurd. First, there is no legal equivalence between the deliberate killing of innocent civilians and the deliberate killings of Hamas combatants. Under the laws of war, any number of combatants can be killed to prevent the killing of even one innocent civilian.

In Today's Opinion Journal


The Euro Decade and Its LessonsTreasury to Ford: Drop Dead


Declarations: In With the New
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: The Senate Goes Wobbly on Card Check
– Kimberley A. Strassel


Conservatives Can Unite Around the Constitution
– Peter BerkowitzLet's Be Worthy of Their Sacrific
– Karl RoveLet's Write the Rating Agencies Out of Our Law
– Robert RosenkranzObama Promises Bush III on Iran
– John R. BoltonIsrael's Policy Is Perfectly 'Proportionate'
– Alan M. DershowitzSecond, proportionality is not measured by the number of civilians actually killed, but rather by the risk posed. This is illustrated by what happened on Tuesday, when a Hamas rocket hit a kindergarten in Beer Sheva, though no students were there at the time. Under international law, Israel is not required to allow Hamas to play Russian roulette with its children's lives.

While Israel installs warning systems and builds shelters, Hamas refuses to do so, precisely because it wants to maximize the number of Palestinian civilians inadvertently killed by Israel's military actions. Hamas knows from experience that even a small number of innocent Palestinian civilians killed inadvertently will result in bitter condemnation of Israel by many in the international community.

Israel understands this as well. It goes to enormous lengths to reduce the number of civilian casualties -- even to the point of foregoing legitimate targets that are too close to civilians.

Until the world recognizes that Hamas is committing three war crimes -- targeting Israeli civilians, using Palestinian civilians as human shields, and seeking the destruction of a member state of the United Nations -- and that Israel is acting in self-defense and out of military necessity, the conflict will continue.

Mr. Dershowitz is a law professor at Harvard. His latest book is "The Case Against Israel's Enemies" (Wiley, 2008).
30273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Dimona in play on: January 01, 2009, 08:49:19 PM

Gaza rockets put Israel’s nuclear plant in battle zone
Growing concern over Hamas’s new arsenalJames Hider in Beersheba
There were growing fears in Israel last night that Hamas missiles could threaten its top-secret nuclear facility at Dimona.

Rocket attacks from Gaza have forced Israelis to flee in ever greater numbers and military chiefs have been shaken by the size and sophistication of the militant group’s arsenal.

In Beersheba, until a few days ago a sleepy desert town in southern Israel, there is little sign of the 186,000 inhabitants. Schools are closed and the streets of shuttered shops echo with the howl of sirens warning of incoming rockets.

Israeli planes, meanwhile, began a new stage yesterday in their offensive on Gaza, killing Nizar Rayyan, a senior Hamas official. The one-tonne bomb in Jabaliya is also understood to have killed two of his four wives and four of his twelve children. More than 400 Palestinians have been killed in the six days of Israeli attacks.

Despite a diplomatic mission by Tzipi Livni, the Israeli Foreign Minister, to Paris, the Israeli army continued to muster thousands of troops and scores of tanks along Gaza’s border for a possible ground offensive. Israel’s airstrikes are designed to blunt Hamas’s capacity to fire its new Grad missiles deep into its territory. The weapons are smuggled in through tunnels and by sea, replacing homemade Qassam rockets.

Israeli officials say that Hamas has also acquired dozens of Iranian-made Fajr-3 missiles with an even longer range. Many fear that as the group acquires ever more sophisticated weaponry it is only a matter of time before the nuclear installation at Dimona, 20 miles east of Beersheba, falls within its sights. Dimona houses Israel’s only nuclear reactor and is believed to be where nuclear warheads are stored.

Israel’s worst nightmare is that soon all its cities will be within range either of the Hezbollah Katyushas arrayed on the Lebanese border to the north or the increasingly sophisticated missiles stockpiled by Hamas to the south. Both groups have links to Israel’s archenemy Iran.

Israel has said that its aim is to smash Hamas’s rocket-firing capability but also to topple the hardline Islamist regime that seized power in the Gaza Strip in 2007 after bloody street battles with its secular rivals Fatah. Until that goal is achieved, many in Beersheba are packing their bags and heading for Tel Aviv or Eilat.

“Maybe 30 or 40 per cent of people have left the city,” said Ron Shukron, 26, running one of the few grocery shops still open. As he spoke a siren echoed through the empty streets. With only 15 seconds to take cover, he stepped under a reinforced support beam in the ceiling. Seconds later came the dull thud of a rocket exploding on the edge of town.
30274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Finish Strong on: January 01, 2009, 06:54:50 PM
30275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Useless Police Dog on: January 01, 2009, 05:46:01 PM
30276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Mexico-US matters on: January 01, 2009, 06:03:03 AM
Mexico: Cartel Sources in High Places
Stratfor Today » December 29, 2008 | 1834 GMT

A Mexican army major has been arrested for allegedly passing information to the Beltran Leyva drug-trafficking organization. The arrest represents a double blow to the Mexican government and demonstrates the reach of the country’s cartels.

Mexican army Maj. Arturo Gonzalez Rodriguez was arrested the week of Dec. 21 for allegedly assisting Mexican drug trafficking organizations for $100,000 per month, the Mexican attorney general’s office announced Dec. 26. Gonzalez was assigned to the Presidential Guard Corps, the unit responsible for protecting Mexico’s president. Based on statements from a former cartel member turned witness code-named “Jennifer,” the attorney general’s office has accused Gonzalez of passing information related to the activities and travel plans of Mexican President Felipe Calderon to the Beltran Leyva organization (BLO). Gonzalez also stands accused of leaking military intelligence, training BLO hit men through a private security company and supplying military weapons to various drug-trafficking organizations, including Los Zetas.

In light of other high-level Mexican government corruption charges over the past months, this case is unsettling but certainly does not come as a surprise.

The revelation that Gonzalez was providing intelligence and materials to drug cartels represents a double blow to the Mexican government. First, the fact that a member of an army unit responsible for protecting the president was passing information about presidential movements to the cartels exposes a potentially fatal gap in Calderon’s protective detail. While it is not known what specific information Gonzalez had access to, or what exact details he was passing to the cartels, this is a security breach at the highest level. According to the attorney general’s office, the informant Jennifer has said the cartels were tracking the president’s movements with the intent of avoiding the high level of government security that surrounds him, but had no specific plan to target Calderon. But capability is more important than intent, as intent can change quickly. Tracking Calderon’s movements to avoid him could easily have been altered to targeting Calderon if the need arose.

It is unclear exactly how involved Gonzalez was in the daily movements of Calderon. Because he was on the staff, it is safe to assume that he was at least involved in briefings and the general movements of the president, but this information would not necessarily be enough for the cartel to have been able to assassinate Calderon. Most valuable to such a plot would have been information related to presidential transport strategy, namely, how the guard worked to protect Calderon, how it arranged transportation, and how it gathered intelligence on specific threats. Insights into how the guard operated would have given the cartels a glimpse into Calderon’s security vulnerabilities — something far more dangerous to Calderon than simply the knowledge of where the president would be at any given time.

The second aspect of the blow is that Gonzalez apparently had been on the cartel payroll since 2005, during which time he held different positions in the government. As he changed assignments, he was kept on as a cartel asset, and the nature of his involvement with the cartels changed. It is entirely feasible that he fed information on other departments of the army (not just the Presidential Guard Corps) over his three-year relationship with the cartels.

A primary reason for the Mexican government to rely on the military to fight the cartels is because state and local law enforcement are considered far too corrupt to be trusted. One of the military’s strengths was its perceived lower level of corruption due to its low-level involvement with the cartels, but this case (along with other military corruption arrests this year) confirms that members of the Mexican military also are prone to corruption.

More details must emerge about Gonzalez’s exact role in the Presidential Guard Corps and the nature of the intelligence he passed to the BLO in order to more accurately assess the threat he posed to the president. Even so, the fact remains that the cartels’ intelligence capabilities have extended to those charged with protecting Mexico’s president — and hence to Mexico’s political stability.
30277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / B. Franklin on: January 01, 2009, 05:56:21 AM
"Resolve to perform what you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve."

--Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, 1771
30278  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More from Stratfor on: January 01, 2009, 05:21:07 AM
Second post of AM

Part 3: Making It on Its Own
December 19, 2008 | 1218 GMT
Constrained by its geography since its inception in 1947, Pakistan has found it virtually impossible to develop a strong economy, so it has had to think outside the box. One effective strategy has been to leverage the political and security aspects of its geography, posed by the confluence of countries and cultures in the region. This mix of Iran, India, Afghanistan, Shiite Islam, Sunni Islam and Hinduism has meant that powers beyond Pakistan’s immediate frontiers have had a vested interest in its survival. But this could be changing as the world moves away from Pakistan and as it moves closer to its day of reckoning as a functioning nation-state.

Related Special Topic Page
Countries In Crisis
Related Links
Part 1: The Perils of Using Islamism to Protect the Core
Part 2: A Crisis in Indian-Pakistani Relations
The Geopolitics of India: A Shifting, Self-Contained World
Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a series on Pakistan.

Very few developing states boast strong economies. Even those that do, such as Brazil, suffer from a host of problems, including insufficient infrastructure and technical personnel, high levels of corruption, shallow local capital markets, currency risk and overdependence on commodities. Pakistan suffers from all of these ailments — and more, as we have discussed in earlier installments of this series.

As we look at the economic factors contributing to Pakistan’s problems, we will first evaluate the Pakistani economy on its merits (or lack thereof). Then we will explain how things are just about as good as they can possibly get.

Security, Debt and Deficit
Pakistan historically has been an economically weak, mismanaged and corrupt state. The Pakistani military elite, deeply entrenched in the economy, holds much of the country’s wealth as well as a number of key assets in the corporate and real estate sectors. The agricultural industry remains the country’s economic backbone, employing some 44 percent of the population, yet accounting for only 21 percent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product (GDP). The remainder of the GDP comes from services (53 percent) and industry (27 percent).

Pakistan’s most fundamental economic problem is that it has very few natural resources to tap in the first place. And it is not necessarily a matter of lacking the resources; security issues in the country’s northwest have long constrained even basic exploration in much of the country, going back to times that predate the British colonial experience. In order to industrialize, therefore, Pakistan has been forced to import whatever materials it needs without first being able to establish a source of income. The unavoidable results are high debt and a sustained, massive trade deficit. As of 2008, the country’s national debt was more than 60 percent of GDP, and the trade deficit about 9.3 percent of GDP.

Even agriculture, the cash cow of many developed states, is a bit of a no-go for the Pakistanis. The Indus River Valley might be productive — indeed, Pakistan has leveraged it to become the 11th-largest producer of wheat — but the country remains a net importer of foodstuffs largely due to the a burgeoning population of 168 million. Though Pakistan is the fifth-largest exporter of rice and 14th-largest exporter of cotton, floods and pest pressure over the past year have hit rice and cotton production hard, with the growth rate last reported by the agricultural sector (for fiscal year 2008) at a dismal 1.5 percent.

Related Links
Pakistan: Grabbing the IMF Lifeline
Pakistan: Biting the IMF Bullet
Pakistan: IMF the Only Option
Pakistan: Flirting With Bankruptcy
The bulk of Pakistan’s exports come from low-value-added products such as textiles and chemicals, but the relative income from such sources has been declining for three decades and is somewhat in danger of disappearing altogether. Pakistan used to enjoy access to the broad Commonwealth market, but starting in 1973, when the United Kingdom joined the European Economic Community (EEC, a predecessor to the European Union), that market evaporated, forcing Pakistan to compete internationally on its own merits. And now that textiles are subject to the full/normal trading rules of the World Trade Organization, Pakistan lacks much of a competitive advantage. China, Bangladesh and India can regularly produce textiles at lower cost. In fact, the only true growth industry in Pakistan is its near-monopoly on fuel supply to NATO forces in Afghanistan. Aside from refining, nearly all of Pakistan’s economic sectors face massive challenges at best, and are flirting with collapse at worst.

The net result is not only a low level of development (with the notable exception of Karachi, the center for Pakistan’s international trade, and Lahore, the country’s agricultural capital), but also a chronic lack of capital to invest in the sorts of projects, such as infrastructure, education and finance, that could enable Pakistan to make true economic progress. Pakistan’s only substantial source of capital comes from abroad, and access to that capital is dependent upon factors such as currency rates, the global economic situation and the price of oil — factors that remain firmly beyond Islamabad’s influence.

And the need for new sources of capital is now greater than ever. In recent years, Pakistan has witnessed a collapse of its infrastructure, with power outages of up to six hours a day across the country. The 2008 spikes in energy and food prices almost bankrupted the state. In the year to date, Pakistan’s food bill has jumped by 46 percent over 2007 figures, and its oil bill by 56 percent. Simultaneously, the deteriorating security environment has manifested itself in major cities in the form of suicide bombings — Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi have not proved immune — and has done an excellent job of chasing away foreign and even domestic investors. Foreign direct investment (FDI) per capita in Pakistan has plunged to a barely noticeable US$32 per year. (By comparison, sub-Saharan Africa’s per capita FDI is US$50 per year.)

Pakistan is holding the line only by spending money that it does not have to spare. What social stability that remains can largely be credited to food and energy subsidies, which have contributed to an annual inflation rate of more than 25 percent. The costs of those subsidies, along with ongoing military deployments, have landed the budget in deficit to the tune of 7.4 percent of GDP, among the world’s highest. Recent spending has reduced Pakistan’s foreign currency reserves by 75 percent in the course of one year to US$3.45 billion. This is only enough to cover one month of imports, bringing the country dangerously close to defaulting on its debts. Though it has seen some respite in the form of sharply declining oil prices, Pakistan’s ability to finance the debt through bond issues has effectively ended; during a credit crisis, few investors want to lend to well-managed countries, much less a badly run country like Pakistan.

The Economic Limits of Geography
What truly sets Pakistan apart from other countries in terms of economic performance is a geography that greatly curtails its economic opportunities. Of Pakistan’s cities, only Karachi remains globally competitive by most measures. Karachi is the country’s only real port and has easy access to major trade lanes. Moving north along the Indus Valley, one becomes tightly hemmed in by marshes and deserts to the east and arid highlands to the west. The result is that Karachi functions as a city-state unto itself, with the bulk of Pakistan’s population found much farther upstream, where the Indus Valley widens.

The upper Indus is where the country’s best infrastructure is located and where any deep, integrated development might take place. But such development is impossible for three reasons. First, the region’s high population has required extensive irrigation, which has drawn down the Indus’ water level, making it unnavigable by any but the smallest of ships. The upper Indus region is, in effect, cut off from Karachi except by far more expensive rail or road transport. Second, the upper Indus’ natural market and trading partner is none other than India. Indian-Pakistani hostility denies the region the chance for progress. Finally, what water the Indus does have is not under Pakistan’s control; the headwaters of not just the Indus but nearly all of its major tributaries lie not in Pakistan, but in Indian-controlled territory. India is damming up those rivers, both to generate electricity and to further tilt the balance of power away from Pakistan.

The remainder of Pakistan’s population is split off (or perhaps more accurately, sequestered) into the mountainous region of the North-West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas, a region that is simply too remote to justify developing under normal circumstances. With the notable exception of Karachi, economic development in Pakistan is virtually impossible without the country somehow getting past its conflict with India.

Thus, the question must be asked: How is Pakistan able to survive? Economic development has been nearly impossible since partition from India, and certainly since the United Kingdom joined the EEC. The answer, put simply, is that Islamabad has been very creative. What Pakistan has succeeded in doing is leveraging the political and security aspects of its geography in order to keep its system going. Just as geography has been Pakistan’s curse, to a great degree it also has become its lifeline. Pakistan sits at the intersection of many regions, countries and cultures, including Iran, India, Afghanistan, Shiite Islam, Sunni Islam and Hinduism. This mix makes ruling Pakistan a major headache on the best of days, but it also means that powers beyond Pakistan’s immediate frontiers have a vested interest in seeing Pakistan not fail.

British diplomatic and economic support has maintained the Pakistani-Indian balance of power. All manner of Chinese support, including the sharing of nuclear technology, has strengthened Pakistan against a far superior India. Economic and energy support from Arabs of the Persian Gulf has lent strength to Pakistan when it seemed that India would overwhelm it. And support from the United States, which proved critical in backing the Pakistanis against the Soviet-leaning Indians during the Cold War, continues today in exchange for Pakistan’s support in the war against militant Islamism.

Islamabad’s success in leveraging its geography means that the country has not had to succeed economically on its merits for decades. Put another way, Pakistan has leveraged its geopolitical position not only to push for softer security policies from the United States or India, but also to pay the bills.

This has certainly been replicated in current times. None other than U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus was reported to have personally intervened with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ensure that Pakistan received a US$7.6 billion loan in November, a loan for which Pakistan certainly did not qualify. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates chipped in another US$2 billion in credit, while China contributed US$500 million and the Asian Development Bank provided another US$300 million — all in the past few weeks.

While these funds certainly will delay Pakistan’s day of reckoning, they are unlikely to prevent it. Pakistan’s economy is flirting with becoming nonfunctional, and it cannot operate in the black any more. Doing that would at a minimum require slashing military and subsidy expenditures, an impossible move for a socially seething country operating on a war footing (and, incidentally, a move the IMF loan supposedly will require).

But the real danger is that the world is shifting away from Pakistan, and with that shift, Pakistan’s ability to leverage its geography diminishes. The United States views Pakistan to be as much part of the problem of the Afghan insurgency as it is part of the solution. Oil prices have dropped by US$100 a barrel in less than five months, drastically limiting the Gulf Arabs’ ability to dole out cash. China has many concerns, and fighting Islamist extremism that has leaked into its own western provinces is something Beijing is now weighing against its commitment to Pakistan. The result might not prove to be a total cutoff of funds, but a slackening of support certainly seems to be in the offing. And without such outside support, Pakistan will have to make it or break it on its own — something it has never proved capable of doing.

30279  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat, part 2: Crisis in Ind-Pak relations on: January 01, 2009, 05:19:35 AM
Part 2: A Crisis in Indian-Pakistani Relations
December 18, 2008 | 1243 GMT
Islamabad has long tried to play a double game with Washington by offering piecemeal cooperation in battling jihadists while retaining its jihadist card. But this is becoming an increasingly difficult balancing act for Pakistan as the United States, and now India, after the November Mumbai attacks, lose any tolerance they once had for Pakistan’s Islamist militant franchise. Long the guarantor of state stability, the Pakistani military is now suffering from civil-military infighting, rogue intelligence operatives, a jihadist insurgency of its own and distinct disadvantages vis-à-vis its South Asian rival.

Related Special Topic Pages
Countries In Crisis
Militant Attacks In Mumbai and Their Consequences
Related Links
Part 1: The Perils of Using Islamism to Protect the Core
The Geopolitics of India: A Shifting, Self-Contained World
Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a series on Pakistan.

The Nov. 26 attacks in Mumbai, India, that killed 163 people were carried out by a group of well-trained, die-hard militants who wanted to create a geopolitical crisis between India and Pakistan. The identities of the attackers reveal a strong link to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Kashmiri Islamist militant group whose roots lie in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, but whose weakened ties to the Pakistani state have drawn it closer to Pakistan’s thriving al Qaeda network.

While India has been quick to assign blame to Pakistan for past attacks carried out by Kashmiri Islamist militant groups, it now faces a quandary: The same groups that were under the ISI’s command and control several years earlier have increased their autonomy and spread their networks inside India. More importantly, Pakistan has more or less admitted that its military-intelligence establishment has lost control of many of these groups, leaving India and the United States to dwell over the frightening thought that rogue operations are being conducted by elements of the Pakistani security apparatus that no longer answer to the state.

The link between the Mumbai attackers and the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment might be murky, but that murkiness alone does not preclude the possibility of Indian military action against Pakistan. Washington, given its own interests in holding the Pakistani state together while it tries to conduct counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan, is attempting to restrain New Delhi. But just as in the wake of the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament, India is not likely to be satisfied with the banning of a couple of militant groups and a few insincere house arrests. The diplomatic posturing continues, but the threat of war is palpable.

The India-Pakistan Rivalry
The very real possibility that India and Pakistan could soon engage in what would be their fifth war after nearly five years of peace talks is a testament to the endurance of their 60-year rivalry. The seeds of animosity were sown during the bloody 1948 partition, in which Pakistan and India split from each other along a Hindu/Muslim divide. The sorest point of contention in this subcontinental divorce centered around the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir, whose princely Hindu ruler at the time of the partition decided to join India, leading the countries to war a little more than two months after their independence. That war ended with India retaining two-thirds of Kashmir and Pakistan gaining one-third of the Himalayan territory, with the two sides separated by a Line of Control (LoC). The two rivals fought two more full-scale wars, one in 1965 in Kashmir, and another in 1971 that culminated in the secession of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh.)

Shortly after India fought an indecisive war with China in 1962, the Indian government embarked on a nuclear mission, conducting its first test in 1974. By then playing catch-up, the Pakistanis launched their own nuclear program soon after the 1971 war. The result was a full-blown nuclear arms race, with the South Asian rivals devoting a great deal of resources to developing and testing short-range and intermediate missiles. In 1998, Pakistan and India conducted a series of nuclear tests that earned international condemnation and officially nuclearized the subcontinent.

(click image to enlarge)
Once the nuclear issue was added to the equation, Pakistan became bolder in its use of Islamist militant proxies to keep India locked down. Such groups became Pakistan’s primary tool in its military confrontation, as the presence of nuclear weapons, from Pakistan’s point of view, significantly decreased the possibility of full-scale conventional war. Pakistan’s ISI also had a hand in a Sikh rebel movement in India in the 1980s, and it continues to use Bangladesh as a launchpad for backing a number of separatist movements in India’s restive northeast. In return, India would back Baluchi rebels in Pakistan’s western Baluchistan province and extend covert support to the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance in Afghanistan throughout the 1990s.

Indian movements in Afghanistan, a country Pakistan considers a key buffer state for extending its strategic depth and guarding against invasions from the west, will always keep Islamabad on edge. When Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan in 1979, Pakistan was trapped in an Indian-Soviet vise, making it all the more imperative for the ISI’s support of the Afghan mujahideen to succeed in driving the Soviets back east.

Pakistan spent most of the 1990s trying to consolidate its influence in Kabul to protect its western frontier. By 2001, however, Pakistan once again started to feel the walls closing in. The 9/11 attacks, followed shortly thereafter by a Kashmiri Islamist militant attack on the Indian parliament, brought the United States and India into a tacit alliance against Pakistan. Both wanted the same thing — an end to Islamist militancy — and this time there was no Cold War paradigm to prevent New Delhi and Washington from having a broader, more strategic relationship.

This was Pakistan’s worst nightmare. The military knew Washington’s post-9/11 alliance with Islamabad was short-term and tactical in nature in order to facilitate the U.S. war in Afghanistan. They also knew that the United States was seeking a long-term strategic alliance with the Indians to sustain pressure on Pakistan, hedge against Russia and China and protect supply lines running from the oil-rich Persian Gulf. In essence, the United States felt temporarily trapped in a short-term relationship with Pakistan while in the long-run, for myriad strategic reasons, it desired an alliance with India. Pakistan has attempted to play a double game with Washington by offering piecemeal cooperation in battling the jihadists while retaining its jihadist card. But this is becoming an increasingly difficult balancing act for Pakistan, as India and the United States lose their tolerance for Pakistan’s Islamist militant franchise and the state’s loss of control over that franchise.

The Military Imbalance
Pakistan’s hope is that, given its fragile state, Washington will restrain India from engaging in military action against Pakistan that would destabilize the Indo-Pakistani border and further complicate U.S./NATO operations on Pakistan’s western frontier. But Islamabad cannot afford to become overconfident. India has a need to react to the Mumbai attacks, for political as well as national security reasons. If Pakistan is incapable or unwilling to give in to Indian demands, New Delhi will act according to its own interests, despite a U.S. appeal for restraint.

Related Links
Pakistan: Assessing Military Options
Afghanistan, Pakistan: The Battlespace of the Border
The natural geographic area for Pakistan and India to come to blows in a full-scale war is in the saddle of land across the northern Indian plain, between the Indus and Ganges river basins, where Pakistan would be able to concentrate its forces. But military action against Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks is far more likely to be limited to Pakistani-occupied Kashmir, involving some combination of airstrikes, limited artillery exchanges and tactical ground operations.

To some extent, Indian military action against Pakistan serves Islamabad’s interest in rallying a deeply wounded and divided Pakistani population around the government. Nevertheless, an Indian attack also would expose Pakistan’s profound military disadvantages vis-à-vis its South Asian rival.

Geographically speaking, India’s vast territory offers considerable strategic depth from which to conduct a war, and its large population allows it to field an army that far outnumbers that of Pakistan. Though the lack of terrain barriers along the Indian-Pakistani border is an issue for both sides, Pakistan’s core in the Punjab-Sindh heartland of the Indus River Valley deprives Islamabad of the strategic depth that India enjoys. This is why Pakistan concentrates six of its nine corps formations in Punjab, including both of its offensive “strike” corps.

Compounding its underlying geographic weaknesses are the qualitative challenges Pakistan faces in its military competition with India. Pakistan’s game of catch-up in the nuclear arms race is ongoing, and the gap is enormous. Its warhead design is still limited by rudimentary test data, while India is thought to have attempted tests of more advanced designs in 1998. And with a recent U.S. civilian nuclear deal, India can now secure a foreign supply of nuclear fuel for civilian use, thereby expanding the portion of domestic uranium resources and enrichment capability available for military purposes.

Indian delivery systems are also more advanced. Pakistan has cooperated closely with China and North Korea in nuclear weapon design and delivery system development, but India’s missile program is far more advanced than Pakistan’s. With two domestic satellite launch vehicles already in service, India’s knowledge of rocketry is far ahead of Pakistan’s, which relies largely on expanding Scud technology. And though both countries are also working on cruise missiles, India has already fielded the supersonic BrahMos cruise missile, developed in cooperation with Russia (though it is not clear whether India’s nuclear warheads are compact enough to fit into one).

(Click to enlarge map)
With mobile land-based ballistic missiles and limited quantities of delivery systems on either side, India and Pakistan are each thought to have the capacity for a second, or retaliatory, strike. This, along with fairly dense populations on both sides of the border, makes nuclear conflict especially unattractive (in addition to the obvious detractions). Still, nuclear weapons capability is yet another area where Pakistan’s disadvantage is real and significant, further absorbing Islamabad’s resources and military capability.

India’s recent military cooperation with Russia has stretched the qualitative lead even further. Specifically:

India has fielded the most modern Russian main battle tank, the T-90, and has even begun to build the tanks under license. While Pakistan fields a significant number of older but still reasonably modern and capable Russian T-80s, it is qualitatively outmatched in terms of tanks.

India’s armored formations also include more heavily armed armored fighting vehicles than those of Pakistan. (However, Pakistan fields a large number of U.S. BGM-71 TOW anti-tank missiles, including TOW systems aboard AH-1 Cobra attack helicopters, which give it an anti-armor capability that cannot be ignored.) The Indian formations are provided additional support by heavier and newer rocket artillery, including the Russian heavy 300 mm BM-30 “Smerch” system.

The Indian air force has begun to field the Russian Su-30MKI “Flanker,” one of the most modern jet fighters in the world, and has more on the way. In international exercises with the United States in Nevada known as “Red Flag,” India’s Su-30s and their pilots have been regarded as increasingly professional and capable over the years. Pakistan, meanwhile, has struggled to secure more modern F-16s from the United States in return for its counterterrorism cooperation, but even the latest F-16 is outmatched by a competently operated Su-30.

Already overwhelmed by a jihadist insurgency within its own borders, Pakistan is in no way fit to fight a full-scale war with India. The Pakistani military simply lacks the resources for internal security missions and border protection in rough, mountainous terrain in both Kashmir to the east, and along the Afghan border to the west. With more attention now being placed on the Indian threat, the jihadist strongholds in Pakistan’s northwest have more freedom to maneuver in their own operations, with Pakistani Taliban leaders even volunteering their services to the Pakistani military to fight the Indians.

Exacerbating matters is the fact that the Pakistani military, the primary instrument of the state, is in internal disarray. With military threats from India, pressure from the United States, rogue ISI operatives, civil-military infighting and a battle against jihadists whose main objective is to break the morale of Pakistan’s armed forces, command and control within the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment are breaking down.

Ethnically, religiously and territorially divided, Pakistan began as a nation in crisis. It was not until the military intervened in the early days of parliamentary democracy and established itself as the guarantor of the state’s stability that Pakistan was able to stand on its own feet. Given the current state of the military and the mounting stresses on the institution, Pakistan is showing serious signs of becoming a failed state.

30280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: The Perils of using Islamism on: January 01, 2009, 05:18:14 AM
Part 1: The Perils of Using Islamism to Protect the Core
December 17, 2008 | 1203 GMT
The fundamental challenge to Pakistan’s survival is twofold. First, the only route of expansion that makes any sense is along the Indus River Valley, the country’s fertile heartland, but that path takes Pakistan into India’s front yard. Second, Pakistan also has an insurmountable internal problem: In its efforts to secure buffers, it is forced to include various ethnic groups that, because of mountainous terrain, are impossible to assimilate. When the government used religion as a tool to unify the buffer regions with the Indus Valley core, it did not anticipate that the strategy would threaten the state’s survival.

Related Special Topic Pages
Countries In Crisis
Pakistani Democracy and the Army
Related Link
The Geopolitics of India: A Shifting, Self-Contained World
Editor’s Note: This is the first part of a series on Pakistan.

While Pakistan’s boundaries encompass a large swath of land stretching from the peaks of the Himalayas to the Arabian Sea, the writ of the Pakistani state stops short of the country’s mountainous northwestern frontier. The strip of arable land that hugs the Indus River in Punjab province is the Pakistani heartland, where the bulk of the country’s population, industry and resources are concentrated. For Pakistan to survive as a modern nation-state, it must protect this core at all costs.

But even in the best of circumstances, defending the Pakistani core and maintaining the integrity of the state are extraordinarily difficult tasks, mainly because of geography.

The headwaters of the Indus River system are not even in Pakistan — the system actually begins in Indian-administered Kashmir. While Kashmir has been the focus of Indo-Pakistani military action in modern times, the area where Pakistan faces its most severe security challenge is the saddle of land between the Indus and the broader, more fertile and more populated Ganges River basin. The one direction in which it makes sense to extend Pakistani civilization as geography would allow takes Pakistan into direct and daily conflict with a much larger civilization: India. Put simply, geography dictates that Pakistan either be absorbed into India or fight a losing battle against Indian influence.

Controlling the Buffers
Pakistan must protect its core by imposing some semblance of control over its hinterlands, mainly in the north and west, where the landscape is more conducive to fragmenting the population than defending the country. The arid, broken highlands of the Baluchistan plateau eventually leak into Iran to the southwest. To the north, in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA), the Federally Administered Northern Area (FANA) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), the terrain becomes more and more mountainous. But terrain in these regions still does not create a firm enough barrier to completely block invasion. To the southwest, a veritable Baluch thoroughfare parallels the Arabian Sea coast and crosses the Iranian-Pakistani border. To the northwest, the Pashtun-populated mountains are not so rugged that armies cannot march through them, as Alexander the Great, the Aryans and the Turks historically proved.

To control all these buffer regions, the Pakistani state must absorb masses of other peoples who do not conform to the norms of the Indus core. Russia faces a similar challenge; its lack of geographic insulation from its neighbors forces it to expand to establish a buffer. But in Pakistan, the complications are far worse. Russia’s buffers are primarily flat, which facilitates the assimilation of conquered peoples. Pakistan’s buffers are broken and mountainous, which reinforces ethnic divisions among the regions’ inhabitants — core Punjabis and Sindhis in the Indus Valley, Baluch to the west and Pashtuns to the north. And the Baluch and Pashtuns are spread out over far more territory than what comprises the Punjab-Sindh core.

Thus, while Pakistan has relatively definable boundaries, it lacks the ethnic and social cohesion of a strong nation-state. Three of the four major Pakistani ethnic groups — Punjabis, Pashtuns and Baluch — are not entirely in Pakistan. India has an entire state called Punjab, 42 percent of Afghanistan is Pashtun, and Iran has a significant Baluch minority in its Sistan-Baluchistan province.

Thus, the challenge to Pakistan’s survival is twofold. First, the only route of expansion that makes any sense is along the fertile Indus River Valley, but that takes Pakistan into India’s front yard. The converse is also true: India’s logical route of expansion through Punjab takes it directly into Pakistan’s core. Second, Pakistan faces an insurmountable internal problem. In its efforts to secure buffers, it is forced to include groups that, because of mountainous terrain, are impossible to assimilate.

The first challenge is one that has received little media attention of late but remains the issue for long-term Pakistani survival. The second challenge is the core of Pakistan’s “current” problems: The central government in Islamabad simply cannot assert its writ into the outer regions, particularly in the Pashtun northwest, as well as it can at its core.

The Indus core could be ruled by a democracy — it is geographically, economically and culturally cohesive — but Pakistan as a whole cannot be democratically ruled from the Indus core and remain a stable nation-state. The only type of government that can realistically attempt to subjugate the minorities in the outer regions, who make up more than 40 percent of Pakistan’s population, is a harsh one (i.e., a military government). It is no wonder, then, that the parliamentary system Pakistan inherited from its days of British rule broke down within four years of independence, which was gained in 1947 when Great Britain split British India into Muslim-majority Pakistan and Hindu-majority India. After the 1948 death of Pakistan’s founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, British-trained civilian bureaucrats ran the country with the help of the army until 1958, when the army booted out the bureaucrats and took over. Since then there have been four military coups, and the army has ruled the country for 33 of its 61 years in existence.

While Pakistani politics is rarely if ever discussed in this context, the country’s military leadership implicitly understands the dilemma of holding onto the buffer regions to the north and west. Long before military leader Gen. Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq (1977-1988) began Islamizing the state, the army’s central command sought to counter the secular, left-wing, ethno-nationalist tendencies of the minority provinces by promoting an Islamic identity, particularly in the Pashtun belt. At first, the idea was to strengthen the religious underpinning of the republic in order to meld the outlands more closely with the core. Later, in the wake of the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan (1978-1989), Pakistan’s army began using radical Islamism as an arm of foreign policy. Islamist militant groups, trained or otherwise aided by the government, were formed to push Islamabad’s influence into both Afghanistan and Indian-administered Kashmir.

As Pakistan would eventually realize, however, the strategy of promoting an Islamic identity to maintain domestic cohesion while using radical Islamism as an instrument of foreign policy would do far more harm than good.

Militant Proxies
Pakistan’s Islamization policy culminated in the 1980s, when Pakistani, U.S. and Saudi intelligence services collaborated to drive Soviet troops out of Afghanistan by arming, funding and training mostly Pashtun Afghan fighters. When the Soviets withdrew in 1989, Pakistan was eager to forge a post-communist Islamist republic in Afghanistan — one that would be loyal to Islamabad and hostile to New Delhi. To that end, Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency threw most of its support behind Islamist rebel leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of Hizb i-Islami.

But things did not quite go as planned. When the Marxist regime in Kabul finally fell in 1992, a major intra-Islamist power struggle ensued, and Hekmatyar lost much of his influence. Amid the chaos, a small group of madrassah teachers and students who had fought against the Soviets rose above the factions and consolidated control over Afghanistan’s Kandahar region in 1994. The ISI became so impressed by this Taliban movement that it dropped Hekmatyar and joined with the Saudis in ensuring that the Taliban would emerge as the vanguard of the Pashtuns and the rulers of Kabul.

The ISI was not the only one competing for the Taliban’s attention. A small group of Arabs led by Osama bin Laden reopened shop in Afghanistan in 1996, looking to use a Taliban-run government in Afghanistan as a launchpad for reviving the caliphate. Ultimately, this would involve overthrowing all secular governments in the Muslim world (including the one sitting in Islamabad.) The secular, military-run government in Pakistan, on the other hand, was looking to use its influence on the Taliban government to wrest control of Kashmir from India. While Pakistan’s ISI occasionally collaborated with al Qaeda in Afghanistan on matters of convenience, its goals were still ultimately incompatible with those of bin Laden. Pakistan was growing weary of al Qaeda’s presence on its western border, but soon became preoccupied with an opportunity developing to the east.

The Pakistani military saw an indigenous Muslim uprising in Indian-administered Kashmir in 1989 as a way to revive its claims over Muslim-majority Kashmir. It did not take long before the military began developing small guerrilla armies of Kashmiri Islamist irregulars for operations against India. When he was a two-star general and the army’s director-general of military operations, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf played a leading role in refining the plan, which became fully operational in the 1999 Kargil War. Pakistan’s war strategy was to infiltrate Kashmiri Islamist guerrillas across the Line of Control (LoC) while Pakistani forces occupied high-altitude positions on Kargil Mountain. When India became aware of the infiltration, it sought to dislodge the guerrillas, at which point Pakistani artillery opened up on Indian troops positioned at lower-altitude base camps. While the Pakistani plan was initially successful, Indian forces soon regained the upper hand and U.S. pressure helped force a Pakistani retreat.

But the defeat at Kargil did not stop Pakistan from pursuing its Islamist militant proxy project in Kashmir. Groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Al Badr spread their offices and training camps throughout Pakistani-occupied Kashmir under the guidance of the ISI. Whenever Islamabad felt compelled to turn up the heat on New Delhi, these militants would carry out operations against Indian targets, mostly in the Kashmir region.

India, meanwhile, would return the pressure on Islamabad by supporting Baluchi rebels in western Pakistan and providing covert support to the ethnic Tajik-dominated Northern Alliance, the Taliban’s main rival in Afghanistan. While Pakistan grew more and more distracted by supporting its Islamist proxies in Kashmir, the Taliban grew more attached to al Qaeda, which provided fighters to help the Taliban against the Northern Alliance as well as funding when the Taliban were crippled by an international embargo. As a result, al Qaeda extended its influence over the Taliban government, which gave al Qaeda free rein to plan and stage the deadliest terrorist attack to date against the West.

The Post 9/11 Environment
On Sept. 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon were attacked, the United States put Pakistan in a chokehold: Cooperate immediately in toppling the Taliban regime, which Pakistan had nurtured for years, or face destruction. Musharraf tried to buy some time by reaching out to Taliban leaders like Mullah Omar to give up bin Laden, but the Taliban chief refused, making it clear that Pakistan had lost against al Qaeda in the battle for influence over the Taliban.

Just a few months after the 9/11 attacks, in December 2001, Kashmiri Islamist militants launched a major attack on the Indian parliament in New Delhi. Still reeling from the pressure it was receiving from the United States, Islamabad was now faced with the wrath of India. Both dealing with an Islamist militant threat, New Delhi and Washington tag-teamed Islamabad and tried to get it to cut its losses and dismantle its Islamist militant proxies.

To fend off some of the pressure, the Musharraf government banned LeT and JeM, two key Kashmiri Islamist groups fostered by the ISI and with close ties to al Qaeda. India was unsatisfied with the ban, which was mostly for show, and proceeded to mass a large military force along the LoC in Kashmir. The Pakistanis responded with their own deployment, and the two countries stood at the brink of nuclear war. U.S. intervention allowed India and Pakistan to step back from the precipice. In the process, Washington extracted concessions from Islamabad on the counterterrorism front, and official Pakistani support for the Afghan Taliban withered within days.

The Devolution of the ISI
The post 9/11 shake-up ignited a major crisis in the Pakistani military establishment. On one hand, the military was under extreme pressure to stamp out the jihadists along its western border. On the other hand, the military was fearful of U.S. and Indian interests aligning against Pakistan. Islamabad’s primary means of keeping Washington as an ally was its connection to the jihadist insurgency in Afghanistan. So Islamabad played a double game, offering piecemeal cooperation to the United States while maintaining ties with its Islamist militant proxies in Afghanistan.

Related Links
Pakistan: Islamists and the Benefit of Indo-Pakistani Conflict
Pakistan: Anatomy of the ISI
The Jihadist Insurgency in Pakistan
Pakistan and Its Army
But the ISI’s grip over these proxies was already loosening. In the run-up to 9/11, al Qaeda not only had close ties to the Taliban regime, but also had reached out to ISI handlers whose job it was to maintain links with the array of Islamist militant proxies supported by Islamabad. Many of the intelligence operatives who had embraced the Islamist ideology were working to sabotage Islamabad’s new alliance with Washington, which threatened to destroy the Islamist militant universe they had created. While the ISI leadership was busy trying to adjust to the post-9/11 operating environment, others within the middle and junior ranks of the agency started to engage in activities not necessarily sanctioned by their leadership.

As the influence of the Pakistani state declined, al Qaeda’s influence rose. By the end of 2003, Musharraf had become the target of at least three al Qaeda assassination attempts. In the spring of 2004, Musharraf — again under pressure from the United States — was forced to send troops into the tribal badlands for the first time in the history of the country. Pakistani military operations to root out foreign fighters ended up killing thousands in the Pashtun areas, creating massive resentment against the central government.

In October 2006, when a deadly U.S. Predator strike hit a madrassah in Bajaur agency, killing 82 people, the stage was set for a jihadist insurgency to move into Pakistan proper. The Pakistani Taliban linked up with al Qaeda to carry out scores of suicide attacks, most against military targets and all aiming to break Islamabad’s resolve to combat the insurgency. A major political debacle threw Islamabad off course in March 2007, when Musharraf’s government was hit by a pro-democracy movement after he dismissed the country’s chief justice. Four months later, a raid on Islamabad’s Red Mosque, which Islamist militants had occupied, threw more fuel onto the insurgent fires, igniting suicide attacks in major Pakistani cities like Karachi and Islamabad, while the writ of the state continued to erode in the NWFP and FATA.

Musharraf was forced to step down as army chief in November 2007 and as president in August 2008, ushering in an incoherent civilian government. In December 2007, the world got a good glimpse of just how dangerous the murky ISI-jihadist nexus had become when the political chaos in Islamabad was exploited with a bold suicide attack that killed Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Historically, the Pakistani military had been relied on to step in and restore order in such a crisis, but the military itself was coming undone as the split widened between those willing and those unwilling to work with the jihadists. Now, in the final days of 2008, the jihadist insurgency is raging on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border, with the country’s only guarantor against collapse — the military — in disarray.

Kashmiri Groups Cut Loose
India has watched warily as Pakistan’s jihadist problems have intensified over the past several years. Of utmost concern to New Delhi have been the scores of Kashmiri Islamist militants who had been operating on the ISI’s payroll — and who had a score to settle with India. As Pakistan became more and more distracted with battling jihadists within its own borders, the Kashmiri Islamist militant groups began loosening their bonds with the Pakistani state. Groups such as LeT and JeM, who had been banned and forced underground following the 2001 Indian parliament attack, started spreading their tentacles into major Indian cities. These groups retained links to the ISI, but the Pakistani military had bigger issues to deal with and needed to distance itself from the Kashmiri Islamists. If these groups were to continue to carry out operations, Pakistan needed some plausible deniability.

Over the past several years, Kashmiri Islamist militant groups have carried out sporadic attacks throughout India. The attacks have involved commercial-grade explosives rather than the military-grade RDX that is traditionally used in Pakistani-sponsored attacks, another sign that the groups are distancing themselves from Pakistan. The attacks, mostly against crowded transportation hubs, religious sites (both Hindu and Muslim) and marketplaces, were designed to ignite riots between Hindus and Muslims that would compel the Indian government to crack down and revive the Kashmir cause.

However, India’s Hindu nationalist and largely moderate Muslim communities failed to take the bait. It was only a matter of time before these militant groups began seeking out more strategic targets that would affect India’s economic lifelines and ignite a crisis between India and Pakistan. As these groups became increasingly autonomous, they also started linking up with members of al Qaeda’s transnational jihadist movement, who had a keen interest in stirring up conflict between India and Pakistan to divert the attention of Pakistani forces to the east.

By November 2008, this confluence of forces — Pakistan’s raging jihadist insurgency, the devolution of the ISI and the increasing autonomy of the Kashmiri groups — created the conditions for one of the largest militant attacks in history to hit Mumbai, highlighting the extent to which Pakistan has lost control over its Islamist militant proxy project.

30281  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Extradiciones on: January 01, 2009, 05:02:00 AM
México ha extraditado a 10 miembros pretendidos de cártel de droga a Estados Unidos a fines de un año ya sin precedentes para extradiciones entre Estados Unidos y México, The Associated Press diciembre informado. 31. La oficina del Fiscal general mexicana dice que los sospechosos son miembros de alto rango de las tres la mayoría de los cárteles poderosos en México: el Golfo, Sinaloa y los grupos de Arellano-Felix. Con estas 10 extradiciones, el número total de extradiciones entre México y Estados Unidos es 95, arriba de 12 en 2007.
Cuarenta y uno individuos han sido detenidos como parte de Considerar “de Proyecto Sincroniza 2,” una operación de aplicación de la ley de multiagency dirigida por Aplicación de Droga de EEUU Agencia que concentró en Cártel del Golfo de México, el Departamento de EEUU de la Justicia anunció diciembre. 31. Los agentes que toman parte en la operación descubrieron un grupo de traficantes de drogas que corren una operación grande que apuesta en Tennessee inclusive una empresa de peleas de gallos que un funcionario federal dijo fue el más grande que él había visto en Estados Unidos. Once individuos fueron detenidos en Tennessee; 30 otros fueron cargados en Tejas, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Nevada, Kentucky y Carolina del norte. Esos detenido en Tennessee encaran una variedad de cargas relacionadas para endrogar trafico de drogas y apostar federal infracciones.


El 22 de diciembre de 2008 | 2053 GMT

Página Especial relacionada de Tema
•   Tracking Mexico’s Drug Cartels
Endroge violencia en Guerrero
La actividad criminal organizada continuó a través de México esto semana pasada. En el estado de Tamaulipas, tentativas de amenazas y extorsión contra la industria que apuesta han dirigido por lo menos 12 tales negocios a cerrar sus puertas. Por lo menos dos muertes en el área son consideradas relacionadas a negocios que fallaron de pagar la protección honorarios a grupos criminales. En Tijuana, estado de Baja California, un grupo de pistoleros abrió fuego sobre la oficina del fiscal general de estado en qué autoridades cree fue una tentativa fallada de rescatar a miembros de una pandilla de secuestro que había sido detenida.

Y en Chilpancingo, estado de Guerrero, las autoridades descubrieron que las cabezas cortadas de ocho soldados y un estado anterior custodia a director en mucho luego a una tienda al por menor grande. Junto a las cabezas fue una nota que leyó, “Para cada un mío que usted mata, mataré a diez soldados.” Los cuerpos fueron encontrados en dos ubicaciones por cerca carreteras.

Las autoridades creen que los soldados fueron matados en la venganza para un tiroteo de ejército con una pandilla de droga en el pueblo de Teloloapan, que dejó por lo menos tres traficantes de drogas muertos. Los funcionarios creen que los soldados decapitados en este caso habían sido raptados al azar como ellos salían cerca ejército abuchea. El director anterior de la policía fue secuestrado supuestamente fuera de un toro que lucha arena.

Mientras violencia horrible de droga en México ha pasado a ser lo normal durante los años últimos, esta última masa que decapita incidente es ciertamente digna de mención y destaca la vulnerabilidad de fuerzas de la seguridad del país a este tipo de ataque. Desde que aplicando aún un basic protective intelligence program Parece improbable en el futuro próximo, la amenaza inevitable a fuerzas de seguridad tiene el potencial para bajar aún más su moral. Una combinación de la moral más baja y un sentido de gran vulnerabilidad podría disminuir la eficacia del ejército; mucho que quiere la violencia contra policías ha llevado a resignaciones de policía de masa, las protestas y las huelgas. Tal situación entre el ejército podría paralizar la capacidad del gobierno para seguir su estrategia de cártel, especialmente dada la tasa históricamente alta de deserción para las fuerzas armadas.

El fiscal general Dirige la Guerra de Droga

En una rueda de prensa publicó esto semana pasada, Fiscal general mexicano Eduardo Medina Mora proporcionó una cuenta oficial de la guerra del cártel del año pasada. Entre las declaraciones Medina hizo fue que según registros mantenido por su oficina, el número total de homicidios organizados de crimen-relacionó hasta ahora en 2008 soportes en bien encima de 5.700, más que doble el registro anterior de acerca de 2.700 fijo en 2007. El 2008 total incluye a 944 personas matadas en noviembre solo, el mes más mortal en la historia del México en función de violencia de droga. Además, él afirmó que casi 15 por ciento de las víctimas de crimen organizado pertenecido a la aplicación de la ley o el ejército, más alto que el 10 por ciento que estimamos anteriormente. El también proyectó que violencia de la droga del país tiene todavía no de pico, y que la tendencia en 2008 es esperada continuar durante los primeros pocos meses de 2009.

Medina también indicó que cárteles de la droga del país ahora han entrado una nueva fase de violencia. Mientras que anteriormente matanzas y secuestros fueron motivados principalmente por disputas sobre el territorio, violencia de cártel ahora es motivada más por vendettas y quejas personales entre traficantes de drogas, una situación que ocurrió como las operaciones del gobierno interrumpieron el equílibrio político entre los cárteles.

Muchas de las observaciones de Medina resuenan las evaluaciones hechas por Stratfor in our 2008 report on Mexico’s drug cartels. Mientras nosotros lo encontramos difícil de creer que insultos personales ahora justifican violencia del skyroketing de la mayor parte de México, la declaración de Medina arroja luz en algunos de los desafíos asociados con rastrear y analizar las actividades de droga-traficar con drogas organizaciones. Por una parte, los cárteles son generalmente negocio-orientados, y sus acciones a menudo tienen objetivos estratégicos diseñaron para aumentar ganancias. Por otro lado, la cultura de trafico de drogas de droga y crimen organizado en México es a menudo un negocio familiar. Un ataque en un miembro de la familia, por ejemplo, puede ser percibido como un desafío para honorar y causar que una organización para atacar otro constante cuando esto podría ser mala para el negocio. Desde que esta forma de violencia a menudo ocurre sin advertencia o motivo estratégico, subraya el enorme potencial para la violencia en México para agravarse aun más. Cuando control de trafico de drogas de droga en México llega a ser cada vez más fragmentado, cualquiera de las muchas organizaciones criminales que rivalizan para el poder pronto podría decidir que nuevas formas de violencia son justificadas.

Diciembre. 15
•   Un informe soltado por derechos humanos nacionales de México comisionar estimaciones que aproximadamente 99 por ciento de crímenes en el país va impune.
•   Authorities En Ciudad Juarez, estado de chihuahua, encontró los cuerpos de cuatro personas delante de una bandera que denomina a 28 policías en lo que es presumiblemente una lista negra. Tres de las víctimas habían sido disparos a la muerte, mientras el otro había sido decapitado. Una quinta víctima fue encontrada vivo, pero signos de cojinete de tormento.
•   Authorities En Ciudad Juarez, estado de chihuahua, encontró que los cuerpos de cinco hombres disparaban muerto por una carretera.
Diciembre. 16
•   La policía en Tijuana, estado de Baja California, encontró los cuerpos de dos hombres con múltiples escopetazos en un patio en una residencia privada.
Diciembre. 17
•   Por lo menos dos pistoleros dispararon un director de policía en Acolman, estado de México, varias veces, lo hiriendo.
•   One El hombre se murió después de que un pistolero que coloque como un policía entró su casa y lo disparó de cerca en Tijuana, estado de Baja California.
•   Police En Ecatepec, estado de México, encontró los cuerpos de dos personas no identificadas envueltas en mantas en el tronco de un coche.
•   A El director anterior de la policía del estado de Nayarit se murió cuando un grupo de hombres armados lo disparó nueve veces como él condujo por la capital de estado de Tepic.
•   Authorities En Reynosa, estado de Tamaulipas, encontró el cuerpo de un líder del sindicato que había organizado a trabajadores para el maquiladoras de área.
Diciembre. 18
•   El alcalde anterior de San Juan, estado de Michoacan, se murió después de que sea muchas veces de disparo al conducir un vehículo personal.
•   Authorities En Ciudad Altamirano, estado de Guerrero, encontró el cuerpo decapitado de un hombre con una lectura de nota, “Ve lo que sucede cuando usted recibe órdenes de la familia. Usted pierde la cabeza.”
•   Two Los hombres se murieron después de que sea muchas veces de disparo en un parking de supermercado en Culiacan, estado de Sinaloa.
•   One El hombre se murió después de que varios hombres armaran con rifles de asalto lo disparó varias veces en parking de restaurante en Nogales, estado de Sonora.
•   The El cuerpo de un comandante de policía fue encontrado en Ciudad Juarez, estado de chihuahua, con por lo menos un escopetazo. El había sido secuestrado poco antes su cuerpo fue descubierto.
Diciembre. 19
•   Las autoridades en Cali, Colombia, anunció que el arresto de siete traficantes de drogas creídos haber suministrado cocaína al cártel de Sinaloa de México.
Diciembre. 20
•   Seis hombres se murieron y uno fue herido en una tienda de mecánico en Ciudad Juarez, estado de chihuahua, cuando un grupo de pistoleros entró el edificio y fuego abierto.
•   A El policía en Mazatlan, estado de Sinaloa, se murió desp
México: Fuentes de cártel importantes
El 29 de diciembre de 2008 | 1834 GMT


Un mayor mexicano del ejército ha sido detenido para pasar supuestamente información a la organización del droga-trafico de drogas de Beltran Leyva. El arresto representa un doble golpe al gobierno mexicano y demuestra el alcance de los cárteles del país.

 Ejército mexicano Maj. Arturo Gonzalez Rodriguez fue detenido la semana de diciembre. 21 para ayudar supuestamente droga mexicana que trafica con drogas organizaciones para $100.000 por mes, la oficina del fiscal general mexicana diciembre anunciado. 26. Gonzalez fue asignado al Cuerpo Presidencial del Guardia, la unidad responsable de proteger el presidente de México. Basado en declaraciones de un miembro anterior de cártel giró a testigo dio nombre en clavo “Jennifer,” la oficina del fiscal general ha acusado Gonzalez de información pasajera relacionada a las actividades y viaja planes de Presidente mexicano Felipe Calderon al Beltran Leyva organization (BLO). Gonzalez también se para acusado de salir la inteligencia militar, entrenando a hombres de hit de BLO por una compañía privada de la seguridad y suministrando armas militares a varias organizaciones del droga-trafico de drogas, inclusive Zetas de Los.

A la luz de otra corrupción mexicana de alto nivel del gobierno carga sobre los meses pasados, este caso perturba pero ciertamente no viene como una sorpresa.

La revelación que Gonzalez proporcionaba la inteligencia y las materias para endrogar cárteles representan un doble golpe al gobierno mexicano. Primero, el hecho que un miembro de una unidad de ejército responsable de proteger al presidente pasaba información sobre movimientos presidenciales a los cárteles expone un vacío potencialmente fatal en el detalle protector de Calderon. Mientras no es sabido qué información específica Gonzalez tuvo acceso a, o lo que exige detalles que él pasaba a los cárteles, esto es una infracción de la seguridad en el nivel más alto. Según la oficina del fiscal general, el informante Jennifer ha dicho que los cárteles rastreaban los movimientos del presidente con la intención de evitar el nivel alto de la seguridad del gobierno que lo rodea, pero no tuvo plan específico para concentrar en Calderon. Pero la capacidad es más importante que atento, como atento puede cambiar rápidamente. Los movimientos de Calderon que rastrean para evitarlo pudiera haber sido alterado fácilmente a concentrar en Calderon si la necesidad surgió.

Es Gonzalez exactamente cómo implicado poco claro estuvo en los movimientos diarios de Calderon. Porque él estuvo en el personal, está a asumir salvo que él fue implicado por lo menos en reuniones preparatorias y los movimientos generales del presidente, pero de esta información no sería necesariamente suficiente para el cártel para haber podido asesinar Calderon. Más valioso a tal complot habría sido información relacionada a la estrategia presidencial del transporte, a saber, cómo el guardia trabajó para proteger Calderon, cómo arregló transporte, y cómo reunió la inteligencia en amenazas específicas. Las penetraciones en cómo el guardia operado habría dado los cárteles una vislumbre en vulnerabilidades de la seguridad de Calderon — Algo mucho más peligroso a Calderon que simplemente el conocimiento de donde el presidente estaría en algún tiempo dado.

El segundo aspecto del golpe es que Gonzalez había estado aparentemente en la nómina de cártel desde que 2005, durante cuál tiempo él tuvo posiciones diferentes en el gobierno. Cuando él cambió tareas, él fue mantenido en como una ventaja de cártel, y la naturaleza de su participación con los cárteles cambiados. Es enteramente posible que él alimentó información en otros departamentos del ejército (no justo el Cuerpo Presidencial de Guardia) sobre su relación de tres-año con los cárteles.

Una razón primaria para el gobierno mexicano depender del ejército para luchar los cárteles son porque indican y aplicación de la ley local es considerada lejos corrompe también ser fiado de. Uno del military’s strengths was its perceived lower level of corruption Debido a su participación de bajo nivel con los cárteles, pero con este caso (junto con otra corrupción militar detiene este año) confirma que miembros del ejército mexicano también son propenso a corrupción.

Más detalles deben surgir acerca de papel exacto de Gonzalez en el Cuerpo Presidencial de Guardia y la naturaleza de la inteligencia que él pasó al BLO para más valorar exactamente la amenaza que él colocó al presidente. Aún así, el hecho se queda que las capacidades de la inteligencia de los cárteles han extendido a esos cargado con proteger el presidente de México — y de ahí a Mexico’s political stability.

30282  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Agradecimiento de cada dia on: January 01, 2009, 04:56:04 AM
Gracias Capt.

!Agradezco haber llegado a 2009!
30283  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Politica-Economia en Latino America on: January 01, 2009, 04:54:37 AM
 MAURICIO LIMA/AFP/Getty Imagina a Presidente Rafael CorreaSummary ecuatoriano tras un defecto en la deuda internacional, Ecuador ya pide prestado de su propio Instituto de Seguridad social. Al mismo tiempo, el país impone todos cortes de la producción de petróleo relacionados a su asociación en la Organización de los Paises Exportadores de Petróleo en inversionistas extranjeros — Una decisión que enajenará inversión directa extranjera. Los dos movimientos traen juntos Ecuador más cerca a la crisis económica.


 Ecuador es debido vender una $500 millones de tranche de deuda al Instituto de la Seguridad social del país (IESS) en diciembre. 29, trayendo el préstamo doméstico total del gobierno a $1,2 mil millones en la semana pasada. El movimiento sigue el anuncio de ecuatoriano Presidente Rafael Correa que su gobierno dejaría de pagar en $3,9 mil millones de valores de deuda debida en mercados internacionales de crédito. Al mismo tiempo, Ecuador es puesto en equilibrio para forzar inversionistas extranjeros de energía a absorber la porción de Ecuador del corte de la producción convino en por la Organización de los Paises Exportadores de Petróleo (OPEP). Combinado, los movimientos traen Ecuador más cerca al borde de crisis económica.

 La decisión de Ecuador para dejar de pagar en su deuda lo hizo que el primer país en desarrollo para utilizar defecto como una manera de manejar sus opciones tras la crisis financiera internacional. El movimiento exacerba el aislamiento de Ecuador de un mercado principal, internacional y ya arriesga-contrario, y lo hará muy difícil para el país para cubrir sus gastos.
 Con ningún acceso a la capital internacional, la opción única del gobierno para pedir prestado es el mercado principal doméstico, que es limitado a bancos ecuatorianos e instituciones circulantes como el IESS. Pero el mercado es muy pequeño, especialmente dado que Ecuador utiliza dólar de EEUU como su moneda nacional y no tiene recurso a la expansión monetaria como un método de ampliar sus opciones del gasto.

 Aunque Ecuador pueda ser forzado a dejar caer el dólar, mientras tanto es limitado a las piscinas de dólares que ya existen. La capacidad del IESS es limitada bastante, como impuestos del seguro social sólo ascienden a acerca de $1,9 mil millones por año. Con el gobierno ya comprando $1,2 mil millones, esta opción será agotada rápidamente. Además, el gobierno también agota rápidamente las reservas extranjeras, que se cayeron el 8,4 por ciento diciembre. 19 de una semana más temprano, a $4,8 mil millones.

 La piscina más grande del país de capital (y probable la próxima parada para el gobierno) es la industria de la banca, que vale acerca de $18,8 mil millones, o acerca del 30 por ciento del producto interno bruto del país. Pero la industria de la banca ya ha expresado el nerviosismo acerca de la situación económica actual, y acerca de la dependencia completa del gobierno en el pequeño sector podría agotar rápidamente los recursos de los bancos. Además, la absorción del gobierno de toda capital doméstica lo hará imposible para negocios privados pedir prestado, que suprimirá el sector privado como procura ajustar a una economía declinante.

 El énfasis presupuestario del gobierno es exacerbado por el hecho que el precio de petróleo — un bienes mayores de la exportación para Ecuador — Se ha caído dramáticamente. Cuando un miembro de OPEP, Ecuador es obligado a cortar la producción al lado de miembros prójimos de OPEP en una tentativa para levantar el precio internacional de petróleo. Este reduce aún más las opciones de Ecuador para la renta. La administración de Correa ha decidido aplicar los cortes, pero sólo por reducciones en cuotas de la producción de empresas extranjeras.

 La decisión de Ecuador para colocar el carga entero de cortes de OPEP en compañías extranjeras golpeará Ecuador única otra fuente de capital extranjera: inversión directa extranjera. Hace una cierta clase de sentido para Ecuador para forzar las empresas privadas a absorber los cortes de la producción. Ecuador dependió de rentas de petróleo para acerca del 39 por ciento de su 2008 económico, que totalizó justo bajo $16 mil millones, y la mayor parte de esa renta vino de la compañía energética estado-poseído de país Petroecuador. Así, imponiendo cortes de OPEP en la compañía de estado podrían doler el presupuesto severamente a corto plazo. Pero concentrando en inversionistas extranjeros, Correa corteja un descenso económico a largo plazo.

 Las opciones de Ecuador son limitadas severamente tras la crisis financiera y el defecto. Con precios del crudo que hunden y conseguir acceso a crédito internacional ido, el gobierno tendrá que buscar para financiar fuentes. Una dependencia completa en la capital doméstica y la enajenación de inversionistas internacionales parece cada vez más probable de traer Ecuador cercano a mas otra crisis económica.
30284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Uh oh. on: December 31, 2008, 11:24:30 PM
December 31, 2008
Five days after Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, its war strategy is showing signs of unraveling.

On Tuesday, militants in Gaza launched some 40 rockets into the western Negev and even fired a couple of rockets that reached as far east as Beer Sheva, 25 miles away from Gaza -— twice the distance Hamas rockets previously were believed able to reach — and 25 miles from Dimona, where Israel’s nuclear facilities are located. In launching the military offensive, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) had a mission to destroy Hamas’ command and control and military capabilities. The rocket barrages, however, not only are continuing, but are increasing in threat value.

So far, the Israelis have been fighting the war from the air, using tactical intelligence to target Hamas facilities, smuggling routes, tunnels and militant strongholds. Given the difficulties in destroying an entity like Hamas in a densely populated region like Gaza, any air campaign must rely on actionable intelligence concerning the location of weapons, personnel, tunnel networks and safe houses. This means Israel has only a very small window of time to get the job done and prepare ground forces to mop up any remaining targets.

But time favors Hamas. If the initial air assault fails to take out the bulk of Hamas’ military capabilities, the air campaign will get drawn out. The longer the air campaign, the more time Hamas has to shift its weapons and personnel and devolve command and control to the unit level, thereby gradually eroding the quality of Israel’s pre-war intelligence. All Hamas needs to do for now is focus on the survival of its core leadership and militant assets. If Israel can be convinced that the air campaign is not working, it will be pressured to resort to a ground war. And that is where things get really messy.

In a ground war, Hamas would not be simply fighting on its home terrain; it would be fighting in a city. The Gaza Strip is not a country. It is a densely packed refugee community that has existed in a legal no-man’s-land for more than a generation. This is not a refugee camp of tents, but a city with a population density comparable to that of New York City —- just without many multistory buildings. A war in such circumstances would play to every strength that irregular and numerous Hamas forces boast and every weakness of the technophile but manpower-limited Israeli forces. Hamas certainly wants to win this round, so it needs to drag out the air campaign and prepare its forces for a war of attrition against Israeli ground forces when they present themselves as targets. Hamas already is preparing militants for suicide attacks against the IDF when they enter Gaza, with the knowledge that the IDF has become increasingly casualty-averse in its military campaigns over the years.

So far, it looks like Hamas will get its wish for a ground campaign. Israel’s Channel 10 television issued a report Tuesday, citing Israeli military intelligence assessments that the air offensive in the Gaza Strip had destroyed one-third of Hamas’ rocket arsenal (or 1,000 out of 3,000 rockets), including several hundred long-range rockets capable of reaching deep inside Israel. Considering how difficult it is to gauge exactly how many rockets have actually been taken out when they are now lying in heaps of rubble, the accuracy of the report is highly dubious. But the image presented is sobering. While Hamas forces were caught somewhat by surprise, they lost only one-third of their highly mobile forces. The rest remain in play and are likely beyond the reach of anything but a sustained ground assault. While the veracity of the report is impossible to confirm in a time of war, Tuesday’s rocket barrage is a big sign that Israel’s air campaign failed to achieve decisive results in its first days.

Israel now has to shift to a less desirable strategy. On Tuesday evening, the defense minister asked the Cabinet to add 2,520 more reservists to the 7,000 called up in recent days. Israel appears to be preparing for a protracted ground assault on Gaza —- hostile territory it has no desire to occupy, and where Hamas is preparing to conduct a war of attrition against a casualty-averse army. The Israelis have attempted this strategy a number of times before, to little avail. The decisive results the Israelis had hoped to achieve with an air campaign will be that much harder to achieve in a ground war, but that is precisely where the situation seems to be heading.
30285  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Doggy Style on: December 31, 2008, 09:02:54 PM
May I ask you to post here instead?

Thank you,
30286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 31, 2008, 07:16:09 PM
Artillery rockets impacted the Israeli town of Beer Sheva on Dec. 30, much farther than Hamas’ rocket arsenal was thought to be able to reach. Their impact offers clues to the status of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Related Links
Israel, Palestinian Territories: Hamas and the Israeli Offensive
Geopolitical Diary: The Latest Phase of Israeli-Palestinian Fighting
Israel: Countering Qassams and Other Ballistic Threats
Geopolitical Diary: A New Shield for Israel
The Geopolitics of Israel: Biblical and Modern
Related Special Topic Pages
Israel’s Military
Israeli-Palestinian Geopolitics and the Peace Process
Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip exploded in Beer Sheva, Israel, some 25 miles from their point of origin, Haaretz news reported Dec. 30. This is the farthest inside Israel a Palestinian rocket has ever reached from Gaza. It almost certainly indicates a larger rocket than Hamas and the jihadist groups in Gaza were previously thought to possess.

For years, Palestinian militant groups in the Gaza Strip have used Qassam rockets, which are made out of materials readily available in the territory and essentially assembled in garages. Last year, there were indications that changes to the fuel mixture had given a new version of the Qassam a greatly increased shelf life. (Older versions had to be fired a few days after being assembled.) Though range varies, Qassams have a range of around 6 miles.

Also last year, there were indications that Hamas had obtained a quantity of 122mm BM-21 Grad artillery rockets. These rockets, while crude, are manufactured to comparatively exacting military standards in a number of countries and have proliferated widely. They have a range of more than 12 miles.

(click image to enlarge)
The 25-mile range indicated by the latest strikes in Beer Sheva is more than favorable wind conditions could likely account for, suggesting a larger rocket in Hamas’ arsenal. The range is consistent with the Iranian-made Fajr-3, though of course there are multiple rockets that could reach 25 miles.

While this is still far short of the roughly 50-mile distance to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Dimona (home to the Israeli nuclear weapons program), this escalation in Hamas’ reach will be a major concern for Israel.

But what matters most is not where the rockets came from, but what the rocket strike in Beer Sheva says about the progress of the Israeli campaign in Gaza. As artillery rockets increase in range, they also generally increase in size and weight. A single Grad rocket (there are multiple variants) is more than 10 feet long and weighs in at 100-175 pounds, and requires multiple people to carry it. Whatever hit Beer Sheva at the end of the fourth day of the Israeli operation was almost certainly larger.

Destroying these rockets should have been one of the first objectives of any Israeli military assault on Gaza. While Israel was never going to destroy every last cache of rockets, especially from the air, it does not bode well for Israel that Hamas is demonstrating a new capability at the end of several days of bombardment by the Israeli Air Force — which is specifically targeting, among other things, that very rocket arsenal.

Of course, a potential ground incursion is looming. Israel has already called up some 7,000 reservists and moved tanks and armored vehicles to the border, and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly has asked for the authority to activate an additional 2,520. The Israel Defense Forces are preparing for weeks of protracted fighting to eliminate as much of Hamas’ fighting capability as they can. But the “use-it-or-lose-it” moment for Hamas with its rocket arsenal likely already has passed. The Dec. 30 strike is probably better understood as a defiant Hamas demonstrating how much capability it has retained, which suggests that Israeli air power and intelligence may not have achieved early hoped-for gains.

Whether more of these longer-range rockets appear as the conflict continues will be telling. If Hamas had only two left, and the rest have been destroyed, that is one thing. But if the longer-range barrage continues unabated, then it says something very different about the Israeli campaign. Indeed, the 40 shorter-range rockets that struck the western Negev on Dec. 30 alone also do not bode well for the success of the Israeli air campaign.

Ultimately, Barak’s push to activate more reservists suggests the Israelis know they have probably achieved what can be achieved from the air, and now are preparing for extended ground raids.
30287  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Invitation to dialog to Muslims on: December 31, 2008, 04:41:47 PM
Amen to that.   Rachel, your Chanukah posts on the Power of Word thread on SCE forum have touched me in this regard.  My thanks.
30288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 31, 2008, 04:40:24 PM

I deeply value your presence here and our mix is greatly improved by your contributions.

The Adventure continues,
30289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Invitation to dialog to Muslims on: December 31, 2008, 10:46:33 AM
Well said.
30290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Invitation to dialog to Muslims on: December 31, 2008, 10:11:36 AM
And we know how it turned out for her-- which is why I am a "Never Again Jew".
30291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: on: December 31, 2008, 09:55:57 AM
"The spirit of encroachment tends to consolidate the powers of all the departments in one, and thus to create whatever the form of government, a real despotism. A just estimate of that love of power, and proneness to abuse it, which predominates in the human heart is sufficient to satisfy us of the truth of this position."

--George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796
30292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 31, 2008, 03:09:10 AM
Second post:

Olympia, Wash.

Sorry Minnesota, but the sequel is never as good as the original.

For those who watched the Washington State governor's race recounts in 2004, the ongoing recount drama in Minnesota is just another rehash of the same script -- albeit for a U.S. Senate seat that might put Democrats one vote away from a filibuster-proof majority.

Four years ago in Washington, Democratic Party candidate Christine Gregoire lost the first count, lost the recount, and then won a second, highly dubious recount by 133 votes. In Minnesota, where Sen. Norm Coleman is defending his seat against comedian-turned-candidate Al Franken, the first count showed Mr. Coleman up 725 votes. Today, thanks to another dubious recount, Mr. Franken is apparently in the lead.

Razor-thin margins like these put election systems to the test. As the old proverb goes, they are a crisis and an opportunity. Yet the crises keep coming and the opportunities continue to be squandered. It's time to learn the lessons of the recount wars and address the systemic flaws in our election processes. Indeed, the price of a continued decline in voter confidence is too troubling for most Americans to comprehend.

In Washington's 2004 gubernatorial election, at least 1,392 felons illegally voted, 252 provisional ballots were wrongly counted, and 19 votes were cast from beyond the grave, according to Chelan County Superior Court Judge John Bridges's opinion in a case brought by Dino Rossi, Ms. Gregoire's Republican opponent.

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Election workers in King County (where Seattle is located) "enhanced" 55,177 ballots to make it easier for tabulating machines to read them -- even though the county had failed to establish written procedures as required by state law. In some cases, individual election workers modified voted ballots using black felt markers and white-out tape while observers were kept at a distance that prevented meaningful observation. Nine separate times, King County "discovered" and counted unsecured ballots.

Nevertheless, Ms. Gregoire lost to Mr. Rossi by 261 votes.

An automatic recount reduced Mr. Rossi's lead to just 42 votes. The Gregoire campaign demanded a state-wide hand recount, a time-consuming and expensive process that state law says the challenger must pay for (if the result changes, the challenger is reimbursed). Big labor unions joined with far-left groups like to put up the money for Ms. Gregoire's third-time's-the-charm ballot shuffle.

During the recount process, five counties found new, uncounted, unsecured ballots and added them into their totals. King County officials admitted publicly that ballot reconciliation reports were falsified in an attempt to conceal variations between the number of votes counted and the number of voters who voted (two elections workers were disciplined as a result).

By the end, 3,539 votes more than the number of voters who voted were tabulated. Four other swing counties provided an additional 4,880 mystery ballots. Ms. Gregoire was the victor by a margin of 133 votes.

That margin -- 133 votes -- happens to be the same number of ballots that Minneapolis election officials are currently missing. The initial vote tally in one Democrat-leaning precinct counted 133 more ballots than officials have been able to find for the Senate recounts. The Minnesota canvassing board decided on Dec. 12 to allow Minneapolis simply to ignore the recount and go with the original number. This provided a 46-vote boost for Mr. Franken, about the same as his current projected lead. The board also "requested" that counties reconsider rejected absentee ballots, a new and novel part of the recount procedure that is also expected to favor Mr. Franken.

Something is wrong when a victorious candidate owes more thanks to vote counters than to voters. Such was the case in Washington in 2004, and Minnesota is poised to follow in its footsteps in 2008.

It need not be this way. After 2004, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation produced a 42-page report offering a dozen solutions. While a few were implemented, most were simply ignored by officials content to cross their fingers and hope the next close election is in someone else's jurisdiction.

Some reforms are simply educational and cultural; others are fundamental and essential. Election officials need to understand current federal and state laws and regulations governing the entire election process, including recounts. Those responsible for elections must also inculcate a culture of compliance among election staff, including temporary staff hired at election time.

From the moment they are printed, ballots should be isolated and guarded and their chain of custody recorded. Officials with rule-making authority are responsible for establishing processes that clarify how ballots are to be handled, stored, counted, and, if necessary, recounted.

Most important to maintaining and increasing public faith in elections is improving openness, especially leveraging Internet technology to make anyone a potential election observer. The Minneapolis Star Tribune's project to put all 6,700 contested ballots in the Senate race on the Web, so people can compare their own judgments to those of the canvassing board, is but one example. Election officials who have nothing to hide should be putting as much as possible online as quickly as possible.

Citizens and the media might also take a closer look at some of the individuals and organizations involved in monkeying with and even overturning elections. Both Mr. Franken and Ms. Gregoire were endorsed by the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now -- Acorn -- a group under investigation in several states for suspected voter registration chicanery.

The man overseeing the Senate recount, Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, was also endorsed by Acorn, and his election campaign in 2006 was funded in part by something called "The Secretary of State Project." This latter group, founded by's former grass-roots director, exists solely to install far-left candidates as secretaries of state in swing states.

Close elections will always stir controversy. They will often require recounts to validate the results. Yet the Washington and Minnesota recounts offer cautionary tales. The democratic process is too important to be disregarded until a virtual tie forces us to pay attention. Regardless of which candidates win our elections, the voters -- not the vote counters -- should win every time.

Mr. England is director of the Citizenship and Governance Center at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.
30293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 31, 2008, 03:06:06 AM
Russia faces a particularly nasty version of the global recession (at a minimum), and perhaps an economic "perfect storm." Regardless of how bad its economy gets, two broad political trends, each carrying profound implications for Russia's foreign policy and U.S.-Russian relations, are bound to emerge.

David KleinThe first will be a growing dissatisfaction with the government, which may lead to a political crisis. The second will be a reactionary retrenchment: increased internal repression and more of its already troubling foreign policy. Managing the relationship with Moscow in the face of these trends is something President-elect Barack Obama and his administration should start thinking about now.

The size and depth of Russia's economic problems -- and thus the amount of political turbulence -- will depend primarily on two variables. The first is the ruble decline. The national currency is steadily depreciating and has reached an all-time low against the euro despite the central bank's having spent $161 billion on its defense since mid-September. The ruble's losing at least 25% to 30% of its value is a given; the key political issue is whether the weakening can be managed into a gradual decline, or whether the depreciation turns into a panicky flight from the currency. (Already last September Russians dumped around 160 billion rubles to buy $6 billion -- the highest demand for dollars since the aftermath of the 1998 financial crisis.)

The second factor is oil prices. Last year, oil revenues accounted for at least one-fifth of Russia's GDP and half of state revenues. At $40 a barrel, the state budget goes into a 3%-4% deficit. In the past eight years, the national economy has mirrored fluctuating oil prices. So the 7%-8% growth projected for 2008 will have to be cut at best to 1%-2% for 2009. Zero growth or contraction are distinct possibilities.

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Such a predicament is most dangerous politically for a country whose population has become used to incomes increasing 8%-10% every year since 2000. Growing disappointment is sure to follow, first among the elites and then people at large.

Despite the reduction of the poverty rate to 14% from 20% in the last five years, tens of millions of Russians continue to live precariously: A recent poll found that 37% of all families have money enough only to cover food. Unemployment and inflation (already 14%, year-on-year, in November) may well push these people over the edge and into the streets.

Perilous for any regime, such disenchantment would be especially worrisome in a country where the legitimacy of the entire political structure appears to rest on the popularity of one man, Vladimir Putin, whose astronomic ratings stemmed largely from the relative economic prosperity he has presided over. This dangerously narrow legitimacy will be sorely tried in the coming months.

Forestalling or at least containing inevitable political consequences of the economic crisis is likely to be at the root of the other political tendency: an attempt by the Putin-led elite, coalesced around Gazprom, Rosneft, state corporations and the loyal industrial "oligarchs," to pre-empt challenges by beefing up the authoritarian "vertical of power." The rewriting of the constitution to give the president 12 consecutive years in office signals the implementation of this strategy. The amendment was overwhelmingly passed by both houses of the Federal Assembly within three weeks in November, ratified by all 83 regional parliaments in less than a month. President Dmitry Medvedev signed it into law yesterday.

One scenario bruited about in Moscow has Mr. Medvedev taking full responsibility for the crisis and resigning to free the Kremlin for the caretaker prime minister (Mr. Putin), soon to be re-elected president.

A bill introduced in the Duma on Dec. 12 expands the definition of treason, punishable by up to 20 years in prison, to "taking action aimed at endangering the constitutional order, sovereignty and territorial integrity" of Russia. That same day the parliament approved the elimination of the right to jury trials for defendants charged with treason. The ruthlessness with which the riot police troops, the OMON, attacked protesters, journalists and bystanders in Vladivostok over the weekend of Dec. 20 may be a preview of things to come.

In Today's Opinion Journal


DynastyWhole Foods FiascoHank's Deals on Wheels


Business World: Let Detroit Build Profitable Cars
– Holman W. Jenkins Jr.The Tilting Yard: The 'Market' Isn't So Wise After All
– Thomas Frank


Russia's Woes Spell Trouble for the U.S.
– Lee AronThe Minnesota Recount Folly: We've Been Down That Road
– Trent EnglandInstant Info Is a Two-Edged Sword
– Paul H. RubinFree Trade Should Be Part of the Stimulus
– James BacchusA reactionary crackdown will also mean the continuation and intensification of the already incessant and deafening propaganda portraying Russia as a "besieged fortress," surrounded by the U.S.-led enemies on the outside and undermined by the "fifth column" of the democratic political opposition within. In the words of one of the most astute independent columnists, the courageous Yulia Latyinina, the rabid anti-Americanism, which has become a linchpin of the regime's domestic political strategy, is likely to turn into a full-blown "hysteria."

The key lesson of George W. Bush's dealings with Russia is that the Kremlin's foreign policy priorities are determined by the changing ideology and the domestic political agenda of Russia's rulers to a far greater degree than by anything the U.S. does or does not do. (Which is why the U.S. exit from the antiballistic missile treaty was accepted with equanimity in 2002, while the intent to install a rudimentary antimissile system provoked Moscow's fury in 2007.) If reaction advances at home, the Kremlin will continue a truculent or outright aggressive foreign policy of resurgence and retribution, intended, among other things, to distract from and justify domestic repression. The recovery of geostrategic assets lost in the Soviet collapse will remain Moscow's overarching objective, especially in the territory of the former Soviet Union.

The Obama White House will have to navigate a difficult and narrow path in its relations with Moscow in 2009 between continuing to engage Moscow on the key issues of mutual concern (Iran, missile defense, nonproliferation, terrorism), on the one hand, and the broader strategic goal of assisting democratic stabilization in Russia.

But no matter what the Kremlin leaders and their propaganda stooges say in public, anything interpreted as approval or even a mere sign of respect by America, first and foremost by its president, is a huge boost to the government's domestic popularity and legitimacy. So the natural, almost protocol-dictated, inclination of the new administration to show good will must be balanced against firm support for the return to political and economic liberalization in Russia. Throwing diplomatic lifelines to a regime that refuses to choose such a path out of the crisis is not in America's -- and Russia's -- long-term interests.

Mr. Aron is director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute and the author, most recently, of "Russia's Revolution: Essays 1989-2007" (AEI, 2007).
30294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ on: December 31, 2008, 03:02:24 AM
For those who thought the new era of Democratic governance would be dull, we present this year's Senate replacement follies. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich kept the entertainment going yesterday by defying just about everyone and nominating former state Attorney General Roland Burris to the seat being vacated by President-elect Obama.

Recall that federal prosecutors had gone public with their criminal complaint against Mr. Blagojevich earlier this month expressly to deter him from making such an appointment. Mr. Obama had then declared that the Governor should not make an appointment, and Senate Democrats had said they wouldn't seat anyone Mr. Blagojevich did appoint. Majority Leader Harry Reid repeated that pledge yesterday regarding Mr. Burris, who lost to the Governor in a primary in 2002 but then was vice chairman of his transition team.

Democrats who run the state assembly are still trying to impeach Mr. Blagojevich, but meantime they've stepped back from allowing a special election for the seat. Democrats hope to dump the Governor and then have his replacement appoint a different Democrat. No doubt they're afraid Republicans might win given this exquisite display of competent, honest Democratic government.

Meanwhile, Democrats in New York are fighting over Caroline Kennedy's campaign to be appointed to the Senate seat being vacated by Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton. Former Democrat and former Republican and now independent Mayor Mike Bloomberg is all for the idea, as reportedly is Mr. Obama, whom the daughter of JFK and niece of Senator Ted Kennedy endorsed at a crucial moment during the Presidential primaries. Not so happy is New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the son of a former three-term Governor, who would like the seat himself and was once married to a Kennedy.

Caught in the middle is Democrat David Paterson, who will appoint a new Senator but is Governor himself only because Eliot Spitzer flamed out with a prostitute. Ms. Kennedy hasn't helped herself with a recent spate of interviews showing she doesn't know very much about many public issues. But then how much worse could she be than the professional politicians who populate Albany or represent New York in Washington? Democrats will outnumber Republicans in New York's House delegation next year, 26-3, and it speaks volumes about their abilities that Mr. Paterson might choose a dynastic neophyte over any of them.

Lest it be overlooked, there's also the spectacle in Delaware, where the soon-to-depart Joe Biden has arranged to have a crony appointed to take his Senate seat of 36 years. Edward "Ted" Kaufman, a former aide to Mr. Biden, is expected to keep the seat away from a more ambitious Democrat for two years, until Joe's son Beau Biden, the state attorney general, can return from his National Guard tour in Iraq and run in 2010 to maintain the family business.

And don't forget Colorado, where a mooted Senate replacement for Secretary of Interior nominee Ken Salazar is his brother, Congressman John Salazar. Democratic Governor Bill Ritter, who has benefited from the money and organization of the Salazar political machine, will make that appointment.

So to recap all of this change you can believe in: A Kennedy and Cuomo are competing to succeed a Clinton in New York; the skids are greased for a Biden to replace a Biden in Delaware; one Salazar might replace another in Colorado; and a Governor charged with political corruption in Illinois wants one of his cronies to succeed the President-elect. Let's just say we're looking forward to 2009.
30295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: December 30, 2008, 06:53:57 PM

You seem to be a very nice person, but when human lives are at stake, having "nice opinions" that make nice statements about the nice person that you are just don't cut it-- they get real people, nice people, killed.

Here's one report on Israel's efforts to minimize collateral damage.

Israel phones in warning to flee Gaza Strip strikes
By Abraham Rabinovich in Jerusalem
The Australian
December 30, 2008 12:01am

RESIDENTS at certain addresses in the Gaza Strip have been receiving unusual phone calls since the Israeli air assault began on Saturday - a request that they and their families leave their homes as soon as possible for their own safety.

More unusual than the recorded message is the Arabic-speaking caller, who identifies himself as being from the Israeli defence forces, The Australian reports.

Dipping into their bag of tricks for the updated Gaza telephone numbers, Israel's intelligence services are warning Palestinian civilians in Gaza living close to Hamas facilities that they may be hurt unless they distance themselves from those targets.

In some cases, the warning comes not by telephone but from leaflets dropped from aircraft on selected districts.

Such warnings clearly eliminate the element of surprise, but for Israel it is of cardinal importance to minimise civilian casualties, and not just for humanitarian reasons.

The principal calculation is fear that a stray bomb hitting a school or any collection of innocent civilians could bring down the wrath of the international community on Israel, as has happened more than once in the past, and force it to halt its campaign before it has achieved its objectives.

Israel Radio reported that leaflets had been dropped at the beginning of the operation in the Rafah area near the border with Egypt, warning residents that the tunnels to Egypt through which weapons and civilian products were smuggled would be bombed.

Many of the residents, mostly youths, are employed in the tunnels. Initial reports said two people were killed when the tunnels were bombed.

Gaza is one of the most densely built-up areas in the world, making it extremely difficult to pinpoint targets without collateral damage.

Israeli officials say that the small percentage of civilians killed so far is due to precise intelligence regarding the location of Hamas targets and accurate bombing and rocketing.,27574,24855309-2,00.html

The underlying truth for most of the criticism of Israel is this:

1) Cowardice:  Europe fears its own Arabs/Turks/Muslims

2) Cowardice and Greed:  It ain't "Blood for oil."  Its "Sell out the Jews for oil."

30296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: December 30, 2008, 02:06:20 PM
In today's Political Diary:

- Note to Readers
- Obama Senate Seat Becomes a Test of 'Chicago Politics'
- Republicans vs. Bailout Nation
- Fannie, Freddie and Hankie (Quote of the Day I)
- Nosey Parker (Quote of the Day II)
- Advice from Voters for the GOP

Note to Readers

PD will be getting an early start on goofing off in '09. We'll be back on Monday. Happy New Year!

-- The Mgmt.

Where Obama Comes From

Barack Obama's Senate seat has been vacant for a month now and looks like it will remain vacant as long as embattled Governor Rod Blagojevich resists efforts to remove him from office or persuade him to resign. The governor has said he won't be naming anyone to fill the Obama vacancy because the U.S. Senate wouldn't likely seat such a tainted appointee.

A special election to fill the vacancy was initially proposed by leading Democrats such as U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn and Senate President Emil Jones. But they backed off as realization dawned that Republicans might actually have a chance of winning a special election in the person of Congressman Mark Kirk, a respected moderate from the Chicago suburbs who has $5 million in his campaign fund.

So Democrats are stuck. As long as Mr. Blagojevich remains in office, Illinois will have only one senator and the voting public will be upset at the failure to call a special election.

That's why one Democratic state legislator is proposing a stopgap solution. Chicago Democrat Will Burns is introducing a bill that would require anyone Governor Blagojevich might appoint to the Senate to undergo hearings before both houses of the state legislature, followed by a confirmation vote. "Balancing the fiscal problems the state is facing with the need for more disclosure and a better process, I thought that this hybrid proposal provides the public with more transparency," Mr. Burns told Illinois Public Radio.

But his bill doesn't envision any long-term change in the process by which vacated U.S. Senate seats are filled in Illinois. The new bill would be a "one ride only" piece of legislation applying solely to the Obama vacancy.

Illinois pols can come up with any number of Rube Goldberg solutions to avoid a straightforward special election that would put the choice in the hands of voters. But if a special election were called, it could be held in conjunction with local elections already scheduled for most of the state in February or April. The cost would be minimal and voters would have real input in who will be representing them in Washington. Of course, that would mean the pols would lose control of the process, something which can't be allowed to happen in machine-dominated Illinois.

-- John Fund

The Bush Hangover

The Republican National Committee, which consists of two representatives from every state and territory, is technically the governing body of the Republican Party. In reality, it has normally been a rubber-stamp for the incumbent president whenever the White House is in GOP hands. "I've never seen much of any debate, much less a contested vote, in the years I've been on it," one RNC member told me.

But the debacle of the last two election cycles, coupled with an increasingly erratic set of policy choices by the Bush White House, is finally prompting a mini-revolt. A group of RNC members has initiated a special meeting to hear presentations from the six candidates running for the job of chairman. Even more significantly, the RNC's vice chairman and other officials are sponsoring a resolution that will oppose the Bush White House's support of seemingly bottomless bailouts for Wall Street and the auto industry.

"We can't be a party of small government, free markets and low taxes while supporting bailouts and nationalizing industries, which lead to big government, socialism and high taxes at the expense of individual liberty and freedoms," Solomon Yue of Oregon, a cosponsor of the resolution, told the Washington Times. The resolution was written by James Bopp, a noted constitutional law attorney who is the RNC's national vice chairman.

"Articulating a political philosophy is equally important as applying it consistently," says Mr. Yue. "Failing to do so, we have today's identity crisis, which resulted in our losses in 2006 and 2008."

The resolution is scheduled to be presented during the RNC's next general meeting in Washington D.C., which will be held between January 28 and 30. While the fact that some RNC members have finally developed a policy backbone is commendable, their declaration of independence comes a bit late. The Bush administration will be safely out of town by the time the resolution comes up for a vote.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day I

"By mid-2006 there was a new actor in this long-running drama: Hank Paulson, the former Goldman Sachs C.E.O. who had just become Treasury secretary. Unlike the advisers who surrounded Bush, Paulson did not believe that the G.S.E.'s [government-sponsored enterprises, notably Fannie and Freddie] were the bogeymen of the financial system. After all, they had been major clients of his for years, and the ties between Goldman and Fannie ran deep. Nor did Paulson want any part of what he called 'the closest thing I've witnessed to a Holy War.' Paulson quickly began to move away from what one observer calls the 'extreme rigidity' of the administration's position. . . . 'I was aghast,' says a longtime G.S.E. foe, expressing a common attitude. 'Here we were fighting trench warfare with Fannie and Freddie, and Paulson says, "Let's cut a deal and say we won." Some of us really did believe they were a house of cards''' -- Vanity Fair writer Bethany McLean, on the federal government's failure to rein in mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Quote of the Day II

"Given the holidays and the press of business in preparation for the new administration, we have not reconstructed the circumstances behind each ticket. However, Congressman Rangel is confident that the National Leadership PAC and Rangel for Congress complied with all applicable laws and regulations in connection with these expenses, which were fully reported consistent with FEC requirements" -- Emile Milne, spokesman for Rep. Charlie Rangel, on revelations that Mr. Rangel used campaign funds to pay $1,540 in parking tickets in the District of Columbia, an illegal use of donations unless the fines were incurred as part of campaign events.

The GOP's 12 Steps to Recovery

The first comprehensive poll on why voters voted the way they did in November has just been released by the communications firm Target Point Consulting. I received a full briefing from the pollster Alex Lundry on what these 1,000 voters think of Republicans. The short answer is: not much.

The GOP is "in great disfavor with the electorate right now. Republicans are blamed for fiscal mismanagement, overspending, and the bad economy," says Mr. Lundry. "Democrats are seen as a center-right party, while Republicans are seen as dominated by the right."

That's a big problem because even though 84% of voters say they are center or right on the ideological spectrum, the 48% in the middle, i.e., independents, are tilting heavily toward Democrats. The fairly narrow victory by Barack Obama in the popular vote disguises an "enthusiasm gap" among Democratic and Republican voters. Some 65% of Obama voters "strongly supported" him, whereas only 33% of John McCain voters "strongly supported" the Arizona Republican. This helps explain the river of money for Mr. Obama and the massive grassroots advantage for the Democrats.

But the biggest problem revealed by the poll for Republicans is that "voters no longer believe that the party cares about the middle class in a meaningful or credible way," Mr. Lundry explains. "Democrats cleverly frame every issue as for the middle class."

What issues have Republicans hurt themselves most on? Three that jump out are immigration, where Republicans are seen as too strident; the War in Iraq, where voters are eager for closure; and bailouts, where voters have become angry and resentful at throwing money at failing giant corporations. Furthermore, as economic anxieties have escalated, independent voters are now more favorably inclined toward protectionist trade policies. Free marketeers need to make a better case for the positive benefits of international trade or more restrictions are certainly on the way.

The good news is that voters are very fearful that Democrats will go too far with their liberal agenda. When voters are asked what they "like least about the Democrats," the most common answers volunteered were: "taxes going up," "big government," "liberal," "raise spending," and even "socialism." These broad economic and fiscal principles appear to present the GOP with its biggest opening.

The poll also reveals that Republicans can win back voters by opposing Democrats on several specific policies coming down the pike in 2009: card-check labor union elections, bailouts for banks and auto makers, welfare expansions and affirmative action.

The key for the months ahead is for Republicans to posture themselves, advises Mr. Lundry, "not as obstructionists, but as a check on the Obama agenda."

-- Stephen Moore
30297  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Ecuador on: December 30, 2008, 01:47:42 PM
Mi computadora no tiene internet en el momento por lo cual no puedo traducir lo siguiente:

Ecuadorian President Rafael CorreaSummary
In the wake of a default on international debt, Ecuador is already borrowing from its own Social Security Institute. At the same time, the country is imposing all oil production cuts related to its membership in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries on foreign investors — a decision that will alienate foreign direct investment. The two moves together bring Ecuador closer to economic crisis.

Ecuador is due to sell a $500 million tranche of debt to the country’s Social Security Institute (IESS) on Dec. 29, bringing the government’s total domestic borrowing to $1.2 billion in the past week. The move follows Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s announcement that his government would default on $3.9 billion worth of debt owed on international credit markets. At the same time, Ecuador is poised to force foreign energy investors to absorb Ecuador’s portion of the production cut agreed on by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Combined, the moves bring Ecuador closer to the brink of economic crisis.

Ecuador’s decision to default on its debt made it the first developing country to use default as a way of managing its options in the wake of the international financial crisis. The move exacerbates Ecuador’s isolation from an already risk-averse international capital market, and will make it very difficult for the country to cover its expenses.

With no access to international capital, the government’s only option for borrowing is the domestic capital market, which is limited to Ecuadorian banks and lending institutions such as the IESS. But the market is extremely small, particularly given that Ecuador uses the U.S. dollar as its national currency and has no recourse to monetary expansion as a method of broadening its spending options.

Although Ecuador may be forced to drop the dollar, in the meantime it is limited to the pools of dollars that already exist. The capacity of the IESS is quite limited, as social security taxes only amount to about $1.9 billion per year. With the government already purchasing $1.2 billion, this option will be quickly exhausted. Furthermore, the government is also rapidly depleting foreign reserves, which fell 8.4 percent Dec. 19 from a week earlier, to $4.8 billion.

The country’s largest pool of capital (and likely the next stop for the government) is the banking industry, which is worth about $18.8 billion, or about 30 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. But the banking industry has already expressed nervousness about the current economic situation, and the government’s complete reliance on the small sector could quickly exhaust the banks’ resources. Furthermore, the government’s absorption of all domestic capital will make it impossible for private businesses to borrow, which will stifle the private sector as it attempts to adjust to a declining economy.

The government’s budgetary stress is exacerbated by the fact that the price of oil — a major export commodity for Ecuador — has fallen dramatically. As a member of OPEC, Ecuador is obligated to cut production alongside fellow OPEC members in an attempt to raise the international price of oil. This further reduces Ecuador’s options for revenue. The Correa administration has decided to implement the cuts, but only through reductions in foreign firms’ production quotas.

Ecuador’s decision to place the entire burden of OPEC cuts on foreign companies will hit Ecuador’s only other source of foreign capital: foreign direct investment. It does make a certain kind of sense for Ecuador to force private companies to absorb the production cuts. Ecuador relied on oil revenues for about 39 percent of its 2008 budget, which totaled just under $16 billion, and most of that revenue came from the country’s state-owned energy company Petroecuador. Thus, enforcing OPEC cuts on the state company could hurt the budget severely in the short term. But by targeting foreign investors, Correa is courting a long-term economic decline.

Ecuador’s options are severely limited in the wake of the financial crisis and the default. With oil prices plunging and access to international credit gone, the government will have to scrounge for funding sources. A complete reliance on domestic capital and the alienation of international investors appear increasingly likely to bring Ecuador close to yet another economic crisis.
30298  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: India and India-Pak on: December 30, 2008, 12:31:34 PM
The preceding makes sense in the context of the following:

Geopolitical Diary: Pakistan's Nuclear Option
December 30, 2008 | 0255 GMT
It has now been more than a month since the Mumbai attacks unfolded, and India has not responded militarily in Pakistan. Some war preparations have been made and New Delhi has by no means taken the military operation off the table, but the crisis, for now, is at a lull. In an unscheduled conversation recently with his Indian counterpart, Director-General of Military Operations Lt. Gen. A. S. Sekhon, over the crisis hotline between their capitals, Pakistan’s Maj. Gen. Javed Iqbal very well might have given an overt reminder of Islamabad’s longstanding nuclear first-use policy. It is possible that India took a step back to re-evaluate its options and the consequences of direct military intervention in Pakistan.

Two nuclear-armed foes adhering to a no-first-use policy are unlikely to have a nuclear exchange. In first-use, one or both adversaries deliberately hold their nuclear weapons out as a deterrent to various forms of aggression, or as leverage when the conventional dynamics are unfavorable to them. Like NATO in Europe during the Cold War, Pakistan is simply incapable of quantitatively matching Indian demographics and conventional military forces (challenges only compounded by Islamabad’s qualitative and technological disadvantages in relation to India). Nuclear weapons are Pakistan’s ace in the hole. Consequently, Islamabad maintains an overt first-use policy, just as the United States and NATO never ruled out first-use.

Despite this, there are some very real differences between the Cold War dynamic and the current situation between India and Pakistan that are useful to highlight in assessing the likelihood of escalation:

Distance: The Americans and the Soviets were, for all intents and purposes, several thousand miles apart, despite the proximity of Alaska to Russia’s Far East. The inability to deliver meaningful conventional strikes at that distance until the waning days of the Cold War meant that any direct confrontation likely would be nuclear or result in a massive land war in Europe. In comparison, Islamabad and New Delhi are less than 500 miles apart. Dense populations, saddle both sides of the border, and the Pakistani demographic, agricultural and industrial heartland lies directly across a border from India — with no real geographic barriers to invasion. This increases the likelihood of conventional warfare and, therefore, the potential for escalation toward the nuclear realm.
Global scale: With interests around the globe, it was easy enough for the Soviet Union and the United States to challenge each other indirectly through proxies and peripheral wars, from Korea to Vietnam and Afghanistan. In the case of Pakistan and India, the historical alternatives to a massive confrontation along the Punjab border have been fighting in the mountains and on the glaciers of Kashmir, blockades of Pakistani ports, and the use of militant proxies. With military competition so close to home, the use of ballistic missiles and strike aircraft in conventional roles inevitably raises the specter of their use in the nuclear role — and when the stakes are that high, one does not have the luxury of sitting back and waiting for clarification of intent once a missile makes impact. With any launch, one must assume the worst.
Mutually assured destruction: Though Pakistan’s small, crude and low-yield arsenal could indeed be devastating, it does not threaten India with total destruction. With its own delivery systems capable of reaching every corner of Pakistan, New Delhi enjoys immense strategic depth that Islamabad cannot match with any current systems. India’s arsenal is more mature and more robust than Pakistan’s. Thus, Islamabad’s first-use policy is actually defensive in nature; it is a deterrent against Indian aggression that, in the end, Pakistan knows it could not defeat.
But first-use is also a policy of which not only the Indian military, but Indian society at large, is well aware. Delivering an explicit reminder of this issue, during a tense conversation in the midst of a crisis, would be a deliberate choice by Pakistan.

The advantage of being a nuclear power is the ability to draw a line in the sand when the going gets tough. It is hardly a guaranteed defense, but certainly will give one’s adversary pause. Ultimately, it did not deter the Chinese from moving forces into North Korea in 1950 or the Syrians and Egyptians from invading Israel in 1973 (which, at that point, was known to have nuclear weapons). In fact, it didn’t deter Pakistan from conducting a bold military operation in the 1999 Kargil war, nor did it keep India and Pakistan from coming to a near-nuclear confrontation in 2002 after an attack on the Indian parliament. And ultimately, it might not deter India now. Islamabad is probably not willing to escalate to nuclear war over a few Indian air strikes, when the price for escalation would be an inevitable and devastating nuclear reprisal from New Delhi. India can be fairly confident of this fact.

The question, now that Pakistan appears to have drawn a very clear line in the sand, is how India will respond. How will the world community move to de-escalate a crisis that no one —- not India, not Pakistan, nor anyone else —- is interested in seeing deteriorate into a nuclear exchange (however unlikely this remains in practice)?

There is a problem with a weaker nuclear power playing this card when neither its chief foe nor the world’s sole superpower has any interest in escalating nuclear tensions: The threat itself might go too far. While it could succeed in getting India to take a step back and re-evaluate, it also could drive the Indians and Americans to consider a bilateral strategic deal. Moreover, it leaves India -— and the United States —- to contemplate just how hard it might be to take the Pakistani deterrent out of the equation.

And removing a nuclear power’s nuclear power is a profoundly dangerous proposition in and of itself.
30299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: December 30, 2008, 12:15:29 PM



The Israeli military attacked Hamas-controlled Gaza this weekend. On Friday, Hamas had terminated its unilateral truce with the Israelis. The decision was accompanied by rockets fired into Israel and claims by Hamas that it had longer-range rockets capable of striking even deeper into the country. The Israelis responded with a massive attack that was designed to smash Hamas' infrastructure, impose heavy penalties on Gaza for Hamas' decision, and attempt to preempt not only rocket attacks but also a new campaign of suicide bombers. Whether the campaign will achieve Israel’s goals or trigger an escalation from the Hamas side is now the issue. What is not at issue is that a new round of fighting in Gaza had been expected for weeks. Hamas had made it clear that it was going to end the truce, and Israel had made it clear that it would consider the war resumed and respond accordingly.

The first question is why Hamas chose to end the truce, opening the door to an Israeli attack. The answer might lie in the fact that Palestinian elections are coming up. While Hamas was a pure opposition party, it was an effective critic of Fatah's governance. But having been responsible for Gaza for a while, Hamas now bears criticism for the conditions there, and thus the party's popularity had slipped. Having failed to make significant inroads into the West Bank -- where Fatah dominated -- and having drawn criticism for its administration in Gaza, Hamas saw its momentum blunted.

Hamas was much more effective as a combat party, fighting the Israelis, than as an administrative party dealing with the intractable problem of Gaza. The longer it remained passive toward the Israelis and the longer it remained responsible for Gaza, the less it was likely to appeal to Palestinian voters. Hamas made a strategic decision to re-establish its credentials as the only Palestinian force effectively fighting Israel. In doing so, it also reinforced the perception of Fatah as collaborating with the Israelis (and an Israeli attack is also a mechanism to prompt Palestinians to rally behind Hamas). From Hamas' point of view -- facing a hopeless situation governing Gaza and a showdown with Fatah -- ending the truce made sense in the long term, on the premise that a conventional attack by Israel would not decisively break Hamas' capability.

The Israeli response was also, on one level, driven by public opinion. Hamas' ability to attack Israeli positions with rockets, or potentially to launch another round of suicide bombings in Israeli population centers, was quite real. If it happened, Israeli public opinion not only would create a crisis for any Israeli government, but also would strengthen those forces that felt that any peace process with the Palestinians was impossible.

Ehud Olmert, still prime minister pending a new government, saw the Hamas move as an opportunity. Hamas created a situation that had to be dealt with. Waiting for his successor to deal with the problem would bog that successor down in an issue with the international community that would cripple any ongoing diplomacy. Launching a security campaign as a lame-duck prime minister takes the issue off his successor's plate. In an odd way, this increases the chance of some sort of settlement with the Palestinians, by allowing Olmert to be cast as a villain.

If this seems more complicated than it should be, that is not an incorrect impression. Underneath all of this is a core reality: A Palestinian state on the 1948 borders is an impossibility for both Palestinians and Israelis. For the Palestinians, it would mean a state divided physically between Gaza and the West Bank, without an independent economic foundation. It would be a fiasco. For the Israelis, the 1948 borders would allow the Palestinians to rocket Tel Aviv easily, with no guarantee that a Palestinian state would or could put a stop to it. The Palestinians need more than the 1948 borders, and the Israelis can't even give that.

Therefore, the current cycle of violence is simply one of many such cycles that are hardwired into the geography of Israel and Palestine and from which there is no escape. It is almost unnecessary to go through the political reasoning that has led each side to this point, except to explain why it is happening now instead of earlier or later. The politics simply determine the time and shape of conflict. Geography determines that the conflict is intractable.
30300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Is this true? on: December 30, 2008, 12:10:00 PM
This from setting the indian defense forums in a
frenzy...dont know if it is fact or fantasy...but the writer is a
"respected" forum moderator...Yash

*India offers US 120,000 troops for Afghanistan*

We asked Mandeep "are we being used by the Indians in a psyops game to put
pressure on Pakistan?" Not that the Government of India knows we exist, but
in all the movies about the media the Editor always asks if the paper is
being played.


   Mandeep's answer, paraphrased, was this: "I don't know at what level the
   offer has been made, but the Indian Army and Air Force are down to
   identifying specific units, formations, and squadrons..." - details, as we
   said, at Long War Journal - " well as discussing a specific name for
   force commander, plus working on the details of pre-deployment training, so
   this is a lot more elaborate than needed for a psyops game.'

   We'd prefer to discuss this after we learn more, rather than waste your
   time with elaborate theories spun out of nothing ("'s military
   sources say..."). But the following points are immediately apparent.

   For the new US administration, this offer would be heaven-sent and just
   making it would put the US Government in debt to the Indians - "your other
   friends/allies talked, we walked." The administration could turn around to
   to its own people, and say: "Americans, you complain we are carrying the
   Afghan burden by ourselves, now we have a partner."

   At we've been constantly talking about the need for more
   manpower; well, here you have a whacking big increment of manpower. With
   US/Allied troops it takes one to 75% of what considers a minimum
   force if Afghanistan is to be won.

   In one deft swoop, India forces the Americans to chose Delhi over
   Islamabad. To the Indians the constant US attempt to "balance" the two
   countries has been a source of serious blood pressure since the 1940s;
   obviously if the Americans accept it has to be India First from now on and
   Pakistan gets marginalized. Moreover, the Indians put America up the creek
   without the paddle regarding Pakistan: "what is it your so-called ally is
   doing, compared to what we are willing to do."

   The devious cunning of the Indian move becomes more apparent when you
   consider if the US government refuses, the American people are going to get
   on the Government's case: "The Indians are offering and you're still
   sticking with those slimey two-timers the Pakistanis?"

   For India, offering a huge contingent takes the pressure off the Indian
   government to act aggressively against Pakistan. India does not have a
   launch a single sortie against Pakistan to punish it for acting against
   India. Indian government can tell its own people: "What good will a pinprick
   do? The Israelis have been bashing up the Palestinians for two decades, and
   where are the results? What we are doing is to strike a hard blow at
   Pakistan without crossing the Pakistan border and getting beat up by
   everyone for provoking war."

   Plus India neatly destroys Pakistan's strategic depth objective. The
   Indians have been wanting to get into the act in Afghanistan for several
   years, because they know a Taliban government means more fundamentalist
   pressure on Pakistan and thereby on India. But the Americans have been
   refusing India help for fear of offending the Pakistanis. For India to get
   into Afghanistan in force is to again change the paradigm of
   Indian-Pakistani relations as happened in 1971 when India split East Bengal
   from Pakistan. For the last almost 40 years India's efforts to marginalize
   Pakistan have been stymied. If the US accepts the Indian offer, India gains

   But right now a lot of American decision-makers do not care if Pakistan
   is offended because they see the latter has no interest in fighting the
   insurgents or helping the US against the Taliban. Once alternate supply
   routes are available, US can write off Pakistan and as a consequence,
   paradoxically, vastly increase its leverage in that country.

   As for Pakistani/jihadi retaliation against India or the Indian
   contingent in Afghanistan, we've said before the Indians don't care. Their
   point is India is squarely in the sights of the jihadis: India is already
   under severe, sustained attack and unable to retaliate. As for the security
   of the Indian troops, that really is the last thing the Indians are
   concerned about. They want to go to Afghanistan to fight, not to protect
   their troops against suicide bombers.

   Two other minor points in passing. By making this offer, India takes the
   wind out of Pakistan's sails because the latter has very successful turned
   the world's attention from the Bombay atrocity to getting the world to stop
   escalation between India and Pakistan. Every day that goes by, India has
   less diplomatic/geopolitical freedom to hit Pakistan. But if India has
   offered several divisions for Afghanistan, obviously the last thing the
   Indians are thinking of is attacking Pakistan - 3/4th of the Army troops (as
   opposed to the CI troops) India is earmarking for Afghanistan are from the
   three strike corps. So India undercuts Pakistani claims that Delhi is
   preparing to attack.

   The second point we find interesting. PRC knows if Pakistan falls to the
   jihadis, Sinkiang is the next target. By offering to go to Afghanistan,
   India is directly helping Beijing. Which puts Beijing in a very awkward spot
   as India is a big rival for influence in Asia. Not only will Indians be
   helping PRC, if China does send troops to Afghanistan, Delhi will canoodle
   with Washington without competition from China. The Chinese will have no
   choice but to join the Afghan venture or lose influence in South and Central
   Asia, and with Washington.

   To sum up: has been second to none in bashing the Government of
   India as incompetent and impotent. But with this offer, India has overnight
   changed the rules of game in South/Central Asia and struck a potentially
   fatal blow at Pakistan. In the end, this could become much, much bigger by
   an order of magnitude than breaking off East Pakistan in 1971.
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