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30251  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: August 20, 2008, 09:08:38 AM
August 19, 2008
Pervez Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan for nearly nine years, was forced to resign Monday in the face of moves by the South Asian country’s recently elected coalition government to impeach him. Musharraf’s resignation has been a long time coming, with stops along the way over the last nine months during which he was forced to give up control over the military and then the government.

Almost immediately following his announcement, Pakistanis took to the streets to celebrate, demanding that he be tried for crimes against the nation. Musharraf’s personal fate is of no consequence to the continuity (or discontinuity) in the geopolitics of Pakistan. But the conditions in which he fell from power have wide-ranging geopolitical implications not just in his country, but for U.S. policy toward Southwest Asia.

His exit from the scene symbolizes an end of an era for many reasons. The former Pakistani leader was the pointman in U.S.-Pakistani cooperation in Washington’s war against jihadism, which many Pakistanis — both within the government and in wider society — feel has destabilized their country. Now, the country’s democratic government must search for the elusive balance between domestic and foreign policy considerations. This will prove challenging for all the stakeholders in the post-Musharraf state. It also will complicate (to put it mildly) U.S. efforts to fight the Taliban and al Qaeda on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

A far greater implication of the decline and fall of the Musharraf regime, however, is that the process has altered the nature of the Pakistani state. Until fairly recently, the Pakistani state was as robust as its army’s ability either directly to govern the country or to maintain oversight over civilian administrations. Policies pursued under the Musharraf government generated two very different kinds of potent opposition to the state, however. The state found itself caught between democratic forces on the one hand and Islamist militant forces on the other, something compounded by a deteriorating economic situation.

As a result, for the first time in the history of the country, the army is no longer in a position to step in and impose order as before. Recognizing that any attempt to impose order militarily on a growing crisis of governance would only further destabilize the country, the army’s new leadership has put its weight behind the civilian government. But since Pakistani civilian institutions historically have never really functioned properly, serious doubts about the viability of the newly democratic Pakistan arise.

Musharraf’s decision to quit has greatly empowered parliament, but the legislature is a collection of competing political forces that for most of their history have engaged in zero-sum games. Meanwhile, the civil-military imbalance — despite the desire of the army to back the government — remains a source of tension within the political system. Moreover, at a time when parliament really has yet to consolidate power, the rise of an assertive judiciary is bound to further complicate governance.

Islamabad will be searching for pragmatic prescriptions to balance the domestic sentiment against the war against jihadism with the need to play its role as a U.S. ally and combat the extremism that also threatens Pakistan. At the same time, however, the legislature and the newly empowered judiciary will be playing an oversight role over the actions of the government in keeping with public sentiment. It will emphasize due process, which will force the hands of the government in the fight against both transnational and homegrown militancy. In other words, an already weakened state will be further handicapped in dealing with the need to combat a growing jihadist insurgency.

The multiple problems Pakistan faces now that the military no longer can simply step in and stabilize the system underscore the potentially dangerous situation in the South Asian country. And this has obvious and grave geopolitical implications for the wider region and the United States.

30252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russia's foreign minister writes on: August 20, 2008, 09:02:50 AM
America Must Choose
Between Georgia and Russia
August 20, 2008

In some Western nations an utterly one-sided picture has been painted of the recent crisis in the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict. The statements of American officials would lead one to conclude that the crisis began when Russia sent in its troops to support its peacekeepers there.

Meticulously avoided in those statements: The decision of Tbilisi to use crude military force against South Ossetia in the early hours of Aug. 8. The Georgian army used multiple rocket launchers, artillery and air force to attack the sleeping city of Tskhinvali.

Some honest independent observers acknowledge that a surprised Russia didn't respond immediately. We started moving our troops in support of peacekeepers only on the second day of Georgia's ruthless military assault. Yes, our military struck sites outside of South Ossetia. When the positions of your peacekeepers and the civilian population they have been mandated to protect are shelled, the sources of such attacks are legitimate targets.

Our military acted efficiently and professionally. It was an able ground operation that quickly achieved its very clear and legitimate objectives. It was very different, for example, from the U.S./NATO operation against Serbia over Kosovo in 1999, when an air bombardment campaign ran out of military targets and degenerated into attacks on bridges, TV towers, passenger trains and other civilian sites, even hitting an embassy.

In this instance, Russia used force in full conformity with international law, its right of self-defense, and its obligations under the agreements with regard to this particular conflict. Russia could not allow its peacekeepers to watch acts of genocide committed in front of their eyes, as happened in the Bosnian city of Srebrenica in 1995.

But what of the U.S.'s role leading up to this conflict? U.S. involvement with the Tbilisi regime—past and future—must be addressed to fully understand the conflict. When the mantra of the "Georgian democratic government" is repeated time and time again, does it mean that by U.S. standards, a democratic government is allowed to act in brutal fashion against a civilian population it claims to be its own, simply because it is "democratic"?

Another real issue is U.S. military involvement with the government of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Did Washington purposely encourage an irresponsible and unpredictable regime in this misadventure? If the U.S. couldn't control Tbilisi's behavior before, why do some in the U.S. seek to rush to rearm the Georgian military now?

Russia, by contrast, remains committed to a peaceful resolution in the Caucasus.

We'll continue to seek to deprive the present Georgian regime of the potential and resources to do more mischief. An embargo on arms supplies to the current Tbilisi regime would be a start.

We will make sure that the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan endorsed in Moscow on Aug. 12 is implemented, provided the parties to the conflict cooperate in good faith. So far we are not sure at all that Tbilisi is ready. President Saakashvili keeps trying to persuade the world that the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali was destroyed not by the Georgian attack but by the Russian forces who, according to Mr. Saakashvili, bombed the city after they entered it.

Russia is committed to the ongoing positive development of relations with the U.S. That kind of agenda is set forth in the Foreign Policy Concept—the framework document that sets out the basic directions of Russia's foreign policy—recently approved by President Dmitry Medvedev.

However, it must be remembered that, as between any other major world powers, our bilateral relationship can only advance upon the basis of reciprocity. And that is exactly what has been missing over the past 16 years. I meant precisely that when I said that the U.S. will have to choose between its virtual Georgia project and its much broader partnership with Russia.

The signs are ominous. Several joint military exercises have been cancelled by the Americans. Now Washington suggests our Navy ships are no longer welcome to take part in the Active Endeavour counterterrorism and counterproliferation operation in the Mediterranean. Washington also threatens to freeze our bilateral strategic stability dialogue.

Of course, that strategic dialogue has not led us too far since last fall, including on the issue of U.S. missile defense sites in Eastern Europe and the future of the strategic arms reduction regime. But the threat itself to drop these issues from our bilateral agenda is very indicative of the cost of the choice being made in Washington in favor of the discredited regime in Tbilisi. The U.S. seems to be eager to punish Russia to save the face of a failed "democratic" leader at the expense of solving the problems that are much more important to the entire world.

It is up to the American side to decide whether it wants a relationship with Russia that our two peoples deserve. The geopolitical reality we'll have to deal with at the end of the day will inevitably force us to cooperate.

To begin down the road of cooperation, it would not be a bad idea to do a very simple thing: Just admit for a moment that the course of history must not depend entirely on what the Georgian president is saying. Just admit that a democratically elected leader can lie. Just admit that you have other sources of information—and other objectives—that shape your foreign policy.

Mr. Lavrov is the foreign minister of the Russian Federation.
30253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: August 20, 2008, 08:58:24 AM
In a similar vein:

Obama: the New Jimmy Carter
Wednesday, August 20, 2008 8:45 AM
By: Dick Morris & Eileen McGann  Article Font Size   

Last week raised important questions about whether Barack Obama is strong enough to be president. On the domestic political front, he showed incredible weakness in dealing with the Clintons, while on foreign and defense questions, he betrayed a lack of strength and resolve in standing up to Russia's invasion of Georgia.

This two-dimensional portrait of weakness underscores fears that Obama might, indeed, be a latter-day Jimmy Carter.

Consider first the domestic and political. Bill and Hillary Clinton have no leverage over Obama. Hillary can?t win the nomination. She doesn?t control any committees. If she or her supporters tried to disrupt the convention or demonstrate outside, she would pay a huge price among the party faithful.

If Obama lost ? after Hillary made a fuss at the convention ? they would blame her for all eternity (just like Democrats blame Ted Kennedy for Carter?s defeat). But, without having any leverage or a decent hand to play, the Clintons bluffed Obama into amazing concessions.

Hillary will get to play a film extolling her virtues produced by Harry Bloodworth Thomason. Bill will speak on Wednesday night. Hillary?s name will be placed into nomination. She will get to have nominating and seconding speeches on her behalf. And, on Thursday night, the last night of the convention, the roll call will show how narrowly Obama prevailed.

So Obama gave away Tuesday night, Wednesday night and part of Thursday night to the Clintons. It will really be their convention. A stronger candidate would?ve called their bluff and confined the Clintons to one night on which both Hillary and Bill spoke (he would have outshone her). He would have blocked a roll call by allowing a voice vote to nominate by acclimation. He would have stood up to the Clintons and recaptured his own convention.

If Obama can?t stand up to the Clintons, after they have been defeated, how can he measure up to a resurgent Putin who has just achieved a military victory? When the Georgia invasion first began, Obama appealed for ?restraint? on both sides.

He treated the aggressive lion and the victimized lamb even-handedly. His performance was reminiscent of the worst of appeasement at Munich, where another dictator got away with seizing another breakaway province of another small neighboring country, leading to World War II.

After two days, Obama corrected himself, spoke of Russian aggression and condemned it. But his initial willingness to see things from the other point of view and to buy the line that Georgia provoked the invasion by occupying a part of its own country betrayed a world view characterized by undue deference to aggressors.

We know so little about Obama. His experience is so thin that it?s hard to tell what kind of a president he?d be. While he nominally has been in the Senate for four years, he really only served the first two and consumed the rest of his tenure running for president and disregarding his Senate duties.

So we have no choice but to scrutinize his current transactions and statements for some clue as to who he is and what he?d do. In that context, his reaction to the first real-time foreign-policy crisis he faced as a nominee leaves his strength in doubt. So does his palsied response to the Clintons? attempt to make Denver a Clinton convention.

Is Obama an over-intellectualizing Hamlet who is incapable of decisive, strong action? With Iran on the verge of acquiring nuclear weapons and Russia resurgent, there isn?t much room for on-the-job learning.

© 2008 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
30254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia's relation to Europe on: August 20, 2008, 08:47:45 AM
NATO's 'Empty Words'
August 20, 2008; Page A18
"Empty words." That's how Moscow glibly dismissed NATO's criticism yesterday of Russia's continued occupation of Georgia. The Russians may be bullies, but like all bullies they know weakness when they see it.

The most NATO ministers could muster at their meeting in Brussels was a statement that they "cannot continue with business as usual" with Russia. There was no move to fast-track Georgia's bid to join NATO, nor a pledge to help the battered democracy rebuild its defenses.

Asked about NATO reconstruction aid, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer pointedly said, twice, that it would go for "civilian infrastructure." So here we have a military alliance going out of its way to stress that it will not be providing any military aid. The alliance didn't even cancel any cooperative programs with Russia, though Mr. de Hoop Scheffer said "one can presume" that "this issue will have to be taken into view." That must have the Kremlin shaking.

NATO leaders also failed to mention Ukraine, another applicant for NATO membership that has angered Moscow in recent years and could become its next target. Also missing was any indication that the alliance would begin making long-delayed plans for defending the Baltic member states and other countries on its eastern flank in case of attack. The only good news of the day was that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe will eventually send up to 100 monitors, albeit unarmed, to Georgia.

Meanwhile, Russia found new ways to ignore the West and punish the Georgians who are actually abiding by a cease-fire. After exchanging prisoners with Georgia, Russian troops took about 20 Georgians prisoner after briefly retaking the oil port of Poti, blindfolded them and held them at gunpoint. Russia also sank another Georgian navy vessel and stole four U.S. Humvees that had been used in U.S.-Georgian training exercises and were waiting to be shipped out of the country.

All of this continues the Russian pattern of the past week, in which it agrees to a cease-fire and promises to withdraw, only to leave its forces in place while continuing to damage Georgia's military and even its civilian centers. Russian commanders had the cheek to suggest that a return to the troop placements before war broke out on August 8 means that 2,000 Georgian soldiers would have to return to Iraq, from which they had been airlifted home.

One of Moscow's goals is clearly to humiliate Georgia enough to topple President Mikheil Saakashvili, so he can be replaced with a pliable leader who will "Finlandize" the country, to borrow the old Cold War term for acquiescing to Kremlin wishes. In the bargain, it is also betting it can humiliate the West, which will give the people of Ukraine real doubts about whether joining NATO is worth the risk of angering Moscow. Judging by NATO's demoralizing response on Tuesday, the Kremlin is right.
30255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on: August 20, 2008, 07:41:35 AM
"One hundred and seventy-three despots would surely be as
oppressive as one."

-- James Madison (Federalist No. 48, 1 February 1788)

Reference: Madison, Federalist No. 48.
30256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gorbachev says: on: August 20, 2008, 07:39:55 AM
Published: August 19, 2008

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THE acute phase of the crisis provoked by the Georgian forces’ assault on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, is now behind us. But how can one erase from memory the horrifying scenes of the nighttime rocket attack on a peaceful town, the razing of entire city blocks, the deaths of people taking cover in basements, the destruction of ancient monuments and ancestral graves?

Russia did not want this crisis. The Russian leadership is in a strong enough position domestically; it did not need a little victorious war. Russia was dragged into the fray by the recklessness of the Georgian president, Mikheil Saakashvili. He would not have dared to attack without outside support. Once he did, Russia could not afford inaction.

The decision by the Russian president, Dmitri Medvedev, to now cease hostilities was the right move by a responsible leader. The Russian president acted calmly, confidently and firmly. Anyone who expected confusion in Moscow was disappointed.

The planners of this campaign clearly wanted to make sure that, whatever the outcome, Russia would be blamed for worsening the situation. The West then mounted a propaganda attack against Russia, with the American news media leading the way.

The news coverage has been far from fair and balanced, especially during the first days of the crisis. Tskhinvali was in smoking ruins and thousands of people were fleeing — before any Russian troops arrived. Yet Russia was already being accused of aggression; news reports were often an embarrassing recitation of the Georgian leader’s deceptive statements.

It is still not quite clear whether the West was aware of Mr. Saakashvili’s plans to invade South Ossetia, and this is a serious matter. What is clear is that Western assistance in training Georgian troops and shipping large supplies of arms had been pushing the region toward war rather than peace.

If this military misadventure was a surprise for the Georgian leader’s foreign patrons, so much the worse. It looks like a classic wag-the-dog story.

Mr. Saakashvili had been lavished with praise for being a staunch American ally and a real democrat — and for helping out in Iraq. Now America’s friend has wrought disorder, and all of us — the Europeans and, most important, the region’s innocent civilians — must pick up the pieces.

Those who rush to judgment on what’s happening in the Caucasus, or those who seek influence there, should first have at least some idea of this region’s complexities. The Ossetians live both in Georgia and in Russia. The region is a patchwork of ethnic groups living in close proximity. Therefore, all talk of “this is our land,” “we are liberating our land,” is meaningless. We must think about the people who live on the land.

The problems of the Caucasus region cannot be solved by force. That has been tried more than once in the past two decades, and it has always boomeranged.

What is needed is a legally binding agreement not to use force. Mr. Saakashvili has repeatedly refused to sign such an agreement, for reasons that have now become abundantly clear.

The West would be wise to help achieve such an agreement now. If, instead, it chooses to blame Russia and re-arm Georgia, as American officials are suggesting, a new crisis will be inevitable. In that case, expect the worst.

In recent days, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush have been promising to isolate Russia. Some American politicians have threatened to expel it from the Group of 8 industrialized nations, to abolish the NATO-Russia Council and to keep Russia out of the World Trade Organization.

These are empty threats. For some time now, Russians have been wondering: If our opinion counts for nothing in those institutions, do we really need them? Just to sit at the nicely set dinner table and listen to lectures?

Indeed, Russia has long been told to simply accept the facts. Here’s the independence of Kosovo for you. Here’s the abrogation of the Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and the American decision to place missile defenses in neighboring countries. Here’s the unending expansion of NATO. All of these moves have been set against the backdrop of sweet talk about partnership. Why would anyone put up with such a charade?

There is much talk now in the United States about rethinking relations with Russia. One thing that should definitely be rethought: the habit of talking to Russia in a condescending way, without regard for its positions and interests.

Our two countries could develop a serious agenda for genuine, rather than token, cooperation. Many Americans, as well as Russians, understand the need for this. But is the same true of the political leaders?

A bipartisan commission led by Senator Chuck Hagel and former Senator Gary Hart has recently been established at Harvard to report on American-Russian relations to Congress and the next president. It includes serious people, and, judging by the commission’s early statements, its members understand the importance of Russia and the importance of constructive bilateral relations.

But the members of this commission should be careful. Their mandate is to present “policy recommendations for a new administration to advance America’s national interests in relations with Russia.” If that alone is the goal, then I doubt that much good will come out of it. If, however, the commission is ready to also consider the interests of the other side and of common security, it may actually help rebuild trust between Russia and the United States and allow them to start doing useful work together.

Mikhail Gorbachev is the former president of the Soviet Union. This article was translated by Pavel Palazhchenko from the Russian.
30257  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: August 20, 2008, 12:01:28 AM
Reuters on our Gathering!
30258  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 19, 2008, 10:35:02 PM
True friends. cool
30259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Canada on: August 19, 2008, 10:22:48 PM,2933,406702,00.html

Tuesday , August 19, 2008
By Steve Brown


This is part of the America's Future series airing on FOX News Channel, looking at the challenges facing the country in the 21st century.
BRANTFORD, Ontario — Once home to inventor Alexander Graham Bell and hockey great Wayne Gretzky, the small Canadian city of Brantford is now home to a terrorist — and the Canadian government might not do anything about it.
Forty years ago, Mahmoud Mohammad Issa Mohammad, a former teacher, joined the terrorist group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
On Dec. 26, 1968, Mohammad and another gunman launched an attack on an El Al airliner at Athens International Airport. The two ran up on the tarmac firing guns and, throwing grenades at the passenger jet, wounded a flight attendant as she opened an emergency exit and killed a 50-year-old passenger, Leon Shirdan.
The gunmen were captured, tried and convicted in Greek court, and they were sentenced in 1970 to serve 17 years in prison. But they were released just months later after the PFLP hijacked an Olympic Airways flight and demanded their release as part of a hostage exchange.
In 1987, when a much grayer Mohammad arrived at Canada's doorstep, his entry visa made no mention of his terrorist act. Canadian authorities later determined Mohammad was a convicted terrorist, and they ordered him out of the country.
Yet Mohammad, having repeatedly appealed government orders for his expulsion, has extended his stay for 20 years. He still resides in the same house in Brantford.
"You have many sources to know what you want to know, but don't ask me anything," Mohammad, now 65, said when confronted by FOX News.
The Canadian government has also played a large part in Mohammad's stay; Canada will not send its deportees — even convicted terrorists and murderers — just anywhere .
"The rule is you can't send someone back to [face] torture," said Lorne Waldman, Mohammad's former attorney.
Mohammad's family left for Lebanon after the state of Israel was formed, and despite a government recommendation that he be sent to Lebanon, the Canadian government believes he may be tortured or ill-treated if returned there. Canada will not send him to Israel, and no other country has stepped forward to take him.
These days, Mohammad lives in his Brantford home, tending the fruit trees in his back yard. Despite the terrorist attack he launched in 1968, he is not deemed a threat to public safety.
When asked by FOX News whether he regretted his crime, he would not answer.
"[It's] not your business. [It's] not your business," he said. "This is not your business."
Mohammad calls himself a freedom fighter, not a terrorist. Either way, he is living free in Canada, which doesn't seem to bother his neighbors.
"No, I'm not concerned," said Gayle Cunningham, who lives nearby. "Maybe I should be. Should I be? I don't know."
30260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 19, 2008, 03:58:21 PM
Well, if Hillary had, maybe Monica wouldn't have happened.  Do you know how the two of them met?  They dated the same girl in law school. cheesy
30261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ review of Trick or Treatment on: August 19, 2008, 03:54:46 PM
Herbal Legends
August 19, 2008; Page A15

Trick or Treatment
By Simon Singh and Edzard Ernst, M.D.
(Norton, 342 pages, $24.95)

When I was practicing medicine in the Elmhurst section of New York about five years ago, my colleagues and I confronted an epidemic of liver damage among the recently arrived Chinese immigrants who live there. We put these patients through an exhaustive battery of tests for conventional sources of hepatitis, the most likely culprit, but found none. The mysterious illness, we decided, must have been caused by the folk therapies, usually herbal, that our patients often used but rarely disclosed to their doctors. There was little we could do but counsel them to stop. Instead of following our professional advice, though, they usually just added new herbs to their regimen, hoping to solve their liver problems but sometimes making themselves even more ill.

The Elmhurst epidemic was a classic example of the clash -- both cultural and scientific -- between "alternative" and conventional medicine. In this case, the inability of doctors to treat a liver ailment strengthened the false faith of patients in other cures. Usually, alternative medicine is a harmless distraction. And some treatments actually do offer benefits. But going outside modern medical practice also carries dangers.

Luckily, hundreds of studies have examined the purported benefits of various alternative-medicine treatments. In "Trick or Treatment," Simon Singh and Dr. Edzard Ernst report on the results. Ginseng has been proposed as a cure-all for everything from cancer to common colds, but there's no evidence that it does any good. Shiatsu massage appears to be a "waste of effort and expense," the authors say. Many aspects of traditional Chinese medicine, like the use of the herbs aristolochia and liquorice, are potentially harmful. Aromatherapy can relieve stress, but there is not a lick of evidence that it can treat a specific illness. Chelation therapy -- a legitimate method of removing heavy metals such as lead or mercury from the body, but now pitched in alternative-medicine circles as a cure for heart disease and other ailments -- is "disproven, expensive, and dangerous," according to Mr. Singh and Dr. Ernst. They urge patients "not to use this treatment."

Some alternative remedies, it should be said, do appear to have value. There is evidence that St. John's Wort can help mild depression, although probably not as well as conventional antidepressants. Echinacea may be able to help relieve symptoms of the common cold, and perhaps reduce the length of illness, but so can many better understood conventional remedies that are sold over the counter. "It seems bizarre," the authors note, in light of the disappointing results, "that alternative treatments are touted as though they offer marvelous benefits."

Dr. Ernst is not a dispassionate observer. He is a pioneer in the field of complementary medicine -- a branch of the medical profession whose practitioners prescribe selective alternative treatments. But he is also a scourge of too-large claims made for his field. Based at the University of Exeter in England, he leads a research group that has spent 15 years studying alternative remedies, trying to separate snake oil from science. Mr. Singh, his co-author, is a science journalist whose books include "Fermat's Enigma" and "Big Bang." Together they conclude, after cataloging the evidence, that most of the popular forms of alternative medicine are "a throwback to the dark ages." Too many alternative practitioners, they say, are "uninterested in determining the safety and efficacy of their interventions."

And safety is a real concern. "Chiropractors who manipulate the neck can cause a stroke . . . some herbs can cause adverse reactions or can interfere with conventional drugs." The authors are particularly hard on homeopathy, the practice of using ultradilute solutions of common substances. The solutions are so dilute, though, that they are often little more than water. "Homeopathic remedies, which of course contain no active ingredient, can be dangerous if they delay or replace a more orthodox treatment," Mr. Singh and Dr. Ernst write, calling homeopathy "the worst therapy encountered so far -- it is an implausible therapy that has failed to prove itself after two centuries and some 200 clinical studies."

"Trick or Treatment" includes a brisk history of our evidence-based approach to medicine, tracing the development of the modern clinical trial from its earliest days, when scurvy was shown to be caused by insufficient vitamin C and bleeding was debunked as a medical cure. Unfortunately, the evidence of clinical trials is largely ignored when it comes to alternative medicine.

So the treatments persist: Americans spend an astonishing $3 billion annually on chiropractors and about $1.5 billion on homeopathy, not to mention billions more for herbal remedies. Government is complicit: Most states mandate health-insurance coverage for chiropractic visits, and many states direct insurers to cover the cost of acupuncture -- another remedy with far fewer benefits than are commonly claimed for it.

Why is there so much blind faith? Mr. Singh and Dr. Ernst blame media hype, celebrities and even certain doctors -- complementary-medicine doctors for shading facts but also, importantly, conventional doctors whose high-handedness breeds patient frustration, opening the door to the seductions of alternative medicine.

"Alternative medicine is not so much about the treatments we discuss in this book," the authors write, "but about the therapeutic relationship. Many alternative practitioners develop an excellent relationship with their patients that helps to maximize the placebo effect of an otherwise useless treatment." To bring all treatments in line with rigorous science, an "excellent relationship" between doctor and patient is a good place to start.

Dr. Gottlieb, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is a former official at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
30262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Evan Sayet's Right to Laugh on: August 19, 2008, 03:12:17 PM
30263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 19, 2008, 02:44:10 PM
BO's not a front runner any more cheesy

And I wonder where he will be after the Hillbillary Clintons are done putting a cigar up his sanctamonious butt at the Demogogue convention  evil
30264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Interrogation methods on: August 19, 2008, 02:41:09 PM
Here's the Mahdi Army's approach to interrogation:
30265  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 19, 2008, 01:41:12 PM
GM, I too await your response to those two, but while the rest of us wait, I indulge in a moment of frivolity:

here is a longer version:
30266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Russia Still a hungry empire on: August 19, 2008, 12:09:10 PM
Russia Is Still a Hungry Empire
August 19, 2008; Page A17

The sight of Russian tanks rolling through Georgia was shocking yet familiar. Images flash back of Chechnya in 1994 and '99, Vilnius '91, Afghanistan '79, Prague '68, Hungary '56. Before that the Soviet invasions, courtesy of the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, of Poland and the Baltics in '39 and '40. Kazaks, Azeris, Tajiks, Ukrainians remember -- from family stories and national lore -- their own subjugation to Russian rule.

Other empires such as Britain and France adjusted, not without difficulty, to the fall of their distant domains. Far more of Russia's essence is tied up in the Imperium, and it barely tried to find a new identity after the Soviet Union fell. The war in Georgia marks an easy return to territorial expansion (here Moscow has taken chunks of Georgia for itself) and attempted regional dominance.

Russia is a relatively young nation, dating from after the turn of the previous millennium. Drive the highway from Gori to Tbilisi and you'll find signs of Christianity that predate Russia by some five centuries. Georgians will tell you, with a mixture of pride and scorn, that their culture and history goes back a lot deeper than Russia's.

Starting out as an isolated village, Muscovy grew by conquest, swallowing up lands and people at a dizzying rate, especially from the 18th century on. Though Russian nationalists claim otherwise, as a nation the Russians are a mix of Slavic, Asian and other European ethnicities. This national hodgepodge was wrenched together by an authoritarian czar who claimed his right to rule from the heavens.

The Soviets were even better empire builders. Vladimir Putin, whose formative years were spent in Dresden spying on the East German colonials, comes from this tradition.

Never in the history of empire was the periphery generally so much more advanced than the center. With each move into Europe, from the partitions of Poland to Stalin's great triumph at Yalta, Russia acquired what it didn't have -- an industrialized economic base, better infrastructure and above all contact with Western civilization. Aside from St. Petersburg and a few other towns, Russia itself stayed a largely rural, Eastern Orthodox backwater. It knew it too.

In the Soviet days, Russian culture, language and history were pressed on its captive nations. But these nations in and outside the U.S.S.R. never gave up their dreams of freedom. Starting in the Baltics, and then spreading to the Caucasus and Ukraine, their resurgence was, as much if not more than Mikhail Gorbachev, the internal force that brought about the Soviet Union's collapse. They easily imagined life without Mother Russia. Russia could not reciprocate. To dominate is to be.

Boris Yeltsin tried to give Russians an alternative narrative. For his own political survival he had to stoke a Russian reawakening against the Soviet behemoth. After leading the charge against the 1991 putsch, Yeltsin put forward democracy as a unifying and legitimizing idea for the new Russian state. But that went up in smoke with the shelling of the Russian parliament in 1993, the first Chechen war and the rise of the oligarchs.

Yeltsinism was fully discredited by the time Vladimir Putin took over. He doesn't give the impression he ever believed in its main precepts of partnership with the West and freedom at home. For a while, Mr. Putin pushed some economic modernization, including cleaning up the tax code. His instinct, however, led him toward the past. The so-called humiliations of the Yeltsin era, which to most Westerners who lived there then looks like a golden era of relative normalcy, called for vengeance. The young democracies around Russia that chose a future in the West were to be forced back into Moscow's sphere of influence.

It is curious to hear Russia invoke the Kosovo precedent to justify its invasion of Georgia. There is an unintended parallel. Two former communist apparatchiks (Mr. Putin and Slobodan Milosevic) took over weakened, demoralized countries and thought expansionist nationalism would lead them to glory.

The second Chechen war consolidated the Putin hold on power in 1999 -- as stirring up the Serbs in Kosovo did for Milosevic in the late 1980s. The Serbs were then like the Russians are today. A European nation, though somewhat set apart by Orthodox Christianity, that opts out of the Western mainstream. This choice, alas, requires victims like Kosovo Albanians or Georgians -- small nations whose fate the outside world might ignore.

The images from Georgia brought me back to a late May evening 12 years ago in Murmansk, the seat of Russia's Northern Fleet. There ahead of elections, I'd met a smart and amiable teacher in the Russian Arctic city who, true to his nation's reputation for hospitality, invited me home for vodka and some dinner.

Hours into our meeting I'd mentioned that perhaps Russia, then looking for its place, might aspire to become something like prosperous Norway just across the border from Murmansk -- a country able to provide its people a good life. It stopped him cold. In this grim setting, my new friend spat in disgust and said, "Russia is no Norway. It is a great power. It is destined to be great." Mr. Putin would doubtless agree.

Mr. Kaminski is a member of the Journal's editorial board.
30267  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: August 19, 2008, 12:03:47 PM
Barack Obama had made real strides in defusing the abortion issue with pro-life voters as late as last week. The Democratic platform had been modified to include language signaling the party's commitment to reducing the number of abortions and supporting women who decide to have a child. In a significant symbolic move, pro-life Senator Bob Casey Jr. of Pennsylvania has been invited to address the Democratic National Convention on its second night. Back in 1992, Democrats did enormous damage to themselves with pro-life voters when they blocked Mr. Casey's father, the late Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey, from speaking.

But Mr. Obama eroded many of those gains last Saturday when he told Pastor Rick Warren during a nationally televised forum that deciding when the rights of personhood should be extended to the unborn was "above my pay grade." Even Doug Kmiec, a conservative Pepperdine University lawyer who has become one of Mr. Obama's most prominent pro-life backers, was unsettled. He called the candidate's answer "much too glib for something this serious."

Mr. Obama compounded his problems after the forum when in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, he accused pro-life groups of "lying" about his record in the Illinois State Senate on legislation that would have protected viable babies born after botched abortions. Mr. Obama acknowledged voting against the bill but said he would have voted "yes" if the bill had contained language similar to a federal bill's language making clear that the intention wasn't to diminish overall abortion rights. But, as recently revealed, the Illinois bill had indeed included such language and Mr. Obama still voted against it.

"Senator Obama got caught in the twisting of the truth," says Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. "His campaign was later forced to put out a clarifying statement that it was the Senator himself who was actually wrong on the facts. He did indeed vote against a bill in the Illinois State Senate that was identical to the federal legislation that sought to protect babies who survive abortions."

Mr. Obama's stand on the issue is significant. The federal "Born Alive Infant Protection Act" sailed through the Senate in 2001 on a vote of 98 to 0. The bill was supported by Senator Barbara Boxer, the body's leading pro-choice spokeswoman, and was not opposed by the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League. By getting his facts wrong, Mr. Obama is now in the difficult position of trying to explain why he voted against a bill that the legislative record shows addressed infanticide rather than abortion.

The Associated Press reported on Sunday that a group calling itself The Real Truth About Obama is working to establish a Web site and air radio ads to publicize its view of Mr. Obama's voting record. MSNBC commentator Pat Buchanan says he's been told other outside groups are planning their own ad campaigns on Mr. Obama's abortion votes.

-- John Fund

Pennsylvania Play

Senator Barack Obama's strong poll showings in Pennsylvania are not being taken for granted by the Democratic National Committee -- and for good reason. He was leading by 12 points as recently as June, but two new polls show him going backward. Quinnipiac's latest has him just seven points ahead of John McCain; Franklin & Marshall shows him leading by eight.

Mr. Obama still runs far ahead in the Democratic stronghold of Philadelphia and does well in the suburbs (a battleground in 2004), but hasn't been able close the deal with blue collar, socially conservative and Catholic voters in western and rural Pennsylvania. To help stem the tide, his campaign and the DNC announced last week that pro-life Senator Bob Casey Jr. will speak the second night of the convention, alongside Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Mr. Obama also tapped freshman Democratic Congressman Patrick J. Murphy of the Philadelphia suburbs, the House's only Iraq veteran, to deliver a tribute to veterans the following day.

What should John McCain's countermove be? According to Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and cable-show host Michael Smerconish, the answer is former Pennsylvania Governor Tom Ridge. "If you can't stomach [Mitt] Romney, take Tom Ridge [as Veep nominee]. This guy has an amazing story: Raised in public housing, he's a Harvard-educated Vietnam veteran. Ex-governor, secretary of Homeland Security, he's a Pennsylvanian with a Central Casting dynamic. Disregard those who say you need a pro-life running mate. Those who say they'll throw you under the bus on this issue hate Obama, and will never sit home. You'll lose by running to the right -- you can only win by running to the middle."

-- Robert Costa

George 'Offshore' Soros

George Soros, one of the richest individuals in the world, has made a name for himself as a financier of the American left, which has been staunchly, stubbornly opposed to offshore drilling in the U.S. Mr. Soros is a big-time backer of Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi, and his nongovernmental organization Open Society is on a campaign "to spread resource wealth in less developed countries." Mr. Soros himself has personally endorsed Al Gore's crusade on global warming and accuses the Bush Administration of being "in denial" about the threat.

But as one of the world's most successful investors and speculators, Mr. Soros seems to have a different set of standards when it comes to his own wallet. His moral indignation takes a back seat to the profit motive. To wit, the billionaire do-gooder has purchased an $811 million stake in Petrobras, "making the Brazilian state-controlled oil company," according to Bloomberg News on Friday, "his investment fund's largest holding."

It's not only that Petrobras is a fossil fuel company. The more interesting aspect of the Soros investment is that Mr. Soros's Petrobras investment cannot be profitable if the company does not exploit its Tupi oil field, the largest offshore find in the hemisphere. Indeed, Petrobras is rapidly emerging as a world leader in technology to exploit such no-no reserves, while Brazil has thousands of miles of pristine coastline and a large indigenous population. Is Mr. Soros not outraged that he will be funding corporate interests that threaten these? Apparently not as long as there is money to be made that will go into his own pocket.

-- Mary Anastasia O'Grady

Quote of the Day I

"A former Senator and vice-presidential candidate misused campaign contributions and money pledged to fight poverty so he could bring his mistress on the campaign trail with him during the presidential campaign where he was constantly making appearances with his widely admired cancer stricken wife then fathered the mistress's child sometime around the time he was getting a Father Of The Year Award and then asked his loyal aide who already has a wife and kids to falsely claim paternity while the fake dad and the mistress were funneled money so they could move to be near the mistress's psychic healer friend while the former candidate continued to meet the mistress and baby until he was caught by tabloid reporters and hid in the bathroom and then confessed on national TV a couple of weeks later but both he and his wife continued to lie during that interview and in subsequent statements. And the press is supposed to yawn that story off?" -- liberal blogger Lee Stranahan, writing at on why media interest in the John Edwards scandal isn't going away.

Quote of the Day II

"[Anti-Obama author Jerome] Corsi's approach to politics is both destructive and self-destructive. If Senator Obama loses, he should lose on the merits: his record in public life and his political philosophy. And while it's legitimate to take into account Obama's past associations with people like the Reverend Jeremiah Wright -- especially for someone like Obama, about whom relatively little is known -- it's wrong and reckless to throw out unsubstantiated charges and smears against Senator Obama. Conservatism has been an intellectual home to people like Burke and Buckley. The GOP is the party that gave us Lincoln and Reagan. It seems to me that its leaders ought to make it clear that they find what Dr. Corsi is doing to be both wrong and repellent. To have their movement and their party associated with such a figure would be a terrible thing and it will only help the cause of those who hold both the GOP and the conservative movement in contempt" -- Peter Wehner, a former aide to President Bush, writing at Commentary magazine's blog on Jerome Corsi's controversial new biography of Barack Obama.

A Time for Mouth Action?

The Russian invasion of Georgia benefits John McCain by allowing him to show off his foreign-policy credentials -- that's conventional political wisdom and Barack Obama did his best to confirm it last week with his halting and shifting responses from his vacation spot in Hawaii.

After initially even-handedly blaming both sides for the fighting, Mr. Obama got "tough." But even his toughness had a way of betraying him. "Now is the time for action -- not just words," Mr. Obama finally got around to saying Tuesday. But Mr. Obama couldn't list any actions that America, as a country, should take, or that Mr. Obama, as president, would take.

Instead, his action plan was a list of things for the Russians to do: "It is past time for the Russian government to immediately sign and implement a cease-fire. Russia must halt its violation of Georgian airspace and withdraw its ground forces from Georgia."

Mr. Obama's statement was, well, just words, offering little comfort to those wondering how Mr. Obama would handle himself in a foreign policy crisis.

-- Brian M. Carney

30268  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Wesbury on Inflation on: August 19, 2008, 11:52:27 AM
Wesbury is an outstanding economist-- one of the very best.

Inflation Is a Clear and Present Danger
August 19, 2008; Page A17

The most painful and frustrating economic policy blunder of the past 50 years was the Great Inflation of the 1970s. Painful, because it was the catalyst for three damaging recessions (1973-75, 1980, 1981-82), all the while eroding living standards and seriously undermining confidence in America.

It was also deeply frustrating. Despite the teaching of Milton Friedman -- which clearly explained that inflation was caused by too much money chasing too few goods -- a combination of bad economic models, denial and political expediency allowed it to happen.

President Reagan meets with Paul Volcker, chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, 1981.
One would think that the odds of a repeat were low, and for 20 years, after Ronald Reagan and his Fed Chairman Paul Volcker had the courage to get inflation under control with tight money and tax cuts, this was true. Unfortunately, the lessons seem to be fading. Today, the U.S. (and through it the world) faces its greatest threat from inflation in 30 years. And as in the past, this threat is being met with denial and political expediency.

Today's problems began seven years ago in 2001, when the Federal Reserve overreacted to the deflationary mistake it made in the late 1990s. The Fed vigorously pumped money into the economy in order to drive interest rates down rapidly.

As is so often the case, after the Fed has acted, but before the typical lag in monetary policy has fully played out, conventional wisdom argues that the Fed has become impotent. Back in 2002 and 2003, the logic was that the Fed was powerless over globalization, and low-cost labor would continue to feed deflation. In addition, because long-term rates were rising as the Fed cut short-term rates, many thought that markets were undermining Fed intentions.

But, as always, when the Fed injects excess liquidity into the system, inflation begins to rise. As early as 2002, soaring commodity prices and a falling dollar became the canaries in the coal mine of excessively loose monetary policy.

In their wake, almost every measure of inflation in the U.S. has moved significantly higher. In the past year, producer prices have increased 9.2%, while consumer prices are up 5.6%. Yet, because there are so many measures of inflation it is possible to focus on some, for instance consumer prices excluding food and energy (aka, "core" CPI), which remain benign. This allows many to say there is no inflation.

But oil and food are absorbing a large part of excess Fed liquidity. When consumers spend more on energy, they have less to spend in other arenas. This reduces demand for other goods, keeping prices lower than they would be otherwise. This helps explain the divergence between overall and core measures of inflation.

This divergence is now coming to an end. If the recent decline in energy and food prices continues, that money will be released and other prices will start to rise more quickly. The July jump of 0.3% in "core" CPI inflation is likely one of the first signs.

Some argue that the recent drop in commodity prices indicates lessening inflationary pressures. But nothing could be further from the truth. Commodity prices had reached levels that were not justified by current monetary policy. As a result, their pullback is just a correction, not the beginning of a new trend. If this pullback had occurred as the Fed was lifting the federal-funds rate, like back in 1999, it would be a different story. Excluding food and energy from the CPI is sometimes justified because their price movements are often volatile and short-lived. But the five-year average annual growth rate of the CPI, which should smooth out any short run issues, is now 3.6% -- its highest level since 1994. Moreover, the Cleveland Fed's trimmed mean CPI, which excludes the 8% of prices growing the fastest and the 8% growing the slowest, is also up 3.6% in the past year -- its fastest growth since 1991.

When investors hear comparisons of today with the 1970s, they immediately think double-digit inflation. But, it's not that bad -- yet. It took 20 years of accommodative monetary policy in the 1960s and '70s to create the Great Inflation. A more accurate comparison on the inflation front would be the late 1960s, when consumer price inflation accelerated to 6% from about 1%. This period was the precursor of the 1970s. Except for catch-up after the wage and price controls of 1971, the actual move into double-digit inflation did not occur until the late '70s.

With the real (or inflation-adjusted) federal-funds rate now negative, the signals are clear. The Fed is still adding more money to the system than is demanded, and this suggests that the general increase in inflationary pressures will continue. The only question is whether policy makers will get the courage to fight inflation before it gets out of control.

And this is the rub. Much like the 1970s, there is a widespread denial that inflation is a problem today. Some argue that Fed policy is not easy, either because the money supply is not growing, or that banks are deleveraging, which counteracts any attempt by the Fed to inject money.

The first argument hits at the root of Friedman's monetary theory. If money is not growing, then how can inflation be a problem? But money is growing. No measure of money is declining, despite bank deleveraging, and Reserve Bank Credit (the Fed's balance sheet) has expanded at a 14.4% annual rate in the past three months.

Another sign of easy money is that every country that pegs to the dollar, including China and the United Arab Emirates, is experiencing a rapid acceleration in its inflation rates as it imports inflationary U.S. monetary policy.

The second argument is belied by history. Between 1983 and 1994, exactly 2,747 U.S. banks and S&L's failed, representing total assets of $894 billion. During that period of deleveraging, real GDP in the U.S. expanded at an annual average of 3.5%. The Great Depression is the only period of sharp economic contraction in the U.S. correlated with bank failures. But that was clearly related to a deflationary mistake in Fed policy. Real interest rates were outrageously high in the late 1920s, and much of the '30s, which is not true today.

One of the reasons that monetary policy is so loose today is that our economy is addicted once again to easy money and low interest rates. We hear over and over that the Fed cannot tighten because the housing market and the economy are vulnerable. This was the same argument made in the pre-Volcker 1970s, when the U.S. bounced from one economic crisis to the next.

But a look back at the past 40 years clearly shows that the economy was much healthier in the 1980s and '90s, when real interest rates were high, rather than low as they were in the 1960s and '70s.

The Fed's "dual mandate" -- to keep the economy strong and prices stable -- serves to support this mistake. In contrast, the European Central Bank has a single mandate: price stability. No wonder the dollar has been so weak relative to the euro. Imagine two football teams. One with a single mandate: win. The other with a dual mandate: win and keep your uniforms clean. It's clear that the one with the single mandate will have more success in achieving its goals over time.

It is this combination of denial of actual inflation, bad economic models and the political expediency of keeping interest rates low that makes a repeat of past policy mistakes likely. In the end, inflation can be controlled -- the Volcker-Reagan strategy of tight monetary policy and tax cuts still holds the key -- but only if policy makers find the courage.

Mr. Wesbury is chief economist at First Trust Advisors, L.P.
30269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 19, 2008, 11:30:14 AM
Said with love, but I found that to be a useless piece of chattering class drivel that typifies exactly what my post of the David Brooks piece describes.  Its precisely because of chattering twits life Cafferty that any sane candidate gets driven towards the crisp pat answers Cafferty says he describes.

Take this "He was asked to define rich. After trying to dodge the question -- his wife is worth a reported $100 million -- he finally said he thought an income of $5 million was rich."  I actually heard McCain's whole answer to the question on Larry Elder, and it was thoughtful, sound, and well said-- not the evasion Cafferty evades his substance with because  Cafferty is too busy trying to pin a "gotcha" on McC. 

McC was certainly far from my preferred candidate, but I do strongly prefer him to Barack "afraid to work without a teleprompter" Obama.  McC regularly put himself in unscripted town halls meetings and BO has kitited out from accepting McC's challenge for 10 such debates.  What is His Glibness afraid of?
30270  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Fire Hydrant: Howls from Crafty Dog, Rules of the Road, etc on: August 19, 2008, 08:38:32 AM
Just a bit of housekeeping.  I have pasted the "Open Letter" thread below, so that I no longer need to "sticky" it, which clutters up the beginning of the forum:

Open Letter from Crafty Dog
« on: February 01, 2007, 01:09:50 PM »     

A Howl of Greeting to All:

It has been brought to me attention that there has been concern by some
people about my mingling of politics and martial arts on the Public Forum.

For me, it was logical to do so.  With the attack by the Islamo-Fascists on
911, Dog Brother Martial Arts' mission statement of "Walk as a Warrior for
all your days" naturally connected with the idea of the heroes of Flight 93
on 911.  In short, as behooves a free people,  the idea is that "We the
people" step forward in our own behalf-- just as envisioned by our Founding
Fathers in the Second Amendment of our Constitution and in Section 311 of
Title 10 of the US Code.

As I see it, our homeland is under attack.  This attack did not begin on 911.  It did not
finish with the attack of 911.  911 was simply one step in a progression-- 
the next step of which may include nuclear contamination.   (Even on 911 the
risk was there:  What would have happened had the Islamo Fascists had flown
Flight 93 into the nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island and left
Pennsylvania glowing for several hundred years?)

THIS is the context in which I began including politics on the General

Where I rather blithely have missed the point however was in my failure to
appreciate that some people on the Public Forum were worried that
participation in Dog Brothers Martial Arts meant agreement, or would be
taken by others to mean agreement with my distinctive politics.

Certainly this has not been my intention!

I am well aware that intelligent people of good faith can and do come to
different conclusions about how to best go about responding to the
challenges and dangers of our time!

So, please allow me to be perfectly clear: Dog Brothers Martial Arts is for
anyone of any political or religious persuasion that accepts Respect,
Reciprocity and Reason as the basis of human interaction.  When we come
together to train, it is as if we are part of the Olympics.

To accentuate this principle, we have re-organized the public forum so as to
put Politics in its own Forum.  The Spanish language forum continues as
before, but the previous General Forum has now been divided into three

·         Martial Arts and related matters:

·         Science, Culture & Humanities

·         Politics & Religion:

Whichever forum(s) you go to, we promise you high-IQ, informed, passionate, and lively reading.

The Adventure continues,
Crafty Dog
30271  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Swiss Gathering 26-27 of September on: August 19, 2008, 08:35:53 AM
From Lonely Dog:

A heartly wuff to all fighters

As you probably know there will be in few weeks the European "Dog Brothers Gathering of the Pack" 2008

I send you this e-mail to kindly remember you to register if you want to fight. 

Please if you haven't done it already send the filled Fighter's Registration form to:

Benjamin Rittiner
Kampfkunst Schule Bern
Waisenhausplatz 21
3011 Bern

If you want more informations or to have a look at the registered fighters:


Saturday 27. September, 4 pm (16:00)

Turnhalle Bleichestrasse / Stettlen, Switzerland

As always, there is no charge for fighters but FIGHTERS MUST PRE-REGISTER, even if they have fought before. The Fighter's registration form must be filled out whether you have fought before or not. For registration and the registration form please contact me at:

You have to be register until 15. September! Only those who are pre-registered are allowed to fight. You are not registered until your name appears on the list of registered fighters on the website!

I’m looking forward to have one more time a “DB Gathering of the Pack” in Europe!
And would be glad to see many of you again.

Guro Benjamin “Lonely Dog”

The Magic Words:

The MAGIC WORDS: "No judges, no referees, no trophies. One rule only: Be friends at the end of the day! This means our goal is that no one spends the night in the hospital. Our goal is that everyone leaves with the IQ with which they came. No suing no one for no reason for nothing no how no way! Real Contact Stickfighting is Dangerous and only you are responsible for you, so protect yourself at all times. All copyright belongs to Dog Brothers Inc. CA law applies."

This matter of accepting all risks applies to those of you observing as well!

For example, sticks and fighters may go flying into the crowd. Parents should consider things like this in deciding whether a child is old enough to bring along and/or deciding on from where to observe the event. If a stick or a fight comes careening your way know that the fight has right of way, it is on you to get out of the way! If you are sitting in or near the front row, we will not make fun of you if you wear protective headgear!

30272  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: olympics on: August 19, 2008, 08:07:08 AM
Which is why I haven't watched  cheesy
30273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Deism on: August 19, 2008, 08:06:17 AM

A good place to begin with regards to an important strand of thought amongst our Founding Fathers.
30274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: August 19, 2008, 07:55:40 AM
Woof All:

If you are not already familiar with reader supported reporter Michael Yon, you should be.  A former Special Forces soldier, MY goes on patrol with the troops and also gets out and about and gets the real story.  I gave as heavily as I could to support Michael Yon's brave and insightful coverage of the Iraq War.  Now, once again he goes to Afghanistan.  And once again, I give as heavily as I can.  I just finished enabling monthly donations via his website.

To read what he is up to right now, go to

Michael Yon seeks Truth.  He is quite willing and able to criticize Foul Ups and say when he sees as doing wrong.  His courage and insight make him a special resource.  If you want Truth and insight from the front lines, if you are tired of MSM hypocrisy, dishonesty, ignorance and incoherence, it is time to count your blessings (for most of us, as Americans) and share a bit of your bounty to support this man's work.

Time to put up or shut up.

The Adventure continues,
Marc "Crafty Dog" Denny
30275  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Movies of interest on: August 19, 2008, 07:16:56 AM
30276  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 19, 2008, 07:15:40 AM
Grateful for the moment with my 6 year old daughter and her best friend, sitting in my truck and watching a monster racoon crossing the street in front of our house.  The expressions on their faces were priceless.
30277  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: McCain on: August 19, 2008, 07:13:41 AM
From the NY Times chattering class:

The Education of McCain
Published: August 19, 2008

On Tuesdays, Senate Republicans hold a weekly policy lunch. The party leaders often hand out a Message of the Week that the senators are supposed to repeat at every opportunity. Sometimes there will be a pollster offering data that supposedly demonstrates the brilliance of the message and why it will lead to political nirvana.

John McCain generally spends the lunches at a table with a gang of fellow ne’er-do-wells. He cracks jokes, razzes the speaker and generally ridicules the whole proceeding. Then he takes the paper with the Message of the Week back to his office. He tosses it on the desk of some staffer with a sarcastic comment like: “Here’s your message. Learn it. Love it. Live it.”

This sort of behavior has been part of McCain’s long-running rebellion against the stupidity of modern partisanship. In a thousand ways, he has tried to preserve some sense of self-respect in a sea of pandering pomposity. He’s done it through self-mockery, by talking endlessly about his own embarrassing lapses and by keeping up a running patter on the absurdity all around. He’s done it by breaking frequently from his own party to cut serious deals with people like Ted Kennedy and Russ Feingold. He’s done it with his own frantic and freewheeling style, which was unpredictable, untamed and, at some level, unprofessional.

When McCain and his team set out to win the presidency in 2008, they hoped to run a campaign with this sort of spirit. McCain would venture forth on the back of his bus, going places other Republicans don’t go, saying things politicians don’t say, offering the country the vision of a different kind of politics — free of circus antics — in which serious people sacrifice for serious things.

It hasn’t turned out that way. McCain hasn’t been able to run the campaign he had envisioned. Instead, he and his staff have been given an education by events.

McCain started out with the same sort of kibitzing campaign style that he used to woo the press back in 2000. It didn’t work. This time there were too many cameras around and too many 25-year-old reporters and producers seizing on every odd comment to set off little blog scandals.

McCain started out with the same sort of improvised campaign events he’d used his entire career, in which he’d begin by riffing off of whatever stories were in the paper that day. It didn’t work. The campaign lacked focus. No message was consistent enough to penetrate through the national clutter.

McCain started his general-election campaign in poverty-stricken areas of the South and Midwest. He went through towns where most Republicans fear to tread and said things most wouldn’t say. It didn’t work. The poverty tour got very little coverage on the network news. McCain and his advisers realized the only way they could get TV attention was by talking about the subject that interested reporters most: Barack Obama.

McCain started with grand ideas about breaking the mold of modern politics. He and Obama would tour the country together doing joint town meetings. He would pick a postpartisan running mate, like Joe Lieberman. He would make a dramatic promise, like vowing to serve for only one totally nonpolitical term. So far it hasn’t worked. Obama vetoed the town meeting idea. The issue is not closed, but G.O.P. leaders are resisting a cross-party pick like Lieberman.

McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule.

The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention.

Some old McCain hands are dismayed. John Weaver, the former staff member who helped run the old McCain operation, argues that this campaign does not do justice to the man. The current advisers say they have no choice. They didn’t choose the circumstances of this race. Their job is to cope with them.

And the inescapable fact is: It is working. Everyone said McCain would be down by double digits at this point. He’s nearly even. Everyone said he’d be vastly outspent. That hasn’t happened. A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible.

As the McCain’s campaign has become more conventional, his political prospects have soared. Both he and Obama had visions of upending the system. Maybe in office, one of them will still be able to do that. But at least on the campaign trail, the system is winning.

30278  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 19, 2008, 06:56:49 AM
As logical as GM is, I still think there is a legitimate issue of deep importance here.

The natural slack of Life that has protected us from the State achieving Orwellian capabilities is being tightened-- at an accelerating pace.  The plethora of laws and petty regulations that are not fully enforced because of lack of Orwellian "Big Brother is Watching" capabilities WILL become ever more rigorously and vigorously enforced. 

Changing subjects (for a moment?) here's this:

You are welcome to forward this e-mail; please encourage your colleagues to sign up for periodic mailings at
1. The September 2008 issue of the AELE Monthly Law Journal is online, with three new articles:

* Police Civil Liability
Police Interaction with Homeless Persons 
Part Two - Panhandling and Use of Force

* Discipline and Employment Law
Disciplinary Consequences of Peace Officer Untruthfulness
Part One - Job Applications

* Corrections Law
Staff Use of Force Against Prisoners
Part One: Legal Standard and Individual Liability

What does your community consider "aggressive" panhandling? Some cities have banned these acts:

(1) Continuing to solicit from a person after the person has given a negative response to a solicitation; or

(2) Causing a pedestrian or vehicle to take evasive action to avoid physical contact; or

(3) Soliciting next to an automated teller machine; or

(4) Stating that the solicitor is stranded, homeless, or a military veteran when that is not true; or

(5) Using makeup or a device to simulate a deformity.

See our lead article "Panhandling and Use of Force."

2. The September 2008 issues of AELE's three periodicals have been uploaded. The current issues, back issues since 2000, three 30+ year case digests, and a search engine are FREE. Everyone is welcome to read, print or download AELE publications without charge. The main menu is at:
Among 100+ different cases noted, there are several that warrant mention here:
*** Law Enforcement Liability Reporter ***

* Extricating a motorist
Officers acted reasonably in pulling driver from his car when he refused to get out as directed and placing him on the ground to handcuff him. The motorist had allegedly driven in a manner that caused his car to hit curbs and other objects. The court found that the force used was not excessive under these circumstances. Wisler v. City of Fresno, #CV 06-1694, 2008 U.S. Dist. Lexis 50843 (E.D. Cal.).

* Lethal Force
Officer who shot a suspect acted reasonably because he kept his left hand concealed during a standoff, and he told officers that he "had something" to make the officers do what he "could not," as well as having previously told a 911 operator that he could easily provoke an officer to shoot him. The officer who shot the plaintiff believed that he had made a threatening movement with his concealed hand. Dague v. Dumesic, #07-15317, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 15511 (Unpub. 9th Cir.).$File/07-15317.PDF

*** Fire and Police Personnel Reporter ***

* Critical Incident Reviews - Right to Legal Counsel
Although mandatory participation in a critical incident review is subject to collective bargaining, troopers were not entitled to the presence of legal counsel, because the review is non-disciplinary and is not an administrative interrogation that may lead to discipline or removal. P.B.A. State Troopers v. N.Y. State Police, #118, 2008 NY Slip Op 05957, 2008 N.Y. Lexis 1930, 2008 NY Int. 113.

*** Jail and Prisoner Law Bulletin ***

* Prisoner Assault: By Officers

Federal appeals court upholds jury verdict for defendant corrections officers in lawsuit brought by prisoner allegedly injured by them when they used force to extract him from his cell. The plaintiff prisoner admitted that he had a weapon in his pocket at the time of the incident, and the evidence showed that he had been belligerent and uncooperative, and created a disturbance. Pepper spray and a 15 OC Stinger grenade used against the prisoner had little effect and failed to subdue him. The officers then shot a 37MM Ferret OC powder round and a 28b Stinger 37 MM 60 Cal. rubber-ball round, and again failed to subdue the prisoner. Another Ferret OC powder round fired into the cell then went through a mattress that the prisoner used to barricade his cell door, and hit him in the groin area, finally subduing him. Muhammad v. McCarrell, #07-2235, 2008 U.S. App. Lexis 16682 (8th Cir.).

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30279  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia on: August 18, 2008, 07:18:31 PM
Another quality analysis from Stratfor:

By George Friedman

On Sept. 11, 1990, U.S. President George H. W. Bush addressed Congress. He spoke in the wake of the end of Communism in Eastern Europe, the weakening of the Soviet Union, and the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein. He argued that a New World Order was emerging: “A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace, while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor, and today that new world is struggling to be born. A world quite different from the one we’ve known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak.”

After every major, systemic war, there is the hope that this will be the war to end all wars. The idea driving it is simple. Wars are usually won by grand coalitions. The idea is that the coalition that won the war by working together will continue to work together to make the peace. Indeed, the idea is that the defeated will join the coalition and work with them to ensure the peace. This was the dream behind the Congress of Vienna, the League of Nations, the United Nations and, after the Cold War, NATO. The idea was that there would be no major issues that couldn’t be handled by the victors, now joined with the defeated. That was the idea that drove George H. W. Bush as the Cold War was coming to its end.

Those with the dream are always disappointed. The victorious coalition breaks apart. The defeated refuse to play the role assigned to them. New powers emerge that were not part of the coalition. Anyone may have ideals and visions. The reality of the world order is that there are profound divergences of interest in a world where distrust is a natural and reasonable response to reality. In the end, ideals and visions vanish in a new round of geopolitical conflict.

The post-Cold War world, the New World Order, ended with authority on Aug. 8, 2008, when Russia and Georgia went to war. Certainly, this war was not in itself of major significance, and a very good case can be made that the New World Order actually started coming apart on Sept. 11, 2001. But it was on Aug. 8 that a nation-state, Russia, attacked another nation-state, Georgia, out of fear of the intentions of a third nation-state, the United States. This causes us to begin thinking about the Real World Order.

The global system is suffering from two imbalances. First, one nation-state, the United States, remains overwhelmingly powerful, and no combination of powers are in a position to control its behavior. We are aware of all the economic problems besetting the United States, but the reality is that the American economy is larger than the next three economies combined (Japan, Germany and China). The U.S. military controls all the world’s oceans and effectively dominates space. Because of these factors, the United States remains politically powerful — not liked and perhaps not admired, but enormously powerful.

The second imbalance is within the United States itself. Its ground forces and the bulk of its logistical capability are committed to the Middle East, particularly Iraq and Afghanistan. The United States also is threatening on occasion to go to war with Iran, which would tie down most of its air power, and it is facing a destabilizing Pakistan. Therefore, there is this paradox: The United States is so powerful that, in the long run, it has created an imbalance in the global system. In the short run, however, it is so off balance that it has few, if any, military resources to deal with challenges elsewhere. That means that the United States remains the dominant power in the long run but it cannot exercise that power in the short run. This creates a window of opportunity for other countries to act.

The outcome of the Iraq war can be seen emerging. The United States has succeeded in creating the foundations for a political settlement among the main Iraqi factions that will create a relatively stable government. In that sense, U.S. policy has succeeded. But the problem the United States has is the length of time it took to achieve this success. Had it occurred in 2003, the United States would not suffer its current imbalance. But this is 2008, more than five years after the invasion. The United States never expected a war of this duration, nor did it plan for it. In order to fight the war, it had to inject a major portion of its ground fighting capability into it. The length of the war was the problem. U.S. ground forces are either in Iraq, recovering from a tour or preparing for a deployment. What strategic reserves are available are tasked into Afghanistan. Little is left over.

As Iraq pulled in the bulk of available forces, the United States did not shift its foreign policy elsewhere. For example, it remained committed to the expansion of democracy in the former Soviet Union and the expansion of NATO, to include Ukraine and Georgia. From the fall of the former Soviet Union, the United States saw itself as having a dominant role in reshaping post-Soviet social and political orders, including influencing the emergence of democratic institutions and free markets. The United States saw this almost in the same light as it saw the democratization of Germany and Japan after World War II. Having defeated the Soviet Union, it now fell to the United States to reshape the societies of the successor states.

Through the 1990s, the successor states, particularly Russia, were inert. Undergoing painful internal upheaval — which foreigners saw as reform but which many Russians viewed as a foreign-inspired national catastrophe — Russia could not resist American and European involvement in regional and internal affairs. From the American point of view, the reshaping of the region — from the Kosovo war to the expansion of NATO to the deployment of U.S. Air Force bases to Central Asia — was simply a logical expansion of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was a benign attempt to stabilize the region, enhance its prosperity and security and integrate it into the global system.

As Russia regained its balance from the chaos of the 1990s, it began to see the American and European presence in a less benign light. It was not clear to the Russians that the United States was trying to stabilize the region. Rather, it appeared to the Russians that the United States was trying to take advantage of Russian weakness to impose a new politico-military reality in which Russia was to be surrounded with nations controlled by the United States and its military system, NATO. In spite of the promise made by Bill Clinton that NATO would not expand into the former Soviet Union, the three Baltic states were admitted. The promise was not addressed. NATO was expanded because it could and Russia could do nothing about it.

From the Russian point of view, the strategic break point was Ukraine. When the Orange Revolution came to Ukraine, the American and European impression was that this was a spontaneous democratic rising. The Russian perception was that it was a well-financed CIA operation to foment an anti-Russian and pro-American uprising in Ukraine. When the United States quickly began discussing the inclusion of Ukraine in NATO, the Russians came to the conclusion that the United States intended to surround and crush the Russian Federation. In their view, if NATO expanded into Ukraine, the Western military alliance would place Russia in a strategically untenable position. Russia would be indefensible. The American response was that it had no intention of threatening Russia. The Russian question was returned: Then why are you trying to take control of Ukraine? What other purpose would you have? The United States dismissed these Russian concerns as absurd. The Russians, not regarding them as absurd at all, began planning on the assumption of a hostile United States.

If the United States had intended to break the Russian Federation once and for all, the time for that was in the 1990s, before Yeltsin was replaced by Putin and before 9/11. There was, however, no clear policy on this, because the United States felt it had all the time in the world. Superficially this was true, but only superficially. First, the United States did not understand that the Yeltsin years were a temporary aberration and that a new government intending to stabilize Russia was inevitable. If not Putin, it would have been someone else. Second, the United States did not appreciate that it did not control the international agenda. Sept. 11, 2001, took away American options in the former Soviet Union. No only did it need Russian help in Afghanistan, but it was going to spend the next decade tied up in the Middle East. The United States had lost its room for maneuver and therefore had run out of time.

And now we come to the key point. In spite of diminishing military options outside of the Middle East, the United States did not modify its policy in the former Soviet Union. It continued to aggressively attempt to influence countries in the region, and it became particularly committed to integrating Ukraine and Georgia into NATO, in spite of the fact that both were of overwhelming strategic interest to the Russians. Ukraine dominated Russia’s southwestern flank, without any natural boundaries protecting them. Georgia was seen as a constant irritant in Chechnya as well as a barrier to Russian interests in the Caucasus.

Moving rapidly to consolidate U.S. control over these and other countries in the former Soviet Union made strategic sense. Russia was weak, divided and poorly governed. It could make no response. Continuing this policy in the 2000s, when the Russians were getting stronger, more united and better governed and while U.S. forces were no longer available, made much less sense. The United States continued to irritate the Russians without having, in the short run, the forces needed to act decisively.

The American calculation was that the Russian government would not confront American interests in the region. The Russian calculation was that it could not wait to confront these interests because the United States was concluding the Iraq war and would return to its pre-eminent position in a few short years. Therefore, it made no sense for Russia to wait and it made every sense for Russia to act as quickly as possible.

The Russians were partly influenced in their timing by the success of the American surge in Iraq. If the United States continued its policy and had force to back it up, the Russians would lose their window of opportunity. Moreover, the Russians had an additional lever for use on the Americans: Iran.

The United States had been playing a complex game with Iran for years, threatening to attack while trying to negotiate. The Americans needed the Russians. Sanctions against Iran would have no meaning if the Russians did not participate, and the United States did not want Russia selling advance air defense systems to Iran. (Such systems, which American analysts had warned were quite capable, were not present in Syria on Sept. 6, 2007, when the Israelis struck a nuclear facility there.) As the United States re-evaluates the Russian military, it does not want to be surprised by Russian technology. Therefore, the more aggressive the United States becomes toward Russia, the greater the difficulties it will have in Iran. This further encouraged the Russians to act sooner rather than later.

The Russians have now proven two things. First, contrary to the reality of the 1990s, they can execute a competent military operation. Second, contrary to regional perception, the United States cannot intervene. The Russian message was directed against Ukraine most of all, but the Baltics, Central Asia and Belarus are all listening. The Russians will not act precipitously. They expect all of these countries to adjust their foreign policies away from the United States and toward Russia. They are looking to see if the lesson is absorbed. At first, there will be mighty speeches and resistance. But the reality on the ground is the reality on the ground.

We would expect the Russians to get traction. But if they don’t, the Russians are aware that they are, in the long run, much weaker than the Americans, and that they will retain their regional position of strength only while the United States is off balance in Iraq. If the lesson isn’t absorbed, the Russians are capable of more direct action, and they will not let this chance slip away. This is their chance to redefine their sphere of influence. They will not get another.

The other country that is watching and thinking is Iran. Iran had accepted the idea that it had lost the chance to dominate Iraq. It had also accepted the idea that it would have to bargain away its nuclear capability or lose it. The Iranians are now wondering if this is still true and are undoubtedly pinging the Russians about the situation. Meanwhile, the Russians are waiting for the Americans to calm down and get serious. If the Americans plan to take meaningful action against them, they will respond in Iran. But the Americans have no meaningful actions they can take; they need to get out of Iraq and they need help against Iran. The quid pro quo here is obvious. The United States acquiesces to Russian actions (which it can’t do anything about), while the Russians cooperate with the United States against Iran getting nuclear weapons (something Russia does not want to see).

One of the interesting concepts of the New World Order was that all serious countries would want to participate in it and that the only threat would come from rogue states and nonstate actors such as North Korea and al Qaeda. Serious analysts argued that conflict between nation-states would not be important in the 21st century. There will certainly be rogue states and nonstate actors, but the 21st century will be no different than any other century. On Aug. 8, the Russians invited us all to the Real World Order.
30280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Steven Wright on: August 18, 2008, 06:48:37 PM
Steven Wright:

1 - I'd kill for a Nobel Peace Prize.

2 - Borrow money from pessimists -- they don't expect it back.

3 - Half the people you know are below average.

4 - 99% of lawyers give the rest a bad name.

5 - 82.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot.

6 - A conscience is what hurts when all your other parts feel so good.

7 - A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.

8 - If you want the rainbow, you got to put up with the rain.

9 - All those who believe in psycho kinesis, raise my hand.

10 - The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.

11 - I almost had a psychic girlfriend... but she left me before we met.

12 - OK, so what's the speed of dark?

13 - How do you tell when you're out of invisible ink?

14 - If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

15 - Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
2008 Darwin Awards


Too good not to share:

Eighth Place

In Detroit , a 41-year-old man got stuck and drowned in two feet of water after squeezing head first through an 18-inch-wide sewer grate to retrieve his car keys.

Seventh Place

A 49-year-old San Francisco stockbroker, who 'totally zoned when he ran,' accidentally, jogged off a 100-foot high cliff on his daily run.

Sixth Place

While at the beach, Daniel Jones, 21, dug an 8 foot hole for protection from the wind and had been sitting in a beach chair at the bottom when it collapsed, burying him beneath 5 feet of sand.
People on the beach used their hands and shovels trying to get him out but could not reach him. It took rescue workers using heavy equipment almost an hour to free him. Jones was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Fifth Place

Santiago Alvarado, 24, was killed as he fell through the ceiling of a bicycle shop he was burglarizing. Death was caused when the long flashlight he had placed in his mouth to keep his hands free rammed into the base of his skull as he hit the floor.

Fourth Place

Sylvester Briddell, Jr., 26, was killed as he won a bet with friends who said he would not put a revolver loaded with four bullets into his mouth and pull the trigger.

Third Place

After stepping around a marked police patrol car parked at the front door, a man walked into H&J Leather & Firearms intent on robbing the store. The shop was full of customers and a uniformed officer was standing at the counter.... Upon seeing the officer, the would-be robber announced a hold-up, and fired a few wild shots from a target pistol. The officer and a clerk promptly returned fire, and several customers also drew their guns and fired. The robber was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics. Crime scene investigators located 47 expended cartridge cases in the shop. The subsequent autopsy revealed 23 gunshot wounds. Ballistics identified rounds from 7 different weapons. No one else was hurt.


Paul Stiller, 47, and his wife Bonnie were bored just driving around at 2 A.M. so they lit a quarter stick of dynamite to toss out the window to see what would happen. Apparently they failed to notice the window was closed.


Kerry Bingham had been drinking with several friends when one of them said they knew a person who had bungee-jumped from a local bridge in the middle of traffic. The conversation grew more heated and at least 10 men trooped along the walkway of the bridge at 4:30 AM. Upon arrival at
the midpoint of the bridge they discovered that no one had brought a bungee rope. Bingham, who had continued drinking, volunteered and pointed out that a coil of lineman's cable, lay near by. They secured one end around Bingham's leg and then tied the other to the bridge. His fall lasted 40 feet before the cable tightened and tore his foot off at the ankle. He miraculously survived his fall into the icy water and was rescued by two nearby fishermen. Bingham's foot was never located.


Zookeeper Friedrich Riesfeldt ( Paderborn, Germany) fed his constipated elephant 22 doses of animal laxative and more than a bushel of berries, figs and prunes before the plugged-up pachyderm finally got relief. Investigators say ill-fated Friedrich, 46, was attempting to give the ailing elephant an olive oil enema when the relieved beast unloaded. The sheer force of the elephant's unexpected defecation knocked Mr. Riesfeldt to the ground where he struck his head on a rock as the elephant continued to evacuate 200 pounds of dung on top of him.

It seems to be just one of those freak accidents that proves... 'Shit happens'.
30281  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NYT on: August 18, 2008, 08:26:29 AM
Its the NYTimes so caveat lector.  That said, this seems to be an interesting read.

Helene Cooper, C. J. Chivers and Clifford J. Levy and written by Ms. Cooper.

 WASHINGTON — Five months ago, President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, long a darling of this city’s diplomatic dinner party circuit, came to town to push for America to muscle his tiny country of four million into NATO.
On Capitol Hill, at the State Department and at the Pentagon, Mr. Saakashvili, brash and hyperkinetic, urged the West not to appease Russia by rejecting his country’s NATO ambitions.

At the White House, President Bush bantered with the Georgian president about his prowess as a dancer. Laura Bush, the first lady, took Mr. Saakashvili’s wife to lunch. Mr. Bush promised him to push hard for Georgia’s acceptance into NATO. After the meeting, Mr. Saakashvili pronounced his visit “one of the most successful visits during my presidency,” and said he did not know of any other leader of a small country with the access to the administration that he had.

Three weeks later, Mr. Bush went to the Black Sea resort of Sochi, at the invitation of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. There, he received a message from the Russian: the push to offer Ukraine and Georgia NATO membership was crossing Russia’s “red lines,” according to an administration official close to the talks.

Afterward, Mr. Bush said of Mr. Putin, “He’s been very truthful and to me, that’s the only way you can find common ground.” It was one of many moments when the United States seemed to have missed — or gambled it could manage — the depth of Russia’s anger and the resolve of the Georgian president to provoke the Russians.

The story of how a 16-year, low-grade conflict over who should rule two small, mountainous regions in the Caucasus erupted into the most serious post-cold-war showdown between the United States and Russia is one of miscalculation, missed signals and overreaching, according to interviews with diplomats and senior officials in the United States, the European Union, Russia and Georgia. In many cases, the officials would speak only on the condition of anonymity.

It is also the story of how both Democrats and Republicans have misread Russia’s determination to dominate its traditional sphere of influence.

As with many foreign policy issues, this one highlighted a continuing fight within the administration. Vice President Dick Cheney and his aides and allies, who saw Georgia as a role model for their democracy promotion campaign, pushed to sell Georgia more arms, including Stinger antiaircraft missiles, so that it could defend itself against possible Russian aggression.

On the other side, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley and William J. Burns, the new under secretary of state for political affairs, argued that such a sale would provoke Russia, which would see it as arrogant meddling in its turf, the officials and diplomats said.

They describe three leaders on a collision course. Mr. Bush, rewarding Georgia for its robust troop contribution to Iraq — at 2,000, the third highest, behind the United States and Britain — promised NATO membership and its accompanying umbrella of American military support. Mr. Putin, angry at what he saw as American infringement right in his backyard, decided that Georgia was the line in the sand that the West would not be allowed to cross. And Mr. Saakashvili, unabashedly pro-American, was determined to show, once and for all, that Georgia was no longer a vassal of Russia.

With a vastly more confident Russia, flush with oil money, a booming economy and a rebuilt military no longer bogged down in Chechnya, the stars were aligned for a confrontation in which Russia could, with a quick show of force, teach a lesson to the United States, Georgia and all of the former Soviet satellites and republics seeking closer ties with the West.

“We have probably failed to understand that the Russians are really quite serious when they say, ‘We have interests and we’re going to defend them,’ ” said James Collins, United States ambassador to Russia from 1997 to 2001. “Russia does have interests, and at some point they’re going to stand up and draw lines that are not simply to be ignored.”

Georgia Makes Its Moves

The stage for the confrontation was set in January 2004, when Mr. Saakashvili handily won the presidency after leading protests against a rigged election the previous year. He made the return of separatist areas to Georgian control a central plank of his platform.

It was a potent theme. Georgia had lost the wars against separatists in the 1990s, and Russia’s involvement stung Georgians. Mr. Saakashvili saw international law on his side. His young government, a small circle of men in their 30s with virtually no military experience, openly endorsed this thinking.

Georgia increased its troop contribution to Iraq, and in return the United States provided more military training. The Georgians clearly saw this as a step toward building up a military that could be used to settle problems with the separatists at home.

Whether they intended to build a military for fighting or deterrence is unclear. American officials said they repeatedly and bluntly told their Georgian counterparts that the Iraq mission should not be taken as a sign of American support, or as a prelude, for operations against the separatists. And it was obvious that Russia’s army, which at roughly 641,000 troops is 25 times the size of Georgia’s, could easily overwhelm the Georgian forces.


Page 2 of 3)

Nevertheless, the career foreign policy establishment worried that the wrong signals were being sent. “We were training Saakashvili’s army, and he was getting at least a corps of highly trained individuals, which he could use for adventures,” said one former senior intelligence analyst, who covered Georgia and Russia at the time. “The feeling in the intelligence community was that this was a very high-risk endeavor.”

Mr. Saakashvili proceeded against other separatist enclaves — retaking one, Ajaria, in 2004, and advancing high into the mountains of the upper Kodori Gorge in Abhkazia in 2006 to sweep away bands of criminals who had long controlled the place.

Georgia labeled it a police operation, but it was a military one: Mark Lenzi, then the country director for the nonprofit International Republican Institute, visited the region and says he saw that military markings on a helicopter had been freshly painted over with the word “police.”

Mr. Lenzi, who worked with Mr. Saakashvili’s young government, says that in retrospect, there were risks that were not adequately assessed. “It was a combustible,” he said. “But it was a little bit of the price we were willing to pay for the military cooperation in Iraq.”

He added: “I go back to the democracy thing. I’m not saying I gave them a big pass here. But looking back I should have pressed harder.”

By last November, Mr. Saakashvili’s democratic credentials were becoming checkered. Accused by the opposition of corruption, arrogance and centralization, he struck back against demonstrators and declared a state of emergency. After he won a snap election this year on a vote that the opposition said was subtly rigged, Mr. Saakashvili turned his attention back to the enclaves.

Georgia had new military equipment and the experience of Iraq. Russia had engaged in several brief air attacks and had shot down a pilotless reconnaissance plane over Georgian soil.

Inside the Saakashvili government, officials were seething. Batu Kutelia, a first deputy minister of defense, framed the presence of Russia in the enclaves with intensity. “Tell me,” he asked a reporter over dinner this spring, “would you share your wife?”

Several Georgian officials said that night that seizing South Ossetia would be militarily easy. But there was a difference between any operation in the remaining enclaves and the successful reclamation of Ajaria and the Kodori Gorge: the remaining enclaves had large numbers of Russian troops.

Russian Anger

Russia, too, was laying down its markers, strenuously protesting the West’s intention to recognize the breakaway Serbian province of Kosovo, set on independence after the long Balkans wars of the 1990s. The Russians insisted that independence for Kosovo would be a serious affront. Last February, the United States and the European Union, over Russia’s vehement objections, recognized an independent Kosovo.

Mr. Putin and other Russian officials drew a parallel with Kosovo: If the West could redraw boundaries against the wishes of Russia and its ally Serbia, then Russia could redraw boundaries in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

By April, before the Russians had a chance to grow accustomed to an independent Kosovo, they were being confronted with what they saw as more meddling in their backyard. On April 3, the night before the NATO summit meeting in Bucharest, Romania, Mr. Bush attended a dinner with European leaders and annoyed the Germans and French by lobbying long and hard for Ukraine and Georgia to be welcomed into a Membership Action Plan that prepares nations for NATO membership.

Mr. Bush lost that battle, but won two others the next day that would anger Russia: NATO leaders agreed to endorse a United States missile defense system based in Eastern Europe, and the Europeans said invitations to the membership plan for Georgia and Ukraine might come in a year, at the next summit.

NATO leaders had invited Mr. Putin to Bucharest to speak, seeking to offset the impression that the alliance was hostile to Russia. He was cordial but clear, saying that Russia viewed “the appearance of a powerful military bloc” on its borders “as a direct threat” to its security. “The claim that this process is not directed against Russia will not suffice,” Mr. Putin said. “National security is not based on promises.”

The next day, Mr. Bush and Mr. Putin went to Sochi. “It definitely wasn’t what I would call a ‘look-into-your-eyes-and-see-your-soul’ meeting,” said a Bush administration official, referring to Mr. Bush’s famous line after he first met Mr. Putin. Mr. Bush had dinner with Mr. Putin and his protégé and successor, Dmitri A. Medvedev, at the Russian resort, which is near Georgia. The official said the discussion centered on Ukraine and Georgia, and Mr. Putin warned, again, against the NATO push.

Asked how Mr. Bush reacted to the warning, the official said: “It wasn’t anything we hadn’t heard before.”

Page 3 of 3)

It appeared that the Bush administration misread the depth of Russia’s fury. A Bush administration official said the Americans understood that Russia was angry, but believed that they could forestall a worsening of the relationship by looking for other possibilities for cooperation.

Ms. Rice offered up an 11-page “strategic framework declaration” examining areas where the two nations could work together, which was hammered out with Sergey V. Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, that night in Sochi. The statement included language describing how they would in the future address the issue of missile defenses the United States had proposed basing in Eastern Europe. The United States promised to work toward “assuaging” Russian concerns.

Washington Weighs In

Nine days later, on April 16, Mr. Putin took action. In one of his last formal acts as president, he issued an order that Russia was broadly expanding support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia and would establish legal connections with the regions’ separatist governments.

Washington was quick to rally around Mr. Saakashvili. Senator John McCain, whose campaign foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, had represented Georgia as a lobbyist, was the first to blast Russia. Mr. McCain, who already was the Republicans’ presumptive presidential nominee, telephoned Mr. Saakashvili to offer support, and then told reporters on April 17 that “we must not allow Russia to believe it has a free hand to engage in policies that undermine Georgian sovereignty.” On April 21 came a statement from a “deeply troubled” Senator Barack Obama, the leading Democratic candidate.

“There’s no doubt that the Georgians have carefully cultivated a broad base of support in Washington,” said Stephen Sestanovich, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign who has hosted dinner parties for Mr. Saakashvili in Washington.

Within the Bush administration, “the fight between the hawks and the doves” erupted anew, said one administration official. In this case, the people he called the “hawks” —Mr. Cheney and the assistant secretary of state for Europe, Daniel Fried — argued for more American military aid for Georgia; the “doves” — Ms. Rice, Mr. Hadley, Mr. Burns — urged restraint.

The United States was already providing Georgia with military aid, equipment and training, and Ms. Rice, for the time being, won the fight against adding American-provided Stinger missiles to Georgia’s arsenal.

On April 21, Georgia accused Russia of shooting down the pilotless Georgian plane over Abkhazia and released what it said was a video of the encounter. Mr. Putin responded that he had expressed “bewilderment” to Mr. Saakashvili at Georgia’s sending reconnaissance planes over Abkhazia.

A senior adviser to Mr. Saakashvili said Mr. Cheney’s office was more openly critical of the Russians after the episode than was the State Department, which struck a more balanced tone, asking Russia to explain their actions.

Bush administration officials have been adamant that they told Mr. Saakashvili that the United States would not back Georgia militarily in a fight with Russia, but a senior administration official acknowledged that “it’s possible that Georgians may have confused the cheerleading from Washington with something else.”

In May and June, Russia increased the number of troops in South Ossetia and sent troops into Abkhazia, who Moscow said were going for humanitarian purposes, Georgian and American officials said.

Ms. Rice traveled to Tbilisi, Georgia, in July, where, aides said, she privately told Mr. Saakashvili not to let Russia provoke him into a fight he could not win. But her public comments, delivered while standing next to Mr. Saakashvili during a news conference, were far stronger and more supportive.

And when she brought up NATO membership, mentioning that the Bush administration had pushed for it in Bucharest, Mr. Saakashvili jumped on the opportunity to get a public commitment that the administration would bring the matter up again with NATO before leaving office.

“So are you going — I understood you are going to give a tough fight for us in December,” he said.

Ms. Rice: “Always, Mr. President. We always fight for our friends.”

The Buildup

The Russians and the Georgians give different accounts of who provoked whom in the weeks before Aug. 7. Each side accuses the other of premeditated attack. While the public line from the Bush administration has been that Russia and Mr. Putin are largely to blame, some administration officials said the Georgian military had drawn up a “concept of operations” for crisis in South Ossetia that called for its army units to sweep across the region and rapidly establish such firm control that a Russian response could be pre-empted.

They note that in January, the Georgian Ministry of Defense released a “strategic defense review” that laid out its broad military planning for the breakaway regions. As described by David J. Smith of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, the document sets out goals for the Georgian armed forces and refers specifically to the threat of conflict in the separatist regions.

American officials said that they had clearly told their Georgian counterparts that the plan had little chance of success, given Kremlin statements promising to protect the local population from Georgian “aggression” — and the fact of overwhelming Russian military force along the border.

The shelling from South Ossetia to Georgia proper increased significantly in August. On the morning of Aug. 1, five Georgian police officers were wounded by two remotely detonated explosions on a bypass road in South Ossetia, Georgian officials said. Troops from Georgia battled separatist fighters, killing at least six people; the Georgians accused the South Ossetian separatists of firing at Georgian towns behind the shelter of Russian peacekeepers.

On Aug. 6, the separatists fired on several Georgian villages, Georgian officials said. The Russian Defense Ministry and South Ossetian officials say that Georgians provoked the escalation by shelling Russian peacekeeping positions in the region’s capital of Tskhinvali, along with civilian areas.

The Georgians said the separatists stepped up their shelling. Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili of Georgia called Mr. Fried and told him that her country was under attack, and that Georgia had to protect its people. Mr. Fried, according to a senior administration official, told the Georgian not to go into South Ossetia. The Georgians moved in on Aug. 7.
30282  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Kristol on the debate on: August 18, 2008, 08:10:10 AM
I had forgotten about this event until I saw this column this morning:

Published: August 17, 2008
NY Times

While normal people were out having fun Saturday night, I was home in front of the TV. But I wasn’t enjoying the Olympics. Your diligent columnist was dutifully watching Barack Obama and John McCain answer the Rev. Rick Warren’s questions at Saddleback Church. Virtue is sometimes rewarded. The event was worth watching — and for me yielded three conclusions.

McCain and Obama Agree to Attend Megachurch Forum (July 21, 2008) First, Rick Warren should moderate one of the fall presidential debates.

Warren’s queries were simple but probing. He was fair to both candidates, his manner was relaxed but serious, and he neither went for “gotcha” questions nor pulled his punches. And his procedure of asking virtually identical questions to each candidate during his turn on stage paid off. It allowed us to see the two giving revealingly different answers to the same question.

So, I say, with all due respect to Jim Lehrer, Tom Brokaw and Bob Schieffer — the somewhat nondiverse group selected by the debates commission as the three presidential debate moderators — one of them should step aside for Warren.

Second, it was McCain’s night.

Obama made no big mistakes. But his tendency to somewhat windy generalities meant he wasn’t particularly compelling. McCain, who went second, was crisp by contrast, and his anecdotes colorful.

Now I’m not entirely unbiased (!), so I don’t quite trust my initial judgment in such matters. But it was confirmed the next morning. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported on “Meet the Press” that “the Obama people must feel that he didn’t do quite as well as they might have wanted to in that context. ... What they’re putting out privately is that McCain ... may have had some ability to overhear what the questions were to Obama.”

There’s no evidence that McCain had any such advantage. But the fact that Obama’s people made this suggestion means they know McCain outperformed him.

Third, Obama and McCain really do have different “worldviews,” to use Rick Warren’s term.

Perhaps the most revealing moment was the two candidates’ response to a question about evil. Yes, evil — that negation of the good that, Friedrich Nietzsche to the contrary notwithstanding, we seem not to have moved beyond.

Warren asked whether evil exists and if it does, “do we ignore it? Do we negotiate with it? Do we contain it? Do we defeat it?”

Obama and McCain agreed evil exists and couldn’t be ignored. But then their answers diverged.

Obama said that “we see evil all the time” — in Darfur, on the streets of our cities, in child abusers. Such evils, he continued, need to be “confronted squarely.” And while we can’t “erase evil from the world,” we can be “soldiers” in the task of confronting it when we see it.

But, Obama added, “Now, the one thing that I think is very important is for us to have some humility” as we confront evil. Why? Because “a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil.” After all, “just because we think our intentions are good doesn’t always mean that we’re going to be doing good.”

It’s nice to see a liberal aware of the limits of good intentions — indeed, that the road to hell is paved with them. But here as elsewhere, Obama stayed at a high level of abstraction. It would have been interesting if Warren had asked a follow-up question: Where in particular has the United States in recent years — at home or especially abroad — perpetrated evil in the name of confronting evil? Hasn’t the overwhelming problem been, rather, a reluctance to effectively confront evil — in Darfur, or Rwanda, or pre-9/11 Afghanistan?

John McCain appears to think so. Unlike Obama, he took the question about evil to be in the first instance about 9/11. McCain asserted that “of course evil must be defeated,” and he put “radical Islamic extremism,” Al Qaeda in particular, at the top of his to-defeat list. In this context, McCain discussed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and concluded by mentioning “the young men and women who are serving this nation in uniform.”

So while Obama talked of confronting evil, McCain spoke of defeating it. Obama took the view that evil is generally abroad in the world; McCain focused on radical Islam and 9/11. Obama claimed that all of us must be metaphorical “soldiers” against evil; McCain paid tribute to actual American soldiers. And McCain couldn’t resist saying again Saturday night that if he has to follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell to get him and bring him to justice, he’ll do so.

Rick Warren remarked Saturday night that he wanted to help us understand Obama’s and McCain’s different worldviews. He accomplished his purpose.
30283  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Washington: Fight for Liberty on: August 18, 2008, 07:57:15 AM

"The hour is fast approaching, on which the Honor and Success of
this army, and the safety of our bleeding Country depend. Remember
officers and Soldiers, that you are Freemen, fighting for the
blessings of Liberty - that slavery will be your portion, and
that of your posterity, if you do not acquit yourselves like men."

-- George Washington (General Orders, 23 August 1776)

Reference: Maxims of George Washington, Schroeder, ed. (86)
30284  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: MExico's Prohibition on: August 18, 2008, 07:41:21 AM

Mary Anastasia O'Grady is a member of The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board and editor of the "Americas," a weekly column that appears every Monday in the Journal and deals with politics, economics and business in Latin America and Canada.
Ms. O'Grady joined the paper in August 1995 and became a senior editorial page writer in December 1999. She became a member of the Editorial Board in 2005. She previously worked as an options strategist, first for Advest Inc. and then for Thomson McKinnon Securities in 1983. She moved to Merrill Lynch & Co. in 1984 as an options strategist and was also a product manager and a sales manager for Merrill Lynch Canada and Merrill Lynch International during her 10 years with the company.
In 1997 Ms. O'Grady won the Inter American Press Association's Daily Gleaner Award for editorial commentary, and in 1999 she received an honorable mention in IAPA's opinion award category. In 2005 she won the Bastiat Prize for journalism, which honors writers who promote the institutions of a free society. Ms. O'Grady, who was born in Bryn Mawr, Pa., received a bachelor's degree in English from Assumption College and an M.B.A. in financial management from Pace University.

Mexico Pays the Price of Prohibition
August 18, 2008

With the world fixated on Vladimir Putin's expansionist exploits in Georgia, a different sort of assault against a democracy south of the U.S. border is getting scant attention. But it is equally alarming.

Mexico is engaged in a life-or-death struggle against organized crime. Last week six more law enforcement officials were killed in the line of duty battling the country's drug cartels. This brings the death toll in President Felipe Calderón's blitz against organized crime to 4,909 since Dec. 1, 2006.  A number of the dead have been gangsters but they also include journalists, politicians, judges, police and military, and civilians. For perspective on how violent Mexico has become, consider that the total number of Americans killed in Iraq since March 2003 is 4,142.

Kidnapping and armed robbery numbers have also soared. In Tijuana, a kidnapping epidemic has provoked an exodus of upper-middle-class families across the U.S. border in search of safety.

As this column has pointed out many times, one reason that security has so deteriorated in the past decade is the demand in the U.S. for illegal narcotics, and the U.S. government's crackdown on the Caribbean trafficking route. Mexican cartels have risen up to serve the U.S. market, and their earnings have made them rich and well-armed.

The victims of last week's killing spree include the deputy police chief of the state of Michoacan and one of his men, a detective in the state of Chihuahua, and a deputy police chief in the state of Quintana Roo. As of July, 449 police and military officers have died in the Calderón offensive, further underscoring the price Mexico is paying for the U.S. "war on drugs." But the costs go well beyond the loss of life.

Doctors hold banners during a demonstration against a recent wave of crimes and kidnappings in Tijuana, Mexico.
In a developed country like the U.S., prohibition takes a toll on the rule of law but does not overwhelm it. In Mexico, where a newly revived democracy is trying to reform institutions after 70 years of autocratic governance under the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the corrupting influence of drug profits is far more pernicious.

According to Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora, part of the explanation for the kidnapping surge can be traced to the success of the government's squeeze on the drug runners. He told me in February that he expected the pressure to produce a fragmentation of the cartels, turf wars and an increase in other criminal activities to replace shrinking profits in drug trafficking.

If true, the kidnapping spree might be a sign that Mr. Medina Mora's strategy is working. But when federal investigators recently fingered Mexico City police in the kidnapping and murder of 14-year-old Fernando Martí, the son of a wealthy entrepreneur, Mr. Medina Mora's theory lost some credibility. Rather than being the work of demoralized criminals, kidnapping, in the capital anyway, appears to be just one business run by a well-oiled machine with institutional links.

Ricardo Medina, a leading Mexican opinion writer and the editor of El Economista, the country's top financial daily, told me on Thursday the case shows that "independent of the shooting war on drugs there is the problem of institutions being infiltrated by criminals and corrupted."

Even captured criminals often go free, Mr. Medina says, and all branches of government share responsibility for this crisis of impunity. It is true that judges can be intimidated or bribed. But it is also true, for example, that under Mexican law kidnapping is not a federal crime, and therefore must be handled by local authorities. Often victims do not want to press charges because there is a perception that the local police and local governments are in on it.

That perception has been strengthened in the Martí case, but the problem of impunity is hardly new. As Mr. Medina wrote in El Economista on Friday, "impunity is in view of everyone, day after day. We all see it even to the point of smiling ironically or shrugging our shoulders."

Why hasn't this problem been tackled? One possible explanation in Mexico City is that the district police and the rest of the district's bureaucracy represent an important constituency for the ruling Revolutionary Democratic Party (PRD). If the PRD's base prefers the status quo, there is a high political cost to challenging it.

Drug profits going to organized crime only complicate the matter. Writing in the latest issue of the Milken Institute Review, former U.S. foreign service officer Laurence Kerr takes a page out of U.S. history. "America has been in Mexico's shoes: flush with the bounty of illegal liquor sales, organized crime thoroughly penetrated the U.S. justice system during Prohibition. As long as Americans willingly bury Mexican drug traffickers in greenbacks, progress in constraining the trade is likely to be limited." Regrettably, Mexico's institutional reform will also be limited and the death toll will keep climbing.

Write to O'

30285  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: August 17, 2008, 11:32:00 PM
Today I am grateful to have accompanied my son to a birthday party and to have watched as I saw him swim in the ocean for the first time with his friends.

I first watched for a while to get a sense of how good his judgment was (pleasantly relieved to see it to be pretty good, , , today at least) and then I joined him.
30286  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: August 17, 2008, 12:34:51 PM
Secret work of SAS in Iraq exposed

The secret work of SAS troops battling Al Qa'eda terrorists in Iraq has been exposed by the American commander in the country.

By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
Last Updated: 11:14PM BST 11 Aug 2008

British special forces had played an "immense" role in taking out terrorist bomb-making cells and insurgent leaders over the last five years, said Gen David Petraeus.

In one incident the SAS blended into the heavy Baghdad traffic by hiring a pink pick-up truck and removing their military clothing to capture a terrorist, the general said.

"They have helped immensely in the Baghdad area, in particular, to take down the al-Qaeda car bomb networks and other al-Qaeda operations in Iraq's capital city, so they have done a phenomenal job in that regard," he said.

The exposure of SAS exploits is unusual as the Ministry of Defence very rarely comments on special forces operations giving little insight.

The SAS has been operating from Baghdad since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 carrying out strike operations against insurgents.

Very little is known about the success of their missions but Gen Petraeus indicated yesterday that working alongside their American colleagues in Delta Force the British had had a significant impact in defeating Al Qa'eda in Iraq.

The SAS had played a key part in defeating a network of car bombers in Baghdad that had brought devastation to the capital.

Quoting the Special Air Service motto "Who Dares Wins" the general said there had been numerous successes on many "very important operations".

"They have exceptional initiative, exceptional skill, exceptional courage and, I think, exceptional savvy. I can't say enough about how impressive they are in thinking on their feet," said Gen Petraeus, the main architect of "surge" strategy that has seen a substantial decrease in violence with the influx of extra American troops.

The SAS, working alongside MI6, the Special Reconnaissance Regiment and the Special Forces Support Group, are based in The Station, a high security area in Baghdad's Green Zone.
SAS snipers have been extremely successful shooting dead suicide bombers about to detonate their devices and troopers have called in clinical air strikes to kill terror chiefs known as "high value targets".

Officers have said Baghdad is one of the "most challenging" environments the unit has ever faced in the world.
It is thought the troops have killed hundreds of insurgents both in Baghdad and when they have been called down to Basra to assist regular British troops.

But British special forces have paid a high price for their success in Iraq with 10 killed and scores seriously wounded, with some losing limbs.

Among the biggest cause of casualties has been from abseiling out of helicopters while carrying more than 100lbs of equipment. The troops now have a designated physiotherapist.
Last month a coroner allowed the naming of Tpr Lee Fitzsimmons and Sgt John Battersby who were killed when their RAF Puma helicopter crashed near the Baghdad suburb of Salman Pak.

Another SAS soldier Nick Brown died during a firefight with Shia fighters in Baghdad on 26 March when he was part of a team sent in to arrest a militia commander.

American commanders have also said SAS troops have been used to hunt for the five British hostage who were seized from a Finance Ministry building in Baghdad in May last year.
30287  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Icebreakers on: August 17, 2008, 11:47:02 AM
A Push to Increase Icebreakers in the Arctic
Published: August 16, 2008
A growing array of military leaders, Arctic experts and lawmakers say the United States is losing its ability to patrol and safeguard Arctic waters even as climate change and high energy prices have triggered a burst of shipping and oil and gas exploration in the thawing region.

 The National Academy of Sciences, the Coast Guard and others have warned over the past several years that the United States’ two 30-year-old heavy icebreakers, the Polar Sea and Polar Star, and one smaller ice-breaking ship devoted mainly to science, the Healy, are grossly inadequate. Also, the Polar Star is out of service.

And this spring, the leaders of the Pentagon’s Pacific Command, Northern Command and Transportation Command strongly recommended in a letter that the Joint Chiefs of Staff endorse a push by the Coast Guard to increase the country’s ability to gain access to and control its Arctic waters.

In the meantime, a resurgent Russia has been busy expanding its fleet of large oceangoing icebreakers to around 14, launching a large conventional icebreaker in May and, last year, the world’s largest icebreaker, named 50 Years of Victory, the newest of its seven nuclear-powered, pole-hardy ships.

Adm. Thad W. Allen, the commandant of the Coast Guard, who toured Alaska’s Arctic shores two weeks ago with the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff, said that whatever mix of natural and human factors is causing the ice retreats, the Arctic is clearly opening to commerce — and potential conflict and hazards — like never before.

“All I know is, there is water where it didn’t used to be, and I’m responsible for dealing with that,” Admiral Allen said in a recent interview. Given the 8 or 10 years it would take to build even one icebreaker, he added, “I think we’re at a crisis point on making a decision.”

The cost of building icebreakers and keeping the older vessels operating until the new ones have been launched could easily top $1.5 billion, according to several estimates. Arguments for new ships include the strategic, like maintaining a four-seasons ability to patrol northern waters, and the practical, like being able to quickly reach a disabled cruise ship or an oil spill in ice-clogged waters, Admiral Allen said.

Even with the increasing summer retreats of sea ice, which many polar scientists say probably are being driven in part by global warming caused by humans, there will always be enough ice in certain parts of the Arctic to require icebreakers. Admiral Allen and members of the presidential U.S. Arctic Research Commission have been pressing lawmakers for support and urging the White House to issue a presidential directive that emphasizes the need for increased oversight of the Arctic and for new ships.

Shipping traffic in the far north is not tracked precisely. But experts provided telling snapshots of maritime activity to legislators and other officials from Arctic countries at an international conference last week in Fairbanks, Alaska. For example, Mead Treadwell, who attended the conference and is an Alaskan businessman and the chairman of the research commission, said officials were told that more than 200 cruise ships circled Greenland in 2007, up from 27 in 2004.

Lawson W. Brigham, chairman of the three-year Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment that is scheduled to finish work this year, told the gathering that more than 5,400 vessels of 100 tons or larger operated in Arctic waters in the summer of 2004. During that summer there were 102 trips in the Northwest Passage and five complete transits of that legendary route, he said.

The growing Pentagon support for the Coast Guard, which is within the Department of Homeland Security, followed several highly publicized maneuvers by Russia aimed at cementing its position as the Arctic’s powerhouse, including sending a pair of small submarines to the seabed at the North Pole a year ago.

White House officials said they have been reviewing Arctic policies for several years and were nearly finished with a new security policy on the region — the first since 1994. Bush administration officials said last week that it could be issued within a few weeks, but they declined to discuss what it would say.

The enduring question is where the money would come from for rehabilitating the older ships and building new ones. The Department of Homeland Security is still mainly focused on preventing terrorist attacks. The Coast Guard is stretched thin, Admiral Allen said, protecting facilities in the Persian Gulf, seeking drug smugglers and patrolling coastal waters elsewhere.

In Congress, the issue has mainly been championed by lawmakers from Alaska and Washington State. The Polar Sea, Polar Star and Healy are based in Seattle.

As early as 2001, the Navy issued reports saying that it had limited ability to operate ships and planes reliably in the Arctic. But with two costly wars under way, the region has remained a low priority with Navy budgets for polar analysis declining.

The letter from the three military commands to the Joint Chiefs last spring said reliable icebreakers were essential to controlling northern waters and to maintaining American research stations in Antarctica. But the Arctic was clearly the commands’ biggest concern, with the letter citing “climate change and increasing economic activity” as reasons for upgrading the icebreaker fleet.

With no current program aimed at upgrading ships and no new ones planned, the letter said, “The nation’s icebreaking capability has diminished substantially and is at risk of being unable to support our national interests in the Arctic regions.”

On Friday, a Pentagon spokesman said that the military’s leadership recognized the importance of the issue and was arranging for Admiral Allen to give a presentation to the Joint Chiefs on Arctic security this year.
30288  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 17, 2008, 11:40:39 AM
Dang it GM, will you stop interrupting the flow with the facts?  cheesy

OK OK the NSA does not have any "divisions", but certainly other parts of the federal govt, of which they are a part, do.

Concerning changing the laws of the War on Drugs, several states have tried quite vigorously to do exactly that with regard to Mairjuana.  Initiatives have been passed in Alaska, Oregon, and California (and maybe others?) yet the Feds have continued on their merry way.  Yes I know federal law supersedes, but , , ,

30289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US-Russia on: August 16, 2008, 10:04:32 AM
Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler     
Monday, 11 August 2008 

Time to stop the hand-wringing about Russia's re-igniting the Cold War by invading Georgia.  Time to start thinking of what a golden opportunity this presents.

First the reality.  Russia, before, during, and after the Soviet Union was and remains a brutal imperialist dictatorship.  The Soviet Union was simply the same old Czarist Russian imperialism with Marxism-Leninism as an ideological rationale.  The fall of the USSR only meant the fall of the rationale.

So Russia is back to where it has always been, with the Russian compulsion for brute force bullying as its way of dealing with the world.  It is no accident, comrades, that  Russians were the Soviets, and it is no surprise whatever that they are behaving like Soviets in Georgia today.

Thus the fundamental reality of how to conduct foreign policy with Russia, however distasteful it may be to the squishes at the State Department chronically afflicted with terminal testicular atrophy:

The only thing Russians in the Kremlin understand and respect is superior force and the willingness to use it against them.  If you don't give them a punch in the mouth and a bloody nose the moment they start to bully you, they will keep bullying you until you start fighting back hard - or you capitulate and obey their orders.

It's either-or, win-lose.  Those are their rules.  As Lenin expressed, Kto-kovo?, Who-whom?  For Lenin, this was the only question that mattered, who conquers whom?  Just as Lenin was the perfect Communist, so was he the perfect Russian.

Ronald Reagan won the Cold War by understanding that if those are the Russians' rules, then we had to play by them.  Which is why he announced at his first cabinet meeting as president in January 1981:  "Here's my strategy on the Cold War:  We win, they lose."

The golden opportunity Putin is giving us by invading Georgia is that it gives us the perfect excuse to play by his rules.  The way you play is this:  identify Russian weaknesses and vulnerabilities, then exploit them to the hilt.

Putin, has, for example, some $40 billion (yes, with a ‘b') in personal hidden bank accounts in Switzerland and elsewhere in the name of various third-party cut-outs.  Arrangements could be made to seize or attach them.  Putin needs to be personally wiped out financially.

Russians are conducting a cyber-war upon Georgia.  Pentagon hacker teams should be unleashed to conduct cyber-war upon Russian computer systems.

Every bit of intel and SIGINT (electronic or signal intelligence) we can get should be given to the Georgians.

But most important, the Georgians need Stinger anti-aircraft missiles and Javelin anti-tank missiles.

As explained by Col. Ralph Peters in The Phony, Brutal, Sloppy, and Inept Invasion of Georgia, the most striking feature of this war so far has been the incredibly incompetent performance of the Russian pilots.  They've missed more targets than they've hit.

The Russians' mighty Red Army was defeated in Afghanistan by disorganized tribesmen armed with Stinger missiles.  As the Afghans learned, take the Russians out of the air and they can be beaten on the ground.  And the Afghans only had RPGs (rocket propelled grenade launchers) against Russian armor.  They didn't have any Javelins.

The Georgians are better fighters, are far better trained and organized than the Afghan Mujahaddin.  2,000 Georgian soldiers have been fighting hard, battle-trained, in Iraq with Coalition forces - and are being flown back to Georgia.

Putin is serving himself up on a platter.  Give the Georgians Stingers and Javelins, give them additional material and intel support, and they can make Georgia Putin's Afghanistan.

It is absolutely necessary for this to happen.  Georgia is where Russian barbaric imperialism must be stopped.  It can be stopped, but the action to do so must be now, before Russia's seizure of Georgia is consolidated.  Then Ukraine is next.

I am calling upon every conservative leader to support freedom fighters in Georgia as they did in Afghanistan, Angola, and Nicaragua 25 years ago, and demand that President Bush provide that support as did President Reagan.

That's what defeated Soviet imperialism then, that's what can defeat Russian imperialism now.  The Russian bear must be put back in its cage.

30290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Note the date on this one on: August 16, 2008, 09:54:16 AM
Note the date of this one

Written by Dr. Jack Wheeler     
Thursday, 12 May 2005 
When you were a kid, do you remember reading the great epic of Greek mythology called Jason and the Argonauts? Sent on a mission he is not expected to survive by the man who has usurped his throne, Jason assembles a crew of heroes, including Hercules, Orpheus, Castor and Pollux, and sails in the great ship Argo across the Euxine Sea to the distant land of Colchis to capture the legendary Golden Fleece.

It’s a marvelous adventure story which the ancient Greeks believed was not myth but true. And sure enough - it turns out that Colchis was a real place and there really was a Golden Fleece. At the east end of the Black Sea (the Greeks called it the Euxine), there is a range of huge mountains called the Caucasus. The mountain streams that poured down the Caucasus and into the Euxine carried so many particles of gold that the folks who lived there - the Colchians - would peg sheep skins in the streams to trap the gold particles in the wool.

Colchis is one of the most ancient lands in the world. It’s where the original Caucasians came from. Today it is called Georgia. This week, George Bush sailed in Air Force One to modern Colchis to be wildly welcomed by hundreds of thousands of Georgian Argonauts thanking him for rescuing the Georgian Golden Fleece from its former conqueror, Russia.

It’s hard to even begin describing how cool Georgia is. Here’s an example:


This is the fortress town of Shatili in an extremely remote Caucasus region in Georgia called Khevsureti. It was built by the Crusaders 1,000 years ago. The Khevsur people who live here trace their ancestry back to these Crusaders and until the 1930s still wore chain mail in feud-battles with other towns. I took this picture in 1991.

Or how about this:


This is Ush-Guli high in the Caucasus in a region known as Svanetia. It’s the highest village in Europe and even more remote than Khevsureti. Although it’s a World Heritage site, very few people ever are able to reach it. I got there by helicopter. The people of Ush-Guli are overwhelmingly friendly - perhaps a bit too much so. Having a meal with Svanetians involves endless toasts, drinking from ram’s horns filled with their local firewater. The drunkest I ever got in my life was in Ush-Guli.

Then again, most everywhere you go in Georgia, people are overwhelmingly friendly. Great food, great wine, those endless toasts, thousands of years of history - yet they spent those millennia fighting off foreign invaders: Romans, Persians, Arabs, Seljuk Turks, Mongols, the hordes of Tamerlane, Safarid Persians, Ottoman Turks, and finally the Russians who annexed Georgia in 1801.

Throughout the centuries - centuries of attempts to force Islam upon them - they clung to their Christian faith, which they had adopted in the 1st century AD. Many of the oldest Christian churches in the world are in Georgia. The very country is named after its patron saint, St. George (fl. 300 AD), with a long succession of kings named Georgi.

When the Bolsheviks took over the Russian Revolution on October 25, 1917, Georgians broke free, declaring an independent state on May 26, 1918. The new Soviet Russian government signed a treaty recognizing Georgian independence on May 7, 1920. It was of course a ruse. The Red Army invaded in February, 1921. Even though the leader of the Soviet Union, Josef Dzhugashvili - who assumed the name Stalin or “steel” in Russian - and his head of the Soviet KGB, Lavrenti Beria, were both Georgian (Stalin was born in Gori in 1879, Beria in Mingrelia in 1899), they oppressed their fellow countrymen worse than the Czars.

Just as they rejected Islam and remained Christian, so did the Georgians reject Communism. When the Soviet Union began to disassemble after the fall of the Berlin Wall (November 9, 1989), they broke free again, led by Zviad Gamsakhurdia, the Father of Georgian Independence.

I first met Gamsakhurdia in June, 1991. He had written the Georgian Declaration of Independence passed by parliament on April 8, and had been elected president on May 26 - while Gorbachev was still trying to hold the USSR together. It was an intense time and he was a little preoccupied. Nonetheless he had me and my son Brandon (age 7) flown all over the country in his private helicopter. I fell in love with the place.

But the next dozen years were not kind to Georgia. A former Soviet apparatchik, Edvard Shevardnadze, was able to stage a coup in December 1991, and had Gamsakhurdia assassinated on December 31, 1993. Not until December 2003, with the “Rose Revolution,” did Georgia at last become democratic and truly free.

Well, maybe. It almost seems that Russians have a defective gene that compels them to be imperialists. If they can’t re-colonize Georgia, then they’ll do their best to bite off parts off it. Notice on this map of Georgia the regions of Abkhazia, Ajaria, and South Ossetia:


In all three regions, the Kremlin stationed Russian troops, supported separatist movements, and instigated civil wars. The new Georgian president, Mikhail Saakashvili, was finally able to kick out the mafiocracy of Aslan Abashidze from Ajaria in May 2004, but the Russians refuse to get their soldiers out of Abkazia and South Ossetia to this day.

So little wonder that over a quarter million Georgians turned out to hear the President of the United States celebrate the day, April 9, 1991, the statue of Lenin was pulled down at the very spot where he was speaking, and tell them “Americans respect your courageous choice for liberty - as you build a free and democratic Georgia, the American people will stand with you.” They cried tears of gratitude when his words were meant for Russia: “The territory and sovereignty of Georgia must be respected by all nations.” (You can read the entire speech here .)

The people of Georgia recognize George Bush as the savior and protector of freedom that he is. Why can’t the Russians? Churchill said Russia was an enigma wrapped in a riddle inside a puzzle. Why can’t they live in peace with their neighbors instead of always wanting a piece of their neighbors? Part of the answer must lie in there being no word for “peace” in the Russian language.

The Russian word mir is always translated as “peace.” But mir doesn’t mean peace, it means order. For us peace means freedom, people being left alone without violence so they can conduct their lives and work towards their goals peacefully. For Russians, peace means conformity: when people are all good little boys and girls and do what they are told by their rulers, you have order and therefore peace.

Put succinctly: “Peace” in English means the absence of violence. “Peace” in Russian - Mir -- means the absence of disobedience.

Mir, Russian peace, can only come by being forcefully imposed on people and is always win-lose. As Lenin said, there is but one question of any importance in human relations: Kto-Kovo? Who-Whom? Who wins, who loses? For Lenin, the only way to win was to make someone else lose. The concept of win-win, of mutual cooperation for mutual benfit was incomprehensible to him (literally, like creating something out of nothing). Putin, the ex-KGB agent looks at the world the same way. It’s the Russians’ fatal mind-flaw.

Until Putin and his fellow Russians abandon Kto-Kovo, the people of Georgia and those of other former Russian colonies will continue to look upon them as threats - and to seek protection from America. The people of Georgia are determined that their Golden Fleece of Freedom never be stolen from them again.
30291  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia-Georgia on: August 16, 2008, 09:42:05 AM

Verbatim of the press conference with Georgia President and Secretary Rice
30292  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: August 16, 2008, 09:38:28 AM
Fleshing out GM's rather laconic description, his post is of an interview about the Chinese educational system and contrasts it to the US one.
30293  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 16, 2008, 09:05:54 AM
More than the political opposition.
30294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia's relation to Europe on: August 16, 2008, 09:00:04 AM
Kremlin 'Capitalism'
Is a Threat to the West
August 16, 2008; Page A11

Moscow has much more than a military threat to intimidate countries in its neighborhood. Long before its foray into Georgia, Russia was using its market strength in oil and gas resources to strong-arm its neighbors and outmaneuver the United States and the European Union. As NATO considers how to respond to Russian troops in Georgia, the West should also consider how to counter Kremlin capitalism.

Ever since Vladimir Putin became Russia's president in 2000, Russian authorities have used the power of the state to gut Russian companies and seize their assets for a fraction of their value. Yukos, once Russia's largest oil producer, was seized by Russian authorities allegedly for back taxes. Its assets were auctioned off at bargain prices to Russia's state-owned energy giants, Rosneft and Gazprom, while its CEO and other company officials were arrested and imprisoned.

The government's seizure also deprived ExxonMobil and Chevron from buying major stakes in Yukos. Sibneft, Russneft, and other Russian hydrocarbon companies have suffered similar fates.

More recently, TNK-BP, Russia's third-largest oil company and a joint venture between British Petroleum and a group of Russian billionaires, has been the target of Russian government investigations. BP calls the government's scrutiny a campaign of harassment. The company's British head, Robert Dudley, was forced to flee Russia two weeks ago, and its British CFO abruptly resigned. This after Gazprom wrested control of the $22 billion Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project from Royal Dutch Shell for a fraction of market value.

BP vows to use "all legal means" to protect its investment. But lawyers won't be enough. For the TNK-BP dispute is about geopolitics and Russian hegemony as much as it is about money.

Since Mr. Putin became president, the Russian government has renationalized much of the energy sector; it now owns 50% of the country's oil reserves and 89% of the gas reserves. Beyond ownership, the Kremlin has positioned high-ranking government officials and other Putin-loyalists -- elites in the security services known as siloviki (men of power) -- to key positions in leading Russian companies, even while they keep their government jobs.

Before becoming Russia's current president, Dmitry Medvedev was both Gazprom's chairman and Russia's first deputy prime minister. siloviki also control major companies in metals, mining and other strategic sectors. While profits are fine, the Kremlin ensures that these companies promote Russia's foreign-policy goals.

This strategy extends beyond energy. Two weeks ago, Moscow announced the formation of a state grain-trading company to control up to half of the country's cereal exports, which are the fifth-largest in the world. Its purpose, most analysts believe, is to provide the government with greater leverage over food-importing nations at a time of rising food costs and shortages.

But it is in the natural gas sector where the Kremlin wields the most power. Numerous Western European countries depend heavily on Moscow for natural gas to heat homes and produce electricity, with some Eastern European countries almost completely dependent. Beyond supply, Russia also enjoys a near monopoly of the pipelines transporting gas to Europe from the east. In a further bid to extend its grip on gas supplies, Russia -- along with such anti-U.S. governments as Iran and Venezuela -- is supporting the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, which some fear will become an OPEC-like cartel.

While Russia may or may not intend to start a new Cool War, it is not afraid of leaving Europeans out in the cold -- literally. In the middle of winter 2006, it cut off gas supplies to Ukraine and parts of Western Europe. It has also cut off gas to Moldova, Belarus and Georgia.

This past spring, critics charge that, in part due to Russian pressure, Germany opposed Membership Action Plans for Ukraine and Georgia, the first step toward NATO membership. They point to a Gazprom-led consortium building the Nord Stream gas pipeline from Russia underneath the Baltic Sea directly to Germany, while circumventing pro-U.S. countries like Poland, Ukraine, and the Baltic states. (Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's role as Nord Stream chairman could not have hurt Russia's influence.)

Last month, after the Czech Republic supported an antiballistic missile system opposed by Russia, the flow of Russian oil dropped 40%. President Medvedev had promised "retaliatory steps."

Aware of their vulnerability, in March 2007 the Europeans developed an "Energy Policy for Europe" to coordinate energy security, competitiveness and sustainability. But agreeing on principles has been far easier than acting on them. Moscow continues to exploit differences among EU member states -- whose dependence on Russian gas, voracity for lucrative pipeline transit fees and desire to tap into Russian energy markets vary considerably -- in order to promote greater European dependence on Russian gas and pipelines.

Thus, when a consortium of European countries proposed the Nabucco pipeline, to pump gas from Central Asia and the Caucasus to Europe without going through Russia, Mr. Putin earlier this year personally met with foreign government and corporate leaders on behalf of South Stream, a rival pipeline that would go from Russia across the Black Sea to Bulgaria and the rest of Europe. To ensure that South Stream would have gas to transport, Gazprom upped its offer to Caspian region suppliers to pay higher rates for natural gas. It also just signed a deal with Turkmenistan to invest in its gas infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Nabucco pipeline's future is cloudy, with one of its original sponsors, Hungary, switching to South Stream due in part to European dithering and skillful Russian negotiating.

Just as NATO's response to Georgia will be crucial for American credibility throughout Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia, so too U.S. leadership is vital to maintain Europe's energy security.

Short of sanctions, the West does not currently have much economic leverage. European, Japanese and American export credit agencies could refuse to finance any deals involving Russian companies that have acquired assets expropriated from foreign investors. European countries could also bar such Russian firms from operating in Europe, or could impose a special fee to reimburse expropriated investors. And rather than expel Russia from the G-8 as John McCain has proposed, members should demand that Russia respect the rights of foreign investors and ratify the Energy Charter Treaty.

Longer term, the U.S. needs to use its diplomatic and financial clout to push forward alternative energy routes. Washington's backing was vital to building the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline in five years. One of the longest of its kind, the pipeline bypasses Russia and carries crude oil from offshore fields in the Caspian Sea across Georgia to the Mediterranean. Washington must make financing and constructing the NABUCCO gas pipeline a top priority.

Washington also needs to reach out to Central Asia, and should push for a Trans-Caspian pipeline from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and west to Europe. Years of Russian domination have made these countries open to Western investment. Moreover, they understand the strategic importance of diversifying sales and transport options for their oil and gas. Western companies also offer superior technology.

But after Russia's use of military force in Georgia, these countries are wary of antagonizing their former overseer. Without a strong American presence, it is impossible for the West to compete in the region. Yet Turkmenistan has lacked a full-time U.S. ambassador for more than a year.

The markets can also help hold Russia accountable for its heavy-handedness. Two weeks ago after Mr. Putin targeted Mechel, a steelmaking giant -- suggesting that Russian antitrust and tax authorities investigate the company -- Russia's stock market lost $60 billion. Market forces may not protect BP's Russian investments or save Georgia, but they could make it far more costly for the Kremlin to proceed.

Mr. Choharis is a principal in Choharis Global Solutions, an international law and consulting firm, and an adjunct fellow at the American Security Project. He recently returned from a trip to Turkmenistan.
30295  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 16, 2008, 08:46:13 AM
I too am curious about where the NSA fits in your analysis, but right now I flesh out my question by adding that the point of my concern is not only that of "Big Brother is Watching all the time", but that even before we get to that level (agreed we are not there now, but once we do it will be too late) but that well before that Big Brother elements will tap into the capabilities of this burgeoning system of surviellance to look up what any politically unfriendly persons have been up to.  Wasn't Gov. Eliot Spitzer in trouble for using the police for privately motivated political purposes at the time he got caught with the hooker? (and just how did he get caught with the hooker?)  Haven't the Hillbillary Clintons misuse of the FBI shown us the risks here?  What happens when a Federal police starts putting tracking devices on the cars of all its opponents?  Are the private lives of all of the political opposition so perfect that they are willing to have their comings and goings gone over with a fine tooth comb before they challenge the powers that be?
30296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / US-Russia on: August 16, 2008, 12:30:28 AM
Feels like time to open this thread.  Here's a humdinger from Stratfor:

Geopolitical Diary: Countermoves to a Russian Resurgence
August 15, 2008
Poland and the United States announced an agreement on Thursday to station elements of a U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) system permanently on Polish territory. As part of the deal, Poland will also be provided with Patriot air defense batteries and an as-yet-unspecified number of U.S. Army personnel.

The world is only beginning to feel the ripples from the Kremlin’s decision to decisively exercise military power in Georgia. Moscow has now demonstrated that it is just as willing to use military tools as it is to use economic tools (it is the world’s single largest energy producer) and political tools. In short, Russia is back as an active player on the regional stage. And, as the Polish BMD deal indicates, other states have opinions on how to deal with that. Around the world, other states are considering their options.

Most of the countries of Central Europe — and especially the strategically vulnerable Baltic states — want the same thing that Poland seems to be getting: an explicit deployment of U.S. ground forces on their turf. The idea being that Russia will think long and hard about doing something to them if U.S. forces are not only precommitted to their defense as NATO allies but already physically on station in their territory. We expect many more such deals to be worked out in the weeks and months to come as the United States and NATO essentially shift their Cold War-era deployments several hundred miles to the east.

In Western Europe, the concern is of a slightly different type. While many share the Central Europeans’ concern about Russian military power, none are any longer frontline states. Their concern is more economic. Many European states — most notably, Germany — rely on Russian natural gas exports to keep their economies going. While the Central Europeans are looking for American deployments, the Western Europeans are more likely to funnel their efforts into finding alternative sources of natural gas, or alternatives to natural gas itself. Those that have the technology will also simply try to use less natural gas.

In the Arab world, the players that matter are Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states. These players see Russia primarily as an economic competitor. They also have a pre-existing hammer with which to beat the Russians. Arab oil money was essential to the development of the anti-Soviet Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s and the second Chechen insurgency in 1999. All of these states have helped crack down on those movements’ ideological progeny — al Qaeda — since the 9/11 attacks. However, all retain the ability — and the money — to turn the tap back on should the United States be willing.

Iran and Turkey are more complicated. Neither of the states always sees eye to eye with the Americans, but neither particularly cares for a resurgent Russia.

Iran, Turkey and Russia border the Caucasus. And none wants to see one of the other two become ascendant. Russian domination would threaten Turkey’s energy supplies. Russia’s fondness for sparking separatist conflicts in its rivals would raise complications for heterogeneously populated Iran.

But, at the same time, Turkey and Iran (much less the United States) are not natural partners against Russia. The Caucasus has long been a bit of a free-for-all, with geopolitical alliances shifting irregularly. Just as Russia has political, economic and military tools to bring to bear along its entire periphery, both Iran and Turkey can do the same in the Caucasus. It is going to be a very messy region.

China has even more mixed feelings. It would dearly love to tap Central Asia’s energy resources, but is concerned about clashing with pre-existing Russian interests. China is not so much threatened by Russia as it is desperate to avoid adding any more challenges to its already burgeoning list. There is a logic to China attempting to extend its influence north and west, but only if Russia is otherwise occupied. In essence, China wants to pretend that nothing has changed — unless Russia finds itself besieged by everyone else, at which point Beijing would love to take advantage.

All of these responses are potentially effective ones, but what they all have in common is that they cannot be applied overnight. It takes time to build a base and deploy troops to Poland. Shifting one’s economy away from natural gas requires substantial — and expensive — restructuring. Whipping up a Third Chechen War cannot be done in a weekend. Ankara and Tehran simply figuring out their options will take weeks. And China is loath to take the lead on anything regarding Russia right now.

Russia, in contrast, has gotten its energy exports — and income — to post-Cold War highs. Its military is gunning for a fight, and politically it is once again unified. The Kremlin does not require prep time to make its next moves.

The challenge for all of those seeking to contain a Russian resurgence is as simple to state as it is complex to initiate: to do so quickly enough and with enough partners that a Russia with two free hands cannot pre-empt.

30297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: BO kitty-whipped on: August 15, 2008, 09:41:19 PM


Published on on August 15, 2008.

Hillary and Bill have hijacked the Denver convention, making it into a carbon copy of what it would have looked like had she won until the last possible moment. By the time Obama gets up to speak and put his stamp on the convention, Hillary will have had one prime time night all to herself. Bill will have pre-empted a second night. Hillary will have had all the nominating and seconding speeches she wants. And the roll call of the states would record, in graphic detail, how the voters of state after state rejected Obama’s candidacy in the primaries. Only then, after three and a half days of all Clinton all the time will the convention then, finally, turn to its nominee and allow him to have an hour in the sun!

And what leverage did the Clintons have to achieve all of this? None. Hillary could not have taken the convention by storm and any show of party disunity would marginalize her forever in the Democratic Party. Had she or her supporters tried to pull off distracting demonstrations or to recreate Lafayette Park in Chicago in 1968, she would have paid a permanent price among the party faithful for sabotaging Obama’s candidacy.

This Clintonian tour de force raises a key question about Barack Obama: Is he strong enough to be president or can he be pushed around? His failure to stand up to the Clintons makes one wonder how effective he will be against bin Laden, Iran, Chavez, or Putin.

And now word emerges from the Obama camp that Indiana Senator Evan Bayh is on the short list for vice president. To select Bayh would bring Obama’s nemesis, Mark Penn, in through the campaign’s back door. Penn and Bayh are an item. Mark’s second (and current) wife, Nancy Jacobson was the key fund raiser for the Senator during his Senate campaigns. Penn has always been Bayh’s consultant and chief advisor. Penn played the key role in 1996 in getting Bayh a slot as the convention keynote speaker. Bayh has always marched to Mark Penn’s tune.

This, of course, the same Mark Penn who structured the vilification of Barack Obama as a marginal American and orchestrated the campaign to summon the white working class in opposition to his candidacy.

How much will Obama take?

His weakness if the face of the Clinton demands coupled with his refusal to debate McCain in the town forum meetings raise the question of whether he is tough when the teleprompter is turned off. Why is he afraid or unwilling to do tough interviews? It is not enough for him to say that he is the front runner and ask why he should risk such confrontations. In case he hasn’t noticed, he’s not the front runner. The tracking polls all suggest a tied race where taking certain risks would be reasonable, unless his handlers worry about his vulnerability in difficult or extemporaneous situations.

Is an unscripted Obama a pushover? Will foreign leaders conclude that he is not up to the job, just as Khrushchev did with JFK at his 1961 Vienna summit that presaged the Cuban Missile crisis? If he does so poorly in negotiating with the Clintons, how will he do with the Russians?
30298  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: FSB (KGB) takes over on: August 15, 2008, 09:37:46 PM

Stratfor Today » August 14, 2008 | 1955 GMT

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin
In the months before the Russo-Georgian war, Tbilisi complained that Russians were increasing their intelligence operations inside Georgia and its two secessionist regions. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB, formerly the KGB) did indeed have heavy influence on Russia’s military operations in Georgia; the FSB reportedly laid extensive groundwork in the country and had a significant role in the campaign’s strategic planning.

As the war between Russia and Georgia reaches a simmer and the diplomatic front becomes the point of focus, some interesting details about how this war was implemented are surfacing.

In the months leading up to the war, Tbilisi repeatedly levied charges of increased intelligence activity by the Russians inside Georgia and its two secessionist regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is to be expected that Russia would have heavy and entrenched intelligence links inside the former Soviet state — and doubly so within the two separatist enclaves that Russia protects. But in the decade since former Russian President and current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin came to power, he has strengthened and empowered Russian security services, particularly the Federal Security Service (FSB). Moreover, Putin has positioned his KGB or FSB cronies into many high stations of Russia’s government and institutions. It is not an understatement to say that the intelligence services are running Russia.

Having served in the KGB (now FSB) during the Soviet era, Putin naturally would look at the problem of Georgia through an intelligence officer’s lens and would be inclined to use the tools and methods of the security services. While not a military man himself, Putin clearly understands military strategy. Stratfor sources in Moscow have also indicated that the FSB laid extensive groundwork in Georgia and took a significant — perhaps leading — role in the strategic planning of the campaign. The source argues that this role was decisive in Moscow’s success. This was seen in how the war was carried out.

Ultimately, the Russian military is something of a blunt instrument. Operations in Chechnya showed that it is anything but subtle in its methods. In part, this is the reality of a large, conscripted military that relies on quantitative force. While details are still emerging about how the Georgian campaign was conducted tactically, the way Russia held at Tskhinvali in South Ossetia over the weekend before pushing forward to Gori (and from Abkhazia to Senaki at the same time) could suggest restraint and coordination on the part of the commanders on the ground — commanders either influenced or directed by FSB personnel, according to one Stratfor source. If it were up to the Russian military, it would have simply tidal-waved over the country.

Stratfor has already argued that Russia’s execution of the campaign was neither flawless nor exceptional. However, it achieved a number of both political and military objectives, and the way operations — especially later in the game — were carefully tailored and coordinated is noteworthy. Russia planned how far to push it and was perfectly willing to draw back from captured regions to achieve maximum military and political gain, with minimum military and political risk.

In thrusts to Gori and Senaki, the Russian military now appears to have pushed forward and retreated a number of times. There is little indication that heavy fighting with Georgian forces was the cause of this. Instead, it seems that the military was playing the part for the Kremlin — keeping pressure on Tbilisi by pushing in and through Gori, but also pulling back in order to give Moscow deniability when it served the Kremlin. Essentially, the entire campaign could have been tailored to minimize political fallout while moving beyond South Ossetia and Abkhazia to devastate the Georgian military’s war-fighting capability. This is a subtle balancing act the Russian military is not known for, and it could indicate that the FSB’s role in planning and execution was more signifcant.

Also, the entire Russian-Georgian war was as much a propaganda action for Russia as it was a military conflict. The nearly seamless way in which it was done — complete with the use of U.S. reporters embedded with Russian forces and Russian reporters at Washington press conferences — could only have been masterminded by the top echelons of the FSB.

The FSB is willing to make bold moves like invading Georgia, but the entire campaign was fought in a way that would minimize political fallout and ensure that other countries would not get involved — something the Russian military has no experience in doing.

But the Russian military and the FSB have a long and volatile history of simply not getting along or trusting each other. Having someone from the intelligence community run not just the country, but every facet of that country, has pushed the military into the back seat. Moreover, Putin has been slowly but deliberately pushing for military reform and modernization (including changes unpopular with the old guard) while being careful not to create a threat to his leadership. Many in the military who were so proud of the late Soviet years and so utterly devastated by the 1990s simply could not see how ineffective and corroded the military had become. The Russian military was overflowing with people — like the four generals who have been either sacked or moved within the past year — who only remembered the military’s former Soviet glory.

It has taken someone from outside the military institutions (Putin) to step back and assess how best to revive the Russian military. Putin has placed former security personnel in many key military and defense posts, keeping the military subservient to him while looking at how best to reshape the military into a tool useful to the Kremlin.

But in doing this, Putin could be turning the military into a tool for the FSB. This would be like the CIA in the United States telling the Pentagon how to wage a war. The two might cooperate (and have turf wars), especially in Afghanistan, but one does not control the other. In Russia, the leadership has always balanced the two sides or simply crushed them both equally, but Putin is changing how the shots are called and might be cultivating a whole new toolbox for the FSB to work with.

30299  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 15, 2008, 06:31:35 PM
GM, I get all that.

What does leave me uneasy though is the idea that under the standards you describe, the government will be able to monitor all our movements and more without tripping over the standard you enunciate. 
30300  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Law Enforcement issues on: August 15, 2008, 04:29:16 PM

As always a pleasure conversing with you in the light you bring to heated subjects.

You ask "Is it theoretically a threat? Sure. What do the statistics say?"

Here's what the Court said: "that approach would leave the homeowner at the mercy of advancing technology–including imaging technology that could discern all human activity in the home. Also rejected is the Government’s contention that the thermal imaging was constitutional because it did not detect “intimate details.” Such an approach would be wrong in principle because, in the sanctity of the home, all details are intimate details."

Is this not dicta for the principal that standards the meaning of which are eviscerated by technological progress are unsatisfactory?

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