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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: US changing secret phone tracking standards on: Today at 10:36:03 AM


Federal law-enforcement and phone-company officials also have expressed concerns that some local police authorities were abusing a legal shortcut by submitting an inordinate number of requests for cellphone information, according to people familiar with the matter. A Baltimore police official, for example, told a local judge overseeing a murder case last month the department had used the devices at least 4,300 times dating to 2007. The judge ruled the use of the device in that case was permissible.

One of the most effective ways to find a suspect using the technology is to get the last known location of the suspect’s phone—which can be provided by a phone company. Some companies can “ping” a phone in real time to determine its general whereabouts while others can tell investigators where it made its last call or text.

The Journal last year detailed how the U.S. Marshals Service flies planes equipped with the devices from airports around five major U.S. cities, scanning tens of thousands of phones at a time in densely populated areas as it hunts for fugitives. The Justice Department also uses them outside U.S. soil, and a Marshals employee was shot last July in a secret operation with such a device in Mexico, leading some law-enforcement officials to question how Justice Department managers decide to deploy them.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has demanded more details from the Justice Department about their use in response to the articles.

“We know it’s got to come out,” one law-enforcement official said. “At some point, it becomes more harmful to try to keep it secret than to acknowledge it. We just want to acknowledge it carefully and slowly, so we don’t lose what is a very effective tool.”

Officials said they don’t want to reveal so much that it gives criminals clues about how to defeat the devices. Law-enforcement officials also don’t want to reveal information that would give new ammunition to defense lawyers in prosecutions where warrants weren’t used, according to officials involved in the discussions.

And one federal agency, the U.S. Marshals, are fugitive-hunters who rarely testify in court, so they are likely to reveal much less about how they use the technology than their counterparts at the FBI and DEA, these people said.

Law-enforcement officials say they aren’t interested in gathering large amounts of information with the devices and say their purpose is typically finding a single suspect in a sea of floating digital data. Privacy advocates say the methods amount to a digital dragnet—a silent ID check of untold numbers of innocent people who aren’t suspected of anything, or even aware their phones are being checked. The machines can also interrupt service on cellphones being scanned.

The effectiveness of the technology in finding suspects is prompting some local law enforcement to use it frequently.
ENLARGE

About a year ago, Baltimore police officials began deluging some phone companies with requests for customer cellphone information, claiming it couldn’t wait for a judge’s order, according to people familiar with the matter. Normally, police need a court order to get that kind of information about a phone customer. But there is an exception for emergency requests. Phone companies’ rules vary, but they generally allow emergency requests to be fulfilled in missing-persons cases or when there is a risk of death or serious injury. Typically, the phone company employee doesn’t ask questions to verify the nature of the emergency.

Local police departments must sign a nondisclosure agreement with the FBI before getting access to the technology—agreeing not to reveal details of how the technology works and to seek guidance from the FBI if questioned in court or elsewhere. As part of that agreement, police agencies acknowledge they may have to drop charges against suspects if prosecuting a suspect risks revealing information about the machines.

In contrast, the FBI doesn’t require or provide legal standards to police on best practices for how to use the devices, according to people familiar with the issue. Officials say that if a police department asks for advice on how they use the devices, the FBI will provide it.

People familiar with the Baltimore matter said police there have scaled back their emergency requests.

But some phone company officials remain concerned the emergency request function is prone to abuse, according to people familiar with the issue. A spokesman for the police department didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Verizon Wireless, the nation’s largest cellphone provider, saw an 8% increase in emergency requests by law enforcement nationwide from the first half to the second half of 2014, according to company data.

The overall number of law-enforcement requests fell by 7% from the first half, according to Verizon. AT&T Inc. data showed a 4% increase in emergency law-enforcement requests along with an increase in nonemergency requests. Emergency requests encompass a range of issues, including trying to track information from dropped 911 calls.

In a federal court filing last year in Atlanta, AT&T broadly discussed the increasing demands that law enforcement is putting on phone companies.

“AT&T receives and responds to an enormous volume of official demands to provide information to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies in the United States,” lawyers for the company wrote in the filing.

The company has more than 100 full-time employees staffed to meet the volume of requests from law enforcement and civil lawsuits.

Write to Devlin Barrett at devlin.barrett@wsj.com
Popular on WSJ
2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / A nuclearized Middle East, armed to the teeth n the throes of a religious frenzy on: Today at 10:30:57 AM
WSJ

http://www.wsj.com/articles/gulf-states-want-u-s-assurances-and-weapons-in-exchange-for-supporting-iran-pact-1430585002

Gulf States Want U.S. Assurances and Weapons in Exchange for Supporting Iran Nuclear Deal
Regional leaders seek quid pro quo of fighters, missile batteries, surveillance equipment
Gulf Arab nations are seeking advanced U.S. military hardware, such as the F-35 fighter pictured, in exchange for their support of a nuclear deal between Iran and the six world powers with which it is negotiating.
By Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee
May 2, 2015 12:43 p.m. ET


WASHINGTON—Leading Persian Gulf states want major new weapons systems and security guarantees from the White House in exchange for backing a nuclear agreement with Iran, according to U.S. and Arab officials.

The leaders of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, plan to use a high-stakes meeting with President Barack Obama next week to request additional fighter jets, missile batteries and surveillance equipment.

They also intend to pressure Mr. Obama for new defense agreements between the U.S. and the Gulf nations that would outline terms and scenarios under which Washington would intervene if they are threatened by Iran, according to these officials.

The demands underscore the complicated diplomatic terrain Mr. Obama is navigating as he drives toward a nuclear deal with Iran, one of his top foreign-policy goals. They also demonstrate how a pact aimed at stabilizing the Middle East risks further militarizing an already volatile region.

Gulf leaders have long sought to bolster their military arsenals, but the requests pose problems for U.S. officials who want to demonstrate support for Arab allies, many of whom host American military bases, while also ensuring that Israel maintains a military advantage in the region.


Any moves by Mr. Obama to meet Arab leaders’ requests could face headwinds in Congress and new friction with Israel, given the continuing negotiations on an Iran nuclear deal. “I’m very worried that President Obama will promise every military toy they’ve always wanted and a security agreement short of a treaty, with the understanding they have to be sympathetic to this deal,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.). “If I get a hint of that, a whiff of that, then I would do everything I could to block every bullet and every plane.”

Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said White House officials have indicated that Mr. Obama was seriously considering Arab leaders’ requests. He said he would be shocked if some of them weren’t granted.

“These countries are in the most vulnerable geographical areas, and I think they have a legitimate concern about Iran,” said Mr. Engel, who has discussed the requests with Arab officials in recent weeks. But, he said, “We have to make sure that Israel’s qualitative military edge is kept.”

Mr. Obama is scheduled to host the leaders of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. at the White House on May 13 and the following day at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland.

The Persian Gulf countries say they need more drones, surveillance equipment and missile-defense systems to combat an Iranian regime they see as committed to becoming the region’s dominant power. The Gulf states also want upgraded fighter jets to contain the Iranian challenge, particularly the advanced F-35, known as the Joint Strike Fighter.

A senior U.S. official played down chances that the administration would agree to sell advanced systems such as the F-35 fighter to those nations—though the planes will be sold to Israel and Turkey—because of concerns within the administration about altering the military balance in the Middle East.

Sales of such advanced equipment would also likely run into opposition from pro-Israel lawmakers who have the power to block transfers, the official said.

The challenge Mr. Obama faces at Camp David is to assuage growing fears among those Sunni countries that want military superiority over Shiite-dominated Iran, while not undermining longtime U.S. security guarantees to Israel. Current law mandates that the U.S. uphold Israel’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors.

Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E. and Qatar share Israel’s concern about a nuclear deal with Iran but don’t have diplomatic ties with the Israeli government. A top concern among the Gulf nations and Israel is the expected unshackling of Tehran’s finances under the nuclear agreement that the U.S. and five other world powers are seeking with Iran by a June 30 deadline.

Iran’s neighbors fear such an influx of cash could allow the country to pour even more arms and funds into its military allies and proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen.

    ‘I’m very worried that President Obama will promise every military toy they’ve always wanted and a security agreement short of a treaty, with the understanding they have to be sympathetic to this deal.’
    —Sen. Lindsey Graham, on the Iran nuclear accord and the coming meeting between Mr. Obama and the Arab leaders.

The outlines of the nuclear agreement, announced last month in Switzerland, call for lifting international sanctions on Iran in exchange for curbs on its atomic work for at least a decade. Under terms being discussed, the U.S. and its allies would also be required eventually to release more than $100 billion of Iran’s oil revenues now frozen in overseas bank accounts.

In anticipation of such a change, the Gulf states have stepped up consultations with the White House on creating new security arrangements, according to U.S. and Arab officials. “We have to be very clear about what the future looks like,” said a senior Arab official involved in discussions with the White House.

Mr. Obama had lunch at the White House last month with U.A.E. Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, at which they had an extensive discussion about security issues, according to the White House.

Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to meet with the Gulf states’ foreign ministers on May 8 in Paris.

Some Arab officials, in recent meetings with Obama administration officials, have raised the possibility of the Gulf Cooperation Council forging a mutual defense treaty with the U.S., similar to Japan’s or South Korea’s, according to people briefed on the talks. This would require Washington to intervene militarily if any member of the group came under attack by Iran or another enemy.

    ‘These countries are in the most-vulnerable geographical areas, and I think they have a legitimate concern about Iran…[But] we have to make sure that Israel’s qualitative military edge is kept.’
    —Rep. Eliot Engel of New York, top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee

The Gulf states tempered this ambition, however, after conceding the Obama administration would face major obstacles in convincing Congress to approve such a treaty, in part because of U.S. lawmakers’ steadfast support for Israel. Instead, the GCC is seeking to establish clear guidelines for when the U.S. would act to check Iranian aggression.

Reaching a common position between the Gulf states and the Obama administration is a difficult task, U.S. and Arab officials say. The Obama administration has at times differed from Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. in gauging the level of Iranian support for political rebellions in countries like Yemen and Bahrain.

More recently, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies launched airstrikes on insurgents in Yemen, who they argue are receiving arms and funds from Iran—something Tehran denies.

On Tuesday, tensions flared when Iranian warships confronted a Marshall Islands-flagged cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, prompting the deployment of a U.S. Navy destroyer to the area and stepped-up U.S. measures to protect American commercial vessels.

A White House statement in advance of Mr. Obama’s GCC meeting said the session is designed for the leaders to “discuss ways to enhance their partnership and deepen security cooperation.”


Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the U.A.E. are already some of the largest arms buyers in the world. Last year, Riyadh purchased $80 billion worth of weapons, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks the global arms business. The U.A.E. bought $23 billion.

“The Gulf monarchies need a military edge over Iran,” said an American official engaged in the deliberations between the GCC and U.S.

Some of the Gulf states, in particular Saudi Arabia, have argued they should be allowed to obtain the same nuclear technologies Iran maintains as part of any diplomatic agreement with Washington. “We think there should be nuclear parity between us and Iran,” said an Arab official involved in the discussions.

But the Obama administration is expected to push back against any initiatives that risk further spreading sensitive nuclear technologies across the Mideast.

The U.S. commitment to Israel’s military superiority could undercut hopes for substantive agreements being reached at Camp David.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shares the Arab governments’ belief that Iran poses the greatest security challenge to their region. But there remains fear in Israel that over the long term any sophisticated systems sold to the GCC countries could eventually be turned on Israel, according to Israeli officials.

Congress, as a result, may seek to block some of the arms deals being discussed. “We want to make sure that the one and only democracy in the region is never outgunned,” Mr. Graham said.

Write to Jay Solomon at jay.solomon@wsj.com and Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Knife attack solved by firepower on: Today at 10:27:19 AM
http://www.israelvideonetwork.com/stabbing-attack-thwarted-in-jerusalem/?omhide=true&utm_source=MadMimi&utm_medium=email&utm_content=Stabbing+Attack+Thwarted+in+Jerusalem%2C+Terrorist+Shot&utm_campaign=20150504_m125623790_5%2F4+Breaking+Israel+Video%3A+Stabbing+Attack+Thwarted+in+Jerusalem%2C+Terrorist+Shot&utm_term=Stabbing+Attack+Thwarted+in+Jerusalem
4  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Whoops! The President forgot to mention this , , , on: Today at 10:22:22 AM
http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2015/05/04/as-obama-seeks-urban-investments-baltimore-got-18b-from-stimulus/

The city of Baltimore received over $1.8 billion from President Obama's stimulus law, including $467.1 million to invest in education and $26.5 million for crime prevention.

Obama claimed last Tuesday that if the Republican-controlled Congress would implement his policies to make "massive investments in urban communities," they could "make a difference right now" in the city, currently in upheaval following the death of Freddie Gray.

However, a Washington Free Beacon analysis found that the Obama administration and Democratically-controlled Congress did make a "massive" investment into Baltimore, appropriating $1,831,768,487 though the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), commonly known as the stimulus.

According to Recovery.gov, one of Baltimore's central ZIP codes, 21201, received the most stimulus funding in the city, a total of $837,955,866. The amount included funding for 276 awards, and the website reports that the spending had created 290 jobs in the fourth quarter in 2013.

Of this amount, $467.1 million went to education; $206.1 million to the environment; $24 million to "family"; $16.1 million to infrastructure; $15.2 million to transportation; $11.9 million to housing; and $3.1 million to job training.
=========================
IF my math is correct those 290 jobs created cost over $6,310,000 each  cry cry  angry
5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH Mohammed drawing wannabe killer ID'd. on: Today at 10:18:30 AM
Official Identifies One Suspect in Attack at Texas Anti-Islam Event

A law enforcement official Monday identified one of two gunmen who opened fire at an anti-Islam event in Garland, Tex., as Elton Simpson of Phoenix, and the police and F.B.I. agents in that city searched an apartment believed to be connected to him, with much of the Autumn Ridge apartment complex cordoned off through the night. At the same time, the F.B.I. office in Dallas confirmed that it was providing investigators and a bomb technician to aid the police in Garland, a city just outside Dallas.

Officials did not give a motive for the attack Sunday evening, in which a security guard was wounded before the two attackers were shot and killed by police officers. But at the Texas event, people were invited to present cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, which are considered offensive by many Muslims and have drawn violent responses in the past. Shortly before the shooting, messages were posted on Twitter with the hashtag #texasattack, including one saying, “May Allah accept us as mujahideen.”

In 2010, federal prosecutors in Arizona charged an Elton Simpson with plotting to travel to Somalia “for the purpose of engaging in violent jihad,” and then lying to a federal agent. A judge found him guilty of lying to the agent, but said the government had not proved that his plan involved terrorism, and sentenced him to three years’ probation.

The shooting began shortly before 7 p.m. outside the Curtis Culwell Center at an event organized by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which also uses the name Stop Islamization of America and is based in New York.

READ MORE »
http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/us/garland-texas-shooting-muhammad-cartoons.html?emc=edit_na_20150504

6  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / POTH: China busting a move in Antarctica on: Today at 09:15:32 AM
HOBART, Tasmania — Few places seem out of reach for China’s leader, Xi Jinping, who has traveled from European capitals to obscure Pacific and Caribbean islands in pursuit of his nation’s strategic interests.

So perhaps it was not surprising when he turned up last fall in this city on the edge of the Southern Ocean to put down a long-distance marker in another faraway region, Antarctica, 2,000 miles south of this Australian port.

Standing on the deck of an icebreaker that ferries Chinese scientists from this last stop before the frozen continent, Mr. Xi pledged that China would continue to expand in one of the few places on earth that remain unexploited by humans.
Continue reading the main story
Related Coverage

    China and Russia Said to Block Creation of Antarctic Marine ReservesOCT. 31, 2014

He signed a five-year accord with the Australian government that allows Chinese vessels and, in the future, aircraft to resupply for fuel and food before heading south. That will help secure easier access to a region that is believed to have vast oil and mineral resources; huge quantities of high-protein sea life; and for times of possible future dire need, fresh water contained in icebergs.

It was not until 1985, about seven decades after Robert Scott and Roald Amundsen raced to the South Pole, that a team representing Beijing hoisted the Chinese flag over the nation’s first Antarctic research base, the Great Wall Station on King George Island.

But now China seems determined to catch up. As it has bolstered spending on Antarctic research, and as the early explorers, especially the United States and Australia, confront stagnant budgets, there is growing concern about its intentions.

China’s operations on the continent — it opened its fourth research station last year, chose a site for a fifth, and is investing in a second icebreaker and new ice-capable planes and helicopters — are already the fastest growing of the 52 signatories to the Antarctic Treaty. That gentlemen’s agreement reached in 1959 bans military activity on the continent and aims to preserve it as one of the world’s last wildernesses; a related pact prohibits mining.

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But Mr. Xi’s visit was another sign that China is positioning itself to take advantage of the continent’s resource potential when the treaty expires in 2048 — or in the event that it is ripped up before, Chinese and Australian experts say.

“So far, our research is natural-science based, but we know there is more and more concern about resource security,” said Yang Huigen, director general of the Polar Research Institute of China, who accompanied Mr. Xi last November on his visit to Hobart and stood with him on the icebreaker, Xue Long, or Snow Dragon.

With that in mind, the polar institute recently opened a new division devoted to the study of resources, law, geopolitics and governance in Antarctica and the Arctic, Mr. Yang said.

Australia, a strategic ally of the United States that has strong economic relations with China, is watching China’s buildup in the Antarctic with a mix of gratitude — China’s presence offers support for Australia’s Antarctic science program, which is short of cash — and wariness.
Continue reading the main story

“We should have no illusions about the deeper agenda — one that has not even been agreed to by Chinese scientists but is driven by Xi, and most likely his successors,” said Peter Jennings, executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute and a former senior official in the Australian Department of Defense.

“This is part of a broader pattern of a mercantilist approach all around the world,” Mr. Jennings added. “A big driver of Chinese policy is to secure long-term energy supply and food supply.”

That approach was evident last month when a large Chinese agriculture enterprise announced an expansion of its fishing operations around Antarctica to catch more krill — small, protein-rich crustaceans that are abundant in Antarctic waters.

“The Antarctic is a treasure house for all human beings, and China should go there and share,” Liu Shenli, the chairman of the China National Agricultural Development Group, told China Daily, a state-owned newspaper. China would aim to fish up to two million tons of krill a year, he said, a substantial increase from what it currently harvests.

Because sovereignty over Antarctica is unclear, nations have sought to strengthen their claims over the ice-covered land by building research bases and naming geographic features. China’s fifth station will put it within reach of the six American facilities, and ahead of Australia’s three.

Chinese mappers have also given Chinese names to more than 300 sites, compared with the thousands of locations on the continent with English names.

In the unspoken competition for Antarctica’s future, scientific achievement can also translate into influence. Chinese scientists are driving to be the first to drill and recover an ice core containing tiny air bubbles that provide a record of climate change stretching as far back as 1.5 million years. It is an expensive and delicate effort at which others, including the European Union and Australia, have failed.

In a breakthrough a decade ago, European scientists extracted an ice core nearly two miles long that revealed 800,000 years of climate history. But finding an ice core going back further would allow scientists to examine a change in the earth’s climate cycles believed to have occurred 900,000 to 1.2 million years ago.

China is betting it has found the best location to drill, at an area called Dome A, or Dome Argus, the highest point on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. Though it is considered one of the coldest places on the planet, with temperatures of 130 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, a Chinese expedition explored the area in 2005 and established a research station in 2009.
Continue reading the main story
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me
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China's "interests" seem to be trade and exchange with many nations as they become stronger in contrast to the US Neoliberal Empire which...
Unferth
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Penguin one to penguin two: "Well, there goes the neighborhood."
Dennis
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To answer the question about Chinas' interest in Antarctica just imagine the resources that will become available when the ice melts.There...

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“The international community has drilled in lots of places, but no luck so far,” said Xiao Cunde, a member of the first party to reach the site and the deputy director of the Institute for Climate Change at the Chinese Academy of Meteorological Sciences. “We think at Dome A we will have a straight shot at the one-million-year ice core.”
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story
Continue reading the main story

Mr. Xiao said China had already begun drilling and hoped to find what scientists are looking for in four to five years.

To support its Antarctic aspirations, China is building a sophisticated $300 million icebreaker that is expected to be ready in a few years, said Xia Limin, deputy director of the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration in Beijing. It has also bought a high-tech fixed-wing aircraft, outfitted in the United States, for taking sensitive scientific soundings from the ice.

China has chosen the site for its fifth research station at Inexpressible Island, named by a group of British explorers who were stranded at the desolate site in 1912 and survived the winter by excavating a small ice cave.

Mr. Xia said the inhospitable spot was ideal because China did not have a presence in that part of Antarctica, and because the rocky site did not have much snow, making it relatively cheap to build there.

Anne-Marie Brady, a professor of political science at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and the author of a soon-to-be-released book, “China as a Polar Great Power,” said Chinese scientists also believed they had a good chance of finding mineral and energy resources near the site.

“China is playing a long game in Antarctica and keeping other states guessing about its true intentions and interests are part of its poker hand,” she said. But she noted that China’s interest in finding minerals was presented “loud and clear to domestic audiences” as the main reason it was investing in Antarctica.

Because commercial drilling is banned, estimates of energy and mineral resources in Antarctica rely on remote sensing data and comparisons with similar geological environments elsewhere, said Millard F. Coffin, executive director of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Hobart.

But the difficulty of extraction in such severe conditions and uncertainty about future commodity prices make it unlikely that China or any country would defy the ban on mining anytime soon.

Tourism, however, is already booming. Travelers from China are still a relatively small contingent in the Antarctic compared with the more than 13,000 Americans who visited in 2013, and as yet there are no licensed Chinese tour operators.

But that is about to change, said Anthony Bergin, deputy director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. “I understand very soon there will be Chinese tourists on Chinese vessels with all-Chinese crew in the Antarctic,” he said.
7  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Free Speech vs. Islamic Fascism (formerly Buy DANISH!!!) on: Today at 08:34:25 AM
The cowardice begins.  This morning Donald Trump was on FOX criticizing Geller for looking to provoke a fight.
8  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: May 03, 2015, 10:35:20 PM
No argument there!
9  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Two killed while attacking Mohammed Cartoon contest on: May 03, 2015, 10:34:49 PM
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/3/shooting-reported-prophet-muhammad-cartoon-contest/

 By Victor Morton - The Washington Times - Updated: 11:28 p.m. on Sunday, May 3, 2015

Police in a Dallas suburb killed two men in a car during a gun battle as they attacked a Muhammad-cartoon drawing contest.  As the event at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland was ending, “two males drove up to the front of the building in a car.” according to a statement Sunday night by the city of Garland.

“Both males were armed and began shooting at a Garland ISD security officer. Garland Police engaged the gunmen who were both shot and killed,” the statement said.

One guard was wounded in the melee, which was held under tight security.  More than 40 extra officers assigned to the event at the expense of the New York-based American Freedom Defense Initiative, which was awarding $10,000 prize would be awarded for the best cartoon depicting Muhammad.  The city’s statement said the vehicle may have been intended for use as a car bomb.

“Police suspect the vehicle may have carried an incendiary device and the bomb squad is on the scene,” the city said.

The city did not explicitly say whether the contest, led by conservative anti-Shariah activist Pamela Gellar and with Dutch ally Geert Wilders also present, was the intended target. Both Ms. Gellar and Mr. Wilders have been the target of both death threats by Muslims and attacks by liberals as hatemongers.  Muhammad drawings have resulted in several fatal attacks by Muslims in Europe and the Middle East.

Robert Spencer, co-founder of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, blamed the attacks on the environment cultivated by all forms of Islam.

“The shooting outside our free speech event shows once again that moderate Muslims are unable or unwilling to rein in their violent brethren,” he wrote on Twitter on Sunday night.

An officer dressed in SWAT gear took the stage around 7 p.m. CDT near the end of the event and told attendees, including an Associated Press reporter, that a shooting had occurred and everyone had to be evacuated.  About 75 attendees were taken to another room. Later, a group of 48 people were escorted to a school bus. Authorities told attendees they would be taken to a nearby high school. A second group was set to be moved shortly after.

“Right when we were beginning to drive away, we heard gunshots,” attendee Cynthia Belisle told NBC News. “We thought they were fireworks, but they were not.”

Mr. Wilders tweeted from inside the event that the attack was ongoing and that he was leaving the building. He tweeted a photo of himself surrounded by camouflaged men that he said was taken just before the shooting began.

Story Continues →
Shooting reported at Prophet Muhammad cartoon contest near Dallas, Texas



Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/3/shooting-reported-prophet-muhammad-cartoon-contest/#ixzz3Z8YoTvuT
Follow us: @washtimes on Twitter



===========

“Thank God the heroes of SWAT-team prevented the worst,” he wrote.

Muhammad drawings are deemed insulting to many followers of Islam and have sparked violence around the world. According to mainstream Islamic tradition, any physical depiction of the man Islam reveres as God’s final prophet — even a respectful one — is considered blasphemous. In January, 12 people were killed by gunmen in an attack against the Paris office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, which had lampooned Islam and other religions and used depictions of Muhammad.

There was a quick claim of responsibility by a Muslim twitter account called “Shariah Is Light,” which uses as its avatar Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born imam who blessed the underwear bomber in Detroit and Fort Hood attacker Maj. Nidal Hasan.

“The bro with me and myself have given bay’ah to Amirul Mu’mineen. May Allah accept us as mujahideen. Make dua #texasattack,” the account wrote at 6:35 p.m. Sunday, apparently before the Texas attack.

The term “bay’ah” is the Muslim word for a solemn oath of allegiance, and “make dua” refers to an act of prayer and/or supplication before God.  The claim could not be independently verified, but the account had long been sharply critical of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and was not established Sunday for the purpose of trolling after the attacks became public knowledge.

Another Twitter account known for pro-Islamic State sympathies went into divine praise for the attack.

“Allahu Akbar!!!!! 2 of our brothers just opened fire at the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.) art exhibition in texas! #TexasAttack,” wrote AbuHussainAlBritani before the account was suspended.

• This article was based in part on wire-service reports.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/3/shooting-reported-prophet-muhammad-cartoon-contest/#ixzz3Z8YcL2vu
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10  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / Caucasus Sheep Dogs vs. Wolves on: May 03, 2015, 08:09:13 PM
https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A86.J3UrxUZVAwgAO3UnnIlQ;_ylu=X3oDMTB1c2w2a2xkBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2dxMQR2dGlkA1BSRENUTDFfMQ--?p=caucasian+shepherd+dog+vs+wolf&tnr=21&vid=6B4583A6C3A9ED6DA5F36B4583A6C3A9ED6DA5F3&l=337&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts1.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DWN.yH%252fLPQcrg1abW1y8WBC8pw%26pid%3D15.1&sigi=1216e9i3p&rurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DeatQSKaUIQQ&sigr=11b5674d6&tt=b&tit=Dog+defends+sheep+and+kill+2+wolves&sigt=113vskkmf&back=https%3A%2F%2Fsearch.yahoo.com%2Fyhs%2Fsearch%3Fp%3Dcaucasian%2Bshepherd%2Bdog%2Bvs%2Bwolf%26ei%3DUTF-8%26hsimp%3Dyhs-001%26hspart%3Dmozilla%26fr%3Dyhs-mozilla-001&sigb=13tkg0ph1&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-001 
11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Media Issues on: May 03, 2015, 07:49:55 PM
Nonetheless a shameful moment for that affiliate.
12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Orem Utah, CCW to the rescue! on: May 03, 2015, 05:57:52 AM
http://concealednation.org/2015/05/suspect-dead-after-armed-citizen-intervenes-in-carjacking/

OREM, UTAH — A suspect is dead after a concealed carry permit holder shot and killed him during a carjacking.

The incident happened a ways away from the beginning of the story when a group of people were seen fleeing in a vehicle from a reported fight. During their getaway, they hit a curb. The suspects got out of the vehicle and ran, and one of them decided to steal a pickup truck.

He then drove the truck to a grocery store named Maceys and left it there. He then went on to attempt to steal a car from a person in the parking lot. An alert –and armed– passerby noticed the confrontation and decided to get himself involved.

The armed citizen, identified as a 31-year-old man, told the suspect to get out of the vehicle. When the suspect got out, he immediately lunged at him. It is at this time that the armed citizen felt threatened and fired his handgun.

The suspect was hit with a single bullet and was transported to the hospital, where he later died of his injuries.

Police say the suspect had numerous felony warrants.

Based on the storyline above, do you feel that you would have involved yourself in a similar situation?
========================
From Mitch Vilos' FB Self Defense Law page:

MV:  "Thanks for the comments Jay and Laron. Of course, the biggest thumbs down factor we hear all the time, even with the police, is that the "victim" was unarmed. Yes, Jay, it is not justifiable to use deadly force to defend property. So as long as the woman in the car was safe, even though her car was being stolen, the safe option would have been to get a good ID and call in the car theft. This legally safe counsel is in line with our policy of keeping you as far from the "edge of the cliff" as possible in your use and threats of deadly force. That, however, does not mean the shooter here does not have several very good theories of defense of self and others. First, it's one thing to just steal a car - deadly force is not justified. However, when you steal a car by force or threat, it becomes a robbery which then justifies the use of deadly force under the Utah forcible felony clause. Furthermore, by going for the shooter's gun, the "victim" is still using force in the course of the robbery - i.e. the robby is still in progress, it hasn't terminated. There is a self-defense aspect to protecting your firearm. But never forget, that is what the defendant contended in Chapter Two of our book, that he thought the "victims" were rushing him to get his gun. He was convicted of first degree murder and attempted murder."


13  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Trans Pacific Partnership on: May 01, 2015, 05:23:41 PM

https://www.facebook.com/RBReich/videos/993775303968399/

Also, Dick Morris says that it will allow free movement of labor as in the EU.  I've not seen this stated elsewhere.
14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The $15 minimum wage hits San Francisco on: May 01, 2015, 05:18:58 PM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/417763/when-minimum-wage-hikes-hit-san-francisco-comic-book-store-ian-tuttle
15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: 2016 Presidential on: May 01, 2015, 12:22:53 PM
Second post

I saw Bret Baeir interview ex-Gov. Pataki of NY last night.   Who?  Exactly, but he is the Rep who beat Mario Cuomo and got re-elected.   I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of his answers and at his grounded, self-deprecating sense of self.   He's not likely to go far, but he may add to the quality of the conversation.
16  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: Obama and Dems say "Not yet!" on: May 01, 2015, 12:16:33 PM
http://www.dickmorris.com/obama-to-hillary-not-yet-dick-morris-tv-lunch-alert/?utm_source=dmreports&utm_medium=dmreports&utm_campaign=dmreports
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Programmed Savagery of ISIS on: May 01, 2015, 11:33:45 AM
http://www.mercatornet.com/articles/view/the-programmed-savagery-of-isis/16073

The programmed savagery of ISIS
The leaders of Islamic State have spent decades developing a theory of terror.
Richard Rousseau | May 1 2015
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What is Islamic State’s (IS) political program? What is its ideology? Who are its theoreticians? The answers to these questions can be found in its propaganda.

IS has transformed from an ultra-minority party into one of the major political actors in the Middle East within a few months. It is tempting to explain this rapid evolution by the existence of a combination of favourable circumstances. Chief among these is the prolonged weakness of the Syrian and Iraqi governments, an obvious enabling factor for IS.

However, another major cause is less well known but equally decisive: the internal development of the organisation, which has been able to learn from the past failures of other jihadist movements and refine and sharpen its strategy.

Learning from many years of jihadist setbacks

The jihadists of IS are no small players. They follow a battle plan developed over many years by seasoned and experienced theoreticians. The British-American journalist Peter Bergen, who met the most famous of these, the Syrian Abu Musab al-Suri, in the 1990s, was highly impressed by him.

“He was tough and very smart,” the reporter recalls in an article published in the French daily Le Monde in April 2013. Bergen saw in al-Suri a real intellectual, well versed in history, who was very serious about his objectives. He was even more impressed by him than by Osama bin Laden.

Abu Musab al-Suri knows what he is talking about when it comes to armed struggle. His experience dates back to the Muslim Brotherhood uprising in Hama, Syria, and its bloody suppression in February 1982 by the troops of Hafez al-Assad, the father of President Bashar al-Assad.

Musab al-Suri, who was among these rebels, has spent the ensuing years writing a series of articles on the uprising’s strategic aspects. These articles focus on the major errors committed by the insurgents. These include a list of 17 “bitter lessons” for future jihadists.

Al-Suri says that the Muslim Brotherhood’s main mistake was not to develop its strategy sufficiently before launching the uprising. A second mistake was to share too little information about its ideology and goals. A third mistake was to rely too heavily on outside support and not sufficiently develop its own resources.

Mistake number four was to place too heavy a reliance on mass recruitment instead of identifying and winning over elite fighters. Mistake number five was to have launched a war of attrition against the Syrian regime rather than a combination of terrorist acts and guerrilla warfare.



This online video featuring a doctor is part of Islamic State’s strategy of projecting the creation of a new order.

IS project has solid foundations

The lessons drawn by Musab al-Suri have provided the basis for creating a politico-military project as solid as it is comprehensive. Today, IS follows many of al-Suri’s advices. It has refrained from depending on foreign aid and has developed its own financial resources through kidnapping and the sale of crude oil.

Its doctrine and objectives are also clearly explained to its fighters. Its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, momentarily came out of hiding on July 4, 2014, to present his views at the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul. His propaganda agencies broadcast news flashes on the internet.

After publishing several issues of IS Report, a periodical of only a few pages, IS began issuing in July of last year the online magazine Dabiq. This is a substantially more ambitious publication named after a small town in northern Syria where, according to Muslim tradition, a major battle will take place before the end of time. The IS also uses social networks intensively.

IS propaganda stresses the “oppression” and “humiliation” of which Muslims are victim throughout the world, but particularly in Western countries. It promises a final and liberating revenge for these humiliations. The first issue of Dabiq declared:

The time has come for those generations that were drowning in oceans of disgrace, being nursed on the milk of humiliation and being ruled by the vilest of all people, after their long slumber in the darkness of neglect – the time has come for them to rise.

Soon, by Allah’s permission, a day will come when the Muslim will walk everywhere as a master, having honour, being revered, with his head raised high and his dignity preserved … Whoever was heedless must now be alert. Whoever was sleeping must now awaken. Whoever was shocked and amazed must comprehend. The Muslims today have a loud, thundering statement, and possess heavy boots.

The ongoing war in Syria and Iraq is especially meaningful, as it is described as a throwback to heroic periods in the history of Islam. The setbacks suffered by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi are deemed to remind Muslims of those of the Prophet Muhammad, who was forced to leave Mecca and then defeated at the Battle of Uhud. The violence perpetrated by the IS jihadists is considered legitimate and is supposed to correspond with that of Abu Bakr, the successor of the Prophet and the first Caliph.

In addition to the “bitter lessons” learnt during the uprising at Hama, the jihadist theoreticians have another major source of inspiration, according to Michael W.S. Ryan of the Middle East Institute in Washington and one of the best experts on jihadist movements. They are well read in the history of modern Far Eastern and Western insurgency strategists, from Mao Zedong, Che Guevara and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin to Vo Nguyen Giap, Emiliano Zapata and Ho Chi Minh. In his seminal work The Call to Global Islamic Resistance, Abu Musab al-Suri writes that he has carefully read American journalist Robert Taber’s book on Fidel Castro’s guerrilla warfare strategy during the Cuban Revolution.

Dabiq magazine reflects these influences. Its first issue outlines a strategy to seize power through three steps reminiscent of the methods used by Maoist China. This strategy is also echoed by another influential jihadist theoretician, Abu Bakr Naji, who has presented his views in his book The Management of Savagery.

He argues that “Allah’s fighters” must continually attack the vital economic sectors of some key political regimes to incite these to concentrate all their forces in these areas. It will be then possible for the fighters to increase their presence in the periphery of these countries, forcing the enemy to multiply law enforcement actions to regain control of the lost ground.

‘Savagery’ has a particular purpose

This is when the second stage should begin, that of “savagery”, in which the violence will reach such a level that people will turn away from the government and be ready to join any force capable of restoring peace. Large parts of Iraq and Syria are now enduring this second stage, according to these theoreticians.

The third and last stage is the restoration of law (Sharia) and order through the establishment of a caliphate. Afghanistan is supposedly an example of a place where this final stage had taken place, with the coming to power of the Taliban after a long and bloody reign of local warlords.

This strategy, which is not unique to jihadism, implies that an explosion of violence will happen during the second phase of the insurgency. Jihadist theoreticians do not consider this bloodshed an act of wanton cruelty but a necessary means to achieve victory. Abu Bakr Naji chillingly writes in The Management of Savagery that jihadist fighters should “drag the masses into the battle”, which means that they must:

“make [that] battle very violent, such that death is a heartbeat away, so that the two groups will realise that entering this battle will frequently lead to death. That will be a powerful motive for the individual to choose to fight in the ranks of the people of truth in order to die well, which is better than dying for falsehood and losing both this world and the next.”

Focus is now on rebuilding lost base as caliphate

Jihadist movements share many common ideas, such as the rejection of democracy, nationalism and Western culture, but they are at loggerheads on strategy. Abu Musab al-Suri had some harsh words to say about Osama bin Laden and his taste for high-profile attacks on government institutions, security forces and symbolic buildings. He severely criticised the September 11 attacks, which, he believes, incurred the wrath of the United States against the Taliban in Afghanistan. This consequently denied the “holy war” its most precious territory and wasted the time of the jihadist movement.

Fourteen years on, IS’s ambition is to rebuild this territory – though now in Syria and Iraq – in the shortest possible period by establishing a “caliphate”. This will become the central base for the spread of the international jihad.

In this perspective, the putative caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has recently changed the IS’s focus from “savagery” to the onset of a new order. One of his current priorities is to establish, in places where the military situation is sufficiently stabilised, a number of public services: law and order, of course, but also trade networks, food supplies, education and health care.

This was the background to his July 2014 speech, which he sought to spread far and wide:

Oh Muslims, hasten to your new state. We make a special call to the scholars and callers, especially the judges, as well as people with military, administrative and service expertise, and medical doctors and engineers of all different specialisations and fields.

The Islamic State knows what it wants, and it is striving to put the new “caliphate” on a permanent footing.

Richard Rousseau is Associate Professor of Political Science at American University of Ras Al Khaimah. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.
18  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FOX affiliate shames itself with false photo. on: May 01, 2015, 10:37:20 AM
http://reverbpress.com/news/fox-news-fake-baltimore-riot-photo/
19  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / World wide birth dirth on: May 01, 2015, 09:38:09 AM
http://www.mercatornet.com/demography/view/no-one-is-winning-from-the-worlds-lack-of-children/16060
20  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / If , , , then you may be a racist on: May 01, 2015, 12:35:59 AM
https://www.facebook.com/prageru/videos/876146332428224/
21  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FBI director says he's never had problem with CCW carriers on: April 30, 2015, 11:10:29 PM
http://defendandcarry.com/fbi-director-says-concealed-carriers-are-law-enforcement-officers-best-backup/

FBI Director Testifies He’s Never Had Problems With Concealed Carriers

    via Chuck Ross at The Daily Caller

     

    FBI director James Comey testified in front of a House panel on Wednesday to discuss the agency’s 2016 budget, but he ended up making a profound point about the issue of concealed carry.  At the end of the two-hour budget hearing, Texas U.S. Rep. John Culberson, chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Justice, asked Comey about the nature of his interactions with legal concealed carry permit holders.

Before his stint as head of the FBI, Comey worked for more than two decades as a federal prosecutor.

“You mentioned earlier about criminals with guns, I doubt you’ve ever had a problem with a concealed carry permit holder who is licensed with a background check using their good judgment,” Culberson said at the end of Comey’s two-hour testimony. “Could you comment on that as a law enforcement officer?”

“I haven’t had situations where there has been problems with that,” Comey said.

“With a concealed carry permit holder?” Culberson asked.

“No, not that I can remember,” Comey said.

“That’s a law enforcement officer’s best backup, particularly if he’s a Texan,” Culberson said.

The best line from this whole piece is the last one here, suggesting that a concealed carrier is law enforcement’s best backup. If only more elected officials understood that.

For the most part concealed carriers understand that their permit is not a badge, and that the police should be called for most non-life threatening issues.

However, having a concealed firearm, and being trained with it does provide permit holders to step in and stop a crime in progress or assist police officers in dire situations.

Kudos to the FBI Director Comey for his astute comments.

 

22  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / The Dangerous Doctrine of Dignity on: April 30, 2015, 10:58:06 PM
http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/the-dangerous-doctrine-of-dignity/391796/

The Dangers of a Constitutional 'Right to Dignity'

It may provide support for same-sex marriage, but it also empowers judges to decide whose 'dignity' they wish to prioritize.
Plaintiffs in Obergefell v. Hodges wave to supporters after arguments about gay marriage at the Supreme Court. Joshua Roberts / Reuters

    Jeffrey Rosen
    Apr 29, 2015

If the Supreme Court strikes down same-sex marriage bans, it may well do so on the grounds that they violate the dignity of gay couples. And although proponents of marriage equality may cheer a decision along these lines when it is delivered, the expansion of the constitutional right to dignity may produce far-reaching consequences that they will later have cause to regret.

The oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Tuesday made clear that Justice Anthony Kennedy’s biggest contribution to the gay-marriage debate is his expansion of constitutional protections for the right to dignity. Justice Kennedy invoked the word “dignity” five times in the oral arguments; and other lawyers invoked it 16 times. It was central to the opening statements of Solicitor General Don Verrilli. “The opportunity to marry is integral to human dignity,” he began. “Excluding gay and lesbian couples from marriage demeans the dignity of these couples.” It was also one of the first words uttered by the plaintiff’s lawyer, Mary L. Bonuato. “If a legal commitment, responsibility and protection that is marriage is off limits to gay people as a class,” she said, “the stain of unworthiness that follows on individuals and families contravenes the basic constitutional commitment to equal dignity.”
 
 
 

Although the word dignity has appeared in more than 900 Supreme Court opinions, Justice Kennedy, as Kenji Yoshino of NYU has noted, has been especially drawn to it. He has referred to “dignity” in cases ranging from partial-birth abortions to prisons. As Yoshino puts it, “When Justice Kennedy ascribes dignity to an entity, that entity generally prevails.” Kennedy’s recognition of the dignity interests of LGBT couples has been influential in persuading lower court judges to strike down bans on same-sex marriage. But although Kennedy’s description of the dignitary interests of LGBT couples is inspiring, and it accurately describes their social experience, the roots of the right to dignity in constitutional text, history, and tradition are harder to discern.

Kennedy first drew a clear connection between “personal dignity and autonomy” and laws regulating personal relationships such as marriage in the 1992 Casey decision, which upheld the core of Roe v. Wade:

    Our law affords constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, child rearing, and education … These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.

When Justice Kennedy later invoked this idea of dignity to overturn laws banning same-sex intimacy in the 2003 Lawrence case, Justice Scalia ridiculed his opinion in Casey as the “famed sweet-mystery-of-life passage.” Despite Scalia’s mocking tone, he was correct to note that Kennedy’s constitutionalizing of a right to dignity expanded the already amorphous right to privacy recognized in Roe v. Wade, which itself had tenuous constitutional roots. By rooting the right to dignity in a synthesis of the textually enumerated rights of equality and liberty, Kennedy laid the groundwork for judges to review laws that inflicted dignitary harm with skepticism, regardless of proof of intentional animus and regardless of whether the victim of discrimination was considered a “suspect class.”

A range of liberal scholars recognized the sweeping implications of Kennedy’s new synthesis of dignity with liberty and equality, from Robert Post (who observed that in Lawrence, the Court relied on “themes of respect and stigma ... traditionally associated with equal protection”) to Laurence H. Tribe (who described a “Substantive Due Process-Equal Protection synthesis,” and the relationship between the two as a “double helix”) to William N. Eskridge (who called the connection between liberty and equality a “jurisprudence of tolerance”). But in discussing the dignitary interest that emerges from the equality and liberty clauses, all of these scholars relied on the same highly abstract penumbral reasoning that had proven so controversial in the cases leading up to Roe v. Wade. In other words, the kind of liberties that the Framers had in mind when they framed the Fourth Amendment (the liberty of the home) were very different, and far more specific, than the broad right to be free to define your own identity without being demeaned by the state or by fellow citizens that Kennedy recognized in Lawrence.

Kennedy made another crucial move in Lawrence, concluding that an individual’s interest in dignity trumps the majority’s interest in preserving traditional moral values. “The fact that the governing majority in a State has traditionally viewed a particular practice as immoral is not a sufficient reason for upholding a law prohibiting the practice,” Kennedy held.

“This effectively decrees the end of all morals legislation,” Justice Scalia fulminated, and he predicted the demise of “state laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity.” In fact, Scalia’s prediction may prove to be correct. His question about why the state’s police power to protect public morals—taken for granted from the founding era until the Lawrence case—was suddenly a violation of the Constitution remains valid and unanswered. In Lawrence, Scalia also predicted that the new dignitary right would lead inevitably to the recognition of same-sex marriage, despite Kennedy’s protestations to the contrary (“Do not believe it,” Scalia wrote). As Scalia understood, without moral disapproval as a permissible state interest, the other interests the state offered to ban same-sex unions were hard to credit. Here is Scalia’s prescient observation:

    If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is “no legitimate state interest” for purposes of proscribing that conduct; and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), “[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring,” what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising “[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution?”

“Surely not the encouragement of procreation,” Scalia concluded, “since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry.”

In other words, despite Ohio’s attempt to resurrect the encouragement of procreation as a justification for same-sex marriage bans in the recent arguments—a justification dismantled by Justices Kagan and Sotomayor—Scalia beat them to the punch by more than a decade.

In addition to sincere moral disapproval of homosexuality by some religious people, there is one other main reason that voters have passed same-sex marriage bans in the past few years: a desire to preserve tradition. But the Supreme Court ruled that reason out of bounds in United States v. Virginia in 1996, when it held that a desire to preserve tradition for its own sake was a “notably circular argument” that could not survive constitutional scrutiny.

Since these two arguments—moral disapproval or preserving tradition—are the real reasons most voters have for supporting gay marriage bans, opponents of gay marriage were forced to offer implausible reasons—such as promoting “responsible procreation” by straight people—which, as Justice Kagan’s questioning suggested, are hard to credit because they are essentially made up for the purposes of litigation.

* * *

Justice Kennedy’s broad constitutionalizing of a right to dignity has boxed in gay marriage opponents with its scope and breadth. Chief Justice Roberts tried to narrow the implications of the Lawrence decision in the oral arguments yesterday by suggesting that in that case, “the whole argument is the State cannot intrude on that personal relationship. This, it seems to me, is different in that what the argument is [today] is the State must sanction. It must approve the relationship. They’re two different questions.” But Solicitor General Verrilli resisted the attempt to narrow the dignitary implications of Lawrence. “Lawrence catalyzed for our society,” he replied. “It put gay and lesbian couples, gay and lesbian people, in a position for the first time in our history to be able to lay claim to the abiding promise of the Fourteenth Amendment in a way that was just impossible when they were marginalized and ostracized.”

Verrilli’s insight that denial of marriage benefits to gays and lesbians could demean and ostracize them, and violate their dignity, was confirmed by Justice Kennedy’s opinion the Windsor case from 2013, striking down the federal Defense of Marriage Act. According to Kennedy, DOMA’s history of enactment and its own text demonstrate that interference with the equal dignity of same-sex marriages was “the essence” of its effects on gay people.

I won’t rehearse here the objections to reading the text and history of the Constitution at such a high level of generality; with this approach, the connections to the specific concerns that animated the framers is hard to discern. Suffice it to say that Justice Louis Brandeis, the greatest defender of the right to privacy in U.S. history, originally tried to persuade courts to recognize a new right to dignity, after confessing that American law, unlike Roman and European law, had not, traditionally protected offenses against honor and dignity.

But, as Neal Richards demonstrates in Intellectual Privacy, Brandeis changed his mind about the wisdom of constitutionalizing a right to dignity—defined as the right to restrain the press from publishing truthful but embarrassing information about celebrities—after concluding that it clashed with the First Amendment guarantees of free press and free expression. Instead, Brandeis came to embrace a more carefully defined notion of intellectual privacy and freedom of thought and belief, more closely rooted in the text of the First Amendment itself.

There is no doubt that Justice Kennedy accurately and movingly describes the indignity and stigma that bans on same sex marriage impose on the right of LGBT citizens to define their own identities and to claim the benefits of equal citizenship. But constitutionalizing that injury with broad abstractions like dignity may lead to results in the future that liberals come to regret. Already, the European Court of Justice’s recognition of a sweeping “Right to be Forgotten” on the Internet has lead to the most dramatic clash between European traditions of protecting dignity and American traditions of protecting free speech in a generation.

And down the line, the right to dignity—now celebrated by liberals for what it means to gay rights—could ultimately produce other decisions in unrelated cases that they would not be so quick to celebrate. In the McDonald case, striking down gun possession laws under the Second Amendment, Justice Scalia recognized a dignitary interest attached to the right to bear arms. “[T]he conceptual core of the liberty clause ... pertains to ... [an individual’s] elf-determination, ... dignity [or] respect,” he wrote.

The word dignity eludes narrow definition, or for that matter, any generally agreed upon definition. The Court itself has not provided a clear definition of dignity. One scholar, William A. Parent, declares, “[D]ignity is to possess the right not to be arbitrarily and therefore unjustly disparaged as a person.” In another article on “the Jurisprudence of Dignity,” Leslie Meltzer Henry writes that there is no single definition, but that dignity includes various conceptions including institutional status, equality, liberty, individual integrity, and collective virtue. She concludes, “dignity’s conceptions and functions are dynamic and context-driven.”

If dignity is defined so elastically, then conservatives judges might invoke it to strike down not only gun-control laws, but also other progressive legislation. Libertarian groups invoked the “sweet-mystery-of-life” my language in Casey to argue that the Obamacare healthcare mandate unconstitutionally violated the dignity and autonomy of Americans by forcing them to buy health insurance. In the future, cigarette smokers might argue that anti-smoking bans violate their ability to create an individual identity. And conservative Christian wedding photographers could claim that anti-discrimination laws compelling them to photograph gay weddings violate their dignity and ability to define themselves as conservative Christians. What courts would do when confronted with the clashing dignitary rights of the religious wedding photographer and the gay couple, or the hunter and the victim of gun violence, is anyone’s guess, because dignity is such an abstract concept that its boundaries are difficult to discern.

In suggesting that the expansion of the right to dignity is something that liberals may come to regret, I’m not arguing that same-sex marriage bans can or should easily be upheld in light of the Supreme Court precedents on the books. In the same-sex marriage arguments, the liberal justices seemed drawn to the idea that marriage is a fundamental right that must be expanded to all citizens on equal terms. A decision along those lines—although broader in some respects than a ruling based on dignity—might be easier to confine to cases involving marriage. And given Justice Kennedy’s previous opinions for the Court ruling out of bounds moral disapproval and the preservation of tradition for its own sake, it’s hard to think of any other plausible reasons for upholding the marriage bans that don’t rely on what the Court has defined as animus. Still, if the Court strikes down same-sex marriage bans on the grounds that they violate a right to dignity, liberals may have second thoughts about empowering judges to decide whose dignity trumps when the interests of citizens with very different conceptions of dignity clash.
23  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Obama vs. Reagan on: April 30, 2015, 08:41:29 PM
http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2015/04/obama-vs-reagan-big-government-socialism-proves-to-be-as-disastrous-as-expected/
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Straftfor: The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Part 1 on: April 30, 2015, 06:02:27 PM
Editor's Note: In light of the April 28 boarding of a Maersk Line ship in the Strait of Hormuz by Iranian naval forces belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Stratfor is republishing its detailed October 2012 report on the elite corps. Although details are still emerging, what is known is that the Maersk Tigris was stopped in Iranian waters and boarded, before being redirected to the port of Bandar Abbas under escort. The Maersk Tigris was sailing under a Marshall Islands flag and is managed by Rickmers Ship Management, the Singapore-based arm of Hamburg's Rickmers Group. U.S.-based company Oaktree Capital originally had the ship constructed in the Philippines and retains ownership rights. The crew of 34 is believed to be multinational.

A Pentagon spokesman said that the Maersk Tigris ignored warnings from Iranian vessels to move deeper into Iran's territorial waters but complied after warning shots were fired. The USS Farragut was dispatched on an intercept course as the Maersk Tigris was ordered to steam toward Bandar Abbas. An Iranian source reported that the vessel was boarded after Iran's Ports and Maritime Organization issued a court order to confiscate the vessel. Unconfirmed reports indicate that the vessel has been released to continue on its way, but Stratfor will continue to monitor the situation.

The timing of the incident is far from ideal, coming at a juncture when talks between the United States and Iran over Tehran's controversial nuclear program have reached a critical stage ahead of the July 1 deadline for a final deal. The reasons for the seizure of the vessel remain unclear but it is well known that the IRGC and other hardline clerical elements in Iran are unhappy with the nuclear negotiations.

Part 1 of this special report lays out the origins of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and explains how it has become Iran's most powerful institution. Part 2 discusses the external pressures facing the IRGC, how that pressure is affecting the group, and what a weakened IRGC would mean for Iran.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, commonly referred to as the IRGC, is the most influential institution in the Iranian political system. To a large extent, Iran's ability to project power internationally and maintain domestic stability rests with this elite military institution. Of course, the IRGC functions somewhat like other conventional militaries; it is not completely immune to political infighting or institutional rivalry. While the disproportionate amount of power it wields will help the group overcome any factionalization to retain its pre-eminence, there are early signs of problems within its ranks.
Origin and Evolution

With several powerful and often competing institutions, the Iranian political system is extremely complex. But undoubtedly the most powerful institution in that system is the IRGC, which was created by the clerical elite after the 1979 revolution to protect the newly founded regime. During the 1980s, it fought against insurgencies (most notably against the Mujahideen-e-Khalq) and took a lead role in the Iran-Iraq War. These experiences helped the IRGC become the core of the Iranian national security and foreign policy establishment.

Visit our Iran page for related analysis, videos, situation reports and maps.

Currently, the IRGC comprises some 125,000 members and continues to derive its legitimacy from the clerical elite, led by Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who maintains ultimate authority in Iranian politics. In fact, IRGC generals are appointed by Khamenei, the group's commander in chief, not the civilian government. While the clerics manage important state institutions, such as the Guardians Council, the judiciary, and the Assembly of Experts, they rely on the IRGC to maintain control of those institutions. This reliance likewise has contributed to the IRGC's power.

As a result, the IRGC has gained an edge over other institutions, such as the Artesh, or the conventional armed forces; various clerical institutions; the executive branch, led by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; and the main civilian intelligence service, the Ministry of Intelligence and National Security. In recent decades the IRGC has further expanded to gain influence — in some cases, control — over domestic law enforcement, foreign intelligence operations, strategic military command and the national economy. 

Iran
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In fact, the group has developed a robust economic portfolio. Many IRGC commanders retire relatively early — usually at 50 years old — and join Iran's political and economic elite. Former IRGC commanders now dominate heavy industries, including the construction industry, and civilians operating in these industries are subordinate to IRGC elements.

The group also generates revenue through illicit channels. Its mandate for border security enables the group to run massive smuggling operations. In these operations, IRGC troops move luxury goods and illegal drugs (especially Afghan heroin), charge port fees and receive bribes. The proceeds from these activities augment the funds appropriated to the IRGC by the civilian government.

Like other conventional militaries, the IRGC is susceptible to internal rivalry over budgets, turf and connections. However, professional discipline has prevented it from succumbing to outright factional infighting. Moreover, Khamenei has taken steps to avoid factionalization, including the constant rotation of senior leadership of the IRGC's various branches (except in instances where a particular branch requires specialized institutional knowledge). However, the position of overall commander has been mostly static. In fact, only three individuals have held the post since the IRGC became the protector of the regime: Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezaie (1981-1997); Maj. Gen Yahya Rahim Safavi (1997-2007); and Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari (2007-present).
An Inevitable Political Entity

As a political entity, the IRGC has become more than what its founders intended. The Iranian Constitution prohibits the IRGC from engaging in politics. More important, the group has avoided political activity so as not to be construed as seditious. But given its ubiquity in political, economic and security affairs, its evolution as a political entity probably was inevitable.

IRGC commanders and officers naturally have differing political leanings. Some IRGC members openly support or sympathize with various political causes and individuals. Others do so more discreetly. But to varying degrees, all politicians have followings in the officer corps, whose support is far from uniform.

In theory, the commanders and officers pay fealty to Khamenei and the wider clerical establishment. But in practice, the IRGC is not really beholden to any entity or faction. The IRGC regards itself as the rightful heir to the revolution and the savior of the republic. It considers itself uniquely capable and worthy of ruling the country. That belief may be well-founded. As the most well-organized and efficient institution in the state, the IRGC has long supplied experienced administrators to the civilian sector. Some notable example include:

    Former overall commander Rezaie, now the secretary of the Expediency Council.
    Former IRGC air force commander Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf, the current mayor of Tehran.
    Brig. Gen. Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, the current interior minister, through whom the IRGC has gained greater leverage over internal security affairs.
    Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, the current defense minister. His position benefits the IRGC even though the corps and the Artesh are under the purview of the Joint Staff Command, led by IRGC Maj. Gen. Hassan Firouzabadi.
    Gen. Rostam Qasemi, the current oil minister. Formerly in charge of the IRGC's engineering and construction arm, Qasemi has seen to the IRGC's domination of the oil and natural gas sector.

Even though these former commanders and officers belong to the wider IRGC community, they form their own factions upon retirement. As an institution, the IRGC mostly has a unified stance on political issues. But individuals belonging to different institutions after retirement may dissent somewhat. The process resembles that of Israel; former members of Israel Defense Forces often emerge as key political leaders.

Consequently, any reference to the IRGC's stance on a particular issue represents the majority, not the entirety, of the group. And any reference to IRGC institutional interests represents the majority of commanders and officers with similar values. Differences of opinion certainly exist, but so far these differences have not manifested as fundamental divisions within the elite military institution. While its cohesion may be challenged in the future, the IRGC appears to be uniquely intact, at least for now. 
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Sauce not for the goose? Robert's Rules for Judges on: April 30, 2015, 05:51:20 PM
Roberts’s Rules for Judges
Special limits on political speech for ‘the brotherhood of the robe.’
April 29, 2015 7:26 p.m. ET
WSJ:

The John Roberts Supreme Court has tended to champion free speech, expanding political debate and participation. What a pity, then, that the Chief Justice on Wednesday joined the four liberals to make an exception for judicial elections.

The 39 states where the public votes for judges usually impose speech and fund-raising restrictions on judges and candidates, and 30 prohibit them from personally soliciting campaign funds. In a 2009 Florida primary, Tampa-area lawyer Lanell Williams-Yulee challenged a sitting district judge chosen by a “nonpartisan” judicial selection committee. She lost, likely in part because this process is designed to favor incumbents.

The Florida Bar sanctioned Ms. Yulee anyway. Her crime? Mailing a letter to voters that explained her qualifications and the legal philosophy she would observe as a judge, and asking for donations. In Williams-Yulee v. Florida Bar, she argued the First Amendment vindicates her right to request funds, since the government cannot regulate the content of speech like her letter.

The High Court has long recognized that core political speech—debate about public issues and candidates during elections—deserves the highest protection under the Constitution. Chief Justice Roberts claims to apply such strict scrutiny. But his 5-4 opinion creates a new double standard, because he says “judges are not politicians, even when they come to the bench by way of the ballot.”

Thus the Chief blesses what he concedes is “regulation of speech” to serve the state interest in maintaining public confidence in an impartial judiciary. His conceit is that campaign donations are more compromising to the independence of judges—or to the appearance thereof—than for politicians, even if the Chief admits that “judicial integrity does not easily reduce to precise definition.”

The Florida law is even less coherent than the Chief’s opinion. Judicial candidates are allowed to form committees to solicit donations on their behalf and also to write personal thank-you notes. Why is the wink and nod of fundraising by proxy followed by a private expression of gratitude less a quid pro quo than a general public request like a mass mailer or website?

In a ferocious dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia clobbers the Chief’s judges-are-different sentimentality. He writes that the majority seems to find judicial elections and “the (shudder!) indignity of begging for funds” distasteful, and thus undermines free speech merely to preserve the “saintliness” and “oracular sanctity of judges.” Justice Scalia concludes, “The First Amendment is not abridged for the benefit of the Brotherhood of the Robe.”

Judicial elections will no doubt continue as a policy debate. But free societies are supposed to be able to choose how to hold officials accountable, and states have used the ballot box to do so for judges since 1812. As long as there are elections, there will be campaigns, which require financing to promote ideas and candidates.

Rules like Florida’s appeal to liberals and lawyers because they suppress political competition in the name of “ethics.” Only those inducted into this self-selecting clerisy can take part, denying voters their right to a robust debate. The outsiders who lack connections would most benefit from personal fundraising. Chief Justice Roberts’s bathos about his caste will harm democracy and public confidence in the judiciary for years to come.
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Chinese bubble nearing bursting point? on: April 30, 2015, 05:42:25 PM
http://www.youngresearch.com/researchandanalysis/stocks-researchandanalysis/raging-bull-in-china-has-shaky-foundation/?awt_l=PWy8k&awt_m=3YtE7yMQqvzlu1V
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: ATGM: Anti-tank guided missiles pose a serious threat on: April 30, 2015, 03:39:11 PM
 Anti-Tank Guided Missiles Pose a Serious Threat
Security Weekly
April 30, 2015 | 08:00 GMT
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By Scott Stewart

Working with my Stratfor colleagues to analyze the rebel offensive in Syria's Idlib governorate, we have been impressed by the rebels' use of high terrain to gain an advantage over Syrian government forces. The operation has Syrian loyalists trapped in valleys along which the main highways in the region run and in which many of the cities and towns are located.

Anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) such as the U.S.-manufactured BGM-71E TOW system have been one of the weapons effectively employed from this high ground against loyalist targets. Dozens of videos featuring rebel ATGM attacks have been posted to the Internet, showing the destruction of scores of government vehicles and fighting positions. It appears that the United States wants the groups receiving TOW missiles to provide video documentation of the weapons' use, considering that there are a proportionately higher number of videos of TOW attacks than those involving other ATGMs.

In addition to the TOWs, however, there are also European-made Milan missiles in use, along with Russian 9M113 Konkurs, 9K115-2M Metis-M and 9M133 Kornet systems — also known by their respective NATO designation; AT-5, AT-13 and AT-14. External supporters such as the United States, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have provided the TOW system and Chinese made Hongjian-8 missiles to the Syrian rebel groups while the Russian systems have been captured from the Syrian military. Indeed, there have been a number of rebel videos showing large ATGM caches being captured.

Some of the missile shots featured in these videos are impressive. The rebel TOW gunners have been able to hit targets, sometimes moving targets, at considerable distances. The TOW is wired guided, meaning that the operator can make in-flight corrections to the missile, but the projectile must be guided all the way to the target, unlike fire-and-forget systems. From an unscientific method of watching the attack videos and counting the seconds from launch to impact, it is clear that some of the shots are out near the TOW's maximum range of 3,750 meters (2.3 miles). The TOW projectile travels at 278 meters per second.

In fact, from these videos it becomes clear that over the past few months, some of the Syrian rebel TOW gunners have fired more rounds in combat and scored more kills with the weapon than any dismounted U.S. TOW gunner ever has. There is a parallel here with the use of FIM-92 Stinger surface-to-air missiles in Afghanistan: Afghan rebels fired far more live Stingers and shot down more aircraft than any U.S. soldier to date.

And the parallels between TOW and Stinger missiles go further. Both have provided decisive advantages in battle to rebel forces that deployed them effectively on the battlefield. Also, like Stingers, ATGMs pose a risk of proliferation outside of the war zone, and could be used quite effectively in a terrorist attack.
Arms Flows

As we've discussed in the past, arms have been flowing into Syria from a variety of sources, including the legal, black and gray arms markets. Russia, for example, is providing arms to the Syrian government through legal channels, while Iran — a country under an arms embargo — is doing so illegally through the black arms market. On the other side of the battle, the United States, Turkey and Gulf Cooperation Council member countries have been providing Syrian rebel groups with weapons through gray and black arms transactions. Indeed, the Swiss government has been quite upset that hand grenades and other weapons it sold to the United Arab Emirates have shown up in the hands of Syrian rebels.

Arming rebel groups can be a risky proposition on a chaotic battlefield that is constantly changing. As noted above, weapons provided by Russia and Iran have been captured from Syrian government stores by a range of rebel groups, and U.S.-made TOW missiles have been captured by Jabhat al-Nusra, al Qaeda's franchise in Syria. Certainly, such incidents have reinforced the conviction of those who opposed supplying man-portable air defense systems to the Syria rebels.

One problem with providing arms is that they are durable goods. While certain types of weapons and weapons components have a limited shelf life — such as battery-coolant units for a Stinger missile — numerous other weapons remain functional for many decades. It is not unusual to find a militant or a soldier carrying a Lee Enfield rifle manufactured before his great-grandfather was born. M-40 recoilless rifles provided by the United States to the government of Libya before Moammar Gadhafi's 1969 coup proved an effective weapons system in the battle of Misrata, and have even been shipped from Libya to the rebels in Syria.

Weapons are also interchangeable. An AK-47-style rifle manufactured in Russia is essentially the same as one manufactured in Pakistan or Egypt, and an M16-style rifle manufactured in China can easily replace an M16 manufactured in the United States. In a place like Syria, it is not unusual to find a rebel group carrying rifles manufactured in different countries and even different eras.

Another problem is that weapons tend to retain their value and are easily converted to cash. Buying weapons from a place where there is an oversupply and then selling them in a place where there is a heavy demand can be highly lucrative, explaining why weapons so readily flow to conflict zones.

And this brings us back to the many ATGM systems — and highly experienced ATGM gunners — floating around Syria. The thought that the systems alongside seasoned gunners could pour out of Syria into other countries in the region is troubling, especially if they make their way into to the hands of an organization that seeks to use them for terrorist attacks.
Terrorist Applications

From the early days of the modern terrorism era, a wide array of actors have attempted to use anti-tank weapons such as LAW rockets, rocket-propelled grenade systems and bazooka rockets to attack diplomatic missions, Western businesses, business executives and government officials. Many of these assaults failed because inexperienced attackers missed their targets, chose inappropriate targets to use the weapons against, or otherwise botched the attack. I know of two cases in Latin America in which attacks with M72 LAW rockets failed because the attackers did not realize that the rocket's warhead has a minimum arming distance of 10 meters and the rockets were launched too close to the intended target.

As a security practitioner, the thought of 17 November members running around Greece armed with an M20 bazooka launcher is scary. But the thought of an al Qaeda or Islamic State operative who is an accomplished ATGM gunner running around Turkey, Iraq or Jordan with a TOW or Kornet is absolutely terrifying.

A light anti-tank rocket like an RPG-7 or M20 bazooka is vastly and qualitatively different than a modern ATGM. Not only does a guided missile have a larger warhead capable of causing far more destruction, but ATGMs also have a much longer range (up to 5,500 meters for a Kornet). Since ATGMs are guided, they are far more accurate and can maneuver in flight, so they are more capable of engaging moving targets than anti-tank rocket systems that cannot be adjusted once launched. These systems also come with sophisticated optics that can acquire targets from thousands of meters away. Under the right conditions, these systems can even be used to effectively engage low, slow-moving aircraft

If a TOW or Kornet can defeat the armor on a main battle tank equipped with reactive armor, it is more than capable of destroying even the heaviest armored limousine. Missiles variants designed with thermobaric warheads for engaging bunkers would also pose a considerable threat to a government building, embassy or office building — especially if the office of the minister, ambassador or CEO could be identified and targeted.

The U.S. government has gone through the nightmare of attempting to track down and buy back Stinger missiles provided to rebels in Afghanistan, after the Soviet withdrawal. They have also spent millions of dollars to buy and destroy thousands of surface-to-air missiles following the revolution in Libya. With this history, it is certain that the United States has concerns over furnishing powerful ATGMs to Syrian rebels, and has undoubtedly employed technology to aid in tracking the missiles — and perhaps something capable of disabling them if they fall into the wrong hands.

The United States has also been careful to only gradually increase the allotment of TOW missiles per shipment, as each Syrian group proved its reliability over time. It appears that some groups were only given one missile to start, then batches of two or three, and now it appears some of the more credible groups are receiving up to 10 per shipment. Hopefully, the Europeans and Gulf countries have taken similar precautions, though that is less likely. The problem of ATGM proliferation is perhaps most acute regarding the Russian systems that have been captured from government stockpiles rather than those provided by external donors. These systems are highly capable — indeed, the laser-guided Kornet is arguably superior to the wire-guided TOW — and there are no external controls on them.

The sheer size of these ATGM systems, however, will make it difficult for a group like al Qaeda or the Islamic State to smuggle them transnationally. There is little chance of them being taken to the United States or Western Europe. However, there are thriving smuggling routes going in and out of Syria and Iraq from nearly every direction, and items larger than an ATGM system are smuggled out of Syria and Iraq to neighboring countries regularly. It is not unreasonable to assume that an ATGM system could be smuggled out of the country along with an experienced gunner.
Drawbacks to Guided Missile Systems

Despite their deadliness, range and accuracy, ATGM systems do have some disadvantages when used as a terrorist weapon. They are somewhat large and hard to camouflage — especially in a city where there are many potential onlookers. These systems must also have line of sight to engage a target. Consequently, monitoring activity at possible ATGM launch sites can help protect stationary targets like buildings.

Engaging a specific mobile target with an ATGM requires the attackers to identify the travel patterns of the target and then find a suitable kill zone. Such an engagement requires a great deal of surveillance, a process that would make the attackers vulnerable to detection. Also, like anti-tank rockets, ATGMs have a minimum arming range (65 meters for a TOW and 100 meters for Kornet), limiting potential attack sites, especially in a congested urban environment. In such cases, the long standoff distances the U.S. government has been trying to achieve to protect its embassies from large truck bombs could actually prove to be a liability.

With al Qaeda seeking to hit U.S. interests in the region and beyond, and the Islamic State also threatening attacks, the danger posed by the proliferation of ATGMs and trained gunners in Syria and Iraq cannot be ignored by those responsible for protecting people and facilities.
28  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Elder: The Left's War on Fathers on: April 30, 2015, 03:16:57 PM

The Left's War on Father's Day
Larry Elder | Jun 06, 2013

"We know the statistics," said President Barack Obama, "that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves."

The Journal of Research on Adolescence found that even after controlling for varying levels of household income, kids in father-absent homes are more likely to end up in jail. And kids that never had a father in the house are the most likely to wind up behind bars.

Tupac Shakur, the rapper killed in an unsolved and possibly gang-related murder, once said: "I know for a fact that had I had a father, I'd have some discipline. I'd have more confidence." Tupac admitted he began running with gangs because he wanted structure and protection: "Your mother cannot calm you down the way a man can. Your mother can't reassure you the way a man can. My mother couldn't show me where my manhood was. You need a man to teach you how to be a man."

Where have all the fathers gone?

When I was a child, my father and mother often complained about "people going on the county," a term they used for the rare young mother in our neighborhood who relied on government welfare. My parents, who often disagreed politically, saw eye-to-eye in their opposition to what they called wrongheaded incentives that encourage people to have children without marriage. "The worst thing that ever came down the pike," Dad would often call "county money."

In "Dear Father, Dear Son," my latest book, I write about my rough, tough World War II Marine staff sergeant father, whose gruff exterior I mistook for lack of love. Born in the Jim Crow South of Athens, Ga., he was 14 at the start of the Great Depression.

He never knew his biological father. The man with the last name of "Elder" was one of his mother's many boyfriends, only this one stayed in my dad's life a little longer than the others. A physically abusive alcoholic, Elder would give my father's mom money from his paycheck to ensure he would not blow it on booze and gambling. After a couple of days, Elder would get drunk and demand his money back. She would refuse. He would beat her and take the money back. My father witnessed this ugly scenario over and over. "Why she just didn't give him the damn money," Dad told me, "I'll never understand."

One day, my father, then 13, came home from school, and his mom's then-boyfriend accused him of making too much noise. They quarreled. His mother, siding with the boyfriend, threw my father out of the house. He never returned.

Growing up, I watched my father work two full-time jobs as a janitor. He also cooked for a rich family on the weekends and somehow managed to go to night school to get his GED. When I was 10, my father opened a small restaurant that he ran until he retired in his mid-80s. "Hard work wins," Dad would tell my brothers and me. "The world doesn't owe you a living." My parents drilled into us the importance of education and self-reliance. "Go out into the world unprepared," Dad would say, "and you're going to get your behind kicked and your feelings hurt."

Studies back up the link between the explosive growth in government welfare -- begun in the '60s -- and the increase of out-of-wedlock births.

In 1960, 5 percent of America's children entered the world without a mother and father married to each other. By 1980 it was 18 percent, and by 2000 it had risen to 33 percent. Today, the number is 41 percent. For blacks, out-of-wedlock births have gone from 25 percent in 1965 to 73 percent today. The ethnic group with the next-highest percent of births to unmarried mothers is that of Native Americans, at 66 percent. For whites, out-of-wedlock births stand at 29 percent. For Hispanics, out-of-wedlock births are at 53 percent.

In every state, a woman with two children "makes" more money on welfare than were she to take a minimum wage job. The array of federal and state programs amounts to over $60K spent for every poor household. But because of costs, the recipient household ends up getting far less.

How do we know that the welfare state creates disincentives that hurt the people we are trying to help? They tell us. In 1985, the Los Angeles Times asked whether poor women "often" have children to get additional benefits. Most of the non-poor respondents said no. When the same question was asked of the poor, however, 64 percent said yes.

People, of course, need help. A humane society does not ignore those who cannot or even will not fend for themselves. But good faith does not substitute for sound policy. The welfare state is an assault on families.
29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Anti-semitism & Jews on: April 30, 2015, 01:18:49 PM
http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/04/29/a-german-woman-started-putting-yellow-stickers-on-israeli-students-visiting-auschwitz-at-first-they-didnt-get-what-she-was-trying-to-do-but-then-it-became-clear/?utm_source=Sailthru&utm_medium=email&utm_term=Firewire&utm_campaign=Firewire%20-%20HORIZON%204-30-15%20FINAL
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Wesbury: March Personal Income on: April 30, 2015, 12:11:38 PM
Personal Income was Unchanged in March To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 4/30/2015

Personal income was unchanged in March, coming in below the consensus expected gain of 0.2%. Personal consumption rose 0.4% in March versus a consensus expected 0.5%. Personal income is up 3.8% in the past year, while spending is up 3.0%.

Disposable personal income (income after taxes) was unchanged in March, but is up 3.6% from a year ago. Gains in private-sector wages & salaries, government benefits, and nonfarm small-business income were offset by lower dividends, farm income and interest income.

The overall PCE deflator (consumer prices) increased 0.2% in March and is up 0.3% versus a year ago. The “core” PCE deflator, which excludes food and energy, rose 0.1% in March and is up 1.3% in the past year.
After adjusting for inflation, “real” consumption increased 0.3% in March and is up 2.7% from a year ago.
Implications: Hold off on personal income and spending for a moment. The biggest news this morning was that new claims for jobless benefits fell 34,000 last week to 262,000. Continuing claims dropped 74,000 to 2.25 million. Both initial and continuing claims are now the lowest since 2000. Plugging these figures into our models suggests nonfarm payrolls rose about 280,000 in April, well above the current consensus estimate of 220,000. This is consistent with our view that the economy is rebounding quickly from the lull in Q1 and the Federal Reserve will have the justification it needs to start lifting short-term rates in June. Some analysts may be dismayed by today’s headline of no change in personal income, but this was mostly the result of a drop in dividend and interest income after a spike upward in February. The underlying trend remains positive, with overall personal income up 3.8% in the past year and private wages & salaries up a more robust 4.3%. This trend in income is why consumer spending can keep rising as well, which it did by 0.4% in March. Expect more gains in the months ahead, powered by income gains as well as savings from lower energy prices. In the meantime, lower energy prices helped hold down commercial construction in Q1. Detailed numbers on that sector arrived this morning and showed that 70% of the large drop in commercial construction in Q1 was due to less exploration and drilling for oil and natural gas. In other news this morning, the Employment Cost Index, a useful measure of worker earnings, increased 0.7% in Q1 and is up 2.6% in the past year, the largest gain since 2008. This kind of wage acceleration boosts the case that the Federal Reserve has room to start raising rates. On the housing front, pending home sales, which are contracts on existing homes, increased 1.1% in March, suggesting existing home sales, which are counted at closing, will rise again in April. On the manufacturing front, the Chicago PMI, a measure of factory sentiment in that key region came in at 52.3, above the consensus forecasted 50.0. As a result, we are forecasting that the national ISM index will come in at 52.2, a respectable gain from 51.5 in March.
31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: April 30, 2015, 10:45:12 AM
Q:What do you get when you cross a slimy lawyer and a crooked politician?

A:  Chelsea.


The Clinton Family’s Proud Tradition of Shamelessly Lying

Everybody has a particular figure in the news who drives them a little bonkers. You may recall that for some reason, media hosannas for Chelsea Clinton stick in my craw. I’m perfectly happy to see Chelsea Clinton go off and live a happy life as a mom or doing whatever she likes away from the public spotlight. But I’m tired of the media telling us she’s remarkably accomplished in her own right, her keynote addresses to conferences like SXSW, treating her like she’s an A-list celebrity and fascinating figure, the “Woman of the Year” and “Mom of the Year” awards, her widely-panned, $600,000-per-year, part-time work as an increasingly infrequent NBC News correspondent, and her assistant-vice-provost position at New York University, taken at age 30, before finishing her dissertation.

Now there’s a new angle to Chelsea Clinton’s public profile: She’s as shameless a liar as both of her parents:

“What the Clinton foundation has said is that we will be kind of even more transparent,” said the former first daughter, now vice chairman of the foundation, at an event sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations. “Even though Transparency International and others have said we’re among the most transparent foundations, we’ll disclose donors on a quarterly basis, not just an annual basis.”

The problem with that, though, is Transparency International never cited the Clinton foundation. It did award Hillary Clinton its 2012 TI-USA Integrity Award when Clinton was secretary of state for “recognizing her contributions as secretary of state in raising the importance of transparency and anticorruption as elements of U.S. policy,” Claudia Dumas, president of Transparency International, told NPR. (The organization put out a fuller statement Monday.)

It’s a false statement, but it also looks like Freudian slip. Transparency International gives the U.S. State Department an award, and Chelsea thinks it went to the Clinton Foundation. It’s hard to shake the feeling that for the Clintons, the U.S. State Department and the Clinton Foundation were intertwined and interchangeable.


32  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Billary got millions from Canadian Keystone backers on: April 29, 2015, 02:20:29 PM
http://www.dickmorris.com/hillary-took-millions-from-keystone-groups-dick-morris-tv-lunch-alert/#commentblock?utm_source=dmreports&utm_medium=dmreports&utm_campaign=dmreports
33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ:The lawbreakers of Baltimore on: April 29, 2015, 09:25:13 AM

By
Jason L. Riley
April 28, 2015 7:17 p.m. ET
218 COMMENTS

The racial makeup of city leaders, the police department and other municipal workers in Ferguson, Mo., played a central role in the media coverage and analysis of Michael Brown’s death, which is worth remembering as history repeats itself in Baltimore.

The Justice Department’s Ferguson report noted that although the city’s population was 67% black, just four of its 54 police officers fit that description. Moreover, “the Municipal Judge, Court Clerk, Prosecuting Attorney, and all assistant court clerks are white,” said the report. “While a diverse police department does not guarantee a constitutional one, it is nonetheless critically important for law enforcement agencies, and the Ferguson Police Department in particular, to strive for broad diversity among officers and civilian staff.”

Broad diversity is not a problem in Baltimore, where 63% of residents and 40% of police officers are black. The current police commissioner is also black, and he isn’t the first one. The mayor is black, as was her predecessor and as is a majority of the city council. Yet none of this “critically important” diversity seems to have mattered after 25-year-old Freddie Gray died earlier this month in police custody under circumstances that are still being investigated.

Some black Baltimoreans have responded by hitting the streets, robbing drugstores, minimarts and check-cashing establishments and setting fires. If you don’t see the connection, it’s because there isn’t one. Like Brown’s death, Gray’s is being used as a convenient excuse for lawbreaking. If the Ferguson protesters were responding to a majority-black town being oppressively run by a white minority—which is the implicit argument of the Justice Department and the explicit argument of the liberal commentariat—what explains Baltimore?

Tensions between the police and low-income black communities stem from high crime rates in those areas. The sharp rise in violent crime in our inner cities, which dates to the 1970s and 1980s, happened to coincide with an increase in the number of black leaders in many of those very same cities. What can be said of Baltimore is also true of Cleveland, Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., where black mayors and police chiefs and aldermen and school superintendents have held sway for decades.
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Best of the Web Today Columnist James Taranto on riots following the death of a black man in police custody. Photo credit: Getty Images.

Chicago’s population is 32% black, along with 26% of its police force, but it remains one of the most violent big cities in the country. There were more than 400 homicides in the Second City last year and some 300 of the victims were black, the Chicago Tribune reports. That’s more than double the number of black deaths at the hands of police in the entire country in a given year, according to FBI data.

Might the bigger problem be racial disparities in antisocial behavior, not the composition of law-enforcement agencies?

It was encouraging to hear a few Baltimore officials say as much Monday night as they watched their city burn. “I’m a lifelong resident of Baltimore, and too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who, in a very senseless way, are trying to tear down what so many have fought for,” said Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

City Council President Jack Young pointedly recalled the Baltimore riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. “We cannot go back to 1968 where we burned down our own infrastructure and our own neighborhoods,” he said. “We still have scars from 1968 where we had some burnt out buildings and businesses did not want to come back to the city of Baltimore. We have to stop the burning down and the breaking in of these stores because in the end it hurts us as a people.”

Sadly, Mr. Young could have been describing any number of cities that experienced black rioting in the mid-1960s and took decades to recover, if they ever did. The riot that began in the Watts section of Los Angeles in 1965 resulted in 34 deaths, 4,000 arrests and 1,000 looted or destroyed businesses. The Detroit riots two years later caused 43 deaths and destroyed 2,500 businesses. Before the riots, both cities had sizable and growing black middle-class populations, where homeownership and employment exceeded the black national average. After the riots, those populations fled, and economic deprivation set in. Some 50 years later, Watts is still showing “scars” and Detroit remains in the hospital.

The violent-crime rate in Baltimore is more than triple the national average, and the murder rate is more than six times higher. As of April, city murders are 20% ahead of the number killed through the first three months of last year. But neither Mayor Rawlings-Blake nor Mr. Young needs any lectures from the media on Baltimore crime. The mayor lost a 20-year-old cousin to gun violence two years ago. And earlier this month Mr. Young’s 37-year-old nephew died from a gunshot wound to his head. Even the families of black elites in a city run by black elites can’t escape this pathology.

Mr. Riley, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and Journal contributor, is the author of “Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed” (Encounter Books, 2014).
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34  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / FP: Pushing back , , , a little bit on: April 29, 2015, 09:20:27 AM
China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea are prompting a soul-searching query from Hanoi to Washington: At what point does a sliced-up salami cease being a salami at all?

In a short space of time, China’s unilateral and incremental efforts to carve out a greater presence in the South China Sea — by, for example, turning empty coral atolls into artificial airstrips — have prompted concern that Beijing is not-so-stealthily creating a new strategic reality in one of the world’s most important and potentially volatile flash points. That so-called “salami-slicing” strategy, in which countries undertake a series of seemingly inconsequential steps that add up to a fundamental change, is pushing many Southeast Asian countries closer together and is breathing fresh life into the decades-old U.S.-Japan defense alliance, all with an eye on a common, if often unnamed, adversary.

On Tuesday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe celebrated deeper defense ties between the two allies, meant in part to respond to a shifting security environment in the Asia-Pacific region. “For the first time in nearly two decades, we’ve updated the guidelines for our defense cooperation,” Obama said at a joint news conference in Washington.

“We share a concern about China’s land reclamation and construction activities in the South China Sea, and the United States and Japan are united in our commitment to freedom of navigation, respect for international law, and the peaceful resolution of disputes, without coercion,” Obama said

On the other side of the world, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), a regional grouping, went further than it ever had before in condemning China’s efforts to muscle aside neighbors with an aggressive program of island building in the South China Sea. Prompted especially by Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, the 26th ASEAN summit concluded with a statement Tuesday that implicitly called out Beijing for destabilizing the region.

“We share the serious concerns expressed by some leaders on the land reclamation being undertaken in the South China Sea, which has eroded trust and confidence and may undermine peace, security and stability in the South China Sea,” ASEAN countries said in their joint statement.

And even though internal divisions inside ASEAN precluded condemning China by name, Beijing got the message — and shot back with vitriol.

China is “gravely concerned” by the statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said at a briefing Tuesday. “Relevant construction [on the reefs] is lawful, justified and reasonable and thus beyond reproach. The Chinese side opposes a few countries’ taking hostage the entire ASEAN and China-ASEAN relations for their own selfish gains and undermining the friendly cooperation between China and ASEAN,” he continued.

The back-and-forth came just a day after the United States and Japan cemented a more muscular defensive partnership, with new guidelines that bolster the two countries’ militaries’ ability to plan and operate together. Japan has its own territorial disputes with China in the East China Sea — and Obama reiterated U.S. defense commitments to Japan in the event of a clash there — but the revised guidelines go further. They open the door for Tokyo to get involved in armed showdowns even when Japan itself is not attacked, including taking a greater role in possible South China Sea conflicts.

Taken together with other beefed-up U.S. defense commitments, including expanded basing rights in the Philippines, as well as closer defense ties between Asian countries such as Vietnam and the Philippines, the new guidelines point toward a growing recognition in the region and in Washington that China’s efforts to change the facts on the ground represent a real threat. In the past month, a bevy of analysts have called for a more vigorous U.S. response to Chinese actions that threaten regional stability.

“Together, our forces will be more flexible and better prepared to cooperate on a range of challenges, from maritime security to disaster response,” Obama said about the enhanced security relationship, adding that “Japan will take on greater roles and responsibilities in the Asia-Pacific and around the world.” U.S. Marines, Obama added, will relocate from Okinawa to Guam to help “realign U.S. forces across the region.”

Seeking to parry criticism that closer defense ties could suck Japan into U.S. wars, Abe stressed the role that the pact has played in underpinning decades of peace and prosperity in Asia. And in the context of rising tensions in the South and East China seas, Abe said, the revised defense pact will help enhance deterrence and make for a more efficient and functional alliance.

Importantly, the traditional alliance partners are no longer apparently alone. The fact that ASEAN’s 10 oft-divided countries managed to condemn, albeit obliquely, China’s behavior simply underscores how the region is waking up, said Holly Morrow, an expert at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

“What we are witnessing is China reaping the fruits of its strategy in the region: a reinvigorated U.S.-Japan alliance, a completely transformed U.S.-Vietnam relationship, a closer U.S.-Philippine alliance than has been seen in many years, and generally a Southeast Asian view of China’s rise that is much more negative than it was even five or 10 years ago,” she said.

China’s far-reaching claims to sovereignty over nearly all of the South China Sea, a crowded waterway filled with potential energy riches through which passes about $5 trillion in trade every year, are hardly new. The “nine-dashed line” that China says represents its blue territory on the map dates from just after World War II, and China has had low-level disputes with neighbors over maritime claims for more than a decade.

But in the past six months, its ambitious program of building artificial islands potentially gives Beijing the ability to project military power in the region in a way that it could not before. One expert on China defense issues, Andrew Erickson, noted recently that by building an airstrip on the Fiery Cross Reef, located hundreds of miles from China but close to the Philippines, Beijing could install air-defense zones in the heart of the South China Sea.

In the great game of weiqi that China appears to be playing in Asian geopolitics, steps such as reef reclamation and aggressive pushback at even mild condemnations by neighboring countries amount to a slate of strategically placed stones that could tilt the balance ever more in Beijing’s direction, experts say. That could be one reason that Washington appears to be putting more vigor behind the “rebalancing” to Asia, especially at the Defense Department, where the top leadership including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Deputy Secretary Robert Work, are well versed in Asian security issues.

The big question, of course, is what the United States can realistically do to respond to China’s actions. The two countries need to cooperate on a whole range of issues, from managing the global economy to dealing with nuclear threats from Iran and North Korea, as well tackling climate change, cybersecurity, and other transnational affairs. At the same time, and unlike Vietnam or the Philippines, Washington’s attention is divided by multiple and escalating crises in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Ukraine. In that vein, as Foreign Policy columnist Stephen M. Walt recently noted, saber rattling over rocks doesn’t make much apparent sense.

But at some point, many experts now say, Beijing’s incrementalist approach to changing the status quo in the Western Pacific will require a full-throated response from Washington. If not, the Asian salami that the United States has spent 70 years defending might just gradually disappear from the plate.
35  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: Iran seizes ship under US protection on: April 29, 2015, 09:13:51 AM
The Islamic Republic of Iran has been in the hostage-taking business since its earliest days, so nobody should be surprised by Tuesday’s news that Iranian warships seized a cargo ship and her crew of 34 in the Strait of Hormuz. But it’s a useful reminder of the kind of regime with which the West is now seeking to strike a nuclear bargain.

The M/V Maersk Tigris, a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship, was transiting the Strait along an internationally recognized maritime route when it was surrounded by gunships of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Iranians ordered the ship to divert into Iranian waters and fired warning shots when the skipper of the Tigris refused, sending out a distress call that was picked up by the destroyer USS Farragut. The Iranians then boarded the ship and steered her toward the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas.

We’ll see how long this “diversion” lasts, and what price Iran will demand for releasing the ship and its crew. The incident comes less than a week after a convoy of Iranian cargo and warships destined for Tehran’s Houthi allies in Yemen were shadowed by U.S. Navy ships, eventually turning away. It also follows an incident on Friday when Iranian warships surrounded, but did not board, another large Maersk ship, the U.S.-flagged Kensington.

Perhaps that means the Iranians are merely trying to score political points by playing a game of payback. But the U.S. effort to turn the Iranian convoy away from Yemen was in the service of a U.N. arms embargo on the Houthis. The Iranian action is effectively identical to the ship-seizing by Somali pirates in the Indian Ocean’s Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea.

It’s also a reminder that Iran has not moderated its rogue behavior during the presidency of Hasan Rouhani, whose own alleged moderation is one of the Obama Administration’s justifications for seeking a nuclear deal.

On the contrary, Mr. Rouhani has presided over renewed domestic repression and redoubled regional aggression. A nuclear deal is supposed to ease Iran’s return to the community of civilized nations, but so far Western concessions seem to have emboldened it into thinking it can do as it pleases. The habit of seizing unarmed ships on the high seas—or innocent foreign reporters working in Iran—is barbarism.

Apologists for Iran will no doubt ascribe the seizure of the Tigris to “hardline factions” within the regime. That might be true, but it only underscores the futility of striking a nuclear deal with a regime in which the hardliners can operate with impunity. What happens when Tehran decides to imprison pesky U.N. inspectors trying to verify Iran’s nuclear promises?

Iran’s disdain for basic maritime conventions is a good indicator of how it will treat any agreement it signs, which is why the Obama Administration is deluding itself that it can draw a line between Iran’s everyday behavior and its nuclear commitments. Pirates don’t keep their word, and it’s dangerous to bargain as if they will.
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36  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / New king brings big changes on: April 29, 2015, 09:07:32 AM
King Abdullah didn’t belong to this arm of the country’s ruling family, nor do Prince Muqrin and Prince Saud al Faisal, who served as foreign minister for 40 years before he was replaced Wednesday.

“The major change brought by King Salman has been the transfer of power to a new generation,” said Abdelaziz al Ghassim, an Islamist political activist and lawyer in Riyadh. “Prince Muqrin did not hold any power at any time anyway. And now that the new generation has been prepared, it is taking over the top positions.”

In a kingdom where elderly and infirm monarchs made all major decisions for decades, this is a significant departure, already translated since January into a surprisingly activist foreign policy that asserted Saudi leadership of a Sunni bloc confronting Iran. Angered by the U.S. outreach to Iran and eager to showcase its own ability to use military force, Saudi Arabia last month began airstrikes in Yemen, the first foreign war that Riyadh has run since it led a military campaign on the same soil in 1934.

“During King Abdullah, we did not have a foreign policy, and just watched events unfold in front of our eyes in Yemen,” said prominent Saudi sociologist and commentator Khalid al Dakhil. The new administration in Riyadh, he added, “is making the right choices and having the will to follow through.”

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei predictably had a less charitable take on Riyadh’s new approach, complaining earlier this month that Saudi Arabia’s traditional caution in world affairs has been jettisoned by “inexperienced youngsters who want to show savagery instead of patience and self-restraint.”

Though the world’s attention has focused on these changes in Saudi Arabia’s foreign policy, the developments at home have been just as important.

Along with his moves to curb Iranian influence, King Salman shored up domestic support by appeasing Saudi religious conservatives who had come to view King Abdullah’s tentative modernization drive, which included the creation of a coeducational university, with open hostility.

Within days of taking over, King Salman replaced the head of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, removing an official long criticized by conservatives for attempting, under King Abdullah’s direction, to defang the kingdom’s feared religious police.

Under new leadership, the Committee’s bearded enforcers have already become more active, resuming patrols in shopping malls where they have not been seen in years and raiding beach-front compounds used by foreigners.

Wednesday’s decree by King Salman also removed from her post the most senior female official in the kingdom, the deputy education minister, whose appointment in 2009 was hailed by the West as an encouraging sign of the kingdom’s progress on women’s rights.

Mohsen al Awaji, an Islamist lawyer and activist who was imprisoned six times, most recently in 2013, praised King Salman’s new outreach to fellow conservatives as “a very positive indication.”

“During King Abdullah, a lot of the decisions were taken against the will of the people—in internal and external affairs. King Abdullah had opened a very serious conflict with the conservatives,” Mr. Awaji said. “But King Salman is a man of common sense.”

While Saudi Arabia remains some of the world’s most repressive societies, the new administration in Riyadh has also made conciliatory moves toward Islamist dissenters, relaxing or ending restrictions on some, and ending King Abdullah’s policy of trying to crush the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a nation where stability and continuity have long been the official mantra, these changes are barely acknowledged in government discourse. But combined with the Yemen war, they have already bolstered the new king’s popularity, even among longtime critics of the regime.

“What was happening under King Abdullah was not real reform but fake liberalism,” says Saudi political analyst Abdullah al Shammari, a former senior diplomat and professor.

Saudi Arabia’s conservative brand of Islam is the glue that holds the kingdom together, and the new regime has wisely recognized the perils of attempting to dilute it, Mr. Shammari observed.

“Saudi Arabia is the center of Islam, and it is not our choice to be liberal. The moment Saudi Arabia tries to be liberal, it will collapse,” he said.

The architect of King Abdullah’s policies to roll back conservative restrictions—an approach welcomed by the U.S.—and to crack down on the Muslim Brotherhood was Khalid al Tuwaijiri, the head of the Royal Court.

King Salman removed him within hours of taking over in January, appointing to that position his son, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who held the job until his elevation on Wednesday to deputy crown prince. The young prince remains in charge of the Defense Ministry and the inter-ministerial committee overseeing economic affairs and development.

Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, who succeeded his father as interior minister and has worked closely with the U.S. to curb al Qaeda and Islamic State, runs a separate committee responsible for political and security affairs.

The new economic committee, in particular, has brought significant changes to the way Saudi Arabia’s economy is governed, with ministries formerly run as individual fiefs now put under the prince’s direct control, and ministers deemed to be underperforming fired without ceremony.

“Every minister knows they are watched much more closely than before,” said Khalid al Sweilem, former head of investment at Saudi Arabia’s central bank and a fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Prince Mohammed bin Salman “is very much involved and he is looking at what is good for the country, not at what is good for a particular ministry.”


37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Blue City Model on: April 29, 2015, 08:58:55 AM
third post of the day:

You’re not supposed to say this in polite company, but what went up in flames in Baltimore Monday night was not merely a senior center, small businesses and police cars. Burning down was also the blue-city model of urban governance.

Nothing excuses the violence of rampaging students or the failure of city officials to stop it before Maryland’s Governor called in the National Guard. But as order starts to return to the streets, and the usual political suspects lament the lack of economic prospects for the young men who rioted, let’s not forget who has run Baltimore and Maryland for nearly all of the last 40 years.

The men and women in charge have been Democrats, and their governing ideas are “progressive.” This model, with its reliance on government and public unions, has dominated urban America as once-vibrant cities such as Baltimore became shells of their former selves. In 1960 Baltimore was America’s sixth largest city with 940,000 people. It has since shed nearly a third of its population and today isn’t in the top 25.

The dysfunctions of the blue-city model are many, but the main failures are three: high crime, low economic growth and failing public schools that serve primarily as jobs programs for teachers and administrators rather than places of learning.

Let’s take them in order. The first and most important responsibility of any city government is to uphold law and order. When the streets are unsafe and crime is high, everything else—e.g., getting businesses to invest and create jobs—becomes next to impossible.
Opinion Journal Video
Best of the Web Today Columnist James Taranto on riots following the death of a black man in police custody. Photo credit: Getty Images.

People also start voting with their feet. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has stated that one of her goals is to attract 10,000 families to move to Baltimore. Good luck with that after Monday night.

It’s not that we don’t know what to do. Rudy Giuliani proved that in New York City, which he helped to revive in the 1990s starting with a revolution in policing that brought crime rates to record lows. A good part of this was policing in areas that had previously been left to the hoodlums.

His reward (and that of his successor, Mike Bloomberg, who built on Mr. Giuliani’s policies) was to become a villain of the liberal grievance industry and a constant target of attack. Few blue-city mayors elsewhere have been willing to take that heat.

Or take the economy. In the heyday of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, the idea was that the federal government could revitalize city centers with money and central planning. You can tell how that turned out by the office buildings and housing projects that failed to attract middle-class taxpayers. Baltimore’s waterfront is a gleaming example of this kind of top-down development, with new sports stadiums that failed to attract other businesses.

The latest figures from Maryland’s Department of Labor show state unemployment at 5.4%, against 8.4% for Baltimore. A 2011 city report on the neighborhood of Freddie Gray—the African-American whose death in police custody sparked the riots—reported an area that is 96.9% black with unemployment at 21%. When it comes to providing hope and jobs, we should have learned by now that no government program can substitute for a healthy private economy.

Then there are the public schools. Residents will put up with a great deal if they know their children have a chance at upward mobility through education. But when the schools no longer perform, the parents who can afford to move to the suburbs do so—and those left behind are stuck with failure. There are many measures of failure in Baltimore schools, but consider that on state tests 72% of eighth graders scored below proficient in math, 45% in reading and 64% in science.

Our point is not to indict all cities or liberals. Many big-city Democrats have worked to welcome private investment and reform public education. Some of the biggest cities—New York, Boston and San Francisco—have also had inherent economic advantages like higher education and the finance and technology industries.

But Baltimore also has advantages, not least its port and one of the nation’s finest medical centers in Johns Hopkins. If it lacks the appeal of New York or San Diego, that is all the more reason for city officials to rethink their reliance on high taxes, government spending and welfare-state dependency.

For a time in recent decades, it looked like the reform examples of New York under Messrs. Giuliani and Bloomberg and the growth of cities like Houston might lead to a broader urban revitalization. In some places it did.

But of late the progressives have been making a comeback, led by Bill de Blasio in New York and the challenge to sometime reform Mayor Rahm Emanuel in Chicago. This week’s nightmare in Baltimore shows where this leads. It’s time for a new urban renewal, this time built on the ideas of private economic development, personal responsibility, “broken windows” policing, and education choice.
38  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / NR: Thes lessons of Baltimore on: April 29, 2015, 08:51:43 AM
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/417601/riot-plagued-baltimore-catastrophe-entirely-democratic-partys-own-making-kevin-d
39  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Baltimore on: April 29, 2015, 08:45:34 AM
Contrary to the emotional blackmail some leftists are attempting to peddle, Baltimore is not America’s problem or shame. That failed city is solely and completely a Democrat problem. Like many failed cities, Detroit comes to mind, and every city besieged recently by rioting, Democrats and their union pals have had carte blanche to inflict their ideas and policies on Baltimore since 1967, the last time there was a Republican Mayor.

In 2012, after four years of his own failed policies, President Obama won a whopping 87.4% of the Baltimore City vote. Democrats run the city of Baltimore, the unions, the schools, and, yes, the police force. Since 1969, there have only been only been two Republican governors of the State of Maryland.

Elijah Cummings has represented Baltimore in the U.S. Congress for more than thirty years. As I write this, despite his objectively disastrous reign, the Democrat-infested mainstream media is treating the Democrat like a local folk hero, not the obvious and glaring failure he really is.

Every single member of the Baltimore city council is a Democrat.

Liberalism and all the toxic government dependence and cronyism and union corruption and failed schools that comes along with it, has run amok in Baltimore for a half-century, and that is Baltimore’s problem. It is the free people of Baltimore who elect and then re-elect those who institute policies that have so spectacularly failed that once-great city. It is the free people of Baltimore who elected Mayor Room-To-Destroy.

You can call the arson and looting and violence we are seeing on our television screens, rioting. That’s one way to describe the chaos. Another way to describe it is Democrat infighting. This is blue-on-blue violence. The thugs using the suspicious death of Freddie Gray (at the hands of a Democrat-led police department) to justify the looting that updates their home entertainment systems, are Democrats protesting Democrat leaders and Democrat policies in a Democrat-run city.

Poverty has nothing to do with it. This madness and chaos and anarchy is a Democrat-driven culture that starts at the top with a racially-divisive White House heartbreakingly effective at ginning up hate and violence.

Where I currently reside here in Watauga County, North Carolina, the poverty level is 31.3%. Median income is only $34,293. In both of those areas we are much worse off than Baltimore, that has a poverty rate of only 23.8% and a median income of $41,385.

Despite all that, we don’t riot here in Watauga County. Thankfully, we have not been poisoned by the same left-wing culture that is rotting Baltimore, and so many other cities like it, from the inside out. We get along remarkably well. We are neighbors. We are people who help out one another. We take pride in our community, and are grateful for what we do have. We are far from perfect, but we work out our many differences in civilized ways. Solutions are our goal, not cronyism, narcissistic victimhood, and the blaming of others.

One attitude we don’t have here is the soul-killing belief that somebody owes us something, which, of course, is a recipe for discontent. Because if you’re not getting what’s owed to you, how can you be anything but angry?

Democrats and their never-ending grievance campaigns; their never-ending propaganda that government largess is the answer; their never-ending caves to corrupt unions; their never-ending warehousing of innocent children in failed public schools — that’s a Democrat problem, not America’s problem.

I might believe Baltimore was an American problem if the city was interested in new ideas and a new direction under new leaders. But we all know that will never happen. After Democrat policies result in despair and anarchy, Democrats always demand more of the same, only bigger.

And the media goes right along.

And things only get worse.

I wish you all the luck in the world Baltimore. And I truly wish you had the courage to change. If you ever do, send up a flare. Until then, there is nothing anyone can do for you. You are victims of your own choices, and no one can make choices for you but you.

As far as the good people of Baltimore trapped by the terrible voting of your fellow citizens, I suggest you buy more guns until you can move to a city not run by those who see rioting as part of the Master Plan.

 

40  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Zo goes on a rant on: April 28, 2015, 09:27:25 PM
https://www.facebook.com/conservative50plus/videos/10153168045905873/
41  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) and the 4th & 9th Amendments on: April 28, 2015, 09:25:26 PM
Interesting question.  First impression is that it does meet my objection.  My first response is that there should be some sort of probable cause basis.
42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Study asserts homophobes are latent gay on: April 28, 2015, 09:05:32 PM
https://youreadygrandma.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/harvard-study-reveals-that-all-homophobic-people-are-gay/
43  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / 4th Amendment, time standing still on: April 28, 2015, 02:35:49 PM
http://www.dailydot.com/politics/police-drug-sniffing-dog-violates-your-rights/?fb_action_ids=10205182973906620&fb_action_types=og.shares
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: April 28, 2015, 09:37:26 AM
A point Team Hillary is making is that State was one of some 9 agencies that reviewed and approved the deal.  While some/most may have no national security considerations as part of their evaluating criteria, others, e.g. the Pentagon clearly did.

How do we explain this?

45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Privacy, Big Brother (State and Corporate) and the 4th & 9th Amendments on: April 28, 2015, 09:33:50 AM
A fair and logical question.

I would answer that there is an inherent limit on the police power that comes from manpower limitations, whereas with this new technology, and others coming down the pike, that a dramatic shift in the balance between citizens and the police occurs-- and an Orwellian state begins to coalesce.
46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Senator Barasso wrote a warning to Obama on: April 24, 2015, 08:40:26 AM
The Clinton Foundation Is the Democratic Party . . . and Arguably, the U.S. Government As Well
Jonathan Chait comes to terms with the obvious:
When you are a power couple consisting of a former president and a current secretary of State and likely presidential candidate, you have the ability to raise a lot of money for charitable purposes that can do a lot of good. But some of the potential sources of donations will be looking to get something in return for their money other than moral satisfaction or the chance to hobnob with celebrities. Some of them want preferential treatment from the State Department, and others want access to a potential future Clinton administration. To run a private operation where Bill Clinton will deliver a speech for a (huge) fee and a charity that raises money from some of the same clients is a difficult situation to navigate. To overlay that fraught situation onto Hillary’s ongoing and likely future government service makes it all much harder.
And yet the Clintons paid little to no attention to this problem . . .
The Obama administration wanted Hillary Clinton to use official government email. She didn’t. The Obama administration also demanded that the Clinton Foundation disclose all its donors while she served as Secretary of State. It didn’t comply with that request, either.
The Clintons’ charitable initiatives were a kind of quasi-government run by themselves, which was staffed by their own loyalists and made up the rules as it went along.
This explains a bit about why the 2016 cycle could turn out to be another battle between a Clinton and a Bush. (For what it’s worth, I don’t think it will shake out this way.)
The presidency dominates American political life, making every ex-president the former boss of just about every middle-management or rising star figure in his party. If you’re in politics, if you haven’t worked for a president, chances are you’re one degree of separation away from someone who worked for one.
(This was one of the things that made Barack Obama’s win over Hillary in the 2008 primary so improbable -- she had all the veteran national-campaign staffers, pollsters, strategists, etc.)
George W. Bush casts a long shadow on the 2016 Republican field, far beyond his brother. Among those who worked for George W. Bush: Ted Cruz, who worked on the Bush 2000 campaign and in the Federal Trade Commission; Bobby Jindal, who was an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services from 2001 to 2003; Chris Christie, who Bush appointed U.S. Attorney for New Jersey; Rick Perry was Bush’s lieutenant governor in 1999 and 2000; and arguably Carly Fiorina, who served on CIA and State Department advisory committees during the Bush years.
The Clintons, Inc., make up a big slice of the professional class of the Democratic party. And the Bush Family, Inc., makes up a big slice of the professional class of the Republican party.
And as we’ve seen . . . who in the party can tell a former president what he can and can’t do? Who in the Democratic party was willing to put his foot down and tell the Clintons “no”?
There were people who were trying to say “no” . . .
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., where Uranium One’s largest U.S. operation was, wrote to President Obama, saying the deal “would give the Russian government control over a sizable portion of America’s uranium production capacity.”
. . . but they were ignored.
Last night on Greta Van Susteren’s program, Barrasso said, “We tried to throw the penalty flag early on . . . We were very concerned from the standpoint of energy security for our country, and national security. Now you see Vladimir Putin owning 20 percent of American uranium, controlling that and we know Russia sends uranium to countries that are not our friends, that are our enemies, including Iran.”
He said he received a letter, three months later, from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that said the commission would keep an eye on the deal. He said that based on his discussions with “people on the ground,” American uranium has left the country and gone overseas, without the company getting the necessary special permissions and permits.
47  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / WSJ Why the stales are so high on: April 23, 2015, 06:59:08 PM
second post


By
Fred Barnes
April 22, 2015 7:06 p.m. ET
356 COMMENTS

The importance of a presidential election depends on what’s at stake. In 1980, a lot was. The economy was stuck with double-digit inflation and interest rates, and Soviet communism was advancing in Africa, Asia and South America. Ronald Reagan was elected president.

Now, as the 2016 presidential race unfolds, the stakes are even higher than 36 years ago. Not only is the economy unsteady but threats to American power and influence around the world are more pronounced and widespread. And those problems are only part of what makes next year’s election so critical.

Like it or not, the next president must deal with the world President Obama leaves behind. It won’t be easy. A Republican president will be committed to reversing a significant chunk of Mr. Obama’s legacy, as most GOP candidates already are. That’s a gigantic undertaking. A Democratic president, presumably Hillary Clinton, will be forced to defend Mr. Obama’s policies, since they reflect the views of her party. That will leave little time for fresh Democratic initiatives.

The most immediate issues confronting the new president are strategic and military. The U.S. role in the world is in retreat. Allies such as Israel and Poland have been alienated. American leadership against Russian intervention in Ukraine and Iran’s dominance of neighboring countries in the Middle East was fleeting. Mr. Obama’s promise of a foreign-policy “pivot” toward Asia turned out to be merely rhetorical.

Ashamed of past American policies, Mr. Obama began his presidency with an apology tour. When the next president takes office a tour of reassurance may be required, along with an effort to persuade the world of America’s intention to stand up to Russia, Iran, China and Islamic terrorists.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military has shrunk to pre-World War II levels in troops and arms. “Our leaders have painted a fictional picture of the state of our military,” said former Texas governor and likely GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry in a speech in early April. “Our armed forces are depleted, our military infrastructure is aging, and our technological advantages are being severely challenged.”

Mr. Perry did not exaggerate. But a military buildup as massive as Mr. Reagan’s in the 1980s would be expensive, take years to complete, and face political opposition. The Democratic Party no longer has a hawkish, internationalist faction. “There is no Scoop Jackson wing,” former United Nations ambassador John Bolton said at a Republican gathering in New Hampshire last Friday. “There isn’t even a Joe Lieberman wing.”

Next in line of importance is the economy, which has not experienced annual economic growth of more than 3% since 2005. Like the diminished military, this has weakened America’s ability to project power and influence outside U.S. borders. Rejuvenating the economy is necessary. Without it, the country will suffer. Politically speaking, so will the president elected next year.

Entitlements—Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid—are eating up the federal budget. Reform is crucial to curbing debt and improving economic growth. Republicans are divided, though, and Democrats want to increase entitlement spending. The new president may be hogtied on this issue.

But a Republican won’t be blocked from altering the ideological balance on the Supreme Court. It’s very much at stake in the 2016 election. Four justices are 76 or older. Two, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (82) and Stephen Breyer (76), are liberals. Antonin Scalia (79) is a conservative. And Anthony Kennedy (78) is a swing vote. The next president’s nominees, assuming there are several, will be pivotal.

And that leads us to the toughest issue of all for a Republican president: rolling back or overhauling Mr. Obama’s policies from ObamaCare to student loans to executive orders protecting up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation and opening diplomatic relations with Cuba. This is a high priority for the entire GOP. But “it will take some time,” says James Capretta of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank. It will require patience and tenacity.

The history here is not encouraging. When President Dwight Eisenhower arrived at the White House in 1953, he was expected to begin dismantling the New Deal. But some New Deal policies were popular, and the task of uprooting programs in place for nearly two decades was daunting. The New Deal survived almost wholly intact.

That won’t happen with a Republican president and Congress. “If a Republican wins, he’ll almost certainly have both houses of Congress,” says University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato. But “GOP ranks in the Senate won’t be at or even near 60 due to the seats that are up for grabs in ’16. Still, it’s an end to extreme gridlock.”

ObamaCare will be first on the chopping block, as well it should, and Republicans have adequate plans to replace it that most Americans will likely welcome. Curbs on oil and natural gas production can be eased or eliminated. Executive orders can be promptly rescinded.

It is the rest of Mr. Obama’s legacy that will be tricky to undo. Should every overreaching initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency be axed? Should the Federal Communications Commission be packed to cancel net neutrality? What about Dodd-Frank, the stepped-up regulation of financial markets? Should it be repealed entirely or just stripped of some of its new rules?

When attacking eight years of Obama policies, Republicans would be wise not to treat Democrats the way Democrats treated them. Mr. Obama did himself no favors by shunning Republicans when ObamaCare, the economic stimulus and Dodd-Frank were passed. Democrats had large majorities in the House and Senate at the time. They spurned even a hint of bipartisanship.

This has come back to haunt Mr. Obama and Democrats. If ObamaCare had been passed with a sprinkling of Republican votes, it would not be as unpopular as it is today. The same is true for executive orders. They were used specifically to deny Republicans a role.

This touches on a tacit but important issue in the 2016 election: the possibility of a “new normal” in the way Washington works. The parties are deeply divided. They don’t like each other. Mr. Obama made things worse. With Mr. Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid gone, the next president can improve relations. It won’t require an executive order.

Mr. Barnes, executive editor of the Weekly Standard, is a Fox News commentator.
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48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Stratfor: Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and US Strategy on: April 23, 2015, 06:55:10 PM
As the debate continues over whether the United States will intervene in Syria, many observers have overlooked what Turkey and Saudi Arabia — Washington's two main regional allies — want from the Americans. Both countries want the United States to conduct a more comprehensive strike that weakens the regime, but their interests over the fate of Syria after the intervention differ greatly. Either way, Ankara's and Riyadh's behavior threatens to draw Washington into its third war in the Islamic world in 12 years.

On Thursday, Turkish media reported that the country deployed additional forces along its border with Syria ahead of expected U.S. military action. The previous day, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said that Arab countries had offered to pay for the cost of any military action against Damascus. Kerry added that there was international consensus involving "Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, Qataris, the Turks and the French" on the need to take action against Syria for its use of chemical weapons against its own people.

What is a Geopolitical Diary? George Friedman explains.

Kerry is right to place the Saudis and the Turks in the same broad category of those that support Washington's use of force against Damascus. But he ignores the fact that both Ankara and Riyadh want the United States to topple the Syrian regime. That, however, is where their agreement ends. Not only does Washington disagree with its two main allies on the scope of the mission, but all three disagree on how they want the conflict to play out.

Neither Washington nor Ankara wants to the regime to fall completely because they do not want transnational jihadists to assume power. In Turkey, the political elites have divergent views on how far they should go in pursing regime change south of the border. Certainly the Syrian civil war presents risks; the threat of Kurdish separatism is far greater if the Syrian regime collapses. But the conflict also presents the opportunity to expand Ankara's regional influence. The United States, however, wants to oust al Assad but not dismantle his regime entirely — Washington is not interested in weakening Iran to the benefit of Sunni radicals.

The Saudis have a much more hawkish position. After two years of disappointment, Riyadh is pleased to see that Washington may finally exercise the military option. Ultimately, it wants Washington to destroy the Alawite government. Regime change would enable the Saudis to defend against the influence of Iran, their biggest enemy, and to undermine Tehran and its two pre-eminent allies, Iraq and Hezbollah.

Riyadh knows that the collapse of the al Assad regime will create a vacuum that will be exploited by transnational jihadists, but that is a negligible concern. From the Saudi point of view, it is a price worth paying if Riyadh can undermine Iranian regional influence. In fact, Saudi Arabia believes that jihadists are the only effective tools that can be used against the Iranians and their Arab Shia allies.   

The Saudi perspective is also informed by the assumption it will be spared any blowback from Syrian instability. Unlike Turkey, it does not share a border with Syria. Between its financial power and its being the only state to have actually defeated jihadists within its borders, Saudi Arabia is confident that it can manage whatever jihadist threat emerges in a post-al Assad Syria.

Ankara shares Riyadh's desire to weaken Iran — Tehran stands between the Turks and their regional ascendance — but it is not willing to go as far as the Saudis. Though both Saudi Arabia and Turkey will try to bolster their preferred rebel factions in pursuit of their respective goals, the decision on just how much damage to inflict on the regime still rests with the United States
49  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Now here's a ticket! on: April 23, 2015, 03:15:22 PM
Just put Rubio, instead of Walker and it sounds pretty good to me!


This GOP presidential ticket tells liberals to go to hell
Posted on April 23, 2015 by Wayne Allyn Root
Hi, I’m Wayne Allyn Root for Personal Liberty. The GOP keeps bringing a knife to a gun fight. The result is we’re getting killed. We’re getting defeated and humiliated even after we won the most historic landslide in modern history. It’s time to change strategy.
The media tells us to play nice, be “gentlemen” and compromise. Look where it’s gotten us: a bankrupt country with over $18 trillion in debt and income taxes at about the same level as bankrupt, socialist Greece. Worse, the labor force participation rate is at all-time lows. And for the first time in history more businesses fail each day than open.
We are facing the end of the America dream and death of the greatest middle class in world history because we have played nice, acted like gentlemen and compromised. We’re standing around acting like “gentlemen” while Barack Obama turns America into Detroit. Like in that movie “Network,” it’s time to open our window and scream: “I’m not going to take it anymore!”
It’s time for a GOP dream team of street fighters to take on the evil that is destroying America by making us all dependent on big government. It’s time to kick ass and take no prisoners. It’s time to stand up to the evildoers and tell them to go to hell.
It’s time to get behind one nominee and then name our entire team and announce what that team will do to save the U.S. economy, the middle class and the American dream.
It’s time to inspire passion and enthusiasm by showing we stand for something. That something includes smaller government, lower taxes, less spending, paying down the debt and giving more power to the citizens. Let the liberal media try to call that “extreme.” The American people will vote for that vision.
Liberals and the media told us we’d lose if we ran an “extremist” like Ronald Reagan. Instead, he won in two historic landslides. Since then, every milquetoast moderate we’ve run — George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney — lost.
The key to victory is the passion, energy, intensity and enthusiasm of your base, combined with inspiring independents and undecided voters by painting a picture of hope, prosperity and patriotism. You have to get people excited. Being “moderate” doesn’t excite anyone. Although it’s a little early for me to endorse anyone, here is a look at a potential GOP dream team.
Scott Walker as the GOP presidential nominee
Here’s a man from the Midwest, without a college degree and with a blue-collar mentality. Here’s a man who fought the money and manpower of every union in America and won — not once, not twice, but three times in blue-state Wisconsin. He didn’t do it with kindness. Despite death threats against his wife and children, Scott Walker never gave an inch. He turned a $3 billion deficit into a billion-dollar surplus, and then handed the money back to the taxpayers. That’s a fighter. That’s courage. That’s a leader with a spine, who won’t fold when the biased-liberal media tries to slander and destroy him. Walker’s a man bringing a bazooka to a gun fight.
His choices for vice president are plentiful. The GOP bench is fantastic and diverse, from Latino men like Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, to women like Carly Fiorina, Gov. Susanna Martinez and Gov. Nikki Haley, to libertarian heroes like Rand Paul, to a brilliant African-American brain surgeon like Dr. Ben Carson, to a genius policy wonk like Gov. Bobby Jindal. The list is long.
We’ve been governed by inept political hacks for far too long. It is time for a dream team of experienced, committed adults who will kick ass and never fold when the going gets tough. The GOP presidential nominee needs to name his entire dream team.
Do that and we’ll put the fear of God into liberals and the media. Here is how we differentiate ourselves, paint a picture of hope and inspire our base! Here is how we win 270 electoral votes.
Name our dream team from top to bottom
Attorney General Ted Cruz: Let’s put a true defender of the Constitution in a place where he can do just that. Can you imagine the fear we’ll drive into the heads and hearts of law-breaking liberals and Marxists? No compromise, no mercy.
Treasury Secretary Rand Paul: Put a libertarian in charge of the economy, taxes and the IRS. Watch the U.S. economy enjoy the greatest expansion in history with a true, free-market libertarian in charge. Rand Paul is a fighter. No compromise, no mercy.
Defense Secretary Allen West. Here’s the man born to stand up for the honor of the military and defend the greatest nation in world history. No compromise, no mercy.
Secretary of State (you’re going to love this one) Donald Trump: Rather than weaklings afraid of their shadows, turn the world’s greatest, pit bull negotiator loose on our adversaries like China and Russia. Let him negotiate the nuclear deal with Iran. No compromise, no mercy.
Federal Reserve Chairman Ron Paul: The first father-son cabinet team will stand up to, audit and rein in the Fed before the Fed destroys our economy. Ron Paul’s entire life has been preparation for this. No compromise, no mercy.
Homeland Security Secretary Trey Gowdy: Protect our borders with a pit bull, not a pussycat. No compromise, no mercy.
ICE Director Joe Arpaio: Need I say more?
Health And Human Services Secretary Ben Carson: Here’s the guy born to dismantle Obamacare. No compromise, no mercy.
Labor Secretary Darrell Issa: Here’s a street fighter who will stand up for America’s workers, not union bosses. No compromise, no mercy.
Energy Secretary Sarah Palin. You want jobs? Take off the shackles and drill, baby, drill! No compromise, no mercy.
Commerce Secretary Herman Cain. Here’s a brilliant businessman and unabashed capitalist who will get American working again. No compromise, no mercy.
Special Economic Advisers Mitt Romney, Jack Welsh, Steve Wynn, Carly Fiorina and Donald Trump (doing double duty): Put politics aside and put people who understand business in charge of the economy. No compromise, no mercy.
Education Secretary Bobby Jindal. Here’s the brightest guy in the room, bar none. Put him in charge of taking on the teachers unions with creative ideas to turn around our failing education system. No compromise, no mercy.
(Now, a personal plug) Wayne Allyn Root, in charge of the Small Business Administration: Small business is the economic engine of America. I know how to motivate, inspire and empower the millions of mom and pop businesses on Main Street, not Wall Street. I stand for giving power to small business, not the welfare state or illegal aliens. No compromise, no mercy.
This is how you win an election — by exciting and inspiring Americans with an experienced, all-star GOP dream team that actually stands for something: America first!
And this is how you tell liberals to go to hell.
http://personalliberty.com/this-gop-presidential-ticket-tells-liberals-to-go-to-hell/
******
50  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / STratfor: Could AQ and IS reconcile? on: April 23, 2015, 12:06:03 PM
 Could the Islamic State and al Qaeda Reconcile?
Security Weekly
April 23, 2015 | 08:00 GMT
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By Scott Stewart

Over the course of the past couple weeks I have talked to several people who have asked my opinion on the possibility of a reconciliation between al Qaeda and the Islamic State. The question is being brought about by a number of factors.

First is the fact that the Islamic State is losing ground in Iraq and in parts of Syria and has suffered significant losses in men, materiel and in its financial apparatus. This is taken to mean the group has been humbled a bit, and now that it is under heavy pressure, its leaders might be tempted to join forces with al Qaeda. Second, al Qaeda has lost some sub-groups to the Islamic State, and it is commonly perceived to be losing ground to the Islamic State in the propaganda war. Furthermore, in parts of Syria, such as in Qalamoun, some local Islamic State commanders have periodically cooperated with the local al Qaeda franchise, Jabhat al-Nusra, to fight regime forces and Hezbollah. Finally, some unconfirmed rumors are floating around the Internet jihadisphere saying al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is going to dissolve al Qaeda and give the regional franchise groups their independence.

Many fear that if the groups joined forces, their combined capabilities and resources would pose a major threat to the rest of the world. This fear is certainly not unfounded. A united jihadist movement would pose a more substantial threat than does the currently divided movement. However, because of a number of factors, it does not appear that either the Islamic State or al Qaeda could accept such a merger.

Divisions

Several important factors keep the Islamic State and al Qaeda divided. Perhaps the most superficial of these factors is the clash between the personalities of the groups. A great deal of personal animosity appears to exist between the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and Jabhat al-Nusra leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani. This personal enmity has manifested itself in Islamic State propaganda that makes direct, personal attacks against al-Zawahiri and al-Golani. For example, the group’s English-language magazine, Dabiq, has depicted al-Zawahiri as a manipulative and dishonest man. In the seventh edition, the Islamic State essentially labeled al-Zawahiri a deviant by charging that he had "abandoned the pure heritage" that Osama bin Laden left and had turned al Qaeda to a mistaken ideology. For his part, al-Zawahiri has called Islamic State militants "Kharijites," or radical, rebellious extremists. Al-Golani and al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula have also been quite critical of al-Baghdadi.

But the conflict goes beyond personal attacks. The Islamic State takes issue with several tenets of al Qaeda’s approach to jihadism as codified in al-Zawahiri’s September 2013 General Guidelines for Jihad. The Islamic State is particularly incensed with al-Zawahiri’s guidance to avoid targeting Shiites. Al-Zawahiri directed al Qaeda franchise groups and individual militants to focus primarily on fighting the United States and the "Crusader Alliance" and only to attack "deviant sects" such as Shiites, Ismailis, Qadianis and Sufis defensively. He also ordered his followers not to attack the homes, places of worship, religious festivals or social gatherings of other Muslim sects. The Islamic State, on the other hand, believes these so-called deviant groups are heretics and, therefore, should be eliminated.

The disparity in whether to attack Shiite and other Muslim sects originates in differing approaches to the takfir doctrine, which deals with labeling Muslims apostates and therefore justified targets for attack. The Islamic State believes it can declare entire sects apostates, for example the Shiites, whereas al Qaeda believes that takfir should be declared in a much more limited manner.

Al Qaeda’s General Guidelines for Jihad also states that jihadists should avoid targeting Christian, Sikh and Hindu communities living in Muslim lands, unless they transgress, which would be grounds for a proportional response. On the other hand, massacres of such communities and attacks against their homes, places of worship and festivals have been a hallmark of the Islamic State since its inception. This difference in targeting philosophy led al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to sharply criticize Islamic State sympathizers for the March 20 suicide bombings of two mosques in Sanaa that killed 142 Houthis and wounded hundreds of others.

The Islamic State also takes exception to the al Qaeda guidelines that call for jihadists to support and participate in popular uprisings against oppressive regimes. Al Qaeda made the guidelines to take advantage of Arab Spring-type demonstrations, and jihadists participated in violent demonstrations in Egypt and Tunisia. But the Islamic State charges that by taking this approach, al Qaeda is changing jihadism from fighting to holding peaceful demonstrations and pursuing popular support, or even supporting democracy — a deadly sin in the eyes of most jihadists.

But these differences in the approach to jihadism are not surprising, nor are they new. Though the Islamic State did not formally split from al Qaeda until February 2014, tension and friction between the two organizations over topics such as targeting Shiites and Christians had existed since Abu Musab al-Zarqawi merged his Jamaat al-Tawhid and Jihad group with al Qaeda in 2004. Indeed, Stratfor published a three-part series analyzing the tension between the groups.
Different Origins, Different Philosophies

These longstanding differences exist because, unlike al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the jihadist leadership in Iraq did not come from the al Qaeda core. While the jihadist leaders in Iraq, including al-Zarqawi, saw the benefit to adopting the al Qaeda brand name to help with recruitment and fundraising, they never fully embraced al Qaeda's philosophy and vision and frequently ignored the core's guidance. Before joining al Qaeda, al-Zarqawi's group had its own identity and philosophy, which were greatly influenced by Jordanian jihadist ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi. Many former members of Iraq's Baathist military also joined the group and influenced the Islamic State's philosophy.

Considering an Islamic State and al Qaeda Reconciliation
Click to Enlarge

When the Islamic State merged with al Qaeda, it attempted to place a veneer of al Qaeda over its initial Tawhid and Jihad foundation, but the different schools were never fully reconcilable ideologically: The Islamic State was always radically more sectarian than the al Qaeda core and immediately more regionally, rather than transnationally, focused. Though the Islamic State did target Americans in Iraq and in Jordan, it never attempted to conduct attacks against the U.S. homeland.

Al Qaeda has always seen itself as the vanguard organization focused on attacking the United States and its allies in the Crusader Alliance to weaken them and to awaken the masses, inciting them to revolt against their rulers. The organization sees itself fighting a long-term battle not unlike the Maoist concept of the long war. The Islamic State, on the other hand, is much more audacious. It is focused on the local struggle and believes it can follow the example of the Prophet Mohammed to create an ideal caliphate that is the basis for global conquest. Though both al Qaeda and the Islamic State are dualistic and millenarian in their theology — they believe they are engaging in a cosmic battle of good versus evil to replace a corrupt society with an ideal one — the Islamic State is quite a bit more apocalyptic. Its members believe their activities in Syria and Iraq will draw the armies of the Earth to oppose them. After initially suffering heavy losses, the Prophet Isa, which is Arabic for Jesus, will return to lead them in a final battle at Dabiq in Syria, where they will finally defeat the "crusader forces" led by the Antichrist. After the victory at Dabiq, they will be able to extend their Islamic State to conquer the Earth.
Irreconcilable Differences

Overcoming differences might be easier if personal animosity were the only obstacle separating al Qaeda and the Islamic State, especially if one or more of the warring personalities were killed. Even if Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State were not fighting each other in Syria and al Qaeda and Islamic State franchises were not fighting elsewhere, the groups' conflicting ideologies would make broad reconciliation difficult. This is especially clear because the two groups have gone to such lengths to outline their differences. Explaining a merger with a group previously labeled as apostates or kharijites would be an awkward and difficult task for the leaders of both groups.

Ideology is just too important for al Qaeda and for the Islamic State. Indeed, members of both groups are willing to die for their beliefs. While some claim that jihadist leaders cynically use religion to manipulate others, their actions keep with their extremist beliefs, indicating their sincerity. Because both groups claim to have exclusive understanding of the correct interpretation of Islam regarding jihad, they are unlikely to merge. Additionally, after proclaiming itself to be the global leader of all Muslims, allowing itself to become subordinate to another group would be insupportable for the Islamic State.

While al Qaeda is down, it is clearly not out, and the group's Yemen franchise has made tremendous gains since the Saudi-led air campaign began degrading its most dangerous enemies there. Additionally, taking Idlib, alongside ally Ahrar al-Sham, highlighted Jabhat al-Nusra's strength in Syria.

At a local level, some al Qaeda and Islamic State groups may continue to cooperate, especially if they have not actively combated one another. At the present time, this cooperation is most apparent in battlefronts on the periphery of the Syrian civil war, such as in Yarmouk camp, where Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State units are far from the core areas of their respective leadership. But even then, cooperation — especially in very localized and specific cases — is much different than a merger.

Individual members of the groups, or even subunits, may defect to the other side, especially if one of the groups becomes weakened beyond repair. However, because of their irreconcilable differences, imagining a mass merger of the two organizations into one global jihadist front is difficult.

Before any such formal reconciliation could become even a remote possibility, a very noticeable change in how the Islamic State and al Qaeda publicly portray each other would have to take place to dampen the animosity between the two sides and to begin mending fences between the two camps. Until this unlikely development occurs, a merger between the two groups is impossible.
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