Sunday, August 31, 2008

Moldova, Transnistria, Chisinau, Tiraspol....Say them again, three times, fast...

Familiar with Transnistria?  Don't worry, you probably will be's another of those wonderful (former) Russian playgrounds that they're having such fun with these days.  Ah, Vlad, remember how good it was to forment revolutions, stir up ethnic dissent, smuggle weapons, forge currency, write propaganda, and even get in a murder or two?  No problem......come to Transnistria, on the grey banks of the Dnester.  It's just like the old days!
by Corey Flintoff - NPR

It may sound like one of those fictional Eastern European countries, Ruritania or Graustark, but it's a real place, part of Moldova, sandwiched along the border with Ukraine. It doesn't quite reach the Black Sea but mostly follows the eastern shore of one the region's great rivers, the Dnester.  European officials are worried that Russia could use other frozen ethnic conflicts to put pressure on Moldova and Ukraine.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner noted that Russia could use areas such as Transnistria in Moldova to create tension and counter efforts to bring those countries into NATO and the EU.

Life Slowly Returns To Normal In Georgian Port
A visit to the Georgian port of Poti, still under effective Russian control in the wake of this month's conflict, finds there are still some Russian soldiers inside the town — Georgia's largest Black Sea port. Many checkpoints dot the outskirts, but the town is beginning to return to normal.

Russia stands by Georgia actions
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said his decision to recognise Georgia's breakaway regions as independent is irrevocable.

Unfortunately, the French and Germans are not speaking up for sanctions against Russia. 

"French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told the BBC that Paris did not support sanctions but the views of all EU members would have to be taken into account.

"The situation is very difficult and... we must be firm on our position in offering a line defending, of course, territorial integrity of Georgia," he said.........

Germany's foreign minister ( Mr Steinmeier)said that "the dangerous spiral of violence [over Georgia] must be stopped"..... "We need a strong and sensible European role to allow a return to reason and responsibility," he said.

Speaking earlier in the week, Mr Steinmeier rejected the idea of sanctions, saying "someone should first tell me what a sanction against Russia could be".

"Particularly in such a serious political situation, it is necessary to show a bit of common sense," he said.

"We will continue to have Russia as our neighbour also beyond the current day, and it is in our own interest to return to a normal relationship."

The UK's Prime Minister, however, showed some backbone.....

Mr Brown said both the EU and Nato should review their ties with Russia

"When Russia has a grievance over an issue such as South Ossetia, it should act multilaterally by consent rather than unilaterally by force," he said.

"My message to Russia is simple: If you want to be welcome at the top table of organisations such as the G8, OECD and WTO, you must accept that with rights come responsibilities."

How odd.........

Kremlin critic shot in Ingushetia
The owner of an internet site critical of the Russian authorities in the volatile region of Ingushetia has been shot dead in police custody.

Magomed Yevloyev, owner of the site, was a vocal critic of the region's administration.

The Russian prosecutor's office said an investigation into the death had been launched....... (Now move along citizen, there's nothing to see here.....)

Sunday Readings

The Louisiana governor talks about what it means to be conservative, why he became a Catholic and why our immigration policy goes against the American dream.
The news from the north of our home in Tbilisi didn’t strike me as unusual. In the breakaway region of South Ossetia, clashes continued between Georgian- and Ossetian-held villages. Georgians said they had gone in to stop the fighting. The Russians, who back the Ossetians, traded threats with the Georgians. This had been going on for weeks. I gave no more thought to it and went grocery shopping.

Obama tied to lobbyists, but boasts of not taking money
By Ken Dilanian, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Barack Obama often boasts he is "the only candidate who isn't taking a dime from Washington lobbyists," yet his fundraising team includes 38 members of law firms that were paid $138 million last year to lobby the federal government, records show.

All in the Family for Biden and the tort lawyers
ByThomas Lifson, American Thinker
The tort lawyers have a great friend in Joe Biden and his running mate, and there is a smelly "intersection of interests" among them.

Digg this......

Medieval canals spotted from air

Archaeologists have found what they have described as a "breathtaking engineering project" in Lincolnshire.  Almost 60 miles of medieval canals, possibly built by monks to ferry stone, have been identified in the Fens.

and this....

Roald Dahl’s wartime sex raids

Children's author seduced for Britain in undercover mission. He is known to the world as the author of bestselling children’s books such as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and James and the Giant Peach. Yet before he became a successful writer, Roald Dahl had a very different reputation – as the sexiest British spy in America. (He did it for God, Queen, and Country!)

and this....
The Wave shows how to turn children into Nazis

A hit German film that shows how to turn children into Nazis. And it's based on a real-life Californian experiment that got scarily out of hand.

and this....

Happy 63rd birthday to Van Morrison. "Baby Please Don't Go" by Them, 1965

and this....

Sarah Palin on Sports:

Stormy Weather - Sunday Update

This Isn't the Return of History

-Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek

The Georgia attack will go down not as the dawn of a new era 
of Russian power but as a major strategic blunder.

Europe Must Back Ukraine for Peace

 - David Miliband, The Guardian
It is not an act of hostility towards Russia for Europe to
support Ukraine, but a positive move towards lasting peace

Ex-Soviet States Fear Russia
- Otto Luchterhandt, Der Spiegel 
Moscow's recent offensive in the Caucasus region has former Soviet republics worried. They see it as a return to old imperialist policies and fear they could be the next victims of Russian aggression. How much at risk are Ukraine and Moldova?
Palin Made Impression from the Start
- Washington Post

Far from being a last-minute tactical move or a second choice when

better known alternatives were eliminated, Palin was very much in
McCain's thinking from the beginning of the selection process,
according to McCain's advisers. The 44-year-old governor made every
cut as the first list of candidates assembled last spring was slowly
winnowed. The more McCain learned about her, the more attracted he
was to her as someone who shared his maverick, anti-establishment instincts.
Joe Biden's deep (but mythical) blue-collar roots
-Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune

Joe Biden once got in trouble for plagiarizing a speech and inflating his academic record.
So it will not surprise you to find that his famous working-class background turns out to be mythical.

But it may surprise you to learn that Biden isn't the one who has trouble with the facts.

The Audacity of Hype
- William Safire, NY Times

BY choosing the venue of a vast outdoor stadium as John Kennedy did for
his “new frontier” acceptance, and by speaking on the anniversary of
Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” address, Barack Obama — whose
claim to fame is an ability to move audiences with his words — deliberately
invited comparison with two of the most memorable speeches of our recent history. 

What a mistake.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Two Big Ones Coming, but They're Not Gustav and Hanna

Two Big Ones Coming, but they're not Gustav and Hanna...

The situation in Georgia is not going away....not for a long time.....if ever.  For a very longtime, Putin and his KGB team have had the objective of regaining as much of the old Empire as possible, and like the professional hunters that they are, waited for the most opportune season; allowed their target to be lulled by their inaction; sealed off avenues of escape and rescue; then provoked their prey into action, and sprung the trap.

With their latest slap to the face of the world by declaring South Osettia to become part of Russia, is there any doubt of their original intention, and their strategy?

The Western Press is ignoring this issue.  Why?  Can it be that the press realizes it's complicity in not sounding the alarms when Putin eliminated the free press in Russia; when he stole the investments of major Western investors; killed his opponents?  Can it be that they recognize that what would be their usual response of proposing negotiating with the Russians, is absurd in the face of Russia's heavy handed and aggresive use of force, and they're incapable of suggesting any other alternative?

Along with Russia's main fist in the face of the West, their partner Iran (with Russia's help) is jabbing at another sensitive spot, and this may actually turn out to provoke the biggest reaction.  Iran's announcement of even more centrifuges able to produce weapons-grade nuclear material, has resulted in Israel announcing that it will not let Iran achieve nuclear capability.

So far, it appears that the US, Europe, and the rest of the world are are only tsk, tsking.  But, unfortunately, we all know that has no effect on bullies.

Kremlin announces that South Ossetia will join 'one united Russian state'

The Kremlin moved swiftly to tighten its grip on Georgia’s breakaway regions yesterday as South Ossetia announced that it would soon become part of Russia, which will open military bases in the province under an agreement to be signed on Tuesday.

Tarzan Kokoity, the province’s Deputy Speaker of parliament, announced that South Ossetia would be absorbed into Russia soon so that its people could live in “one united Russian state” with their ethnic kin in North Ossetia.

EU to consider Russian sanctions
The EU will consider sanctions against over Georgia, as Russia's allies fail to give support, and POWs are released.

Black Sea focus for Georgia tension
U.S. and Russian ships in separate missions in the Black Sea have been a symbolic focus of continuing tension over Georgia.

Fallout from Georgia conflict widens

Diplomatic ties, and sanction and retaliation threats take centre stage in the aftershocks of the conflict in Georgia.

Georgia says Russia troops blocking refugee return

GORI, Georgia (Reuters) - Russian troops deep inside Georgian territory are stopping thousands of refugees from returning to their homes, a Georgian official said on Saturday.

Russian soldiers were still manning checkpoints in Georgia and patrolling a Black Sea port even after Moscow pulled back much of the force it deployed three weeks ago to crush Georgia's attempt to take back separatist province South Ossetia.

Report: Israel won't allow a nuclear Iran

Israel will not allow Iran to attain nuclear capability and if time begins to run out, Jerusalem will not hesitate to take whatever means necessary to prevent Iran from achieving its nuclear goals, the government has recently decided in a special discussion.

Iran says it has 4,000 centrifuges working on enrichment

TEHRAN: Iran has increased the number of operating centrifuges at its uranium enrichment plant to 4,000, a top official said Friday, pushing ahead with its nuclear program despite threats of new UN sanctions.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Happy Labor Day to all working (and retired) Americans!

Have a wonderful and safe Holiday weekend with family and deserve it.  See you later.
If only......Superman was for real..........see 'ya later Vlad!

OK, I know...he's not, but its Friday, and I'm looking for interesting things to laugh about.  Bet you don't know the real story about the creation of Superman.
On the night of June 2, 1932, the world's first superhero was born — not on the mythical planet of Krypton but from a little-known tragedy on the streets of Cleveland........

Here's the rest of the story.....

Mythbusters paint the Mona Lisa (in 80 milliseconds!)

August 28, 2008: Barack Obama: He Completes Us

First McCain - Palin Commercial!

First McCain - Palin Commercial!

Watch it here - now.....

"He should be picking stocks!"

Who knew that John McCain read Hentoff?
Back on May 21st, Nat wrote a recommendation that McCain choose Gov. Palin.  Here's a great perspective on her, and her courageous decision to go through with the birth of her son, despite knowing that he would probably have Downs Syndrome. 

.....Last December, the mother of four children, Palin, four months pregnant, found she was going to have a child with Down syndrome, a condition characterized by moderate-to-severe mental retardation. A school friend of one of my sons had Down syndrome, and I have known functioning adults with the extra chromosomes of that syndrome.

However, as a longtime reporter on disability rights, I have discovered that many fetuses so diagnosed have been aborted by parents who have been advised by their doctors to end the pregnancies because of the future "imperfect quality of life" of such children.

Palin's first reaction to the diagnosis was to research the facts about the condition, since "I've never had problems with my other pregnancies." As a result, she and her husband, Todd, never had any doubt they would have the child.

.....Because of Palin's reputation as a maverick, and her initial reduction of state spending (including pork-barrel spending), life-affirming Palin connects with voters and has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate for John McCain.

She would be a decided asset — an independent Republican governor, a woman, a defender of life against the creeping culture of death and a fresh face in national politics, described in "the Almanac of National Politics" as "an avid hunter and fisher with a killer smile who wears designer glasses and heels, and hair like modern sculpture."

"Grand Slam"

Looks like Sen. McCain hit a Grand Slam with his choice of Gov. Palin as his VP.
A mother of five (one with Down's syndrome); maried to a native American (a Yup'ik Eskimo); a son in the Army about to be deployed to Iraq; an athelete who had a scholarship to college; she hunts and fishes, and is an NRA member; is Pro-Life; was a union member, and is married to one; has smoked marijuana (but didn't like it); worked as a commercial fisherman with her husband; has a record of championing ethics in government and prosecuting government criminals.
Oh, yeah, she was a beauty pagent winner......

The Great Conjuror

Sen. Obama and his team delivered a boffo finale in his acceptance speech to the Democratic Party Convention this evening. He is a master speaker, and the setting was a dramatic and spectacular staging that not only conveyed a sense of majesty, but demonstrated the surging tide of supporters he has energized and engaged. His cadence, timing, inflection and his emotive qualities in delivering the speech were impeccable, and will probably be viewed and studied over, and over again, by students of oratory in an attempt to perfect their own capabilities.

After thinking about the whole presentation of this evening's events in the stadium in Denver, I realized that something had been nagging at me during the entire time that I had been watching the show. I had a strong feeling a déjà vu. Something was eerily familiar about the event. I have seen pictures of other similar events; cheering massed crowds shouting in unison and waving banners; tears of joy and overwhelming solidarity with the ideas pronounced from the podium.

The pictures this evening's scene conjured up for me are from 70 years ago in Germany. Despite the fact that political rally's are in essence, well, political rally's, there is strong similarity in the massed people being emotionally carried away by a master conjurer's rhetoric alone, as opposed to his past deeds and specific plans. In this case it's the nebulous concept of "change", and the conjurer is Sen. Obama. He is a man who secured his win by assuming one posture, and then afterwards, donning another. As Hillary Clinton has phrased it, "one would have to suspend disbelief" in order to accept him as presented.

I believe that Charles Krauthammer got it right.

"Barack Obama is an immensely talented man whose talents have been largely devoted to crafting, and chronicling, his own life. Not things. Not ideas. Not institutions. But himself.

Nothing wrong or even terribly odd about that, except that he is laying claim to the job of crafting the coming history of the United States. A leap of such audacity is odd."

But not without precedence..........

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Despite Denver, Georgia Is Still On My Mind

How the Georgian Conflict Really Started


'Anybody who thinks that Moscow didn't plan this invasion, that we in Georgia caused it gratuitously, is severely mistaken," President Mikheil Saakashvili told me during a late night chat in Georgia's presidential palace this weekend.

"Our decision to engage was made in the last second as the Russian tanks were rolling -- we had no choice," Mr. Saakashvili explained. "We took the initiative just to buy some time. We knew we were not going to win against the Russian army, but we had to do something to defend ourselves."……

I put it to Mr. Saakashvili that there was also the question of why now? Why did the Russians not act before or later? It was a matter, he said, of several factors coming together: the useful distractions of the Beijing Olympics and the U.S. elections, the fact that it took Mr. Putin this long to consolidate power, the danger that tanks would bog down in the winter.

But two factors above all sealed Georgia's fate this summer, it seems. In April, NATO postponed the decision to admit Georgia into the organization until its next summit in October. Mr. Saakashvili believes Moscow felt it had one last chance to pre-empt Georgia's joining NATO.

Finally, he says, the invasion had to be done before the situation in Iraq got any better and freed up U.S. forces to act elsewhere -- a matter not simply of U.S. weakness but of increasing U.S. strength. "If America thinks it is too weak to do anything about Georgia," said Mr. Saakashvili, "you should understand how the Russians see it, how much Moscow respects a strong United States -- or at least a U.S. that believes in its own strength."


Russia faces diplomatic isolation on Georgia

Russia faced diplomatic isolation over its military action against Georgia on Thursday, with its Asian allies failing to offer support and France saying EU leaders were considering imposing sanctions. MORE

Bill "The Don" Clinton?


Did Bill Cut A Clever 11th Hour Deal?

Marc Sheppard
The last time I witnessed an abrupt 180o  even approaching the magnitude of last night's from Bill Clinton was when Frank Pentangeli suddenly recanted all previous accusations against Michael Corleone at a Senate Committee hearing.  Of course, that was in the movie
The Godfather, and Pentangeli's reversal was coerced by the frightening sight of his brother sitting directly beside Michael at the hearing. MORE

Here's one of the best descriptions of the differences between Democrat's and Repbulican's on social issues.
Excerpted from Peggy Noonan's "The Master Has Arrived" @


……..Sadness and struggle are part of life, but so are guts and verve and achievement and success and hardiness and…triumph. Democrats always get this wrong. Republicans get it wrong too, but in a different way.

Democrats in the end speak most of, and seem to hold the most sympathy for, the beset-upon single mother without medical coverage for her children, and the soldier back from the war who needs more help with post-traumatic stress disorder. They express the most sympathy for the needy, the yearning, the marginalized and unwell. For those, in short, who need more help from the government, meaning from the government's treasury, meaning the money got from taxpayers.  Who happen, also, to be a generally beset-upon group.

Republicans have, that is, sympathy for taxpayers. But they don't dwell all that much, or show much expressed sympathy for, the sick mother with the uninsured kids, and the soldier with the shot nerves.
Neither party ever gets it quite right, the balance between the taxed and the needy, the suffering of one sort and the suffering of another. You might say that in this both parties are equally cold and equally warm, only to two different classes of citizens.  MORE

Democrats show little expressed sympathy for those who work to make the money the government taxes to help the beset-upon mother and the soldier and the kids. They express little sympathy for the middle-aged woman who owns a small dry cleaner and employs six people and is, actually, day to day, stressed and depressed from the burden of state, local and federal taxes, and regulations, and lawsuits, and meetings with the accountant, and complaints as to insufficient or incorrect efforts to meet guidelines regarding various employee/employer rules and regulations. At Republican conventions they express sympathy for this woman, as they do for those who are entrepreneurial, who start businesses and create jobs and build things.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Obama wins historic nomination

Obama wins historic nomination

Barack Hussein Obama, a freshman senator who defeated the first family of Democratic Party politics with a call for a fundamentally new course in politics, was nominated by his party today to be the 44th president of the United States.

NATO ships cause alarm in Moscow

Russian commanders said they were growing alarmed at the number of NATO warships sailing into the Black Sea, conceding that NATO vessels now outnumbered the ships in their fleet anchored off the western coast of Georgia.

Russian Missle Ship

Russian official: "Vessels will be visiting Syria and other friendly ports more frequently."

The New Cold War?
Western media have slipped into Cold War rhetoric, portraying Russia as an aggressor vs. Georgia. But that's too facile a view

Georgia: Fallen Star for Investors
War with Russia has hurt Georgia's reputation as a stable investment climate, the best among former Soviet states in the Caucasus

Russia's Achilles Heel
Russia understands that power can be exerted from control of oil and natural gas pipelines, and one of them passes through countries where the U.S. has influence

London Games 2012: Lessons from Beijing
The British capital can't match China for spending or flash. It aims instead to emphasize fun at the 2012 Summer Olympics

The city's mayor, Boris Johnson, summed up the mood: "We've been dazzled, impressed, and blown away by these Beijing Games," he says, adding, "but we've not been intimidated."

Brave words, but the London mayor knows he's got his work cut out to match what International Olympic Committee Chairman Jacques Rogge rightfully called an "extraordinary Games." The British capital has a budget of just over $17 billion to deliver London 2012, compared with the $44 billion that Chinese authorities spent on the Beijing Games. China bulldozed neighborhoods to make way for the Games and throttled factories and driving in a scramble to clean up Beijing's polluted air, but British officials enjoy no such impunity. Indeed, they're already coming up against taxpayer outcry over plans for the Olympic site in East London.

Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire

Annenberg documents show extensive contacts between Obama and Ayers

Rick Moran, in a post on the American Thinker, accuses Sen. Obama of being a liar of the first magnitude.

As we wait for the press and others to go through the thousands of documents related to the Chicago Annenberg Challenge where Barack Obama served as President of the Board, and terrorist William Ayers headed up the operations arm, here's what's apparent so far: Barack Obama made it appear in public statements that he barely knew Ayers. Here is what he said at the Philadelphia debate in April about his relationship with the terrorist:

This is a guy who lives in my neighborhood, who's a professor of English in Chicago who I know and who I have not received some official endorsement from. He's not somebody who I exchange ideas from on a regular basis. And the notion that somehow as a consequence of me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was eight years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn't make much sense, George.

But here's what the Annenberg docs show so far:

The UIC records show that Obama and Ayers attended board meetings, retreats and at least one news conference together as the education program got under way. The two continued to attend meetings together during the 1995-2001 operation of the program, records show.

"Not someone I exchange ideas with on a regular basis?" Assuming he had private meetings with Ayers in addition to the public ones, one could easily conclude that Obama did indeed "exchange ideas with Ayers on a regular basis."

Top U.S. Marine sees shift from Iraq to Afghanistan

The top U.S. Marine officer said on Wednesday he could reduce his 25,000-strong force in the former al Qaeda stronghold of Iraq's Anbar province to reinforce military operations against a growing Taliban threat in Afghanistan.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway told reporters the once-restive province west of Baghdad could be turned over to Iraqi security control within days, thanks to the sharp decline in violence that occurred when Sunni tribal leaders switched allegiance from al Qaeda to the U.S. military.

The Marine Corps Times said on its Web site that Anbar security would revert to Iraq next week. Marine officials declined to confirm a specific date due to security concerns.

UK urges tough response to Russia

The UK foreign secretary calls for "hard-headed engagement" with Russia in response to its actions in Georgia.

No Real New News – Global Warming Source Found Centered in Denver

There's not a lot new going on in the world today. The Russians are still occupying Georgia, and news of their atrocities are beginning to leak out; the EU is wagging a finger at the Russians; and the US is preoccupied with the play-by-play reportage of the Democrat Party Convention in Denver. The Chinese were able to close all their factories in Beijing to improve the air quality for the Olympics……..given the vapid and vacuous CO2 laden hot air now emanating from Denver, can we get the Democrats to shut down the podium and do the same for the rest of us?

Nothing new here citizen…..move along now.

Russian-backed paramilitaries are ethnically cleansing villages inside a buffer zone within Georgia. The South Ossetian militiamen have torched houses, beaten elderly people and even murdered civilians in the lawless zone just north of Gori, set up by the Russian army, close to the border with the breakaway republic whose independence Russia recognized this week, locals said.

Is the Ukraine the new Cold War front?

A day after Russia threw down a fresh challenge to the West by recognizing Georgia's breakaway territories as independent states, the (UK's) foreign secretary, David Miliband, was the first Western official in Kiev to show support for the president of Ukraine, Viktor Yushchenko. The US vice president, Dick Cheney, is travelling to both Georgia and Ukraine next week.

Mr. Yushchenko, who fell victim to a mysterious poisoning that almost cost him his life after he led the Orange Revolution in 2004, fears that his country could be next on Vladimir Putin's hit list. (Can't understand why he thinks that….)No real

(Who knew the Brits were so hot-blooded?)

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko called Russia's decision to recognize two Georgian rebel regions unacceptable today and threatened to raise the issue of a rent increase at a base for the Black Sea Fleet. (Yeah, that'll really get those KGB guys quaking in their hob-nailed boots)

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke to President Dmitri Medvedev today, the first western leader to talk to the Kremlin since Medvedev announced the recognition of the two secessionist regions of Georgia. She made it plain she had voiced her strong disapproval to the Russian leader.

"I made clear above all that I would have expected that we would talk about these questions in [international] organisations before unilateral recognition happened," she said. "There are several UN Security Council resolutions in which the territorial integrity of Georgia was stressed, which Russia also worked on."

The French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, said Russia had broken international law and, along with other senior European officials, worried that Russia's decision to redraw Georgia's borders would encourage Moscow to act similarly with other former parts of the Soviet Union
such as Ukraine. (What would cause him to suspect that?)

The Wall Street Journal comments today that Big Labor is making a strong comeback in driving the agenda of the Democrats………States with more union households tend to be more Democratic. And groups like the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO will pour hundreds of millions of dollars, and endless man hours, into getting Democrats elected this year. Those resources have simply overwhelmed the 1990s New Democrat movement that tried to tug the party toward freer trade and public-sector reform.
They want to pass "card check" legislation, which would eliminate the requirement for secret ballots in union elections, since they can't get members any other way. Passage of this would arguably be the biggest change to federal labor law since the Taft-Hartley Act in 1947. The Democratic House passed card check last year, and Mr. Obama has pledged his support. With a few more Senators, it might pass. That should really help the US manufacturing industries, and cities like Detroit end their painful suffering – like a coup de grace.

The only sector of the U.S. auto industry that is prospering is the part not organized by the United Auto Workers. Likewise, Europe, with its high jobless rates and slow growth, argues against
unionization as a way to lift middle-class incomes. To the extent a country like Germany has modestly reversed some of this, it has been the result of recent labor-law reforms and labor concessions.

As for the U.S., the states with right to work laws have performed better economically for workers of all types. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has shown that right to work states over the past 30 years have lower unemployment, higher rates of job creation, and faster growth in GDP and per-capita personal income than states with compulsory union membership.

What Americans need to know this November is that the Democratic Party wants to make it that much more difficult for them not to join a union.

It looks like T. Boone Pickens is going to have to put his plans on hold, and you're not going to be able to plug that car in for some time. Seems like the real problem is that you can't get it from there, to here. Wind driven electricity, that is. MORE

Now would be a good time to read Jon Stossel's perspective on Energy Independence:

Energy Independence

Now for some light diversion:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

(Why, and How to) Rollback Russian Expansionism

Rollback Russian Expansionism

J.R. Dunn in his post in the American Thinker, has outlined the historical basis of the Russian perspective, and his prescription for success in resolving the path of aggression that the current Russian dictator has embarked upon. The most amazing element of his piece is the reference to a February 1946 telegram sent by George Kennan - the Charge in the Soviet Union, to Dean Acheson, then Secretary of State, analyzing the Soviet Union's plans and expected behavior. Not only was it prescient then, George Kennan's analysis seems near perfect today. I suggest that you read through the 62 year old paper, and I guaranty that you will be astounded at his almost perfect insight. See the Long Telegram here.

Here's the prescription part of J.R. Dunn's post. To read the entire piece, navigate here.

The invasion of Georgia was simply the public formalization of all these efforts. As during the early years of the Cold War, hostilities have in fact been in progress for quite some

The Cold War and its aftermath present us with three methods of responding (overlooking Carter's policy of appeasement, which will find no supporters apart from the political fringes): containment, rollback, and drift. The policy of drift which marked the Bush 41 and Clinton administrations has been abandoned today under pressure of events, leaving us with a neat choice of two: containment and rollback.

The record reveals containment to be a clear failure. It was both expensive and complex. It locked the West into a rigid pattern of behavior easily manipulated by the USSR and its clients. It required a high degree of commitment over the long term, a commitment that not even its chief adherents were able to be maintain. Its sole advantage was that it relatively risk-free in the short term, although this benefit vanished after the Soviets learned to play the angles.

Rollback, on the other hand, was an astonishing success, so unexpected and unprecedented that many have still not come to terms with it. By the 1980s, it was accepted throughout the West, in political, academic, diplomatic, and business circles, that the USSR was a permanent fact of history, and would remain so into the foreseeable future. Only Reagan and a small circle of advisors believed otherwise. Reagan's immense success is a clear refutation of any thesis of impersonal "historical forces". Rollback appears to be the sole workable method of dealing with a belligerent autocracy of the type represented by Russia.

How can it be adapted to the present situation? By taking the Reagan effort as a blueprint. Reagan applied relentless pressure -- military, financial, and political -- on Soviet weak points. No attempt was made to challenge the Soviets directly. At the same time, accepted means of support for the Soviet regime -- agricultural credits, industrial exchanges, technological and scientific collaboration -- were curtailed. There was no easing of pressure in the short term, nor were any negotiations offered. At the same time the Soviets were allowed a clear path of retreat. Rollback was a rational strategy, punishing bad behavior and rewarding rational decisions -- but only after these had been demonstrated in concrete.

Consideration must be made of Russian fears, and each of those fears made a reality. If Russia fears encirclement, she should be encircled. If Russia fears military inferiority, that inferiority should be clearly established. If Russia fears American technology, that technology should be unleashed.

A serious defensive league of former Soviet states, including Central Europe, the Baltics, Ukraine, and the Caucasian and Central Asian states, should be formed under the quiet sponsorship of the U.S. The mutually defensive purpose of this pact should be emphasized, with the threat remaining unnamed. Low-key exercises and consultations between militaries should be carried out, with select officers sent to the U.S. for further training.

The fact that many of these countries are political and territorial rivals is scarcely relevant at this point. Such questions must be set aside in light of national survival. American diplomats should take the lead here.

Revocation of easements and allowances given the Russians -- such as the use of the Sebastopol navy base -- should be brought to the table. The Ukraine has already placed limitations on the use of the base (and been answered with Russian threats). This is a good start that needs to be taken further. Sebastopol is not a Guantanamo or Gibraltar situation, a base in a remote area easily isolated from contact with the host nation. Sebastopol is a major Ukrainian city. Methods of making life unpleasant for the Russians are myriad, and include strikes, shutting down utilities for "repair" or "maintenance", and other forms of harassment. Sebastopol is a Russian weak point, and they need to be made aware of this quickly and repeatedly. (A friendly visit by U.S. 6th Fleet units to our Ukrainian friends should also be put on the calendar, perhaps combined with Black Sea exercises with Ukrainian naval forces. Such a visit has already occurred in Georgia.)

Russian "peacekeepers" are illegal occupiers in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and life ought to be made hot for them. There is technically no difference between the invasion and occupation of portions of Georgia and the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Particular attention should be paid to the Ossetian and Abkhazian "irregulars" who followed Russian troops into Georgia. It was they who carried out the majority of executions, rapes, and looting. Georgia was treated with almost the same level of brutality as Nazi Germany during the Soviet advance of 1945. The Russian "irregulars" are war criminals, and ought to be dealt with as such.

The final factor in Reagan's winning strategy, the Strategic Defense Initiative, has its equivalent in the National Missile Defense system now being extended to cover Europe. This system, which is a lineal descendant of SDI, drives the Russians to distraction for the simple reason that they can't duplicate it. The proposed placement of missiles in Poland is a evidently a major source of Russian belligerence. (The Poles, who had been dawdling over negotiations, signed an agreement immediately upon the invasion of Georgia. So much for Putin's strategic "brilliance".) Much can be done with this system. The Ukrainians have offered use of two radar sites. They should be taken up on it, and discussions concerning the potential support roles of other post-Soviet states should be opened.

The Russians truly believe that American technology is a magic box that when tapped, pours forth all sorts of miracles. Playing on this fear paid dividends during the 80s. There is no reason why it won't work again. (One element that should not be overlooked is the fact that the Navy's Aegis system has been upgraded to fill the anti-ballistic missile role. Perhaps those ships visiting Sebastopol could be Aegis destroyers?)

That's what rollback would look like in the 21st century. No aggression, no revanchism, simply unending and consistent pressure intended to modify Russian behavior to match international norms. The more Russia misbehaves, the more trouble she will see.

Russia is nowhere near as powerful as the Soviet Union. It's reported that Putin had to transfer an entire army from Central Russia to do the job in Georgia -- the forces in the Caucasus simply weren't up to it. Similarly, post-invasion bluster about the Russian navy acquiring a half-dozen aircraft carriers is completely empty. Such a naval program would challenge even the U.S., with all its resources. And it happens that the sole shipyard capable of such a project is located... in the Ukraine.

This is the reason -- and the only reason -- why the Russians are rattling nuclear weapons (and at Poland, no less). Their hand is weak, and they know it. The current Russian elite is comprised not of ideologues but hustlers, who very much want to live to enjoy power and riches. Actual use of nuclear weapons is the last thing on their minds.

Nor is Russia is anywhere near as economically robust as it seems. Recent reports indicate that the country's oil wealth is based on redrilling already exploited sites. Little in the way of new exploration has been carried out and is not likely to happen without outside investment. Russia's oil bubble may be ready to burst. (This brings up a related aspect of the rollback strategy: yet another reason for the U.S. to begin offshore drilling and building nuclear plants. Russia is flexing its muscles thanks in large part to funding gained from recent oil hikes. Cut the income, and we'll at the same time cut the impulse to shake up the international system.)

The long-term goal of any rollback strategy would be the same as that of the original Reagan effort: to bring about the establishment of a free and democratic Russia. The collapse of Russia into renewed autocracy would be a tragedy of historical dimensions, particularly when so much was possible. We were told to avoid triumphalism, not to encourage a legal cleansing of the former Soviet state, to allow party members and KGB officers to go about their business. So there was no lustration, no exposure of the regime's crimes as in the central European states. We -- and the people of Georgia -- are paying the price for that now. Like 18th-century Prussia, "an army with a state", Russia today has become a secret police with a state.

The KGB must be considered a criminal organization and targeted as such. We can start by identifying its officers and agents worldwide, along with their activities, contacts, and so on.
The KGB is as much a terror group as Al-Queda, and deserve no better treatment.

The rollback strategy worked in the 1980s. There is no reason why it can't work today. Ignorance of history may guarantee repetition, but how much worse when we overlook what we know?

And oh, no more looking into people's souls. That just causes trouble.

J.R. Dunn is conulting editor of American Thinker.

Update on Georgia - Details on Russian Tactics

Michael J. Totten has a great post from Georgia passing on his briefing with a Regional expert, German native, and former European Commission official Patrick Worms and another regional expert, author and academic Thomas Goltz. Worms provides a rich background of Russia's strategy and tactics in attempting to re-create the Empire, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, and details how the Russian surrogates in South Ossetia provoked the Georgians by repeated shelling of Georgian peacekeeper positions and Georgian villages

TBILISI, GEORGIA – Virtually everyone believes Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili foolishly provoked a Russian invasion on August 7, 2008, when he sent troops into the breakaway district of South Ossetia. "The warfare began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched a barrage targeting South Ossetia," the Associated Press reported over the weekend in typical fashion.

Virtually everyone is wrong. Georgia didn't start it on August 7, nor on any other date. The South Ossetian militia started it on August 6 when its fighters fired on Georgian peacekeepers and Georgian villages with weapons banned by the agreement hammered out between the two sides in 1994. At the same time, the Russian military sent its invasion force bearing down on Georgia from the north side of the Caucasus Mountains on the Russian side of the border through the Roki tunnel and into Georgia. This happened before Saakashvili sent additional troops to South Ossetia and allegedly started the war.

"Just a little bit of back story again, in July of 2007 Russia withdrew from the Conventional Forces Treaty in Europe. This is a Soviet era treaty that dictates where NATO and the Warsaw Pact can keep their conventional armor around their territories. Russia started moving a lot of materiel south. After Bucharest, provocations started. Russian provocations started, and they were mostly in Abkhazia.

"One provocation was to use the Russian media to launch shrill accusations that the Georgian army was in Kodori preparing for an invasion of Abkhazia. Now if you go up there – I took a bunch of journalists up there a few times – when you get to the actual checkpoint you have a wall of crumbling rock, a wooden bridge, another wall of crumbling rock, a raging torrent, and a steep mountainside filled with woods. It's not possible to invade out or invade in unless you've got air support. Which is why the Abkhaz were never able to kick these Georgians out. They just kept that bit of territory."

"Kodori provocations," Worms continued, "and other provocations. First the Russians had a peacekeeping base under a 1994 agreement that allowed them to keep the peace in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They added paratroopers, crack paratroopers, with modern weaponry there. That doesn't sound a lot like peacekeeping. A further provocation: they start shooting unmanned Georgian aircraft drones out the sky. One of them was caught on camera by the drone as it was about to be destroyed. The United Nations confirmed that it was a Russian plane that did this. It probably took off from an airbase that the Russians were supposed to have vacated a few years ago, but they never let the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] in to check.

"The next provocation: On April 16 Putin signs a presidential decree recognizing the documents of Abkhazians and South Ossetians in Russia and vice versa. This effectively integrates these two territories into Russia's legal space. The Georgians were furious. So you have all these provocations mounting and mounting and mounting. Meanwhile, as of July, various air corps start moving from the rest of Russia to get closer to the Caucasus. These are obscure details, but they are available.

"Starting in mid July the Russians launched the biggest military exercise in the North Caucasus that they've held since the Chechnya war. That exercise never stopped. It just turned into a war. They had all their elite troops there, all their armor there, all their stuff there. Everyone still foolishly thought the action was going to be in Abkhazia or in Chechnya, which is still not as peaceful as they'd like it to be.

"The Georgians had their crack troops in Iraq. So what was left at their central base in Gori? Not very much. Just Soviet era equipment and not their best troops. They didn't place troops on the border with Abkhazia because they didn't want to provoke the Abkhaz. They were expecting an attempt on Kodori, but the gorge is in such a way that unless they're going to use massive air support – which the Abkhaz don't have – it's impossible to take that place. Otherwise they would have done it already.

"So fast forward to early August. You have a town, Tskhinvali, which is Ossetian, and a bunch of Georgian villages surrounding it in a crescent shape. There are peacekeepers there. Both Russian peacekeepers and Georgian peacekeepers under a 1994 accord. The Ossetians were dug in in the town, and the Georgians were in the forests and the fields between the town and the villages. The Ossetians start provoking and provoking and provoking by shelling Georgian positions and Georgian villages around there. And it's a classic tit for tat thing. You shell, I shell back. The Georgians offered repeated ceasefires, which the Ossetians broke.

"On August 3, the head of the local administration says he's evacuating his civilians. You also need to know one thing: you may be wondering what these areas live off, especially in Ossetia, there's no industry there. Georgia is poor, but Ossetia is poorer. It's basically a smuggler's paradise. There was a sting operation that netted three kilograms of highly enriched uranium. There are fake hundred dollar bills to the tune of at least 50 million dollars that have been printed. [South Ossetian "President" Eduard] Kokoity himself is a former wrestler and a former bodyguard who was promoted to the presidency by powerful Ossetian families as their puppet. What does that mean in practice? It means that if you are a young man, you have no choice. You can either live in absolute misery, or you can take the government's dime and join the militia. It happened in both territories.

"On top of that, for the last four years the Russians have been dishing out passports to anyone who asks in those areas. All you have to do is present your Ossetian or Abkhaz papers and a photo and you get a Russian passport on the spot. If you live in Moscow and try to get a Russian passport, you have the normal procedure to follow, and it takes years. So suddenly you have a lot of Ossetian militiamen and Abkhaz militiamen with Russian passports in effect paid by Russian subsidies.

"So back to the 3rd of August. Kokoity announces women and children should leave. As it later turned out, he made all the civilians leave who were not fighting or did not have fighting capabilities. On the same day, irregulars – Ingush, Chechen, Ossetians, and Cossacks – start coming in and spreading out into the countryside but don't do anything. They just sit and wait. On the 6th of August the shelling intensifies from Ossetian positions. And for the first time since the war finished in 1992, they are using 120mm guns.

"Can I stop you for a second?" I said. I was still under the impression that the war began on August 7 and that Georgian President Saakashvili started it when he sent troops into South Ossetia's capital Tskhinvali. What was all this about the Ossetian violence on August 6 and before?

He raised his hand as if to say stop.

"That was the formal start of the war," he said. "Because of the peace agreement they had, nobody was allowed to have guns bigger than 80mm. Okay, so that's the formal start of the war. It wasn't the attack on Tskhinvali. Now stop me."

"Okay," I said. "All the reports I've read say Saakashvili started the war."

"I'm not yet on the 7th," he said. "I'm on the 6th."

"Okay," I said. He had given this explanation to reporters before, and he knew exactly what I was thinking.

"Saakashvili is accused of starting this war on the 7th," he said.

"Right," I said. "But that sounds like complete bs to me if what you say is true."

Russian rules of engagement, so to speak, go down harder than communism. And the Soviet era habits of disinformation are alive and well.

"You also have to remember the propaganda campaign that came out," he said. "Human Rights Watch is accusing the Russian authorities of being indirectly responsible for the massive ethnic cleansing of Georgians that happened in South Ossetia. The Ossetians are claiming that the Georgians killed 2,000 people in Tskhinvali, but when Human Rights Watch got in there a few days ago and talked to the hospital director, he had received 44 bodies. There was nobody left in that town. Plus it's the oldest law of warfare: have your guns in populated areas, and when the enemy responds, show the world your dead women and children.

"Right," I said. "That goes on a lot where I usually work, in the Middle East."

"Yes," he said. "That's exactly what the Russians were doing."

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