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30751  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AA Laser; Army suspends Bio weapons lab on: February 10, 2009, 11:31:36 AM
US military develops anti-aircraft laser


US military develops anti-aircraft laser

The latest weapon developed by US engineers is a Humvee jeep mounted with a giant laser capable of shooting down aircraft.

By Murray Wardrop
Last Updated: 1:41AM GMT 09 Feb 2009

The Laser Avenger successfully shot down a series of unmanned aerial vehicles during recent tests and is being hailed as a revolutionary weapon for future warfare. 

The experiment was the first time that a ground vehicle has used a laser to destroy moving aircraft and marks a watershed moment in the development of lasers for battlefield use.

Invented by Boeing, the laser is fitted to a Humvee off-road vehicle, allowing it to be moved into the most remote locations to shoot down enemy planes.

It is hoped that the Laser Avenger will be used to help US forces tackle small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which often carry explosives or surveillance equipment. Such devices are difficult for conventional air defence systems to shoot down.

The complex testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, required the laser to track three UAVs against a backdrop of mountains and desert.  When the targets were sighted, the Laser Avenger successfully shot down three UAVs with its high-powered directed energy beam.

Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Directed Energy Systems, said: "Small UAVs armed with explosives or equipped with surveillance sensors are a growing threat on the battlefield.  Laser Avenger, unlike a conventional weapon, can fire its laser beam without creating missile exhaust or gun flashes that would reveal its position. As a result, Laser Avenger can neutralize these UAV threats while keeping our troops safe."

The test firing was observed by representatives of the US Army's Cruise Missile Defense Systems project office.

The experiment follows a previous test in 2007 of a prototype Laser Avenger which obliterated improvised explosive devices and unexploded ordnance on the ground. 

Lee Gutheinz, Boeing's program director for High-Energy Laser/Electro-Optical Systems, said: "We doubled the laser power; added sophisticated acquisition, tracking and pointing capability; and simplified the design.  Boeing developed and integrated these upgrades in less than a year, underscoring our ability to rapidly respond to war-fighters' needs."

The Laser Avenger is an infrared laser with power levels in the range of tens of kilowatts.  It is a modified version of an existing US Army air defence weapon that uses two Stinger missile launchers and a heavy machine gun, with one missile pod swapped for the laser and its target tracker.

Existing weapons struggle to shoot down small, light UAVs, which are often made of plastic rather than metal, because surface to air missiles designed to target normal-sized aircraft cannot lock onto them.


NYT so caveat lector:

WASHINGTON — Army officials have suspended most research involving dangerous germs at the biodefense laboratory at Fort Detrick, Md., which the F.B.I. has linked to the anthrax attacks of 2001, after discovering that some pathogens stored there were not listed in a laboratory database.

The suspension, which began Friday and could last three months, is intended to allow a complete inventory of hazardous bacteria, viruses and toxins stored in refrigerators, freezers and cabinets in the facility, the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases.

The inventory was ordered by the institute’s commander, Col. John P. Skvorak, after officials found that the database of specimens was incomplete. In a memorandum to employees last week, Colonel Skvorak said there was a high probability that some germs and toxins in storage were not in the database.

Rules for keeping track of pathogens were tightened after the 2001 anthrax letters, which killed five people. But pressure to improve recordkeeping and security at the Army institute intensified six months ago after the suicide of Bruce E. Ivins, a veteran anthrax researcher, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s announcement that prosecutors had been preparing to charge Dr. Ivins with making the deadly anthrax powder in his laboratory there.

A spokesman for the institute, Caree Vander Linden, said an earlier review had located all the germ samples listed in the database. But she said some “historical samples” in institute freezers were not in the database, and the new inventory was intended to identify them so they could be recorded and preserved, or destroyed if they no longer had scientific value.

One scientist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, said samples from completed projects were not always destroyed, and departing scientists sometimes left behind vials whose contents were unknown to colleagues. He said the Army’s recordkeeping and security were imperfect but better than procedures at most universities, where research on biological pathogens has expanded rapidly since 2001.

The suspension will interrupt dozens of research projects at the institute, whose task is to develop vaccines, drugs and other measures to protect American troops from germ attacks and disease outbreaks. Ms. Vander Linden said some critical experiments involving animals — often used to test vaccines and drugs — would not be halted.

News of the suspension, first reported Monday by the Science magazine blog ScienceInsider, comes as the Justice Department has been interviewing scientists at the Army institute to prepare the government’s legal defense against a lawsuit filed by the family of Robert Stevens, the Florida tabloid photography editor who was the first to die in the 2001 letter attacks.

That lawsuit, filed in 2003 and delayed by the government’s unsuccessful efforts to have it dismissed, accuses officials of failing to assure that anthrax bacteria at Fort Detrick and other government laboratories were securely stored. Dr. Ivins was not suspected in the attacks at that time, but the F.B.I.’s conclusion last year added new weight to the lawsuit’s claims.

The F.B.I. has released evidence of Dr. Ivins’s mental problems and of a genetic link between the mailed anthrax and a supply of the bacteria in his laboratory. But many of Dr. Ivins’s former colleagues at the Army institute have said they are not convinced that he mailed the letters.

The F.B.I. has asked the National Academy of Sciences to convene a panel of experts to review its scientific work on the case, and the bureau and academy are completing a contract for the review, said an academy spokesman, William Kearney.

The anthrax case has underscored the threat of biological attack by biodefense insiders like Dr. Ivins, who have access to pathogens and the expertise to work with them.

The number of such researchers has grown rapidly since 2001, when the anthrax letters set off a spending boom on biodefense that led to a rapid addition of laboratories working on potential bioweapons, notably anthrax.

Before 2001, only a few dozen such facilities worked with anthrax. Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has registered 219 laboratories to do so, said an agency spokesman, Von Roebuck. He said 10,474 people had been cleared to work with dangerous pathogens and toxins nationwide after background checks by the Justice Department.

30752  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / John Jay on: February 10, 2009, 09:30:09 AM
"This country and this people seem to have been made for each other, and it appears as if it was the design of Providence that an inheritance so proper and convenient for a ban of brethren, united to each other by the strongest of ties, should never be split into a number of unsocial, jealous, and alien sovereignties."

--John Jay, Federalist No. 2
30753  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taliban in Pakistan on: February 10, 2009, 09:26:54 AM
Its the NYT, so caveat lector:

WASHINGTON — Even as C.I.A. drone aircraft pound Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal region, there is growing concern among American military and intelligence officials about different militants’ havens in Pakistan that they fear could thwart American military efforts in Afghanistan this year.
American officials are increasingly focusing on the Pakistani city of Quetta, where Taliban leaders are believed to play a significant role in stirring violence in southern Afghanistan.

The Taliban operations in Quetta are different from operations in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan that have until now been the main setting for American unease. But as the United States prepares to pour as many as 30,000 additional troops into Afghanistan, military and intelligence officials say the effort could be futile unless there is a concerted effort to kill or capture Taliban leaders in Quetta and cut the group’s supply lines into Afghanistan.

From Quetta, Taliban leaders including Mullah Muhammad Omar, a reclusive, one-eyed cleric, guide commanders in southern Afghanistan, raise money from wealthy Persian Gulf donors and deliver guns and fresh fighters to the battlefield, according to Obama administration and military officials.

“When their leadership is where you cannot get to them, it becomes difficult,” said Gen. Dan K. McNeill, who until June was the senior American commander in Afghanistan and recently retired. “You are restrained from doing what you want to do.”

The Taliban leaders have operated from Quetta for several years, but the increasing violence in southern Afghanistan suggests that the flow of arms, fighters and money there from the Pakistani sanctuary may be increasing.

Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province, abuts the provinces in southern Afghanistan where the war’s fiercest fighting has occurred. American intelligence officials said that the dozen or so militants who were thought to make up the Taliban leadership in the area were believed to be hiding either in sprawling Afghan refugee camps near Quetta or in some of the city’s Afghan neighborhoods.

American and other Western officials have long said they suspect that Pakistani security services do little to address the presence of senior Taliban commanders in Quetta. Many of the officials would speak only on condition of anonymity because of the delicate intelligence and diplomatic issues involved.

One former intelligence official with years of experience in Afghanistan and Pakistan likened the situation to America’s difficulties during the Vietnam War, when Vietnamese guerrillas used a haven in Cambodia to bring in fresh troops and weapons.

For the past year, the top American goal in Pakistan has been to press the national government in Islamabad for help elsewhere, in killing and capturing Qaeda fighters in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan, who intelligence analysts say pose a direct threat to the United States.

But NATO generals and diplomats have long complained that the command and control of Taliban fighters, distinct from Qaeda insurgents, trace back to southern Pakistan, and that Pakistani security services ignore the threat. Pakistani officials have said they lack good intelligence about the specific locations of Taliban leaders, assertions that some American intelligence operatives greet with some skepticism.

“We’ve made progress going into the tribal areas and North-West Frontier Province against Al Qaeda, but we have not had a counterpart war against the Quetta shura,” said a senior Obama administration official, using the term for the Taliban’s ruling council. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has said the Obama administration will adopt a tough love approach to Pakistan: threatening to cut off military aid to Islamabad unless it carries out a crackdown on militants operating throughout the country.

“Pakistan will act against any individuals involved with Al Qaeda or the Taliban about whom we have actionable intelligence,” Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, said in an interview. “The problem is we do not always get actionable intelligence in Quetta in particular. It’s a very messy area.”

Some current and former American intelligence officials are sympathetic to difficulties that the government in Islamabad faces in rounding up Taliban leaders. Baluchistan has long been an area hostile to government control, and even Pakistani spies have difficulty building a network of sources there, they said.

Last week, gunmen in Quetta kidnapped an American working for the United Nations in the city and killed his driver, leading Pakistani security officials to lock down transit routes in and out of the city.

Aides to Richard C. Holbrooke, Mr. Obama’s special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American military commander in the region, said the issue of crippling the Taliban leadership was getting more attention from their bosses. Mr. Holbrooke is paying his first visit to the region this week in his new job.

The influence of the Taliban leadership over operations on the ground in Afghanistan is a matter of some debate among American commanders and intelligence analysts.


e 2 of 2)

“The Quetta shura is extremely important,” said Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, a retired former commander of American forces in Afghanistan who is advising General Petraeus on a strategic review of his region, including Pakistan and Afghanistan. “They are the intellectual and ideological underpinnings of the Taliban insurgency.”

But Gen. David D. McKiernan, currently the top military commander in Afghanistan, said in a speech in Washington in November that any assessment that said the Quetta shura’s dictates were closely followed by field commanders “gives the Taliban far too much credit for coherency at the operational and strategic level.”

“They don’t have that,” the general added.

That may be true, intelligence analysts say, but few disagree that weakening the Taliban leadership in Pakistan, coupled with achieving battlefield gains with the larger American-led force on the ground in southern Afghanistan, could begin to reverse the adverse momentum in the war.

“It would remove the ideological standard-bearer, which also provides links to external financing in the gulf,” a senior administration official said. “It wouldn’t erase the rural-based insurgency and narcotics trade in Afghanistan, but the notion is, if you can disrupt them at the top levels, it will have an impact at the bottom, down in the provinces.”

Even more intriguing, American officials say, is this prospect: diminishing the Taliban leadership in Quetta and weakening its influence over Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan might open the way to engage more moderate Taliban politically.

“The challenge has always been to exploit some cleavages between the top leadership, which we’ve ruled out of bounds in terms of reconciliation, and the layers one or two layers beneath them,” said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former South Asia specialist for the State Department.

In recent years, there have been some significant successes in the hunt for Taliban leaders. Pakistani operatives tracked Mullah Dadullah, a senior aide to Mullah Omar, as he crossed the Afghan border in May 2007, and he was later killed by American and Afghan troops.

Yet most of the arrests in Pakistan have coincided with visits by senior American officials.

The arrest of Mullah Obeidullah, the former Taliban defense minister, in Quetta in February 2007 coincided with the visit of Vice President Dick Cheney to Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is unclear whether Mullah Obeidullah is still in Pakistani custody or was secretly released as part of a prisoner exchange to free Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, who was kidnapped last February and released three months later.

Mullah Rahim, the Taliban’s top commander in Helmand Province, was arrested in Quetta last summer two weeks after Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and a top C.I.A. officer visited Islamabad to confront Pakistani leaders with evidence of ties between the country’s powerful spy service and militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal areas. But an American intelligence official said last week that Mullah Rahim was no longer in custody.

“The dilemma at the moment,” said Seth Jones, a terrorism analyst at the RAND Corporation, “is that some elements of the Pakistani government continue to support the Taliban as a proxy organization in Afghanistan.”
30754  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Census on: February 10, 2009, 12:33:04 AM

President Obama said in his inaugural address that he planned to "restore science to its rightful place" in government. That's a worthy goal. But statisticians at the Commerce Department didn't think it would mean having the director of next year's Census report directly to the White House rather than to the Commerce secretary, as is customary. "There's only one reason to have that high level of White House involvement," a career professional at the Census Bureau tells me. "And it's called politics, not science."

The decision was made last week after California Rep. Barbara Lee, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and Hispanic groups complained to the White House that Judd Gregg, the Republican senator from New Hampshire slated to head Commerce, couldn't be trusted to conduct a complete Census. The National Association of Latino Officials said it had "serious questions about his willingness to ensure that the 2010 Census produces the most accurate possible count."

Anything that threatens the integrity of the Census has profound implications. Not only is it the basis for congressional redistricting, it provides the raw data by which government spending is allocated on everything from roads to schools. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also uses the Census to prepare the economic data that so much of business relies upon. "If the original numbers aren't as hard as possible, the uses they're put to get fuzzier and fuzzier," says Bruce Chapman, who was director of the Census in the 1980s.

Mr. Chapman worries about a revival of the effort led by minority groups after the 2000 Census to adjust the totals for states and cities using statistical sampling and computer models. In 1999, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Department of Commerce v. U.S. House that sampling could not be used to reapportion congressional seats. But it left open the possibility that sampling could be used to redraw political boundaries within the states.

Such a move would prove controversial. "Sampling potentially has the kind of margin of error an opinion poll has and the same subjectivity a voter-intent standard in a recount has," says Mr. Chapman.

Starting in 2000, the Census Bureau conducted three years of studies with the help of many outside statistical experts. According to then Census director Louis Kincannon, the Bureau concluded that "adjustment based on sampling didn't produce improved figures" and could damage Census credibility.

The reason? In theory, statisticians can identify general numbers of people missed in a head count. But it cannot then place those abstract "missing people" into specific neighborhoods, let alone blocks. And anyone could go door to door and find out such people don't exist. There can be other anomalies. "The adjusted numbers told us the head count had overcounted the number of Indians on reservations," Mr. Kincannon told me. "That made no sense."

The problem of counting minorities and the homeless has long been known. Census Bureau statisticians believe that a vigorous hard count, supplemented by adding in the names of actual people missed by head counters but still found in public records, is likely to lead to a far more defensible count than sampling-based adjustment.

The larger debate prompted seven former Census directors -- serving every president from Nixon to George W. Bush -- to sign a letter last year supporting a bill to turn the Census Bureau into an independent agency after the 2010 Census. "It is vitally important that the American public have confidence that the census results have been produced by an independent, non-partisan, apolitical, and scientific Census Bureau," it read.

The directors also noted that "each of us experienced times when we could have made much more timely and thorough responses to Congressional requests and oversight if we had dealt directly with Congress." The bill's chief sponsor is New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who represents Manhattan's Upper East Side.

"The real issue is who directs the Census, the pros or the pols," says Mr. Chapman. "You would think an administration that's thumping its chest about respecting science would show a little respect for scientists in the statistical field." He worries that a Census director reporting to a hyperpartisan such as White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel increases the chances of a presidential order that would override the consensus of statisticians.

The Obama administration is downplaying how closely the White House will oversee the Census Bureau. But Press Secretary Robert Gibbs insists there is "historical precedent" for the Census director to be "working closely with the White House."

It would be nice to know what Sen. Gregg thinks about all this, but he's refusing comment. And that, says Mr. Chapman, the former Census director, is damaging his credibility. "He will look neutered with oversight of the most important function of his department over the next two years shipped over to the West Wing," he says. "If I were him, I wouldn't take the job unless I had that changed."
30755  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strat: Ukraine for sale on: February 10, 2009, 12:27:41 AM
The Russian Finance Ministry announced Feb. 9 that its Ukrainian counterpart requested a $5 billion loan from Moscow to cover Kiev’s budget deficit. Coupled with the International Monetary Fund’s wariness of disbursing a second tranche ($1.9 billion) of a $16.5 billion loan agreed upon in November 2008, this move indicates the seriousness of Ukraine’s financial state. It also highlights Ukraine’s more fundamental economic problems, showing that Kiev ultimately will fall into the orbit of whichever country can come to its aid financially.

Ukraine made an official request to Russia on Feb. 9 for a $5 billion loan to make up for a decrease in budget revenues, the Russian Finance Ministry announced. Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko has also asked the leaders of the world’s richest countries for emergency loans, citing the difficulties her country faces as a result of the global financial crisis.

Kiev began its frantic search for loans from “powerful and financially stable countries” after a visit by an International Monetary Fund (IMF) delegation the week of Feb. 1 that did not go well at all. The IMF typically works by doling out loans to troubled countries in tranches, usually attached with strict conditions designed for macroeconomic stabilization. Ukraine received its first such tranche of $4.5 billion (out of a total loan of $16.5 billion) in November. But Kiev has failed to live up to the loan’s requirements, which include a deficit-free budget for 2009 — the budget has a 3 percent deficit — and a curtailing of social spending. The latter is an especially dangerous task politically, with Ukrainian unemployment figures soaring above the 1 million mark (out of a population of 46 million) and presidential elections slated for early 2010. Because of Ukraine’s shortcomings, the IMF delegation made no promises that a second tranche would be coming in the near future.

But Ukraine as a country is fundamentally broken, and its economy — which was far from stable even before the global economic crisis — will not be fixed easily with loans from the IMF, Russia or the West. The Ukrainian government is essentially at odds with itself, split between the pro-Russian and pro-Western movements. The country’s political and economic institutions need more than small tweaks, and until they are radically reformed — which would be tremendously difficult to pull off socially — Kiev cannot do without outside assistance. And whoever provides this assistance will hold the most influence over Ukraine.

This reality is only intensified by the financial crisis. Kiev depends heavily on manufacturing and industry for its government revenues, and as of December 2008, industrial production had dropped more than 26 percent year on year. Ukraine’s currency has fallen dramatically since last summer, losing nearly a third of its value, and the country’s gross domestic product for 2009 is expected to contract 5 percent.

Financial assistance does not necessarily need to come from the Russians; Kiev simply needs to find whoever will help its economy survive. Previously, Russia’s influence in Ukraine was underwritten by natural gas prices that were well below what the Europeans were charged. However, Russia raised those prices significantly, causing a monthlong standoff that affected much of Europe and created more economic problems for Kiev. Though Kiev paid its natural gas bill for January, a representative of Ukrainian energy giant Naftogaz said the renegotiated prices will cause Ukraine to go bankrupt. Currently, the Europeans are in no financial position to bail out Ukraine, so Kiev is calling on Moscow to alleviate Ukraine’s financial pains.

To be able to proceed, with the IMF’s assistance, in trying to tackle its myriad economic problems, Ukraine must first take care of its budget deficit — hence the request to Russia for a $5 billion loan, which would roughly cover the deficit. Any Russian assistance, however, will come with strings attached. While the natural gas situation remains shaky and tense, a $5 billion loan would effectively draw Kiev further into Russia’s orbit. And with political infighting and instability the norm in Ukraine, Russia will be sure to take advantage of Kiev’s financial weaknesses in any way that it can. This essentially means that Ukraine will be divorced from its Western leanings and will move firmly into Russia’s sphere of influence, both economically and politically.

30756  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Quiet moves in the great game on: February 10, 2009, 12:25:08 AM
It appears that quite a few pieces in the U.S.-Russian game moved this past weekend and Monday at the Munich Security Conference. Though the public negotiations between U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov were tense, both men left the meeting talking favorably about the U.S.-Russian relationship. But there was another American powerhouse in Munich, and not by coincidence.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was at the conference to accept an award for his past role on the international stage — yet Kissinger’s principal role on that stage appears to be ongoing. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration virtually subcontracted Kissinger to deal with the Russians well before Obama’s inauguration took place. Kissinger has a long and sordid history with the Russians. He is a Cold War veteran who understands what Russia wants and what it is willing to trade to get it — an essential skill for any successful negotiations, and something the Russians respect.

Kissinger quietly visited Moscow on behalf of Obama in December, meeting casually with Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and secretly with the real dealmaker, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Now he has returned to the negotiating table in Munich. But Kissinger has never been recognized formally as part of Obama’s plan. This is because Kissinger isn’t formally part of the U.S. government, and as a Republican from the Nixon administration he is despised by many within Obama’s party.

But these are hardly the only meetings that affect the Russians. Biden met with the Russians in Munich to discuss the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I). U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus toured the Central Asian states to broker a deal on new routes to Afghanistan without taking into account the larger deal on the table with Russia. And U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is being as active as one would expect the secretary of state to be. Not only are members of Obama’s public team taking on different issues, but none of the talks seem to fit together into a holistic plan. Put another way, Moscow feels it is receiving schizophrenic signals from such a scattered approach.

If anything, such an approach is undermining the Kissinger effort, which is attempting to forge some sort of grand bargain that includes the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, the soon-to-expire START, NATO expansion to Ukraine and Georgia, U.S. ballistic missile defense (BMD) installations slated for Poland and Czech Republic, Russia’s push for preeminence in Central Asia and routes for NATO supplies through former Soviet turf to Afghanistan.

Thus far in the talks, Kissinger has not budged on any major items of friction. This is certainly something that has gotten the Russians’ attention; they were pretty sure they held the upper hand. In fact, Kissinger has explicitly noted that the United States had no intention of trading an Afghanistan supply route for recognition — in public or private — of a Russian sphere of influence.

The Russian leadership is well aware that it is operating on borrowed time. The Russian demographic picture is nothing short of horrid, but there is a bit of a respite as Russians born during the 1980s Soviet baby boom are now having their own kids. This is slightly delaying the enervating impact of a population that is simultaneously dwindling and aging. But after the next three to five years, all trends are down. This is not to say Russia as a state will die in the next few years, but instead that it needs to push back Western influence as far as possible before Russia’s (probably terminal) decline begins. So it looks as if the Russians are pulling back from demanding a deal on the entire picture and working from the short list of items which are most critical because these are the items that change the strategic picture in ways that most worry the Russians.

That list consists of NATO expansion, BMD and START. The NATO item is fairly self-explanatory: every country that joins NATO is one less that can be a buffer between NATO and Russia. But BMD is a more complex issue. Russia’s real concern with BMD in Poland is not the BMD systems, but U.S. boots on the ground in a former Warsaw Pact buffer state. It is uncomfortably close for Moscow. While Russia is certainly uncomfortable with the long-term trajectory and implications of a renewed American focus on BMD, in this case, Russia is using BMD mostly to publicly attack developments on the world stage, harkening back to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

But the granddaddy of them all is START. Renewing the treaty would keep the Russians and the Americans at precisely the same level of strategic nuclear arms. This is far more than simply ego. START allows Russia to demand American attention at any time on any strategic issue — that’s what happens when the other guy has as many nukes as you do.

U.S. policy for the past decade has been that START does not need to be renewed (it expires in December) because the Russians cannot afford the price in dollars or skilled manpower to maintain their deterrent. Why bother negotiating a treaty that will limit American policy options when there is no need to give concessions to the Russians? From the Russian point of view, a continuation of START limits the Americans and keeps the Russians in the game. But an end to START forces the Russians to compete on everything, and there are not a lot of fields in which the Russians can consistently succeed against the combined West.

And so the willingness of Kissinger, Biden and Clinton all to put START on the negotiating table is a gesture that the Russians could not fail to notice. In fact, negotiations seem to already be affected. Russia gave a little on the U.S. plans for a Central Asia route to Afghanistan: On Feb 9, Kazakhstan — which hardly even breathes these days without checking with the Kremlin — announced that it will allow American military shipments to Afghanistan. Just a small glimpse of what it might look like to work with the Russians.
30757  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: What happened to promise to cut cap gains? on: February 10, 2009, 12:21:12 AM
One question we wish someone had asked President Obama at last night's press conference is this: Why doesn't his economic stimulus bill include his own campaign proposal to eliminate the capital-gains tax for small businesses? The House bill omits it entirely, and the Senate version offers a rate reduction to 7% from the current 14%, but only on investments made in the next two years. That lower rate would apply to less than 2% of all capital gains.

Mr. Obama's original promise to cancel the capital gains tax for small enterprises was highlighted on his campaign Web site under "Small Business Emergency Rescue Plan." A few weeks before the election, advisers Austan Goolsbee and Jason Furman touted their boss's pro-growth credentials by noting in this newspaper that "he is proposing additional tax cuts" that included "the elimination of capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups."

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The revenue loss would be minimal, especially as compared to the rest of the $800 billion spend-a-thon, because any untaxed gains would only be realized well into the future. We'd prefer an across-the-board capital gains cut rather than a targeted reduction. But the proposal would at least signal some Democratic interest in encouraging businesses to take risks again -- the only way the economy is going to recover.

So what happened? We're told the obstacle is House Democrats, who oppose any cut in capital gains tax rates. The objection seems to be wholly ideological, a concern that such a cut -- even for start-ups, rather than for current capital holdings -- would validate Republican tax-cutters. The White House decided not to fight Democrats to add the President's own pro-growth idea to a bill whose supposed purpose is to promote growth. This looks like an early example of Mr. Obama repeating a mistake that President Bush made too often -- refusing to challenge a Congress run by his own party.

30758  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / BO fails to impress on: February 10, 2009, 12:19:34 AM
Barack Obama has now been president for 21 days, following an inauguration that was supposed to have pressed the reset button on America's relations with the wider world and ushered in a new period of global cooperation against common threats. Here's what pressing reset has accomplished so far:

- Iran. Since President Obama's inauguration, Iran has launched a satellite into space and declared (with an assist from Russia, which is providing the nuclear fuel) that it would complete its long-delayed reactor at Bushehr later this year. At the Munich Security Conference last week, Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani promised a "golden opportunity for the United States" in its relations with the Islamic Republic. He proceeded to make good on that opportunity by skipping Joe Biden's speech the next day.

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Also, as if to underscore that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Holocaust-denial is merely emblematic of his regime's outlook, Mr. Larijani offered that there could be "different perspectives on the Holocaust." Mr. Larijani is widely described as a "moderate."

- Afghanistan. This is the war Mr. Obama has said "we have to win" -- as opposed to Iraq. Our NATO allies are supposed to feel the same way.

So what was NATO Secretary General Jaap De Hoop Scheffer doing at the Munich conclave? Why, reproaching our allies. "When the United States asks for a serious partner, it does not just want advice, it wants and deserves someone to share the heavy lifting," he said.

But the plea fell on deaf ears. Germany will not, and probably cannot, commit more than 4,500 soldiers to Afghanistan, and then only to areas where they are unlikely to see combat. The French have no plans to increase their troop commitment beyond the 3,300 now there. Mr. Obama, by contrast, may double the U.S. commitment to 60,000 troops.

- North Korea. A constant liberal lament about the Bush administration was that its supposed hard line on Pyongyang had yielded nothing except five or six North Korean bombs.

So what is Kim Jong Il to do now that the Obama administration is promising a friendlier approach? In late January, Pyongyang announced it was unilaterally withdrawing from its 1991 nonaggression pact with the South.

Satellite imagery later showed the North moving a Taepodong 2 missile -- potentially capable of reaching the U.S. West Coast -- to a launch pad. "The missile is pointing at Obama," Baek Seung-joo, a director at the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses in Seoul, told the L.A. Times. "North Korea thinks that with such gestures they can control U.S. foreign policy."

- Pakistan. Perhaps the most unambiguous of the Bush administration's successes was rolling up the nuclear proliferation network of Pakistani scientist A.Q. Khan, who was kept under house arrest for five years.

But if some latent fear of the 43rd American president prevented the Pakistani government from releasing their dubious national hero, that fear clearly vanished with the arrival of the 44th. Mr. Khan was released last week, ostensibly by order of a Pakistani court, plainly with the consent of the government. So far, the Obama administration has done little more than issue a muted statement of concern.

- Russia. At the Munich conference, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov praised the "very positive" tone set by Mr. Biden. And Mr. Ivanov's tone? Less positive. Russia will continue to build military bases in Georgia's breakaway republics. It will press ahead with the fueling of the Bushehr reactor.

Russia also won't hesitate to complicate the U.S. position in Afghanistan -- and then lie about what it has done in a manner worthy of the late Andrei Gromyko. "There is no correlation between the decision of the Kyrgyz republic and the loans that the Russian federation granted," Mr. Ivanov said, referring to Kyrgyzstan's oddly timed decision to close an airbase used by the U.S. to supply Afghanistan after securing a $2 billion Russian "loan."

- The Arab street. "I have Muslim members of my family," Mr. Obama recently told Al-Arabiya. Yet so far his efforts at outreach have been met with derision from Arab hard-liners and "liberals" alike.

"We welcomed him with almost total enthusiasm until he underwent his first real test: Gaza," wrote Egyptian novelist Alaa Al Aswany in a New York Times op-ed. "We also wanted Mr. Obama . . . to recognize . . . the right of people in occupied territory to resist military occupation." In other words, the price of Arab support for Mr. Obama is that he embrace Hamas and its terrorist tactics.

And so it goes. True, Mr. Obama has made the U.S. popular in places like Montreal and Berlin, where our unpopularity never mattered much to begin with. But foreign policy is not about winning popularity contests. And woe to the president who imagines he needn't inspire fear among the wicked even as he embraces the adulation of the good.

Write to
30759  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Tenth/10th Amendment: States Rights on: February 10, 2009, 12:12:22 AM
Although the term has negative connotations for many of us due to its historical interactions with slavery and segregation, States Rights are a essential feature of the American Creed.  With the massive expansion of the federal government being assayed by our President and Congress, it seems the matter of the States' rights under the Constitution is going to be a very hot area.  This thread is for discussion of such matters.

I kick things off with an article by a group about which I know nothing yet.

State Sovereignty is Starting to Steamroll
From The Constitution Party

States Tell Feds: “Back Off!”

Legislatures Cite 10th Amendment In Strong Reminder To D.C.

Lancaster, PA (February 7, 2009) A growing number of state legislatures across the country have put the federal government on notice that the United States Constitution gives states the authority to say: “Thus far and no farther!”

Bills introduced in states, including Washington, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, Oklahoma and Arizona, defend state sovereignty as guaranteed by the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution which states: .... The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
The Constitution Party supports and encourages the effort of individual states to re-affirm that the U.S. Constitution explicitly guarantees certain rights cannot be usurped by the federal government. “The state sovereignty movement is picking up steam,” noted Constitution Party National Committee Chairman Jim Clymer. “The duopoly that controls our federal government has gotten out of hand. Republicans and Democrats alike have been guilty of trampling states’ rights for generations. Finally, elected officials in state legislatures across the country are pushing back,” Clymer added.

D.C.’s blatant disregard for the Constitution has raised the hackles of responsible elected state officials. The effort to restore State Sovereignty is gaining momentum.

Several states have tied their State Sovereignty bills to other constitutionally-protected rights including 2nd Amendment gun owners’ rights and the 14th Amendment right to Life. The Montana State Sovereignty bill , authored by Republican State Representative Joel Boniek, sets the stage for a showdown with the federal government over gun owners’ rights.

It invokes the 9th Amendment as well: .... The regulation of intrastate commerce is vested in the states under the 9th and 10th amendments to the United States constitution, particularly if not expressly preempted by federal law. Congress has not expressly preempted state regulation of intrastate commerce pertaining to the manufacture on an intrastate basis of firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition.

The bill adds a stronger caveat: .... A personal firearm, a firearm accessory, or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in Montana and that remains within the borders of Montana is not subject to federal law or federal regulation, including registration, under the authority of congress to regulate interstate commerce.

In Oklahoma, Republican State Representative Charles Key authored his second state sovereignty bill, HJR 1089 (reintroduced as HJR 1003) using words like “cease and desist.” Key has been a vocal opponent of such overreaching federal dictates as the No Child Left Behind and Real ID Acts for being unconstitutional, state sovereignty-stealing mandates from D.C.. The bill has been referred to the Oklahoma House Rules Committee.

In Missouri, Republican State Representative Cynthia Davis brought the issue of abortion into the State Sovereignty issue with HR 294. The bill (formerly HR 212), states: Missouri's sovereignty (exists) under the Tenth Amendment and (the state) urges the United States Congress to reject the passage of the federal Freedom of Choice Act which prohibits regulations on abortion.
Michigan Republican State Representative Paul Opsommer authored State Sovereignty bill HCR 4 which aims to: … (A)ffirm Michigan’s sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and to urge the federal government to halt its practice of imposing mandates upon the states for purposes not enumerated by the Constitution of the United States.

The State Sovereignty statement in Arizona’s HCR 2034 bares its teeth calling for dissolution of the federal government in the event: …(The) President of the United States, the Congress of the United States or any other federal agent or agency declares the Constitution of the United States to be suspended or abolished, if the President or any other federal entity attempts to institute martial law or its equivalent without an official declaration in one or more of the states without the consent of that state or if any federal order attempts to make it unlawful for individual Americans to own firearms or to confiscate firearms, the State of Arizona, when joined by thirty-four of the other fifty states, declares as follows: that the states resume all state powers delegated by the Constitution of the United States and assume total sovereignty; that the states re-ratify and re-establish the present Constitution of the United States as the charter for the formation of a new federal government, to be followed by the election of a new Congress and President Washington, and New Hampshire similarly put the feds on notice that the United States Constitution and all its amendments are there for a reason - to keep a centralized government from overstepping its bounds and to protect the rights of American citizens.

The Constitution Party encourages Americans across the political spectrum to contact their state representatives and tell them to uphold the Constitution with a 10th Amendment bill for their state!
Copyright © 2009 Constitution Party,
30760  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / illegals sue rancher on: February 10, 2009, 12:07:06 AM
16 illegals sue Arizona rancher

An Arizona man who has waged a 10-year campaign to stop a flood of illegal immigrants from crossing his property is being sued by 16 Mexican nationals who accuse him of conspiring to violate their civil rights when he stopped them at gunpoint on his ranch on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Roger Barnett, 64, began rounding up illegal immigrants in 1998 and turning them over to the U.S. Border Patrol, he said, after they destroyed his property, killed his calves and broke into his home.   His Cross Rail Ranch near Douglas, Ariz., is known by federal and county law enforcement authorities as "the avenue of choice" for immigrants seeking to enter the United States illegally.

Trial continues Monday in the federal lawsuit, which seeks $32 million in actual and punitive damages for civil rights violations, the infliction of emotional distress and other crimes. Also named are Mr. Barnett's wife, Barbara, his brother, Donald, and Larry Dever, sheriff in Cochise County, Ariz., where the Barnetts live. The civil trial is expected to continue until Friday.   The lawsuit is based on a March 7, 2004, incident in a dry wash on the 22,000-acre ranch, when he approached a group of illegal immigrants while carrying a gun and accompanied by a large dog.

Attorneys for the immigrants - five women and 11 men who were trying to cross illegally into the United States - have accused Mr. Barnett of holding the group captive at gunpoint, threatening to turn his dog loose on them and saying he would shoot anyone who tried to escape.   

The immigrants are represented at trial by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which also charged that Sheriff Dever did nothing to prevent Mr. Barnett from holding their clients at "gunpoint, yelling obscenities at them and kicking one of the women."

In the lawsuit, MALDEF said Mr. Barnett approached the group as the immigrants moved through his property, and that he was carrying a pistol and threatening them in English and Spanish. At one point, it said, Mr. Barnett's dog barked at several of the women and he yelled at them in Spanish, "My dog is hungry and he's hungry for buttocks."

The lawsuit said he then called his wife and two Border Patrol agents arrived at the site. It also said Mr. Barnett acknowledged that he had turned over 12,000 illegal immigrants to the Border Patrol since 1998.

In March, U.S. District Judge John Roll rejected a motion by Mr. Barnett to have the charges dropped, ruling there was sufficient evidence to allow the matter to be presented to a jury. Mr. Barnett's attorney, David Hardy, had argued that illegal immigrants did not have the same rights as U.S. citizens.

Mr. Barnett told The Washington Times in a 2002 interview that he began rounding up illegal immigrants after they started to vandalize his property, northeast of Douglas along Arizona Highway 80. He said the immigrants tore up water pumps, killed calves, destroyed fences and gates, stole trucks and broke into his home.  Some of his cattle died from ingesting the plastic bottles left behind by the immigrants, he said, adding that he installed a faucet on an 8,000-gallon water tank so the immigrants would stop damaging the tank to get water.

Mr. Barnett said some of the ranch´s established immigrant trails were littered with trash 10 inches deep, including human waste, used toilet paper, soiled diapers, cigarette packs, clothes, backpacks, empty 1-gallon water bottles, chewing-gum wrappers and aluminum foil - which supposedly is used to pack the drugs the immigrant smugglers give their "clients" to keep them running.
He said he carried a pistol during his searches for the immigrants and had a rifle in his truck "for protection" against immigrant and drug smugglers, who often are armed.

A former Cochise County sheriff´s deputy who later was successful in the towing and propane business, Mr. Barnett spent $30,000 on electronic sensors, which he has hidden along established trails on his ranch. He searches the ranch for illegal immigrants in a pickup truck, dressed in a green shirt and camouflage hat, with his handgun and rifle, high-powered binoculars and a walkie-talkie.
His sprawling ranch became an illegal-immigration highway when the Border Patrol diverted its attention to several border towns in an effort to take control of the established ports of entry. That effort moved the illegal immigrants to the remote areas of the border, including the Cross Rail Ranch.

"This is my land. I´m the victim here," Mr. Barnett said. "When someone´s home and loved ones are in jeopardy and the government seemingly can´t do anything about it, I feel justified in taking matters into my own hands. And I always watch my back."
30761  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 09, 2009, 08:56:53 AM
A pleasure to see a serious effort at answering my questions!

I'm on the road at the moment so a long thoughtful post is not possible at the moment, so I simply begin the conversation about this piece by noting my doubts about his perceptions of Pakistan.  Is Pak's IS part of the problem?  Are young officers in the army part of the problem?

Any comments on this piece?
30762  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "Reformist" to run? on: February 09, 2009, 07:03:56 AM
Reformist to stand against Ahmadinejad in Iran election

Ian Black in Tehran
The Guardian, Monday 9 February 2009

Muhammad Khatami, Iran's leading reformist, has said he will stand against the hardline Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in this summer's elections, opening up the prospect of significant change that could bring improved relations with the US.

Khatami, 65, ended months of speculation when he told supporters in Tehran yesterday: "I strongly announce my candidacy in the elections. Is it possible to remain indifferent toward the revolution's fate and shy away from running?"

Analysts said the decision would mean a dramatic contest in June, offering voters a candidate who promoted liberalisation at home and accommodation with the west when he served as president for two terms from 1997-2005 during the so-called "Tehran spring".

Ahmadinejad, the incumbent, is blamed for economic mismanagement and for isolating Iran by backing militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah and by his strident attacks on Israel.

In an optimistic scenario, if Khatami became president again he could be the leader who, in the words of Barack Obama, would "unclench the fist" and improve Iran's strained relations with the US and the west. That would clearly have to include agreement to defuse the row over the country's nuclear ambitions. Iran says it wants to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes but it is suspected of seeking to build nuclear weapons.

"The differences between Khatami and Ahmadinejad are bigger than between Obama and McCain," said Mustafa Tajzad, a former minister. "The results of the Iranian election will matter for the whole world."

Khatami has condemned his rival's "aggressive and blistering rhetoric", saying it "plays into the hands of the enemy, harming the country and the system."

Analysts and diplomats are divided over his chances of beating Ahmadinejad, so far supported by the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who makes all key decisions.

Muhammad Atrianfar, a close ally, told the Guardian he believed Khatami could win. "We feel instinctively that people are reformists now, especially after such bad government by Ahmadinejad. Poor people who used to support him have turned against him."

Unofficial polling shows Khatami would beat the incumbent by a two-to-one margin, but an unusually big turnout - in the face of widespread voter apathy - would be needed to ensure victory.

Some fear Khatami may have harmed his chances by hesitating for so long over whether to throw his hat into the ring, reinforcing his image as a has-been.
30763  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / What does this mean?!? on: February 09, 2009, 07:01:57 AM
Second post of the morning:

Presidential Documents

Federal Register
/ Vol. 74, No. 22 /Wednesday, February 4, 2009 / Presidential Documents 6115

Presidential Determination No. 2009–15 of January 27, 2009

Unexpected Urgent Refugee and Migration Needs Related To Gaza

Memorandum for the Secretary of State

By the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the
United States, including section 2(c)(1) of the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 (the ‘‘Act’’), as amended (22 U.S.C. 2601), I hereby determine, pursuant to section 2(c)(1) of the Act, that it is important to the national interest to furnish assistance under the Act in an amount not to exceed $20.3 million from the United States Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund for the purpose of meeting unexpected and urgent refugee and migration needs, including by contributions to international, governmental, and nongovernmental organizations and payment of administrative expenses of Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration of the Department of State, related to humanitarian needs of Palestinian refugees and conflict victims in Gaza. You are authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the
Federal Register.


Washington, January 27, 2009
[FR Doc. E9–2488
Filed 2–3–09; 8:45 am]
Billing code 4710–10–P
30764  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pak islamo fascists in Brit threat to US homeland? on: February 09, 2009, 06:58:25 AM
CIA warns Barack Obama that British terrorists are the biggest threat to the US

Barack Obama has been warned by the CIA that British Islamist extremists are the greatest threat to US homeland security.

By Tim Shipman in Washington
Last Updated: 9:08PM GMT 07 Feb 2009

The CIA has told President Barack Obama that British terrorists are the biggest threat to the US

American spy chiefs have told the President that the CIA has launched a vast spying operation in the UK to prevent a repeat of the 9/11 attacks being launched from Britain.

They believe that a British-born Pakistani extremist entering the US under the visa waiver programme is the most likely source of another terrorist spectacular on American soil.

Intelligence briefings for Mr Obama have detailed a dramatic escalation in American espionage in Britain, where the CIA has recruited record numbers of informants in the Pakistani community to monitor the 2,000 terrorist suspects identified by MI5, the British security service.

A British intelligence source revealed that a staggering four out of 10 CIA operations designed to thwart direct attacks on the US are now conducted against targets in Britain.

And a former CIA officer who has advised Mr Obama told The Sunday Telegraph that the CIA has stepped up its efforts in the last month after the Mumbai massacre laid bare the threat from Lashkar-e-Taiba, the militant group behind the attacks, which has an extensive web of supporters in the UK.

The CIA has already spent 18 months developing a network of agents in Britain to combat al-Qaeda, unprecedented in size within the borders of such a close ally, according to intelligence sources in both London and Washington.

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who has advised Mr Obama, told The Sunday Telegraph: "The British Pakistani community is recognised as probably al-Qaeda's best mechanism for launching an attack against North America.

"The American security establishment believes that danger continues and there's very intimate cooperation between our security services to monitor that." Mr Riedel, who served three presidents as a Middle East expert on the White House National Security Council, added: "President Obama's national security team are well aware that this is a serious threat."

The British official said: "The Americans run their own assets in the Pakistani community; they get their own intelligence.

There's close cooperation with MI5 but they don't tell us the names of all their sources.

"Around 40 per cent of CIA activity on homeland threats is now in the UK. This is quite unprecedented."

Explaining the increase in CIA activity over the past month, Mr Riedel added: "In the aftermath of the Mumbai attack the US and the UK intelligence services now have to regard Lashkar-e-Taiba as just as serious a threat to both of our countries as al-Qaeda. They have a much more extensive base among Pakistani Diaspora communities in the UK than al–Qaeda."

Information gleaned by CIA spies in Britain has already helped thwart several terrorist attacks in the UK and was instrumental in locating Rashid Rauf, a British-born al-Qaeda operative implicated in a plot to explode airliners over the Atlantic, who was tracked down and killed in a US missile strike in November.

But some US intelligence officers are irritated that valuable manpower and resources have been diverted to the UK. One former intelligence officer who does contract work for the CIA dismissed Britain as a "swamp" of jihadis.

Jonathan Evans, the director general of MI5, admitted in January that the Security Service alone does not have the resources to maintain surveillance on all its targets. "We don't have anything approaching comprehensive coverage," he said.

The dramatic escalation in CIA activity in the UK followed the exposure in August 2006 of Operation Overt, the alleged airline bomb plot.

The British intelligence official revealed that CIA chiefs sent more resources to the UK because they were not prepared to see American citizens die as a result of MI5's inability to keep tabs on all suspects, even though the Security Service successfully uncovered the plot.

MI5 manpower will have doubled to 4,100 by 2011 but many in the US intelligence community do not think that is enough.

For their part, some British officials are queasy that information obtained by the CIA from British Pakistanis was used to help target Mr Rauf, a British citizen, whom they would have preferred to capture and bring to trial.

Sensitivities over the intelligence arrangement formed a key part of briefings given to Mr Obama, since they are central to what is often called "the most special part of the special relationship" and could complicate his dealings with Gordon Brown.

Tensions in transatlantic intelligence relations which were laid bare last week during the High Court battle over Binyam Mohamed, the British resident held in Guanatanamo Bay.
British judges wanted to publish details of the torture administered to Mr Mohamed, an Ethiopian national, in US custody. But key paragraphs were blacked out after American officials threatened it could damage intelligence sharing between the two countries.

Intelligence experts said that a trusting intelligence relationship, in which one country does not publish intelligence data obtained by the other, is vital to both countries' national security.

Patrick Mercer, chairman of the House of Commons counter-terrorism sub-committee, said: "The special relationship is a huge benefit to us. It clearly works to our advantage and helps keep the people of the UK and the US safe.

"There is no doubt that a great deal of valuable intelligence vital to British national security is procured by American agents from British sources."

Mr Riedel added: "The partnership between the two intelligence communities is dynamic; it is one of great intimacy. We overuse the term special relationship, but this is an extraordinarily special relationship.

"Since September 11 the philosophy on both sides has been to err on the side of telling each other more rather than less. It is in everyone's interests that that continues."
30765  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How much? on: February 08, 2009, 09:36:09 PM
Any one know how much ACORN is being stimulated by His Glibness's syphillis , , , I mean stimulus bill?
30766  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Canadian experience on: February 08, 2009, 09:34:42 PM
President Obama and Congressional Democrats are inching the U.S. toward government-run health insurance. Last week's expansion of Schip -- the State Children's Health Insurance Program -- is a first step. Before proceeding further, here's a suggestion: Look at Canada's experience.

Martin KozlowskiHealth-care resources are not unlimited in any country, even rich ones like Canada and the U.S., and must be rationed either by price or time. When individuals bear no direct responsibility for paying for their care, as in Canada, that care is rationed by waiting.

Canadians often wait months or even years for necessary care. For some, the status quo has become so dire that they have turned to the courts for recourse. Several cases currently before provincial courts provide studies in what Americans could expect from government-run health insurance.

In Ontario, Lindsay McCreith was suffering from headaches and seizures yet faced a four and a half month wait for an MRI scan in January of 2006. Deciding that the wait was untenable, Mr. McCreith did what a lot of Canadians do: He went south, and paid for an MRI scan across the border in Buffalo. The MRI revealed a malignant brain tumor.

Ontario's government system still refused to provide timely treatment, offering instead a months-long wait for surgery. In the end, Mr. McCreith returned to Buffalo and paid for surgery that may have saved his life. He's challenging Ontario's government-run monopoly health-insurance system, claiming it violates the right to life and security of the person guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Shona Holmes, another Ontario court challenger, endured a similarly harrowing struggle. In March of 2005, Ms. Holmes began losing her vision and experienced headaches, anxiety attacks, extreme fatigue and weight gain. Despite an MRI scan showing a brain tumor, Ms. Holmes was told she would have to wait months to see a specialist. In June, her vision deteriorating rapidly, Ms. Holmes went to the Mayo Clinic in Arizona, where she found that immediate surgery was required to prevent permanent vision loss and potentially death. Again, the government system in Ontario required more appointments and more tests along with more wait times. Ms. Holmes returned to the Mayo Clinic and paid for her surgery.

On the other side of the country in Alberta, Bill Murray waited in pain for more than a year to see a specialist for his arthritic hip. The specialist recommended a "Birmingham" hip resurfacing surgery (a state-of-the-art procedure that gives better results than basic hip replacement) as the best medical option. But government bureaucrats determined that Mr. Murray, who was 57, was "too old" to enjoy the benefits of this procedure and said no. In the end, he was also denied the opportunity to pay for the procedure himself in Alberta. He's heading to court claiming a violation of Charter rights as well.

These constitutional challenges, along with one launched in British Columbia last month, share a common goal: to win Canadians the freedom to spend their own money to protect themselves from the inadequacies of the government health-insurance system.

The cases find their footing in a landmark ruling on Quebec health insurance in 2005. The Supreme Court of Canada found that Canadians suffer physically and psychologically while waiting for treatment in the public health-care system, and that the government monopoly on essential health services imposes a risk of death and irreparable harm. The Supreme Court ruled that Quebec's prohibition on private health insurance violates citizen rights as guaranteed by that province's Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

The experiences of these Canadians -- along with the untold stories of the 750,794 citizens waiting a median of 17.3 weeks from mandatory general-practitioner referrals to treatment in 2008 -- show how miserable things can get when government is put in charge of managing health insurance.

In the wake of the 2005 ruling, Canada's federal and provincial governments have tried unsuccessfully to fix the long wait times by introducing selective benchmarks and guarantees along with large increases in funding. The benchmarks and the guarantees aren't ambitious: four to eight weeks for radiation therapy; 16 to 26 weeks for cataract surgery; 26 weeks for hip and knee replacements and lower-urgency cardiac bypass surgery.

Canada's system comes at the cost of pain and suffering for patients who find themselves stuck on waiting lists with nowhere to go. Americans can only hope that Barack Obama heeds the lessons that can be learned from Canadian hardships.

Mr. Esmail, based in Calgary, is the director of Health System Performance Studies at The Fraser Institute.

30767  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Pak releases AQ Khan in "screw you" to US on: February 08, 2009, 09:26:04 PM
Richard Holbrooke is about to visit Pakistan for the first time as President Obama's envoy to the region, and Islamabad has just laid out the welcome mat: A court released nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan from house arrest.

Khush amdid means welcome in the Urdu language, but the exact translation of Mr. Khan's release can't be printed in a family newspaper. Mr. Holbrooke will understand, having issued more than one such unprintable message himself over his long diplomatic career. Islamabad is telling the new U.S. government that it won't simply be able to dictate terms of cooperation in fighting the Taliban and al Qaeda. Like nearly everyone else around the world these days (see here), the Pakistanis are looking to see how far they can push Mr. Obama before he pushes back.

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The timing of Pakistan's snub is especially pointed given that Mr. Obama's Secretary of State is Hillary Clinton, and Mr. Khan's proliferation salad days came when her husband was President. Before his network was rolled up in the wake of the 2003 Iraq invasion, Mr. Khan spread nuclear know-how to Libya, North Korea, Iran, and who knows where else.

Despite his popularity in Pakistan, Mr. Khan was placed under house arrest by former President Pervez Musharraf after the Bush Administration presented the evidence of Mr. Khan's global WMD sales. But the U.S. has never been allowed to interrogate him. With the cowboys George W. Bush and Dick Cheney safely out of power, the new government of Asif Ali Zardari must figure it's a good time to placate Pakistani opinion and risk upsetting the Yanks.

If a nuclear weapon ever does incinerate a U.S. city, Mr. Khan will be as responsible as anyone. Mr. Obama has said he'll focus on fighting the spread of WMD, but the world's proliferators will interpret Mr. Khan's release as evidence that you can sell anything and get away with it.
30768  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Govt. did it! on: February 08, 2009, 09:22:54 PM
Many are calling for a 9/11-type commission to investigate the financial crisis. Any such investigation should not rule out government itself as a major culprit. My research shows that government actions and interventions -- not any inherent failure or instability of the private economy -- caused, prolonged and dramatically worsened the crisis.

David GothardThe classic explanation of financial crises is that they are caused by excesses -- frequently monetary excesses -- which lead to a boom and an inevitable bust. This crisis was no different: A housing boom followed by a bust led to defaults, the implosion of mortgages and mortgage-related securities at financial institutions, and resulting financial turmoil.

Monetary excesses were the main cause of the boom. The Fed held its target interest rate, especially in 2003-2005, well below known monetary guidelines that say what good policy should be based on historical experience. Keeping interest rates on the track that worked well in the past two decades, rather than keeping rates so low, would have prevented the boom and the bust. Researchers at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development have provided corroborating evidence from other countries: The greater the degree of monetary excess in a country, the larger was the housing boom.

The effects of the boom and bust were amplified by several complicating factors including the use of subprime and adjustable-rate mortgages, which led to excessive risk taking. There is also evidence the excessive risk taking was encouraged by the excessively low interest rates. Delinquency rates and foreclosure rates are inversely related to housing price inflation. These rates declined rapidly during the years housing prices rose rapidly, likely throwing mortgage underwriting programs off track and misleading many people.

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Adjustable-rate, subprime and other mortgages were packed into mortgage-backed securities of great complexity. Rating agencies underestimated the risk of these securities, either because of a lack of competition, poor accountability, or most likely the inherent difficulty in assessing risk due to the complexity.

Other government actions were at play: The government-sponsored enterprises Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were encouraged to expand and buy mortgage-backed securities, including those formed with the risky subprime mortgages.

Government action also helped prolong the crisis. Consider that the financial crisis became acute on Aug. 9 and 10, 2007, when money-market interest rates rose dramatically. Interest rate spreads, such as the difference between three-month and overnight interbank loans, jumped to unprecedented levels.

Diagnosing the reason for this sudden increase was essential for determining what type of policy response was appropriate. If liquidity was the problem, then providing more liquidity by making borrowing easier at the Federal Reserve discount window, or opening new windows or facilities, would be appropriate. But if counterparty risk was behind the sudden rise in money-market interest rates, then a direct focus on the quality and transparency of the bank's balance sheets would be appropriate.

Early on, policy makers misdiagnosed the crisis as one of liquidity, and prescribed the wrong treatment.

To provide more liquidity, the Fed created the Term Auction Facility (TAF) in December 2007. Its main aim was to reduce interest rate spreads in the money markets and increase the flow of credit. But the TAF did not seem to make much difference. If the reason for the spread was counterparty risk as distinct from liquidity, this is not surprising.

Another early policy response was the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008, passed in February. The major part of this package was to send cash totaling over $100 billion to individuals and families so they would have more to spend and thus jump-start consumption and the economy. But people spent little if anything of the temporary rebate (as predicted by Milton Friedman's permanent income theory, which holds that temporary as distinct from permanent increases in income do not lead to significant increases in consumption). Consumption was not jump-started.

A third policy response was the very sharp reduction in the target federal-funds rate to 2% in April 2008 from 5.25% in August 2007. This was sharper than monetary guidelines such as my own Taylor Rule would prescribe. The most noticeable effect of this rate cut was a sharp depreciation of the dollar and a large increase in oil prices. After the start of the crisis, oil prices doubled to over $140 in July 2008, before plummeting back down as expectations of world economic growth declined. But by then the damage of the high oil prices had been done.

After a year of such mistaken prescriptions, the crisis suddenly worsened in September and October 2008. We experienced a serious credit crunch, seriously weakening an economy already suffering from the lingering impact of the oil price hike and housing bust.

Many have argued that the reason for this bad turn was the government's decision not to prevent the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers over the weekend of Sept. 13 and 14. A study of this event suggests that the answer is more complicated and lay elsewhere.

While interest rate spreads increased slightly on Monday, Sept. 15, they stayed in the range observed during the previous year, and remained in that range through the rest of the week. On Friday, Sept. 19, the Treasury announced a rescue package, though not its size or the details. Over the weekend the package was put together, and on Tuesday, Sept. 23, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson testified before the Senate Banking Committee. They introduced the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), saying that it would be $700 billion in size. A short draft of legislation was provided, with no mention of oversight and few restrictions on the use of the funds.

The two men were questioned intensely and the reaction was quite negative, judging by the large volume of critical mail received by many members of Congress. It was following this testimony that one really begins to see the crisis deepening and interest rate spreads widening.

The realization by the public that the government's intervention plan had not been fully thought through, and the official story that the economy was tanking, likely led to the panic seen in the next few weeks. And this was likely amplified by the ad hoc decisions to support some financial institutions and not others and unclear, seemingly fear-based explanations of programs to address the crisis. What was the rationale for intervening with Bear Stearns, then not with Lehman, and then again with AIG? What would guide the operations of the TARP?

It did not have to be this way. To prevent misguided actions in the future, it is urgent that we return to sound principles of monetary policy, basing government interventions on clearly stated diagnoses and predictable frameworks for government actions.

Massive responses with little explanation will probably make things worse. That is the lesson from this crisis so far.

Mr. Taylor, a professor of economics at Stanford and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, is the author of "Getting Off Track: How Government Actions and Interventions Caused, Prolonged and Worsened the Financial Crisis," published later this month by Hoover Press.

30769  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Low Oil prices weaken Iran on: February 08, 2009, 09:20:11 PM
Last week Iran put its own telecommunications satellite into orbit. U.S. officials in the White House, the State Department and the Pentagon were certainly right to warn that this shows that the mullahs have now mastered the technology needed to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles. But the terror masters in Tehran believe the satellite has an even greater significance -- another step toward the return of the Shiite messiah, or Mahdi, the long-vanished 12th Imam.

APMany Iranian leaders believe that the 12th Imam will return in the Last Days, which will be marked by global chaos and conflict, at the end of which Muslim believers will have conquered the infidels and the mullahs will rule the world. According to medieval Shiite texts, a message announcing the Mahdi's return will be carried to the four corners of the world so that none will be able to say he did not know that the Last Days were soon to arrive.

Eerily, the rocket that carried the telecommunications satellite into space was named "Safir" (message) and the satellite itself "Omid" (hope). In short order we can expect to hear Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announcing the imminent return of the Mahdi. He has already described the launch as a "holy event." These believers see the launch of Omid as the fulfillment of the Mahdi prophecy.

They see other portents as well. The ancient Shiite texts forecast that the seas will turn blood red just prior to the return of the Mahdi, and lo and behold some Iranian newspapers are reporting a rapid growth of red seaweed in the Persian Gulf. To this, the believers add the economic convulsion of the West, the defeat of the hated neocons in the recent U.S. elections, the failure of the West to stop the Iranian nuclear program, and what they insist was the heroic victory of Hamas in Gaza. The mullahs are desperately trying to convince their restive citizens, and perhaps even themselves, that they are going to be saved by the ultimate miracle.

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Any serious person looking at Iran today, however, would be more likely to conclude that their doom, not their triumph, is right around the corner. No country has been hit harder by the global economic crisis. Nearly 90% of Iran's national revenues come from oil, which has crashed to $40 a barrel from $140. Suddenly the mullahs are short of cash. And while the mullahs boast of a glorious victory in Gaza, most everyone in the Middle East knows that their proxy, Hamas, was badly battered, and that neither Iran nor its favorite terrorists in Hezbollah risked any of their own to challenge the Israeli Defense Forces.

Moreover, Iran's considerable support for al Qaeda in Iraq was doubly defeated, first on the battlefield and last week at the ballot box. The Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq was also a blow, as Tehran's mullahs, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had gone all-out to block it.

Even the magical auguries are less than advertised: The satellite launch was carried out by 50-year-old technology, similar to that of the Soviets at the time of Sputnik, and the red seaweed has been around for a very long time and noted by scientists for decades. The Iranian people are unlikely to believe that this regime will lead a victorious global jihad when they are enduring economic misery and enhanced repression. Executions are running at a record rate. The mullahs are so insecure that they have cracked down on Iran's most famous woman, the Nobel Prize-winning human-rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi.

The mullahs know their own people hate them, and the combination of economic failure and the defeat of their proxy forces increases their peril. The appeal to miracles is a sign of desperation, suggesting that this is a particularly good time for the U.S. finally to begin to support the Iranians against their oppressors.

The Obama administration wants to talk to the Iranians, and some reports suggest they have been talking for months. American negotiators should take every opportunity to call for respect for human rights -- on behalf of the labor leaders demanding that salaries be paid, women demanding equal rights, students asserting their freedom to criticize, and even dissident ayatollahs, such as Montazeri and Boroujedi, who have branded the regime as heretical. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would seem an ideal champion for these victims.

Above all, the U.S. must not make the mistake of limiting demands to the nuclear program. A free Iran must be the objective. There is abundant evidence that the overwhelming majority of Iranians want to be part of the Western world and live in peace with their neighbors. If Iran were free and democratic, we would not lose sleep over uranium enrichment at Natanz. We must be the people's voice. We can offer more hope than Mr. Ahmadinejad's broadcasts from outer space.

Mr. Ledeen is a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. His new book, "Accomplice to Evil: Iran and the War Against the West" will be published later this year by St. Martin's Press.
30770  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 08, 2009, 09:17:10 PM

This thread has become quite a catch-all thread and I'd like to suggest that it become more of a repository of snide commentary  cheesy and that efforts at serious discussion take place on specific issue oriented threads. 

For example, I just posted a WSJ piece on His Glibness's apparent preparations to appease Russia by sacrificing missile defense of Europe from Iran in the Big Picture WW3 thread.

Like it or not, His Glibness is the president and we need to articulate what we want FOR America, what we think America should do.
30771  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Obama's missile test on: February 08, 2009, 09:12:38 PM
Iran's launch last week of a satellite using a homegrown rocket is another reminder of why Europe needs a missile defense -- and needs to start building it now. Combine Iran's improving missile technology with its nuclear aspirations, and it's a lethal mix. This is especially timely given the debate inside the Obama Administration over whether to walk away from the U.S. promise to provide a defense shield for our European allies.

APIran now joins eight countries with indigenous space-launch capability -- an advance that, on the military side, translates into a step forward for its ballistic-missile technology. The threat isn't immediate, as the satellite was small and lightweight compared to a nuclear warhead, but neither is Europe's missile defense set to be deployed immediately. The reason to start early is precisely to be prepared, and not to have to scramble, if Iran develops its capability faster and the mullahs aren't as benign as some think.

That's why the Bush Administration pushed forward with a Europe-wide missile defense system to be based in Poland and the Czech Republic and built over the next six years. It's also why every NATO country has endorsed the U.S.-led effort. They have done so twice -- first among heads of state in Bucharest in April and again at a meeting of foreign ministers after the U.S. election. NATO also plans to pursue its own missile defenses in conjunction with the Polish and Czech sites.

The question now is whether the Obama Administration will stand by its predecessor's promise or, as is widely anticipated, suspend the European program. On the campaign trail, Barack Obama suggested missile defense was either ineffective or too expensive, or both. His nominee for the third-ranking position at the Pentagon, Michele Flournoy, has indicated that the deployment plans for Europe will be reviewed. In a speech over the weekend at the annual Munich security conference, Vice President Joseph Biden was ambiguous: "We will continue to develop missile defenses to counter a growing Iranian capability, provided the technology is proven to work and cost effective."

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Suspending the program would have serious consequences. It would send a signal of American weakness to Iran, which the Obama Administration says it wishes to engage. If the mullahs watch the U.S. back down on confronting its missile threat, who could blame them for assuming it will also back down over its nuclear aspirations?

A suspension would also send a message of American irresolution to Russia, which opposes deploying the antimissile system in countries it considers part of its sphere of influence. This kind of Cold War thinking was on display again last week with the news that Moscow had bribed Kyrygyzstan to close a key U.S. air base for supplying Afghanistan. Backing down on missile defense would only encourage more such Russian behavior.

The U.S.-led missile defense program for Europe is aimed at the Iranian threat, and in no way diminishes Russia's own nuclear deterrent. Moscow knows this, yet it nonetheless threatens to deploy missiles in the Kalingrad enclave between NATO members Poland and Lithuania if the U.S. goes through with the defense system. Moscow has spurned U.S. invitations to participate in the program.

Hillary Clinton's State Department may hope to get more Russian cooperation against Iran in return for disavowing its commitment to Europe. But that's not worth the message it sends about the U.S. willingness to cave in the face of Russian intimidation. Russia may be prepared to cooperate on a modest scale on Iran -- but only if the U.S. forgoes the defense of Europe. That's no bargain.

The biggest fallout of a suspension would be among America's allies in Europe. Poland and the Czech Republic agreed at some political risk to host missile interceptors and a radar. If the U.S. reneges now, these newly free countries will have reason to doubt that they can trust any U.S. security commitments. Other NATO nations are also watching to see if the U.S. will remain a reliable partner against Russia.

Now that he has the responsibility of governing, Mr. Obama may reach a better understanding of the recent technological progress on a defensive shield. Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been a firm supporter of a missile defense for Europe. National Security Adviser Jim Jones, a former NATO commander, knows how important the antimissile system is to the alliance.

The new Administration will also have to make a decision about whether to proceed with the planned expansion of the missile defense site at Fort Greely, Alaska, where 10 interceptors are stationed. Last week's news that North Korea may be planning another test of its long-range Taepodong-2 missile ought to make that an easy call.

Friend and foe alike are trying to take the measure of Mr. Obama, and to test him. Mr. Obama made the nurturing of U.S. alliances a major campaign theme, and, along with trade, the missile defense pact with Europe is the first test of whether he meant it.
30772  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Germany grapples with "integration" on: February 08, 2009, 09:04:53 PM

Germany Grapples with Integration
Uncertain Expectations

Georg Paul Hefty, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (conservative), Frankfurt, Germany, Jan. 22, 2002

"Nobody is Illegal" Police in riot gear stand guard during a protest in support of asylum seekers at a Frankfurt pre-deportation detention center (Photo: AFP). 
No politician ever speaks about immigration without using the word “integration,” but no one will say what integration really is. In the famous outline document, which Otto Schily created in order to establish himself as a thorough minister of the interior, the problem of integration—including both laws and explanations—accounts for just five of the 252 pages.

And this section is highly bureaucratic: Which courses will be offered, who must attend them, and what will happen to those who refuse the offer? What about people who merely sit there during the German lessons? And will the “knowledge” provided about the German legal system lead immigrants to accept, exploit, or reject the German way of life?

These questions do not interest Schily—those who complete the course are, ipso facto, “integrated” and can count on the right to remain here and, eventually, to gain citizenship.

To the extent that government officials at the state and federal level have argued about integration, the disputes have been about who will pay for the courses, meaning paying for the German teachers, the foreign interpreters, the classrooms—and not about the meaning of integration. Even the prime minister of Bavaria [and candidate for chancellor in Germany’s general elections to be held this fall—WPR], Edmund Stoiber, admitted in the Bundesrat a month ago, “We have, if we are honest about it, no rigorous conception of it so far.”

Two developments occurred between Schily’s outline and Stoiber’s confession: the formulation, on May 10, 2001, of the Christian Socialist Union’s (CSU) position paper on immigration, and then Sept. 11. The [conservative] Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the [conservative] CSU, did not merely sketch out the supply side of integration; they also summarized what should be demanded: “Integration means more than being able to speak German and recognize our legal system. It also includes...acceptance of the norms and customs that the native population feels obliged to obey. This means accepting the system of values of our Western, Christian culture, which has been influenced by Christianity, ancient philosophy, humanism, Roman law, and the Enlightenment.”

Sept. 11 made it clear that these demands are not enough. German authorities must recognize that foreigners will pretend to be “integrated” while fighting with all their strength, if necessary even sacrificing their lives, to harm the society absorbing them. The phenomenon of “sleepers” is small, but it eliminates any certainty in assessing whole strata of immigrants.

No laws and no government agencies can prevent, in advance and over the long run, crimes and criminals of the Al-Qaeda variety unless the potential perpetrators themselves refrain from acting. Nor can integration policies have, for example, the goal of absolutely eliminating conflicts among foreigners themselves, or between foreigners and Germans. What the policies must seek is to see that such conflicts are settled according to the rules accepted in Central European civilization and that they do not result in bloodshed any more often than is typical for conflicts among Germans. Nor is it principally an act of integration that German government agencies and private groups are demanding to increase the esteem in which girls and women of families of Muslim or other cultures (such as Asian or African) are held.

Humanitarian organizations and the government pursue this goal, together with respect for the rights of women—not just for immigrants but in their homelands, too.

When Manfred Stolpe, the prime minister of Brandenburg, presented his wish list of changes to Schily’s document, under pressure from his coalition partner, Interior Minister [of Brandenburg] Jörg Schönbohm (CDU), there was no mention of integration. For him, as well as Schönbohm, what is important are legal prescriptions, not their effects.

The Bavarian Greens demanded that the German people work for integration, including official and labor-law recognition of Islamic holidays, the creation of quotas for people of various “immigrant backgrounds” in civil service jobs, regular broadcasts by Radio Bavaria in Arabic, and interreligious education in schools that would present all religions on an equal basis.

Now the CSU faction in the state legislature has weighed in with a paper titled “Dialogue with Islam,” attempting to stake out part of the territory on integration policies. This document affirms the necessity of a “constructive dialogue with our Muslim fellow citizens.” But it stresses, “Our leading culture [is] the only basis on which a dialogue on cultural and social-policy issues with our Muslim fellow citizens may be conducted.”

The West may not have any right to assume that the standards of its civilization are accepted in other cultural circles; “however, we must expect that members of other cultural traditions living in Germany will respect the laws and values in effect here.” The paper brings up the issue of the fundamental compatibility of the Quran with the German constitution.

Spokesmen for the Caliphate [an Islamist organization suspected of ties with Osama bin Laden], which was declared illegal in Cologne a few months ago, rejected such compatibility. Now the CSU faction in the legislature brings up the same issue: “The equality of men and women and priority of our laws over the provisions of Sharia are absolute.” What such a declaration could mean in everyday life—given the Supreme Court’s [Jan. 16, 2002] decision on ritual slaughter—does not take much imagination to see. [The court’s decision permits ritual slaughter of animals according to Muslim law, i.e., without anesthetics. The same provision had already been in effect for years for Jewish ritual slaughter. Ritual slaughter had come under fire in Germany because it was seen as cruelty toward animals.—WPR]

Germany’s legal system provides many avenues for going to court to get laws redefined. The CSU seeks to head that off. “Any divided loyalties, which would put ethnic or religious ties above loyalty to the constitution, are unacceptable to us.”

Obviously, the chairman of Bavaria’s CSU, Alois Glück, and his team had only a part of the foreign population in mind in this statement on integration policy: They were considering only the Islamic aspects. It is true, of course, that the 3.2 million Muslims represent the largest formally identified segment of the 7.3 million foreigners in Germany.

But the question of how the foreigners now living here, and those who will arrive in the future, ought to be integrated must be answered, as well as what being integrated actually means. Both questions must be answered for all those people who, unlike the 1.9 million citizens of the European Union living in Germany, do not enjoy complete freedom of movement. 
30773  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Political Economics on: February 08, 2009, 08:26:59 PM
I am getting only random snippets of news while on the road.  What happened to the Republican resistance?
30774  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Germany undercuts pressure on Iran on: February 07, 2009, 09:33:22 PM

While the U.S. has ratcheted up its efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms, the Islamic Republic is reaping a windfall from European companies. These firms' deals aid a regime that is bent on developing nuclear weapons and which financially supports the terror organizations Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Austrian oil giant OMV is itching to implement a €22 billion agreement signed in April 2007 to produce liquefied natural gas from Iran's South Pars gas field; at last May's annual shareholder meeting, Chief Executive Officer Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer said OMV was only waiting for "political change in the U.S.A." Raiffeisen Zentralbank, Austria's third-largest bank, is active in Iran and, according to a story by the Journal's Glenn Simpson last February, has absorbed the transactions of key European banks that shut down their operations in Iran. And in late January Paolo Scaroni, CEO of Italian energy corporation Eni SpA, told the Associated Press that his firm will continue to fulfill its contractual obligations in Iran and feels no external pressure to sever ties with Iran's energy sector.

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Yet because of the sheer volume of its trade with Iran, Germany, the economic engine of Europe, is uniquely positioned to pressure Tehran. Still, the obvious danger of a nuclear-armed Iran has not stopped Germany from rewarding the country with a roughly €4 billion trade relationship in 2008, thereby remaining Iran's most important European trade partner. In the period of January to November 2008, German exports to Iran grew by 10.5% over the same period in 2007. That booming trade last year included 39 "dual-use" contracts with Iran, according to Germany's export-control office. Dual-use equipment and technology can be used for both military and civilian purposes.

One example of Germany's dysfunctional Iran policy is the energy and engineering giant Siemens. The company acknowledged last week at its annual stockholder meeting in Munich, which I attended, that it conducted €438 million in trade with Iran in 2008, and that its 290 Iran-based employees will remain active in the gas, oil, infrastructure and communications sectors.

Concerned stockholders and representatives from the political organization Stop the Bomb, a broad-based coalition in Germany and Austria seeking to prevent Iran from building a nuclear-weapons program, peppered Siemens CEO Peter Löscher with questions about the corporation's dealings with the Iranian regime. A Stop the Bomb spokesman questioned Siemens's willingness to conduct business with a country known for its human- and labor-rights violations, ranging from the violent oppression of women to the murder of gays to the repression of religious and ethnic minority groups. The spokesman referred to Siemens's Nazi-era history as an employer of forced labor from the Auschwitz extermination camp and asked how, in light of the corporation's Nazi history, the company could support an "anti-Semitic and terrorist regime" that threatens to wipe Israel off the map.

Mr. Löscher replied to the 9,500 stockholders in Olympic Hall that, "For Siemens, compliance and ethics have the highest priority, including where human-rights issues are involved." Yet, after further questions from the Stop the Bomb spokesman, he acknowledged that Siemens and its joint partner, Nokia, had delivered state-of-the-art communications surveillance technology to Iran last spring.

Information-technology experts say that the companies' "monitoring centers" are used to track mobile and land-line telephone conversations, and that their "intelligence platform" systems allow the Iranian secret service to track financial transactions and airplane movements. The technologies could also be used to monitor persecuted minority and dissident groups in Iran.

Siemens, the largest German trade partner of Iran, represents a window onto an opulent economic partnership between the two countries. German firms such as Mercedes-Benz, whose Web site lists an Iranian general distributor, and insurance giant Munich Re have also remained indifferent to the growing calls to isolate Iran economically. Yesterday, a Munich Re spokesman confirmed to me that the company insures goods in transit to Iran. This was the first such public disclosure by the firm.

And the deals just keep on coming. The Hannoversche Allgemeine newspaper, for example, reported in late January that the German engineering firm Aerzen secured a contract totaling €21 million to supply process gas blowers and screw-type compressors to a steel factory in Esfahan, Iran.

All of this is taking place while Iran is moving at an astonishing pace to process high-grade uranium for its atomic bomb. Iran's launch of its first domestically produced satellite on Tuesday prompted an alarmed French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier to underscore the link between Iran's military nuclear capability and its compatibility with the satellite technology.

Trade and security experts assert that Iran cannot easily replace high-tech German engineering technology with that from competitor nations such as China and Russia. The hollow pleas by Chancellor Angela Merkel, who favors a policy of moral pressure to convince corporations to be "sensitive" about cutting new deals with the regime in Tehran, did not prevent her administration from approving over 2,800 commercial deals with Iran in 2008.

Transparency is badly needed in this area. The German Federal Office of Economics and Export Control (BAFA) refuses to disclose the nature of these agreements. Economics Minister Michael Glos, who oversees BAFA and is considered an advocate of trade with Iran, should reveal the names of the firms commencing trade with a country that sponsors terror organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. The German firms are hiding behind a wall of nondisclosure to avoid being blacklisted on the U.S market.

The Merkel administration heavily subsidizes investments in Iran by providing German firms with €250 million in credit guarantees. A day before the International Holocaust Remembrance Day on Jan. 27, the German business daily Handelsblatt reported that Berlin intended to discontinue all credit guarantees supporting trade with Iran. After the report was picked up by the major media, Mrs. Merkel's spokesman quietly denied that the government had canceled the credit guarantees. This suggests that Berlin cynically leaked the story to Handelsblatt to polish its international image and repair strained relations with Israel, a country whose security Chancellor Merkel has deemed "nonnegotiable" for Germany.

There are other signs that Germany's political elites consider Iran just another trading partner. Former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is scheduled to visit Iran in late February, just after 10 days of celebrations in the country honoring Ayatollah Khomeini and the radical Islamic state he ushered in 30 years ago. Mr. Schröder, who plans to attend the dedication of a foundation for supporting scientific research and has opposed the imposition of sanctions on the Iranian regime, surely will not use the opportunity to criticize Germany's booming trade relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In short, while Berlin claims it wants to discourage Iran from building a nuclear bomb, it has so far done little to actually stop the bomb. German legislation prohibiting trade with Iran, coupled with an immediate cessation of credit guarantees, would decisively setback, if not stop, Iran's nuclear weapons program and set an invaluable example for other EU countries to adapt for their own companies.

Mr. Weinthal is the Jerusalem Post's correspondent in Berlin.

30775  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 07, 2009, 09:12:09 PM
A wise call! cheesy  Forward everyone please!
30776  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 07, 2009, 09:11:08 PM
OK, it looks like this has become the defacto thread for discussing our strategy for Afg/afg-Pak.  cheesy

That was a very interesting piece GM. 

What do you make of the fact the Michael Yon is one of those who doubt what can be done?  No one can criticize his patriotism, his personal courage, his integrity, nor his prescience on the Surge in Iraq.  This is a man who carries great weight with me.  He is there on the ground with personal character and experience of a level possessed by very, very few other reporters informing his perspective.  Beholden only to we his backers, he speaks the Truth as best he sees it.
30777  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 07, 2009, 05:58:59 PM
Well, looks like we're experiencing a bit of thread drift here (how rare cheesy)  The question about Iran was/is/should be in the context of Afg, and now we are looking at Iran in general.    I like your overall view, but in the context of the question presented here (getting Iranian cooperation with out efforts in Iran, it seems to suggest that this is not possible.  Yes?
30778  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Taranto: The problem with military commissions on: February 07, 2009, 06:59:44 AM
The Obama administration must have been unhappy last night with ABC News, which sent out a pair of "Breaking News" emails: "Obama Likely to Order Charges Dropped Against Alleged U.S.S. Cole Bombing Mastermind," said the first. The second announced that the charges had, in fact, been dropped. The effect was to create an impression that the administration had gone even softer on terror than anyone had feared it would.

In fact, the dismissal of charges against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was an insignificant development, as detailed in this Associated Press story. Charges against all other Guantanamo detainees, including 9/11 planner Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, had already been dismissed pursuant to President Obama's executive order halting the military-commission process pending review. The presiding judge in the al-Nashiri trial had effectively defied the order by scheduling an arraignment for today. His superior overruled him, and properly so. Whatever the merits of Obama's policies, he is the commander in chief, and military officers have a duty to follow his orders.

Al-Nashiri and the other defendants are not about to be turned loose. The cases against them were dismissed without prejudice, which means new charges can be brought against them. And they are still enemy combatants. Obama has declared his intention to remove them from Guantanamo by January, but he has not pledged to free them. Releasing these terrorists would endanger American security. Delaying their trial, or refraining from putting them on trial at all, would not.

James Taranto on detainee policy.
This points to perhaps the biggest error the Bush administration made in its detention policy: placing a heavy emphasis on war-crimes trials--"bringing terrorists to justice"--as opposed to detention for the purpose of keeping them off the battlefield. The administration thereby invited comparisons with the civilian criminal-justice system, with its solicitous attitude toward the rights of the accused. The Bush administration's law-enforcement mindset probably hindered national security, and almost certainly would have done so eventually without a change in policy.

Many Guantanamo detainees are dangerous but cannot be prosecuted, even in a military commission, because of a lack of evidence that they have committed specific crimes. Had the commission trials proceeded on schedule--and we have the Supreme Court to thank for delaying them this long--at some point the Bush administration would have faced a political problem in that it would have had to explain why the worst of the worst were getting trials while the merely worse of the worst were being held forever without charges.

As far as we know, top Bush officials were oblivious to this problem. We made the point to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales at a Wall Street Journal editorial board meeting in September 2006, and he showed no sign of comprehension. President Bush's public comments around the same time, in which he said he wanted to close Guantanamo after the military commissions had done their work, suggest he also did not understand it.

There is reason to think that the Bush administration was already succumbing to pressure to release detainees who could not be tried criminally, even if they still posed a danger. By the Pentagon's estimate, some 60 former Guantanamo detainees have returned to the battlefield. This number has prompted some skepticism, but no one denies that some detainees have resumed combat.

If the Obama administration follows its ideological inclinations, it will compound Bush's errors, releasing even more dangerous but unprosecutable terrorists, and perhaps moving trials to civilian courts, which could compromise national security by forcing the release of classified material and the freeing of terrorists who managed to get acquitted or to have convictions overturned on appeal.

But the new administration has not actually instituted any such policies; it has merely undertaken a review. It is possible that those conducting the review will figure all this out, and that they will find a way of reorienting detention policies to make security, rather than justice, the central priority.
30779  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 07, 2009, 06:33:29 AM
OK, then how does that work in the context of our relationship with Iran? 
30780  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 07, 2009, 06:30:46 AM
Coming off of being sick, I am particularly grateful for a good night's sleep.
30781  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Secrecy vs. Knowledge wants to be free on: February 07, 2009, 06:28:48 AM
Something that deeply concerns me is that good offensive knife training calls to the darkness.  It needs to be installed in conjunction with good rules of engagement.  If it is done simply as "when he does this, you do this" then you run the risk of an Umali affair (use search function for "Umali")
30782  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor on the elections on: February 06, 2009, 09:02:01 PM
Preliminary results from Iraq’s Jan. 31 provincial elections show that the coalition of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gained significantly against the more pro-Iranian Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, and that the Sunnis, while divided among themselves, appear likely to erode significantly the political advantages previously held by the Kurds. The biggest winner is al-Maliki, who now has an opportunity to consolidate his own political base independent of Shiite Islamists.

Related Special Topic Page
Iraq, Iran and the Shia
Iraq’s election commission reported preliminary results from the country’s Jan. 31 provincial elections Feb. 5.

According to the results, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Coalition for the State of Law has emerged as the largest political bloc in Baghdad and in Shiite southern Iraq. In Sunni areas, turnout was very strong compared to the 2005 election, which the Sunnis boycotted; this time, the Sunni vote appears to have been split between the incumbent Iraqi Islamic Party and the new political movement of the Awakening Councils. While the three principal Kurdish provinces will be holding their own election later in the year, the Kurds who controlled the province of Ninawa suffered a rout as a result of the mass Sunni participation.

Perhaps the biggest winner in the elections is al-Maliki, who appears to have shed his political dependence on Islamist allies, and in fact has emerged as a strong competitor to the largest incumbent party in the Shiite south, Abdel-Aziz al-Hakim’s Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI). He will continue to need allies in order to govern, but the elections place him on a firm political footing from which to deal with both Iran and the United States.

The ISCI, Iran’s closest ally in Iraq, took a beating at the polls, coming second and (in a few provinces) third. This was largely due to its failure to govern effectively, its strong identification with Tehran, its emphasis on Islamism and Shiite sectarianism, and its push for the creation of a Shiite zone in the south. Despite its setbacks, however, the ISCI still has the most well-oiled political machine in the Shiite provinces.

But despite its victory over the ISCI, al-Maliki’s electoral alliance won just 38 percent of the vote in Baghdad and 37 percent in the oil-rich region of Basra, and had smaller majorities in the other eight Shiite provinces. This means al-Maliki will continue to be dependent upon coalitions to govern, and consequently will have a hard time establishing his own core group at the grass-roots level — which, however, he will need to consolidate his gains. Al-Maliki performed as well as he did in the polls because of his position as head of government, his ability to take advantage of the opposition to the regionalist forces, and his skill in forging alliances — particularly with former Sunni insurgents belonging to the Awakening Councils.

Al-Maliki will be able to deal more effectively Iraq’s other sectarian groups, the Sunnis and the Kurds. For the Sunnis, the elections delivered a split mandate. The resulting internal struggle will afford the prime minister some leverage to contain them — but only so long as the factions bicker without resorting to violence. If clashes erupt, however, he will have a security situation on his hands. (The Awakening Councils already are threatening to use force after claims of foul play.) Meanwhile, al-Maliki will benefit from the electoral losses of the Kurds. He is working to check regionalism and impose a strong central order through the creation of alliances that cut across ethnicity, sect, and ideology.

Despite his own gains and the weakened position of his rivals, however, al-Maliki faces numerous hurdles ahead — including national-level elections, the Kurdish provincial elections and the settlement of the controversy over the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Further, al-Maliki is seeking greater centralization of power, but he will need to find the appropriate center-region balance. The new provincial councils have fewer seats than the outgoing councils that came into existence after the last round of elections in 2005, but they will have greater authority. In particular, they will have the power to appoint and remove governors, approve local security arrangements, influence development projects and ratify provincial budgets (which will now be prepared by the governor as opposed to the central government).

Despite these challenges, however, Al-Maliki has reached a point where he has a viable domestic political base and can position himself well between both the United States and Iran. The electoral losses of the ISCI, Tehran’s closest Iraqi ally, will limit Iran’s ability to exert influence in Iraq. This in turn creates more favorable conditions for Washington’s efforts to extricate U.S. military forces from the country and to deal with other emerging issue such as a resurgent Russia and the deteriorating circumstances in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theater.

The Jan. 31 elections, while not a national vote, will go a long way toward shaping the nascent political structure of post-Baathist Iraq. The vote has brought the Sunnis back into the political system; it has strengthened Iraqi nationalist elements at the expense of ethno-sectarian elements; and it has weakened Iran’s influence via the ISCI. The system continues to be a work in progress, however, and it remains to be seen how the Kurdish and Kirkuk votes, not to mention the upcoming national elections, will transform it further.
30783  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 06, 2009, 08:29:49 PM
I'm guessing you found that Indian piece I sent you persuasive?  cheesy

If I understand correctly this approach is willing to accept/embrace a collapse of the Pak state.    In such an event, what happens to Pak's nukes?  In such an event, what about Baluchistan and the other Whackostan's?  Do they become yet more areas for the AQ types to train and launch attacks?  Or in the current situation are there already a surplus of areas from which they can do that so it doesn't matter?

Also, I gather Iran's Shia nuts are not enthused about the Sunni nuts in Afg-Pak.  Its why they helped us in 2001-2002 and were surprised to be branded part of the axis of evil.  Is there some use we can make of this?

This just in from Stratfor

February 6, 2009 | 0300 GMT
A global security conference opens in Munich on Friday. In attendance will be key military and diplomatic personnel from every country in the world that has significant geopolitical weight (and quite a few more that do not).

In terms of opportunities for leaders to meet and speak candidly to one another, there are no serious venues that compare in size and scope to the Munich Conference. NATO summits, for instance, bring together the allies, but relegate would-be members and Russia to the back rows — and there is not an Asian in sight. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum tosses all of the Pacific Rim leaders into one room, but doesn’t involve the Europeans. The Middle East really has only the Arab League, and often that doesn’t even attract all the Arab leadership.

For the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, the Munich Conference means one thing: crunch time. Since taking office on Jan. 20, the Obama team has conveyed the feeling that it is still in transition. This is not intended as a criticism, but simply a statement of fact: Thus far, the world really does not have a feel for what the administration’s foreign policy will look like. At Munich, however, the administration will have no choice but to start making hard choices and taking stances. Effective Friday, the transition is over.

Interestingly, the U.S. secretaries of defense and state will not be in attendance in Munich. Instead, Vice President Joseph Biden will represent the United States — raising the possibility that he might have the kind of influence in the Obama administration that his predecessor, Dick Cheney, had in the Bush administration.

Biden will have a full plate. The French are planning to formally re-enter NATO, the Germans are looking for more responsibility for European security policy, the American effort in Afghanistan could use more international help, and there is always the chance of running into the Iranians and having an impromptu meeting about the future of Iraq.

But the man that Biden will not be able to avoid will be Sergei Ivanov, the Russian deputy prime minister and one of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s most reliable allies.

The Obama team has inherited from the Bush and Clinton administrations a policy of broad and deep confrontation with Russia. This began with the rapid expansion of NATO, followed by deep economic and military penetration into Central Asia, and most recently has involved plans for ballistic missile defense (BMD) systems in Central Europe.

The new administration is about to enter this confrontation head-first. Obama has pledged to focus U.S. military power on the war in Afghanistan — but expanding that war without becoming completely captive to Pakistani interests means finding a way to supply Western forces in Afghanistan without transiting Pakistan’s territory. A few supplies might get shipped through Iran, but the bulk will need to come in from the north. That means transiting Central Asia — and Russia is undoubtedly the premier power in that neighborhood. Simply put, Obama’s Afghanistan policy cannot succeed unless the Russians agree to allow supplies through. And Moscow will have a price for that.

Ivanov has spent much of the past few days outlining precisely what that price will entail: limitations on BMD, a halt to NATO expansion, reduced American influence in the Caucasus and Central Asia, and a broad renegotiation of the series of treaties that ended the Cold War — treaties that are terrible for the Russians in 2009. It is a lengthy list of non-trivial issues, and not one that any American representative would be happy to receive, negotiate on or agree to. But that is Biden’s bind.

At base, Ivanov will present Biden and Obama with a choice: appease Russia or lose in Afghanistan.
30784  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Cooties in Training on: February 06, 2009, 08:21:56 PM
I had a nasty bout of cellulitis back in September.  I thought it simply was a nasty shin bruise and it got nasty enough to require some strong antibiotics.  Definitely to be taken seriously.
30785  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: February 06, 2009, 08:50:53 AM
 angry angry angry

I have just written him again.
30786  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Melloan: Stagflation coming on: February 06, 2009, 08:04:35 AM
As Congress blithely ushers its trillion dollar "stimulus" package toward law and the U.S. Treasury prepares to begin writing checks on this vast new appropriation, it might be wise to ask a simple question: Who's going to finance it?

Chad CroweThat might seem like a no-brainer, which perhaps explains why no one has bothered to ask. Treasury securities are selling at high prices and finding buyers even though yields are low, hovering below 3% for 10-year notes. Congress is able to assure itself that it will finance the stimulus with cheap credit. But how long will credit be cheap? Will it still be when the Treasury is scrounging around in the international credit markets six months or a year from now? That seems highly unlikely.

Let's have a look at the credit market. Treasurys have been strong because the stock market collapse and the mortgage-backed securities fiasco sent the whole world running for safety. The best looking port in the storm, as usual, was U.S. Treasury paper. That is what gave the dollar and Treasury securities the lift they now enjoy.

But that surge was a one-time event and doesn't necessarily mean that a big new batch of Treasury securities will find an equally strong market. Most likely it won't as the global economy spirals downward.

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For one thing, a very important cycle has been interrupted by the crash. For years, the U.S. has run large trade deficits with China and Japan and those two countries have invested their surpluses mostly in U.S. Treasury securities. Their holdings are enormous: As of Nov. 30 last year, China held $682 billion in Treasurys, a sharp rise from $459 billion a year earlier. Japan had reduced its holdings, to $577 billion from $590 billion a year earlier, but remains a huge creditor. The two account for almost 65% of total Treasury securities held by foreign owners, 19% of the total U.S. national debt, and over 30% of Treasurys held by the public.

In the lush years of the U.S. credit boom, it was rationalized that this circular arrangement was good for all concerned. Exports fueled China's rapid economic growth and created jobs for its huge work force, American workers could raise their living standards by buying cheap Chinese goods. China's dollar surplus gave the U.S. Treasury a captive pool of investment to finance congressional deficits. It was argued, persuasively, that China and Japan had no choice but to buy U.S. bonds if they wanted to keep their exports to the U.S. flowing. They also would hurt their own interests if they tried to unload Treasurys because that would send the value of their remaining holdings down.

But what if they stopped buying bonds not out of choice but because they were out of money? The virtuous circle so much praised would be broken. Something like that seems to be happening now. As the recession deepens, U.S. consumers are spending less, even on cheap Chinese goods and certainly on Japanese cars and electronic products. Japan, already a smaller market for U.S. debt last November, is now suffering what some have described as "free fall" in industrial production. Its two champions, Toyota and Sony, are faltering badly. China's growth also is slowing, and it is plagued by rising unemployment.

American officials seem not to have noticed this abrupt and dangerous change in global patterns of trade and finance. The new Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, at his Senate confirmation hearing harped on that old Treasury mantra about China "manipulating" its currency to gain trade advantage. Vice President Joe Biden followed up with a further lecture to the Chinese but said the U.S. will not move "unilaterally" to keep out Chinese exports. One would hope not "unilaterally" or any other way if the U.S. hopes to keep flogging its Treasurys to the Chinese.

The Congressional Budget Office is predicting the federal deficit will reach $1.2 trillion this fiscal year. That's more than double the $455 billion deficit posted for fiscal 2008, and some private estimates put the likely outcome even higher. That will drive up interest costs in the federal budget even if Treasury yields stay low. But if a drop in world market demand for Treasurys sends borrowing costs upward, there could be a ballooning of the interest cost line in the budget that will worsen an already frightening outlook. Credit for the rest of the economy will become more dear as well, worsening the recession. Treasury's Wednesday announcement that it will sell a record $67 billion in notes and bonds next week and $493 billion in this quarter weakened Treasury prices, revealing market sensitivity to heavy financing.

So what is the outlook? The stimulus package is rolling through Congress like an express train packed with goodies, so an enormous deficit seems to be a given. Entitlements will go up instead of being brought under better control, auguring big future deficits. Where will the Treasury find all those trillions in a depressed world economy?

There is only one answer. The Obama administration and Congress will call on Ben Bernanke at the Fed to demand that he create more dollars -- lots and lots of them. The Fed already is talking of buying longer-term Treasurys to support the market, so it will be more of the same -- much more.

And what will be the result? Well, the product of this sort of thing is called inflation. The Fed's outpouring of dollar liquidity after the September crash replaced the liquidity lost by the financial sector and has so far caused no significant uptick in consumer prices. But the worry lies in what will happen next.

Even when the economy and the securities markets are sluggish, the Fed's financing of big federal deficits can be inflationary. We learned that in the late 1970s, when the Fed's deficit financing sent the CPI up to an annual rate of almost 15%. That confounded the Keynesian theorists who believed then, as now, that federal spending "stimulus" would restore economic health.

Inflation is the product of the demand for money as well as of the supply. And if the Fed finances federal deficits in a moribund economy, it can create more money than the economy can use. The result is "stagflation," a term coined to describe the 1970s experience. As the global economy slows and Congress relies more on the Fed to finance a huge deficit, there is a very real danger of a return of stagflation. I wonder why no one in Congress or the Obama administration has thought of that as a potential consequence of their stimulus package.

Mr. Melloan is a former deputy editor of the Journal's editorial page.

30787  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: DBMA Kali Tudo (tm): The Running Dog Game on: February 06, 2009, 07:52:11 AM
Are you saying that is what is up on their site now?!?  URL please!!!
30788  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Pandora on: February 06, 2009, 07:49:24 AM
I too listen to Pandora and like it a lot.
30789  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Franklin on: February 06, 2009, 07:48:32 AM
"Strive to be the greatest man in your country, and you may be disappointed. Strive to be the best and you may succeed: he may well win the race that runs by himself."

--Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1746
30790  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Sen. Lieberman: Afg will be a quagmire for AQ on: February 06, 2009, 07:47:07 AM
Although President Barack Obama and all of us in Congress are understandably focused on the economic crisis, we also face multiple crises in the rest of the world -- beginning with the war in Afghanistan. Security there has been deteriorating as the insurgents have grown in strength, size and sophistication, expanding their influence over an increasing swath of territory.

Reversing the downward spiral will not be easy. But as Gen. David Petraeus once said of another war, "Hard is not hopeless." And we possess considerable strengths in this fight.

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The biggest strength is the American military, which through the crucible of Iraq has transformed itself into the most effective counterinsurgency force in history. Although Iraq and Afghanistan are very different, many of the guiding principles of counterinsurgency do apply to both theaters -- most importantly, the need to provide security for the population. Moreover, our troops will be redeploying from Iraq to Afghanistan with the momentum, experience and morale that comes with success.

We also have an ally in the Afghan people -- a proud people with a proud history. Although their frustration with our coalition is growing, Afghans are not eager to return to the tyranny and poverty of the Taliban. That is why the insurgents have not won their support and must resort to self-defeating tactics of cruelty and coercion.

The other critical strength, and reason for hope, is the broad support for success in Afghanistan in the new administration and Congress. Mr. Obama has made clear this is a war he intends to win. He has pledged to deploy more troops and appointed one of our most talented diplomats, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, as special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. The combination of Mr. Holbrooke and Gen. Petraeus led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is not a team to bet against.

That, then, is the good news. The bad news is that, even if we do everything right, conditions are likely to get worse before they get better, and the path ahead will still be long, costly and hard. The president's pledge to send more troops to Afghanistan is absolutely necessary and right -- but turning the tide will take more than additional troops. In fact, we must match the coming surge in troop strength with at least five other "surges" equally important to success.

- First and most importantly, we need a surge in the strategic coherence of the war effort. As we learned in Iraq, success in counterinsurgency requires integrating military and civilian operations into a seamless and unified strategy. In Afghanistan, we do not have in place a nationwide, civil-military campaign plan to defeat the insurgency.

This is an unacceptable failure. It is also the predictable product of a balkanized military command structure, in which different countries are left to pursue different strategies in different places. The international civilian effort in Afghanistan is even more disorganized, as well as unsynchronized with the military.

Unquestionably, it is a good thing so many countries are contributing to the fight in Afghanistan, and we owe a great debt of gratitude to our allies for their sacrifices. But we also owe them success, and that demands an integrated campaign plan and stronger American leadership.

- Second, we need a surge in civilian capacity. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul needs to be transformed and expanded, with the necessary resources and the explicit direction to work side by side with the military at every level. In particular, the civilian presence must be ramped up outside our embassy -- at the provincial, district and village levels, embedding nonmilitary experts with new military units as they move in.

- Third, we need to help surge the Afghan war effort. This means expanding the Afghan army to 200,000 or more, and ensuring they are properly equipped, paid and mentored.

The U.S. needs to take tough action to combat the pervasive corruption that is destroying the Afghan government and fueling the insurgency. This requires a systemic response, not just threatening specific leaders on an ad hoc basis. Specifically, we must invest comprehensively in Afghan institutions, both from top-down and bottom-up.

In doing so, the U.S. should embrace a policy of "more for more" -- specifically, by offering the Afghan government a large-scale, 10-year package of governance and development aid in exchange for specific benchmarks on performance and progress.

- Fourth, we need a surge in our regional strategy. As many have observed, almost all of Afghanistan's neighbors are active in some way inside that country. Some of this activity is positive -- for instance, aid and investment -- but much of it is malign, providing support to insurgent groups. We must help "harden" Afghanistan by strengthening its institutions at both the national and local levels, empowering Afghans to stop their neighbors from using their country as a geopolitical chessboard.

The U.S. can help by beginning to explore the possibility of a bilateral defense pact with Kabul, which would include explicit security guarantees.

Some neighbors are hedging their bets today because they fear what happens "the day after" America grows tired and disengages from the region, as we did once before, after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Nothing will discourage this destabilizing behavior better than a long-term American commitment to Afghanistan.

- Fifth, success in Afghanistan requires a sustained surge of American political commitment to the mission. Fortunately, and unlike Iraq, the Afghan war still commands bipartisan support in Congress and among the American people. But as more troops are deployed to Afghanistan and casualties rise, this consensus will be tested.

Indeed, there are already whispers on both the left and the right that Afghanistan is the graveyard of empires, that we should abandon any hope of nation-building there, additional forces sent there will only get bogged down in a quagmire.

Why are these whisperings wrong? Why is this war necessary?

The most direct answer is that Afghanistan is where the attacks of 9/11 were plotted, where al Qaeda made its sanctuary under the Taliban, and where they will do so again if given the chance. We have a vital national interest in preventing that from happening.

It is also important to recognize that, although we face many problems in Afghanistan today, none are because we have made it possible for five million Afghan children -- girls and boys -- to go to school; or because child mortality has dropped 25% since we overthrew the Taliban in 2001; or because Afghan men and women have been able to vote in their first free and fair elections in history.

On the contrary, the reason we have not lost in Afghanistan -- despite our missteps -- is because America still inspires hope of a better life for millions of ordinary Afghans and has worked mightily to deliver it. And the reason we can defeat the extremists is because they do not.

This, ultimately, is how the war on terror will end: not when we capture or kill Osama bin Laden or Mullah Omar -- though we must do that too -- but when we have empowered and expanded the mainstream Muslim majority to stand up and defeat the extremist minority.

That is the opportunity we have in Afghanistan today: to make that country into a quagmire, not for America but for al Qaeda, the Taliban and their fellow Islamist extremists, and into a graveyard in which their dreams of an Islamist empire are finally buried.

Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. This op-ed is adapted from a speech he delivered last week at the Brookings Institution.

30791  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Demographics on: February 06, 2009, 07:31:26 AM
A brave new dangerous world
Dual demographic trends in the developed and developing worlds point to increased future conflict and instability, Peter A Buxbaum writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Peter Buxbaum in Washington, DC for ISN Security Watch


“The world is entering a demographic transformation of historic and unprecedented dimensions.”

That was the essential message of a recently released monograph from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan Washington think tank. The coming demographic dislocations are beginning to attract the attention of geopolitical and military thinkers and planners.

Geopolitics, much like the local variety, is an intensely human endeavor. So is the expression of geopolitical aspirations in the form of war and armed conflict.

That explains why, when the United States Joint Forces Command (JFCOM) examined trends that will impact the future posture of US military forces, first and foremost on its list was demographics. Around the same time that JFCOM released its Joint Operating Environment report last month, the CSIS, which often contributes thought leadership to the US government, released The Graying of the Great Powers: Demography and Geopolitics in the 21st Century.

“In the future, conflicts will remain human,” Rear Admiral John Richardson, JFCOM’s director of strategy and policy, told ISN Security Watch. “That’s why demographics are important.”

“There is a growing interest in demographics among governments and policymakers,” added Richard Jackson, a senior fellow at CSIS and co-author of its report, in an interview. “The developed world is rapidly approaching a demographic tipping point where the trends are about to turn negative. The window of opportunity to prepare for this challenge is now closing.”

In a nutshell, there are two broad demographic trends facing the world through 2030: a population boom in the developing world and population decline in the developed world.

The world will add 60 million people each year and reach a total of 8 billion by the 2030s, noted the JFCOM report. Ninety-five percent of that increase will occur in developing countries, many of which will experience “youth bulges.” A “youth bulge” is defined as the ratio of youth aged 15 to 24 to the total population aged 15 and over. Political demographers say youth bulges are predictors of civil unrest, revolution and war.

“The developed world confronts the opposite problem,” said the JFCOM report. “During the next 25 years population growth in the developed world will likely slow or in some cases decline.”

Russia’s population is already declining by one-half of one percent annually, with the prospect that the decline will continue. Japan’s population will fall from 128 million to approximately 117 million in the 2030s due to a collapse in the country's birth rate. China’s population will continue to grow over the next quarter century, but its population will age significantly because of the strict enforcement of the government’s family planning policy. The trend in the US differs from much of the rest of the developed world thanks to higher fertility and immigration rates.


In addition to the population explosion in the developing world, there will also be increased migration to cities. Since conflict will occur where people are, from a military standpoint, “it is almost inevitable that forces will find themselves involved in combat or relief operations in cities,” said the JFCOM report.

“These urban settings are not going to be Manhattan,” said Richardson. “They are going to be sprawling structures where instability can easily brew. Growing populations put pressures on such basic resources as water and food. Where you see youth bulges is also where you see resource challenges.” Richardson sees future US forces increasingly being called upon by partner governments for urban crisis management.

Although US forces now have experience in urban warfare, thanks to operations in Iraq, cities are not the favored battlegrounds. “Operations in urban terrain will confront joint force commanders with a number of conundrums,” said the JFCOM report. “The very density of building and population will inhibit the use of kinetic means, given the potential for collateral damage as well as large numbers of civilian casualties.” Such inhibitions could also increase US casualties, the report noted.

Demographic transformation response

Population trends in Russia are an emblematic although exaggerated example of what is occurring in much of the developed world. “Russia will be experiencing a population decline not seen since the plague of the Middle Ages,” said Jackson. “This is a cause for concern because an extreme misalignment of geopolitical aspirations and demographic fundamentals can lead countries to behave unpredictably.”

Will Russia meekly accept the fate of its demographic decline, or will this trend feed extremism and provoke aggression?

“Russia has window of opportunity that is closing soon,” said Joe Purser, director of the JFCOM Futures Group. “It may face a situation in 20 or 30 years when it will be unable to see to its own security.” Purser speculated that one possible Russian reaction will be to “establish a frontier of instability around the old Soviet states in order to maintain influence” in those areas.

Rapid demographic transition in Russia, and also in China, Iran and Pakistan, “could push them toward civil collapse, or toward ‘neo-authoritarianism,’” said the CSIS report.

Youth and violence

These demographic trends will also make it less likely that nations in the developed world will sacrifice their youth in military adventures, according to the CSIS report, while “regions such as the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa, where the youth bulge will reach over 50 percent of the population, will possess fewer inhibitions about engaging in conflict.”

The CSIS report also identified a “correlation between extreme youth and violence.” The likelihood of violence “grows explosive” when the youth bulge exceeds 35 percent, according to JFCOM. The youth bulges in the countries of sub-Saharan Africa, as well in Iraq, Syria, the Palestinian territories, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen and Afghanistan, already exceed that level, the JFCOM report noted.

Contrary to popular opinion, the violence engendered by a youth bulge does not necessary correlate with the failure of the local society to keep up an adequate rate of economic development.

“Some of the East Asian tigers are cases in point,” noted Jackson. “A rapidly transitioning developing world is likely to be a riskier world,” the CSIS report concluded, without regard to rates of economic growth.

“There is a paradox of development,” Jackson explained, “in which rising per capital income can be destabilizing in the short and medium run” even as it promotes stability in the long run. Among the reasons for this phenomenon: massive internal migrations which loosen extended family ties and exacerbate ethnic tensions.

Demographics and development

The United States faces a different scenario than much of the rest of the developed world, by both the JFCOM and CSIS accounts, with its population increasing by 50 million to a total of 355 million by 2030.

“This growth will result not only from births in current American families,” said the JFCOM report, “but also from continued immigration, especially from Mexico and the Caribbean, which will lead to major increases in America’s Hispanic population.”

The US has a current fertility rate of 2.6, 2.0 being the replacement rate, the highest in the developed world, and 1.9 when the Hispanic population is subtracted out, still high for a developed country. “This means that the US will have a growing workforce whereas elsewhere in the developed world it will be stagnating or declining,” said Jackson.

The major implications of these dual population trends is that “the population and GDP of the developed world will steadily shrink as a share of the world’s total,” said the CSIS report. “In tandem, the global influence of the developed world will likely decline.”

On the other hand, “The population and GDP of the United States will steadily expand as a share of the developed world’s total. The influence of the United States in the developed world will likely rise.”

This means the US must be prepare for an even larger role than it now has in maintaining global security, said CSIS, and that “leaders in the United States, Europe, and Japan need to acknowledge and prepare for this reality, while seeking ways to strengthen multilateralism.”

The CSIS monograph recommends enhanced investments from the developed world in development assistance and soft power in order to prevent the stresses in the developing world from rapid demographic, economic and social change from erupting into security threats. The developed world must also be perceived as the champions of the young and the aspiring. “If they are unwilling to commit substantial resources to helping young nations, the global appeal of their values and ideals will diminish,” said the CSIS report.

One major obstacle to allocating the kinds of resources contemplated by CSIS is the increasing burden of aging populations on the resources of developed countries. But what hangs in the balance is not only the security and economic well being of developing world populations, but what JFCOM’s Joint Operating Environment terms the “battle of the narrative.”


Peter Buxbaum, a Washington-based independent journalist, has been writing about defense, security, business and technology for 15 years. His work has appeared in publications such as Fortune, Forbes, Chief Executive, Information Week, Defense Technology International, Homeland Security and Computerworld. His website is

30792  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / France in Afg on: February 06, 2009, 07:28:07 AM
French soldiers soluting during a 2006 ceremony.
Domestic distractions allow Sarkozy room to maneuver as he boosts France's presence in Afghanistan despite public skepticism, but funding and resource questions may determine the end game, Thomas Withington writes for ISN Security Watch.

By Thomas Withington for ISN Security Watch


France continues to increase its military presence in Afghanistan as part of Paris' contribution to the continuing NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission.

Reports in early February spoke of additional unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) being deployed to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul to support French Sperwer drones already in theatre. These pilotless aircraft will provide 24-hour reconnaissance and surveillance pictures to French troops on the ground.

The country's presence is also being beefed-up with the possible arrival of advanced Eurocopter EC-665 Tigre attack helicopters this summer, while Armée de l'Air (French Air Force) Dassault Mirage-2000D combat aircraft are being redeployed from Dushanbe in Tajikistan to Kandahar, southwest Afghanistan. This will shorten their flying time to possible trouble spots in the south of the country.

The increase in France's presence in Afghanistan follows the ambush of troops from the Armée de Terre (French Army) 8e Régiment Parachutiste d'Infanterie de Marine (8th Marine Infantry Parachute Regiment) in Sarobi province, north of Kabul last August, which left 10 troops dead and another 21 injured. This was the largest wartime loss of life for the French armed forces since 23 October 1983 when 58 troops were killed during a bomb attack on their barracks in Beirut. New BAE Systems RG-31 Nyala mine-protected vehicles are also on the way from the US to protect French troops from attack by mines and improvised explosive devices.

Hot on the heels of the attack, the Assemblée nationale (lower house of the French Parliament) voted 340 to 210 in September last year to continue the country's Afghan deployment, and also to authorize an extra 700 troops (to supplement the circa 2,500 soldiers France currently has in Afghanistan) along with additional attack helicopters, UAVs, artillery and logistical support.

Where 'freedom is being decided'

The intensification of France's involvement in Afghanistan follows a statement by President Nicolas Sarkozy in which he explained the country's motivations for remaining in Afghanistan, despite the misgivings of French popular opinion: "Why are we there? Because it is where a large part of the world's freedom is being decided. This is the place where terrorism is being fought. We are not there to fight against the Afghans but with them, not to leave them on their own to fight the dark forces of barbarity."

On the ground, French strategy follows a twin track, according to François Géré, president of the l'Institut Français d'Analyse Stratégique (French Institute for Strategic Analysis) in Paris.

"French troops continue to train and form the Afghan security forces as well as the army, and continue to help the population to protect itself in de-mining. We continue to have medical teams who are bringing healthcare to the population. On the other hand, the increase in French troops is aimed at becoming more offensive with the real commitment to engage the adversary where necessary. Not to avoid the fight," he told ISN Security Watch.

Despite the commitment of the French government to the Afghan operation, the intensification of France's effort is being performed against a backdrop of cutbacks for the country's armed forces. Last year's Livre Blanc (white paper) recommended the disbandment of 20 of the French Army's regiments and battalions. Although these reductions are not being drawn from front-line infantry units - instead being taken from support units such as logistics and engineer personnel, and signalers - the loss of these units could cause problems in terms of supporting a military operation being performed 5,579 kilometers from Paris. The cost of France's involvement in 2008 was reported at around €250 million (US$319 million), almost a 50 percent increase on the cost of the operation for 2007.

Room to maneuver

In the wake of last August's ambush, French opposition to the country's continued involvement in Afghanistan was reported to run at around 55 percent. That said, Gérè believes that Sarkozy and his government "face no significant and well-articulated political position" in opposition to its involvement in Afghanistan.

This has given Sarkozy considerable political room to maneuver in terms of increasing France's commitment in the country - a fact underlined by last September's vote in favor of continuing the French Afghan deployment. However, this political space may not be permanent.

"If we were to suffer additional significant casualties, the government would have to reconsider its position," Géré noted. "I'm not saying that the French government would decide to withdraw," he added.

In fact, some of the blame for the lack of French public support may lie at the administration's door: "The French government has not articulated very well the reasons why we are in Afghanistan and that is the reason why the [skeptical] public is in the majority."

Despite public opposition to the Afghan operation, the government may also be able to benefit from a degree of popular distraction. A general strike on 29 January in which between one and 2.5 million French workers may have taken to the streets to air a host of grievances ranging from disquiet over proposed education reforms to the government's handling of the economic crisis, has kept domestic issues firmly at the top of the political agenda for the time being.

"French people are much more concerned by unemployment and the credit crisis rather than Afghanistan," Géré said. However, we need to take into consideration that if the financial crisis in France aggravates, there could be questions about why we are spending money in Afghanistan."

Playing both sides

Following the inauguration of US President Barack Obama in January, France, along with several NATO members, may soon find themselves under increasing US pressure to pledge more troops to Afghanistan as the new administration embarks on a "surge" against the Taliban in the lead up to the presidential elections in the country in mid-August.

However, Obama and his colleagues may face disappointment in Paris. On 21 January, French Defense Minister Hervé Morin ruled out enlarging the country's military footprint in Afghanistan: "We have made the necessary effort. Considering additional reinforcements is out of the question for now."

Morin, however, also took the opportunity to reiterate France's reasons for its continued presence in Afghanistan, saying that the operation was "indispensable for the Afghans, who have the right to finally know peace. Indispensable for the French themselves because their security hangs in a great part on that region, one of the most instable in the world."

It is possible that Morin chose to tread a careful line in his interview with the Europe 1 radio station; on one hand reiterating his government's commitment to Afghanistan and the ISAF mission in general, while also reassuring skeptical parts of the French population that, even in light of a new US administration pledging a firmer effort in the country, France would not be increasing its commitment beyond the troop and equipment increases promised in September.

The end game

Moreover, there could also be financial motivations for the French government refusing to pledge anything more than what has already been promised. France's GDP is predicted to decline from 0.9 percent for 2008 to -1.2 percent for 2009, according to figures from the Economist Intelligence Unit. The government may be choosing to husband its cash flow as much as possible.

"If we increase the number of troops in Afghanistan, we will obviously need extra money to pay for them," Géré argued.

The only way such a move could be done without significantly increasing costs would be to redeploy some of the circa 2,000 French troops operating with the EU Peacekeeping Force (EUFOR) in Chad in support of the UN/AU peacekeeping efforts in West Darfur, Sudan.

Reducing the numbers of French troops in the EUFOR mission could send a message to President Omar al-Bashir of Sudan that France no longer places as much importance on this mission as it does on the Afghan operation. This could encourage the Sudanese government, armed forces and proxy janjaweed militias to increase their violence in the troubled West Darfur province while EUFOR attempts to redress the loss of French troops with fresh soldiers from other European nations.

A French reduction of its EUFOR presence could also send the wrong message as regards Paris' commitment to European security and defense policy.

Finally, Sarkozy and his colleagues would find that any increase in France's troop numbers in Afghanistan "would be very difficult to do without a debate in Parliament," said Géré.

The president may want to avoid such a move in the current turbulent economic environment, lest it gives opposition parliamentarians the opportunity to ask why money is being found for an increased Afghan commitment while the French economy remains in the doldrums.

France's Afghanistan endgame may not be as far away as the country's population might think. The current global financial crisis and France's economic woes could have a decisive effect on the Sarkozy government's desire and ability to keep French boots on the ground.

"My sense is that for financial reasons, we have no alternative but to stay for a maximum of two years and to transfer the responsibility for security to the Afghan government," noted Géré.

Furthermore, pulling French troops out by 2012 could have the accompanying benefit of avoiding some of the problems that might be caused by the cutbacks of support personnel recommended by last year's white paper.


Thomas Withington is an independent defense consultant, writer and analyst based in Toulouse, France. He is a Research Associate at the Centre for Defence Studies, King's College, London and an Associate Member of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
30793  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Michael Yon on: February 06, 2009, 07:26:30 AM
"It's Raining" was first published yesterday on Instapundit, one of my favorite blogs.

This will be a long year in Afghanistan, and I plan to spend about six months or more, there or in the region.  Not looking forward to months of combat, but the war is only worsening and very few writers remain who will embed with combat forces for any length of time.  I don't know of any, actually, remaining who will go for months on end.  Not sure how much of my 2009 will be with U.S. forces; some of our allies are requesting coverage and extending the red carpet, and it's very important to know how our military alliance is doing.  The alliance is key to the war.  Whether it shows signs of falling apart, or sticking together, is crucial.

Embedding is very difficult, dangerous, time consuming, and expensive, and so long embeds simply do not seem to be happening.

My end-goal for 2009 is to bring back news and summary so that the reader will understand the overall trajectory of the war.  Are we winning or losing?  Is it worth it?  What exactly are our goals in Afghanistan?  I don't know what our goals are.  Does anyone know? 
My reporting from 2006, unembedded in Afghanistan, proved that it is not necessary to embed with U.S. forces, or even to consult with commanders or the Pentagon, to predict the trajectory of the war with reasonable accuracy.  I like covering combat forces simply because I like them.  And they need coverage, especially so since practically nobody else will do it for them, but much of the decision making regarding embeds will be based on how much support derives from command.  End goal: to accurately summarize for the reader the trajectory of the war, and long embeds might actually hinder my ability to predict the war. 
Iraq only continues to improve.  I plan to return to Iraq this year.  That war truly is over.  We can start bringing our men and women home, but it's crucial to pay close attention to the advice of our military commanders.
Please read, "It's Raining." 
30794  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Familia 2 on: February 06, 2009, 07:22:35 AM

The Gulf organization followed up this challenge by placing a red ice chest in the center of Lázaro Cárdenas. The head of a member of its sworn enemies lay inside the container, next to which a green poster proclaimed: “Greetings Chayo, Rogaciano and Changa [reference to leaders of La Familia]. This is for the collection of queers who support the terrorists of La Familia; we do not kill innocent people; we kill terrorists like this one … We don’t kidnap and we want neither to work with you nor to have contact with you and those you rely on … Thanks for those who are supporting us. Sincerely: Gulf Cartel 100 percent.”

Journalists for Proceso magazine reported that the police received an anonymous tip indicating the whereabouts of the alleged perpetrators of the violence. After meeting with members of La Familia near the Cuitzeo security barracks, authorities seized, blindfolded, handcuffed, and arrested three Zetas for the tragedy. Family members of the prisoners claimed that they were subjected to physical and psychological torture. In the words of a sister and wife:

“They asked him why he had thrown the grenades, which he denied. Later they tied his hands with packing tape and beat him with boards. He told us that later they dragged him to a river and left him there all night. He also says that they had him with his arms up all day, always blindfolded.”

The newspaper Milenio has reported the appearance of La Familia in Guanajuato, where it emulates the Italian mafia by controlling the small outlets that sell cocaine and marijuana to individuals. When a local distributor refused to cooperate, he was killed. In the past, Juan José “The Blue One” (so called because of his bluish skin color) Esparragoza Moreno, an ally of El Chapo, controlled Guanajuato. In a negotiation between capos, El Azul relinquished the plaza to La Familia, thus avoiding violent confrontation. Dominance in Guanajuato helps La Familia impede its rivals’ access to Michoacan.

Organization and resources

Journalist Richard Ravelo asserts that the 4,000 members of La Familia were born and raised in Michoacan, that they earn between US$1,500 and US$2,000 per month, and that they are well connected with state and local officials. They reportedly attend church regularly, carry Bibles, and distribute the Good Book in local government offices.

They claim to enjoy grassroots’ support because they provide assistance to campesinos, construct schools, donate books, prevent the sale of adulterated wine, and employ “extremely strong strategies” to bring order to the Tierra Caliente. Thus, they offered a contrast to the Milenio Cartel, which has recruited outsiders called Antizetas.

They acquire resources by selling protection to merchants, street vendors of contraband, hotels, local gangs, and small-scale drug sellers. Rather than speak in terms of extortion, La Familia claims to “protect” its clients. Members the organization wear uniforms, carry arms, and drive vehicles similar to those of the Federal Agency of Investigation. This allows them greater freedom to move around their areas of interest.[13] Still, leaders of the group have become so brazen that they have designed their own outfits to mark their identity and distinguish their members from adversaries.

Reports indicate the fragmentation of La Familia, whose leadership - known as “Los Sierras” - holds sway in the Tierra Caliente. These factions include: Los Historicos, who have links with Los Zetas; “Los Extorsionistas, composed of businessmen and growers who concentrate on extorting money from anyone from surgeons to municipal mayors; Los Cobradores de Deudas (“Debt Collectors”), who are allied with the Milenio and Sinaloa cartels and who traffic in meth; and An unnamed group that concentrates on selling pirated films and DVDs.

La Familia’s current leaders, Bible-toting fanatics Moreno Gonzalez and Mendez Vargas, may have direct or indirect ties with devotees of the New Jerusalem movement. Dionisio “The Uncle” Loya Plancarte, once a Zeta, now presents himself as the spokesman for the organization.

The 53-year-old Michoacan native, who manages press and public relations for La Familia, claims that through kidnappings and executions the cartel is ensuring “a peaceful climate for law-abiding citizens.” In addition, he cited as his organization’s principal targets “El Chapo Guzman and the Beltran Leyva brothers because they were responsible for methamphetamine addiction in Michoacan communities.”

In October 2008, authorities captured Wenceslao Álvarez Álvarez, an ally of La Familia who ran an international operation out of Nueva Italia, a Michoacan municipality where, ironically, in November 1938, President Lázaro Cárdenas established the first communal farm, promising to make it a model of progress for the nation. Like many other growers in the Tierra Caliente, Álvarez Álvarez produced avocados. He claims to have turned to narco-trafficking to avenge the 1999 kidnapping and murder of his father by a vicious local gang, Los Arcila. Led by Jorge Álvarez Arcila, a local farmer, and Daniel Farias, the former warden of the Patzcuaro prison, these brigands enjoyed impunity as they carried out a dozen kidnappings in the Tierra Caliente between 1996 and 2000.

Alvarez Alvarez’s cocaine network allegedly extended from Colombia through Guatemala and Mexico to Atlanta and other US cities. The US Drug Enforcement Administration has identified him as a lieutenant of Miguel “El L-40” Treviño Morales, a top figure in Los Zetas. Álvarez Álvarez called the charges against him “false,” insisting that he was only a grower of tomatoes, peppers, mangos, and other crops on land rented by his entire family. In addition to his underworld exploits, he also has an interest in “Los Mapaches” of Nueva Italia, a second-division soccer team that he purchased for 1 million pesos.


The group known as La Familia bears similarities to Colombia’s United Self-Defense Forces (AUC), an amalgam of rightwing vigilantes, rural self-defense militia, former military and police personnel, who oppose anyone believed to be supportive of the guerrillas belonging to the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC).

The religious zeal of La Familia manifests itself in preference for executions over negotiations. So strong is the organization that it has gained a major beachhead in Michoacan, eclipsed Los Zetas in Mexico state, crossed swords with the ruthless Beltran Leyva brothers in Mexico state, and ousted a faction of the Sinaloa cartel from Guanajuato. La Familia is extremely volatile because of its diverse components and bloodthirsty fanaticism.

Mexico’s heavily armed, vicious groups are increasingly conducting operations north of the Rio Grande. Too long ignored by Washington, this threat from the Mexican cartels - and their Andean suppliers - must become a priority of the Obama administration.
30795  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / La Familia on: February 06, 2009, 07:21:12 AM
Another deadly Mexican syndicate

ISN Link

La Familia is extremely volatile because of its diverse components and bloodthirsty fanaticism, George W Grayson writes for FPRI.

By George W Grayson for FPRI

The death toll related to narco-trafficking in Mexico more than doubled last year, from 2,275 in 2007 to 5,207 in 2008. An increasingly important contributor to this ghastly mayhem is the shadowy Michoacana family, or La Familia. Its center of operations is the Pacific Coast state of Michoacan, home to trafficking routes and sophisticated factories for producing methamphetamine, as well as the port Lázaro Cárdenas, an open sesame for drug imports.

Although organized several years earlier, La Familia burst into the limelight on September 6, 2006, when 20 masked desperados stormed into scruffy Sol y Sombra night spot in Uruapan, Michoacan, fired shots into the air, ran up to the second floor from where they tossed five human heads onto the black and white dance floor.

They left behind a message, written on cardboard: “The family doesn’t kill for money. It doesn’t kill women. It doesn’t kill innocent people, only those who deserve to die. Know that this is divine justice.”

Club owner Carlos Alvarez nervously defended the assailants. “These men didn’t come here to hurt anyone, they work against bad people, those men whose heads they cut were like bugs,” reported National Public Radio.

Victor Alejandro, the owner of a small shop across the road from the dance hall, says he’s afraid to be seen talking to a stranger. “There are informants everywhere,” he says.

The day before, the killers had seized their victims from a mechanic’s shop and hacked off their heads with bowie knives while the men writhed in pain. “You don’t do something like that unless you want to send a big message,” said a US law enforcement official.

A similar self-righteous message appeared at the foot of a black cross in Apatzingan, in the heart of the Tierra Caliente, which embraces 32 municipalities at the intersection of Michoacan, Guerrero, and Mexico State. In this highly productive zone, La Familia, Los Zetas paramilitaries linked to the powerful Tamaulipas-based Gulf Cartel, and the local Milenio Cartel of the Valencia family engage in bloody warfare for control of growing areas and transit routes.

In addition, Michoacan finds the several criminal organizations fighting for the cocaine and precursor chemicals for methamphetamine that arrive through Lázaro Cárdenas, the state’s largest port, or through nearby entry points. This was the gateway for multimillionaire Chinese-Mexican Zhenli Ye Gon, who is now under arrest in the US, to import chemicals for the meth production in the super-laboratories throughout the state. The port of Lázaro Cárdenas’ importance lies in its strategic location: Half of Mexico’s population lives within some 300 kilometers of this coastal city.


Various currents have fed into the heterogeneous organization, which emerged in 2004 with the stated “mission” of eradicating trafficking in meth, or “ice,” and other narcotics, kidnappings, extortion, murder-for-hire, highway assaults, and robberies, according to one of its founders, Nazario “The Craziest One” Moreno González. La Familia may have begun as vigilantes determined to thwart the manufacture and transport of meth by the Michoacan-based Milenio Cartel, a stalwart ally of Joaquín “Shorty” or “The Uncle” Guzmán Loera and his Sinaloa Cartel, the major competitor to his Gulf counterparts.

There is also the possibility that they sprang to life to prevent Los Zetas from entering their bailiwick. Narco-criminal Carlos Rosales Mendoza, formerly a member of the local Milenio cartel, switched his loyalty to the Gulf Cartel. In response to his new ally’s request, Gulf boss Osiel Cárdenas Guillen dispatched Los Zetas led by Efraín Teodoro Torres or “Zeta 14” and Gustavo “The Erotic One” Gonzalez Castro, to help Rosales Mendoza protect his plaza at La Union, a municipality in Guerrero near Petacalco and Lázaro Cárdenas on the Pacific Coast.

Another Gulf Cartel accomplice was Carlos Pinto Rodríguez, a native of Huerta de Gámbara in the Tierra Caliente. Pinto Rodríguez became even more violent after his son died in a shoot-out. After Rosales Mendoza participated in an unsuccessful attempt to free Cardenas Guillen from La Palma high-security prison, the Army captured him at his attractive residence in the Colonia Lomas de Santa Maria, Morelia, on 24 October 2004. EsMas and Reforma reported that Rosales Mendoza offered a huge bribe if his captors would release him.

In reaction to Los Zetas’ incursion, Juan Jose “The Grandfather” Farías, leader of the local Rural Guards, a uniformed Mexican army auxiliary linked to the 43rd Military Zone in Apatzingan, took the offensive. He sought to expel the intruders from his region as if he were an agent of the French Resistance fighting the Nazis. Meanwhile, he was suspected of being a major narco-trafficker in the region. He is believed to have worked with Rubén Oseguera Cervantes, also called Nemesio, who is the cousin of Abigaíl and Jose Mendoza Valencia, relatives of Armando Valencia Cornelio, the chief of the Milenio Cartel until his imprisonment in La Palma.

In retaliation for Farias’ opposition, Los Zetas decapitated cheese-maker Raúl Farías Alejandres, a relative of The Grandfather, on 4 September 2006. A note next to the corpse warned: “One by one you go falling. Greetings. La Familia sends its regards.” Four more beheadings followed.

The Grandfather, the intrepid Zeta fighter who owns restaurants, hotels, and orchards, has disappeared, perhaps because the Attorney General’s Office (PGR) is investigating his possible connections Ye Gon. He and his followers are allied with the Valencias and the Sinaloa Cartel.

In 2007, Uriel Farías Álvarez, The Grandfather’s brother and a PRI stalwart, won a landslide victory for the mayorship of Tepalcatepec, which, along with Aguililla, Apatzingan, and Buenavista Tomatlán, lies in a drug-smuggling corridor that connects the Tierra Caliente with Jalisco. He pooh-poohs the idea that he or his relatives have ties to the underworld: “My brother only kept a lookout on orders of the Army. And as a result they said he was a narco.”

How La Familia describes its goals

Handwritten, poorly-spelled, enigmatic missives showed up next to the decapitated heads in Uruapan as part of its intense propaganda campaign designed to intimidate both foes, terrorize the local population, and inhibit action by the government. Like Los Zetas, La Familia disseminates news of its deeds nationally by conventional media as well as by internet videos and carefully placed banners.

On the heels of the Uruapan atrocity, La Familia took out a half-page advertisement in newspapers claiming to be crime-fighters. El Sol of Morelia and La Voz de Michoacan both ran the group’s manifesto. Such expressions of civic virtue aside, 18 of 32 police officers in the Tepalcatepec area resigned after receiving death threats from La Familia, while local newspapers exercise self-censorship concerning the sinister band.

On 18 August 2006, the organization decapitated Jesús Rodríguez Valencia, a member of the Milenio Cartel, placing the following message next to his cadaver: “All that rises falls of its own weight, it would be like this, the family greets you.” Three months later, the police discovered two bodies on the Zamora-La Barca highway, next to which was a note that said: “For those who sell ice. This is divine justice. Sincerely, La Familia.” “Divine justice. No to the meth makers, La Familia,” was the text discovered alongside a body found on the Jacona-Los Reyes highway. The message appeared on a green card, reflecting the color that La Familia uses on its emblems, placards, and communications.

In all, authorities attributed 17 decapitations to La Familia in 2006 alone. Between the murder of Rodriguez Valencia that August and 31 December 2008, La Familia killed scores, if not hundreds, of people. There were 233 executions in Michoacan, most of whose victims belonged to one criminal band or another.

What may have begun as a small group of armed men on the prowl to protect their children from meth has turned into a major criminal outfit that is just as well-armed and organized as any top-tier drug smuggling organization in Mexico.

The Attorney General’s Office claims that elements of organization not only sell narcotics in many of the municipalities of their home state, but also seek to dominate the distribution route to the US border that snakes through territory traditionally in the hands of the Sinaloa cartel. To this end, they have established safe houses as refuges for their traffickers at strategic points along the route northward. While originating in Michoacan, La Familia has extended its activities to Mexico State, where it controls or has conducted operations in numerous municipalities.

Spreading conflict

La Familia has corrupted and or intimidated law-enforcement personnel. In August 2008, a drug distributor in the Valle de Toluca accused Jose Manzur Ocana, the well-connected former PGR delegate in the state, of providing protection to Los Zetas and La Familia. Although placed in a witness-protection program, the informant was among those executed in the La Marquesa bloodbath discussed below.

In early November 2008, 100 local police in Chalco, just outside Mexico City, demanded the dismissal of their chief, Carlos Adulfo Palafox, whom they accused of having ties with La Familia. Mexico State’s Attorney General Alberto Bazbaz also cited Jesús Garcia Carrasco, commander of the state’s Judicial Police, as a possible collaborator after he reportedly received 70,000 pesos per month to provide information to La Familia.

La Familia’s rivals have struck back. In August 2008, three bodies, bearing grotesque torture marks and their hands and feet tied, turned up in San Pablito in the Tultepec municipality. The “narco-message at the scene stated: “All of the Michoacan Family will die, but I leave [these bodies] so that you believe me.” In September 2008, enemies pumped 18 bullets into the body of José Luis “El Jaguar” Carranza Galván, whom the PGR identified as a principal operator of La Familia.

La Familia has not made all police kowtow. After law-enforcement agents took into custody Miguel “The King” Carvajal in the Valle de Bravo in January 2008, they received a telephone death threat if they “touched” their prisoner. In a similar vein, El Rey told the police: “don’t hit me [for] I come in the spirit of peace; my chiefs are now in conversations with your commanders to strike a deal.” Despite this bravado, the extortionist and hit man for La Familia remained behind bars.

In September 2008, in the Nicolás Romero municipality authorities captured Lázaro “The Indian” Bustos Abarca Nicolas Romero, who commanded a band of 20 kidnappers linked to La Familia. Ten days later, the PGR reported the murder of 24 people in La Marquesa park in Mexico State. Officials hypothesized that the murders arose from a clash between La Familia and the Beltran Leyva brothers over control of Huixquilucan, a strategic plaza for drug shipments. In mid-November, the federal police took into custody Pedro Jaime Chávez Rosales, former director of public safety for the municipality, who was believed to be involved in the multiple executions.

In Mexico City, on 31 July 2008, a body was found in the trunk of a Chevrolet Corsa parked in the capital’s southern borough of Coyoacan. A note attached to the corpse said: “For not paying. Sincerely, La Familia."

The western boroughs of Miguel Hidalgo and Cuajimalpa also have become a zone for money-laundering and drug transit, exciting a raging conflict among Colombian traffickers, Los Zetas, and La Familia. The competitors dispatch their foes with high-powered weapons, decapitations, and asphyxiation with plastic bags. Next to three bodies discovered in September 2008 lay the message: “I was victim of a kidnapping by those who call themselves La Familia Michoacana; thus, I am carrying out justice by my own hand.”

Grenade attack in Morelia

The PGR initially accused La Familia of carrying out the 15 September 2008, grenade attack in Morelia’s Melchor Ocampo plaza. Authorities advanced the theory that the fanatical band sought to attract a greater contingent of federal police and military to the state in order to thwart Los Zetas from consolidating their trafficking routes.

In response to such allegations, the organization immediately revved up its public relations apparatus. It dispatched a text message to local reporters and residents denying participation in the tragedy and placing the blame on Los Zetas, which responded with its own communiques in the form of banners unfurled in prominent spots in Puebla, Reynosa, Cancun, Oaxaca, and Nuevo Laredo.

It offered a US$5 million reward in dollars, Euros, or another currency to anyone who could help capture members of La Familia, which it alleged produced the mayhem: “The Gulf cartel energetically condemns the September 15 attack against the Mexican people. We offer our aid for the arrest of the leaders who call themselves ‘La Familia’.” The narco-banners specifically mentioned such chiefs as Moreno Gonzalez, Jesús “El Chango” Méndez Vargas, and Enrique “El Kiki” Tlacaltepetl.

30796  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 05, 2009, 11:25:28 PM
OK, so what do we do now in Afg/Afg-Pak?
30797  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: A signal to Iran on: February 05, 2009, 11:18:36 PM
Geopolitical Diary: A U.S. Treasury Move and a Signal to Iran
February 5, 2009

The U.S. Treasury Department added the Free Life Party of Kurdistan (PJAK) to its list of terrorist organizations on Wednesday. PJAK is a sister organization of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the prominent Kurdish guerrilla group that operates in Turkey and has bases in northern Iraq. PJAK also has bases in northern Iraq, but focuses its operations on northwestern Iran, where that country’s Kurdish minority is concentrated.

The timing of the Treasury move is significant. Tehran has complained for some time that the United States, in collaboration with Israeli and Western intelligence organizations, supports groups like PJAK whose aim is to undermine the stability of the Iranian regime.

And the Iranians have cause for concern. The geopolitical core of Iran, where the population is most densely concentrated, is in the mountainous northern and central regions. That geography itself creates ample opportunities for foreign rivals or domestic opponents to stir up trouble for the regime: Since only about half of the population is ethnically Persian, one of Iran’s chief security imperatives is to contain minority ethnic groups dispersed throughout the mountains. The group of biggest concern for the Iranians has been Mujahideen e-Khalq (MeK), a cult-like Islamist-Marxist rebel group with the explicit goal of overthrowing the clerical regime.

MeK fighters have been holed up in Iraq’s Diyala province, under the watch of the U.S. military – but now that U.S. troops are withdrawing from Iraq in large numbers, something must done about the approximately 3,000 MeK members. Iran wants guarantees that groups like the MeK and PJAK will be neutralized. By placing PJAK on the U.S. terror list, Washington has made a symbolic move that tells Tehran that it is prepared to make certain concessions that will allow the clerical regime to rest more comfortably.

It is not clear yet how favorably the Iranians might respond to this move. U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has made it clear that it will pursue engagement with Iran, and a number of backchannel discussions have been set into motion. But the Iranians are taking things slowly. With presidential elections approaching in June, Tehran is struggling to work out its next steps in negotiating with Washington. There is also more work to be done to prepare the Iranian public psychologically for public negotiations with the so-called “Great Satan.”

Iran’s priority right now is to convince the populace and surrounding states that Tehran is pursuing these negotiations from a position of strength. It intends to demonstrate that strength with things like satellite launches, pronouncements that wax philosophic about Iran’s nuclear achievements, and political victories in neighboring Iraq. Meanwhile, the United States is grappling with the complexities of an engagement policy through gestures such as the blacklisting of PJAK – even as Washington tries to downplay more contentious issues like Iran’s nuclear program, and to maintain a hard-line stance on sanctions.

There remains a long way to go in revising the U.S.-Iranian narrative of negotiations, but Tehran has little time to stall. The Iranians need to negotiate with the United States over common interests in Iraq, especially if they want to secure an internationally recognized sphere of influence there. Although final results are not yet known, provincial elections in Iraq this past weekend appear to have strengthened factions that complicate Iran’s ambitions there – and that, in turn, bodes well for the security situation and a U.S. drawdown. The Iranians are slowly coming to terms with the fact that Washington will have a significant stake in Baghdad well after the withdrawal, especially as figures like Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are strengthening central authority at the expense of Iran’s closest Shiite allies. And even when the drawdown is complete, a residual force of probably 10,000 to 20,000 American troops will remain in Iraq, to keep the Iranians at bay and allay the fears of Iraq’s Sunni minority.

Of course, there are still plenty of things for Tehran to discuss with Washington that would help Iran to break out of its isolation. The United States and its NATO allies are turning to Tehran for assistance in neighboring Afghanistan, where Iran can provide intelligence and logistical support to help contain the Taliban. Cooperation with the Americans over Afghanistan isn’t nearly as touchy a subject as cooperation over Iraq — Afghanistan hasn’t invaded Iran in recent memory, and Iraq has. But it still would mean breaking the ice publicly and sitting down for talks.

30798  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of His Glibness on: February 05, 2009, 09:42:54 PM
I would offer the possiblity that what he is trying to do is scaring the bejeezus out of the market.  The collapse really got going when it became clear that McCain was going to pander and that BO was going to win.

For the record, Bush pandered too.  Virtually no one, even in the Rep party is getting the analysis right-- a classic credit bubble (the Fed's negative interest rates, the FMs, the CRA, etc and all that was leveraged from these).  The solution methinks is to be found in a blend of supply side and Austrian economics.  This not being remotely on any serious political radar screen, the market is right to freak out.  The fcukers in Washington are in the process of committing major historic errors.  The world economy is fragmenting, the uni-polar moment of the US is done, and we are led by Hamlet, a.k.a. His Glibness who throws away Iraq to depend on the Russians to supply his decision to go in heavy to the Afg quagmire in order to prove he is tough-- all the while groveling with the Iranians and their nukes, and groveling to the Russians (prediction Star Wars in easter Europe is done for and the Russian sphere of influence will recoalesce).

30799  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Michael Yon in Afghanistan on: February 05, 2009, 09:35:27 PM
I have been trying to get a serious discussion going on about this in the Afg-Pak thread, and also in the India-Pak thread, but to little avail.  Maybe it will get going here?  Anyway, in particular see post 292 at
which is a Stratfor piece (what a surprise there-- not!).  I am intrigued by their notion of distinguishing the Taliban and AQ and identifying our core mission as preventing Afg from once again becoming a base for AQ to attack the US.  I have always understood all the rest to originate from this core objective.

That said, I think it is in the India-Pak thread, but there are two major pieces written by Indian intel people that make a powerful argument about the ISI and the young officers of the Pak army being the true players in all this.  One of the Indian intel people goes on to suggest encouraging the disintegration of the Pakistan state into more little quasi-feudal backwaters.  Of course we would need to neutralize their nukes.   

I think the mental exercise of considering outside our mental box solutions like this would be good for us.

I also think that we must resolve the cognitive dissonance of our incoherence re the opium trade.

Bottom line, I'm willing to consider a wide range of actions.  I don't know what to do, but I see disaster ahead on the current course of action-- including what HG seems to have in mind.
30800  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Re: Daily Expression of Gratitude on: February 05, 2009, 09:25:12 PM
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