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9851  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Race to Jerusalem on: February 19, 2011, 10:59:14 AM

The Race to Jerusalem
posted at 7:55 pm on February 18, 2011 by J.E. Dyer

This one, I didn’t want to be right about. It was clear as far back as early 2009, but I’ve never advanced any analysis I hoped so much would be wrong. And if there’s one thing I was wrong about, it was how quickly events would accelerate once the starting gun had been fired. I thought it would take longer – that there would be a longer interim in which the activity of various participants was ambiguous.

The starting gun has been fired in what I call the “race to Jerusalem.” Arguably, it was fired last fall when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited southern Lebanon as the honored guest of Hezbollah. The race started a new phase when Hezbollah unseated the Hariri unity government of Lebanon on 12 January – and then succeeded in facing down Saudi and Turkish negotiators to select its own approved candidate to head the new government.

But a week later the race transitioned again, as Tunisians toppled the Ben Ali government and unrest spread across the Middle East. The region went from one government crisis – in Lebanon – to more than half a dozen in the space of three weeks.

Now Iran has pressed the issue of an unprecedented naval deployment to the Mediterranean Sea, with the latest report today being that Egypt will permit the Iranian warships to transit the Suez Canal.  At the UN, meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has resisted all US efforts at compromise and forced America to veto a resolution declaring the settlements in Judea and Samaria illegal.

Developments of this kind were predicted nearly two years ago, by – full disclosure – me. There are three major influences at work in the current unrest in the Middle East.  One is the genuine desire of many citizens for liberalization and reform.  We must not forget that influence; it requires protection and support – it cannot survive on its own – but it is a positive and welcome factor.

The second influence is the generic drive of various Islamist groups for the imposition of sharia.  The possibility of these groups gaining state power – the Muslim Brotherhood, its offshoots, or similar groups – makes for very high stakes in the national crises of the Arab nations.  Even assuming the Islamists gain power on the Hezbollah model, as part of coalition governments, they are still on the threshold of transforming Islamism from being principally about guerrilla jihad to being principally about national power.

The prospect before us is a new phase of what we may call, for lack of a better term, “caliphate Islamism,” as opposed to the more familiar Islamism of guerrilla jihad.  The auguries of this have been seen already in Tunisia, where the twin flags of the “Islamic caliphate” – the white al-liwaa of the putative head of state and the black ar-raya of jihad – have been observed in abundance in street demonstrations. Indeed, a crowd chanting anti-Jewish slogans outside the great synagogue in Tunis (see here and here) was waving dozens of these flags, referred to by Islamists as the flags of khilafah, or the caliph/caliphate.

This brings us to the third influence: the race to Jerusalem. The aspirants to Islamist leadership have maneuvered for years, in a desultory manner, to back (and ultimately lead) the factions that would succeed in occupying Jerusalem.  The principal state aspirants since 1979 have been revolutionary Iran and Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey under Recep Tayyip Erdogan; the turmoil in the Arab world in 2011 suggests there will be a scramble to reestablish Arab leadership in the coming days.

My argument in 2009 was that withdrawing US support to Israel’s requirement for territorial defensibility would unleash the accelerating maneuvers we are seeing today.  Barack Obama has, in effect, done precisely that with his dismissal of the national security interest Israel has in the settlements issue.  It was foreseeable that Obama’s policies would do what they have done: give the Middle East a green light for a competitive race to Jerusalem.

Here are links to the 4-part series from June 2009.

The Next Phase of World War IV?

The Next Phase of World War IV – Part 2

The Next Phase of World War IV – Part 3

The Next Phase of World War IV – Part 4

J.E. Dyer blogs at The Green Room, Commentary’s “contentions” and as The Optimistic Conservative.  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.
9852  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / And he went to work for First Trust.... on: February 18, 2011, 09:21:07 PM
Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. Trying to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Yet instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile, dropped to all fours, and began digging.

“What do you think you’re doing?” the psychiatrist asked.

“With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”
9853  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: February 18, 2011, 02:22:34 PM
There is an awful lot of smoke there, suggesting a fire.
9854  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Unions on: February 18, 2011, 01:41:07 PM
Young Mr. Maddow is correct, this is an existential threat to the dems, as the average voter sees what the real face of the left is.

"All your money are belong to us"-Unions
9855  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Government programs & regulations, spending, budget process on: February 18, 2011, 01:37:47 PM
The bloated entitlement nightmare is the 3rd. rail.
9856  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / China Flexes Muscles With US on: February 18, 2011, 10:37:46 AM

China Flexes Muscles With US As Biggest Creditor: WikiLeaks
9857  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: February 18, 2011, 08:56:04 AM

Financial Disconnect
February 14, 2011 - 10:28am — europac admin
John Browne
Monday, February 14, 2011

Despite last week’s confusing employment data, the increasing threat of another decline in home values, political uncertainty in Egypt and the broader Middle East, and sharp pullbacks in some emerging markets such as Brazil, US stock markets continued to rise. It sometimes seems that Wall Street exists in a bubble that is well-insulated from the rough and tumble of the outside world. But, in what may be a harbinger that America’s era of prosperity is winding down, the hallowed New York Stock Exchange, long the epicenter of American economic might, is expected to be bought by Germany’s Deutsche Boerse. When the king is so unceremoniously uncrowned, it can't be long before investors notice how shabbily dressed he really is.   

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the unemployment rate had fallen from 9.4 percent to 9.0 percent. Many in the financial media seized on the report and bundled it together with recently released data on improved consumer sentiment as great news for the economy. However, the report only showed 36,000 new jobs created, far less that the 146,000 that economists estimate need to be created to bring down unemployment significantly. Regardless, US stock markets continued to rise.

One must remember that the unemployment figure excludes those who have given up looking for jobs altogether. The percentage of Americans who have jobs continues to shrink. By factoring back in those who have left the work force over the last few years, many economists have concluded that the real unemployment rate is closer to 20 percent.

The housing market also shows fresh signs of enduring stress. Based on a report released last week, using data as of November 2010, nearly one third of US houses are now worth less than the amount owed on their underlying mortgages. Not surprisingly, given this harrowing statistic, defaults continue to rise. The price of the average house is now at a ten-year low and still falling.

In view of this evidence of increased unemployment and continued erosion in the housing sector, it is hard to see any likely recovery in consumer demand in the short term. Without such a rise, it is hard to justify any short-term run up in consumer sentiment and stock prices. But both have done just that. From my perspective, this represents a major financial disconnect.

Serving under former Fed Chairman Greenspan, Ben Bernanke helped to engineer the largest asset boom in history. The natural result was the credit crunch of 2008, from which we now are still trying to recover. However, Bernanke has been unwilling to accept continued recession. Clearly, he is determined to stimulate the economy, not by encouraging consumer demand, but by inflation.

The stimulus packages and quantitative easing programs have created a massive injection of liquidity. Furthermore, the Fed’s manipulation of interest rates has pushed investors into riskier assets, such as equities and commodities, and out of relatively secure investments, such as bank deposits and bonds. This abundance of cheap money is creating an artificial asset boom, and it is the main reason why equity prices have risen.

Meanwhile, the political problems in Egypt have caused smaller investors to temporarily fear political risks in emerging markets, despite their having better fundamentals than the US. I expect this dynamic to quickly reverse as the protests settle in Cairo.

In short, the continued rise in US equities appears to be stimulated not by sustainable US consumer demand, but by cheap government-supplied liquidity, and a temporary diversion away from emerging markets. This qualifies more as a splash than a wave. The tide is still drawing capital to the developing world.

The big question investors should ask themselves is: for how long can the rise in US stock prices continue when consumers are still faced with stagnant employment and falling house prices?

The printing of fiat money is likely to be able to sustain a false economic recovery for some time. But, eventually, the cost will be a rapid erosion of the value of the US dollar – not just in real terms, but also against almost every other foreign currency. Despite possible short-term corrections, gold and silver holdings are likely best to shield investors from the perils that lie ahead.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Please feel free to repost with proper attribution and all links included.
9858  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Stock Market on: February 18, 2011, 08:15:23 AM
Yes, it only got down to 6500 or so.....

Pay no attention to all the cities, states and possibly the USG defaulting. Happy days are here again!
9859  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A Luckier Woman Covering Cairo on: February 18, 2011, 08:12:28 AM

It wasn’t celebratory that night Lara Logan was attacked. It was terrifying.
9860  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: February 18, 2011, 07:50:01 AM
9861  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: February 17, 2011, 10:21:16 PM

The hurdles faced in reform.
9862  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 17, 2011, 10:12:49 PM

I wish I could say I was surprised.
9863  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: February 17, 2011, 09:31:52 PM
Can anyone show that there is a demand for these books in the muslim world?
9864  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Communicating with the Muslim World on: February 17, 2011, 08:53:39 PM
It'll be good news when any pro-western book comes close to the popularity of "Mein Kampf" in the muslim world.
9865  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Other Arab countries on: February 17, 2011, 05:49:49 PM
GM's post moved over to the Islam theocracy thread.
9866  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Oh shiite! on: February 17, 2011, 05:30:14 PM

**What could go wrong?
9867  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Union civility in WI. on: February 17, 2011, 04:28:24 PM

9868  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Other Arab countries on: February 17, 2011, 03:55:57 PM
The common thread is the MB and other jihadists slithering around, ready to pounce.
9869  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Israel, and its neighbors on: February 17, 2011, 02:45:30 PM
No worries, Obama has Israel's back.

Just as soon as we get done condemning them at the UN, of course.

I'm not sure how Glenn Beck pulled this all off.....
9870  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 17, 2011, 02:36:33 PM
Just responding to ccp's post where Matthews went after Barbour for not going after some weird southern group.

MARC:  Well, an intro statement by you to that effect would have been to good purpose then  smiley
9871  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 17, 2011, 02:27:35 PM
Chris Matthews' very selective outrage.

9872  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / "A good, solid B+" on: February 17, 2011, 02:26:26 PM,7340,L-4029879,00.html

US clueless about Egypt?

Senate hearing turns into farce as American ignorance on Egypt situation revealed; specific agenda of Muslim Brotherhood unclear, top official says, has trouble responding to question on group’s attitude to peace with Israel
9873  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Matthews on "KKK" Byrd on: February 17, 2011, 01:59:06 PM

Late on Friday night's edition of MSNBC's "Hardball," former Bush administration aide Ron Christie, author of "Black in the White House," pressed host Chris Matthews on the suggestion that if Republican Sen. George Allen's alleged racial slurs in the 1970s are a character flaw, what about the Democrats re-electing Senator Robert Byrd, a former Klansman, this fall? Matthews protested in a lecturing tone that "everyone knows about it....It's been raised a thousand times on his record." After claiming he was not defending Byrd, he told Christie: "The guy's 90 years old. Give him a break."

About 50 minutes into the show, Christie drew Matthews out on the double standard:

    Ron Christie: "If we're making this a race about character, one question I have, and the Democrats have been miraculously quiet about this. Is that you have We have a former member of the Ku Klux Klan in West Virginia, who used the N-word, who was in the Klan, who had it on tape two years ago. [Is Christie referring to the "white nigger" quote?]  I don’t hear the outrage, I don’t hear the ‘oh my goodness. Why for goodness sakes, are we going to re-elect a man to the Senate if it’s about character?’ You don’t hear a word from the Democrats about Byrd."  

    Matthews: "You want some advice?"

    Christie: "Please give me some advice."

    Matthews: "Get some town mayors in Virginia who have worked with this Senator, George Allen. Staff people like yourself, African-Americans especially, who’ve worked with this senator and come out and publicly testify he's got no big problems in this area.”

    Christie: "No, but you just evaded my question, Chris. You’re good.”

    Matthews: "I’ll do it now. Robert Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. He was a Grand Kleagle back in his youth, and I believe he has dealt with that issue over the years, and [lecturing tone] everyone knows about it."

    Christie: "Oh, but it’s –"

    Matthews: "No one doesn’t know he was a Grand Kleagle –"

    Christie: "But the question, I’m only posing your question back to you: You say it's a matter of character, why is it not a matter of character to look at someone – "

    Matthews, frustrated: "You know why? It’s been raised a thousand times on his record –"

    Christie: "It does not make it any less –"

    Matthews: "And you know what, I’m not defending him. I’m just saying we’ve talked about it for so many years, it’s in every biography we ever look at of this guy.”

    Christie, smiling: “I just had to bring it up.”

    Matthews, after a pause: “The guy’s 90 years old. Give him a break.”

    Christie, smiling: “No! No, I’m not going to give him a break!

    Matthews, cutting him off, grinning: “Terry McAuliffe, Ron Christie. Up next: The latest accusation against in Virginia’s nasty Senate race, senior Webb aide Steve Jarding will respond to the latest accusations…."

Ron Christie definitely got the better of that battle. And for fact checkers, Robert Byrd is 88, and will be 90 in November of 2007.

Clay Waters reminded us that not every media outlet wants to dwell on Byrd's Klan days.

Read more:
9874  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 17, 2011, 01:39:28 PM
I'm glad you can force yourself to sit through MSNBC, ccp. You're a better man than me.

Any mention in that piece about the Common Cause protesters that want to lynch Justice Thomas?
9875  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glenn Beck plots invasion of Israel on: February 17, 2011, 12:58:07 PM

‘Prepare to Invade Israel,’ Hezbollah Leader Tells Followers
Thursday, February 17, 2011
By Bassem Mroue, Associated Press

Hassan Nasrallah

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a video link during a rally in Beirut's southern suburbs on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011. Hezbollah's leader told his Shiite guerrilla group to be prepared to invade northern Israel. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

Beirut (AP) – Hezbollah's leader told his Shiite guerrilla group Wednesday to be prepared to invade northern Israel, a day after Israel's defense minister warned that the quiet along the tense border could erupt into violence.

The comments by the two sides illustrate the fragile situation along the frontier since they Israel and Hezbollah fought a bitter, six-week war in the summer of 2006. The war ended in a U.N.-brokered truce but officials on both sides of the border believe it is only a matter of time before hostilities resume.

"I tell the holy warriors of the Islamic Resistance to be ready for a day when, if war is imposed on us, your command might ask you to control the Galilee area," Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah said in a televised speech Wednesday. The Galilee refers to land in northern Israel.

On Tuesday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak toured the Israeli military's northern command and told soldiers there that the quiet along the frontier might not last.

"This is not forever and it could under certain conditions deteriorate, and then you will have to be called on again, with everything you learned in training," he said. "Today the units are better trained and more prepared but there is always more to be done and you need to be ready for every test."

Hezbollah and Israel fought a 34-day war in 2006 that left 1,200 Lebanese and 160 Israelis dead.
9876  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Cover-up on: February 17, 2011, 12:30:22 PM

CBS complicit in news coverup
By Michael Graham  |   Thursday, February 17, 2011  |  |  Op-Ed

Dateline — Egypt:

“[60 Minutes] correspondent Lara Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted by thugs yelling, ‘Jew! Jew!’ as she covered the chaotic fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo’s main square Friday.”

Powerful reporting on an important story. Two problems: It didn’t run until yesterday, and CBS didn’t run it. The quote is from the New York Post. And it was The Wall Street Journal that reported “the separation and assault lasted roughly 20 to 30 minutes.”

But CBS? They sat on their own story. For five days, as reporters reveled amid giddy celebrations in Tahrir Square, and as President Obama praised President Obama’s handling of the Egyptian crisis, CBS reported nothing.

Only when other media had the story did CBS break the news that its own chief foreign correspondent was the victim of “a brutal and sustained sexual assault.”

**Read it all.
9877  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Lara Logan syndrome on: February 17, 2011, 08:47:07 AM
"Hey, what possible harm could occur from wading into this mob? They're protesting for democracy! They're muslims, and we all know islam is a religion of peace and women are treated with reverence!"

MARC: Is this fair?  How do you know that she thinks like this?

9878  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 17, 2011, 07:59:11 AM
As when you first suggested that strategy, I think that's the way to go. Of course, we won't.
9879  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: February 17, 2011, 07:56:46 AM
I get that BUT

a) does that not lead to situations where ultimately such a strategy blows up amidst revolution and/or chaos?

**No. How long has N. Korea starved and brutalized it's people? Oppression is the default state of human government. What western civilization did was an abberation from the norms of human history.

b) does that not lead to a diminishment of our moral power in the world?  (Do you believe in moral power at all?)

**Like the fierce moral urgency for change that put Obama into office? Bwahahahaha!

c) does that not lead to weak support from the American people?

**How many bother to look up from their reality shows to bother to figure out the difference between Iraq and Iran?

d) does it bother your sleep at all?

**What bothers my sleep is the things I see coming.
9880  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Afghanistan-Pakistan on: February 17, 2011, 07:37:38 AM
I think Ya has nailed the motivations behind Pakistan's behaviors quite well.
9881  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: February 17, 2011, 07:36:00 AM
Well, let's figure out the path that will lead to a lesser loss of life and human suffering. Arab nations seized by jihadists that then wage an apocalyptic war against Israel, or some forcefully put down demonstrations/riots?

The Shah wasn't great on human rights, but when the mullahs seized Iran, the violation of human rights, like mass executions was much worse. Oh, and that nuclear crisis thing....
9882  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Intel Matters on: February 17, 2011, 07:30:55 AM
Two nations that may not survive Barry-O's presidency:

1. Israel

2. Taiwan

Looking at the debt, we better the US at #3.
9883  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tea Party, Glen Beck and related matters on: February 17, 2011, 07:06:28 AM
I missed it last night. The shows I have see recently sounded quite GM-ish though.   grin

I doubt very much India will be reconquered by islam though. Glenn had it in his map of the new caliphate.
9884  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: US Foreign Policy on: February 17, 2011, 07:03:58 AM
Good thing Obama wore a kippa at AIPAC, otherwise I'd think that he was pro-muslim and anti-Israel.  rolleyes

Gee, some of us saw this coming.....
9885  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UNLV to Fire Tenured Faculty, Close Schools in Face of 'Fiscal Collapse' on: February 16, 2011, 07:10:00 PM

UNLV to Fire Tenured Faculty, Close Schools in Face of 'Fiscal Collapse'

9886  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Glenn Beck forced Obama to do this on: February 16, 2011, 06:54:23 PM

Report: U.S. to join UN Security Council statement rebuking Israel over settlements
9887  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 16, 2011, 05:20:34 PM
Well, at least Israel has a good friend in the white house.
9888  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Egyptian democracy not as warm and fuzzy as expected on: February 16, 2011, 04:53:19 PM

Egyptian youth group: Halt gas shipments to Israel
02/16/2011 11:36

A coordinator of Egypt's April 6 Youth Movement told USA Today on Wednesday that if the group's demands "are not met, we'll be on the street again."
9889  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Economics on: February 16, 2011, 03:41:06 PM
Ohhh, Class warfare!

That's the path to prosperity!

I bet the unions helped the great state of Michigan!
9890  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Perfect metaphor on: February 16, 2011, 01:46:29 PM
CBS reporter's Cairo nightmare


Last Updated: 7:16 AM, February 16, 2011

Posted: 1:19 AM, February 16, 2011

"60 Minutes" correspondent Lara Logan was repeatedly sexually assaulted by thugs yelling, "Jew! Jew!" as she covered the chaotic fall of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo's main square Friday, CBS and sources said yesterday.

The TV crew with Logan, who is also the network's chief foreign correspondent, had its cameras rolling moments before she was dragged off -- and caught her on tape looking tense and trying to head away from a crowd of men behind her in Tahrir Square.


"Logan was covering the jubilation . . . when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration," CBS said in a statement. "It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into a frenzy.

"In the crush of the mob, [Logan] was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers.

"She reconnected with the CBS team, returned to her hotel and returned to the United States on the first flight the next morning," the network added. "She is currently in the hospital recovering."

A network source told The Post that her attackers were screaming, "Jew! Jew!" during the assault. And the day before, Logan had told that Egyptian soldiers hassling her and her crew had accused them of "being Israeli spies." Logan is not Jewish.

In Friday's attack, she was separated from her colleagues and attacked for between 20 to 30 minutes, The Wall Street Journal said.

Her injuries were described to The Post as "serious."

CBS went public with the incident only after it became clear that other media outlets were on to it, sources said.

"A call came in from The [Associated Press]" seeking information, a TV-industry source told The Post. "They knew she had been attacked, and they had details. CBS decided to get in front of the story."

Most network higher-ups didn't even know how brutal the sexual assault was until a few minutes before the statement went out.
9891  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / So, how's this going to work out? on: February 16, 2011, 12:38:12 PM
9892  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Egypt on: February 16, 2011, 11:25:32 AM
"The Cairo uprising has so far had a more orderly outcome, and one better for U.S. interests, than might have been the case."

To borrow from the president's spiritual leader of 20 years: "Those chickens will come home to roost".
9893  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Decline in real estate sales greater than stated? on: February 16, 2011, 05:26:25 AM

Decline in real estate sales greater than stated?

Statistics published by the National Association of Realtors appear to overstate sales of existing home by 15 to 20 percent, mortgage and property data aggregator CoreLogic says in a new report that concludes home sales fell more sharply last year than previously thought.

A NAR spokesman said the Corelogic claim "is premature at best," and NAR will be making some benchmark revisions to its historic sales data later this year.

NAR's figures -- based on data collected from multiple listing services and large brokerages -- show sales of existing homes fell 5 percent in 2010, to 4.9 million. But CoreLogic, which collects public sales records from county recorders and courts, estimates that home sales actually fell 12 percent, to 3.6 million.

The implications are not trivial: a slower rate of sales means that it will take longer to burn through unsold inventory, and a glut of homes for sale in a given market can undermine prices. CoreLogic says the unsold inventory on the market in November represented 16 months of supply, compared to NAR's estimate of 9.5 months.
9894  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WMDs in America? on: February 15, 2011, 10:12:43 PM

Monday, February 14, 2011
WMDs in America?

Call it the non-story of the week. It generated a fair amount of buzz in Southern California, but if you live outside the region, you probably didn't hear a word about it, unless you frequent Big Journalism and other media watchdog sites.

Here's what happened: last week, KGTV, the ABC affiliate in San Diego, aired a story on port security. It's a timely topic; not only is the city home to the nation's second-largest naval base, it's also a major hub for shipping activity. Dozens of giant container ships dock at San Diego's port facilities each month.

KGTV's investigation, by reporter Mitch Blacher, included an interview with Al Hallor, the assistant port director and a senior official with Customs and Border Protection. When Blacher asked about efforts to detect WMD in the San Diego area. From the KGTV website:

"So, specifically, you're looking for the dirty bomb? You're looking for the nuclear device?" asked Blacher.

"Correct. Weapons of mass effect," Hallor said.

"You ever found one?" asked Blacher.

"Not at this location," Hallor said.

"But they have found them?" asked Blacher.

"Yes," said Hallor.

"You never found one in San Diego though?" Blacher asked.

"I would say at the port of San Diego we have not," Hallor said.

"Have you found one in San Diego?" Blacher asked.

The interview was interrupted before Hallor was able to answer the question.

Bob McCarty of has the video, and it's definitely worth a look. A p.r. flack from CBP is present during the interview, though off-camera. Watch Hallor's reaction when Blacher asks about the discovery of "Weapons of Mass Effect" at U.S. ports. Mr. Hallor clearly pauses--and looks towards the public affairs officer--before finally acknowledging the discovery. Then, when KGTV's Blacher tried to learn if such weapons have been found in San Diego, the public relations flack brings the interview to a sudden end.

Customs and Border Protection later released a statement saying that Hallor "misspoke," although it took them three weeks to offer that explanation.

CBP has not specifically had any incidents with nuclear devices or nuclear materials at our ports of entry. CBP is an all-threats agency. The purpose of many security measures is to prevent threats from ever materializing by being prepared for them. And, we must be prepared to stop threats in whatever form they do materialize at the border, whether it’s an individual or cargo arriving by land, air, or sea. Regardless of what the contraband or threat is, we’re being smart, evaluating, and focusing in on anything or anyone that is potentially high-risk.

The agency has not said why it refused to let Hallor answer the question, why it terminated the interview, or why its clarification was so long in coming. But whatever the reason, the agency didn't do itself any favors, and the entire incident has only raised new questions.

First, let's take CBP at its word and assume that Mr. Hallor was wrong when he answered Blacher's question. How could a senior homeland security official--the assistant director of the Port of San Diego--get it so wrong. Clearly, weapons of mass effects covers a lot of territory, but you've either found them coming into the country--or you haven't. Based on his answer, Hallor apparently knew of a WME/WMD discovery and tried to affirm that--until the public relations officer effectively silenced him.

On the other hand, if Mr. Hallor mis-characterized another incident as a WME/WMD find, that doesn't exactly inspire confidence, either. Someone in his position has at least a SECRET security clearance, meaning Hallor has access to a wide variety of intelligence information pertaining to homeland security threats. Additionally, we don't suppose the CBP official has a history of making things up, either. Obviously, something in Hallor's experience or knowledge base triggered the affirmative response to Blacher's question.

Finally, if Mr. Hallor was truly mistaken, why did it take CBP so long to issue their clarification?If there have been no WMD/WME discoveries, the agency should have issued a statement immediately, and not wait three weeks to respond. You'd also think CBP would have provided more details. For example, the thwarted Times Square car bomb plot was an attempted WME attack. Was that what Mr. Hallor was referring to? If so, the feds should have been more clear in explaining the official's remarks.

To be fair, CBP's delayed explanation isn't totally beyond disbelief. Had WMD/WME been found in a U.S. port, it's likely the discovery would have been leaked almost immediately--and not disclosed casually to a local TV reporter in San Diego. But that's about the only scenario that lends credence to CBP's version of events. And with that scenario, you must accept that one of the principal homeland security officers in San Diego County is clueless on one of the most important issues facing his organization. Otherwise, why would he make a statement with no basis in fact?

On the other hand, maybe Mr. Hallor was being a little too candid. That theory raises all sorts of questions that remain unanswered, such as what was found, where and how it was being shipped into America.

This much we know: Al Qaida has a long-standing interest in WMD. Their capabilities in that area have improved modestly in those areas in recent years, despite severe damage inflicted on their leadership and fund-raising operations--essential elements in any WMD/WME attacks. We also know there was a major WMD operation in the Atlanta area late last year, with the feds stopping all trucks on I-20 during rush hour, and running them through a radiation scanner. Sources told WSB-TV the activity was "real world" and not a drill, though various spokesmen later tried to "walk back" that remark. Sounds like the same p.r. tactic recently attempted in San Diego.

One more point. It's probably unrelated (at least, that's what the government flacks would have you believe), but this recent item also caught our eye: early last month, the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to test Presidential Alerts in the near future.
As an agency official told Federal News Radio in Washington:

"The primary goal is to provide the President with a mechanism to communicate with the American public during times of national emergency," said Lisa Fowlkes (Deputy Chief of the FCC's Homeland Security Bureau). The change, she said, is that prior to last week's order there was no rule in place to call for or allow a test from top to bottom.

Fowlkes said, "There's never been a test from top to bottom where it's issued by FEMA and it goes straight down to all the different levels of EAS to the American public. So this is a way for us to glean, okay, if there were an actual emergency and the federal government needed to activate the Presidential EAS, making sure that it actually works the way it's designed to."

Now that there's a rule in place, the next challenges are going to be working with all the stakeholders on timing of the test and to reach out to the public so they understand it's a test and not a real emergency, Fowlkes said.

To someone who spent years in radio (before having the good sense to join the military) this announcement was stunning. Broadcasters have worked with the FCC for years on the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and its predecessor, the Emergency Broadcast System or EBS. There was always some provision for the president (or the national command authority) to provide information through the system in the event of a cataclysmic event. But for more than 50 years, no one saw a need to test the presidential capabilities, despite nuclear dangers during the Cold War, and real-world events like 9-11.

And what sort of event might warrant activation of the Presidential EAS? How about a domestic terror attack, using weapons of mass destruction or a weapon of mass effect?
9895  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Left’s attempt to Delegitimize the Supreme Court on: February 15, 2011, 09:35:15 PM

The Left’s attempt to Delegitimize the Supreme Court
Posted on February 15, 2011 by Matt Holzmann

On February 4, the New York Times fired the first salvo in the Left’s quest to delegitimize Justices of the Supreme Court in the runup to what is to be expected to be one of the premier cases of the early century; that of the health care bill.  In an editorial they slanted the story on Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas so blatantly and dishonestly that they stepped over the line into base propaganda.

Late last week, seventy-four Democratic Members of Congress led by noted moderate (yes, I’m kidding) Anthony Weiner sent a letter to Justice Thomas demanding that he recuse himself from any case before the Court related to the  bill. This follows a more muted comment by Senator Orrin Hatch suggesting the recusal of Justice Kagan on the grounds that she was Solicitor General of the United States until her appointment on August 10 last year to the Court.

In the case of Justice Thomas, the demand has been made because of his wife’s outspoken opposition to the bill and her involvement in Tea Party activities. The pretext being used is that Justice Thomas did not disclose her employment at the conservative Heritage Foundation from 1998 to 2003 until recently, even though she is well-known in Washington. In the case of Justice Kagan, it is because her role as Solicitor General would have involved discussions on the legal aspects and perhaps strategy, of the bill. One the one hand, the Democrats are demanding, on the other a Senator suggested. Therein lies the issue.

This morning, Eric Lichtblau of the Times continues the hit job with a sweetheart interview with Arn Pearson, a vice president of Common Cause, who have been fanning the flames of this nontroversy in their effort to boot both Justices off the Health Care case. This time, Common Cause is challenging Justice Thomas’ travel expenses when he spoke to a conservative legal foundation 3 years ago.

Justices Thomas and Scalia are well-known to be conservative, just as Justice Kagan is known to be more liberal. While Senator Hatch may have a point that Justice Kagan was a major party to the process of forming and passing the health care bill, the case against Justice Thomas first involves his wife, and second, is a pretext to delegitimize his participation in the decision. The case against Justice Scalia is even more specious, as the event where he was supposed to have violated his judicial ethics was attended by two of the most liberal members of Congress, who gave him a clean bill of health.

As an American, I have reasonable faith in the objectivity of our judges. While I expect their political and world views to be reflected in their decisions, I also trust that we are a nation of laws.

But as demonstrated by the unprecedented manner in which the health care was passed I most certainly do not have faith in the good intentions of 74 of the legislators who tied up the rules of Congress like a pretzel and rammed a deeply flawed bill through Congress in the dark of night. Even Speaker Pelosi, one of the architects, admitted she had not read the bill before the vote. The bill was written behind closed doors in an insult to our democratic process. Now the usual suspects wish to pursue their aims through extralegal means.

I know they will hate the term, but this is a “Hail Mary” play as they watch as 26 states have filed suit and two Federal judges have struck down the bill. Popular opposition to the bill is over 60%, and the bill just cost the Democrats their Congressional majority. There has rarely been such a divisive issue.

And now the gloves are well and truly off. The Left has made the Supreme Court a battlefield since the Thomas nomination. In 2000, they further damaged the credibility of the Court by claiming bias in the most convoluted and partisan case in American political history.They have done their best to demonize and belittle the credentials and opinions of the more conservative justices on the court. We can expect the vitriol to fly faster than ever before in this case. Health care is the centerpiece of the Left’s political agenda whether achieved legally and legitimately or not.

And that is the heart of the matter. The Left is doing its best to destroy those institutions which it opposes. This is not about the rule of law. It is about power and privilege. Intimidation, threats, deception and blackmail are the order of the day. We saw that with the passage of the health care bill on a scale that will keep the historians busy for decades. The Left wants tame courts and the ability to venue shop for them in order to pass any old thing they want. The use of executive orders and the regulation process are part and parcel of this process.

The system has been abused almost to the breaking point. Now one of the last unquestioned institutions has come under assault. Where do we go from here?
9896  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Issues in the American Creed (Constitutional Law and related matters) on: February 15, 2011, 07:00:21 PM
The left is trying to prepare the battlefield before Obamacare comes before the court.
9897  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: entertainment on: February 15, 2011, 04:33:52 PM
I dunno, but about 10 years past his "I shouldn't be on TV anymore" date.
9898  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / You've got stage 4 pancreatic cancer..... on: February 15, 2011, 10:59:22 AM
....But that hangnail seems to be getting better!
9899  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2012 Presidential on: February 15, 2011, 10:42:23 AM
DC has turned more than a few heroic figures into politibots over time. The less time someone spends in congress, the better the odds they keep their souls.
9900  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Iran on: February 15, 2011, 10:26:59 AM
Of course not. Iran is an enemy to US. Why would Obama speak against the mullahs? It's only a democratic movement when it hurts America.
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