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1  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Treatment of Muslims in Israel on: August 26, 2014, 06:26:30 PM
2  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hamas cries "Uncle!" , , , for now on: August 26, 2014, 05:20:52 PM

Decimated Hamas Accepts Ceasefire, Claims Victory
by IPT News  •  Aug 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm
Israel's counterterrorism operations in Gaza have effectively deteriorated Hamas' military capabilities and facilitated in breaking down the terrorist group's chain of command, security officials told the Jerusalem Post Tuesday.

Later that day, amid the report's assessment that Hamas had lost much of its will to fight, the terrorist group agreed to the latest Egyptian-brokered ceasefire.

There is growing discontent among the Hamas ranks, as the group suffered significant terrorist casualties, destruction of vital military infrastructure, rocket construction capabilities, and major destruction of its sophisticated underground tunnel network, the Post report said. Israel's successful targeted assassination of senior Hamas leaders severely disrupted the terrorist organization's command and control structure, and even resulted in the desertion of rank and file terrorists from battle.

In light of the assassinations, growing suspicion of Israeli intelligence infiltration also forced Hamas to halt the use sophisticated technologies in the battlefield, significantly reducing its ability to fight. The growing mistrust and panic led Hamas to summarily execute over 20 Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel.

Mid-range commanders allegedly fled with their families from conflict zones to avoid having their houses destroyed, producing a sense of mistrust and abandonment among remaining fighters. In one case, 14 Hamas fighters were reportedly trapped in a tunnel for 20 days with no supplies while their commanders failed to even attempt a rescue effort. Some are believed to have starved to death.

According to the Israeli assessments, many within Gaza's society are disillusioned with Hamas, whose leaders were among the first to hide underground leaving the civilians to cope with Israeli retaliation to Hamas' indiscriminate terrorist campaign. Hamas is also accused of confiscating aid transferred into the Gaza Strip, intended for needy civilians, and giving it to its own members. 

None of this reality has stopped Hamas from claiming victory. Hours before the cease-fire went into effect, dozens of rockets and mortar shells targeted southern Israel, wounding dozens and killing one Israeli. The Hamas Al-Qassam Brigades boasts of its terrorist campaign and perceived diplomatic victory over Israel, touting that it is preparing for the next round of hostilities against the Jewish state.

Hamas leadership continues to make clear that they remain committed to Israel's destruction. The Gaza war showed that they are willing to sacrifice their own people, by constantly firing from civilian population centers and structures, including mosques and hospitals, in hopes of advancing that goal.
3  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Serious Read: Lebanon's Precedent on: August 26, 2014, 05:10:36 PM

Iraq and Syria Follow Lebanon's Precedent
Geopolitical Weekly
Tuesday, August 26, 2014 - 03:10 Print Text Size

By George Friedman

Lebanon was created out of the Sykes-Picot Agreement. This agreement between Britain and France reshaped the collapsed Ottoman Empire south of Turkey into the states we know today -- Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, and to some extent the Arabian Peninsula as well. For nearly 100 years, Sykes-Picot defined the region. A strong case can be made that the nation-states Sykes-Picot created are now defunct, and that what is occurring in Syria and Iraq represents the emergence of post-British/French maps that will replace those the United States has been trying to maintain since the collapse of Franco-British power.
The Invention of Middle East Nation-States

Sykes-Picot, named for French diplomat Francois Georges-Picot and his British counterpart, Sir Mark Sykes, did two things. First, it created a British-dominated Iraq. Second, it divided the Ottoman province of Syria on a line from the Mediterranean Sea east through Mount Hermon. Everything north of this line was French. Everything south of this line was British. The French, who had been involved in the Levant since the 19th century, had allies among the region's Christians. They carved out part of Syria and created a country for them. Lacking a better name, they called it Lebanon, after the nearby mountain of the same name.

The British named the area to the west of the Jordan River after the Ottoman administrative district of Filistina, which turned into Palestine on the English tongue. However, the British had a problem. During World War I, while the British were fighting the Ottoman Turks, they had allied with a number of Arabian tribes seeking to expel the Turks. Two major tribes, hostile to each other, were the major British allies. The British had promised postwar power to both. It gave the victorious Sauds the right to rule Arabia -- hence Saudi Arabia. The other tribe, the Hashemites, had already been given the newly invented Iraqi monarchy and, outside of Arabia, a narrow strip of arable ground to the east of the Jordan River. For lack of a better name, it was called Trans-Jordan, or the other side of the Jordan. In due course the "trans" was dropped and it became Jordan.

And thus, along with Syria, five entities were created between the Mediterranean and Tigris, and between Turkey and the new nation of Saudi Arabia. This five became six after the United Nations voted to create Israel in 1947. The Sykes-Picot agreement suited European models and gave the Europeans a framework for managing the region that conformed to European administrative principles. The most important interest, the oil in Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula, was protected from the upheaval in their periphery as Turkey and Persia were undergoing upheaval. This gave the Europeans what they wanted.

What it did not do was create a framework that made a great deal of sense to the Arabs living in this region. The European model of individual rights expressed to the nation-states did not fit their cultural model. For the Arabs, the family -- not the individual -- was the fundamental unit of society. Families belonged to clans and clans to tribes, not nations. The Europeans used the concept of the nation-state to express divisions between "us" and "them." To the Arabs, this was an alien framework, which to this day still competes with religious and tribal identities.

The states the Europeans created were arbitrary, the inhabitants did not give their primary loyalty to them, and the tensions within states always went over the border to neighboring states. The British and French imposed ruling structures before the war, and then a wave of coups overthrew them after World War II. Syria and Iraq became pro-Soviet states while Israel, Jordan and the Arabians became pro-American, and monarchies and dictatorships ruled over most of the Arab countries. These authoritarian regimes held the countries together.
Reality Overcomes Cartography

It was Lebanon that came apart first. Lebanon was a pure invention carved out of Syria. As long as the Christians for whom Paris created Lebanon remained the dominant group, it worked, although the Christians themselves were divided into warring clans. But after World War II, the demographics changed, and the Shiite population increased. Compounding this was the movement of Palestinians into Lebanon in 1948. Lebanon thus became a container for competing clans. Although the clans were of different religions, this did not define the situation. Multiple clans in many of these religious groupings fought each other and allied with other religions.

Moreover, Lebanon's issues were not confined to Lebanon. The line dividing Lebanon from Syria was an arbitrary boundary drawn by the French. Syria and Lebanon were not one country, but the newly created Lebanon was not one country, either. In 1976 Syria -- or more precisely, the Alawite dictatorship in Damascus -- invaded Lebanon. Its intent was to destroy the Palestinians, and their main ally was a Christian clan. The Syrian invasion set off a civil war that was already flaring up and that lasted until 1990.

Lebanon was divided into various areas controlled by various clans. The clans evolved. The dominant Shiite clan was built around Nabi Berri. Later, Iran sponsored another faction, Hezbollah. Each religious faction had multiple clans, and within the clans there were multiple competitors for power. From the outside it appeared to be strictly a religious war, but that was an incomplete view. It was a competition among clans for money, security, revenge and power. And religion played a role, but alliances crossed religious lines frequently.

The state became far less powerful than the clans. Beirut, the capital, became a battleground for the clans. The Israelis invaded in order to crush the Palestinian Liberation Organization, with Syria's blessing, and at one point the United States intervened, partly to block the Israelis. When Hezbollah blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing hundreds of Marines, U.S. President Ronald Reagan, realizing the amount of power it would take to even try to stabilize Lebanon, withdrew all troops. He determined that the fate of Lebanon was not a fundamental U.S. interest, even if there was a Cold War underway.

The complexity of Lebanon goes far beyond this description, and the external meddling from Israel, Syria, Iran and the United States is even more complicated. The point is that the clans became the reality of Lebanon, and the Lebanese government became irrelevant. An agreement was reached between the factions and their patrons in 1989 that ended the internal fighting -- for the most part -- and strengthened the state. But in the end, the state existed at the forbearance of the clans. The map may show a nation, but it is really a country of microscopic clans engaged in a microscopic geopolitical struggle for security and power. Lebanon remains a country in which the warlords have become national politicians, but there is little doubt that their power comes from being warlords and that, under pressure, the clans will reassert themselves.

Syria's Geographic Challenge

Repeats in Syria and Iraq

A similar process has taken place in Syria. The arbitrary nation-state has become a region of competing clans. The Alawite clan, led by Bashar al Assad (who has played the roles of warlord and president), had ruled the country. An uprising supported by various countries threw the Alawites into retreat. The insurgents were also divided along multiple lines. Now, Syria resembles Lebanon. There is one large clan, but it cannot destroy the smaller ones, and the smaller ones cannot destroy the large clan. There is a permanent stalemate, and even if the Alawites are destroyed, their enemies are so divided that it is difficult to see how Syria can go back to being a country, except as a historical curiosity. Countries like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the United States might support various clans, but in the end, the clans survive.

Something very similar happened in Iraq. As the Americans departed, the government that was created was dominated by Shia, who were fragmented. To a great degree, the government excluded the Sunnis, who saw themselves in danger of marginalization. The Sunnis consisted of various tribes and clans (some containing Shiites) and politico-religious movements like the Islamic State. They rose up in alliance and have now left Baghdad floundering, the Iraqi army seeking balance and the Kurds scrambling to secure their territory.

It is a three-way war, but in some ways it is a three-way war with more than 20 clans involved in temporary alliances. No one group is strong enough to destroy the others on the broader level. Sunni, Shiite and Kurd have their own territories. On the level of the tribes and clans, some could be destroyed, but the most likely outcome is what happened in Lebanon: the permanent power of the sub-national groups, with perhaps some agreement later on that creates a state in which power stays with the smaller groups, because that is where loyalty lies.

The boundary between Lebanon and Syria was always uncertain. The border between Syria and Iraq is now equally uncertain. But then these borders were never native to the region. The Europeans imposed them for European reasons. Therefore, the idea of maintaining a united Iraq misses the point. There was never a united Iraq -- only the illusion of one created by invented kings and self-appointed dictators. The war does not have to continue, but as in Lebanon, it will take the exhaustion of the clans and factions to negotiate an end.

The idea that Shia, Sunnis and Kurds can live together is not a fantasy. The fantasy is that the United States has the power or interest to re-create a Franco-British invention crafted out of the debris of the Ottoman Empire. Moreover, even if it had an interest, it is doubtful that the United States has the power to pacify Iraq and Syria. It could not impose calm in Lebanon. The triumph of the Islamic State would represent a serious problem for the United States, but no more than it would for the Shia, Kurds and other Sunnis. As in Lebanon, the multiplicity of factions creates a countervailing force that cripples those who reach too far.

There are two issues here. The first is how far the disintegration of nation-states will go in the Arab world. It seems to be underway in Libya, but it has not yet taken root elsewhere. It may be a political formation in the Sykes-Picot areas. Watching the Saudi peninsula will be most interesting. But the second issue is what regional powers will do about this process. Turkey, Iran, Israel and the Saudis cannot be comfortable with either this degree of fragmentation or the spread of more exotic groups. The rise of a Kurdish clan in Iraq would send tremors to the Turks and Iranians.

The historical precedent, of course, would be the rise of a new Ottoman attitude in Turkey that would inspire the Turks to move south and impose an acceptable order on the region. It is hard to see how Turkey would have the power to do this, plus if it created unity among the Arabs it would likely be because the memories of Turkish occupation still sting the Arab mind.

All of this aside, the point is that it is time to stop thinking about stabilizing Syria and Iraq and start thinking of a new dynamic outside of the artificial states that no longer function. To do this, we need to go back to Lebanon, the first state that disintegrated and the first place where clans took control of their own destiny because they had to. We are seeing the Lebanese model spread eastward. It will be interesting to see where else its spreads.
4  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Baraq is aiding our enemies on: August 26, 2014, 02:50:24 PM
5  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / WSJ: Calpers Play for Pay on: August 26, 2014, 02:43:13 PM
Calpers's Play for Pay
Jerry Brown wanted to stop 'pension spiking.' So much for that.
Updated Aug. 26, 2014 3:12 p.m. ET

When one door closes, government unions crack open a window. So it was last week when the labor-controlled board of the California Public Employees' Retirement System (Calpers) approved counting 99 categories of supplemental pay toward workers' pension calculations.

One objective of the de minimis reforms Gov. Jerry Brown signed in 2012 was to curb egregious abuses such as "pension spiking." Defined-benefit pensions in California are calculated as a percentage of the average of workers' highest compensation over three years multiplied by the numbers of years worked. Many employees have goosed their pensions by loading up on overtime and cashing out vacation and other add-ons during their final working years. In one famous example, a fire chief in Northern California who made $186,000 retired after 26 years with an annual pension of more than $230,000.

Mr. Brown's reforms ostensibly closed these loopholes by defining "pensionable compensation" as "base pay" for "services rendered on a full-time basis during normal working hours." The law explicitly bars overtime as well as unused vacation and sick leave.

Calpers has now tried to end run the law by including 99 other salary boosters such as "incentive pay" for "local safety members, school security officers and California Highway Patrol officers who meet an established physical fitness criterion."

Public-safety officers can earn up to $1,600 annually for taking annual physicals. Employees earn "longevity pay" for merely sticking around for more than five years, which comes on top of "step" increases and annual raises. Workers can also boost their salaries by up to 10% if they are "required to obtain a specified degree" such as a bachelor's and for "maintaining a license required by government or regulatory agencies to perform their duties."

Some governments even award extra pay to firefighters "who are routinely and consistently assigned to administrative work" and to prison guards who are given the onerous job of "responding to questions from the public." Police are paid premiums for handing out parking tickets and patrolling streets. Librarians can earn more if they have to "provide direction or resources to library patrons." If only journalists could earn bonuses for writing.

Calpers did graciously exclude from its list pay boosts for public-safety officers who wear their uniforms and the monthly allowance they receive for keeping their clothes clean. But it's inevitable that government unions will soon find ways to exploit these 99 other pay bumps to pad their pensions. For instance, they could negotiate greater "longevity pay" or larger "physical fitness" premiums for workers over age 50.

Gov. Brown has chastised Calpers for undermining the reforms and asked his staff to "determine what actions can be taken to protect the integrity of the Public Employees' Pension Reform Act." The truth is that government unions and Calpers will always find ways to manipulate defined-benefit plans that are run by their political allies. The only way to protect taxpayers is with 401(k)-style plans that are individual property that can't be politically exploited.
6  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / The Neo NeoCons on: August 26, 2014, 02:39:52 PM

The Neo-Neocons
ISIS makes liberals rediscover the necessity of hard power.
Bret Stephens
Aug. 25, 2014 7:22 p.m. ET

So now liberals want the U.S. to bomb Iraq, and maybe Syria as well, to stop and defeat ISIS, the vilest terror group of all time. Where, one might ask, were these neo-neocons a couple of years ago, when stopping ISIS in its infancy might have spared us the current catastrophe?

Oh, right, they were dining at the table of establishment respectability, drinking from the fountain of opportunistic punditry, hissing at the sound of the names Wolfowitz, Cheney, Libby and Perle.

And, always, rhapsodizing to the music of Barack Obama.

Not because he is the most egregious offender, but only because he's so utterly the type, it's worth turning to the work of George Packer, a writer for the New Yorker. Over the years Mr. Packer has been of this or that mind about Iraq. Yet he has always managed to remain at the dead center of conventional wisdom. Think of him as the bubble, intellectually speaking, in the spirit level of American opinion journalism.

Thus Mr. Packer was for the war when it began in 2003, although "just barely," as he later explained himself. In April 2005 he wrote that the "Iraq war was always winnable" and "still is"—a judgment that would have seemed prescient in the wake of the surge. But by then he had already disavowed his own foresight, saying, when he was in full mea culpa mode, that the line was "the single most doubtful" thing he had written in his acclaimed book "The Assassins' Gate."

Then the surge began to work, a reality the newly empowered Democrats in Congress were keen to dismiss. (Remember Hillary Clinton lecturing David Petraeus that his progress report required "a willing suspension of disbelief"?) "The inadequacy of the surge is already clear, if one honestly assesses the daily lives of Iraqis," wrote Mr. Packer in September 2007. The title of his essay was "Planning for Defeat."

Next, Mr. Packer pronounced himself bored with it all. "By the fall of 2007, my last remaining Iraqi friend in Baghdad had left," he wrote a few years later. "Once he was gone, my connection to the country and the war began to thin, even as the terror diminished. I missed the improvement that came with the surge, and so, in my nervous system, I never quite registered it." This was Mr. Packer in Robert Graves mode, bidding Good-Bye to All That.

And then came Mr. Obama. Was ever a political love more pure than what Mr. Packer expressed for the commander in chief? Mr. Obama, he wrote in 2012, was "more like J.F.K. than any other president." Or was T.R. the better comparison? "On foreign policy, Obama has talked softly and carried a big stick." He had "devastated the top ranks of Al Qaeda." On Iran, he had done a "masterful job." On Syria, "the Administration was too slow in isolating Assad, but no one has made a case for intervention that has a plausibly good outcome."

As for Iraq, Mr. Obama withdrew "after eight years of war in a way that left the U.S. with almost no influence—but he could have tried to force matters with the Iraqis and left behind far more bitterness."

Elsewhere, Mr. Packer has written that "American wars in Muslim countries created some extremists and inflamed many more, while producing a security vacuum that allowed them to wreak mayhem." This is the idea, central to the Obama administration's vision of the world, that wisdom often lies in inaction, that U.S. intervention only makes whatever we're intervening in worse.

It's a deep—a very deep—thought. And then along came ISIS.

In the current issue of the New Yorker, Mr. Packer has an essay titled "The Common Enemy," which paints ISIS in especially terrifying colors: The Islamic State's project is "totalitarian." Its ideology is "expansionist as well as eliminationist." It has "many hundreds of fighters holding European or American passports [who] will eventually return home with training, skills, and the arrogance of battlefield victory." It threatened a religious minority with "imminent genocide." Its ambitions will not "remain confined to the boundaries of the Tigris and the Euphrates." The administration's usual counterterrorism tool, the drone strike, is "barely relevant against the Islamic State's thousands of ground troops."

"Pay attention to other people's nightmares," he concludes, "because they might be contagious."

Correcto-mundo. Which brings us back to the questions confronting the Bush administration on Sept. 12, 2001. Are we going to fight terrorists over there—or are we going to wait for them to come here? Do we choose to confront terrorism by means of war—or as a criminal justice issue? Can we assume the cancer in the Middle East won't spread so we can "pivot" to Asia and do some more "nation-building at home"? Can we win with a light-footprint approach against a heavy-footprint enemy?

Say what you will about George W. Bush: He got every one of these questions right while Mr. Obama got every one of them wrong. It's a truth that may at last be dawning on the likes of Mr. Packer and the other neo-neocons, not that I expect them ever to admit it.

Write to
7  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / War Hawk Hillary vs. Isolationist Paul on: August 26, 2014, 01:38:35 PM
Yesterday Sen. Paul called Hillary a "War Hawk".

I gotta say the idea of the architect of the black hole formerly known as Libya as Commander in Chief gives me the willies.  I would not want my son under her command!

As much as I like Rand on many issue, the idea of him as Commander in Chief also gives me the willies , , ,
8  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Rand Paul on: August 26, 2014, 01:35:19 PM
Sen. Paul yesterday called Hillary a "war hawk" and called for a new coalition in American politics.
9  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: August 26, 2014, 01:34:05 PM
Most people think backwards, they choose the position that makes the statement about themselves that they wish to make, then they learn the facts and reasons to justify the position.  This is why reason does not work in persuading people to change their minds.

I disagree with what some of what you say.

Name me positions where the right is in the lead against external diseconomies?

Off the top of my head I cannot think of any-- and most people would take the absence of such examples as proof of an underlying attitude.  Here we have a perfect issue to illustrate free market environmentalism and where are we?  Quibbling about the definition of gyres , , ,
10  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Some Fascinating History-- Faisal of Iraq on: August 26, 2014, 12:28:31 PM
Faisal I of Iraq
11  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson, 1775: Do your duty and , , , on: August 26, 2014, 12:16:56 PM

"The great principles of right and wrong are legible to every reader; to pursue them requires not the aid of many counselors. The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail." --Thomas Jefferson, A Summary View of the Rights of British America, 1775
12  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hit piece on Glen Beck on: August 26, 2014, 12:12:45 PM
I'm not remembering Beck on the illegal issue the way this piece is, but for the record here it is:
13  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: August 26, 2014, 12:01:20 PM
I grant that many greens are watermelons, but can easily imagine that gyres are broadly defined. 

Is the point really so important that we need to lose track of the underlying fact that we are crapping up the oceans? 

In my considered opinion, we of the right are often regarded with deep suspicion by those whose primary modality is emotion (60% of the population?) as having a default setting of not giving a flying fk about the planet.  Here we have something that is a clear violation of free market principles.  This is a golden opportunity for us to disprove the suspicion , , , or prove its veracity.

14  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Durable Goods boom 22.6% in July on: August 26, 2014, 11:33:18 AM
New Orders For Durable Goods Boomed 22.6% in July To view this article, Click Here
Brian S. Wesbury, Chief Economist
Robert Stein, Deputy Chief Economist
Date: 8/26/2014

New orders for durable goods boomed 22.6% in July (+23.8% including revisions to prior months), easily beating the consensus expected gain of 8.0%. Orders excluding transportation declined 0.8% in July, but were up 0.3% including revisions to prior months, coming in below the consensus expected 0.5% gain. Orders are up 33.8% from a year ago while orders excluding transportation are up 6.6%.

The gain in overall orders was led by civilian aircraft and autos. The largest decline was for machinery.

The government calculates business investment for GDP purposes by using shipments of non-defense capital goods excluding aircraft. That measure rose 1.5% in July (+2.7% including revisions to prior months). If unchanged in August and September, these shipments will be up at an 8.8% annual rate in Q3 versus the Q2 average.
Unfilled orders increased 5.4% in July and are up 12.3% from last year.

Implications: Durable goods boomed 22.6% in July, the biggest increase on record going back to 1958. The entire gain in durable goods orders was due to the very volatile transportation sector, which rose 74.2% in July. In particular, civilian aircraft orders rose 318% as Boeing received 324 orders for new planes in July. Excluding transportation, new orders for durable goods declined 0.8% in July, but were revised up to a 3% gain in June (versus a prior estimate of 1.9%) and are up 6.6% versus a year ago. The best news today was that shipments of “core” capital goods, which exclude defense and aircraft – a good proxy for business equipment investment – rose 1.5% in July and June shipments were revised up to a 0.9% gain (versus a prior estimate of -0.3%). These shipments are now up 7.6% versus a year ago, a major acceleration from the 0.4% decline in the year ending in July 2013. Until recently, business investment had been unusually slow relative to other parts of the recovery, but it now looks like companies are finally updating their equipment and building out capacity more quickly. On the housing front; mixed news on home prices today. The FHFA index, which measures prices for homes financed with conforming mortgages, increased 0.4% in June, and is up 5.2% from a year ago. However, the Case-Shiller index, which measures homes in 20 key metro areas around the country, declined 0.2% in June, with 13 of the 20 areas showing a decline, led by Minneapolis and Detroit. That’s the first overall decline since early 2012. Still, in the past year, the Case-Shiller index is up 8.1%, with gains led by Las Vegas, San Francisco, and Miami. Both the FHFA index and Case-Shiller show smaller price gains in the past twelve months than in the twelve months that ended in June 2013. We expect that trend to continue, with these measures generally moving up but showing smaller gains than in the recent years. In other news this morning, the Richmond Fed index, a measure of factory sentiment in the mid-Atlantic region, rose to +12 in August from +7 in July, signaling continued gains in industrial production in August.
15  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / EMP Warfare on: August 26, 2014, 11:30:06 AM
Hat tip to GM:
16  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Cyberwar and American Freedom on: August 26, 2014, 11:29:18 AM
 shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked shocked
17  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Environmental issues on: August 26, 2014, 11:25:25 AM
a) I read the "40% gyres" as saying that 40% of the oceans are gyres, not that the gyres are 100% full of plastic.  So yes, he is being Clintonesque in this but still IMHO the problem remains.

b) I have read elsewhere about this issue and seen stuff on TV.  In my considered opinion there really is a horrific problem with this about which we SHOULD be alarmed.
18  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Prof Richard Epstein on the Constitution on: August 26, 2014, 11:21:12 AM

BTW, I see this thread has hit 100,000 reads!  Well done gentlemen!
19  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Choking the Oceans with Plastic on: August 26, 2014, 09:51:39 AM
By way of prefacing this article I claim that I think my hard core right wing credentials are in good order.

One of the key rules of the free market is that buyer and seller to a transaction should bear all its' costs.  Costs not so born e.g. pollution, are called "External Diseconomies".  (Other rules of the free market are No Fraud, No Theft, and Voluntary Interactions)

As a violation of the rules of the free market EDs are a suitable area for governmental action.  I oppose, for example, the sneering reaction of some of my cohorts on the right to oppose regulations and bans of plastic bags at the supermarket etc.  I wonder why the cartons in which I buy my coconut water cannot also be used in lieu of plastic bottles for drinking water.


Choking the Oceans With Plastic

AUG. 25, 2014
NYT Opinion

LOS ANGELES — The world is awash in plastic. It’s in our cars and our carpets, we wrap it around the food we eat and virtually every other product we consume; it has become a key lubricant of globalization — but it’s choking our future in ways that most of us are barely aware.

I have just returned with a team of scientists from six weeks at sea conducting research in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — one of five major garbage patches drifting in the oceans north and south of the Equator at the latitude of our great terrestrial deserts. Although it was my 10th voyage to the area, I was utterly shocked to see the enormous increase in the quantity of plastic waste since my last trip in 2009. Plastics of every description, from toothbrushes to tires to unidentifiable fragments too numerous to count floated past our marine research vessel Alguita for hundreds of miles without end. We even came upon a floating island bolstered by dozens of plastic buoys used in oyster aquaculture that had solid areas you could walk on.

Plastics are now one of the most common pollutants of ocean waters worldwide. Pushed by winds, tides and currents, plastic particles form with other debris into large swirling glutinous accumulation zones, known to oceanographers as gyres, which comprise as much as 40 percent of the planet’s ocean surface — roughly 25 percent of the entire earth.

No scientist, environmentalist, entrepreneur, national or international government agency has yet been able to establish a comprehensive way of recycling the plastic trash that covers our land and inevitably blows and washes down to the sea. In a 2010 study I conducted of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, we extrapolated that some 2.3 billion pieces of plastic — from polystyrene foam to tiny fragments and pellets — had flowed from Southern California’s urban centers into its coastal waters in just three days of sampling.

The deleterious consequences of humanity’s “plastic footprint” are many, some known and some yet to be discovered. We know that plastics biodegrade exceptionally slowly, breaking into tiny fragments in a centuries-long process. We know that plastic debris entangles and slowly kills millions of sea creatures; that hundreds of species mistake plastics for their natural food, ingesting toxicants that cause liver and stomach abnormalities in fish and birds, often choking them to death. We know that one of the main bait fish in the ocean, the lantern fish, eats copious quantities of plastic fragments, threatening their future as a nutritious food source to the tuna, salmon, and other pelagic fish we consume, adding to the increasing amount of synthetic chemicals unknown before 1950 that we now carry in our bodies.

We suspect that more animals are killed by vagrant plastic waste than by even climate change — a hypothesis that needs to be seriously tested. During our most recent voyage, we studied the effects of pollution, taking blood and liver samples from fish as we searched for invasive species and plastic-linked pollutants that cause protein and hormone abnormalities. While we hope our studies will yield important contributions to scientific knowledge, they address but a small part of a broader issue.

The reality is that only by preventing man-made debris — most of which is disposable plastic — from getting into the ocean in the first place will a measurable reduction in the ocean’s plastic load be accomplished. Clean-up schemes are legion, but have never been put into practice in the garbage patches.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the United States supports environmentalist groups that remove debris from beaches. But the sieve-like skimmers they use, no matter how technologically sophisticated, will never be able to clean up remote garbage gyres: There’s too much turbulent ocean dispersing and mixing up the mess. We should use skimmers in the coastal zone, especially at the mouths of urban rivers where tons of stuff enters the ocean daily, but it’s not a matter that can be compared to encircling massive oil slicks with containment booms.

The problem is compounded by the aquaculture industry, which uses enormous amounts of plastic in its floats, nets, lines and tubes. The most common floats and tubes I’ve found in the deep ocean and on Hawaiian beaches come from huge sea-urchin and oyster farms like the one that created the oyster-buoy island we discovered. Those buoys were torn from their moorings by the tsunami that walloped Japan on March 11, 2011. But no regulatory remedies exist to deal with tons of plastic equipment lost accidentally and in storms. Government and industry organizations purporting to certify sustainably farmed seafood, despite their dozens of pages of standards, fail to mention gear that is lost and floats away. Governments, which are rightly concerned with depletion of marine food sources, should ensure that plastic from cages, buoys and other equipment used for aquaculture does not escape into the waters.

But, in the end, the real challenge is to combat an economic model that thrives on wasteful products and packaging, and leaves the associated problem of clean-up costs. Changing the way we produce and consume plastics is a challenge greater than reining in our production of carbon dioxide.

Plastics are a nightmare to recycle. They are very hard to clean. They can melt at low temperatures, so impurities are not vaporized. It makes no difference whether a synthetic polymer like polyethylene is derived from petroleum or plants; it is still a persistent pollutant. Biodegradable plastics exist, but manufacturers are quick to point out that marine degradable does not mean “marine disposable.”

Scientists in Britain and the Netherlands have proposed to cut plastic pollution by the institution of a “circular economy.” The basic concept is that products must be designed with end-of-life recovery in mind. They propose a precycling premium to provide incentives to eliminate the possibility that a product will become waste.

In the United States, especially in California, the focus has been on so-called structural controls, such as covering gutters and catch basins with 5-millimeter screens. This has reduced the amount of debris flowing down rivers to the sea. Activists around the world are lobbying for bans on the most polluting plastics — the bottles, bags and containers that deliver food and drink. Many have been successful. In California, nearly 100 municipalities have passed ordinances banning throwaway plastic bags and the Senate is considering a statewide ban.

Until we shut off the flow of plastic to the sea, the newest global threat to our Anthropocene age will only get worse.

Charles J. Moore is a captain in the U.S. merchant marine and founder of the Algalita Marine Research and Education Institute in Long Beach, California.
20  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Moving back home together on: August 26, 2014, 09:36:19 AM
I like what this article discusses a lot.  For me it is an example of a key point of the story of Genesis-- that we are to rebuild/regrow the Garden of Eden.

Moving Back Home Together
Rarest Native Animals Find Haven on Tribal Lands

Yellowstone bison were released at the Fort Belknap Reservation in Montana in 2013. Native American tribes have created a host of programs to aid unique Western species. Credit Jonathan Proctor/Defenders of Wildlife

FORT BELKNAP AGENCY, Mont. — In the employee directory of the Fort Belknap Reservation, Bronc Speak Thunder’s title is buffalo wrangler.

In 2012, Mr. Speak Thunder drove a livestock trailer in a convoy from Yellowstone National Park that returned genetically pure bison to tribal land in northeastern Montana for the first time in 140 years. Mr. Speak Thunder, 32, is one of a growing number of younger Native Americans who are helping to restore native animals to tribal lands across the Northern Great Plains, in the Dakotas, Montana and parts of Nebraska.

They include people like Robert Goodman, an Oglala Lakota Sioux, who moved away from his reservation in the early 2000s and earned a degree in wildlife management. When he graduated in 2005, he could not find work in that field, so he took a job in construction in Rapid City, S.D.

Then he learned of work that would bring him home. The parks and recreation department of the Pine Ridge Reservation, where he grew up, needed someone to help restore rare native wildlife — including the swift fox, a small, tan wild dog revered for its cleverness. In 2009, Mr. Goodman held a six-pound transplant by its scruff and showed it by firelight to a circle of tribal elders, members of a reconvened warrior society that had disbanded when the foxes disappeared.

“I have never been that traditional,” said Mr. Goodman, 33, who released that fox and others into the wild after the ceremony. “But that was spiritual to me.”

For a native wildlife reintroduction to work, native habitat is needed, biologists say. On the Northern Great Plains, that habitat is the original grass, never sliced by a farmer’s plow.  Unplowed temperate grassland is the least protected large ecosystem on earth, according to the American Prairie Reserve, a nonprofit organization dedicated to grassland preservation. Tribes on America’s Northern Plains, however, have left their grasslands largely intact.  More than 70 percent of tribal land in the Northern Plains is unplowed, compared with around 60 percent of private land, the World Wildlife Fund said. Around 90 million acres of unplowed grasses remain on the Northern Plains. Tribes on 14 reservations here saved about 10 percent of that 90 million — an area bigger than New Jersey and Massachusetts combined.

“Tribes are to be applauded for saving so much habitat,” said Dean E. Biggins, a wildlife biologist for the United States Geological Survey.

Wildlife stewardship on the Northern Plains’ prairies, bluffs and badlands is spread fairly evenly among private, public and tribal lands, conservationists say. But for a few of the rarest native animals, tribal land has been more welcoming.

The swift fox, for example, was once considered for listing as an endangered species after it was killed in droves by agricultural poison and coyotes that proliferated after the elimination of wolves. Now it has been reintroduced in six habitats, four on tribal lands.

“I felt a sense of pride trying to get these little guys to survive,” said Les Bighorn, 54, a tribe member and game warden at Montana’s Fort Peck Reservation who in 2005 led a reintroduction of swift foxes.

Mr. Speak Thunder, who took part in the bison convoy, agreed. “A lot of younger folks are searching, seeking out interesting experiences,” he said. “I have a lot of friends who just want to ride with me some days and help out.”

Over the last four years in Montana, the tribes at Fort Peck and Fort Belknap, along with the tycoon and philanthropist Ted Turner, saved dozens of bison that had migrated from Yellowstone. Once the food staple of Native Americans on the Great Plains, bison were virtually exterminated in the late 19th century; the Yellowstone bison are genetic descendants of the only ones that escaped in the wild.

This spring, by contrast, Yellowstone officials captured about 300 bison and sent them to slaughterhouses. Al Nash, a park spokesman, said they were culled after state and federal agencies “worked together to address bison management issues.” The cattle industry opposes wild bison for fear the animals might compete with domestic cows for grass, damage fences or spread disease.

Emily Boyd-Valandra, 29, a wildlife biologist at the Rosebud Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, is emblematic of new tribal wildlife managers working around the Northern Plains. She went to college and studied ecology. (Nationwide, the rate of indigenous people in America attending college has doubled since 1970, according to the American Indian College Fund.)

Diploma in hand, Ms. Boyd-Valandra moved home, took a job with her tribe’s department of game, fish and parks, and found a place for what she called “education to bridge the gap between traditional culture and science.”

Blending her college lessons with the reverence for native animals she absorbed from her elders, she helped safeguard black-footed ferrets on her reservation from threats like disease and habitat fragmentation. The animal was twice declared extinct after its primary prey, the prairie dog, was wiped out across 97 percent of its historic range; since 2000, ferrets have been reintroduced in 13 American habitats, five of them on tribal land.

“Now that we’re getting our own people back here,” Ms. Boyd-Valandra said, “you get the work and also the passion and the connection.” One of her mentors is Shaun Grassel, 42, a biologist for the Lower Brule Indian Reservation in South Dakota. “What’s happening gives me a lot of hope,” he said.

Though each reservation is sovereign, wildlife restoration has been guided to a degree by grants from the federal government. Since 2002, the Fish and Wildlife Service has given $60 million to 170 tribes for 300 projects that aided unique Western species, including gray wolves, bighorn sheep, Lahontan cutthroat trout and bison.

“Tribal land in the U.S. is about equal to all our national wildlife refuges,” said D. J. Monette of the wildlife agency. “So tribes really have an equal opportunity to protect critters.”

Nonprofit conservation organizations have also helped. But tribe leaders say that what drives their efforts is a cultural memory that was passed down from ancestors who knew the land before European settlement — when it teemed with wildlife.
Continue reading the main story

“Part of our connection with the land is to put animals back,” said Mark Azure, 54, the president of the Fort Belknap tribe. “And as Indian people, we can use Indian country.”

In late 2013, during the painful federal sequestration that forced layoffs on reservations, Mr. Azure authorized the reintroduction of 32 bison from Yellowstone and 32 black-footed ferrets. That helped secure several thousand dollars from the nonprofit Defenders of Wildlife and kept some tribe members at work on the reintroduction projects, providing employment through an economic dip and advancing the tribe’s long-term vision of native ecosystem restoration. The next project is an aviary for eagles.

One night last fall, Kristy Bly, 42, a biologist from the World Wildlife Fund, visited the reservation to check on the transplanted black-footed ferrets. Mena Limpy-Goings, 39, a tribe member, asked to ride along because she had never seen one.  They drove around a bison pasture under the Northern Lights for hours, until the spotlight mounted on Ms. Bly’s pickup reflected off the eyes of a ferret dancing atop a prairie dog burrow.

“Yee-hoo!” Ms. Bly cheered. “You’re looking at one of only 500 alive in the wild.”

Ms. Limpy-Goings hugged herself.

“It is,” she said, “more beautiful than I ever imagined.”
21  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / There is no CA comeback- tax revenues down 6% on: August 26, 2014, 09:22:43 AM

There Is No California Comeback—Income Tax Revenues DOWN 6% for First Six Months
August 25, 2014 By Stephen Frank Leave a Comment
Text Size:  a-  A+

    A few months ago I had the opportunity of meeting Stephen Moore at a Franklin Center bloggers conference in Virginia. He is as entertaining and direct in person as he is on TV or in this article. Importantly, he is willing to state facts that are too confusing for our Governor to understand. Remember, a couple of weeks ago Jerry Brown was trying to figure out how to handle a $30 billion debt along with an multi-billion “water” bond” where most of the money goes to special interest and less than a third MIGHT be used to create water storage. Oh, per the LAO, California has a $340 billion, ten times more than our confused Guv Brown knows about.

    “First, the tax-receipt bubble may have already burst.

    A 3 percent retroactive tax hike approved in November 2012, hit wealthy Californians on their prior earnings, and took the state’s top effective tax rate to 13 percent. Revenues shot up by more than 20 percent in fiscal 2013 thanks to the retroactive tax bills wealthy Californians had to pay last year.

    But so far this calendar year, according to the latest data from California’s State Controller’s Office and the Rockefeller Institute, personal income-tax revenues fell by 11 percent in the first quarter of this year and more than 6 percent through June.

    In fact, the decline through the first quarter, according to the Rockefeller Institute, was more than any other state.”

    california fire

There Is No California Comeback

Stephen Moore, Daily Signal, 8/24/14

Stephen Moore, who formerly wrote on the economy and public policy for The Wall Street Journal, is chief economist at The Heritage Foundation. Read his research.

News media from coast to coast are celebrating a “California comeback” after a near-decade-long Golden State economic collapse.

But even this latest recovery may be much more fragile than has been reported, and the state’s structural defects still imperil the left-coast economy.

Certainly there are reasons for optimism. Tax collections were way up last year, and the state is balancing its budget after years of scrambling to close multibillion deficits with accounting gimmicks.

Silicon Valley is on fire as the tech boom has rebooted. San Francisco is one of the fastest-growing cities, with rents doubling and even tripling in recent years.

There is even a whispering campaign that if Hillary Clinton tanks, Gov. Jerry Brown, who will be older in 2016 than Reagan was when he left office, may run for president, on a platform of resurrecting the U.S. economy the way he engineered the rebound in California.

For liberals this is a story of “progressive government” — the model of high taxes, heavy regulation and government “investments” leading to prosperity.

That’s the message from the left’s leading economic sage, Paul Krugman, who recently wrote that the lesson from the “California comeback” is “that you should take anti-government propaganda with large helpings of salt.”

“Tax increases,” he maintained, “aren’t economic suicide; sometimes they’re a useful way to pay for things we need.

Government programs, like Obamacare, can work if the people running them want them to work, and if they aren’t sabotaged from the right.

“In other words,” he concludes, “California’s success is a demonstration that the extremist ideology still dominating much of American politics is nonsense.”

Before we start declaring a California Miracle, let’s examine the state’s underlying economy, because this looks more like an economic mirage.

First, the tax-receipt bubble may have already burst.

A 3 percent retroactive tax hike approved in November 2012, hit wealthy Californians on their prior earnings, and took the state’s top effective tax rate to 13 percent. Revenues shot up by more than 20 percent in fiscal 2013 thanks to the retroactive tax bills wealthy Californians had to pay last year.

But so far this calendar year, according to the latest data from California’s State Controller’s Office and the Rockefeller Institute, personal income-tax revenues fell by 11 percent in the first quarter of this year and more than 6 percent through June.

In fact, the decline through the first quarter, according to the Rockefeller Institute, was more than any other state.

The tech and social media boom has inflated revenues too, with tax windfalls from the Facebook, Zillow, and Yelp IPOs, Tesla  stock sales and the WhatsApp acquisition to name a few.

According to the state’s legislative analyst, Facebook’s IPO alone was expected to net the $2.5 billion in one-off taxes.

“How many times do Californians have to relearn the lesson that one-off events are nonrecurring?” asks Rob Arnott, chairman of Research Affiliates, a nationally renowned money management firm headquartered in California.

“The revenues soon disappear as is happening now. When Google went public in 2004, capital-gains revenues jumped 49 percent the next year. Within two years, cap-gains taxes accounted for 11 percent of the California budget. But not long after the Google tax windfall had faded, the state was broke again.”

The big challenge for California, says Arnott, is “with the newly higher tax rates, and the resentment caused by tax retroactivity, how many spectacular new startups are likely in California, providing new tax windfalls, and how many will choose other tech hubs, like Austin or Seattle?”

Second, consider the supposed budget surplus. The rosy numbers don’t include gargantuan hidden deficits from state pension liabilities.

Moody’s reports that the state’s pensions assume a discount rate of 7.5 percent on liabilities. Is anyone getting a 7.5% low-risk return on their money today? Long-term Treasury bonds yield less than 3.5 percent.

The 4% difference, applied to $650 billion of liabilities, means a hidden deficit of $26 billion that the state hopes to close with investments carrying higher downside risk. If investments don’t close the gap, then future contributions — funded by even higher taxes or deeper cuts in state services — are the state’s obvious destiny.

In 2013, Moody’s prepared an analysis of state pensions, using a still-generous 5.47 percent discount rate. It found $120 billion in unacknowledged additional unfunded liabilities for California, and nearly $1 trillion nationwide. With a 3.5 percent discount rate, these hidden liabilities double.

As return assumptions are forced lower in the years ahead, the hidden deficits and unfunded liabilities (which will almost certainly have grown by then) will gradually move onto the official budget as red ink.

Whoever is presiding over the interjection of truth into this process will get the blame.

Meantime, a new report by a taxpayer watchdog group called TransparentCalifornia sheds light on why these pension and health care liabilities for city and state workers are so huge.

It found that in 2013 an assistant chief of police and fire for Los Angeles received a golden egg retirement package worth more than $900,000. An L.A. police captain with 30 years of service raked in $750,000 in ’13, and a retired San Diego program manager got $600,000.

There are scores and scores of such taxpayer rip-offs going on each year. And who pays for this largesse? Current and future California taxpayers — many of whom will never earn a six-figure salary let alone a high-six-figure pension.

There are other economic signs of a continuing economic malaise that the California enthusiasts don’t acknowledge.

The Census Bureau reported last year that the California poverty rate adjusted for cost of living is 23.8% — almost 50% above the average for all other states.

The Los Angeles Times reported in September 2013 that California’s poverty rate is the highest in the nation, despite welfare benefits that are among the highest.

Economist Arthur Laffer, an adviser to President Reagan, notes that “the poverty rate is now higher in California than in Texas, adjusted for cost of living, even though Texas is still a poorer state.”

One reason for the high poverty is that almost everything is more expensive in California. Transportation, electricity, water, fees and housing are often 50% higher and sometimes double the rest of the nation, according to a California Policy Institute analysis.

These costs, the CPI finds, are a result of extraordinary regulatory burdens, high taxes, green policies, and generous pay and pensions for state and municipal public employees. Such costs act as regressive taxes on California’s working poor.

Naturally, income inequality in California is widening, as the rich in Silicon Valley and Hollywood have seen big wealth gains, while more at the bottom of the income ladder fall into poverty and the middle class is crushed.

For example, despite the hiring boom in the tech industry, the unemployment rate in California is still tied for seventh highest in the nation. In some areas of the state, the jobless rate is 20%.

One of the best indicators of prosperity for a state or city is whether people and businesses are moving to that location or away from it. Detroit went bankrupt in part because fixed government costs (e.g., pensions) were stuck while the population shrank by more than half and the tax base evaporated.

Meanwhile, places that have a friendly environment for business, and especially for entrepreneurs — such as Texas and Arizona — attract people and capital. Here is where California scores most poorly of all.

From 2003 to 2012, a net 1.4 million people left California for other states. According to the CPI analysis based on Bureau of Labor Statistics data, the state lost 5 percent of its businesses in 2012 due to bankruptcy, outmigration or mergers. And during an economic recovery, no less.

By the end of 2013 (the most recent quarter available), California was still down compared with two years earlier. How many more business owners will add to the growing exodus, moving their businesses to less-hostile tax and regulatory regimes?

The history of California since the 1970s has been one of glorious booms and gut-wrenching busts. In the last two decades, the booms have gotten shorter and the busts more severe.

The state has enormous natural advantages — beautiful weather, mountains, beaches, enormous energy resources, some of the most productive agricultural land in the country, and many of the greatest universities in the world. It’s also a magnet for some of the most talented immigrants from every corner of the world.

But the policies that progressives keep pushing are making California unlivable and unaffordable. CEO Magazine has ranked California “the worst state in which to do business” — in terms of taxes, regulations, litigation costs and business friendliness — 10 years in a row.

Joseph Vranich, a business relocation consultant who tracks movement of businesses in and out of the state says, “Over the last decade we’ve detected a steady acceleration of businesses moving out of California. You routinely see these employers and the jobs relocated in Nevada, Colorado, Texas and Idaho.”

Arnott’s glum assessment: “We’re beyond bankrupt here in California, as are many of the big states. It’s only a matter of time before that becomes obvious.”
22  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Cognitive Dissonance of the left on: August 26, 2014, 09:05:05 AM
The logic of the point is not without merit.
23  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Re: Race, religion, ethnic origin, LGBT, "discrimination", & discrimination. on: August 25, 2014, 09:10:41 PM
second post of day
24  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Detroit citizen's guns getting the drop on crime on: August 25, 2014, 07:54:20 PM
25  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / California Wait Period on: August 25, 2014, 07:42:49 PM
Hat tip to PC  grin

California wait period doesn't apply to gun owners
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal judge has overturned part of a California law requiring a 10-day waiting period for gun buyers, ruling that it does not apply to those who already own firearms.

U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii of Fresno ruled that "10-day waiting periods impermissibly violate the Second Amendment" for gun-buyers who already passed background checks or are authorized to carry concealed weapons.

Californians buying their first firearm will still be subject to background checks and the 10-day waiting period under the ruling, dated Friday.

A spokesman for the state attorney general, Nick Pacilio, said Monday that officials are reviewing the ruling as they decide whether to appeal.

Two gun owners and two gun-owner rights groups, The Calguns Foundation and the Second Amendment Foundation, sued over the state waiting period in 2011.
26  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Remittances to/from Somaliland on: August 25, 2014, 06:09:47 PM
27  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Anti-semitism in Hungary on: August 25, 2014, 06:07:16 PM
Click here to watch: Hungarian Mayor Holds Mock Public Execution of Israeli Leaders’

A mayor of a rural town in eastern Hungary held a mock medieval-style public execution of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and former president Shimon Peres in order to protest Israel’s military operation against Hamas in Gaza. According to a video posted online, Erpatak Mayor Mihaly Zoltan Orosz, who hails from the neo-Nazi Hungarian Jobbik Party, is seen standing in a traditional Hungarian costume with effigies of Netanyahu and Peres hanging behind him. After reading an anti-Israel speech, a man wearing the black hood of an executioner kicks out chairs holding the effigies, marking the Israeli leaders’ executions.

Watch Here

The Hungarian Foreign Ministry condemned the mock execution, saying, “The mayor has used the conflict in Gaza and its innocent victims as an excuse to spread hate-inducing propaganda.” As is the case in the rest of Europe, anti-Semitism has been on the rise in Hungary. The Jobbik Party came in third in Hungary’s parliamentary elections in April.

Source: Algemeiner
28  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Egypt and UAE launch secret air strikes! on: August 25, 2014, 11:52:43 AM
second post today:

And without our "permission"!  rolleyes

Emirates and Egypt Said to Secretly Attack Militia in Libya

Twice in the last seven days, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have secretly teamed up to launch airstrikes against Islamist-allied militias battling for control of Tripoli, Libya, four senior American officials said, in a major escalation between the supporters and opponents of political Islam.

The United States, the officials said, was caught by surprise: Egypt and the Emirates, both close allies and military partners, acted without informing Washington or seeking its consent, leaving the Obama administration on the sidelines. Egyptian officials explicitly denied the operation to American diplomats, the officials said.

The strikes are the most high-profile and high-risk salvo unleashed in a struggle for power that has broken out across the region in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolts, pitting old-line Arab autocrats against Islamists.


29  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / More legal guns, less crime in Chicago-- who would have thought it? on: August 25, 2014, 11:48:21 AM
30  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Rand Paul on: August 25, 2014, 11:44:28 AM
As usual, good work BD.

Worth noting that there are six weeks between those two pieces.
31  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: The Hillbillary Clintons long, sordid, and often criminal history on: August 25, 2014, 11:39:10 AM
Well, my position is we should wait for the facts.  Given that I am hard put to fault Hillary for keeping her mouth shut.
32  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Nice work Hillary: Libya descends into chaos on: August 25, 2014, 11:36:15 AM
Leading with your behind can lead to this.
33  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Some innuendo about the officer on: August 25, 2014, 11:18:52 AM
34  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jefferson: Dependence begets , , , 1781 on: August 25, 2014, 11:11:00 AM
"Dependence begets subservience and venality, suffocates the germ of virtue, and prepares fit tools for the designs of ambition." --Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, Query 19, 1781
35  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hamas=ISIL on: August 25, 2014, 10:44:18 AM

Obama's Hypocrisy on Hamas, ISIS, and Iran
by Noah Beck
August 24, 2014

The beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley has raised concerns in the West about Islamist threats. But Israel has been facing this specter for decades and – given Israel's proximity to the Islamist threat – the Jewish State is the canary in the coal mine for the West. But Gaza seems to be the Western blind spot, even though the Hamas-ISIS parallels are glaringly obvious.

Since beheadings are the current media focus, and ISIS has beheaded infants, it's worth noting that Hamas praised the 2011 Itamar murders, which involved the decapitation of a baby. Islamist beheadings should surprise no one, given that they've been happening for much of (and despite) modernity – perhaps because "Islam is the only major world religion today that is cited…to legitimize beheadings," according to this study.

While there have been no reported Hamas beheadings of journalists, the similarities between Hamas and ISIS are more important than their differences.
Both would like to establish a Caliphate. Hamas Interior Minister declared as much in this 2013 speech.

Both gain and keep power through savagery and fear. Hamas rose to power in Gaza thanks to its violent, 2007 coup, and recently planned a second putsch (in the West Bank). Hamas famously threw its political opponents off rooftops.

Like ISIS, Hamas uses clinics, schools, mosques, and charities to gain legitimacy, and inculcates children with the values of jihadi terror. A Vice documentary exposed how ISIS indoctrinates and uses children for war, but Hamas has been doing so for years, educating children to worship death and using child soldiers.

Hamas' use of human shields has been widely documented (and proven very effective in turning public opinion against Israel by exponentially increasing Gazan civilian casualties). ISIS used 500 Yazidi captives and 39 abducted Indians as human shields.

ISIS is known for its expulsion of Christians from Mosul and its genocidal murder of Yazidis and Christians who refuse to convert to Islam or pay the jizyah. Hamas would undoubtedly behave the same way towards the religious minorities within its reach, if Israeli Jews didn't have the protection of a superior military, and if Hamas didn't depend on international donations to Gaza that might dry up after a wholesale slaughter of the tiny Christian community there. But even with these checks on Hamas' brutality, Hamas regularly practices and preaches religious hatred. For years, Hamas has attacked Christians, including defiling Christian graves, abducting and murdering Christians, and more recently using a Gazan church to launch rockets at Israel. Hamas preaches hateful incitement against Jews, has desecrated Jewish holy sites, and has murdered hundreds of Jews in terrorist attacks.

ISIS uses Sharia to justify its barbaric treatment of women. Also enamored with Sharia, Hamas treats women as second-class citizens and endorses honor killings.
Like ISIS, Hamas advocates the death penalty for homosexuals, lets Islamic morality police govern economic activity, and punishes crime with lashings, amputations, and executions. There have been no broadcast beheadings of homosexuals by ISIS yet, but such horrors can't be far off, given that ISIS fighters include gay-hating Westerners.

Hamas condemned the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, and ISIS aspires to surpass him.

Yet, astonishingly, President Obama and liberals have continually called for restraint when Israel's military has confronted Hamas (after Hamas' countless attacks against Israeli civilians) and Obama has pressed Israel to negotiate with Hamas (as if the U.S. would ever negotiate with ISIS). Worse still, the Obama Administration tried to advance Hamas' negotiating position and recently pressured Israel into letting Hamas keep its military capabilities. Given the opportunity to obliterate ISIS' terrorist infrastructure, would the U.S. ever spare any part of it?

Even more troubling – in terms of the perils involved – is Obama's feckless strategy towards the Iranian regime, which is the world's chief sponsor of Islamist terrorist groups (including Hamas and Hezbollah). Like so many Islamist terrorist organizations, Iran executes homosexuals; mistreats women; persecutes religious minorities; employs barbaric, Sharia-law punishments (like amputation and stoning); and brutalizes political dissenters (among myriad other human rights violations). But unlike the terrorist organizations, Iran could theoretically acquire a nuclear weapons capability in under two months. Imagine an Islamist state, which openly supports Islamist terrorists, possessing nukes. Alarmingly, Obama's overall approach and eagerness to negotiate any deal he can get with Iran have signaled weakness in a region that respects only strength. As if to laugh at Obama's naiveté, the Iranian regime has continued supporting Hamas despite the sanctions relief that Obama delivered to the Islamic Republic. Obama's meek and misguided policy has only emboldened the Iranian regime, improved its economic condition, and given diplomatic cover to Iran's nuclear program.
Islamist groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and Iran-backed Hamas and Hezbollah, all seek the destruction of Western values and civilization. The pursuit of nukes by the Islamist state of Iran – which could eventually enable nuclear terrorism by Iran's jihadi proxies – poses the greatest threat of all. The West ignores these facts at its peril, and should therefore support Israel's war against Hamas, and its efforts against Iranian nukes, just as the U.S. has rightly (albeit tardily and minimally) supported the Kurds in their fight against ISIS.

Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East
36  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Morris: China will not overtake America on: August 25, 2014, 01:26:55 AM
37  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Strikes against ISIL in Syria would often be blind on: August 25, 2014, 12:23:25 AM 
38  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen.Ted Cruz on: August 25, 2014, 12:21:49 AM
I've not heard anything from Cruz about what to do, if anything, about ISIL.
39  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Sen. Rand Paul on: August 25, 2014, 12:21:02 AM
I've not heard anything from Rand about ISIL and what, if anything, to do about it.
40  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / AQ affiliate releases US journalist on: August 24, 2014, 02:22:14 PM

U.S. Journalist Held by Qaeda Affiliate in Syria Is Freed After Nearly 2 Years

An American journalist held captive for nearly two years by Al Qaeda’s official branch in Syria has been freed, according to a representative of the journalist’s family and a report on Sunday by the Al Jazeera network.
The journalist, Peter Theo Curtis, was abducted near the Syria-Turkey border in October 2012. He was held by the Nusra Front, the Qaeda affiliate in Syria, which has broken with the more radical Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS. Another American journalist, James W. Foley, who was kidnapped in Syria the following month, was beheaded last week by ISIS, which posted images of his execution on YouTube.
A family friend confirmed on Sunday that Mr. Curtis, originally from Boston, had been handed over to a United Nations representative.

41  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Jihadi serial killer in US? on: August 24, 2014, 01:55:33 PM 
42  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / UK homicide rates on: August 24, 2014, 01:15:16 PM,+December+22,+9.26+PM.png
43  DBMA Martial Arts Forum / Martial Arts Topics / A UK perspective on: August 24, 2014, 01:10:33 PM

with comments by Marc MacYoung

Some points about this. One, the cops had secured the area (arguably containing the threat).

Two, the guy was disturbed, not attacking.

Three, those two points allowed for discretionary time. (A wonderful concept and process, because among other things it allows you time to get other options -- like a fuckin' taser)

Four, the cop acting nonchalant hid the taser from sight and set up the attack The crazy dude didn't know he was being set up so he didn't react violently. Literally this -- not the technology -- is what made this a viable strategy.

Five the cop 'shot him in the back' (again, reducing the time crazy guy had to assess what was happening and decide to attack)

Six, the nature of the crazy guy's behavior was more threatening violence than actually attacking. Important because violence overwhelmingly comes with instructions how to avoid it -- even from crazy people. When he was first hit with the taser his reaction was more threatening than an actual attack (although it's possible he was waving the blade to clear the wires)

Seven, when he finally did get around to trying to attack the officer - well let's just say electricity is faster.

Eight, where I think the cops 'goofed' is their lack of polearms. While I'm sure there was a lethal back up, that's not necessarily effective for officer safety. Had that guy spun and attacked when the barbs hit him, we'd have a chopped cop. This even if the shooters opened fire.

Remember that discretionary time? If you're going for non-lethal (although less than lethal is more accurate) yay team! But you need to have something lined up to keep the officer safe if non-lethal doesn't work (which sad to say does happen.*) Even if another cop had a push broom it could have been used to hold the guy off until the lightening took effect. Or kept one's fellow officer alive long enough for the shooters to influence the outcome.

Am I for non-lethal measures if possible? Hell yes. But look at the the circumstances when they work instead of just assuming they'll work all the time. Or that you'll have time for them.


* Let's say that there's a 20% failure rate in certain circumstances of non-lethal means. Here's the thing about that. The people who are demanding the police ALWAYS use them, would not themselves volunteer for an assignment where their chances of dying were two out of ten -- so where do they get off demanding the cops take those risks?
44  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Hosted by Frankie McRae on: August 24, 2014, 01:03:44 PM
45  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Hosted by Frankie McRae on: August 24, 2014, 01:03:00 PM
46  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Our thorougly modern enemies on: August 24, 2014, 12:38:23 PM
Please post that in the Politics thread.  TIA


Our Thoroughly Modern Enemies
ISIS in the 21st Century
AUG. 23, 2014
Ross Douthat

IN his remarks on the murder of James Foley, the American journalist decapitated by the terrorists of ISIS, President Obama condemned Foley’s killers, appropriately, as a “cancer” on the Middle East and the world. But he also found room for the most Obama-ish of condemnations: “One thing we can all agree on,” he insisted, is that the would-be caliphate’s murderous vision has “no place in the 21st century.”

The idea that America’s foes and rivals are not merely morally but chronologically deficient, confused time travelers who need to turn their DeLorean around, has long been a staple of this administration’s rhetoric. Vladimir Putin, Bashar al-Assad and tyrants in general have been condemned, in varying contexts, for being on the dreaded “wrong side of history.” Earlier this year, John Kerry dismissed Putin’s Crimea adventure in the same language Obama used last week: “19th-century behavior in the 21st century,” foredoomed by its own anachronism.

These tropes contain a lot of foolishness. Where ISIS is concerned, though, they also include a small but crucial grain of truth.

The foolishness starts with the fact that the history of liberal democracy is actually inseparable, as Abram Shulsky writes in The American Interest, from “the constant appearance of counter-ideologies that have arisen in reaction against it.” Whether reactionary or utopian, secular or religious, these counter-ideologies are as modern, in their way, as the Emancipation Proclamation or the United Nations Charter. Both illiberal nationalism and Islamic fundamentalism are younger than the United States. They aren’t just throwbacks or relics; they’re counterforces that liberal modernity seems to inevitably conjure up.

So writing off the West’s challengers as purely atavistic is a good way to misunderstand them — and to miss the persistent features of human nature that they exploit, appeal to and reward.

These features include not only the lust for violence and the will to power, but also a yearning for a transcendent cause that liberal societies can have trouble satisfying.

As The Week’s Michael Brendan Dougherty argues, discussing the Europeans who have joined up with ISIS, liberalism’s “all-too-human order” — which privileges the sober, industrious and slightly boring — is simply “not for everyone.” Nor, most likely, will it ever be: in this century, the 22nd, or beyond.

Which is why liberalism’s current dominance is contingent rather than necessary, and why its past victories have often been rather near-run things. The arc of history, another favored Obama phrase, has at times bent toward pogroms and chattel slavery, totalitarianism and genocide, nuclear annihilation. (For the Middle East’s persecuted Christians and Yazidis, it bends toward annihilation even now.) The ideals of democracy and human rights are ascendant in our age, but their advance still depends on agency, strategy and self-sacrifice, no matter what date the calendar displays.
Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story

And yet: Despite perpetuating various comforting fallacies, the White House’s talk of history’s favorites does hint at an important point about the key weakness of the enemies we face right now.

That’s because even if history doesn’t actually take sides, many people the world over share President Obama’s impulses: They want to feel that it sides with them. So the most successful counter-ideologies, the most threatening of liberalism’s rivals, have always managed to give the impression that their ideas are on the winning side of history, and that it is the poor milquetoast liberal democrats who are antique and out of date.

This was obviously true of Marxist-Leninism, but it was true of fascism as well. The fascists were reactionaries, to a point, in their appeals to mythic Roman and Teutonic pasts. But they offered far more than nostalgia: What the late Christopher Hitchens called “the mobilizing energy of fascism” was inseparable from a vision of efficiency, technology and development, one that helped persuade many Europeans (and some Americans) that Mussolini and then even Hitler stood at history’s vanguard, that the future was being forged in Rome and Berlin.

Fortunately for us, that kind of energy is mostly absent from today’s counter-ideologies, and particularly from the self-styled caliphate whose brutality was on display last week. The term “Islamofascist,” popularized after 9/11, was imprecise because it gave groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS too much credit: They may know how to use the Internet to propagandize, but they otherwise lack even a hint of the reactionary futurism, the marriage of romanticism to industrial efficiency, that made the original fascism appealing to so many.

That doesn’t mean their ideas are destined to disappear. Their place in our century, our era, is secure. We may crush them militarily, kill and scatter their adherents, but variations on Al Qaeda and ISIS will probably persist as long as liberalism does.

But to contend for mastery, to threaten us the way Nazis and Communists once did, they would need to do more than demonstrate, by their continued depredations, that history doesn’t have necessary destinations. They would need to somehow persuade the world that history’s arc might actually be about to bend toward them.
47  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / Re: Law Enforcement on: August 24, 2014, 12:36:19 PM
This is a suitable thread and that was a good article.  I agree with its point about many agencies of bureaucratic missions (e.g. the evils of unpasteurized milk) going Rambo.

48  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / How is that assimilation working out for you guys? on: August 23, 2014, 08:26:51 PM
49  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Science, Culture, & Humanities / Jesse Jackson given hard time by demonstrators in Ferguson on: August 23, 2014, 01:39:18 PM
50  Politics, Religion, Science, Culture and Humanities / Politics & Religion / North African countries prepare for attacks on: August 23, 2014, 10:17:42 AM
 North African Countries Prepare for Potential Attacks
August 21, 2014 | 0415 Print Text Size
Moroccan and Algerian flags in Saidia, at the border between the two countries. (FADEL SENNA/AFP/Getty Images)

North African governments are on high alert following reports of potential terrorist attacks. In fact, several Arab countries have already begun to reinforce their defenses against foreign and domestic attacks.

Morocco appears to be taking the threat particularly seriously. Moroccan media have said the country has mobilized 70,000 security forces throughout the country, ramping up security in critical cities and at airports, transportation hubs, ports, dams and energy and phosphate installations. The threat also appears to have necessitated the deployment of multiple anti-aircraft batteries to key sites across the country. Moreover, air traffic controllers reportedly have been especially vigilant, and the Royal Moroccan Air Force has been monitoring civilian air traffic over the kingdom closely.

For months, Morocco has been in an elevated state of alert because of a variety of jihadist threats, including the potential return of Moroccans who have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State. The government also intercepted communications indicating that al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb is determined to stage attacks against the country. A number of terrorist cells have already been dismantled in Morocco and Spain, including groups that facilitate travel for fighters between Morocco and the Levant.

North Africa
Click to Enlarge

However, Morocco is not the only country in the region to be on high alert. Algeria and Tunisia have been battling spillover violence from Libya and have improved their defenses through tighter coordination, increased airspace monitoring and enhanced border patrols. Algeria reportedly has moved an additional S-125 surface-to-air missile battery close to the Libyan border. In addition, Algerian security sources told Anatolia news agency that the air forces of a number of North African and Southern European countries were coordinating with the United States to plan joint counterterrorism exercises focused on the interdiction of hijacked aircraft.

A key concern is the possibility of aircraft, military or civilian, falling into the hands of jihadists in Libya amid the chaos in the country. On Aug. 6, Algerian news site al-Fajr said 11 aircraft had been taken from Tripoli International Airport. Given that the airport is partly controlled by the anti-Islamist Zentan group and is under heavy fire, it is not entirely clear how large civilian aircraft could have been stolen from the airport. Nonetheless, the report highlights continued concerns about military and civilian aircraft in Libya and the possibility that they could fall into the hands of factions affiliated with al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or Ansar Dine. For instance, the Tunisian airline company Syphax has said two Airbus-A320 aircraft belonging to Libyan company Ifriqiya have gone missing in Misrata, although Libyan officials have denied the claims.

North African countries, particularly Morocco, are also preparing for ground attacks. The Moroccan security mobilization effort has been widespread, and security forces have bolstered their presence around numerous high-value locations and infrastructure -- a scale of deployment that certainly goes beyond concern over hijacked aircraft. The Moroccans are concerned about attacks such as the April 2011 Marrakech bombings that could be staged by the Islamic State or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Stratfor continues to closely monitor events in the region, given its continued instability. Morocco is only the latest country to raise its alert levels: Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Lebanon have already taken significant security measures. As the Islamic State and active jihadist operations in Egypt, Yemen, Libya and Mali maintain momentum, heightened vigilance is rapidly becoming the new norm.

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