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30251  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: November 24, 2008, 11:35:55 AM

Tail wags for the compliment, but rest assured, there is more.  DLO-1 was a broad overview of the gun, knife, and EH paradigm and the Kali Fence, the Dog Catcher, getting off the X, appendix carry and draw, and FOF drills. That's a lot of material, even for the triple disc that DLO-1 was-- our intention was to show how all the pieces fit together.

DLO-2 looked at CQ gun vs knife:  when to go to gun first and when to fight first.   Also, it showed some additional depth to the DC.

DLO-3:  We think the KF has a lot of merit.  Whereas DLO-1 showed the relation of the different pieces of our approach to the GKEH paradigm, DLO-3 focuses on the KF and getting it right and showing more of the options that exist for this structure.  The KF is meant to be used in real world situations where there may well be no limit on how bad things can go sideways and in our opinion, this means paying a lot of attention to it.

DLO-4 will focus on the anti-knife technique of the DC and its progeny. wink
30252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: Hand of Providence on: November 24, 2008, 11:05:54 AM
"The Hand of providence has been so conspicuous in all this, that he must be worse than an infidel that lacks faith, and more than wicked, that has not gratitude enough to acknowledge his obligations."

—George Washington, letter to Thomas Nelson, August 20, 1778
30253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Raid on SA nuke facility on: November 24, 2008, 10:51:58 AM
Second post of the day:

60 Minutes story on just now. Amazing how aloof the SA government and the plant management are about this whole thing.

video of story at link:

Brazen Nuke Facility Raid An Inside Job?
Nov. 23, 2008
(CBS) The assault on Pelindaba would make quite a movie. But it's a thriller that is all too real, with consequences that might have threatened the world. It was a daring break-in at a heavily guarded nuclear plant that holds enough weapons grade uranium to build a dozen atomic bombs. The story is little known, but after months of reporting, 60 Minutes can tell the tale, for the first time, through the eyes of the one man who stopped the plot. What happened at Pelindaba is the kind of thing that keeps presidents awake at night.

Pelindaba is nestled in the African bush, not far from the capital of South Africa. It is where the former Apartheid regime secretly built nuclear weapons. In the 1990s, South Africa chose to disarm. The bombs were dismantled, but the highly enriched uranium, known as HEU - the fuel for the bombs - is still there. South Africa assures the world that Pelindaba is a fortress. But, last year, on the night of Nov. 7, it was the scene of the boldest raid ever attempted on a site holding bomb grade uranium.

"It happened just after one o’clock at night. We heard a sound inside the building," remembers Anton Gerber, who has worked at Pelindaba for 30 years and is the chief of the plant’s emergency control center.

He was in the control room when masked men broke in. "There's a crack in the door. And I looked through this and I saw this four armed gunmen entering the passages is coming straight to us in the control room."

Gerber says all four were armed.

The men had breached a 10,000 volt fence, passed security cameras, and walked three quarters of a mile to the control room that monitors alarms and responds to emergencies. Gerber called the security office, just three minutes away.

"I immediately said to them they must come and help us. We're under attack. There's four armed men inside our building. The first guy who stepped into the office, he said to me, 'Why do you phone?' He was shouting at me, 'Why do you phone? Why do you phone?'" Gerber remembers. "And I was still so surprised, you know. My first words to them, 'Is this a joke?'"

The only other employee in the control room was Ria Meiring. "And he grabbed me at my hair and pull me out. And he put a gun to my head while the other three guys were fighting with Anton," she remembers.

But the attack on the control room was just the start. A second group of gunmen, on the other side of the plant, was cutting through the fence and opened fire on a guard.

Asked if he thinks the gunmen were after the HEU, Matthew Bunn of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government tells correspondent Scott Pelley, "That's certainly the most valuable single thing that's at that site."

Bunn has studied the attack and has written a classified report for the government on atomic security. He says highly enriched uranium is extremely difficult to make, and would be worth millions of dollars on the black market. And if terrorists get a hold of it, it would not be hard to build a crude atomic bomb. "Making a nuclear bomb with highly enriched uranium basically involves slamming two pieces together at high speed. That's really all there is to it," he explains.

Asked how much highly enriched uranium a terrorist group would need to build a weapon, Bunn says, "The amount of highly enriched uranium metal would basically fit into the cans of a six pack."

And handling the material, according to Bunn, isn’t very dangerous. "Unfortunately not. Highly enriched uranium is only very weakly radioactive. You can handle it with your hands."

Pelindaba holds more than a thousand pounds of HEU, and it uses some of it to make medical products. South Africa calls the plant is a "national key point," a facility with the highest security.

"This is the first time that this has ever happened on site," says Ari Van Der Bijl, the general manager.

Van Der Bijl brought 60 Minutes to the place where the gunmen got through the electric fence.

They picked a spot in the bottom of a ravine, far below the perimeter road where the security guards would be traveling. The guards couldn’t see them from up there. Once they got to the fence, one of the men used plastic clips to raise the bottom of the fence just several inches above the ground. He spent about 20 minutes shimmying under the electrical wire and once inside, he made straight for the box that controls the electricity, and shut the whole thing down.

"So the box has an alarm on it, they disabled that. It has a communications cable to warn the security office, they cut that. And then they shut the fence down. They knew what they were doing," Pelley remarks.

"They knew what they were doing. Definitely," Van Der Bijl acknowledges.

It was a fluke that the man who stopped the plot was in the control room at all. The attack came on the night of a plant holiday party. The employee who was supposed to be on duty is a paraplegic in a wheelchair, but he got drunk. Meiring filled in at the last moment. Anton Gerber is her fiancé and he decided to keep her company. That left him facing the intruders, who came at him with an iron bar.

Why did he decide to fight the four armed gunmen?

"I don't know," Gerber says. "For the first moment, I thought maybe I must just put hands in the air and said, 'Listen, what do you want?' But I think the moment they hit me with that piece of iron, it was all over. I start fighting."

Gerber says he knocked two of them down and turned to a third man. "I grabbed him. But the moment before I can take this guy he fired the shot, you know. And I was still fighting. I didn't know that there was, he shot me through the, through the chest."

"And after they shot him, it was terrible. They hit him over and over and over and over again," Meiring remembers. "After they shot, while he was lying on the floor."

Gerber was seriously wounded, waiting for the security force. He says it should have taken about three minutes for security to respond; instead, he says it took 24.

Meiring says she wondered the entire time where security was, while she was on her knees with a gun to her head.

After they shot Gerber, the gunmen fled and had plenty of time to get away. The second team of gunmen also vanished. And it seemed that South African officials wanted to make our questions disappear as well.

"After the first team got in, what was happening with the second team?" Pelley asks.

"You are talking about teams as if they are related. We don’t think they are related," Van Der Bijl says

"If these were sophisticated terrorists, Anton Gerber wouldn't be alive to tell his tale today," says Rob Adam, the CEO of the Nuclear Energy Corporation of South Africa. He runs Pelindaba. "I think that it was a piece of random criminality, frankly, having looked at it."

Asked what he means by "random criminality," Adam tells Pelley, "Well, I don't think that there was any concerted attack of a nuclear nature. You had one technically sophisticated individual with some friends."

Adam says he doesn't know what the intruders were after.

What does the South African government have to say? Pelley asked Ambassador Abdul Minty, one of South Africa's top officials on nuclear policy.

"So far, the evidence we have is that it was an attempt at burglary. People went to the one facility and tried to take, for example, a notebook computer which they left behind, subsequently," Minty says.

"You're not saying that the intrusion at Pelindaba was designed to take a laptop computer?" Pelley asks.

"No, no. I'm saying it was probably a burglary attempt from what evidence we have," Minty replies.

"Mr. Ambassador, the point is, what's valuable at Pelindaba? And the answer is the radiological materials. Nobody would break into a national key point in South Africa to steal office machines," Pelley points out.

"No, you know, the Pelindaba facility is off a main road. There's a lot of traffic on that road. So, if they felt that here is a facility that has gates, that has security, maybe there's something valuable," Minty says.

"Are you saying they attacked the plant not knowing what it was?" Pelley asks.

"No, I'm saying no one knows what the motivation is. So, we have to keep to the facts and the truth," Minty replies.

The facts that we know were recorded. A camera at the fence taped the intruders, but guards who were supposed to be watching the monitors didn’t report the men. A phone log that 60 Minutes has seen shows that 24 minutes passed between Gerber's call for help and the arrival of security. Gerber suspects someone in security was in on the plot. And he's suing Pelindaba.

CEO Rob Adam says it took security "a couple of minutes" to arrive, but that he doesn't have the exact figure.

"There's a lawsuit in this case, you may be aware of, that's been filed, that suggests that it was 24 minutes before the security arrived after that telephone call," Pelley points out.

"I'm aware of the allegation. We'll respond to it when we need to in court," Adam says.

"You've done an investigation. You're in charge of the plant. Did it take 24 minutes for them to get there?" Pelley asks.

"It took, in our calculation, somewhat less than that," Adam says.

"You initially said two minutes. Now we're talking 24 minutes," Pelley points out.

"I said a couple of minutes, but I understand from our analysis of the phone records that it took less than that," Adam says.

"There's a gap here, between two and 24. Can you help me narrow that gap a little bit?" Pelley asks.

"I didn't come prepared with that figure, Scott," Adam acknowledges.

But Matthew Bunn thinks it is nonsense to think this was a third-rate burglary. "These people cut through a 10,000 volt security fence. They disable sophisticated electronic intrusion detectors. They went straight to the emergency control center of the site. These people knew what kind of site they were in and knew what they were doing."

"You know, the unknown that seems to me the most worrying is why these people had so much confidence that they could take that place down," Pelley remarks.

"It does suggest that they had someone inside who was going to help them make sure that the security alarms didn't go off. And that security forces didn't respond in time," Bunn says.

To get to the uranium would have required penetrating more layers of security: fences, cameras and locks. All we can be sure of is that the gunmen had no trouble with the first fence and didn't seem worried about the obvious camera there.

Rob Adam says it has crossed their minds that the intruders had inside help. "And we put out a reward. We haven't had any takers to this point."

There have been multiple investigations, but 60 Minutes was surprised to find out that the police didn’t talk to their prime eyewitness until we showed up.

Gerber says investigators didn't talk to him for ten months.

"Doesn't seem like they wanted to hear your story," Pelley remarks.

"Yeah, that is, it is strange for me as well," Gerber says.

The U.S. government is worried. It's offering to help secure Pelindaba and convert its highly enriched uranium into a form that won't explode.

Ambassador Abdul Minty, South Africa’s nuclear policy advisor, gave 60 Minutes his government’s answer: "Why should we get rid of it when others don’t? Why are we less secure than others?"

"Because these men got so far into the plant. They got into the emergency control center. They shot a man. There was a second team waiting outside that got…into a gunfight with your security people," Pelley says.

"No, no. It's how you interpret events," Minty replies. "So we are of course concerned about it that anyone gets into it, but we have taken steps to try and prevent that in future."

The two camera operators who missed the gunmen were fired. But the investigation is stalled, leaving no clue as to who was behind the assault on Pelindaba or whether their intent was to supply uranium for a nuclear bomb.

Produced by Graham Messick and Michael Karzis
© MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
30254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / From the French POV on: November 24, 2008, 09:44:43 AM

"Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us."

We have shared our daily life with two US units for quite a while - they are the first and fourth companies of a prestigious infantry battalion whose name I will withhold for the sake of military secrecy. To the common man it is a unit just like any other. But we live with them and got to know them, and we henceforth know that we have the honor to live with one of the most renowned units of the US Army - one that the movies brought to the public as series showing “ordinary soldiers thrust into extraordinary events”. Who are they, those soldiers from abroad, how is their daily life, and what support do they bring to the men of our OMLT every day ? Few of them belong to the Easy Company, the one the TV series focuses on. This one nowadays is named Echo Company, and it has become the support company.

They have a terribly strong American accent - from our point of view the language they speak is not even English. How many times did I have to write down what I wanted to say rather than waste precious minutes trying various pronunciations of a seemingly common word? Whatever state they are from, no two accents are alike and they even admit that in some crisis situations they have difficulties understanding each other.

Heavily built, fed at the earliest age with Gatorade, proteins and creatine - they are all heads and shoulders taller than us and their muscles remind us of Rambo. Our frames are amusingly skinny to them - we are wimps, even the strongest of us - and because of that they often mistake us for Afghans.

Here we discover America as it is often depicted : their values are taken to their paroxysm, often amplified by promiscuity and the loneliness of this outpost in the middle of that Afghan valley. Honor, motherland - everything here reminds of that : the American flag floating in the wind above the outpost, just like the one on the post parcels. Even if recruits often originate from the hearth of American cities and gang territory, no one here has any goal other than to hold high and proud the star spangled banner. Each man knows he can count on the support of a whole people who provides them through the mail all that an American could miss in such a remote front-line location : books, chewing gums, razorblades, Gatorade, toothpaste etc. in such way that every man is aware of how much the American people backs him in his difficult mission.

And that is a first shock to our preconceptions : the American soldier is no individualist. The team, the group, the combat team are the focus of all his attention.
And they are impressive warriors! We have not come across bad ones, as strange at it may seem to you when you know how critical French people can be. Even if some of them are a bit on the heavy side, all of them provide us everyday with lessons in infantry know-how.

Beyond the wearing of a combat kit that never seem to discomfort them (helmet strap, helmet, combat goggles, rifles etc.) the long hours of watch at the outpost never seem to annoy them in the slightest. On the one square meter wooden tower above the perimeter wall they stand the five consecutive hours in full battle rattle and night vision goggles on top, their sight unmoving in the directions of likely danger. No distractions, no pauses, they are like statues nights and days. At night, all movements are performed in the dark - only a handful of subdued red lights indicate the occasional presence of a soldier on the move. Same with the vehicles whose lights are covered - everything happens in pitch dark even filling the fuel tanks with the Japy pump.

And combat ? If you have seen Rambo you have seen it all - always coming to the rescue when one of our teams gets in trouble, and always in the shortest delay. That is one of their tricks : they switch from T-shirt and sandals to combat ready in three minutes. Arriving in contact with the enemy, the way they fight is simple and disconcerting : they just charge ! They disembark and assault in stride, they bomb first and ask questions later - which cuts any pussyfooting short.

We seldom hear any harsh word, and from 5 AM onwards the camp chores are performed in beautiful order and always with excellent spirit. A passing American helicopter stops near a stranded vehicle just to check that everything is alright; an American combat team will rush to support ours before even knowing how dangerous the mission is - from what we have been given to witness, the American soldier is a beautiful and worthy heir to those who liberated France and Europe.

To those who bestow us with the honor of sharing their combat outposts and who everyday give proof of their military excellence, to those who pay the daily tribute of America’s army’s deployment on Afghan soil, to those we owned this article, ourselves hoping that we will always remain worthy of them and to always continue hearing them say that we are all the same band of brothers”.
30255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What a single nuke could do on: November 24, 2008, 02:37:58 AM
What a Single Nuclear Warhead Could Do
Why the U.S. needs a space-based missile defense against an EMP attack.By BRIAN T. KENNEDY
As severe as the global financial crisis now is, it does not pose an existential threat to the U.S. Through fits and starts we will sort out the best way to revive the country's economic engine. Mistakes can be tolerated, however painful. The same may not be true with matters of national security.

Although President George W. Bush has accomplished more in the way of missile defense than his predecessors -- including Ronald Reagan -- he will leave office with only a rudimentary system designed to stop a handful of North Korean missiles launched at our West Coast. Barack Obama will become commander in chief of a country essentially undefended against Russian, Chinese, Iranian or ship-launched terrorist missiles. This is not acceptable.

The attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, have proven how vulnerable we are. On that day, Islamic terrorists flew planes into our buildings. It is not unreasonable to believe that if they obtain nuclear weapons, they might use them to destroy us. And yet too many policy makers have rejected three basic facts about our position in the world today:

First, as the defender of the Free World, the U.S. will be the target of destruction or, more likely, strategic marginalization by Russia, China and the radical Islamic world.

Second, this marginalization and threat of destruction is possible because the U.S. is not so powerful that it can dictate military and political affairs to the world whenever it wants. The U.S. has the nuclear capability to vanquish any foe, but is not likely to use it except as a last resort.

Third, America will remain in a condition of strategic vulnerability as long as it fails to build defenses against the most powerful political and military weapons arrayed against us: ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Such missiles can be used to destroy our country, blackmail or paralyze us.

Any consideration of how best to provide for the common defense must begin by acknowledging these facts.

Consider Iran. For the past decade, Iran -- with the assistance of Russia, China and North Korea -- has been developing missile technology. Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani announced in 2004 their ability to mass produce the Shahab-3 missile capable of carrying a lethal payload to Israel or -- if launched from a ship -- to an American city.

The current controversy over Iran's nuclear production is really about whether it is capable of producing nuclear warheads. This possibility is made more urgent by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's statement in 2005: "Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism? But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved."

Mr. Ahmadinejad takes seriously, even if the average Iranian does not, radical Islam's goal of converting, subjugating or destroying the infidel peoples -- first and foremost the citizens of the U.S. and Israel. Even after 9/11, we appear not to take that threat seriously. We should.

Think about this scenario: An ordinary-looking freighter ship heading toward New York or Los Angeles launches a missile from its hull or from a canister lowered into the sea. It hits a densely populated area. A million people are incinerated. The ship is then sunk. No one claims responsibility. There is no firm evidence as to who sponsored the attack, and thus no one against whom to launch a counterstrike.

But as terrible as that scenario sounds, there is one that is worse. Let us say the freighter ship launches a nuclear-armed Shahab-3 missile off the coast of the U.S. and the missile explodes 300 miles over Chicago. The nuclear detonation in space creates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

Gamma rays from the explosion, through the Compton Effect, generate three classes of disruptive electromagnetic pulses, which permanently destroy consumer electronics, the electronics in some automobiles and, most importantly, the hundreds of large transformers that distribute power throughout the U.S. All of our lights, refrigerators, water-pumping stations, TVs and radios stop running. We have no communication and no ability to provide food and water to 300 million Americans.

This is what is referred to as an EMP attack, and such an attack would effectively throw America back technologically into the early 19th century. It would require the Iranians to be able to produce a warhead as sophisticated as we expect the Russians or the Chinese to possess. But that is certainly attainable. Common sense would suggest that, absent food and water, the number of people who could die of deprivation and as a result of social breakdown might run well into the millions.

Let us be clear. A successful EMP attack on the U.S. would have a dramatic effect on the country, to say the least. Even one that only affected part of the country would cripple the economy for years. Dropping nuclear weapons on or retaliating against whoever caused the attack would not help. And an EMP attack is not far-fetched.

Twice in the last eight years, in the Caspian Sea, the Iranians have tested their ability to launch ballistic missiles in a way to set off an EMP. The congressionally mandated EMP Commission, with some of America's finest scientists, has released its findings and issued two separate reports, the most recent in April, describing the devastating effects of such an attack on the U.S.

The only solution to this problem is a robust, multilayered missile-defense system. The most effective layer in this system is in space, using space-based interceptors that destroy an enemy warhead in its ascent phase when it is easily identifiable, slower, and has not yet deployed decoys. We know it can work from tests conducted in the early 1990s. We have the technology. What we lack is the political will to make it a reality.

An EMP attack is not one from which America could recover as we did after Pearl Harbor. Such an attack might mean the end of the United States and most likely the Free World. It is of the highest priority to have a president and policy makers not merely acknowledge the problem, but also make comprehensive missile defense a reality as soon as possible.

Mr. Kennedy is president of the Claremont Institute and a member of the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense.


30256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oretga & Chavez in Nicaragua on: November 24, 2008, 02:16:50 AM
Every crisis presents opportunity. That seems to be the thinking of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, who is trying to steal an election while much of the world is focused on the financial upheaval threatening the global economy.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega (left) embraces Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 25, 2008.

On Nov. 9, Nicaragua held municipal elections in 146 cities and towns. For such a tiny country these races are big, because mayors have a great deal of autonomy and can act as a check on central government power. But this round of balloting was even more important than usual. Consolidating Marxist power in Nicaragua is a prime goal of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Mr. Ortega is supposed to carry out the plan. If he fails it will be another setback for the hard-left's 30-year dream of establishing a communist foothold in Central America.

Mr. Ortega ruled the country from 1979-1990 as a Sandinista dictator. Since winning the presidency in 2006 with 37% of the vote, he has demonstrated that, like his friend Mr. Chávez, he finds institutional checks and balances on his power rather inconvenient. Mr. Ortega's popularity rating is down to about 20%, suggesting that although he is the executive in charge, a lot of Nicaraguans now wish it weren't so.

It is within this reality that Mr. Ortega seems to have decided that Sandinista victories in the Nov. 9 municipal elections were a must. The government has proclaimed Sandinista victories in 94 municipalities, but the opposition is claiming fraud. A bitter struggle is under way.

Sandinista shenanigans began long before the polls opened. Not surprisingly, given Mr. Ortega's history as a "revolutionary," violence was a key campaign tactic. But don't take my word for it. No less than the nongovernmental organization known as the Washington Office on Latin America -- renowned for its left-leaning politics -- warned of state-sponsored repression ahead of the vote.

In a Nov. 6 communication, the organization wrote: "We are alarmed by the growing climate of intolerance for those who are perceived as critics of the federal government. The physical attack on a march of opposition party activists, and the apparent unwillingness of the police to restore order, the criminal investigations of several civil society organizations and their leaders, as well as the investigation of international NGOs that have funded some of these organizations, is extremely troubling." The Washington Office on Latin America also referenced "violent acts by government supporters against human rights defenders."

Terror was not the only tool at Mr. Ortega's disposal. As this column discussed several weeks ago, his campaign efforts were underwritten by Mr. Chávez, who sends millions of dollars of oil to Mr. Ortega but asks to be paid for only 50% of it. The balance is a long-term loan. This oil is then sold at market prices and the profit is used to fund a social investment operation called Albanisa and a Sandinista political slush fund called Albacaruna. The director of the Nicaraguan oil company and of Albanisa is also the treasurer of the Sandinista party. The Sandinistas also have control over the judiciary and the Supreme Electoral Council, which disqualified two political parties from even competing on the ballot.

But Mr. Ortega still had lingering doubts about his odds. And perhaps because he has so long been the darling of the international left, he seems to have decided he could improve those odds without scrutiny.

Step one was to block the Organization of American States, the European Union and the Carter Center from receiving credentials to observe the balloting. He even barred Nicaragua's highly respected independent watchdog, Ethics and Transparency -- which had recognized Mr. Ortega's 2006 victory -- from the polling stations.

Despite getting shut out, Ethics and Transparency managed to post observers to watch from outside polling stations. It estimated that one-third of the stations experienced irregularities. There were also reports that in some places opposition-party observers were kicked out of polling stations, and some polling stations closed ahead of schedule.

The post of Managua mayor is one of the most hotly contested races. Constitutionalist Liberal Party (PLC) candidate Eduardo Montealegre is challenging the "victory" of Sandinista Alexis Arguello. Mr. Montealegre, who graciously accepted his defeat to Mr. Ortega in the 2006 presidential election, says that his party made its own vote tallies and that he won. The Catholic Church and the country's two largest business groups are backing his call for a recount. The Supreme Electoral Council has agreed to a recount, but behind closed doors with no observers.

Mr. Montealegre's efforts to lead rallies in favor of a transparent recount have been broken up by Sandinistas wielding bats and lobbing rocks. But he insists that holding firm is about more than the office of mayor. "It's more fundamental," he says. "It's about dictatorship versus democracy."

Write to O'


30257  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: BO choice is for me, not you on: November 24, 2008, 02:12:51 AM
Michelle and Barack Obama have settled on a Washington, D.C., school for their daughters, and you will not be surprised to learn it is not a public institution. Malia, age 10, and seven-year-old Sasha will attend the Sidwell Friends School, the private academy that educates the children of much of Washington's elite.

APVice President-elect Joe Biden's grandchildren attend Sidwell -- as did Chelsea Clinton -- where tuition is close to $30,000 a year. The Obama girls have been students at the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where tuition runs above $21,000. "A number of great schools were considered," said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Mrs. Obama. "In the end, the Obamas selected the school that was the best fit for what their daughters need right now."

Note the word "selected," as in made a choice. The Obamas are fortunate to have the means to send their daughters to private school, and no one begrudges them that choice given that Washington's public schools are among the worst in America.

Most D.C. parents would also love to be able to choose a better school for their child, but they lack the financial means to do so. The Washington Opportunity Scholarship Program each year offers up to $7,500 to some 1,900 kids to attend private schools, but Democrats in Congress want to kill it. Average family income for kids in the voucher program is about $22,000.

Mr. Obama says he opposes such vouchers, because "although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you're going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom." The example of his own children refutes that: The current system offers plenty of choice to kids "at the top" while abandoning those at the bottom.
30258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Jindal' on: November 24, 2008, 02:08:48 AM
Bobby Jindal, Louisiana's prodigy Governor, has been arguing lately that only policy innovators will break a path out of the GOP's political wilderness -- and he is leading by example. Mr. Jindal recently announced a major renovation of the way his state provides health coverage to the poor and uninsured, thus taking up a topic for which most Republicans require a shot of epinephrine just to pay attention.

Gov. Bobby Jindal
Name any health criteria, and Louisiana is probably scraping bottom. According to one national ranking, the state was 49th in health outcomes in 2007 and worst overall in 2006. Even though about a quarter of the population is enrolled in Medicaid, another quarter is uninsured. Even though the federal government's "matching rate" pays out 71% of state Medicaid costs, state spending has doubled to 16% of the general budget over just the last two years. That share is projected to rise to 22% by 2011, swallowing funding for schools, police and other priorities.

Governor Jindal plans to steer working-poor Medicaid recipients out of the current "fee for service" program, where the state pays a set rate for all health-care charges (some 54 million this year). Instead, they'd choose among private managed-care plans, with Louisiana paying a fixed per-patient amount, adjusted for health risks. Essentially, Mr. Jindal wants to use Medicaid dollars to fund something like private insurance. That way, physicians and hospitals will be compensated for outcomes -- rather than volume of visits and procedures -- and get incentive payments for good performance.

Such a "defined contribution" plan is one way to wrestle run-amok health costs back under control and spend more responsibly. It isn't a new idea, but it is a good one. Congressional Republicans passed a similar reform in 1995 for Medicare, which Bill Clinton vetoed -- only to have his own bipartisan commission endorse it in 1999.

In today's Opinion Journal

Secretary of BailoutsJindal's MedicineThe Sidwell Choice


The Americas: Election Fraud in Nicaragua
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: When Even Good News Worsens a Panic
– L. Gordon Crovitz


The Fed Is Out of Ammunition
– Christopher WoodWhat a Single Nuclear Warhead Could Do
– Brian T. KennedyChange Our Public Schools Need
– Terry M. MoeBush Does the Right Thing for Darfur
– Kenneth RothSince Louisiana will increase the value of its Medicaid dollars and free up other funding, it will also be able to expand eligibility. The initiative will start with about 380,000 people in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and two other regions, with the rest of the state integrated over the next five years. The hope is that by integrating fee for service's separate silos and realigning incentives, the quality of the delivery system will also improve.

Medicaid allows states the flexibility to experiment like Mr. Jindal, but it requires a federal waiver. Currently, Louisiana's negotiations are hung up on $771 million that the feds claim the state owes, much of it in alleged "overpayments." States often game the system to filch federal money they don't deserve, courtesy of national taxpayers. But in this case, Louisiana ought to get credit for good behavior, especially considering that Mr. Jindal inherited the problem. In any event, the state only wants to pay back Medicaid over a longer term while producing savings compared to the status quo.

The Bush Administration's go-ahead is also a matter of urgency. If the talks aren't wrapped up soon, Mr. Jindal will be forced to start over with Barack Obama's team, which will be hostile to reforms that bank on the private sector. Either way, just the transition itself could delay things for six months or a year or more.

Congress is currently considering a state Medicaid "bailout" as part of its second stimulus package, in which Washington would pay for an even greater share of state health spending. That would reward the most spendthrift states. Mr. Jindal's proposal is a far better idea.

30259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gay marriage vs. Religious Freedom on: November 24, 2008, 02:05:00 AM
Jennifer Roback Morse | Friday, 21 November 2008
Same sex marriage and its threat to religious liberty

Tactics used by gay marriage campaigners confirm believers’ worst fears.

As wildfires blazed in California last week, anger at the outcome of the state’s referendum on marriage blazed across the country. After a hard-fought campaign over Proposition 8, which defined marriage as the union of a man and a woman, a clear majority of California voters endorsed it, and the gay marriage lobby was enraged.

Now, as same sex marriage campaigners take the issue back to the courts, it is unclear what the outcome of this battle will be. Will their demands trump the democratic process? It has happened before.

What is clearer than ever is that same sex marriage threatens religious liberty. Disagreement over the extent of that threat played a key role in the debate over Proposition 8. As an independent consultant to the campaign, I must say that the post-election behaviour of the opponents of Prop 8 does not reassure religious believers.

The editor of a new book, Same Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty: Emerging Conflicts, summarizes the general issue this way: “All six contributors (to the book)—religious and secular, left, center and right—agree that same sex marriage is a threat to religious liberty.” The demand for same sex marriage brings in its wake a demand for identical treatment of same sex couples and opposite sex couples. Churches that resist this demand can have their tax exempt status challenged, can be investigated by “human rights commissions,” and can have parts of their operation shut down completely.

The Yes on Prop 8 campaign applied this argument in print and electronic ads. “Churches could lose their tax exempt status,” we said. “People could be sued for their personal beliefs.” The opponents of Prop 8 replied by calling us liars. Their argument was, “No church will lose its tax exempt status for refusing to perform same sex weddings.”

Note the sleight of hand: we made a general statement that churches could lose their tax exempt status, as well as have other legal problems. The opponents of Prop 8 brought up the one issue -- refusing to perform weddings -- which they knew the court had specifically exempted from legal challenge. On this basis, they accused us of misleading the public.

I personally was asked many times whether pastors would be forced to bless same sex unions. I told people the pastors were probably safe for now, but that the trend was not encouraging. The most likely outcome, I consistently said, was that the zone of religious freedom would become steadily more constricted. We cited many cases to support this prediction.

Catholic Charities in Boston shut down its adoption agency, rather than comply with the anti-discrimination requirement for the placement of children. A Knights of Columbus chapter in Canada was sued when it refused to rent out its hall for a same sex wedding reception. A Christian marriage counselor lost her job when she referred a lesbian couple to another therapist, rather than counsel them herself. A Christian photographer was fined by a Human Rights Commission in New Mexico because she refused to take pictures at the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple.

The No on 8 forces claimed that the cases we brought up had nothing to do with marriage. Gays had used anti-discrimination law in these cases, not marriage law, to sue and otherwise harass churches and religious people. (In fact, marriage was an issue in some of the cases.) In effect the gay lobby argued: “We already have all the legal authority we need to do all sorts of Dreadful Things that You Don’t Like, so vote no on 8.”

Oddly enough, people of faith were not reassured by this message.

But refusal to take the religious liberty argument seriously was not the only way the No on 8 forces showed their hostility to religion. On the Sunday before the election, our opponents ran a truly despicable hate-filled ad against the Mormon church. The ad ran the day before the election, when it was almost impossible to respond to it.

Proposition 8 won the election. Over six million people voted for it for a whole variety of reasons. It is safe to say that the religious liberty argument played a significant role. People waved signs that said, “Proposition 8 = Religious Liberty” and “Proposition 8 = Freedom of Speech.” Even though no one could predict the exact form the legal harassment might take, many voters decided the risk to their own churches was unacceptable.

In the aftermath of the election, the No on Prop 8 forces have taken to the streets, attempting to de-legitimize the election. Their behavior toward religious people amply confirms our worst fears.

The gay lobby targeted the Mormon church. Thousands of protesters surrounded Mormon temples in Los Angeles and in Salt Lake City in an obvious attempt at intimidation. Protestors carry signs saying, “Mormon Scum,” a sentiment that would be widely condemned as bigoted if directed at anyone else. Envelopes with suspicious white powder arrived at the Mormon church in Utah and the Knights of Columbus headquarters in Connecticut.

People have called for the LDS church to lose its tax exempt status. An enterprising reporter found that the LDS spent a grand total of less than $3,000 in an in-kind contribution. The other “Mormon millions” were small contributions by thousands of individual members of the church. Gay activists are scouring the election law, looking for minor violations the church or its members might have made.

This attempt to enlist the government for intimidation actually illustrates the point that concerned us throughout the campaign. If you cross the gay lobby, they will use the legal system to go after you. By passing Prop 8, the voters declined to give the gay lobby any additional legal tools.

The authors of Same Sex Marriage and Religious Liberty were not exaggerating. The drive for same sex marriage really does clash with religious liberty. The nation-wide post-election outburst gives Yes on 8 voters all the evidence they need that they did the right thing.

Jennifer Roback Morse, PhD, is the Founder and President of the Ruth Institute.
30260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / CAIR officials served on: November 24, 2008, 01:52:22 AM
Cair officials served in the middle of a banquet!!!

This promises to be interesting , , ,  grin
30261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 24, 2008, 01:46:52 AM
I am under the impression that the question presented concerns the legal system, not whether Latin society thinks men and women are different.

Will try to get to the big questions tomorrow, but no promises.
30262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: on: November 24, 2008, 01:43:45 AM
Barack Obama's widely leaked selection of Timothy Geithner as his Treasury Secretary is certainly a sign of the financial times: About Mr. Geithner's views on taxes and economics, the world knows very little. His specialty at the Clinton Treasury and as President of the New York Federal Reserve has been negotiating bailouts and otherwise navigating through financial panics.

Timothy Geithner with Ben Bernanke.
His first and primary task, in other words, will be to serve as Secretary of Bailouts. For that job, Mr. Geithner is probably the best choice short of Paul Volcker, and he guarantees the smoothest transition from the current Treasury team. He won't have to be introduced to the various Wall Street and Federal Reserve players, and he knows as well as anyone which banks are vulnerable and likely to threaten the larger financial system.

This continuity is especially important given that the credit markets have taken a major step backward since Barack Obama's election. Stocks are off some 15%, credit spreads have widened again, and bear raids are once more targeting Citigroup and other financial companies. The uncertainty over Mr. Obama's team and its direction has itself been fueling the lack of confidence, so we're glad to see the President-elect getting on with the show.

Mr. Geithner's political style is to listen first, which by itself makes him a better choice than Harvard economist Larry Summers, who would find a way to condescend to Albert Einstein. Mr. Summers is reportedly slated to run Mr. Obama's National Economic Council in the White House. The Treasury Secretary has typically been the most prominent Administration voice on the economy, but Mr. Summers is not the sort merely to play honest broker. Mr. Geithner, who once worked for Mr. Summers, will have to work to avoid being seen as second fiddle.

Mr. Obama's political adviser, David Axelrod, also sent a useful signal yesterday by hinting on "Fox News Sunday" that an immediate tax increase may be off the table. In his Saturday radio address, Mr. Obama said that his first priority will be a huge new spending and middle-class tax cut "stimulus" -- perhaps as large as $500 billion. "The main thing right now is to get this economic recovery package on the road, to get money in the pockets of the middle class, to get these projects going, to get America working again, and that's where we're going to be focused in January," added Mr. Axelrod.

The prospect of a tax hike during a recession has been a prominent source of investor anxiety. The President-elect would be smarter still if he announced that he won't allow the lower Bush tax rates to expire after 2010 as they are scheduled to do. The last thing frightened investors want to see now is a lower after-tax return on risk-taking and investment.

What Mr. Geithner thinks about taxes is something of a mystery -- and that's not the only one. As a protégé of Mr. Summers and Robert Rubin, the 47-year-old may share their view that tax rates don't matter much to investment choices. On the other hand, he hasn't declared himself in public on the issue as far as we know.

In today's Opinion Journal

Secretary of BailoutsJindal's MedicineThe Sidwell Choice


The Americas: Election Fraud in Nicaragua
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: When Even Good News Worsens a Panic
– L. Gordon Crovitz


The Fed Is Out of Ammunition
– Christopher WoodWhat a Single Nuclear Warhead Could Do
– Brian T. KennedyChange Our Public Schools Need
– Terry M. MoeBush Does the Right Thing for Darfur
– Kenneth RothFor that matter, most of his work in public life has been done in backrooms or as a loyal Sancho Panza. During the Clinton years, he assisted Mr. Summers on various international bailouts. And during the current panic, he has properly deferred in public to Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke or Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson. Now Mr. Geithner will have to become the Administration's chief financial spokesman, so it will be useful for the Senate to sound him out during confirmation hearings.

All the more so because some of his bailout decisions have been less than successful. Mr. Geithner was the driving force behind the government takeover of insurance giant AIG -- a "rescue" that has itself twice had to be rescued with more taxpayer capital. The most frustrating part of the AIG episode has been the New York Fed's lack of transparency, both about the nature of the "systemic risk" that required the takeover and why it was superior to bankruptcy. This is another subject worthy of confirmation scrutiny, not least as an indication of Mr. Geithner's standards for future interventions.

Mr. Geithner was also on the Fed's Open Market Committee when it made its fateful decisions to keep real interest rates negative for so long, fueling the credit mania that has since turned to panic. Those monetary decisions are typically led by the Fed Chairman, but Mr. Geithner never dissented. While a Treasury Secretary doesn't directly make monetary policy, his private advice can be critical to Fed decisions. This is another area ripe for Senate exploration.

We suppose in that sense there is some rough justice in Mr. Geithner's nomination. Having been present at the creation of the current mess, he can help clean it up by avoiding some of the same mistakes.

30263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Uh oh on: November 24, 2008, 01:36:47 AM
With an estimated $4 trillion in housing wealth and $9 trillion in stock-market wealth destroyed so far in the United States, there is little doubt that we are witnessing a classic debt-deflation bust at work, characterized by falling prices, frozen credit markets and plummeting asset values.

Chad CroweThose who want to understand the mechanism might ponder Irving Fisher's comment in 1933: When it comes to booms gone bust, "over-investment and over-speculation are often important; but they would have far less serious results were they not conducted with borrowed money."

The growing risk of falling prices raises a challenge for one of the conventional wisdoms of the modern economics profession, and indeed modern central banking: the belief that it is impossible to have deflation in a fiat paper-money system. Yet U.S. core CPI fell by 0.1% month-on-month in October, the first such decline since December 1982.

The origins of the modern conventional wisdom lies in the simplistic monetarist interpretation of the Great Depression popularized by Milton Friedman and taught to generations of economics students ever since. This argued that the Great Depression could have been avoided if the Federal Reserve had been more proactive about printing money. Yet the Japanese experience of the 1990s -- persistent deflationary malaise unresponsive to near zero-percent interest rates -- shows that it is not so easy to inflate one's way out of a debt bust.

In the U.S., the Fed can only control the supply of money; it cannot control the velocity of money or the rate at which it turns over. The dramatic collapse in securitization over the past 18 months reflects the continuing collapse in velocity as financial engineering goes into reverse.

True, this will change one day. But for now, the issuance of nonagency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) in America has plunged by 98% year-on-year to a monthly average of $0.82 billion in the past four months, down from a peak of $136 billion in June 2006. There has been no new issuance in commercial MBS since July. This collapse in securitization is intensely deflationary.

It is also true that under Chairman Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve balance sheet continues to expand at a frantic rate, as do commercial-bank total reserves in an effort to counter credit contraction. Thus, the Federal Reserve banks' total assets have increased by $1.28 trillion since early September to $2.19 trillion on Nov. 19. Likewise, the aggregate reserves of U.S. depository institutions have surged nearly 14-fold in the past two months to $653 billion in the week ended Nov. 19 from $47 billion at the beginning of September.

But the growth of excess reserves also reflects bank disinterest in lending the money. This suggests the banks only want to finance existing positions, such as where they have already made credit-line commitments.

Monetarist Bernanke and others blame Japan's postbubble deflationary downturn on policy errors by the Bank of Japan. But he and others are about to find out that monetary gymnastics are not as effective as they would like to think. So too will the Keynesians who view an aggressive fiscal policy as the best way to counter a deflationary slump. While public-works spending can blunt the downside and provide jobs, it remains the case that FDR's New Deal did not end the Great Depression.

There are no easy policy answers to the current credit convulsion and intensifying financial panic -- not as long as politicians and central bankers are determined not to let financial institutions fail, and so prevent the market from correcting the excesses. This is why this writer has a certain sympathy for Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, even if nobody else seems to. The securitized nature of this credit cycle, combined with the nightmare levels of leverage embedded in the products dreamt up by the quantitative geeks, means this is a horribly difficult issue to solve.

Virtually everybody blames Mr. Paulson for the decision to let Lehman Brothers go. But this decision should be applauded for precipitating the deflationary unwind that was going to come sooner or later anyway.

The Japanese precedent also remains important because the efforts in the West to prevent the market from disciplining excesses will have, as in Japan, unintended, adverse, long-term consequences. In Japan, one legacy is the continuing existence of a large number of uncompetitive companies which have caused profit margins to fall for their more productive competitors. Another consequence has been a long-term deflationary malaise, which has kept yen interest rates ridiculously low to the detriment of savers.

Meanwhile, the most recent Fed survey of loan officers provides hard evidence of the intensifying credit crunch in America. A net 83.6% of domestic banks reported having tightened lending standards on commercial and industrial loans to large and midsize firms over the past three months, the highest since the data series began in 1990. A net 47% of banks also indicated that they had become less willing to make consumer installment loans over the past three months.

Consumers are also more reluctant to borrow. A net 48% of respondents indicated that they had experienced weaker demand for consumer loans of all types over the past quarter, up from 30% in the July survey. This hints at the Japanese outcome of "pushing on a string" -- i.e., the banks can make credit available but cannot force people to borrow.

In today's Opinion Journal

Secretary of BailoutsJindal's MedicineThe Sidwell Choice


The Americas: Election Fraud in Nicaragua
– Mary Anastasia O'GradyInformation Age: When Even Good News Worsens a Panic
– L. Gordon Crovitz


The Fed Is Out of Ammunition
– Christopher WoodWhat a Single Nuclear Warhead Could Do
– Brian T. KennedyChange Our Public Schools Need
– Terry M. MoeBush Does the Right Thing for Darfur
– Kenneth RothWhat happens next? With a fed-funds rate at 0.5% or lower in coming months, it is fast becoming time for investors to read again Mr. Bernanke's speeches in 2002 and 2003 on the subject of combating falling inflation. In these speeches, the Fed chairman outlined how policy could evolve once short-term interest rates get to near zero. A key focus in such an environment will be to bring down long-term interest rates, which help determine the rates of mortgages and other debt instruments. This would likely involve in practice the Fed buying longer-term Treasury bonds.

It would seem fair to conclude that a Bernanke-led Fed will follow through on such policies in coming months if, as is likely, the U.S. economy continues to suffer and if inflationary pressures continue to collapse. Such actions will not solve the problem but will merely compound it, by adding debt to debt.

In this respect the present crisis in the West will ultimately end up discrediting mechanical monetarism -- and with it the fiat paper-money system in general -- as the U.S. paper-dollar standard, in place since Richard Nixon broke the link with gold in 1971, finally disintegrates.

The catalyst will be foreign creditors fleeing the dollar for gold. That will in turn lead to global recognition of the need for a vastly more disciplined global financial system and one where gold, the "barbarous relic" scorned by most modern central bankers, may well play a part.

Mr. Wood, equity strategist for CLSA Ltd. in Hong Kong, is the author of "The Bubble Economy: Japan's Extraordinary Speculative Boom of the '80s and the Dramatic Bust of the '90s" (Solstice Publishing, 2005).

30264  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DLO 3 on: November 23, 2008, 08:08:33 PM
If I decide to continue with DVDs at all-- and that is a question all its own-- an option with DLO 3 would be to simply have a  civilian version with some additional footage available only to LEO/Mil. 

What gets me to thinking about this is that I was watching the ruff cut of the Ohio footage this afternoon (which was shot at the Canton OH Police Department Training Center) and the simple fact is that there are things in there that belong only in the LEO/mil domain for reasons practical, moral, and spiritual.

Night Owl is working on the ruff edit of the studio footage now, and perhaps will be integrating it with the OH footage at the same time.
30265  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Piracy on: November 23, 2008, 06:43:27 PM

I'm just in from a fine weekend.  I'm sensing some considerable overlap here with the Horn of Africa thread.  Would you please give it a look and suggest how you think we should best handle this?
30266  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: November 23, 2008, 06:39:21 PM
For a fine weekend of Cub Scout/Boy Scout camping with my son.  My first time camping below freezing.
30267  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: MMA Thread on: November 23, 2008, 06:37:52 PM
Speak for yourself tongue cheesy
30268  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: November 23, 2008, 06:36:26 PM
Just getting back from a weekend with my son.  What happened?
30269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: November 23, 2008, 06:19:02 PM
My title for the piece:  "Pigs bust Muslims in ham lorry".
30270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 23, 2008, 01:45:45 PM
Just in from a weekend of camping with my son and now I am quickly catching up around here.  Bypassing for now the substantive points raised, for the moment I ask for examples supporting this assertion:

"Latin America is another example; women and men are not equal."
30271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Missiles attacks into Whackostan on: November 23, 2008, 01:35:32 PM
US missiles striking terror into Pakistani militants

How the British Islamist Rashid Rauf may have been caught up in the US campaign to tackle terrorists in Pakistan

Jason Burke in Islamabad, Saturday November 22 2008 12.09 GMT

United States forces are believed to have carried out about 20 missile attacks since August in north-west Pakistan, a sharp rise that reflects Washington's frustration at Islamabad's efforts to tackle militants on its own soil.

Though the attacks have killed a number of high-profile militant leaders, civilian casualties and wounded national pride has led to outrage in Pakistan. The Pakistani government has been forced to repeatedly deny reports that a secret pact has been agreed with the US to allow the missile attacks from Afghanistan territory to go ahead.

Pakistani government officials and military officers last week denied the existence of a "secret list" of 20 individuals against whom missile strikes had been sanctioned by Islamabad without prior consultation. They repeatedly told the Observer that the strikes were causing problems by angering local people. "One strike and you have a whole village radicalised," said Shafir Ullah Nasir, the political agent in the Bajaur tribal agency where fighting has raged for months.

Pakistan's new civilian president, Asif Ali Zardari, has urged Washington to share intelligence and equip Pakistani forces so they can pursue militants on their own side of the border.

Intelligence officials in Islamabad have told the Observer that the strikes have demoralised militants, forcing many to sleep in different locations every night or even sleep under trees for cover rather than risk staying in a house. The heightened rate of attrition among the militants has sparked a hunt for a suspected spy within their ranks, diverting attention and resources from offensive actions, the officials said.

Pakistan has played a key role in the evolution of the terrorist threat in the UK. Many major bomb plots in Britain have involved British or dual-nationality citizens who have travelled to Pakistan for training or strategic advice from the hardcore al-Qaida leadership who have regrouped in the lawless tribal zones along the Afghan frontier in recent years.

Several dozen British citizens who are known to the UK government make their way to the frontier region each year, with Pakistani militant groups often acting as intermediaries. Intelligence officials suspect there are others who they have been unable to identify.

Some go on to fight in Afghanistan, others return to the UK. Britain's MI6 overseas intelligence agents work closely with their American counterparts to track individuals who they believe pose a "material" threat to the UK. Rashid Rauf would have fallen squarely into this category.

As MI6 has neither the capability nor the legal right to undertake lethal operations in Pakistan, intelligence is passed to the Americans who run a fleet of drones fitted with Hellfire missiles powerful enough to destroy a mud-walled home and burn everyone inside. Rauf may well have fallen into the latter category too.
US kills alleged transatlantic airline plot leader, reports say

British Islamist Rashid Rauf said to have been killed by missile attack in north-west Pakistan

Jason Burke in Islamabad, Saturday November 22 2008 12.43 GMT

A British man suspected of close links with al-Qaida leaders and involvement in a plot to blow up transatlantic airplanes has reportedly been killed by a United States missile strike in the volatile border regions of Pakistan.

Rashid Rauf, originally from Birmingham, was said to have died along with at least four other militants with links to al-Qaida in an attack in the restive North Waziristan tribal agency, a key base for hardline extremists, according to local television stations and intelligence officials.

Pakistani intelligence sources in Islamabad said they had intercepted communications between militants after the strike indicating that Rauf was among those killed, but cautioned that no direct evidence of his death had yet been found. Investigations were still continuing, officials said.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said it was investigating the reports.

Rauf, who is 27 and holds both British and Pakistani citizenship, is wanted by West Midlands police in relation to the 2002 murder of his uncle and has been named as a "key person" in the so-called "airlines plot" of 2006. Rauf was arrested in Pakistan that year after an apparent tip-off from British anti-terrorism officers, days before a series of raids in the UK in which 23 were arrested. After the operation hand baggage restrictions on flights were tightened.

Eight men went on trial earlier this year accused of conspiring to smuggle home-made liquid bombs on board a series of transatlantic passenger flights. Three were found guilty of conspiracy to murder but face retrial next year on a more serious charge alongside four other defendants on whom the jury did not return verdicts. One of the defendants was acquitted.

Aftab Sherpao, the Pakistani interior minister at the time, told the Observer earlier this week that Rauf was considered the mastermind of the plot and was linked to al-Qaida.

Rauf, however, escaped from police custody outside a court in Rawalpindi last December following an extradition hearing. Officers had removed his handcuffs to allow him to wash before prayers.

He married a relative of one of Pakistan's notorious militants, Azhar Masood Azhar, the head of Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Rauf's lawyer said that the suspected militant's family in Pakistan, who live in the eastern city of Bahawalpur, had no news. "They have no information," Hasmat Habib told the Observer. "He was an innocent man a god-fearing, devout polite man and this is an extra-judicial killing."

Today's missile strike, shortly before dawn, is thought to have killed several foreigners. At least one is believed to have been Egyptian, named as Abu Zubair al-Masri.

A Taliban spokesman said all those killed were civilians, and that three children were injured.

"None was a foreigner," Ahmedullah Ahmedi said in a statement delivered to reporters in Miran Shah, the region's main town.

But officials said the attack targeted a house in the village of Ali Khel, close to the small town of Miram Shah. The house belonged to Khaliq Noor, a leader of the coalition of local extremist groups known as the Pakistan Taliban, and he regularly sheltered foreign fighters, officials said.
30272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 21, 2008, 04:28:11 PM
FWIW IMHO your logic is as correct as it is naive.
30273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 21, 2008, 02:44:47 PM
"The debate was not about Islam per se, but rather VOLUNTARY arbitration in England."

No, the debate is about WHETHER the REALITY of it is voluntary.
30274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor/WTF on: November 21, 2008, 02:37:30 PM
MUST, , , HAVE , , , THAT , , , SHIRT!!!  URL please?
30275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mukasey on: November 21, 2008, 11:40:45 AM
Last June in Boumediene v. Bush, the Supreme Court ruled for the first time in our history that aliens captured and held as enemy combatants abroad (in this case, at the Guantanamo Bay military base) had a constitutional right to challenge their detentions by filing petitions for habeas corpus in federal court. The Court recognized that its holding was unprecedented. Yet it said that it was not deciding how such proceedings should be conducted, or even what the government must show to prevail.

David KleinYesterday, the federal district court in Washington concluded the first such habeas proceeding for six detainees. It held that the government had established a basis for holding only one of them as an enemy combatant. The court acknowledged that the evidence the detainees were planning to travel to Afghanistan to join the fight was perfectly appropriate for use as intelligence (the purpose for which it was collected) -- but that such evidence was not sufficient to carry the government's burden of proving in court that the detainees were enemy combatants.

Of course, we believe that the court should have reached a different conclusion with respect to the five detainees. But on a more general level, the court's order highlights the challenges that inhere in applying a civil litigation framework to wartime decisions that often must be made on the basis of the best available intelligence.

Other federal courts hearing the approximately 250 Gitmo habeas cases have sought to answer similar questions. But as different judges reach different answers -- and as some of those answers, I fear, create risks for our national security -- there remains a pressing need for Congress, working with the administration, to establish one set of rules that is both consistent with the Supreme Court's decision and recognizes the important national security and intelligence interests of the United States.

The questions with which courts have grappled are of critical importance. They include foundational issues: How should we define an "enemy combatant" during a conflict with a nontraditional enemy like al Qaeda? They include trial issues: What evidence may the government rely on when making that determination? And they include practical issues: What does it mean to order a detainee "released"? Can a court order release into the U.S. if a detainee cannot be transferred to his home country, either because it won't accept him or because we fear he might be mistreated upon his return?

In July, I urged Congress to work with the administration to fashion a uniform set of rules for these cases, expressing two basic concerns with leaving these matters to the courts. The first was that the courts would reach inconsistent decisions, leading to protracted litigation and the likelihood of different procedures in different cases.

The second was that the courts would not be well-positioned to address fully our national security and intelligence interests. As a former federal judge, I know well the constraints on federal courts. They cannot find facts on their own and are limited to the evidence presented by the parties before them. By contrast, Congress and the executive branch are well equipped to learn and evaluate facts, and skilled in balancing the difficult policy choices at stake.

In the absence of legislation, however, the courts have proceeded with these cases. I appreciate the difficulty of the task that these judges were given, and I believe they have done an admirable job under the circumstances. Nevertheless, we have seen courts diverging on key issues, meaning that the rules in each case will likely vary significantly and will likely be finally resolved only after multiple appeals.

More importantly, in many cases, the government has faced great difficulty in collecting and presenting evidence in a manner that protects the vital sources and methods upon which our national security depends. Indeed, lacking clear protections for classified information, we have found at times that we are simply unable to provide our best evidence to the court. Our national security framework, in short, is not -- and should not be -- designed primarily to handle the burdens of discovery accompanying ordinary civil litigation.

Although a new president comes to office in January, these cases are moving forward quickly and the need for legislation is urgent. It is not yet too late for Congress, working with both this administration, and members of the incoming administration, to come together to fix this problem and to develop a sensible framework. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I believe that Americans agree more than they disagree about the principles that should govern this process.

First, Congress must make clear that release from the Guantanamo Bay military base does not mean that a detainee is entitled to enter the United States. Where a court finds that a detainee cannot be held as an enemy combatant, he should be returned to his home country or another country willing to receive him. He should not be permitted to jump the immigration line and enter this country.

Second, habeas corpus proceedings must protect the integrity of classified information and prevent disclosing that information to our enemies. Simply put, Congress should devise rules that allow the government to present the most highly classified information to the courts for their sole review.

We should not be forced to choose between continuing to hold a dangerous detainee and jeopardizing the intelligence sources and methods that Americans have risked their lives to obtain, and which our enemies may then render useless.

In today's Opinion Journal

The Waxman DemocratsAl Franken's MinnesotaAmerica the Popular


Declarations: Keep Gates
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: Obama's Senate Play
– Kimberley A. Strassel


Al Qaeda Detainees and Congress's Duty
– Michael B. MukaseyThe Auto Makers Are Already Bankrupt
– Paul IngrassiaLessons in Gross National Happiness
– Emily ParkerWhat Do We Really Know About the Uninsured?
– William SnyderThird, Congress should establish sensible and uniform procedures that will eliminate the risk of duplicative efforts and inconsistent rulings, and strike a reasonable balance between the detainees' right to a hearing and our national security needs. Such practical rules must assure that court proceedings do not interfere with the mission of our armed forces.

Federal courts have never before treated habeas corpus as requiring full-dress trials, even in ordinary criminal cases. It would be unwise to do so here, given the grave national security concerns at issue.

Devising a legal framework to review our military's detention decisions is an unprecedented challenge. It should not be left to the courts alone.

I firmly believe that Congress, the administration, and the incoming administration can work together to establish rules that at once provide a fair hearing and are respectful of the nation's security interests. It is not yet too late, and it certainly is worth the effort to try.

Mr. Mukasey is the attorney general of the United States.
30276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 21, 2008, 11:04:59 AM

I get your point about the legal theory of it all, and I suspect that GM does too, but is that really responsive to his point about the real world of it all?  His post about the poor Sabia Rani seems to support his case rather vividly , , ,
30277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: November 21, 2008, 10:58:44 AM
Don't the Japanese profitably make cars here in the US?  huh
30278  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / That Fcuker Al Franken on: November 21, 2008, 10:53:45 AM

Al Franken's campaign takes exception to our recent description of the curious goings-on in Minnesota's Senate vote count. We're delighted to hear his growing vote total is all routine. But who needs to worry about votes discovered in a car when the Franken campaign is now suing in court to steal the election?

Minnesota this week began its official statewide recount, and Mr. Franken isn't hanging on the outcome. Instead, he's trying to conjure up enough other, previously disqualified, ballots to overturn Mr. Coleman's 215-vote lead. The Democrat needs to invent votes because he knows it will be tough to win a normal recount. Minnesota uses optical scanning machines, which are far more accurate than the punchcard paper ballots of the 2000 Florida recount. Prior recounts in Minnesota have resulted in few vote changes.

So off to court he goes, with Mr. Franken demanding that the state canvassing board delay certifying the initial election results. His campaign claims that absentee votes may have been wrongly rejected by election judges. Team Franken filed a lawsuit in Ramsey County (the state's second largest, and an area Mr. Franken won decisively) demanding a list of these absentee voters, so that the Democrat can contact them, get them to declare their ex post facto preference, and, presto, he wins.

The state attorney general's office ruled against a canvassing board delay, finding that certification was purely an administrative function and that any question of absentee ballots ought to be left to the courts. The problem is that at least one court has entertained this Franken ploy. Ramsey County Judge Dale Lindman this week ordered county officials to give Mr. Franken a list of voters who had cast rejected absentee ballots.

In today's Opinion Journal

The Waxman DemocratsAl Franken's MinnesotaAmerica the Popular


Declarations: Keep Gates
– Peggy NoonanPotomac Watch: Obama's Senate Play
– Kimberley A. Strassel


Al Qaeda Detainees and Congress's Duty
– Michael B. MukaseyThe Auto Makers Are Already Bankrupt
– Paul IngrassiaLessons in Gross National Happiness
– Emily ParkerWhat Do We Really Know About the Uninsured?
– William SnyderPut aside that these ballots have already been ruled on by trained election judges. Put aside, too, the invasion of voter privacy. The real problem of allowing Mr. Franken to conduct his own voter discovery operation is that this is changing the rules after the election has been held. The gambit introduces subjective judgment and political pressure into a voting process that is supposed to be immune to both.

Opening up the rejected-ballot question is also a recipe for potential fraud. When the Franken campaign filed its initial lawsuit demanding access to the voter lists, it used as an example an 84-year-old woman in Beltrami County whose vote was supposedly rejected because she'd had a stroke, and therefore her signature on her absentee ballot did not match the one on file. After some outside investigation, the Franken campaign admitted that the story was not true, and that her ballot had been rejected for entirely different (and legitimate) reasons.

Mr. Franken is also trying to raise public doubt about an "undervote" -- suggesting that only machine error can explain why he received 12.2 percentage points fewer votes than did Barack Obama. But the Senate race had three serious candidates, not two. Maybe fewer Minnesotans liked a left-wing candidate who ran a nasty campaign. In any case, the same Democrats who claimed Florida was "stolen" by faulty ballot machines are now trying to discredit the optical-scanners that they have demanded -- all in order to sway the human judges who'll rule on Mr. Franken's legal challenges.

The joker's goal is to sow enough doubt about the vote so that if he loses the recount he can attract public support to challenge the final result in court. This is a slap at Minnesota, which, so far at least, appears to be doing all it can to make the recount open and transparent. Minnesota should respond by telling Mr. Franken that even a celebrity has to play by the rules.

30279  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Good manners, social graces, and etiquette on: November 21, 2008, 07:46:52 AM
Indeed it is.  Its even better when rendered the verb is in agreement with the subject:  evil

"Our society has been sheltered for so long it has forgotten what used to lay beyond the firelight."


"People have been sheltered for so long they have forgotten what used to lay beyond the firelight."

30280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 21, 2008, 07:43:59 AM
"The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right, which Heaven itself has ordained."

—George Washington, First Inaugural Address, April 30, 1789
30281  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Leaving too soon? on: November 20, 2008, 05:08:19 PM
U.S. shifts its approach in Iraq
Focus shifts to reconciling factions through programs and peace marches
By Mary Beth Sheridan
The Washington Post
updated 12:17 a.m. PT, Thurs., Nov. 20, 2008

BAGHDAD - It was billed as a peace concert in war-scarred Baghdad. But after 30 minutes of poetry and patriotic songs, only a scattering of tribal leaders and dark-suited bureaucrats were sitting in the vast expanse of white plastic chairs before a stage painted with doves.

That didn't trouble Col. Bill Hickman, whose soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division helped organize the event.

"We have sheiks from different places who will sit here and talk to each other," he said, standing at the edge of the audience with his men, a striking sight in their body armor and night-vision goggles.

With violence down sharply this year, the U.S. military is broadening its efforts to reconcile Sunnis and Shiites, reintegrate former insurgents into society and repair the rift between residents and their government.

But as American forces begin to withdraw, some Iraqis question the long-term impact of the pacification campaign. Iraq has no history of democracy, and the government that has come to power since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion is sharply divided along sectarian lines.

"The idea or identity of this is American, not Iraqi," Kassim Daoud, a former Iraqi national security minister, said of the U.S. efforts. Although the Iraqi government has declared its support for reconciliation, he said, "it hasn't got a real program or a map."

Reality lags behind rhetoric
At the concert, city officials spoke glowingly about reconciliation. But some in the audience acknowledged that reality lagged far behind.

Abdul Ameer, 48, a Shiite who attended the event with his two young sons, said he had Sunni friends but couldn't visit them. The friends live in the town of Tarmiyah north of Baghdad, he explained: "It's only for Sunnis. I can't feel safe if I go there."

The U.S. reconciliation campaign includes some major projects, but much of the American effort is decentralized, consisting of reconstruction programs, peace marches and meetings with rival tribal leaders over platters of rice and lamb. In many cases, soldiers are making up the details as they go along.

Lt. Col. Monty Willoughby, 42, has had to figure out how to keep the peace in an area of northwestern Baghdad that was previously a hotbed of Sunni insurgents. He became worried last spring when U.S. commanders announced a plan to release thousands of Iraqis detained for alleged ties to insurgents.

"We're like, man, how are we going to keep these guys from falling back into it?" asked Willoughby, an earnest, freckled officer from Clever, Mo., who commands the 4th Squadron of the 10th Cavalry Regiment, which is attached to the 101st Airborne.

Willoughby decided he needed someone to help the detainees reenter society. And that is how a squadron of macho U.S. infantrymen and gung-ho tankers came to hire their first professional nurturer.

Fawaz Kashmoola is their "rehabilitation manager."

"The role I play is, when the prisoners get released, I show them love and mercy," said the Iraqi lawyer, a 45-year-old with combed-back hair.

Love, housing and jobs
Love isn't all the former detainees get. Kashmoola and his fellow managers line up housing as well as jobs or training programs. Then the managers check up on the men to ensure they stay out of trouble.

On a recent sunny Thursday, Kashmoola and Willoughby attended a detainee release ceremony on the lawn of a blue-domed mosque. The U.S. military has made these into gala affairs, with flag-waving crowds and speeches from Muslim leaders and Iraqi army officers. The 48 newly freed men were handed gift-wrapped bags of chocolates by U.S. soldiers who a year ago might have flex-cuffed them.

Willoughby said the military is sending a message to men who might be tempted by insurgents' offers to attack the Americans: "We have reconciled with you. We are giving you your next chance. Your community cares about you. We want you to learn a trade, provide for your family -- not be putting IEDs for $200."

In his area, only one of 82 freed detainees has been rearrested. Several other battalions in Baghdad have hired their own versions of Kashmoola.

Detainee-release ceremonies reflect a dramatic change in military doctrine. The Army issued a field manual last month on "stability operations" to guide its troops in facilitating reconciliation and providing essential services. It was produced after the Department of Defense in 2005 elevated "stability operations" to the same level in its doctrine as offensive and defensive operations.

"It's a very different Army from the one that invaded Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003," said John Nagl, an analyst at the Center for a New American Security and a former Army officer.

Building support for government institutions is a key part of the U.S. military's pacification effort in Iraq. In Willoughby's area of northwestern Baghdad, for example, American troops have cleaned out sewers, rebuilt schools and put in a swimming pool.

"As you, as a citizen, are looking on, you've got to say, 'It's nice to live here,' " Willoughby said. If insurgents return, the U.S. officers hope, Iraqis will consider what they have to lose.

It can be difficult to assess the effectiveness of some of the American programs. Hickman's soldiers, for example, have helped organize soccer games between Sunni and Shiite neighborhoods, providing the young players with T-shirts or uniforms.

The matches aren't billed as peace events, he said, but the parents mingle, re-creating an atmosphere that existed before the invasion. The games draw them from neighborhoods divided by giant blast walls and painful memories of sectarian warfare.

"The nuance here is for the Sunni and Shiite to come together," said Hickman, who commands the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

Peace concert problems
U.S. troops had envisioned the Baghdad peace concert as an event for the public to enjoy. But they organized it jointly with Iraqi officials, who are still unaccustomed to such unscripted activities. Park officials barred most people without a government invitation from entering, resulting in scores of empty seats.

Iraqi government officials have praised the American peace efforts but say they have their limits.

Safa Rasul Hussein, the deputy national security adviser, said the U.S. programs had been helpful, particularly on outreach to the Sunni minority. But he noted that some Iraqi parties and armed groups refuse to talk to the American military.

"Maybe reconciliation will be more when they leave," he said.

The Iraqi government has launched a number of its own reconciliation activities, from organizing political conferences to setting up assistance centers for families displaced by violence.

Sons of Iraq fear U.S. pullout
One of the U.S. military's biggest reconciliation efforts involves the Sons of Iraq, once-hostile Iraqis who became American-paid neighborhood guards. The U.S. military considers the mostly Sunni guards to be a critical factor in the drop in violence over the past year.

It has urged Iraq to integrate the guards into its security forces, but the Shiite-led government has been slow to do so. On Oct. 1, the Iraqi government assumed control of about half the 100,000 guards and last week started paying them.

But the U.S. military is taking no chances. It held two high-level meetings with Iraqi officials to ensure they were prepared to pay the guards under their control. When the Sons of Iraq protested that the Iraqi government wanted to cut their monthly salaries from $300 to $250, the U.S. military stepped in and got the decision changed. On payday, American soldiers sat next to the Iraqi troops handing out the cash.

The Sons of Iraq say they're nervous about what will happen if the American role diminishes, especially because many of them haven't been told yet what their new jobs will be.

"There was some talk in the Iraqi media that the Iraqi government wasn't accepting the Sons of Iraq as it should. We don't know what is going to happen in the future," said one guard, Alaa Ghazi.

Ghazi, 27, is one of hundreds of guards who have been accepted into the Iraqi police academy. On a recent day, he took a break from drilling on a dusty parade ground outside the facility.

The Sons of Iraq program would continue to work well "with the help and support" of the U.S. forces, he said. But asked whether it could succeed without them, he shook his head.

"No, no, no!" he cried.
30282  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: November 20, 2008, 04:53:13 PM
Good read Mig.
30283  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 20, 2008, 04:37:27 PM
Pulling up the chair and the popcorn , , ,

Over to you JDN  grin
30284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: November 20, 2008, 04:34:16 PM
"Having waded through a ton of islamic religious writing, I can tell you that the islamic world is the most fcuked up culture on the topic of sex, ever. IMHO, Muhammad had some serious psych issues, and as his thoughts are now islamic holy writ, they have become a meta-pathology."

For some reason, this provoked me to laugh and laugh ,l , , I suppose the pithiness of it all  cheesy
30285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Energy Politics & Science on: November 20, 2008, 02:08:48 PM
I gather that amongst its effects is an increase in the use of fertilizer, which, inter alia, runs down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico where it greatly adds to a scarily large and growing dead zone (no oxygen) in the Gulf.
30286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Vote Fraud (ACORN et al) on: November 20, 2008, 02:03:54 PM
Not always a reliable site, but the subject matter here resonates with me:

Elections Officials May Audit Obama's Fundraising
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 6:01 PM
By: Kenneth R. Timmerman 

According to a published report earlier this week, the Federal Election Commission is unlikely to vote to audit the Obama campaign finances, and will sweep aside a formal demand for an full audit that was filed by the Republican National Committee on Oct. 6. But interviews with current and former FEC officials, as well as a review of public statements by FEC commissioners, suggest that the commission could pursue an “audit for cause” of the Obama campaign, based in part on allegations of widespread fraud and illegal donors as reported by and other publications during the election season.

“There are standards in a bureaucratic sense for who might be eligible for an audit for cause,” said FEC spokesman Bob Biersack. “Those are objective standards. Committees that meet those standards are eligible to be audited.”

Confusion or concern with information in the campaign finance reports submitted by the committees are generally what trigger such an audit, Biersack added. Such concerns can include a significant number of donors who have exceeded the limits of $2,300 per election. According to the Obama campaign’s own disclosures, more than 4,000 of its donors fit that bill. Those concerns can also include receiving money from foreign donors. The FEC compiled a list last month of more than 16,000 contributions from overseas sources. A Newsmax survey of roughly one-fifth of those names found 118 individuals who appeared to be foreign citizens.

The Republican National Committee based its demand for an audit of the Obama campaign on reports from Newsmax and other media organizations that suggested widespread irregularities, including taking money from foreign donors and from donors with fictitious names.

“We’re still awaiting action on our complaint and will press forward,” RNC spokesman Alex Conant told Newsmax on Friday.

Three Republicans and three Democrats now sit on the FEC as commissioners. But until June of this year, the commission was crippled because of partisan wrangling.

Helping to cripple the FEC was the junior senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, who placed a “hold” on a Republican nominee in October 2007.  angry That action had the effect of keeping the commission on the sideline for the entire primary season.  angry angry angry

But will the commission act now? Incoming commissioners Don McGahn, a Republican, and Cynthia Bauerly, a Democrat, insisted that they would hear cases at the FEC in terms of their merits, not party affiliation. Even though they had both worked on partisan campaigns in the past, Bauerly told senators during her confirmation hearing in May that “the most important determination is to be objective and to read the law as objectively and fairly as possible.” McGahn said that in his view, commissioners were no longer partisans. “Ultimately, the commission’s core constituency is the general public,” he said at the May 21 hearing.

Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt dismissed talk of an audit earlier this week. “We have had a first rate compliance operation for an unprecedented national grassroots fundraising effort,” he told reporters.

But the Obama campaign more often than not failed to respond within the statutory 60 day limit to the more than dozen letters it received from the FEC asking for clarification of apparent foreign donors, or the refund of excess contributions, a Newsmax review of the correspondance shows.

For example, on April 15, 2008, the FEC asked the Obama campaign to refund or reassign contributions from two brothers in the Gaza Strip, Hosam and Monir Edwan. Together, they had given over $31,000 to the Obama campaign. And yet, three months later, much of the money had yet to be returned.

Most of the contributions from the Edwan brothers were made in October 2007, so the Obama campaign was able to use the money for cash-flow when it needed it the most and when the FEC was down to just two commissioners. In the April 15 letter, the FEC failed to point out that the two brothers had listed their address as “Gaza Strip, Rafah,” and had obviously used a foreign currency credit card to make the donations. On May 6, the FEC questioned excessive contributions from a woman identified as Deborah Heitz of La Canada, Calif. As of Jan. 31, 2008, she had given $17,900 to the campaign, nearly eight times the limit per election. In this case, the Obama campaign began refunding the money soon afterwards. But once again, they had gained precious cash flow at the peak of the primary campaign, without ever paying a price.

On June 25, FEC analysts sent the Obama campaign a sharply worded notice with a 58-page single-spaced list of donors whose contributions were over the limits. The June 25 letter first identified excess contributions from a donor named “Will, Good” from Austin, Texas. The list of Mr. Good Will’s contributions the FEC sent the Obama campaign ran seven pages. And yet, the campaign was slow to start returning the money.

As Newsmax revealed in September, the Obama campaign still showed a positive balance from Mr. Good Will of $8,950 as of their Sept. 20, 2008 report to the FEC, three months after they were warned about these contributions in June.

[Editor's Note: See "Secret, Foreign Money Floods Into Obama Campaign."]

The FEC letters all include a stern warning, “Failure to adequately respond by the response date noted above could result in an audit or enforcement action.”   And yet, despite repeated delays or just downright refusals to respond to the FEC letters, the Obama campaign has yet not been audited nor has the FEC announced any enforcement action.

Massie Ritsch, a spokesman for the Center for Responsive Politics, saw little reason for an audit. “The assumption is, the more money you raise, the less potential there is for any single individual or groups of individuals to corrupt your campaign.” There had been “a few instances of contributions that shouldn’t have made their way into the Obama campaign or the McCain campaign,” he added. But when it came to Obama, “the corrupting influence of a few contributions here or there that shouldn’t have made it in the door is negligible.”

CPR lobbied heavily for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act of 2002, which imposed limits on how much federal candidates could raise and spend in their campaigns. The Washinton, DC based group calls itself “nonpartisan, independent, and nonprofit.”

In case you thought that position would have brought them to criticize the Obama campaign for abandoning the McCain-Feingold campaign finance limits, think again.

“Obama's victory in the general election was aided by his tremendous fundraising success,” the CPR website says. “After becoming his party's nominee, Obama declined public financing and the spending limits that came with it, making him the first major-party candidate since the system was created to reject taxpayers' money for the general election.”

On the day after the election. RNC chairman Mike Duncan told reporters at the National Press Club that public financing of presidential campaigns was dead.

“Presidential campaign finance as we know it died last night,” he said. “No major candidate will ever again submit to public funding restrictions. Less than two election cycles since the passage of campaign finance reform, the system has failed.”

On Thursday, the RNC filed filed two additional complaints, one in Louisiana, and the other in Washington, DC, challenging the constitutionality of key parts of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, the official title of the 2002 McCain-Feingold campaign finance law.

© 2008 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
30287  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Obama Phenomena on: November 20, 2008, 01:21:23 PM

Post 408 was pretty good smiley
30288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: November 20, 2008, 01:16:11 PM
Agreed!  Indeed one suspects a correlation between this and the beautiful sheep contests which are sometimes held in the mid-east. shocked cheesy

That said, does it not also bother you that a Christian dating service has been bullied into having to offer gay dating service?

30289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 20, 2008, 01:11:29 PM
1)  For the record "In Britain, beth din courts do not decide whether a Jewish couple’s marriage should end. They simply put their stamp of approval on the dissolution of the marriage when both parties agree to it."  This is different than determining whether the divorce should take place.

2) GM:  JDN's point seems fairly reasoned.  What say you?
30290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: November 20, 2008, 11:48:47 AM
Going for the Big Money

A highly placed Democrat tells the Arizona Republic that Governor Janet Napolitano's nomination to head the Department of Homeland Security in an Obama administration is "a pretty done deal."

Some national Democrats are puzzling over why Gov. Napolitano would leave midway through her second term, turning over the job to Arizona's Republican Secretary of State Jan Brewer, thus giving the GOP control of both houses of the legislature and the executive branch.

The answer may be twofold. A change of scenery might be welcome given Arizona's ugly budget crisis, brought on by years of overspending and lax oversight by all the state's political players. Secondly, a cabinet secretary earns $191,300 a year, more than double the stingy $90,000 annual salary that Arizona's constitution allows its governor. Arizona is also one of a handful of states that doesn't provide its chief executive with a governor's mansion. "It's a win-win for Janet," one Arizona elected official told me. "She escapes having to make massive budget cuts or tax hikes that would be unpopular and gets to play with the major players in Washington."

-- John Fund

If Hillary Gets the Nod . . .

It still seems unlikely, but the camps of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton seem to be working hard to smooth her appointment as Secretary of State. Many of Mr. Obama's advisers still have doubts about the wisdom of the choice, but others are swept away by what calls a potential "masterstroke on the road to creating the most unified, powerful Democratic leadership in living memory." With Mrs. Clinton out of the Senate, only Wisconsin maverick Russ Feingold might be left to stir up meaningful Democratic opposition to Obama policy initiatives in the U.S. Senate.

New York Governor David Paterson is already reviewing potential replacements for Mrs. Clinton's Senate seat should it fall vacant. Topping the list is Andrew Cuomo, the state's attorney general and a potential rival to Mr. Paterson's ambitions to win a term in his own right in 2010 (Mr. Paterson was elevated from the Lt. Governorship when Eliot Spitzer resigned in a prostitution scandal). Other possibilities include Rep. Nita Lowey, a strong Hillary ally who would likely hold the seat for a short time given her age -- 71. Another is Rep. Nydia Velazquez, whose appointment would recognize the growing clout of Hispanics in New York state politics.

Meanwhile, key to Mrs. Clinton's appointment are discussions over Bill Clinton's conflict-laden philanthropic efforts. Representing Mr. Clinton in negotiations are his former White House counsels Bruce Lindsey and Cheryl Mills. Representing Mr. Obama is his transition chief John Podesta, himself a former Clinton chief of staff. Together, in meetings that must be surreal, these former Clintonites are hashing out disclosure rules for Mr. Clinton and his high-rolling donors.

-- John Fund

Howard's End

Tom Daschle yesterday quickly accepted Barack Obama's offer to head the Health and Human Services Department. Perhaps even more interesting is who didn't get the job: Soon-to-be-former DNC Chief Howard Dean.

Mr. Dean certainly had a liberal fan club pushing for him. A medical doctor by training, he burst onto the presidential scene in 2004 on the strength of his "universal health care" plan as governor of Vermont. The militant Netroots crowd -- which he was among the first Democrats to cultivate -- has remained loyal and has been howling for his appointment. Some left-wing Democrats also felt he deserved the job as payment for the electoral victories he oversaw as head of the DNC.

Back in reality, however, Mr. Obama was having none of it. Plenty of top Democrats were fine with letting Mr. Dean run the DNC. His attack-dog style and Internet savvy were well suited to a job that was focused on winning elections. But his personal aggressiveness couldn't be more at odds with Mr. Obama's cool demeanor. And putting Mr. Dean in control of one of Mr. Obama's most cherished initiatives (health care) would've made John McCain's Sarah Palin pick look safe.

Mr. Dean didn't help himself by squabbling endlessly with party leaders during his DNC tenure. He had some particularly nasty go-rounds with Illinois Rep. Rahm Emanuel, who was angry the DNC chair wasn't sending him more money to help elect Congressional Democrats. Mr. Emanuel will now be Mr. Obama's White House chief of staff.

Mr. Dean has already said he won't seek a second DNC term, no doubt because he knows the position would lose much of its profile with a Democratic president in the White House. Team Obama may well feel the need to reward Mr. Dean with a post, but finding one that would match his expectations could prove tough. Any job that Mr. Dean might want is a job that Mr. Obama might prefer not to entrust to an unpredictable rabble-rouser with a notoriously sharp tongue.

-- Kim Strassel

Quote of the Day I

"I honestly think I will not mind not having to answer to the press. It's very different than a few years ago. The press doesn't focus on issues anymore -- it's whether who's winning or losing, who's happy or sad and so on, and educating the public about issues isn't something the press wants to do anymore. I will not miss that aspect of it. I will love having my privacy. Let me put it in a positive way" -- retiring Connecticut Republican Rep. Chris Shays, quoted at about what he will miss least about his job.

Quote of the Day II

"[A]s every horror fan knows the monster never dies. In the case of the credit-crunch the risk of a final lunge comes from a damaging political response. . . . The major lesson from the Great Depression of the 1930s was that terrible policies managed to turn a financial crisis into a disaster. The infamous Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930 was introduced by US policymakers to block imports in a desperate attempt to protect domestic jobs. But it helped worsen the recession by freezing world trade. At the same time policymakers were encouraging firms to collude and workers to unionize to raise prices and wages. The current backlash against capitalism risks leading to this repeat. . . . Although 2009 will be a year of shrinking rapidly, if politicians protect free markets 2010 should see a return to growth" -- Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom, writing at

Boehner Hangs On

Despite low enthusiasm for the party's House leadership, Ohio Rep. John Boehner kept his spot atop the GOP House conference yesterday after beating back a weak challenge from California Rep. Dan Lungren.

Mr. Boehner, who despite the party's lackluster performance keeps good personal relations with much of the caucus, survived by giving conservatives what they wanted. House Minority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri announced shortly after Election Day that he wouldn't seek the post again. He will be replaced by his chief deputy, Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, a brainy up-and-coming conservative voice in the conference.

Florida Rep. Adam Putnam, last cycle's Conference Chairman, also agreed to forgo a re-election bid. He will hand his conference gavel to Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, a former head of the Republican Study Committee and a popular ex-radio host with a big following among conservatives.

Reps. Cantor and Pence were both rumored to be interested in Mr. Boehner's job, so accommodating them with new positions might have spared Mr. Boehner a tougher challenge than he got from the late entry Mr. Lungren. Mr. Pence had previously tried to unseat the Minority Leader after the 2006 elections. Mr. Boehner's reelection comes despite antagonizing some conservatives by cooperating with Democrats to approve this fall's $700 billion bank bailout. As Republicans move right, meanwhile, House Democrats are moving left. The Democratic caucus this morning voted to oust John Dingell from the powerful energy and commerce committee in favor of the ultraliberal class-warrior Rep. Henry Waxman.

Mr. Boehner also succeeded this week in electing a new chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, a thankless position over the last two cycles, which have seen the GOP lose more than 50 seats and the majority. Texas Rep. Pete Sessions ousted Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole to take the helm for what most expect will be a brighter year for Republicans.

Messrs. Boehner and Cole had clashed often over staffing issues and what some called Mr. Cole's hands-off approach in Republican primaries. Democrats were much more active during the primaries in helping those candidates they considered the best fit for the districts in question. Republicans did not adopt a similar strategy until late in the cycle.

-- Reid Wilson,

30291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iran: Enough to build a bomb on: November 20, 2008, 11:01:22 AM
Iran Said to Have Nuclear Fuel for One Weapon
Published: November 19, 2008

Iran has now produced roughly enough nuclear material to make, with added purification, a single atom bomb, according to nuclear experts analyzing the latest report from global atomic inspectors.

The figures detailing Iran’s progress were contained in a routine update on Wednesday from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has been conducting inspections of the country’s main nuclear plant at Natanz. The report concluded that as of early this month, Iran had made 630 kilograms, or about 1,390 pounds, of low-enriched uranium.

Several experts said that was enough for a bomb, but they cautioned that the milestone was mostly symbolic, because Iran would have to take additional steps. Not only would it have to breach its international agreements and kick out the inspectors, but it would also have to further purify the fuel and put it into a warhead design — a technical advance that Western experts are unsure Iran has yet achieved.

“They clearly have enough material for a bomb,” said Richard L. Garwin, a top nuclear physicist who helped invent the hydrogen bomb and has advised Washington for decades. “They know how to do the enrichment. Whether they know how to design a bomb, well, that’s another matter.”

Iran insists that it wants only to fuel reactors for nuclear power. But many Western nations, led by the United States, suspect that its real goal is to gain the ability to make nuclear weapons.

While some Iranian officials have threatened to bar inspectors in the past, the country has made no such moves, and many experts inside the Bush administration and the I.A.E.A. believe it will avoid the risk of attempting “nuclear breakout” until it possessed a larger uranium supply.

Even so, for President-elect Barack Obama, the report underscores the magnitude of the problem that he will inherit Jan. 20: an Iranian nuclear program that has not only solved many technical problems of uranium enrichment, but that can also now credibly claim to possess enough material to make a weapon if negotiations with Europe and the United States break down.

American intelligence agencies have said Iran could make a bomb between 2009 and 2015. A national intelligence estimate made public late last year concluded that around the end of 2003, after long effort, Iran had halted work on an actual weapon. But enriching uranium, and obtaining enough material to build a weapon, is considered the most difficult part of the process.

Siegfried S. Hecker of Stanford University and a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory said the growing size of the Iranian stockpile “underscored that they are marching down the path to developing the nuclear weapons option.”

In the report to its board, the atomic agency said Iran’s main enrichment plant was now feeding uranium into about 3,800 centrifuges — machines that spin incredibly fast to enrich the element into nuclear fuel. That count is the same as in the agency’s last quarterly report, in September. Iran began installing the centrifuges in early 2007. But the new report’s total of 630 kilograms — an increase of about 150 — shows that Iran has been making progress in accumulating material to make nuclear fuel.

That uranium has been enriched to the low levels needed to fuel a nuclear reactor. To further purify it to the highly enriched state needed to fuel a nuclear warhead, Iran would have to reconfigure its centrifuges and do a couple months of additional processing, nuclear experts said.

“They have a weapon’s worth,” Thomas B. Cochran, a senior scientist in the nuclear program of the Natural Resources Defense Council, a private group in Washington that tracks atomic arsenals, said in an interview.

He said the amount was suitable for a relatively advanced implosion-type weapon like the one dropped on Nagasaki. Its core, he added, would be about the size of a grapefruit. He said a cruder design would require about twice as much weapon-grade fuel.

“It’s a virtual milestone,” Dr. Cochran said of Iran’s stockpile. It is not an imminent threat, he added, because the further technical work to make fuel for a bomb would tip off inspectors, the United States and other powers about “where they’re going.”

The agency’s report made no mention of the possible military implications of the size of Iran’s stockpile. And some experts said the milestone was still months away. In an analysis of the I.A.E.A. report, the Institute for Science and International Security, a private group in Washington, estimated that Iran had not yet reached the mark but would “within a few months.” It added that other analysts estimated it might take as much as a year.

Whatever the exact date, it added, “Iran is progressing” toward the ability to quickly make enough weapon-grade uranium for a warhead.

Peter D. Zimmerman, a physicist and former United States government arms scientist, cautioned that the Iranian stockpile fell slightly short of what international officials conservatively estimate as the minimum threatening amount of nuclear fuel. “They’re very close,” he said of the Iranians in an interview. “If it isn’t tomorrow, it’s soon,” probably a matter of months.

In its report, the I.A.E.A., which is based in Vienna, said Iran was working hard to roughly double its number of operating centrifuges.

A senior European diplomat close to the agency said Iran might have 6,000 centrifuges enriching uranium by the end of the year. The report also said Iran had said it intended to start installing another group of 3,000 centrifuges early next year.

The atomic energy agency said Iran was continuing to evade questions about its suspected work on nuclear warheads. In a separate report released Wednesday, the agency said, as expected, that it had found ambiguous traces of uranium at a suspected Syrian reactor site bombed by Israel last year.

“While it cannot be excluded that the building in question was intended for non-nuclear use,” the report said, the building’s features “along with the connectivity of the site to adequate pumping capacity of cooling water, are similar to what may be found in connection with a reactor site.” Syria has said the uranium came from Israeli bombs.
30292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Our Founding Fathers: on: November 20, 2008, 10:54:53 AM
"It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and exalt their courage; to accelerate and animate their industry and activity; to excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives."

—John Adams, Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1756
30293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pay up or else! on: November 20, 2008, 10:52:19 AM
PS:  Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told energy company Gazprom to collect Ukraine’s $2.4 billion natural gas debt “either voluntarily or compulsory in line with current laws and within the framework of bilateral relations,” Interfax reported Nov. 20.

30294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Alternate Afg routes; deeper into Pak on: November 20, 2008, 10:51:16 AM
Afghanistan: The Search for Safer Supply Routes
Stratfor Today » November 19, 2008 | 2324 GMT

Pakistani paramilitary soldiers leading supplies for NATO and U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan at the Pakistani border town of JamrudSummary
The United States is considering Central Asia as an alternate route for ferrying supplies to Western forces in Afghanistan. However, considerable logistical and geopolitical issues require the United States to continue depending on Pakistan despite the deteriorating conditions in that country.

An uptick in attacks by Pakistani Taliban fighters on convoys ferrying supplies through Pakistan to U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan has forced the United States to explore alternative routes from Central Asia into landlocked Afghanistan, the Washington Post reported Nov 19. According to the report, which cites an Oct. 31 Pentagon document, Washington has already begun negotiations with countries along what the Pentagon has called a new northern route. An agreement with Georgia has been reached, and talks are ongoing with Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The U.S. Transportation Command, however, said it does not expect transit agreements with Uzbekistan or Iran, and is seeking contractors that could handle as many as 50,000 rail containers per year through a Europe-Caucasus route and/or through Central Asia.

Though the deteriorating political, economic and security situation in Pakistan is making it harder for the United States and its NATO allies to move food, ammunition, fuel and other supplies through the country, the alternatives are no less problematic. Thus, for the foreseeable future, Pakistan will remain the land corridor through which Western forces will continue receiving their supplies, and Washington will pressure Pakistan to improve the security of these shipments.

Related Links
Afghanistan: The Russian Monkey Wrench
Afghanistan, Pakistan: The Battlespace of the Border
There are good reasons why some three-quarters of U.S./NATO supplies goes through Pakistan. It is the shortest overland route to places like Kabul and Kandahar; supplies are shipped from U.S. and European ports to Karachi, then transported via road through two routes — one going through the southwestern Pakistani border town of Chaman into the Kandahar region, and the other going through Torkham in northwestern Pakistan and over the Khyber Pass. In using Pakistan as a supply route, Washington has the ease of dealing with a single government with whom it has had a working (albeit troubled) relationship since the mission in Afghanistan began in late 2001.

Additionally, refineries in Pakistan provide the vast majority of fuels for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Two other refineries (one in Baku, Azerbaijan, across the Caspian Sea, and one in Turkmenistan) provide most of the rest. It could be difficult to move away from the Pakistani refineries, and especially so to find spare capacity elsewhere; the U.S. and NATO forces consume on the order of 75 million gallons of various fuels annually — most of it aviation fuel refined in Pakistan.

For the longest time, there were hardly any security issues threatening the logistical supply chain running through Pakistan. The military regime headed by former President Pervez Musharraf was firmly entrenched in Islamabad and extended considerable facilities to Washington and NATO. More importantly, there was no Pakistani Taliban insurgency. (It did not appear until late 2006 or early 2007.)

Musharraf’s complex relationship with Washington on one hand and the Taliban on the other, however, weakened his hold on power. Even before he was forced out of office, Pakistan had come under the grip of a fierce jihadist insurgency. While the focus of this insurgency has been Pakistani security targets, there have been many attacks on trucks carrying shipments meant for U.S./NATO forces in Afghanistan, which is why the U.S. Defense Department is looking into northerly routes in order to decrease dependency on Pakistan as a transit state.

(click map to enlarge)
But the option under consideration has its own set of problems in that it is a much longer, more expensive and politically complex route. Goods would have to be shipped from U.S. and European ports through the Black Sea to Georgia. From there, the containers would have to be put on rail to Azerbaijan’s Caspian Sea ports, where they would have to be loaded onto ships to Turkmenistan and then travel by road either directly to Afghanistan or via Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

Even if the United States and its NATO allies were willing to incur the physical hassle of shipping supplies through the above route — which would add one ship reloading and two countries, at minimum, to the supply chain — there is the huge issue of dependency on Russia. This is the Kremlin’s near abroad, and Moscow will want to exact a significant price to guarantee the route’s security. At a time when Russia is trying to re-emerge as the United States’ main global rival, this becomes a huge issue for Washington.

Furthermore, in the aftermath of its military intervention in Georgia, Russia made some subtle insinuations about threatening NATO supply lines going to Afghanistan. The Uzbek and Turkmen governments also are very wary of the threat of U.S.-engineered color revolutions.

The “best” alternative, logistically speaking, would be using Iran as a transit state. Given what is happening in terms of Iraq and both the current and incoming U.S. administrations’ efforts to engage Iran diplomatically, this is not beyond the pale if the political issues can be sorted out. Supplies could be offloaded from ships docking at the Chahbahar port in the Persian Gulf and then sent by road to the southwestern Afghan town of Zaranj, which is connected to the main Afghan highway by a road recently completed by the Indian army’s engineer corps.

The Iranians, given their massive interests in Afghanistan, would be more than willing to provide this assistance. Iran has a long border with Afghanistan and has deep ethnic, linguistic and sectarian ties to the country. Furthermore, after securing Iraq, Tehran does not want its regional archrival, Saudi Arabia, to use Afghanistan as a tool against it.

But this depends on how fast the United States and Iran can put three decades of hostility behind them. Given that the two sides cooperated significantly in the move to oust the Taliban from power following the 9/11 attacks, this is quite feasible. However, like the Russians, the Iranians would want to exact a price for providing security for the convoys. More importantly, it would take time to build the trust for such an option to be pursued. The U.S. military is not about to link its operational capabilities to the goodwill of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, even if the two sides were to find a way to bury the hatchet. Also, the United States would be concerned that Iran could use the supply line as leverage in future talks.

Between the huge actual and political costs associated with the Central Asian route and the political hurdles of using Iran as a transit state, the United States and NATO will likely continue to work with Pakistan, despite its problems. But the fact that the United States was willing to take a concerted look at alternative routes raises questions about how bad the Pentagon feels the Pakistani routes have become — and how bad they are expected to get.
United States: Pushing Deeper into Pakistan
Stratfor Today » November 19, 2008 | 2310 GMT

Ethan Miller/Getty Images
A U.S. Air Force UAV in August 2007 at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev.Summary
A U.S. missile strike in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) on Nov. 19 killed five al Qaeda members, including Abdullah Azzam al-Saudi, thought to have been a high-ranking member of the group. Until now, all reported missile strikes by U.S. unmanned aerial vehicles in Pakistan had been in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Hitting targets in NWFP will test the boundaries on how far the United States will go in its war against al Qaeda and the Taliban.

In the early hours of Nov. 19, two missiles suspected to have been launched from a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) hit a house in the Pakistani village of Hindi Khel, about 8 miles west of Bannu city in Pakistan’s North-West Frontier Province (NWFP). In the house was Abdullah Azzam al-Saudi, a high-ranking al Qaeda leader who, according to U.S. security officials, was closely linked to deputy al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and acted as a liaison to the Taliban. Al-Saudi was killed in the strike, along with four or five other foreign militants. Seven civilians in the vicinity were injured.

UAV-launched missile strikes have become quite common in Pakistan along the Afghan border. Strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), especially in North and South Waziristan, have been occurring once or twice a week since September and have become so routine that Stratfor no longer issues situation reports when they occur. That this strike hit some 3 miles over the FATA and NWFP border border in NWFP — an area that had been immune from U.S. strikes — suggests the United States is pushing the envelope in its hunt for al Qaeda prime and in its effort to undermine the Taliban’s war-making capabilities in Afghanistan.

Pakistani opposition to U.S. attacks in the FATA has been vocal, with politicians in Islamabad demanding an end to airstrikes on their territory. But there has been no serious retaliation by the Pakistanis and the strikes continue. There has also been a certain logic to the FATA focus. The United States contends that the tribal areas actually are not part of sovereign Pakistan since they are partially autonomous and ruled by local governments; moreover, by cutting deals with militants, Islamabad has relinquished its writ over the area. Furthermore, al Qaeda and the Taliban use the FATA as a launchpad for attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, giving the United States all the more reason to carry out strikes there. There are even reports of an understanding between Washington and Islamabad in which the latter has agreed to U.S. strikes in Pakistan’s tribal badlands.

But the NWFP is another story. It is a full-fledged province of Pakistan where the governing party (the Awami National Party, or ANP) has cooperated in opposing Islamist militants. However, the NWFP (not the FATA) is where the primary leaders of al Qaeda are most likely hiding. Hard by the border, the FATA is too close to Afghanistan and al Qaeda’s U.S. and NATO enemies for it to be such a sanctuary, while the NWFP is farther away and somewhat buffered by the FATA. The death of al-Saudi, who was an important link between al Qaeda and the Taliban, further suggests that the apex leadership of al Qaeda is likely hiding in NWFP.

The U.S. strategy may be to slowly creep closer and closer to al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries until UAV airstrikes in NWFP’s target-rich environment seem just as routine as those in the FATA. Meanwhile, the United States will have a good chance to weigh the range of responses from its allies on this latest escalation during a meeting of NATO defense chiefs that began Nov. 19 in Brussels. Pakistani Gen. Ashfaq Kayani will be in attendance.

We are also likely to see additional attacks in NWFP districts located along the north-south expanse of the FATA. These districts have seen considerable Taliban activity over the past year or so while Islamabad’s writ in the area has diminished. Indeed, this “Talibanization” has spread further east into settled areas such as Peshawar, the NWFP capital. A more aggressive U.S. campaign in these areas will incite increasing public outrage and make Islamabad’s job of maintaining stability that much more difficult. Ultimately, the United States is much more capable of going after Islamist militants in Pakistan’s border region than the Pakistani army is — a fact not lost on Islamabad.

The United States is currently in political flux as President George W. Bush closes out his administration and President-elect Barack Obama readies his. Unable to craft and implement a comprehensive strategy to play out the end game against al Qaeda and the Taliban, the Bush administration has used an interim strategy of increased UAV strikes while a conclusive strategy awaits an Obama administration.

30295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Iranian bond proposal on: November 20, 2008, 10:45:41 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Iran's Bond Announcement and High Hopes For Talks
November 20, 2008 | 0104 GMT

Iran’s deputy central bank governor, Hossein Qazavi, said Nov. 19 that Iran is considering issuing a $1 billion international bond “to attract international investment,” seven months after it repaid its last bond. The issuance would be Iran’s first since 2002, and only its third since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Through a bond market, countries look to “sell” their debts to international investors by parceling them into portions that can be bought individually. Raising money through the bond market is often easier than getting a loan from one or several banks; because the debt is divided into portions that investors of nearly any size can afford, banks and/or individuals with less capital on hand can come to the table. By getting more players involved, the country that needs its debt serviced can increase competition over the bond and thus decrease the price it has to pay for it. Of course, for this to work, someone actually has to want to buy the bond. Unlike a loan that is negotiated with one or several financial institutions, a bond market works on the principle of a market. It rewards credit-worthy countries whose debts are highly sought after (due to the state’s perceived financial strength and, therefore, its ability to repay the “loan” plus interest), and punishes countries that are not credit-worthy. In those terms, forays into the bond market are risky, as they potentially expose states to investor scrutiny.

The current conditions in global credit markets make investment in Iranian bonds highly unlikely, as very few sovereign or private investors have any money on hand, particularly to buy risky bonds. But leaving this aside, Qazavi’s announcement leads one to wonder about the overall health of the Islamic Republic.

With oil prices poised to sink below $50 per barrel any day now, Iran is scrambling to cover its budgetary costs, with potential social unrest looming if various government subsidies — particularly those for gasoline, which refinery-poor and gasoline-guzzling Iran must import — have to be cut. Tehran is staring social unrest in the face, and desperate times might call for such desperate measures as begging cash-strapped foreign investors for $1 billion.

Another problem with the bond issuance in the current geopolitical climate is that it is unclear whether any European or Asian bank would dare to finance the bond. Since 2002, when Iran’s last bond was issued, the United States has specifically targeted Iranian banks, cajoling the European Union to stop doing business with certain Iranian banks and getting more than 40 international banks to agree to halt business with Tehran. In October 2007, Washington also designated several Iranian banks as supporters of terrorism.

Furthermore, the United States’ Iran Sanctions Act (ISA), currently in place until 2011, strongly discourages foreign companies from investing in Iran’s energy sector and pledges retaliatory sanctions against those who do. In his announcement, Qazavi noted that the bond issuance would let investors “safely invest and take part in various projects including petrochemicals” — investments in which the ISA specifically tries to discourage the participation of non-U.S. entities. It’s unclear whether the ISA would give Washington the authority to put Iranian bond purchasers under sanctions, but the possibility clearly exists, and it will be enough to deter already bearish global investors.

On the flip side, Qazavi’s comments might be evidence that the latest round of negotiations between the Americans and Iranians are progressing well, and that they might even be nearing a conclusion. Washington’s ultimate goal in the negotiations is to limit Iran’s influence in Iraq, while Tehran wants to limit the United States’ ability to roll forces eastward from Baghdad. Negotiations began as early as months before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, but ultimately stalled on the most important issues, as an emboldened United States rejected Iran’s offers for a comprehensive deal on Iraq. Iran responded to the rebuff by restarting its nuclear program, and by supporting Hezbollah in its conflict with Israel in the summer of 2006, as well as backing Shiite groups in a flare-up of violence in Iraq in November of that year. The two sides went back to the negotiating table after the 2007 U.S. troop surge.

With the United States and Iraq inking a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) that will lead to the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq in three years, it appears that Washington and Tehran also are now close to a deal. Iran’s judiciary chief, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, confirmed as much on Nov. 18, when he said the Iraqi government had done “very well” in approving the SOFA. It was the first time Tehran had voiced any sort of approval of the agreement. The United States of course hopes that the Baghdad of 2011 will be able to resist Tehran’s influence, and that the troop withdrawal will therefore be possible.

Qazavi’s comments on the $1 billion bond, put in the context of ongoing negotiations, suggest that Tehran might be betting that talks with the Americans are near an end. A U.S. rapprochement with Iran would certainly place a stamp of approval on foreign investment in Iran. Without such a stamp, any bond issuance would make little sense. Therefore, Iran either must be desperate for capital due to serious economic problems, or preparing for a positive announcement on the negotiating front.
30296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hand to hand! on: November 20, 2008, 10:42:35 AM
Training at hand
Fighting in Iraq, one soldier decides he isn?t going to die lying down

By Staff Sgt. Paul McCully

The following story was told by infantryman Staff Sgt. Paul McCully, 24,
during a post-action interview for the Army Combatives School.

On June 1, 2005, at about 2 a.m., my platoon was staged by the main gate of
Forward Operating Base Courage in Mosul, Iraq, as the quick-reaction force
for our battalion.

We received a call that Iraqi commandos were conducting a raid on a
suspected insurgent safe house. When the commandos entered the house they
found one male, one nude female and next to them was a bomb.

They immediately left the house because of the bomb and sat outside in the
middle of the street and wherever they could while they waited for us to
come and secure the objective. There were guys sleeping, smoking cigarettes
and just hanging around. There were at least 100 of these commandos.

When we showed up, it was a blind hit. All the Iraqi commandos told us was
that they had taken fire from that building earlier. They left out that it
was a safe house for bad guys and that the people who had been there had
jumped the roof to the next house.

At the home of the bomb couple, my team was the second in to secure the
first floor and establish a foothold. Once we cleared the house, my platoon
sergeant stepped on what seemed to be a loose tile in the kitchen floor.

When we removed it we found a large cache of rocket-propelled grenades,
ammo, U.S. government-issued C4 explosive, two-way radios and multiple
weapons systems, but no people.

Since the roof was connected to the roof of the house behind the one we were
in, the call was made to move around and clear that house, too. Once my team
moved into position to breach the second house, we were given the word to
move and secure it.

Immediately upon entry, we were confronted by about 20 men, women and
children, who were all awake and seemed scared. The fact that they were
bunched together like that was a red flag that something was not right.

Once we secured the first floor, my team moved in to secure the group of
people so we could move up to the next floor and to the roof entrance.

The door was barricaded from the inside with a bed frame to keep people from
coming in. Once we managed to move the barricade, we stacked on the door and
proceeded to clear the roof.

I was the second man in the stack, and Sgt. Joshua Owens was first.

We were spread thin, so we mixed our teams to keep the forward momentum.

Owens went out and turned right. I followed him and went left, but there was
a wall, so I fanned right to cover Owens.

We were only a couple of steps outside the door; I was just to the left of
Owens, and about two seconds had passed by, when a bright flash lit us up.

I wasn?t sure what had happened, I just knew I was laid out on my stomach,
and I couldn?t feel my hands or legs. I could hear Owens screaming, and I
was checking myself to see if I was physically intact when another explosion
went off, a hand grenade, but it wasn?t as loud as the first one.

I felt the shrapnel impact my helmet but was still in a daze and confused as
to what was going on.

Then I felt something that seemed to be tapping my helmet and everything
sounded muffled.

My initial thought was that it was my guys pulling me out of there, but when
I looked up, everything came back to me ? sound, reality, cleared vision.

There was a bad guy standing over me.

I was looking up at him and expecting him to unload his AK47 on me, but he
was screaming and butt-stroking me in the head.

The second I realized that it wasn?t my guys, I got up as fast as I could
and grabbed his AK muzzle with my right hand and his shirt on his right
shoulder with my left hand.

I don?t even remember placing my hands on the ground to push myself up; it
just seemed like I floated up ? that?s how fast it happened.

After I grabbed him and his weapon, I was jerking it in an outward motion
but making sure to keep the muzzle away from me.

After what seemed to be two or three seconds, I got the AK out of his hands
and on the ground to the right of me a couple of feet. I had finally jerked
it free, and it went flying.

He tried to dive for the AK, but I grabbed him and went to the clinch with
him to control him. A clinch is when you control a person?s upper body by
placing both your hands around his neck. Our bodies were close together; I
had his hair in my right hand, pushing his head down, and my left hand was
controlling his left shoulder.

I immediately started throwing right uppercuts and knees to [mess] him up.

I did that because I thought that there were more of my own guys behind me,
but it turns out that Owens and I were the only ones to make it outside
before the initial explosion. The No. 3 and No. 4 men got blown back into
the building.

After I threw the blows, I held on to him with the shirt and hair and
extended my arms to allow the guys who I thought were behind me to have a
clear shot. But that never happened. It seemed like I was alone, and nobody
was there to help me.

He was screaming stuff about Allah as I continued to hit him as he was
struggling to get to his weapon. Owens came running up to me with his pistol
drawn. He had lost his M4 rifle in the blast also, so he pulled his M9

He came up to my right side, right next to me so he wouldn?t shoot me in the
struggle. Right as he fired one shot into the enemy?s stomach, the enemy had
reached up and grabbed Owen?s pistol.

At that moment I let go and took a step back and secured my M4. Owens had
swung him around to the left, which put him right in front of me.

With Owens and the bad guy fighting for Owens? M9, I put the barrel of my
rifle in the bad guy?s right side, point-blank, right underneath his armpit,
and fired a single shot.

The bad guy squealed like a pig and hit the ground like a sack, landing on
his back. I immediately placed the barrel of my rifle in his face and fired
ten shots to finish him. All of this happened within a matter of about 20
seconds, but seemed like forever.

As far as my kit goes, I didn?t have a knife on me at that time. I was
wearing a Tactical Taylor plate carrier with 7.62 x 61mm armor-piercing
incendiary-proof plates, hatch operator gloves, ballistic eye-pro and knee

After I shot him in the face, I took a knee and was trying to comprehend
everything that had just happened. It was just kind of, I was like, ?Holy
shit, did this just happen?? It was kind of like a weird euphoria thing
going on.

My platoon leader came out and asked if we were hit, and I told him nothing
hurt, but my leg felt different. They pulled me and Owens into the building
for the medic. Since we had blood and charred flesh and hair all over us, it
was hard for the medic to tell what was ours and what wasn?t.

So Spc. Danny Pech, our platoon medic, and Spc. Joshua Curley, my rifleman,
with the help of Spc. Jay Banuelos, carried us down to the designated
casualty collection point and started stripping us down so they could
administer aid.

My wound was first reported as a gunshot wound to my right thigh, and Owens
had a bullet graze on his right shin and shrapnel to the arms and legs.

Once we were medevaced to the main combat support hospital on Forward
Operating Base Diamondback in Mosul, we were given morphine and sent for
X-rays to see what was inside us.

My wound was actually shrapnel, which split into three pieces when it
impacted my leg, stopping just short of my femoral artery. Owens had
shrapnel in his arm and leg and a bullet graze on his right shin.

I?ve always been a pretty aggressive person, but having some stuff to back
you up, the Army combatives training, is great. Knowledge and experience is
always good to have.

When I looked up and saw [the enemy] standing over me, all I really thought
about was, ?This guy?s going to blast me.? I was thinking about how I was
going to let my kids down, and I just said, ?Screw it, I?m not going to die
lying down like this.? I just jumped up and expected him to pull the
trigger, but he never got the chance.

The writer is assigned to 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, in
Vilseck, Germany. At the time of the events, he was a member of B Company,
3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division,
Stryker Brigade Combat Team, of Fort Lewis, Wash.

30297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Ukraine on: November 20, 2008, 10:27:46 AM
Part 3: Outside Intervention
Stratfor Today » November 20, 2008 | 1201 GMT
Because Ukraine is vital to Russia’s defense and survival as any kind of world power, it has become the cornerstone of the geopolitical battle between Russia and the West. Russia has many levers it could use to influence the course of Ukraine’s future, though the West is not without its tools. The eventual outcome of the battle for Ukraine is uncertain.

Editor’s Note: This is the third part of a series on Ukraine.

Since Ukraine is essentially too internally shattered to make sweeping changes or reforms, its future is at the whim of foreign powers. Because of this — and because of Ukraine’s geographic location — the country is now the chief arena for the struggle between Russia and the West.

Related Links
Countries in Crisis
Part 1: Instability in a Crucial Country
Part 2: Domestic Forces and Capabilities
The Cornerstone
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the West (particularly under the guises of the European Union and NATO) has pushed eastward, making its way toward Russia’s doorstep. As the West tries to continue its advance and as Russia tries to stave it off, Ukraine has become paramount to both sides — not just as a potentially lucrative territory, but because Ukraine is the key to Russia’s defense and survival as any sort of power.

(click image to enlarge)
Although Ukraine hosts the largest Russian community in the world outside of Russia, the battle for Ukraine is about far more than ethnic kin. Even before the Soviet era, Ukraine was integrated into Russia’s industrial and agricultural heartland, and eastern Ukraine remains integral to the Russian heartland to this day. Furthermore, Ukraine is the transit point for Russian natural gas to Europe and a connecting point for nearly all meaningful infrastructures running between Russia and the West — whether pipeline, road, power or rail.

Without Ukraine, Russia could not project political or military power into the Northern Caucasus, the Black Sea or Eastern Europe, and Russia would be nearly entirely cut off from the rest of Europe. Ukraine also goes deep into former Soviet territory, with borders a mere 300 miles from either Volgograd or Moscow, and the Ukrainian port of Sevastopol on the Black Sea has long been the Russian military’s only deep, warm-water port.

To put it simply, as long as Ukraine is in its orbit, Russia can maintain strategic coherence and continue on its path of resurging in an attempt to resume its superpower status. Without Ukraine, Russia would face a much smaller set of possibilities.

This is why the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought in Ukraine’s first pro-Western government was Russia’s deepest nightmare. Russia knows that the Orange Revolution was a U.S.-backed project, supported by U.S. allies such as Poland. Since that color revolution, Moscow has been content with simply destabilizing Ukraine in order to ensure it does not fully fall into the West’s sphere.

Russia’s Levers
Russia has a slew of levers inside Ukraine to keep the country unstable. It also has quite a few tools it could use to either pull the country back into Moscow’s fold or break the country apart.

Politics: Russia is the very public sponsor of Viktor Yanukovich and his Party of Regions; though in the past three months, Moscow has also started granting its favor to Yulia Timoshenko — breaking the Orange Coalition and isolating President Viktor Yushchenko and his party. The topic of how to respond to a strengthening Russia has been a constant point of contention in Ukraine’s different coalitions and governments.

Energy: Since Russia supplies 80 percent of Ukraine’s natural gas, energy is one of Moscow’s favorite levers to use against Kiev. Moscow has proven in the past that it is not afraid of turning off the heat at the height of winter in Ukraine to not only hurt the country but also to push Kiev into the heart of a firestorm as European countries’ supplies get cut off when Russia cuts supplies to Ukraine. The price Russia charges Ukraine for natural gas is also constantly being renegotiated, with Kiev racking up billions of dollars in debt to Moscow every few months.

Economics: Russia controls a large portion of Ukraine’s metals industry, owning factories across the eastern part of the country, where most of Ukraine’s wealth is held. Russia also controls much of Ukraine’s ports in the south.

Oligarchs: Quite a few of Ukraine’s oligarchs pledge allegiance to Russia because of relationships from the Soviet era, because of assets held in Russia or because Moscow bought or supported certain oligarchs during their rise. Rinat Akhmetov is the most notable pro-Russian oligarch; not only does he do the Kremlin’s bidding inside Ukraine, but he is also rumored to have recently helped the Kremlin during Russia’s financial crisis. Moscow controls many other notable Ukrainian oligarchs, such as Viktor Pinchuk, Igor Kolomoisky, Sergei Taruta and Dmitri Firtash. This has allowed the Kremlin to shape much in these oligarchs’ business ventures and have a say in how these oligarchs support certain politicians.

Ships from Russia’s Black Sea Fleet during the celebration of the fleet’s 225th anniversaryMilitary: Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is headquartered and based in Ukraine’s Crimea region, in Sevastopol. Compared to Kiev’s small fleet, Russian naval power in the Black Sea is overwhelming. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet also contributes to the majority of the Crimea region’s economy. Though imposing a military reality on Ukraine would be another thing entirely from imposing a military reality on South Ossetia and Georgia, there is little doubt that Russia — and the ethnic Russian majority in the Crimea — is committed to retaining the decisive hand in the fate of the Crimea, even if the Russian Fleet withdraws in 2017, when its lease expires.

Intelligence: Ukraine’s intelligence services were essentially born from Russia’s heavy KGB presence in the country before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Security Service of Ukraine originated in Moscow’s KGB presence in Ukraine, and the Foreign Intelligence Service of Ukraine sprung forth from Russia’s SVR foreign intelligence agency. Many of the senior officials in both agencies were actually KGB trained and worked for them during the early days of their careers. Russia’s current spy agency, the Federal Security Service (a descendant of the KGB), has a heavy presence within Ukraine’s intelligence agencies. This gives the Russians a big opening they can use to serve their own interests in Ukraine.

Organized crime: Russian organized crime is the parent of Ukrainian organized crime and is still deeply entrenched in the current system (even among the oligarchs). Russia has been especially successful in setting up shop in the Ukraine involving shady natural gas deals, the arms trade, the drug trade and other illicit business arrangements. Population: Ukraine is dramatically split between a population that identifies with Russia and a population that identifies with the West. It has a complex and multifaceted demography: A large Russian minority comprises 17.3 percent of the total population, more than 30 percent of all Ukrainians speak Russian as their native language and more than half of the country belongs to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Moscow Patriarch. Geographically speaking, Ukrainians living east of the Dnieper River tend to identify more with Russia than with the West, and those in Crimea consider themselves much more Russian than Ukrainian. This divide is something Russia can use not only to keep the country in chaos, but to split the country in half should the need arise.

The West’s Levers and Concerns

The West, on the other hand, is split over what exactly to do with Ukraine. In 2004, during the Orange Revolution, it was the United States’ time to push up against Russia; but other Western heavyweights such as Germany have never really liked or trusted any government in Kiev. Berlin would love to see a pro-Western government in Kiev to work with, but the Germans know that meddling in Ukraine costs them something, unlike the Americans. This was seen in 2006, when Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine, which led to the lights going out in quite a few European countries as well. So the Europeans see the upheaval of Ukraine as yet another mess the Americans have gotten them into.

Since the Orange Revolution, the West has used two main levers — cash and protection — to try to keep Kiev on a pro-Western path. It has thrown cash at Ukraine, but there are two problems with this move. First, whoever has been in charge in Kiev has squandered and mismanaged any cash given to Ukraine rather than working to alleviate the economic, financial, institutional and systematic problems the country is facing. For example, the West is offering Ukraine an International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan of $16.5 billion with only a few strings — banking reform and an end to government squabbling — attached, but Kiev cannot manage these changes, and now the IMF is considering withdrawing its offer. Second, as the West faces its own financial crisis, it is not in any position currently to offer Kiev any more help.

The West’s other move — again championed by Washington — is to pull Ukraine into NATO. Ukraine is ill-qualified as a potential member of the Atlantic alliance, but the move would permanently break Russia’s hold over Ukraine.

Years of concerted, focused and well-funded military reform could move Kiev meaningfully toward eligibility, but there appears to be no firm consensus — especially with Germany and France against it — on pushing for Ukrainian admittance into the membership action plan. Also, NATO’s members have neither troops available to be stationed in the country nor the defense dollars to support such an expensive modernization and reform program.

The battle for the soul of Ukraine is on. The country is shattered internally in nearly every possible way: politically, financially, institutionally, economically, militarily and socially. The global financial crisis is simply showing the problems that have long existed in the country. In the near future, there is no conceivable or apparent way for any force within the country to stabilize it and begin the reforms needed. It will take an outside power to step in — which leads to the larger tussle between the West and Russia over control of one of the most geopolitically critical regions between the two. Russia has far more tools to use to keep Ukraine under its control, but the West has laid a lot of groundwork in order to undermine Moscow, leaving the future of Ukraine completely uncertain.

30298  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Stratfor: Russia's Great Power Strategy on: November 20, 2008, 09:41:02 AM
Russia to build nuclear reactor for Chávez

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev expected to sign a nuclear agreement next week

Rory Carroll in Caracas
Luke Harding in Moscow, Tuesday November 18 2008 20.55 GMT

Russia's deepening strategic partnership with Venezuela took a dramatic step forward today when it emerged that Moscow has agreed to build Venezuela's first ever nuclear reactor.

President Dmitry Medvedev is expected to sign a nuclear cooperation agreement with his Venezuelan counterpart, Hugo Chávez, during a visit to Latin America next week, part of a determined Russian push into the region.

The reactor is to be named after Humberto Fernandez Moran, a late Venezuelan research scientist and former science minister, Chávez has announced. It is one of many accords he hopes to sign while hosting Medvedev in Caracas next week.

The prospect of a nuclear deal between Moscow and Caracas, following a surge in Russian economic, military, political and intelligence activity in Latin America, is likely to alarm the US and present an early challenge to the Obama administration.

"Hugo Chávez joins the nuclear club," Russian's Vedomosti newspaper trumpeted today.

Venezuela's socialist leader said the reactor may be based in the eastern state of Zulia. He stressed that the project would be for peaceful purposes. As if to underline that point, four Japanese survivors from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs visited Venezuela this week at the government's invitation.

The energy ministry, which is scouting locations, said the project was at a very early stage. A report which mooted a nuclear reactor long before Chávez came to power has been dusted off.

Despite abundant oil reserves, Venezuela's energy infrastructure is creaking and prone to blackouts. A nuclear reactor would enable the country to utilise its rich uranium deposits and allay criticism that the government has neglected energy investment.

More importantly for Moscow and Caracas, a nuclear deal will showcase a partnership which advocates creating new "poles" of power to check American hegemony.

Nick Day, a Latin American specialist, said the nuclear deal was deliberately timed to pile pressure on the US administration during a moment of transition and weakness.

"Russia is manoeuvring hard in the time between Obama's election and his inauguration. What the Russians are trying to do is to set up a chessboard that gives them greater mobility in negotiations when he [Obama] comes to power," Day said.

He added: "Russia's message is: 'We can exert influence in your backyard if you continue to exert influence in our backyard. If you don't take your missiles out of Poland and end Nato expansion we're going to increase our influence in Latin America and do things to provoke you.'"

According to Sergei Novikov, spokesman for Russia's federal nuclear agency, no reactor can be built until both countries have signed a preliminary agreement on nuclear cooperation. This will be signed next week, Novikov told Vedomosti.

Both presidents are also expected to firm up details of a Russian-Venezuelan energy consortium to jointly produce and sell oil and gas.

Russian companies which are already exploring oilfields in Venezuela could then extend their reach to fields in Ecuador and Bolivia.

Venezuela has bought $4bn of Russian arms, including Sukhoi fighter jets, making it one of Moscow's best clients. Chávez has spoken of also buying Project 636 diesel submarines, Mi-28 combat helicopters, T72 tanks and air-defence systems.

Despite the spending spree, Venezuela's military has not tipped the regional balance of power.

Chávez's armed forces lag behind that of Brazil, Chile and Colombia and analysts question Venezuelan effectiveness.

For Russia's president, however, Caracas is a valuable springboard into Latin America. In addition to Venezuela, Medvedev will visit Peru, Brazil and Cuba — the first trip by a Russian leader to Havana in eight years.

Moscow has spoken of reviving Soviet-era intelligence cooperation with the communist island and in a sign of dramatically improved ties, President Raul Castro last month attended the opening of a Russian Orthodox cathedral in Havana.
30299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tax Policy on: November 20, 2008, 03:09:57 AM

Let's Have a Real Middle-Class Tax Cut
Obama's tax credits won't stimulate the economy.By NEWT GINGRICH and PETER FERRARAArticle
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President-elect Barack Obama is right: America needs a real and meaningful middle-class tax cut. Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric, that is not what his proposals offer.

Newt Gingrich
Mr. Obama's tax plan includes creating or expanding nine or more federal income tax credits mostly focused on low- and moderate-income earners, with an estimated cost of $1.3 trillion over 10 years. These tax credits are provided for certain social purposes, such as child care, health care, education, housing and retirement. Buried amid these is Mr. Obama's purported tax cut for the middle class.

For the bottom 40% of income earners, who pay no federal income taxes on net today, these refundable income tax credits will not reduce tax liability but instead result in new checks from the federal government for the targeted social purposes. That's not a tax cut. It's welfare.

These tax credits will do little or nothing to promote economic growth because they do not reduce marginal tax rates -- the rate on the next dollar of income -- to provide powerful, meaningful incentives for productive activities such as investment, entrepreneurship and work. A tax credit is effectively a cash grant that can only affect incentives up to the amount of the grant. Indeed, such tax credits would likely reduce economic growth because the credits are phased out as income rises, and so effectively impose higher marginal tax rates over those income levels.

For a real middle-class tax cut, we should cut the 25% income tax rate that now applies to single workers earning $32,550 to $78,850, and married couples earning $65,100 to $131,450. We should reduce that rate down to the 15% rate paid by workers below these income levels. That would, in effect, establish a flat-rate tax of 15% for close to 90% of American workers.

Marginal tax rates for middle-income families in the 25% tax bracket are too high. Add in effective payroll tax rates of 15% and state income taxes, and these workers are laboring under marginal tax rates of close to 50%. No wonder middle-income wage growth has slowed sharply. Reducing the marginal tax rates for these middle-income earners would lead to income increases for middle-income workers, just as reducing excessive marginal tax rates for higher-income workers did, going all the way back to the Kennedy tax cuts of the 1960s.

This 40% cut in middle-class income tax rates would provide a powerful boost to the economy, greatly expanding incentives for savings, investment and work. This would be much more effective than Mr. Obama's tax plan with it's $1.3 trillion in redistributive tax credits, as well as yet another so-called stimulus package based on another $300 billion or more in increased government spending.

Taxing or borrowing from the economy and then spending hundreds of billions more through government bureaucracies will have zero effect in promoting economic growth, as did the failed stimulus package adopted by the Bush administration this year.

We could add to this alternative tax proposal an increase in the personal exemption from $3,500 to $7,000. The package would then cut taxes for all taxpayers, including those in the lower tax brackets. Of course, reducing the top income tax rates of 28%, 33% and 35%, capital gains tax rates, and the excessive 35% corporate tax rate, would boost the economy even more. But these are the "hate" rates imposed on those who liberals think are too productive, work too hard, and earn too much. Liberals deride these taxpayers as corporate fat cats and "the rich."

Fine. Leave those rates for a future initiative. For now we should focus on the middle-income tax rates that are attractive to cut in the current political climate. This would continue the tax cuts for low- and moderate-income workers Republicans have been adopting for 30 years now.

Because of the highly beneficial effect of these middle-class rate reductions on our economy, and the freedom they would give workers to spend, save or invest their money as they choose, this proposal would likely enjoy broad public support and present a viable alternative to the liberal social purposes of President-elect Obama's tax credits.

Mr. Gingrich is the former speaker of the House. Mr. Ferrara is director of entitlement and budget policy for the Institute for Policy Innovation.
30300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Fcuk it on: November 20, 2008, 03:05:14 AM
Ignore the Stock Market Until February
The current volatility is less about fundamentals than forced selling.By ANDY KESSLERArticle
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Down in the morning, up in the afternoon. Or is it the other way around? The topsy-turvy stock market is tough to read.

In the last year, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has briefly been over 13,000 and below 8,000. The past month has felt like the Cyclone roller coaster on Brooklyn's Coney Island -- lots of ups and downs, the whole rickety thing feeling like it's going to crash at any minute.

David KleinGreat investors are taught to listen to the market. Each tick of the tape has something to say about expectations for growth, inflation, policy changes and looming recessions. The stock market is like a giant mass of pulsing plasma doing price discovery and a game of hot potato, getting stocks into the correct hands with the right risk profile. It's way too big for any one person to manipulate, let alone touch directly. Instead, millions of us provide input with our buying and selling decisions.

When it's at its most efficient, with buyers and sellers neatly matched up at the right price, it's a pretty good predictor. The Crash of 1929 announced a recession, and the wake-up call unheeded might have caused many of the bad policies leading to the Great Depression. The Crash of 1987? Not so much.

You see, the market is a great manipulator. In September, the Dow dropped 700 points intraday after the House of Representatives voted down the Treasury's TARP bank-rescue bill. Spooked, the House passed the bill the next week. Or how about this? The Dow was up 300 points on Election Day applauding an Obama victory and then down 1,600 points since.

The market can also be a bold-faced liar. On Jan. 22, the Fed announced an emergency 75-basis-point rate cut in response to huge drops in European markets. A few days later, it came out that a rogue trader at Société Générale lost them $7 billion and the bank was unwinding his positions. Oops.

So which is it now: an efficient mechanism or a manipulating liar? Should you listen to it warning of doom or anticipating renewal? I'd say stick wax in your ears and don't listen to the market until February.

Don't get me wrong. The freezing of the credit markets is wreaking havoc on the world economy. Corporate profits are dropping. Central banks are fighting off deflation and may not turn off the spigots fast enough -- which could ignite runaway inflation. But because of the credit mess, I am convinced the stock market is at its least efficient today. Don't read too much into any move. Here are the five biggest dislocations taking place:

- Tax-loss selling: Whenever you have a loss in a stock -- and who doesn't -- it's always tax smart to sell it, take a tax loss and either buy something similar or wait 30 days and buy the original one back. December can be an ugly month of indiscriminate selling. The December effect will be huge this year.

- Mutual-fund redemptions: Mutual funds are also dumped for tax losses. When the stock market is down in the morning, it's usually because of mutual-fund redemptions.

Fidelity's giant Magellan fund, down 56%, is one of many in the $6 trillion stock-fund business having an awful year. As investors call or click to get out of these funds, Fidelity and the others have to unload shares the next morning to raise cash. This forced-selling overwhelms the system. New York Stock Exchange specialists, who are supposed to maintain an orderly market, stop buying and back away. You get huge drops, which can unnerve even more investors and cause them to redeem.

- Mutual fund cap-gain distributions: To make matters worse, in December mutual funds do capital-gains distributions. In a down year like 2008, you would think there are no taxes to pay. Think again. Legg Mason's Value Trust, run by Bill Miller, outperformed the market for 15 years by buying many "unvalue" names like Amazon. As investors redeem, he is forced to sell many of these stocks originally purchased at very low prices, triggering huge capital gains in a year his fund is down 62%. You can almost guarantee investors also will sell more of these funds to pay their unexpected tax bill.

- Hedge-fund redemptions: Instead of overnight selling like mutual funds, hedge funds typically require 45 days' notice for investors to get out of a fund. They've been furiously selling since September to raise cash to pay investors. This usually shows up as a set of stocks that just go down and down and down with no obvious explanation.

Rubbing salt in hedge-fund wounds is the fact that Lehman Brothers was a prime broker to many hedge funds, holding their shares. While Lehman's bankruptcy was not a problem in the U.S., in England the policy is to freeze accounts until the mess can be sorted out. There are billions in assets locked in this bankruptcy, and hedge funds are forced to sell positions in the U.S. and elsewhere to raise cash, exacerbating the downside here.

Today in Opinion Journal

The Obama Health Plan EmergesA Capital MessageThe Politics of Entitlement


Wonder Land: Mad Max and the Meltdown
– Daniel HenningerNow Obama Has to Govern
– Karl Rove


Ignore the Stock Market Until February
– Andy KesslerLet's Have a Real Middle-Class Tax Cut
– Newt Gingrich and Peter FerraraObama Should Look Into Putin's Record, Not His Eyes
– Garry KasparovAn Auto Bailout Would Be Terrible for Free Trade
– Matthew J. SlaughterBy the way, when hedge funds are down for the year, they work practically for free until they make up the loss. We'll see hedge funds close and stocks liquidated as -- no surprise -- hedge-fund managers like to get paid.

- Margin calls: Whenever stocks go down sharply, you quickly find who owns them with debt. We have seen spectacular margin calls, a requirement for more capital to cover share losses. Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon unloaded 33 million shares to cover losses. Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone had a forced sale of $400 million in Viacom and CBS shares because of a margin call on other stocks. You can bet many not-so-public margin calls are behind many huge price drops. These usually take place in the last 30 minutes of trading.

So won't January be alright once these dislocations weighing on the market are lifted? The January effect is supposed to be positive.

Well, often money managers are fired at the end of disastrous years. A new manager comes in, looks at the existing positions and dumps them all and remakes the portfolio with new stocks that he likes, thus generating more selling. My favorite Wall Street adage suggests that the stock market trades to inflict the maximum amount of pain. Remember, you can only ignore the stock market for so long. Once everyone thinks it can only go down . . . it might go up.

Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author of "How We Got Here" (Collins, 2005).
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