Saturday, January 31, 2009

Al-Qaeda and the Plague


By Oliver Guitta for Middle East Times


In the middle of the massive coverage of U.S. President Barack Obama's inauguration, a rather troublesome news story emerged. Unfortunately, it failed to get the coverage it deserves. If confirmed, it deserves the full attention of the Obama administration: the story has to do with bio-terrorism.

The story began with a Jan. 6 report in the Algerian newspaper Echorouk that a number of terrorists had died of the plague in one of al-Qaida's Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) training camps in Tizi Ouzou. Another Algerian newspaper En-Nahar, affirmed that 50 terrorists have been diagnosed with the plague, 40 of whom have already died.

Now some analysts dismissed outright this story saying it was totally fallacious. But a few observations at this point give credibility to this story, even though one cannot be sure of the provenance of the plague. Consider the following:

1. Algerian authorities have been totally silent. Reliable sources usually willing to share information declined to comment on this report. As can be expected, Algerian authorities were not too pleased that the story was confirmed by American sources. Indeed the Washington Times confirmed through a senior U.S. intelligence official that an incident had taken place at an AQIM training camp that had to be shut down as a result.

2. Coincidence or not: 60 terrorists from AQIM from Tizi Ouzou (the same region where the incident allegedly occurred) decided to surrender to the authorities. It is very rare that such a large number of AQIM operatives defect at the same time. That could mean that they possibly got really scared by what had taken place in the training camp and did not want to get involved in biological weapon experimentation that could likely result in their deaths.

3. Over a year ago, Pakistani terrorists came to train in AQIM training camps and may have one way or another contributed to the production of that biological agent. Interestingly, the Washington Times mentions an intercepted communication between AQIM leaders and AQ Central in Pakistan relating the mishap.

4. Al-Qaida operatives in Europe had tried to develop biological weapons in the recent past. In France, Menad Benchelalli, a terrorist specialized in poisons had produced small amounts of ricin and Botulinum toxin that he intended to release in France. He was arrested in 2002.
 Then in 2003, British authorities arrested seven individuals accused of also producing ricin.

5. AQIM was "hired" by AQ central mostly because of their extensive network in Europe that could allow them to strike Europe at some point. AQIM's leadership has been under intense pressure to attack European targets in order to maintain its credibility. In fact, by not using a "conventional" weapon, AQIM would prove its value to AQ Central. If the group was indeed developing a biological weapon, it was surely destined for delivery in Europe, and most likely in France.

Interestingly, AQIM did not wait long to refute this story. On Jan. 21, in a communiqué the group accused "some hypocrites who quoted their masters at the Algerian intelligence agency" of being behind this false story. The group also noted that this story was planted to dry up the well of new AQIM recruits. If indeed that is the case, it might be a very smart strategy that maybe should be copied.

Another explanation for the alleged deaths of the AQIM operatives is very bad hygienic situation in the camps. Indeed, several former AQIM terrorists told the Algerian En-Nahar newspaper that living conditions are horrendous and that numerous deaths resulted from poor hygiene. They add that the AQIM emirs (chiefs) quarantine the sick right away, because the disease propagates itself very quickly.

Whatever the explanation, it seems that there have been unexplained deaths among AQIM operatives. At this point, the developments of this story and its possible implications need to be closely monitored. Indeed a nightmarish scenario could unfold if one of the infected individuals boarded a flight to Paris, London or New York. This person could become de-facto the means of "delivering" the weapon.


~ ~ ~

Olivier Guitta is an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a foreign affairs and counterterrorism consultant. You can read his latest work at www.thecroissant.com/about.html

Chris Isaak - Wicked Game

Chris Isaak - Wicked Game [HD]

Chris Isaak with model Helena Christensen.

The world was on fire and no one could save me but you.
It's strange what desire will make foolish people do.
I never dreamed that I'd meet somebody like you.
And I never dreamed that I'd lose somebody like you.

No, I don't want to fall in love (This world is only gonna break your heart)
No, I don't want to fall in love (This world is only gonna break your heart)
With you.

What a wicked game to play, to make me feel this way.
What a wicked thing to do, to let me dream of you.
What a wicked thing to say, you never felt this way.
What a wicked thing to do, to make me dream of you and,

I want to fall in love (This world is only gonna break your heart)
No, I want to fall in love (This world is only gonna break your heart)
With you.

The world was on fire and no one could save me but you.
It's strange what desire will make foolish people do.
I never dreamed that I'd love somebody like you.
And I never dreamed that I'd lose somebody like you,

No, I want to fall in love (This world is only gonna break your heart)
No, I want to fall in love (This world is only gonna break your heart)
With you (This world is only gonna break your heart)
No, I... (This world is only gonna break your heart)
(This world is only gonna break your heart)

Nobody loves no one.

Friday, January 30, 2009

NRA-ILA Grassroots Minute 01/30/09

NRA-ILA Grassroots Minute 01/30/09

[must-read] Don't Confirm Holder

www.NRA-ILA.org

Pelosi Curses DOW

"Only the rich benefit from these record highs. Working Americans, welfare recipients, the unemployed and minorities are not sharing in these obscene record highs. There is no question these windfall profits and income created by the Bush administration need to be taxed at 100% rate and those dollars redistributed to the poor and working class. Profits from the stock market do not reward the hard work of our working class who, by their hard work, are responsible for generating these corporate profits that create stock market profits for the rich. We in congress will need to address this issue to either tax these profits or to control the stock market to prevent this unearned income to flow to the rich." -- Nancy Pelosi, 2006

MARKET SNAPSHOT: As Goes January, So Goes The Year?

The market is set for an 8.6% drop in January, not boding well for the rest of the year, if one believes the old adage.

According to the Stock Traders Almanac's January Barometer, the month of January tends to predict the direction of the market with a 91.4% accuracy ratio, with only five major errors recorded since 1950.

The barometer, created in 1972, is based on the performance of the broad S&P 500 index.

Based on broader research from Quantitative Analysis Service, the month of January works accurately at predicting market direction 65% to 75% of the time.

"That's not an impeccable record," said Ken Tower, market strategist and senior vice president at the firm. "But, along with April, it definitely has a better track record at predicting the year than any other month in the year."

The S&P 500 index (SPX), used by most investing professionals as a gauge of the broader market, is currently on track for a 8.6% drop for January.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) is off nearly 9% for the month. Since 1896, the Dow has gained an average 0.98% in the month of January, for an average yearly gain of 7.41%.

For this January, the Nasdaq Composite (RIXF) is down 6.4%.

Voodoo 'Monthanomics'?

Some market strategists who rely on technical analysis use January's success at predicting market action, not because they believe in astrology, but simply because it's worked historically.

"There's not one set rational explanation for this," Tower said. "But there are special factors found in January. December marks the end of the tax year, which we've set arbitrarily. January can represent the new money committed in the new year."

In addition, at least in the U.S., November and December traditionally are marked by holiday spending, which investors can use to determine future spending patterns, therefore future profits and overall economic activity.

Based on this, market action made sense this month and on Friday, with stocks stumbling for a second day on economic concerns.

The Dow recently fell 134 points, or 1.6%, to 8,016. The S&P 500 was down 17 points, or 2%, at 827, while the Nasdaq Composite was down 26 points, or 1.8%, at 1,481.

A survey by the University of Michigan and Reuters showed consumer confidence rose in January, but not as much as expected. And consumer-products maker Procter & Gamble (PG) slumped more than 6% after warning its sales were slowing.

January in history

There are key historical factors that have made January hold so much sway over the market's yearly performance, according to Jeffrey Hirsch, the editor of the Stock Traders Almanac.

Back in 1933, the U.S. Constitution was amended and moved Inauguration Day from March 4 to Jan. 20. Since 1934, new Congresses meet the first week of January instead of December.

The market, in fact, has regained some ground over the past week, as the House of Representatives passed the Obama administration's $819 billion economic stimulus package.

The administration and lawmakers are also trying to come up with a plan to cure the financial system of the toxic assets that have brought the global economy to its knees over the past year and a half.

With January still being firmly down, the market might be sending the signal that any economic benefits from government action won't be felt until after the end of this year, says Tower of Quantitative Analysis Service.

"People thought the economy would start to recover in the second half of this year," Tower said. "But our forecasts is now for the economy to bottom at the end of the year, if not in early 2010."

The market, which tends to anticipate economic recoveries well ahead of time, could start to recover in the second half. But according to the January Baromoter, that won't be enough for stocks to end 2009 in positive ground.

That leaves a chance for some investors to turn to other ways to read the market tea leaves, such as the Super Bowl indicator. The belief is that should a team from the old American Football League win, the stock market will fall that year. Should the victory go to a team from the old National Football League, the market will rise.

"Yeah, we saw how well that worked last year, when the Giants (a team from the old NFL) won," said Paul Nolte, director of investments at Hinsdale Associates.

The Super Bowl will be held this Sunday.

Primitive Navigation: The Ottomani Sun Compass

The Ottomani Sun Compass

Forget your GPS? Find directions using the sun. This is part one of a navigation series taken from the Hoods Woods Video on Primitive Navigation.

Sun Compass and Direction Finding

In part two, learn how to calibrate the compass and also see several methods for finding directions using the sun.

How to Escape from Handcuffs

How to Escape from Handcuffs

How to Escape From Plastic Handcuffs

Both of the above videos are for entertainment purposes only. One should never attempt to escape handcuffs when cuffed by the police -- no matter how embarrassing the outcome.

Raw Video: Embarrassing Escape Attempt

An ill-conceived escape attempt outside a New Zealand courthouse ended when the would-be fugitives, handcuffed together and blinded with pepper spray, ran on opposite sides of a lamppost.

Police were escorting the two prisoners into Hastings District Court this week when the men made a break for it, Senior Sgt. Dave Greig told The Times in London.

"They fell over and they were sprayed with pepper spray. But they got up and ran out of the court onto the street, across the road to a car park," he said.

"That's where they met the pole. It was all over, rover."

One man's lawyer said his client was anxious about being sent to prison and got a case of the "collywobbles."

Thar she blows?

Redoubt, Jan. 30, 2009.

Alaska Residents Prepare for Possible Eruption

Geologists say Alaska's Mount Redoubt could erupt within days, the first time in 20 years. Nearby residents are preparing for a possible ash storm.

The Alaska Volcano Observatory reported that during 24-25 January seismic activity at the Redoubt volcano increased markedly.

On 25 January, seismic tremors became sustained and amplitude increased notably prompting AVO to raise the Aviation Color Code to Orange and the Alert Level to Watch. During an overflight later that day, observers saw no evidence of an eruption. However, they also noted increased steaming through previously identified sources in the snow and ice cover, along with sulfur gas emissions.

An overflight on 26 January revealed elevated sulfur dioxide emissions from the summit and new outflows of muddy debris along the glacier that is downslope of the summit. On 26 and 27 January, seismicity fluctuated but remained above background levels.

Alaska Volcano Observatory
Information Statement
Friday, January 30, 2009 7:16 AM AKST (1616 UTC)


Redoubt Volcano
60°29'7" N 152°44'38" W, Summit Elevation 10197 ft (3108 m)
Current Volcano Alert Level: WATCH
Current Aviation Color Code: ORANGE

Unrest at Redoubt Volcano continues, though no eruption has yet occurred. Seismicity levels have risen within the last 8 hours. Redoubt remains at Aviation Color Code ORANGE and Volcano Alert Level WATCH.

Staff are currently monitoring the volcano 24 hours a day. We will issue further information as it becomes available.

Images associated with the Redoubt Hazard Report

Click to enlarge map.

Redoubt is a 3108-m-high glacier-covered stratovolcano with a breached summit crater in Lake Clark National Park about 170 km SW of Anchorage. Next to Mount Spurr, Redoubt has been the most active Holocene volcano in the upper Cook Inlet.

The volcano was constructed beginning about 890,000 years ago over Mesozoic granitic rocks of the Alaska-Aleutian Range batholith. Collapse of the summit of Redoubt 10,500-13,000 years ago produced a major debris avalanche that reached Cook Inlet. Holocene activity has included the emplacement of a large debris avalanche and clay-rich lahars that dammed Lake Crescent on the south side and reached Cook Inlet about 3,500 years ago.

Eruptions during the past few centuries have affected only the Drift River drainage on the north. Historical eruptions have originated from a vent at the north end of the 1.8-km-wide breached summit crater. The 1989-90 eruption of Redoubt had severe economic impact on the Cook Inlet region and affected air traffic far beyond the volcano. -- More

A dramatic, mushroom-shaped eruption column, lit by the rising sun, rises above Alaska's Redoubt volcano on April 21, 1990. Clouds of this shape, which are produced when the upper part of an eruption column attains neutral buoyancy and is spread out above the troposphere-stratosphere boundary, are common during powerful explosive eruptions. This column at Redoubt, however, did not originate from an eruption at the summit crater, but is an ash column that is rising buoyantly above a pyroclastic flow sweeping down the volcano's north flank. Photo by Joyce Warren, 1990 (courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey).

The FBI doesn't CAIR anymore

The FBI has cut off communications with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the wake of damning court evidence that ties the group's founders to a Hamas-support network in America.

It is a stunning rebuke to the organization which promotes itself as "arguably the most visible and public American Muslim organization." The decision to end contacts with CAIR was made quietly last summer as federal prosecutors prepared for a second trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development (HLF), an Islamic charity convicted in November for illegally routing money to Hamas. CAIR was named as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the case.

Its name appears on a roster of "Palestine Committee" members. Evidence in the case shows the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas's parent organization, created the Palestine Committee to help Hamas politically and financially. CAIR founders Omar Ahmad and Nihad Awad, who remains the executive director, also appear on a telephone list of Palestine Committee members. The men also participated in a secret 1993 gathering of Hamas members and supporters called to discuss ways to "derail" U.S.-led peace efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. -- Source

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Packing heat got Steven Collazo sacked

Gunslinger via The Estaril Workspace

Fired worker's suit tests Florida's concealed-gun law

A Boca Raton man claims he was fired in violation of Florida law for keeping a gun in his car while at work.

By Patrick Danner via Miami Herald

Packing heat got Steven Collazo sacked.

The Boca Raton man now is suing his former employer, the Florida subsidiary of a national funeral-home company, claiming his firing last month violated a new state law that allows people with concealed-weapons permits to have their firearms locked in their cars on workplace property.

The case is believed to be the first in South Florida since the law took effect July 1.

In Orlando, a security guard sued Walt Disney World in July after he was terminated for having a weapon in his car at work. He later dropped the suit because it was too costly to pursue, his lawyer said in an interview.

Collazo, 36, is seeking unspecified financial damages over his firing by SCI Funeral Services of Florida, in a lawsuit filed in Broward Circuit Court. His primary job was removing and delivering human remains.

''He was fired from a job that he liked and excelled at, and needed,'' said Marc Wites, Collazo's lawyer. ''It shouldn't have happened.'' Collazo, who has since gotten a job as a limousine driver, declined an interview request.

A spokeswoman for SCI parent Service Corp. International said it's the Houston-based company's policy not to comment on litigation.

Here's what Collazo's lawsuit claims happened:

Two SCI managers told Collazo in late November that two unidentified people spotted him with a gun in his pocket on company property in Pompano Beach.

Collazo denied the charge and offered to show the managers the gun in his vehicle. The managers declined the offer. The weapon isn't described in the lawsuit, and Wites wouldn't identify it.

HANDBOOK SHOWN

About a week later, the managers showed Collazo an employee handbook that details the company policy prohibiting ''carrying unauthorized weapons (firearms, knives, explosives, etc.) on company-owned facilities, such as buildings, grounds, parking facilities,'' the suit says.

Collazo responded that SCI's policy violated his rights. The suit goes on to allege the SCI managers told Collazo the two unidentified accusers said his gun had a pearl-colored handle. At that point, the managers and Collazo went out to his car, where he showed them the gun -- which the suit says is black.

A short time later, the managers told Collazo the two accusers said the gun was black. The pair also said they had never seen a gun, only a ''bulge'' in Collazo's pocket that they ''believed'' was a gun. Despite Collazo assuring the managers he never removed the gun from his car, he was fired, the suit alleges.

Collazo's case serves a cautionary tale for Florida businesses to verify that their corporate policies don't contradict the new Florida law, said David M. Goldman, a Jacksonville lawyer who writes a blog about firearm ownership and possession.

''If they do [conflict], they need to modify their handbooks to comply with the Florida statute so that managers don't inadvertently rely on clauses in the handbook to terminate someone when it's not proper,'' Goldman said.

Some Florida companies aren't entirely bound by the new law. Disney, for example, took advantage of an exemption for companies with a federal explosives permit. Disney presents daily fireworks shows at its theme park. Insurer USAA in Tampa is exempt because it has a school on company grounds.

The attorney general's office can sue employers to enforce the law, but it hasn't filed any lawsuits, spokeswoman Sandi Copes said in an e-mail. The office has received 31 complaints since July.

Some business groups fought the law on the grounds that it conflicts with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, which requires employers to maintain a safe work environment.

RULING APPEALED

A federal judge in 2007 found the Oklahoma law ran afoul of the federal regulations. The ruling is being appealed. But two weeks ago, Thomas Stohler, then acting assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the Oklahoma and Florida laws didn't conflict with federal law.

''Gun-related violence is not a recognized occupational hazard in industry as a whole, under normal working conditions,'' Stohler wrote in a letter to an Oklahoma state representative. ''Therefore, state laws protecting an employee's right to transport and store firearms in a locked car on employer premises would not on their face impede the employer's ability to comply'' with the federal act.

Boston - More Than a Feeling

Boston - More Than a Feeling - 1976

I looked out this morning and the sun was gone
Turned on some music to start my day
I lost myself in a familiar song
I closed my eyes and I slipped away

It's more than a feeling, when I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
'till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin' away

So many people have come and gone
Their faces fade as the years go by
Yet I still recall as I wander on
As clear as the sun in the summer sky

It's more than a feeling, when I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
'till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin' away

When I'm tired and thinking cold
I hide in my music, forget the day
And dream of a girl I used to know
I closed my eyes and she slipped away
She slipped away. She slipped away.

It's more than a feeling, when I hear that old song they used to play (more than a feeling)
I begin dreaming (more than a feeling)
'till I see Marianne walk away
I see my Marianne walkin' away

72 Virgins Assassinated

By freezer101 for The Spoof

VATICAN - Religious officials announced the end of terrorism by fanatical Muslims when 3 members of the Christian Secret Service managed to penetrate, and assassinate the 72 Virgins in Heaven awaiting Muslims upon their death.

When news of the assassination reached other church leaders, foot-stomping, hand-clapping, and chants of, "Long live the Crusades," could be heard throughout the world. Cardinal Adam Pedophilia of Our Kid's Special Closet Deep In The Redeemer Church, declared the covert operation a resounding success.

Since the announcement late this morning, Muslims from all over the world have been turning themselves in seeking absolution from Pope Barack Obama and his Secretary of Faith Sister Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Now that the menace of muslinomics is wiped out, it wasn't immediately clear whether Pope Obama would recall all US troops stationed in every country on the planet costing taxpayers 1,000 trillion dollars per month. Asked on Larry King Live about what the U.S. would do with the money now that the war was over, Pope Obama replied, "Dude, that's going to pay for unemployment benefits."

Meltdown Madness

Across the United States, people have been reacting to dire circumstances with extreme acts.

By Nick Turse via TomsDispatch

Beverly Hills clinical psychologist Leslie Seppinni caught something of our moment when she told Forbes magazine that this was "the first time in her 18-year career that businessmen are calling her with suicidal impulses over their financial state." In the last three months, alone, "she has intervened in at least 14 cases of men seriously considering taking their lives." Seppinni offered this observation: "They feel guilt and shame because they think they should have known what was coming with the market or they should have pulled out faster."

Still, it's mostly on Main Street, not Wall Street, that people are being driven to once unthinkable extremes. And while it's always impossible to know the myriad factors, including deeply personal ones, that contribute to drastic acts, violent or otherwise, many of those recently reported are undoubtedly tied, at least in part, to the way the bottom seems to be falling out of the economy.

As a result, reports of people driven to anything from armed robbery to financially-motivated suicide in response to new fiscal realities continue to bubble to the surface. And since only a certain percentage of such acts receive media coverage, the drumbeat of what is being reported definitely qualifies as startling.

Breaking the Bank

In September 2008, a 23-year-old woman from West Norriton, Pennsylvania, robbed a bank, police reported, to pay her rent. According to East Norriton Detective Sgt. Peter Mastrocola, "She said that the reason that she went to PNC Bank and committed the robbery was because she was two months behind in her rent and she was going to be evicted." In fact, after stealing $1,410, the young woman reportedly told police that she "took the cash from the robbery and went to another bank where she purchased a cashier's check for $1,410 made payable to Westover Village Apartments…"

The next month, in Northampton, Pennsylvania, a 49-year-old woman reportedly robbed a bank and, just 18 minutes later, "arrived at a check-cashing business and arranged for several money orders -- totaling $1,090 -- to pay a portion of the rent she owed her landlord." According to court papers, a "confidential informant" told police the woman had confided that "she was going to rob the bank to satisfy about $1,800 in back rent." The police reported that she was "in the process of being evicted."

This, however, is no Keystone State phenomenon. As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, "Another sign of the bad economic times… [b]ank robberies, which had been declining for years, rose in 2008 in Southern California… [by] 22% compared to 2007." In Orange County, the spike was especially acute, a jump of 41% to 145 robberies. Similarly, Inland Empire News Radio reported that authorities attributed a 13% rise in bank robberies in Riverside and San Bernardino counties to a "poor economy."

"We've certainly seen a rise in bank robberies across the country particularly in our metropolitan areas," FBI Special Agent Scott Wilson recently pointed out. "The bank robbery rate has risen dramatically."

Last year, according to the New York City Police Department, bank robberies in that city jumped to more than 430, a 54% rise over 2007. On December 29th alone, CNN noted, "robbers targeted five banks in the Big Apple, some striking in broad daylight and near famous landmarks." Interviewed by the New York Times, a customer in one of the robbed banks put the obvious into words: "It makes me think that the recession is making people go to extreme measures." Illinois Wesleyan University Economics Professor Mike Seeborg agrees. Commenting on a similar local spike in crime, he told a Central Illinois TV station, "There's a clear linkage nationwide that when the economy is in bad shape, when unemployment begins to increase, if people lose their jobs and output falls, that crimes against property especially increase."

Suicidal Tendencies

At least 33 people chose to commit suicide in national parks in 2008. And there seemed to be an economic component to at least some of the cases. For example, an Associated Press report noted that a "49-year-old builder blamed the economy in a note he left for his ex-wife and attorney before killing himself at the edge of the woods at Georgia's Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park." Similarly, in October, Bruce J. Colburn, a "[f]reshly unemployed, former business executive" from Reading, Pennsylvania, traveled to Montana's scenic Glacier National Park where "he shot himself in the chest with a handgun, according to park officials."

Others stayed closer to home.

On October 14, 2008, a woman in Bogart, Georgia, was "supposed to go to court for an eviction hearing." Instead, she called the police and informed them that she was thinking of killing herself. Not long afterward, she shot herself in the head. On October 29th, a 47-year-old man from Blount County, Tennessee, "killed himself when sheriff's deputies tried to evict him from his rented home." The next month, according to Mike Witzky, the executive director of the Mental Health and Recovery Board in Union County, Ohio, two local men committed suicide due to financial problems, while another failed in his attempt.

On December 5, 2008, Ricky Guseman of West Palm Beach, Florida, was to be evicted. Instead, local officials told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, he "barricaded himself in a mobile home… set the place on fire and then shot himself in the head with a shotgun."

In December, coroner's investigators in Kern County, California, revealed that they were "seeing a wave of people committing suicide because of financial stress," a 5-10% increase over 2007.

An analysis of 2008 "death reports" in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, by local ABC television affiliate WISN-TV found "[f]inancial pressure in a difficult economy has led to desperate measures." Of 108 suicides -- a 20% jump over any of the last three years -- at least 25% of the victims "were struggling financially." For example, Wauwatosa resident Tom Brisch, a married father of two, fell on hard times after his wife of 20 years, Sherry, lost her job. At the same time, his job as a commission-only Ford car salesman fell victim to the sluggish auto market. As Sherry summed the situation up after his suicide, "[T]he economic picture with a kid going to college, another one starting high school... was pretty grim and we were struggling." She returned home one day to find that her husband had hanged himself. In his shirt pocket was a suicide note in which "he asked for forgiveness and wrote that he could not get it together to provide for them."

WISN-TV uncovered a host of similar tragedies including:

* A 21-year-old Milwaukee man who shot himself in the face after "he ran out of unemployment [insurance]."

* A 43-year-old West Allis man who hanged himself in his basement with a belt. "[T]he mortgage payments are behind," his girlfriend told the police. "There are astronomical medical bills."

* A 40-year-old Milwaukee woman who overdosed after having "financial problems."

* A 24-year-old Milwaukee man, "fired from his job three weeks before," who suffocated himself with Saran Wrap.

* And a 38-year-old Milwaukee man who shot himself in the head. He'd lost his job six weeks earlier.

In January, less than an hour's drive south of Milwaukee, 37-year-old Staci Paul's car was pulled from Lake Michigan, but they couldn't find the body of the Kenosha, Wisconsin, woman. As an article in the Kenosha News noted, however, friends "said they knew things hadn't been easy for Paul. A single mother, she worked hard to find jobs and as the economy worsened, friends speculated, Paul might have run into some financial trouble. Court records also show Paul had been evicted from her home in October."

Distress Signals

Paul apparently felt she had to deal with her problems on her own. Others, however, have called for help. According to a January 9th report in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, local police received a phone call concerning a 64-year-old resident of Westview, Pennsylvania, who was "apparently distraught over losing his house." When they arrived at the home, they found him "sitting in a lawn chair in his driveway with a rifle under his chin." He was later taken into custody and sent to a psychiatric clinic for "evaluation."

Increasing numbers of desperate souls have also called the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline [1-800-273-TALK (8255)], which logged a record 568,437 calls in 2008. (There were only 412,768 such calls the previous year.) Similarly, a recent investigation by USA Today's Marilyn Elias found that suicide hotlines in Dallas, Pittsburgh, suburban San Francisco, Hyattsville (Maryland), Georgia, Delaware, and Detroit have all reported "increases in callers since the economy slid." The report added:

"In Boston, more hotline callers with mental health problems mention job losses, evictions or fear that they'll lose their homes, says Roberta Hurtig, executive director at Samaritans Inc. [a not-for-profit volunteer organization dedicated to reducing the incidence of suicide.] In Kalamazoo, Mich[igan], and other locales, callers with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder say loss of insurance and cutbacks in public health programs are preventing them from getting medications.

"At the Gary, Ind[iana], Crisis Center, suicidal callers with economic worries are increasing, and their depression is more severe, says Willie Perry, program coordinator for the hotline."

In Franklin County, Ohio, suicide hot line volunteers are "logging more calls from people in financial distress, says Mary Brennen-Hofmann, coordinator of suicide-prevention services at North Central Mental Health Services in Columbus." She continued, "We have seen a lot more calls dealing with financial problems, evictions, foreclosures and job loss."

Similarly, the Hopeline of North Carolina Inc. in Raleigh saw a 50% jump in calls in October and November. "We get calls from people who are suicidal because the stock market is down," said executive director Courtney Atwood. "They have lost money and are not able to provide for their family."

In Los Angeles, calls to the city's "busiest suicide hot line" increased by as much as 60% last year. "A year ago, many of the calls we would get were from people with mental illnesses," commented Sandri Kramer, the program director of the center that operates the hot line. "Now many of the calls are from people who have lost their home, or their job, or who still have a job but can't meet the cost of living."

Domestic Disturbances

Not surprisingly, the economic meltdown has also strained marriages and, according to experts, is contributing to a rise in domestic violence. Retha Fielding, a spokeswoman for the National Domestic Violence Hotline [1-800-799-SAFE (7233)], notes that calls increased 18% between October 2007 and October 2008 and attributes the spike to the poor economy. "It is bringing increased stress and violence into the home. Domestic violence is about control. If you lose your job, that's control you don't have, so you may want to have more control at home."

Sometimes economically exacerbated violence can turn deadly.

On December 9th, for example, 59-year-old Thomas Garrett of Midwest City, Oklahoma, murdered his wife. According to Midwest City Police Chief Brandon Clabes, "Garrett told officers he shot his wife because he didn't know how to explain that they were evicted from their home while she was in the hospital." He apparently planned to kill himself too, but was stopped by the police.

Thirty-one-year-old Eryn Allegra had lost her home as well as her job, and had, according to press accounts, been thinking about suicide for weeks. On Christmas day, the Port St. Lucie, Florida, resident reportedly checked into a hotel, gave her 8-year-old son over-the-counter medicine to put him to sleep, and then smothered him. She subsequently slit her own wrists in a failed suicide attempt.

Noting a man's pickup truck parked in his driveway at a time when he was normally at work, neighbors in an "upscale neighborhood" in Manteca, Georgia, entered his home which a bank had recently approved for a short sale. (A short sale often takes place when a buyer in default is trying to avoid foreclosure.) According to the Manteca Bulletin, they found him "lying in the foyer of the home… dead of a gunshot wound." Arriving at the scene soon after, police discovered the body of his wife nearby "and located a firearm near the two bodies."

On January 11th, Pinole, California police responding to a domestic disturbance call found 43-year-old Kimberly Petretti sitting on the curb in front of the home. She was being evicted that morning. Inside the house, which "showed no signs of a preparation for the move," they found the woman's mother, 62-year-old Claudia Petretti, dead -- shot in the head with an assault rifle. According to Deputy District Attorney Harold Jewett, a two-page letter on the scene indicated a murder-suicide plan linked to the family's financial difficulties. "It was a significant event in their lives that may have precipitated this tragic and desperate act," he said.

Last October, a man in Los Angeles, beset by financial troubles, shot his wife, mother-in-law, and three sons before turning the gun on himself. An eerily similar scene replayed itself this week, when another Los Angeles resident apparently killed his wife and five children -- an 8-year-old girl, twin 5-year-old girls, and twin 2-year-old boys -- before faxing a letter to a local television station and then killing himself. "This was a financial and job-related issue that led to the slayings," Deputy Chief Kenneth Garner said. "In these tough economic times, there are other options. In my 32 years, I've never seen anything like this."

As the World Burns

On December 15th, a 41-year-old Dubuque, Iowa man "used liquid pre-shave to set his apartment on fire because he thought he was going to be evicted."

On December 21st, a 31-year-old woman who had been evicted from her Orange Park, Florida, apartment, "started a weekend fire that caused an estimated $500,000 in damage" to the complex that was her former home. That same day, a woman in St. Augustine, Florida, "was charged with arson… after vacating a house she was evicted from that was later found burning."

On January 5, 2009, Bobby Crigler, the property manager for Holly Street Apartments in Fayetteville, Arkansas, said, "I went over and had a confrontation with [tenants about an eviction notice], and they got belligerent." After that, he sent the property's maintenance man, his son, 49-year-old Kent Crigler, to change the locks at another tenant's apartment. When friends of the tenant facing eviction spotted Kent, they assumed, according to Bobby, that he was there to evict their buddy. They set upon Kent, punching and kicking the father of four to death, according to a report in the Northwest Arkansas Times.

Generally, however, if you weren't a multimillionaire intent on suicide, what you did to your house, your husband, your wife, your child, your bank, your neighbors, your landlord, or yourself remained a distinctly local story, a passing moment in the neighborhood gazette or a regional paper. And for the range of such acts, unlike sports statistics, there are no centralized databases toting up and keeping score. Every now and then, though, a spectacular act of extreme desperation makes it out of the neighborhood and into the national news.

One of these occurred this January, although the media generally played it as a sensational screwball story rather than another extreme act stemming from the economic crisis. In December, Marcus Schrenker, a money manager and sometime stunt pilot, penned a letter that read, in part: "It needs to be known that I am financially insolvent… I am intending on filing bankruptcy in 2009 should my financial conditions continue to deteriorate." They did.

As the Indiana investment adviser grew more desperate to escape mounting financial difficulties and legal issues stemming from accusations of investor fraud, he reportedly hatched a plan that was splashed all over national television as it unfolded. According to news reports, he staged a Hollywood-style getaway from his rapidly deteriorating life, complete with a fake mid-air mayday call, a parachute jump over Alabama, and a faked death from a plane he put on autopilot that crashed in a swamp near a residential area in the Florida Panhandle. Schrenker then raced away on a carefully pre-stashed motorcycle, before being discovered by federal marshals just after he had slashed his wrists at a Florida campsite. He recently pleaded not guilty in federal court to charges that he willfully destroyed an aircraft and made a fake distress call.

Going to Extremes

Across the United States, people have been reacting to dire circumstances with extreme acts, including murder, suicide and suicide attempts, self-inflicted injury, bank robberies, flights from the law, and arson, as well as resistance to eviction and armed self-defense. And yet, while various bailout schemes have been introduced and implemented for banks and giant corporations, no significant plans have been outlined or introduced into public debate, let alone implemented by Washington, to take strong measures to combat the dire circumstances affecting ordinary Americans.

There has been next to no talk of debt or mortgage forgiveness, or of an enhanced and massively bulked-up version of the Nixonian guaranteed income plan (which would pay stipends to the neediest), or of buying up and handing over the glut of homes on the market, with adequate fix-up funds, to the homeless, or of any significant gesture toward even the most modest redistributions of wealth. Until then, for many, hope will be nothing but a slogan, the body count will rise, and Americans will undoubtedly continue going to extremes.

~ ~ ~

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com. His work has appeared in many publications, including the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. A paperback edition of his first book, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books), an exploration of the new military-corporate complex in America, will be published this spring. His website is Nick Turse.com.

[Note: A special bow should be offered to undervalued small-town newspapers and local television stations across the country that have done the grunt work in covering the tragic results of the global economic crisis in their own communities. They continue to offer a real service to the public by documenting how individuals in cities and towns across America are suffering and just what that suffering drives them to do. By way of a Newsweek article on the "Killer Economy?" I recently became aware of an excellent resource on some of the human fallout of the financial crisis, "Greenspan's Body Count" an ongoing feature on the W.C. Varones Blog. Since early 2008, it has provided an invaluable record of "mortgage-related suicides" and other "victims of (former Chairman of the Federal Reserve) Alan Greenspan."]

Internet Time Traveler

Internet Time Traveler

Strange doings at the birth of the Information Superhighway.

Souperior Meat Loaf with Bell Peppers

Looking for an inexpensive yet hearty dish that will stick with you in cold weather? -- Pass the meatloaf, please.


1 envelope Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Onion Soup Mix
2 lbs. ground beef
3/4 cup plain dry bread crumbs*
2 eggs
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup chopped green and/or red bell pepper
1/3 cup ketchup


1. Preheat oven to 350°. Combine all ingredients in large bowl.

2. Shape into loaf in 13 x 9-inch baking or roasting pan.

3. Bake uncovered 1 hour or until done. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

*Substitution: Use 1-1/2 cups fresh bread crumbs or 5 slices fresh bread, cubed.

SLOW COOKER METHOD: Arrange meat loaf in slow cooker. Cook covered on LOW 6 to 8 hours or HIGH 4 hours. (HELPFUL HINT...Place meat loaf on a piece of cheesecloth, then on a rack to help hold meat loaf together while lifting in and out of slow cooker.)

Also terrific with Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Beefy Onion Soup Mix, Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Onion Mushroom Soup Mix, Lipton® Recipe Secrets® Savory Herb with Garlic Soup Mix.

Cost per recipe*: $8.16

Cost per serving*: $1.02

*Based on average retail prices at national supermarkets.

Bon Appétit!

via MakingLifeBetter.com

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Run Doggie, Run




Warning. Graphic war footage. NSFC.

Good dog.

Find Jesus; get $350,000 reward.

The FBI is seeking Jesus and they're offering a $350,000 reward for information leading directly to his location and arrest.

Jesus Navarro-Montes (wanted poster) is wanted in connection with the death of United States Border Patrol Agent Luis Aguilar on January 19, 2008.

The crime occurred in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area near Andrade, California. This area is located near the state lines of California, Arizona, and where the United States/Mexico border meet.

Help keep our borders and border patrol agents safe. If you know where he is, turn Jesus in now.

SHOULD BE CONSIDERED ARMED AND DANGEROUS

Tip the FBI Online - FBI Tips and Public Leads

Complacency Kills

COP Reaper, Fallujah via Crossfit - Click to enlarge.

Sedentary people who find the idea of fitting regular exercise sessions into their lives so difficult that they don't even try, may be interested to hear about a new study that found even regular short bursts of intense exercise, such as a short session of four to six 30-second high intensity sprints on an exercise bike every two days, showed a significant effect on the body's ability to metabolize sugars and could be an effective way to cut the risk of diabetes.

Even Short Bursts Of Intense Exercise Can Improve Metabolism

[puts on running shoes and heads out the door]

Science fiction fact

Dick Tracy's 2-way wrist radio was first introduced in 1946.

LG's New Watch Phone

Now you too can be a hard-hitting, fast-shooting, and supremely intelligent police detective -- or just look like one. ;)

Read all about it.

Why Obama will be a one-term president

Click to enlarge cartoon.

One term or two? Experts say U.S. economy is key

By Ellen Wulfhorst, Reuters

It's always the economy, stupid.

Whether President Barack Obama enjoys one term or two in the White House will depend overwhelmingly on the state of U.S. pocketbooks.

With a daily stream of gloomy economic data, Obama has said he must act quickly to rescue the economy from the worst turmoil in decades. But the new president has plenty of time to help brighten the financial outlook before the next presidential election in November 2012, experts say.

"The truth is it's rare for someone who runs for re-election to get defeated in the absence of economic turmoil," said Jeremy Mayer, professor of public policy at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. "There are tremendous advantages to incumbency."

The key is what happens in the months before voters head to the polls, experts said.

"The one thing you want to avoid if you want to be re-elected is a bad election-year economy," said Allan Lichtman, presidential historian at American University in Washington.

Only 12 presidents have served a single elected term -- and just two have failed to win a second term since the Great Depression -- Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush.

Further back was Herbert Hoover, whose lone term ended in 1933 as the country was locked in the Depression.

"What they had in common, among other things, was a bad economy," said Lichtman.

One-term presidents also tend to lack vision, be poor communicators and fail to inspire voters, Lichtman said.

So far, Obama seems to most observers not to suffer from those particular failings.

In fact, U.S. presidents considered to be the most inspiring communicators used an ailing economy to win their presidencies in the first place.

Bill Clinton's campaign in 1992 coined the phrase "It's the economy, stupid," and Ronald Reagan in 1980 wooed voters by asking if they were better off than they were four years earlier.

Although Obama's keeping his job may depend on how many Americans lose theirs, Lichtman cautioned that his role steering the financial ship can be quite limited.

"People expect the president, rightly or wrongly, to guide the economy in such a way as to provide prosperity," he said. "But the president does not control the economy. He can only influence the economy."

Less significant factors in determining a one- or two-term presidency include an intraparty challenge. Democratic challenger Edward Kennedy damaged fellow Democrat Carter's shot at re-election, and Republican challenger Pat Buchanan hurt fellow Republican George H.W. Bush.

"If you want to look for signs of trouble, if Obama loses an important wing of his party, the left, the centre, .... then he could face an intraparty challenge," Mayer said.

The first test at the polls for Obama will come in 2010, when all seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, one-third of the U.S. Senate and many state governors' mansions will be up for grabs.

"If things get a lot worse in '09 and '10, Democrats will take a hit in the midterms. But if we start to see a recovery in 2011, Obama will get the credit for that," said Mayer. "It's when the pain comes and who's to blame."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Strategic Divergence: The War Against the Taliban and the War Against Al Qaeda

Ulang - the most dangerous and difficult part of the road to Salang Pass (el. 3878 m.), the major mountain pass connecting northern Afghanistan and Kabul province.

By George Friedman, Stratfor

Washington’s attention is now zeroing in on Afghanistan. There is talk of doubling U.S. forces there, and preparations are being made for another supply line into Afghanistan — this one running through the former Soviet Union — as an alternative or a supplement to the current Pakistani route. To free up more resources for Afghanistan, the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq probably will be accelerated. And there is discussion about whether the Karzai government serves the purposes of the war in Afghanistan. In short, U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to focus on Afghanistan seems to be taking shape.

We have discussed many aspects of the Afghan war in the past; it is now time to focus on the central issue. What are the strategic goals of the United States in Afghanistan? What resources will be devoted to this mission? What are the intentions and capabilities of the Taliban and others fighting the United States and its NATO allies? Most important, what is the relationship between the war against the Taliban and the war against al Qaeda? If the United States encounters difficulties in the war against the Taliban, will it still be able to contain not only al Qaeda but other terrorist groups? Does the United States need to succeed against the Taliban to be successful against transnational Islamist terrorists? And assuming that U.S. forces are built up in Afghanistan and that the supply problem through Pakistan is solved, are the defeat of Taliban and the disruption of al Qaeda likely?

Al Qaeda and U.S. Goals Post-9/11

The overarching goal of the United States since Sept. 11, 2001, has been to prevent further attacks by al Qaeda in the United States. Washington has used two means toward this end. One was defensive, aimed at increasing the difficulty of al Qaeda operatives to penetrate and operate within the United States. The second was to attack and destroy al Qaeda prime, the group around Osama bin Laden that organized and executed 9/11 and other attacks in Europe. It is this group — not other groups that call themselves al Qaeda but only are able to operate in the countries where they were formed — that was the target of the United States, because this was the group that had demonstrated the ability to launch intercontinental strikes.

Al Qaeda prime had its main headquarters in Afghanistan. It was not an Afghan group, but one drawn from multiple Islamic countries. It was in alliance with an Afghan group, the Taliban. The Taliban had won a civil war in Afghanistan, creating a coalition of support among tribes that had given the group control, direct or indirect, over most of the country. It is important to remember that al Qaeda was separate from the Taliban; the former was a multinational force, while the Taliban were an internal Afghan political power.

The United States has two strategic goals in Afghanistan. The first is to destroy the remnants of al Qaeda prime — the central command of al Qaeda — in Afghanistan. The second is to use Afghanistan as a base for destroying al Qaeda in Pakistan and to prevent the return of al Qaeda to Afghanistan.

To achieve these goals, Washington has sought to make Afghanistan inhospitable to al Qaeda. The United States forced the Taliban from Afghanistan’s main cities and into the countryside, and established a new, anti-Taliban government in Kabul under President Hamid Karzai. Washington intended to deny al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan by unseating the Taliban government, creating a new pro-American government and then using Afghanistan as a base against al Qaeda in Pakistan.

The United States succeeded in forcing the Taliban from power in the sense that in giving up the cities, the Taliban lost formal control of the country. To be more precise, early in the U.S. attack in 2001, the Taliban realized that the massed defense of Afghan cities was impossible in the face of American air power. The ability of U.S. B-52s to devastate any concentration of forces meant that the Taliban could not defend the cities, but had to withdraw, disperse and reform its units for combat on more favorable terms.

At this point, we must separate the fates of al Qaeda and the Taliban. During the Taliban retreat, al Qaeda had to retreat as well. Since the United States lacked sufficient force to destroy al Qaeda at Tora Bora, al Qaeda was able to retreat into northwestern Pakistan. There, it enjoys the advantages of terrain, superior tactical intelligence and support networks.

Even so, in nearly eight years of war, U.S. intelligence and special operations forces have maintained pressure on al Qaeda in Pakistan. The United States has imposed attrition on al Qaeda, disrupting its command, control and communications and isolating it. In the process, the United States used one of al Qaeda’s operational principles against it. To avoid penetration by hostile intelligence services, al Qaeda has not recruited new cadres for its primary unit. This makes it very difficult to develop intelligence on al Qaeda, but it also makes it impossible for al Qaeda to replace its losses. Thus, in a long war of attrition, every loss imposed on al Qaeda has been irreplaceable, and over time, al Qaeda prime declined dramatically in effectiveness — meaning it has been years since it has carried out an effective operation.

The situation was very different with the Taliban. The Taliban, it is essential to recall, won the Afghan civil war that followed the Soviet withdrawal despite Russian and Iranian support for its opponents. That means the Taliban have a great deal of support and a strong infrastructure, and, above all, they are resilient. After the group withdrew from Afghanistan’s cities and lost formal power post-9/11, it still retained a great deal of informal influence — if not control — over large regions of Afghanistan and in areas across the border in Pakistan. Over the years since the U.S. invasion, the Taliban have regrouped, rearmed and increased their operations in Afghanistan. And the conflict with the Taliban has now become a conventional guerrilla war.

The Taliban and the Guerrilla Warfare Challenge

The Taliban have forged relationships among many Afghan (and Pakistani) tribes. These tribes have been alienated by Karzai and the Americans, and far more important, they do not perceive the Americans and Karzai as potential winners in the Afghan conflict. They recall the Russian and British defeats. The tribes have long memories, and they know that foreigners don’t stay very long. Betting on the United States and Karzai — when the United States has sent only 30,000 troops to Afghanistan, and is struggling with the idea of sending another 30,000 troops — does not strike them as prudent. The United States is behaving like a power not planning to win; and, in any event, they would not be much impressed if the Americans were planning to win.

The tribes therefore do not want to get on the wrong side of the Taliban. That means they aid and shelter Taliban forces, and provide them intelligence on enemy movement and intentions. With its base camps and supply lines running from Pakistan, the Taliban are thus in a position to recruit, train and arm an increasingly large force.

The Taliban have the classic advantage of guerrillas operating in known terrain with a network of supporters: superior intelligence. They know where the Americans are, what the Americans are doing and when the Americans are going to strike. The Taliban declines combat on unfavorable terms and strikes when the Americans are weakest. The Americans, on the other hand, have the classic problem of counterinsurgency: They enjoy superior force and firepower, and can defeat anyone they can locate and pin down, but they lack intelligence. As much as technical intelligence from unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites is useful, human intelligence is the only effective long-term solution to defeating an insurgency. In this, the Taliban have the advantage: They have been there longer, they are in more places and they are not going anywhere.

There is no conceivable force the United States can deploy to pacify Afghanistan. A possible alternative is moving into Pakistan to cut the supply lines and destroy the Taliban’s base camps. The problem is that if the Americans lack the troops to successfully operate in Afghanistan, it is even less likely they have the troops to operate in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The United States could use the Korean War example, taking responsibility for cutting the Taliban off from supplies and reinforcements from Pakistan, but that assumes that the Afghan government has an effective force motivated to engage and defeat the Taliban. The Afghan government doesn’t.

The obvious American solution — or at least the best available solution — is to retreat to strategic Afghan points and cities and protect the Karzai regime. The problem here is that in Afghanistan, holding the cities doesn’t give the key to the country; rather, holding the countryside gives the key to the cities. Moreover, a purely defensive posture opens the United States up to the Dien Bien Phu/Khe Sanh counterstrategy, in which guerrillas shift to positional warfare, isolate a base and try to overrun in it.

A purely defensive posture could create a stalemate, but nothing more. That stalemate could create the foundations for political negotiations, but if there is no threat to the enemy, the enemy has little reason to negotiate. Therefore, there must be strikes against Taliban concentrations. The problem is that the Taliban know that concentration is suicide, and so they work to deny the Americans valuable targets. The United States can exhaust itself attacking minor targets based on poor intelligence. It won’t get anywhere.

U.S. Strategy in Light of al Qaeda’s Diminution

From the beginning, the Karzai government has failed to take control of the countryside. Therefore, al Qaeda has had the option to redeploy into Afghanistan if it chose. It didn’t because it is risk-averse. That may seem like a strange thing to say about a group that flies planes into buildings, but what it means is that the group’s members are relatively few, so al Qaeda cannot risk operational failures. It thus keeps its powder dry and stays in hiding.

This then frames the U.S. strategic question. The United States has no intrinsic interest in the nature of the Afghan government. The United States is interested in making certain the Taliban do not provide sanctuary to al Qaeda prime. But it is not clear that al Qaeda prime is operational anymore. Some members remain, putting out videos now and then and trying to appear fearsome, but it would seem that U.S. operations have crippled al Qaeda.

So if the primary reason for fighting the Taliban is to keep al Qaeda prime from having a base of operations in Afghanistan, that reason might be moot now as al Qaeda appears to be wrecked. This is not to say that another Islamist terrorist group could not arise and develop the sophisticated methods and training of al Qaeda prime. But such a group could deploy many places, and in any case, obtaining the needed skills in moving money, holding covert meetings and the like is much harder than it looks — and with many intelligence services, including those in the Islamic world, on the lookout for this, recruitment would be hard.

It is therefore no longer clear that resisting the Taliban is essential for blocking al Qaeda: al Qaeda may simply no longer be there. (At this point, the burden of proof is on those who think al Qaeda remains operational.)

Two things emerge from this. First, the search for al Qaeda and other Islamist groups is an intelligence matter best left to the covert capabilities of U.S. intelligence and Special Operations Command. Defeating al Qaeda does not require tens of thousands of troops — it requires excellent intelligence and a special operations capability. That is true whether al Qaeda is in Pakistan or Afghanistan. Intelligence, covert forces and airstrikes are what is needed in this fight, and of the three, intelligence is the key.

Second, the current strategy in Afghanistan cannot secure Afghanistan, nor does it materially contribute to shutting down al Qaeda. Trying to hold some cities and strategic points with the number of troops currently under consideration is not an effective strategy to this end; the United States is already ceding large areas of Afghanistan to the Taliban that could serve as sanctuary for al Qaeda. Protecting the Karzai government and key cities is therefore not significantly contributing to the al Qaeda-suppression strategy.

In sum, the United States does not control enough of Afghanistan to deny al Qaeda sanctuary, can’t control the border with Pakistan and lacks effective intelligence and troops for defeating the Taliban.

Logic argues, therefore, for the creation of a political process for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan coupled with a recommitment to intelligence operations against al Qaeda. Ultimately, the United States must protect itself from radical Islamists, but cannot create a united, pro-American Afghanistan. That would not happen even if the United States sent 500,000 troops there, which it doesn’t have anyway.

A Tale of Two Surges

The U.S. strategy now appears to involve trying a surge, or sending in more troops and negotiating with the Taliban, mirroring the strategy used in Iraq. But the problem with that strategy is that the Taliban don’t seem inclined to make concessions to the United States. The Taliban don’t think the United States can win, and they know the United States won’t stay. The Petraeus strategy is to inflict enough pain on the Taliban to cause them to rethink their position, which worked in Iraq. But it did not work in Vietnam. So long as the Taliban have resources flowing and can survive American attacks, they will calculate that they can outlast the Americans. This has been Afghan strategy for centuries, and it worked against the British and Russians.

If it works against the Americans, too, splitting the al Qaeda strategy from the Taliban strategy will be the inevitable outcome for the United States. In that case, the CIA will become the critical war fighter in the theater, while conventional forces will be withdrawn. It follows that Obama will need to think carefully about his approach to intelligence.

This is not an argument that al Qaeda is no longer a threat, although the threat appears diminished. Nor is it an argument that dealing with terrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan is not a priority. Instead, it is an argument that the defeat of the Taliban under rationally anticipated circumstances is unlikely and that a negotiated settlement in Afghanistan will be much more difficult and unlikely than the settlement was in Iraq — but that even so, a robust effort against Islamist terror groups must continue regardless of the outcome of the war with the Taliban.

Therefore, we expect that the United States will separate the two conflicts in response to these realities. This will mean that containing terrorists will not be dependent on defeating or holding out against the Taliban, holding Afghanistan’s cities, or preserving the Karzai regime. We expect the United States to surge troops into Afghanistan, but in due course, the counterterrorist portion will diverge from the counter-Taliban portion. The counterterrorist portion will be maintained as an intense covert operation, while the overt operation will wind down over time. The Taliban ruling Afghanistan is not a threat to the United States, so long as intense counterterrorist operations continue there.

The cost of failure in Afghanistan is simply too high and the connection to counterterrorist activities too tenuous for the two strategies to be linked. And since the counterterror war is already distinct from conventional operations in much of Afghanistan and Pakistan, our forecast is not really that radical.

~ ~ ~

Afghanistan AC-130 Gunship

Terrorist take down outside a mosque in early stage of the war in Afghanistan.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Patent # 654,611

All images, click to enlarge.

You want to patent what?

To all whom it may concern: Be it known that we, Edmund De Moulin and Ulysses S. De Moulin, citizens of the United States, residing in Greenville, in the county of Bond and State of Illinois, have invented a new and useful Initiating Device, of which the following is a specification.

This invention relates to devices employed initiating applicants for membership in secret organizations, etc.; and it has for its object to provide a device of this class which is in the nature of a spanking machine, the construction being such that the applicant will be struck with a paddle and at the same time will be given an electric shock, the mechanism being thrown into operation by the applicant himself.

Full patent # 654,611. - July 31, 1900.

The British called - They want their guns back!

The British called - They want their guns back!

A must-see video for American gun owners.

Happy 牛 [Ox] Year

Year of the Ox: 26 January 2009 - 14 February 2010

The Ox is the sign of prosperity through fortitude and hard work -- but, forecasters are predicting a not so bullish year.

Year of the Ox: Not so bullish

Here are a few ideas to make the Ox year more enjoyable. -- Creating art can be a fun diversion from financial woes.

Happy NIU Year of the Ox - Chinese Brush Painting

Too passive? How about tipping the odds in your favor -- or at least having some good, dirty fun... [h/t: CaptCarrot]

How To Cow Tip

If diversions fail, consider this recipe... ;)

How to Make the Red Ox Mixed Drink

Happy 牛 Year

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Kenny Chesney - Anything But Mine

Megan Abubo proves surf's up at The Horses Mouth.

The cold spell is broken...

Cowboys and wahines hang ten in

Kenny Chesney's - Anything But Mine

Walking along beneath the lights of that miracle mile
Me and Mary making our way into the night
You can hear the cries from the carnival rides
The pinball bells and the skeeball slides
Watching the summer sun fall out of sight
There's a warm wind coming in from off of the ocean
Making its way past the hotel walls to fill the street
Mary is holding both of her shoes in her hand
Said she likes to feel the sand beneath her feet

And in the morning I'm leaving, making my way back to Cleveland
So tonight I hope that I will do just fine
And I don't see how you could ever be anything but mine

There's a local band playing at the seaside pavilion
And I got just enough cash to get us in
And as we are dancin Mary's wrapping her arms around me
And I can feel the sting of summer on my skin
In the midst of the music I tell her I love her
We both laugh cause we know it isn't true
Ah but Mary there's a summer drawing to an end tonight
And there's so much that I long to do to you

But in the morning I'm leaving, making my way back to Cleveland
So tonight I hope that I will do just fine
And I don't see how you could ever be anything but mine

And in the morning I'm leaving, making my way back to Cleveland
So tonight I hope that I will do just fine
And I don't see how you could ever be anything but mine

Mary I don't see how you could ever be anything but mine

In the morning I'm leaving making my way back to Cleveland
So tonight I hope that I will do just fine
Hey I don't see how you could ever be anything but mine