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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pointman: Live and Let Live, but in Fear
on: October 30, 2014, 09:19:19 PM
Live and let live, but in fear.
This article is about terrorism, more specifically terrorism and its impact on the people and democracies of the developed world. It's time for some direct talking, not to the terrorists because they're beyond reason, but to the ordinary person who is their target.
I've heard on more than one occasion that the reason a few hundred thousand Britons could rule over the huge population of India in the heyday of the British Empire, was that they never interfered with the local culture or religion, and indeed even went native themselves in subtle ways.
That's a fundamentally erroneous idea springing from a basic ignorance of historical fact and reinforced by the residual feel-good attitudes of that failed experiment we called multiculturalism. If they found a local practice repugnant according to their own moral code, they outlawed it and simply hung or imprisoned anyone who persisted in doing it.
For example, the practice of Suttee involved the voluntary or sometimes involuntary burning of widows atop their husband's funeral pyre. They outlawed it. Another example would be them annihilating the Thuggee sect, who believed the people they strangled were sacrifices to placate the death goddess Kali. Anybody who aided or abetted those activities risked the hangman's noose, and that's why both the practise of Suttee and the cult of the Thuggees died out in India.
So, if you're the boss of the country and some small section of people in it are indulging in a practise you find deeply offensive, you have the right to forbid them from doing it and punish them if they persist. Stating that in an unvarnished way, it's your country and they do as you tell them or they suffer or get out of it. That's always been the rule, despite what some deluded people might have come to think in recent decades.
There are some stark realities in the coming years that various parties are going to have to face up to whether they like it or not, because as always, times change and you have to respond realistically to those new circumstances or accept being at the mercy of them.
The first one is we have to concede that the western attitude of live and let live without interfering in the lives of minorities is no longer viable when a terrorism threat is originating from that area and killing ordinary people. If ruling liberal elites continue to act as if there's no problem and consequently hamstring efforts by the police and security services to go after it and root it out, then after enough deaths they'll be forced to take the more draconian action demanded by their frightened electorates.
There is somehow an implicit assumption that terrorism only poses a threat to America, it's their problem and everyone else can relax. Don't kid yourself, whatever country you live in, no matter how enlightened you feel it is, you're under threat too; it's just a matter of time. After 9/11 in New York, 7/7 in London, the Madrid bombings and most recently the tragic murders in Canada, attitudes had to change. On every one of those occasions, people were genuinely shocked that it could be happening in their country, and was even being done by born and bred nationals of those countries.
What compounded the shock was that the then fashionable idea of multiculturalism had engendered the idea that being part of a minority made one good and above criticism. If you dared to disapprove of any aspect of their culture, you were automatically howled down as a bigot or even worse, a racist. Knowing they could operate under this cloak of virtual invulnerability, extremist sections within these communities relied on it to radicalise, recruit and train followers to carry out acts of terrorism. They did exactly that and we're now looking at the results of it; an enemy within.
Even the criminal element within those communities used this get out of jail free card to their advantage. For instance, the recent conviction of a large gang of Asian men in the UK who'd been sex trafficking white girls and boys for over a decade, did so with the police and social services turning a blind eye because they feared the race card would be played if they intervened. There was a different law being applied or not, dependent on nothing more than a person's colour or ethnicity. It was the children who suffered.
To quote Angela Merkel, multiculturalism failed "utterly" but the effects of that failure live on. The Chairman of the UK Commission for Racial Equality, said that the end result of multiculturalism was ghettoisation. I'd agree with that assessment though perhaps by a different line of reasoning outlined in a previous article. The attitude of live and let live combined with the natural opacity of what's going on in a ghetto, allowed the threat to grow unseen until it was far too late.
Even when the murderous threat materialised, certain sections of the liberal intelligentsia and media, after a suitable silence of a week or two, had the temerity to voice the opinion that in reality it was somehow all our fault for being oppressors of some or other minority. That's coming at you Canada. It's not just that they're divorced from reality of common opinion, but that they just cannot let go of that idea that being any sort of minority automatically makes you better than one of the local natives, whom to be frank they despise anyway.
That sort of attitude, while of course permissible in a democracy, plays into the hands of terrorists because terrorism does work on occasion, despite what we like to think. For instance, Spain in the immediate aftermath of the Madrid bombings withdrew what few troops it had deployed in the gulf. The intimidation worked and Spain by giving in to it, has put their citizens even further into harm's way. If some gang of terrorists wants to change Spanish government policy, just explode a few more bombs there. That's why we should never give in to terrorism, because in essence it's a transfer of power from an elected government to a few murderous thugs.
Terrorism combined with the residual delusions of multiculturalism even works to inhibit or suppress pointed comment in various forums. One of the strongest weapons we have against totalitarianism and extremism is to point out its inconsistencies using humour, and yet I've never heard a stand up comedian having a go at radical Islam. They're happy to constantly denigrate Christianity or Judaism because they're safe targets, but stay well away from the Muslims or they might suffer the death threats of that cartoonist in Denmark. There is an urban legend of an Aussie comedian who has a go but if so, he seems to be unique. If you feel too scared to laugh at them, then that's a big win for the terrorists.
There are equally pressing issues thrown up by terrorism for people who are members of minority communities who rightly or wrongly are being associated with their atrocities.
The major one is that the religion of Islam has been hijacked by the terrorists who use an obscene interpretation of it as justification for their outrages. For better or worse, people now talk about Muslim terrorists not extreme Muslim terrorists. Living in an environment of distrust and fear of any minority generates a simple view of the world, uncomplicated by such nice distinctions. Perception trumps fact every time and the only way of changing that perception is to demonstrate what a marginal influence extremists have in your communities.
A measured denunciation by some obscure imam in the wake of the latest mass atrocity just isn't making the grade. It merely reinforces the paranoid idea that the terrorists are just some deniable military arm advancing some hidden agenda of your community. That's neither fair nor true but that's the perception. You have to start actively preaching out against these people, rooting them out of positions of influence and yes, rendering to the police and security services all the help they need to combat such elements who injure us all. A bomb on a crowded bus or railway carriage doesn't stop to consider the religious persuasion of the passengers, whether Muslim or not.
Terrorism has changed the world for you too. Instead of the majority needing to be ultra sensitive to your cultural needs, the position has been reversed and you now have to be sensitive to their needs, because their attitudes and tolerance towards minorities have worn pretty thin. Things like lobbying hard to get a mosque built right next to the Twin Towers site was the worst sort of insult to the memory of two thousand slaughtered innocents, no matter what religious sophistry was being used to justify it.
To the terrorists, I'd say you've had all your cheap hits. Things are tougher for you now. The assumption that the apparently lax attitudes of democracies meant we were weak and a pushover will yet again prove to be baseless. We're not only on guard against you but we've got good men actively hunting you. You'd be surprised at how ruthless we can be to defend our freedoms, so you better be prepared to be dragged out of some hole for nothing better than a bullet between your eyes. If that means we're prepared to trade down an element of our personal freedom, so be it.
We all lost something in the fire.
On the day the planes hit the twin towers, a younger brother of mine was a lecturer in socialist economics. He stood and watched in the campus of a university in central London rich fee-paying Arabic students of his dancing around in joy of what was happening. That not only showed him how much he didn't really know what was their mindset but killed forever the unconditional live and let live ethos of his liberal politics which had always divided us.
On the day the planes hit the twin towers, I was managing a team at Canary Wharf, the financial centre of London. There was a rumour that a London bound plane nobody could get in touch with was heading in our direction. The top management were patently doing nothing more than denial and displacement activity with their thumb up their arse and in the meantime everyone should stand by their desk and await further orders, so I told my crew to go home. That's the duty of care. Nobody moved so for the first time ever I ordered them to just get the fuck out of there in a loud enough voice for other people to hear. They moved. What the rest did, I don't know.
When I was sure they'd all gone, I retired to a local bar and watched helplessly the tragedy unfold on television. I was joined by a friend who'd also told his team to go home but who also couldn't leave the vicinity because helping hands might just be needed if it all came down. He asked me what I was thinking and in an unguarded moment of anger I spoke what was on my mind. Three things. I told him it was a massive intelligence failure, a brilliant operation from their perspective and we'd kill their arse for doing it. All three were true.
Take a look at the picture heading up this piece. Take a really hard look. There's five men carrying another injured one in a chair because there's nothing like a stretcher available. They're getting him to safety. In the ordinary way of things, it should only take two or three at most to carry that weight but they're working in an atmosphere of choking cement dust which makes breathing almost impossible. None of them are looking to each other for support because each one of them is fighting their own individual battle against their own clogged lungs to get that injured man out of there.
I don't know whether the man they were carrying made it or not, and I do hope he did, but what I'm damn sure of is that every one of those men who got him to safety turned around and went straight back into that hell to save anyone else who'd survived the attack.
They're exactly why I know we're going to beat the terrorists.
Related articles by Pointman:
Why Multiculturalism failed.
The times they are a changing and a righteous kill.
Click for a list of other articles.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Q3 GDP growth up 3.5%?
on: October 30, 2014, 04:40:26 PM
The First Estimate for Q3 Real GDP growth is 3.5% at an Annual Rate To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Senior Economist
The first estimate for Q3 real GDP growth is 3.5% at an annual rate, beating the 3.0% the consensus expected. Real GDP is up 2.3% from a year ago.
The largest positive contributions to the Q3 real GDP growth rate were net exports, consumer spending, and government purchases. The only drag was inventories.
Personal consumption, business investment, and home building were all positive in Q3, growing at a combined rate of 2.3% annualized. Combined, they are up 2.8% in the past year and up at a 2.8% annual rate in the past two years.
The GDP price index increased at a 1.3% annual rate in Q3. Nominal GDP – real GDP plus inflation – rose at a 4.9% rate in Q3 and is up 3.9% from a year ago and up at a 3.8% annual rate from two years ago.
Implications: Real GDP surprised to the upside in Q3, growing at a 3.5% annual rate. The best news in the report was that real business investment (excluding inventories) grew at a 5.5% annual rate in Q3 and is up 6.7% from a year ago. Some pessimistic analysts will surely point out that the trend in real GDP growth is still tepid, up 2.3% from a year ago and up at that very same 2.3% rate in the past two years. These data are accurate, of course, which is why we’ve been calling the economy a plow horse. But even a plow horse will sometimes pick up his pace. Arguing against this view are those who say government spending boosted growth in Q3. Yet, even without government spending, Q3 real GDP grew 3.3%, and if we exclude government, trade, and inventories, real GDP is up 2.8% annually in past 2 years. And that’s roughly what we think the underlying trend is for the economy as a whole. In other words, a slight improvement from the 2.3% pace many have become used to. Monetary policy is loose and will remain that way even as the Fed eventually starts lifting short-term rates. Federal spending has declined to 20% of GDP versus 24% of GDP five years ago. Corporate profits are at a record high. All of these factors signal better economic growth ahead. Meanwhile, today’s report continues to show that the Fed should start raising rates earlier than the market now expects. Nominal GDP (real GDP plus inflation) increased at a 4.9% rate in Q3 and is up at a 3.8% annual rate in the past two years. For comparison, nominal GDP is up at a 3.6% rate in the past decade. A short-term interest rate of essentially zero is too low given current economic conditions. Regardless, we expect the Fed to wait until the second quarter of next year to start lifting rates. In other news this morning, new claims for unemployment insurance increased 3,000 last week to 287,000. The four-week moving average is 281,000, the lowest since May 2000. Continuing claims for regular state benefits rose 29,000 to 2.38 million. It’s still early, but plugging these data into our models suggests October payrolls will be up about 240,000, another solid month.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Gigolo John's wife
on: October 30, 2014, 03:37:27 PM
Kerry’s Wife Funds Anti-Israel Pop Up Restaurant
The Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo: Conflict Kitchen Facebook Page)
Would you like fries with your anti-Israel propaganda? A pop-up restaurant called Conflict Kitchen has been serving what it calls Palestinian food, wrapped in anti-Israel leaflets.
The leaflets contain quotes from interviews with Palestinians in support of terrorism and the destruction of Israel. And all of this is made possible in part by funds from the Heinz Endowment, under the direction of US Secretary of State John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry.
Conflict Kitchen is located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, near Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh. According to its website, the restaurant “only serves cuisine from countries with which the United States is in conflict” in an effort to “expand the engagement the public has with the culture, politics, and issues at stake within the focus country.” Other countries it has presented include Afghanistan, North Korea, Cuba Venezuela and Iran.
Each iteration of the restaurant is accompanied by events, performances and discussion panels. The restaurant’s current focus is on Palestine, and its menu and food wrappers reflect that focus. The wrappers claim the text “is taken directly from interviews we conducted with Palestinians living in both Palestine and the United States.” No quotation marks or direct attributions are supplied.
The text on each wrapper touches on a variety of subjects, from food to marriage to religion to settlements. One panel calls the creation of the State of Israel “an intentional and ongoing offensive.” Another justifies terror by claiming “You’re pushing them to the absolute extreme. So what do you expect? Palestinians are not going to just let you in and drop their arms. No, they’re going to kill and they are going to die.”
Other accusations leveled against Israel in the text include deliberately cutting off Palestinians’ water supply, preventing non-Jews from becoming Israeli citizens, hand-picking the members of the Palestinian Authority by eliminating all the non-corrupt candidates, undermining the Palestinian economy by importing products instead of buying locally, and capriciously harassing law-abiding Palestinians trying to access Israeli services.
Sponsored events accompanying the Conflict Kitchen’s Palestinian iteration have included talks by Laila El-Haddad, a Palestinian Arab activist who supports a one-state solution and the boycott campaign against Israel, and University of Pittsburgh professor Ken Boas, a board member of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA. The latter reportedly compared Israel to South Africa under apartheid and called on the audience to support a boycott of Israel.
Requests by the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh to include a pro-Israel, or mainstream, perspective were rejected by Conflict Kitchen’s Jewish co-director, Jon Rubin, an associate professor in the School of Art at Carnegie Mellon University.
Rubin told the Pittsburgh News that “the goal of our project is to represent the voices of the people that we are working with, so it does not make sense to have someone from Israel on every one of the panels. We may have an Israeli perspective at some point, and I understand their desire to have their narrative told, but they have plenty of other formats to do that.”
Conflict Kitchen’s food wrappers indicate it “is funded through food sales, as well as support from The Sprout Fund, the Heinz Endowment, The Benter Foundation and the Studio for Creative Inquiry.” The Heinz Endowment and Benter Foundation were not listed as supporters of the Iranian iteration.
A spokesman for the Heinz Endowment told the Washington Free Beacon that it gave Conflict Kitchen a $50,000 grant last April to support its relocation to another site in Pittsburgh. He went on to stress “the opinions of Conflict Kitchen do not represent those of the Heinz Endowment.” He would not say whether the Endowment would continue to support the restaurant. Teresa Heinz Kerry is chairwoman for the fund.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Newt: Who saw this coming?
on: October 29, 2014, 10:32:59 PM
Things You Wouldn’t Have Believed About President Obama and the 2014 Election
Think back six years to the day President Obama was elected. Tens of thousands gathered in Grant Park in Chicago. There was cheering in the streets across the country. Commentators were breathless and tearful. The president-elect gave an excellent speech. Most Americans exulted at Hope and Change.
Imagine if someone had told you that night that within six years, the man just elected president would have:
Pivoted from a campaign theme of unity to a habit of insinuating Americans who opposed his policies were racists, sexists, classists, or bigots.
Run one of the most divisive reelection campaigns in recent memory on a theme of class warfare.
Lost the Massachusetts Senate seat formerly held by Ted Kennedy to a Republican with health care as the issue.
Driven approval of the Democratic Party to its lowest point in 30 years, with Republicans on the verge of their largest majority in the House in more than half a century.
Allowed western Iraq, then a story of hard-earned recovery, to fall into the hands of a terrorist organization more extreme than Al Qaeda that would declare it had reestablished the caliphate.
Allowed Vladimir Putin to invade and annex a large territory of a major European country.
Done nothing when Russian militants shot down a civilian airliner flying over Europe.
Declared as a "red line" the use of chemical weapons in Syria and then done nothing when it was crossed.
Abandoned several longstanding U.S. allies in the Middle East in favor of Islamist agitators--allowing Egypt, a tourist destination in 2009, to fall into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood and Libya to fall into the hands of terrorists.
Entered negotiations with Iran that did not require Iran to halt its nuclear weapons program.
Caused a humanitarian crisis with a flood of immigrant children on our border, who came here because the President promised not to send them home and declared his intention to grant amnesty by executive order.
Told the American people a Soviet-style lie about this crisis, saying the children on the border suddenly came to the U.S. because of violence which had been going on in Central America for years (a lie which the media accepted with barely a comment).
Signed a law reorganizing the country's health care system despite the fact that neither he nor a single person who voted for it had read it.
Passed his health care law supposedly to achieve universal coverage, only to have roughly as many people uninsured 5 years later.
Caused millions of Americans to have their health insurance plans canceled, after promising repeatedly they could keep them.
Caused premiums to increase by 100% in Delaware, 90% in New Hampshire, 54% in Indiana, 53% in California -- the list goes on.
Spent $2 billion on a health care website that became a national embarrassment.
Assured Americans Ebola would not spread to the United States, weeks before it did.
Insisted all employers provide free contraception to their employees, even over their religious objections.
Won the Nobel Peace Prize while waging two wars and killing hundreds of civilians a year with drones.
Allowed the U.S. to spend four years (and counting) without the capability to send its astronauts into space, forcing us to rely on Putin’s Russia for access to space.
Characterized supporting a traditional definition of marriage (as he did when he was elected) as divisive and discriminatory.
Spent weeks misleadingly characterizing a premeditated terrorist attack that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya as a spontaneous protest, apparently for political reasons.
Brushed off extensive evidence that senior IRS officials targeted his political opponents, calling it the work of "two dilberts in Cincinnati" which involved "not a smidgen of corruption."
Overseen an IRS that mysteriously lost the hard drives and backups of up to 20 IRS employees at the center of the targeting scandal.
Tolerated damaging national security leaks that cast him in a favorable light.
Placed a respected Fox News reporter under criminal investigation for his story about North Korean nuclear tests.
Employed for years an Attorney General who was held in contempt of Congress for refusing turn over evidence about his knowledge of a program that resulted in the death of a
border patrol agent, and who lied under oath about the DOJ snooping on phone records of AP reporters.
If someone had looked into a crystal ball and made any one of these predictions in isolation, you probably would not have believed it. If you had been read the entire list, you would have concluded that President Obama turned out to be the exact opposite of what Candidate Obama promised--and you would have understood why Democrats would be in such a precarious position heading into election day 2014.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The End of the Middle East?
on: October 29, 2014, 05:32:35 PM
The End of the Middle East?
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
Because geopolitics is based on the eternal verities of geography, relatively little in geopolitics comes to an end. The Warsaw Pact may have dissolved following the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but Russia is still big and it still lies next door to Central and Eastern Europe, so a Russian threat to Europe still exists. Japan may have been defeated and flattened by the U.S. military in World War II, but its dynamic population -- the gift of a temperate zone climate -- still projects power in the Pacific Basin and may do so even more in the years to come. The United States may have committed one blunder after another in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, yet through all of these misbegotten wars the United States remains by a yawning margin the greatest military power on earth -- the gift, ultimately, of America being a virtual island nation of continental proportions, as well as the last resource-rich swath of the temperate zone to be settled at the time of the European Enlightenment.
So we come to the Middle East, which, despite all its changes and upheavals in the course of the decades and all the prognostications of a U.S. "pivot" to the Pacific, remains vital to the United States. Israel is a de facto strategic ally of the United States and for over six decades now has remained embattled, necessitating American protection. The Persian Gulf region is still the hydrocarbon capital of the world and thus a premier American interest. Certainly, officials in Washington would like to shift focus to the Pacific, but the Middle East simply won't allow that to happen.
And yet there is an ongoing evolution in America's relationship with the region, and attrition of the same can add up to big change.
For decades the Persian Gulf represented a primary American interest: a place that was crucial to the well-being of the American economy. The American economy is the great oil and automotive economy of the modern age, with interstate highways the principal transport link for an entire continent. And Persian Gulf oil was a key to that enterprise. But increasingly the Persian Gulf represents only a secondary interest to the United States: a region important to the well-being of American allies, to be sure, and to world trade and the world economic system in general, but not specifically crucial to America itself, the war to defeat the Islamic State notwithstanding. However much oil the United States is still importing from the Persian Gulf, the fact is that America will have more energy alternatives at home and abroad in future decades.
Indeed, the United States is on the brink of being, in some sense, energy self-sufficient within Greater North America, from the tar sands of Alberta, Canada, to the oil fields of Venezuela. U.S. President Barack Obama may veto the Keystone Pipeline System that would bring oil from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, but industry experts believe that the future will in any case see continued cooperation between the United States and Canada in the energy sector. There is, too, the vast exploitation of shale gas in Texas, Louisiana, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York. U.S. companies will, in addition, probably be investing more in the Mexican and (eventually) Venezuelan energy industries in the future, following increasing economic liberalization in Mexico City and the possible, eventual passing of the Chavista era in Caracas. All this serves to separate the United States from the Middle East.
While the United States will have less and less need of Middle East hydrocarbons, the Middle East will for years to come be consumed by internal political chaos that itself exposes the limits of American power. In the era of strong authoritarian Arab states, American power was easy to project. It was just a matter of U.S. diplomats brokering peace treaties, separation of forces agreements, secret understandings, and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and some of its neighbors. After all, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other Arab countries all had just one phone number to call -- that of the dictator or monarch in charge. But whom do you phone now in Tripoli or Sanaa or Damascus (even if Cairo is temporarily back under military dictatorship)? With no one really in charge, it is harder to bring American pressure to bear. Chaos in and of itself stymies U.S. power.
The United States remains a global behemoth. And U.S. power, particularly military power, can accomplish many things. The United States can defend Japan and Taiwan against China, South Korea against North Korea, Poland against Russia, and ultimately Israel against Iran. But one thing American power cannot accomplish, as a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan showed, is to rebuild complex Islamic societies from within. And rebuilding societies from within will be the fundamental challenge faced by the Arab world for at least the next half-decade. Thus, America, in spite of its latest military intervention, becomes less relevant to the region even as the region itself no longer represents quite the primary interest to America that it used to. We should keep this in mind now that the war against the Islamic State threatens to distract us from other theaters.
So in the glacial changes that often define geopolitics, the United States (that is, Greater North America) is moving away from the Middle East. This occurs as the Middle East itself slowly dissolves into a Greater Indian Ocean world.
For as the United States requires fewer and fewer hydrocarbons from the Middle East, China and India require more and more. Their economies may have slowed, but they are still growing. The Persian Gulf can -- in the final analysis -- erupt into a nuclear firestorm and America will survive well, thank you. But China and India will have the greater problem. China does not have a foreign policy so much as a resource-acquisition policy. Not only is it increasingly involved in energy deals with Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran, but China is currently trying to build, run or help finance container ports in Tanzania and Pakistan in order to eventually transport both commercial goods from the western rim of the Indian Ocean to the eastern rim and on into China itself. And while all this is happening, Oman, for example, plans to build routes and pipelines from outside the Strait of Hormuz to countries inside the strait, even as China and India have visionary plans to link energy-rich and landlocked Central Asia by pipeline to both western China and the Indian Ocean.
In this evolving strategic geography of the early- and mid-21st century, the Middle East slowly becomes a world defined less by its own conflict and trading system and more by a conflict and trading system that spans the whole navigable southern rimland of the Eurasian supercontinent, with tentacles reaching north into Central Asia. The Indian Ocean thus emerges as the global hydrocarbon interstate linking the oil and gas fields of the Persian Gulf with the urban middle class concentrations of the Indian subcontinent and East Asia.
In such a scenario, the United States does not desert the Middle East, just as China and India do not greatly infiltrate it. But there is movement -- especially psychological -- away from one reality and toward another. And in the process, the Middle East as a clearly defined region of 20th century area studies means less than it used to.
Boiled down to the current newspaper headlines, Obama has not been irresponsible by refusing to get more involved than he has in the sectarian chaos of Syria and deciding for so long to withhold military action against Iran's nuclear facilities. His presidency is simply a sign of the times: a sign of the limits of U.S. power and of the more limited interests the United States has in the Middle East, terrorism excepted. The opening to Iran, as demonstrated by the interim agreement concerning Tehran's nuclear program, is part of this shift. The United States is trying to put its house in order in the Middle East through a rapprochement of sorts with the mullahs so that it can devote more time to other regions. Of course, this has been upended by the war against the Islamic State. But it will remain an overriding American goal nevertheless.
Read more: The End of the Middle East? | Stratfor
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Elections-- sticking with Statism
on: October 29, 2014, 05:24:42 PM
Brazil Sticks With Statism
Odds are that the country’s reputation for economic mediocrity is safe for another four years.
By Mary Anastasia O’Grady
Oct. 26, 2014 7:30 p.m. ET
An economic recession, inflation running at 6.7% and revelations of an audacious skimming scheme at the state-owned oil company Petrobras were not enough to deny Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff re-election to a second term on Sunday.
With 99% of the vote counted, the incumbent led with 51.56% of the vote against challenger Aécio Neves, of the Social Democratic Party of Brazil, with 48.44%.
Ms. Rousseff ran as the anti-market, welfare-state candidate, which may be why she fared far better in the poor, dependent north than she did in the prosperous agricultural heartland and here in Brazil’s largest city, where the economy relies heavily on services and value-added manufacturing.
Like the U.S., Brazil has its upper-class, urban voters who feel virtuous backing state intervention in other peoples’ lives and supporting Cuba’s military dictatorship. But there is also an aspirational Brazil—which is made up of risk-taking entrepreneurs, globally competitive farmers and a rising middle class that hungers for greater engagement with the world. These Brazilians badly want the change Mr. Neves represented. They made Sunday’s contest the closest in Brazilian history.
Like the proverbial dog that caught the car, Ms. Rousseff now has to figure out what to do with her next four years. She may believe she can further the consolidation of PT power—her highest goal—if she sticks to the policy mix she has been using thus far, no matter the cost to the economy. Alternatively, she could make pragmatic economic adjustments with the goal of restoring confidence and growth.
The latter is certainly possible. But it is unlikely because the party militants, who have fattened up during PT rule, want more power, not less. She may utter some conciliatory statements and in the short run take some small steps that favor liberty, just as her PT mentor, former President Lula da Silva (2003-10), did when he first took office in order to calm markets that were plummeting out of fear. But Lula soon reverted to form.
Odds are that Ms. Rousseff will do the same, making Brazil’s legendary reputation for mediocrity safe for another four years. Only if a criminal investigation proves that Ms. Rousseff and Lula knew about the graft at Petrobras are things likely to go differently.
The great irony of the campaign is that while Ms. Rousseff and Lula claimed the credit for Brazil’s turn-of-the-century revival, they both opposed the reforms of the 1990s. The privatization of state companies, the limited opening to foreign competition, and the 1994 “Brazilian real” currency plan to defeat hyperinflation all stimulated development and made more generous welfare programs, the trademark of the PT, possible.
But the PT never followed through on those reforms and the “Brazilian miracle” died in the crib. At best the country runs in the middle of the emerging-market pack. More often it brings up the rear.
Neither Lula nor Ms. Rousseff seem to care about development. According to Goldman Sachs , from 2004-13 government spending grew at almost 8% a year, in real terms, which was more than twice the rate of GDP growth. Inflation is now 7% year-over-year on prices for goods and services not regulated by price controls and 8.6% for services alone. Inflationary expectations are rising.
Ms. Rousseff thought she could fix the problem by capping the price of gasoline, which is supplied by Petrobras, and of ethanol, which is made by local sugar mills and used to make flex-fuel. But since production costs are not capped, Petrobras and the sugar mills are sustaining large losses. Some sugar mills are already bankrupt and others that I talked to said they won’t survive if the policy continues.
The PT boasts about helping the poor with welfare but what it gives with one hand it takes—and more—with the other. Rising protectionism, steep payroll and consumption taxes, lousy infrastructure and heavy labor regulation are hidden costs that make all Brazilians worse off.
More worrying is the damage the PT might do to institutions and the rule of law over another 48 months. Civil society here jealously guards civil liberties and pluralism. But as one astute businessman told me, “We are noticing, bit by bit, a trend toward copying Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. The tendency is to reduce democracy.” One example is Ms. Rousseff’s May decree empowering “popular councils,” which would move the country away from representative democracy à la Venezuela. Congress has so far refused to approve the measure but if the usual vote-buying goes on, that may change.
This is creepy for anyone who has read history. As the 18th-century political philosopher David Hume observed, “It is seldom that liberty of any kind is lost all at once.” Today Mrs. Rousseff is a politician who won an election. But Brazilians may someday learn that the one-party state and indefinite rule are the real long-term projects of the PT.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Tom Perez seeks AG gig
on: October 29, 2014, 05:19:37 PM
Tom Perez Has No Regrets
Oct. 29, 2014 2:35 p.m. ET
It’s no secret in Washington that Labor Secretary Tom Perez wants to succeed Eric Holder as the nation’s next attorney general. But as a recent tweet reminded us, Mr. Perez has willfully ignored a House subpoena for more than a year . . . and he wants to be the country’s top lawyer?
Last week Mr. Perez gave this shout-out on the social media network to St. Paul, Minnesota Mayor Christopher Coleman: “Congrats to @mayorcoleman & the city of St. Paul for taking the next step to #LeadOnLeave!”—a reference to a Labor Department campaign for paid maternity leave. “#PaidLeave is good for families & our economy.”
Tom Perez, U.S. secretary of labor ENLARGE
Tom Perez, U.S. secretary of labor Bloomberg
Messrs. Perez and Coleman are quite a pair. In February 2012, as then-head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, Mr. Perez agreed not to intervene in a False Claims Act case levelled against the city by a whistleblower. In exchange, Mr. Coleman agreed to withdraw the city’s pending lawsuit, Magner v. Gallagher, from the Supreme Court.
Magner concerned the legality of suing for unintentional discrimination (known as “disparate impact”) under the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Mr. Perez made a political name for himself at Justice by using the legal theory to accuse banks of racism and then reap hefty settlements. Many legal scholars considered the actions extortionary, and Mr. Perez—by frantically pushing to prevent the Justices from ruling on Magner—wanted to avoid a legal reckoning.
The House Oversight and Judiciary Committees, along with the minority staff on the Senate Judiciary Committee, launched an investigation. They found Mr. Perez had tried to cover up the quid pro quo and “likely violated both the spirit and letter of the Federal Records Act” by using his personal email accounts to conduct official government business. The House subpoenaed his emails.
Mr. Perez flouted the subpoena and was rewarded by the Obama administration with a nomination for Labor Secretary, which Majority Leader Harry Reid pushed through the Senate after killing the filibuster. Meanwhile, a second disparate impact case was also mysteriously withdrawn from the Supreme Court before the Justices could hear oral arguments. Now the court has accepted a third case.
Mr. Perez’s nomination for AG isn’t a sure thing. Brooklyn prosecutor Loretta Lynch and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli are also in the running, and Mr. Perez sports thin credentials on important matters like national security. But surely his flouting of the law is the biggest problem with his candidacy.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Principle, Rigor, and Execution Matter in US Foreign Policy
on: October 29, 2014, 05:15:49 PM
Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in U.S. Foreign Policy
Tuesday, October 28, 2014
By George Friedman
U.S. President Barack Obama has come under intense criticism for his foreign policy, along with many other things. This is not unprecedented. Former President George W. Bush was similarly attacked. Stratfor has always maintained that the behavior of nations has much to do with the impersonal forces driving it, and little to do with the leaders who are currently passing through office. To what extent should American presidents be held accountable for events in the world, and what should they be held accountable for?
Expectations and Reality
I have always been amazed when presidents take credit for creating jobs or are blamed for high interest rates. Under our Constitution, and in practice, presidents have precious little influence on either. They cannot act without Congress or the Federal Reserve concurring, and both are outside presidential control. Nor can presidents overcome the realities of the market. They are prisoners of institutional constraints and the realities of the world.
Nevertheless, we endow presidents with magical powers and impose extraordinary expectations. The president creates jobs, manages Ebola and solves the problems of the world -- or so he should. This particular president came into office with preposterous expectations from his supporters that he could not possibly fulfill. The normal campaign promises of a normal politician were taken to be prophecy. This told us more about his supporters than about him. Similarly, his enemies, at the extremes, have painted him as the devil incarnate, destroying the Republic for fiendish reasons.
He is neither savior nor demon. He is a politician. As a politician, he governs not by what he wants, nor by what he promised in the election. He governs by the reality he was handed by history and his predecessor. Obama came into office with a financial crisis well underway, along with the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. His followers might have thought that he would take a magic wand and make them go away, and his enemies might think that he would use them to destroy the country, but in point of fact he did pretty much what Bush had been doing: He hung on for dear life and guessed at the right course.
Bush came into office thinking of economic reforms and a foreign policy that would get away from nation-building. The last thing he expected was that he would invade Afghanistan during his first year in office. But it really wasn't up to him. His predecessor, Bill Clinton, and al Qaeda set his agenda. Had Clinton been more aggressive against al Qaeda, Bush might have had a different presidency. But al Qaeda did not seem to need that level of effort, and Clinton came into office as heir to the collapse of the Soviet Union. And so on back to George Washington.
Presidents are constrained by the reality they find themselves in and the limits that institutions place on them. Foreign policy is what a president wishes would happen; foreign affairs are what actually happen. The United States is enormously powerful. It is not omnipotent. There are not only limits to that power, but unexpected and undesirable consequences of its use. I have in mind the idea that had the United States not purged the Baathists in Iraq, the Sunnis might not have risen. That is possible. But had the Baathists, the party of the hated Saddam Hussein, remained in power, the sense of betrayal felt by Shiites and Kurds at the sight of the United States now supporting Baathists might have led to a greater explosion. The constraints in Iraq were such that having invaded, there was no choice that did not have a likely repercussion.
Governing a nation of more than 300 million people in a world filled with nations, the U.S. president can preside, but he hardly rules. He is confronted with enormous pressure from all directions. He knows only a fraction of the things he needs to know in the maelstrom he has entered, and in most cases he has no idea that something is happening. When he knows something is happening, he doesn't always have the power to do anything, and when he has the power to do something, he can never be sure of the consequences. Everyone not holding the office is certain that he or she would never make a mistake. Obama was certainly clear on that point, and his successor will be as well.
All that said, let us consider what Obama is trying to achieve in the current circumstances. It is now 2014, and the United States has been at war since 2001 -- nearly this entire century so far. It has not gone to war on the scale of 20th-century wars, but it has had multidivisional engagements, along with smaller operations in Africa and elsewhere.
For any nation, this is unsustainable, particularly when there is no clear end to the war. The enemy is not a conventional force that can be defeated by direct attack. It is a loose network embedded in the civilian population and difficult to distinguish. The enemy launches intermittent attacks designed to impose casualties on U.S. forces under the theory that in the long run the United States will find the cost greater than the benefit.
In addition to these wars, two other conflicts have emerged. One is in Ukraine, where a pro-Western government has formed in Kiev to the displeasure of Russia, which proceeded to work against Ukraine. In Iraq, a new Sunni force has emerged, the Islamic State, which is partly a traditional insurgency and partly a conventional army.
Under the strategy followed until the chaos that erupted after the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi in Libya, the response to both would be to send U.S. forces to stabilize the situation. Since 1999 and Kosovo, the United States has been the primary actor in military interventions. More to the point, the United States was the first actor and used military force as its first option. Given the global American presence imposed by the breadth of U.S. power, it is difficult to decline combat when problems such as these arise. It is the obvious and, in a way, easiest solution. The problem is that it is frequently not a solution.
Obama has tried to create a different principle for U.S. operations. First, the conflict must rise to the level that its outcome concerns American interests. Second, involvement must begin with non-military or limited military options. Third, the United States must operate with an alliance structure including local allies, capable of effective operation. The United States will provide aid and will provide limited military force (such as airstrikes) but will not bear the main burden. Finally, and only if the situation is of grave significance and can only be dealt with through direct and major U.S. military intervention, the United States will allow itself to become the main force.
It is a foreign policy both elegant and historically rooted. It is also incredibly complicated. First, what constitutes the national interest? There is a wide spread of opinion in the administration. Among some, intervention to prevent human rights violations is in the national interest. To others, only a direct threat to the United States is in the national interest.
Second, the tempo of intervention is difficult to calibrate. The United States is responding to an enemy, and it is the enemy's tempo of operations that determines the degree of response needed.
Third, many traditional allies, like Germany, lack the means or inclination to involve themselves in these affairs. Turkey, with far more interest in what happens in Syria and Iraq than the United States, is withholding intervention unless the United States is also involved and, in addition, agrees to the political outcome. As Dwight D. Eisenhower learned in World War II, an alliance is desirable because it spreads the burden. It is also nightmarish to maintain because all the allies are pursuing a range of ends outside the main mission.
Finally, it is extraordinarily easy to move past the first three stages into direct interventions. This ease comes from a lack of clarity as to what the national interest is, the enemy's tempo of operations seeming to grow faster than an alliance can be created, or an alliance's failure to gel.
Obama has reasonable principles of operation. It is a response to the realities of the world. There are far more conflicts than the United States has interests. Intervention on any level requires timing. Other nations have greater interests in their future than the United States does. U.S military involvement must be the last step. The principle fits the strategic needs and constraints on the United States. Unfortunately, clear principles frequently meet a murky world, and the president finds himself needing to intervene without clarity.
Presidents' Limited Control
The president is not normally in control of the situation. The situation is in control of him. To the extent that presidents, or leaders of any sort, can gain control of a situation, it is not only in generating principles but also in rigorously defining the details of those principles, and applying them with technical precision, that enables some semblance of control.
President Richard Nixon had two major strategic visions: to enter into a relationship with China to control the Soviet Union, and to facilitate an alliance reversal by Egypt, from the Soviet Union to the United States. The first threatened the Soviet Union with a two-front war and limited Soviet options. The second destroyed a developing Mediterranean strategy that might have changed the balance of power.
Nixon's principle was to ally with nations regardless of ideology -- hence communist China and Nasserite Egypt. To do this, the national interest had to be rigorously defined so that these alliances would not seem meaningless. Second, the shift in relationships had to be carried out with meticulous care. The president does not have time for such care, nor are his talents normally suited for it, since his job is to lead rather than execute. Nixon had Henry Kissinger, who in my opinion and that of others was the lesser strategist, but a superb technician.
The switch in China's alignment became inevitable once fighting broke out with the Soviets. Egypt's break with the Soviets became inevitable when it became apparent to Anwar Sadat that the Soviets would underwrite a war but could not underwrite a peace. Only the United States could. These shifts had little to do with choices. Neither Mao Zedong nor Sadat really had much of a choice.
Where choice exists is in the tactics. Kissinger was in charge of implementing both shifts, and on that level it was in fact possible to delay, disrupt or provide an opening to Soviet counters. The level at which foreign policy turns into foreign affairs is not in the enunciation of the principles but in the rigorous definition of those principles and in their implementation. Nixon had Kissinger, and that was what Kissinger was brilliant at: turning principles into successful implementation.
The problem that Obama has, which has crippled his foreign policy, is that his principles have not been defined with enough rigor to provide definitive guidance in a crisis. When the crisis comes, that's when the debate starts. What exactly is the national interest, and how does it apply in this or that case? Even if he accomplishes that, he still lacks a figure with the subtlety, deviousness and frankly ruthlessness to put it into place. I would argue that the same problem haunted the George W. Bush and Clinton administrations, although their challenges were less daunting and therefore their weakness less visible.
There is a sphere in which history sweeps a president along. The most he can do is adjust to what must be, and in the end, this is the most important sphere. In another sphere -- the sphere of principles -- he can shape events or at least clarify decisions. But the most important level, the level on which even the sweep of history is managed, is the tactical. This is where deals are made and pressure is placed, and where the president can perhaps shift the direction of history.
Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has not had a president who operated consistently and well in the deeper levels of history. This situation is understandable, since the principles of the Cold War were so powerful and then suddenly gone. Still, principles without definition and execution without precision cannot long endure.
"Principle, Rigor and Execution Matter in U.S. Foreign Policy
is republished with permission of Stratfor."
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Qatar, Hamas, and Al Fatah
on: October 29, 2014, 05:06:54 PM
Qatar - Where Obama sent released Guantanamo terrorists .....
The Role of Hamas and Fatah in the Jerusalem Disturbances
Everyone is competing for Qatar money – a fact that only spurs local groups
towards greater levels of violence
Pinhas Inbari October 26, 2014
Jerusalem Issue Briefs Vol. 14, No. 34 http://jcpa.org/article/hamas-fatah-jerusalem-disturbances//
The Muslim Brotherhood seeks to unite all of the region’s Islamic movements
around the idea of the Muslim Caliphate with the Al-Aqsa Mosque as its hub.
-Hamas’ Khaled Mashal lives in Qatar and has helped the Qataris realize that
by ratcheting up the Palestinian issue they can reignite the passion of the
Arab masses throughout the Arab world in support of the Muslim Brotherhood.
-Fatah’s Silwan (Jerusalem) branch was quick to glorify the hit-and-run
killer of the three-month-old American-Israeli baby, Chaya Zissel Braun. On
the issue of funding Fatah activity in Jerusalem, eyes are turned to Qatar.
-Both Fatah and Hamas compete for Qatar’s favor, provoking greater levels of
violence on the ground in Jerusalem.
The deterioration of the security situation in Jerusalem cannot be
understood only on the Israeli-Palestinian level; it is umbilically
connected to the chaos in the Middle East and to the great struggle between
the moderate Sunni regimes and the Muslim Brotherhood, which seeks to make
the Jerusalem issue a rallying cry of the “Arab Storm.” The Brotherhood’s
strategy hopes to unite all of the region’s Islamic movements around the
idea of the Muslim Caliphate with the Al-Aqsa Mosque as its hub.
As demonstrated during Operation Protective Edge, the Brotherhood flaunted
the banner “the siege of Gaza” to incite European Muslims to demonstrate in
the streets with their leftist allies, thereby advancing the status of Islam
on the Christian continent. Today, the Muslim jihadists use the “Save
Jerusalem” campaign to again bring millions of agitated Muslims into the
streets of Europe.
Before the recent hit-and-run terror attack on a Jerusalem light rail
platform that killed an American-Israeli infant, the head of Hamas’
Political Bureau, Khaled Mashal, published a special announcement calling
“on our people to hasten immediately to defend Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa, and on
the Muslim nation to send a painful message of rage to the world that the
Palestinian people and with them the Arab and Islamic nation will not keep
quiet about Israeli crime.”1 Thus, in Hamas’s view it is the Jerusalem issue
that can place the Palestinians at the forefront of the revolution unfolding
in the Arab world, and of the Muslim awakening in Europe.
A Call to Muslim Faithful to Converge on Jerusalem
The clarion call of Al-Aqsa was sounded by the eminent Muslim Brotherhood
jurist, Doha-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, when in Cairo’s Tahrir Square
in February 2011, immediately after the ouster of President Mubarak, he
called for Al-Aqsa’s liberation. Subsequently, he published a book titled
Jerusalem: The Problem of Every Muslim.2 In the introduction, the preeminent
scholar of the Muslim Brotherhood says, “O nation of Islam, arise, the hour
has come, and the hour of danger beckons – to Jerusalem, to Jerusalem –
Sheikh Qaradawi got into a bitter polemic with the head of the Palestinian
Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, after Abbas called to inundate Jerusalem with
massive Muslim tourism so as to preserve its Muslim nature in the face of
the “Judaization of the city.” Sheikh Qaradawi has ruled that visiting
Jerusalem is forbidden so long as it is under Israeli occupation;3 Jerusalem
must be liberated by force and not by “tourism.”4
The leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh
Raed Salah, who belongs to the circles closest to Sheikh Qaradawi,5 stated
that “Jerusalem is the capital of the imminently approaching Islamic
In monitoring Hamas’s websites, one gets the impression that pressure to sow
discord in Jerusalem greatly intensified after the overthrow of former
Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood
there and its designation as a terrorist movement.7 Meanwhile, a crisis
erupted between Saudi Arabia and Qatar over the funding of the Brotherhood
branches in the Arab world, including Hamas, based on the claim that these
are terror organizations.8 Presumably, Qatar tried indirectly to help the
Brotherhood in Egypt by inspiring support for them on the Jerusalem issue.
It is also evident that in Syria, Qatar has funded an attempt to establish
terror groups that put Jerusalem at the top of their concerns, such as the
The fact that Khaled Mashal is living in Qatar has helped the Qataris
realize that by ratcheting up the Palestinian issue it can reignite the
passion of the Arab masses throughout the Arab world in support of the
Muslim Brotherhood. As we saw in Operation Protective Edge, Qatar dictated a
tough line against a ceasefire in the hope of bringing the Arab masses out
into the streets. Qatar failed in the Arab world – but succeeded in Europe.
Muslim Brotherhood Pressures Jordan
The use of the Jerusalem issue to exert pressure on the Arab world in
general has greatly increased the pressure on Jordan, which was recognized
in its peace treaty with Israel as custodian of the Jerusalem holy places.9
The pretension of the worldwide Muslim Brotherhood movement to represent the
Jerusalem issue has led the Brotherhood in Jordan to censure the Hashemite
government in this regard and question whether Jordan is really safeguarding
The fact that the Palestinian Authority has joined Hamas’s campaign to “Save
Al-Aqsa,” notwithstanding the agreement that the Authority has signed with
Jordan, will likely lead to difficulties between the latter two. King
Abdullah has harshly castigated Israel on the Jerusalem issue;11 it must be
understood that he himself is in distress.
During the two previous intifadas, Fatah of Jerusalem in fact took pains to
exclude Jerusalem from the sphere of the conflict. Fatah sources say it was
indeed the Fatah Tanzim in Jerusalem that told Arafat, “The interest of the
residents of east Jerusalem in steadfastness – sumud – requires excluding
them from the sphere of violence.” Hence, whereas the West Bank and Gaza
engaged in terror, the Fatah Tanzim made the struggle an issue of sumud,
such as safeguarding illegal construction; and even though the Second
Intifada was dubbed the “Al-Aqsa Intifada,” Fatah took care to distance it
from the holy place.
Today, the situation is the opposite: quiet Gaza is licking its wounds, the
West Bank is also – relatively – quiet, while most of the focus is on
Jerusalem. The main reason is a drastic decline in support for Fatah in
Jerusalem, so that it is the Islamic movements such as Hamas and the
international Hizb ut-Tahrir movement, which advocates a caliphate, that are
directing the events. For Fatah there is nothing left but to be pulled along
Looking for Qatari Funding
With an eye to the seventh Fatah conference, planned for the end of the year
though its date has not yet been set, Abbas met with members of the
“Jerusalem district” of Fatah. Fatah sources in Jerusalem say that the
makeup of the cadres has been changed so that “street punks” and even the
“underworld” have been recruited to foment an intifada in Jerusalem. They
have demanded payment for their activity but so far no budget has been
provided to them. Legal costs for those arrested are supposed to have been
paid, but receipt of the funds is not certain.
Fatah’s Silwan (Jerusalem) branch was quick to glorify the hit-and-run
killer of the three-month-old American-Israeli baby, Chaya Zissel Braun,
posting an obituary for the murderer on its official Facebook page, and also
using the words “heroic Martyr.”12
On the issue of funding Fatah activity in Jerusalem, eyes are turned to
Qatar, the great financier of all the movements that are undermining
regional stability, including in Israel. The large sums evidently being used
by the websites of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood to wage the Jerusalem
campaign indicate that much Qatari money has already flowed their way, and
Fatah is now waiting in line.
Fatah’s very weak standing in the Al-Aqsa compound was apparent in the
attack –wild to the point of life-endangering — on Palestinian religious
affairs minister Mahmoud al-Habash when he visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque at the
end of June this year. His attackers were Hamas and Hizbat ut-Tahrir men,
and the Palestinian Authority’s security forces had a very hard time
rescuing him. 13 The joint attack also conveyed a message that these two
movements, which have struggled over hegemony on the Mount, have reconciled
and are now acting in unison.
Yet everyone is competing for Qatar money – a fact that only spurs local
groups towards greater levels of violence. Fatah’s joining of the Al-Aqsa
campaign as a wagon hitched to fundamentalist Qatar may well herald a
takeover of Ramallah by the radical Islamic movements – unless the
Palestinian Authority regains its bearings in time.
* * *
Roger Gerber explains:
Jerusalem has been subjected recently to a steady barrage of violence against both civilians and infrastructure, resulting in both loss of life and serious damage to about one-thrid of the city's light rail cars. Palestinian Authority President Abbas has spread unfounded incendiary rumors among his populace to the effect that Israeli settlers were "desecrating" Al-Aqsa Mosque and, in a public speech last week, he asserted that "We must stop them (the settlers) from entering by any means possible." It should be noted that under both Arafat and Abbas whenever it was deemed necessary to stir up the populace the imaginary threat against al-Aqsa Mosque was invoked (the brutal second intifada was even dubbed the "Al-Aqsa Intifada"). Accordingly, P.M Netanyahu has charged that "the attacks in Jerusalem are supported by P.A. Chairman Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] who both extols the murderers and embraces the organization that the terrorists belong to, Hamas". Israel's Ambassador to the U.S., Ron Dermer, on October 26 averred that Mahmoud Abbas is “an enemy of Israel, who educates children to hate Jews and wants to establish a Judenrein” state. One wonders whether our State Department is truly oblivious to all this or just pretends not to see or hear it. The following analysis by Pinhas Inbari should be read in conjunction with the complementary piece by Nadav Shragai distributed simultaneously.]
4 Sheikh Kamal Hativ of the Islamic Movement in Israel said in response to a
visit to Al-Aqsa by Egyptian religious figures that “Jerusalem will receive
these ulema as conquerors and not as tourists.” http://www.iaqsa.com/%d8%a7%d9%84%d8%b4%d9%8a%d8%ae-%d9%83%d9%85%d8%a7%d9%84-%d8%ae%d8%b7%d9%8a%d8%a8-%d8%a5%d9%84%d9%89-%d9%81%d8%b6%d9%8a%d9%84%d8%a9-%d8%a7%d9%84%d9%85%d9%81%d8%aa%d9%8a-%d8%b9%d9%84%d9%8a-%d8%ac
5 At one point it was reported that Sheikh Raed Salah had attacked Sheikh
Qaradawi for a ruling that forbade tourism in Jerusalem. Sheikh Raed Salah
hastened to publish a special announcement denying this; on the contrary, he
recognized Sheikh Qaradawi’s authority “as head of the World Federation of
Muslim Scholars.” He supported the sheikh’s visit to Gaza in lieu of
Jerusalem because “Gaza has already been liberated.” http://www.bldtna.com/art,48852
7 Thus, for example, several campaigns were inaugurated such as “Al-Aqsa Is
Ours and Is Not Your Temple,” which were disseminated via Facebook to the
whole Arab world and even to Europe. https://www.facebook.com/pages/%D8%A3%D9%82%D8%B5%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A7-%D9%84%D8%A7-%D9%87%D9%8A%D9%83%D9%84%D9%87%D9%85-%D9%85%D8%B3%D9%80%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A7-%D9%84%D8%A7-
9 Even after the Palestinian Authority joined UNESCO, Jordan forced Ramallah
to ratify Jordan’s status as custodian of Al-Aqsa and as the representative
of Jerusalem in UNESCO. http://kingabdullah.jo/index.php/en_US/news/view/id/10779/videoDisplay/1.html
About Pinhas Inbari
Pinhas Inbari is a veteran Arab affairs correspondent who formerly reported
for Israel Radio and Al Hamishmar newspaper, and currently serves as an
analyst for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Money, the Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver
on: October 29, 2014, 04:44:37 PM
Fed Ends QE, Rate Hikes Now on Radar To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Senior Economist
We count five key takeaways from today’s policy statement from the Federal Reserve.
First, the Fed clearly raised its assessment of the economy. Most notably, it deleted its long-standing reference to “significant underutilization” in the labor market, changing it to say that the underutilization in the labor market is “gradually diminishing.” This may not seem like much, but at the Yellen Fed a better assessment of the job market is a necessary step before raising rates and that hurdle is now much closer to being cleared. In addition, the Fed strengthened its language on consumer spending and completely deleted a reference to fiscal policy restraining economic growth.
Second, quantitative easing is finished by the end of the week, as previously projected. This doesn’t mean the Fed’s balance sheet will suddenly go back to normal. Instead, the Fed will keep reinvesting principal payments from its holdings to maintain the balance sheet at roughly $4.4 trillion. Look for the Fed to keep reinvesting principal through at least late 2015.
Third, the Fed is taking a more nuanced view on inflation, comparing market-based measures (such as the five-year forward inflation rate), which have diminished recently, to survey-based measures, which have remained stable. The Fed pointed out that energy prices should hold inflation down in the near term but inflation should still head back up toward its target of 2%.
Fourth, the Fed maintained its commitment to keep rates at current levels for a “considerable time,” but added language saying rate hikes could happen sooner or later depending on how closely actual economic data match its forecast. We think this means the Fed is getting very close to removing the “considerable period” phrase. Look for the Fed to remove the language at the mid-December meeting, when Chairwoman Yellen will have a chance to fully explain the Fed’s reasoning at the post-meeting press conference.
Last, the two hawkish dissenters at the September meeting are now back on board with Fed policy while the lone dissent at today’s meeting was a dovish one from Minneapolis Fed president Narayana Kocherlakota, who wants the Fed to commit to keeping rates low until inflation hits 2% and wants to keep quantitative easing going at the current slow pace at least through the end of the year.
The bottom line is that the Fed has been and will remain behind the curve. We believe the first rate hike could come in the second quarter of next year. But nominal GDP – real GDP growth plus inflation – is up 4.3% in the past year and up at a 3.8% annual rate in the past two years. A federal funds target rate of nearly zero is too low given this growth. It’s also too low given well-tailored policy tools like the Taylor Rule.
In the meantime, hyperinflation is not in the cards; the Fed will keep paying banks enough to keep the money multiplier depressed. But, given loose policy, we expect gradually faster growth in nominal GDP for the next couple of years. In turn, the bull market in equities will continue and the bond market is due for a fall.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Doctors without Scruples
on: October 29, 2014, 04:32:26 PM
Doctors Without Scruples
And why are soldiers being quarantined?
October 29, 2014
Kaci Hickox, the nurse who was briefly quarantined at a Newark, N.J., hospital after flying into the state en route from Ebola-ravaged Sierra Leone, now says she won’t comply with the three-week home-quarantine requirements in her home state of Maine. “She doesn’t want to agree to continue to be confined to a residence beyond the two days,” her New York-based lawyer, Steven Hyman, tells the Bangor Daily News.The Associated Press quotes Hyman as saying: “She’s a very good person who did very good work and deserves to be honored, not detained, for it.”
At least two other medical professionals have acted as if public-health rules don’t apply to them. The New York Post reports that physician Craig Spencer—like Hickox a volunteer for Doctors Without Borders, in his case in Guinea—“lied to authorities about his travels around the city . . ., law-enforcement sources said”:
Spencer at first told officials that he isolated himself in his Harlem apartment—and didn’t admit he rode the subways, dined out and went bowling until cops looked at his MetroCard the sources said.
“He told the authorities that he self-quarantined. Detectives then reviewed his credit-card statement and MetroCard and found that he went over here, over there, up and down and all around,” a source said.
And let’s not forget Nancy Snyderman, a Princeton, N.J., physician who entered voluntary quarantine after a fellow traveler to Liberia was diagnosed with Ebola. On Oct. 9 the Planet Princeton website reported that “Snyderman allegedly was seen sitting in her car outside of the Peasant Grill in Hopewell Boro this afternoon. A reader reported that a man who was with her got out of the car and went inside the restaurant to pick up a take-out order. Another man was in the back seat of her black Mercedes. Snyderman had sunglasses on and had her hair pulled back, the reader said.”
The state issued a mandatory quarantine order, and on Oct. 13 Snyderman “issued an apology to the public . . . but did not indicate that she had violated the voluntary confinement agreement . . . or take personal responsibility for the violation.”
At least Doctors Without Borders is off the hook for Snyderman. She works for NBC as chief medical correspondent.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department has announced that all U.S. servicemen “returning from areas affected by Ebola in West Africa” will be subjected to “a 21-day monitoring period.” As noted here yesterday, that has already been the de facto policy. The Pentagon press release doesn’t use the word “quarantine,” but every media report we’ve seen does.
The statement quotes a Pentagon spokesman as saying Secretary Chuck Hagel “believes these initial steps are prudent, given the large number of military personnel transiting from their home base and West Africa and the unique logistical demands and impact this deployment has on the force.” It’s hard to disagree, though one might add: and the irresponsible, if not downright dishonest, behavior of various civilian medics.
But of course Hagel’s announcement means that the Obama administration has two directly opposite policies on Americans returning from Ebola lands: quarantine for those in uniform, laissez-faire for civilians. And “laissez-faire” doesn’t quite capture it: The administration not only is not imposing a quarantine on civilians but is actively pressuring states to refrain from doing so. Hickox was released after—and possibly because of—that campaign.
What accounts for the double standard? Or, as a reporter put it to President Obama yesterday: “Are you concerned, sir, that there might be some confusion between the quarantine rules used by the military and used by health care workers and by some states?”
Let’s go through the president’s response point by point.
“Well, the military is a different situation, obviously, because they are, first of all, not treating patients.”
According to the Washington Post, some of them will “test samples for presence of the virus,” but if they are not going to have direct contact with Ebola sufferers, that would seem to militate against quarantining them upon return.
“Second of all, they are not there voluntarily, it’s part of their mission that’s been assigned to them by their commanders and ultimately by me, the commander in chief.”
Perhaps the president is unaware that the U.S. does not have military conscription. Which we suppose would be understandable, since Obama was 11 when the last draftee reported for duty.
“So we don’t expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for civilians. They are already, by definition, if they’re in the military, under more circumscribed conditions.”
Press secretary Josh Earnest had developed that argument further at a briefing two hours earlier:
There are a wide range of sacrifices that our men and women in uniform make for the sake of efficiency and for the sake of uniformity and for the success of our military.
So to take a more pedestrian example than the medical one that we’re talking about, there might be some members of the military who think that the haircut that’s required may not be their best, but that’s a haircut that they get every couple of weeks because it is in the best interest of their unit and it maintains unit cohesion.
We’ll return to the point, but let’s note here that taking servicemen out of circulation for three weeks obviously does not promote efficiency, and that instituting a policy that applies only to the relatively small number of servicemen stationed in Ebola lands obviously does not promote uniformity. That leaves only the catchall “success of our military” category to justify the quarantine.
Back to Obama:
“When we have volunteers who are taking time out from their families, from their loved ones and so forth, to go over there because they have a very particular expertise to tackle a very difficult job, we want to make sure that when they come back that we are prudent, that we are making sure that they are not at risk themselves or at risk of spreading the disease . . .”
It sounds here as if the president is continuing his justification of the military quarantine, but it turns out the “volunteers” he means here are the Doctors Without Borders types, who, he said in his prepared statement “are doing God’s work over there.” (Maybe, but didn’t God say something about bearing false witness?) The sentence continues:
“. . . but we don’t want to do things that aren’t based on science and best practices. Because if we do, then we’re just putting another barrier on somebody who’s already doing really important work on our behalf. And that’s not something that I think any of us should want to see happen.”
All of which leaves unanswered the central question: If a policy of quarantining returning personnel runs counter to “science and best practices,” how does it promote, in Earnest’s phrase, “the success of our military”?
Absent a satisfactory answer to that question, the answer to the question “Why are you quarantining servicemen?” seems to boil down to: “Because we can.” Because it is in the nature of military service to demand a considerable sacrifice of personal freedom. But if the administration viewed that as sufficient justification, it would not have pressed for legislation abolishing restrictions on service by homosexuals.
Anyway, we know of no one who denies that Hagel had the authority to establish the quarantine policy, absent a contrary order from the commander in chief. But the White House also concedes that states have the authority to order quarantines for civilians.
At his Monday press briefing, Josh Earnest answered a reporter’s question about the absence of “an overarching federal policy that rules” by saying this: “You can sort of take this up with James Madison, right? We have a federal system in this country in which states are given significant authority for governing their constituents. That is certainly true when it comes to public safety and public health.”
What is at issue, then, is the administration’s purely discretionary decisions to order quarantines for servicemen and lean on states not to order them for civilians—a contradiction with no obvious basis, and no basis the World’s Greatest Orator and his spokesman have managed to articulate, in philosophy, law or science.
Either servicemen are being subjected to burdens with no basis in “science or best practices,” or the administration is risking public health by prioritizing the personal comfort of civilian medical workers. Why in the world are they doing this?
Odd as it to say about this administration—especially with an election less than a week away—it’s hard to imagine the motive is political. CBS News reports that 80% of respondents in a new poll “think U.S. citizens and legal residents returning from West Africa should be quarantined upon their arrival in the U.S. until it is certain they don’t have Ebola”; just 17% disagree. (Though to be sure, that 17% is almost double the proportion describing themselves in another recent poll as “enthusiastic” about Obama.)
Let us suggest two practical distinctions, either or both of which may explain the disjunction in policy. The first is that forestalling the military quarantine order would have required Obama to overrule a recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—that is to say, to make a decision. Pressuring the governors, by contrast, involves only behind-the-scenes kibitzing and public bloviation.
The second is snobbery. Recall that quote from Nurse Hickox’s lawyer: “She’s a very good person.” She and others like her, according to the president, are doing God’s work, and—in pointed if inaccurate contrast to military servicemen—are “experts.” The logic would go something like this: You can’t quarantine her. She’s one of us.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Harry Reid vs. our Founding Fathers
on: October 29, 2014, 04:11:42 PM
The crucial actor here is Sen. Robert Menendez , the tough-minded New Jersey Democrat and Foreign Relations Committee chairman. Sen. Menendez’s position is vital because Majority Leader Harry Reid will give the president a pass, as he has for six years. Sen. Reid’s genuflection to the White House raises serious issues because it fundamentally undermines James Madison ’s vision of how the Constitution limits overweening government power.
The problem, as the Founders saw it, is to prevent the president or Congress from acquiring unchecked power, as they will inevitably try to do. The solution was to divide powers between the executive and the legislature and hope that they would be constrained by countervailing institutional interests. But Harry Reid is a “party man,” not a “Senate man.” The question is whether Sen. Menendez and perhaps other senior Democrats with strong foreign-policy credentials, such as New York Sen. Charles Schumer and California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, will break ranks with Sen. Reid and the White House.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Money, the Fed, Banking, Monetary Policy, Dollar & other currencies, Gold/Silver
on: October 29, 2014, 12:47:08 PM
Interesting posts Doug.
With regard to the proffered justification of protecting savers, unless I am missing something the author fails to address the protections in place by FDIC, SIPIC, and the like.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison: Why we are not a democracy
on: October 29, 2014, 12:37:08 PM
"[In a democracy] a common passion or interest will, in almost every case , be felt by a majority of the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of government itself; and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual." --James Madison, Federalist No. 10, 1787
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Qatar's insidious influence on the Brooking Institute
on: October 28, 2014, 12:50:45 PM
IPT Exclusive: Qatar's Insidious Influence on the Brookings Institution
A Four Part Investigative Series: Brookings Sells Soul to Qatar's Terror Agenda
by Steven Emerson, John Rossomando and Dave Yonkman
October 28, 2014http://www.investigativeproject.org/4630/ipt-exclusive-qatar-insidious-influence-on
Part 1 of a 4-part series.
The Brookings Institution bills itself as "the most influential, most quoted and most trusted think tank in the world," but should it be?
Brookings' long-term relationship with the Qatari government – a notorious supporter of terror in the Middle East – casts a dark cloud over such a lofty claim to credibility.
A September New York Times exposé revealed Qatar's status as the single largest foreign donor to the Brookings Institution. Qatar gave Brookings $14.8 million in 2013, $100,000 in 2012 and $2.9 million in 2011. In 2002, Qatar started subsidizing the Brookings outreach program to the Muslim World which has continues today. Between 2002 and 2010, Brookings never disclosed the annual amount of funds provided by the Government of Qatar.
Sources of funding should not automatically discredit an organization, but critical facts and claims about Brookings should be examined in light of them, starting with a harsh indictment by a former scholar.
The Investigative Project on Terrorism has reviewed the proceedings of 12 annual conferences co-sponsored by Brookings and the government of Qatar comprising more than 125 speeches, interviews, lectures and symposia; a dozen Brookings-based programs that were linked to the Qatari financed outreach to the Muslim world; and analyzed 27 papers sponsored and issued by the Brookings Institution and scholars based in Washington and at the Brookings Doha Center since 2002. Our review, which will be detailed in a four-part series beginning with this story, finds an organization that routinely hosts Islamists who justify terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians and American troops, who advocate blasphemy laws which would criminalize criticism of Islam, and which never scrutinizes or criticizes the government of Qatar, its largest benefactor.
"[T]there was a no-go zone when it came to criticizing the Qatari government," Saleem Ali, who served as a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar in 2009, told the New York Times.
"If a member of Congress is using the Brookings reports, they should be aware — they are not getting the full story. They may not be getting a false story, but they are not getting the full story." Ali noted that he had been told during his job interview that taking positions critical of the Qatari government in papers would not be allowed, a claim Brookings vigorously denies.
"Our scholars, in Doha and elsewhere, have a long record of objective, independent analysis of regional affairs, including critical analysis of the policies of Qatar and other governments in the region," Brookings President Strobe Talbott said in response to the Times story.
Unfortunately for Talbott, Qatar's own Ministry of Foreign Affairs openly acknowledges that the partnership gives Qatar exactly what it wants: a public-relations outlet that projects "the bright image of Qatar in the international media, especially the American ones," a statement announcing a 2012 memorandum of understanding with Brookings said.
Indeed, their close collaboration stretches back more than a decade.
After Islamist terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in Shanksville, Pa. on September 11, 2001, the Brookings Institution looked to Qatar to answer the question, "Why do they hate us?"
Former Qatari emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani answered Brookings' call in 2002, providing the think tank with the necessary seed money and resources to initiate its engagement with the Islamic world.
The alliance culminated with the 2002 Doha Conference on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, co-sponsored by the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and Qatar. Qatar underwrote the conference's cost.
Ambassador Martin Indyk, who headed the Saban Center at the time, and other Brookings leaders noted their desire to "build strong bridges of friendship" and avoid a "clash of civilizations."
Indyk took a leave of absence from Brookings in 2013 and the first half of 2014 to serve as President Obama's envoy for the Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. Indyk placed excessive blame on Israel for their failure.
At an April 2013 Brookings forum in Washington, Indyk mentioned that he and Qatar's al-Thani had remained friends for "two decades." This relationship dates to when Indyk served as special assistant to President Clinton and senior director for Near East and South Asian affairs at the National Security Council.
Indyk noted that he approached the sheik after the 9/11 attacks, informing him that Brookings planned to launch a project focused on American engagement with the Islamic world.
"And he said immediately, 'I will support it, but you have to do the conference in Doha.' And I said, 'Doha, well that sounds like an interesting idea,'" Indyk said at the 2013 forum. "Three years into that, he suddenly then told me we want to have a Brookings in Doha. And I said, 'Well, okay, we'll have a Brookings in Doha, too,' and we ended up with the Brookings Doha Center" (BDC), in 2008."
Brookings' Qatar-based scholars see their host country with rosy spectacles, ignoring the emirate's numerous terror ties.
Sultan Barakat, research director at the Brookings Doha Center (BDC), portrayed Qatar as an emerging peacemaker in the Muslim world and as a force for good in a 2012 report titled, "The Qatari Spring: Qatar's Emerging Role In Peacemaking."
"… [D]uring the Arab Spring, Qatar has emerged as a 'reformer'; that is, as a vocal and progressive leader of modern Arab nations, with the willingness and the capacity to utilize a broad range of both hard- and soft-power initiatives to achieve its foreign policy goals," Barakat wrote.
Highlighting Qatar as a regional peacemaker seems strange in the light of its longstanding support for Hamas and allegations that its leaders aided al-Qaida in the past. Cables released by Wikileaks and other U.S. government documents demonstrate these connections proved disturbing to American policymakers.
"Qatar's overall level of [counter-terrorism] cooperation with the U.S. is considered the worst in the region," a top level U.S. State Department official wrote in a secret Dec. 30, 2009 State Department cable. "Al-Qaida, the Taliban, UN-1267 listed LeT (Pakistan's Lakshar- e-Taiba), and other terrorist groups exploit Qatar as a fundraising locale."
The official also noted that Qatar's security services fail to act against known terrorists because the Gulf state feared terrorist reprisals "out of concern for appearing to be aligned with the U.S." Another 2008 State Department cable noted that Qatar's government "has often been unwilling to cooperate on designations of certain terrorist financiers."
Qatar's royal family has a long history of harboring terrorists. Former Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdallah bin Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani, a member of the royal family, personally invited 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed to relocate his family from Pakistan to the emirate during the 1990s, according to the 9/11 Commission Report. Mohammed accepted a position as project engineer with the Qatari Ministry of Electricity and Water which he held until 1996, when he fled back to Pakistan to evade capture by the United States.
Mohammed dedicated much of his considerable travel while working for the ministry to terrorist activity.
Qatar Charity, formerly the Qatar Charitable Society and currently headed by Hamad bin Nasser al-Thani, a member of Qatari royal family, demonstrates a lingering link between Qatar and terror financing.
Russia's interior minister accused Qatar Charitable Society of funneling money to Chechen jihadist groups in 1999. Al-Thani responded to the accusation in a 1999 interview with Al-Jazeera, saying his government would not interfere with the funding because the Russian actions in Chechnya were "painful for us as Qatari, Arab, or Muslim citizens."
Qatar Charitable Society played a key role in financing the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, according to the U.S. government.
Recent reports suggest the charity's connection with al-Qaida persists. Maliweb, a U.S.-based independent news source, accused Qatar Charity of significantly financing "the terrorists in northern Mali operations." French military intelligence reports accused Qatar of funding Ansar Dine – a group that works closely with al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb – and MUJAO in Mali at the time of France's January 2013 intervention.
U.S. court documents note additional ties between Qatar Charity and al-Qaida dating back to the 1990s. Osama bin Laden complained to an al-Qaida member following a failed 1995 assassination attempt against former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that the then-Qatar Charitable Society funds had been spent in the operation. Consequently, the terror mastermind became concerned that his ability to exploit charities for al-Qaida's ends would be compromised.
Qatar also funded the Ahfad al-Rasoul Brigade in Syria, which engaged in joint operations with Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaida's Syrian affiliate.
Qatar played a similar role in Libya where it has openly funded and armed jihadists. IHS Jane's Defence Weekly found that Qatar sent a C-17 cargo plane to provide arms to a
militia loyal to Abdelhakim Belhadj, a Libyan warlord who fought alongside Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora in 2001 and was in touch with the leader of the 2004 Madrid train bombing.
Brookings scholar Bruce Reidel openly acknowledged in a Dec. 3, 2012 piece published in The Daily Beast that Syria's al-Qaida branch benefitted from arms supplied by Qatar.
In a separate Aug. 28, 2013 column in Foreign Policy magazine titled, "The Qatar problem," Brookings scholar Jeremy Shapiro observed that Qatar had undermined "U.S. efforts to isolate and delegitimize Hamas." Shapiro laid blame for Qatar's misbehavior at the feet of American policymakers. Yet he argued that the U.S. should not "oppose Qatar at every turn" and that it should "thus should seek to get the best deal on every transaction" with the emirate, which he classed as neither a friend nor a foe of the United States.
However, such observations have not translated into public criticism of Qatar or recommendations that the emirate alter its stances by Indyk, Talbott or other top people who been involved in managing Brookings' partnership with Qatar. They also have not brought about any public talk of reassessing Brookings relationship with the emirate.
The think tank denies that Qatari money and the involvement of a senior member of the emirate's royal family in its BDC translates into subservience to Qatar's foreign policy objectives.
"Brookings is an independent research institution, none of whose funders are able to determine its research projects," Indyk said after the New York Times story. "I hope nobody really believes that I cashed a check for $14.8 million dollars, which is what's going around in right-wing Jewish circles. We should all take a deep breath about some of these lurid, scandalous stories."
The figure Indyk cites stems from Brookings Foreign Government Disclosure. The nearby United Arab Emirates ranked a distant second among foreign government donors with a $3 million donation in 2010 and another $3 million in 2012.
Qatari involvement in Brookings goes beyond conventional donor relations, evidenced by Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Thani's appointment as chairman of the BDC's board of advisers.
Even if Qatar exerts no overt control over Brookings' activities and policy positions, partnering with Qatar to discuss bridge-building with the Islamic world following 9/11 appears peculiar considering the oil-rich emirate's established ties with Islamic extremist groups and individuals at the time of the attacks.
Heritage Foundation scholar James Phillips slammed Brookings' cooperation with Qatar in comments to the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
"Qatar finances foreign entities for a reason: to advance its own foreign policy goals, which entail working closely with Islamist ideologues to empower Sunni Arab movements, including Hamas," Phillips said. "By accepting Qatar's money, Brookings risks appearing to be a tool of Qatar and unfortunately could help to legitimize such Islamist groups in the West.
"The implicit quid pro quo inherent in accepting money from foreign governments is one reason that the Heritage Foundation does not accept funding from foreign governments, which often attach strings to their donations, or even from the U.S. government."
Despite denials from both Talbott and Indyk, numerous examples illustrate how Brookings' pro-Qatar bias manifests itself, not always in what its Qatar-based scholars say, but in what they omit. A review of Brookings studies mentioning Qatar finds a consistent description of the emirate as a force for peace; complimenting its commitment to democracy and human rights; and education.
Even worse, Brookings reports gloss over the harsh realities of jihad terror and Islamism, instead recommending that the U.S. reach out to and cooperate with Islamist and jihadist groups.
Brookings calls for U.S. rapprochement with al-Qaida-linked group
In a January Foreign Policy magazine piece, Brookings scholars Will McCants, Michael Doran and Clint Watts urged the Obama administration against classifying Ahrar al-Sham, an organization backed by Turkey and Qatar and linked to al-Qaida, as a terror organization. Ahrar al-Sham founder Mohamed Bahiaiah, aka Abu Khalid al-Suri, was a senior al-Qaida operative, and the group routinely fights alongside Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), both of which were affiliated with al-Qaida at the time.
Al-Qaida leaders mourned the Islamic State's killing of Ahrar al-Sham's top leadership in September on their Twitter accounts.
"The al Qaeda of yesterday is gone. What is left is a collection of many different splinter organizations, some of which have their own – and profoundly local – agendas. The U.S. response to each should be, as Obama put it, 'defined and specific enough that it doesn't lead us to think that any horrible actions that take place around the world that are motivated in part by an extremist Islamic ideology are a direct threat to us or something that we have to wade into,'" the Brookings scholars wrote.
They argued that U.S. policymakers required "flexibility" in dealing with Ahrar al-Sham because it stood as a lesser of two evils when compared to the greater threat posed by ISIS.
"The Islamic Front, including Ahrar al-Sham, represents the best hope in Syria for defeating ISIS," the article said. "[D]esignating Ahrar al-Sham as a terrorist group would destroy what little chance the United States has of building relationships with the other militias in the Islamic Front."
Thus far, the Obama administration has not designated Ahrar al-Sham as a terrorist group despite its intimate ties to al-Qaida.
An October 2013 report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Ahrar al-Sham of war crimes.
Brookings' support for the Muslim Brotherhood
Peter W. Singer, co-coordinator of the 2002 conference, wrote in the conference's proceedings that "moderate," e.g. non-violent, Islamist parties needed inclusion in the political systems of majority Muslim countries.
"In dealing with burgeoning democracies, a general finding is that outside parties should support integration of Islamist parties into [the] political system rather than exclusion," Singer wrote. "The key is that inclusion helps moderates moderate, rather than forcing them outside the power structures, into possible violence."
Recent experience in Egypt discredits the theory. Egypt's MB pursued an authoritarian course during its year in power and supported its Palestinian sibling, Hamas, despite its access to Egypt's political process. Even some liberals conceded Egypt's Brotherhood proved itself incapable of adapting to democratic norms during its tenure.
Yet Brookings scholars continued to advocate including the MB in Egypt's political process in the wake of its defeat, even while conceding its authoritarian tendencies.
Tamara Cofman Wittes, director of Brookings' Center for Middle East Policy, suggests that Islamists, including those in the MB, Jordan's Islamic Action Front and Morocco's Party of Justice and Development, differ from groups such as Hamas or al-Qaida. She argues that they "want to transform society and government into something that is more 'Islamic,'" but aim to do so below the radar rather than through revolutionary change.
Wittes conceded that MB President Mohamed Morsi governed in an "exclusionary manner that derailed Egypt's nascent democratic transition," in a July 4, 2013 piece published the day after Morsi's ouster.
Nonetheless, any effort to ban the MB and "forcibly secularize the public sphere" would alienate the majority of Egyptians who believe politics should reflect Islamic values, Wittes warned. She predicted that any attempt by the military to purge the Brotherhood from public life would lead to "destabilizing social conflict." Her piece additionally labeled Morsi's departure a "coup" even as she admitted that millions of Egyptians took to the streets demanding it.
A month later, Wittes petitioned the Obama administration to cut off military aid to Egypt's military leaders.
"The United States must establish distance from an Egyptian military that's stoking vicious anti-Americanism, violating human rights, and revitalizing the repressive apparatus of the old dictatorship," Wittes wrote. "That means doing what should have been done on July 3 and complying with the Foreign Assistance Act.
"This law requires that aid be halted in the face of a military coup until a democratic government is restored."
Wittes also warned on multiple occasions that the crackdown would lead MB members to resort to terror. Writing with Daniel Byman, director of research and a senior fellow at Brookings' Center for Middle East Policy, they warned that Morsi's dismissal lent credibility to al-Qaida's view that participation in electoral politics was "treacherous" and that the "Islamist project could be only advanced through violence."
"Morsi's tenure forced the Brotherhood to accede to measures to contain Hamas in Gaza, but the coup gives the Brotherhood incentives to strengthen ties with its terrorist cousins," Byman and Wittes wrote in a Jan. 10, 2014 column titled "Now that the Muslim Brotherhood is declared a terrorist group, it might just become one," published in the Washington Post. "If even if a fraction of the millions of Brotherhood supporters embrace violence, that means tens of thousands of Egyptians are potential recruits for jihadis."
Two weeks later, Byman and Wittes followed up these sentiments by imploring American policymakers to pressure the Egyptian government "to allow paths for Brotherhood supporters to participate in legitimate political and social activity."
"To sustain a peaceful alternative for Brotherhood supporters, you should press the Egyptian government to release from prison Islamist politicians who commit to non-violence, and to allow a range of Islamist parties to organize, compete in elections, and participate in governance," Byman and Wittes wrote.
Brookings scholar Shadi Hamid, former research director at the BDC, disputed his colleagues' alarmism at the April launch of his book about the Egyptian MB's missteps. Hamid noted that no credible evidence existed that MB members had joined Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis as a consequence of the crackdown.
Brookings' support for Turkey's Islamization
In addition to lamenting the fate of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Brookings scholars use a light touch when discussing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Erdogan's Turkey embodies a sort of American-style secularism in which religion and government remain separate, yet a visible role for theology remains in public life, visiting BDC Fellow Ahmet T. Kuru wrote in a February 2013 paper. The AKP is a "model for governance" for Islamists throughout the Middle East, demonstrating the possibility of "pursuing Muslim politics without establishing an 'Islamic state.'"
"Islamic parties can also promote diverse understanding of shariah [Islamic law] through free and democratic processes," Kuru wrote. "Internationally, the AKP has succeeded in convincing the United States and European countries that a party with roots in Islamism can be a reliable ally.
Turkey's refusal to fight the Islamic State (IS), formerly the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, amid its onslaught against the Kurds underscores the NATO member's failure as an ally. Turkish troops sit idle on their side of the border with Syria even as the terrorist army squeezes the Kurds. Erdogan equates the Kurdish groups that have fought the Turkish government for decades with IS, and has been reluctant to cooperate unless the West turns its guns on the Assad regime.
Evidence suggests double-dealing between Turkey and IS using the Turkish charity Humanitarian Aid Foundation (IHH) as an intermediary. Turkey's intelligence service MIT is known to have maintained close ties with IHH and has been alleged to have unofficially funded the charity since 2003.
The charity allegedly smuggled weapons into Syria for use by various jihadist factions including IS. Some members of Turkey's parliament became so alarmed by these allegations that they wrote to Erdogan and Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu asking for an explanation of the Turkish government's relations with IS this summer.
"One could argue that the AKP experience in the 2000s is one of the reasons why Western countries are today tolerant toward Islamists in states affected by the Arab Spring," Kuru wrote.
Turkish opponents, however, insist that AKP's pragmatism serves as a means to an end. Under AKP rule, the strict secularism introduced by Turkey's founder, Kemal Mustafa Attaturk, has eroded. Government policies encourage religious sects economically and assist them in expanding their causes, Turkey's Hurriyet Daily News newspaper reports in a 2008 article.
Secularists assert that such policies expose them to discrimination.
"Some social pressures, such as the government-origin discrimination and compulsion against the secularists, the activities of the religious sects in education, the isolation of secularists from economic life, alcohol bans, intolerance toward people who do not fast during Ramadan, and compulsory attendance at Friday prayers, show the presence of a new atmosphere which did not exist," the article said.
Talk of turning Istanbul's Hagia Sophia, formerly Byzantine Christianity's holiest church, into a mosque this summer over Orthodox Christian objections highlights the trend. Tens of thousands of Islamists protested outside the religious site in June demanding that Erdogan reopen it to Muslim worship.
AKP's Turkish critics maintain that it has a "flawed understanding of democracy" and accuse it of speaking the language of pluralism in a "selective way." Erdogan's increasingly authoritarian tendencies highlight this failing.
A 2014 HRW report explores the erosion of basic democratic freedoms under the AKP, including press autonomy, freedom of assembly, women's rights and the rule of law.
The report does not begin to cover Erdogan's role in supporting Islamist terror groups such as Hamas and his rumored double-dealing with the Islamic State.
Israeli intelligence provides evidence of Turkey's emergence as Hamas' top financial backer since 2012. Erdogan's government transferred $250 million to Hamas between 2012 and January 2014. It happened with the "full support of Erdogan and his aides."
Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal spoke with Erdogan in October 2013 about moving its headquarters from Qatar to Turkey, and many key Hamas operatives operate there.
Whitewashing conditions inside Qatar
The Brookings Doha Center "also works to contribute to the local society, supporting the National Vision's goals of human and social development in Qatar," Director Salman Shaikh wrote in an April opinion piece. "At the same time, the Center's publications and public events foster Qatar's 'knowledge economy' by promoting a culture of informed citizenship."
Such studies read like propaganda designed to encourage foreign investment in the emirate rather than provide complete and unvarnished truth.
Reality in Qatar is quite different from the picture Brookings paints. Human Rights Watch notes that only 10 percent of Qatar's population of 2 million are citizens. Most are foreign migrants who live under conditions that HRW describes as those of "exploitation" and "forced labor." Shaikh makes no mention of this.
The January HRW report also finds that "[d]omestic migrant workers, almost all women, are especially vulnerable to abuse," and that Qatar's standards fall well short of international labor norms.
"Qatar's record on freedom of expression causes concern. In February, an appeals court affirmed the conviction of a Qatari poet for incitement to overthrow the government over poems critical of Qatar's then-emir," HRW wrote.
None of these independent observations appear in any Brookings reports published by its Doha-based scholars.
Building one-way bridges
Brookings engaged with Qatar 12 years ago, seeking to build bridges with the Muslim world, but that bridge seems to steer traffic in one direction. As subsequent stories in this series will show, Muslim participants in its Doha conferences remain unflinching in their support for Hamas and other Palestinian terror factions. Brookings scholars, similar to their Islamist partners, now unequivocally classify al-Qaida and similar groups as terrorists while attaching caveats to describing Hamas in the same vein.
Such a shift marks a clear victory for Qatar.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Madison on Federalism and State Sovereignty, 1788
on: October 28, 2014, 11:45:20 AM
"Each State, in ratifying the Constitution, is considered as a sovereign body, independent of all others, and only to be bound by its own voluntary act. In this relation, then, the new Constitution will, if established, be a FEDERAL, and not a NATIONAL constitution." --James Madison, Federalist No. 39, 1788
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Col. Ralph Peters in 1998-- part 2
on: October 28, 2014, 09:51:11 AM
Cousin Luis. You do not vote for the best man, you vote for Uncle Ali. And you do not consider cease-fire deals or shareholder interests to be matters of serious obligation.
Such cultures tend to be peasant-based or of peasant origin, with the attendant peasant's suspicion of the outsider and of authority. Oligarchies of landed families freeze the pattern in time. There is a preference for a dollar grabbed today over a thousand dollars accrued in the course of an extended business relationship. Blood-based societies operate under two sets of rules: one, generally honest, for the relative; and another, ruthless and amoral, for deals involving the outsider. The receipt of money now is more important than building a long-term relationship. Such societies fight well as tribes, but terribly as nations.
At its most successful, this is the system of the Chinese diaspora, but that is a unique case. The Darwinian selection that led to the establishment and perpetuation of the great Chinese merchant families (and village networks), coupled with the steely power of southern China's culture, has made this example an exception to many rules. More typical examples of the Vetternwirtschaft system are Iranian businesses, Nigerian criminal organizations, Mexican political and drug cartels, and some American trade unions.
Where blood ties rule, you cannot trust the contract, let alone the handshake. Nor will you see the delegation of authority so necessary to compete in the modern military or economic spheres. Information and wealth are assessed from a zero-sum worldview. Corruption flourishes. Blood ties produce notable family successes, but they do not produce competitive societies.
That Old-Time Religion
Religion feeds a fundamental human appetite for meaning and security, and it can lead to powerful social unity and psychological assurance that trumps science. Untempered, it leads to xenophobia, backwardness, savagery, and economic failure. The more intense a religion is, the more powerful are its autarchic tendencies. But it is impossible to withdraw from today's world.
Limiting the discussion to the sphere of competitiveness, there appear to be two models of socio-religious integration that allow sufficient informational and social dynamism for successful performance. First, religious homogeneity can work, if, as in the case of Japan, religion is sufficiently subdued and malleable to accommodate applied science. The other model--that of the United States--is of religious coexistence, opening the door for science as an "alternative religion." Americans have, in fact, such wonderful plasticity of mind that generally even the most vividly religious can disassociate antibiotic drugs from the study of Darwin and the use of birth-control pills from the strict codes of their churches. All religions breed some amount of schism between theology and social practice, but the American experience is a marvel of mental agility and human innovation.
The more dogmatic and exclusive the religion, the less it is able to deal with the information age, in which multiple "truths" may exist simultaneously, and in which all that cannot be proven empirically is inherently under assault. We live in a time of immense psychological dislocation--when man craves spiritual certainty even more than usual. Yet our age is also one in which the sheltering dogma cripples individuals and states alike. The price of competitiveness is the courage to be uncertain--not an absence of belief, but a synthetic capability that can at once accommodate belief and its contradictions. Again, the United States possesses more than its share of this capability, while other societies are encumbered by single dominant religions as hard, unbending--and ultimately brittle--as iron. Religious toleration also means the toleration of scientific research, informational openness, and societal innovation. "One-true-path" societies and states are on a path that leads only downward.
For those squeamish about judging the religion of another, there is a shortcut that renders the same answer on competitiveness: examine the state's universities.
Learning Power and Earning Power
The quality of a state's universities obviously reflects local wealth, but, even more important, the effectiveness of higher education in a society describes its attitudes toward knowledge, inquiry-versus-dogma, and the determination of social standing. In societies imprisoned by dogmatic religions, or in which a caste or class system predetermines social and economic outcomes, higher education (and secular education in general) often has low prestige and poor content. Conversely, in socially mobile, innovative societies, university degrees from quality schools appear indispensable to the ambitious, the status-conscious, and the genuinely inquisitive alike.
There are many individual and some cultural exceptions, but they mostly prove the rule. Many Indians value a university education highly--not as social confirmation, but as a means of escaping a preassigned social position. The privileged of the Arabian Peninsula, on the other hand, regard an American university degree (even from a booby-prize institution) as an essential piece of jewelry, not unlike a Rolex watch. In all cultures, there are individuals hungry for self-improvement and, sometimes, for knowledge. But, statistically, we can know a society, and judge its potential, by its commitment to education, with universities as the bellwether. Not all states can afford their own Stanford or Harvard but, within their restraints, their attempts to educate their populations still tell us a great deal about national priorities and potential. Commitment and content cannot fully substitute for a wealth of facilities, but they go a long way, whether we speak of individuals or continents.
Any society that starves education is a loser. Cultures that do not see inherent value in education are losers. This is even true for some of our own sub-cultures--groups for whom education has little appeal as means or end--and it is true for parts of Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the Arab world. A culture that cannot produce a single world-class university is not going to conquer the world in any sphere.
America's universities are triumphant. Once beyond the silly debates (or monologues) in the Liberal Arts faculties, our knowledge industry has no precedent or peer. Even Europe's most famous universities, on the Rhine or the Seine, are rotting and overcrowded. We attract the best faculty, the best researchers, and the best student minds from the entire world. This is not a trend subject to reversal; rather, it is self-reinforcing.
Yet there is even more to American success in education than four good years at the "College of Musical Knowledge." The United States is also far ahead of other states in the flexibility and utility of its educational system. Even in Europe, the student's fate is determined early--and woe to the late bloomer. You choose your course, or have it chosen for you, and you are more or less stuck with it for life. In Germany, long famous for its commitment to education, the individual who gains a basic degree in one subject and then jumps to another field for graduate work is marked as a Versager, a failure. In the US system, there are second, third, and fourth chances. This flexible approach to building and rebuilding our human capital is a tremendous economic asset, and it is compounded by the trend toward continuing education in mid-life and for seniors.
A geriatric revolution is occurring under our noses, with older Americans "younger" than before in terms of capabilities, interests, and attitudes--and much more apt to continue contributing to the common good. We are headed for a world in the early decades of the next century when many Americans may hit their peak earning years not in their fifties, but in their sixties--then seventies. This not only provides sophisticated talent to the labor pool, but maintains the worker as an asset to, rather than a drain upon, our nation's economy. For all the fuss about the future of social security, we may see a profound attitudinal change in the next generation, when vigorous, high-earning seniors come to regard retirement at today's age as an admission of failure or weakness, or just as a bore. At the same time, more 20-year-old foreigners than ever will have no jobs at all.
Investments in our educational system are "three-fers": they are simultaneously investments in our economic, social, and military systems. Education is our first line of defense. The rest of the world can be divided into two kinds of societies, states, and cultures--those that struggle and sacrifice to educate their members, and those that do not. Guess who is going to do better in the hyper-competitive 21st century?
Workers of the World, Take a Nap!
Related to, but not quite identical with, national and cultural attitudes toward education is the attitude toward work. Now, everyone has bad days at the office, factory, training area, or virtual workplace, and the old line, "It's not supposed to be fun--that's why they call it `work,'" enjoys universal validity. Yet there are profoundly different attitudes toward work on this planet. While most human beings must work to survive, there are those who view work as a necessary evil and dream of its avoidance, and then there are societies in which people hit the lottery and go back to their jobs as telephone linemen. In many subsets of Latin American culture, for example, there are two reasons to work: first to survive, then to grow so wealthy that work is no longer necessary. It is a culture in which the possession of wealth is not conceptually related to a responsibility to work. It is the get-rich-quick, big-bucks-from-Heaven dream of some of our own citizens. The goal is not achievement but possession, not accomplishment but the power of leisure.
Consider any culture's heroes. Generally, the more macho or male-centric the culture, the less emphasis there will be on steady work and achievement, whether craftsmanship or Nobel Prize-winning research, and the more emphasis there will be on wealth and power as the sole desirable end (apart, perhaps, from the occasional religious vocation). As national heroes, it's hard to beat Bill Gates. But even a sports star is better than a major narco-trafficker.
Generally, societies that do not find work in and of itself "pleasing to God and requisite to Man," tend to be highly corrupt (low-education and dogmatic-religion societies also are statistically prone to corruption, and, if all three factors are in play, you may not want to invest in the local stock exchange or tie your foreign policy to successful democratization). The goal becomes the attainment of wealth by any means.
On the other hand, workaholic cultures, such as that of North America north of the Rio Grande, or Japan, South Korea, and some other East Asian states, can often compensate for deficits in other spheres, such as a lack of natural resources or a geographical disadvantage. If a man or woman has difficulty imagining a fulfilling life without work, he or she probably belongs to a successful culture. Work has to be seen as a personal and public responsibility, as good in and of itself, as spiritually necessary to man. Otherwise, the society becomes an "evader" society. Russia is strong, if flagging, on education. But the general attitude toward work undercuts education. When the characters in Chekhov's "Three Sisters" blather about the need to find redemption through work, the prescription is dead on, but their lives and their society have gone so far off the rails that the effect is one of satire. States and cultures "win" just by getting up earlier and putting in eight honest hours and a little overtime.
If you are seeking a worthy ally or business opportunity, go to a mid-level government office in Country X an hour before the local lunchtime. If everybody is busy with legitimate work, you've hit a winner. If there are many idle hands, get out.
Using this Knowledge to Our Advantage
Faced with the complex reality of geopolitics and markets, we must often go to Country X, Y, or Z against our better judgment. Despite failing in all seven categories, Country X may have a strategic location that makes it impossible to ignore. Country Y may have an internal market and regional importance so significant that it would be foolish not to engage it, despite the risks. Country Z may have resources that make a great deal of misery on our part worth the sufferance. Yet even in such situations, it helps to know what you are getting into. Some countries would devour investments as surely as they would soldiers. Others just demand savvy and caution on our part. Yet another might require a local ally or partner to whom we can make ourselves indispensable. Whether engaging militarily or doing business in another country, it gives us a tremendous advantage if we can identify four things: their image of us, their actual situation, their needs, and the needs they perceive themselves as having (the four never connect seamlessly).
There are parallel dangers for military men and businessmen in taking too narrow a view of the challenges posed by foreign states. An exclusive focus on either raw military power or potential markets tells us little about how people behave, believe, learn, work, fight, or buy. In fact, the parallels between military and business interventions grow ever greater, especially since these form two of the legs of our new national strategic triad, along with the export of our culture (diplomacy is a minor and shrinking factor, its contours defined ever more rigorously by economics).
The seven factors discussed above offer a pattern for an initial assessment of the future potential of states that interest us. Obviously, the more factors present in a given country, the worse off it will be--and these factors rarely appear in isolation. Normally, a society that oppresses women will do it under the aegis of a restrictive dominant religion that will also insist on the censorship of information. Societies lacking a strong work ethic rarely value education.
In the Middle East, it is possible to identify states where all seven negatives apply; in Africa, many countries score between four and seven. Countries that formerly suffered communist dictatorships vary enormously, from Poland and the Czech Republic, with only a few rough edges, to Turkmenistan, which scores six out of seven. Latin America has always been more various than Norteamericanos realized, from feudal Mexico to dynamic, disciplined Chile.
Ultimately, our businesses have it easier than our military in one crucial respect: business losses are counted in dollars, not lives. But the same cultural factors that will shape future state failure and spawn violent conflicts make it difficult to do business successfully and legally. We even suffer under similar "rules of engagement," whether those placed on the military to dictate when a soldier may shoot or the legal restraints under which US businesses must operate, imposing a significant disadvantage vis-à-vis foreign competitors.
As a final note, the biggest pitfall in international interactions is usually mutual misunderstanding. We do not understand them, but they do not understand us either--although, thanks to the Americanization of world media, they imagine they do. From mega-deals that collapsed because of Russian rapacity to Saddam's conviction that the United States would not fight, foreign counterparts, rivals, and opponents have whoppingly skewed perceptions of American behaviors. In the end, military operations and business partnerships are like dating--the advantage goes to the player who sees with the most clarity.
We are heading into a turbulent, often violent new century. It will be a time of great dangers and great opportunities. Some states will continue to triumph, others will shift their relative positions, many will fail. The future will never be fully predictable, but globalization means the imposition of uniform rules by the most powerful actors. They are fundamentally economic rules. For the first time, the world is converging toward a homogeneous system, if not toward homogenous benefits from that system. The potential of states is more predictable within known parameters than ever before.
We have seen the future, and it looks like us.
Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters (USA, Ret.) was assigned, prior to his recent retirement, to the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, where he was responsible for future warfare. Career and personal travels have taken him to 45 countries. He has published and lectured widely on military and international concerns. His seventh novel, The Devil's Garden, was recently released by Avon Books. This is his tenth article for Parameters.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Col. Ralph Peters in 1998
on: October 28, 2014, 09:45:30 AM
Spotting the Losers: Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States
Parameters ^ | 1998 | Ralph Peters
Posted on Thursday, 4 September 2003 10:29:11 PM by Voice in your head
© 1998 Ralph Peters
When you leave the classroom or office and go into the world, you see at first its richness and confusions, the variety and tumult. Then, if you keep moving and do not quit looking, commonalties begin to emerge. National success is eccentric. But national failure is programmed and predictable. Spotting the future losers among the world's states becomes so easy it loses its entertainment value.
In this world of multiple and simultaneous revolutions--in technology, information, social organization, biology, economics, and convenience--the rules of international competition have changed. There is a global marketplace and, increasingly, a global economy. While there is no global culture yet, American popular culture is increasingly available and wickedly appealing--and there are no international competitors in the field, only struggling local systems. Where the United States does not make the rules of international play, it shapes them by its absence.
The invisible hand of the market has become an informal but uncompromising lawgiver. Globalization demands conformity to the practices of the global leaders, especially to those of the United States. If you do not conform--or innovate--you lose. If you try to quit the game, you lose even more profoundly. The rules of international competition, whether in the economic, cultural, or conventional military fields, grow ever more homogeneous. No government can afford practices that retard development. Yet such practices are often so deeply embedded in tradition, custom, and belief that the state cannot jettison them. That which provides the greatest psychological comfort to members of foreign cultures is often that which renders them noncompetitive against America's explosive creativity--our self-reinforcing dynamism fostered by law, efficiency, openness, flexibility, market discipline, and social mobility.
Traditional indicators of noncompetitive performance still apply: corruption (the most seductive activity humans can consummate while clothed); the absence of sound, equitably enforced laws; civil strife; or government attempts to overmanage a national economy. As change has internationalized and accelerated, however, new predictive tools have emerged. They are as simple as they are fundamental, and they are rooted in culture. The greater the degree to which a state--or an entire civilization--succumbs to these "seven deadly sins" of collective behavior, the more likely that entity is to fail to progress or even to maintain its position in the struggle for a share of the world's wealth and power. Whether analyzing military capabilities, cultural viability, or economic potential, these seven factors offer a quick study of the likely performance of a state, region, or population group in the coming century.
The Seven Factors
These key "failure factors" are:
Restrictions on the free flow of information.
The subjugation of women.
Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.
The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.
Domination by a restrictive religion.
A low valuation of education.
Low prestige assigned to work.
The wonderfully misunderstood Clausewitzian trinity, expressed crudely as state-people-military, is being replaced by a powerful new trinity: the relationship between the state, the people, and information. In the latter phases of the industrial age, the free flow of quality information already had become essential to the success of industries and military establishments. If the internationalizing media toppled the Soviet empire, it was because that empire's battle against information-sharing had hollowed out its economy and lost the confidence of its people. When a sudden flood of information strikes a society or culture suffering an information deficit, the result is swift destabilization. This is now a global phenomenon.
Today's "flat-worlders" are those who believe that information can be controlled. Historically, information always equaled power. Rulers and civilizations viewed knowledge as a commodity to be guarded, a thing finite in its dimensions and lost when shared. Religious institutions viewed knowledge as inflammatory and damnable, a thing to be handled carefully and to advantage, the nuclear energy of yesteryear. The parallel to the world public's view of wealth is almost exact--an instinctive conviction that information is a thing to be gotten and hoarded, and that its possession by a foreign actor means it has been, by vague and devious means, robbed from oneself and one's kind. But just as wealth generates wealth, so knowledge begets knowledge. Without a dynamic and welcoming relationship with information as content and process, no society can compete in the post-industrial age.
Information-controlling governments and knowledge-denying religions cripple themselves and their subjects or adherents. If America's streets are not paved with gold, they are certainly littered with information. The availability of free, high-quality information, and a people's ability to discriminate between high- and low-quality data, are essential to economic development beyond the manufacturing level. Whether on our own soil or abroad, those segments of humanity that fear and reject knowledge of the world (and, often, of themselves) are condemned to failure, poverty, and bitterness.
The ability of most of America's work force to cope psychologically and practically with today's flood of data, and to cull quality data from the torrent, is remarkable--a national and systemic triumph. Even Canada and Britain cannot match it. Much of Japan's present stasis is attributable to that nation's struggle to make the transition from final-stage industrial power to information-age society. The more regulated flow of information with which Japan has long been comfortable is an impediment to post-modernism. While the Japanese nation ultimately possesses the synthetic capability to overcome this difficulty, its structural dilemmas are more informational and psychological than tangible--although the tangible certainly matters--and decades of educational reform and social restructuring will be necessary before Japan returns for another world-championship match.
In China, the situation regarding the state's attempt to control information and the population's inability to manage it is immeasurably worse. Until China undergoes a genuine cultural revolution that alters permanently and deeply the relationship among state, citizen, and information, that country will bog down at the industrial level. Its sheer size guarantees continued growth, but there will be a flattening in the coming decades and, decisively, China will have great difficulty transitioning from smokestack growth to intellectual innovation and service wealth.
China, along with the world's other defiant dictatorships, suffers under an oppressive class structure, built on and secured by an informational hierarchy. The great class struggle of the 21st century will be for access to data, and it will occur in totalitarian and religious-regime states. The internet may prove to be the most revolutionary tool since the movable-type printing press. History laughs at us all--the one economic analyst who would understand immediately what is happening in the world today would be a resurrected German "content provider" named Marx.
For countries and cultures that not only restrict but actively reject information that contradicts governmental or cultural verities, even a fully industrialized society remains an unattainable dream. Information is more essential to economic progress than an assured flow of oil. In fact, unearned, "found" wealth is socially and economically cancerous, impeding the development of healthy, enduring socioeconomic structures and values. If you want to guarantee an underdeveloped country's continued inability to perform competitively, grant it rich natural resources. The sink-or-swim poverty of northwestern Europe and Japan may have been their greatest natural advantage during their developmental phases. As the Shah learned and Saudi Arabia is proving, you can buy only the products, not the productiveness, of another civilization.
States that censor information will fail to compete economically, culturally, and militarily in the long run. The longer the censorship endures, the longer the required recovery time. Even after the strictures have been lifted, information-deprived societies must play an almost-hopeless game of catch-up. In Russia, it will take at least a generation of genuine informational freedom to facilitate an economic takeoff that is not founded hollowly upon resource extraction, middleman profits, and the looting of industrial ruins. Unique China will need even longer to make the next great leap forward from industrial to informational economy--we have at least half a century's advantage. Broad portions of the planet may never make it. We will not need a military to deal with foreign success, but to respond to foreign failure--which will be the greatest source of violence in coming decades.
If you are looking for an easy war, fight an information-controlling state. If you are looking for a difficult investment, invest in an information-controlling state. If you are hunting a difficult conflict, enter the civil strife that arises after the collapse of an information-controlling state. If you are looking for a good investment, find an emerging or "redeemed" state unafraid of science, hard numbers, and education.
A Woman's Place
Vying with informational abilities as a key factor in the reinvigoration of the US economy has been the pervasive entry of American women into the educational process and the workplace. When the stock market soars, thank Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the suffragettes, not just their beneficiary, Alan Greenspan. After a century and a half of struggle by English and American women, the US economy now operates at a wartime level of human-resource commitment on a routine basis.
Despite eternally gloomy headlines, our country probably has the lowest wastage rate of human talent in the world. The United States is so chronically hungry for talent that we drain it from the rest of the planet at a crippling pace, and we have accepted that we cannot squander the genius of half our population. Even in Europe, "over-skilling," in which inherent and learned abilities wither in calcified workplaces, produces social peace at the cost of cultural and economic lethargy, security at the price of mediocrity. The occasional prime minister notwithstanding, it is far rarer to encounter a female executive, top professional, or general officer in that mythologized, "more equitable" Europe than in the United States. Life in America may not be fair, but neither is it stagnant. What we lose in security, we more than compensate for in opportunity.
While Europe sleepwalks toward a 35-hour work-week, we are moving toward the 35-hour day. The intense performance of our economy would be unattainable without the torrent of energy introduced by competitive female job candidates. American women revolutionized the workforce and the workplace. Future social and economic historians will probably judge that the entry of women into our workforce was the factor that broke the stranglehold of American trade unions and gave a new lease on life to those domestic industries able to adapt. American women were the Japanese cars of business labor relations: better, cheaper, dependable, and they defied the rules. Everybody had to work harder and smarter to survive, but the results have been a spectacular recovery of economic leadership and soaring national wealth.
Change that men long resisted and feared in our own country resulted not only in greater competition for jobs, but in the creation of more jobs, and not in the rupture of the economy, but in its assumption of imperial dimensions (in a quirk of fate, already privileged males are getting much richer, thanks to the effects of feminism's triumph on the stock market). Equality of opportunity is the most profitable game going, and American capitalism has realized the wisdom of becoming an evenhanded consumer of skills. Despite serious exclusions and malignant social problems, we are the most efficient society in history. When Europeans talk of the dignity of the working man, they increasingly mean the right of that man to sit at a desk doing nothing or to stand at an idling machine. There is a huge difference between just being employed and actually working.
The math isn't hard. Any country or culture that suppresses half its population, excluding them from economic contribution and wasting energy keeping them out of the school and workplace, is not going to perform competitively with us. The standard counterargument heard in failing states is that there are insufficient jobs for the male population, thus it is impossible to allow women to compete for the finite incomes available. The argument is archaic and wrong. When talent enters a work force, it creates jobs. Competition improves performance. In order to begin to compete with the American leviathan and the stronger of the economies of Europe and the Far East, less-developed countries must maximize their human potential. Instead, many willfully halve it.
The point isn't really the fear that women will steal jobs in Country X. Rather, it's a fundamental fear of women--or of a cultural caricature of women as incapable, stupid, and worrisomely sexual. If, when you get off the plane, you do not see men and women sitting together in the airport lounge, put your portfolio or treaty on the next flight home.
It is difficult for any human being to share power already possessed. Authority over their women is the only power many males will ever enjoy. From Greece to the Ganges, half the world is afraid of girls and gratified by their subjugation. It is a prescription for cultural mediocrity, economic failure--and inexpressible boredom. The value added by the training and utilization of our female capital is an American secret weapon.
Blaming Foreign Devils
The cult of victimhood, a plague on the least-successful elements in our own society, retards the development of entire continents. When individuals or cultures cannot accept responsibility for their own failures, they will repeat the behaviors that led to failure. Accepting responsibility for failure is difficult, and correspondingly rare. The cultures of North America, Northern Europe, Japan, and Korea (each in its own way) share an unusual talent for looking in the mirror and keeping their eyes open. Certainly, there is no lack of national vanity, prejudice, subterfuge, or bad behavior.
But in the clutch we are surprisingly good at saying, "We did it, so let's fix it." In the rest of the world, a plumbing breakdown implicates the CIA and a faltering currency means George Soros--the Hungarian-born American billionaire, fund manager, and philanthropist--has been sneaking around in the dark. Recent accusations of financial connivance made against Mr. Soros and then against the Jews collectively by Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir only demonstrated that Malaysia's ambitions had gotten ahead of its cultural capacity to support them. Even if foreign devils are to blame--and they mostly are not--whining and blustering does not help. It only makes you feel better for a little while, like drunkenness, and there are penalties the morning after.
The failure is greater where the avoidance of responsibility is greater. In the Middle East and Southwest Asia, oil money has masked cultural, social, technical, and structural failure for decades. While the military failure of the regional states has been obvious, consistent, and undeniable, the locals sense--even when they do not fully understand--their noncompetitive status in other spheres as well. It is hateful and disorienting to them. Only the twin blessings of Israel and the United States, upon whom Arabs and Persians can blame even their most egregious ineptitudes, enable a fly-specked pretense of cultural viability.
On the other hand, Latin America has made tremendous progress. Not long ago, the gringos were to blame each time the lights blinked. But with the rise of a better-educated elite and local experience of economic success, the leadership of Latin America's key states has largely stopped playing the blame game. Smaller states and drug-distorted economies still chase scapegoats, but of the major players only Mexico still indulges routinely in the transfer of all responsibility for its problems to Washington, D.C.
After the exclusion of women from productive endeavors, the next-worst wastage of human potential occurs in societies where the extended family, clan, or tribe is the basic social unit. While family networks provide a safety net in troubled times, offering practical support and psychological protection, and may even build a house for you, they do not build the rule of law, or democracy, or legitimate corporations, or free markets. Where the family or clan prevails, you do not hire the best man (to say nothing of the best woman) for the job, you hire
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Plantagenet Effect
on: October 27, 2014, 11:36:22 PM
The Plantagenet Effect
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - 03:03 Print Text Size
Global Affairs with Robert D. Kaplan
By Robert D. Kaplan
Every school child should know about the Magna Carta, a document forced upon King John by his feudal barons in 1215 to limit the king's power. But the full majesty of how the march toward constitutional government began in England deep in the Middle Ages is conveyed by Dan Jones, a Cambridge-educated historian, in The Plantagenets: The Warrior Kings and Queens Who Made England, published in 2012. (Jones continues the saga in the recently published The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and the Rise of the Tudors.) The story of how British democracy developed is an exceedingly slow and cumbersome one. The first meeting of parliament did not happen until 1264, nearly a half-century after the signing of the Magna Carta. And women's suffrage was not instituted until 1918, more than 700 years after the Magna Carta. In short, what we in the West define as a healthy democracy took England the better part of a millennium to achieve. And in reading both of Jones' books, what screams out loud and clear is the political wealth, cultural density and utter formidability of the English tradition achieved as much in war as in peace -- without which the magnificent debates and rhetoric that are on display in parliament in London today would simply not exist.
A functioning democracy is not a product that can be easily exported, in other words, but an expression of culture and historical development that must be constantly nursed and maintained. Britain's democracy did not come from civil society programs taught by human rights workers; it was the offshoot of bloody dynastic politics and uprisings in the medieval and early modern eras.
The United States also has a democracy that is the envy of the world. But as the late Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington notes, that is because America was born with "political institutions and practices imported from seventeenth-century England." That, too, in one way or another, has been the case with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, the other countries of the Anglosphere that also, not coincidentally, have enviable democracies. To say that democracy and the Anglo-Saxon tradition are not inherently related is to deny the record of history; it is also to say that culture, merely because it cannot be quantified and otherwise measured on an academic's chart, does not matter.
Germany and Japan also have well-functioning and stable democracies. But that is only because they were completely destroyed by the United States and Britain in World War II and had their political systems rebuilt and developed from scratch by American occupation forces who then stayed on for many years.
Europe -- from Portugal to Poland and from Norway to Greece -- has many stable democracies that work, if not always as well over the decades as those in the Anglosphere. But these countries are generally heir to what we call Western civilization and bourgeoisie traditions in various forms -- traditions interrupted in cases, rather than erased from memory, by World War II and the Cold War.
India has had a more or less stable, functioning democracy for almost two-thirds of a century. But would that have been the case without British rule under the East India Company and the Raj from the late 18th century to the mid-20th? Of course, British dominance was often cruel and racist. But it also united India through a railway system and provided the building blocks of stable government through its civil service and parliamentary tradition. To say that the success of India's democracy has indigenous causes is reasonable; to say that it has had nothing at all to do with the British tradition is not.
Then there are South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore -- successful and stable democracies all. Singapore's system, as its founder Lee Kuan Yew writes in his memoirs, is inseparable from the British tradition. All three countries are the beneficiaries of Confucian ethical practices that reach back to antiquity. And all three were initially stabilized as functioning modern states by enlightened authoritarians: Lee, Chiang Kai-shek in Taiwan and Park Chung Hee in South Korea. Again, democracy did not naturally spring from any of them in full flower but was the product of decades and centuries of political, cultural and social development and conditions.
Elsewhere the situation is murky, though not impossible. The countries of South America have only experienced democracy and the rule of law in recent years and decades, and this discounts the virtual one-man rule that is the case in places such as Ecuador and Bolivia. Venezuela is in semi-chaos. Nobody can argue that Argentina is even remotely well governed. In a number of other Latin American countries, democracy functions on paper while the system is rife with corruption and the rule of law is weak.
Africa often has democracies in name only, since strongmen rule behind a facade of legality. Many places in Africa have had elections but are nowhere near stable. Outside the capital cities there is often nothing resembling civil society or any governing structure whatsoever. Holding elections is easy; building institutions is hard and can take decades or longer.
The Middle East is a disaster zone, save for Israel, Turkey and, to a limited degree, Iran. Morocco, Oman and some of the Gulf countries are stable and civil, but in almost all cases that is because of enlightened authoritarianism, not democracy. Tunisia is democratic but barely stable. Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya are in varying states of war and chaos. Reading the news about these places and then switching to the pages of Jones' books about medieval English dynastic struggles, it is sometimes hard to see how large parts of the early-21st century Middle East are more politically advanced than Plantagenet and Tudor England. The notion that countries such as Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan can accomplish in short order what it took England many hundreds of years to do seems like policy malpractice.
Yes, it might be that Western liberal democracy is the best system for governance that has so far appeared in history; it is quite another thing to say that many places in the world are up to the task at this moment. Or rather, perhaps the better way to phrase it is to say that Western liberal democracy will have to adapt to cultural and historical realities on the ground in areas such as the Middle East. Of course, many places might be defined on paper as democracies, but it is the power relationships behind the scenes that provide the truth about how countries are actually run.
Democracy cannot simply be exported (except in extreme cases such as in the American occupations of Germany and Japan) any more than theoretical reasoning can replace hundreds of years of cultural and historical tradition. In that spirit, books such as The Plantagenets and The Wars of the Roses provide deeper, more arresting insights into the modern condition than many of the policy papers emanating from Western capitals.
Read more: The Plantagenet Effect | Stratfor
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Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Children of the Caliphate
on: October 27, 2014, 11:34:13 PM
Children of the Caliphate
The Islamic State is raising an army of child soldiers, and the West could be fighting them for generations to come.
BY Kate Brannen
OCTOBER 27, 2014
They stand in the front row at public beheadings and crucifixions held in Raqqa, the Islamic State's stronghold in Syria. They're used for blood transfusions when Islamic State fighters are injured. They are paid to inform on people who are disloyal or speak out against the Islamic State. They are trained to become suicide bombers. They are children as young as 6 years old, and they are being transformed into the Islamic State's soldiers of the future.
The Islamic State has put in place a far-reaching and well-organized system for recruiting children, indoctrinating them with the group's extremist beliefs, and then teaching them rudimentary fighting skills. The militants are preparing for a long war against the West, and hope the young warriors being trained today will still be fighting years from now.
While there are no hard figures for how many children are involved, refugee stories and evidence collected by the United Nations, human rights groups, and journalists suggest that the indoctrination and military training of children is widespread.
Child soldiers aren't new to war. Dozens of African armies and militias use young boys as fighters, in part because research has shown that children lack fully formed moral compasses and can easily be persuaded to commit acts of cruelty and violence.
The young fighters of the Islamic State could pose a particularly dangerous long-term threat because they're being kept away from their normal schools and instead inculcated with a steady diet of Islamist propaganda designed to dehumanize others and persuade them of the nobility of fighting and dying for their faith.
"[The Islamic State] deliberately deny education to the people who are in the territory under their control, and not only that, they brainwash them," said Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, who's tasked with thinking about future threats and planning for the Army's future. "They engage in child abuse on an industrial scale. They brutalize and systematically dehumanize the young populations. This is going to make this a multigenerational problem."
Ivan Simonovic, the U.N. assistant secretary-general for human rights, recently returned from a visit to Iraq, where he interviewed displaced Iraqis in Baghdad, Dohuk, and Erbil. He said there is a "large and dangerously successful recruitment" program.
Speaking to a small group of reporters at the U.N., he said the fighters "appeal" to some of the youngsters and that they have approved adept at "manipulating young men and children." He explained that "they project an image of being victorious" and offer the promise that those who fall in battle will "go straight to heaven."
"What is striking for me is to meet mothers who [tell us], 'We don't know what to do,'" he said. "Our sons are volunteering and we can't prevent it."
On the front lines of Iraq and Syria, the boys who join or are abducted by the Islamic State are sent to various religious and military training camps, depending on their age. At the camps, they are taught everything from the Islamic State's interpretation of sharia law to how to handle a gun. They are even trained in how to behead another human and given dolls on which to practice, Syria Deeply, a website devoted to covering the Syrian civil war, reported in September.
Children are also sent into battle, where they are used as human shields on the front lines and to provide blood transfusions for Islamic State soldiers, according to Shelly Whitman, the executive director of the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative, an organization devoted to the eradication of the use of child soldiers.
Eyewitnesses from the Iraqi towns of Mosul and Tal Afar told United Nations investigators they have seen young children, armed with weapons they could barely carry and dressed in Islamic State uniforms, conducting street patrols and arresting locals.
U.N. human rights experts have "received confirmed reports of children as young as 12 or 13 undergoing military training organized by ISIL in Mosul," according to a report written jointly by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and the human rights office of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Iraq.
In al-Sharqat district in Salah al-Din, the number of youngsters manning checkpoints "drastically increased" during the last week of August, the report said. And in the Nineveh Plains and Makhmour, male teenagers were swept up in August in a recruiting drive by advancing fighters from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. Some of these boys reported that they "were forced to form the front line to shield ISIL fighters during fighting, and that they had been forced to donate blood for treating injured ISIL fighters," according to the report.
Abu Ibrahim Raqqawi, the pseudonym of a 22-year-old man who lived in Syria until about a month ago, is the founder of Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, a Twitter account and Facebook page that documents the brutality of life in Raqqa, the city where he grew up. In addition to him and three others now living outside of Syria, there are 12 people inside of Raqqa, who contribute photos and information about what's going on inside the city.
Reached via Skype, he told Foreign Policy that the Islamic State has stepped up its youth recruitment program, including a boot camp for young boys where they're taught combat skills.
He said teenagers from Raqqa were being trained and then quickly sent to fight in Kobani, the Syrian-Turkish border town where the Islamic State has been in a brutal fight with Kurdish fighters for several weeks. U.S. and coalition aircraft have conducted more than 135 airstrikes against Islamic State targets in and around the town, killing hundreds of the militants.
In Raqqa, where poverty is widespread after more than three years of war, the group often persuades parents to send their children to the camps in exchange for money, Raqqawi said. Sometimes, the Islamic State appeals directly to the children themselves, holding public recruiting events or parties and then offering the children money to attend training. With all of the schools closed in Raqqa, there is little else for children to do, Raqqawi said.
There are several well-known youth training camps across Raqqa province, he said, including al-Zarqawi Camp, Osama Bin Laden Camp, al-Sherkrak Camp, al-Talaea Camp, and al-Sharea Camp.
Raqqawi estimated that there are between 250 and 300 children at al-Sharea Camp, which is for kids under the age of 16.
He provided photos of children at this camp, including one of young boys sitting down to a meal together, and another of a young boy smiling as he completed an obstacle course.
When there is a big battle, like the one in Kobani, the training is accelerated, Raqqawi said.
In Iraq, there is also substantial evidence that children are being forced into military training.
Fred Abrahams, special advisor at Human Rights Watch, interviewed Yazidis in Iraq who had escaped Islamic State detention. They said they had witnessed Islamic State fighters taking boys from their families for religious or military training.
One Yazidi man who escaped said he watched his captors separate 14 boys ages 8 to 12 at a military base the Islamic State had seized in Sinjar and take them off to learn how to be jihadists.
One Yazidi man who escaped said he watched his captors separate 14 boys ages 8 to 12 at a military base the Islamic State had seized in Sinjar and take them off to learn how to be jihadists.
This summer, Vice News gained extraordinary access to the Islamic State, producing a five-part video documentary about life under the group's control. The second installment focused on how the Islamic State is specifically grooming children for the future.
"For us, we believe that this generation of children is the generation of the caliphate. God willing, this generation will fight infidels and apostates, the Americans and their allies," one man tells Vice.
The video shows a 9-year-old boy saying that he's headed to a training camp after Ramadan to learn how to use a Kalashnikov rifle.
An Islamic State spokesman told the Vice journalists that those under 15 go to sharia camp to learn about religion, but those older than 16 can go to military training camp.
The Islamic State's command of social media also helps it convince people from all over the world to travel to Iraq or Syria to join the group.
Part of this effort involves using children as propaganda tools, posting photographs on social media sites of them dressed in Islamic State uniforms marching alongside grown-up fighters. "In mid-August, ISIL entered a cancer hospital in Mosul, forced at least two sick children to hold the ISIL flag and posted the pictures on the internet," the U.N. report said.
The Islamic State's online recruitment has proved successful, drawing more than 3,000 Europeans. The FBI says it knows of roughly a dozen Americans fighting with the group, but acknowledges there could be more.
Three American high school girls from Colorado were caught last week in Frankfurt, Germany, apparently on their way to join the Islamic State in Syria. Reports say they were radicalized online.
The Vice News video shows a Belgian man who traveled to Raqqa with his young son, who appears to be 6 or 7 years old.
The father coaches his son to tell the cameraman that he's from the Islamic State and not Belgium, and then asks him whether he wants to be a jihadist or a suicide bomber. The young boy says, "Jihadist."
Raqqawi told FP that when he was still living in Raqqa he saw an American woman, her Algerian husband, and their daughter, who looked to be about 4 years old.
He says he also saw a French fighter with two kids: a blond boy who looked to be 6 years old and a daughter who was about a year old.
"We see a lot of foreign fighters inside the city. It is shocking," he said.
In Syria and Iraq, children are not just being radicalized, but are also being exposed to extreme levels of violence every day.
Raqqawi provided FP photos he took while still living in the city, of children watching crucifixions.
He said the children have become so accustomed to these executions that the sight of a head separated from a human body no longer seems to faze them.
"The Islamic State destroys their childhood, destroys their hearts," he said.
Misty Buswell, who's based in Jordan as the Middle East regional advocacy officer for Save the Children, said, "It's not an exaggeration to say we could lose a whole generation of children to trauma."
Buswell said the child refugees she's interviewed are having nightmares, avoiding interactions with their peers, and showing signs of aggression toward other children.
"I have met children who have stopped speaking, and who haven't spoken for months, because of the terrible things that they witnessed," Buswell said. "And those are the lucky ones who actually made it across the border to safety."
With time and the right kind of intervention those children can be helped and can be able to have somewhat more of a normal life, Buswell said. "But for the kids who are still inside and who are witnessing this on a daily basis, the long-term effects are going to be quite significant."
Buswell said that refugees almost always want to return home once the situation there stabilizes and peace returns.
When she asked refugees from Sinjar that question a few weeks ago, however, she was surprised by their answer. "It's one of the first times I've actually heard people telling me that the things that they saw and experienced were so horrific and traumatic -- and the things that their children saw -- that they didn't want to go back, because there are too many bad memories."
Colum Lynch contributed reporting to this article.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Pro rata China has 1/30 the transfer payments of the US.
on: October 27, 2014, 02:53:45 PM
If you came of age in the ‘60s or ‘70s, you might recall your parents complaining about the growing welfare state, and griping that America was turning into “communist China!” Well, they’d be happy to know that 40 years on, we’re nothing like China. That’s because as we get more socialist, they’re getting more capitalist. Joe Hoft at TheGatewayPundit.com points out that in 2011, China spent $287 billion on social welfare programs. The US, which has one-fourth the population of China, spent around $2 trillion. That means we now spend 30 times more per person on redistributing wealth than communist China does. Oh, and one more sign that China may be turning more capitalist than we are: a lot of that wealth we redistribute, we borrow from China.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH catches up with my posts of nearly two years ago
on: October 27, 2014, 01:33:16 PM
In the aftermath of the fall of Kaddaffy in Libya I noted several times with vigor the importance of the many, mnay MANPAD anti-aircraft missiles from Kaddaffy's armory that were falling into AQ hands and the dangerous implications thereof.
Note too how the Russians may be adding to the problem.
Missiles of ISIS May Pose Peril for Aircrews
By KIRK SEMPLE and ERIC SCHMITTOCT. 26, 2014
BAGHDAD — From the battlefield near Baiji, an Islamic State jihadist fired a heat-seeking missile and blew an Iraqi Army Mi-35M attack helicopter out of the sky this month, killing its two crew members.
Days later, the Islamic State released a chilling series of images from a video purporting to capture the attack in northern Iraq: a jihadist hiding behind a wall with a Chinese-made missile launcher balanced on his shoulder; the missile blasting from the tube, its contrail swooping upward as it tracked its target; the fiery impact and the wreckage on a rural road.
The helicopter was one of several Iraqi military helicopters that the militants claim to have shot down this year, and the strongest evidence yet that Islamic State fighters in Iraq are using advanced surface-to-air missile systems that pose a serious threat to aircraft flown by Iraq and the American-led coalition.
As the counteroffensive against the Islamic State enters a more aggressive phase in Iraq, allied airstrikes will also intensify. American officials say they fully expect that the push will bring out more proof of the jihadists’ antiaircraft abilities, with potentially serious consequences for how the Iraqis and their coalition partners wage their war.
“Based on past conflicts,” said one senior American military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss delicate intelligence assessments, the missiles “are game changers out there.”
The proliferation of antiaircraft weaponry has also heightened concerns about the vulnerability of Iraq’s airports, particularly Baghdad International Airport, the country’s most important transportation hub and a lifeline for military supplies and reinforcements to Iraq.
Signaling its intent to challenge American supremacy in the skies, the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, recently published an online guide describing how to use shoulder-fired missiles to shoot down an Apache attack helicopter, one of the most fearsome weapons in the United States Army’s conventional arsenal.
“Choosing the launching spot: Preferably somewhere high,” the guide says in Arabic. “The roof of a building or a hill with a solid surface to prevent the appearance of dust following launching.”
The authors urged “strong confidence in God and composure,” and certainty “that this operation will cause a disaster to the foes and destroy their arrogance.”
The United States has stationed about a half-dozen Apaches at Baghdad International Airport, but they have been used only rarely in the two-and-a-half-month-old aerial campaign against the Islamic State, in part because of worries about their vulnerability to ground fire and because of a lack of American search-and-rescue teams in Iraq that could respond to downed aircrews. The concerns also reflect the White House’s insistence on limiting the number of American troops in Iraq and their exposure to hostile fire.
This month, Apaches entered the battle for the first time, in coordination with United States Air Force jets, to carry out four airstrikes on a large Islamic State force northeast of Falluja, in the sprawling desert and agricultural province of Anbar. The militants have established several strongholds there, and have continued to gain ground there against Iraq’s security forces in recent weeks.
Now, though, the Iraqi military is beginning to mount larger and more complex efforts around the country to retake territory from the Islamic State, including a counteroffensive that began a week and a half ago to break the militants’ stranglehold on a key refinery in Baiji, north of Baghdad. The new phase will mean an increase in the frequency of combat missions by coalition aircraft, and will likely demand a greater use of lower-flying American attack helicopters and gunships, which have important advantages in urban warfare.
Since much of the most difficult fighting in the coming months is expected to unfold in the towns and cities of Anbar, American generals may be inclined to order more Apaches to support Iraqi ground troops. They may also make greater use of AC-130 gunships, a lumbering, propeller-driven plane bristling with cannons that circles at altitudes at the outer limits of some shoulder-fired missiles.
As Iraqi and American officials weigh the added risk to their aircrews and, potentially, to civilian aircraft, they are particularly concerned about the threat of shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles, commonly known as Manpads, short for Man-Portable Air Defense Systems.
Syrian rebels have amassed multiple Manpad models since 2012, and the Islamic State has generally had little trouble acquiring any weapon used by Syrian rebels either through purchase or capture, military analysts say. Though the Pentagon’s Central Command acknowledges this concern, it said it had no conclusive evidence yet that the Islamic State had such weapons.
The maximum ranges and altitudes of Manpads vary from system to system, but they are generally used against low-flying aircraft, such as fixed-wing aircraft soon after takeoff or shortly before landing, or helicopters.
Sunni militants in Iraq have long maintained a limited, aging stock of SA-7 Manpads, a ubiquitous Soviet-designed system that they periodically used during the American occupation from 2003 to 2011, said Charles Lister, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar.
Since at least late 2013, however, the Islamic State’s forces in Iraq appear to have acquired more sophisticated antiaircraft missile systems, including the Chinese-made FN-6, originally provided by Qatar and possibly also Saudi Arabia to Syrian rebels.
In the images purporting to show the shooting down of the Iraqi attack helicopter, on Oct. 3 in Baiji, the militant, a scarf wrapped around his face, is wielding a Chinese-made FN-6 missile system — apparently the first documented use of the weapon by Islamic State jihadists in Iraq, analysts said.
The militants claimed to have shot down several other Iraqi military helicopters this year, most recently a Bell 407 on a surveillance mission near Baiji on Oct. 8.
“Judging by reports from Iraq, and in particular Anbar Province, over the last three to four months, it would seem ISIL have been using Manpads far more frequently and more successfully than Syrian rebels have ever done,” Mr. Lister added.
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An even greater potential concern is that militants might get their hands on SA-24’s, a more sophisticated system that Russia recently sold to Iraq, and first showed up in militant videos in September, said Matthew Schroeder, a missile proliferation analyst at Small Arms Survey, an independent research project based in Geneva.
The SA-24’s have a longer range than older models and use faster and more maneuverable missiles, Mr. Schroeder said.
Newer systems also have a greater ability to hit targets from a wider range of angles, such as a perpendicular shot at a moving target like a plane on its approach to a runway.
As Iraqi and United States officials have weighed the threats to their military aircraft, they have also taken steps to safeguard the nation’s airports. The protection of Baghdad International Airport, on the western edge of the capital, has been of special concern, especially since the early summer when the Islamic State’s advances in Anbar and on the western fringes of greater Baghdad brought it to within 15 miles of the airport.
Officials acknowledge that any disruption to the airport’s services by an insurgent attack of any type would have an outsize psychological and logistical impact.
In July, the Pentagon rushed the Apaches, plus Shadow surveillance drones and 200 American soldiers, to the airport based on a classified intelligence assessment that the sprawling complex was vulnerable to attack, American officials say.
But although the Islamic State has continued to score victories in nearby Anbar, the militants have not advanced closer to the city since the summer, easing fears that the airport was going to be overrun. Iraqi and American military officials have insisted in interviews that they have taken the necessary precautions to protect the airport and aircraft there, and that there is not an imminent danger of attack.
Vehicle access to the passenger terminal area is tightly controlled with special permission granted on a case-by-case basis. The airport is bordered on the east and northeast by a large military complex. In the farmlands that abut the rest of the complex, the government has militarized the roads with a heavy police and military presence and checkpoints, and, officials said, infiltrated the neighborhoods with intelligence officers.
“We’re very sure that Baghdad International Airport is safe for departure and for arrival,” said Capt. Saad M. Saeed, the general director of Iraqi Airways, Iraq’s national carrier. “I’m a pilot. If I know there’s one-in-a-million chance, I won’t take the risk.”
Yet in August, an Iraqi Airways captain told colleagues that his plane had been hit by gunfire as it approached the airport from the north, a route that would have passed over the restive Sunni district of Abu Ghraib. The plane, which landed safely, was hit by at least two bullets, according to two Iraqi Airways pilots who said they had been told about the shooting.
Ali al-Bayati, deputy director of Iraqi Airways, denied that such an event had occurred. Rumors, he said, were part of the Islamic State’s arsenal. “Considering that the airport is a very high-value target for them,” he said, “they’re spreading a lot of rumors.”
Kirk Semple reported from Baghdad, and Eric Schmitt from Washington and MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Reporting was contributed by C.J. Chivers from the United States, Kareem Fahim from Baghdad, Karam Shoumali from Istanbul, and Rena Netjes from Amsterdam.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: Better Policies on the horizon
on: October 27, 2014, 01:26:12 PM
Better Policies on the Horizon To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Senior Economist
Some say we have a Plow Horse Economy because economic growth is always slow after a financial crisis. But the real reason is that politicians from both major parties keep throwing more government “solutions” at problems. This started well before President Obama took office.
The Bush Administration, and a spend-friendly Congress, pushed temporary “stimulus” spending in 2001 and then followed Larry Summers’ Keynesian advice in early 2008 and passed tax credits and even more stimulus. President Bush said, “I’ve abandoned free market principles to save the free market system” in an explanation of TARP. Then, we got more “stimulus” in 2009. Don’t forget quantitative easing, either.
We believe this is the reason real GDP growth during the current recovery, averaging 2.2% per year, is the slowest five-year period of growth without a recession in the last 100 years.
What’s interesting is that we can divide this economy into two parts – a “Race Horse” exists in many sectors, like fracking, and high-tech; like 3-D printing, the cloud, smartphones and apps. Government did not drive these processes and new techniques; free markets did.
But, where government interfered in the most overt ways – in labor markets and in housing – the recovery has been much slower. And government is using the “Amazon Model” of spend to grow in alternative energy production, hoping that losses today equal benefits tomorrow. This may be true, but at least Amazon is spending its own money and the stock market votes every day on whether it is a good idea or not.
To some, what we have just written sounds overly political. But we are actually thinking economically. We believe in small government because smaller government creates a more dynamic private sector with higher standards of living.
And, judging by the evidence, the American people are beginning to shift toward this view again. A recent Politico poll, weighted equally between Republicans and Democrats, showed 64% think things in the US feel “out of control.” Other polls show both the President and Congress with extremely low popularity right now.
It’s a 1970s vibe! Many Americans worry their kids will be worse off. They fret about ISIS and Ebola. Most Democrat candidates are allergic to President Obama showing up in their states or districts. The same was true back in 2006 when Republicans distanced themselves from President Bush.
Obviously, problems often stretch out longer than we think they should. But, it seems clear Americans are ready for a change, and when this happens, politicians start moving that way even if they don’t have strong ideologies. As an example, some are campaigning as “Clinton Democrats” these days – meaning that tax cuts and more moderate, even free market, policies aren’t off the table.
We aren’t projecting another Ronald Reagan. But a shift away from supporting “government solutions” to all problems seems more likely these days.
Next weeks’ mid-term elections are the first step, but major changes won’t take place until after the 2016 presidential election. Already there is more centrism on economics.
Years of sluggish growth have weakened the “status quo” faction inside the GOP. No wonder two of the GOP’s toughest Senate races this year are in Kentucky and Kansas where long-term incumbent Senators seem out of touch. And for Democrats, the burden of majority means they have to defend more incumbents – a tough road to hoe in a 1970s-like environment.
What this means is that a Republican president in 2016 would likely use special budget procedures to reform Medicare and Medicaid in addition to improving the tax system for both companies and individuals. But, right now a Democrat president looks more probable. And in 2017-18, with the recovery aging, she would likely support moves to reform the corporate tax code, plus reforming Obamacare with market-friendly changes like health savings accounts.
In other words, the next president is likely to be more market friendly than the current one. The American people won’t have it any other way. Look for evidence of this shift as the results of the mid-term elections pour in next week.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Marriage and Family
on: October 27, 2014, 12:43:59 PM
US Judge: “Marriage is the fundamental unit of the political order”
BY BRIAN S. BROWN
comment 4 | print |
judge JuanOn Tuesday last week, United States District Judge Juan Pérez-Giménez (pictured) handed down a ruling in a case upholding Puerto Rico's law defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
This ruling is the top headline of the week's marriage news.
"Marriage is the fundamental unit of the political order"
The Carter appointee did not fail to acknowledge that his opinion runs contrary to the majority of other Federal courts that have ruled on States' marriage laws since the Windsor decision by the Supreme Court, that struck down Section III of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
But in acknowledging this, Pérez-Giménez spoke of a "misapprehension that has plagued our sister courts." Specifically, he said that all of these decisions have blatantly ignored binding Supreme Court precedent from the Baker v. Nelson decision of 1972.
Baker essentially says the U.S. Constitution is silent on the issue of same-sex 'marriage'—which is a far cry from what activist judges have claimed over the last several months, that same-sex 'marriage' is somehow mandated by the 14th amendment!
Pérez-Giménez points out that this absurd claim is distinctly refuted by Baker, and that only the Supreme Court can contradict or overturn Baker, which they (sic) have (sic) not done. Furthermore, he notes that the First Circuit Court of Appeals, which governs Puerto Rico, explicitly recognized this only just two years ago! It will be interesting to watch this case as it will most surely be appealed to the First Circuit, and to see whether the Judges on that court will have the integrity to bind themselves by their own very recent logic.
Pérez-Giménez describes the "inexplicable contortions of the mind or perhaps even willful ignorance" that seem to have guided other Judges to the conclusion that the Supreme Court, in Windsor, signaled a constitutional demand for marriage to be redefined.
But the real beauty in this judge's decision is how he links the ideas of marriage and the rule of law itself, and points out that his fellow judges who have acted to redefine marriage have also showed a shameful disregard for the way in which our legal system works.
Allow me to quote at length from his conclusion [emphasis added]:
There are some principles of logic and law that cannot be forgotten.
Recent affirmances of same-gender marriage seem to suffer from a peculiar inability to recall the principles embodied in existing marriage law. Traditional marriage is 'exclusively [an] opposite-sex institution... inextricably linked to procreation and biological kinship.' Traditional marriage is the fundamental unit of the political order. And ultimately the very survival of the political order depends upon the procreative potential embodied in traditional marriage.
Those are the well-tested, well-proven principles on which we have relied for centuries. The question now is whether judicial 'wisdom' may contrive methods by which those solid principles can be circumvented or even discarded.
A clear majority of courts have struck down statutes that affirm opposite-gender marriage only. In their ingenuity and imagination they have constructed a seemingly comprehensive legal structure for this new form of marriage. And yet what is lacking and unaccounted for remains: are laws barring polygamy, or, say the marriage of fathers and daughters, now of doubtful validity? Is 'minimal marriage,' where 'individuals have legal marital relationships with more than one person, reciprocally or asymmetrically, themselves determining the sex and number of parties' the blueprint for their design? [...] It would seem so, if we follow the plaintiffs' logic, that the fundamental right to marriage is based on 'the constitutional liberty to select the partner of one's choice.'
Of course, it is all too easy to dismiss such concerns as absurd or of a kind with the cruel discrimination and ridicule that has been shown toward people attracted to members of their own sex. But the truth concealed in these concerns goes to the heart of our system of limited, consent-based government: those seeking sweeping change must render reasons justifying the change and articulate the principles that they claim will limit this newly fashioned right.
For now, one basic principle remains: the people, acting through their elected representatives, may legitimately regulate marriage by law.
I encourage you to read the entire decision and to share it with your friends. The clear logic and devotion to the truth, and the dedication to the integrity of our legal system, are a breath of fresh air compared to so many other errant decisions that have been issued over the past few months.
Brian S. Brown is the President of the US National Organisation for Marriage. This article appeared in NOM's email newsletter of October 25.
- See more at: http://www.mercatornet.com/conjugality/view/15034#sthash.X4TM6vgw.dpuf
Here is the entire decision:http://sblog.s3.amazonaws.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Puerto-Rico-marriage-DCt-ruling-10-21-14.pdf
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Terrorist Rasmieh Odeh and her enablers
on: October 27, 2014, 12:06:38 PM
Spinning a Terrorist Into a Victim
Part 1: Who is Rasmieh Odeh?
October 27, 2014http://www.investigativeproject.org/4627/spinning-a-terrorist-into-a-victim
Click Image to View Video Recording
Note: Part 1 includes our previously released 2-minute prologue/trailer.
Starting Nov. 4, federal prosecutors in Detroit present their case against a Palestinian woman who slipped through the cracks. Rasmieh Odeh, 67, has been in the United States since at least 1995.
To her advocates, she's a peaceful community activist living in Chicago and an asset to her community.
Yet, she has a bloody, dark side that she has kept hidden all these years.
Odeh is a convicted terrorist who spent 10 years in an Israeli prison. She led a 1969 bombing that killed two college students in a Jerusalem supermarket. Odeh confessed. She says that confession only came after she was tortured. She was sentenced to life in prison, but was released unexpectedly as part of a prisoner exchange in 1979. Her torture claim has never been substantiated—even by the United Nations, to which she reported the alleged torture after her release—and she has yet to deny her involvement in the murders or even her ultimate imprisonment.
Odeh could have discussed the particulars of her situation when she applied for her visa and citizenship—how her sentence was even commuted—if she felt her alleged torture merited special consideration. Instead, she simply told U.S. authorities she had a spotless record.
Prosecutors say that constitutes immigration fraud. A terrorist conviction for an attack causing two deaths is something immigration officials would want to consider before granting an immigrant a visa or welcoming her into American citizenship.
Still, her supporters have launched an aggressive campaign aimed at getting the fraud charges dropped. Odeh, they say, is the real victim here. They claim this case is really about a government conspiracy to attack Palestinian advocates in America.
The campaign is led by Odeh's colleagues from the Arab American Action Network (AAAN), but has attracted support from the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, and even a group of 124 feminist academics.
In the video above, the first installment of a five-part Investigative Project on Terrorism video series on Odeh's case and the campaign to thwart it, we provide an overview of the case and a look at Rasmieh Odeh and those supporting her.
New installments will be released each day this week. Tomorrow we examine the 1969 Jerusalem bombing Odeh helped orchestrate and learn more about her victims.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 1813: power over fellow citizens
on: October 24, 2014, 11:13:29 AM
"An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens." --Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Melish, 1813
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hamas leader's daughter received critical medical care in Israel
on: October 23, 2014, 10:49:44 PM
Hamas Leader's Daughter Received Critical Medical Treatment In Israel
An Israeli hospital confirmed Sunday that it had treated the daughter of Hamas’s top leader in the Gaza Strip, weeks after a brutal war between Israel and the Islamist terror group. Avi Shushan, a spokesman for Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital, said the daughter of Ismail Haniyeh was hospitalized for “a number of days” this month. He did not disclose what she was treated for. A spokeswoman for the Israeli military also confirmed the hospital stay. Hamas officials were not immediately available for comment. Israel and Hamas fought a fierce 50-day war this summer that killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, mostly civilians according to Palestinian sources, and 72 people on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers. Israel says half of the Gaza dead were Hamas and other gunmen.
Haniyeh’s daughter was treated in Israel following complications during a standard medical procedure in Gaza, Reuters reported Sunday. Israeli authorities occasionally allow injured and ill Palestinians to leave the Gaza Strip and seek care at Israeli hospitals, and both Haniyeh’s mother-in-law and baby granddaughter were treated in Israel in the last year alone. On June 3, Maj. Guy Inbar, an Israeli Defense Ministry spokesman, said the terror group leader’s mother-in-law, 68, was allowed to enter from the Gaza Strip to receive cancer treatment at a Jerusalem hospital. Last November, Haniyeh’s one-year-old granddaughter was evacuated to an Israeli hospital in critical condition, but was returned to her family in Gaza after her condition was deemed incurable, an Israeli military spokesman said. The girl later died of her condition. Haniyeh, the former prime minister of Gaza — prior to the reconciliation with Fatah and the establishment of the unity government — has repeatedly called for Israel’s destruction, and refused on countless occasions to disarm. During the summer conflict, Israel bombed Haniyeh’s Gaza home. The Hamas leader was not hurt in the raid.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / 28% of Covered CA hospitals had worse than expected infection rates
on: October 23, 2014, 10:46:01 PM
How Many are Covered California Hospitals? 28% of Calif. Hospitals Had Worse-Than-Expected Infection Rates
October 22, 2014 By Stephen Frank
More than one out of four hospitals in California have worse than expected infection rates—and government has demanded You be a victim. Connect the dots: Under Covered California you are only allowed to use doctors in a network and hospitals in the network. Neither doctors nor hospitals are chosen on the basis of quality—they are chosen on the basis of cost. The State of California forces you to use the low cost doctor and hospitals that have lots of infections. Feel safe now getting your government approved health care?
“KHN found that 695 U.S. hospitals had reported rates that were higher than expected for one or more of the six infections. Further, researchers found that 25% or more of hospitals had worse-than-expected infection rates in 13 states and Washington, D.C. California was one of the 13 states, with 28% of hospitals reporting at least one worse-than-expected infection rate.
If you are harmed or die, you or your family will not be allowed to sue Covered California for their lack of vetting hospitals for quality or safety. Once again, government is the problem not the solution.
28% of Calif. Hospitals Had Worse-Than-Expected Infection Rates
California Healthline, 10/22/14
California is one of 13 states and Washington D.C. where more than 25% of hospitals had higher-than-expected infection rates for at least one of six infections, according to a Kaiser Health News analysis of available CDC data, Kaiser Health News reports.
About one in 25 hospital patients in the U.S. have a health care-associated infection on any given day, and 75,000 U.S. residents die from hospital-related infections annually, according to KHN. The federal government since 2012 has been publishing hospital-related infection rate analyses on Medicare’s Hospital Compare website. In addition, Medicare in the fall will begin factoring hospital-related infection rates into reimbursement payments(Rau, Kaiser Health News, 10/21).
For the analysis, KHN analyzed CDC data from reports submitted by more than 3,000 hospitals on:
• Catheter-associated urinary tract infections;
• Central line-associated blood stream infections;
• Infections from the antibiotic-resistant germ Clostridium difficile, or C. diff;
• Infections from the antibiotic-resistant Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA.
• Surgical site infections from abdominal hysterectomies; and
• Surgical site infections from colon surgery.
The hospitals were rated as having infection rates that were better, as expected or worse based on the hospital type and patient mix. The MRSA and C. diff infections were contracted between Jan. 1, 2013, and Sept. 30, 2013, while the other infections were contracted between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2013 (KHN analysis, 10/21).
KHN found that 695 U.S. hospitals had reported rates that were higher than expected for one or more of the six infections. Further, researchers found that 25% or more of hospitals had worse-than-expected infection rates in 13 states and Washington, D.C. California was one of the 13 states, with 28% of hospitals reporting at least one worse-than-expected infection rate.
In addition, KHN found that seven hospitals were determined by CDC to have worse-than-expected infection rates in four of the six categories, including the highly regarded:
• New York-Presbyterian Hospital;
• Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Medical Center; and
• University of Michigan Health System.
Meanwhile, the analysis found that some major teaching hospitals generally had lower-than-expected infection rates, including:
• Denver Health Medical Center;
• Duke University Hospital; and
• Mayo Clinic’s hospitals.
Some of the hospitals contested CDC’s data. Some hospitals said their infection rates appeared higher because they worked harder to identify and report the infections or as the result of the hospitals admitting more patients who were prone to contracting infections.
Patient safety expert Kevin Kavanagh said the hospital-related infection rates were the result of many hospitals not strictly following infection disease treatment protocols and a lack of specificity in the government’s protocols. He added, “Right now there are too many recommendations on how to handle infectious diseases” and there is “too much leeway” on adhering to the recommendations.
Don Goldmann — chief medical and science officer at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement and co-author of a 2011 New England Journal of Medicine study on hospital-related infections — said, “The percentage of time that health care providers do all of the things they are supposed to do when caring for a patient with a contagious disease can be pretty low.”
Goldman added that many hospitals are more likely to follow protocols when addressing rarer ailments such as Ebola, but that “[w]hen [an infection risk has] been around for a long time, it kind of becomes part of the background” (Kaiser Health News, 10/21).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Stratfor: Evaluating Ebola as a weapon
on: October 23, 2014, 10:16:20 PM
Evaluating Ebola as a Biological Weapon
Thursday, October 23, 2014 - 03:00 Print Text Size
By Scott Stewart
Over the past few weeks, I've had people at speaking engagements ask me if I thought the Islamic State or some other militant group is using Ebola as a biological weapon, or if such a group could do so in the future. Such questions and concerns are not surprising given the intense media hype that surrounds the disease, even though only one person has died from Ebola out of the three confirmed cases in the United States. The media hype about the threat posed by the Islamic State to the United States and the West is almost as bad. Both subjects of all this hype were combined into a tidy package on Oct. 20, when the Washington Post published an editorial by columnist Mark Thiessen in which he claimed it would be easy for a group such as the Islamic State to use Ebola in a terrorist attack. Despite Thiessen's claims, using Ebola as a biological warfare agent is much more difficult than it might appear at first blush.
The 2014 Outbreak
In the past, there have been several outbreaks of Ebola in Africa. Countries included Sudan, Uganda, the Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and several comparatively small outbreaks occurred in Gabon as well. In most cases, people who handled or ate animals infected with the disease started the outbreaks. "Bushmeat," or portions of roasted meat from a variety of wild animals, is considered by many to be a delicacy in Africa, and in a continent where hunger is widespread, it is also a necessity for many hungry people. After several months of medical investigations, epidemiologists believe the current outbreak most likely began when a two-year-old child in Guinea touched or perhaps ate part of an infected animal such as a bat or monkey.
The source of the disease means it is highly unlikely that some malevolent actor intentionally caused the latest outbreak. Besides the fact that the current outbreak's cause has been identified as a natural one, even if a transnational militant group such as the Islamic State was able to somehow develop an Ebola weapon, it would have chosen to deploy the weapon against a far more desirable target than a small village in Guinea. We would have seen the militants use their weapon in a location such as New York, Paris or London, or against their local enemies in Syria and Iraq.
As far as intent goes, there is very little doubt that such a group would employ a biological weapon. As we noted last month when there was increased talk about the Islamic State possibly weaponizing plague for a biological attack, terrorist attacks are intended to have a psychological impact that outweighs the physical damage they cause. The Islamic State itself has a long history of conducting brutal actions to foster panic.
In 2006 and 2007, the Islamic State's predecessor, al Qaeda in Iraq, included large quantities of chlorine in vehicle bombs deployed against U.S. and Iraqi troops in an attempt to produce mass casualties. The explosives in the vehicle bombs killed more people than the chlorine did, and after several unsuccessful attempts, al Qaeda in Iraq gave up on its chlorine bombings because the results were not worth the effort. Al Qaeda in Iraq also included chemical artillery rounds in improvised explosive devices used in attacks against American troops in Iraq on several occasions. Again, these attacks failed to produce mass casualties. Finally, according to human rights organizations, the Islamic State appears to have recently used some artillery rounds containing mustard gas against its enemies in Syria; the group presumably recovered the rounds from a former Saddam-era chemical weapons facility in Iraq or from Syrian stockpiles.
The problem, then, lies not with the Islamic State's intent but instead with its capability to obtain and weaponize the Ebola virus. Creating a biological weapon is far more difficult than using a chemical such as chlorine or manufactured chemical munitions. Contrary to how the media frequently portrays them, biological weapons are not easy to obtain, they are not easy to deploy effectively and they do not always cause mass casualties.
The Difficulty of Weaponization
Ebola and terrorism are not new. Nor is the possibility of terrorist groups using the Ebola virus in an attack. As we have previously noted, the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo attempted to obtain the Ebola virus as part of its biological warfare program. The group sent a medical team to Africa under the pretext of being aid workers with the intent of obtaining samples of the virus. It failed in that mission, but even if it had succeeded, the group would have faced the challenge of getting the sample back to its biological warfare laboratory in Japan. The Ebola virus is relatively fragile. Its lifetime on dry surfaces outside of a host is only a couple of hours, and while some studies have shown that the virus can survive on surfaces for days when still in bodily fluids, this requires ideal conditions that would be difficult to replicate during transport.
If the group had been able to get the virus back to its laboratory, it would have then faced the challenge of reproducing the Ebola virus with enough volume to be used in a large-scale biological warfare attack, similar to its failed attacks on Tokyo and other Japanese cities in which the group sprayed thousands of gallons of botulinum toxin and Anthrax spores. Reproducing the Ebola virus would present additional challenges because it is an extremely dangerous virus to work with. It has infected researchers, even when they were working in laboratories with advanced biosafety measures in place. Although Aum Shinrikyo had a large staff of trained scientists and a state-of-the-art biological weapons laboratory, it was still unable to effectively weaponize the virus.
The challenges Aum Shinrikyo's biological weapons program faced would be multiplied for the Islamic State. Aum Shinrikyo operatives were given a great deal of operational freedom until their plans were discovered after the 1995 sarin attacks on the Tokyo subway. (The group's previous biological weapons attacks were so unsuccessful that nobody knew they had been carried out until after its members were arrested and its chemical and biological weapons factories were raided.) Unlike the Japanese cult, the Islamic State's every move is under heavy scrutiny by most of the world's intelligence and security agencies. This means jihadist operatives would have far more difficulty assembling the personnel and equipment needed to construct a biological weapons laboratory. Since randomly encountering an infected Ebola patient would be unreliable, the group would have to travel to a country impacted by the outbreak. This would be a difficult task for the group to complete without drawing attention to itself. Furthermore, once group members reached the infected countries, they would have to enter quarantined areas of medical facilities, retrieve the samples and then escape the country unnoticed, since they could not count on randomly encountering an infected Ebola patient.
Even if Islamic State operatives were somehow able to accomplish all of this -- without killing themselves in the process -- Ebola is not an ideal biological warfare vector. The virus is hard to pass from person to person. In fact, on average, its basic reproductive rate (the average amount of people that are infected by an Ebola patient) is only between one and two people. There are far more infectious diseases such as measles, which has a basic reproductive rate of 12-18, or smallpox, which has a basic reproductive rate of five to seven. Even HIV, which is only passed via sexual contact or intravenous blood transmission, has a basic reproductive rate of two to five.
Ebola's Weakness as a Weapon
The Ebola disease is also somewhat slow to take effect, and infected individuals do not become symptomatic and contagious for an average of 8-10 days. The disease's full incubation period can last anywhere from two to 21 days. As a comparison, influenza, which can be transmitted as quickly as three days after being contracted, can be spread before symptoms begin showing. This means that an Ebola attack would take longer to spread and would be easier to contain because infected people would be easier to identify.
Besides the fact that Ebola can only be passed through the bodily fluids of a person showing symptoms at the time, the virus in those bodily fluids must also somehow bypass the protection of a person's skin. The infectious fluid must enter the body through a cut or abrasion, or come into contact with the mucus membranes in the eyes, nose or mouth. This is different from more contagious viruses like measles and smallpox, which are airborne viruses and do not require any direct contact or transfer of bodily fluids. Additionally, the Ebola virus is quite fragile and sensitive to light, heat and low-humidity environments, and bleach and other common disinfectants can kill it. This means it is difficult to spread the virus by contaminating surfaces with it. The only way to infect a large amount of people with Ebola would be to spray them with a fluid containing the virus, something that would be difficult to do and easily detectable.
Thiessen's piece suggested that the Islamic State might implement an attack strategy of infecting suicide operatives with Ebola and then having them blow themselves up in a crowded place, spraying people with infected bodily fluids. One problem with this scenario is that it would be extremely difficult to get an infected operative from the group's laboratory to the United States without being detected. As we have discussed elsewhere, jihadist groups have struggled to get operatives to the West to conduct conventional terrorist attacks using guns and bombs, a constraint that would also affect their ability to deploy a biological weapon.
Even if a hostile group did mange to get an operative in place, it would still face several important obstacles. By the time Ebola patients are highly contagious, they are normally very ill and bedridden with high fever, fatigue, vomiting and diarrhea, meaning they are not strong enough to walk into a crowded area. The heat and shock of the suicide device's explosion would likely kill most of the virus. Anyone close enough to be exposed to the virus would also likely be injured by the blast and taken to a hospital, where they would then be quarantined and treated for the virus.
Biological weapons look great in the movies, but they are difficult and expensive to develop in real life. That is why we have rarely seen them used in terrorist attacks. As we have noted for a decade now, jihadists can kill far more people with far less expense and effort by utilizing traditional terrorist tactics, which makes the threat of a successful attack using the Ebola virus extremely unlikely.
Read more: Evaluating Ebola as a Biological Weapon | Stratfor
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Water Market would fight Drought
on: October 23, 2014, 07:10:02 PM
The West Needs a Water Market to Fight Drought
Outdated laws are wasting the region’s scarcest resource. Water should be tradable so it finds its most urgent uses.
By Robert Glennon and Gary Libecap
Oct. 23, 2014 7:23 p.m. ET
The drought in the Western U.S. from California to Texas has generated gloomy editorials and op-eds predicting dire consequences and even water wars. But the West is not running out of water, nor are prolonged fights over water inevitable. Modest changes in water use could have big results: A reduction of just 4% in agricultural consumption would increase the water available for residential, commercial and industrial uses by roughly 50%, according to our analysis of U.S. Geological Survey data.
Yet even after the current drought ends, the West will continue to suffer water shortages thanks to population growth, economic development and the effects of climate change. When engineers designed the water infrastructure in arid states in the West, they assumed that future droughts and floods would follow historical patterns. But precipitation patterns have changed.
Traditional solutions—diverting more water from rivers, building new reservoirs or drilling additional groundwater wells—are no longer ways to substantially increase the water supply. In a new report for The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution, we, along with co-author Peter W. Culp, propose that states use market tools to promote water trading. That is, farmers or other users who reduce their consumption should be allowed to lease or sell the conserved water.
A major overhaul of Western water law is overdue, but implementing such reform would take years. In the near term, states should authorize short-term leases of water, build basic market institutions, deploy risk-mitigation tools such as dry-year options, and implement basic controls such as regulating how much water can be pumped. The current absence of viable market opportunities and incentives is producing perverse results.
In 2014 the worst drought in memory caused California farmers to fallow almost 500,000 acres of land, including some that produced high-value fruit and nut trees. Meanwhile, Western growers of alfalfa—a low-value and high-water-use crop—are on pace this year to export two million tons of alfalfa to China, South Korea and Japan—produced with enough water to supply several million U.S. families for a year or to irrigate hundreds of thousands of acres of high-value almond trees. If there were ways to trade water, some farmers could cut back on the production of more water-intensive, lower-value crops and lease or sell the conserved water to desperate fruit and nut growers or thirsty cities.
Most farmers don’t have that option. Even though federal and state policy fosters the export of agricultural commodities, Western water law generally inhibits trade in the water used to grow the commodities. States should open up the market by eliminating or streamlining legal barriers that effectively block transfers of water.
A market in water would encourage efficiency by stimulating innovation, promoting specialization and allowing water to move from lower-value to higher-value uses. Farmers who have an opportunity to trade a portion of their water have an incentive to take measures, such as installing more efficient irrigation systems, to free up water for trade. It would also create opportunities to deploy market-based tools, such as dry-year options, to help mitigate water risks to farms and cities.
For example, under a dry-year option, a water user with a low tolerance for water shortages—such as an almond farmer whose trees would quickly die without water—can contract with a seasonal agricultural user, such as a broccoli grower. In dry years, the almond producer would have the right to use the broccoli grower’s water. The almond producer pays a yearly premium to guard against times when water shortages would result in the loss of his orchard. The proceeds from the option give the broccoli grower a guaranteed revenue stream and thereby provide a hedge against a drought that might destroy his annual crop—mitigating risk for both parties.
The U.S. has a national interest in encouraging more efficient use of water everywhere. While Americans used to fret about running out of oil, water also fuels the American economy. A 2013 survey of the world’s largest companies by Deloitte Consulting found that 70% of respondents identified water as a substantial business risk, either in direct operations or supply chains. Companies with water challenges include obvious ones, such as Coca-Cola , and surprising ones, such as Intel , which needs large quantities of water to produce its processors.
The Western water crisis is basically an imbalance between supply and demand. Opening water resources to trade has the potential to reduce the imbalance by rewarding water conservation, ensuring that water goes toward the highest-value and most-efficient uses, and providing the financial tools to mitigate fluctuations in water availability.
Mr. Glennon, a law professor at the University of Arizona, is the author, most recently, of “Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What to Do about It” (Island Press, 2009). Mr. Libecap, a professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, is co-author of “Environmental Markets: A Property Rights Approach” (Cambridge University Press, 2014).
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: An Affair to Remember
on: October 23, 2014, 07:02:45 PM
An Affair to Remember
As Hillary gears up to run, look for attempts to rewrite 1990s history.
Hillary and Bill Clinton in New York in 1998 ENLARGE
Hillary and Bill Clinton in New York in 1998 Getty Images
Oct. 22, 2014 7:00 p.m. ET
As Hillary and Bill Clinton prepare for another White House ramble, the country is fated to endure more than a few 1990s flashbacks, often including attempts to whitewash the real history. The latest character to re-emerge is Monica Lewinsky, the former intern who is doffing her beret to reinvent herself as an anti-cyberbullying activist.
In a speech this week at a Forbes magazine conference that went viral on the Web, Ms. Lewinsky describes herself as a “survivor” of online abuse—she became “the creature from the media lagoon.” As the worst abusers, she cited Matt Drudge and the New York Post, which gave Ms. Lewinsky a term of tabloid endearment as “the portly pepperpot.” Another culprit was “a politically motivated independent prosecutor,” or Ken Starr.
The problem is that Ms. Lewinsky was actually the victim of the Clinton lagoon, as White House operatives tried to destroy her reputation when the scandal broke. The real bullies weren’t online but in the West Wing.
On Jan. 21, 1998, Mr. Clinton told his aide Sidney Blumenthal that Ms. Lewinsky “came on to me and made a sexual demand on me,” according to Mr. Blumenthal’s deposition to Mr. Starr. Mr. Clinton added that he “rebuffed her” and then she “threatened him. She said that she would tell people they’d had an affair, that she was known as the stalker among her peers, and that she hated it and if she had an affair or said she had an affair then she wouldn’t be the stalker any more.”
Mr. Blumenthal then repeated this tale to anyone in the press corps who would listen, and the “stalker” smear soon made it into multiple media reports under the authority of “a White House source.” Mrs. Clinton for her part described Ms. Lewinsky as “a narcissistic loony toon,” as the first lady’s friend Diane Blair recounted in the personal papers archive opened in 2010 by the University of Arkansas library.
Meanwhile, Mr. Clinton fanned out across the talk shows to deny that he had any romantic or otherwise improper relationship, which he continued to insist until he was forced to admit his lies by the blue DNA dress. Then the Clintons flipped to attacking the respected jurist Mr. Starr as a rabid partisan. Mr. Clinton was impeached for obstruction of justice and lying under oath, and he later was stripped of his law license.
We correct the record not least to point out that the Clintons weren’t above falsely smearing a young woman not much older than their daughter as an oversexed psycho blackmailer. Since Ms. Lewinsky brought it up, we also wonder what the modern feminists applauding her address think about men in positions of power publicly shaming a female subordinate without her consent.
But the story is especially instructive for what it reveals about the Clinton family mores of saying or doing whatever it takes to win. Mr. Blumenthal and the rest of the Clinton menagerie are rested and ready for another run at political power. As the 2016 election nears, Americans should be prepared for more attempts to rewrite 1990s history.
Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Tax Policy
on: October 23, 2014, 06:52:03 PM
1) There is the matter at what level the various rates kick in-- adjusted for inflation. My understanding is that the 90% rate of the Eisenhower years kicked in at a much higher level than today when adjusted for inflation;
2) The Kennedy supply side tax rate cuts increased revenues. Is the argument then that we should have higher rates and lower revenues?!?
3) Higher rates enable tax shelter games-- thus increasing both the unaccountable power of the Congress and its corruption by special interests;
4) the attendant misallocation of capital hits the entire economy to the detriment of all.