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30251  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Virtues of the Dog on: July 30, 2008, 09:44:59 AM
Thank you.

IMHO you say it much better than the piece you quote  cheesy  Now I see that it expresses ideas with which I quite sympathetic.
30252  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hamilton: Consent of the people on: July 30, 2008, 09:41:19 AM
"The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of
THE CONSENT OF THE PEOPLE. The streams of national power ought
to flow from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate

-- Alexander Hamilton (Federalist No. 22, 14 December 1787)

Reference: Hamilton, Federalist No. 22.
30253  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Tommy Friedman agrees with me on Afg on: July 30, 2008, 09:39:58 AM
but misses the point on drilling:

NY Times

Drilling in Afghanistan
Yahoo! Buzz

Published: July 30, 2008
Sometimes in politics, particularly in campaigns, parties get wedded to slogans — so wedded that no one stops to think about what they’re saying, whether the reality has changed and what the implications would be if their bumper stickers really guided policy when they took office. Today, we have two examples of that: “Democrats for Afghanistan” and “Republicans for offshore drilling.”

Skip to next paragraph
Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times
Thomas L. Friedman

Go to Columnist Page » Republicans have become so obsessed with the notion that we can drill our way out of our current energy crisis that re-opening our coastal waters to offshore drilling has become their answer for every energy question.

Anyone who looks at the growth of middle classes around the world and their rising demands for natural resources, plus the dangers of climate change driven by our addiction to fossil fuels, can see that clean renewable energy — wind, solar, nuclear and stuff we haven’t yet invented — is going to be the next great global industry. It has to be if we are going to grow in a stable way.

Therefore, the country that most owns the clean power industry is going to most own the next great technology breakthrough — the E.T. revolution, the energy technology revolution — and create millions of jobs and thousands of new businesses, just like the I.T. revolution did.

Republicans, by mindlessly repeating their offshore-drilling mantra, focusing on a 19th-century fuel, remind me of someone back in 1980 arguing that we should be putting all our money into making more and cheaper IBM Selectric typewriters — and forget about these things called the “PC” and “the Internet.” It is a strategy for making America a second-rate power and economy.

But Democrats have their analog. For many Democrats, Afghanistan was always the “good war,” as opposed to Iraq. I think Barack Obama needs to ask himself honestly: “Am I for sending more troops to Afghanistan because I really think we can win there, because I really think that that will bring an end to terrorism, or am I just doing it because to get elected in America, post-9/11, I have to be for winning some war?”

The truth is that Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Pakistan are just different fronts in the same war. The core problem is that the Arab-Muslim world in too many places has been failing at modernity, and were it not for $120-a-barrel oil, that failure would be even more obvious. For far too long, this region has been dominated by authoritarian politics, massive youth unemployment, outdated education systems, a religious establishment resisting reform and now a death cult that glorifies young people committing suicide, often against other Muslims.

The humiliation this cocktail produces is the real source of terrorism. Saddam exploited it. Al Qaeda exploits it. Pakistan’s intelligence services exploit it. Hezbollah exploits it. The Taliban exploit it.

The only way to address it is by changing the politics. Producing islands of decent and consensual government in Baghdad or Kabul or Islamabad would be a much more meaningful and lasting contribution to the war on terrorism than even killing bin Laden in his cave. But it needs local partners. The reason the surge helped in Iraq is because Iraqis took the lead in confronting their own extremists — the Shiites in their areas, the Sunnis in theirs. That is very good news — although it is still not clear that they can come together in a single functioning government.

The main reason we are losing in Afghanistan is not because there are too few American soldiers, but because there are not enough Afghans ready to fight and die for the kind of government we want.

Take 20 minutes and read the stunning article in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine by Thomas Schweich, a former top Bush counternarcotics official focused on Afghanistan, and dwell on his paragraph on Afghan President Hamid Karzai:

“Karzai was playing us like a fiddle: The U.S. would spend billions of dollars on infrastructure improvement; the U.S. and its allies would fight the Taliban; Karzai’s friends could get rich off the drug trade; he could blame the West for his problems; and in 2009, he would be elected to a new term.”

Then read the Afghan expert Rory Stewart’s July 17 Time magazine cover story from Kabul: “A troop increase is likely to inflame Afghan nationalism because Afghans are more anti-foreign than we acknowledge, and the support for our presence in the insurgency areas is declining ... The more responsibility we take in Afghanistan, the more we undermine the credibility and responsibility of the Afghan government and encourage it to act irresponsibly. Our claims that Afghanistan is the ‘front line in the war on terror’ and that ‘failure is not an option’ have convinced the Afghan government that we need it more than it needs us. The worse things become, the more assistance it seems to receive. This is not an incentive to reform.”

Before Democrats adopt “More Troops to Afghanistan” as their bumper sticker, they need to make sure it’s a strategy for winning a war — not an election.
30254  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McCain Health Care on: July 29, 2008, 11:53:05 PM
McCain Is the Radical on Health Reform
July 30, 2008; Page A15

If you listen only to presidential campaign rhetoric, you might conclude that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama proposed bold new changes for our health-care system, while John McCain is offering only small improvements. If so, you are in for a surprise. Most health-policy analysts believe that Mr. McCain is proposing the most fundamental health-care reform.

Right now the federal government encourages private health insurance primarily through the tax system -- handing out more than $200 billion in tax subsidies every year. Mr. Obama would leave this system largely intact. Mr. McCain would completely replace it with a fairer, more efficient system with a much better chance of insuring the uninsured and controlling health costs at the same time.

Under the current system, every dollar in health-insurance premiums paid by an employer is excluded from employee income and payroll taxes. Take an employee in the 25% income-tax bracket. Throw in state and local income taxes, add the 15.3% (FICA) payroll tax, and the tax exclusion for a middle-income family is worth almost 50 cents on the dollar. To make things a little better, employees can often pay their share of the premium with pretax dollars as well.

But this system is extremely arbitrary. There is virtually no tax relief for people who work for the 40% of employers who do not provide insurance, for part-time workers or people not in the labor market, or for anyone else who for any reason must buy his own insurance. The self-employed get a slightly better deal: They can deduct 100% of their premiums, but they get no relief from the payroll tax.

According to the Lewin Group, a private health-care consulting firm, families earning $100,000 a year get four times as much tax relief as families earning $25,000. In other words, the biggest subsidy goes to those who least need it, and who probably would have purchased insurance anyway.

The system is also wasteful. People can always lower their taxes by spending more on health insurance, and there is no limit to how bloated a health plan can be.

Under the McCain plan, no longer would employers be able to buy insurance with pretax dollars. These payments would be taxable to the employee, just like wages. However, every individual would get a $2,500 credit (and every family would get $5,000) to be applied dollar-for-dollar against taxes owed.

The McCain plan does not raise taxes, nor does it lower them. Instead, it takes the existing system of tax subsidies and treats everyone alike, regardless of income or job status. All health insurance would be sold on a level playing field under the tax law, regardless of how it is purchased.

The impact would be enormous. For the first time, low- and moderate-income families would get just as much tax relief as the very rich when they purchase health insurance. People who must purchase their own insurance would get just as much tax relief as those who obtain it through an employer. Whereas Mr. Obama would continue the current practice of giving the vast bulk of federal help to the rich (through tax subsidies) and the poor (through spending programs), the McCain tax credit would give the most new tax relief to the middle class.

The McCain plan would also encourage all Americans to control costs. The tax credit would subsidize the core insurance that everyone should have. It would not subsidize bells and whistles (marriage counseling, acupuncture, etc.) as the current system does. Since employees and their employers will be paying for additional coverage with aftertax dollars, everyone will have an incentive to compare the value of extra health benefits to the value of other things money can buy. When they eliminate health-care waste, they would get to keep every dollar they save.

The McCain tax credit would be refundable. People could apply $2,500 per person or $5,000 per family to the purchase of health insurance, even if they do not owe any income taxes. Families would not have to wait until April 15 the following year to get their credit. They could obtain the subsidy at the time the insurance is purchased.

The credit would also be transferable. Insurance companies and other intermediaries would be able to help families obtain their credit and apply it directly to health-insurance premiums.

The McCain health plan would allow people to buy insurance across state lines -- thus creating a competitive, national market for health insurance. It would provide additional federal money for people who have been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition, making it easier for people who have lost their insurance to obtain new coverage. It would also encourage Medicare to become a smarter, more efficient buyer of care.

The McCain plan will not solve all our health-care problems. But it has a far better chance of positively reforming the system than any other plan that has been proposed in this campaign season.

Mr. Goodman is president of the National Center for Policy Analysis. He is an unpaid adviser to the McCain campaign.

30255  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 29, 2008, 11:50:57 PM
McCain's Tax Blunder
July 30, 2008; Page A14
One of the miracles of this Presidential election campaign is that John McCain still has a chance to win, notwithstanding his best attempts to kick it away. In his latest random policy improvisation, the Arizona Senator tried to give up the tax issue.

On ABC's "This Week" Sunday, Mr. McCain was asked to draw distinctions between his and the current Administration's economic policy. Given an easy opening, the Senator came back with his usual hodgepodge of new child-tax credits, promises to "veto every single pork barrel bill" and close wasteful government agencies, cut dependence on foreign oil and introduce a gas-tax holiday.

Then host George Stephanopoulos raised Social Security. "You're a longtime supporter of the private accounts, as President Bush called for them." Wishing to further distance himself from President Bush, when he could have drawn an equally useful contrast with Barack Obama, Mr. McCain didn't even own up to his support for private retirement accounts, simply saying, "I am a supporter of sitting down together and putting everything on the table and coming up with an answer."

Mr. Stephanopoulos pressed, "So that means payroll tax increases are on the table, as well?" Here came the words that have caused the McCain campaign well deserved grief: "There is nothing that's off the table. I have my positions, and I'll articulate them. But nothing's off the table."

So given a chance to reiterate his opposition to tax increases -- and underscore a main contrast with his opponent -- Mr. McCain punted. Democrats were quick to pounce, with the Democratic National Committee issuing a press release headlined, "McCain Tax Pledge? Not so much." It provided citations of the presumptive GOP nominee asserting that "Senator Obama will raise your taxes. I won't." Expect the "nothing's off the table" line to show up in Democratic TV spots this fall.

The wandering candidate also put his chief economic adviser, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, in an uncomfortable spot. Back in June, the McCain campaign went after Mr. Obama's proposal for a Social Security payroll tax increase on income above $250,000. A President McCain, his adviser then said, wouldn't consider a payroll tax increase "under any imaginable circumstances." So much for that.

Economics has never been Mr. McCain's strong suit, but with Iraq receding as a crisis the economy is the ground where the Senator will have to fight and win. And the tax issue provides him with a potent opening, given Mr. Obama's pledge to raise taxes on incomes, dividends and capital gains. In proposing to raise the payroll tax cap, the Democrat is to the left even of Hillary Clinton. Mr. McCain's Sunday blunder will make that issue that much harder to exploit.

Such mistakes also help explain the continued lack of enthusiasm for Mr. McCain among many conservatives. Meeting with us last December, before the primaries, he declared that "I will not agree to any tax increase," repeating the phrase for emphasis. He did not say any tax increase with the exception of Social Security. If Mr. McCain can't convince voters that he's better on taxes than is a Democrat who says matter-of-factly that he wants to raise taxes, the Republican is going to lose in a rout.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary
30256  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Reagan on: July 29, 2008, 11:42:34 PM
Ronald Reagan, speaking at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin, June 12, 1987:

In this season of spring in 1945, the people of Berlin emerged from their air-raid shelters to find devastation. Thousands of miles away, the people of the United States reached out to help. And in 1947 Secretary of State George Marshall announced the creation of what would become known as the Marshall Plan. Speaking precisely 40 years ago this month, he said: "Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine, but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos." [T]hat dream became real. Japan rose from ruin to become an economic giant. Italy, France, Belgium -- virtually every nation in Western Europe saw political and economic rebirth; the European Community was founded.

In West Germany and here in Berlin, there took place an economic miracle, the Wirtschaftswunder. Adenauer, Erhard, Reuter, and other leaders understood the practical importance of liberty -- that just as truth can flourish only when the journalist is given freedom of speech, so prosperity can come about only when the farmer and businessman enjoy economic freedom. The German leaders reduced tariffs, expanded free trade, lowered taxes. From 1950 to 1960 alone, the standard of living in West Germany and Berlin doubled.

In the 1950s, Khrushchev predicted: "We will bury you." But in the West today, we see a free world that has achieved a level of prosperity and well-being unprecedented in all human history. . . . And now the Soviets themselves may, in a limited way, be coming to understand the importance of freedom. . . . Are these the beginnings of profound changes in the Soviet state? Or are they token gestures, intended to raise false hopes in the West, or to strengthen the Soviet system without changing it? There is one sign the Soviets can make that would be unmistakable, that would advance dramatically the cause of freedom and peace. General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!
30257  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Virtues of the Dog on: July 29, 2008, 10:43:41 PM
Woof LtMedTB:

As soon as I read lucid passages I became confused by what followed , , ,  embarassed  Would you be so kind as to summarize what you think this piece says?

30258  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / I took the liberty on: July 29, 2008, 10:34:54 PM

I took the liberty of renaming your thread to what I think will be a better indicator of where we are looking to go with this thread.

30259  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: OIL'S ENEMIES, UNITE! on: July 29, 2008, 10:27:07 PM
Woof Huss:

Good find. 

Please allow me to note that, unlike the forum wherein we first met, this forum seeks to have thread coherence i.e. where possible, to fit a post in an existing thread.  For example, your post easily fits in

Sorry to be anal, but may I ask that you repost it there?

30260  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia on: July 29, 2008, 04:33:08 PM
Russia: The Challenges of Global Reach
Stratfor Today » July 29, 2008 | 1556 GMT

The Russian aircraft carrier Admiral KuznetsovSummary
Russia plans to upgrade its Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and eventually build a small fleet of new aircraft carriers, the chief of the Russian navy said July 27. Russia has slowly been turning its military fortunes around from the decay and decline of the 1990s, and it could be close to having the foundation for reaching some of its goals.

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part series on the Russian navy.

During the celebration of Russia’s Navy Day on July 27, the country’s senior naval officer, Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky, articulated two points and echoed a third made July 25 about the future of the Russian fleet. Though his claims remain just that, they warrant further analysis, given that they will go to the heart of Russia’s global military reach.

Back on July 25, Vysotsky insisted that new nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) and attack submarines (SSNs) are top priorities for the Russian navy. Two days later, he further explained that the new Borei (Project 955) SSBN design will be upgraded starting with the fourth hull of the class — the next to be laid down — while preliminary research is under way on a new architecture for future aircraft carrier groups, including coordination and contact with a “space group.” Vysotsky hopes to one day have five or six such carrier groups, though design work has not yet begun.

The lead boat of the Borei class, the Yuri Dolgoruky, was only just launched last year, more than a decade after its keel was laid. It underwent a dramatic redesign when the initial submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) with which it was to be outfitted failed repeatedly in testing and was scrapped. Though the Yuri Dolgoruky is now being fitted out and two sister ships are already under construction, the replacement Bulava SLBM (known to NATO as the SS-NX-30) also has yet to mature. The Bulava fared poorly in testing, with three consecutive failures toward the end of 2006 and another in 2007. (There are rumors that testing will resume soon.)

Related Special Topic Page
Russia’s Military
Related Links
Russia: The Future of the Fleet
Russia: Future Naval Prospects
Russia: Sustaining the Strategic Fleet
Russia: Missiles That Work
An SSBN and SLBM represent a complex synthesis of some of the most advanced technologies available to mankind. One must be carefully designed and tailored to work with the other. To develop, design, alter and produce both at once is a very risky proposition. Further complicating the matter, a rush forward with production has left Moscow working with not just one, but three hulls at various stages of completion even before the missile — also supposedly entering production — is flying properly, and before integration has been completed on a single boat.

Vysotsky’s point about “upgrading” the fourth hull simply means that the Russians hope to have the kinks hammered out and the SLBM fully integrated by the time the fourth hull really starts to take shape. In other words, the hope is that the fourth hull will be the first true “production” hull — the first with the design more or less fixed from the start.

While this is obviously less than optimal, Russia is working with what it has in hand, and it would be wrong to assume that the Russians’ troubles with the Bulava are insurmountable.

Ultimately, Russia is committed to the sea leg of its nuclear triad and is working deliberately — if slowly — to build the submarines that will carry its deterrent toward the middle of this century.

Meanwhile, the last Akula II attack boat, laid down in the mid-1980s, is currently in trials (though there are rumors that this boat might be leased to India). The Akula IIs are by most accounts exceptional attack submarines, with levels of quieting comparable to or better than the U.S. improved Los Angeles class.

The launch of the Severodvinsk (of the Yasen or Project 885 class), the first new SSN to be designed and built since the collapse of the Soviet Union, is expected in 2009. Some sources suggest that a second of the class is already under construction, and that more could follow.

Though the Yasen class incorporates some modern design features with which Russian engineers have little experience, there is little doubt that the architecture relies substantially on the success of the Akula series, and comparable or better quality can be expected.

The SSN fleet is important for Moscow because of its geography. Split not only between two oceans, but also among many bodies of water, Russia’s fleet is based far from the world’s major sea lines of communication and often on the wrong side of chokepoints and technologically superior naval forces. The Soviets favored SSNs to hold those lines at risk, because their stealth and range allowed them to operate far from home port.

The Carrier
Russia’s talk of aircraft carriers is at once the most treacherous and the most ambitious. Stratfor has remarked before that the pursuit of a massive carrier fleet can be a path of folly, given not only the investment, but also the institutional skill needed to conduct deployments and flight deck operations — to say nothing of doing it well. The commitment of resources and effort, in other words, can often be used more effectively elsewhere.

Moreover, the Soviet Union has long struggled with carriers. Though it repeatedly had ambitions of a carrier fleet comparable to or second only to the United States’, the Kremlin only commissioned a full-deck carrier capable of launching conventional fixed wing aircraft in 1990: the Admiral Kuznetsov.

At nearly 60,000 tons and capable of embarking a large squadron of some 18 navalized Su-33 Flanker fighters, the Kuznetsov is larger than any other aircraft carrier in the world except those of the U.S. Navy. While five or six carriers over anything but the very long term might be ambitious to a fault for Russia, Russian shipyards are capable of building a ship of that size.

While Russia lacks much institutional knowledge about flight deck operations, the capability to regularly park very capable Flankers in the Mediterranean and beyond would be a significant shift in the global maritime balance, even if the ship and its escorts would likely fare poorly in an actual shooting war with U.S. and NATO naval formations.

While Vysotsky’s hint was only vague (and it largely looks like research is still ongoing), Russia’s new concept for carrier groups might include much higher integration with space-based sensors and platforms than ever before — an important objective if Russia hopes to even attempt to operate effectively far from its own shores in the 21st century.

In Context
Ultimately, Russia is beginning to rebuild from the ashes of the Soviet Union (in many cases with the benefit of the height of Soviet technology). But rebuilding a navy is about more than just hardware, and complex tasks like sustained flight deck operations and anti-submarine warfare are some of the most advanced techniques a navy can learn — in other words, they are often the last things a navy learns and the first it forgets.

Though some drills and occasional deployments are taking place, the Russian navy has a long way to go before truly regaining its proficiency from Soviet days. Nevertheless, it is wrong to judge the Russian military by the established standards of modern military thought. The Soviet solution to a problem was always a bit more quantitative and brute-force than a U.S. or NATO solution.

None of this is to deny or understate the challenges that Moscow faces. Rather, Stratfor is highlighting that the Russian navy is currently slated to have several new SSBNs and several more new SSN hulls in the water in three to five years, and could actually be investing significantly in constituting a small carrier fleet by then. While this might not win Moscow any wars with the world’s first-rate naval powers, it could begin to afford the Kremlin global military capabilities that it has long suffered without.

Back to top
30261  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Russia's relation to Europe on: July 29, 2008, 04:30:22 PM
Russia: The Significance of Missiles in Belarus
Stratfor Today » July 29, 2008 | 1832 GMT

The Russian Iskander short-range ballistic missileSummary
Collective Security Treaty Organization (CTSO) states (read: Belarus) could consider deploying offensive weapons on their territory at their next meeting at the end of August according to CTSO Secretary-General Nikolai Bordyuzha. Though this remains purely Russia’s call, the potential deployment has military — and more importantly, symbolic — importance.

The secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), Russia’s Nikolai Bordyuzha, stated July 28 that the member states of his organization (which include Russia and Belarus) could consider stationing both Iskander short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) and strategic bombers on their borders with Europe in response to U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) efforts in Europe. He spoke more directly about military infrastructure improvements on CSTO borders July 26. Though Bordyuzha’s comments are not a direct statement of intent from the Kremlin, Bordyuzha is a powerful ally of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and is not known for exaggeration. While most of his propositions are of mixed consequence militarily, such a move could carry immense symbolism.

A meeting of representatives of CSTO members — Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Russia and Uzbekistan — is to take place at the end of August, and potential responses to U.S. BMD efforts now look to be at the top of the agenda. However, as the pivot around which the CSTO moves as well as the enabling power in terms of military equipment, Russia’s position is the only one that really matters (another reason Bordyuzha’s statement is of import). Though there has been no shortage of rhetoric out of the Kremlin of late, there has been no actual military movement yet. The Kremlin is still calculating its next move.

(click image to enlarge)
As a response to the U.S. BMD plans, placing SRBMs in Belarus (the only CSTO member other than Russia northwest of the Black Sea, and one of Russia’s most loyal allies) would not be as militarily effective as placing them in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad (also under consideration), which is better geographically positioned to target the proposed U.S. interceptor site at Redzikowo, Poland. Both positions would put Russian Iskander SRBMs in range of Warsaw, but neither position would put them in range of the proposed X-band radar site at Misov in the Czech Republic (or even the Czech border, for that matter).

Though mobile Topol intercontinental ballistic missiles (known to NATO as the SS-25 “Sickle”) were indeed stationed in Belarus during the Cold War, Russia’s few mobile Topol-M (SS-27) missiles are safer in Russia and would not be able to target either Poland or the Czech Republic from such a short distance anyway. The deployment of strategic missiles there for purposes of threatening U.S. BMD installations in Europe is extremely unlikely.

Of course, the CSTO’s plan is all premised on the long-delayed Iskander program (known to NATO as the SS-26 “Stone”), which has long been underfunded. The Kremlin’s ability to threaten the Polish site at Redzikowo depends on its ability to field this particular system in numbers — something it has yet to demonstrate. Any deployment of a Russian battery equipped with Iskanders to Belarus would be the first foreign deployment of the weapon system.

Unfortunately for Russia, the evisceration that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty inflicted on Moscow’s land-based missile arsenal has left it without the appropriate tools to target either site from its core territory behind the Baltics.

Related Links
Russia: A Military Response to U.S. BMD
Russia: The Fundamentals of Russian Air Defense Exports
Related Special Topic Pages
Russia’s Military
The Russian Resurgence
Ballistic Missile Defense
Moving Russia’s strategic bombers back into Belarus, meanwhile, would put a component of Russia’s long-range strategic deterrent at higher risk while undermining its greatest asset — range. Like the prospect of Topol-M deployments to threaten installations not at strategic distances, this is also unlikely. The shorter-range Tu-22M Backfire is a more likely candidate in terms of capability, though it would only encourage heightened NATO air patrols along the border.

But while the military value of any such move would be limited, the symbolism is immense.

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia frantically moved its military assets (especially its nuclear weapons and top-tier weapon systems) back to its own territory, or they became assets of the newly independent former Soviet Republics and Warsaw Pact allies. Moscow has even continued to attempt to consolidate additional strategic assets inside its own territory. And while it is unclear whether the Kremlin might simply sell Iskanders to Belarus or whether it is considering actually stationing a Russian missile battery on Belarusian territory, such a move would be a military push toward Europe — reversing a trend now approaching more than a decade in the making (though there is not yet any real indication beyond rumors and rhetoric that Russia might actually redeploy nuclear weapons).

Nothing is certain yet, but it is clear that such a move would be the aggressive military counter that Poland fears. If Russian SRBMs end up in either Kaliningrad or Belarus, the Poles will be clamoring for further support from both the United States and NATO. Though it is now only a threat, an actual deployment could bring a new dynamic to Warsaw’s BMD negotiations with Washington. Meanwhile, the Baltic states to the north would be outflanked by the Russian military — bringing back fears of encirclement and even being swallowed up once again.

But from a more geopolitical standpoint, such a move could re-establish a front line in a new Cold War, with Russian weapons targeting a NATO country and U.S. weapons (either defensive or offensive) pointing back. While it would not be as intense an affront to the United States as a Cuban deployment, it will feel precisely like that to Central Europe.
30262  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China on: July 29, 2008, 04:26:48 PM
Woof GM:

I share the aritcles sentiments, but it would have been nicer if they mentioned that we were ready to perform a couple of years ago and the Taiwanese were not , , ,

Anyway, here's this from Stratfor.  I am curious what you make of your theories after reading it.


China, the Olympics and the Visa Mystery
July 29, 2008

By Rodger Baker

Related Links
Managing Change in China
Related Special Topic Pages
2008 Olympics: Beijing’s Hopes and Hurdles
China’s Economic Imbalance
Something extraordinary is happening in China, and we are not talking about the Olympics. Rather, Chinese officials have been clamping down on visa applications and implementing bureaucratic impediments to new and renewed visa applications under the guise of pre-Olympic security.

In some ways, Beijing’s plan for a safe and secure Olympics appears based on the premise that if no one shows up, there can be no trouble. But placing restrictions on the movement of managers and employees of foreign businesses operating in China, even if for a limited time as Chinese officials have been at pains to reassure, makes little sense from the standpoint of gaining political and economic benefits from hosting the Olympics. Something just isn’t right.

The Post-’70s Economic Framework
Since China’s economic reform and opening in the late 1970s, China’s economic policy — and thus the basis for the overall development of the nation — has been based on a simple two-part framework. First, draw in as much foreign investment as possible and use the money and technology to strengthen China while using the subsequent economic leverage to secure China. And second, encourage growth for growth’s sake to ensure an ever-increasing flow of money through the system to provide employment and social services to a massive and urbanizing population.

Key to this policy has been creating a very open environment for foreign businesses, which bring money, technology and expertise and use their influence with their own governments to keep stable international relations with China — hence reducing international and economic frictions and increasing the efficiency of the supply chain. For more than two decades, Chinese national strategy has thus revolved around the principle of encouraging investment, joint ventures and wholly-owned foreign enterprises in China. There have been two foundations for this strategy: the evolution of financial facilities for transferring and controlling foreign money with a level of transparency nearing international standards, and the ease of movement of personnel in and out of China.

It is this latter point that recently has been hit the hardest. Over the past several months as the Beijing Olympics drew nearer, the Chinese government has effectively frozen up most financial reform plans. It also has issued a raft of new security measures not entirely unlike other host cities in the post 9/11 security environment. But China has gone several steps further than its predecessor hosts, placing official and bureaucratic impediments on visa applications. This not only has targeted potential “troublemaking” rights advocates, it has also impacted foreign businesses ranging from invited guests to the Olympic games to managers and employees of foreign companies in China.

Business and the New Visa Hassles
The visa restrictions in particular have been a source of angst for foreign businesses and business associations. Many smaller operations may circumvent Chinese regulations and travel on tourist visas (provided they can still obtain them). And there are ways around the tighter regulations or bureaucratic hurdles if one has the right connections or the willingness to apply several times or from different locations. But multinational corporations are less willing to jeopardize their operations by skirting the laws. Instead, they are making their concerns known to Beijing and hoping that restrictions are eased in September, as Beijing has rumored and hinted will occur.

In general, these visa restrictions have been brushed aside by foreign observers as simply paranoia on China’s part regarding protests or terrorist attacks during the Olympics. In many ways, however, this makes little sense. First and most obvious, the Olympics were supposed to highlight the opening of China — not restrict the very people who have made China a key part of the global economy. Second, imposing tight restrictions in Shanghai, the center of the Chinese foreign-domestic economic nexus, makes little sense on grounds of Olympic security since Shanghai is playing only a minor role in the games compared to Beijing and Qingdao. (Think shutting down visas to New York during the Atlanta games in the name of security, though Shanghai admittedly is hosting some soccer matches.)

Shutting down business visas to keep terrorists out makes little sense anyway — it is hard to imagine Uighur militants traveling on business visas as representatives of foreign multinationals. Furthermore, by restricting business visas — even if not across the board in a coherent fashion — China is putting a massive strain not only on the ability of businesses to trust Chinese regulations and business relations with the government, but also on the fluidity of the global supply chain. Shutting down or impeding visas affects much more than delaying the movement of a single individual into China; it impacts the ability of multinational corporations to move, replace or supplement managers and dealmakers in China. A delayed visa applications of just three months still represents an entire quarter that multinational corporations cannot reliably manage their businesses operations in China, and that doesn’t take into account the visa backlog when restrictions are loosened or lifted.

Disrupting an integral part of the global economy for a full quarter because of an international exposition makes little sense. The Germans in 1936 didn’t do it, the Russians in 1980 didn’t — no one has. One doesn’t simply shut down international business transactions for three months or more to stop a terrorist — and particularly not China, which depends on foreign direct investment. This is not simply an inconvenience for some people: It is the imposition of friction on a part of the system that is supposed to be frictionless. And it is not merely individuals who are affected, but the relations between mammoth companies.

A Period of Erratic Policies
China’s behavior has been erratic for several months now, if not for the past few years, with the implementation of new and often contradictory security and economic policies. These have all been brushed aside as somehow related to preparation for the Olympics. But they are in fact anomalous. China’s behavior is not that of a country trying to show its best side for the international community, nor that of a nation simply concerned about potential terrorist or public relations threats to the Olympic games. In another two months, after the Olympics and Paralympics have ended, it will become clearer whether this was a spate of excessive paranoia or a reflection of a much more significant crisis facing the Chinese leadership — and the evidence increasingly points toward the latter.

As mentioned, China’s economic policies in the reform and opening era have been based on the idea of growth. This in many ways simply reflects the Asian economic model of maintaining cheap lending policies at home, subsidizing exports, flowing money through the system and focusing on revenue rather than profits. In essence, it is growth for the sake of growth. This was the policy of Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. And it led each of those countries to a final crisis point, striking Japan first in the early 1990s and the rest of the Asian tigers a few years later. But China managed to avoid each of the previous Asian economic crises points, as it was on the lagging end of growth and investment curves.

Following the Asian economic crisis, China fully recovered from the international stigma of Tiananmen Square and became the global economic darling. By the time the 21st century rolled around, China was already taking on the mantle of the Japanese and other Asians. It began to be labeled both an economic miracle and a rising power; a future challenge to U.S. economic dominance with all the political ramifications that brought. Were it not for 9/11, Washington would have squared off with Beijing to prevent the so-called China rise. The reprieve of international pressure that came when U.S. attention turned squarely toward Afghanistan and then Iraq freed China’s leaders from an external stress that could have brought about a very different set of economic and political decisions.

With the United States preoccupied, and no other major power really challenging China, Beijing shifted its attention to domestic issues, and its review quickly revealed the stresses to the system. These did not primarily come from “splittist” forces like the Tibetans or the Falun Gong, but rather from the economic policies that had brought China from the Third World to the center of the global economic system. Beijing is well-aware that should it continue with its current economic policies, it will face the same risk of crisis as Japan, South Korea and the rest of Asia. It is also aware that growing internal challenges — from the spread and invasiveness of corruption to geographic economic imbalances, from rising social unrest to massive dislocation of populations — are causing immediate problems.

Economics from Mao to Hu
Mao Zedong built a China designed to be self-sufficient and massively redundant. Every province, every city, every factory was supposed to be a self-contained unit, making the country capable of weathering nearly any military attack. Deng Xiaoping didn’t get rid of these redundancies when he opened the economy to foreign investment. Instead, he and his successors encouraged local officials to work to attract foreign investment and technology so as to raise China’s economic standard more rapidly. By the time Jiang Zemin was in power it had become clear that the regionally and locally driven economic policies threatened to throw China back into its old cycle of decentralization — and, ultimately, competing centers of power. Attempts by Jiang to correct this through the Go West program, for example, came to naught after meeting massive resistance in the wealthy coastal provinces. The central government accordingly backed off, shifting its attention to reclaiming centralized authority over the military.

Hu Jintao has sought once again to try to address the problem of the concentration of economic power in China’s coastal provinces and cities through his Harmonious Society initiative. The idea is to redistribute wealth and economic power, regain central authority over the economy, and at the same time reduce redundancies and inefficiencies in the Chinese economy. With minimal external interference, Hu was able to test policies that by their very nature were going to sacrifice short-term social stability in the name of long-term economic stability. Growth was replaced by sustainability as the target; longer-term redistribution of economic growth engines would replace short-term employment and social stability.

This was a risky proposition, and one that met strong resistance in China. But the alternative was to sit back and wait for the inevitable economic crisis and the social repercussions thereto. In some ways, Hu was suggesting that China risk stability in the short term to preserve stability in the long run. But Hu didn’t anticipate the massive surge in global commodity prices, particularly of food and oil. This was compounded by increased international scrutiny over China’s human rights record ahead of the Olympics, natural disasters hitting at the availability and distribution of goods, a rise in domestic social unrest triggered by local government policies and economic corruption, several attempted and successful attacks against China’s transportation infrastructure, and the uprising in Tibet. Thus, the already-risky policies the central government was pursuing suddenly looked more destructive than constructive from the point of view of continued rule by the Communist Party of China (CPC).

The global economic slowdown was the external impetus China feared — something that could undermine the flow of capital and leave Beijing unable to control the outcome of a reduction in the inflow of capital. At the same time, the internal social tensions triggered both by Hu’s attempts to reshape the Chinese economy and by the slow pace of those changes created a crisis for the Chinese leadership. It was hard enough internally to control a measured economic slowdown to reshape the economic structure of China, but quite another thing altogether to have such a slowdown imposed on China from outside at the very moment social stability was in a critical state at home.

A Government in Crisis
China’s rapid and contradictory economic and security policies, rising social tensions, and seemingly counterproductive visa regulations appear to be signs of a government in crisis. They are the reactionary policies of a central leadership trying to preserve its authority, stabilize social stability and postpone an economic crisis. At the same time, we see signs that the local governments, and even organs of the central government, are putting up steady resistance to the announcements coming from Beijing. Slapping restrictions on foreign businessmen may make little sense from a broader business continuity sense, but if the point is to begin breaking the backs of the local governments — whose strength lies in their relations with foreign businesses — then the moves may make more sense.

If the central government has reached the point that it is willing to risk its international business role to rein in wayward local officials, however, then the Chinese leadership sees a major crisis looming or already under way. It is one thing to toss out a few local leaders and replace them, quite another to undermine the structure of the Chinese economy for the sake of regaining control over local officials. But if Chinese history since 1949 (and really quite a ways before) is any guide, the core of the CPC leadership is willing to sacrifice social and economic stability to preserve power. One need only look at the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution or the crackdown at Tiananmen Square for evidence of this. Revolution is not, after all, a dinner party, and maintaining CPC control is paramount to the government.

After each major revolution or crisis, China eventually has recovered. The Cultural Revolution was followed by diplomatic relations with the United States, Tiananmen Square was put aside as China joined the World Trade Organization and surged ahead in gross domestic product (GDP). Certainly, there was change among the leadership and in the way the party dealt with policies at home and abroad. But if there is the likelihood of loss of control due to an impending economic crisis, better to have some role in shaping the crisis to preserve the chance of maintaining a role in the future political structure than to sit by and try to clean up as things fall apart. The Party in fact has a long history of taking a self-generated crisis/revolution over an externally or domestically initiated one.

It may be that the contradictory policies Beijing is tossing around these days will simply fade away after September and things will get back to “normal.” But already, Chinese officials are downplaying the previously hyped political and economic benefits of the Olympic games. They are now warning that economic conditions may not be so strong in the future, and at least internally discussing the distinct possibility that at least certain regions of China are facing the same economic crises faced by their mentors Japan, South Korea and the Asian tigers.

Internal Crises vs. the Economy
A recent article in the Global Times, a paper that addresses myriad topics of domestic and international significance and is read among China’s leaders, discussed how economics is not the best measure of strength. It referred to the overall comparative GDP and the size of China’s military in the late 1800s. Then, China was considered at its weakest, but from an economic or military perspective it could have been considered comparable to the global powers of the day. This hints at the deeper internal debate in Beijing, where true national strength and the role of the economy is under discussion. Assumptions that China is only focused on continued good economic ties with the world shouldn’t be taken as gospel — China has a track record of shutting down external connections when internal crises brew.

Numerous polices are being thrown around in firefighting fashion, including blocking or at least hindering foreign business movement in and out of the country and tightening the flow of foreign capital in both directions. They are coming in reaction to flare-ups in economic, environmental, public relations and social arenas. Energy policies are making less sense, imbalances in supply and demand are growing and seemingly contradictory policies are being issued. Social unrest, or at least local media coverage of such unrest, seems to be increasing; either is a sign of weakening control. Local officials are still failing to fall in line with central government edicts. Strategic state enterprises like China National Petroleum Corp., China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. and the China Development Bank are all defying state-council orders — and the State Council itself is apparently going head-to-head with major policy bodies long given control over economic policies.

Something extraordinary is happening in China. And while not everyone may want that to be the case, and so have sought to use the Olympics to explain things away, the easy explanation simply doesn’t make enough sense
30263  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 29, 2008, 04:17:29 PM
If there is a coherent strategy here, I'm not seeing it.  Again, the issue of the money from the drug trade simply is not on the radar screen.  The idea that ISI or the army will really turn on the Whackos is self-delusion.  So if we ain't doing it ourselves, it aint gettin' done.  And it doesn't look like we are willing to look that one in the face.   Where's the raw material for a Surge type of success in the Whackostans?  For that matter do we have a strategy for Afg?  Looks to me we are headed for doing more of what hasn't worked-- kind of like JFK got us into Vietnam as a way out of Laos.
Geopolitical Diary: U.S., Pakistan and the Saudi Analogy
July 29, 2008 | 0319 GMT
A combination of events brought Pakistan to the forefront on Monday, casting light on the complexity of the problem that the United States faces in attempting to stabilize operations in Afghanistan and pressuring Islamabad to reassert control over the jihadists operating on its side of the Afghan-Pakistani border.

In Washington, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani met with U.S. President George W. Bush, while in Islamabad, acting U.S. Central Command chief Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey met with Pakistan’s top generals, Ashfaq Kayani and Tariq Majid. In both negotiations, tensions ran high, with the Americans warning that they are growing increasingly impatient with lawlessness on the border and the Pakistanis replying that they are doing everything within their power to stop it.

Two incidents served to ratchet tensions even higher as the U.S.-Pakistani talks took place. First, the government in Islamabad retracted its decision on July 26 to bring the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency under civilian control. The ISI fiasco helps to explain the jihadists’ ineradicable involvement in Pakistan’s state structures, since the agency is notorious for having operatives with hidden links to jihadists. The prospect of bringing the ISI under the civilian government’s supervision was never actually feasible because the military — the real source of power in Pakistan — opposed it. Later came news that a U.S. unmanned aerial vehicle had fired missiles at a religious school in South Waziristan, killing six civilians on Pakistani soil and fueling Pakistani hostility toward their own government and the United States.

The ISI incident and the airstrike exemplify both the internal and external challenges facing Pakistan. If it is to rein in the jihadists, Pakistan must consider three basic strategies for fighting such an insurgency. The first involves using its military’s brute force to stamp out the threat, as Egypt, Syria and Libya have done in the past. The second consists of allowing the United States to quell the insurgency unilaterally, as it has attempted to do in Iraq and Afghanistan. The third entails trying to resolve the conflict solely by means of negotiations and diplomacy. Any one of these strategies is inadequate on its own, however, and only a clever combination of negotiation and force has a chance of arresting the conflict’s downward spiral.

Such a combination of strategies is precisely what Saudi Arabia employed, beginning in 2004, to shut down its jihadist insurgency. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are drastically different countries, but what they share is the potential to host thriving Islamist movements — emerging among the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia and the Deobandis in Pakistan — that exist at radical variance with the U.S.-supported, conservative central governments. These religious movements create a wide social network that lends support to militant jihadist groups that define themselves in contrast to the regime and the United States.

Saudi Arabia, like Pakistan, was an ideal breeding ground for jihadist militants, but the Saudis were able to dampen homegrown militant ideology through a full-fledged security crackdown enabled by dependable intelligence, under-the-table politicking and bribes to gain the cooperation of various factions, and deliberate engagement with the religious establishment to promote nonviolent alternatives. For a time, the Saudis also sent jihadists to join the fray in Iraq, further whittling down the movement’s ranks, though the United States soon put a stop to this practice just as it is attempting to do with the Pakistani militants funneling into Afghanistan. By 2005, Saudi Arabia had dramatically trimmed its radical Islamist fringe, with militants consistently botching their attacks or security forces pre-empting them.

Yet the Saudi analogy only goes so far — in fact, it contrasts so starkly as to make the challenges of Pakistan even clearer. Pakistan’s mountainous terrain makes it difficult to scour the whole country as easily as Saudi security forces scoured theirs, and Pakistan does not have an official religious hierarchy like the Saudis’ ulema, capable of exerting organizational control over masses of believers while working in tandem with the government. Also, crucially, the Saudis had petrodollars to throw at the problem, while Pakistan must rely on U.S. aid to fund its civilian activities.

Moreover, while Saudi Arabia’s jihadist movement emerged out of resentment of U.S. foreign policy, that policy has a harsh and direct bearing on Pakistanis today — making them unwilling to play into Washington’s hands. As the United States has grown more frustrated with Pakistan’s inability to control its rogue elements, it has taken more strident and independent military actions, occasionally harming or killing Pakistani civilians and thus generating sharper resistance within Pakistan. A distinct danger of U.S. military operations in Pakistan is that as anger with the United States grows, so does the possibility of driving people toward sympathizing with the jihadist factions.

Furthermore, the United States has limitations on how much pressure it can apply on Pakistan’s military. Since the military is the sole guarantor of order in Pakistan — a nuclear-armed country — the United States needs it to stay in a strong and stable position. Washington cannot push too hard to have its way without making the military vulnerable to reaction by anti-U.S. popular forces within Pakistan.

As the U.S. military draws closer to tying up the loose ends in Iraq, the complications of the task awaiting it in Afghanistan seem to multiply. Pakistan is the source of much uncertainty and contingency in this theater, and there is no clear solution to the mess there. If the United States and its allies are to succeed, they will have to do so despite exceedingly narrow constraints.
30264  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSj on: July 29, 2008, 12:45:27 PM
Lip Reading John McCain

John McCain has fallen into an age-old trap of GOP presidential candidates: Sending mixed messages on tax increases.

One of Mr. McCain's problems with the conservative base in the GOP primaries was his past opposition to President Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts. He won in part by taking care to acknowledge that the tax cuts had worked to grow the economy and vowing to preserve them when they expire in 2010. On the campaign trail, he's fond of saying: "Senator Obama will raise your taxes. I won't."

But on Sunday, Mr. McCain was asked by ABC News how he planned to address Social Security without raising taxes. "There is nothing that's off the table. I have my positions, and I'll articulate them. But nothing's off the table," he told host George Stephanopoulos. "I don't want tax increases. But that doesn't mean that anything is off the table."

The Club For Growth, a leading free-market group, reacted quickly, issuing a letter telling Mr. McCain that his comments were "shocking because you have been adamant in your opposition to raising taxes under any circumstances." The letter cited the McCain campaign's criticism back in June of Mr. Obama's support for a Social Security payroll tax hike for workers earning above $250,000 a year. Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Mr. McCain's top economic adviser, told reporters at the time a President McCain would not consider a payroll tax increase "under any imaginable circumstance."

Mr. McCain has enough problems with his base without causing Republican voters further agita by blurring his position on tax increases. He should recall just how much political damage President George H.W. Bush suffered in 1992 when he had to face voters after going back on his 1988 pledge, "Read my lips, no new taxes." Make no mistake, the Democratic National Committee is already issuing press releases pointing out the latest wrinkle in Mr. McCain's tax position. He needs to clarify his approach before press releases are followed by TV commercials attacking him.

-- John Fund

The Irrepressible Novak

Robert Novak is widely regarded as the dean of Washington journalists, having covered and commented on national politics for more than half a century. That's why so many were shocked and saddened to learn that the 77-year-old columnist has been diagnosed with a brain tumor and has taken a temporary leave from his column.

It will be the first time in anyone's memory that he has missed a deadline. When he broke his hip in a hotel bathroom a few years ago shortly before his column was due, Mr. Novak crawled to a phone, summoned help and later dictated the rest of his column by phone from his hospital bed. He has written more than 7,000 columns since his start as a syndicated columnist in 1963.

In his recent best-selling memoir "The Prince of Darkness," Mr. Novak said some of his goals as a journalist were "to tell the world things people do not want me to reveal, to advocate limited government, economic freedom, and a strong, prudent America -- and to have fun doing it."

Fun is exactly what Mr. Novak has always had. He along with his late partner Rowland Evans gave me my first job in journalism. Much of what I know today about writing comes from the two years I spent as a reporter for Evans & Novak.

I had dinner with Bob just ten days ago after we both spoke at an Americans for Prosperity conference of conservative bloggers in Austin, Texas. It was hard to drag him away from his admiring fans and their requests for photos. He expressed satisfaction that so many people still wanted to hear from him, and spoke about how proud he was that another former reporter, David Freddoso, was about to publish a new book called "The Case Against Barack Obama: The Unlikely Rise and Unexamined Agenda of the Media's Favorite Candidate."

Bob Novak has beaten cancer three times. He has an iron will, and I hope he can beat this latest health challenge. Don't be surprised if you see him back in the column-writing saddle before the November election. A fall presidential campaign just wouldn't be the same without Bob Novak's pungent reporting.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"The ANWR ban is the work of environmental restriction groups that depend on direct-mail fundraising to pay their bills and keep their jobs. That means they must always claim the sky is falling. They can't get people to send a check or mouse-click a donation because they did a good job, the restrictions they imposed on the Alaska pipeline in the 1970s have done a good job in preserving the environment or because clean air acts of the past have vastly reduced air pollution. ANWR is a precious cause for them because it can be portrayed (dishonestly) as a national treasure and because the pressure for drilling there has been unrelenting. . . . Democrats have enlisted solidly in their army, and they have also been able to recruit Republicans who wanted to get good environmental scorecards to impress enviro-conscious voters in states like Florida, New Jersey and Minnesota. Now all that is in danger, because [of] the pain of paying $60 for a tank of gas . . ." -- US New & World Report's Michael Barone, on the unraveling of an environmental fund-raising racket.

Why Doesn't China Get a Haircut?

Now that Congress has approved the bailout of housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, those who voted "yes" are soon going to be asked an uncomfortable question: Why are you taking money from U.S. taxpayers to bail out the Bank of China and other nations' central banks?

It turns out the biggest supporter of the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bailouts has been the Chinese government. The Chinese own about half a trillion dollars in Fannie and Freddie securities and they've put the warning out to Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson they expect to be repaid in full. The fear among Mr. Paulson and other Treasury officials is that if Fannie and Freddie debt isn't repaid at 100% par, the Chinese may start dumping their hundreds of billions of dollars of Treasury securities, possibly causing a run on U.S. government debt and sharply raising Uncle Sam's borrowing costs.

China isn't the only foreign nation with a big stake in the bailout legislation. Many foreign governments have loaded up on Fannie and Freddie securities, according to data gathered by the Council on Foreign Relations. No. 2 on the list is the central bank in Russia, which holds about $200 billion in these twin housing giants' securities. The oil nations in the Gulf region also own large holdings of the debt as well.

The Chinese, Russians and Saudis evidently can't tell the difference between the full faith and credit of the U.S. government, which is what stands behind U.S. Treasury securities, and the once officially-denied "implicit guarantee" that some in the market chose to see behind Fannie and Freddie paper. The federal bailout that President Bush agreed reluctantly to sign has effectively conferred upon Fannie and Freddie securities equal status to Treasury securities. This means going forward, the housing GSEs now effectively have unlimited use of every taxpayer's credit card.

Naturally, this has conservative fiscal watchdog groups like Dick Armey's Freedom Works and the National Taxpayers Union up in arms. There's a reason that Fannie and Freddie paper has paid out interest rates roughly half a point higher than Treasury securities over the years: higher risk of nonpayment. Former House Majority Leader Mr. Armey asks why Congress now feels compelled to pay back Fannie and Freddie's lenders 100%? Why not pay back, say, 90 cents on the dollar? Their lenders already have been compensated for higher risk of default, and this would not only save taxpayers money but also help delineate Treasury bills from GSE debt going forward.

So far, just about everyone has been made whole in this financial fiasco except taxpayers. Why Democrats and Republicans think it's good economics, let alone good politics, to put the interests of the Chinese and Russian governments ahead of their own constituents is a question members should be asked over and over between now and the election.

30265  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Palo Canario on: July 29, 2008, 12:16:10 PM
Hola Alfonso:

Bruno hablo' bien de ti cuando estaba aqui.  Vamos a presentar un DVD de de introduciendo el Garrote Venezolano al publico ingles-hablante.

Aunque a mi me fascina y a muchos otros tambien, entiendo lo que dices de la politica.  Lo que paso' es que hubo un  @$%@$% de technologia que se borro' el contenido del foro que teniamos y se pierde mucha velocidad comenzando de nuevo.  Pocos contribuyen por que , , , pocos contribuyen  rolleyes  Creo que apenas estamos llegando a un nivel de participacion que se da razon para venir aqui. 

Agradezco mucho lo de los fotos-- de preferencia los quiero de alta resolucion.  Si se te hace mas facil, mandemelas en un disco-- como siempre la direccion es:

703 Pier Ave #664
Hermosa Beach, CA 90254

Espero que todo vaya bien para Angela y Rosa.  Por favor saludalos por mi parte.  ?Cuantos anos tiene Angela ya?
30266  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: July 29, 2008, 11:45:00 AM
An Indian friend knowledgeable about these things comments:

A lot has changed in pak. A year or two ago Pak denied that the US was
even allowed to fly over pak..let alone bomb at will.  now its an
everyday occurence.  the US has a lot of leverage over Pak
military...and the one who controls the military controls pak.  This
leverage is financial...becaue much of the US money goes to finance
the lavish life style of the officers and not to fight terrorism as we
are told.  Pak's main fear is that they will be left behind India
militarily. This fear is also being exploited with the recent sale of
F16's to ostensibly fight terrorism. The ISI otoh is a jihadist
organization since it was the ISI who created much of the terror
groups. Cracking down on the ISI is harder because they are a more
ideological org...and until the isi is broken things will not change.
This is the reason pak is being pressurized to bring it under civil
30267  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Gender issues thread on: July 29, 2008, 11:29:47 AM

I knew you would see this and post it here  grin

30268  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The 2008 Presidential Race on: July 29, 2008, 10:17:36 AM
Obama Should Stand Up to Russia's Regime
July 29, 2008; Page A17

Berlin is an ideal place for an American president, even a would-be president, to speak to the world about freedom and shared values. Barack Obama's recent visit evoked the famous speeches of John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan that defended the U.S. stance against the Soviet Union and tyranny in Eastern Europe. Both the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union are now gone, but dangerous, nuclear-armed dictatorships are not. Sadly, Mr. Obama declined to mention this in Berlin.

The stage for his disappointing performance was set several weeks ago, when the Illinois senator rejected John McCain's proposal to eject Russia and exclude China from the Group of Eight (G-8). Mr. Obama's response during a July 13 interview on CNN -- "We have to engage and get them involved" -- suggests that it is impossible to work with Russia and China on economic and nuclear nonproliferation issues while also standing up for democracy and human rights.

It has repeatedly been shown that the exact opposite is true.

The U.S. does not cede leverage with authoritarian governments when it confronts them about their crimes. Instead, the U.S. increases its credibility and influence with foes and friends alike. Placating regimes like those in Russia and China today only entrenches hostile, antidemocratic forces.

Commercial agreements, arms control and other mutually beneficial projects can be pursued without endorsing dictatorship. During the same interview, Sen. Obama spoke of enlisting China to help write the "international rules of the road." This is the same logic that led the United Nations to place China, Cuba, Russia and Saudi Arabia on its current Human Rights Council. Do we really want to live under rules created with the approval of such regimes?

While Mr. Obama talked about the importance of receiving Russia's help in containing Iran's nuclear ambitions, Reuters reported that Tehran is acquiring advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles from the Kremlin. This is the cooperation the West has earned by including Russia in the G-8.

In Berlin, Mr. Obama repeatedly mentioned the 1948 Berlin airlift. On CNN, he said he would like to "bring back the kind of foreign policy that characterized the Truman administration with Marshall and Acheson and Kennan." A strange statement, since President Harry Truman fought against giving up an inch to the communists on any front around the world. Not only did Truman save West Berlin; South Korea, Taiwan and Western Europe also have much to thank him for. By contrast, in their July 9 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Obama advisers Madeleine Albright and William Perry, secretaries of state and defense under Bill Clinton, criticized Sen. McCain's proposal to respond to major powers' human-rights abuses with more than lip service.

Mr. Obama also asked if the West would stand up for "the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran, or the voter in Zimbabwe." Commendable, but what about the political prisoner in China and the recently convicted blogger in Russia? Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Russia's Dmitri Medvedev both came to power in blatantly fraudulent elections. The hypocrisy of condemning one while embracing the other destroys American and European credibility, and undermines any attempt at global leadership. Those of us living behind the Iron Curtain at the time were grateful Ronald Reagan did not go to Berlin in 1987 to denounce the lack of freedom in, say, Angola.

In short, the candidate of change sounds like he would perpetuate the destructive double standards of the current administration. Meanwhile, the supposedly hidebound Mr. McCain is imaginative enough to suggest that if something is broken you should try to fix it. Giving Russia and China a free pass on human rights to keep them "at the table" has helped lead to more arms and nuclear aid to Iran, a nuclear North Korea, and interference from both nations in solving the tragedies in Darfur and Zimbabwe.

Would all of this have occurred had the U.S. and Europe threatened meaningful reprisals? At least Mr. McCain wants to find out.

Reagan's Berlin speech is remembered for his command: "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" But he also made a critical point about negotiating from strength, a point Mr. Obama seems to be missing. Reagan knew that if the U.S. backed down on the Strategic Defense Initiative, his speech would just be pretty words the Soviets would ignore.

Reagan avoided the mistake John F. Kennedy made when he met with Nikita Khrushchev in 1961. After the Bay of Pigs disaster, Kennedy was weak in Khrushchev's eyes and keen to make a deal, and the Soviet premier bullied him mercilessly in Vienna. The Berlin Wall and the Cuban Missile Crisis were soon to follow.

Today, instead of communists there are deal-making capitalists and nationalists running the Kremlin and China's National People's Congress. They, and blowhards like Hugo Chávez, hardly represent the existential threats faced by Truman, Kennedy and Reagan. Yet Mr. Obama still is reticent to confront them, saying in Berlin that "we must reject the Cold War mindset of the past and resolve to work with Russia when we can, to stand up for our values when we must." But the Cold War ended and democracy became the global standard not because Western leaders merely defended their values, but because they projected them aggressively.

On Sept. 11, 150 years ago, another Illinois politician to run for president, Abraham Lincoln, said: "Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, everywhere." Not where it's convenient. Not in countries lacking large energy reserves. Everywhere, Mr. Obama, everywhere.

Mr. Kasparov, leader of The Other Russia coalition, is a contributing editor of The Wall Street Journal.
30269  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: July 29, 2008, 09:55:00 AM
Obamanomics Is a Recipe for Recession
July 29, 2008; Page A17

What if I told you that a prominent global political figure in recent months has proposed: abrogating key features of his government's contracts with energy companies; unilaterally renegotiating his country's international economic treaties; dramatically raising marginal tax rates on the "rich" to levels not seen in his country in three decades (which would make them among the highest in the world); and changing his country's social insurance system into explicit welfare by severing the link between taxes and benefits?

The first name that came to mind would probably not be Barack Obama, possibly our nation's next president. Yet despite his obvious general intelligence, and uplifting and motivational eloquence, Sen. Obama reveals this startling economic illiteracy in his policy proposals and economic pronouncements. From the property rights and rule of (contract) law foundations of a successful market economy to the specifics of tax, spending, energy, regulatory and trade policy, if the proposals espoused by candidate Obama ever became law, the American economy would suffer a serious setback.

To be sure, Mr. Obama has been clouding these positions as he heads into the general election and, once elected, presidents sometimes see the world differently than when they are running. Some cite Bill Clinton's move to the economic policy center following his Hillary health-care and 1994 Congressional election debacles as a possible Obama model. But candidate Obama starts much further left on spending, taxes, trade and regulation than candidate Clinton. A move as large as Mr. Clinton's toward the center would still leave Mr. Obama on the economic left.

Also, by 1995 the country had a Republican Congress to limit President Clinton's big government agenda, whereas most political pundits predict strengthened Democratic majorities in both Houses in 2009. Because newly elected presidents usually try to implement the policies they campaigned on, Mr. Obama's proposals are worth exploring in some depth. I'll discuss taxes and trade, although the story on his other proposals is similar.

First, taxes. The table nearby demonstrates what could happen to marginal tax rates in an Obama administration. Mr. Obama would raise the top marginal rates on earnings, dividends and capital gains passed in 2001 and 2003, and phase out itemized deductions for high income taxpayers. He would uncap Social Security taxes, which currently are levied on the first $102,000 of earnings. The result is a remarkable reduction in work incentives for our most economically productive citizens.

The top 35% marginal income tax rate rises to 39.6%; adding the state income tax, the Medicare tax, the effect of the deduction phase-out and Mr. Obama's new Social Security tax (of up to 12.4%) increases the total combined marginal tax rate on additional labor earnings (or small business income) from 44.6% to a whopping 62.8%. People respond to what they get to keep after tax, which the Obama plan reduces from 55.4 cents on the dollar to 37.2 cents -- a reduction of one-third in the after-tax wage!

Despite the rhetoric, that's not just on "rich" individuals. It's also on a lot of small businesses and two-earner middle-aged middle-class couples in their peak earnings years in high cost-of-living areas. (His large increase in energy taxes, not documented here, would disproportionately harm low-income Americans. And, while he says he will not raise taxes on the middle class, he'll need many more tax hikes to pay for his big increase in spending.)

On dividends the story is about as bad, with rates rising from 50.4% to 65.6%, and after-tax returns falling over 30%. Even a small response of work and investment to these lower returns means such tax rates, sooner or later, would seriously damage the economy.

On economic policy, the president proposes and Congress disposes, so presidents often wind up getting the favorite policy of powerful senators or congressmen. Thus, while Mr. Obama also proposes an alternative minimum tax (AMT) patch, he could instead wind up with the permanent abolition plan for the AMT proposed by the Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel (D., N.Y.) -- a 4.6% additional hike in the marginal rate with no deductibility of state income taxes. Marginal tax rates would then approach 70%, levels not seen since the 1970s and among the highest in the world. The after-tax return to work -- the take-home wage for more time or effort -- would be cut by more than 40%.

Now trade. In the primaries, Sen. Obama was famously protectionist, claiming he would rip up and renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta). Since its passage (for which former President Bill Clinton ran a brave anchor leg, given opposition to trade liberalization in his party), Nafta has risen to almost mythological proportions as a metaphor for the alleged harm done by trade, globalization and the pace of technological change.

Yet since Nafta was passed (relative to the comparable period before passage), U.S. manufacturing output grew more rapidly and reached an all-time high last year; the average unemployment rate declined as employment grew 24%; real hourly compensation in the business sector grew twice as fast as before; agricultural exports destined for Canada and Mexico have grown substantially and trade among the three nations has tripled; Mexican wages have risen each year since the peso crisis of 1994; and the two binational Nafta environmental institutions have provided nearly $1 billion for 135 environmental infrastructure projects along the U.S.-Mexico border.

In short, it would be hard, on balance, for any objective person to argue that Nafta has injured the U.S. economy, reduced U.S. wages, destroyed American manufacturing, harmed our agriculture, damaged Mexican labor, failed to expand trade, or worsened the border environment. But perhaps I am not objective, since Nafta originated in meetings James Baker and I had early in the Bush 41 administration with Pepe Cordoba, chief of staff to Mexico's President Carlos Salinas.

Mr. Obama has also opposed other important free-trade agreements, including those with Colombia, South Korea and Central America. He has spoken eloquently about America's responsibility to help alleviate global poverty -- even to the point of saying it would help defeat terrorism -- but he has yet to endorse, let alone forcefully advocate, the single most potent policy for doing so: a successful completion of the Doha round of global trade liberalization. Worse yet, he wants to put restrictions into trade treaties that would damage the ability of poor countries to compete. And he seems to see no inconsistency in his desire to improve America's standing in the eyes of the rest of the world and turning his back on more than six decades of bipartisan American presidential leadership on global trade expansion. When trade rules are not being improved, nontariff barriers develop to offset the liberalization from the current rules. So no trade liberalization means creeping protectionism.

History teaches us that high taxes and protectionism are not conducive to a thriving economy, the extreme case being the higher taxes and tariffs that deepened the Great Depression. While such a policy mix would be a real change, as philosophers remind us, change is not always progress.

Mr. Boskin, professor of economics at Stanford University and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President George H.W. Bush.
30270  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Price of Romney Care on: July 29, 2008, 09:50:40 AM
I have been leaning towards favoring Romney as Veep for McC, in great part because, unlike McC, he can articulate free market economics pretty well-- but then there is the coming clusterfcuk of Romeny Care-- which will make it hard for McC to challenge BO's promised socialization.

The Price of RomneyCare
July 29, 2008; Page A16
Gearing up for 2009, liberals are eager to claim Massachusetts as a Valhalla of health reform. Their enthusiasm is apparently evidence-proof.

Even Mitt Romney, who should know better, took to these pages recently to proclaim, "Health-care reform is working in Massachusetts." Shortly after Mr. Romney's self-tribute, Governor Deval Patrick wheeled out a new $129 million tax plan to make up for this year's health spending shortfalls. Yet partisans are cheering the cost overruns as a sign of success.

Supporters are exultant because 350,000 people are newly covered since former Governor Romney's parley with Beacon Hill Democrats in 2006; this cuts the state's uninsured rate by about half. That's not the promised "universal" system, but never mind. The ominous news is that only about 18,000 people -- or 5% of the newly insured -- have taken advantage of the "connector," which was supposed to be the plan's free-market innovation linking individuals to private insurers.

Most of this growth in coverage has instead come via a new state entitlement called Commonwealth Care. This provides subsidized insurance to those under 300% of the poverty level, or about $63,000 for a family of four. About 174,000 have joined this low- or no-cost program, a trend that is likely to speed up.

As this public option gets overwhelmed, budget gaskets are blowing everywhere. Mr. Patrick had already bumped up this year's spending to $869 million, $144 million over its original estimate. Liberals duly noted that these tax hikes are necessary because enrollment in Commonwealth Care is much higher than anticipated. But of course more people will have coverage if government gives it to them for free. The problem is that someone has to pay for it.

Thus the extra tab of $129 million, which may need to go higher because it relies on uncertain federal funds from Medicaid. For now, Mr. Patrick wants one-time (yeah, right) charges of $33 million on insurers and $28 million on providers, plus some shuffling of state funds. The balance comes from an estimated $33 million boost in the state's "pay or play" tax: If businesses don't offer "fair and reasonable" insurance to their employees, they get hit.

This is a textbook example of how business taxes evolve into "pay or pay," the first recourse of state-funded health systems. Politicians love levies on business because they disguise the overall bill from voters. But such taxes are merely passed along to workers in the form of reduced take-home pay, since all health costs are part of compensation.

The main reason people are uninsured is because coverage is too expensive. Massachusetts didn't have many options for reforming the way health dollars are laundered in the third-party payment system created by the federal tax code. But it could have helped make insurance cheaper by reforming its private market before defaulting to public programs.

The Bay State has long served up coverage-specific insurance mandates, such as for fertility treatments, which raise costs. Yet in a just-deserts twist, Massachusetts health planners are now reviewing ways to trim mandates because the state is footing more of the bill, even if they didn't care when imposing them on individuals and small business. A state-sponsored study shows that total spending on mandates was $1.32 billion in 2005, or 12% of premiums. The study is devastating despite its pro-mandate slant.

Not that such practical lessons have stopped liberals from joining the Massachusetts parade. They have to gussy up the state's model because the extravagant claim that led to its creation -- that health care will be less expensive if everyone is covered -- is being relentlessly discredited. It's the same claim they want to make when they try to pass a similar plan for the whole country in next year's Congress.

See all of today's editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on Opinion Journal.

And add your comments to the Opinion Journal
30271  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / India/Indian Ocean (and India-afpakia and India-China) on: July 28, 2008, 07:33:39 PM
About time India gets its own thread!

We kick it off with a piece from today's WSJ:

India's Counterterrorism Failings
July 29, 2008

In recent years few countries have changed their public image as dramatically as India. But though pictures of starving peasants and rutted roads have given way to those of svelte supermodels and bustling call centers, in at least one respect India remains more a basketcase than a potential great power. As Friday's bomb blasts in India's software capital, Bangalore, and Saturday's in the industrial city of Ahmedabad show, India is singularly ill-equipped to deal with the scourge of terrorism.

Too little, too late: Forensic personnel inspect the site of a bomb blast in Ahmedabad on Sunday, July 27, 2008.
The Bangalore and Ahmedabad bombings, which killed one and 49 people respectively and cumulatively wounded more than 200, are only the most recent in a spate of attacks. In the past two years terrorists have targeted the northern city of Jaipur, the high-tech hub Hyderabad, the temple town of Varanasi and India's financial capital, Mumbai.

Officials have pinned the most recent attacks on Indian Mujahedeen, a homegrown group linked to the Bangladesh-based Harkat-ul Jihad-al-Islami and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India. Both Pakistan and Bangladesh -- carved out of British India to create a homeland for the subcontinent's Muslims -- give shelter and succor to terrorists. But the fact that the most recent attacks were carried out by a made-in-India group shows it's about time that India comes to terms with its own counterterrorism failings.

Among India's worst mistakes is that instead of uniting behind the minimal goal of providing security for all citizens, India's constantly bickering politicians have played football with counterterrorism policy. In 2004, one of the first acts in office of the ruling Congress-led coalition government -- at the time supported by Communist allies -- was to scrap a national terrorism law that allowed for enhanced witness protection and extended detention of suspects in terrorism cases. This had the twin effects of demoralizing law enforcement agencies and signaling to terrorists that the Indian state lacked fight. The paucity of arrests and convictions in the string of bombings that have followed have only strengthened this perception. For its part, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has stalled the creation of a much-needed federal antiterrorism force.

The problem is that India's counterterrorism effort falls between two stools. As a democracy, it cannot adopt the heavy-handed but effective measures favored by, say, Russia or China. At the same time, India lacks the sophisticated intelligence and law enforcement capacities that allow European countries such as France, Spain and, of late, even Britain to safeguard individual rights and yet uncover terrorist plots before they are executed.

Yet although this may be an explanation, it's hardly an excuse given that other countries have surmounted their own counterterrorism hurdles. Even Indonesia, a Muslim-majority nation where public sympathy for terrorism in the name of Islam runs deeper than it does in India, has done an infinitely better job of protecting its citizens. Thanks largely to Detachment 88, a special police unit equipped and trained by Australia and the U.S., it has been nearly three years since the last major terrorist strike on Indonesian soil.

Ultimately, though, terrorism is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The larger question is whether India's Muslims will embrace modernity like so many of their Turkish, Tunisian and Indonesian co-religionists, or reject it like increasing numbers of their militant cousins in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On this front too India's leaders have failed to get to the heart of the matter. The country tends to exercise a hands-off approach to its 140-million-strong Muslim community. Unlike in Europe or America, Muslims in India are governed by Shariah law in matters such as marriage, divorce and inheritance. This parallel legal system slows integration into the national mainstream and perpetuates backward practices such as polygamy and the neglect of education for girls. The result has been a disaffected minority, largely lacking the skills to compete in a modern economy and susceptible to calls for violence in the name of faith.

If India is to live up to its potential -- and indeed to its hype -- it must embrace both the short-term goal of upgrading its counterterrorism capability and the long-term goal of modernizing and mainstreaming its Muslims.

India's Muslims have enriched national life in countless ways. The vast majority, like people of any faith, are nonviolent. But contrary to popular belief, Indian Muslims have not been immune to the rising global tide of orthodox practice and militant politics. Indian doctors played a role in last year's failed attacks in London and Glasgow. At home, Muslim groups have assaulted critics such as the exiled Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen. A survey by the distinguished Pakistani scholar Akbar Ahmed revealed that most educated Indian Muslims view as role models the late Islamist ideologue Abul Ala Maududi, the 19th century Muslim supremacist Sayyed Ahmad Khan, and an influential Bombay-based cleric named Zakir Naik, who eulogizes Osama bin Laden and calls for Shariah for all Indians.

India's Muslims hardly have a monopoly on either violence or obscurantism. Nonetheless the challenges they face are particularly acute. Will the community be forward-looking, eager to seize new economic opportunities, and at peace with a rapidly changing world? Or will it forsake the future for an idealized past, foster a culture of grievance that condones violence, and view globalization as a mortal threat? Depending on the answer, the Bangalore and Ahmedabad bombings are either a passing event or a dark harbinger of things to come.

Mr. Dhume is a fellow at the Asia Society in Washington D.C., and the author of "My Friend the Fanatic: Travels with an Indonesian Islamist" (Text Publishing, 2008).
30272  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 28, 2008, 07:07:44 PM
Woof DD:

Assuming Jeremy emailed his registration to I should have seen it, but either I messed up (not unknown) or it did not get to us.  Would you please ask him to send it again?

30273  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / School issues on: July 28, 2008, 05:08:24 PM
The Greatest Scandal
July 28, 2008
The profound failure of inner-city public schools to teach children may be the nation's greatest scandal. The differences between the two Presidential candidates on this could hardly be more stark. John McCain is calling for alternatives to the system; Barack Obama wants the kids to stay within that system. We think the facts support Senator McCain.

"Parents ask only for schools that are safe, teachers who are competent and diplomas that open doors of opportunity," said Mr. McCain in remarks recently to the NAACP. "When a public system fails, repeatedly, to meet these minimal objectives, parents ask only for a choice in the education of their children." Some parents may opt for a better public school or a charter school; others for a private school. The point, said the Senator, is that "no entrenched bureaucracy or union should deny parents that choice and children that opportunity."

Mr. McCain cited the Washington, D.C., Opportunity Scholarship Program, a federally financed school-choice program for disadvantaged kids signed into law by President Bush in 2004. Qualifying families in the District of Columbia receive up to $7,500 a year to attend private K-12 schools. To qualify, a child must live in a family with a household income below 185% of the poverty level. Some 1,900 children participate; 99% are black or Hispanic. Average annual income is just over $22,000 for a family of four.

A recent Department of Education report found nearly 90% of participants in the D.C. program have higher reading scores than peers who didn't receive a scholarship. There are five applicants for every opening.

Mr. McCain could have mentioned EdisonLearning, a private company that took over 20 of Philadelphia's 45 lowest performing district schools in 2002 to create a new management model for public schools. The most recent state test-score data show that student performance at Philadelphia public schools managed by Edison and other outside providers has improved by nearly twice the amount as the schools run by the district.

The number of students performing at grade level or higher in reading at the schools managed by private providers increased by 6.1% overall compared to 3.3% in district-managed schools. In math, the results for Edison and other outside managers was 4.6% and 6.0%, respectively, compared to 3.1% in the district-run schools.

The state of California just announced that one in three students in the Los Angeles public school system drops out before graduating. Among black and Latino students in L.A. district schools, the numbers are 42% and 30%. In the past five years, the number of dropouts has grown by more than 80%. The number of high school graduates has gone up only 9%.

The silver linings in these dismal clouds are L.A.'s charter high schools. Writing in the Los Angeles Daily News last week, Caprice Young, who heads the California Charter Schools Association, noted that "every charter high school in Los Angeles Unified last year reported a dropout rate significantly lower than not only the school district's average, but the state's as well."

On recent evidence, the Democrat Party's policy on these alternatives is simply massive opposition.

Congressional Democrats have refused to reauthorize the D.C. voucher program and are threatening to kill it. Last month, Philadelphia's school reform commission voted to seize six schools from outside managers, including four from Edison. In L.A., local school board members oppose the expansion of charters even though seven in 10 charters in the district outperform their neighborhood peers.

It's well known that the force calling the Democratic tune here is the teachers unions. Earlier this month, Senator Obama accepted the endorsement of the National Education Association, the largest teachers union. Speaking recently before the American Federation of Teachers, he described the alternative efforts as "tired rhetoric about vouchers and school choice."

Mr. Obama told an interviewer recently that he opposes school choice because, "although it might benefit some kids at the top, what you're going to do is leave a lot of kids at the bottom." The Illinois Senator has it exactly backward. Those at the top don't need voucher programs and they already exercise school choice. They can afford exclusive private schools, or they can afford to live in a neighborhood with decent public schools. The point of providing educational options is to extend this freedom to the "kids at the bottom."

A visitor to Mr. Obama's Web site finds plenty of information about his plans to fix public education in this country. Everyone knows this is a long, hard slog, but Mr. Obama and his wife aren't waiting. Their daughters attend the private University of Chicago Laboratory Schools, where annual tuition ranges from $15,528 for kindergarten to $20,445 for high school.

When the day arrives that these two candidates face off, we hope Senator McCain comes prepared to press his opponent hard on change, hope and choice in the schools.

30274  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Russian Naval Upgrade on: July 28, 2008, 05:03:33 PM
Russia plans to upgrade its Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines and eventually to build a small fleet of new aircraft carriers, the chief of the Russian navy said July 27. Russia has slowly been turning its military fortunes back from the decay and decline of the 1990s, and may now be reaching the point at which such plans, while ambitious, could be attainable.

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Editor’s Note: This is the first of a two-part series on the Russian navy.

Russia plans to begin upgrading its Borei-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs), starting with the next hull to be laid down, which will be the fourth, Russian senior naval officer Adm. Vladimir Vysotsky said at the opening of the annual Navy Day parade July 27. Vysotsky also promised a new concept for Russia’s next generation of aircraft carrier groups, calling for half a dozen carriers to be constructed beginning in 2012.

Vysotsky’s statements in some ways smack of the ambitions of the Soviet old guard (among whom talk of a return to the glory days with large fleets of nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers is common). His vision is more restrained and realistic in other important ways, however — he is, for example, calling not for 12 carriers, but for six. In his comments, he also focused on pointing out that a fundamental re-evaluation of the functions and composition of carrier task forces is under way and that questions of actual carrier design are further down the road.

Many scholars and military officers continue to dismiss the Russian military offhand, based on its decay in the 1990s and its decrepit state at the turn of the century. Russia’s armed forces after the fall of the Soviet Union suffered a comprehensive decline that is difficult to overstate — ranging from widespread inefficiency and bloating of the officers’ ranks, to poor maintenance and neglect of equipment, to a lack of proper training and deployment — culminating in the at-sea accident that led to the loss of the Kursk, the pride of the Russian Northern Fleet. Indeed, U.S. intelligence has said that in 2007, Russia’s ballistic missile submarines conducted only three strategic deterrent patrols, even fewer than the year before. But changes are afoot under the leadership of Prime Minister (and former President) Vladimir Putin.

To begin with, Russia has been working to replenish its fleet. Corruption and incompetence at Russian naval shipyards remain problems, but ones that are recognized and are being addressed. Managers are now being held responsible (and fired when appropriate), while new umbrella entities are being formed to consolidate the defense sector — such as the United Shipbuilding Corp., whose objective is to fashion a competent, efficient shipbuilding industry. Though it seems ambitious now, the goal of a Russian shipbuilding industry able to crank out ships at a reasonable rate — and of a passable quality — is not without precedent in Soviet times. The need to contain costs is another challenge, but recent construction of surface combatants has suggested a remarkable pragmatism in terms of focusing on obtainable and affordable designs.

This is not to say that a few new hulls will solve all of Russia’s problems. The navy’s deteriorating institutional knowledge — especially in areas like carrier operations and anti-submarine warfare — is a valuable commodity, and one that will be difficult and time-consuming to reconstitute. The first step in this direction is simply getting ships and sailors back to sea on a sustained basis, where they can hone their skills. Though this is hardly being done across the board (especially in the submarine corps), there has been some increase in deployments — and newer ships and submarines would at least facilitate this change.

Yet a crucial time for Russia is at hand. Putin, as a former intelligence officer, is well aware of the value of military might (though he has often favored economic and political means of coercion in his foreign policy). During his two terms as president, Putin worked to consolidate the Kremlin’s control over the military (along with most other strategic sectors). A key part of this process has consisted of reining in the military and preventing it from overreaching with too-ambitious plans and, at the same time, halting the decline of the 1990s. These dual imperatives for Putin have been compounded by the continued leadership of old-guard Soviet officers, stubbornly committed to a return to the glory of the Red Army — many of whom Putin has forced out.

Guiding the navy now is Vysotsky, who was personally appointed by Putin. He is as much the prime minister’s man as a military man can be. Under him, a focus on Russia’s nuclear submarine fleet will continue, and incremental upgrades are under way for ship and boat classes already under construction. Many obstacles still remain, but the potential foundation for a revitalized Russian navy is beginning to emerge.

As the Kremlin further solidifies its grip over the military, it will accelerate its reforms of both the military and the defense industry, expanding the recent moves toward professionalization, continuing to trim the fat (especially in the officer ranks) and quickening the pace of construction and delivery of new equipment to the armed forces. None of these moves are necessarily new, but their pace thus far has been halting and their effectiveness uneven. Now, however, they may be reaching a critical mass at which their effectiveness might begin to improve.

If these changes can be maintained, it appears likely that the next few years will see more hulls coming on line: new ships and submarines that have not suffered badly under the neglect and wear of the 1990s. Though Russian naval doctrine has not traditionally favored the comparatively high deployment pace of the U.S. Navy, Moscow will soon potentially have that option, should it choose to use it.

Significant challenges remain, but Putin’s careful and impressive reversal of fortunes for the Russian military cannot be denied. At the same time, there are no guarantees that it will last. In a larger geopolitical sense, Moscow now needs to consolidate its gains and begin to build a military that can demonstrate to the world that Russia remains a global power.

30275  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on: July 28, 2008, 04:54:06 PM
Significant Seizures

The Mexican government has made several large seizures of narcotics, materials and cash in recent weeks throughout Mexico. One of the biggest was the July 25 discovery of 8,000 drums of chemicals used to make synthetic drugs in a warehouse in Guadalajara, in Jalisco state. Some of the barrels contained ephedrine and others acetone, two key ingredients in the manufacturing of crystal methamphetamine.

Methamphetamine production is one of the more profitable enterprises in which Mexican drug cartels are involved, and the so-called Mexican “super labs” are responsible for an estimated 80 percent of the methamphetamine on the streets in the United States. It is important to note the growing importance of Mexican-made methamphetamine, the production of which has increased dramatically since 2005, when the United States began restricting the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine. It is also important to recognize that one Mexican super lab is able to produce the same amount of the narcotic as hundreds of the small mom-and-pop meth labs common in the United States. The price of methamphetamine is comparable to that of powder cocaine in the United States, and with the cartels able to produce the synthetic narcotic themselves, they can keep a larger portion of the profits than when they act merely as middlemen transporting narcotics from South America.

In any case, someone in the methamphetamine business will not be pleased about the July 25 seizure, and some form of violent payback will likely occur in the coming weeks and months. This could be the attempted assassination of a high-profile law enforcement official with connections to the seizure, or even an attempt to reclaim the seized goods. In the past, the cartels have contracted with assassination gangs like El Nica, which is believed to have been involved in the May 1 murder of Roberto Velasco Bravo, director of investigations for the federal police’s sensitive investigations unit, and the May 8 murder of Edgar Millan Gomez, the acting head of the federal police. However, many of these gangs have been dismantled by the government. Therefore, the cartels will either contract with a new gang or send in cartel enforcers, in which case large amounts of firepower will likely be employed.

It is hard to say when an act of retaliation will occur. Millan was involved in a car chase that nearly captured Arturo Beltran Leyva outside of Cuernavaca, in Morelos state, and it was only a matter of hours before Milan was assassinated outside his home in the Guerrero colony of Mexico City. In an attempt to reclaim their “property” Los Zetas, who have diversified their interests to include human smuggling, are credited with the hijacking of a Mexican National Institute of Migration (INM) bus carrying 33 undocumented Cubans in Chiapas state only a couple of days after they were detained by the INM in Cancun, Quintana Roo. The Cubans were later detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials on the U.S. side of the border. In other cases, the time between seizures or arrests and retaliation has been weeks or even months. Although it is hard to predict the timing of a retaliatory strike, it is important to note that the cartels can act swiftly
when they see a need to.

Foreign Kidnappings
Reports began surfacing this past week of foreign nationals being kidnapped for ransom in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas, which shares a border with Texas and is home to the Gulf Cartel. On July 12, five South Korean nationals were kidnapped and held for a $30,000 ransom in the city of Reynosa. South Korean officials negotiated their release on July 22. South Korean officials refused to comment on whether the ransom was paid. It was later reveled that the five were planning to cross the U.S.-Mexico border illegally to seek employment in the United States.

On July 21, a 19-year-old American citizen named Roel Rolando Ramirez was rescued from room 226 of the Hotel California in the Mexican town of Miguel Aleman, in Tamaulipas state. The son of a New Mexico rancher, Rolando Ramirez lived in the Texas border town of Rio Grande City, where he was forced into a car and blindfolded after reportedly being tricked by a friend into stopping his truck. Rolando Ramirez was then taken to the Hotel California where he was told to call his father and ask for $200,000 to be wired to bank accounts in Mexico for his safe return. Rolando Ramirez’s father then alerted the state police, and they were able to rescue Ramirez and arrest his captors.

Cartels typically target only their enemies in kidnapping attempts, but with the security situation along the U.S.-Mexican border in a state of flux, the cartels may be looking for other ways to make money. It would not be surprising to see cartels engage in kidnapping for ransom to help finance their narcotics operations, which have been constrained on both sides of the border. The Arellano Felix Organization (aka the Tijuana cartel) and the paramilitary group Los Zetas have both engaged in kidnapping for ransom when federal police and military operations severely hampered their drug trafficking activities. Also, it is important to note that human traffickers will sometimes hold their “cargo” hostage for additional funds. The illegal nature of human trafficking makes it difficult for awaiting family members to go to the proper authorities to report such situations.

(click to view map)

July 21
Roel Rolando Ramirez was rescued after he was kidnapped July 17 in Miguel Aleman, Tamaulipas state. Rolando Ramirez’s father alerted state police after his son phoned him for the ransom. Police were able to locate Rolando Ramirez in a hotel in Miguel Aleman and arrest the kidnappers.
Two men were killed with AK-47s outside of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state. Authorities say the assassins were traveling in a truck on a state highway when they opened fire on the two men.
July 22
Five South Korean nationals were set free after they were kidnapped by a gang and spent 10 days detained in an undisclosed location in Reynosa. A $30,000 ransom was demanded but South Korean officials declined to comment on whether or not it was paid.
Los Zetas were presumed to be responsible for the deaths of three state police agents in Campeche state. The three officers were leaving a restaurant around midday in Ciudad del Carmen when the gunmen opened fire.
July 23
Chihuahua Gov. Jose Reyes received two letters threatening his life from Gente Nueva, a paramilitary group last known to be associated with El Chapo and the Sinaloa cartel. In one of the letters, the group accuses Reyes of siding with Carrillo Fuentes and the Juarez cartel and of “collaborating with the AFP.”
July 24
Twenty-one ministerial police officers resigned from departments in Culiacan, Mazatlan and Guasave, in Sinaloa state.
Salvador Barreno, director of the prison system in Juarez, Chihuahua state, was shot some 60 times by an armed group outside his home. He died at the scene.
July 25
Federal authorities seized four residences of Jesus Ernesto Sauceda Felix (aka El Chapo Sauceda), who is presumed to have been behind a drive-by shooting that killed eight innocent people, including a 15-yeqr-old girl, almost two weeks ago in Guamuchil, in Sinaloa state.
Federal police and elements of the Mexican military found 8,000 drums of chemicals used to make synthetic drugs in the basement of a warehouse in Guadalajara, Jalisco state.
The body of Pablo Aispuro Ramírez, a municipal police officer in Culiacan, was found hanging in a tree wearing a sombrero with a message pinned to his chest. He was reported kidnapped July 17.
July 26
Federal agents seized five large-caliber weapons, 17 magazines and 388 rounds of ammunition in a raid on a residence in Ejido, in Sonora state. Authorities say the residents of the home, members of the Sinaloa cartel, were planning an assault on rival groups.
July 27
A shooting in a prison 47 kilometers from Navolato, in Sinaloa state, left one prisoner dead and two others injured. A pistol was reportedly smuggled into the prison for the targeted assassination of Victoriano Araujo Payan, the brother of Gonzalo Araujo Payan, a former high-ranking Sinaloa cartel member who reportedly committed suicide in 2006.
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30276  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: ISI fiasco on: July 28, 2008, 04:45:20 PM
The Pakistani government has been forced to reverse a move to place the country’s top intelligence service under civilian control. The incoherence of the various stakeholders in Islamabad, which Stratfor has been pointing out, is a key reason behind this fiasco. The ill-fated move underscores the immense difficulty of reforming the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, which is a precondition for Islamabad to solve its jihadist problem and play its role as an ally in the U.S.-jihadist war.

Pakistan’s recently elected Pakistani People’s Party (PPP)-led government, under pressure from the military, had to take back its July 26 decision to place the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) directorate — the country’s main intelligence service — under civilian control, Pakistan’s English-language daily Dawn reported July 28.

According to the report, military spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas explained that the army chief and the top brass had not been taken into confidence on the issue. “Although there is an ongoing debate that there should be close coordination between all intelligence agencies, placing ISI under the direct control of the interior division was never discussed. When we realized that the decision had been taken, we discussed the issue with the government and are thankful that there was a realization of ground realities and our position was accepted,” the Director-General of the Inter-Services (DG-ISI) Public Relations was quoted as saying.

Related Links
Pakistan: The Struggle For The ISI
Stratfor’s initial analysis on this matter pointed out that it is extremely unlikely that the army would allow the ISI — a powerful arm of the military that plays a major role in domestic and foreign policy matters — to come under civilian control. We had also noted that, due to the civil-military imbalance in favor of the latter, the civilians are incapable of just assuming control of the directorate. Such a move requires a decision by the army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani in coordination with the top generals. It turns out that that is exactly what did not happen.

There were discussions between the civil and military leadership on how to improve the country’s intelligence operations — especially the ISI — in the wake of the international pressure on Islamabad because of the directorate’s complex relations with jihadists. In a mixture of miscommunication and the PPP government’s desire to increase its influence over the organization, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani — who is currently in Washington for meetings with U.S. officials — likely overstepped the consensus (or the lack thereof) with the military. This would explain why PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told Dawn that he did not know at what level the earlier decision was made, adding that he thought “a miscommunication had led to the mess.”

This is not the first time that a PPP government has tried to expand its influence over the ISI. Assassinated former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 1989 was able to remove Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul (a known jihadist sympathizer) as DG-ISI and replace him with a retired three-star general, Shamsur Rahman Kallu. Then-army chief Gen. Mirza Aslam Beg countered the move by having Lt. Gen. Asad Durrani — director-general of Military Intelligence (MI) at the time — handle both ISI and MI for some time. The tensions that emerged between the Bhutto government and army hierarchy played a key role in the dismissal of her government in 1990.

Now, the current PPP government is engaging in damage control, with de facto party leader and Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari giving a statement that the move was designed to shield the army from growing international criticism. PPP Information Minister Sherry Rehman was also quoted by state-owned news agency the Associated Press of Pakistan as saying that the ISI was already under civilian control because it reports to the prime minister.

Constitutionally, the prime minister has the authority to appoint the ISI chief. President Pervez Musharraf exercised that authority during his regime. But functionally, the ISI is a branch of the army and thus falls under the command of the army chief.

Thus, control over the directorate was already in many ways a contested matter, which this fiasco has exacerbated. While both the civilian and military leaders are trying to downplay the matter, the incident has likely irked sensibilities (to say the least) within the military-intelligence complex, already feeling threatened as the ongoing political strife and a raging jihadist insurgency weaken its hold over the state. The army will increase its oversight on the PPP government, which could lead to additional tensions.

All of this is happening as the United States — now more than ever — wants the Pakistanis to deal with the jihadist problem both at home and in neighboring Afghanistan. Gilani’s visit to Washington centers on this very issue; the ISI fiasco just made matters worse regarding his efforts to get the United States to limit its unilateral actions in the tribal areas. Even on July 28, a U.S. missile strike on a madrassa in South Waziristan killed six people.

Elsewhere, Pakistan’s Chairman of Joints Chiefs of Staff Gen. Tariq Majeed, in a meeting with acting U.S. CENTCOM chief Lt. Gen. Martin E. Dempsey warned that U.S. operations on its Pakistani soil would lead to a deterioration of relations between Islamabad and Washington. Both the Gilani administration and the Pakistani army have been relaying to the Bush administration that the current setup in Islamabad is under the threat of destabilization in the wake of U.S. pressure, and the alternative could very likely be chaos that works to the jihadists’ advantage.

This is why the ISI fiasco is important: It has further exposed the internal contradictions within the Pakistani system. More importantly, however, it shows how very difficult it is to reform the directorate — a step that must be taken for Islamabad to defeat the jihadists threatening it at home and to act as an ally to Washington in the war against militant Islamists.

30277  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 28, 2008, 04:21:06 PM
Woof All:

Cindy and the kids are visiting her mom, so at the moment she is not in a position to post fighter names on the Registered Fighters List.  So until she gets home, I will be posting additional fighter names on this thread.

The Adventure continues!
Crafty Dog

Dog Mat Booe
Mauricio Sanchez: Mexico City, Mexico
Jeff Hurbace:  Henderson, Nevada
30278  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 28, 2008, 02:13:53 PM
Eric Flesichman, who is our principal interface man with Powerhouse, tells me that the lockers/showers are quite nice.
30279  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / The Number One Export on: July 28, 2008, 02:03:58 PM
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Pages: The No. 1 export of the Philippines
John Pages
Sun.Star Cebu

ON THE morning of April 27, 1521, our first national hero was
discovered. Named Lapu-Lapu, together with bare-chested warriors he
extinguished the Spanish armada led by the Portuguese, Ferdinand
Magellan. Using spears and the Moro weapon kampilan, they butchered
and knifed the enemies in the "Battle Of Mactan."

That was 487 long years ago.

Today, Lapu-Lapu's bravery continues....

Wearing the same brown skin as Lapu-Lapu, Filipinos faced Spaniards.
And worse, our countrymen were up against more invaders: the
Americans, British, Italians, Germans, Swiss, Koreans, the French-a
total of 23 other nations have landed in Cebu to conquer Cebu. This
time, the skirmish was named, "Battle at Ayala."

For four days ending yesterday at the Ayala Center Cebu, there stood
women, boys, men and girls who clashed during the 10th World Eskrima
Arnis Kali Championships.

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I watched. I saw banners that hung from
the rafters. Video cameras recorded to document all angles. Security
guards paraded to cordon the Activity Center. A large screen loomed
onstage. The fights were plenty.

Imagine 24 countries battling under one city, one mall, one floor?
Many foreign visitors were muscular. Some were tall; others petite.
Plenty were long-haired with tattoos; some were bald. Many wore red;
some, blue; a few, white.

My best watch? Two fighters surrounded by two camps of screaming
teammates, one chanting "U! S! A! U! S! A!" the other hollering, "U!
K! U! K! U! K!" They were shouting in unison and, standing beside
Atty. Dionisio Cañete, the Supreme Grandmaster of Doce Pares, all I
could do was smile, clap and gaze amazed at the revelry.

Imagine, on RP soil, the US vs. the UK?

For here's my point: While Lapu-Lapu used sticks and swords to bloody
and kill Magellan; while Arnis and Eskrima are widely acknowledged to
have originated in the Philippines-this type of martial arts is not
popular here. Or, it's not as popular here as it is in other nations.
Plus, of course, we know it pales in comparison against taekwondo,
karatedo or aikido.

But here's the irony: this Filipino martial arts is popular outside
our archipelago.

Take the Americans. In all, they sent a 110-strong team. The British?
Dozens. Same with 23 other nations. And though we fielded a squad that
reached a hundred, you can see how popular stick-fighting has grown
outside RP soil. In all, about 100 who joined the event were Filipinos-
compared to 500 foreigners!

Which led former judo champion Nimrod Quiñones, the managing editor of
The Freeman, to conclude: "Arnis is RP's top export."

Well-said, Nim.

With this in mind, plenty is being done to counter this. To start
with, the recent 10th Wekaf world meet was a way to popularize the
sport. And the fact that the organizers-led by Grandmaster Diony and
Gerald and Michael Cañete-decided to hold it not at a far-flung
basketball gym but at the heart of Cebu, at Ayala Center, is a tactic
to entice Cebuanos to watch. And kudos to Ayala Center for their
support-led by Cebu Holdings, Inc. President Francis Monera and top
Ayala officials Joy Polloso and Bong Dy-for personally being there.

Senator Migz Zubiri, a former undefeated arnisador, I met last
Wednesday. He invigorated the crowd with his speech and, right after,
demonstrated his skill in an exhibition with Team Pinoy head coach
(and four-time world champ) Val Pableo. Best of all, while talking to
our group of sportswriters and together with his good friend and top
businessman Edwin Ortiz, he authored a bill in the Senate declaring
arnis as RP's National Sport-to be taught at all schools.

Good. Great. Because with the recent 10th Wekaf World Championships
success, I hope arnis gains more popularity. In RP. In Cebu. Among
30280  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / PD WSJ on: July 28, 2008, 01:53:30 PM
The paragraph below about the fund raising advantage for Dems in the Congressional races scares the bejeezus out of me.  It looks like the Dems will have a veto/filibuster proof majority  shocked cry cry

Despite Barack Obama's moves to the center, the Democratic presidential nominee has planted his flag firmly with liberals when it comes to one issue: race and gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting.

Over the weekend, Mr. Obama accused his Republican rival of flip-flopping after John McCain endorsed an initiative to ban preferential treatment pushed by former University of California regent Ward Connerly. Such proposals will be on ballots this fall in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

"I do not believe in quotas," Mr. McCain said yesterday on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos. "I have not seen the details of some of these proposals. But I've always opposed quotas." Mr. Obama was quick to point out that a decade ago Mr. McCain had told a Hispanic group that "rather than engage in divisive ballot initiatives, we must have a dialogue and cooperation and mutual efforts together to provide for every child in America to fulfill their expectations."

Mr. McCain has certainly been guilty of flip-flops during this campaign, but this is one case where the charge rings hollow. Mr. McCain also told the same group he opposed race-based hiring quotas. Like Jeb Bush when he was governor of Florida, Mr. McCain is leery of ballot initiatives that would arouse strong passions and divide communities. Governor Bush worked with the Florida legislature to pass a ban on racial preferences rather than submit the idea directly to voters, something Mr. Connerly was unable to do in California, Michigan and Washington -- the three states where his initiative has passed to date. Yet Gov. Bush, like Mr. McCain, also always made clear that he opposed quotas.

But then Mr. Obama also claims to oppose quotas, saying he supports "affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination." Any such programs can't be "simply applied without looking at the whole person." In other words, he wants it both ways: He favors race preferences but they need to be packaged "individually."

Should the issue of racial preferences come up in the debates this fall, you can expect both candidates to try to engage in "nuance." But Mr. Obama will have the harder time. Even in Michigan, which hasn't voted Republican for president in 20 years, the initiative Mr. Obama campaigned against won easily with 58% of the vote.

-- John Fund

Men Bite Dogs, Challengers Outraise Incumbents

As Federal Election Commission reports streamed into Washington last week, political watchers in both parties focused on a number of promising challengers who are actually managing to raise more money than presumably entrenched incumbents. As each party narrows its target list before November, watch for well-funded challengers to be among their top priorities.

At least 16 Democrats running against incumbent Republicans outraised their rivals, while six Republicans outpaced Democratic incumbents (thanks to August primaries and tardy filings, not every report has been filed). To be sure, some challengers have managed to raise substantial sums and yet aren't deemed serious competitors. Democratic businesswoman Linda Ketner outraised South Carolina Rep. Henry Brown, but Mr. Brown is expected to win easily in a district that gave President Bush 61% in 2004. Likewise, Deborah Honeycutt, a physician from suburban Atlanta, probably won't beat Democratic Rep. David Scott, to whom she lost by a 69%-31% margin in 2006.

Among the rest, several promising recruits stand out as result of recent fund-raising success. For Democrats, bright spots include Nevada State Senator Dina Titus, former Alaska State Representative Ethan Berkowitz and businesswoman Darcy Burner, who is running for Congress in Washington State. For Republicans, Anne Northup, a former member of Congress who lost her Kentucky seat in 2006, has made an impressive financial start against Democrat John Yarmuth; and former Congressional aide Pete Olson in Texas and one-time Assembly Speaker John Gard in Wisconsin have both outraised Democratic incumbents in their districts.

Perhaps most indicative of long-term trends, Democrats have managed to field two high-profile recruits in what has been solid Republican territory. Raul Martinez and Joe Garcia, both Cuban American Democrats in Florida, are going up against GOP Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, brothers who represent districts near Miami that are each more than 60% Hispanic (mostly Cuban). Cubans have been a reliable voting bloc for the GOP for the past four decades, but a new generation could indicate a power shift towards Democrats. The incumbent Diaz-Balarts still have more cash on hand than their challengers, but Messrs. Martinez and Garcia outraised the incumbents last quarter and a recent poll for the Miami Herald showed them within striking distance.

Democrats, with an approximately six-to-one cash advantage over their House Republican opponents, have begun laying the foundation for an aggressive advertising campaign in 51 districts around the country, including seven where the Democratic candidate outraised the Republican incumbent. Of the $53 million earmarked for House races, Democrats are aiming $1.4 million at the Diaz-Balarts in Florida and a neighboring Republican-held district.

-- Reid Wilson,


A year ago, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was enjoying a honeymoon as a new prime minister, building on a decade of Labour Party dominance under Tony Blair. How things have changed. A poll yesterday for the Independent newspaper found nearly a quarter of Labour voters believe Conservative Party leader David Cameron would make a better prime minister than their own Mr. Brown. Among all voters, Mr. Cameron held an 18-point lead on that question.

That's why the Scotsman, the leading newspaper in Mr. Brown's native Scotland, is rattling political china with its report that Labour ministers are considering a "suicide election" to give the party a fresh start under a new leader. Under this scenario, Mr. Brown would be dumped either this fall or next spring, and the party would call an immediate election in which defeat would be the most likely outcome.

Labour ministers "believe such a move would be better than Brown clinging on to office until 2010 when, they fear, the party would face a wipe-out on the scale of that inflicted on the Tories by Labour in 1997," the Scotsman reported. To Labour's future advantage, Mr. Cameron's Conservatives as a result would be propelled into power "without having prepared enough for the tough economic times ahead."

Normally, such gloomy talk would be discounted as exaggerated, but panic has been the norm in Labour Party circles since it lost a special election for a vacant seat in Parliament last week. The defeat came in Glasgow East, deemed one of the safest Labour seats in the entire country. "If we aren't safe in Glasgow, we could lose everywhere," is how one Labour Party political analyst put it to me over the weekend.

-- John Fund

Quote of the Day

"In Germany, it was all wunderbar. Addressing the throng [in Berlin] as a 'proud citizen of the United States,' but also 'a fellow citizen of the world,' Obama seemed to be giving Europeans a role and a voice in an election in which they have no vote. . . . Who can forget Operation Clark County? That was the campaign waged by British paper the Guardian that encouraged Brits to write to voters in a swing county in the swing state of Ohio to urge them to vote for 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry -- because 'the result of the U.S. election will affect the lives of millions around the world, but those of us outside the 50 states have had no say in it.' Well, they had their say, and Clark was the only county in Ohio to switch from supporting Gore in 2000 to Bush GOP in 2004"-- San Francisco Chronicle columnist Deborah Saunders, on the potential political impact of Barack Obama's overseas trip.

Jesus's Walkman

For a certain part of the electorate, the contents of Barack Obama's iPod are the most vital political issue of the day. That Mr. Obama also won a Grammy (albeit for the audio version of his memoir) doesn't hurt either.

Now the music blogosphere is abuzz with chatter of its own dream ticket -- Mr. Obama and Kanye West. Reports suggest that Mr. West indeed will lead an all-star rap music lineup at the Democratic Convention (or at least the surrounding parties), including Wyclef Jean and N.E.R.D. All three are known Obama favorites, especially Mr. West who was raised in Chicago and gained a taste of political notoriety when he told a live national audience at a benefit concert for victims of Hurricane Katrina that "George Bush doesn't like black people." Recently, he's been in a more ecumenical spotlight for rapping about religion with his hit single "Jesus Walks."

Mr. Obama, who has never failed to utter the appropriate sentiment on any subject, has said he is "troubled sometimes by the misogyny and materialism of rap lyrics." And Mr. Obama's iPod wouldn't be Mr. Obama's iPod if it didn't contain something for everybody, including Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan. In the end, however, careful polling will likely decide exactly which rainbow of musicians will be seen fawning over the candidate at the convention.

-- Collin Levy

30281  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / McFarlane: Free Trade Solution to biofuels on: July 28, 2008, 11:28:38 AM
How Free Trade Can Help Solve the Energy Crisis
July 26, 2008; Page A9

The unprecedented escalation in oil and food prices is a clear and present danger to our economy and national security. The root cause of this crisis is our dependence on a single commodity, oil, for transportation -- we burn 145 billion gallons of gasoline a year. The only permanent solution is diversity in our fuel supply to ensure competition and choice in the marketplace.

While a number of alternatives to oil are being developed, we already have one strategic solution at our disposal: biofuels, both domestic and from Latin America.

Biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel are cheaper than fossil fuels, and will become even cheaper if we eliminate the senseless tariff on ethanol imports from Brazil. Ethanol can be used safely as a 10% blend with gasoline in all existing cars, and as an 85% blend in the increasing number of flexible-fuel cars on our roads. That means a 10% to 85% potential drop in gasoline use and, hence, freedom from the oil stranglehold.

The public has been bombarded with lies and half-truths about biofuels, especially in the last six months. Americans should realize that biofuels are superior to fossil fuels. Biofuels are renewable, nontoxic and biodegradable. They are also beneficial to the automobile engine, the environment and the economy.

Biofuels are available today by the billions of gallons from a variety of sources: corn, sugarcane and soon from cellulosics. Cellulosic ethanol promises to dramatically boost domestic production in the near future. In the meantime, sugarcane ethanol already produced in Latin American sugar mills can become a key U.S. fuel supply.

Cellulosic biomass, in the form of existing agricultural and wood waste, is abundant (over a billion tons annually), inexpensive and requires no additional land. It has no food or feed value and therefore no effect on food availability and prices. A number of technologies are pursued for production of cellulosic ethanol and other biofuels, such as butanol and biodiesel. Most likely there will be no single technology winner. Rather, technologies will be adapted to the particular characteristics of local biofuel feedstocks.

Lower fuel prices will come only with an ample supply of alternative fuels. Cellulosic ethanol can extend corn ethanol's potential of 15 billion gallons per year, but it will not happen overnight. Resolving commercialization issues, building a large number of plants, and ramping up cellulosic ethanol production to billions of gallons will require a number of years.

To quickly boost its biofuel supply, the U.S. should partner with Latin America. Sugarcane ethanol from Brazil, Colombia, Peru and Central America should become an integral part of the U.S. energy strategy. An increase in Latin American cane ethanol capacity is the fastest, most cost-effective and lowest-risk strategy to secure abundant ethanol fuel. The U.S. needs Latin America for energy security, and Latin America needs the U.S. for capital and technology infusion. It's a classic win-win partnership -- provided U.S. trade barriers to sugarcane ethanol are eliminated.

Biofuel production is sustainable. The U.S. corn ethanol industry is investing in technology improvements to reduce land demand through higher productivity and to minimize its carbon footprint. Cellulosic ethanol will come from existing waste materials, not additional land.

Still, both corn and cellulosic ethanol can learn sustainable business lessons from Brazil. Its sugar mills have become biorefineries that co-produce sugar, ethanol and electricity in a renewable fashion, thus satisfying food, fuel and energy needs at the same time. The plants are self-powered by renewable energy derived from cane fiber and other biomass. As a result, Brazilian ethanol today is cost-competitive with oil at just $70 a barrel ($45 a barrel before the dollar weakened) without government subsidies -- a significant price advantage over gasoline.

The U.S. should immediately pursue a multifaceted biofuels strategy. First, while the corn industry improves productivity and sustainability, the U.S. should treat the commercialization of cellulosic technologies as a matter of national security -- a new Manhattan Project deserving all the necessary resources to accelerate deployment.

Second, the U.S. should pursue closer energy integration with Latin America though regulatory convergence and open biofuels trade, thus encouraging private investment in sugarcane ethanol production. This is the fastest and most efficient means to boost ethanol availability within three to four years, and displace gasoline use to an extent significant enough to cause oil demand and prices to drop.

Third, consumers should be educated and financially incentivized to switch to flexible-fuel vehicles, creating demand for mass production of such vehicles, which will dramatically cut U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

Energy security can not be achieved with a silver bullet. It is not a competition between corn ethanol and sugarcane ethanol or between biofuels and plug-in hybrids. The sooner we realize that U.S. energy security needs all of the above, the sooner our country will be able to commit to a coherent long-term energy policy. U.S. and Latin American biofuels are the kick-start needed to break oil's unbearable monopoly in transportation fuels.

Mr. McFarlane served as President Ronald Reagan's national security advisor (1983-85). Mr. Philippidis is energy director at Florida International University in Miami.
30282  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: July 28, 2008, 11:21:19 AM
Well, , , maybe , , , but to me it reads like Bush-Rice have drawn yet another line in the sand which will be disrespected as well.
Iran has become the main thoroughfare for jihadist traffic leaving Iraq for Pakistan’s tribal belt, a state-owned newspaper in Afghanistan said on Sunday. An editorial in the daily Anis described the Shiite Islamic republic as a “tunnel for terrorists” to Waziristan. “The people of Afghanistan can’t remain silent against such Iranian behaviors since this country sends those individuals to Afghanistan who kill and murder Afghans,” Anis said. The paper went on to say that “Iran under present conditions has become as the easiest entry for terrorists from the Middle East to Afghanistan and the [Afghan] government has to blockade this tunnel by whatever means.”

While most of the world’s attention is on the Pakistani factor in the Afghan jihadist insurgency, there is not much focus on Iran’s role in its eastern neighbor — even though the Iranians enjoy a considerable amount of influence (linguistic, ethnic, cultural, financial, etc.) in Afghanistan.

It should not be forgotten that Tehran provided significant cooperation to Washington in the latter’s move to overthrow the Taliban regime in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But even though it was working with the United States to oust the Taliban from power, Iran reportedly allowed al-Qaeda members fleeing the U.S. air assault on Afghanistan to enter Iran and remain in safe-houses maintained by the country’s elite military force, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Many of those said to be protected in Iran were senior al Qaeda leaders such as former al Qaeda military chief Seif al-Adel, its ex-spokesman Suleiman Abu Ghaith and Osama bin Laden’s son Saad bin Laden (all of whom are likely still in Iranian “custody”). The founder of the jihadist movement in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also reportedly entered Iraq from Iran, where he sought refuge after fleeing the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in the fall of 2001.

Iran has no love for the Taliban or al-Qaeda. On the contrary, they are bitter sectarian and ideological rivals. This rivalry notwithstanding, Tehran maintains complex relationships with these jihadist actors in order to advance its national security interests. Tehran hopes to be able to use them as bargaining chips in any final settlement with the United States.

But before it reaches that stage, Tehran is still routing and rerouting jihadist traffic to pressure the United States and become a player. In between the two regime changes of 2001 and 2003, it was in Iran’s interest to facilitate jihadist relocation into Iraq to force Washington’s hand. But circumstances have changed drastically since then.

The Iranians know that with the situation in Iraq moving toward a settlement of sorts, U.S. attention is returning to Afghanistan. Tehran thus wants to be able to play a major role there as well, especially at a time when the principal U.S. ally in the Afghan theater, Pakistan, is becoming increasingly unreliable. Therefore, Iran is likely facilitating the flow of jihadists in the opposite direction.

It should be noted that it was only a few days ago that Iranian Vice-President Gholam Reza Aghazadeh (also the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization), in reference to U.S.-Iranian talks on its controversial nuclear issue, said that if substantive negotiations start, “many important problems will be resolved: the problem of a stable Middle East, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq and the problem of the high oil price.”

Washington and its wealthy Arab allies have created a bulwark to contain Tehran’s regional ambitions in the Middle East. But Iran takes comfort from the fact that it can still project power into its western and eastern neighbors. Iranian national security policy concerning Iraq is already in an advanced stage, which means the Persian state will be devoting more of its energies to enhance its standing in Afghanistan — at a time when very high-level back-channel meetings between the Bush administration and Iran’s clerical regime are under way.
30283  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: July 28, 2008, 11:18:22 AM
I am grateful for Maija Solderholm of Visayan Corto Eskrima coming down from the bay area for two days to exchange knowledge with me.  She has stimulated my thinking in several important ways.  Thank you Maija!
30284  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Current Events: Philippines on: July 28, 2008, 11:16:09 AM

(Updates with outcome of talks, fresh quotes)

By Jalil Hamid and Manny Mogato

KUALA LUMPUR/MANILA, July 27 (Reuters) - The Philippines' largest Muslim rebel group and the government agreed on Sunday to ballot areas within 12 months on whether they wanted to join an existing autonomous Muslim homeland in the volatile south.

The compromise came after the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government resumed stalled talks in Malaysia.

While the deal was no guarantee that a final settlement to one of Southeast Asia's most intractable conflicts was in the offing, it was seen as an important step towards ending violence that has killed 120,000 people since the late 1960s.

"A breakthrough has been achieved in the issue of ancestral domain (homeland) in Kuala Lumpur tonight with the signing of a joint communique," said Hermogenes Esperon, the Philippine president's peace adviser, who attended the talks.

"With this positive development and the negotiations, the signing of the framework agreement on ancestral domain is tentatively set for early August," he said.

Under the deal, a referendum will be held in around 700 villages on whether they want to join the existing autonomous Muslim region.

Both sides had hoped to wrap up the talks last week in the Malaysian capital ahead of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's annual state of the nation address on Monday.

But the talks ended in deadlock on Friday after Manila tried to delay a referendum on enlarging the existing Muslim homeland until after a separate political agreement was reached.


The existing Muslim homeland has its own government, legislature and Muslim courts, but remains dependent on the central government for its budget, foreign, defence and monetary policy.

In the final political agreement still under negotiation, the rebels are pushing for the homeland to retain 75 percent of the taxes raised in that region.

A Malaysian government source close to the talks said the signing of the agreement on expanding the ancestral homeland would be held either on August 5 or 6.

Analysts say opposition among powerful Christian and Muslim families in the south and government hawks to a formal peace deal with the MILF, and Arroyo's reliance on their support, mean Manila's negotiating strategy could easily be thrown off course.

Real progress in the talks appeared to have been made when Arroyo last week supported postponing Aug. 11 elections in the Muslim south, because progress in talks with the 11,000-member MILF made a new political setup a possibility.

Some Manila lawmakers opposed postponement and complained that they did not know what had been agreed with the MILF. They complained Congress was not consulted on the issue.

(Reporting by Manny Mogato in Manila and Jalil Hamid in Kuala Lumpur; Editing by Jon Boyle)
30285  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: July 28, 2008, 11:09:59 AM
British soldier and his faithful friend die side-by-side in Afghanistan

Lance Corporal Ken Rowe and his sniffer dog Sasha have been named as those killed in a Taliban ambush in Helmand. Sean Rayment met them days before they died.

By Sean Rayment
Last Updated: 12:04PM BST 27 Jul 2008

Lance Corporal Ken Rowe was waiting for the patrol to assemble close to the rear gate of Forward Operating Base Inkerman, high in the Upper Sangin Valley.

With him was Sasha, a yellow Labrador, with a friendly face and a tail that never stopped wagging.

The pair were accompanying a routine early morning patrol, with 4 platoon, B Company of the 2nd Bn Parachute Regiment (2Para) into the Green Zone, a notorious Taliban stronghold, which begins only a few hundred yards from the walls of the isolated base.

As part of a three-week embed with the British Army in Helmand, I joined the patrol last Monday morning just as dawn was breaking over the Helmand desert.

Like many of the 30 soldiers who formed up for the patrol, I was immediately drawn to Sasha. I let her smell my hand before patting her head and tickling her ear. Sasha looked up, her face almost smiling, enjoying the attention.

"Lovely dog", I said to L/Cpl Rowe, "She's the best", he said. We then chatted about the merits of "explosives search dogs" in Helmand.

"They're a major asset," said L/Cpl Rowe. "The soldiers love having them on patrol They can find explosives and weapons, even the presence of weapons, so out here they are a really useful tool and the soldiers like having them around as well - and the Taliban don't."

As we chatted, other soldiers went through the same ritual. Lots of pats and "hello girl" from the troops as they moved forward to load their weapons. It was as though the presence of a dog was a reminder of home, something familiar and unthreatening, in a hostile and violent world. It was imperceptible, but I could almost sense the soldiers' morale lifting as it became clear that L/Cpl Rowe and Sasha were joining the patrol.

Then, for a split second, all of those hours of obedience training gave way to instinct when Sasha caught sight of one of the many leopard-like feral cats that roam the base.
Sasha disappeared, without a sound in a cloud of dust, chasing the cat around the camp. We all laughed quietly. "Who'd be a dog handler?", L/Cpl Rowe said to himself, slightly embarrassed by his dog's momentary lapse of self-control.

Sasha came back, head bowed, knowing that she had erred. L/Cpl Rowe attached the lead and said "sit!". The dog obeyed, and then, in an act of affection, let her body rest against the side of her master's leg. "She's saying sorry", said L/Cpl Rowe.
The patrol took us through a local hamlet called Saregar, which the soldiers had dubbed the "Star Wars Village", and then into the Green Zone, where they began searching a series of compounds for Taliban weapons and explosives.

It is difficult and dangerous work, and the dog handlers, who are attached to units from the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, share exactly the same risks.

The threat from Improvised Explosive Devices and so-called legacy mines from the Soviet occupation, is ever present, and rather than stand and fight, the Taliban now "shoot and scoot", according to the soldiers.

The dangers in this part of Helmand are now so great that the soldiers paraphrase the mantra used by the IRA during the 30 years of The Troubles.

"The Taliban only have to be lucky once but we have to be lucky all the time", Sergeant Wayne Sykes, told me as we patrolled through the Green Zone, waiting for the Taliban to attack.

Luck ran out for L/Cpl Rowe, 24, and Sasha last Thursday, when during another identical routine patrol through the Green Zone, both he and Sasha were killed instantly by automatic fire in a Taliban ambush. Six other soldiers were also injured.
L/Cpl Rowe and Sasha had died together as they had served together, side by side.

I was shocked when told of L/Cpl Rowe's death. Like many who knew him, my first instinct was that it must have been a mistake. Then the realisation dawned and it seemed almost impossible that someone you had been chatting to a few days earlier had now gone for ever.
30286  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DB Gathering of the Pack August 10th, 2008 on: July 27, 2008, 11:57:55 AM
A) Sure.  Remember, only you are responsible for you.   grin 

b) $10
30287  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Reform efforts in Malaysia on: July 26, 2008, 10:01:10 AM
It's Déjà Vu for Malaysia's Opposition Leader
July 26, 2008; Page A7

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

"I was dumped into this high-security police lockup for, you see, these high-level criminals. . . . On the cement floor, without any mattresses. That explains why I have to be back on this." Anwar Ibrahim gingerly peels up his shirt to reveal a corset-like back brace. And then he bursts into laughter.

Ismael Roldan 
For a man released from a night in jail only a few days earlier, Mr. Anwar is an awfully jolly man. Malaysia's opposition leader has been accused of sodomy by a former aide -- a criminal offense in this Muslim-majority country that could send him to jail for up to two decades. It's a bizarre déjà vu for the bespectacled politician, who spent 1998-2004 behind bars on a trumped-up sodomy charge the last time he challenged for political power.

But he's pushing ahead: On Wednesday, Mr. Anwar vowed to run for parliament "imminently" in a by-election, with the aim of toppling the government by September. If he's successful, he could be the next prime minister of Malaysia.

None of this would matter much outside Southeast Asia were it not for the fact that Mr. Anwar's political coalition espouses something unusual in the Muslim world: the virtues of a secular, free-market democracy. More Muslims live in Asia -- Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh -- than in the Middle East.

Mr. Anwar is unusually suited to bridge East-West divides. A Muslim, "though never typically very religious," he chuckles, he is a good friend of Saudi Arabia and the U.S. alike -- a man who memorized "hundreds of Elvis Presley, Paul Anka and Ricky Nelson tunes" in his youth, but also attended weekend religious classes and, in his 20s, founded the Muslim Youth Movement of Malaysia. He has never been afraid to argue that democracy and Islam are compatible forces -- or to make that case to undemocratic Arab regimes.

In many ways, Malaysia -- though it sports big urban centers and modern wonders like the Petronas Towers -- seems stuck in a time warp. The media is largely state-controlled, and the executive branch still locks up political dissidents without trial under the British colonial-era Internal Security Act.

Mahathir Mohamad's 22-year rule, which ended in 2003, did bring economic development to Malaysia. But Mr. Anwar says only a "fringe few" would ignore the widespread corruption that also occurred. Mr. Anwar, who was Dr. Mahathir's deputy at the time, found himself accused of sodomy in 1998 when he started pushing for reform. His arrest and imprisonment brought thousands of people onto Kuala Lumpur's streets.

And the recent accusation against him? It is "unfortunate," Mr. Anwar said as we settled into conference room chairs at his People's Justice Party's new headquarters in a strip mall in a Kuala Lumpur suburb last week. But it's a sign that "the system is crumbling."

"Malaysia was resilient -- at least in the late '80s and '90s -- primarily because it was able to attract foreign investment," Mr. Anwar says. "It has lost that. So we have to see why? Well," he answers his own question, "economic policies considered obsolete -- particularly the New Economic Policy." He's referring to the pervasive pro-Malay affirmative-action program that reaches deeply into almost every corner of the economy and the university system. "There's no rule of law, endemic corruption and general incompetence" in Malaysia, he adds.

Malaysia's current government is trying harder than any other Asian regime -- save the little kingdom of Brunei -- to push closer to the Middle East, luring investment and Arab tourists to its shores. Women shrouded from head to toe are common sights in Kuala Lumpur's upscale shopping district. The country is an emerging center for Islamic finance, and Saudi-backed mosques are popping up everywhere.

Mr. Anwar thinks there's another way forward: by incorporating conservative Muslims into the democratic fold, and enforcing a secular rule of law without exception. He also made this point in a chat we had at his home in Kuala Lumpur last month. "You need a free media and free and fair elections. Moderate democracies and parties don't accept radicalism. You must give them space. Muslims can't be made to feel that democracy can only be applied to certain groups. That's not healthy."

Mr. Anwar's party is largely Malay, and secular. But his three-party coalition also includes a Chinese party and a conservative Muslim party that advocates Islamic law. The latter, the Parti Islam se-Malaysia, has supported measures such as segregated grocery store lines for men and women, bans on lipstick and antifornication laws. Why does Mr. Anwar's multiethnic coalition include a party that embraces such a platform?

"We took some years to cement this relationship because I don't want it to be seen purely as a politically expedient exercise," he says. "We base it on a clear reform agenda. So what we did instead of using labels -- Islam, secularism, liberal -- we spell out what we want. So in the agenda, for example, we believe in 'democracy and freedom.' By this we mean freedom of religion, or worship, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience. Which means all laws to the contrary will have to be rejected."

Mr. Anwar returned to Malaysia in 2006 -- after teaching stints at Georgetown University and the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies -- to launch a political comeback. He utilized every tool at his disposal outside the state-run media -- "SMSes, blogs, Web sites" -- to get out his message of anticorruption, freedom and religious tolerance. His coalition romped home in March with more than one-third of the seats in the national Parliament, and the leadership of five of Malaysia's 13 states. The result stunned the ruling United Malays National Organization, which has dominated Malaysian politics since independence in 1957.

Mr. Anwar gets almost giddy when I query him about the result: "People on the ground, they couldn't care two hoots about this scurrilous attack on my character," he exclaims, referring to the latest sodomy accusation. "They want to hear me talk about change . . . I think the old system -- the center cannot hold. Remember that brilliant piece by Yeats?" Mr. Anwar is referring, aptly, to the poem, "The Second Coming."

He thinks political change in Malaysia could reverberate outside the country's borders, setting a "crucial" example for the rest of the Muslim world. But is the rest of the Muslim world ready to hear his message? What about Iran?

"I respect Iran as a nation, with such a great civilization, with great potential," Mr. Anwar says, evading the question with a grin. But "they know my views on democracy. They know my engagement with the West and with the Americans."

Being pro-American isn't popular in Malaysia, and Mr. Anwar is careful to stress his distance from Washington. "For example, the occupation of American forces in Iraq. I disagree, I totally disagree. But I don't treat America as my enemy. And I believe that we would gain immensely by maintaining very good diplomatic and economic relations, trade relations, with America. But it doesn't mean we must agree with them on many issues, or most issues."

It also doesn't mean that Mr. Anwar agrees with other Islamic powers, either. On a recent trip to Saudi Arabia, he met government officials and heard them talk of their modern education system. "I said I was impressed," but "quality education" needs "a liberal democratic space" and "creativity."

Could Malaysia serve as an example for the rest of the Islamic world, as a tolerant, Muslim-majority and multiethnic democracy? "Right now, it's certainly a very poor example," he says, laughing out loud. "But it has this enormous potential in terms of gender equality. Although you know, my wife wouldn't agree with that term. She says it's not that equal for now. . . . You should say, moving toward gender equality." Mr. Anwar's wife and one of his daughters are members of Parliament.

The sodomy accusation is meant not just to discredit Mr. Anwar, but to rip apart his nascent coalition. It was levied a few days before Mr. Anwar was scheduled to announce his candidacy for parliament. Fearing the worst, he fled to the Turkish embassy -- another moderate Muslim democracy -- for refuge. Since then, photos purportedly showing his accuser meeting with high-level government officials began to circulate. The government denies any involvement.

"To allow for some segment or sector, groups, within the system to resort to these dirty machinations is pathetic," he says, then pauses. "To them, it may be necessary to pre-empt our next move, my contesting the by-election."

Malaysia's most prominent mufti, or religious scholar, Perak Mufti Datuk Seri Harussani Zakaria, has backed Mr. Anwar's cause. Around 2,000 supporters flocked to the police station last week when word got out that Mr. Anwar was spending the night there. "I've advised my supporters to remain calm," he says. "Don't overreact, don't be provoked. Because that's exactly what they want. In any authoritarian system, what they want to present is a near chaos so they can declare a state of emergency."

Why not pack it all in and retire with his wife and six children? "You come in with a clear conviction, that you believe in freedom, you believe in democracy," Mr. Anwar replies. "And you have so much affection for the people. You love your country. You want the country to succeed. And this is one, unique, multiracial, multireligious country with a Muslim majority that should prove to the world that we can co-exist and succeed with a vibrant economy. Now, there's a lot of intimidation, a lot of efforts to derail this. If I choose to surrender, keep quiet, then it would adversely affect the process."

He asks a rhetorical question: "If I, in my position, with my experience, have no courage, just because I was beaten up before, humiliated, then what do you expect from the people? What sort of leadership do you provide?"

Mr. Anwar's aides are gesticulating to him at the window outside his office -- he's late for his next appointment. "It's going to be tough," he says. "But this time, I am certain -- as we say, inshallah, God willing, we are going to make it." He laughs, and walks away, still smiling.

Ms. Kissel is the editor of The Wall Street Journal Asia's editorial page.
30288  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 26, 2008, 09:53:21 AM
Plausible I suppose, but in that it has not been done here in the US or Europe, do you think the Chinese Muslim Fascists have the ability to go nuke?  My sense of things is that they are at a lower level.

My sense of things is that playing up the Isalmo-fascist issue becomes  a way for China to neutralize the usual US complaints and bleatings when they are their usual oppressive totalitarian selves.
30289  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Initiatives on: July 26, 2008, 09:43:18 AM

The Far Left's War on Direct Democracy
July 26, 2008; Page A9

A total of 24 states allow voters to change laws on their own by collecting signatures and putting initiatives on the ballot. It's healthy that the entrenched political class should face some real legislative competition from initiative-toting citizens. Unfortunately, some special interests have declared war on the initiative process, using tactics ranging from restrictive laws to outright thuggery.

David G. Klein 
The initiative is a reform born out of the Progressive Era, when there was general agreement that powerful interests had too much influence over legislators. It was adopted by most states in the Midwest and West, including Ohio and California. It was largely rejected by Eastern states, which were dominated by political machines, and in the South, where Jim Crow legislators feared giving more power to ordinary people.

But more power to ordinary people remains unpopular in some quarters, and nothing illustrates the war on the initiative more than the reaction to Ward Connerly's measures to ban racial quotas and preferences. The former University of California regent has convinced three liberal states -- California, Washington and Michigan -- to approve race-neutral government policies in public hiring, contracting and university admissions. He also prodded Florida lawmakers into passing such a law. This year his American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI) aimed to make the ballot in five more states. But thanks to strong-arm tactics, the initiative has only made the ballot in Arizona, Colorado and Nebraska.

"The key to defeating the initiative is to keep it off the ballot in the first place," says Donna Stern, Midwest director for the Detroit-based By Any Means Necessary (BAMN). "That's the only way we're going to win." Her group's name certainly describes the tactics that are being used to thwart Mr. Connerly.

Aggressive legal challenges have bordered on the absurd, going so far as to claim that a blank line on one petition was a "duplicate" of another blank line on another petition and thus evidence of fraud. In Missouri, Secretary of State Robin Carnahan completely rewrote the initiative's ballot summary to portray it in a negative light. By the time courts ruled she had overstepped her authority, there wasn't enough time to collect sufficient signatures.

Those who did circulate petitions faced bizarre obstacles. In Kansas City, a petitioner was arrested for collecting signatures outside of a public library. Officials finally allowed petitioners a table inside the library but forbade them to talk. In Nebraska, a group in favor of racial preferences ran a radio ad that warned that those who signed the "deceptive" petition "could be at risk for identity theft, robbery, and much worse."

Mr. Connerly says that it's ironic that those who claim to believe in "people power" want to keep people from voting on his proposal: "Their tactics challenge the legitimacy of our system."

He's not alone. Liberal columnist Anne Denogean of the Tucson Citizen opposes the Connerly initiative, but last month she wrote that BAMN "is showing a disgusting lack of respect for the democratic process and the right of all Arizonans to participate in it." She detailed how members of this organization harass petitioners and film people who sign the petition, while telling them they are backing a racist measure.

The police had to be called when BAMN blocked the entrance of a Phoenix office where circulators had to deliver their petitions. "BAMN's tactics," she concluded, "resemble those used by anti-abortion activists to prevent women from entering abortion clinics."

But BAMN proudly posts videos on its success in scaring away voters, or convincing circulators to hand over their petitions to its shock troops. "If you give me your signatures, we'll leave you alone," says a BAMN volunteer on one tape to someone who's earning money by circulating several different petitions.

What about voters' rights to sign ACRI's petitions? BAMN organizer Monica Smith equates race-neutral laws with Jim-Crow segregation laws and slavery. She told Tuscon columnist Denogean that voters are simply being educated that ACRI is "trying to end affirmative action . . . We let them know it's up on the KKK's Web site." Mr. Connerly has repudiated any support from racists.

Other opponents of Mr. Connerly deplore the blocking and name-calling. Arizona State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema told me that initiatives have been used to pass ideas such as campaign finance and redistricting reform often opposed by entrenched legislators. "People have a right to sign a petition, hear the arguments and then vote," she says. Ms. Sinema thinks Arizonans can be persuaded to vote down ACRI's measure, much as they voted down a ban on gay marriage in 2006.

The war against citizen initiatives has other fronts. This year in Michigan, taxpayer groups tried to recall House Speaker Andy Dillon after he pushed through a 22% increase in the state income tax. But petitioners collecting the necessary 8,724 signatures in his suburban Detroit district were set upon. In Redford, police union members held a rally backing Mr. Dillon and would alert blockers to the location of recall petitioners. Outsiders would then surround petitioners and potential signers, using threatening language.

Mr. Dillon denied organizing such activity. Then it was revealed two of the harassers were state employees working directly for him. Another "voter educator" hired by the state's Democratic Party had been convicted of armed robbery. After 2,000 signatures were thrown out on technical grounds, the recall effort fell 700 signatures short.

Ever since voters in virtually every state with direct democracy passed term limits in the 1990s, state legislators have been hostile to the process. Now Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado have all passed legislation to prohibit people from out-of-state from circulating a petition, and also to ban payment to circulators on a per-signature basis.

To his credit, Colorado's Democratic Gov. Bill Ritter vetoed such curbs. In March, a Sixth Circuit federal appeals court panel unanimously ruled that an Ohio law barring per-signature payment violated the First Amendment. Similarly, a Ninth Circuit panel just voted unanimously to strike down Arizona's residency law for circulators.

Some judges think the "blocking" of signature gatherers has gone too far. In 2006, Nevada Judge Sally Loehrers decreed a "civility zone" that barred opposing sides from coming within arms' length of each other at petition signing sites. "The blockers were off the streets within two days," says Paul Jacob, the head of Citizens in Charge, which promotes the initiative process.

Last year, Mr. Jacob was charged with conspiracy to defraud the state of Oklahoma in a bizarre prosecution that claimed he brought in out-of-state signature gatherers in violation of the state's residency requirement. Yet local public sector unions opposed to Mr. Jacob hired out-of-state outfits such as the Voter Education Project, an AFL-CIO offshoot that specializes in harassing signature drives.

Representative government will remain the enduring feature of American democracy, but the initiative process is a valuable safety valve. So long as elected officials gerrymander their districts and otherwise make it nearly impossible for voters to oust them, direct lawmaking will be popular. That's why attempts to arbitrarily curb the initiative, or to intimidate people from exercising their right to participate, must be resisted. It's a civil liberties issue that should unite people of good will on both the right and left.

Mr. Fund is a columnist for
30290  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 26, 2008, 09:28:22 AM
The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) — another name for China’s Islamic Party of East Turkistan militant group — has claimed responsibility for the July 21 bus bombings in Yunnan and several other incidents around the country. The group has also said militants are trained and deployed to attack critical targets in major Chinese cities during the Olympics. The claims of responsibility appear exaggerated, but the threat TIP poses cannot be ignored.

The Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) — another name for the Islamic Party of East Turkistan (ETIM) — has issued a video claiming responsibility for the July 21 bus bombings in Yunnan as well as several other incidents across China in recent months. The spokesman for the TIP, who refers to himself as Commander Seyfullah, also warned that TIP militants were trained and deployed to hit at critical targets in central cities during the Olympics. While the claims of responsibility appear exaggerated, the potential threat to transportation infrastructure, particularly in cities other than Beijing, cannot be brushed aside.

Over the past year, TIP has expanded its presence on the Internet, issuing videos calling for a jihad by Uighurs from China’s western Xinjiang province and highlighting training exercises. One video showed the execution of at least three ethnic Chinese. In addition, TIP has profiled extensively both the history of the movement (which at times has been called ETIM — a name the Chinese use when talking about most militant actions in Xinjiang and a group the United States added to its list of foreign terrorist organizations) and the former leader of ETIM, Hasan Mahsum, who was killed in Pakistan in 2003.

Following Mahsum’s death, ETIM fractured, its members moving into hiding, primarily in Afghanistan. Since that time, a successor movement has been pulling together, linked to Uzbek and other foreign militants operating in the Pakistan-Afghanistan frontier. More recently, the TIP has begun issuing videos — some dedicated to Mahsum, others showing training operations — and, in an April video, the group began issuing warnings to China that they would attack the Olympics. This most recent video follows up on that, saying that China has effectively run out of time, and that the group’s leader, Abdul Haq, has ordered militants to begin striking in central China. Haq was one of the key members of the early ETIM group, working with Mahsum in Afghanistan in training Uighur militants in 2001.

China has long warned that ETIM posed a critical threat to the Olympics. The recent uptick in incidents in China — from the March airline incident to the recent bus fire in Shanghai and the double bus bombing in Yunnan — has raised concerns if not about a coordinated effort to target the Chinese state, at least about China’s transportation infrastructure.

ETIM has a history of transportation infrastructure attacks (as does the broader al Qaeda movement), and there have been quiet rumors from China — particularly in Shanghai — in recent months that suspicious Central and South Asians (including Kazakhs) were seen monitoring infrastructure in Chinese cities, the implication being that they were carrying out pre-operational surveillance for potential attacks. Chinese authorities have also reported that they found plans for attacks against Olympic athletes, tourists and various military and civilian infrastructure during raids of alleged ETIM camps in western China earlier this year.

The claims in the latest TIP video seem a bit exaggerated — a common tactic for militants seeking to increase attention and embellish their own image. There is some suspicion that the videos are part of a psychological operation, by either the Chinese government to further justify security sweeps or by foreign agents to raise additional fears in Beijing. Chinese authorities also recently said they had wrapped up a threat in Shanghai to the Olympics. However, the government has yet to offer an explanation for the bus attack in Shanghai (and a hoax bomb-call for a major market at around the same time), and the local government in Yunnan has already tripled the initial reward for information leading to the arrest of the culprits behind the bus bombings in Kunming. Yunnan borders Southeast Asia, and the mountain paths offer a relatively easy route for discreet entry into and out of China should the militants have come from outside.

While Seyfullah’s claims appear greater than reality, they cannot be entirely dismissed, nor can the potential for further transportation infrastructure attacks against China. As Stratfor has cautioned previously, attacks against buses, trains and even airlines are not unlikely, particularly outside of Beijing. Shanghai in particular has seen a lot of unusual activity in recent months that may be a signal that operations are being planned or scoped out in the city. While TIP/ETIM does not pose a strategic threat to the Chinese state, such transportation attacks are well within its scope of capabilities.

30291  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Emergency Rooms on: July 26, 2008, 09:13:04 AM
You may think of a hospital as a place of refuge and healing, but so do wounded gang members. And wounded predators can be dangerous.
July 23, 2008

Have you ever thought about this one?

One night you are one of the police units in your city responding to a gang fight call. The first units arriving broadcast that a gang shooting has just occurred with several wounded gunshot victims. But you are diverted to respond to the local hospital because an anonymous source called claiming that gang members are rushing their critically wounded to the emergency room.

On your way to the hospital, you see several vehicles ahead of you speeding through the streets, running stop signs, and finally pulling into the hospital emergency room parking lot. Your one-man-unit approaches the vehicle closest to the emergency room doors as several very emotional gang members are dragging an obviously dead homeboy out of the car.

Suddenly you hear shouting from another car behind you. These gangsters are also getting out of their cars, and they also have a wounded homeboy. The air is charged with tension and taunts, threats, and challenges are exchanged.

You are now in the middle of a kill zone between two rival and highly agitated gangs. You watch in slow motion as they drop their wounded and draw their guns. It is as though they cannot even see you or recognize your uniform or police vehicle. You are not the intended target, but you could easily be collateral damage.

This scenario is taken from an incident that actually occurred at the Los Angeles County General Hospital and resulted in an officer-involved shooting in the emergency parking lot. The officer was a member of the Los Angeles County Police Department, the agency that works the county hospitals.

As a gang detective, I once responded to another local hospital trauma center to get a statement from a gunshot victim. He had just barely survived a gunshot wound and an emergency room procedure and was in the Intensive Care Unit.

The hospital security guard led me to ICU, and we both were startled to see my “victim” rolling around on his hospital bed dragging his I.V. bottle and electronic monitoring wires, jousting with another patient in a similar bed with similar lines trying to pull the tubes and wires from each other.

When we separated them, we learned that they were suspect/victim and members of rival gangs. This problem continued to grow for the hospital over the next few days because both patients’ homeboys and homegirls began coming to the hospital to visit their own wounded, and would run into members of the other gang. Eventually hospital security had to be assigned and stationed in front of each of their rooms.

On another occasion, a gang member was brought to the Martin Luther King emergency room under the influence of phencyclidine (PCP) by his homeboys. Officers of the Los Angeles County Police searched the gang member and then strapped him to a gurney in the very busy emergency room. There were, in fact, several PCP overdoses and wounded gang members in the emergency room and hall ways on this night.

This particular gang member was not my charge; I was there with a different gang member who was being cleared for booking by hospital staff. Another Deputy from the Special Enforcement Unit, Steve Nelson, was having another arrested gang member checked out when we both heard screams coming from the emergency room.

The gang member who was under the influence of PCP and strapped to the gurney by the County Police had a pocket knife and had somehow cut himself free from his leather restraints. He had already stabbed the attending emergency room physician and jumped off the gurney to slash a second staff member.

Dep. Nelson and I gave chase in the crowded emergency room. The suspect swung the knife at anyone he passed near enough to reach. We drew our pistols but had no chance of a clear shot in the emergency room and hallway. We ran through the corridors and hallways out to the very crowded lobby.

As the suspect ran outside to the parking lot, we split up, chasing him around several large metal CONEX-style boxes. The suspect charged Nelson with the knife, and Nelson put a very quick but controlled three rounds into his center mass just below the ribs and right of center line.

To Nelson’s and my amazement, the very same emergency room staff that this violent gang member had attacked came out to the parking lot to his life.

Despite the friendly staff with good attitudes, hospitals are not usually happy places. Domestic violence, child abuse, rape, attempted suicides, gang assaults, and drug overdoses are just a few of the problems encountered in the average day in a busy hospital. If you expect to frequent such a place, do not let your guard down.

Find out if the hospital has a police force or private security officers. Introduce yourself to them and learn their hospital procedures before an emergency occurs. Don’t disrespect them, even if you think that they are only private security guards. Remember you are in their house. If you get into trouble, it will most likely be them coming to your aid as first responders.

Many modern hospitals are equipped with metal detectors and X-ray systems to scan bags and purses. In addition some hospitals require everyone to be stopped, searched, and wanded with a handheld metal detector before entering the building. This is accomplished under implied consent laws and hospital regulations.

However, some hospitals exclude doctors and staff from this requirement. Make yourself aware of the procedures at this checkpoint because it will be one of the possible points where trouble will occur.

When you get to the emergency room, study how it is laid out. Where is the trouble likely to come from? Where are the phones? What code system is the staff using? For example, Code Blue = cardiac arrest.

Talk to the regular emergency room staff on all shifts, especially the Doctors and the floor nurse. Ask them to clue you in when they sense possible trouble. Offer to let them ride along with you one day if they will run you through their emergency room procedures.

Talk to the hospital security personnel about the local gangs. If you have any in your town, I will bet you can find gang graffiti on the hospital grounds. Photograph and identify the gang graffiti for the security people. Point out gang tattoos. Make it a kind of game with the security staff to identify possible gang affiliations and separate them on intake.

Suggest they establish an isolation room for possible problem patients. Talk to them about the use of handcuffs and restraints. Note: some inexperienced doctors and staff members will object to any use of restraints on a person being examined and treated in the emergency room, even a potentially dangerous gang member. Try to convince them that such a precaution is best for everyone. 

When you are in the field and responding to a gang fight or shooting, try to roll the wounded to separate hospitals if possible. Talk to the paramedics about this because sometimes the victim’s wounds will determine the trauma center he should be sent to.

Have the desk notify the hospital security that victims associated with this gang are on their way or roll the assisting unit with the victims to prevent clashes with the rival victims or suspects. Have the assisting unit drive through the hospital parking lot looking for the rival gang members who might be spying to find out if they made a kill or just wounded the victim.

The California Penal Code covers the crime of “Resisting public peace officers or medical technicians in the discharge of their duties,” under 148 P.C. The law was designed to protect policemen and paramedics in the field, but it could be applied to emergency room situations too. Look up your state’s codes on interfering, resisting, or obstructing police and medical technicians in emergency situations and see if you can use them against gangs in the emergency room.

author: Richard Valdemar | posted @ Wednesday, July 23, 2008 8:57 AM

30292  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Minimum Skills for h2h on: July 26, 2008, 01:01:30 AM
Here's a slap in action:
30293  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Holy Child on: July 26, 2008, 12:52:07 AM
July 25, 2008

He ventured forth to bring light to the world
The anointed one's pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a miracle in action - and a blessing to all his faithful followers
Gerard Baker
And it came to pass, in the eighth year of the reign of the evil Bush the Younger (The Ignorant), when the whole land from the Arabian desert to the shores of the Great Lakes had been laid barren, that a Child appeared in the wilderness.

The Child was blessed in looks and intellect. Scion of a simple family, offspring of a miraculous union, grandson of a typical white person and an African peasant. And yea, as he grew, the Child walked in the path of righteousness, with only the occasional detour into the odd weed and a little blow.

When he was twelve years old, they found him in the temple in the City of Chicago, arguing the finer points of community organisation with the Prophet Jeremiah and the Elders. And the Elders were astonished at what they heard and said among themselves: “Verily, who is this Child that he opens our hearts and minds to the audacity of hope?”

In the great Battles of Caucus and Primary he smote the conniving Hillary, wife of the deposed King Bill the Priapic and their barbarian hordes of Working Class Whites.

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And so it was, in the fullness of time, before the harvest month of the appointed year, the Child ventured forth - for the first time - to bring the light unto all the world.

He travelled fleet of foot and light of camel, with a small retinue that consisted only of his loyal disciples from the tribe of the Media. He ventured first to the land of the Hindu Kush, where the

Taleban had harboured the viper of al-Qaeda in their bosom, raining terror on all the world.

And the Child spake and the tribes of Nato immediately loosed the Caveats that had previously bound them. And in the great battle that ensued the forces of the light were triumphant. For as long as the Child stood with his arms raised aloft, the enemy suffered great blows and the threat of terror was no more.

From there he went forth to Mesopotamia where he was received by the great ruler al-Maliki, and al-Maliki spake unto him and blessed his Sixteen Month Troop Withdrawal Plan even as the imperial warrior Petraeus tried to destroy it.

And lo, in Mesopotamia, a miracle occurred. Even though the Great Surge of Armour that the evil Bush had ordered had been a terrible mistake, a waste of vital military resources and doomed to end in disaster, the Child's very presence suddenly brought forth a great victory for the forces of the light.

And the Persians, who saw all this and were greatly fearful, longed to speak with the Child and saw that the Child was the bringer of peace. At the mention of his name they quickly laid aside their intrigues and beat their uranium swords into civil nuclear energy ploughshares.

From there the Child went up to the city of Jerusalem, and entered through the gate seated on an ass. The crowds of network anchors who had followed him from afar cheered “Hosanna” and waved great palm fronds and strewed them at his feet.

In Jerusalem and in surrounding Palestine, the Child spake to the Hebrews and the Arabs, as the Scripture had foretold. And in an instant, the lion lay down with the lamb, and the Israelites and Ishmaelites ended their long enmity and lived for ever after in peace.

As word spread throughout the land about the Child's wondrous works, peoples from all over flocked to hear him; Hittites and Abbasids; Obamacons and McCainiacs; Cameroonians and Blairites.

And they told of strange and wondrous things that greeted the news of the Child's journey. Around the world, global temperatures began to decline, and the ocean levels fell and the great warming was over.

The Great Prophet Algore of Nobel and Oscar, who many had believed was the anointed one, smiled and told his followers that the Child was the one generations had been waiting for.

And there were other wonderful signs. In the city of the Street at the Wall, spreads on interbank interest rates dropped like manna from Heaven and rates on credit default swaps fell to the ground as dead birds from the almond tree, and the people who had lived in foreclosure were able to borrow again.

Black gold gushed from the ground at prices well below $140 per barrel. In hospitals across the land the sick were cured even though they were uninsured. And all because the Child had pronounced it.

And this is the testimony of one who speaks the truth and bears witness to the truth so that you might believe. And he knows it is the truth for he saw it all on CNN and the BBC and in the pages of The New York Times.

Then the Child ventured forth from Israel and Palestine and stepped onto the shores of the Old Continent. In the land of Queen Angela of Merkel, vast multitudes gathered to hear his voice, and he preached to them at length.

But when he had finished speaking his disciples told him the crowd was hungry, for they had had nothing to eat all the hours they had waited for him.

And so the Child told his disciples to fetch some food but all they had was five loaves and a couple of frankfurters. So he took the bread and the frankfurters and blessed them and told his disciples to feed the multitudes. And when all had eaten their fill, the scraps filled twelve baskets.

Thence he travelled west to Mount Sarkozy. Even the beauteous Princess Carla of the tribe of the Bruni was struck by awe and she was great in love with the Child, but he was tempted not.

On the Seventh Day he walked across the Channel of the Angles to the ancient land of the hooligans. There he was welcomed with open arms by the once great prophet Blair and his successor, Gordon the Leper, and his successor, David the Golden One.

And suddenly, with the men appeared the archangel Gabriel and the whole host of the heavenly choir, ranks of cherubim and seraphim, all praising God and singing: “Yes, We Can.”
30294  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Russia into Cuba again? on: July 26, 2008, 12:33:05 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Cuba and a Return to the Russian-U.S. Tug-of-War
July 25, 2008
For the past week, a series of stories and denials have been published in the Russian media surrounding a possible plan for Russia to relocate a refueling base in Cuba and resume flights of Russia’s Tu-160 “Blackjack” and Tu-95 “Bear” nuclear-capable strategic bombers back into the Western Hemisphere. All the noise reached a crescendo when another piece of information — true or not — was leaked to the Russian press that a crew of the Russian bombers had gone to Cuba on Thursday to conduct preliminary surveys.

Thus far, there is no confirmation that Russia is indeed returning militarily to Cuba. It is, however, a signal of what could happen if the United Stated does not heed Russian demands for Washington to back off from Moscow’s turf. This would be, in Moscow’s eyes, an equal response to the United States’ signing ballistic missile defense system treaties with the Czech Republic and Poland — right on Russia’s doorstep — as well as discussing NATO membership with the former Soviet states of Ukraine and Georgia.

Russia did, in fact, respond to the West’s encroachment: cutting energy supplies to Europe and sending more military into Georgia’s secessionist regions. But the problem was that Moscow simply hadn’t gotten Washington’s attention.

Washington has been too wrapped up in other issues — such as the upcoming presidential election, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, negotiations with Iran and simply not believing Russia had any real tools with which to threaten it –- that it airily dismissed all of Moscow’s provocations. This has made Russia’s reprisals Europe’s problem at a time when Moscow wants to prove it once again is a global power and can stand up against its traditional foe: the United States. So Russia sent a signal of something that the United States simply cannot ignore — the moving of the Russian-U.S. tug-of-war from Russia’s doorstep to the U.S. doorstep. This is a serious threat and one with which Washington is quite familiar.

The Cuba option would be a powerful move against the United States — just as it was during the 1950s and 1960s — because it directly penetrates the United States’ immediate periphery. Combine the Cuba rumors with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s trip to Moscow this past week — which held its own flurry of rumored deals over Russian bases and defense deals — and Moscow is reminding the Americans of a prior miscalculation. In the 1950s, Washington assumed that it could threaten the Soviet Union along its borders in Europe, South Asia and East Asia. And the United States believed it could not be threatened in its homeland, in the Western Hemisphere — America assumed no foreign power would dare violate the Monroe Doctrine. Washington bet that Moscow did not have an equivalent threat, and it was wrong.

The Soviet Union’s move into Cuba back then changed the entire dynamic of the Cold War. The Soviet presence threatened the sea lanes out of the Gulf of Mexico, major facilities in Florida, all of the Caribbean airspace and some of the Eastern Seaboard. It forced the U.S. Navy and Air Force to shift resources and account for Soviet units there. It diverted the CIA into Latin America, forcing the conflicts in Central American and Grenada. Despite its inherent military vulnerability, Cuba was one of the most strategic Soviet assets. Nothing was the same after Cuba.

The Russians are reminding the Americans of their prior miscalculations on how Russians respond to perceived threats. The United States has shifted its focus from its periphery and once again moved to responding to threats that could never truly physically hit the homeland — such as an Iranian missile threat. In the nearly 20 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has returned to and enjoyed a world where any potential military threat is an ocean and half a world away.

For now, this is just a signal and no real movement on the ground has been made. Russia is serious, however, about its ability to follow through if the United States does not release the pressure elsewhere. The moves over Cuba are not an indicator of the Russians’ global intentions, but are meant to signal an increase in Moscow’s assertiveness. It is a gutsy and interesting move by the Russians. We have yet to see whether the Americans have really noticed (or want to admit that they noticed) and can divert attention from the Middle East and domestic politics to address the Russian threat — either by backing down or by escalating the situation, which would bring back a Cold War standoff.

Of course, if Washington and Moscow do get serious about things such as Cuba, then the U.S. escalation would go far beyond what Russia currently feels threatened over.
30295  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mish Shedlock: Banking System Unsound on: July 25, 2008, 11:19:24 PM

You Know The Banking System Is Unsound When...
Mike "Mish" Shedlock
Jul 24, 2008

1. Paulson appears on Face The Nation and says "Our banking system is a safe and a sound one." If the banking system was safe and sound, everyone would know it (or at least think it). There would be no need to say it.

2. Paulson says the list of troubled banks "is a very manageable situation". The reality is there are 90 banks on the list of problem banks. Indymac was not one of them until a month before it collapsed. How many other banks will magically appear on the list a month before they collapse?

3. In a Northern Rock moment, depositors at Indymac pull out their cash. Police had to be called in to ensure order.

4. Washington Mutual (WM), another troubled bank, refused to honor Indymac cashier's checks. The irony is it makes no sense for customers to pull insured deposits out of Indymac after it went into receivership. The second irony is the last place one would want to put those funds would be Washington Mutual. Eventually Washington Mutual decided it would take those checks but with an 8 week hold. Will Washington Mutual even be around 8 weeks from now?

5. Paulson asked for "Congressional authority to buy unlimited stakes in and lend to Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE)" just days after he said "Financial Institutions Must Be Allowed To Fail". Obviously Paulson is reporting from the 5th dimension. In some alternate universe, his statements just might make sense.

6. Former Fed Governor William Poole says "Fannie Mae, Freddie Losses Makes Them Insolvent".

7. Paulson says Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are "essential" because they represent the only "functioning" part of the home loan market. The firms own or guarantee about half of the $12 trillion in U.S. mortgages. Is it possible to have a sound banking system when the only "functioning" part of the mortgage market is insolvent?

8. Bernanke testified before Congress on monetary policy but did not comment on either money supply or interest rates. The word "money" did not appear at all in his testimony. The only time "interest rate" appeared in his testimony was in relation to consumer credit card rates. How can you have any reasonable economic policy when the Fed chairman is scared half to death to discuss interest rates and money supply?

9. The SEC issued a protective order to protect those most responsible for naked short selling. As long as the investment banks and brokers were making money engaging in naked shorting of stocks, there was no problem. However, when the bears began using the tactic against the big financials, it became time to selectively enforce the existing regulation.

10. The Fed takes emergency actions twice during options expirations week in regards to the discount window and rate cuts.

11. The SEC takes emergency action during options expirations week regarding short sales.

12. The Fed has implemented an alphabet soup of pawn shop lending facilities whereby the Fed accepts garbage as collateral in exchange for treasuries. Those new Fed lending facilities are called the Term Auction Facility (TAF), the Term Security Lending Facility (TSLF), and the Primary Dealer Credit Facility (PDCF).

13. Citigroup (C), Lehman (LEH), Morgan Stanley(MS), Goldman Sachs (GS) and Merrill Lynch (MER) all have a huge percentage of level 3 assets. Level 3 assets are commonly known as "marked to fantasy" assets. In other words, the value of those assets is significantly if not ridiculously overvalued in comparison to what those assets would fetch on the open market. It is debatable if any of the above firms survive in their present form. Some may not survive in any form.

14. Bernanke openly solicits private equity firms to invest in banks. Is this even close to a remotely normal action for Fed chairman to take?

15. Bear Stearns was taken over by JPMorgan (JPM) days after insuring investors it had plenty of capital. Fears are high that Lehman will suffer the same fate. Worse yet, the Fed had to guarantee the shotgun marriage between Bear Stearns and JP Morgan by providing as much as $30 billion in capital. JPMorgan is responsible for only the first 1/2 billion. Taxpayers are on the hook for all the rest. Was this a legal action for the Fed to take? Does the Fed care?

16. Citigroup needed a cash injection from Abu Dhabi and a second one elsewhere. Then after announcing it would not need more capital is raising still more. The latest news is Citigroup will sell $500 billion in assets. To who? At what price?

17. Merrill Lynch raised $6.6 billion in capital from Kuwait Mizuho, announced it did not need to raise more capital, then raised more capital a few week later.

18. Morgan Stanley sold a 9.9% equity stake to China International Corp. CEO John Mack compensated by not taking his bonus. How generous. Morgan Stanley fell from $72 to $37. Did CEO John Mack deserve a paycheck at all?

19. Bank of America (BAC) agreed to take over Countywide Financial (CFC) and twice announced Countrywide will add profits to B of A. Inquiring minds were asking "How the hell can Countrywide add to Bank of America earnings?" Here's how. Bank of America just announced it will not guarantee $38.1 billion in Countrywide debt. Questions over "Fraudulent Conveyance" are now surfacing.

20. Washington Mutual agreed to a death spiral cash infusion of $7 billion accepting an offer at $8.75 when the stock was over $13 at the time. Washington Mutual has since fallen in waterfall fashion from $40 and is now trading near $5.00 after a huge rally.

21. Shares of Ambac (ABK) fell from $90 to $2.50. Shares of MBIA (MBI) fell from $70 to $5. Sadly, the top three rating agencies kept their rating on the pair at AAA nearly all the way down. No one can believe anything the government sponsored rating agencies say.

22. In a panic set of moves, the Fed slashed interest rates from 5.25% to 2%. This was the fastest, steepest drop on record. Ironically, the Fed chairman spoke of inflation concerns the entire drop down. Bernanke clearly cannot tell the truth. He does not have to. Actions speak louder than words.

23. FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair said the FDIC is looking for ways to shore up its depleted deposit fund, including charging higher premiums on riskier brokered deposits.

24. There is roughly $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits. $2.60 Trillion of that is uninsured. There is only $53 billion in FDIC insurance to cover $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits. Indymac will eat up roughly $8 billion of that.

25. Of the $6.84 Trillion in bank deposits, the total cash on hand at banks is a mere $273.7 Billion. Where is the rest of the loot? The answer is in off balance sheet SIVs, imploding commercial real estate deals, Alt-A liar loans, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac bonds, toggle bonds where debt is amazingly paid back with more debt, and all sorts of other silly (and arguably fraudulent) financial wizardry schemes that have bank and brokerage firms leveraged at 30-1 or more. Those loans cannot be paid back.

What cannot be paid back will be defaulted on. If you did not know it before, you do now. The entire US banking system is insolvent.

Mike Shedlock / Mish
email: Mish

321gold Ltd
30296  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 25, 2008, 11:15:54 PM
Very gracious.  Forward!  GM?


You make very good points, but as best as I can tell still do not reach my central doubt about your hypothesis-- can Islamic Fascism really become a big enough threat to internal Chinese control to the piont wherein it will suit Chinese govt purposes to cease and desist the activities you so well describe in order to ally with the US against Islamic Fascism?  Just what is it that we can offer them?

I'm thinking the solution will include (in no particular order)

a)  strengthening the dollar; higher interest rates, lower corporate tax rate
b)  price stability, reducing govt meddling in the economy
c) allow the market to do its work in responding to higher energy prices
d) eliminating/reducing taxes on alternative forms of energy
f)  drilling for oil
g) I know some like nuclear, but ever since the "experts" here in CA tried building a reactor on an earth quake fault I have a hard time trusting them
h) cultural sedition  grin

30297  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Mystery Explosion on: July 25, 2008, 11:00:45 PM
Mystery explosions point to Iran's secret arms shipments to terrorists

For an organisation that prides itself on being a well-run administrative machine, the leadership of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards is having a rather testing time. It’s not just last Saturday’s mysterious explosion in a suburb of Tehran that killed 15 people that is causing the leadership sleepless nights, although the nationwide news black-out imposed immediately afterwards does suggest the Revolutionary Guards, the storm troops of Iran’s Islamic Revolution, are rattled.

Details are only now starting to reach the outside world, and it looks increasingly like sabotage was responsible for devastating a military convoy as it travelled through Khavarshahar. The company responsible for moving the equipment, LTK, is owned by the Revolutionary Guards and is suspected of being involved in shipping arms to Lebanon’s Hizbollah Shia Muslim militia, which is trained and funded by Tehran.

The Revolutionary Guards’ arms shipments to Lebanon and its allies in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia are usually shrouded in such secrecy that only a few senior members of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government are briefed in advance. As the international crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme deepens, the Revolutionary Guards have intensified their efforts to supply regional allies with military hardware so that, in the event of Tehran becoming involved in an armed confrontation with the West, Iran can respond by opening a number of fronts in the Middle East and beyond.

The need to keep the arms build-up secret would explain the Revolutionary Guards’ decision to ban the Iranian media from reporting the explosion, even though it was heard throughout the capital. But what really concerns Iran’s leadership is that the incident is the latest in a long line of unexplained explosions.

In May, officials blamed British and American agents for an explosion at a mosque in Shiraz that had just finished staging an exhibition of Iran’s latest military hardware. Last year more than a dozen Iranian engineers were killed while trying to fit a chemical warhead to a missile in Syria.

A few months earlier, a train reported to be carrying military supplies to Syria was derailed by another mysterious explosion in northern Turkey. It is highly unlikely that these incidents are unrelated, which has only served to deepen the mood of fear and suspicion gripping the Revolutionary Guards’ leadership.

Tensions have been running high in Tehran since Seymour Hersh, the respected American investigative journalist, revealed in the New Yorker magazine last month that President George W Bush had authorised up to $400 million to fund a major escalation in covert operations to destabilise the regime.

Having contended with Iran’s attempts to undermine the Iraqi government over the past five years, British and American military commanders are more than happy to undertake covert operations in Iran, and there have been unconfirmed reports that special forces are operating undercover in the country.

Western diplomats and nuclear inspectors who frequently travel to Tehran as part of the international effort to persuade the Iranians to halt their uranium enrichment activities report that a sense of paranoia appears to have gripped the regime in recent months.
“There has certainly been a change of mood since the start of the year,” a Vienna-based official told me this week. “In the past they always appeared very self-confident and sure-footed in their dealings with foreign officials. Now they come across as very suspicious, and watch our every move.”

Tehran’s changed political atmosphere might be explained by the fact that President Ahmadinejad and his senior officials realise they are running out of time in their negotiations with the West. After more than four years of painstaking talks with the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran is continuing to enrich uranium at its underground facility at Natanz, a clear breach of its obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Even senior officials at the agency, who have gone out of their way to accommodate the Iranians’ concerns, have little confidence that the Iranians have any intention of reaching a compromise. “All they seem interested in is extending the talks as long as possible while all the time they continue with their uranium enrichment programme,” said an official close to the talks. “Their entire strategy appears to be based on playing for time.”

Iran has just another week to respond to the latest proposal put forward by the West at last weekend’s meeting with Iranian officials in Geneva, in which Iran was offered economic reconstruction in return for halting the enrichment programme.

Iran is intensifying efforts to strengthen the effectiveness of Hizbollah in southern Lebanon in preparation for a possible attack on Israel. Revolutionary Guards are keen to strengthen its leadership following the assassination of Imad Mugniyeh, Hizbollah’s head of security, in the Syrian capital by Israeli agents last February.

Mugniyeh, the terrorist behind suicide truck bomb attacks on American and French troops in the 1980s, played a key role in building up Hizbollah’s military strength, which proved to be highly effective during its 2006 attack against Israeli forces in southern Lebanon. Tehran wants to appoint one of its commanders as a replacement, but has received unexpected resistance from Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary-general. Nasrallah insists Mugniyeh’s replacement must come from within Hizbollah’s ranks. Suddenly nothing seems to be going the Revolutionary Guards’ way.
30298  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cooties in Training on: July 25, 2008, 07:05:11 PM

That's an excellent idea-- is this something you can track down for us?

30299  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone' on: July 25, 2008, 06:26:08 PM

Am I correct in reading
to be a part of/connected to the ACLU?

If so, ugh.  Speaking as a former member, the ACLU has negative credibiity for me.
30300  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: China vs. Islam on: July 25, 2008, 06:21:08 PM
1.  I supect our military plans for victory too.
2/3.  Agreed.  Note that we too sold to the pre-Taliban to bleed the Russians.  The Chinese govt can be more ruthless in these things because it is a totalitarian state.
4/5.  Again, because it is a totalitarian state, it can be more ruthless.  Does it really need to fear the Chinese Muslims to the point of giving up the joy and "benefit" of helping world-wide Islamic Fascism bleed us? 

FWIW I see the Chinese as having some very weak links in their chain:
1) its' banking system is a tremendous house of cards,
2) due to the one child policy, its demographics are quite unusual.  The few will be supporting the many.
3) it has turned itself into a toxic dump with utterly unsustainable environmental policies
4) apparently there are tremendous social pressures

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