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30751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Humor on: November 04, 2006, 01:53:14 PM

Unintentional humor grin
30752  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: November 04, 2006, 01:51:34 PM
Second post on this fight:

Baldomir has the deck stacked against him
Though he's the champ, all signs point to a Mayweather victory in tonight's fight.
By Steve Springer, Times Staff Writer
November 4, 2006

LAS VEGAS ? If you think World Boxing Council welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir will successfully defend his title against Floyd Mayweather tonight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, the odds are:

A.) You're from Argentina.

B.) You like to bet on underdogs.

C.) You've never seen Mayweather fight.

D.) You don't know much about boxing.

Emanuel Steward, one of the most respected trainers in boxing, is none of the above. He knows that Mayweather, 36-0 with 24 knockouts and a 5-1 favorite in tonight's match, is almost universally recognized as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. He knows that Mayweather has extremely quick feet, fast hands and more-than-adequate power.

Steward knows that Baldomir, who is from Santa Fe, Argentina, has a mediocre record (43-9-6, 13 knockouts), and has a slow, plodding style that, against Mayweather, may make Baldomir look as if somebody had hit the slow-motion button on the remote control.

Yet Steward gives Baldomir a good chance, focusing on his recent accomplishments in the ring. Baldomir emerged from relative obscurity to stun the boxing world by winning a unanimous decision over Zab Judah in January to give Baldomir his first major championship. And he defended the title in July with a victory over Arturo Gatti, stopping him in the ninth round.

"This is the first fight I personally have thought Floyd might lose," Steward said. "He has never fought a guy as physically, mentally and spiritually fit as Baldomir. Physically, Baldomir is a strong guy. Mentally, he is tough. Spiritually, he believes in himself. He hasn't lost a fight in eight years."

Mayweather shrugs off such dire speculation with an easy smile, as he does Baldomir's opinion that Mayweather is not the dazzling fighter at 147 pounds that he was at lower weights. "He's a bigger, slow Floyd Mayweather," said Baldomir through an interpreter. "That is why I am going to win."

There are two other questions about Mayweather heading into tonight's fight.

One is the absence of his trainer and uncle, Roger Mayweather, who is serving a sixth-month jail sentence on a felony battery conviction. And even if Roger were free, he wouldn't have been able to work his nephew's corner because his license was revoked after he instigated a brawl at the Floyd Mayweather-Judah fight in April.

Leonard Ellerbe, Floyd's manager, shrugs off that concern. He has backed up Roger in the corner for nine years and will be the trainer in charge tonight.

"It will be business as usual," Ellerbe said. "This fight will be decided by Baldomir and Floyd in the ring. It won't be decided by who is in the corner. This is not about me.

"After the first round, Baldomir will go to his corner and ask himself what he got into. Floyd is so fast, Baldomir will think he is fighting three Floyds."

The other concern is the large shadow of Oscar De La Hoya looming on the horizon. Negotiations for a blockbuster May fight between Mayweather and De La Hoya, a fight that would figure to generate more than a million pay-per-view buys, will intensify if Mayweather wins tonight.

Mayweather insists he's not looking beyond Baldomir, nor looking at De La Hoya.

"I'm the best in the world," Mayweather said. "It's my time. All roads lead to Floyd Mayweather, with or without Oscar De La Hoya."



30753  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Boxing Thread on: November 04, 2006, 01:49:00 PM
Note the comments at the very end about the UFC:

Clothes don't make this man
Jones went from gold medal to selling garments on the street until Mayweather came calling
November 4, 2006

LAS VEGAS ? If it weren't for Nate Jones, it would be tempting to dismiss Floyd Mayweather as just another loud-mouthed, pampered, super-macho professional boxer. Mayweather gets points this fight week for knowing it was time for primping and promoting tonight's WBC welterweight title fight against Carlos Baldomir of Argentina at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

He knows there are two measures of a fighter ? winning, and home pay-per-view buys. Before he steps into the ring, the latter needs to take precedence over the former. Losing is one thing. Losing with fewer than 400,000 buys is a disaster.  So, as he went to his early-week TV appearances, open workouts and photo ops, he worked his boxer's braggadocio at every stop. Always, he says he is the best, maybe the best ever. He says he has never had a moment's fear in the ring, nor before he stepped into one. He has not been tired during a fight, nor after one.

With boxers, it appears that if they say it often and loud enough, everybody eventually will believe it. Especially the boxer.

Still, once you meet Nate Jones and hear his story, you have a much easier time stomaching ? key word here, and we'll get to that ? the Mayweather show.

Lots of the hype and attitude are predictable. Mayweather's record is 36-0, with 24 knockouts. He has held titles in the sport's various alphabet-soup sanctioning groups at lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight (147 pounds), and now seems intent on creating a legacy on the level of Ali, Leonard and De La Hoya while, at 29, still fighting.

"All roads in boxing lead to Floyd Mayweather," he says. "I am the face of boxing."

He also says that among his attributes is humility. That brings to mind the axiom that, if you have to tell somebody you are humble, you aren't.  Understandably, it is hard to be humble when everywhere you go in Mandalay, your picture is on the wall, 20 feet high; your name is projected in lights onto the walkways, and the suite they put you in has big screen TVs that also serve as entire walls.

The workout scene features a constant barrage of rap music, a red Ferrari parked outside that says "MAYWEATHER" in chrome above the license plate and the ever-present entourage of backslappers and errand boys, who wear T-shirts advertising Mayweather's music-business endeavors, "Philthy Rich Records," and whose ultimate job seems to be holding up his title belts at public appearances.

In the middle of this, Jones is a quiet presence.

He won a bronze medal as a heavyweight in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, the same Olympics and medal as Mayweather. Jones fought 21 professional fights after that, even held a North America Boxing Assn., title, and took a 19-1 record into a fight in Reading, Pa., against Lamon Brewster on Feb. 2, 2002.

In that one, Brewster got Jones against the ropes in the second round and unleashed 20 straight blows that Jones somehow survived. In the next round, the referee stopped it. Jones was done fighting. He says he has nerve damage in his neck. A report after the fight said that doctors advised him to stop because their tests showed "diminished speech and reflexes."

He continued to get medical help until, he says, "Don King stopped paying the bills."

King was Jones' promoter during his brief pro career, and Jones says they are still friends and he understands why King cut off funds. 

That meant, though, that Jones, a product of one of the worst and most dangerous housing projects in the country, Chicago's old Cabrini-Green, had to find a new way to support his wife and five children. That was complicated by the time he'd spent in jail in the early 1990s for robbery and car theft. Felonies don't play well on job resumes.

So Jones became a haberdasher, of sorts. He says he would drive to New York City, pick up some clothes cheap ? "wholesale" may not be quite the right term ? and go out on the streets of Chicago to sell them.

Page 2 of 2  << back     1 2     

"There were times, in the winter, when I'm out there and it was so cold I couldn't stand it," he says. "I didn't know what to do, but I had those kids at home."

On one of those cold days, he got a reprieve. It was a phone call from Mayweather, who was training for a fight against DeMarcus Corley in Atlantic City, N.J., in March 2004. According to Jones, Mayweather had heard what had happened, what Jones was doing, and ordered him to get on the next flight to Atlantic City.

 "We had been friends, so he checked up on me," says Jones, adding that the friendship began when they both won national Golden Gloves titles in Milwaukee in 1994, two years after Jones' release from prison.

"I disliked him right away," Jones says. "He talked all the time and I told him to shut up. Then I went and saw him fight and I said, 'Oh, my, this guy is something.' I went and told him that. He went and watched me fight. We both won. We've been friends ever since."

More recently, Mayweather had the one thing Jones needed most, employment. Jones is part of Mayweather's training team, is paid year-round, and when it is time for a fight, comes to Las Vegas for months at a time. His contribution is unusual.

Almost every session, Jones, at 270 pounds, puts on a chest-and-stomach protector, made of hard foam and resembling baseball catching equipment, and climbs into the ring. Then, with blocking pads on his hands, and towering over the 147-pound Mayweather, he moves slowly and menacingly forward while Mayweather pounds his chest, ribs and stomach with hooks, jabs and uppercuts. Sometimes, this goes on for nearly half an hour.

Jones, who got up to 325 pounds and is now hoping to lose enough weight to try a comeback, is a human punching bag. If you saw up close the ferocity with which Mayweather hits, you would feel the need to pray for Baldomir.

Jones says he has never seen a training drill exactly like this. He says it is the creation of Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather's trainer, advisor and best friend, the one person on Team Mayweather who seems able to bring order out of constant chaos.

"I saw Leonard put on the pads and get dropped to his knees a couple of times," Jones says, "and Leonard's a strong guy. Ain't nobody in camp but me can take it."

The after-effects?

"I go and I sit down, and I get gas," Jones says. "I've got to buy lots of Pepto-Bismol."

So, it turns out that Mayweather, the boxer with the quick jab and the quicker tongue, the guy who wants the world to see only a tough guy, is a softy when it comes to friends. He seems uncomfortable even talking about it.

"Me and Nate, we go back before boxing," he says.

On Halloween night, we watch silly photo-ops. Mayweather makes his grand appearance at the Mandalay entrance in an old red Cadillac, the model with ugly fins. He is wearing black pinstriped pants and vest, red shirt and red hat with a four-foot feather. A public-relations woman, Kelly Swanson, positions photographers for shots of Floyd giving candy to little girls with pumpkin sacks.

"If I can just get a shot on 'SportsCenter,' " says Swanson.

We watch two days later as Goossen-Tutor Promotions holds one of the silliest news conferences in the history of boxing, which is saying something.  There are 22 people seated, most of whom eventually speak. There is a guy who is selling shoes and brings his main investor to the podium with him.  There are the usual three guys, standing behind Mayweather, holding title belts, and two shapely underdressed women, neither of whom you would bring home to mother, standing nearby for no apparent reason. Swanson eventually shoos them off to the side.  Two Mandalay guys shill for Mandalay, an HBO guy shills for HBO, and promoter Dan Goossen shills for everything else.  It ends, mercifully, when the nicest, mildest-mannered person in the room, Ellerbe, tells Baldomir there are two ways he can go out, on his face or on his rear end. Then he adds that there is a third way, and tosses a little white flag in Baldomir's lap.  Baldomir's manager throws water on Ellerbe, and Mayweather throws water on Baldomir's manager.

You watch, giggle and marvel that boxing still thinks this stuff works, that it can't see itself imploding by its own hands while the guys down the street who run the Ultimate Fighting Championship are laughing and taking boxing's business away.

You feel good, though, because there was a story to tell, even if boxing had no idea what it was, and never will. You have met Nate Jones, been exposed to the decent side of Floyd Mayweather, and are able to leave town before having to put on rubber boots.


Bill Dwyre can be reached at To read previous columns by Dwyre, go to

30754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: November 04, 2006, 01:33:46 PM
Perle says he should not have backed Iraq war
By Peter Spiegel, Times Staff Writer
November 4, 2006

WASHINGTON ? Richard N. Perle, the former Pentagon advisor regarded as the intellectual godfather of the Iraq war, now believes he should not have backed the U.S.-led invasion, and he holds President Bush responsible for failing to make timely decisions to stem the rising violence, according to excerpts from a magazine interview.

Perle ? a leading neoconservative who chaired the Pentagon's defense advisory board for the first three years of the Bush administration ? is quoted in January's Vanity Fair as saying the U.S. might have been able to strip Saddam Hussein of his ability to build unconventional weapons "by means other than a direct military intervention."

 "I think if I had been Delphic, and had seen where we are today, and people had said 'Should we go into Iraq?' I think now I probably would have said, 'No, let's consider other strategies for dealing with the thing that concerns us most, which is Saddam supplying weapons of mass destruction to terrorists,' " Perle said, according to interview excerpts released Friday by the magazine.

Perle's about-face is the latest in a series of war recriminations by neoconservatives, many of whom blame Iraq's spiraling violence on the administration's management of the postwar stabilization effort.

Others interviewed for the article included former Bush speechwriter David Frum and former Reagan administration official Kenneth L. Adelman.

Perle's prominent advocacy of invasion after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks ? and his close relationship with the war's top architects, including Paul D. Wolfowitz, then the deputy Defense secretary, and Douglas J. Feith, the former Pentagon policy chief ? makes his reversal particularly noteworthy.

Perle told Vanity Fair he did not anticipate the "depravity" currently underway in Iraq, saying, "The levels of brutality we've seen are truly horrifying."

He said "huge mistakes" had been made in the management of the war, and he blamed disloyalty among top Bush administration officials for a failure to get the policy correct.

"The decisions did not get made that should have been," he said.

He continued: "At the end of the day, you have to hold the president responsible?.

"I don't think he realized the extent of the opposition within his own administration, and the disloyalty."

Although the excerpts do not show who Perle blames for disloyalty or mismanagement, he appears to lay the blame at the feet of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the military leaders who put together the war plan.

"Huge mistakes were made, and I want to be very clear on this: They were not made by neoconservatives, who had almost no voice in what happened, and certainly almost no voice in what happened after the downfall of the regime in Baghdad," he said.

"I'm getting damn tired of being described as an architect of the war. I was in favor of bringing down Saddam. Nobody said, 'Go design the campaign to do that.' I had no responsibility for that."

The excerpts include quotes from other neoconservatives who have turned against the war, including Adelman, a longtime friend of Rumsfeld who has received classified Pentagon briefings on the war as recently as March, according to a recent book by journalist Bob Woodward.

Vanity Fair quotes Adelman as saying that though he still believes the reasons for going to war were right, the invasion should not have occurred because the goals were unachievable. He called Bush's national security advisors "among the most incompetent teams" in the post-World War II era, adding he was particularly let down by Rumsfeld: "I'm very, very fond of him, but I'm crushed by his performance."

30755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Military Science on: November 04, 2006, 01:30:20 PM
U.S. trains Iraqis in river warfare tactics
By Tony Perry, Times Staff Writer
November 4, 2006

Hoping to restrict the smuggling of weapons and fighters along the Euphrates and Tigris rivers, the U.S. Navy has brought Iraqi security forces to America for training on river warfare tactics.

On Thursday, 16 members of the Iraqi Riverine Police Force finished a six-week course at a Navy training facility in Mississippi to prepare them to patrol the wide waterways that have served as smuggling corridors and danger zones for centuries.

 The Navy routinely trains foreign military forces in such tactics. For the Iraqis, the training emphasized the possibility of combat.

"We know the likelihood of them getting shot at is very high," said Navy Cmdr. Lance Bach. "We practiced on how to return fire and how to get out of the kill zone."

Navy officials hope the 16 will teach other Iraqi security personnel techniques for guiding small boats, inspecting suspicious vessels, and landing or evacuating "friendlies" on the shore.

Additional Iraqis are likely to take the course given at the Naval Small Craft Instruction and Technical Training School at Stennis Space Center, Miss. The school is part of the Naval Special Warfare Center, based in Coronado, Calif..

Assisted by four interpreters, Navy instructors taught the group techniques for patrolling in 25-foot boats armed with M60 machine guns. Much of the training was on how to react to ambush attacks.

"We pushed 'em hard," said Navy Chief Petty Officer Rob Rheaume.

Historians suggest the lawlessness of Ramadi, now an insurgent hotspot, derives from its long involvement with smuggling rings using the Euphrates. Some smuggling is to avoid taxation on consumer goods. In other cases, smuggling aids the insurgency.

"In the absence of police or security forces, smugglers, using canoes and diesel-powered boats, move freely along these rivers," said the Iraqi newspaper Azzaman, referring to the Tigris, Euphrates and the Shatt al Arab waterway in southern Iraq.

The Shatt al Arab, which divides Iran and Iraq, is an important smuggling route for oil being illegally exported from Iraq. The 16 Iraqis who graduated on Thursday will be deployed along the Tigris River, which runs through Baghdad.

One of them, who used the name Abu Ali, said he and his comrades learned "how to fight and fight hard." Along with the training, there was also time to see some Americana, including museums and a four-hour trip to Wal-Mart.

"It's a beautiful thing," Abu Ali said of Wal-Mart. "You need a whole day to spend there."
30756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in America and the rest of the western hemisphere on: November 04, 2006, 01:27:03 PM
If this Syrian was Muslim, then he too is part of Islam in America:

Clerk confronts robbers, is killed
The gunmen waited for customers to leave, then handed Simon Khalil a note. He threw it back.
By Jill Leovy, Times Staff Writer
November 4, 2006

When the robbers shoved a note at him, store clerk Simon Khalil threw it back. That's when they shot him.

The 35-year-old Syrian immigrant died hours later at California Hospital after being shot at point-blank range by an assailant wielding a black handgun.

On Friday, Los Angeles Police Department detectives sought the public's help in finding the assailants, who were videotaped.

Police said two robbers entered Khalil's family business, Maple Liquor and Market in the 3000 block of Maple Avenue in South L.A., about 1 p.m. Thursday and waited for customers to leave before springing the note on Khalil.

After throwing the note back at them, Khalil walked around the counter and confronted the men. One robber pulled a sawed-off shotgun from his waistband, and the other pulled a handgun and fired.

LAPD Det. Mike Terrazas described both suspects as short, Latino and in their 20s. One had a goatee and was wearing a black baseball cap, white T-shirt and lower-back brace; the other wore a pink or red baseball cap and a dark blue nylon jacket.

Khalil and his brother, Sam Khalil, of Burbank had owned the store for two years without problems, relatives said.

Anyone with information or anonymous tips is asked to call investigators at (323) 846-6556 or at (877) 525-3855.

30757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: November 04, 2006, 09:31:57 AM
I agree about the Kurds. They have been straight with us and we should be with them.  Screw the Turks if they don't like it. 

But if we leave the Sunnis and Shiites to hash it out, won't the Shiites win because of numerical superiority and because of support from Iran?  Combined with Hez's "success" against the Israelis with Iran's support, will this make them the strong horse of the region? 

You call for taking out Iran's nuke capabilities, but from what I have seen our military doubts its ability to do so.  Are you suggesting we leave Iraq , , , by rolling east?  Is the US in a position world-wide to handle the economic consequences of mid-east oil being shut off which I gather Iran may do in the Straights of Hormuz-- not to mention the Chinese being pretty unhappy if their oil is shut off (I forget the numbers, but my understanding is that more mid-east oil goes to them than us)

What if Iran also counters us by unleashing Hamas for another go round?

Just armchair generaling on a Saturday morning.
30758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: November 04, 2006, 07:33:10 AM

Of course I agree with the basic premise, but exactly what does that mean in Iraq right now? 

Do you think that our training of the Iraqi Army is working?

Do you think that we should support the Sunnis against the Shiites?  Will that drive the Shiites (futher?) into the arms of the Iranians? 

Should we support the Shiites and Kurds against the Sunnis?

Should we take out Al-Sadr even though this is against the wishes of the elected sovereign government of Iraq?

If we don't, then what of the Shiite militias killings of Sunnis and what of its policies of de-Sunnification out of certain regions?

If we don't stop Shiite militias and de-Sunnification by Shiites, what about the Kurds efforts to de-Sunnify the Sunnis who were moved north by SH to de-Kurdify oil regions of the north?

Or do we say that the Sunnis deserve it for being such buttholes to the Shiites for so long, especially under SH?

But if we do so, what of incipient Arab/Sunni support for taking a hardline with Iran?

Can we fight Iran now?  No?  If not, what is the point of fighting in Iraq if it keeps us from stopping Iran's nuke program?  Isn't stopping Iran's nukes essential?  Won't we have failed if we do not?

What do we tell our troops as they go out on patrol to get sniped at and IED'd?  What do we tell them that they are fighting for?  Democracy in Iraq?  Do you think that rings true right now?  Do we tell them that we are preparing to deal with Iran?  Does that ring true right now?

Is Iraq part of the strategy for Iran or is it a stand-alone theater of WW3?

After Olmert's failure to finish the job with Hamas, doesn't Iran now have a forward base from which to neuter the Israeli threat to take out Iran's nukes?  In this context, is there any substance to President Bush's comments the other day that he would understand if Israel acted against Iran?

Do you think what we are doing now is working?

If not, then what should we be doing?  And is there any chance at all that the American people will support what you suggest?
30759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: November 03, 2006, 11:02:12 PM

Beach SEAL honored for his sacrifice in Afghanistan
By DALE EISMAN, The Virginian-Pilot
? September 14, 2006
Last updated: 1:29 AM
WASHINGTON - Danny Dietz was a quiet guy, devoted to his family, his dogs and his shipmates in the Navy's SEAL Team 2, a special-warfare unit based in Virginia Beach. The sort who never hesitated to take on extra responsibilities, extra burdens, one of his buddies remembered Wednesday, and who never thought there was anything remarkable about doing it.
Matt Axelson - "Cool Hand Luke" to his friends - was a Californian who loved golf, joking that he planned to hone his game for a career on the Senior PGA Tour once he got out of the Navy.
"No matter how hard I worked at something, he was always better," said friend Dave Albritton, a petty officer first class - but Axelson never boasted .
Under leaden skies and amid the bustle of rush hour on a memorial plaza in downtown Washington, more than 200 of the two men's friends, relatives and shipmates bit their lips and brushed away tears Wednesday evening as they expressed the nation's gratitude for the courage and sacrifice Axelson and Dietz exhibited on an Afghan mountainside last year.
The men were among 19 SEALS and U.S. Army NightStalkers killed June 28, 2005. It remains the bloodiest single day of Operation Enduring Freedom, the war in Afghanistan. Six of the SEALS killed were based in Virginia Beach.
"Heroes are ordinary people who make extraordinary decisions every day of their lives," sai d Lt. Brad Geary, a Dietz friend who spoke at the ceremony.
Their actions in the midst of a firefight with Taliban militiamen allowed another SEAL - the only survivor of the engagement - to escape and earned Axelson and Dietz the Navy Cross, the branch 's second-highest honor. The pair are part of Navy history because of the way they died, Geary said, but "these men are heroes because of the way they lived."
The citations presented Wednesday to their widows, Cindy Axelson and Maria Dietz, recounted how the men and two other SEALS tracking a Taliban leader in rugged northeastern Afghanistan were attacked on three sides by a force of perhaps 40 .
Dietz, 25, a gunner's mate second class, was wounded "in a hailstorm of enemy fire," his citation reads, but he continued returning fire and covering his teammates "until he was mortally wounded." Axelson, 29, a sonar technician second class, also kept fighting despite multiple wounds. "With total disregard for his own life," his citation reads, he laid down covering fire so the one surviving member could slip away.
That SEAL, who has never been identified publicly, was rescued several days later by other U.S. forces and received a Navy Cross earlier this year in a private ceremony at the White House, a Navy spokesman said. The service is still processing the record of the fourth man on the ground team, Lt. Michael Murphy, the spokesman added.
Eight other SEALS and the eight Army NightStalkers killed in the engagement died as they tried to come to the rescue of the four men on the ground. Their MH-47 Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed as it approached the battlefield.
30760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / SEALs receive Navy Cross on: November 03, 2006, 11:00:26 PM
SEALs Receive Navy Cross
Pair Died Fighting Taliban in AfghanistanBy Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006; A12
Wounded and locked in a harrowing gunfight deep in Afghanistan's Hindu Kush mountains, Navy SEAL Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew G. Axelson laid down covering fire so a teammate could escape -- an act of heroism for which Axelson was yesterday posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the service's second-highest medal.
Fighting nearby, Petty Officer 2nd Class Danny P. Dietz was also mortally wounded but stood his ground in a barrage of fire from 30 to 40 Taliban militiamen who surrounded his four-man SEAL reconnaissance team on June 28, 2005. For his "undaunted courage," as described by the military, Dietz, 25, of Littleton, Colo., also posthumously received the Navy Cross yesterday in a ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial.
Families and comrades gathered to honor them on a chilly, gray evening, with flags on ships' masts waving in the breeze. One SEAL, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work, recalled his close friend Axelson as laid back, a golfer and a quiet leader. His voice cracked as he described the inscription Axelson wrote on the back of a photograph of the two men that Axelson's wife gave him after Axelson died.
"But within the willingness to die for family and home, something inside us longs for someone to die beside. Someone to lock step with, another man with a heart like our own," the inscription read.
"I can't tell you how much I wish I could have been there for him," his friend told the gathering.
Patsy Dietz, 25, Dietz's widow, said her husband died during his final mission, only about two weeks before he was to return home. Describing him as a generous man who loved his dogs and who would hand out $20 bills to strangers, she said Dietz had volunteered for the deployment because he believed in the cause. She said he knew the risks that he faced. "Danny and his brothers went towards evil and ran forward and gave their last breath," she said in an interview.
The actions of Axelson and Dietz allowed a lone teammate to escape and survive, and he has also been awarded the Navy Cross, but the military has withheld his name for security reasons because he is still on active duty.
The perilous firefight erupted at 10,000 feet in some of the world's most rugged terrain along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, when the SEAL team probed deep into enemy territory on a clandestine mission to kill or capture a Taliban militia leader. By nightfall that day, three of the SEALs lay dead, along with eight other SEALs and eight Army Special Operations aviators whose MH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed during a daring rescue attempt.
It was the worst death toll in a single day since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, and the biggest single loss of life for the Naval Special Warfare forces since the invasion of Normandy in World War II, the Navy reported.
The fatal mission -- Operation Red Wing -- began June 27, when Axelson, Dietz, Lt. Michael P. Murphy and the fourth unnamed SEAL, bearded and camouflaged, were inserted into heavily forested terrain east of the Afghan town of Asadabad to track down militia leader Ahman Shah.
The next day, however, the SEAL team was spotted and pointed out by local residents who were sympathetic to the Taliban. A Taliban force launched a "well-organized, three-sided attack," taking advantage of the high ground to assault the SEAL position using rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, according to an official military account.
"Three of the four SEALs were wounded. The fight relentlessly continued as the overwhelming militia forced them deeper into a ravine," it said.
About 45 minutes into the firefight, Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., made radio contact with Bagram Air Base outside the capital, Kabul, asking for air support and reinforcements. Soon afterward, the Chinook lifted off with 16 special operations troops aboard on a mission to extract the surrounded SEALs.
The Chinook was escorted by Army attack helicopters, whose job was to suppress enemy ground forces to make it safe for the lightly armored troop carrier to land. But the heavier attack helicopters lagged behind at the high altitude and were outpaced by the Chinook, whose pilots then faced a life-or-death decision: Try to land unprotected in hazardous terrain in a battle zone, or wait while their wounded comrades on the ground risked being overrun.
They chose to land, but as the Chinook rushed into the fight, it was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade and crashed, killing all 16 men aboard.
Meanwhile, Axelson, 29, of Cupertino, Calif., "ignoring his injuries and demonstrating exceptional composure" urged his teammate to escape, according to the medal citation. "With total disregard for his own life and thinking only of his teammate's survival, he continued to attack the enemy, eliminating additional militia fighters, until he was mortally wounded by enemy fire," it said. His body was recovered July 10 after a massive military search effort in Afghanistan's Kunar Province.
Dietz was lauded for "undaunted courage in the face of heavy enemy fire, and absolute devotion to his teammates" as he remained behind to fight to defend his partners after he, too, was wounded.

? 2006 The Washington Post Company
30761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Bronze Star for handling of IEDs on: November 03, 2006, 10:59:20 PM
Navy officer awarded Bronze Star for deft handling of deadly IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices)

By JACK DORSEY The Virginian-Pilot August 30, 2006

NORFOLK, Va. -- For the entire year he was in Baghdad analyzing more than 1,000 roadside bomb detonators, Benito Baylosis never took a day off.

No one did. And no one complained about it, he said, as they explored the electronic circuits of defused improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

"What we did was that important. You get time off when you go home, or on R & R," he said. Baylosis, 41, a Navy lieutenant commander, came back to his hometown of Norfolk to receive the Bronze Star on Tuesday.

The award cited him for personally handling more than 1,000 IEDs, providing "critical countermeasures" and saving "countless coalition forces' lives."

"He developed and monitored over 136 bombmaker profiles," said the Army's citation, which added that "no one in the U.S. armed forces knows more about enemy IED initiators utilized in the Iraqi theater of operations."

Baylosis, who graduated from OldDominionUniversity with an undergraduate electrical engineering degree, will return soon to his regular duty station in Naples, Italy, where his family resides.

In Iraq, he headed a team of American, British and Australian military specialists, mainly engineers. He also worked with agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, gathering forensic evidence for possible future court cases related to terrorism. The team, operating from CampVictory near the international airport in Baghdad, examined IEDs, traced their origins and turned over information to help find the manufacturer.

"They are some of the most basic forms, from mechanical to electrical, to remote," he said in an interview. Because of the sensitivity of the work, he could not detail what his team found. Published reports say many devices use garage-door openers or cell phones to activate the explosives.

According to Michael White, who compiles casualty figures of Operation Iraqi Freedom on the Web site, and Defense Department figures, 904 of the 2,087 American service members killed in action in Iraq have died of injuries from IEDs.

Baylosis said he normally specializes in shipbuilding and program management in his job in Naples, but his electronics skills seemed a good match for what he was asked to do. "We felt that the job we were doing did save lives and will continue to save lives as long as we get to do it," said the father of three.

"I think we are making a difference. Obviously, we want to get ahead of the IED maker. We want to be a step ahead of them and with increased security, I think it will eventually get solved. I just don't know the time line."
30762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A camp divided- part two on: November 03, 2006, 10:58:31 PM
Part Two
Once the plan was explained to them through an interpreter, the Iraqis strongly disagreed with it. Col. Pasquarette planned to surround the city with razor wire and set up checkpoints to search all cars moving in and out of the city. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers would then begin regular foot patrols through the city to gain intelligence on insurgents. The centerpiece of the plan was $5 million in reconstruction projects.

Col. Pasquarette argued that the projects would help the U.S. win support of the city's powerful mayor, Sheik Sayid Jassem, who had been detained by U.S. forces in the early days of the occupation for supporting the insurgency. He also thought the projects would turn the people to the side of the new Iraqi government.

The Iraqis favored a harder-nosed approach. They wanted to conduct house-to-house searches and find a way to put pressure on the mayor, who they insisted was still supporting insurgents. They suggested shutting Tarmiyah's business district down for a week. Once the mayor had been cowed with the stick, they favored dangling the $5 million in reconstruction funds.

Col. Pasquarette says the Iraqi approach would have alienated the people in Tarmiyah. He rejected it and stuck to his plan. Although the operation hasn't netted any insurgents, he says people are out shopping and businesses that had been closed are bustling as a result of the checkpoints and foot patrols. The U.S. military is bankrolling a pipeline that will bring potable water into the city, building medical clinics and repairing the main road.

Attacks in the city are down substantially since March, though they have begun to climb of late, Col. Pasquarette says. Still, he says the operation was a success because residents feel safer. He doubts the city was ever really a major insurgent hotbed. "We were all wrong about Tarmiyah," he says.

Col. Saad and Col. Payne say the insurgents have simply moved outside the city's gates.

Gen. George Casey, the top military officer in Iraq, acknowledges it has often been hard for U.S. commanders to let Iraqis take over the fight. "We are so mission-oriented and so focused, we tend to want to do everything ourselves," he says. "It is a constant battle ? . I would hope that when the Iraqis have ideas we try to help them execute them."

Iraqi troops "have never betrayed their U.S. advisory teams," adds Lt. Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is overseeing the effort to train and equip Iraqi forces.

In their four months together, Col. Payne and Col. Saad became close. Col. Payne teased him about a poster on his office wall of two fluffy white kittens, nuzzling next to a dozen roses. "What in the world is the deal with the cat and the flowers?" Col. Payne asked.

"It reminds me of softness and women," Col. Saad replied. He often referred to Col. Payne as "my brother."

Col. Saad confided his worries about his country and his army to Col. Payne. His unit was constantly short of supplies. His soldiers often didn't have enough fuel for their armored vehicles and generators. They also lacked AA batteries to run the night-vision goggles the Americans had given them. He blamed corruption in the Iraqi system for supply shortages. "If you don't have the basics to survive, you cannot be great. You cannot win," he said one evening. Col. Payne threw his arm around the Iraqi colonel's shoulder. "No, but you can survive," he said.

The U.S. says it is helping the Iraqis fix problems that have led to shortages of equipment. The Iraqi government recently replaced the contractor responsible for serving troops spoiled food. Supplying the army is the responsibility of the Iraqi government and "there have been a few cases of poor performance" among Iraqi contractors, says Lt. Col. Michael Negard, a senior spokesman in Iraq. "While the problems aren't huge, the issue's certainly of the highest priority," he says.

Col. Saad has also grown frustrated with the Americans on the other side of Camp Taji. Last month, Col. Pasquarette asked the Iraqis to provide a couple of dozen soldiers to man some checkpoints with U.S. soldiers. The U.S. soldiers showed up at the checkpoints for about a week. Then, without warning, they left the Iraqis to run them on their own, Col. Saad says. The Iraqis, who questioned the value of the checkpoints in the first place, were angry they had suddenly been abandoned.

"Why did they leave? Aren't they supposed to be helping us?" Col. Saad asked Col. Payne.

"I don't know what the hell they are doing," Col. Payne replied.

Col. Pasquarette says the Iraqis should have been informed that the U.S. soldiers were pulling out of those checkpoints.

In late May, Col. Payne began to push the Iraqi soldiers to get out on the offensive. "I am sick of sitting around and waiting to get attacked," Col. Payne told Col. Saad. He asked Col. Saad to cut loose 10 or 15 soldiers that he could pair up with three or four U.S. soldiers to venture out at night in search of the enemy. Col. Saad agreed.

On May 19, soldiers from Col. Payne's and Col. Saad's units set out on their second night patrol. After they stopped a car that was out in violation of curfew, the enemy opened fire on them from a surrounding palm grove. The soldiers fired back, killing three insurgents and dispersing the rest. When the shooting ended, a man stumbled out of a small shack deep in the palm grove. His hands were tied and a blindfold hung around his neck. "Come mister. I am problem," he sobbed in broken English.

The man said he worked as a legal adviser for Iraq's Ministry of Defense and had been kidnapped by men who told him they would slaughter him "like a sheep." The kidnappers were setting up a camera to film his execution, he said, when they heard the soldiers and left him. "God sent you to save me," the man said, as tears streamed down his face. (Read more about the mission.2)

Col. Payne was elated. "The Iraqi army saved a life. It also demonstrated that it will go into the field to find and destroy the enemy," he said.

His victory, however, quickly gave way to crushing defeat. The next day, he was summoned to meet with his immediate supervisor. Col. Payne was relieved of his command and told to move to a headquarters position in Baghdad.

He says he was told that he removed because he was "ineffective" and "lacked the skills necessary to lead [his] team in this challenging environment." An Army spokesman in Baghdad said Col. Payne wasn't relieved for any single incident. He declined to comment further.

A few days before Col. Payne was fired, Col. Pasquarette said in an interview that he thought Col. Payne and his men had grown too close to the Iraqis they were advising and his decisions were too often guided by emotion. "From my perspective, the move was warranted," Col. Pasquarette wrote in an email after Col. Payne was dismissed.

The morning after he was fired, Col. Payne spent the day saying goodbye to Col. Saad and the U.S. soldiers on his team. That evening, he boarded a helicopter for Camp Victory, a massive U.S. base on the outskirts of Baghdad.

"I'm now here in Victory -- an alien environment to me and one I never wanted to be a part of," he wrote in an email. He was able to hold his emotions in check until his helicopter lifted off from Camp Taji. Then, he says, he began to sob. "I simply cannot tell you how much I will miss my team."

Write to Greg Jaffe at greg.jaffe@wsj.com5
30763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: November 03, 2006, 10:56:32 PM
A Camp Divided

As U.S. tries to give Iraqi troops more responsibility,
clash of two American colonels shows tough road ahead.
June 16, 2006 11:24 p.m.; Page A1

Camp Taji, Iraq

This sprawling military base is divided down the middle by massive concrete barriers, a snaking fence and rifle-toting guards. On one side, about 10,000 U.S. Army soldiers live in air-conditioned trailers. There's a movie theater, a swimming pool, a Taco Bell, and a post exchange the size of a Wal-Mart, stocked with everything from deodorant to DVD players.

On the other side are a similar number of Iraqi soldiers whose success will determine when U.S. troops can go home. The Iraqi troops live in fetid barracks built by the British in the 1920s, ration the fuel they use to run their lights and sometimes eat spoiled food that makes them sick.

The only soldiers who pass regularly between the two worlds are about 130 U.S. Army advisers, who live, train and work with the Iraqis.

For many of these advisers, the past six months have been a disorienting experience, putting them at odds with their fellow U.S. soldiers and eroding their confidence in the U.S. government's ability to build an Iraqi force that can stabilize this increasingly violent country.

Army commanders back in the U.S. "told us this was going to be the most thankless and frustrating job we have ever held, and boy, were they right," says Lt. Col. Charles Payne, who until last month oversaw about 50 Army advisers.

He and fellow advisers say U.S. troops on the American side of the base saddle Iraqis with the least-desirable missions and often fail to provide them with the basics they need to protect themselves against insurgent attacks. "They treat the Iraqis with utter scorn and contempt," Col. Payne says. "The Iraqis may not be sophisticated, but they aren't stupid. They see it."

Col. James Pasquarette, who commands most of the soldiers on the U.S. side of Camp Taji, calls those claims "totally ridiculous." He says he's proud of what the Iraqi units have achieved in the region and has made supporting them his top priority, after ensuring his own troops have the protection they need. But he worries that if the Iraqis are given too much latitude to execute challenging missions too quickly, they will alienate Iraqi civilians with heavy-handed tactics.

He says Col. Payne and his fellow advisers have "gone native."

Though the divide here at Camp Taji is extreme, it reflects a growing friction throughout this war-torn country. No one on either side of the divide expects the Iraqi troops to be trained, equipped or housed to U.S. standards. But if U.S. troops are going to go home, U.S. commanders must allow Iraqis to take a far greater role in planning operations and taking the fight to the enemy, senior military officers say.

Right now, Iraqi commanders and some of their U.S. advisers say that isn't happening enough. Part of the reason, U.S. officials say, is that widespread Iraqi corruption has made it hard for the fledgling Iraqi government to supply their troops with basics like good food, batteries and fuel. But Iraqi soldiers and their U.S. advisers say the problem extends beyond basic supply issues. They complain that U.S. troops, bunkered down on large, fortified bases, treat Iraqi forces more like a problem than a partner. U.S. forces "don't talk to us," says Col. Saad, a senior Iraqi commander on Camp Taji. The Iraqi colonel, whose family has been threatened by insurgents, asked that his full name not be used.

U.S. commanders counter that there are huge risks to giving the Iraqi army too big a role right now. They worry some Iraqis will leak word of impending operations to the enemy or use military force to settle sectarian scores. Many U.S. commanders say Iraqi forces aren't as disciplined as U.S. troops and are too prone to abuse civilians and detainees.

The debate raises difficult questions for U.S. commanders, as they plot the way forward in Iraq: Should Iraqi units be held to the same standards as U.S. units? What happens when the Iraqis' solution is at odds with the American commander's strategy?

Earlier this spring, the tension between the two sides at Camp Taji reached the breaking point when the Iraqi army brigade that Col. Payne was advising leveled two dozen roadside kiosks. The Iraqi soldiers said insurgent snipers, who had killed and wounded Iraqi troops, used the kiosks for cover.

Col. Pasquarette thought destroying the kiosks would only enrage locals and drive them to support the insurgents. "This was a great day for the terrorists," he recalls telling Col. Payne on the day that the Iraqi army flattened the fruit and vegetable stands.

Col. Payne says the Iraqi army bulldozed the kiosks -- consisting mostly of palm fronds suspended by bamboo poles -- to protect Iraqi soldiers. "When I first heard what they had done, my initial response was, 'I am all for it,' " Col. Payne says. "This is not a law and order situation. This is a war."

Late last month, Col. Pasquarette asked that Col. Payne be dismissed from his position, just four months after the two men started working together. Col. Payne was then assigned to a desk job in Baghdad.

The unit Col. Payne headed is at the leading edge of a major shift in U.S. strategy. Until last summer, the U.S. military saw its primary mission as fighting insurgents. With pressure mounting to bring the 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq home, President Bush decided the military's main effort should instead focus on training Iraqis to take its place.

To speed development of Iraqi army forces, about 3,000 U.S. soldiers were placed with Iraqi units throughout the country. The teams live and work with Iraqi soldiers in places such as Camp Taji.

In November 2005, Col. Payne came back from retirement to lead his team. The colonel had served 28 years in the Army, fought in the Grenada invasion and taught history at West Point. He retired in July 2001. A few weeks later, terrorists struck the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Col. Payne called the Army and volunteered to return. "There was a chuckle on the end of the phone," he says. The Army told him he wasn't needed.

Four years later, with the Army stretched thin by the war, the 50-year-old soldier, who was teaching at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, called again. This time, the Army was eager to send him to Iraq. In November, he was told he had 23 days to report to Fort Carson, Colo., and link up with his unit. His wife was "very unhappy," he says. Col. Payne says he was determined to go. "The nation is at war and all real soldiers want to be where the action is."

Col. Pasquarette, a former college basketball player, took command of his 6,000-soldier brigade in June 2005. Before that, the 45-year-old had attended Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, worked for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon and served as an aide-de-camp to a four-star general.

The two men's troops arrived in Iraq in December 2005 and settled on opposite sides of Camp Taji, a sprawling former Iraqi army base, about 20 miles north of Baghdad. Col. Payne's group consisted of 50 U.S. soldiers, assigned to advise the Iraqi military. His team was one of the few at Camp Taji that didn't report to Col. Pasquarette.

The 2,500-soldier Iraqi brigade that Col. Payne was advising had formed 11 months earlier and had been fighting nonstop. The Iraqis had scrounged all of their tanks and armored personnel carriers -- most of which were at least 30 years old -- from a massive junkyard on the Iraqi side of Camp Taji. When something broke, Iraqi soldiers retreated to the scrapyard where they would pillage rusting hulks for spare parts. Of the $260 billion spent on the Iraq war since 2003, about $10 billion has gone to build Iraqi army and police forces.

The U.S. officers bonded quickly with their Iraqi counterparts. In January, Maj. Michael Jason, who leads one of the advisory teams, was on patrol with a 42-year-old Iraqi colonel when a terrified farmer told them he had found bodies in a field. He then led them to the corpses of 11 Iraqi army soldiers who had been headed home on leave. Each had been beaten, blindfolded and shot in the head. Their Iraqi army identification cards had been taken from their wallets and pinned to their shirts by insurgents who regularly target Iraqi forces.

Maj. Jason, a Roman Catholic, and his Iraqi counterpart, Col. Khalid, a Muslim, kneeled next to the bodies and prayed. The U.S. Army asked that Col. Khalid's full name be withheld for his safety. That night, Maj. Jason, a 33-year-old West Point grad, wrote an email home describing his Iraqi colleague's bravery and sacrifice.

"Col. Khalid's children have to move constantly for fear of their lives. When he goes home on leave, he cannot tell anyone for security reasons. He just disappears. He drives 90 mph with a pistol tucked in the small of his back and his ID hidden. I love these guys, no s-t," he wrote. A month later, Col. Khalid's brother, also an army officer, was kidnapped. Insurgents killed him and dumped his body on his parents' doorstep. Col. Khalid couldn't go to the funeral for fear that he would be assassinated. So Maj. Jason and soldiers in the unit mourned with him at Camp Taji.

In March, Col. Khalid left the battalion for a safer assignment, which doesn't require him to leave the base.

As the U.S. advisers grew closer to the Iraqis, they also grew more frustrated with U.S. soldiers on the other side of the base.

Shortly after Col. Pasquarette arrived at Camp Taji, he beefed up the number of guards and armored vehicles at the gates separating the U.S. and Iraqi sides of the base. "Securing my [base] is my No. 1 mission. I am risk averse here," he says. The U.S. advisers to the Iraqis thought the additional guards and guns were unnecessary and only served to make U.S. soldiers more suspicious of the Iraqis.

When the advisers asked if they could bring an Iraqi colleague to eat with them on the American side of the base, they say they were shocked at the response. They were told that the presence of an Iraqi officer in the dining hall might upset the U.S. soldiers.

"These kids go outside the gate and deal with a very hostile environment. They need a place where they can relax and let their guard down," says Lt. Col. Kevin Dixon, Col. Pasquarette's deputy commander. He says the policy was driven by the bombing of a dining facility in Mosul in 2004 by an Iraqi who had sneaked in.

The advisers felt differently. "We really believe there is a systemic contempt for Iraqi soldiers," says Master Sgt. John McFarlane, a senior enlisted adviser to the Iraqis at Camp Taji. The policy has since been amended to allow advisers to eat with Iraqi officers on the U.S. side if they file a letter in advance with the base's security office.

One of the Iraqi army's primary jobs in the Taji area is to guard water-purification substations that provide most of Baghdad's drinking water. Last summer, insurgents blew up one of the substations, cutting off water for two weeks. To ensure that didn't happen again, Iraqi army units were dispatched by the U.S. to guard the sites. Iraqi soldiers began to take regular sniper fire there.

In January, the U.S. advisers asked Col. Pasquarette for help installing barriers around one of the substations, to shield the Iraqis from snipers. Col. Pasquarette asked one of his units to help. Weeks passed, but help never came. American engineering units were too busy fortifying the U.S. side of Camp Taji and bases around it, says Maj. Martin Herem, who handled the request.

On Feb. 28, a sniper shot in the back one of the Iraqi soldiers at the water station. The soldier bled to death. Three weeks later, a sniper killed a second Iraqi soldier who was on patrol near the water station. Iraqi troops said that both times snipers used the small fruit and vegetable stands lining a nearby road for cover. The Iraqi army couldn't return fire without killing shopkeepers and customers.

When the Iraqi soldiers ran over to ask people who had been shooting at them, locals said they hadn't seen anything. It's dangerous for locals to be seen helping the U.S. Army or the Iraqi army.

The day after the second killing, Col. Saad, an Iraqi colonel in the unit Col. Payne was advising, ordered his men to tell the shopkeepers to empty the vegetable stands. The Iraqi soldiers then bulldozed the stands. Col. Saad says he destroyed the kiosks to protect his soldiers.

When Col. Pasquarette learned about the incident, he was furious. The Iraqis' actions ran completely counter to his strategy. He had told his soldiers to focus less on killing insurgents and more on reconstruction programs designed to win support of the people.

"When you go lethal or destroy property there may be a short-term gain, but there is a long-term loss," he says. He saw the move as a throwback to the Saddam Hussein era when the army was used to quell unrest and inflict mass punishment.

Photoillustration by Stuart Bradford; photos, left: U.S. Department of Defense; photos, right: Getty Images
Because the Iraqi troops operate in his sector, Col. Pasquarette oversees them. He called Col. Payne into his office and demanded that he tell Col. Saad to have his soldiers apologize and pay reparations to the shop owners.

Col. Payne passed along the orders. But Col. Saad says he refused to follow them. "Here in Iraq if someone makes a mistake, you punish them," he says, referring to the shop owners' failure to give Iraqis information about the snipers. "If you give him money, he will repeat the mistake. And he will consider the person who gave him the gift an idiot."

The next day, Col. Pasquarette met with Col. Saad's Iraqi superior and told him about the dispute. The Iraqi general fired Col. Saad. Later that day, three low-ranking Iraqi soldiers, accompanied by about a dozen Americans, passed out the reimbursement forms.

The Iraqi officers in Col. Saad's brigade felt betrayed. On March 21, just before midnight, four senior officers stopped by Col. Payne's office and threatened to resign. "They were furious," says Col. Payne. Two days later, Col. Saad was quietly re-hired.

Col. Payne says he is still angry that neither Col. Pasquarette nor his subordinate commanders talked to Col. Saad to hear his side of the story. "This is a respect issue. These guys don't respect the Iraqis," Col. Payne says.

"Personally I don't think there was anything to discuss," Col. Pasquarette says.

In the days that followed, the relationship between Col. Payne and Col. Pasquarette grew more tense. In mid-March -- about the time the Iraqis flattened the vegetable stands -- insurgents attacked an Iraqi army patrol base in Tarmiyah, a city of about 50,000, a short drive from Camp Taji. One Iraqi soldier from Col. Saad's brigade was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade and another was shot in the head by a sniper. The next day, four of Col. Saad's soldiers died when their armored personnel carrier hit a roadside bomb. The blast threw the turret of the vehicle about 30 yards and lopped off the head of one of the Iraqi soldiers inside, U.S. and Iraqi officers say.

Senior Iraqi officials in the Ministry of Defense were convinced Tarmiyah was a hotbed of insurgent activity. Col. Pasquarette says he was told by his commander in Baghdad to clear the city of insurgents.

Col. Pasquarette and his team spent several days building a plan before he invited Col. Payne, Col. Saad and Col. Saad's commander to the U.S. side to explain it.

The two Iraqi officers were led through a 208-slide PowerPoint briefing, in which all the slides were written in English. The six areas the Iraqi troops were supposed to occupy were named for New England cities, such as Cranston, Bangor and Concord. The Iraqi officers, who spoke only Arabic, were dumbfounded. "I could see from their body language that both of them were not following what was going on," says Maj. Bill Taylor, Col. Payne's deputy.
30764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Our Troops in Action on: November 03, 2006, 10:52:02 PM
Soldiers' Angels needs you to adopt a soldier.....(or airman, Marine, etc)!

Every year after the holidays we have a shortage of angels and an abundance of soldiers. Here is proof of what your help does for our service members:

To All That Have Supported Us,
My name is SGT A. and I am currently deployed to Kuwait and have been receiving packages and letters from many of your volunteers. I want to take this time to say Thank You from the bottom of my heart. Your support is unparalleled and means so much to us soldiers in our toughest times. You have been there through it all with us. You are in our thoughts and prayers as well as our loved ones. Your group is what keeps us going through rain, cold nights, hot days and everything in between. You have been a shining light to help guide many a soldier. Once again I would like to say Thank you for your unwavering support. Sincerely, SGT A

What angels do:

1) Send two packages a month. These do not have to be expensive. The key to sending support is that they will know someone cares and they get their name called at mail call, or come home to mail on their bunk. If you can send some toiletries and some snacks each month, that's great. Once you sign up, you will get a mentor who can walk you through customs forms and flat rate packages. It's addictive, actually! You'll find you won't be able to go into a store without remembering Dave, who likes Old Spice aftershave, etcetera!

2) Send two letters a week. This seems like a lot but if you sit down to write a quick note to say hi, how are you, and talk a little about things at home, you would be amazed how quickly a letter gets written. Another thing you can do is buy postcards wherever you visit and send one of those each week. Again, it's about getting the names called and letting them know that while they are "over there," those of us "back home" are thinking of them.

If you can do this, please go to and click on "Adopt a Soldier." You will receive a soldier's name and address within a couple of days, as well as an orientation letter.


We hope everyone who reads this can adopt one soldier!!


Written by Ralph Bennett

Since his days growing up in Tampa, Fla. the lanky kid with the slightly mischievous smile had wanted to be a soldier. By this bright morning, April 4, 2003, Sgt 1st Class Paul Ray Smith had more than fullfilled his dream. He had served 15 of his 33 years in the U.S. Army, including three tours of duty in harms way- in the Persian Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Now all his training, all his experience, all the instincts that had made him a model soldier, were about to be put to the test. With 16 men from his 1st Platoon, B Company, 11th Engineer Battalion, Sgt. Smith was under attack by about 100 troops of the Iraqi Republican Guard.
"We're in a world of hurt" he was heard to say.
That world was a dusty triangular, walled compound about half the size of a football field, near the Saddam Hussein Airport, 11 miles from Baghdad. Sgt. Smith's engineers or "sappers" had broken through the southren wall of the compound with a military bulldozer and begun turning the area into a temporary "pen" for Iraqi prisoners as U.S. forces pressed their attack on the airport.
While they were working, guards spotted a large Iraqi force approaching their position. The guards called for Sgt. Smith to take a look and as he arrived all hell broke loose. They came under heavy fire from machine gunners and RPG's.
The lightly armed work detail needed fire support. Sgt. Smith called for a Bradley fighting vehicle. The Bradley was on site in short order and attacked the enemy force with it's 25mm Bushmaster cannon. Sgt. Smith and his men took up positions around the Bradley as he called for a nearby M-133 personnel carrier for additional fire power from it's .50 caliber machinegun.
As the two vehicles engaged the Iraqis both were hit by motor rounds and RPG's. Sgt Smith lost his fire power to hold back the enemy troops.
Sgt. Smith could have withdrawn but he was the only thing standing between the enemy and a aid station with combat casualties and medical teams a short distance away.
Under fire Sgt Smith and his men extracted three wounded from the APC. Then Sgt Smith positioned the APC where he could cover most of the compound then he manned the machinegun while one of his men fed the belted ammo. His other men made an assault on a guard tower while Sgt Smith layed down fire on the main forces coming at them now from three different positions. His men reached the tower and took it over but Sgt Smith was shot by one of the Iraqis there in the tower just as the other Iraqi troops started turning back because of the accurate fire of Sgt. Smith. 50 dead Iraqi soldiers lay in the area of the compound. Sgt. Smith's vest had 13 bullet holes in it but he had continued to fire while being hit. The shot from the tower hit him in the neck killing him.
When the Army told his mother her son had died in battle she said "Our name is so common, maybe it's a mistake"
On April 4th, 2005, exactly two years after his selfless action, his wife and their children stood in the White House and was presented with Sgt. Smith's Medal of Honor.

30765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Humor/WTF on: November 03, 2006, 10:49:09 PM
An elderly couple was attending church services. About halfway
through she leans over and says, "I just had a silent fart what do you
think I should do?"

He replies "Put a new battery in your hearing aid."
30766  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Grandfathers Speak Vol. 2: Sonny Umpad on: November 03, 2006, 08:17:47 PM
The Beatles song was because Maestro Sonny liked the Beatles.

30767  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Grandfathers Speak Vol. 2: Sonny Umpad on: November 03, 2006, 06:08:15 PM
A fairly polished edit of the opening sequence can be found at

login: Grandfathers2
password: contain

click on "My videos"
Click on "Grandfathers2 Opening"
30768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Looking at Flipper on: November 03, 2006, 03:18:38 PM
Looking at Flipper, Seeing Ourselves
Published: October 9, 2006

NO one blinks when a celebrity is called "vacuous" or a politician a
"moron" - but when headlines screamed that dolphins are "dimwits" and
"flippin' idiots," I was truly shocked. Is this a way to talk about an
animal so revered that there are several Web domain names that include
"smart dolphin"?

This is not to say that one should believe everything about them. For
example, their supposed "smile" is fake (they lack the facial musculature
for expressions), and all we seem to have learned from chatting "dolphinese"
with them is that lone male dolphins are keenly interested in female

Nevertheless, it's going too far to say that dolphins are dimwits. Yet this
is the claim of Paul Manger, a South African scientist who says that
dolphins' relatively large brains are due simply to preponderance of fatty
glial cells. These glia produce heat, which allows the brain's neurons to do
their job in the cold ocean.

Based on this observation, Professor Manger couldn't resist speculating that
the intelligence of dolphins and other cetaceans (like whales and porpoises)
is vastly overrated. He offered gems of insight, such as that dolphins are
too stupid to jump over a slight barrier (as when they are trapped in a tuna
net), whereas most other animals will. Even a goldfish will jump out of its
bowl, he noted.

If we skip the technicalities - such as that glial cells are not simply
insulation, that they add connectivity to the brain, and that humans, too,
have many more glial cells than neurons - the question remains why the
prospect of animal intelligence sets off such controversy. Could it be that
the huge size of the dolphin brain, which exceeds ours by 15 percent or
more, threatens the human ego? Are we to ignore the billions and billions of
neurons that dolphins do possess?

The goldfish remark reminded me of a common strategy of those who play down
animal intelligence. They love to "demonstrate" remarkable cognitive feats
in small-brained species: if a rat or pigeon can do it, it can't be that
special. Thus, some pigeons have been trained to use "symbolic
 communication" by pecking a key marked "thank you!" that delivered food to
another pigeon. And they have also been conditioned to peck at their own
bodies in front of a mirror, supporting the claim that they are

Clearly, pigeons are trainable. But is this truly comparable to the actions
of Presley, a dolphin at the New York Aquarium, who, without any rewards,
reacted to being marked with paint by taking off at high speed to a distant
part of his tank where a mirror was mounted? There he spun round and round,
the way we do in a dressing room, appearing to check himself out.

What is so upsetting to some people about the closeness between animal and
human intelligence, or between animal and human emotions, for that matter?
Just saying that animals can learn from each other, and hence have
rudimentary cultures, or that they can be jealous or empathic is taken by
some as a personal affront. Accusations of anthropomorphism will fly, and we'll
be urged to be parsimonious in our explanations. The message is that animals
are no humans.

That much is obvious. But it is equally true that humans are animals. Is it
so outlandish, from an evolutionary standpoint, to assume that if a
large-brained mammal acts similarly to us under similar circumstances, the
psychology behind its behavior is probably similar, too? This is true
parsimony in the scientific sense, the idea that the simplest explanation is
often the best. Those who resist this framework are in "anthropodenial" -
they cling to unproven differences.

Since Aristotle, humans have known that dolphins are incredibly social. Each
individual produces its own unique whistle sound by which the others
recognize him or her. They enjoy lifelong bonds and reconcile after fights
by means of "petting." The males form power-seeking coalitions, not unlike
the politics of chimpanzees and humans. Dolphins also support sick
companions near the surface, where they can breathe. They may encircle a
school of herring, driving the fish together in a compact ball and releasing
bubbles to keep them in place, after which they pick their food like fruit
from a tree.

In captivity, dolphins are known to imitate the gait and gestures of people
walking by, and to outsmart their keepers. One female dolphin that was
rewarded with a fish for every piece of debris she managed to collect from
her tank managed to con her trainers into a bounty of snacks. They
discovered she had been hiding large items like newspapers underwater, only
to rip small pieces from them, bringing these to her trainer one by one.

There are tons of such observations, which is why most of us believe in
dolphin intelligence - glia or no glia. It also explains why the slaughter
of dolphins, as still occurs every year in Japan, arouses such strong
emotions and controversy.

Still, I must admit that the whole dolphin affair has also offered me some
fresh insights. From now on, if I find my goldfish thrashing on the floor, I
will congratulate him before dropping him back into his bowl.

Frans de Waal, a professor of psychology at Emory University, is the author
of "Our Inner Ape."
30769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Book Reviews on: November 03, 2006, 03:05:09 PM
Another entry from the circular:

Thanks, XYZ for accepting my 3 Cups of tea recommendation and passing the word around. I appreciate your trust.
At this point, I don't want to say much about the book and possibly take away from your experiences in reading it.  I had the good fortune to meet the author, Greg Mortenson, last week and based on that meeting want to make some comments on XYZ's excellent review below.
The book is titled: Three Cups of Tea, with a subtitle of "One Man's Mission
 to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations ? One School at a Time." Greg Mortenson
 is that man with the mission.  (Tom Burger)
Greg said that he was very unhappy with the Subtitle of his book and has been in a battle with the publisher about it - possible wanting a change for the paperback due out next year.  He says that his school building and other Central Asia projects have nothing to do with fighting terrorism although he believes that education will contribute to positive and peaceful changes.  He first conceived of his idea to build a school in 1993 after being nursed back to health by the indeginous people in a northern Pakistan village Korphe in the Karakoram mountain range area.  Greg wanted to do something to repay the villagers for their kindness and told the Korphe people that he would return and build them a school.  The first school was built in Korphe in 1996.  Terrorists, terrorism, and Jihads, were not buzz words at the time and in no way was greg on a mission to fight anything.  Greg merely wanted to follow through on his committment to the Korphe people and fulfill their longing for a school to educate their children.  As other villages heard about the Korphe school, other communities wanted schools for their children and so on and so forth.  Since then, Greg has built 58 schools.  His work has also included over 24 potable water projects and water filtration systems, over 3000 cataract eye surgeries, Sanitation and latrine projects, over 14 women's vocational Centers, and much, much more.  Currently their are over 24,000 students in his schools including 14,000 girls. 
In person, there is nothing in Greg to give even the sightest hint of the word "famous" as XYZ called him.  He is very ordinary, unassuming, and without a bit of grandiosity or other "guru-like" qualities.  The book was published quite recently in March, 2006.
30770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam in Europe on: November 03, 2006, 02:48:07 PM
Sorry for the lack of URL.  This came to me on 10/24/06 from a usually reliable source:

Police Tuesday near Osnabrueck, in western Germany, arrested a 36-year-old terrorism suspect, identified only as Ibrahim R., after they had searched his apartment and computer.

The Iraqi man, described by his landlord as "helpful but crazy," had administered an Internet chat room where he supported terrorist ideologies and even tried to recruit new personnel for al-Qaeda.

Police had surveyed him for more than a year and found that he downloaded and disseminated audio and video messages by al-Qaida bosses Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Officials said he likely didn't have direct contacts to al-Qaida, but what he shared with the terror network was a profound hatred against the United States and the West, hatred that he discharged onto the Web.

Rolf Tophoven, a German terrorism expert, recently told United Press International that the Internet, used for "propaganda and inciting purposes," has become the Islamists' most important recruitment tool.

"The Web has turned into something like the University of Jihad -- it has become a virtual self- service shop of Islamist terror," he said. Officials in Berlin agree. Wolfgang Schaeuble, Germany's interior minister and thus the top security chief, has long called for closer monitoring of the Internet.

Last week's arrest was preceded by a failed train bombing, when two men placed homemade bombs on two regional trains. They had found the plan to build the explosive devices on the Internet, and although the bombs failed to detonate, the attempt shook Germany's intelligence community to the core, as both individuals had not previously appeared as terror suspects.

In recent months, more and more videos have popped up online that have German subtitles, to spread the jihadist messages for converts with little to zero knowledge of Arabic, but a large potential for violence.

In an update of the country's anti-terror laws, lawmakers gave Schaeuble some $165 million to improve the war against online terrorism. Observers say this funding was much needed: While federal police and intelligence agents already comb through the Web on the lookout for terror propaganda, the number of Islamist Web sites has grown exponentially in recent months. The money, the German news magazine Der Spiegel writes in its latest issue, may result into new computers and the creation of an additional 50 jobs assigned to survey the Web.

According to Spiegel Online, Schaeuble as early as the beginning of this year has asked his experts to develop a concept for a new department of Berlin's Anti-Terror Center, a federal institution designed to combat terrorism in Germany. The new department will be called Center for Internet Monitoring and Analysis and will go live in 2007, the magazine wrote. Germany reportedly wants to cooperate with other countries (mainly with the United States and its western European partners) to fight online terrorism.

"More than before and at best round the clock we have to know what happens in Islamist forums, analyze hints for developments and try to arrest possible disseminators of propaganda in Germany," August Hanning, the deputy interior minister, told the magazine.

Some lawmakers even want to go a step further. Uwe Schuenemann, the conservative interior minister of Lower Saxony , wants Web site providers to sign guarantees that they take terrorism-related material off their servers. He also calls for outlawing the download of terrorism videos.

Ingo Wolf, the Free Democrat interior minister of North-Rhine Westphalia, wants to enable law enforcement agents to not only survey terrorism suspects who go online, but also access their hard drives, according to Der Spiegel, via spy ware or similar programs.
30771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our Troops in Action on: November 03, 2006, 02:45:09 PM
With the words of Senator Kerry lingering in the air, we kick this thread off with the following:
Debunking the myth of the underprivileged soldier
by Tim Kane and James Carafano
November 29, 2005 | 

[back to web version]
They all volunteered. The U.S. soldiers pitching in with hurricane relief along the Gulf Coast and those fighting and dying in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere decided, on their own, to serve their nation.
Or was the decision made so freely? Could it be that unscrupulous Pentagon recruiters duped them, taking advantage of their poverty, their lack of education and the bleak futures they share as members of the USA's urban underclass?

That's the view of some critics, such as New York Times columnist Bob Herbert, who writes that "very few" of the soldiers fighting in Iraq "are coming from the privileged economic classes," and that there would likely be no war if rich kids had to fight. According to Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., social equality demands reinstatement of the draft, which he justifies by asserting that "the most privileged Americans are underrepresented or absent." Herbert concludes that there is "something very, very wrong with this picture."

What's "very, very wrong" with the Rangel-Herbert picture is that it has no factual basis.

According to a comprehensive study of all enlistees for the years 1998-99 and 2003 that The Heritage Foundation just released, the typical recruit in the all-volunteer force is wealthier, more educated and more rural than the average 18- to 24-year-old citizen is. Indeed, for every two recruits coming from the poorest neighborhoods, there are three recruits coming from the richest neighborhoods.

Yes, rural areas and the South produced more soldiers than their percentage of the population would suggest in 2003. Indeed, four rural states - Montana, Alaska, Wyoming and Maine - rank 1-2-3-4 in proportion of their 18-24 populations enlisted in the military. But this isn't news.

Enlistees have always come from rural areas. Yet a new study, reported in The Washington Post earlier this month, suggests that higher enlistment rates in rural counties are new, implying a poorer military. They err by drawing conclusions from a non-random sample of a few counties, a statistically cloaked anecdote. The only accurate way to assess military demographics is to consider all recruits.

If, for example, we consider the education of every recruit, 98% joined with high-school diplomas or better. By comparison, 75% of the general population meets that standard. Among all three-digit ZIP code areas in the USA in 2003 (one can study larger areas by isolating just the first three digits of ZIP codes), not one had a higher graduation rate among civilians than among its recruits.

In fact, since the 9/11 attacks, more volunteers have emerged from the middle and upper classes and fewer from the lowest-income groups. In 1999, both the highest fifth of the nation in income and the lowest fifth were slightly underrepresented among military volunteers. Since 2001, enlistments have increased in the top two-fifths of income levels but have decreased among the lowest fifth.

Allegations that recruiters are disproportionately targeting blacks also don't hold water. First, whites make up 77.4% of the nation's population and 75.8% of its military volunteers, according to our analysis of Department of Defense data.

Second, we explored the 100 three-digit ZIP code areas with the highest concentration of blacks, which range from 24.1% black up to 68.6%. These areas, which account for 14.6% of the adult population, produced 16.6% of recruits in 1999 and only 14.1% in 2003.

Maintaining the strength and size of our all-volunteer military isn't always easy. But Americans step up when their country needs them. To suggest the system is failing or exploiting citizens is wrong. And to make claims about the nature of U.S. troops to discredit their mission ought to be politically out of bounds.

Tim Kane is an Air Force veteran, and James Carafano is an Army veteran. Both are research fellows at The Heritage Foundation.

First appeared in USA Today

30772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Book Reviews- political and religious on: November 03, 2006, 12:34:15 PM

Now for the hard part: Looking stabilization square in the face



Old vaudevillians say dying is easy but comedy is hard. For American armed forces, conventional warfare is relatively easy, but stabilization and reconstruction operations are hard.

George Packer's "The Assassins' Gate" and Bernard Trainor's and Mike Gordon's "Cobra II" describe the difficulties America is having in Iraq, and although neither book is perfect, these two volumes have been the first to cover the tragedy in Iraq in anything like a comprehensive, professionally accomplished, well-written manner. These books are the very best sort of journalism, truly the first take on history.


Packer, Trainor and Gordon resist simplification and look the difficulties square in the face: All three authors argue that the Bush administration, Defense Department and U.S. Central Command used fallacious assumptions, which were based either on poor intelligence or the tendentious selection of information regarding the international political position of potential coalition partners or the political status of the various Iraqi peoples, to map their post-conflict strategy.


Finally, and most important, from the outset, all the players above shunned a major U.S. effort in nation building. There was no political will, Packer, Trainor and Gordon contend, to remain in Iraq for any appreciable length of time. There was an exit strategy based on U.S. military forces remaining in Iraq for only months after the expected military victory.


Conventional wisdom dictates that success in stabilization and reconstruction of a war-torn society takes five to seven years, but even this traditional understanding can be overly optimistic. The U.S. occupied the former Confederacy for 12 years and did not succeed; Reconstruction in the South lasted from 1865 to 1877, and after the U.S. Army left, the Old Confederacy was ruled by a single party, freedom of the press was often circumscribed (especially on racial matters) and blacks lived in terrorized peonage for almost a century. The U.S. government also occupied and ran Haiti for 19 years from 1915 to 1934 and failed utterly to reform that society. Disappointment in such endeavors is the norm.


The postwar planning done for Iraq by CentCom and others (excluding the State Department) allotted weeks and months to the task. We need to examine carefully all of the generalizations one reads about stabilization and reconstruction and all of us ? readers of this journal, war college faculty and students, legislators, bureaucrats in the executive branch ? would profit enormously from reading Packer's and Trainor and Gordon's essential reports on Iraq.


Packer is a deeply experienced journalist who led Iraq coverage for The New Yorker magazine. He has traveled all over Iraq, has interviewed most of the decision-makers and is a long-term acquaintance of some of the leading characters in this drama. His sobering account rings with verisimilitude.


Packer believed in Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003. He considered the war a necessary enterprise because he knew Saddam Hussein was an international menace and a despot dangerous to Iraqis of any religion or ethnic group and whose son and likely successor Uday was a monster. Packer has less trouble, therefore, with the decision to eliminate Saddam (although he believes the case made by the administration was deceptive) than with the planning for the war, its execution and especially with the strategy for the occupation after the fall of Baghdad.


Packer argues: "The campaign of persuasion [of the Congress and American people before combat began] proceeded by rhetorical hyperbole, by the deliberate slanting of ambiguous facts in one direction, and by a wink-and-nod suggestion that the administration knew more than it could reveal. Conflicting and inconclusive intelligence about Saddam's weapons programs was selected and highlighted for the worst-case analysis favored by the White House."


The deception by key decision-makers, as Packer sees it, was born essentially from the notion that the war would be over quickly and the occupation would be measured in short months ? 90 days, according to Lt. Gen. Jay Garner, the first reconstructor sent to Iraq by the Pentagon. The problem with the planning was the slant the decision-makers put on the tendentious intelligence they emphasized. Missing the fact that there were no weapons of mass destruction was of much less significance than the notion that American forces would be welcomed as liberators.


Packer asserts the administration relied much too heavily for intelligence from Iraqi exiles described by the author as: "hundreds of mullahs, monarchists, ex-officers, party bosses, businessmen, intellectuals, and schemers." One of these exiles, a man very close to Packer, was Kanan Makiya, whose story is woven through the narrative from beginning to end. Makiya, author of "Republic of Fear," had not been in Iraq for 35 years, yet the White House relied upon him for its post-invasion picture of Iraq.


Packer writes that Makiya told President Bush and Vice President Cheney that the invasion "would transform the image of America in the Arab world, that war could be a force for progress, for democracy. 'People will greet the troops with sweets and flowers.'"


Packer cites the numerous organizations that disagreed with the administration's idea of how Iraqis would greet the American military ? the Council of Foreign Relations, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Rand Corp., Army War College, United States Institute of Peace, National Defense University ? but "none of the forecasts penetrated the Pentagon or the Oval Office."


Gullibility, according to Packer, caused the administration to send a small force into Iraq to conquer it and then to stabilize it. All pundits writing on this subject argue that security is the first prerequisite for reconstruction and the fewer than 150,000 troops sent to remove Saddam would be enough to provide security only if America were greeted with "sweets and flowers," but not if the reception was rocket-propelled grenades and improvised explosive devices.


To secure the country and then build an economy, the occupiers must have an intimate knowledge of the society one is planning to reconstruct and neither Jay Garner nor his replacement, L. Paul Bremer ? nor the generals commanding the nation-building forces ? were qualified in that regard, according to Packer.


Packer's final assessment is severe: "I came to believe that those in positions of highest responsibility for Iraq showed a carelessness about human life that amounted to criminal negligence," he writes. "Swaddled in abstract ideas, convinced of their own righteousness, incapable of self-criticism, indifferent to accountability, they turned a difficult undertaking into a needlessly deadly one. When things went wrong, they found other people to blame. The Iraq war was always winnable; it still is. For this very reason, the recklessness of its authors is all the harder to forgive."


In "Cobra II," Gordon and Trainor tackle similar issues, but from a different point of view. The authors ? the longtime military correspondent for The New York Times and a retired Marine lieutenant general ? previously collaborated on "The Generals' War," the best book on the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and are authentic experts on military planning and operations. They focus on the operational aspects of the conflict, both planning and execution. They conclude their work with a concise and cogent 10-page "lessons learned" chapter that serves as an effective "executive summary" for the 507-page volume.


Gordon and Trainor's work, exhaustively researched and thorough, is much more a traditional campaign history than Packer's work. It includes exceptionally useful maps and a 40-page appendix containing a constructive chronology and key documents. "Cobra II" focuses in on operations, and Trainor and Gordon brilliantly describe the fighting. Gordon was embedded with several combat units, and the narrative is helped by his experiences. The book, however, pays less attention to the contributions of air power in Operation Iraqi Freedom than it deserves, much less than in "The Generals' War," and practically no attention to the British campaign; the U.S. had seven times the British number of combat troops in Iraq, and the British suffered one-quarter of the battle deaths.


There are practically no civilian heroes in "Cobra II," although Trainor and Gordon cite President Bush favorably for asking the right questions, and repeatedly. But the authors insist the president did not get the right answers from his civilian advisers or from Gen. Tommy Franks, the CentCom commander. Nobody escapes criticism, including Secretary of State Colin Powell for not fighting the Defense Department and its bureaucracy for control of the nation-building part of the operation, and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, for not ensuring the president got all sides of the story and not balancing battling bureaucracies. The authors are most critical of the Defense Department leadership and Franks for their lackadaisical approach to the stabilization and reconstruction part of the operation.


Trainor and Gordon argue that the administration made five fundamental errors in ts approach to the war, beginning with the most grievous of all, misreading of the foe. "Rumsfeld and his generals," assert Trainor and Gordon, "misread their foe by viewing the invasion of Iraq largely as a continuation of the Persian Gulf War." During the 1991 war, Saddam's Republican Guard was his best-equipped and most loyal force, and Franks and "his generals continued to regard the Republican Guard as their principal adversary." Allied ground forces "expected to run roughshod over the [Republican] Guard units ? and drive directly to Baghdad. Bypassed Iraqi units would be left to die on the vine. As it turned out [however] ? the paramilitary Fedayeen ? represented the principal challenge ? [and it] fought tenaciously." Misunderstanding the foe "reflected a failure of intelligence. The CIA in particular was not only wrong on WMD, but failed to identify the importance of the Fedayeen or to uncover the tons of arms that had been cached in the cities and towns of southern Iraq." The defense secretary and CentCom commander, moreover, believed "their victory would be sealed with the seizure of Baghdad ? identified as Iraq's 'center of gravity.'" But the attacks by the Fedayeen "demonstrated that the American-led coalition was contending with a decentralized enemy that was fanatical, not dependent on rigid command and control, and whose base of operations was dispersed throughout the towns and cities of Iraq."


Second, the Pentagon leadership relied too much on technology. During the march to Baghdad, high technology combined with a lean and fast force was effective in reaching the city in exceptionally rapid time and with relatively few casualties. "But after the fall of Baghdad ? mass, not speed, was requisite for sealing the victory. Military technology was less decisive against an opponent that faded away into Iraqi cities to fight another day."


Third, CentCom failed to adapt to developments on the battlefield. "There were numerous indications in the first days of the war that the United States was involved in a different war than it had anticipated. ? The first Marine to be killed in action died at the hands of an Iraqi dressed in civilian clothes who fired from a pickup truck, not a tank. Moreover, the Americans encountered primitive roadside bombs, suicide car bombs, foreign jihadists, and guerrilla-style ambushes, hallmarks of the insurgency to come. ? But the American war plan was never adjusted on high."


Fourth, the American military structure was dysfunctional. In the Iraq war, Rumsfeld and Franks dominated the planning; the Joint Chiefs of Staff were pushed to the margins, and largely accepted their roles.


Fifth, the administration had a disdain for nation building. "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Tommy Franks spent most of their time and energy on the least demanding task ? defeating Saddam's weakened conventional forces, and the least amount on the most demanding rehabilitation of and security for the new Iraq."


There are, and there will be, myriad reasons to study both the triumphs and failures of the American military experience in Iraq. The first rough drafts of history produced by Packer, Gordon and Trainor will not only serve the needs of staff and war college students, but today's soldiers and strategists. The story of Iraq, thus far, is that our initial successes are inseparable from our current trials.
30773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: November 03, 2006, 08:56:17 AM
Believe me, I understand.  That said, I am reminded of what my father used to say when big plans we announced:  "What do we do Monday morning at 0900?"

For example, what do we do specifically about the problem raised by this Stratfor piece? 


Geopolitical Diary: Iraq Without Bechtel

Bechtel Corp., a global engineering firm, announced Thursday that it is wrapping up its work in Iraq and not seeking any further contracts (its last contract expired last week). According to Cliff Mumm, who heads up Bechtel's infrastructure projects, the security situation in Iraq has deteriorated to the point where continuing is not possible. Bechtel's decision follows the decision by Kroll Security International to sell or abandon -- it was not clear which from media reports -- its operations in Iraq following the loss of some of its personnel.

When companies like Bechtel and Kroll begin to withdraw from Iraq, the situation has clearly reached a new level of instability. These firms are used to working in unstable environments, and security threats are simply a part of the business they are in. When they have to start calculating that the threat is greater than the potential profit, the situation is indeed serious.

There is a deeper aspect to this. The U.S. Army was designed, during the 1990s, to be a force that was dependent on the private sector to operate. Put another way, the standing Army was not designed to go into combat without integrating Reserve and National Guard components and without outsourcing support services to the private sector. It was not an Army that could undertake combat operations without this support.

During the 1990s, it appeared to some that the world had reached a new level of stability, and that economics had replaced geopolitics. The assumption was that there would not be extended combat. It made sense to depend on the Reserves and the National Guard for additional manpower during short combat situations, and to use contractors to provide many of the services that the military had provided for itself in the past.

The force structure was not designed for multi-year, multi-divisional combat. The Reserve and National Guard components were not expected to sustain the regular force for years. And the contractors did not expect to have to operate in a world of extreme risk.

The combat capability of the U.S. Army is therefore breaking in two ways. First, its manpower base is being exhausted through multiple deployments. Second, it is now going to find that the contracting support it relies on won't be there if the security risk becomes too extreme. Unlike combat support drawn from the ranks of the military, the contractors can't be ordered and expected to carry out their duties in high threat circumstances. But the Army is not built to operate without them.

The decision to outsource key support functions made sense in the 1990s. It shifted the cost of standby capabilities to private companies, and allowed the military to focus on its core mission. In the course of the Iraq war, the challenges have gone beyond feeding the troops to include rebuilding infrastructure, providing security to the firms doing the rebuilding, and so on. The Army could not provide security to engineering companies, so private companies like Blackwater were bought in. As the situation developed, the dependency on these contractors expanded, until the war effort -- understood in the broad sense of nation-building -- became enormously dependent on these contractors.

But they have a different appetite for risk than the military. They are free to leave, and they are leaving. It is unlikely that a decision reached by Bechtel and Kroll is so unique that others won't follow. They will. And that now poses a new problem for the U.S. effort: It does not have the military capability of filling in for the contractors. There are just not the numbers or skills. That means that if the security situation worsens, we will see a spiral in which contractors withdraw, the security situation further deteriorates and more contractors withdraw.

Given the structure of the force that has been fielded, the level of deployment cannot be controlled by the Department of Defense. When you depend on contractors looking to make money, a lot of them will bail when the risks get too great. Defense planners in the 1990s did not count on this scenario, when the enablers of the Army decide to leave the theater of operations. But it seems that that is what is happening.
30774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rushing for the Exit on: November 02, 2006, 07:23:52 PM
Woof Buzwardo:

A stirring piece no doubt, but what are we to make of this post from another forum, the general tenor of which is QUITE clear that Islamofascism is a clear and present danger?


I figured this was as good a place to post my take on a couple of recent conversations as any. I had two friends come back from Iraq in the last month. One is a Gunnery Sergeant and the other a First Sergeant. I know both of them well and deployed with them twice before myself.

Their opinion is that Iraq is as bad or worse than it's ever been. Apparently, it's not quite as dangerous on the Syrian border, but much more so near Baghdad. So, things sort of even out. The only bright spot seems to be the availability of electricity, but it's something of a bitter pill to swallow given the price.

Both of them are at least as conservative as your average Republican. Both of them said that they'd vote for the first person who promised to get us out as soon as possible. Specifically, "Good men are dying over there for no reason. It's ridiculous." Honestly, I would blame this on their basic frustration, not having thought through the consequenses. But, they were adamant.

In one anecdote, one of their troops is being prosecuted for killing an Iraqi. The kid was a .50 BMG gunner on a truck in a convoy. A vehicle ahead of the convoy was swerving back and forth across lanes in front of them, impeding the them. He was ordered by the Staff Sergeant in charge of the truck to fire a burst into the ground next to the car after all of the requisite warning steps had been taken. He did so. The rounds ricochetted off of the ground and killed the driver. After a short investigation, the Lieutenant in charge of the JAG investigation chose to press charges for negligent homicide. The Lance Corporal hasn't been told what the future holds for him. The command won't tell him what they plan to do. He's just in limbo. He just got back from the deployment a few weeks ago, and apparently they'll let him know if they are going to arrest him. I wouldn't be shocked if he killed himself.

When asked about his experience with Iraqi military units and their competency (the key to us leaving is their ability to run the place), the First Sergeant's answer was simple: "Who, the insurgents?" It seems that they run patrols or operations with the Iraqi Army guys one day, and arrest them the next day planting bombs next to the road. "They are using our weapons and technology to kill us."

The next gem was the incarceration system. As has been since I was there two years ago, if you can't make a Johnny Cochoran proof case against an arrested insurgent within 14 days, he's released - with $6 dollars a day of compensation (not bad pay in that part of the world). A good number of the guys they arrest have made the trip three or four times. I cringed when I heard this because it was the same story we ran into in 2004. My simple answer was to kill anyone that the ROE allowed for. There would be more than enough opportunity to interrogate people who we couldn't legally kill. However, guys are still taking chances capturing people who could simply and legally be killed in the field. Ugh.

Since the three of us come from an intel background (though both of their recent deployments have been in different types of units than we'd previously been assigned), I asked them about their take on the intel side of the war. As expected, it's essentially worthless. None of the meaningful intelligence analysis is being passed to the field. The commanders might have fabulously colorful PowerPoint briefings of the situation, but the people who are actually being shot at know nearly nothing.

This dilema was the source of a fight I'd had with my S-2 years ago when we tried to digest the intelligence doctrine. He was convinced that Intel drove Ops, and that if it'd never been done right before, by God he'd be an example of how it should work. I tried to explain to him that basic human nature would thwart him. Essentially, Intel guys are some of the biggest geeks in the Marine Corps. The units in the field are the business end of one of the most dangerous military forces on earth. There is no way that the combat leader of the uberwarrior society is going to have the biggest geek in the organization tell him what to do and when to do it. I was put in my place, but I was proven right. And, nothing has changed.

I hesitate to write this because there seem to be only two options in regards to opinions on the war: Support Bush the Second's plan, or cheer for the muslims. I'm here to tell anyone who is not clear on the issue that there are at least a couple of other realities. I have my opinion about what is actually going on over there, and what we ought to do about it. But, I hope everyone is ready to start digesting a fairly stout anti-Bush sentiment from seriously pro-American vets who are growing in number everyday.

For me, there seems nothing left to do on the matter other than to grieve for our guys who are wasting their time jeopardizing their lives so that a bunch of savages can have the right to vote to kill off the next smallest tribe.
30775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Islam the religion on: November 02, 2006, 04:56:02 PM
30776  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Medio Oriente on: November 02, 2006, 04:51:59 PM

Esta' en espanol.
30777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 'America Alone' on: November 02, 2006, 01:52:35 PM
I have bought and read Steyn's book.  IMHO this is a very important book that everyone should read.
30778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: November 02, 2006, 10:37:35 AM
Geopolitical Diary: Washington vs. the Iraqi Shia?

Reuters reported Wednesday that Iraqi Shiite leaders are increasingly becoming critical of what they see as an alignment between the country's Sunni minority and the United States. The report cited several Shiite sources saying that Washington wants the Shiite militias disbanded, so that Iran will not be able to use them in a potential U.S-Iranian conflict.

We predicted in our fourth-quarter forecast that Iran might instigate militant attacks by the Iraqi Shia against U.S. troops. Recent political developments appear to be setting the stage for just such a scenario.

Washington has a lot riding on Iraq, and needs to show that it can steer the country out of its current pandemonium and toward some minimum semblance of security and stability. As recently as January, the main obstacles in the way of that goal were Sunni nationalist insurgents and al Qaeda-led transnational (Sunni) jihadists. Then came the destruction of the Shiite al-Askariyah shrine in As Samarra by suspected jihadist militants, which led to reprisals by Shiite "death squads" against Sunnis.

The anti-Sunni violence and the Shiite-Kurdish push toward federalism brought the Sunnis and the United States closer together. The Sunnis needed U.S. support to counter the political and military aggressiveness of the Shia; the Americans needed to contain the Sunni insurgency and find a way to blunt Iran's influence in Iraq. Washington made disbanding Shiite militias a top priority -- bringing it on par with the need to contain the Sunni insurgents, and perhaps even a notch higher.

All of this was bound to irritate the Shia -- which would explain the events of the past two weeks.

Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim, chief of the largest Shiite political group the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), has been aggressively calling for the creation of an autonomous Shiite federal zone composed of nine southern Iraq governorates, but U.S. President George W. Bush came out strongly against the idea Oct. 18. Meanwhile, Washington, under pressure on the domestic front, continued to press the government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to disband the Shiite militias and to agree to a timetable for a U.S. troop drawdown.

Al-Maliki said in an interview published in USA Today that his government will not force militias to disarm until later this year or early next year. He also criticized a U.S. raid against a Mehdi Army stronghold in the capital -- saying he had not been consulted on the operation -- and slammed the top U.S. military and diplomatic representatives in Iraq for calling for a timetable to curb violence. On Tuesday, he ordered U.S. military checkpoints removed from Sadr City and other parts of Baghdad.

Ahmed Chalabi on Monday criticized secret talks between Sunni insurgents and U.S. officials. Chalabi -- a controversial Shiite politician who once enjoyed strong ties with the Pentagon and remains close to Tehran -- urged the United States to open talks with Iran, saying it is the only way out of the current problems.

What we have here is a conflict in the making between the United States and the Iraqi Shia. Iraqi Sunnis and the governments of other Arab states don't want to see the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq; Iran, meanwhile, has begun the mantra that the occupation must end. Given the current circumstances, Iraqi Shia agitating for a U.S. withdrawal does not seem to be beyond the pale.

30779  DBMA Espanol / Espanol Discussion / Re: Mexico on: November 02, 2006, 10:18:39 AM
MEXICO: The Mexican Federal Preventive Police moved against protesters in Oaxaca as the police took the Channel 9 news building, which was previously besieged by the protesters, and worked to clear the highway of barricades. Hundreds of Molotov cocktails and dozens of homemade rockets were found in the news building; Mexican authorities are preparing charges of interruption of federal communications and explosives possession against the protesters.
30780  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Military Science and Military Issues on: November 01, 2006, 12:20:27 PM
Guns and Better
Max Boot surveys five centuries' worth of military revolutions.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

The subject of technology in modern warfare has been covered by many scholars and soldiers before. But Max Boot takes a refreshingly novel approach in "War Made New." He uses battles as metaphors to demonstrate that revolutions in military affairs, or RMAs, have a pedigree. Tracing the history of warfare from the French invasion of Italy in the late 15th century to Afghanistan and Iraq today, Mr. Boot contends that RMAs are the preserve of Western militaries or of non-Western militaries, like Japan's, clever enough to mimic the Western style of war. These RMAs, he says, have been decisive agents of both military success and geopolitical change.

Mr. Boot is an insightful observer of the profession of arms, a gifted amateur who has learned to know war without experiencing it. His last major work was the excellent "The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power" (2002). "War Made New" concentrates on four RMAs that occurred over five centuries. The first began with the rise of European states that alone possessed the bureaucratic and technological capacity to equip armies and navies with gunpowder weapons. The Industrial Revolution fueled the next two RMAs: one powered by steel and steam (World War I) and the other by electricity and oil (World War II). The fourth turning point that made war new, Mr. Boot says, is the contemporary rise of information technology.

Mr. Boot takes a daring--and successful--tack in approaching his subject; rather than attempt to be exhaustively comprehensive, he treats battles like lily pads, jumping from one to the next in quick succession across the pond of history. Thus the warfare we read about includes the British defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588, the Prussian victory over the Austrians at the Battle of K?niggr?tz in 1866, the Japanese navy's vanquishing of the Russian fleet in the Battle of Tsushima in 1905, and the German invasion of France in 1940. Mr. Boot admits to selecting battles that reinforce his thesis. Thus to illustrate his point that the most determined enemy in the late 19th century could not stand against an army equipped with small-bore rifles and machine guns--gifts of the Industrial Revolution--the author chooses the butchering of the Mahdi Army at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898 during the fight for British supremacy in the Sudan.

Mr. Boot exercises his skill as an editorialist to craft riffs, sort of cognitive connective tissue, that tie together his battlefield images. In three pages he gives a remarkably precise explanation of total war, as embodied by World War I, along with its social, political and economic repercussions. In five pages he distills the story of the U.S. Navy's creation of large-deck aircraft carrier materiel and doctrine. He succeeds in recounting the development of American armored doctrine during the interwar period in a single paragraph.

Despite the concision of the writing, a reader's attention might begin to fade--save for the fact that Mr. Boot also has a gift for knowing when to stir into the mix little-known, topically irrelevant tidbits about his key actors. For instance, he interjects to tell us that King Francis I of France, within three years of his launching the gunpowder revolution, died when he cracked his cranium against a door jamb in one of his palaces. Or that Gen. Curtis LeMay's reputation as a borderline sociopath was due in large measure to a perpetual scowl brought on by Bell's Palsy contracted in 1942. We learn that Col. Hector "Fighting Mac" McDonald, a popular British hero who achieved fame during the Battle of Omdurman, took his life so as not to suffer the consequences of a court-martial for pedophilia.
On the whole, Mr. Boot's argument for the decisiveness of the first three RMAs is persuasive, even if one is tempted to cite battles that undermine his thesis (yes, gunpowder mastery made all the difference at Obdurman, but only a year after that battle a few determined Afrikaners embarrassed the British Army with their home-grown use of Western weapons technology during the Boer War). Less convincing is Mr. Boot's argument for today's information-powered RMA.

Daily headlines keep getting in his way. Tomorrow's emerging war-winning technologies such as satellite sensors, laser weapons and cyber attacks seem to be less than compelling when juxtaposed with the reality that our challenges are now human, not technological. All the high-tech gear that Mr. Boot describes in his final chapters hasn't done much to make our soldiers and marines more culturally aware and adaptive or better able to shape the perceptions of our friends or break the will of our enemies.

The big news coming out of the information RMA may well be written by an adaptive enemy who has learned--after 500 years of trying--how to lessen the effectiveness of Western technology through the imaginative use of patience, ideological fanaticism and an enthusiasm for death. Contemporary experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and Lebanon suggests that our enemies may be evolving their own revolution, this one in cultural, not technological, affairs.

Yet one can't help concluding that Mr. Boot believes tomorrow's RMAs will ultimately continue the Western tradition of winning against less technologically advanced enemies. Mr. Boot is a penetrating writer and thinker, and his opinions are influential in military circles. However understandable his confidence about the future might be, his seeming underestimation of the threat from our current enemies is the only drawback to an otherwise brilliantly crafted history.

Maj. Gen. Scales, who retired from active duty in 2000, is the president of Colgen Inc., a company specializing in defense consulting. You can buy "War Made New" from the OpinionJournal bookstore.
30781  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / My Country needs me on: November 01, 2006, 12:05:39 PM
 An Iraqi voice unmentioned by our chattering class.


'My Country Needs Me'
Iraqi democrats haven't given up the fight. How can we?

Wednesday, November 1, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

With the midterm elections fast approaching, the panic over Iraq seems more intense than ever. That country, the thinking goes, is a hopeless mess, and there could be a precipitous American withdrawal, especially if the Democrats win.

But doing so would leave the silent majority of Iraqis hostage to the most vicious extremists, abandoning those Iraqi leaders who have championed liberal democratic values. One of them is Mithal al-Alusi, a 53-year-old Sunni Arab who won a seat in parliament last December after having served as director general of the National Commission on de-Baathification. Mr. al-Alusi ran on a platform of religious pluralism, human rights, free markets and a free press. He calls for an alliance among democracies--including the U.S., Iraq, Israel and Turkey--to fight terrorism.

Not only does Mr. al-Alusi champion values many in the West hope will define the new Iraq, he has risked his life--and lost more than his life--for the cause. In September 2004 he attended a counterterrorism conference in Herzliya, Israel; after which insurgents threatened his family. The following February assassins opened fire on Mr. al-Alusi's car as it approached his Baghdad home. He wasn't in the vehicle, but his sons, 30-year-old Ayman and 22-year-old Gamal, were. Both were killed as their father watched. Still, Mr. al-Alusi was unbowed. "Even if these terrorists try to kill me again, peace is the only solution," he told reporters minutes after the attack. "Peace with Israel is the only solution for Iraq. Peace with everybody, but no peace for the terrorists." He continued to build his Iraqi Nation Party, which his fallen sons had helped establish, and which now has 15,000 members.

He describes his views less in ideological terms than in human ones. "An Iraqi mother, she has the right to have normal feelings for her baby. It's the same for an Israeli mother," he told me in a phone interview from Baghdad. "This is the best way to drive the world's politics. Not to make it complicated."

Mr. al-Alusi is not the only Iraqi political leader to reject ethnic and sectarian separatism. Hajim al-Hasani, a former parliament speaker, testified at a September congressional hearing. When Rep. Christopher Shays referred to him as a Sunni, Mr. al-Hasani politely corrected the congressman: "I am Iraqi." Afterwards, Mr. al-Hasani told me it is a misconception to view the violence in Iraq as the expression of popular will: "The few bad apples can rotten the rest of the apples if nobody stops them." Many of those "bad apples" aren't even grown in Iraq. Following Saddam Hussein's fall, foreign jihadists such as the Jordanian Abu Musab al-Zarqawi rushed to join former Baathists in an effort to undermine the fledgling democracy. And Mr. al-Alusi told me that "Iran is fully involved in terrorist activity in Iraq." He believes Tehran is playing both sides, backing Sunni terrorists as well as Shiite ones.
Polls suggest a majority of Americans think it was a mistake to enter Iraq. Mr. al-Alusi respectfully disagrees. "We didn't have any kind of hope, and now, even with all our difficulty, we have hope." Iraq today is a central front in a war against extremists who view the murder of civilians as political expression. "I will be killed--if not today, tomorrow," Mr. al-Alusi says. "The point is not me, but children--for a child to be a child, not a killer; for a teenager to be a teenager, not an extremist."

Mithal al-Alusi could have left Iraq for a comfortable life in exile; Mr. Shays, a friend, offered to help him relocate to the U.S. But he said no: "My country needs me."

He has not given up the fight. How can we?

Ms. Robinson is an independent journalist.

30782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Books on: November 01, 2006, 11:01:58 AM
From a circular in which I participate

XYZ has recently brought a fascinating book to our attention. Having just finished reading it, I want to promote this book to circular participants. Greg Mortenson has become quite a famous guy in recent years, and I am appalled that I am just now hearing about him and his work. If others are ahead of me on that score, please chime in with your thoughts and observations.

The book is titled: Three Cups of Tea, with a subtitle of "One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations ? One School at a Time." Greg Mortenson is that man with the mission. I will provide links to quotes and book reviews, but I just want to add a few personal thoughts about this magnificent book, this inspiring man, and his remarkable accomplishments.


Three Cups of Tea is a fascinating read. It's a story you can't put down. If it were fiction, some readers might think the leading character is too brave, too unassuming, and too successful to be believable. But it looks like Greg Mortenson is the real McCoy.


Even if you are militarily inclined in your approach to our terrorist problems, you should enjoy this book. Mortenson served with distinction in the military, and he supported the U.S. attack on the Taliban. His experiences in Pakistan and Afghanistan have left him all too familiar with the "distinctive sound of the Kalashnikov assault rifle." He has also had the enriching experience of waking up to find a radical Muslim pointing a Kalashnikov at his chest. Mortenson even had two fatwahs issued against him and his work, but his Pakistani supporters won in Shariat Court! Mortenson has been allowed to continue his work, with praise and thanks from high religious figures and the court.


The story about how Mortenson ended up building schools in some of the most remote Himalayan villages in Pakistan is a great adventure yarn ? and a fascinating story about overcoming long odds to achieve a personal goal. In the process, Mortenson became fluent in Urdu and intimately familiar with many Muslim customs and rituals. He also became that oxymoron:  a trusted, famous, and even revered infidel.


Mortenson's knowledge of Pakistan and Muslims became so impressive that he was asked to brief members of Congress. In fact, somebody thought he was important enough to introduce to Donald Rumsfeld.  Someone in the Pentagon subsequently offered Mortenson government money to accelerate his work; the money was briefly tempting, but he knew it would destroy his credibility in Pakistan .


This is one heck of a terrific read, as entertaining as it is informative and timely. Here are a couple links I hope you will check out.
30783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Philippines on: November 01, 2006, 10:51:51 AM

Philippines: The South's Rising Tensions
Philippine security officials put Manila on high alert Oct. 11 amid a surge of violence on the country's main southern island of Mindanao. Meanwhile, Philippine security forces are anticipating more attacks as tensions between the government and militants continue to escalate.

On Oct. 11, an improvised explosive device (IED) made from an 81mm mortar shell exploded outside a bank in Mindanao's North Cotabato province. It was the third blast among four IEDs planted in the area in two days. One IED was found earlier Oct. 11 and defused by authorities in nearby Makilala, the scene of a bombing the day before that killed at least 12 people during a festival celebrating the town's founding. That same day, another IED detonated in the predominantly Muslim province of Sultan Kudarat.

There also have been increased encounters between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and militants on Mindanao, including the Muslim groups Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Abu Sayyaf and the communist New People's Army (NPA). The same day of the festival bombing, troops of the army's 39th Infantry Brigade clashed with NPA fighters near Makilala. A skirmish between troops and the NPA's female fighters, the Amazonas, also occurred nearby Oct. 3. Four days later, 30 suspected NPA members disguised as Philippine military entered a construction site at Silay City International Airport in the central Philippines and destroyed equipment belonging to a contractor for a Japanese-South Korean venture. The attack reportedly was retaliation for the contractor's failure to pay "revolutionary taxes."

The MILF and Abu Sayyaf are supplemented by members of Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), an al Qaeda-linked militant group that is believed to have about 30 to 40 members in the southern Philippines. According to sources on Mindanao, it is no secret that MILF camps also serve as training grounds for JI militants. Local JI members often are either former MILF members or current members with bombmaking expertise who are loaned out to JI for specific operations.

Philippine intelligence expects more militant attacks in central Mindanao, possibly in Kidapawan and Midsayap in North Cotabato province, Isulan and Marbel in Sultan Kudarat province and General Santos in South Cotabato province. Security forces in Zamboanga are on high alert in anticipation of attacks during a large Roman Catholic festival that peaks Oct. 12. Manila also is increasing security as a precaution against militant attacks during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit to be held in Cebu City in December.

Philippine authorities are variously blaming the MILF and Abu Sayyaf for the attacks. Some suggest they are the work of Abu Sayyaf in response to the recent capture of Istiada Binti Oemar Sovie, the wife of Dulmatin, one of Southeast Asia's most notorious terrorism suspects. Dulmatin allegedly is a JI operative who was instrumental in the October 2002 bombings on the Indonesian resort island of Bali. Dulmatin is believed to be in hiding in the Philippines on Jolo island, where he is sheltered by and working with Abu Sayyaf.

During a radio interview, North Cotabato Gov. Emmanuel Pinol blamed the MILF for the bombing in Makilala, warning people in the province to be vigilant and ready to go to war if the need arises. MILF and the government are ostensibly engaged in peace talks, though the talks have stalled over the issue of ancestral domain. As the talks fizzle, both sides have been preparing for a renewal of fighting.

The AFP has sent swarms of soldiers to southern Mindanao in an effort to control the rising tide of violence, though the particularly brazen attack in Makilala will only serve to escalate the already-high tensions in the region.

30784  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: November 01, 2006, 10:32:15 AM
Please use thread of same name on Science Culture Humanities forum.
30785  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: North Korea on: November 01, 2006, 10:29:23 AM
Geopolitical Diary: A Return to Six-Party Talks

During a meeting in Beijing on Tuesday, representatives from China, North Korea and the United States agreed to restart six-party nuclear talks in the near future. Afterward, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, Washington's chief negotiator, was upbeat, telling the press that the next round of talks, though still requiring a lot of preparation, likely will lead to "substantial progress" in resolving the North Korean nuclear issue. Hill also gave most of the credit to the Chinese.

These were exactly the words Beijing was hoping to hear. Despite its protestations prior to and following North Korea's October nuclear test, China has demonstrated the ability to benefit politically from North Korea's actions. Whether this was through shrewd Chinese maneuvering following the test or prior knowledge that the test would take place is less significant than the fact that, either way, China once again has come out on top.

China has used North Korea's missile program and nuclear threats to demonstrate its value to the United States as the only path through which Washington can control the actions of the "rogue" North Korean regime. North Korea's early October nuclear test has threatened to add another blot to the Bush administration's record as the Nov. 7 congressional elections approach, and the test has been characterized by opponents of the administration as a clear failure of U.S. policies on North Korea and proof that U.S. President George W. Bush had the wrong focus with the war in Iraq.

China has pulled that brand out of the fire, giving the U.S. administration a moral victory days before the election. Hill, White House spokesman Tony Snow, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Bush were quick to tout the win, saying Pyongyang's agreement to return to the talks was proof that the administration's tough policy toward North Korea, and its cooperation with China, were the proper tools to rein in North Korea's behavior.

In return for the political pre-election assist, the United States is giving China full credit for the resumption of talks, and Beijing will certainly ask for other favors in the future. To bring North Korea back to the table, Beijing used a combination of carrots and sticks. On one hand, China restricted some trade and increased its troop presence along the North Korean border, and Hong Kong impounded North Korean ships for "safety violations." On the other hand, Beijing assured Pyongyang of Chinese support and offered to soften the U.S. approach to North Korea.

South Korea and Russia have welcomed the news that the talks are back on, even though a date has not yet been set, but Japan has remained somewhat reticent, reminding Washington, Seoul and Tokyo of their earlier agreement that six-party talks would not resume unless North Korea gave up its nuclear ambitions beforehand. Japan does not want to see a temporary U.S. policy, based on political expediency, derail what Tokyo sees as progress toward regime change in North Korea. It also does not want to lose the convenience of having North Korea as a foil to shape domestic dialogue on Japan's military and constitutional reforms.

For North Korea, the resumption of talks has always been possible -- so long as it could lead to Pyongyang's broader goals of a nonaggression pact or peace accord with the United States and, more immediately, the removal of the economic sanctions against the regime (such as the frozen accounts in Macao). And if China offers certain guarantees, Pyongyang will respond -- even if the North Korean leadership continues to look for ways to become more independent of its former sponsor.

But as Hill correctly pointed out, the news that the nuclear talks will resume is no cause to break out the champagne and cigars. North Korea and China will continue playing their own political games once talks resume, and the United States is no more willing to allow North Korea to continue developing its nuclear program now than it was before the test. Add in Japan's intransigence, and the talks could again be destined for failure -- or another temporary solution that fails to finally resolve the situation (something that seems possible only after a fundamental regime shift in Pyongyang, or at least a shift in the North Korean worldview).

Rather, the only ones really celebrating are the Chinese -- who once again have transformed a perceived regional crisis into a diplomatic coup -- and their North Korean counterparts, who have tested a nuke (though it was a fizzle of a test) and been rewarded with a resumption of dialogue. This is a political gain for China -- one Washington is willing to grant in order to gain at least a week of positive airtime about Bush's foreign policy success. And Beijing sits back smugly in the knowledge that Washington has called in another favor -- one Beijing will expect to be paid in kind at a future date.
30786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Muslims, Nazis, and far right hate groups echo anti-semitisim on: November 01, 2006, 08:49:41 AM
The new anti-Semitism

By Victor Davis Hanson

 | Hating Jews, on racial as well as religious grounds, is as old as the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. Later in Europe, pogroms and the Holocaust were the natural devolution of that elemental venom.

Anti-Semitism, after World War II, often avoided the burning crosses and Nazi ranting. It often appeared as a more subtle animosity, fueled by envy of successful Jews in the West. "The good people, the nice people" often were the culprits, according to a character in the 1947 film "Gentleman's Agreement," which dealt with the American aristocracy's social shunning of Jews.

A recent third type of anti-Jewish odium is something different. It is a strange mixture of violent hatred by radical Islamists and the more or less indifference to it by Westerners.

Those who randomly shoot Jews for being Jews ? whether at a Jewish center in Seattle or at synagogues in Istanbul ? are for the large part Muslim zealots. Most in the West explain away the violence. They chalk it up to anger over the endless tit-for-tat in the Middle East. Yet privately they know that we do not see violent Jews shooting Muslims in the United States or Europe.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad promises to wipe Israel "off the map." He seems eager for the requisite nuclear weapons to finish off what an Iranian mullah has called a "one-bomb state" ? meaning Israel's destruction would only require one nuclear weapon. Iran's theocracy intends to turn the idea of a Jewish state on its head. Instead of Israel being a safe haven for Jews in their historical birthplace, the Iranians apparently find that concentration only too convenient for their own final nuclear solution.

In response, here at home the Council on Foreign Relations rewards the Iranian president with an invitation to speak to its membership. At the podium of that hallowed chamber, Ahmadinejad, who questions whether the Holocaust ever took place, basically dismissed a firsthand witness of Dachau by asking whether he really could be that old.

The state-run, and thus government-authorized, newspapers of the Middle East, slander Jews in barbaric fashion. "Mein Kampf" (translated, of course, as "Jihadi") sells briskly in the region. Hamas and Hezbollah militias on parade emulate the style of brownshirts. In response, much of the Western public snoozes. They are far more worried over whether a Danish cartoonist has caricatured Islam, or if the pope has been rude to Muslims when quoting an obscure 600-year-old Byzantine dialogue.

In the last two decades, radical Islamic terrorists have bombed and murdered thousands inside Europe and the United States. Their state supporters in the Middle East have raked in billions in petro-windfall profits from energy-hungry Western economies. For many in Europe and the United States, supporting Israel ? the Middle East's only stable democracy ? or even its allies in the West has become viewed as both dangerous and costly.

In addition, Israel is no longer weak but proud and ready to defend itself. So when its terrorist enemies like Hezbollah and Hamas brilliantly married their own fascist creed with popular leftwing multiculturalism in the West, there was an eerie union: yet another supposed third-world victim of a Western oppressor thinking it could earn a pass for its murderous agenda.

We're accustomed to associating hatred of Jews with the ridiculed Neanderthal Right of those in sheets and jackboots. But this new venom, at least in its Western form, is mostly a leftwing, and often an academic, enterprise. It's also far more insidious, given the left's moral pretensions and its influence in the prestigious media and universities. We see the unfortunate results in frequent anti-Israeli demonstrations on campuses that conflate Israel with Nazis, while the media have published fraudulent pictures and slanted events in southern Lebanon.

The renewed hatred of Jews in the Middle East ? and the indifference to it in the West ? is a sort of "post anti-Semitism." Islamic zealots supply the old venomous hatred, while affluent and timid Westerners provide the new necessary indifference ? if punctuated by the occasional off-the-cuff Amen in the manner of a Louis Farrakhan or Mel Gibson outburst.

The dangers of this post anti-Semitism is not just that Jews are shot in Europe and the United States ? or that a drunken celebrity or demagogue mouths off. Instead, ever so insidiously, radical Islam's hatred of Jews is becoming normalized.

The result is that the world's politicians and media are talking seriously with those who not merely want back the West Bank, but rather want an end to Israel altogether and everyone inside it.
30787  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Evolutionary biology/psychology on: November 01, 2006, 07:41:09 AM
An Evolutionary Theory of Right and Wrong
NY Times
Published: October 31, 2006
Who doesn?t know the difference between right and wrong? Yet that essential knowledge, generally assumed to come from parental teaching or religious or legal instruction, could turn out to have a quite different origin.

Primatologists like Frans de Waal have long argued that the roots of human morality are evident in social animals like apes and monkeys. The animals? feelings of empathy and expectations of reciprocity are essential behaviors for mammalian group living and can be regarded as a counterpart of human morality.

Marc D. Hauser, a Harvard biologist, has built on this idea to propose that people are born with a moral grammar wired into their neural circuits by evolution. In a new book, ?Moral Minds? (HarperCollins 2006), he argues that the grammar generates instant moral judgments which, in part because of the quick decisions that must be made in life-or-death situations, are inaccessible to the conscious mind.

People are generally unaware of this process because the mind is adept at coming up with plausible rationalizations for why it arrived at a decision generated subconsciously.

Dr. Hauser presents his argument as a hypothesis to be proved, not as an established fact. But it is an idea that he roots in solid ground, including his own and others? work with primates and in empirical results derived by moral philosophers.

The proposal, if true, would have far-reaching consequences. It implies that parents and teachers are not teaching children the rules of correct behavior from scratch but are, at best, giving shape to an innate behavior. And it suggests that religions are not the source of moral codes but, rather, social enforcers of instinctive moral behavior.

Both atheists and people belonging to a wide range of faiths make the same moral judgments, Dr. Hauser writes, implying ?that the system that unconsciously generates moral judgments is immune to religious doctrine.? Dr. Hauser argues that the moral grammar operates in much the same way as the universal grammar proposed by the linguist Noam Chomsky as the innate neural machinery for language. The universal grammar is a system of rules for generating syntax and vocabulary but does not specify any particular language. That is supplied by the culture in which a child grows up.

The moral grammar too, in Dr. Hauser?s view, is a system for generating moral behavior and not a list of specific rules. It constrains human behavior so tightly that many rules are in fact the same or very similar in every society ? do as you would be done by; care for children and the weak; don?t kill; avoid adultery and incest; don?t cheat, steal or lie.

But it also allows for variations, since cultures can assign different weights to the elements of the grammar?s calculations. Thus one society may ban abortion, another may see infanticide as a moral duty in certain circumstances. Or as Kipling observed, ?The wildest dreams of Kew are the facts of Katmandu, and the crimes of Clapham chaste in Martaban.?

Matters of right and wrong have long been the province of moral philosophers and ethicists. Dr. Hauser?s proposal is an attempt to claim the subject for science, in particular for evolutionary biology. The moral grammar evolved, he believes, because restraints on behavior are required for social living and have been favored by natural selection because of their survival value.

Much of the present evidence for the moral grammar is indirect. Some of it comes from psychological tests of children, showing that they have an innate sense of fairness that starts to unfold at age 4. Some comes from ingenious dilemmas devised to show a subconscious moral judgment generator at work. These are known by the moral philosophers who developed them as ?trolley problems.?

Suppose you are standing by a railroad track. Ahead, in a deep cutting from which no escape is possible, five people are walking on the track. You hear a train approaching. Beside you is a lever with which you can switch the train to a sidetrack. One person is walking on the sidetrack. Is it O.K. to pull the lever and save the five people, though one will die?

Most people say it is.

Assume now you are on a bridge overlooking the track. Ahead, five people on the track are at risk. You can save them by throwing down a heavy object into the path of the approaching train. One is available beside you, in the form of a fat man. Is it O.K. to push him to save the five?

Most people say no, although lives saved and lost are the same as in the first problem.

Why does the moral grammar generate such different judgments in apparently similar situations? It makes a distinction, Dr. Hauser writes, between a foreseen harm (the train killing the person on the track) and an intended harm (throwing the person in front of the train), despite the fact that the consequences are the same in either case. It also rates killing an animal as more acceptable than killing a person.

Many people cannot articulate the foreseen/intended distinction, Dr. Hauser says, a sign that it is being made at inaccessible levels of the mind. This inability challenges the general belief that moral behavior is learned. For if people cannot articulate the foreseen/intended distinction, how can they teach it?

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Dr. Hauser began his research career in animal communication, working with vervet monkeys in Kenya and with birds. He is the author of a standard textbook on the subject, ?The Evolution of Communication.? He began to take an interest in the human animal in 1992 after psychologists devised experiments that allowed one to infer what babies are thinking. He found he could repeat many of these experiments in cotton-top tamarins, allowing the cognitive capacities of infants to be set in an evolutionary framework.

His proposal of a moral grammar emerges from a collaboration with Dr. Chomsky, who had taken an interest in Dr. Hauser?s ideas about animal communication. In 2002 they wrote, with Dr. Tecumseh Fitch, an unusual article arguing that the faculty of language must have developed as an adaptation of some neural system possessed by animals, perhaps one used in navigation. From this interaction Dr. Hauser developed the idea that moral behavior, like language behavior, is acquired with the help of an innate set of rules that unfolds early in a child?s development.

Social animals, he believes, possess the rudiments of a moral system in that they can recognize cheating or deviations from expected behavior. But they generally lack the psychological mechanisms on which the pervasive reciprocity of human society is based, like the ability to remember bad behavior, quantify its costs, recall prior interactions with an individual and punish offenders. ?Lions cooperate on the hunt, but there is no punishment for laggards,? Dr. Hauser said.

The moral grammar now universal among people presumably evolved to its final shape during the hunter-gatherer phase of the human past, before the dispersal from the ancestral homeland in northeast Africa some 50,000 years ago. This may be why events before our eyes carry far greater moral weight than happenings far away, Dr. Hauser believes, since in those days one never had to care about people remote from one?s environment.

Dr. Hauser believes that the moral grammar may have evolved through the evolutionary mechanism known as group selection. A group bound by altruism toward its members and rigorous discouragement of cheaters would be more likely to prevail over a less cohesive society, so genes for moral grammar would become more common.

Many evolutionary biologists frown on the idea of group selection, noting that genes cannot become more frequent unless they benefit the individual who carries them, and a person who contributes altruistically to people not related to him will reduce his own fitness and leave fewer offspring.

But though group selection has not been proved to occur in animals, Dr. Hauser believes that it may have operated in people because of their greater social conformity and willingness to punish or ostracize those who disobey moral codes.

?That permits strong group cohesion you don?t see in other animals, which may make for group selection,? he said.

His proposal for an innate moral grammar, if people pay attention to it, could ruffle many feathers. His fellow biologists may raise eyebrows at proposing such a big idea when much of the supporting evidence has yet to be acquired. Moral philosophers may not welcome a biologist?s bid to annex their turf, despite Dr. Hauser?s expressed desire to collaborate with them.

Nevertheless, researchers? idea of a good hypothesis is one that generates interesting and testable predictions. By this criterion, the proposal of an innate moral grammar seems unlikely to disappoint.

30788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Health Thread (nutrition, medical, longevity, etc) on: November 01, 2006, 07:37:18 AM
How depressing, how utterly unjust, to be the one in your social circle who is aging least gracefully.

Jim Wilson/The New York Times

Mike Linksvayer, 36, on a low-calorie diet for six years, is 6 feet and 135 pounds, and his blood pressure is 112 over 63.
In a laboratory at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, Matthias is learning about time?s caprice the hard way. At 28, getting on for a rhesus monkey, Matthias is losing his hair, lugging a paunch and getting a face full of wrinkles.

Yet in the cage next to his, gleefully hooting at strangers, one of Matthias?s lab mates, Rudy, is the picture of monkey vitality, although he is slightly older. Thin and feisty, Rudy stops grooming his smooth coat just long enough to pirouette toward a proffered piece of fruit.

Tempted with the same treat, Matthias rises wearily and extends a frail hand. ?You can really see the difference,? said Dr. Ricki Colman, an associate scientist at the center who cares for the animals.

What a visitor cannot see may be even more interesting. As a result of a simple lifestyle intervention, Rudy and primates like him seem poised to live very long, very vital lives.

This approach, called calorie restriction, involves eating about 30 percent fewer calories than normal while still getting adequate amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Aside from direct genetic manipulation, calorie restriction is the only strategy known to extend life consistently in a variety of animal species.

How this drastic diet affects the body has been the subject of intense research. Recently, the effort has begun to bear fruit, producing a steady stream of studies indicating that the rate of aging is plastic, not fixed, and that it can be manipulated.

In the last year, calorie-restricted diets have been shown in various animals to affect molecular pathways likely to be involved in the progression of Alzheimer?s disease, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson?s disease and cancer. Earlier this year, researchers studying dietary effects on humans went so far as to claim that calorie restriction may be more effective than exercise at preventing age-related diseases.

Monkeys like Rudy seem to be proving the thesis. Recent tests show that the animals on restricted diets, including Canto and Eeyore, two other rhesus monkeys at the primate research center, are in indisputably better health as they near old age than Matthias and other normally fed lab mates like Owen and Johann. The average lifespan for laboratory monkeys is 27.

The findings cast doubt on long-held scientific and cultural beliefs regarding the inevitability of the body?s decline. They also suggest that other interventions, which include new drugs, may retard aging even if the diet itself should prove ineffective in humans. One leading candidate, a newly synthesized form of resveratrol ? an antioxidant present in large amounts in red wine ? is already being tested in patients. It may eventually be the first of a new class of anti-aging drugs. Extrapolating from recent animal findings, Dr. Richard A. Miller, a pathologist at the University of Michigan, estimated that a pill mimicking the effects of calorie restriction might increase human life span to about 112 healthy years, with the occasional senior living until 140, though some experts view that projection as overly optimistic.

According to a report by the Rand Corporation, such a drug would be among the most cost-effective breakthroughs possible in medicine, providing Americans more healthy years at less expense (an estimated $8,800 a year) than new cancer vaccines or stroke treatments.

?The effects are global, so calorie restriction has the potential to help us identify anti-aging mechanisms throughout the body,? said Richard Weindruch, a gerontologist at the University of Wisconsin who directs research on the monkeys.

Many scientists regard the study of life extension, once just a reliable plotline in science fiction, as a national priority. The number of Americans 65 and older will double in the next 25 years to about 72 million, according to government census data. By then, seniors will account for nearly 20 percent of the population, up from just 12 percent in 2003.

Earlier this year, four prominent gerontologists, among them Dr. Miller, published a paper calling for the government to spend $3 billion annually in pursuit of a modest goal: delaying the onset of age-related diseases by seven years.

Doing so, the authors asserted, would lay the foundation for a healthier and wealthier country, a so-called longevity dividend.

?The demographic wave entering their 60s is enormous, and that is likely to greatly increase the prevalence of diseases like diabetes and heart disease,? said Dr. S. Jay Olshansky, an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and one of the paper?s authors. ?The simplest way to positively affect them all is to slow down aging.?

Science, of course, is still a long way from doing anything of the sort. Aging is a complicated phenomenon, the intersection of an array of biological processes set in motion by genetics, lifestyle, even evolution itself.

Still, in laboratories around the world, scientists are becoming adept at breeding animal Methuselahs, extraordinarily long lived and healthy worms, fish, mice and flies.

In 1935, Dr. Clive McCay, a nutritionist at Cornell University, discovered that mice that were fed 30 percent fewer calories lived about 40 percent longer than their free-grazing laboratory mates. The dieting mice were also more physically active and far less prone to the diseases of advanced age.

Dr. McCay?s experiment has been successfully duplicated in a variety of species. In almost every instance, the subjects on low-calorie diets have proven to be not just longer lived, but also more resistant to age-related ailments.

?In mice, calorie restriction doesn?t just extend life span,? said Leonard P. Guarente, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ?It mitigates many diseases of aging: cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease. The gain is just enormous.?

Page 2 of 3)

For years, scientists financed by the National Institute on Aging have closely monitored rhesus monkeys on restricted and normal-calorie diets. At the University of Wisconsin, where 50 animals survive from the original group of 76, the differences are just now becoming apparent in the older animals.

Those on normal diets, like Matthias, are beginning to show signs of advancing age similar to those seen in humans. Three of them, for instance, have developed diabetes, and a fourth has died of the disease. Five have died of cancer.

But Rudy and his colleagues on low-calorie meal plans are faring better. None have diabetes, and only three have died of cancer. It is too early to know if they will outlive their lab mates, but the dieters here and at the other labs also have lower blood pressure and lower blood levels of certain dangerous fats, glucose and insulin.

?The preliminary indicators are that we?re looking at a robust life extension in the restricted animals,? Dr. Weindruch said.

Despite widespread scientific enthusiasm, the evidence that calorie restriction works in humans is indirect at best. The practice was popularized in diet books by Dr. Roy Walford, a legendary pathologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who spent much of the last 30 years of his life following a calorie-restricted regimen. He died of Lou Gehrig?s disease in 2004 at 79.

Largely as a result of his advocacy, several thousand people are now on calorie-restricted diets in the United States, says Brian M. Delaney, president of the Calorie Restriction Society.

Mike Linksvayer, a 36-year-old chief technology officer at a San Francisco nonprofit group, embarked on just such a diet six years ago. On an average day, he eats an apple or some cereal for breakfast, followed by a small vegan dish at lunch. Dinner is whatever his wife has cooked, excluding bread, rice, sugar and whatever else Mr. Linksvayer deems unhealthy (this often includes the entr?e). On weekends, he occasionally fasts.

Mr. Linksvayer, 6 feet tall and 135 pounds, estimated that he gets by on about 2,000 to 2,100 calories a day, a low number for men of his age and activity level, and his blood pressure is a remarkably low 112 over 63. He said he has never been in better health.

?I don?t really get sick,? he said. ?Mostly I do the diet to be healthier, but if it helps me live longer, hey, I?ll take that, too.?

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have been tracking the health of small groups of calorie-restricted dieters. Earlier this year, they reported that the dieters had better-functioning hearts and fewer signs of inflammation, which is a precursor to clogged arteries, than similar subjects on regular diets.

In previous studies, people in calorie-restricted groups were shown to have lower levels of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. They also showed higher levels of HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, virtually no arterial blockage and, like Mr. Linksvayer, remarkably low blood pressure.

?Calorie restriction has a powerful, protective effect against diseases associated with aging,? said Dr. John O. Holloszy, a Washington University professor of medicine. ?We don?t know how long each individual will end up living, but they certainly have a longer life expectancy than average.?

Researchers at Louisiana State University reported in April in The Journal of the American Medical Association that patients on an experimental low-calorie diet had lower insulin levels and body temperatures, both possible markers of longevity, and fewer signs of the chromosomal damage typically associated with aging.

These studies and others have led many scientists to believe they have stumbled onto a central determinant of natural life span. Animals on restricted diets seem particularly resistant to environmental stresses like oxidation and heat, perhaps even radiation. ?It is a very deep, very important function,? Dr. Miller said. Experts theorize that limited access to energy alarms the body, so to speak, activating a cascade of biochemical signals that tell each cell to direct energy away from reproductive functions, toward repair and maintenance. The calorie-restricted organism is stronger, according to this hypothesis, because individual cells are more efficiently repairing mutations, using energy, defending themselves and mopping up harmful byproducts like free radicals.

?The stressed cell is really pulling out all the stops? to preserve itself, said Dr. Cynthia Kenyon, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco. ?This system could have evolved as a way of letting animals take a timeout from reproduction when times are harsh.?

But many experts are unsettled by the prospect, however unlikely, of Americans adopting a draconian diet in hopes of living longer. Even the current epidemiological data, they note, do not consistently show that those who are thinnest live longest. After analyzing decades of national mortality statistics, federal researchers reported last year that exceptional thinness, a logical consequence of calorie restriction, was associated with an increased risk of death. This controversial study did not attempt to assess the number of calories the subjects had been consuming, or the quality of their diets, which may have had an effect on mortality rates.

Page 2 of 3)

For years, scientists financed by the National Institute on Aging have closely monitored rhesus monkeys on restricted and normal-calorie diets. At the University of Wisconsin, where 50 animals survive from the original group of 76, the differences are just now becoming apparent in the older animals.

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Southern Illinois University School of Medicine
In a longevity study at Southern Illinois University the top mouse was fed a calorie-restricted diet, and the one below a normal diet. Both are 28 months old.

Calorie Restriction vs. Normal Diet
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Forum: Fitness and Nutrition
Those on normal diets, like Matthias, are beginning to show signs of advancing age similar to those seen in humans. Three of them, for instance, have developed diabetes, and a fourth has died of the disease. Five have died of cancer.

But Rudy and his colleagues on low-calorie meal plans are faring better. None have diabetes, and only three have died of cancer. It is too early to know if they will outlive their lab mates, but the dieters here and at the other labs also have lower blood pressure and lower blood levels of certain dangerous fats, glucose and insulin.

?The preliminary indicators are that we?re looking at a robust life extension in the restricted animals,? Dr. Weindruch said.

Despite widespread scientific enthusiasm, the evidence that calorie restriction works in humans is indirect at best. The practice was popularized in diet books by Dr. Roy Walford, a legendary pathologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who spent much of the last 30 years of his life following a calorie-restricted regimen. He died of Lou Gehrig?s disease in 2004 at 79.

Largely as a result of his advocacy, several thousand people are now on calorie-restricted diets in the United States, says Brian M. Delaney, president of the Calorie Restriction Society.

Mike Linksvayer, a 36-year-old chief technology officer at a San Francisco nonprofit group, embarked on just such a diet six years ago. On an average day, he eats an apple or some cereal for breakfast, followed by a small vegan dish at lunch. Dinner is whatever his wife has cooked, excluding bread, rice, sugar and whatever else Mr. Linksvayer deems unhealthy (this often includes the entr?e). On weekends, he occasionally fasts.

Mr. Linksvayer, 6 feet tall and 135 pounds, estimated that he gets by on about 2,000 to 2,100 calories a day, a low number for men of his age and activity level, and his blood pressure is a remarkably low 112 over 63. He said he has never been in better health.

?I don?t really get sick,? he said. ?Mostly I do the diet to be healthier, but if it helps me live longer, hey, I?ll take that, too.?

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have been tracking the health of small groups of calorie-restricted dieters. Earlier this year, they reported that the dieters had better-functioning hearts and fewer signs of inflammation, which is a precursor to clogged arteries, than similar subjects on regular diets.

In previous studies, people in calorie-restricted groups were shown to have lower levels of LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol, and triglycerides. They also showed higher levels of HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, virtually no arterial blockage and, like Mr. Linksvayer, remarkably low blood pressure.

?Calorie restriction has a powerful, protective effect against diseases associated with aging,? said Dr. John O. Holloszy, a Washington University professor of medicine. ?We don?t know how long each individual will end up living, but they certainly have a longer life expectancy than average.?

Researchers at Louisiana State University reported in April in The Journal of the American Medical Association that patients on an experimental low-calorie diet had lower insulin levels and body temperatures, both possible markers of longevity, and fewer signs of the chromosomal damage typically associated with aging.

These studies and others have led many scientists to believe they have stumbled onto a central determinant of natural life span. Animals on restricted diets seem particularly resistant to environmental stresses like oxidation and heat, perhaps even radiation. ?It is a very deep, very important function,? Dr. Miller said. Experts theorize that limited access to energy alarms the body, so to speak, activating a cascade of biochemical signals that tell each cell to direct energy away from reproductive functions, toward repair and maintenance. The calorie-restricted organism is stronger, according to this hypothesis, because individual cells are more efficiently repairing mutations, using energy, defending themselves and mopping up harmful byproducts like free radicals.

?The stressed cell is really pulling out all the stops? to preserve itself, said Dr. Cynthia Kenyon, a molecular biologist at the University of California, San Francisco. ?This system could have evolved as a way of letting animals take a timeout from reproduction when times are harsh.?

But many experts are unsettled by the prospect, however unlikely, of Americans adopting a draconian diet in hopes of living longer. Even the current epidemiological data, they note, do not consistently show that those who are thinnest live longest. After analyzing decades of national mortality statistics, federal researchers reported last year that exceptional thinness, a logical consequence of calorie restriction, was associated with an increased risk of death. This controversial study did not attempt to assess the number of calories the subjects had been consuming, or the quality of their diets, which may have had an effect on mortality rates.

30789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Living la vida na levo in Tehran on: November 01, 2006, 07:17:01 AM

Living la vida na levo in Tehran
OP-ED: "Iranian Moolah," by Farouz Farzami, Wall Street Journal, 26 October
2006, p. A18.

Sorry, but had to zone out a bit after China. Caught up to my reading last
night, thanks to the extra hour (God, I wish that were every weekend!).

This description reminds me so much of the summer I lived in Leningrad in
1985 (the summer of the great crackdown on vodka, which never bugged me,
because I liked chatting up Russians while standing in line) and spent every
night I could with the blackmarketer "Big Al" and his constant stream of
customers. My big impression from all those nights: the populace had so
effectively opted out of political life and simply made their own
"house-arrest" style economic life na levo ("on the side," or literally, "on
the left" in Russian) that it was like they lived in their own little
universe of close friends, treasured objects, and media content from the
West (everyone in Leningrad seemed to live on American VHS tapes dubbed by a
screaming Finnish guy who did every voice the same--it was mesmerizingly
bad!). Of course, the most treasured objects were forbidden books, which I
brought in numbers with fake dust jackets.

The author of this piece is--natch!--a journalist who is "forbidden to
publish in Iran" (Sound familiar? Everyone I knew in the Russian ex-pat
community in the 1980s was a forbidden author. It was a modest
accomplishment, which is what made it so sad.).

Great story. He talks of coming upon a special stand of imported American
books (authorized by the mullahs, no doubt) in Tehran and notices one about
cocktails. Then he launches in:

I live in a country where alcohol is officially banned, but where the art of
home-made spirits has reached new heights. Sharing my astonishment about the
cocktail book with some friends with better connections to the Islamist
regime, they explained the government had a silent pact with the educated
and affluent in Iran's big cities, who render politics unto Caesar, provided
that Caesar keeps his nose out of their liquor cabinets.

In other words, the well-to-do Iranian drinks and reads and watches what he
wishes. He does as he pleases behind the walls of his private mansions and
villas. In return for his private comforts, the affluent Iranian is happy to
sacrifice freedom of speech, most of his civil rights, and his freedom of
association. The upper-middle class has been bought off by this pact, which
makes a virtue of hypocrisy.

The accommodation runs both ways. A friend who had made a small fortune in
the pharmaceutical business told me that recently the enforcers of Islamist
law appeared on the roof of his condominium in the northwest Tehran suburb
of Sharak-e-Qarb to seize all the satellite dishes. Every household received
an order to attend a hearing of the revolutionary court, where the
magistrate--typically a mullah--will levy fines. The fines help feed the
friends of the courts, while for my wealthy pharmacist friend, erecting
another satellite dish is as easy as refueling his car--and even the
inconvenience of replacing the dish will not be necessary for long.
Technology is more than up to the challenge posed by the morals police. "I
have heard there is a state-of-the-art dish made of invisible fiberglass
that I can install on the window pane of my apartment," my friend told me.
"I'm going for it."

Many Iranians believe the occasional crackdowns are being organized by
corrupt officials who secretly own interests in the new generation of
satellite dishes. The confiscations just create markets for new products.

Sound unbelievable? It isn't. It's exactly what you found in Moscow and
Leningrad back in the 1980s: a huge social network of hypocritical enforcers
and two-faced citizens, and everybody exchanged money in the process. It's
just that no wealth is truly generated, and the people get stupider and more
ambivalent and lazy and disconnected from the future. It's all so sad and
pathetic. I remember crying myself to sleep one night from thinking about
how everyone in the USSR felt like they will just living in some weird
prison and all they could claim for themselves was whatever they could beg,
borrow or steal. It was supremely depressing to see all that talent wasted,
and their profound sense of injustice.

This guy describes the workarounds, but that's not a life, and no one
trapped in that existence pretends it is.

But, of course, this rich guy is trapped by nothing. It's only the lower
classes who really are disconnected from their desires. This rich pharmacist
vacations 2-3 months abroad each year, putting him more in the category of
the KGB general (who, frankly, never had it THAT good).

The saddest part here is that the rich guy expects the revolution will come
only when the masses are disillusioned enough to take matters into their own

Sounds to me like Iran's rich are about as cynical as the mullahs.

Still, the larger point is this: this is not robust authoritarianism. It's
weak. It's flabby. It hypocritical to a fault. It's not going anywhere. It's
not accomplishing anything.

In short, it's ripe.
30790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Politics on: November 01, 2006, 07:12:31 AM
The Election and Investigatory Powers of Congress
By George Friedman

There is now only a week to go before midterm congressional elections in the United States. The legislative outcome is already fairly clear. President George W. Bush lost the ability to drive legislation through Congress when he had to back away from his Social Security proposals. That situation will continue: The president will not be able to generate legislation without building coalitions. On the other hand, Congress will not be able to override his vetoes. That means that, regardless of whether the Democrats take the House of Representatives (as appears likely) or the Senate (which appears less likely but still possible), the basic architecture of the American legislative process will remain intact. Democrats will not gain much power to legislate; Republicans will not lose much.

If the Democrats take control of the House from the Republicans, the most important change will not be that Nancy Pelosi becomes House Speaker, but that the leadership of House committees will shift -- and even more significant, that there will be upheaval of committee staffs. Republicans will shift to minority staff positions -- and have to let go of a lot of staffers -- while the Democrats will get to hire a lot of new ones. These staffers serve two functions. The first is preparing legislation, the second is managing investigations. Given the likelihood of political gridlock, there will be precious little opportunity for legislation to be signed into law during the next two years -- but there likely will be ample opportunity and motivation for congressional investigations.

Should the Democrats use this power to their advantage, there will be long-term implications for both the next presidential election and foreign policy options in the interim.

One of the most important things that the Republicans achieved, with their control of both the House and Senate, was to establish control over the type and scope of investigations that were permitted. Now, even if control of only the House should change hands, the Democrats will be making those decisions. And, where the GOP's goal was to shut down congressional investigations, the Democrat Party's goal will be to open them up and use them to shape the political landscape ahead of the 2008 presidential election.

It is important to define what we mean by "investigation." On the surface, congressional investigations are opportunities for staffers from the majority party to wield subpoena power in efforts to embarrass their bosses' opponents. The investigations also provide opportunities for members of Congress and senators to make extensive speeches that witnesses have to sit and listen to when they are called to testify -- a very weird process, if you have ever seen it. Congressional investigations are not about coming to the truth of a matter in order for the laws of the republic to be improved for the common good. They are designed to extract political benefit and put opponents in the wrong. (Republicans and Democrats alike use the congressional investigative function to that end, so neither has the right to be indignant.)

For years, however, Democrats have been in no position to unilaterally call hearings and turn their staffs and subpoena powers loose on a topic -- which means they have been precluded from controlling the news cycle. The media focus intensely on major congressional hearings. For television networks, they provide vivid moments of confrontation; and the reams of testimony, leaked or official, give the print media an enormous opportunity to look for embarrassing moments that appear to reveal something newsworthy. In the course of these hearings, there might even be opportunities for witnesses to fall into acts of perjury -- or truth-telling -- that can lead to indictments and trials.

To reverse their position, the Democrats need not capture both the House and Senate next week. In fact, from the party's standpoint, that might not even be desirable. The Senate and House historically have gotten in each other's way in the hearing process. Moreover, there are a lot of Democratic senators considering a run for the presidency, but not many members of Congress with those ambitions. Senators who get caught up in congressional hearings can wind up being embarrassed themselves -- and with the competing goals of Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and some of the other candidates, things could wind up a mess. But if the House alone goes to Democrats, Pelosi would be positioned to orchestrate a series of hearings from multiple committees and effectively control the news cycles. Within three months of the new House being sworn in, the political landscape could be dominated by hearings -- each week bringing new images of witnesses being skewered or news of embarrassing files being released. Against this backdrop, a new generation of Democratic congressmen would be making their debuts on the news networks, both while sitting on panels, and on the news channels afterward.

Politically, this would have two implications. First, the ability of the White House to control and direct public attention would decline dramatically. Not only would the White House not be able to shut down unwanted debate, but it would lack the ability even to take part in setting the agenda. Each week's subject would be chosen by the House Democratic leadership. Second, there will be a presidential election in two years that the Democrats want to win. Therefore, they would use congressional hearings to shape public opinion along the lines their party wants. The goal would be not only to embarrass the administration, but also to showcase Democratic strengths.

The Senate can decide to hold its own hearings, of course, and likely would if left in Republican hands. The problem is that, at the end of the day, the most interesting investigations would involve the Bush administration and corporations that can be linked to it. A GOP-controlled Senate could call useful hearings, but they would be overwhelmed by the Democratic fireworks. They just would not matter as much.

So let's consider, from a foreign policy standpoint, what would be likely matters for investigation:

What did the Bush administration really know about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? Did Bush dismiss advice from the CIA on Iraq?

Did the administration ignore warnings about al Qaeda attacks prior to 9/11?

These, of course, would be the mothers of all investigations. Everything would be dragged out and pored over. The fact that there have been bipartisan examinations by the 9/11 commission would not matter: The new hearings would be framed as an inquiry into whether the 9/11 commission's recommendations were implemented -- and that would open the door to re-examine all the other issues.

Following close on these would be investigations into:

Whether the Department of Homeland Security is effective.

Whether the new structure of the intelligence community works.

Whether Halliburton received contracts unfairly -- a line of inquiry that could touch Vice President Dick Cheney.

Whether private contractors like Blackwater are doing appropriate jobs in Iraq.

Whether the Geneva Conventions should apply in cases of terrorist detentions.

Whether China is violating international trade agreement.

And so on. Every scab would be opened -- as is the right of Congress, the tendency of the nation in unpopular wars, and likely an inevitable consequence of these midterm elections.

We can expect the charges raised at these hearings to be serious, and to come from two groups. The first will be Democratic critics of the administration. These will be unimportant: Such critics, along with people like former White House security adviser Richard Clarke, already have said everything they have to say. But the second group will include another class -- former members of the administration, the military and the CIA who have, since the invasion of Iraq, broken with the administration. They have occasionally raised their voices -- as, for instance, in Bob Woodward's recent book -- but the new congressional hearings would provide a platform for systematic criticism of the administration. And many of these critics seem bruised and bitter enough to avail themselves of it.

This intersects with internal Republican politics. At this point, the Republicans are divided into two camps. There are those who align with the Bush position: that the war in Iraq made sense and that, despite mistakes, it has been prosecuted fairly well on the whole. And there are those, coalesced around Sens. Chuck Hagel and John Warner, who argue that, though the rationale for the war very well might have made sense, its prosecution by Donald Rumsfeld has led to disaster. The lines might be evenly drawn, but for the strong suspicion that Sen. John McCain is in the latter camp.

McCain clearly intends to run for president and, though he publicly shows support for Bush, there is every evidence that McCain has never forgiven him for the treatment he received in the primaries of 2000. McCain is not going to attack the president, nor does he really oppose the war in Iraq, but he has shown signs that he feels that the war has not been well prosecuted. This view, shared publicly by recently retired military commanders who served in Iraq, holds out Rumsfeld as the villain. It is not something that McCain is going to lead the charge on, but in taking down Rumsfeld, McCain would be positioned to say that he supported the war and the president -- but not his secretary of defense, who was responsible for overseeing the prosecution of the war.

From McCain's point of view, little would be more perfect than an investigation into the war by a Democrat-controlled House during which former military and Defense Department officials pounded the daylights out of Rumsfeld. This would put whole-hearted Republican supporters of the president in a tough position and give McCain -- who, as a senator, would not have to participate in the hearings -- space to defend Bush's decision but not his tactics. The hearings also would allow him to challenge Democratic front-runners (Clinton and Obama) on their credentials for waging a war. They could be maneuvered into either going too far and taking a pure anti-war stance, or into trying to craft a defense policy at which McCain could strike. To put it another way, aggressively investigating an issue like the war could wind up blowing up in the Democrats' faces, but that is so distant and subtle a possibility that we won't worry about it happening -- nor will they.

What does seem certain, however, is this: The American interest in foreign policy is about to take an investigatory turn, as in the waning days of the Vietnam War. Various congressional hearings, like those of the Church Committee, so riveted the United States in the 1970s and so tied down the policymaking bureaucracy that crafting foreign policy became almost impossible.

George W. Bush is a lame duck in the worst sense of the term. Not only are there no more elections he can influence, but he is heading into his last two years in office with terrible poll ratings. And he is likely to lose control of the House of Representatives -- a loss that will generate endless hearings and investigations on foreign policy, placing Bush and his staff on the defensive for two years. Making foreign policy in this environment will be impossible.

Following the elections, five or six months will elapse before the House Democrats get organized and have staff in place. After that, the avalanche will fall in on Bush, and 2008 presidential politics will converge with congressional investigations to overwhelm his ability to manage foreign policy. That means the president has less than half a year to get his house in order if he hopes to control the situation, or at least to manage his response.

Meanwhile, the international window of opportunity for U.S. enemies will open wider and wider.
30791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iraq on: November 01, 2006, 07:02:40 AM

Any thoughts on our strategy at this point for Iraq?

Here Ralph Peters weighs in:



October 26, 2006 -- IT WAS wrenching to listen to President Bush's news conference yesterday. He's struggling to do the right thing. But he's getting terrible advice.

He's still counting on a political solution in Iraq. Ain't going to happen. And you can take that to the blood bank.

Our famously loyal president has one grave flaw: He's a poor judge of character. He trusts the wrong people. Then he sticks by them.

Bush met Russia's Vladimir Putin, "looked into his soul" - and failed to recognize that the guy is an unreformed secret policeman. He stubbornly defends Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the Pentagon's architect of failure. Now he's standing up for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - a man who has decided to back our enemies.

I lost faith in our engagement in Iraq last week. I can pinpoint the moment. It came when I heard that Maliki had demanded - successfully - that our military release a just-captured deputy of Muqtada al-Sadr who was running death squads.

As a former intelligence officer, that told me two things: First, Iraq's prime minister is betting on Muqtada to prevail, not us. Second, Muqtada, not the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, is now the most powerful man in Iraq.

At his news conference, Bush was asked about another statement made by Maliki just hours before. Our troops had conducted a raid in Sadr City, Muqtada's Baghdad stronghold. The Iraqi PM quickly declared that "this will not happen again." He was signaling his allegiance to Muqtada. Publicly.

Oh, Maliki realizes his government wouldn't last a week if our troops withdrew. He doesn't want us to leave yet. But he's looking ahead.

For now, Maliki and his pals are using our troops to buy time while they pocket our money, amass power and build up arms. But they've written us off for the long term.

Does that mean we should leave?

Not yet. Iraq deserves one last chance. But to make that chance even remotely viable, we'll have to take desperate measures. We need to fight. And accept the consequences.

The first thing we need to do is to kill Muqtada al-Sadr, who's now a greater threat to our strategic goals than Osama bin Laden.

We should've killed him in 2003, when he first embarked upon his murder campaign. But our leaders were afraid of provoking riots.

Back then, the tumult might've lasted a week. Now we'll face a serious uprising. So be it. When you put off paying war's price, you pay compound interest in blood.

We must kill - not capture - Muqtada, then kill every gunman who comes out in the streets to avenge him.

Our policy of all-carrots-no-sticks has failed miserably. We delivered Iraq to zealots, gangsters and terrorists. Now our only hope is to prove that we mean business - that the era of peace, love and wasting American lives is over.

And after we've killed Muqtada and destroyed his Mahdi Army, we need to go after the Sunni insurgents. If we can't leave a democracy behind, we should at least leave the corpses of our enemies.

The holier-than-thou response to this proposal is predictable: "We can't kill our way out of this situation!" Well, boo-hoo. Friendly persuasion and billions of dollars haven't done the job. Give therapeutic violence a chance.

Our soldiers and Marines are dying to protect a government whose members are scrambling to ally themselves with sectarian militias and insurgent factions. President Bush needs to face reality. The Maliki government is a failure.

There's still a chance, if a slight one, that we can achieve a few of our goals in Iraq - if we let our troops make war, not love. But if our own leaders are unwilling to fight, it's time to leave and let Iraqis fight each other.

Our president owes Iraq's treacherous prime minister nothing. Get tough, or get out.


Here's this from Stratfor:

U.S./IRAQ: U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved a proposal to increase the number of troops in Iraq and accelerate their training.


30792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Rules of the Road on: November 01, 2006, 06:48:09 AM
Cool If there is something you wish to bring to our attention about the website, please contact us at   All such emails reach both Cindy and me.
30793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Homeland Security on: November 01, 2006, 06:41:08 AM
Peter Huber, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute for Policy Reasearch, speaking at the Gilder/Forbes Telecosm 2006 Conference earlier this month in Lake Tahoe (excerpt):

When a deliberate nuclear release occurs in the United States, as I think it inevitably will, we will almost certainly find that the material originated somewhere mundane?a hospital, a factory, an industrial setting. There is a whole lot of nuclear material out there all over the place. It has many useful applications. People who want it will find it.


The London subway bombers used Triaceatone Triperoxide (TATP). They brewed it in the bathtub using acetone, drain cleaner, and bleach. The Japanese subway attackers home-brewed their Sarin gas. The Oklahoma City bombers mixed liquid fertilizer and diesel fuel.


It is easy to forget about things like this if they haven?t happened in very recent memory. One would prefer to think that they?re not possible. But, the simple fact is?and people in the know really do know this?we still face today an absolutely horrifying disconnect between u-weapons (these very toxic materials) and our own ability to see them before they are released or detonated in a subway or a stadium.

Scientists can of course see anything in a lab. They can see a single atom of Cobalt-60 or a molecule of TATP or a strand of anthrax DNA. Just bring your sample to the right building and a well-trained technician will fire-up a room-sized or larger mainframe unit and in due course the instrument will tell you exactly what it is you brought in. It happens after every attack. They can always tell you what hit you, after you?ve been hit.

The challenge is to see these things before they detonate, before they?re dispersed, before they get into the air ducts, and to see them not roughly or approximately, but so precisely that you can see exactly what they are and react to them appropriately, in real time, in all of the places where they could inflict damage.

How do you even begin to do that?

Just across Manhattan on any given day are some 4 million letters, 3 million people, at least half a million motor vehicles, half a million parcels, any of which could be carrying a tiny amount of something that could cause enormous harm.

Some time ago, the officers who patrol the mall in Washington D.C. were given portable radiation detectors. They soon removed the batteries. The units registered so many false alarms, they were worse than useless.

Radiation is easy to detect. It?s easy to detect badly. You can?t evacuate Yankee Stadium twice during every game to respond to false alarms.

Again, inferior technologies are worse than useless. A significant fraction of money spent in the immediate aftermath of 9-11 on technology was wasted. Yet, with that said, there is absolutely no other alternative. You cannot fight unstable atomic nuclei or nerve agents or DNA with guns and guards and gates. Guns and guards and gates are too expensive and completely ineffectual. They can?t see the stuff and, if they can see it, they can?t intercept it. You need the accuracy of a lab in something the size of a pager. You need to push out the boundaries, so you can screen huge numbers of packages and containers and so on at points of origin overseas and screen again at ports of entry and at key switching points like mail centers and transportation transits points and buildings and hospitals, where the first responders are treated, and on and on and on.

What are the essential technologies that will make this possible? What are the core enablers?

I will not suggest that there is a short list, but one can begin to zero in on a few of them. That is certainly what I and some fellow investors started doing before 9-11 and have continued doing since?

Download the audio of Peter Huber?s complete Telecosm 2006 keynote address:

(NOTE: This is a large 69MB MP3 file, which includes George Gilder?s opening Telecosm 2006 remarks. It may take a few minutes to download.)


The Increased Vigilance of Radioactive Materials
Western security agencies made more than 300 seizures of material that could be used in radioactive "dirty bombs" between 2002 and 2005, according to a new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The report goes on to say that annual seizures rose dramatically over the latter two years of the study. Although the rise appears significant, it likely represents the increase in efforts to confiscate radioactive material rather than an actual increase in trafficking.

A U.N. press release citing the report says the number of cases involving illicit smuggling of radioactive material occurred mostly in Europe, though it fails to specify the precise nature of the radioactive materials seized. Instead it breaks them down into broad categories such as "nuclear material" and "radioactive material."

Black market sales of military-grade radioactive materials spiked following the collapse of the Soviet Union as criminal elements descended on abandoned Russian nuclear and research facilities. The Russian government, in conjunction with various international agencies and the U.S. government, has since clamped down on the sale of Soviet-era radioactive materials. U.S. aid to Russia in the form of so-called nonproliferation assistance -- money paid to destroy or adequately secure such nuclear and radiological material -- increased from roughly $760 million a year before 9/11 to about $810 million in 2002 and $957 million in 2003.

What the IAEA's broad categories fail to show is the wide variety of materials that could be usable for dirty bombs. The term "radioactive material" used by the IAEA covers a broad spectrum of items ranging from spent plutonium and uranium used in nuclear reactors to items used for industrial purposes. Equipment used in the dental and medical professions for X-rays and certain cancer treatments contains a substantial amount of radioactive materials. Radioactive cobalt is used in the steelmaking process to further refine the quality of the metal. Even common household items such as smoke detectors and the mantles used in camping lanterns contain a certain amount of radioactive materials that could be harvested.

The wide-scale use radioactive materials in the commercial sector means that materials needed for a dirty bomb are everywhere. Militants who might seek to create such a device do not necessarily need to smuggle in radioactive waste in shipments when they can gradually and relatively safely gather significant quantities from products used commercially without major risk of detection from security organizations. On the other hand, the more often they smuggle materials, the more likely they are to get caught.

Since 2002, the number of agencies and personnel monitoring the smuggling of radioactive materials has increased. Therefore, a rise in the number of materials found does not necessarily mean an increase in the amount of materials being smuggled. Moreover, the threshold for what is considered an actual threat is lower now than it was before 9/11.

As a result, false threats can inadvertently materialize out of a monitoring agencies' zeal to find a legitimate threat. This was the case with the red mercury hoaxes of the late 1980s to mid-1990s, when intelligence agencies worldwide reported on a substance that supposedly could be used in the production of a nuclear device. Ultimately, most of the red mercury was discovered to be nothing more than harmless dyes and powders being promoted by criminals and scam artists as valuable nuclear material. The scares, however, did highlight the proclivity of monitoring agencies to overreact to nonexistent threats.

Though increased vigilance could lead to more false alarms, it also makes it harder for a person or group that is actually trying to make a dirty bomb to assemble the required materials.
30794  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / DBMA in Canada on: November 01, 2006, 06:21:15 AM
Woof All:

The seed has been planted for a Canadian DBMA site!

The Adventure continues,
30795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Deipnosophist on: October 31, 2006, 11:17:04 PM

David Gordon's blog.  Highly recommended.
30796  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: November Gathering 2006 on: October 31, 2006, 01:19:02 PM
A Howl of Greeting:

The rhythm of the seasons is with us and its time for the "Fall Dog Brothers
Gathering of the Pack".   On behalf of the Council of Elders of the Dog
Brothers, Dog Brothers Inc. Martial Arts hereby cordially invites you to its
"Dog Brothers Fall Gathering of the Pack" at 11:00 AM on Sunday, November
19, 2006 at the RAW Gym in El Segundo to conclude when the fighters are

Many of you may remember our Gatherings held in the park in Hermosa Beach,
which, although they were hosted at considerable expense, were always free
to you our friends, our guests. However with a private facility involved we
now need to charge admission of $15. We ask that you still consider
yourselves to be our friends and our guests. In this context we ask that you
respect our wishes in the matter of Video.

It is very simple:

NO VIDEO CAMERAS, NO DUAL PURPOSE CAMERAS (i.e. with both still photo and
video capabilities). THIS MATTER IS OF IMPORTANCE TO US! And, if you see
someone videoing, please don't let them abuse our hospitality-please let us

As always, you may take photographs for personal, non-commercial use
PROVIDED you give us a complete set of the ones you take. Thanks to the
increasing numbers of you who actually remember and bother to do this! It is
very much appreciated!

The Magic Words:

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

This matter of accepting the risk applies to those of you in the crowd too.
For example, sticks, and fights for that matter, may go flying into the
crowd. Parents should consider things like this in deciding whether a child
is old enough to bring along and/or deciding on from where to observe the
event. For example, sitting on the heavy bags ringing the fighting area is a
really risky idea for a child (or adult for that matter). If a stick or a
fight comes careening your way-get out of the way!

This matter of copyright is of particular importance with this Gathering.
It is 97% certain that Spike TV will be recording the day as part of having
5 "webisodes" of approximately 5 minutes each which will appear on their
website.  Spike will be at the door with some sort of legal release giving
it permission to have you (fighters & audience members) appear in the
webisodes, not sue them, etc.    Spike also will be looking to interview
some of the fighters that they will feature in the webisodes.

At this Gathering, we will continue starting the knife fights with a
handshake and the knives undrawn.   Again we encourage you to fight knife
versus stick-- the stick versus electric knife fight last time was a great
success and the electric knife will again be available. Stick vs. knife has
been one of perennial questions of the FMA, so let's continue the research!
In a similar vein, we have word that there will be a couple of cattle prods
available either for "cattle prod versus stick" or "cattle prod versus
cattle prod".

Remember that you may fight with weapons other than a stick if you can find
someone willing to go against you. Please consider staff, double stick, and
anything else. In order to more deeply explore certain variables, fighters
may agree to "no grappling" rules. In staff fights, the fighters may wear
wrestling type ear guards under the fencing masks.

There is no charge for fighters but FIGHTERS MUST PRE-REGISTER, even if they
have fought before. The Fighter's Registration form can be found on the
website. If you are a member of the Dog Brothers tribe an email or phone
call will suffice. For all Fighter Registration matters, please contact
Cindy at 310-540-6853. You are not
pre-registered until your name appears on the list of registered fighters on
the website!!!

If you have fought before and show up without having pre-registered there
will be a $20 fee. We REALLY, REALLY, REALLY don't like having to deal with
this on such a busy day so please do both you and us a favor and
pre-register. If you haven't fought before and you show up without having
pre-registered, you will not be allowed to fight. This will be ruthlessly

"Higher Consciousness through Harder Contact"

Crafty Dog
Guiding Force of the Dog Brothers
DB Inc.

30797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Economics and Stock Market on: October 31, 2006, 12:28:32 PM
Please note that this subject is now on the other sub-forum.
30798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Intel Matters on: October 31, 2006, 12:27:26 PM

Terrorists Strain for a New Audience With an English-Language Study of U.S. Intelligence
By Jeff Stein, CQ National Security Editor

The holy warriors? intelligence shop may need a shake-up, by the looks of a new analysis of White House responses to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, circulating among password-protected jihad Web sites.

?Myth of Delusion: Exposing the U.S. Intelligence? (sic), authored by a rising star in the al Qaeda hierarchy, relies on openly available materials ? congressional and other official investigations of intelligence failures related to the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq, along with media exposes and scholarly studies ? for its wide-ranging book-length report on the operations of American spy agencies.

But when it comes to analyzing the Bush administration?s emergency responses to the al Qaeda hijackings on 9/11, it reads like an Oliver Stone script.

In the analysis of Mohammed al-Hakaymah, an obscure Egyptian radical until he won plaudits from al Qaeda for leading a revolt against the main Islamic movement there last August, President Bush was forced to scurry about the country on Air Force One for fear of assassination by a hazy cabal of Texas oil interests and renegade U.S. military leaders.

If that weren?t enough conspiracy theory, Hakaymah also portrays the president as a captive of ? pay attention now ? right-wing activists and think tanks, the Rev. Sun Myung Moon?s Washington Times newspaper and the South Korean intelligence service.

All of which, along with factual errors on the history and operations of the CIA, the NSA, the FBI and the reorganization of U.S. intelligence as a result of the 9/11 attacks, has prompted some observers to dismiss Hakaymah?s study as ?drivel,? as former CIA officer Robert Baer put it in an e-mail to me last week (although he volunteered he had only read ?parts of it?).

But other experts on al Qaeda and Islamic fundamentalism say the English-language study marks a breakthrough in the jihadists? efforts to understand the missions and operations of the sprawling U.S. intelligence community.

?I would suggest that those behind this are working directly to influence English speakers [and] present themselves to a broader audience of potential terrorism actors,? says Marvin Hutchens, a former marine who runs the blog that circulated the study here.

?I think it?s a pretty big deal,? says John Rollins, a former counterterrorism operative who was Tom Ridge?s chief of staff for intelligence at the Department of Homeland Security.

?It shows an intense focus on the capabilities and tactics of the U.S. intelligence community,? says Rollins, now a terrorism expert at the Congressional Research Service. ?[It?s] a concerted effort to understand what our capabilities are.?

?There is no question about the authenticity of the book and the author,? says Rita Katz, director of the SITE Institute, an authoritative source on terrorist developments.

And if there was ever a holy warrior who wanted to be an al Qaeda goodfella, it?s Hakaymah. But until he?s a made man, says Evan Kohlmann, a scholar on Islam and consultant to U.S. agencies, analysts should ?be careful? about attributing the book to al Qaeda.

?This document,? agrees Rollins, ?is not reflective of corporate al Qaeda and what they know about the U.S. intelligence community. . .I wouldn?t take this as a bible of their assessment of U.S. intelligence.? But ?it shows a desire and intention to understand the U.S. intelligence community.?

Katz says the study has immense value as ?propaganda . . . because he is explaining that al Qaeda was able to conduct 9/11 in spite of the tightened security and the enormous intelligence budget the U.S. has.?

The message, she says: ?Jihadists should not be intimidated by the American/British security measures,? particularly restive Muslim youth who might be sitting on the fence about joining the ranks of suicide bombers.

They are the prized assets in al Qaeda?s new field of battle. And judging by the swelling ranks of holy warriors from London to Iraq, the bad guys are a lot better at getting out their message, as nasty as it is, than we are.

Where?s Karl Rove when we need him?

Training Manual
Some intelligence veterans are particularly disturbed by the book?s matter-of-fact explanations of how the CIA operates abroad, such as its use of State Department cover in U.S. embassies and the methods it employs to spot potential spies among foreign officials and groups ? including disaffected jihadists.

With a level of detail that could have been copied from a CIA training manual, the book explains the common techniques the agency uses to recruit and manage spies by manipulating their emotions and weaknesses. It also offers an overview of the CIA?s espionage curriculum.

It wrongly places the CIA?s training facility in West Virginia in one passage, but gets it right in another ? demonstrating not that Hakaymah lacks a grasp of his topic, but rather that he could use a good copy editor.

Hekaymah also covers the FBI?s dramatic expansion abroad since 9/11 and its alliances with local security services, particularly in Egypt, which he explores in fine detail.

The origins and operations of the NSA come in for scrutiny, too, based on published sources in the United States and Europe. It locates some of the NSA?s ground stations and its array of techniques for eavesdropping on the world?s telephone lines, computers and cell phones, but it does not discuss The New York Times? revelations of the NSA?s warrantless wiretapping program, a sign that the book was written more than a year ago.

Its discussion of cell phone chip technology, gained from open sources here, amounts to instructions on how to minimize the chance of being tracked.

Hakaymah also lays out details on the efforts of the CIA to undermine the regime in Iran.

All of which raises a dilemma for Congress, not to mention the media: Can it meet its constitutional obligation to ride herd on the government, including U.S. intelligence, without giving material support to the enemy?

Bush administration officials have already delivered their verdict, coming close to calling the media (and putative congressional leakers) traitors.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Rich Reynolds, who spent most of his career in Middle East intelligence assignments, calls the previously published information recycled by Hakaymah ?useful to terrorists.?

?Anything that helps them identify intelligence personnel and those that they recruit is detrimental to the intelligence collection effort. We have very few [spies] assets in contact with terrorists and it is not useful to have people trying to figure them out and eliminate them.

?The same goes with [NSA] communications [intercepts],? Reynolds said. ?As the press and others publish our efforts to monitor terror communications in all their forms, we see the bad guys moving away from the most easily exploited forms.?

It ?would certainly bolster the administration?s position that there should be less public information about intelligence community efforts,? says Rollins.

?However, at the most senior levels of government one walks a very fine line between suppressing intelligence for the sake of national security and concealing information from the Congress and the general public for purposes of political expediency.?

One solution, of course, is to kill the messenger ? literally.

No, not U.S. reporters or leaky members of Congress. But Hakatmah is fair game.

His book ?was published on the Web site, which is run by Hani el-Sebai, an Islamist living in London,? explains Laura Mansfield, who has worked for U.S. government agencies in the Middle East and translated several jihad tomes.

While el-Sebai ?has not made a public declaration of alignment with Al Qaeda,? she told me, ?the U.S. Treasury, the United Nations and Interpol have recognized his connections to Al Qaeda.?

Hakaymah, the experts say, also wrote last summer?s jihad literary hit, ?How to Fight Alone,? an instructional guide for the single holy warrior.

So let?s give him a chance at it, since he wants to be a star: Our intelligence against his.

Jeff Stein can be reached via
30799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Economics on: October 31, 2006, 12:07:32 PM
Woof All:

As it says, this thread is for Economics.

30800  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pelosi on windfall profits tax on: October 31, 2006, 12:05:55 PM

Pelosi Democrats: Yes to Taxes, No to Profits

In case you missed it, Speaker of the House wannabe Nancy Pelosi was interviewed on
CNBC by our buddy Larry Kudlow last week on the economy and stock market. Allow us
to excerpt the fascinating and amusing exchange, because it tells us a lot about
where the Democrats may be heading on energy and tax policy:

KUDLOW: [Are you for] a windfall profits tax on oil companies?
Rep. PELOSI: Oh, well...I'm not -- you won't find me friendly to that.
KUDLOW: All right. You are against the windfall profits tax?
Rep. PELOSI: Yes, I am.
KUDLOW: Oh, OK. I'm not sure a lot of people know that. Thank you for that....
Rep. PELOSI: Oh, not the tax. I'm against the windfall profit.
KUDLOW: You're opposed to the so-called windfall profits on oil.
Rep. PELOSI: Opposed to the windfall profits.
KUDLOW: So you would favor a tax?
Rep. PELOSI: Yes, I would favor something that was shaped in a way that did what it
needed to do. And that is, we've got to -- we have to have energy independence in
our country. We don't have to have excessive profits for the oil industry.

Now we know why the Democrats' best strategy in the next week is to stay button
lipped. Never mind the illogic of raising taxes on the U.S. domestic oil companies
in order to "have energy independence in our country." The last time we had a
windfall profits tax, under Jimmy Carter, oil imports surged and the higher-taxed
domestic production tumbled.

What's more to the point is that in the same interview Ms. Pelosi assured listeners
that "fiscally conservative" Democrats would be a favorable force for the financial
markets. But just in case America's potential next Speaker of the House is confused
on this point, most Americans, particularly the 52% who own stock, are in favor of
profits and opposed to higher taxes, which they know would tend to undermine growth,
jobs and the value of their nest eggs.

-- Stephen Moore
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